Fields of dreams

December 17, 2012 § 3 Comments

There’s an enormous residential development taking place in the Molonglo valley in Canberra’s west.  Molonglo is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘suburban lifestyle’. The Ngunnawal people were famous for their traditional neighbourhood values with a focus on sustainability for the future.

In charge of this carve-up is the Land Development Agency (LDA).

The LDA’s newly hatched suburbs are called Jacka, Bonner and Wright. These strike me as names that are destined to be given to babies, if they haven’t already. Hold Jacka for a minute while I hang out the washing, would you?

Apparently, Bonner is ‘somewhere to look forward to’, which makes it sound like it will never be finished. Kingston Foreshore urges its residents to ‘immerse yourself’ which is unfortunate given the condition of Lake Burley Griffin.

The other day I rode my bike past Wright, with its street names that sound like pharmaceutical companies (Xenica) or herbal menopause capsules (Amaryllis). The streets have been paved with the world’s finest bitumen. This is in sharp contrast to the usual method of road-making in the ACT, which is to squirt tar all over the place, then dump stones on it in the hopes they stick. Light poles have been pushed into the earth like candles in a birthday cake. Even the driveways are ready: concrete ramps leading to uniform clods of dirt and imaginary residences.

The whole place is pregnant with expectation.

The Wright stuff.

If – like me – you are dreaming of a future in Wright, or having a nightmare about it, check the Housing Development Guide first:

  • You must build in a mix of materials including brick, painted brick and, er, rendered brick. You may use stone, timber and metal as ‘relief’, or get a hand job from a sex worker.
  • You must choose from off-whites, creams, browns or greys for your colour scheme, which is the same difficult decision that confronts Richie Benaud each morning.
  • You must erect a letter box of approved size in the approved location and you cannot use a street number from any other source (for example the Mayan calendar).
  • You have to put in a minimum of 2 trees and 20 plants, a front path, and the rest of the driveway. You get 1 tree on the nature strip.
  • Shared fences must be 1.8m high, a highly discriminatory standard that allows tall people to see and be seen over the fence while short people remain ignorant and unobserved.
  • Extra pressure is placed on owners of corner blocks, whose homes must avoid being dull and uninteresting by adding external features such as windows, and preferably by being two-storey.
  • Finally, all indications of life (satellite dishes, air conditioners, clothes lines and presumably children, shipping containers and vehicle carcasses) must be positioned to avoid being seen from the street.

This will not preserve the character of Canberra, it will change it.

I’m reminded of the bit in George Johnston’s book My Brother Jack where the narrator loses it over the manicured subdivision he has mortgaged his life to (Beverley Park Gardens Estate) and defiantly plants a ‘proper bloody tree’.

If all this is a bit depressing, there is always Mingle. Mingle in Molonglo Valley is not, as first feared, a noxious weed. It’s a community development program where you meet people who want what you want. And decide if you hate them.

Let us pray.

Lord, may the imminent citizens of Molonglo enter unto their eucalyptus-coloured dwellings and may they keep Bonner’s unregistered shitheap off the front lawn. And Lord? May the LDA grant them a petrol station and a supermarket; that they may stay out of the queues I’m in.

Further reading: this nice piece on My Brother Jack and the Australian struggle with suburbia, by James Button.

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Review: New Balance WRC1600B

December 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

I have been trying to find a replacement for my old Adidas Adizero Adios, the red rockets. Now two years old, they have done many tens of kilometres and they are literally coming apart at one seam. The out sole has the soft, crumbly texture and appearance of Mersey Valley cheese but little of the eating appeal. They have been awesome shoes.

So I turned to Wiggle local retailers to help me replace my road shoes. Et voila! Meet the New Balance WRC1600B.

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The New Balance WRC1600s in a typical office environment.

The WRC1600B joins the NYC860v3, the MR1400NY and the Ionix3090. Every New Balance shoe model contains 6-9 digits including letters and numbers so in addition to footwear, they make excellent passwords.

The 1600s are one of the army of lightweight, minimalist running shoes that are quickly overtaking both the market and other runners. They have a tiny 6mm drop and will add just 140 grams to your kit, or a bit more if you wear both of them.

I converted to minimalist shoes because I didn’t like the high, spongy feel of conventional runners. A dozen years of yoga has beaten my Achilles and calves into submission. I’m naturally a forefoot and mid-foot striker, because I run like I unicycle: turning little circles underneath me and going almost nowhere. And when every step hurts, every gram counts.

But there is one other factor in my preference for minimalist shoes and that factor is vanity.

In these image-conscious times, you want to be seen in the Thoroughbreds of the running shoe world, not the Clydesdales. Lightweight shoes make you look like a scene-ster instead of a New Year’s Resolution who walked into Athlete’s Foot like a fly into a carnivorous plant. Did I just call Athlete’s Foot a bunch of shills? I withdraw. It’s better than Footlocker, which is some sort of nightclub where you enter with $400 and leave with neon high-tops, a gym membership and a shaved head.

Look. There are good runners, fast runners, who need stability and cushioning on their feet. I just don’t respect them and neither should you.

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30% lighter foam than other shoes! Suspicious looking swoosh there.

A ‘blown rubber’ is usually cause for concern, but not in this case. The blown rubber out sole is stealthily quiet so they are well-suited to both shy runners and burglars. Fortunately, the unique hieroglyphic imprint will be a dead giveaway at any crime scene. These intricate lugs wrap around the toe of the shoe to the front, a feature that will appeal to those who include very steep or indeed vertical runs in their program. And thanks to the REVlite mid sole (made of foam that is 30% lighter than other shoe foams) I would expect a largish ant to be able to carry one off.

Of course, the worst thing about these shoes is the logo. I have always avoided New Balance shoes because of the giant, superhero N on the side. What a creative stroke of graphic design that was.

The giant, superhero N on the 1600s is metallic hot pink 😦 But on the upside I can’t really see it from where I’m standing which is, obviously, inside the shoes. Anyone outside the shoes is invited to mock me as appropriate.

Still, if you can get past this feature without feeling like wearing your undies outside your compression tights, then I highly recommend these shoes. I will be smashing out some five minute Ks in them. Sponsor that.

PS. Have you read my review of the Adidas XT3 trail shoes? Of course you have.

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