Archive for the ‘culture’ category


The accidental 9-11 post: their Republicans and Democrats still have the same concerns

11.09.2020


Above: I photographed this gentleman praying at Ground Zero during the 9-11 commemorations in 2005. A very moving day and my first return to the site since 2001.

This was never meant as a 9-11 post. I recorded this a few days ago, after chatting to my US friend Jerry, who had voted for Trump in 2016. I concluded that Americans largely had the same concerns, regardless of whom they voted for, yet other interests were stoking the divisions because they had everything to gain from the infighting. I also discussed the shift of their political centre from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s day to today. Back then, the people of the US showed unity, and I still believe they can if they wished, and rid themselves of the vitriol that comes through social media.

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More things that don’t work: Google knowledge panels, and typing in te reo Māori in Facebook

06.09.2020

A guide to emojis for 2020.

At least Twitter works. Google, as usual, doesn’t.
   I had a check to see how Lucire was performing in a Google search yesterday and noticed there was a Wikipedia box to the right, and a message saying that if it was about us, I could ‘claim’ the box. I clicked on the link, and as Google knows my email address is associated with Lucire through its search console, it verified me. ‘Congratulations, you’ve been verified’, according to the Google website, and I could ‘Add or change info’, with a ‘Review info’ box that I could click on.

   Actually, it’s just a coloured rectangle. Clicking on it does nothing.
   Maybe it’s my privacy settings, so I used my fresh, unblocked, Google-can-plant-what-it-likes Chromium browser. I log in as me on Google. And here’s what I get.

   Another variant is the below:

   ‘This account doesn’t have permission to publish on Google Search.’ Um, it does. You just told me I did.
   The box remains claimed but there’s not a damned thing I can do.

Long-time readers will remember my pointing out many years ago how the Google Dashboard isn’t accurate, especially when it comes to arithmetic. Nothing has changed.
   Google says I have one task. Well, I can’t, since I’ve never used it. Click through: I have none, and Google returns a ‘Get started’ page. Google says I have two albums. Again, impossible. Click through: I have none. It says I belong to one group. Click through: zero. I’m honestly astonished at how bad they are. If you can’t do maths, you probably shouldn’t be working with computers.




Finally, I see Facebook has forced a lot of people to change to its new template. I actually don’t care what the UI looks like, as I’m not there sufficiently to care. And I bet that if you were Māori, you’d want to have the old template back, since you can’t type macronized vowels. The macron just winds up on the baseline on any Chromium browser.

   One friend tried to replicate this on Windows and couldn’t, so this might not be a universal issue.
   The font being called by the stylesheet is Segoe UI Historic. I have it installed, and it’s not something I’ve ever edited. I will point that that, according to Character Map, no macronized vowels are visible in the relevant Unicode range, though I haven’t opened it in Fontlab to confirm. If the browser has to substitute, that’s fine. But what font (indeed, which of the Segoe fonts) has macrons on the baseline? It appears to be Microsoft’s Segoe, so if it’s not a Facebook linked font (the code inspector suggests it isn’t), then we can point the finger at Microsoft for a buggy font on a standard Windows 10 computer. Either way, someone in a Big Tech outfit goofed.

I had bookmarked this on my cellphone but because it’s my cellphone, it takes a long time to get it on this blog. I have to remember to grab the phone, then look up the post. But it’s your regular reminder that Facebook usually does nothing, despite saying it actively takes down hateful content. As I noted on The Panel in late August, eight copies (I believe in part) of the Christchurch massacre still exited on the platform as of March 15, 2020. The lies are laid bare once more.

   As a company, they also take their sweet time in removing bots. Here’s Instagram in a message to me on August 27 (it’s not the only 2018 report they responded to that week):

Same old, same old.

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Posted in culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, Sweden, technology, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Podcast for tonight: behind the scenes on The Panel

28.08.2020

For your listening pleasure, here’s tonight’s podcast, with a bit behind the scenes on my first appearance on RNZ’s The Panel as a panellist, and ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ delivered at a more appropriate pace, without me staring at the clock rushing to finish it before the pips for the 4 p.m. news.

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Thoughts shared on Big Tech

28.08.2020


Tip of the iceberg. Something happening with greater frequency: I can highlight ‘Répondez’ or ‘Write a reply’ in Facebook’s comment boxes, but I can’t actually comment or type in them. But I can make graphics outside of Facebook and paste them in. This was a bug I used to see perhaps once a year, but now it’s every time I go on (a few times a week).

It’s interesting to note that someone as noted as Doc Searls encountered a Facebook bug, which prompted me to comment with the below.

Few things work on this site now. I’ve frequently been unable to share since I joined in 2007. Every now and then I can’t like things, and regularly, Facebook removes the choices of hearts, sad face, angry face, etc. If I type a link, Facebook sometimes appends some letters from the status update to the end of it, so when it generates a preview, that results in a 404. Every now and then, with increasing frequency, whatever I type into a status update appears in all caps and bold type (and no, I don’t have caps lock on). On almost all groups I see three posts—nothing older. Notifications and messages fail to load over 90 per cent of the time. Often I cannot comment, but I can highlight the words ‘Write a comment’, so I have to resort to making an image featuring text and paste it in the comment box! I cannot see my advertising preferences: they have not loaded for the last few years, even if I leave the window open for an entire day while I am out (I only get a spinning wheel).
   I’m no tech, but as a layman what I see is a website disintegrating, with more and more bugs weighing it down. Above is what I experience now but if I go back over the years (especially when there was a Getsatisfaction forum), there were other bugs. I still remember when Facebook stopped working on the 1st of each month! But 2020 certainly marks the year when I get a whole bunch of bugs simultaneously.
   My theory has always been that Facebook’s resources are all spent hosting bots that there is nothing left for legitimate users!

   I didn’t even add that I can’t see any Facebook video now (they don’t play at all), and there’s no point posting Instagram links as, despite the two companies having the same parent, Facebook won’t show the image:

   As to the new look, I have very little confidence. When asked why I was switching back to the classic template, something which will be impossible soon, I wrote (not that these schmucks will care):

You can’t tag companies when editing text. You have to begin writing on a clean line, often retyping the post to do it. Waste of time, you’re making Facebook less and less relevant.
   When looking at groups people in a group queue have joined, you can’t see as many, which makes it harder for group admins to detect fake accounts (as you guys are pretty useless at doing it).

   When a friend (a person of colour in the US) wondered why she was seeing a lot of attacks against the Republican National Convention and none against the Democrats’, even though she is apolitical, I responded (inter alia):

Facebook has plenty of ex-staff and insiders who point out it will always amp up things to get people upset or outraged, as scientifically—thanks to the work of Professor Fogg at Stanford—people engage more with these. Armed with what they have collected, the algorithms will make a call one way or another to ensure they show you things that will provoke a reaction. As the algorithms have been designed predominantly by white American men (and I know: not all white American men fit into this), I really believe they won’t take in the experiences of people of colour like us, and arguably they won’t understand the international nature of your work. For instance, Facebook used to stop working on the 1st of each month, as our walls would freeze on the 30th or 31st. We would have to wait till it was the 1st in California, which meant in our summer, we would have to wait 21 hours each month for Facebook to work normally. These folks aren’t smart when it comes to “outside California”, let alone outside the US.

   To confirm my theory, I looked on my wall and was being fed multiple posts by a Facebook friend I barely knew—someone whose request I must have accepted over a decade ago, with whom I have had no interaction. He is an American, and was dismissing the protests and the existence of racism in his country. Why would Facebook show me that of the 2,300 people I am connected to? Simple: to provoke a reaction. These were views contrary to what I believe in, and it probably gathered that. It’s no longer about being connected to your friends—and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s the outrage machine, where they want you to fight.
   And this is me, someone who no longer goes on there for personal stuff, still encountering bugs and its ongoing negativity like there was no tomorrow.
   I stand by my saying that Mark Zuckerberg is a compulsive liar on Radio New Zealand National on Tuesday in the ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ slot before The Panel, where yours truly made his début as a panellist. (Prior to that I called in as a guest, once in 2010, and once in 2020.) Facebook is a site that now does more harm than good.

   Finally, I will leave you with this gem (every now and then I come up with one) from Twitter:

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Back on RNZ’s The Panel: on Hong Kong’s new national security legislation

08.07.2020


Public domain/Pxhere

What a pleasure it was to be back on The Panel on Radio New Zealand National today, my first appearance in a decade. That last time was about the Wellywood sign and how I had involved the Hollywood Sign Trust. I’ve done a couple of interviews since then on RNZ (thank you to my interviewers Lynda Chanwai-Earle and Finlay Macdonald, and producer Mark Cubey), but it has been 10 years and a few months since I was a phone-in guest on The Panel, which I listen to very frequently.
   This time, it was about Hong Kong, and the new national security legislation that was passed last week. You can listen here, or click below for the embedded audio. While we begin with the latest development of social media and other companies refusing to hand over personal data to the Hong Kong government (or, rather, they are ‘pausing’ till they get a better look at the legislation), we move pretty quickly to the other aspects of the law (the juicy stuff and its extraterritorial aims) and what it means for Hong Kong. Massive thanks to Wallace Chapman who thought of me for the segment.

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Posted in business, China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand | 1 Comment »


Nissan’s own documents show Carlos Ghosn’s arrest was a boardroom coup

22.06.2020

I said it a long time ago: that the Carlos Ghosn arrest was part of a boardroom coup, and that the media were used by Hiroto Saikawa and co. (which I said on Twitter at the time). It was pretty evident to me given how quickly the press conferences were set up, how rapidly there was “evidence” of wrongdoing, and, most of all, the body language and demeanour of Mr Saikawa.
   Last week emerged evidence that would give me—and, more importantly, Carlos Ghosn, who has since had the freedom to make the same allegation that he was set up—cause to utter ‘I told you so.’
   I read about it in The National, but I believe Bloomberg was the source. The headline is accurate: ‘Nissan emails reveal plot to dethrone Carlos Ghosn’; summed up by ‘The plan to take down the former chairman stemmed from opposition to deeper ties between the Japanese company and France’s Renault’.
   One highlight:

the documents and recollections of people familiar with what transpired show that a powerful group of insiders viewed his detention and prosecution as an opportunity to revamp the global automaker’s relationship with top shareholder Renault on terms more favourable to Nissan.
   A chain of email correspondence dating back to February 2018, corroborated by people who asked not to be identified discussing sensitive information, paints a picture of a methodical campaign to remove a powerful executive.

   Another:

Days before Mr Ghosn’s arrest, Mr Nada sought to broaden the allegations against Mr Ghosn, telling Mr Saikawa that Nissan should push for more serious breach-of-trust charges, according to correspondence at the time and people familiar with the discussions. There was concern that the initial allegations of underreporting compensation would be harder to explain to the public, the people said.
   The effort should be “supported by media campaign for insurance of destroying CG reputation hard enough,” Mr Nada wrote, using Mr Ghosn’s initials, as he had done several times in internal communications stretching back years.

   Finally:

The correspondence also for the first time gives more detail into how Nissan may have orchestrated [board member] Mr Kelly’s arrest by bringing him to Japan from the US for a board meeting.

   Nissan’s continuing official position, that Ghosn and Kelly are guilty until proved innocent, has never rang correctly. Unless you’re backed by plenty of people, that isn’t the typical statement you should be making, especially if it’s about your own alleged dirty laundry. You talk instead about cooperating with authorities. In this atmosphere, with Nissan, the Japanese media duped into reporting it based on powerful Nissan executives, and the hostage justice system doing its regular thing, Ghosn probably had every right to believe he would not get a fair trial. If only one of those things were in play, and not all three, he might not have reached the same conclusion.

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Why I don’t find the Asiatic characters on Little Britain and Come Fly with Me racist

11.06.2020


BBC

I have a problem with blackface and yellowface, generally when there are more than capable actors who could have taken the role, but I make exceptions in some situations.
   Take, for example, the news that Little Britain and Come Fly with Me are being removed from streaming services because of what are now deemed racist portrayals. Matt Lucas, who plays half the roles in each, has even said that the shows were right for the time but they’re not what he would make today. Yet I don’t find myself being troubled by his and David Walliams’s characters, since in both they are equal-opportunity about it, even going so far as to address racism head-on with Come Fly with Me’s Ian Foot, a clearly racist character.
   I always viewed everyone from Ting Tong to Precious as caricatures viewed through a British lens, and it is through their comedy that they shine a light on the nation’s attitudes. Matt and David might not like me grouping their work in with Benny Hill’s Chow Mein character, who, while offensive to many Chinese, tended to expose the discomfort of the English “straight man” character, usually portrayed by Henry McGee. I can’t think of one where Mein doesn’t get the upper hand. I like to think these characters all come from the same place.
   Sometimes, especially in comedy, you need people of the same race as most of the audience to point to their nation’s attitudes (and often intolerance)—it’s often more powerful for them as it’s not seen as preaching. Where I have a problem is when characters are founded on utterly false stereotypes, e.g. the bad Asian driver, the loud black man.
   And can you imagine the furore if every character portrayed by Matt and David in Come Fly with Me was white? They would be sharply criticized for not being representative of the many cultures at a modern British airport.
   I don’t turn a blind eye to brownface in Hong Kong (Chinese actors playing Indians) or the mangled Cantonese used to dub white actors, but the same rules apply: if it shines a light on a situation, helps open our collective eyes, and make us better people, then surely we can accept those?
   I Tweeted tonight something I had mentioned on this blog many years ago: Vince Powell’s sitcom Mind Your Language, set in 1970s Britain, where Barry Evans’s Jeremy Brown character, an ESL teacher, has to deal with his highly multicultural and multiracial class. The joke is always, ultimately, on Mr Brown, or the principal, Miss Courtenay, for their inability to adjust to the new arrivals and to understand their cultures. Maybe it’s rose-coloured glasses, but I don’t remember the students being shown as second-class; they often help Jeremy Brown out of a pickle.
   Importantly, many of the actors portrayed their own races, and, if the DVD commentary is to be believed, they were often complimented by people of the same background for their roles.
   Powell based some of his stories on real life: a foreign au pair worked for them and brought home her ESL classmates, and he began getting ideas for the sitcom.
   However, at some stage, this show was deemed to be racist. As I Tweeted tonight, ‘I loved Mind Your Language but white people said the depictions of POC were racist. Hang on, isn’t it more racist to presume we can’t complain ourselves? Most of the actors in that depicted their own race.
   ‘I can only speak for my own, and I didn’t find the Chinese character racist. Because there were elements of truth in there, she was portrayed by someone of my ethnicity, and the scripts were ultimately joking about the British not adjusting well to immigrant cultures.
   ‘Which, given how Leavers campaigned about Brexit, continues to be true. I get why some blackface and yellowface stuff needs to go but can’t we have a say?
   ‘Tonight on TV1 news, there were two white people commenting on the offensiveness of minority portrayals in Little Britain and Come Fly with Me. I hope someone sees the irony in that.’
   However, if any minorities depicted by Matt and David are offended by their work—Ting Tong, Asuka and Nanako are the only Asiatic characters they do that I can think of, so east Asians aren’t even that well represented—of course I will defer to your judgement. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like for someone of Pakistani heritage to see Matt’s Taaj Manzoor, or someone with a Jamaican heritage to see Precious Little. However, unlike some commentators, I do not presume that members of their community are powerless to speak up, and they are always welcome on this forum.

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Catfished on Facebook? That’s OK, too, they’re there to provide the tools

11.06.2020

I don’t particularly have it in for Google and Facebook. I’m only pointing out the obvious: if you say your policy is x, or your product is y, then don’t deliver us z. Put it into non-electronic terms: if you sell me a car and I put it into first gear, and it instead reverses, then I will complain. And if you look back through 11 years of critique, that is what lies at the foundation of every post about them. Medinge does Brands with a Conscience, Big Tech does Brands without a Conscience. Once they start being honest and levelling with people, then I’ll stop pointing out their hypocrisy.

Speaking of which, a Facebook user calling themselves Barbara Black has taken a photo of former Miss Universe New Zealand Tania Dawson, using Tania’s photo as her profile pic and, of course, catfishing men. You know where this is going: despite numerous reports from Tania’s friends since the D-Day anniversary, including multiple ones from me, nothing has been done. Facebook tells me that there has been no violation of their terms. Some have actually found it impossible to report the fake profile, as their screen fills up with gibberish.

   Yet again it’s Facebook being on the side of the spammers, bots and phonies, as usual, because they have the potential to help their bottom line.
   I can safely say that all my reports of fake or compromised accounts this year have resulted in no take-downs whatsoever, making it far, far worse than what I experienced in 2014 when I said that Facebook faced a bot ‘epidemic’ (I used that very word).
   Very easy prediction for 2020: despite COVID-19, Facebook will have to remove more fake accounts than there are people on the planet. I reckon it has already happened but they won’t admit it. I just don’t know when people will wake up to the fact that this dubious site isn’t serving them, but at least the fakes have got to such a point now that everyday people recognize them: at some point, we will either know someone, or be that someone, who has been catfished or cloned. I’ve been off it for personal stuff for three years and have missed nowt.

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The ‘A’ (Aotearoa) Team

09.06.2020

Now that Aotearoa New Zealand has lifted our COVID-19 restrictions after getting rid of the virus on our shores, other than keeping our border closed, I Tweeted:

and between Cachalot on Twitter and I, we actually wound up with a variation of the song (incidentally, he was first with the chorus, showing that great minds think alike).

Then back to the refrain.
   Out of respect to the language in which the song was composed, te reo Māori, here are the original, poignant lyrics. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching song. There’s a further explanation to it here.

Pōkarekare ana,
ngā wai o Waiapu
Whiti atu koe hine,
marino ana e.

Refrain
   E hine e,
   hoki mai ra.
   Ka mate ahau
   I te aroha e.

Tuhituhi taku reta,
tuku atu taku rīngi,
Kia kite tō iwi
raru raru ana e.

Refrain

Whati whati taku pene
ka pau aku pepa
Ko taku aroha
mau tonu ana e.

Refrain

E kore te aroha
e maroke i te rā
Mākūkū tonu i
aku roimata e.

Refrain

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Going beyond a blacked-out image: thoughts on Black Lives Matter

04.06.2020

Usually I find it easier to express myself in written form. For once, Black Lives Matter and the protests in the US prompted me to record another podcast entry. I’m not sure where the flat as and the mid-Atlantic vowels come from when I listened to this again—maybe I was channelling some of the passion I was seeing in the US, and I had watched the news prior to recording this.

   My Anchor summary is: ‘Personal thoughts in solidarity with my black friends in the US. Yes, I posted a blackout image on my Instagram but it didn’t seem to be enough. This is my small contribution, inspired by a Facebook post written by my white American friend Eddie Uken where he reflects on his perspective and privilege.’ Eddie’s Facebook post, which is public, is here.

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