Posts tagged ‘Jack Yan’


Autocade reaches 8,000,000 page views; viewing rate up slightly since last million

05.03.2016

I had expected our car encyclopædia Autocade would reach 8,000,000 page views this month, just before its eighth anniversary. The difference was that this time, I was there last Monday GMT (the small hours of Tuesday in New Zealand) to witness the numbers tick over—almost.
   Usually, I find out about the milestones ex post facto, but happened to pop by the website’s stats’ page when it was within the last hundred before hitting 8,000,000—and took the below screen shot where the viewing numbers had reached 8,000,001 (I also saw 7,999,999; and no, these special admin pages are not counted, so my refreshing didn’t contribute to the rise).

   The site is on 3,344 individual entries (there’s one image for each entry, if you’re going by the image excerpt), which is only 86 more than Autocade had when it reached 7,000,000 last October. The rate of viewing is a little greater than it was for the last million: while I’m recording it as five months below, it had only been March for just under two hours in New Zealand. Had Autocade been a venture from anywhere west of Aotearoa, we actually made the milestone on leap day, February 29.
   Not bad for a website that has had very little promotion and relies largely on search-engine results. I only set up a Facebook page for it in 2014. It’s been a labour of love more than anything else.

March 2008: launch
April 2011: 1,000,000 page views (three years for first million)
March 2012: 2,000,000 page views (11 months for second million)
May 2013: 3,000,000 page views (14 months for third million)
January 2014: 4,000,000 page views (eight months for fourth million)
September 2014: 5,000,000 page views (eight months for fifth million)
May 2015: 6,000,000 page views (eight months for sixth million)
October 2015: 7,000,000 page views (five months for seventh million)
March 2016: 8,000,000 page views (five months for eighth million)

   I started the site because I was fed up with Wikipedia and its endless errors on its car pages—I’ve written elsewhere about the sheer fictions there. Autocade would not have Wikiality, and everything is checked, where possible, with period sources, and not exclusively online ones. The concept itself came from a car guide written by the late Michael Sedgwick, though our content is all original, and subject to copyright; and there’s a separate story to tell there, too.
   I acknowledge there are still gaps on the site, but as we grow it, we’ll plug them. At the same time, some very obscure models are there, and Autocade sometimes proves to be the only online source about them. A good part of the South African motor industry is covered with material not found elsewhere, and Autocade is sometimes one of the better-ranked English-language resources on Chinese cars.
   I’d love to see the viewing rate increase even further: it’d be great to reach 10,000,000 before the end of 2016. It might just happen if the viewing rate increases at present levels, and we get more pages up. Fellow motorheads, please keep popping by.

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Posted in business, cars, China, interests, marketing, New Zealand, publishing | 2 Comments »


A look back at 2015: a year that was harder to laugh at

20.12.2015

I’ve done this a few times now: looked through my year’s Tumblr posts to get an alternative feel for the Zeitgeist. Tumblr is where I put the less relevant junk that comes by my digital meanderings. But as I scrolled down to January 2015 in the archive, I’m not that certain the posts really reflected the world as we knew it. Nor was there much to laugh at, which was the original reason I started doing these at the close of 2009.
   January, of course, was the month of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, which saw 11 murdered, including the famed cartoonist Wolinski, whose work I enjoyed over the years. Facebook was still going through a massive bot (first-world) problem, being overrun by fake accounts that had to be reported constantly. The anti-vax movement was large enough to prompt a cartoonist to do an idiot’s guide to how vaccines work. In other words, it was a pretty depressing way to end the lunar year and start the solar one.
   February: Hannah Davis made it on to the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition by pulling her knickers down as far as socially acceptable (or unacceptable, depending on your point of view), while 50 Shades of Grey hit the cinemas, with one person commenting, ‘Seriously, this book raises every red flag warning signal I learned during my Military Police training. Grey is a ****ing psycho.’ Mission: Impossible’s second man with the rubber mask, Leonard Nimoy, he of the TV movie Baffled, passed away. Apparently he did some science fiction series, too.
   Citroën celebrated the 60th anniversary of the DS, generally regarded as one of the greatest car designs of the 20th century, while Alarm für Cobra 11 returned for another half-season in March. In April, one Tweeter refused to do any Bruce Jenner jokes: ‘there are kids & adults confused/bullied/dying over their gender identity,’ said an American photographer called Spike. The devastating Nepalese earthquakes were also in April, again nothing to be joked about. There was this moment of levity:

And the Fairfax Press published a photograph of President Xi of China, although the caption reads ‘South Korea’s President Park Geun Hye’. Wrong country, wrong gender. When reposted on Weibo, this was my most viral post of the year.

   In May, we published a first-hand account of the Nepal ’quakes in Lucire, by Kayla Newhouse. It was a month for motorheads with For the Love of Cars back on Channel 4. Facebook hackers, meanwhile, started targeting Japanese, and later Korean, accounts, taking them over and turning them into bots.
   In June, rumours swirled over the death of Channel 4 newsreader Jon Snow, whereupon I made this image:

   In July, rape complaints against actor Bill Cosby reached fever pitch as woman after woman came out with credible and very similar stories. Staying Stateside, one writer said of the GOP primaries: ‘It will go down someday as the greatest reality show ever conceived. The concept is ingenious. Take a combustible mix of the most depraved and filterless half-wits, scam artists and asylum Napoleons America has to offer, give them all piles of money and tell them to run for president. Add Donald Trump.’ A Sydney man, who allegedly insulted then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, inspired the internet public to raise funds for him to beat the fine.
   In September, Doctor Who returned to telly for its 35th season, while Facebook continued to be overwhelmed by bots, mostly based around hacked Korean accounts. A young Briton, Connie Talbot, released a cover version of Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, the theme from the James Bond film Spectre, which I regarded as superior to the original.
   In October, US Senator Bernie Sanders answered the question, ‘Do black lives matter, or do all lives matter?’ He responded, ‘Black lives matter. And the reason those words matter is the African-American community knows that on any given day, some innocent person like Sandra Bland can get into a car, and then three days later she’s going to end up dead in jail. Or their kids are going to get shot. We need to combat institutional racism from top to bottom, and we need major, major reforms in a broken criminal justice system in which we have more people in jail than China.’
   As we neared the year’s end, I wrote a blog post, uncharacteristically published both on my Tumblr and here, on how a pharmaceutical company would release a Daraprim competitor for US$1 a pill, after the company behind Daraprim raised its price from US$13·50 to US$750. That was before Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was arrested in an investigation that began in 2014. I did one post noting what my Dad had begun forgetting because of his newly diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease, with the intent of following up, out of solidarity with another other caregivers of Alzheimer’s sufferers. November, too, saw Paris’s second major terrorist attack, and Astérix illustrator Albert Uderzo contributed this touching image:

Microsoft rolled out the bug-filled Windows 10, which worked differently every day.
   In December, it wasn’t quite ‘Star Wars, nothing but Star Wars’. There was, after all, Trump, Trump and more Trump, the only potential presidential candidate getting air time outside the US. Observing the primaries, 9Gag noted that the movie Idiocracy ‘started out as a comedy and is turning into a documentary’. Michael Welton wrote, meanwhile, in Counterpunch, ‘The only way we might fathom the post 9/11 American world of governmental deceit and a raw market approach to political problem solving is to assume that moral principle has been banished because the only criteria for action is whether the ends of success and profitability have been achieved. That’s all. That’s it. And since morality is the foundation of legal systems, adhering to law is abandoned as well.’ The New Zealand flag referendum didn’t make it into my Tumblr; but if it had, I wonder if we would be arguing whether the first-placed alternative by Kyle Lockwood is black and blue, or gold and white—a reference to another argument that had internauts wasting bandwidth back in February.
   It’s not an inaccurate snapshot of 2015, but it’s also a pretty depressing one. France tasted terror attacks much like other cities, but the west noticed for a change; there were serious natural disasters; and bonkers politicians got more air time than credible ones. Those moments of levity—my humorous Jon Snow image and feigned ignorance, for instance—were few and far between. It was that much harder to laugh at the year, which stresses just how much we need to do now and in 2016 to get things on a more sensible path. Can we educate and communicate sufficiently to do it, through every channel we have? Or are social media so fragmented now that you’ll only really talk into an echo chamber? And if so, how do we unite behind a set of common values and get around this?

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Posted in cars, China, culture, humour, internet, media, politics, TV, UK, USA | No Comments »


Facebook’s still deleting drag accounts and keeping bots

21.06.2015

Some interesting bugs out there on Facebook that my friends are telling me about. One has been removed from all her groups, including one that I run (we never touched her account), another cannot comment any more (an increasingly common bug now), while Felicity Frockaccino, well known on the drag scene locally and in Sydney, saw her account deleted. Unlike LaQuisha St Redfern’s earlier this year, Felicity’s has been out for weeks, and it’s affected her livelihood since her bookings were in there. Facebook has done nothing so far, yet I’ve since uncovered another bot net which they have decided to leave (have a look at this hacked account and the bots that have been added; a lot of dormant accounts in Japan and Korea have suffered this fate, and Facebook has deleted most), despite its members being very obviously fake. Delete the humans, keep the bots.
   Felicity didn’t ask but I decided to write to these people again, to see if it would help. There was a missing word, unfortunately, but it doesn’t change the sentiment:

Guys, last year you apologized to drag kings and queens for deleting their accounts. But this year, you have been deleting their accounts. This is the second one that I know of, and I don’t know that many drag queens, which suggests to me that you [still] have it in for the drag community.

https://www.facebook.com/DoubleFFs/

Felicity Frockaccino is an international drag performer, and you’ve affected her livelihood as her bookings were all in that account. This is the second time you deleted her, despite your public apology and a private one that you sent her directly. What is going on, Facebook? You retain bots and bot nets that I report, but you go around deleting genuine human users who rely on you to make their living. Unlike LaQuisha Redfern’s account, which you restored within days, this has been weeks now.

   That’s right, she even received a personal apology after her account was deleted the first time. I had hoped that Facebook would have seen sense, since Felicity has plenty of fans. The first-world lesson is the same here as it is for Blogger: do not ever rely on Facebook for anything, and know that at any moment (either due to the intentional deletion on their end or the increasing number of database-write issues), your account can vanish.

Meanwhile, my 2012 academic piece, now titled ‘The impact of digital and social media on branding’, is in vol. 3, no. 1, the latest issue of the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing. This is available via Ingenta Connect (subscription only). JDSMM is relatively new, but all works are double-blind, peer-reviewed, and it’s from the same publisher as The Journal of Brand Management, to which I have contributed before. It was more cutting-edge in 2012 when I wrote it, and in 2013 when it was accepted for publication and JDSMM promoted its inclusion in vol. 1, no. 1, but I believe it continues to have a lot of merit for practitioners today. An unfortunate, unintentional administrative error saw to its omission, but when they were alerted to it, the publisher and editors went above and beyond to remedy things while I was in the UK and it’s out now.

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Posted in branding, business, internet, marketing, technology, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


Slides and a podcast: my MMBA 505 lecture and Access Granted, episode 45

23.04.2015

As promised to the MMBA 505 class at Victoria University of Wellington last night, here are my slides. My thanks to Dr Kala Retna for inviting me along as the guest speaker. To the students: thank you for attending at such a late hour. MBAs are hard work.
   I just realized I used to have a whole page of downloadable slides, which I believe we removed when we redid the site for the 2013 Wellington mayoral election. It might be time to reinstate the page with the presentations I’ve been doing here and abroad.
   Thoughts on Leadership is probably self-explanatory as a title, with my main five points being:

1. Be the first.
2. Prove something can be done when conventional wisdom says it can’t be.
3. Change the world for the better.
4. Break glass ceilings wherever you can find them.
5. Find the people who understand your vision.

The first four tend to be the “rules” that have guided me, while the fifth is one I had to learn the hard way some years ago, and can retitled: ‘Find the people who understand your vision and don’t get suckered by those who spout buzzwords.’ As a firm we tend to be a bit more of a closed shop than we used to be, and like any other, we get our share of fakes trying to ride off our coat-tails. Lucire seems to attract quite a few, in particular, which is what the fifth point addresses in some part.
   For a bit of levity after the academic stuff, there’s always this great podcast by Mike Riversdale and Raj Khushal, published today with me as their guest, as part of their ongoing Access Granted series. Only a little bit has been cut for commercial sensitivity, and the rest is a bit of light-hearted banter—the sort you’d have between mates, and I have known Mike and Raj for many years—with no hair-pulling.

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Posted in business, humour, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


A year of random thoughts: 2014 in review

29.12.2014

For the last few years, I’ve looked back at the events of the year in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. (In fact, in 2009, I looked back at the decade.) Tumblr’s the place I look at these days for these summaries, since it tends to have my random thoughts, ones complemented by very little critical thinking. They tell me what piqued my interest over the year.
   These days, I’ve been posting more about the TV show I watch the most regularly, the German Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei. A good part of my Tumblr, at least, and of Danielle Carey’s, whom I first connected with via this blog, features screen shots and other photographs from it. But Cobra 11 aside—and for those “cultured” Germans who tell me it’s the worst show on their telly, may I remind you that you still make Das Traumschiff?—I still will be influenced by everyday events.
   So what do I spy?
   Sadly, despite my intent in wanting to blog humorously, it turns out that 2014 doesn’t necessarily give us a lot to laugh about. And we’ve had over a year after that Mayan calendar gag, and 13 years after Y2K. It’s still not time to laugh yet.

January
I made a spoof English Hustle poster given all the hype about American Hustle, which seems to have, prima facie, the same idea. It meets with Adrian Lester’s approval (well, he said, ‘Ha,’ which I gather is positive).

   I post about Idris Elba giving a response about the James Bond character. (Slightly ahead of my time, as it turns out.)
   Robert Catto wrote of Justin Bieber’s arrest: ‘So, J. Biebs is arrested for racing a rented Lamborghini in a residential neighbourhood while under the influence (of drugs and alcohol) while on an expired license, resisting arrest, and a bunch of previous stuff including egging a neighbour’s house. With that many accusations being thrown at him, this can only mean one thing.
   ‘The race for Mayor of Toronto just got interesting.’
   I wrote to a friend, ‘If there was a Facebook New Zealand Ltd. registered here then it might make more sense ensuring that there were fewer loopholes for that company to minimize its tax obligations, but the fact is there isn’t. Either major party would be better off encouraging New Zealand to be the head office for global corporations, or encourage good New Zealand businesses to become global players, if this was an issue (and I believe that it is). There is this thing called the internet that they may have heard of, but both parties have seen it as the enemy (e.g. the whole furore over s. 92A, first proposed by Labour, enacted by National).
   ‘Right now, we have some policy and procedural problems preventing us from becoming more effective exporters.
   ‘It’s no coincidence that I took an innovation tack in my two mayoral campaigns. If central government was too slow in acting to capture or create these players, then I was going to do it at a local level.’
   And there are $700 trillion (I imagine that means $700 billion, if you used the old definitions—12 zeroes after the 700) worth of derivatives yet to implode, according to I Acknowledge. Global GDP is $69·4 (American) trillion a year. ‘This means that (primarily) Wall Street and the City of London have run up phantom paper debts of more than ten times of the annual earnings of the entire planet.’

February
The Sochi Olympics: in Soviet Russia, Olympics watch you! Dmitry Kozak, the deputy PM, says that westerners are deliberately sabotaging things there. How does he know? ‘We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.’
   Sports Illustrated does an Air New Zealand safety video.
   This was the month I first saw the graphic containing a version of these words: ‘Jesus was a guy who was a peaceful, radical, nonviolent revolutionary, who hung around with lepers, hookers, and criminals, who never spoke English, was not an American citizen, a man who was anti-capitalism, anti-wealth, anti-public prayer (yes he was Matthew 6:5), anti-death penalty but never once remotely anti-gay, didn’t mention abortion, didn’t mention premarital sex, a man who never justified torture, who never called the poor “lazy”, who never asked a leper for a co-pay, who never fought for tax cuts for the wealthiest Nazarenes, who was a long haired, brown skinned (that’s in revelations), homeless, middle eastern Jew? Of course, that’s only if you believe what’s actually in the Bible’ (sic). For those who want a response, this blog post answers the points from a Catholic point of view, but the original quote’s not completely off-base.

March
My friend Dmitry protests in Moskva against Russia’s actions in the Crimea. This was posted on this blog at the time. He reports things aren’t all rosy in Russia when it comes to free speech.
   Another friend, Carolyn Enting, gets her mug in the Upper Hutt Leader after writing her first fictional book, The Medallion of Auratus.
   MH370 goes missing.
   And this great cartoon, called ‘If Breaking Bad Had Been Set in the UK’:

April
I call Lupita Nyong’o ‘Woman of the Year 2014’.
   A post featuring Robin Williams (before that horrible moment in August), where he talks about the influence of Peter Sellers and Dr Strangelove on him. I seem to have posted a lot of Robin that month, from his CBS TV show, The Crazy Ones.
   A Lancastrian reader, Gerald Vinestock, writes to The Times: ‘Sir, Wednesday’s paper did not have a photograph of the Duchess of Cambridge. I do hope she is all right.’
   A first post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1987’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes.

   The fiftieth anniversary of the on-sale date of the Ford Mustang (April 17).
   The death of Bob Hoskins. Of course I had to post his last speech in The Long Good Friday, as well as the clip from Top Gear where Richard Hammond mistook Ray Winstone for Hoskins. They all look the same to me.

May
Judith Collins’ story about what she was doing in China with Oravida collapses.
   Someone points out there is a resemblance between Benedict Cumberbatch and Butthead from Beavis and Butthead.

   Jean Pisani Ferry’s view on the origins of the euro crisis in The Economist: ‘Suppose that the crisis had begun, as it might easily have done, in Ireland? It would then have been obvious that fiscal irresponsibility was not the culprit: Ireland had a budget surplus and very low debt. More to blame were economic imbalances, inflated property prices and dodgy bank loans. The priority should not have been tax rises and spending cuts, but reforms to improve competitiveness and a swift resolution of troubled banks, including German and French ones, that lent so irresponsibly.’

June
British-born Tony Abbott says he doesn’t like immigration, or some such.
   This humorous graphic, made before the launch of the five-door Mini, on how the company could extend its range:

   Sir Ian McKellen says, ‘Did I want to go and live in New Zealand for a year? As it turns out, I was very happy that I did. I can’t recommend New Zealand strongly enough. It’s a wonderful, wonderful place, quite unlike [the] western world. It’s in the southern hemisphere and it’s far, far away and although they speak English, don’t be fooled. They’re not like us. They’re something better than us.’
   Lots of Alarm für Cobra 11 posts.

July
Sopheak Seng’s first Lucire cover, photographed by Dave Richards, and with a fantastic crew: hair by Michael Beel, make-up by Hil Cook, modelled by Chloé Graham, and with some layout and graphic design by Tanya Sooksombatisatian and typography by me.

   Liam Fitzpatrick writes of Hong Kong, before the Occupy protests, ‘Hong Kongers—sober, decent, pragmatic and hardworking—are mostly not the sort of people who gravitate to the barricades and the streets. Neither do they need to be made aware of the political realities of having China as a sovereign power, for the simple fact that postwar Hong Kong has only ever existed with China’s permission. In the 1960s, the local joke was that Mao Zedong could send the British packing with a mere phone call.
   ‘With that vast, brooding power lying just over the Kowloon hills, tiny Hong Kong’s style has always been to play China cleverly—to push where it can (in matters such as education and national-security legislation, where it has won important battles) and to back off where it cannot.’
   It didn’t seem completely prescient.

August
The General Election campaign: National billboards are edited.
   Doctor Who goes on tour prior to Peter Capaldi’s first season in the lead role.
   The suicide of Robin Williams.
   Michael Brown is killed. Greg Howard writes, ‘There was Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., and Oscar Grant in Oakland, Calif., and so many more. Michael Brown’s death wasn’t shocking at all. All over the country, unarmed black men are being killed by the very people who have sworn to protect them, as has been going on for a very long time now …
   ‘There are reasons why white gun’s rights activists can walk into a Chipotle restaurant with assault rifles and be seen as gauche nuisances while unarmed black men are killed for reaching for their wallets or cell phones, or carrying children’s toys.’
   Like so many things, such a statement of fact became politicized in months to come.
   Darren Watson releases ‘Up Here on Planet Key’, only to have it banned by the Electoral Commission. With his permission, I did a spoken-word version.
   Journalist Nicky Hager, who those of us old enough will remember was a right-wing conspiracy theorist, is branded a left-wing conspiracy theorist by the PM because this time, he wrote about National and not Labour. The Deputy PM, Bill English, who commended Hager’s work 12 years ago over Seeds of Distrust, and even quoted from it, remained fairly quiet.
   It wasn’t atypical. I wrote in one post, ‘In 2011, Warren Tucker said three times in one letter that he told PM John Key about the SIS release. Now he says he only told his office but not the PM personally—after an investigation was announced (when the correct protocol would be to let the investigation proceed) …
   ‘Key did not know about GCSB director Ian Fletcher’s appointment (week one of that saga) before he knew about it (week two).
   ‘Key cannot remember how many TranzRail shares he owned.
   ‘Key cannot remember if and when he was briefed by the GCSB over Kim Dotcom.
   ‘Key did not know about Kim Dotcom’s name before he did not know about Kim Dotcom at all.
   ‘Key cannot remember if he was for or against the 1981 Springbok tour.’
   Some folks on YouTube did a wonderful series of satirical videos lampooning the PM. Kiwi satire was back. This was the first:

   Matt Crawford recalled, ‘At this point in the last election campaign, the police were threatening to order search warrants for TV3, The Herald on Sunday, RadioNZ et al—over a complaint by the Prime Minister. Over a digital recording inadvertently made in a public space literally during a media stunt put on for the press—a figurative media circus.’
   Quoting Robert Muldoon in 1977’s Muldoon by Muldoon: ‘New Zealand does not have a colour bar, it has a behaviour bar, and throughout the length and breadth of this country we have always been prepared to accept each other on the basis of behaviour and regardless of colour, creed, origin or wealth. That is the most valuable feature of New Zealand society and the reason why I have time and again stuck my neck out to challenge those who would try to destroy this harmony and set people against people inside our country.’
   And my reaction to the Conservative Party’s latest publicity, which was recorded on this blog, and repeated for good measure on Tumblr: ‘Essentially what they are saying is: our policy is that race doesn’t matter. Except when it comes to vilifying a group, it does. Let’s ignore the real culprits, because: “The Chinese”.’

September
The passing of Richard ‘Jaws’ Kiel.
   John Barnett of South Pacific Pictures sums up Nicky Hager: ‘Hager is a gadfly who often causes us to examine our society. He has attacked both the right and the left before. It’s too easy to dismiss it as a left wing loony conspiracy. We tend to shoot the messengers rather than examine the messages.’
   New Zealanders begin vilifying Kim Dotcom: I respond.
   I blog about Occupy Central in Hong Kong—which led to a television appearance on Breakfast in early October.

October
I’m not sure where this quotation comes from, but I reposted it: ‘A white man is promoted: He does good work, he deserved it.
   ‘A white woman is promoted: Whose dick did she suck?
   ‘A man of color is promoted: Oh, great, I guess we have to “fill quotas” now.
   ‘A woman of color is promoted: j/k. That never happens.’
   Facebook gets overrun by bots: I manage to encounter 277 in a single day. (I eventually reach someone at Facebook New Zealand, who is trying to solicit business for one of the fan pages we have, and point this out. I never hear back from him.) The trouble is Facebook limits you to reporting 40 a day, effectively tolerating the bots. It definitely tolerates the click farms: I know of dozens of accounts that the company has left untouched, despite reports.
   Kim Dotcom’s lawyers file a motion to dismiss in Virginia in United States v. Dotcom and others, and summarize the case so far: ‘Nearly three years ago, the United States Government effectively wiped out Megaupload Limited, a cloud storage provider, along with related businesses, based on novel theories of criminal copyright infringement that were offered by the Government ex parte and have yet to be subjected to adversarial testing. Thus, the Government has already seized the criminal defendants’ websites, destroyed their business, and frozen their assets around the world—all without benefit of an evidentiary hearing or any semblance of due process.
   ‘Without even attempting to serve the corporate defendants per the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the Government has exercised all its might in a concerted, calculated effort to foreclose any opportunity for the defendants to challenge the allegations against them and also to deprive them of the funds and other tools (including exculpatory evidence residing on servers, counsel of choice, and ability to appear) that would equip robust defense in the criminal proceedings.
   ‘But all that, for the Government, was not enough. Now it seeks to pile on against ostensibly defenseless targets with a parallel civil action, seeking civil forfeiture, based on the same alleged copyright crimes that, when scrutinized, turn out to be figments of the Government’s boundless imagination. In fact, the crimes for which the Government seeks to punish the Megaupload defendants (now within the civil as well as the criminal realm) do not exist. Although there is no such crime as secondary criminal copyright infringement, that is the crime on which the Government’s Superseding Indictment and instant Complaint are predicated. That is the nonexistent crime for which Megaupload was destroyed and all of its innocent users were denied their rightful property. That is the nonexistent crime for which individual defendants were arrested, in their homes and at gunpoint, back in January 2012. And that is the nonexistent crime for which the Government would now strip the criminal defendants, and their families, of all their assets.’
   Stuart Heritage thinks The Apprentice UK has run its course, and writes in The Guardian: ‘The Apprentice has had its day. It’s running on fumes. It’s time to replace it with something more exciting, such as a 40-part retrospective on the history of the milk carton, or a static shot of someone trying to dislodge some food from between their teeth with the corner of an envelope.’

November
Doctor Who takes a selfie and photobombs himself.

   Andrew Little becomes Labour leader, and is quoted in the Fairfax Press (who, according to one caption, says his mother’s name is Cecil): ‘I’m not going to resile from being passionate about working men and women being looked after, having a voice, and being able to go to work safe and earn well. That’s what I stand for.
   ‘The National party have continued to run what I think is a very 1970s prejudice about unions … We have [in New Zealand] accepted a culture that if you are big, bold and brassy you will stand up for yourself. But [this] Government is even stripping away protections [from] those who are bold enough to do so.
   ‘I think New Zealanders are ready for someone who will talk bluntly about those who are being left behind. That’s what I’ll be doing.’
   I’m not a Labour voter but I was impressed.
   I advise my friend Keith Adams in Britain, who laments the driving standards there, that in order to have the road toll we have, they’d need to kill another 2,000 per annum. ‘The British driver is a well honed, precision pilot compared to one’s Kiwi counterpart.’

December
Julian Assange on Google, and confirmation that the company has handed over personal data to the US Government. He calls Eric Schmidt ‘Google’s secretary of state, a Henry Kissinger-like figure whose job it is to go out and meet with foreign leaders and their opponents and position Google in the world.’
   The Sydney siege and the tragic deaths of Katrina Dawson and Tori Johnson.
   The killing of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. The NYPD doesn’t look very white to me, but a murderer used the death of Eric Garner as an excuse to murder a Dad and a newlywed.
   My second post on those CBS TV attempts to create a show about Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day in the US, partnered with a woman: on 1993’s 1994 Baker Street.

   Craig Ferguson hosts his last Late Late Show. And more’s the pity: he’s one of the old school, never bitter, and never jumped on the bandwagon attacking celebrities.

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Posted in business, China, culture, Hong Kong, humour, interests, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, TV, typography, UK, USA | 2 Comments »


All the Geelys on Autocade

01.12.2014

The Geely King Kong Hatchback, one of the new entries on the Autocade website.

Not that I blogged it at the time, but Geely’s multi-brand strategy in 2009 felt doomed. Earlier this year, the company retreated, and brought everything from Englon, Gleagle and Emgrand back under its parent brand again.
   It wasn’t unlike Mazda’s attempt to do the same in the early 1990s, when it began selling cars under marques such as Efini, Autozam and Eunos, as well as its own brand. The bursting of Japan’s bubble economy didn’t help things, but the problems went deeper than that. Those who were used to buying a Mazda Capella from a certain outlet were surprised to find that it had become one of these new channels, and there was no Capella or equivalent to be seen. In fact, for those years, there was no Capella—a nameplate Japanese buyers had become accustomed to for decades—as Mazda decided to offer cars such as the Cronos, which went over the 1,700 mm width that landed it in a higher tax bracket.
   We never noticed much of these issues outside Japan, as these cars were simply sold as Mazda 626, and there were fewer signs of the company’s ambitious plans that landed it in such trouble then-shareholder Ford installed a Scot in charge. It was the first time a Caucasian wound up running a car maker there. Mazda felt embarrassed it wasn’t one of their own.
   Geely might not have had the Chinese economy collapse on it, and it may have been buoyed through the 2000s as it went from being a manufacturer of recycled Daihatsus to a major Chinese automotive force, but there was the obvious problem of increasing its marketing costs dramatically. Could it also develop lines for four marques all of a sudden? Remember, too, it would swallow Volvo around this time, giving it a fifth marque.
   The answer was no: Geely wound up shifting various models to different marques, badge-engineering others, and generally confusing the state of affairs for Chinese consumers. There’s a solid argument to be made for Geely at the time though: the automotive market was clearly segmenting, and there was a need to have budget and luxury brands. But it didn’t seem organic, but dramatically forced. I take my hat off to Geely for carrying it out, nevertheless, even if some of the models were lacking: the Emgrand EC7, for instance, had rear torsion beam suspension, and it was supposedly a premium product for the well-to-do upper-middle-class Chinese buyer.
   It all came crashing down earlier this year, when Geely realized that it lost economies of scale in marketing, and the most important player in all of this—the consumer—really couldn’t follow what was what. To top it off, these new brands had no goodwill, just as Mazda’s didn’t 20 years before. Unless you’re willing to push these brands like crazy, it’s a hard battle to win, especially in the most competitive market on earth. China, too, has had a downturn in car sales this year, and the heady days of thinking one can adopt multi-brand strategies without the numbers to support them are over.
   Why has it come up? Today, Autocade has successfully recorded the entire current line of Geelys, and there are quite a few historical models in there, too. It was incredibly confusing, too, tracking the new identities of a lot of the models—did the Englon SC5 get renamed? Which lines were dropped because there was a badge-engineered equivalent? And, as is particularly common among Chinese models we put on Autocade, how on earth shall we translate some of these model names? (The practice is to use the Chinese company’s own translations, where available, and not succumb to using the export names to index them.)
   While some pages had the new Geely names appended to the old Englon, Emgrand and Gleagle model pages, there were new entries for the Geely New Emgrand, the old King Kong line along with the Englon SC5-based King Kong hatchback, the two generations of Geely Vision, and the historical Geely Haoqing (an old car based around a 1980s Daihatsu Charade: to think, at the turn of the century, this described pretty much every car in the Geely range) as well as the new flagship SUV that now bears the name.
   The reason for being a bit obsessive over the Geelys, as well as some other models (we added nearly all the current Cadillacs and a few more Chang’ans), is that with the demise of Auto Katalog, I believe more will go online. If we can present a credible new-car site—although we have a long way to go before we get every current model line up—we may go some way to filling the void with Autocade.

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Autocade hits 5,000,000 views: what are its most read and least searched?

17.10.2014

With Autocade exceeding the 5,000,000 page view milestone (it’s on 5·12 million), I thought it might be fun to look at a few of the models on the site: the most popular, the least loved, and the first on the site.
   Looking at the stats, here are the most popular models. These shouldn’t be surprising: for a long time, our page on the E100 Toyota Corolla was the most-read. That’s since been overtaken by the Ford Fiesta Mk VII, the Toyota’s rival, the Nissan Sunny (B14), and the older Nissan Bluebird (910), probably thanks to a link from Wikipedia.

2008 Ford Fiesta Trend.jpg
1. Ford Fiesta (B299/B409). 2008 to date (prod. over 1,000,000 Europe only to March 2011). 3-, 4- and 5-door saloon. F/F, 999 cm³ (I3 DOHC), 1242 cm³ petrol, 1399 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 1388, 1596 cm³ petrol, 1498, 1560 cm³ diesel (I4 DOHC). Ford’s global small car, part of European Fiesta lineage with nameplate returning to North America for the first time since 1980. Four-door for Asian and North American markets. Regarded as class leader, excellent chassis and handling. Showed small-car interpretation of ‘kinetic’ design theme which débuted on larger Ford Mondeo Mk IV. Minor facelift in 2010, more substantial, Aston Martin-esque facelift in 2012, with Ecoboost three-cylinder and 1·5 diesel added.

Nissan Sunny 1800 Super Touring Type S.jpg
2. Nissan Sunny/Nissan Sentra (B14). 1994–2000 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/F, F/A, 1295, 1497, 1597, 1838, 1998 cm³ (I4 DOHC), 1974 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC). Undistinguished front-wheel-drive sedan with more limited markets; Europe and many western markets were now selling only the Pulsar (as the Almera). No station wagon as Sunny range trimmed. Sold in numerous Asian countries. Sentra in México, with 2·0-litre option. In production in Thailand till 2000. Coupé called Lucino in the home market, a separate line.

1980 Datsun Bluebird.jpg
3. Nissan Bluebird (910). 1979–86 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 2-door coupé. F/R, 1595, 1598, 1770, 1809, 1952 cm³ petrol, 1952 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 2393 cm³ (I6 OHC). Squared-off Bluebird began Nissan’s 1980s’ rise, dropping its alphanumeric model codes in many markets. Badged Datsun for export initially, with Nissan badges appearing in 1981. Sold in US as 810, 810 Maxima, and then Maxima from 1982. Conventional, despite sharp, boxy styling. End of Japanese production 1983. Facelift in Australia in 1985.

Toyota Corolla (E100).jpg
4. Toyota Corolla/Holden Nova (E100). 1991–9 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 5-door liftback sedan, 4-door hardtop, 3- and 5-door hatchback sedan, 5-door wagon, 5-door high-roof van, 2-door coupé. F/F, F/A, 1296 cm³ petrol, 1974 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 1331, 1497, 1498, 1587, 1762 cm³ (I4 DOHC). Dr Akihiko Saito, in charge of the Corolla programme, wanted to create the most refined Corolla possible, with Lexus-style comfort. To some degree, the team succeeded, but the car’s price went up in Japan during a recession. Roomy, but heavy, and less competitive alongside other small cars, including Koreans. Sales were initially slow. Longer wheelbase. Short-tail hatchbacks still Corolla FX in Japan. Liftback actually part of Sprinter range in Japanese home market. Four-door hardtop coupé from 1992 called Corolla Ceres. Last Corolla built in Australia, where it was also the Holden Nova from 1994 to 1996.

2004 Toyota Corolla.jpg
5. Toyota Corolla/Toyota Huaguan/Toyota Limo (E120). 2000 to date (prod. n/a). 3-, 4- and 5-door sedan, 5-door wagon, 5-door minivan. F/F, 1364 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC), 1398, 1598, 1796 cm³ (I4 DOHC), 1995 cm³ diesel (I4 DOHC). Corolla grows to its biggest size up to that point but limited by Japanese taxation requirements (setting the maximum width to 1,700 mm before it goes into a higher tax bracket). Shortened Toyota Vista (V50) platform, 2,600 mm wheelbase. Torsion beam axle at rear, replacing independent rear suspension. Sedans sold as Corolla Altis in some Asian markets. Wagons named Corolla Fielder, with hatchbacks taking Corolla Runx and Allex names (the latter replacing Sprinter). Corolla Spacio denoted a minivan model, sold as Corolla Spacio in Europe. Toyota Matrix, a different small van or tall hatchback, sold in US, renamed Corolla Matrix in 2005. Platform shared with Pontiac Vibe (or Toyota Voltz). Competent small car, hatchbacks in fact quite stylish, though interior design dull. Mid-life facelift 2004 in Japan. Japanese production ended 2006; some other countries 2008; continuing in China into the 2010s as Corolla EX, running alongside E150 successor.

   But what of the least popular? It’s unfair to go to the bottom of the statistics’ page, because you’re going to get a newer page that might become popular later. The following four are models which I’ve seen at the bottom of that page even after they had been on the site for a while, suggesting not too many are searching for them.

2012 Riich X1.jpg
1. Riich X1. 2009 to date (prod. n/a). 5-door sedan. F/F, 1297, 1497 cm³ (I4 DOHC). B-segment city car with SUV looks, exported as Chery Beat to some countries. Meant to have been absorbed into the Chery range when the Riich marque was killed off in 2013, and continued to appear on Chery’s export site, though it vanished from domestic listings. Based on the Riich M1.

1973 Pontiac GTO.jpg
2. Pontiac LeMans. 1973–7 (prod. n/a, incl. 4,806 GTO). 2-door coupé. F/R, 231 in³ (V6 OHV), 250 in³ (I6 OHV), 260, 301,350, 400, 455 in³ (V8 OHV). Unreliable, thirsty GM Colonnade model line, with poor gas mileage (improving somewhat for 1975). GTO offered as an option for one year only, and more driveable than other LeManses and even previous GTOs, but fans tended to forget this model. Luxury LeMans for 1973 and 1974, renamed Grand Le Mans in 1975. Related to Pontiac Grand Am (1973–5), and other GM intermediates including Buick Century (1973–7), Oldsmobile Cutlass (1973–7) and Chevrolet Chevelle (1973–7).

2007 Buick Park Avenue.jpg
3. Buick Park Avenue (WM). 2007–12 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan. F/R, 2792, 2986, 3564 cm³ (V6 DOHC). Chinese-assembled version of Holden Statesman (WM), but with differences such as visually large grille, different bumpers, and no indicators and vents in wings aft of the front wheels. Smaller Australian-built 2·8-litre unit related to one from Cadillac CTS available on Chinese edition, along with 3·6 from Holden Commodore (VE), later both replaced by 3·0. Otherwise mechanically similar to Statesman. Killed off in 2012 due to slow sales.

1998 Chevrolet Monte Carlo Z34.jpg
4. Chevrolet Monte Carlo (W-body). 1995–9 (prod. 376,483). 2-door coupé. F/F, 3135, 3791 cm³ (V6 OHV), 3350 cm³ (V6 DOHC). Chevy brings back the Monte Carlo nameplate for a two-door version of the Lumina. Z34, with extra equipment, featured DOHC V6, replaced by smoother but less powerful 3·8 in 1998. New four-speed auto in 1997. Good value for money, and a comfortable, long-distance cruiser. Average in terms of reliability.

   Finally, the oldest photos on the site tell us which articles I wrote first. A few of the oldest photos have been replaced for quality reasons, but it’s safe to say the following five cars were among the original ten or dozen entered on to Autocade.

Renault Mégane II.jpg
1. Renault Mégane (X84). 2002 to date (prod. n/a). 3-, 4- and 5-door saloon, 5-door estate, 2-door coupé–cabriolet. F/F, 1390, 1598, 1998 cm³ (I4 DOHC); 1461, 1870 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC). Surprising shape for 2002 launch, a total departure from earlier Mégane, with Renault designers showing their creativity. Hatchbacks have vertical tailgate with a bustle; saloon, estate and coupé convertible more conventional. Successful seller for Renault not just in home market, but in Germany. Revisions to range 2005. As before a Scénic minivan offered but this time in short- and long-wheelbase (Grand Scénic) versions, though not marketed as a Mégane despite ‘Mégane’ tag appearing in the C-pillar. (See separate entry at Renault Mégane Scénic II.) Turbo model claims 165 ch; RS delivers 225 ch. Hatchbacks replaced 2008 in France, estate in 2009. Saloon replaced by Fluence in South America 2011, though continued in Iran at Pars Khodro with 1600 and 2000 models; Grand Tour (estate) in Brazil to 2013.

Trabant P601.jpg
2. Trabant P601. 1964–91 (prod. 3,000,000 approx.). 2-door saloon, 3-door estate, 2-door utility convertible. F/F, 595 cm³ (I2 OHV), 1093 cm³ (I4 OHC). East German subcompact car descended from DKW, made with cotton-based plastic (Duroplast) bodyshell. Sold in UK till 1965. Made with 595 cm³ engine (26 PS) until 1989 when larger and cleaner Volkswagen Polo 1·1-litre engine adapted under licence. Estate variant called Universal. Utilitarian “off-road” convertible model called Tramp. Kitsch value toward the end of its life as a relic of the DDR, but unloved for most years.

2008 Ford Falcon G6E.jpg
3. Ford Falcon (E240/FG). 2008–14 (prod. n/a). 4-door sedan, 2-door utility truck. F/R, 1999 cm³ (I4 DOHC), 3984 cm³ petrol, 3984 cm³ LPG (I6 DOHC), 4951, 5408 cm³ (V8 DOHC). Extensively revised series launched in February 2008 with three grilles, for regular Falcon, G6 (which replaces the Futura and Fairmont nameplates) and XR. V8 engine restricted to sporty XR8 model only. No station wagon (EA169 platform carried over on facelifted model briefly). Very little change in fuel economy figures compared with predecessor. V8 produces 290 kW. FG designation supposedly meant to evoke memories of now-defunct Fairmont Ghia nameplate. Marketed as larger than Mondeo Mk IV, but in fact smaller in key dimensions except overall length. At time of launch, petrol models gained a five-star ANCAP safety rating, one up on its main competitor, the Holden Commodore (VE). EcoBoost turbo four from 2012, when FG also had a minor facelift. Smaller 5·0 Miami V8 for XR8 from 2013.

1970½ Ford Falcon sedan.jpg
4. Ford Falcon. 1970½ (prod. 26,000 approx.). 2- and 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon. 250 in³ (I6 OHV), 302, 351, 429 in³ (V8 OHV). For half a model year (built January–August 1970), Ford transferred its Falcon nameplate from the compact model to the intermediate Torino–Fairlane bodyshell (117 in wheelbase for sedans; curiously, the wagon was on 114 in), making the Torino’s engine options available. Still marketed as an economy car, the last American Falcon is characterized by its swooping design. After 1970, Falcons were made only in Australia and Argentina (with an assembly plant for Australian models in New Zealand).

Hyundai i30.jpg
5. Hyundai i30 (FD). 2007–11 (prod. n/a). 5-door hatchback, 5-door estate. F/F, 1396, 1591, 1975 cm³ petrol, 1582 cm³ diesel (I4 DOHC), 1991 cm³ diesel (I4 OHC). First Hyundai designed specifically for Europe, rivalling Volkswagen Golf. Designed in Rüsselsheim, Germany with excellent dynamics, among the best for the Korean brand. Quality survey in Germany in 2010 put the car at the top. Estate added at end of 2007 and sold in some markets as Hyundai Elantra Touring. Sister car to Kia Cee’d (2006–12), released earlier, but lacks that model’s three-door hatchback style.

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Posted in business, cars, general, New Zealand, publishing, Wellington | 1 Comment »


Creating real value, and that’s not what Facebook and Twitter do

17.06.2014

My forced Facebook sabbatical came to an end in the late morning. So what did I think of it all?
   One of my Tweets last night was: ‘I hope [it is temporary], though I have found people out for 7–12 days now. Now it’s Monday I hope they have got over their hangovers!’ At the time I thought: this Facebook is probably not a 24-hour operation. These guys are probably off for the weekend, and they work part-time. We might see them on Monday morning, US time, or whenever they come back from Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Bill Cosby Day, or whatever it is they celebrate over there. Oh, it’s California, so they are probably stoned.
   Sixty-nine hours weren’t quite enough to break my habits, though they were beginning to change. No more was I looking up Facebook in bed before I go to the office, or having a quick gander at night. But on the desktop, I left one tab open, which would always draw me there to have a glance at what friends were up to.
   The timing was a bit exceptional: we had the top 23 pages for the Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists to launch. Had it not been for that, I wonder if I would have bothered with Facebook at all. I had queries to field, direct messages to respond to.
   The direct messaging is obviously separate from the rest of Facebook, as it was the one thing that hadn’t failed. But everything else was worsening: initially losing liking, commenting and posting, then losing the fan pages I administered. Friends could not see my wall, while a few who could see it tried to like things and were given errors. Aside from a few exceptions, no one seemed to think this was out of the ordinary and worth chatting to me about. Not that I mind this: they could all get in touch with me via other media. But this signals that it is OK to get an error when liking something, and shrug it off as temporary, because we believed Facebook when it told us to try again in a few minutes. Never mind that in Facebookland, ‘a few’ means 4,000. We have low expectations of these dot coms.
   So when people joke about how these things always tend to happen to me, I wonder. I’ve always maintained they happen to us all. Maybe the difference is I don’t believe these buggers when they tell me that things will be back in a few minutes, because invariably they don’t. So I put an entry in to Get Satisfaction, or on this blog, so others don’t feel they are alone.
   And if I had found the limits of the site—because I believe on Vox I did in 2009, when exactly the same thing happened, and the techs had no way out—then Facebook should know about this.
   Facebook was, through all of this, useless. It had closed down its Known Issues on Facebook page, which seemed foolhardy, because this certainly was a known issue with the increasing number of Tweets about it. There were no acknowledgements, and most of the time, feeding anything into its report forms resulted in errors. Sometimes I got a blank screen. Its own help pages told you to do things that were impossible. If it were any other firm, people would be crying bloody murder or wanting their money back. (And I am technically a customer, through my mayoral campaign last year.)
   A few other accounts came back, for the people I interacted with on Twitter and Get Satisfaction in the same predicament.
   So what now? I might Facebook less. The 69 hours were a good reminder. One of the things I had watched during the sabbatical was the following video via Johnnie Moore, where Douglas Rushkoff speaks about how these big innovators aren’t really adding value, only capital. He gives the example of Twitter:

The company that was going to be the maker of things now has to be the site where he aggregates the other makers of things … so that you can show multi-billion-dollar returns instead of the hundred millions that you were doing … You know, for Twitter, I just saw yesterday, they’re failing! Only $43 million last quarter! Isn’t that awful? Oh my God! Only $43 million, which is, I mean, how many employees do they have? I think that would be enough but their market cap is so outlandishly huge, so much money has gotten stuck in there, that they’re gonna be stuck looking for a new way to somehow milk more money out of an otherwise great tool and they’re gonna kill it. They have to—they have to, ’cause they need that home run.

   Can we expect there to be greater innovation in such an environment, for any of these platforms? If we aren’t feeling the same buzz we once did with these sites, there’s a good reason, and the above is part of the problem. They aren’t creating value any more, only market cap and stock, or, as Rushkoff says, ‘static capital.’

This is what [Thomas] Piketty was really writing about … Capital has the ability to actually create profit, so all these companies, all this development, are really just different versions gaming the system rather than rewiring the system, rebooting it, which is the opportunity here.

   I spent part of the last few days looking at the PDF proofs for Lucire Arabia, where at least I know I am part of making something that is creating value and, through its content, helping people. While my original motive for being on Facebook et al was promotional, for my businesses, I have to question if that was the best use of my time, and for creating value. Facebook organized my friends, as Google organized the web—now that those are done, there is the next step.
   I left Vox—or rather, Vox left me when the site died and I was no longer able to post—and put more time elsewhere, namely into my first mayoral election campaign. I knew I was creating an opportunity to help people, and the upshot of that is the free wifi system we have in Wellington today (ironically probably very heavily used to update Facebook). It meant more than a means to Facebook and Instagram: the bigger picture was to signal to the tech sector that Wellington is open for business, and that we aren’t being left behind in an industry that can create frictionless exports and intellectual capital.
   We aren’t quite there again in 2014, as Facebook is back, but it may be worth contemplating just where I’m creating value for business and society when it’s not election year. This year, I don’t have a book planned—but it may have to be something where a good bunch of people are going to get some benefit.

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A belated look back at 2013

18.03.2014

I must have had a busy end of 2013, as I never posted my trade-mark summary of the year as viewed via my Tumblr. Here ’tis, better late than never.

January 2013
Lucire has a facelift online—by December 2013, this “new look” would be history. Kylie Minogue is on the home page as the first story with the new look. Seems very retro now.
   Cliff Curtis plays a non-Māori with a standard American accent in Missing. Maybe no one really knows about New Zealand in Hollywood, unless you are Jemaine, Bret, or a Hobbit.
   Kim Dotcom launches Megabox but it’s still not fair or sustainable for content creators, says Russell Brown. You just don’t hear much about this these days.
   Jaguar is happy that the Tata procedures’ manual is four sides of A4 instead of Ford’s three-inch thick one. Free from US bureaucracy, it now produces good cars. This might apply to other things concerning the US of A.

February 2013
Dick Prosser doesn’t get stood down by New Zealand First after racist comments, and Shearer and Key are OK with that, too. Prosser’s relieved he doesn’t work for TVNZ.
   On Instagram, the OHMS hashtag reveals very little that is On Her Majesty’s Service.
   Google claims that it cannot crawl for a file that never existed—the first of some serious bugs from the search engine giant.

March 2013
Theorizing a remake of Back to the Future, with Justin Bieber and Will Ferrell. Yes, I thought that sucked, too.
   Malala Yousafzai’s story is retold in cartoon form.
   Tumblr reaches 100 million users; Instagram is plagued by Instaspam.

April 2013
One reviewer equates Bruce Willis’s John McClane in the new Die Hard movie with Mr Magoo: ‘Remember those old Mister Magoo cartoons where the doddery old bald guy would blunder around various locations, leaving chaos in his wake while constantly insisting “I’m on vacation”?’
   Margaret Thatcher’s funeral was foretold in The Final Cut in the early 1990s. I watched it then. The remake was totally different. For a start, a lot of Thatcher Cabinet politicians now look like their Spitting Image caricatures.
   Googlebot keeps making false accusations about malware, as I document Google’s latest folly. Why do people depend on this website? And, more to the point, isn’t libel covered by US law?
   Adam Rayner and Eliza Dushku try to reboot The Saint in a remake, with Roger Moore and Ian Ogilvy in cameos. The series is yet to be picked up.

May 2013
Royal Wedding build-up as the Swedish Crown releases a photograph of HRH Princess Madeleine with her fiancé Chris O’Neill. Swedish men give up hope of courting her.
   Colvin Inglis: ‘Wellington isn’t dying—John Key flew into Wellington Airport and misinterpreted what “Wellington Terminal” meant.’

June 2013
The Royal Wedding of HRH Princess Madeleine and Chris O’Neill. It becomes one of Lucire’s most-read articles in June.
   Edward Snowden becomes the whistleblower of the year. Later, when I am stuck at the Russian Embassy behind its gates in Wellington, I note that I was ‘snowed in’. Snowden has inspired new language.

July 2013
Dzohokhar Tsarnaev gets on the cover of Rolling Stone. People complain that Rolling Stone glamorized him without reading the story which doesn’t glamorize him. Some media cover this without mentioning this point.
   PM John Key dismisses GCSB protesters as misinformed or politically aligned.
   The death of Mel Smith. Will Matt Lucas still dress up as Andy Pipkin?

August 2013
Facebook and Instagram stop people from saying thank-you, either failing such comments or calling them abusive.
   Stuart Munro writes, at the al-Jazeera English website: ‘The major driver of the GCSB bill has been the improper use of the agency by John Key. This bill was thrown together on the fly to cover the PM’s embarrassment arising from his misuse of GCSB resources to spy on Kim Dotcom. With an honest PM, the legislation might not be problematic—but Key makes personal and intemperate use of the GCSB. He is therefore incapable of providing impartial oversight to the GCSB, and that leaves this bill fatally flawed. It will have to be scrapped, and the current GCSB will have to be disestablished in favour of a more scrupulous organisation.’

September 2013
The Australian General Election, and Tony Abbott provides fodder with quotations suggesting he might not be all there. He wins anyway.

October 2013
Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special is coming. I eventually watch it on Iplayer after testing it out watching Strictly. This reminds me of how much Britain has changed in the last 30 years. Today, Bruce Forsyth is on BBC1 on a Saturday night, Terry Wogan is on the radio, and Tories are in Number 10. Nothing like it was before.
   Google breaks another promise. In 2005, it stated, ‘There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.’

November 2013
The 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, which must also mean the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.
   The origins of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air are revealed in this fictional entry by yours truly: ‘To entertain the populace during the Troubles, The Fresh Prince of Bel Fast was a Northern Irish sitcom about a young Catholic man from Derry who is forced to live with a Protestant family to the east of Belfast. It later spawned an American remake starring Will Smith. It was known for its theme, which concluded, “I looked at my kingdom, I was there at last / To sit on my throne as the Prince of Bel Fast.”‘

December 2013
Pinterest puts spammers into your feed.
   The Hobbit cartoon in the 1970s was a much quicker way to get Tolkien’s novel dramatized: in and out in 90 minutes.
   There ain’t nothing like a Dame: Penelope Keith gets a DBE—and I mark this with a Morecambe & Wise clip. Seems appropriate.

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The Rongotai years

05.02.2014

This came up today at Victoria University where an old client of ours asked about my 2013 campaign. I remembered there was something about education that I wanted to address at the time.
   One of the stranger emails during 2013 came from a former classmate of mine at Rongotai College. A brilliant guy at his sporting code, and from memory, a fair dinkum bloke. Unfortunately, he gave a fake return address, so I was unable to get my email to him (even though I wrote one of those ‘Hey, great to hear from you after all these years’ replies). He’s not on Facebook, either.
   His message went along the lines of why I never mention Rongotai College in my biographies, and criticized me of snobbery and being ashamed of the place.
   Those who know me know that I have little time for snobbery.
   It was odd since in my publicity during both elections, Rongotai College is mentioned—no more and no less than the two private schools I attended. You only had to go as far as the third line in the bullet points in my bio to find Rongotai there. That was the case with all my 2010 brochures and in my 2013 Vote.co.nz profile. (My 2013 fliers had less room and my schooling—anywhere—was omitted.) And it regularly came up in speeches, especially at my fund-raisers, which were held at Soi, co-owned by an old boy.
   I admit that sometimes I say, in conversation, that I was ‘Dux at St Mark’s and Proxime Accessit at Scots,’ simply because ‘School Certificate at Rongotai’ doesn’t say a heck of a lot about me. It’s normal just to talk about where you finished each stage of your education.
   For the same reason, I skip my Bachelor of Commerce degree since I did honours and then a Master of Commerce and Administration. I also skip Man Kee Kindergarten in Kowloon, Hong Kong, where I won the tidiness award at age three.
   I’m sure I wouldn’t find his fifth form sporting achievements on his CV.
   I assume he didn’t check the footer to this website, under ‘Connected organizations’, since he didn’t make it to the third line in my bio. There, I only mention St Mark’s and Scots—for the simple reason that these are schools I still work with: I serve on the alumni associations of both. My hands are full now with two upcoming centenaries, but: Rongotai College has simply never asked me.
   I’m wondering whether the writer himself has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the place. Might he have reason to believe it was inferior if the other two were “élite”?
   Rongotai College did, let’s face it, have some issues in those days.
   On the plus side, the sporting record is decent. The fact that opera singer Ben Makisi came out of there during that time is another proud moment.
   Rongotai College showed me the importance of being my own man, and understanding peer pressure, to which it is unnecessary to succumb. I never did.
   The first guys to help me out in business were my mates at Rongotai, such as Matthew Breen and Andrew Bridge—and Andrew and I have stayed in touch.
   Rongotai College also showed that for every racist dickwad there was a rugby-playing Samoan or Tongan student capable of metering out justice.
   However, and I hate to say this, it also demonstrated leadership dysfunction in those days. There were serious senior management problems that filtered down to the rest of the place, which I witnessed, though some teachers thankfully remained steadfast.
   During that era, Rongotai was less than nurturing despite the best efforts of some of its teachers, such as Will Meehan (who helped shape my writing style in my fifth form when I began thinking about working in media, and endured my extra practice in my exercise books) and Dave Reynolds.
   So when I was offered a half-scholarship on the strength of my School Certificate marks, I took it.
   However, the élitist tag, for either St Mark’s or Scots, is inaccurate.
   While I enjoyed St Mark’s and Scots more than my time at Rongotai, it’s daft to call either élite. There were many parents, who did not come from money, who worked hard to send us there. At any of the private schools I attended, none of my contemporaries felt they were above the others. I did, interestingly, encounter this behaviour at Rongotai, where being in the A-stream went to a few lads’ heads.
   My time at Scots was better for me, since there was a culture where each student should seek out his own path and excel at the things they loved the most. That’s not a function of money, it’s a function of leadership and education. There was also greater camaraderie,.
   Headmaster Keith Laws may have his critics—he hinted as much at the leavers’ assembly to me—but these aspects of Scots remained firm. Perhaps it was cultural, or perhaps he engendered them. Regardless, I thank him for his decision—the buck stopped at the head’s office—for granting me that scholarship.
   Finally, if I was trying to bury my Rongotai connection, I certainly wouldn’t have been seeking out a lot of the lads on social networks over the years. Or attended the funeral of the father of one of the old boys in 2013.
   So, for the record, no, I’m not ashamed of my past.

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