Archive for the ‘USA’ category


March 2021 gallery

05.03.2021


 

All galleries can be seen through the ‘Gallery’ link in the header, or click here (especially if you’re on a mobile device). I append to this entry through the month.

Sources
Ford Taunus by Otosan, 1992: more at Autocade.
   Tipalet advertisement, sourced from Twitter. Based on what my parents told me, this wouldn’t have appealed even then!

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Posted in business, cars, culture, Gallery, marketing, USA | No Comments »


Reduced Facebook? Australia is the lucky country

18.02.2021

Whichever side you are on with Facebook imposing a ban on Australians sharing news content, this says it all about the level of intelligence over at Menlo Park.

   In Australia, Facebook has not only de-platformed legitimate governmental bodies and non-profits, it has de-platformed itself.
   Maybe taxing these companies would have been easier, and the proposed legislation isn’t perfect, but I think most people see through Facebook’s rather pathetic tactics.
   It’s crying foul, saying it would have invested in local media in Australia, but won’t any more. But since Facebook lies about everything, I’ve no reason to believe they ever would have helped media organizations anywhere.
   And notice how quickly it was able to shut off pages, and remove an entire country’s ability to share news—yet it still struggles with removing fake content about COVID-19, extremist content and groups, bots, videos of massacres, and incitement of genocide and insurrection. It has struggled for years.
   We all know that Facebook can do as it wishes with a singular eye on its bottom line. It doesn’t want to pay Australian publishers, so it quickly acts to shut off what Australians can do. But fake content and all the rest—that makes them money, so it doesn’t act at all, other than issuing some empty PR statements.
   We all see through it, and this is probably the best thing it could have done. If people spend less time on its stress-inducing platforms, they will be healthier. And returning Facebook to what it was around 2008 when we shared what we were doing, not what the newsmedia were reporting, is really a plus.
   It’s a splendid own goal that benefits Australians, who will ingeniously find solutions pretty quickly, whether it’s telling their friends about articles via email (which is what I used to do pre-social media), finding alternative services, or, not that I advocate this, resorting to outright piracy by pasting the entire article as a Facebook status update. No news in your feed? There are services for that, like going straight to the sources, or using a news aggregator (if you don’t like Google News, the Murdoch Press actually has one in beta, called Knewz. Who would have guessed that the only organization that stepped up to my half-decade-old demand for a Google News rival would be Murdochs?).
   I doubt New Zealand will have the courage to follow suit, even though last year I wrote to the Minister of Communications to ask him to consider it.

PS.: Removing all Australian media is easy, but removing anti-vaccine pages is hard.

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Brand, sub-brand or model? China’s getting into a confusing phase

16.02.2021


The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7. But just where does Aeolus sit when it comes to indexing in Autocade?

This is something that might have to come out in the wash, and it might take years.
   I think we can all agree that Ssangyong is a marque or a make, and Korando is a model. Never mind that there’s currently a basic Korando, the Korando Sports (a pick-up truck) and a Korando Turismo (a people mover), none of which really have much connection with the other, name aside. We are as comfortable with this as we once were with the Chevrolet Lumina and Lumina APV, the Ford Taurus and Taurus X, and the Toyota Mark X and Mark X Zio. So far so good.
   But when do these drift into being sub-brands? BMW calls i a sub-brand, but as far as cataloguing in Autocade goes, it doesn’t matter, as the model names are i3 or i8 (or a number of ix models now coming out). Audi’s E-Tron is its parallel at Ingolstadt, and here we do have a problem, with a number of E-Tron models unrelated technically. It’s not like Quattro, where there was the (ur-) Quattro, then Quattro as a designation, and everyone accepted that.
   Similarly, the Chinese situation can be far from clear.
   Many years ago, GAC launched a single model based on the Alfa Romeo 166 called the Trumpchi. So far so good: we have a marque and model. But it then decided to launch a whole bunch of other cars also called Trumpchi (the original became the Trumpchi GA5, to distinguish it from at least eight others). Some sources say Trumpchi is a sub-brand, others a brand in its own right, but we continue to reference it as a model, since the cars have a GAC logo on the grille, just as the GAC Aion EVs have a GAC logo on the grille. (The latter is also not helped with Chinese indices tending to separate out EVs into ‘New Energy Vehicle’ listings, even when their manufacturers don’t.)
   I feel that we only need to make the shift into calling a previous model or sub-brand a brand when it’s obvious on the cars themselves. That’s the case with Haval, when it was very clear when it departed from Changcheng (Great Wall). Senia is another marque that spun off from FAW: it began life with the FAW symbol on the grille, before Senia’s own script appeared on the cars.
   The one that confounds me is Dongfeng Aeolus, which was make-and-model for a long time, but recently Aeolus has displaced the Dongfeng whirlwind on the grille of several models. We have them currently listed in Autocade with Dongfeng Aeolus as a new marque, since there’s still a small badge resembling the whirlwind on the bonnet. The Dongfeng Aeolus AX7 retains the whirlwind, but has the Aeolus letters prominently across the back, but to muddle it up, the AX7 Pro has the new Aeolus script up front. These can’t be two different marques but the visual cues say they are.
   Maybe we’ll just have to relegate Aeolus back to model status, and do what Ssangyong does with the Korando (or Changcheng with the Tengyi). These are the things that make life interesting, but also a little confusing when it comes to indexing an encyclopædia.

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Posted in cars, China, internet, publishing, USA | No Comments »


More TV Dregs, please

12.02.2021

I was looking through the old JY&A links’ section, which dates back to the beginning of the site in the 1990s (indeed, back to Windows 3·1, as we couldn’t use a file name with more than three letters in the suffix). The last revamp of its look was over 15 years ago, judging by its appearance, and, although I attempted to update it to the current template, I decided the result was duller. It’s not an area where too many images were used, and the old look was probably more representative of what it is: a relic of the original dot-com era. As I explain on the introductory page (which has been facelifted), one reason for keeping it is to honour link exchanges that I made with other webmasters at the time, but I doubt it’s examined particularly often. The main text column is wide on a modern screen, but it would have looked fine at 1,024 by 768 pixels 15 years ago.
   One site that I linked, at its last update (which was probably around 2003 or 2004), was the humorous TV Dregs, which is written in a documentary style, about the lesser known TV shows that aired in the UK. The catch: every entry is fictional. It got me thinking about what it could have had if it were updated, and while I’ve done these jokes before (the Game of Thrones one I have cracked ad nauseam on social media), this was an attempt to write the entries in a TV Dregs style. They’re not as good as theirs but then I’m not a professional humorist. I might have to send them a note to let them know that 18 years after their founding, they’re still getting visits from me and eliciting some laughs.

Game of Thrones (HBO, 2011)
With Changing Rooms, Restoration Home, DIY SOS, and Love Your Garden each dealing with different aspects of home renovation, HBO responded with Game of Thrones, where seven teams competed to fix toilets, to win the coveted prize of the Iron Throne. Hosted by Channel 4’s Jon Snow, it featured celebrity appearances, notably from Sean Bean in the first series. Given the locations, participants often got wet and the show became known more for the nudity as clothes had to be dried; but the ideas in the show got particularly extreme with on-set weddings, and in series 4, poisoned wine, to force players to finish their toilets in record time so they could relieve themselves. Host Snow even appeared to have died on the show, though fans knew he was all right since he appeared on Channel 4 News the next day.

The Master (BBC, 2006)
With Doctor Who revived, the BBC were keen to capitalize on its success with a spin-off centring around its recurring villain, the Master, this time played by John Simm. Who alumna Billie Piper kicked off the series with the unforgettable voiceover, ‘My name is Rose Tyler. I had an accident and woke up in 1973.’ Set in the 1970s, with the Third Doctor exiled to Earth while the Master ran rampant with his weekly schemes, it was highly acclaimed, though certain fans were up in arms with the regeneration scene at the end of series two, when the Master turns into a woman (Keeley Hawes). The show was eventually merged back into Doctor Who, placating fans who were glad that the Doctor would not suddenly change gender.


The Master even dons the Ninth Doctor’s jacket

Colombo (ITV, 2003)
With the cancellation of Columbo in the US, after a final episode with Billy Connolly, producers were keen to continue the concept but, with interest in foreign-location police dramas (Wallander, Zen), it was retooled from the US setting to one in Sri Lanka, guaranteeing support from Asian diaspora. Still starring Peter Falk in a humorous fish-out-of-water tale, the gamble didn’t really work, since, as was pointed out at the time, only the supporting characters were played by Asians while the star remained white. It was also very predictable as Patrick McGoohan played the villain, albeit with different disguises, each week.

The Unger Games (ITV, 2012)
This remake of The Odd Couple takes place in a dystopian future, with Donald Sutherland as Oscar and Stanley Tucci as Felix, taking over the lead roles. Look out for a young Jennifer Lawrence as police cadet Marie Greshler, in the role that propelled her to fame. The principal change each week from the Neil Simon original was that Oscar was always finding ways to kill Felix, albeit unsuccessfully, though the shocking and dark finalé sees now-Officer Greshler plan to kill Felix, but turns on Oscar instead. A grim ending to an otherwise humorous sitcom.

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Posted in culture, humour, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Another innocent post at NewTumbl that’s too much for the moderators

02.02.2021

Even though I like NewTumbl, it’s never a pleasure to be proved right again about its user-based moderating process, where there is no appeal. Alex at NewTumbl, who empathized with my situation, says this is the latest one to fall foul of the Republic of Gilead user base—and which would have had a pass at Tumblr, the site many left because it was supposedly too restrictive:

   Alex marked it F for family-friendly—it’s a magazine cover from 1948 that anyone around then could have seen, for Chrissakes—but a moderator took this to O, which roughly equates to a PG-13, and which covers ‘sexy and sultry’ imagery.
   As Alex recounted to me in the past, even the cartoon Samantha Stevens from Bewitched was too much for the sensitive eyes of NewTumbl users.
   To the good people at NewTumbl, as you scale, you may need a panel of “super-users” who can hear appeals. I can foresee this sort of stuff driving people back to Tumblr, especially those of us who just want to post G and PG stuff. Adult content is precisely what NewTumbl didn’t want to be known exclusively for, but carry on this way and that’s the likely outcome.

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Posted in internet, media, USA | No Comments »


In the ‘I told you so’ department: Facebook purges left-wing, anti-war accounts

23.01.2021

Further to my Lucire op–ed on January 8, and my blog post on January 11, I hinted that this could happen.
   From the World Socialist Web Site:

On Friday, Facebook carried out a purge of left-wing, antiwar and progressive pages and accounts, including leading members of the Socialist Equality Party. Facebook gave no explanation why the accounts were disabled or even a public acknowledgement that the deletions had occurred.
   At least a half dozen leading members of the Socialist Equality Party had their Facebook accounts permanently disabled. This included the public account of Genevieve Leigh, the national secretary of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, and the personal account of Niles Niemuth, the US managing editor of the World Socialist Web Site. In 2016, Niemuth was the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for US Vice President.

   Seen it happen before, and we’ll see it again. Given Facebook’s management’s right-wing leanings, this really should come as no surprise. Doing it on a Friday also ensures less coverage by the media.
   I just wonder if the leftists who celebrated the ban of former US president Donald Trump will now be claiming, ‘It’s a private company, they can host whom they like,’ and ‘The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee that these websites should provide you with a platform.’
   I have never trusted Facebook with my personal information and made sure I kept copies of everything. It’s precisely because it is a private company that acts unilaterally and above the law that one never should trust them. We have had so many examples for over a decade.
   My exact words on the 8th were: ‘Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced?’
   As I have said for a long time, the left and right have common enemies, and here is a shining example.

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Posted in internet, politics, USA | 1 Comment »


Like communist dictatorships, Google and Facebook threaten Australia

23.01.2021

You know the US tech giants have way too much power, unencumbered by their own government and their own country’s laws, when they think they can strong-arm another nation.
   From Reuter:

Alphabet Inc’s Google said on Friday it would block its search engine in Australia if the government proceeds with a new code that would force it and Facebook Inc to pay media companies for the right to use their content.

   Fine, then piss off. If Australia wants to enact laws that you can’t operate with, because you’re used to getting your own way and don’t like sharing the US$40,000 million you’ve made each year off the backs of others’ hard work, then just go. I’ve always said people would find alternatives to Google services in less than 24 hours, and while I appreciate its index is larger and it handles search terms well, the spying and the monopolistic tactics are not a worthwhile trade-off.
   I know Google supporters are saying that the Australian policy favours the Murdoch Press, and I agree that the bar that the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has set for what qualifies as a media business (revenues of over A$150,000 per annum) is too high. So it isn’t perfect.
   The fact Google has made a deal in France suggests it is possible, when the giant doesn’t whine so damned much.
   Plus, Google and Facebook have been dangerous to democracy, and should have done more for years to address these issues. They’ve allowed a power imbalance for the sake of their own profits, so paying for news—effectively a licensing payment that the rest of us would have to fork out—at least puts a value on it, given how it benefits the two sites. No search? Fine, let’s have more ethical actors reap the rewards of fairer, “unbubbled” searches, because at least there would be a societal benefit from it, and since they aren’t cashing in on the media’s work, I’m happy for them to get a free licence to republish. Right now I don’t believe the likes of Duck Duck Go are dominant enough (far from it) to raise the attention of Australian regulators.
   Facebook’s reaction has been similar: they would block Australians from sharing links to news. Again, not a bad idea; maybe people will stop using a platform used to incite hate and violence to get their bubbled news items. Facebook, please go ahead and carry out your threat. If it cuts down on people using your site—or, indeed, returns them to using it for the original purpose most of us signed up for, which was to keep in touch with friends—then we all win. (Not that I’d be back for anything but the limited set of activities I do today. Zuck’s rich enough.)
   A statement provided to me and other members of the media from the Open Markets Institute’s executive director Barry Lynn reads:

Today Google and Facebook proved in dramatic fashion that they pose existential threats to the world’s democracies. The two corporations are exploiting their monopoly control over essential communications to extort, bully, and cow a free people. In doing so, Google and Facebook are acting similarly to China, which in recent months has used trade embargoes to punish Australians for standing up for democratic values and open fact-based debate. These autocratic actions show why Americans across the political spectrum must work together to break the power that Google, Facebook, and Amazon wield over our news and communications, and over our political debate. They show why citizens of all democracies must work together to build a communications infrastructure safe for all democracies in the 21st Century.

   Considering Google had worked on a search engine that would comply with Communist Chinese censorship, and Facebook has been a tool to incite genocide, then the comparison to a non-democratic country is valid.
   So, I say to these Big Tech players, pull out. This is the best tech “disruption” we can hope for. You’re both heading into irrelevance, and Australia has had the balls to do what your home country—from which you offshore a great deal of your money—cannot, for all the lobbyists you employ. You favour big firms over independents, and the once level playing field that existed on the internet has been worsened by you. The Silicon Valley spirit, of entrepreneurship, born of the counterculture, needs to return, and right now you’re both standing in the way: you are “the man”, suppressing entrepreneurial activity, reducing employment, and splitting people apart—just what dictatorial régimes do.
   As an aside, the EU is also cracking down on Big Tech as it invites the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to a February 1 hearing. They’ve bled people for long enough and it’s time for some pushback.

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Posted in business, China, culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Autocade reaches 22 million, while Rachel Hunter appears in Lucire

16.01.2021

As I begin this blog post, Autocade has just crossed the 22 million page-view barrier, at 22,000,040. I had estimated we would get there on Sunday, and as it’s just ticked over here in New Zealand, I was right.
   We have 4,379 models in the database, with the Bestune B70, in its third generation, the most recent model added. I’m grateful it’s a regular car—not yet another crossover, which has been the usual story of 2020 whenever I added new models to the site.
   As crossovers and SUVs were once regarded as niche models, historical ones weren’t put up in any great haste, so I can’t always escape them just by putting up models from the past. However, there are countless sports and supercars to go up, so maybe I’ll need to add them in amongst the SUVs to maintain my sanity and happiness. These high-riding two-box vehicles are incredibly boring subjects stylistically.
   It’s a stroke of luck, then, to have the B70: Bestune’s sole saloon offering now in amongst an entire range of crossovers. The saloons are the niche vehicles of 2020–1. It’s a stylish motor, too: Cadillac looks for a middle-class price. Admittedly, such close inspirations haven’t deserted China altogether, but this is, in my mind, no worse than Ford pretending its 1975 US Granada was a Mercedes-Benz for the masses. It’s not going to get GM’s lawyers upset. And unlike the Granada, the B70 is actually a fairly advanced car, with refinement now on par with a lot of joint-venture models coming out of China.
   You know the drill to track Autocade’s growth:

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 (five months for eighth million)
August 2016: 9,000,000 (five months for ninth million)
February 2017: 10,000,000 (six months for 10th million)
June 2017: 11,000,000 (four months for 11th million)
January 2018: 12,000,000 (seven months for 12th million)
May 2018: 13,000,000 (four months for 13th million)
September 2018: 14,000,000 (four months for 14th million)
February 2019: 15,000,000 (five months for 15th million)
June 2019: 16,000,000 (four months for 16th million)
October 2019: 17,000,000 (four months for 17th million)
December 2019: 18,000,000 (just under three months for 18th million)
April 2020: 19,000,000 (just over three months for 19th million)
July 2020: 20,000,000 (just over three-and-a-half months for 20th million)
October 2020: 21,000,000 (three months for 21st million)
January 2021: 22,000,000 (three months for 22nd million)

   Not a huge change in the rate, then: for the past year we can expect roughly a million page views every three months. The database has increased by 96 model entries, versus 40 when I last posted about the million milestones.

In other publishing news, Jody Miller has managed to get an interview with Rachel Hunter. Her story is on Lucire today, and I’m expecting a more in-depth one will appear in print later in 2021. It’s taken us 23 years (not that we were actively pursuing): it’s just one of those things where it took that long for our paths to cross. Both Rachel and Lucire are Kiwi names that are arguably more noticed abroad than in our countries of birth, and I suppose it’s like two compatriots who travel to different countries. You don’t always bump into one another.

I end this blog post with Autocade’s views at 22,000,302.

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Posted in cars, China, design, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 1 Comment »


Who’d like to ask the hard questions of Wikipedia as it turns 20?

14.01.2021

Well, that was a rather sycophantic interview with Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia, on Radio New Zealand, as the online encyclopædia turns 20.
   So I was rather excited when a Tweeter said he was going to interview Wales and asked for questions from the public. I responded:

   Let’s say they’re not going to get asked. He wrote:

   And I responded, quite prepared to engage:

   No reply. And of course there are senior editors: Wikipedians themselves use this term. I can only assume that it’s going to be another sycophantic interview. Why aren’t some people willing to ask some hard ones here? I’m guessing that the only way tough questions are asked about tech is if a woman gets on to it (someone like Louise Matsakis or Sarah Lacy).
   There’s plenty of evidence of all three of my positions, as documented here and elsewhere, and I didn’t even include a great question on bullying.

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Posted in internet, media, New Zealand, USA | No Comments »


All you need is one NewTumbl user to undo management goodwill

14.01.2021

This is a comment (with my reply, in reverse chronology) from a NewTumbl user, Thewonderfulo, who often posts about the site’s rating system. I’ve no idea if it’s official, but it certainly passes itself off as authoritative.
   I usually find myself agreeing with them but here’s a prime example where I don’t—because, first, I can’t see anything in the NewTumbl rules that confirms this (excepting one sentence below which I’ll get on to); secondly, NewTumbl has told me of some of their positions personally and I feel they’ve confirmed my position; and thirdly, if bare behinds can be seen in PG-13 films (including in their country), then a single ‘buttcheek’ is even less offensive and couldn’t possibly be M, which is where NewTumbl classifies nudity.
   There is one sentence under the O category (‘Office’, or safe for work): ‘Images that would be considered sultry or provocative qualify as O provided the people in the photo have both their tops and bottoms covered – not just hidden from view, but actually wearing clothes.’ We’d then have to argue about how much “coverage” there is, and here I’d fall back on being alive for nearly five decades and having kept my eyes open about popular culture. Swimwear, for instance, provides acceptable coverage which wouldn’t offend most of us in the occident. From memory that’s the level of skin the post in question was dealing with.
   It’s exactly as I said in my last post on NewTumbl. I love the concept, and the people who run the site, but the moderators are in some sort of Handmaid’s Tale Gilead. In fact, I’d venture to say that Tumblr wouldn’t consider a buttock to be offensive enough for removal. Given NewTumbl’s history, as a Tumblr alternative that would be more tolerant, I believe that the moderators really don’t understand the whole picture, and where the lines should be drawn.
   To think, after chatting directly to NewTumbl I was feeling a bit more chipper about the site, only to have a one-sentence comment and zero willingness to engage by a user who is, I fear, typical of the “standards” that are actually being applied by the overenthused American puritans.
   Incidentally, speaking of Americans, the sort of divisive talk that they are infamous for is all too present. Have a look at the thread from my earlier post. Frankly, if they have a problem with a buttock on a woman who is actually wearing clothes, while this sort of mudslinging is fine on a family-friendly post, then I won’t be in a hurry to return. Sorry.

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Posted in culture, internet, politics, USA | 1 Comment »