Posts tagged ‘2016’


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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Posted in cars, culture, design, interests, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, TV, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Back, on the new box

28.03.2022

There are a few experiments going on here now that this blog is on the new server. Massive thanks to my friend who has been working tirelessly to get us on to the new box and into the 2020s.

First, there’s a post counter, though as it’s freshly installed, it doesn’t show a true count. There is a way to get the data out of Yuzo Related Posts into the counter—even though that’s not entirely accurate, either, it would be nice to show the record counts I had back in 2016 on the two posts revealing Facebook’s highly questionable “malware scanner”.
 

 

Secondly, we haven’t found a good related post plug-in to replace Yuzo. You’ll see two sets of related posts here. The second is by another company who claims their software will pick up the first image in each post in the event that I have not set up a featured image or thumbnail; as you can see, it doesn’t do what it says on the tin.

Some of you will have seen a bunch of links from this blog sent out via social media as the new installation became live, and I apologize for those.

Please bear with us while we work through it all. The related post plug-in issue has been the big one: there are many, but they either don’t do as they claimed, or they have terrible design. Even Wordpress’s native one cannot do the simple task of taking the first image from a post, which Yuzo does with ease.
 
Recently a friend recommended a Google service to me, and of course I responded that I would never touch anything of theirs, at least not willingly. The following isn’t addressed to him, but the many who have taken exception to my justified concerns about the company, and about Facebook, and their regular privacy breaches and apparent lack of ethics.

In short: I don’t get you.

And I try to have empathy.

When I make my arguments, they aren’t pulled out of the ether. I try to back up what I’ve said. When I make an attack in social media, or even in media, there’s a wealth of reasons, many of which have been detailed on this blog.

Of course there are always opposing viewpoints, so it’s fine if you state your case. And of course it’s fine if you point out faults in my argument.

But to point the “tut tut” finger at me and imply that I either shouldn’t or I’m mistaken, without backing yourselves up?

So where are you coming from?

In the absence of any supporting argument, there are only a handful of potential conclusions.

1. You’re corrupt or you like corruption. You don’t mind that these companies work outside the law, never do as they claim, invade people’s privacy, and place society in jeopardy.

2. You love the establishment and you don’t like people rocking the boat. It doesn’t matter what they do, they’re the establishment. They’re above us, and that’s fine.

3. You don’t accept others’ viewpoints, or you’re unable to grasp them due to your own limitations.

4. You’re blind to what’s been happening or you choose to turn a blind eye.

I’ve heard this bullshit my entire life.

When I did my first case at 22, representing myself, suing someone over an unpaid bill, I heard similar things.

‘Maybe there’s a reason he hasn’t paid you.’

‘They never signed a contract, so no contract exists.’

As far as I can tell, they were a variant of those four, since one of the defendants was the president of a political party.

I won the case since I was in the right, and a bunch of con artists didn’t get away with their grift.

The tightwad paid on the last possible day. I was at the District Court with a warrant of arrest for the registrar to sign when he advised me that the money had been paid in that morning.

I did this case in the wake of my mother’s passing.

It amazed me that there were people who assumed I was in the wrong in the setting of a law student versus an establishment white guy.

Their defence was full of contradictions because they never had any truth backing it up.

I also learned just because Simpson Grierson represented them that no one should be scared of big-name law firms. Later on, as I served as an expert witness in many cases, that belief became more cemented.

Equally, no one should put any weight on what Mark Zuckerberg says since history keeps showing that he never means it; and we should believe Google will try one on, trying to snoop wherever they can, because history shows that they will.
 
Ancient history with Google? Here’s what its CEO said, as quoted in CNBC, in February. People lap this up without question (apart from the likes of Bob Hoffman, who has his eyes open, and a few others). How many people on this planet again? It wasn’t even this populated in Soylent Green (which supposedly takes place in 2022, if you’re looking at the cinematic version).
 


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When Here WeGo still sends you to the wrong location six years on

10.01.2022

Six years ago, I reported this error in Here Maps (a.k.a. Here WeGo), both via the official channels and to a software engineer I knew working there.
   It’s still there. There aren’t two Wharekauhau Country Estates (this is the route between them, to highlight just how wrong it is; the westerly one is correct).

   They’ve since been in touch via Twitter and I’ve re-sent them all the information, including:

Trust me, I went to this one and wound up the drive to some random farm with no one around, and had to back my car down a muddy trail with immense difficulty as there was nowhere to U-turn.

   This only came up because Here Maps tried to take me to New World Foxton recently, and I decided to look back.
   If I followed their guidance, I would have to drive through the war memorial.


   Don’t get me wrong. I really like Here Maps and the latest UI is fantastic. It’s no worse than its competitors in accuracy terms. Google has sent me to plenty of wrong places when I was still using their site for things. It’s just annoying when the official channels, reporting bugs the way they suggest, clearly don’t work. Hopefully if anyone’s planning their journeys to the above places, they’ll be able to see this post!


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Is the sun setting on Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei?

03.08.2021

It does seem the sun is setting, after 25 years, on Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei on RTL.
   Last week, the network released three episodes from 8.15 p.m., and to heck with the low ratings of the last episode which would be far too late for younger viewers. They’re doing the same this week, and finishing up the season next week with the two last ones made.
   It’s no secret that the viewer numbers have been falling year after year, especially after the departure of Tom Beck, and the long-running actioner costs a lot to make—too much for a show that now nets around the 2 million mark each week, with increased competition from other networks and forms of entertainment.
   Last year, the show was revamped again, but unlike previous efforts, this was a very bumpy and massive reset. Shows don’t always do well after this, especially a revamp that was bigger than Martial Law abandoning most of its original cast in season 2 as well as not resolving the season 1 cliffhanger. Or each of the incarnations of Blackadder.
   Cobra 11 survived most earlier revamps, such as the seasons with Vinzenz Kiefer, because it maintained some continuity. We didn’t mind the anachronisms and the inconsistencies as long as the heart of the show was there. Over the first two decades, there was a humanity to the show, regardless of how much haters think it was a shallow actioner, and by that I refer to the home life of the main character, Semir Gerkhan, portrayed by Erdoğan Atalay.
   Viewers invested a lot into Semir and Andrea, and even with the 2014–15 seasons, we could count on that behind the emotional core of the series. It didn’t matter that the bright, cheerful years of Beck had become a sombre-keyed drama, with the happy couple’s marriage on the rocks, Semir sporting a full beard and not his goatee, and a major story arc.
   It was a return to the action–comedy tradition in 2016 with Daniel Roesner taking over from Kiefer, who I was surprised to see later in Bulletproof.



Semir and Andrea: the emotional heart of Alarm für Cobra 11.

   With Roesner’s departure, producers sought to get rid of everyone else on the show, wrapping up their storylines, so that 2020 would begin with only Atalay and Gizem Emre, who joined the cast in 2014, reprising their roles. We can deal with Semir pairing up with a female partner for the first time in 24 years (Vicky Reisinger, played by Pia Stutzenstein), having a new boss (a disabled character played by an able-bodied actor, Patrick Kalupa; and since we never had an episode about how the character became disabled, it seems a slap in the face to not cast a disabled actor), and an irritatingly dark set. But Andrea and the kids have been written out, not mentioned again; enter Semir’s estranged mother, who only became estranged a couple of seasons ago, since the character said previously that he called her every Christmas. To all intents and purposes, this was a new show with little connection to the old. And I think they may have gone one step too far in their efforts to present something new to viewers.
   There is a slight return to the structures of the older scripts in this second block of season 25, with an emphasis on the stories over the action (as there had been at the start). There are moments where you even recognize the show. But if the first half of the season had put you off, you never would have found out, especially since RTL hasn’t even bothered to show the action scenes in many of the press photos.
   The scheduling is exactly what you’d expect a network to do in order to kill a show, to say that the average viewer numbers had dropped again, too far to be viable. It’s the sort of show that might have a TV movie or two later on, but for now, I’m not that surprised there are statements that this 25th season (28th, if you believe the network) is the last ‘sein wird’ (for now). Another retooling for the 26th so it could return? Or time to wrap it all up?
   I don’t think it bodes well for us fans, unless they can tap into the Zeitgeist again for something that modern viewers are going to love.


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The accidental 9-11 post: their Republicans and Democrats still have the same concerns

11.09.2020


Above: I photographed this gentleman praying at Ground Zero during the 9-11 commemorations in 2005. A very moving day and my first return to the site since 2001.

This was never meant as a 9-11 post. I recorded this a few days ago, after chatting to my US friend Jerry, who had voted for Trump in 2016. I concluded that Americans largely had the same concerns, regardless of whom they voted for, yet other interests were stoking the divisions because they had everything to gain from the infighting. I also discussed the shift of their political centre from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s day to today. Back then, the people of the US showed unity, and I still believe they can if they wished, and rid themselves of the vitriol that comes through social media.


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Catfished on Facebook? That’s OK, too, they’re there to provide the tools

11.06.2020

I don’t particularly have it in for Google and Facebook. I’m only pointing out the obvious: if you say your policy is x, or your product is y, then don’t deliver us z. Put it into non-electronic terms: if you sell me a car and I put it into first gear, and it instead reverses, then I will complain. And if you look back through 11 years of critique, that is what lies at the foundation of every post about them. Medinge does Brands with a Conscience, Big Tech does Brands without a Conscience. Once they start being honest and levelling with people, then I’ll stop pointing out their hypocrisy.

Speaking of which, a Facebook user calling themselves Barbara Black has taken a photo of former Miss Universe New Zealand Tania Dawson, using Tania’s photo as her profile pic and, of course, catfishing men. You know where this is going: despite numerous reports from Tania’s friends since the D-Day anniversary, including multiple ones from me, nothing has been done. Facebook tells me that there has been no violation of their terms. Some have actually found it impossible to report the fake profile, as their screen fills up with gibberish.

   Yet again it’s Facebook being on the side of the spammers, bots and phonies, as usual, because they have the potential to help their bottom line.
   I can safely say that all my reports of fake or compromised accounts this year have resulted in no take-downs whatsoever, making it far, far worse than what I experienced in 2014 when I said that Facebook faced a bot ‘epidemic’ (I used that very word).
   Very easy prediction for 2020: despite COVID-19, Facebook will have to remove more fake accounts than there are people on the planet. I reckon it has already happened but they won’t admit it. I just don’t know when people will wake up to the fact that this dubious site isn’t serving them, but at least the fakes have got to such a point now that everyday people recognize them: at some point, we will either know someone, or be that someone, who has been catfished or cloned. I’ve been off it for personal stuff for three years and have missed nowt.


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Has Directwrite arrived on my Chromium-based browsers four years after everyone else?

03.03.2020

After considerable searching, the bug that I reported to Vivaldi, and which they cannot reproduce, appears to be one that the general public encountered back in 2016, when Chromium took away the option to disable its Directwrite rendering. I don’t know why I’ve only encountered it in 2020, and as far as I can tell, my experience is unique.
   It’s a good position to be in—not unlike being one of two people (that I know of) who could upload videos of over one minute to Instagram without using IGTV—though it’s a mystery why things have worked properly for me and no one else.
   When I switched to Vivaldi in 2017, I noticed how the type rendering was superior compared with Firefox, and it was only in January this year when it became far inferior for me. Looking at the threads opened on type rendering and Chromium, and the screenshots posted with them, most experienced something like this in 2016—a year before I had adopted Vivaldi. If my PC worked as theirs did, then I doubt I would have been talking about Vivaldi’s superior display.
   There’s a possibility that what I saw from 2017 actually was Directwrite, and whatever they’re using now is yet another technology that no one has made any note of.
   I’ve posted in the Vivaldi and MacType forums where this has been discussed, as my set-up could provide the clue on why things have worked for me and not others. Could it be my font substitutions, or the changes I’ve made to the default display types in Windows? Or the fact that I still have some Postscript fonts installed from the old days? Or something so simple as my plug-ins?
   Tonight I removed Vivaldi 2.11 and went to 2.6. I know 2.5 rendered type properly—Bembo on the Lucire website looks like Bembo in print—so I wondered if I could narrow down the precise version where Vivaldi began to fail on this front. (As explained earlier, after 2.5, no automatic updates came, and I jumped from 2.5 to 2.10.)
   It was 2.9 where the bug began, namely when Vivaldi moved from a Chromium 77 base to a 78 one. This is different to what Ayespy, a moderator on the Vivaldi forums, experienced: version 69 was when they noted a shift. Yet Opera GX, which works fine, has a browser ID that claims it’s Chrome/79.0.3945.130 (though I realize they can put whatever they like here). Brave, Chrome and Edge look awful.
   We can conclude that not all Chromium browsers are created equally (goes without saying) but I understand that the rendering isn’t something that each company (Vivaldi, Opera, etc.) has fiddled with. Therefore, something I’m doing is allowing me to have better results on Opera, Opera GX and Vivaldi versions up to 2.8 inclusive.

Vivaldi 2.8

Opera GX

Firefox Developer Edition 74.0b9


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Facebook is getting away with it again—even though it knew about Cambridge Analytica

25.07.2019

Thanks to my friend Bill Shepherd, I’ve now subscribed to The Ad Contrarian newsletter. Bob Hoffman is one of the few who gets it when it comes to how insignificant the FTC’s Facebook fine is.
   Five (American) billion (American) dollars sounds like a lot to you and me, but considering Facebook’s stock rose on the news, they’ve more than covered the fine on the rise alone.
   Bob writes: ‘The travesty of this settlement guarantees that no tech company CEO will take consumer privacy or data security seriously. Nothing will change till someone either has to pay personally or go to jail. Paying insignificant fines with corporate money is now an officially established cost of doing business in techland and—who knows?—a jolly good way to boost share prices.’
   There’s something very messed up about this scenario, particularly as some of the US’s authorities are constantly being shown up by the EU (over Google’s monopoly actions) and the UK’s Damian Collins, MP (over the questions being asked of Facebook—unlike US politicians’, his aren’t toothless).
   The US SEC, meanwhile, has released its report on Facebook, showing that Facebook knew what was happening with Cambridge Analytica in 2015–16, and that the company willingly sold user data to the firm. SEC’s Stephanie Avakian noted, ‘As alleged in our complaint, Facebook presented the risk of misuse of user data as hypothetical when they knew user data had in fact been misused.’ You can read the entire action as filed by the SEC here.

In its quarterly and annual reports filed between January 28, 2016 and March 16, 2018 (the “relevant period”), Facebook did not disclose that a researcher had, in violation of the company’s policies, transferred data relating to approximately 30 million Facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. Instead, Facebook misleadingly presented the potential for misuse of user data as merely a hypothetical investment risk. Moreover, when asked by reporters in 2017 about its investigation into the Cambridge Analytica matter, Facebook falsely claimed the company found no evidence of wrongdoing, thereby reinforcing the misleading statements in its periodic filings.

   As I have been hashtagging, #Facebooklies. This is standard practice for the firm, as has been evidenced countless times for over a decade. The settlement: US$100 million. Pocket change.


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When the writers don’t check the Cobra 11 universe

10.04.2019

This is how big an Alarm für Cobra 11: die Autobahnpolizei nerd I am.
   Three years ago (April 7, 2016), we were introduced to Daniel Roesner as Paul Renner in ‘Cobra, übernehmen Sie’. There is a flashback scene dated April 7, 1996 when Paul and Semir meet for the first time, with Paul as a child.



   There are a few problems with the scene.
   If it was April 1996, then it would have been around the events of ‘Tod bei Tempo 100’, and Semir looked quite different:

   His goatee only begins appearing in episode 33 (production order), ‘Ein Leopard läuft Amok’ (October 1, 1998), and the BMW 3er with the registration NE-DR 8231 made its first appearance the episode before, ‘Die letzte Chance’ (which was actually shown later, on October 8, 1998).
   Also in ‘Cobra, übernehmen Sie’, Semir is on the radio to Andrea, when Andrea was not working for PASt in 1996. She made her first appearance in ‘Rache ist süß’ (November 18, 1997).
   I can understand star Erdoğan Atalay being reluctant to shave his goatee for the flashback, but it would have thrilled fans if he called to base for Regina and not Andrea.


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The newer the Instagram, the clunkier the video

07.12.2018

It’s been nearly one week with the new Meizu M6 Note.
   It’s the “international” model, which means it’s not Chinese-spec, and there was no way to turn it into a Chinese one.
   One observation is that the international one is far buggier than the Chinese one. Either that, or Android 7 is far buggier than Android 5.
   For instance, if I leave my old phone as a USB media device, it would stay on that mode. The new one will always change by itself to ‘charge only’, meaning each time I plug it into USB, I now have to waste time doing an extra step.
   Secondly, there’s no drive assistant on the new phone, which may have been a Chinese-only feature. I guess they don’t know we have cars outside China.
   I’ve mentioned the app shortcomings in an earlier post.
   But here’s one that I doubt is related to the Chineseness of my phone: Instagram simply performs better on the old phone than on the new.
   A Meizu M2 Note on an old Flyme (on top of Android 5) running a version of Instagram that dates back seven or eight months uploads smoother videos than a Meizu M6 Note on the latest Flyme (atop Android 7) running the latest Instagram.
   The issue then is: is it the phone, the OS, or the app that’s to blame?
   My first clue was my attempts at uploading a haka performed at my primary school. It took nine attempts before Instagram made one publicly visible, a bug going back some time.
   When it did upload, I noticed it was clunky as it advanced.
   I uploaded it again today on the old phone and there were no issues. It worked first time.

New phone

Old phone

   Now, the two are on different aspect ratios so you might think you’re not comparing apples with apples. How about these two videos? Again, Android 7 required repeated attempts before Instagram would make the video public. Things worked fine with the older phone.

New phone

Old phone

   Anyone know why it’s far, far worse as the technology gets newer? Like servers, which are much harder to manage now, or banks, where cheques take five to seven times longer to clear than in the 1970s, technology seems to be going backwards at the moment.


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