Archive for the ‘Wellington’ category


There is no point to posting on Twitter

08.03.2023

The demise of Twitter continues. Today I saw, while heading back to Tawa from Papakōwhai, the aftermath of a seven-vehicle accident (three cars, four commercial vehicles) on the opposite side of State Highway 1.

I posted this on Mastodon, and, made an exception and did a fresh message on OnlyKlans, I mean, Twitter. You know, the website where they let Nazis back in, and where today its proprietor mocked a disabled man with muscular dystrophy. Seems to be in keeping in a country where certain states are going after trans people and women’s rights that a disabled man would be next.
 

 

Net result of the posts in the first hour and a bit: four favourites and four boosts on Mastodon.

Absolutely nothing on Twitter.

I admit the messages were not identical and I called Twitter ‘OnlyKlans’, which might have ensured it didn’t get seen. That’s with hindsight. But since 2022, during a lot of which I had a cross-poster going between the two sites, this has been typical. Twitter engagement began to decline while Mastodon’s rose. Getting to eight–nil is completely on trend as I’ve had crickets to other Tweets, too.

I’ll know for next time. There really is no point, even when doing a public service, to announce a thing on OnlyKlans.

And the last few companies I Tweeted, because there were no other contact points (no phone numbers, no email addresses), didn’t reply, with the exception of Fiverr (who dealt with someone selling fake services). Google, of course, I expected nothing from, but Scottish Pacific Finance couldn’t be bothered, either.

This seems appropriate:
 

 

And this is useful context to the fediverse:
 


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Nostalgia is not a business strategy

06.03.2023

Paris Marx makes a very good case about Elon Musk wanting to relive the good ol’ days when he was doing start-ups at the beginning of the millennium. It’s why things at Twitter are as bad as they are: Musk’s nostalgia. It’s well worth a read if you’re interested in what’s going on at OnlyKlans, as Marx probably nails it far better than a lot of other commentators.

There were aspects of the good old days I liked, too. Better CPM rates for online ads. Way more creativity in web design, as well as experimentation. The fact I could balance doing brand consulting, typeface design, and publishing. That helped my creativity flow. But these are rose-coloured glasses; there’s plenty about my current life that is far better than those hairy start-up days.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in half a century on earth is that you can’t re-create the past. And even if you could, it wouldn’t be as good as how you remembered it.

I’m often nostalgic for those early days in Hong Kong and that mega-fantastic day of the Tung Wan Hospital fair in 1975 (or was it ’76?), where I got to go in the bucket of a Simon Snorkel fire engine. Wonderful day. But at the time I couldn’t drive (I was three), so you can’t have it all.

And millennium me running Lucire might have been having fun in terms of breaking new ground, but I’d much rather be where I am now having talked to Rachel Hunter and putting her on the home page (and in two print editions). Our stories are also heaps better than what they were in the late 1990s.
 

 

Just enjoy the moment and make the most of where you are at. I’ve projects I want to return to, too, but if I do, I won’t be assuming the year is 2000 and working in an area I don’t know that much about, while annoying all the people around me.


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Life’s could-have-beens

15.01.2023


 
A Mastodon post about my mayoral campaign policies. No, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic as such (though I certainly was on Twitter perplexed at why the WHO had not declared COVID-19 a global emergency in January 2020), but I did feel there was insufficient resilience in our economy and wanted to advance ideas that would at least put this city right.

I saw the cafés all opening around town, the PM John Key’s support of tourism, and thinking: there’s not enough diversity among these types of businesses, and we’re well behind other cities on the percentage that IT plays. We need more high-wage jobs if we were to increase our rates’ base sustainably, not make Wellington unaffordable by taking a bigger and bigger chunk of incomes that had barely risen in line with the cost of living. All this I stated at the time, and they were trends that stared us right in the face.

Working from home was a way of alleviating stress on our traffic network, or at least help stagger the amount of traffic on the road at any given time. Tied in to that was publicizing real-time about public transport, which I think is starting to happen, to encourage their use.

The expansion of the wifi network meant that Newtown would be next, heading out to Berhampore, the whole idea being to bridge the digital divide for our less well off communities. I had already been into a meeting with Citylink and had a model through which it could be funded. I lived in Newtown as a boy, and I know how little we had in terms of the family budget. And, as we saw in lockdown, internet access was very far from being equal among our communities.

I’m not subscribing to ‘That’s easy to say in hindsight,’ because all these ideas were a matter of record, as well as the reasons behind it. I am subscribing to a degree of cherry-picking but when you consider these were my “flagship” ideas, I’m not even being that picky.

To think we could have set all this in motion starting in 2010 and been ready for 2020. I don’t really sell nostalgia if I’m running for office because that would be disingenuous. You’re being asked to vote on the future, and so many politicians are trying to resell you the past. I’m grateful to those voters who got this and put me in third place twice. We have a good mayor now who’s young enough to get it.


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It’s got a picture of the Queen in it

07.01.2023


 
To the best of my recollection, this is the only photograph of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh that I shot and own. You’ll have to look closely. In fact, you might not even see them at this resolution.

I gave the print to someone at Warehouse Stationery who was a big fan of the Queen, but I came across this scan yesterday. I still have the negative, of course.

This was from the royal visit in 2002, her last to Aotearoa. As Labour was in, and they weren’t big royalists, there wasn’t a huge welcome, and the Queen and Prince Philip were ferried around the back roads from Lyall Bay through Rongotai and Kilbirnie. Here they are in the viceregal Daimler Limousine on Coutts Street: I stopped my car to take the photograph from Mamari Street.
 
Congratulations to those who spotted Graham Payn’s line as Keats in The Italian Job used in the title.


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The expectation of invisibility

03.01.2023

I rewatched Princess of Chaos, the TV drama centred around my friend, Bevan Chuang. I’m proud to have stood by her at the time, because, well, that’s what you do for your friends.

I’m not here to revisit any of the happenings that the TV movie deals with—Bevan says it brings her closure so that is that—but to examine one scene where her character laments being Asian and being ‘invisible’. How hard we work yet we aren’t seen. The model minority. Expected to be meek and silent and put up with stuff.

Who in our community hasn’t felt this?

While the younger generations of the majority are far, far better than their forebears, the expectation of invisibility was something that’s been a double-edged sword when I look back over my life.

The expectation of invisibility was never going to sit well with me.

I revelled in being different, and I had a family who was supportive and wise enough to guide me through being different in our new home of Aotearoa New Zealand.

My father frequently said, when speaking of the banana Chinese—those who proclaim themselves yellow on the outside and white on the inside—that they can behave as white as they want, but there’ll always be people who’ll see the yellow skin and treat them differently. And in some cases, unfairly.

He had reason to believe this. My mother was underpaid by the Wellington Hospital Board for a considerable time despite her England and Wales nursing qualification. A lot of correspondence ensued—I still remember Dad typing formal letters on his Underwood 18, of which we probably still have carbons. Dad felt pressured—maybe even bullied to use today’s parlance—by a dickhead manager at his workplace.

Fortunately, even in the 1970s, good, decent, right-thinking Kiwis outnumbered the difficult ones, though the difficult ones could get away with a lot, lot more, from slant-eye gestures to telling us to go back to where we came from openly. I mean, February 6 was called New Zealand Day! Go back another generation to a great-uncle who came in the 1950s, and he recalls white kids literally throwing stones at Chinese immigrants.

So there was no way I would become a banana, and give up my culture in a quest to integrate. The parents of some of my contemporaries reasoned differently, as they had been in the country for longer, and hoped to spare their children the physical harm they endured. They discouraged their children from speaking their own language, in the hope they could achieve more.

As a St Mark’s pupil, I was at the perfect school when it came to being around international classmates, and teachers who rewarded academic excellence regardless of one’s colour. All of this bolstered my belief that being different was a good thing. I wasn’t invisible at my school. I did really well. I was dux.

It was a shock when I headed to Rongotai College as most of the white boys were all about conforming. The teachers did their best, but so much of my class, at least, wanted to replicate what they thought was normal society in the classroom, and a guy like me—Chinese, individualistic, with a sense of self—was never going to fit in. It was a no-brainer to go to Scots College when a half-scholarship was offered, and I was around the sort of supportive school environment that I had known in my primary and intermediate years, with none of the other boys keen to pigeonhole you. Everyone could be themselves. Thank goodness.

But there were always appearances from the conformist attitudes in society. As I headed to university and announced I would do law and commerce, there was an automatic assumption that the latter degree would be in accounting. I would not be visible doing accounting, in a back room doing sums. For years (indeed, until very recently) the local branch of the Fairfax Press had Asian employees but that was where they were, not in the newsroom. We wouldn’t want to offend its readers, would we?

My choice of these degrees was probably driven, subconsciously, by the desire to be visible and to give society a middle finger. I wasn’t going to be invisible. I was going to pursue the interests that I had, and to heck with societal expectations based along racial lines. I had seen my contemporaries at college do their best to conform: either put your head down or play sport. There was no other role. If you had your head up and didn’t play sport at Rongotai, there was something wrong with you. Maybe you were a ‘faggot’ or ‘poofter’ or some other slur that was bandied about, I dare say by boys who had uncertainties about their own sexuality and believed homophobia helped them.

I loved design. I loved cars. Nothing was going to change that. So I pursued a design career whilst doing my degrees. I could see how law, marketing and management would play a role in what I wanted to do in life. When I launched Lucire, it was “against type” on so many fronts. I was doing it online, that was new. I was Chinese, and a cis het guy. And it was a very public role: as publisher I would attend fashion shows, doing my job. In the early days, I would be the only Chinese person amongst the press.

And I courted colleagues in the press, because I was offering something new. That was also intentional: to blaze a trail for anyone like me, a Chinese New Zealander in the creative field who dared to do something different. I wasn’t the first, of course: Raybon Kan comes to mind (as a fellow St Mark’s dux) with his television reviews in 1990 that showed up almost all who had gone before with his undeniable wit; and Lynda Chanwai-Earle whose poetry was getting very noticed around this time. Clearly we needed more of us in these ranks if we were going to make any impact and have people rethink just who we were and just what we were capable of. And it wasn’t in the accounts’ department, or being a market gardener, serving you at a grocery store or takeaway, as noble as those professions also are. I have family in all those professions. But I was out on a quest to break the conformity that Aotearoa clung to—and that drove everything from typeface design to taking Lucire into print around the world and running for mayor of Wellington. It might not have been the primary motive, but it was always there, lingering.

This career shaped me, made me less boring as an individual, and probably taught me what to value in a partner, too. And thank goodness I found someone who also isn’t a conformist.

When we first met, Amanda did ask me why I had so many friends from the LGBTQIA+ community. I hadn’t really realized it, but on reflection, the answer was pretty simple: they, too, had to fight conformist attitudes, to find their happy places. No wonder I got along with so many. All my friends had stood out one way or another, whether because of their interests, their sexuality, how they liked to be identified, their race, their way of thinking, or something else. These are the people who shape the world, advance it, and make it interesting. They—we—weren’t going to be pigeonholed.
 

With fellow nonconformist Stefan Engeseth in Stockholm, 2010


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You can’t even mention Mastodon in Twitter private messaging

17.12.2022

It was pretty unsurprising to see Mastodon links blocked on Twitter. If you consider that its owner is a petulant manchild, then everything makes sense. But I was surprised that this censorship extended to private messages. This from Tweetdeck as I advised a friend:
 

 
Note the links aren’t even live—they’re just text mentions. Those are too upsetting for Elmu to deal with.

Remember, petulant children who harp on about free speech care about only their free speech, as they lack the maturity to understand others’ free speech.

I haven’t seen this sort of censorship since Google Plus, though I’m sure users of Chinese social media will find it familiar.

I eventually copied and pasted the text and took a screenshot for my friend, so OnlyKlans’ software isn’t smart enough to do OCR yet. That got through.

Sadly, till Dlvr.it is capable of exporting my RSS feeds to Mastodon, my Twitter account remains live—plus I still don’t want people pinching my handle that I’ve had since 2007. But some of these tech companies are pretty slow. Dlvr.it has only had six years to build in ActivityPub and the capability to export to Mastodon. Give them time. One day, they, and Zoho Social, will get there.

Though realistically, our government should be blocking OnlyKlans itself, due to its alleged distribution of the March 15 video. A service that was based here would have been shut down already, and Twitter does have a New Zealand office (via a law firm on Brandon Street). The fact Labour isn’t working on this means they will continue kowtowing to Big Tech. The fact National hasn’t uttered a word means nothing will change under them, either. Blairites and the right love these foreigners and the power and money they wield.


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About me (according to libraries)

28.10.2022

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that I have a US Library of Congress entry, as a published author, though if I am reading it correctly, it relates to my 2010 mayoral campaign.

Following the links there, I arrived at a Virtual International Authority File but the data there seem to relate to my Wikipedia entries. Disappointing.

Keep going, and there’s an entry at OCLC, a non-profit library collective, also linking to Wikipedia.

But from there I have a WorldCat identity that OCLC manages, and this is where things get a little more interesting.

There’s some 2010 mayoral campaign stuff, five references to academic papers I wrote (nice to see they are ‘held by 2 WorldCat member libraries worldwide’), an early book I wrote, Typography & Branding (though I don’t recall having written it in 2002 as they claim), and a book I didn’t author but am credited in the colophon as the body typeface family’s designer, Mainland Island from Wai-te-ata Press.

I’m flattered that Typography & Branding is held at two Australian locations, the University of Newcastle Auchmuty Library and the Curtin University Library. I hope their students are getting a lot out of this early book of mine.

I admit I like this tag cloud:
 

 
Commiserations to my namesake, Jack Yan, on not winning the Toronto mayoral election. I was getting a lot of news hits from Toronto and Ontario, far more than our media here managed back in the day. I also thought he did rather well in the televised debates. We only had one episode of Back Benches in 2010 that wasn’t really a debate. But there was a fun quiz, which I won—some of us know more about this city than others.

In a very crowded field, Jack managed seventh out of 31, with incumbent John Tory holding on to his gig with 62 per cent of the vote.

I hope he has another crack at it if he feels he has something to offer. I found him a really great guy to deal with.


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Lucire at 25: how things have changed

21.10.2022

The below was originally posted in Lucire. We have made it to 25 years of age there, and rather than reinvent the wheel, this little piece—as well as the one I uploaded yesterday hours after we turned exactly 25—reflect how I feel upon reaching this milestone.
 

Olivia Macklin, photographed by Josh Fogel, make-up by Beth Follert, hair by Erika Vanessa using T3 Micro, styled by Karlee Parrish, and photography assisted by Nick Sutjongdro. Click through to see full credits.
 
Today we decided to upload a story about Olivia Macklin—the actress who you’ll have seen in Netflix’s Pretty Smart last year and, before that, the US remake of Kiwi series Filthy Rich—in part because it’s so unlike what happened on day one of Lucire 25 years ago.

Here is a wonderful story about a well connected, theatre-trained Hollywood actress, shot beautifully in the US by an outstanding team there, with me doing the writing and interviewing.

The story has already run in our print editions.

The fact we even have print editions is something remarkable to me, and if I hadn’t made the decision to do so in the early 2000s, spurred on by a mixture of desire and naïveté, I couldn’t even type that previous paragraph.

The fact we have a group of generous and talented colleagues around the world is also not lost on me. I know I am very fortunate to have them around me.

While it’s not the first time that Lucire has been published in something other than English, I take some pride in seeing our story in French, a language I have learned since I was six. That, too, is vastly different to where we were in 1997.

Twenty-five years ago, I keenly watched the statistics as visitors came to see a website I had built with my own code, using what were then pretty clever techniques to ape the feel of a glossy printed fashion magazine. But I didn’t have any new stories lined up because my enquiries to designers weren’t getting any replies.

Nowadays, I have a sense of the stories to come as we plan quite a few numbers ahead.

I enjoy balancing the needs of print and web around the world and know I am blessed to be able to do something I love.

I’m grateful to all those who have worked on Lucire and stayed on the side of good, building up a magazine brand which, I hope, stands for something positive in this world. You know who you are.

I’ve spent half my lifetime building it up so far, and know it could be even greater.

I’m no Mystic Meg so I don’t know what’s to come, nor would I want to hazard a guess. But where we are now was not something I could have even guessed in 1997. Given such a big leap forward to 2022, I won’t even attempt to contemplate 2047 just yet. I simply remain hopeful.


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New Zealand Chinese Language Week reviewed—in Cantonese

02.10.2022

My friend Bevan was going to make a podcast in Cantonese for New Zealand Chinese Language Week, and I decided I would record a few tidbits—except it wound up being something far longer and a podcast episode in its own right. So here it is, all 13-plus minutes of it. If this isn’t your language, please feel free to skip this one!
 

 
PS.: Here’s Bevan’s!
 


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The reality of Chinese Language Week for many Chinese New Zealanders

25.09.2022

‘Chinese Language Week’ has rolled around again, and if you look on Twitter, there are plenty of Chinese New Zealanders (myself included) and our allies miffed about this. And we get the usual trolls come by.

First up, it’s not Chinese Language Week. It’s Mandarin Language Week. I have no problem with the promotion of Mandarin as long as that’s what it’s called. But to promote it as being representative of all Chinese people here is ridiculous and encouraging randoms to come up to us with ‘ni hao’ is tiresome. Thirty-six per cent of us might be OK with it, sure. But not the rest. (To Stuff’s credit, probably because it doesn’t promote a Chinese person as a force in politics, and because it now actually has reporters of colour, this is a great opinion piece from a fellow Chinese New Zealander.)

To me, Mandarin is unintelligible with maybe the exception of five per cent of it. When I watch Mandarin TV, I can catch ‘呢個’. If I’m immersed in it, it might creep up to 10 per cent after a fortnight, but that’s with the context of seeing the situation in which it’s used. It is—and I’ve used this analogy before—like speaking Danish to an Italian. Some Italians will get it because they’ve figured out the connections going back to proto-European, but others’ eyes will just glaze over.

If you’re someone who claims that we appreciate a Mandarin greeting, try saying ‘Καλημέρα’ to a Norwegian. Yeah, you’d look multilingual but we’d just think you were confused—at best.

This is a country that supposedly apologized for the racist Poll Tax, but, as my friend Bevan points out:

And Richard said around the same time:

Some initiatives have taken place, which is awesome:

But it’s clear that we need to organize something to counter a hegemonic desire to wipe out our culture and language. This is why so many Chinese get what Māori go through.

The first Chinese New Zealanders came from the south, and were Cantonese speakers, likely with another language or dialect from their villages. Cantonese was the principal Chinese tongue spoken here, so if there’s to be any government funding to preserve culture, and honour those who had to pay the Poll Tax, then that’s where efforts should go—along with the other languages spoken by the early Chinese settlers.
 
The trolls have been interesting, because they’re copying and pasting from the same one-page leaflet that their propaganda department gave them when websites opened up to comments 20 years ago.

In the 2000s, I criticized BYD for copying pretty much an entire car on this blog, when it was run on Blogger. BYD even retouched Toyota’s publicity photos—it was that obvious. The car colour even stayed the same.
 


Above: The Toyota Aygo and BYD’s later publicity photo for its F1, later called the F0 when produced. The trolls didn’t like getting called out.
 

Either CCP or BYD trolls came by. The attack line, if I recall correctly, was that I was a sycophant for the foreigners and anti-Chinese.

No, kids, it’s anti-Chinese to think that we can’t do better than copying a Toyota.

Nowadays even the mainland Chinese press will slam a car company for this level of copying. Zotye and others have had fingers pointed at them. BYD’s largely stopped doing it.

The trolls this time have been the same. The comments are so familiar, you’d think that it was coordinated. Dr Catherine Churchman pointed out that one of her trolls repeated another one verbatim.

All this points to is a lack of strength, and a lack of intelligence, on the part of the trolls, with uppity behaviour that actually doesn’t exist in real life. ‘I’m so offended over something I have no comprehension over.’

The fact remains that those advocating for Cantonese, Taishanese, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew, and all manner of Chinese languages love our Mandarin-speaking whānau. In many cases, we feel a kinship with them. The trolls are probably not even based here, and have no idea of the cultural issues at stake. Or the fact they already have three TV networks speaking their language.

Is it so hard for them to accept the fact some of us choose to stand up to hegemony and insensitivity, and want to honour our forebears? Are they anti-Chinese?
 
For further reading, Nigel Murphy’s ‘A Brief History of the Chinese Language in New Zealand’ is instructive, if people really want to know and engage in something constructive. It’s on the Chinese Language Week website, who evidently see no irony in hosting it.


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