An assortment of words and phrases as typed by me. It's not that I have anything to say, I just love the sound of my own typing...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Is there a line on the horizon or not?

I am a bit of a fan of U2 and I was really looking forward to their latest album - No Line on the Horizon (NLotH).

I must admit though, that even after listening to it for a week, I am unimpressed.

U2 is a band well known for changing their style and sounds, whilst still retaining their soul. Albums such as Rattle and Hum, Pop and All That You Can't Leave Behind have helped to define the current music scene. However albums such as Zooropa, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (and now, dare I say it, NLotH) have not.

Perhaps U2's unpredictability has become too predictable? Perhaps Bono has lost his edge? Maybe Brian Eno wanted to get his moneys worth from his new echo machine? Maybe it's just that I have become out of touch? Who knows...

I guess that I have always enjoyed U2 for their clear lyrics (albeit difficult to understand) and strong guitar riffs. I've always thought that U2 was trying to say something (not necessarily something specific, although usually political or religious) through their music. It's as if the band knew what they wanted to say, and they used both words and music to convey their ideas and philosophies. ATYCLB was a classic example of this.

NLotH is definitely trying to say something, but it seems that the message is confused and hazy. It's more like U2 has stopped using a megaphone and is now transmitting via radio. A radio with poor connections and too much static. Has U2 become just another background noise?

Or maybe U2 is following the lead of REM. REM had a nice little album - Around the Sun, which was calm and introspective, and forgettable. Then REM released Accelerate, a more up-tempo album that returned to their rock roots. Is U2 returning to their rock roots with this album? I don't think so. In fact I don't know where U2 is going with this album...

(Of course it is also possible that I'm just annoyed because iTunes won't let me download the Cover Art...)

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Thoughts on public housing in Tasmania

In the past few months I have noticed the subject of public housing appear in the media. As a home owner in Tasmania, any news about the housing situation there is interesting to me.

The current situation as I understand it is:

1. There is a shortage of rental properties in Tasmania

2. The rental properties that are available are overly expensive

3. Tasmania’s population recently exceeded 500,000 people

4. Housing affordability is very low

5. It is more difficult for people to get finance to purchase their own house

6. The federal government desires to spend big on public housing in order to keep the economy moving

7. There is a lack of new land available for the new housing which is required

Of course, because I am currently living in Poland, I do not have first-hand information about the situation. But I do have a different perspective. I am currently living in Jelenia Gora, an average sized city, in Poland. The population of Jelenia Gora is between 80 and 90 thousand people, so about half the size of Hobart. However it takes up about the same area as Kingston or Glenorchy. Most of the population lives in apartment blocks, and they are very happy about it.
We are living in a two bedroom apartment, which is one of sixty apartments in the block. The apartment block itself is five stories high and we live on the first floor. On our street there are about 40 such apartment blocks and I have no idea how many similar sized blocks are in the surrounding suburb. But anyway, the point is, that it is a lot more pleasant living here than I expected. There is ample room for the kids to play, our neighbours are polite, there doesn’t seem to be much crime around, the security system (although basic) works well…

And so I got to thinking: "Why couldn’t something like this work in Tasmania?"

I think that this could work quite well in Tassie, provided that the following requirements are met: 1. The apartments are positioned close (within walking distance) to shops and essential services such as public transport & schools
2. Ample car parking would need to be provided (it is not such an issue here, but Australians seem to need their cars)
3. At least half of the apartments should be sold to private owners. It is important from a cultural perspective that these places do not become a grotto for the unemployed (eg. Gagebrook)
4. The apartments should be built in desirable areas such as Taroona, Kingston, Clarence, South Hobart where there is already a positive culture. (Actually, the more I think about it, the best place to build these apartment blocks would be on the site of the existing Kingston High School)
5. The apartments should be heated centrally with ample insulation, including double glazed windows
6. There is ample space and facilities for children to play nearby
7. The outside of the buildings have an attractive appearance (not like this one)
8. Tasmanians would probably want to have lifts in these buildings, which are expensive things to own and run (of course the benefit of having a lift is that the buildings can be up to ten stories)

The main advantages of building these apartments would include:
1. Reducing the cost of providing public housing. A large part of the cost of housing these days is the cost of land. Apartment blocks use less land, and the land which is used is put to better use
2. These places would be more environmentally friendly. Central heating is much more efficient than heating individual houses. Also the people living in these apartments will not need to use the car all the time
3. Greater security (certainly against arsonists). Neighbourhood watch would be able to work much better

But of course there will be people who will argue with a proposal such as this. Probably the loudest objections will be from people who want a three or four bedroom public housing house on a quarter acre of land. Of course they want it, who wouldn’t? But if they are desparate for accommodation, then they should be happy with what they are given. I have no doubt that private buyers would be more than happy to buy these apartments.