Posts tagged ‘news’


In the Empah, the royal baby is 8 lb 3 oz, thank you

03.05.2015

The Cambridges with their new daughter in her first public appearance; photograph from the Press Association.

 
I haven’t followed the news of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s new baby much, but I was interested to note that when Kensington Palace announced her weight, it was in Imperial only. None of this foreign metric rubbish in the Empah, thank you:

   I’m not complaining, since I still have weights and heights in Imperial in my head, being of that “transition generation” that was taught both at school. I still need to do mental arithmetic when the news tells me, ‘The suspect is 183 cm tall.’ I can tell you because of this Tweet, the royal baby and I weighed the same at birth; had they told us this in metric, I couldn’t have made the comparison.
   I am wondering if the choice not to cite the weight in metric was intentional. Judging by my feed, there are plenty of royal-watchers younger than me. Forget pounds and ounces, they might not even know who Gorbachev was. I occasionally refer to the old weights and get puzzled looks, so, outside of the United States, are they still that familiar to people?

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Posted in culture, internet, media, UK | 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 »


Reacting to AJE’s Broken Dreams: are there parallels between GM and Boeing’s 787?

12.09.2014


Simpsons fans should be able to connect the above scene with the post below.

I’m sure some of you watched the al-Jazeera English documentary this week on the Boeing 787, and how there are safety concerns over the models built in South Carolina. In summary, ‘Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit and reporter Will Jordan investigate Boeing’s 787 “Dreamliner”, finding some workers with quality concerns, alleging drug use and fearing to fly the plane they build.’ Even if you don’t watch the full 48 minutes, the links on the page make for interesting reading.
   I’m not usually one to take a TV programme at face value, but I admit this one piqued my interest. Enough for me to Tweet Air New Zealand last night to ask them their thoughts and the airline responded this morning:

Safety is paramount and non-negotiable at Air NZ. We remain completely confident of the safety and reliability of the 787-9.

which does sound a bit like a press release. Hackneyed? Yes, and totally unlike the human face that Air New Zealand generally takes with its Twitter account.
   Call me cheeky, but I responded with:

That’s what BOAC said about the De Havilland Comet. Will you check into these new allegations about the Hillbilly 787s?

(I accept that that was not a good term to use and I apologize for it) and added later:

Can you guys at least watch the doco or confirm to me that someone senior enough has, and then convey your thoughts?

   The documentary was quite damning about the 787s, and the US system failing consumers these days (just think about GM), I think I’ve every right to be worried. Air New Zealand, even more so. When whistle-blowers like John Woods are fired, something is rotten. If consumers don’t trust ‘Made in USA’ any more, then we need to be assured that we’re getting the best planes made by the best workers—and traditionally, those workers are the Washington state ones.
   Surely there are parallels here. Here’s what happened to GM quality manager Courtland Kelley:

It described employees passing the buck and committees falling back on the “GM nod”—when everyone in a meeting agrees that something should happen, and no one actually does it …
   Kelley had sued GM in 2003, alleging that the company had dragged its feet addressing dangers in its cars and trucks. Even though he lost, Kelley thought that by blowing the whistle he’d done the right thing and paved the way for other GMers to speak up. Now he saw that he’d had the opposite impact: His loss, and the way his career had stalled afterward, taught others at the company to stay quiet …
   Kelley had been the head of a nationwide GM inspection program and then the quality manager for the Cobalt’s predecessor, the Cavalier. He found flaws and reported them, over and over, and repeatedly found his colleagues’ and supervisors’ responses wanting. He thought they were more concerned with maintaining their bureaucracies and avoiding expensive recalls than with stopping the sale of dangerous cars. Eventually, Kelley threatened to take his concerns to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Frustrated with the limited scope of a recall of sport-utility vehicles in 2002, he sued GM under a Michigan whistle-blower law. GM denied wrongdoing, and the case was dismissed on procedural grounds.

and what happened to Woods (who also lost against Boeing and its team of lawyers):

There was some animosity between quality and production. I would bring up a quality concern and they would say, well, that’s not helpful to production.
   On several occasions, I would go check out these repairs while they were being done and after. There are inspection points all throughout the repair process where an inspector is supposed to come over and check something and mark it down that he checked it.
   You’re never supposed to go past an operation that’s not checked off. I would see a defect and I’ll look at the inspection sheet and there was no note of it, and I know in the specifications that all anomalies, even small anomalies, are supposed to be recorded in the inspection.
   So I would bring an inspector over and show it to him and say, “Could you please note this down in your inspection?” And they say okay, so I’d walk away. Then I’d come back later that day or the next day and it’s still not noted.
   So then I would go mention it to the supervisor and go back another couple of days and still not noted. It became very frustrating on several occasions, to the point where people were angry at me for bringing it up.

   If we cannot trust the NHTSA over GM, can we really trust the FAA?
   As a New Zealander, I would like our national airline to assure us that we’re not getting lemons, and just how we can be sure that we’re not the guinea pigs for testing the planes like those early Comet passengers were.

Boeing’s response to the al-Jazeera programme can be found here.
A review questioning al-Jazeera’s objectivity with claims there were biases can be found in Forbes.

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Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, TV, USA | No Comments »


Polarization in US politics: doesn’t that go against their idea of “rugged individualism”?

14.06.2014

There have been a few articles lately on the polarization of politics in the US, where the middle ground—people with views from both Democrat and Republican sides—has been eroded. William Shepherd linked this one on Twitter, from the Pew Research Center.
   My theory, sent on Twitter, was this:

You are correct, and it is something that we’ve observed in online behaviour for many years. It’s been dividing because of online tribes and the need to identify, short of having alternatives. Despite the national image of rugged individualism, the political system is so broken that it prevents this, leaving Americans needing to group behind one or the other. It is deeply dangerous, because it leads to institutionalization. It’s almost like saying that one has to support a secret police because it’s the only game in town.

   Jaklumen noted, in response to this:

My understanding (from professorial lectures) is that the U.S. political parties ideologically sorted themselves first but that the electorate on average is not so ideologically sorted. I see that may be changing.

to which I responded:

I suspect so, when I look online. The extremes are also the most vocal, and the moderate position doesn’t get support. Certain people want validation over having conviction, which is why you may see more tend toward the extremes. To the point where the other side is vilified.

   The first part (obviously these were compiled from about seven Tweets) is indeed something I’ve seen for a while: those willing to argue about both sides, and see the wood for the trees, are relatively few in number. This has definitely been the case online since I had a blog on Vox, where people took sides. But over time that hasn’t really changed—two presidential elections later, even the admission of compromise seems to cost elections. It certainly didn’t help John McCain or Eric Cantor.
   Yet the image of the US is one where individualism is glorified, and that still seems to hold true in most endeavours, certainly in commerce. It’s even something which the National Party here once tried to pursue (in 1999), because it wanted to champion innovation, seeing that the best ideas often came from the individual. However, the David Brat win in Virginia for the Republican primary in the Seventh Congressional District in Virginia, was less about a swing to the right than a candidate who publicly stated he was adhering to the principles of his party—whereas his rival, who raised twenty-fold the amount and spent similarly, was tarnished with both the impression of a willingness to compromise and distancing himself from his electorate.
   Of course it’s not the sole example. However, we are in an age where taking a political stance—or any stance—takes place in part in social media. Many years ago, I said to Bill that we are in a ‘headline culture’, where analysis is light and the belief in what a news headline says becomes the generally accepted viewpoint. One friend, in a friends-only comment on Facebook, wrote that he saw the media as complicit in giving false impressions of candidates. That headline culture deems certain people to think they are experts on a given topic, likes are given to someone who might repeat the headlines’ position, and there you have validation. It’s not just young people, as PBS might want us to think with its ‘Generation Like’ Frontline edition a few months back, but all of us who interact. Social media have simply brought this behaviour to the fore, where we might feel secure about a viewpoint because it comes with the backing of a group of people. And in politics, that group of people are driven by parties, the ones that have managed to get a collective view out there.
   To make us feel even more validated about our political choices, Google exacerbates this feelgood factor, inside a search bubble, by delivering us the results that seem to support the extremes. It has, after all, monitored us for ages, so its search results are customized to suit. Did you like David Brat over Eric Cantor? Here’s a link to Sean Hannity. This method of delivering search results, just like 24-hour mainstream news, isn’t making us more intelligent or better-informed: it’s potentially leaving us less willing to take an individualistic stand on a political viewpoint.
   But thinking for ourselves is hard, right? Well, not really. We all do it. It’s just that many of us need to feel confident for taking a stand that might not be popular, not worry when something doesn’t get likes, and be prepared to support our position when we feel it needs it.
   It doesn’t end at “rugged individualism”. One where taking a stand and allowing a viewpoint to be refined, attacked, and even altered is a good thing, if what results is a clearer understanding of how a society can move forward. Innovation, contrary to what one might think, doesn’t necessarily come from the individual—depending on the type of person you are, it often comes from the individual who interacts, not being altered by a mob, but by decent reasoning. Haven’t we also been told that innovation has often come from collaboration, and that agglomeration leads to stronger economies and societies? The same applies to politics.
   Therefore, those making comment on a position would do well to be civilized and polite, so that we can find a better way. For sometimes it’s easier not to defend a position because it takes time, or the other side comes across as immovable, uncompromising, and too blind or fixed in their way to see the alternative—or, as I found during the 2013 election, the trolls, who also do no one any favours, especially their own candidate, came forth. We need to permit decent discussions in political discourse, especially in a society where there’s potential that mob thinking and misinformation can drive it.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, politics, USA | 6 Comments »


MH370: the simplest explanations are probably the best

18.03.2014

I have followed very little mainstream media coverage of Malaysian Airlines’ flight 370, apart from National Radio. It seems that not paying attention to mainstream media has made me clearer about what might have happened to it.
   All those way-out theories never held any sway for me. Or the idea about tracking cellphones or some of them clicking through to voicemail being a sign that the passengers were alive: don’t most cellphones do this when you are out of range? These just appeared to have been cooked up through sensationalism, by some media outlets wanting to fill air time or pages. The Malaysian government has managed to mess things up even further so there are meta-stories: stories within the story.
   Only two articles made it on to my Facebook wall, since Facebook appears to be the new Digg. The first was an engineer with a Ph.D., entitled, ‘Flight 370 did not explode; it vanished—really? That is your scientific argument?’. This was written three days after the aeroplane disappeared and kept things rather simple: the plane did not just vanish because that is a scientific impossibility. The writer goes on to explain why the black box signal had not been located, rationally and expertly. She believes that the plane could have gone down for an attempted emergency landing.
   The second was posted today on my wall, via Robert Catto. An experienced pilot, Chris Goodfellow, points out some basic facts on his Google Plus account. Goodfellow begins:

A lot of speculation about MH370. Terrorism, hijack, meteors. I cannot believe the analysis on CNN—almost disturbing.

   He obviously shares my concern at how the media have been filling us with water-cooler junk, and proceeds to have a simpler explanation. He continues (sic):

Two days later we hear of reports that Malaysian military radar (which is a primary radar meaning the plane is being tracked by reflection rather than by transponder interrogation response) has tracked the plane on a southwesterly course back across the Malay Peninsula into the straits of Malacca.
   When I heard this I immediately brought up Google Earth and I searched for airports in proximity to the track towards southwest.
   The left turn is the key here. This was a very experienced senior Captain with 18,000 hours. Maybe some of the younger pilots interviewed on CNN didn’t pick up on this left turn. We old pilots were always drilled to always know the closest airport of safe harbor while in cruise. Airports behind us, airports abeam us and airports ahead of us. Always in our head. Always. Because if something happens you don’t want to be thinking what are you going to do—you already know what you are going to do. Instinctively when I saw that left turn with a direct heading I knew he was heading for an airport. Actually he was taking a direct route to Palau Langkawi a 13,000 foot strip with an approach over water at night with no obstacles. He did not turn back to Kuala Lampur because he knew he had 8,000 foot ridges to cross. He knew the terrain was friendlier towards Langkawi and also a shorter distance.

   Goodfellow theorizes there was a mid-air fire and the plane did not make it, but that it was heading to Langkawi after the emergency broke out.
   Instinctively, this tragedy seems like a deeply unfortunate mid-air accident, and while these other theories might help families believe their loved ones are alive somewhere, I am sorry to say that I believe the two simplest explanations above. Of course, I would like the truth to come forth earlier so, if these experts are right, these families can commence mourning. Taking them through these unlikely possibilities—a hijacking with the plane descending below radar and landing on some Lost island among them—seems cruel and irresponsible.

PS.: Esquire has a complementary editorial on the mainstream media reporting—which apparently now includes a supernatural possibility. I’ve also head one where MH370 supposedly flew perfectly under another aeroplane, thereby evading detection. I’m delighted not to have entertained either first-hand.—JY

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The minutiæ of 2011

18.12.2011

As some of you know, I have been using Tumblr since 2007, and when Vox died (at least for me) in 2009, I began using Tumblr more. It was good to record brief thoughts of little consequence, but as I hunted through the archive for 2011, I realized it was quite a good way to see what little thoughts crept up during the year.
   I had blogged less on Tumblr in the last few weeks, just out of sheer busy-ness, and because Facebook’s Timeline has been quite a compelling way to get instant gratification from posts from people I know. But Tumblr has its uses.
   In the spirit of my ‘History of the Decade’ series, here are the unimportant—and some very important—things that piqued my interest during 2011.


January: The Hustle crew is back in Brum, but without the ‘created by Tony Jordan’ credit on some episodes.

January
   Why is Tony Jordan’s name missing from these episodes of Hustle?
   We put JY&A Consulting on to the jya.co domain.
   Zen is awesome, even if the male cast largely speaks with English accents and the female cast speaks with Italian and French ones.
   John Barry dies. My favourite composer. RIP.

February
   The Christchurch earthquake and stories of tragedy and heroism.
   The fall and fall of Charlie Sheen, and if recasting Two and a Half Men, put Martin Sheen in it and set it in 2040.
   Mad Dogs begins.


February: Mad Dogs: great British telly. Philip Glenister adopts a Gene Hunt pose, but with Marc Warren instead of John Simm.

March
   Firefox 3 crashes a lot.
   Kelly Adams is off the market, boys.
   Mad Dogs finishes.
   The Americans make William & Kate with Los Angeles and Hollywood standing in for Buckingham Palace, London, Klosters, St Andrew’s and other locations.

April
   I go on telly to dis the copyright amendments in a new bill, which has been spurred on by Hollywood lobbyists. Farewell the presumption of innocence and due process.
   Elisabeth Sladen dies.
   Everyone talking about Pippa Middleton’s rear end.


April: This seems to be the enduring image of the UK Royal Wedding.

May
   Cheryl Cole goes to America for X Factor USA. Then she comes back.
   Karen Gillan films We’ll Take Manhattan with the first on-set photo released.
   More post office closures.


June: Australians unite against homophobes who pressure a billboard company to take down a safe-sex ad.

June
   Australians unite against a billboard company that takes down an ad featuring a gay couple. The CEO responds within the day, which is a contrast to how Wellington Airport conducted itself over public outcry over ‘Welly-wood’ Part II.
   MSG is evil.
   A redhead wins Miss USA.

July
   People go on to Google Plus to talk about Google Plus.
   The Murdoch Press phone-hacking scandal.
   UN: internet is a human right.

August
   I think the movie The Avengers is about John Steed and Emma Peel.

September
   The Unscripted exhibition and I get photographed with Jekyll himself, James Nesbitt. Oh, and the Mayor.
   Nigerian con-men send me a 419 scam—in hard copy.
   Facebook Timeline.
   Old School, New School exhibition has Joe Churchward and Mark Geard’s typeface designs.


October: The Russian Sam Tyler.

October
   Rugby.
   Russians remake Life on Mars.
   More ‘nek minnit’.
   Gaddafi owned a Toyota (just like bin Laden).

November
   Mongrels is back.
   Ricky Gervais will be back for the Golden Globes.
   The Sweeney will be back.

December: Britney Spears gets engaged again. A few years ago, The Times of India talked about her first marriage to Jason Alexander—and finds the wrong photo.

December
   My roses are blooming.
   Facebook Timeline gets rolled out to the public, so they make it worse.
   Occupy continues.
   Britney Spears gets engaged: remember that time she married George Costanza off Seinfeld ?

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Ricky Gervais offends … actually, I don’t know whom

23.01.2011

Normally I think Piers Morgan is a plonker, and the time Jeremy Clarkson punched him at the BAFTAs remains one of entertainment’s best stories.
   However, I have enjoyed Life Stories, and he has been a worthy successor, in my mind, to Larry King. Of course it’s not the same show, but the important thing about interview shows is getting the guest to talk (Jonathan Ross take note). The Ricky Gervais interview was the first Piers Morgan Tonight I have seen.
   As to Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, I didn’t have a problem with his jokes. There were no jokes based on race or sexuality, as Gervais says in his interview (embedded below). I don’t believe he’s even offended anyone who’s religious. There were plenty about the Hollywood machine and current affairs. It just so happens that a lot of the people in that room are the subject of what society deems ‘current affairs’ today. And don’t people love topical humour?

   I have a lot of contacts Stateside and none have mentioned to me that they were offended. So all these media reports, mainly from the US, making Gervais out to have offended so many don’t ring true to me. Have most of these journalists gone up to some of Gervais’s roasted victims and enquired?
   A few journalists have tried to get some quotations, but they’re in the minority. One Hollywood Foreign Press Association rep was apparently offended, and that ‘several celebrities’ called up with complaints. Yeah, so offended that (s)he wouldn’t put his or her name to the remark, and revealed that the Association was not above reprimanding someone because they didn’t share the same sense of humour. And here I was, thinking the Golden Globes were supposed to be about the work. Maybe not:

Ricky will not be invited back to host the show next year, for sure … For sure any movie he makes he can forget about getting nominated. He humiliated the organization last night and went too far with several celebrities whose representatives have already called to complain.’

If that’s how the Association works unofficially, maybe Gervais was 100 per cent right to have aimed some of the jokes at it. (As to which member this was, find the one who keeps saying ‘For sure’, has a narrow mind, can’t see much worth in their name, and is the sort of person who thinks it’s right to target Gervais in their work but that it’s wrong for Gervais to target others in his.) The member might not have realized that even prior to hosting, Gervais said he wouldn’t be back for 2012.
   I agree with Gervais’s hint, though he does not say this expressly in Piers Morgan Tonight, that if some of these celebs were actually so narrow-minded as to be offended, they would not have got to where they are. In some of the post-Globes coverage I’ve seen at Lucire, there is no mention of celebrities fuming at one of the parties out of offence. You’d have to be quite petty to have a Ricky Gervais joke spoil your evening—because you’d then have to go after every single journo who wrote a cross word about you, and a not unsubstantial number of bloggers, too.
   So some reps apparently called the Association. Reps making mountains out of molehills to show their indispensability, perhaps?
   This isn’t about a US–UK humour divide, either, though I saw one remark that a British host could get away with this style in Britain. Didn’t the Americans come up with The Simpsons, whose early episodes had this very sort of humour, or The Critic and Family Guy? Or, if we are to look at live-action, Murphy Brown? Doesn’t Jon Stewart do something like this every weekday? Aren’t Sarah Palin jokes the sort of fodder Hollywood types engage in on an hourly basis?
   It’s too bad, because the 2012 Golden Globes’ ceremony will likely be a tepid affair hosted by someone entirely inappropriate and lacking. Just because a few prima donnas got their knickers in a twist because of their own behaviour (how dare Gervais talk about something that everyone knows about!), and a few other people got offended on behalf of some celebrities who themselves have already shrugged off the jokes.

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Posted in culture, humour, interests, media, TV, UK, USA | 2 Comments »


Ziln shifts to promoting Kiwi content

13.01.2011

Initially I was disappointed to lose the foreign channels on Ziln, the New Zealand service that was broadcasting DW-TV, TV5 Monde, al-Jazeera English, etc. When I wrote to them, one of its bosses replied—on Christmas Day!
   He explained to me that Ziln’s focus had changed to promoting New Zealand content, so if I knew anyone who was willing to provide some, they could get in touch and have a chance to have their work promoted.
   Who could argue with that, especially with a bloke who was working on his day off? I’m all for seeing more local content—and if it gives our entrepreneurs a chance at exposure, then all the better.
   In addition, the foreign channels hadn’t disappeared: they had been shifted to Ecast TV, and TelstraClear is continuing (at least till the end of March) to offer customers unmetered usage.
   I’m hoping they’ll continue it past March, and have written to them accordingly. I’ve been following Ziln since the beginning, and it’ll be a shame to limit access to innovative Kiwi content.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, New Zealand, publishing, TV | 2 Comments »


Even as Liu Xiaobo gets a Nobel prize, Beijing can be smug

12.12.2010

As I watched actress Liv Ullmann read Liu Xiaobo’s address, ‘I Have No Enemies’, on BBC World, I was quite moved.
   The address is what the Nobel Prize-winning author and intellectual delivered prior to his sentencing by a Red Chinese court for subversion.
   What is fascinating is the dignity with which the words are written, showing respect even to his prosecutors.
   Liu even discusses how the human rights in the prison at which he is held have greatly improved since the first time he was locked up there, saying that the ‘enemy mentality’ that Red China once held is disappearing in favour of a more humanist approach.
   Given that he knew he would be found guilty just before Christmas 2009, the address is remarkable for the hints of optimism he holds for his country.
   Liu Xiaobo will not, by himself, see through a wholesale change in the way the Communist Party is running mainland China, but he is representative of many forces which will, some day, make the country freer and more open.
   He is also representative of the area with occident and orient disagree: human rights. While those campaigning for Liu’s release should not stop, his address puts a lot of things into context.
   Mainland China, as it opens up, has tried to find a balance between governmental intervention and the market-place. Even Confucius has been partially recognized by the Politburo as a way to reinforce the state’s position, somehow reinterpreted along the lines of: we bring you prosperity, you give us your loyalty.
   As much as the internet is patrolled, there is a tendency for people to wish to be more free, and blacking out TV screens behind the Bamboo Curtain or resorting to censorship simply makes people wonder what they are missing.
   Where the country might yet succeed, however, is keeping a firm hand on change. Instead of the rush that saw to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Beijing is being pragmatic. As unbridled globalization and a corrupt, conspiratorial financial system has seen to two economic downturns in the last decade, and as the US’s politics move to extremes, the occident is giving fuel to Beijing’s methods. That’s not something that we should feel happy about, nor should we tolerate our commerce being run to further class structures in our societies.
   Liu has been likened to Nelson Mandela by Nobel committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland. Mandela made a similar speech on the eve of being sentenced to treason in 1964. While Liu has his supporters, and I do not proclaim to be any expert on South African history, my feeling is that the former president was known to far more of his own people. There are also other differences to the other Nobel winners who have not been able to attend, be they Carl von Ossietzky, Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa and Aung San Suu Kyi.
   The chief difference is that fewer of us living in the occident in 2010 can be as smug or as preachy. While I support calls for Liu Xiaobo to be released—the jailing of a man exercising the same rights you and I do in criticizing our governments shows, in my mind, the weakness and insecurity of the critiqued régime—there is a real lesson for the rest of us.
   We cannot be in a position to insist on change if we keep supporting governments that weaken our own approaches to human rights. If we vote in a government that widens the distance between rich and poor—and history has more than often shown us which do—then we are letting down our most downtrodden citizens. If we fail to tidy up the mess our business sectors have left in their wake, then we are simply allowing their mistakes to recur.
   For every failure we chalk up because we let things remain the way they are, the more Beijing’s politicians can sit back and accuse us of hypocrisy.

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Posted in China, culture, internet, media, politics | 17 Comments »


Wikileaks’ brand of transparency is the enemy of the establishment

10.12.2010

There are probably two things, chiefly, that fuel support for Julian Assange.
   First, the idea that the mainstream media are not independent, but merely mouthpieces for the establishment. There’s some truth to this.
   Secondly, the fact that Wikileaks is revealing, this time, things that we already knew: that governments are two-faced.
   While I have posted my reservations about Wikileaks elsewhere, the latest news—that the US and Red China collaborated on ensuring that COP15 would fail—shows that governments are quite happy to follow the money, and be complicit with corporations who wish to continue polluting.
   Creating transparency—something I harped on about since joining the Medinge Group and writing in Beyond Branding with my colleagues—is something I believe in, so knocking down a few walls and having certain suspicions confirmed are good things.
   In the 2000s, the processes in our systems revealed that the Emperor had no clothes over at Enron—which prompted, in some respects, Beyond Branding—and, more recently, that the sub-prime mortgage market was a crock.
   Maybe it is about time that the processes revealed a few truths about government, and the very reasons so many of us mistrust them, or give politicians such a low rating in surveys.
   The fact that despite the democratic ideal, many are not working for us.
   On the 8th, Stefan Engeseth cheekily suggested on his blog that Wikileaks should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yesterday, Russia suggested that Julian Assange could receive its nomination.
   Although Russia itself has come under fire, it rather likes having the two-faced nature of NATO confirmed by Wikileaks: on the one hand, saying that Russia is a strategic partner, while on the other, planning to defend the Baltic states and Poland from a Russian attack.
   A Peace Prize for a website or a founder who put certain anti-Taliban informants at risk would not get my vote, but the underlying sentiment of no more secrets does.
   The sad thing is that it might not, single-handedly, usher in an era where governments level with us more—but it is one of many moves that might.
   I say this as the establishment, including financial institutions, closes in on the website. As pointed out to me by Daniel Spector, PayPal and Mastercard are quite happy to accept your donations to the Ku Klux Klan, but will decline those to Wikileaks.

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Posted in business, culture, leadership, media, politics, social responsibility, technology, USA | 3 Comments »