Sunday, February 03, 2008

best paint name ever

Ever heard of a Taubmans colour called Rottnest Orange?

We saw this in an old copy of Meanjin, which is now the newest edition to grace the climate-controlled, high-security cabinets of Rotto Bloggo’s study bunker. The 1993 book is called Mabo and Moral Community: the contents include ‘Rottnest Island: Rust and Irony’ by Kim Dovey.

The essay begins with Kim hurling his breakfast overboard while on a morning ferry, and is about “…the transformations of place and meaning under successive regimes of power. It is about the ironies of a place of incarceration turned place of freedom and then privilege. Rottnest is a place of semantic inversions…”

There’s talk about the prison, and how once a flu outbreak killed a third of the Aboriginal population. The pub is described as “ostentatiously castellated”. There was pressure to privatize long before the gaudy WA 1980s: in 1917 pressure to take Rotto away from the public was rebuffed.

Dovey then delves into his younger memories about the place (he crawled along gun tunnels in the dark, long before they were tidied up and became a tour). He lashes out at boaties: “Out in the bays are the most up-market units of all, which disgracefully are permitted to discharge raw sewerage into the beautiful turquoise swimming water. Reefs have been illegally blasted to remove the natural barriers to exclusive morrings in some secluded bays…the waters that surround this public reserve are dominated and polluted by private privilege.”

There are mentions of some unforgettable WA names: Alan Bond, Laurie Connell and the Man in the Panama Hat. “Indeed the egalitarian character of Rottnest has been raised to the status of myth. The image of Brian Burke mixing with the Rottnest melting pot in thongs and T-shirt was a powerful foil for the realities of WA Inc. in the 1980s.”

Marvellous stuff. And it gets better when Kim talks about the ethos of the beautiful island. “Rottnest resists the excesses of industrialization and capitalism…while food prices on Rottnest are often outrageous and the ferry service appears to be a monopoly, the best things on Ropttnest are still free…the island satisfies a growing demand for places that are not products of the market.”

And the Taubmans shade is part of the ethos: “Places like Rottnest change most effectively when they produce more of the variety and richness that generated their identity in the first place…Rottnest is a valuable piece of national heritage and we should be very careful with its development.” Righteous.

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