Archive for January 2021


A refreshing piece on diversity in our mainstream media

31.01.2021

Two fantastic items in my Tweetstream today, the first from journalist Jehan Casinader, a New Zealander of Sri Lankan heritage, in Stuff.
   Some highlights:

   As an ethnic person, you can only enter (and stay in) a predominantly white space – like the media, politics or corporate leadership – if you play by the rules. And really, there’s only one rule: blend in. You’re expected to assimilate into the dominant way of thinking, acting and being …
   I sound like you. I make myself relatable to you. I communicate in a way that makes sense to you. I don’t threaten you. I don’t make you uncomfortable. And I keep my most controversial opinions to myself.

And:

   Kiwis love stories about ethnic people who achieve highly: winning university scholarships, trying to cure diseases, inventing new technology or entering the political arena. These people are lauded for generating economic and social value for the country …
   We do not hear stories about ethnic people who work in thankless, low-skilled jobs – the refugees and migrants who stock our supermarket shelves, drive our taxis, pick our fruit, milk our cows, fill our petrol tanks, staff our hospitals and care for our elderly in rest homes.

   Jehan says that now he is in a position of influence, he’s prepared to bring his Sri Lankan identity to the places he gets to visit, and hopes that everyone in Aotearoa is given respect ‘not because of their ability to assimilate’.
   He was born here to new immigrants who had fled Sri Lanka, and I think there is a slight difference to those of us who came as children. Chief among this, at least for me, was my resistance to assimilation. Sure I enjoyed some of the same things other kids my age did: the Kentucky Fried Chicken rugby book, episodes of CHiPs, and playing tag, but because of various circumstances, as well as parents who calmly explained to me the importance of retaining spoken Cantonese at home, I constantly wore my Chineseness. I hadn’t chosen to leave my birthplace—this was the decision of my parents—so I hung on to whatever I could that connected me back to it.
   I could contrast this to other Chinese New Zealanders I went to school with, many of whom had lost their native language because their parents had encouraged assimilation to get ahead. I can’t fault them—many of them are my dearest friends—but I was exposed to what Jehan wrote about from a young age.
   It saddened me a lot because here were people who looked like me who I couldn’t speak to in my mother tongue, and the only other student of Chinese extraction in my primary class who did speak her native language spoke Mandarin—which to many of my generation, certainly to those who did so little schooling before we left, find unintelligible.
   At St Mark’s, I had no issue. This was a school that celebrated differences, and scholastic achievement. (I am happy to say that sports and cultural activity are very much on the cards these days, too.) But after that, at one college, I observed what Jehan said: the Chinese New Zealanders who didn’t rock the boat were safe buddies to have; those who were tall poppies were the target of the weak-minded, the future failures of our society. You just have to rise above it, and, if anything, it made me double-down on my character—so much so that when I was awarded a half-scholarship to Scots, I found myself in familiar surroundings again, where differences were championed.
   But you do indeed have to play the game. Want your company recognized? Then get yourself into the media. Issue releases just like the firms that were sending them to you as a member of the media. Don’t bring your Chineseness into that, because you won’t get coverage. Jack Yan & Associates, and Lucire for that matter, always had a very occidental outlook, with my work taking me mostly to the US and Europe, with India only coming in at the end of the 2000s—but then we were bound by the lingua franca of the old colonial power.
   Despite my insistence on my own reo at home, and chatting every day to my Dad, I played the game that Jehan did when it came to work. I didn’t as much when I ran for mayor, admittedly—I didn’t want voters to get a single-sided politician, but one who was his authentic self—but that also might explain why Stuff’s predecessor, which was at that stage owned by a foreign company, gave me next to no coverage the first time out. They weren’t prepared to back someone who didn’t fit their reader profile. The second time out, it still remained shockingly biased. Ironically the same publishing group would give me reasonably good coverage in Australia when I wasn’t doing politics. That’s the price to pay for authenticity sometimes.
   Jehan finishes his piece on a positive note and I feel he is right to. We still have issues as a nation, no doubt, but I think we embrace our differences more than we used to. There have been many instances where I have seen all New Zealanders rise up to condemn racism, regardless of their political bents. (What is interesting was I do recall one National MP still in denial, residing in fantasy-land, when I recalled a racist incident—and this was after March 15, 2019!) People from all walks of life donated to my fund-raising when a friend’s car had a swastika painted on it. We have a Race Relations’ Commissioner who bridges so many cultures effectively—a New Zealander of Taishanese extraction who speaks te reo Māori and English—who is visible, and has earned his mana among so many here. The fact that Jehan’s piece was even published, whereas in 2013 it would have been anathema to the local arm of Fairfax, is further reason to give me hope.

The second item? Have a watch of this. It’s largely in accord with my earlier post.

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Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


From my desk, 1986

24.01.2021

Before this gets recycled, I thought I’d scan it as a memento: a 1986 printout off our Riteman dot matrix printer (which I still have, with spare cartridges), hooked up to a Commodore 64. I forget the printer interface. The image isn’t mine: I only imagine that 14-year-old me was claiming copyright over the layout and text. To me this was all amazing. Dad bought a box of the line-flow paper from the computer store, I believe, a place called Einstein, run by a really nice guy called Raju Badiani (who also sold the computer system). Anything seemed possible, and by the summer of 1986–7 I was hacking the bits and bytes and creating my own bitmap fonts on the 64, trying to make it all look like Eurostile. Nothing as sophisticated as Emigre. The 5¼-inch floppies are still around somewhere!

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Posted in New Zealand, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


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

23.01.2021

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

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

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

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Posted in internet, politics, USA | 1 Comment »


An unusual 4,400th model on Autocade

23.01.2021

This was an unusual car to have as the 4,400th on Autocade: the Rosengart Ariette.
   I did know the 4,400th was coming up since it wasn’t that long ago that Autocade passed 22 million page views, and I checked the stats. But I like to think this would still have been the motor that made it up even I was unaware of the number, since I had done plenty of Chinese vehicles of late and wanted a change.
   I suspect the December–January period is a big one for Autocade generally since there’s less news at Lucire coming in, and there’s a bit more time to work on hobbies—even if there’s also plenty of housework to keep me occupied.
   I’m grateful to Carfolio for checking up the Rosengarts for me, since they were quicker at getting models online, and it’s as trustworthy a source as you’ll find anywhere on the motoring web. Unlike Wikipedia in English, which has yet another inaccuracy with regard to these models.

Note: the above image is from Piston Collection, and not the one used in Autocade. It is a condition of reuse that I post the following, and it’s nice to give another motoring enthusiast a shout-out anyway: ‘Ceci est un article «presslib», c’est-à-dire libre de reproduction en tout ou en partie à condition que le présent alinéa soit reproduit à sa suite. Pistoncollection.com est le site sur lequel Sylvain Devaux s’exprime quotidiennement et livre une analyse pointue du monde de la collection automobile. Merci de visiter mon site. Vous pouvez vous abonner gratuitement à la lettre d’information quotidienne sur www.pistoncollection.com.’

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Posted in cars, France, publishing | No Comments »


Like communist dictatorships, Google and Facebook threaten Australia

23.01.2021

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

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

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

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

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

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


Autocade reaches 22 million, while Rachel Hunter appears in Lucire

16.01.2021

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in cars, China, design, New Zealand, publishing, USA | 2 Comments »


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

14.01.2021

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

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

   And I responded, quite prepared to engage:

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

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


All you need is one NewTumbl user to undo management goodwill

14.01.2021

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

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Posted in culture, internet, politics, USA | 3 Comments »


BMW, then and now

12.01.2021

This isn’t progress.

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Posted in cars, USA | 1 Comment »


This was the natural outcome of greed, in the forms of monopoly power and sensationalist media

11.01.2021

I did indeed write in the wake of January 6, and the lengthy op–ed appears in Lucire, quoting Emily Ratajkowski, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden. I didn’t take any pleasure in what happened Stateside and Ratajkowski actually inspired the post after a Twitter contact of mine quoted her. This was after President Donald Trump was taken off Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
   The points I make there are probably familiar to any of you, my blog readers, pointing at the dangers of tech monopolies, the double standards that they’ve employed, and the likely scenario of how the pendulum could swing the other way on a whim because another group is flavour of the month. We’ve seen how the US has swung one way and the other depending on the prevailing winds, and Facebook’s and Twitter’s positions, not to mention Amazon’s and Google’s, seem reactionary and insincere when they have had their terms and conditions in place for some time.
   Today, I was interested to see Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, referred to by not a few as the leader of the free world, concerned at the developments, as was President López Obrador of México. ‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel objected to the decisions, saying on Monday that lawmakers should set the rules governing free speech and not private technology companies,’ reported Bloomberg, adding, ‘Europe is increasingly pushing back against the growing influence of big technology companies. The EU is currently in the process of setting up regulation that could give the bloc power to split up platforms if they don’t comply with rules.’
   The former quotation wasn’t precisely my point but the latter is certainly linked. These tech giants are the creation of the US, by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and their institutions, every bit as Trump was a creation of the US media, from Fox to MSNBC.
   They are natural outcomes of where things wind up when monopoly power is allowed to gather and laws against it are circumvented or unenforced; and what happens when news networks sell spectacle over substance in order to hold your attention. One can only hope these are corrected for the sake of all, not just one side of the political spectrum, since freedom—actual freedom—depends on them, at least until we gain the civility and education to regulate ourselves, the Confucian ideal. Everything about this situation suggests we are nowhere near being capable, and I wonder if homo sapiens will get there or whether we’ll need to evolve into another species before we do.

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