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Sunday, May 30, 2010

The House as True Romance, M. H. Baillie Scott

From Houses and Gardens, Arts and Craft Interiors, Chapter 17 - The Soul of the House, published 1906,  by M. H. Baillie Scott:

"A house too may possess that strange inscrutable quality of the True Romance.  Not shallow, showy, and pretentious as most modern mansions are, but full of a still, quiet earnestness which seems to lull and soothe the spirit with promises of peace.  Such a house is the greatest achievement possible to the art of man better than the greatest picture, because it is not a dream alone, but the dream come true - a constant daily influence and delight."

This quote reminded me of two previous posts, the first one about Edward Burne-Jones's view of art as a dream of something too impossibly beautiful to be real and the second post about "gesamtkunstwerk", a perfect synthesis of all the arts.  Having a Burne-Jones painting in your Baillie-Scott house would make for good gesamtkunstwerk I reckon.

 detail of stair risers in house above

The house photographs are from a beautiful book, Baillie Scott, The Artistic House by Diane Haigh.  I'll write more about Baillie Scott, and his interior work, in a day or two.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Green and blue never looked so good together....

 Circe Invidiosa by J. W. Waterhouse, 1892
(in the Art Gallery of South Australia)

One of the first images from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory, launched in February on a five year mission to study Sun's magnetic field (false color image, blues and greens above 1 million kelvin in temperature).

Perseus and Andromeda, 1876, Edward Burne-Jones
 (in the Art Gallery of South Australia)

Aurora borealis over Eyjafjallajokull volcano/glacier in Iceland....possibly even caused by the solar flares seen in sun picture above?  Photo by Albert Jakobsson.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ten Things I Love About Australia

Back home to New England....will greatly miss....

10.  Ordering coffee --- short black, flat white, long black, etc.

9.  Being called "mate" by a guy with an aussie accent.

8.  Outback vehicles and 4-wheel-driving.

7.  Kangaroos, emus, and all the other wacky and colorful animals.

6.  That every town, no matter how small, seems to have a museum of local history.

5.  Old stone buildings with corrugated iron roofs.

4.  Time zones that are 30 minutes and 45 minutes off the hour.

3.  Desolate beaches.

2.  Aboriginal art.

1.  The OUTBACK!   Hope to be back soon......

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Vernacular Architecture of Australia

Favorite Minerals of the South Australian Museum, Adelaide

Imagine my glee upon seeing this piece of the Mundrabilla Meteorite as the very first thing upon entering Adelaide's South Australian Museum!  You may remember it, and Mundrabilla, from this earlier post.  A fellow nerd pointed out later that I should have put a pencil down next to it for scale----it is about the size of a large coffee table, maybe just under two meters across.  It is an iron meteorite and this piece weighs about 2500kg.  It is one of the largest and most famous meteorites in the world.

While this is kind of like a librarian sorting books by color, it is so much more aesthetically pleasing than sorting by, say, lattice structure or chemical composition.  I'm sure this display has inspired many a budding geologist.

Amorphous silica in main stairwell.  Always beautiful.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Streaky Bay, South Australia

A typical late 19th century small town hotel/pub characterized by overhanging eaves, upper veranda, railings, corner brackets, wooden "fretwork" (often this is iron filigree). The hotel was established in 1866 but I don't know if this is original building.

I wonder how many people have fallen over after leaving the pub through this front door?

The town you see the small black bits in the water on the right side of far end of jetty?

I ask an old man who was fishing at the end of pier what the pen was for---being from New England it reminded me of a lobster holding pen but I'm thinking it was way to big for lobbies (I'm practicing my aussie lingo there).  The man replied "swimming".   And because the penny still hadn't dropped I said, "yes, but for what?", " the sharks don't get you."

Emu Mob at Watering Hole, Roe Plain, Australlia

Yes, a flock of emu is called a mob.  Who knew?

Monday, May 17, 2010


What would William Morris drive if he lived today? I think it would be either a Volvo wagon or, more likely, a posh Range Rover. The back would no doubt be filled with fabric samples, pear wood wallpaper blocks, jars of dye powder and the like…namely, a mess…and the car would be suitably beat-up to boot.

In the last three weeks we’ve driven over 5000 km and I’ve heard much talk of gas mileage, head winds versus tailwinds, hubs in or out, cost of diesel, the advantages of turbo-chargers, gear ratios, tire pressure, and the like from my two Australian colleagues. After three trips to the Outback, I have no doubt that Aussies do four-wheel drive vehicles better than anyone else on the planet and it has been my great privilege to spend nearly a month in a car with the “Click and Clack” of Down Under. I’ve learned a lot. During this and my last trip, I’ve also taken pictures of my favorite Outback vehicles. Here they are with guest “vehicular analysis” by Mick, the Map-Wizard, born and raised in northern Queensland (my translations in parentheses ;-).

Land Rover Defender “County”, has a bit more mod cons (modern conveniences). Serious roo bar in front. I had a “TDI” (turbo-diesel injected) late nineties model…you can hose the inside out….totally unreliable but loved it.

A Toyota Land Cruiser….in the U.S., the current “FJ Cruiser” (those multi-colored car that are appearing everywhere lately) are modeled from this car…this one stretched but with original front end. “Checkerplate” sides a bit (la-di-da) No scratches? What is it doing in Eucla? What is it used for? These cars go forever, half a million miles on the clock, no problem.

Toyota, 80-something old-school Hilux ute. Space cab (two seater with a bit in back of cab), snorkel, big fat tires. Really light, no weight on the back…the ideal vehicle for driving on sand. He has hit a tree in almost identical spot as (Rock-Whisperer). Almost certainly diesel. Hilux is the perfect toy, light, flexible, nimble that will go over anything….can be very bouncy but can climb up a cliff. Number one 4WD in Australia. Finding an early 90’s space cab Hilux is gold.

Toyota “Troopie” (Troop Carrier) police…a “divi van”, short for divisional so you can put crims (criminals) in the back. HF aerial, “spotties” in front for extra strong beams for driving at night.

Another Toyota Land Cruiser ute (pick-up truck). Typical snorkel, roof rack, roo bar, winch. Rusty as well so obviously spent a lot of time near the coast….water tubes with taps on top. (Added by me: What is hard to tell from pic is that there are small red lights in the eye sockets of the skull….this car looked spooky in the dark parking lot with its red glowing eyes.)

Darcy’s (of Cocklebiddy) Hilux twin cab (e.g. four doors versus two door space cab), so smaller tray (truck bed) in the back, hydraulic crane to lift drums on-off back of ute. 

Old school Mitsubishi Pajero, 1988-92, roo bar, kind of car an old fisherman guy would drive….side rails helps with tree collisions, sun visor….great for bush camping, fishing. Designed to be abused.  Did you know that pajero in Spanish means wanker?

None of these vehicles are very expensive…..all are reliable, usable 4WDs. Unlikely to be carpet in any of these….would all be vinyl inside. 

(Finally, I just have to add that my 4WD-ing lessons have been in full swing over the last two weeks. My favorite nugget of advice from MW: “Try to just miss the trees on your side, then my side will be fine.”)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Eyre Bird Observatory, Western Australia

In 1841 Edward John Eyre, age 26, with his companion John Baxter and three Aborigine guides, was on his way to becoming the first white person to walk across Australia, linking the colonial settlements in the east with the Swan River (Perth) colony on the west coast. After nearly 2000 km of arid hostile terrain and near death on the Nullabor Plain, they found life-saving water at a place later to become known as Eyre’s Sand Patch, later shortened to just Eyre. The party recuperated at this spot for four weeks before continuing westward, although Baxter’s trip, and life, were cut short two days later when he was murdered by two deserting Aborigines (whom I’m guessing he treated very poorly).

The Eyre Bird Observatory

Due to the presence of water and proximity to the coast (for provisioning by ship), in 1877 a repeater station for the Inter-Colonial Telegraph Line was established at Eyre, linking western Australia to the world (from the east, the telegraph line went north to Darwin, then to Indonesia, then on to Great Britain, the epicenter of the 19th century western world). William Morris was no doubt simultaneously sketching, writing, blocking, weaving, and painting back in the old country. Twenty years later, in 1897, a new station building, now home to the Eyre Bird Observatory, was constructed.

The Eyre Telegraph Station operated for fifty years, until 1927, when it was superceded by an inland line along the new Trans Australian Railway. In 1977 the ruined telegraph station was restored as a bird sanctuary and museum. Since that time, 245 species of birds have been observed at the EBO including rare Malleefowl, honeyeaters, penguins, silvereyes, and albatrosses.

 William Graham, first telegraph station master, 1877-1901, raised ten children in the bush.  Morris's lost antipodal twin?

We tried to visit the EBO last July (winter) but rain had made the track impassable. This year we were in luck (not withstanding a minor collision with a tree)---as we drove in at 9:30 in the morning, we were greeted by the volunteer caretaker, Roger McCallum. Within ten minutes of talking to Roger it was clear he was a naturalist and observer of the first-order. We described kind of rocks we were looking for and he gave us stellar bush directions to places miles away from the observatory.

Roger and Cheryl McCallum, caretakers

About five hours later we returned to the station and met Cheryl, his wife and co-caretaker. After a guided tour of the museum, we all sat down on the veranda for afternoon tea (including delicious home-made cookies and fresh fruit). While we were the only visitors that day, the EBO does offer rustic accommodations for $AU90 (~$US80) per night which includes all three meals as well as morning and afternoon tea. I reckon that’s a pretty amazing price for this slice of paradise. EBO is definitely on my “must-return-to” list (did I mention the glorious beach nearby?) and a great place to send a tax-deductible contribution.

 What a great Aga has nothing on this beauty!


Drawn on the wall above the kitchen door.....there are water tanks in the ceiling that obviously have floats, one for the shower(s) and one for the taps.  The weights on string tell you when to turn on the pump to fill the tanks.

Major Mitchell cockatoos

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Roadhouses of the Nullabor Plain, Mundrabilla

Roadhouse arts and crafts....cute

also nice use of "local" material...

On wall of bar....everything that's ever happened in Mundrabilla?  "Like other locations in the Nullabor Plain area, the area consists of nothing more than a roadhouse, open 5:30am to midnight each day.  The roadhouse includes a small wildlife park with emus, camels, and an aviary." (This seems to have disappeared.)  "Pastoral activities continue in the area, and fragments of a meteorite (The Mundrabilla Mass discovered in 1966) spread over a 60 km range make it one of the largest meteorite sites in the world."

The most notable architectural feature of this room was the black "popcorn" ceiling which looked exactly like the asphalt highway...perfect for a roadhouse!

sunrise in Mundrabilla

(Please excuse the recent formatting issues....the internet, and my free time, is so limited it is a challenge just to get posts up.  Thanks for all the comments!   :-)