Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vodafone's folding girlfriend

vodafone foldup girlfriendIn a recent Vodafone ad shown on Australian TV, a guy going on a trip decides he wants to take his wall map with him so he neatly folds it and puts it in his pocket. He then decides to take his computer, his TV and then his CD collection (including a large cabinet). He neatly folds them up one by one and puts them in his pocket. Just as he's almost out the door he looks at his sleeping girlfriend, then comes back, folds her up and puts her in his pocket too. Vodafone uses the slogan 'Take your world with you' for this ad.

Is this commercial not just the slightest bit insulting to women? Firstly, he takes his girlfriend last, almost as an after thought. She is perhaps the least important of his essential accessories? Secondly, is that all she is? An accessory? The intended implication is that he is taking everything he loves with him but this seems to relegate her to the status of an object on a par with a computer or a TV. Vodafone might not have meant to be sexist and offensive but they have ceratinly managed it. It may provide an insight into the subconscious of the guys that create ads like this. The CGI are impressive and the concept is clever, but the bottom line leaves a lot to be desired.

Watch the full commercial here:

Aint that the way it is?

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The cost of piracy

For me, the cost of video piracy is that every time I watch a video, I have to endure a tedious warning message. I find these warnings very annoying; you often can't skip past them and they get very repetitive. For all the shortcomings of old VHS tapes, at least you could fast forward through the dross. How necessary are these warnings? Most people don't pirate but we're all subjected to the warnings every time. Does a warning deter people who pirate or watch pirated copies? I very much doubt it. The usual warning that piracy will kill the Australian film industry falls on deaf ears; it could (with a few exceptions) stand being put out of its misery.

The issue of copyright extends to all digital media, of course not just to video. The copying of software, audio and video has become commonplace. Big production companies are constantly complaining about file sharing, peer to peer networks etc. There is evidence that file sharing of audio tracks actually promotes sales. I personally would be much more likely to purchase or (legally) download a whole album if I'd had the opportunity to listen to a few sample tracks. Copyright laws have simply not kept pace with the digital revolution. Laws that might have worked quite well with more traditional forms of media don't translate very well into the digital world. Digital media is so well suited to copying suffering no degeneration in quality after unlimited successive generations, unlike analog forms. The growth of the internet has made sharing files extremely easy.

It is understandable that production companies aggressively protect their incomes. If piracy and file sharing were allowed to erode sales to a high degree, producers couldn't survive. Never the less, these companies have incredible financial and technical resources. Surely the responsibility for protecting digital products from unauthorised copying falls to them.

There is surely a difference between individuals sharing a few files and organised criminals mass producing illegal copies. When 13 year olds are prosecuted for downloading a few MP3s, there has to be something wrong with the system.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

What's in a Meme?

classic monster movie montage What is a meme? Wikipedia defines it thus: "At its most basic, an Internet meme is simply the propagation of a digital file or hyperlink from one person to others using methods available through the Internet (for example, email, blogs, social networking sites, instant messaging, etc.). The content often consists of a saying or joke, a rumor, an altered or original image, a complete website, a video clip or animation, or an offbeat news story, among many other possibilities. An Internet meme may stay the same or may evolve over time, by chance or through commentary, imitations, and parody versions, or even by collecting news accounts about itself. Internet memes have a tendency to evolve and spread extremely quickly, sometimes going in and out of popularity in a matter of days. They are spread organically, voluntarily, peer to peer, rather than by compulsion, predetermined path, or completely automated means." Sounds interesting? Read more

Jenny at Multifarious Mushrooms has tagged me, so this meme is in response to her post.

Here are my 4 things

Four jobs I’ve had:

  • Art teacher

  • Computing teacher

  • Web designer

  • Jazz guitarist

Four movies I can watch over and over:

  • Metropolis (a previously undiscovered uncut version was recently discovered in Buenos Aires. Read more about the lost footage here. I can't wait to see it.)

  • Nosferatu (original version)

  • King Kong (original version)

  • Jurassic Park

Four places I’ve lived:

  • Sydney noth

  • Sydney inner west

  • Sydney south

  • North Coast NSW

Four TV shows I love:

  • Dexter

  • Underbelly

  • Gordon Ramsay, kitchen nightmares

  • Q & A with Tony Jones

Four places I’ve vacationed:

  • Tasmania

  • Cairns

  • L.A.

  • MN

Four of my favorite dishes:

  • Balmain bugs

  • Lobster sushimi

  • Beef Wellington

  • Thai Penang curry

Four sites I visit daily:

Four places I would rather be right now:

  • Tasmania

  • Cairns

  • L.A.

  • MN
People I tag:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reasons to be cheerful

Mao Tse Tung Zedong I'm thinking that many of the posts on my blog have been rather negative lately, and as I'm in a positive mood I'll try to write something positive.

Another solution to the fuel crisis: biogas generators. These are apparently widely used in 'third world' countries and have a very high acceptance rate in China and the Indian sub continent. Biogas generators have been developed which provide for the production of biogas and allow fermentation and sedimentation. A biogas generator can supply up to 60% of houshold energy needs. If the developed world didn't waste so much of its waste, almost every home could have self sustaining energy. Why pump the stuff into the sea if it can generate power? I find the idea that our own excrement could help to solve the energy crisis very uplifting.

I've decided I really like 'The Living End'. This group has been around for a while but I'd never really listened to them until now (shows how out of touch I am). They have great energy, great tunes and a killer guitar sound. They actually sound like a real rock band, not some pre packaged pop fabrication that seems to be the norm these days.

Check them out:

Read more about them here: http://www.thelivingend.com/

Chinese artists are blossoming onto the world stage with innovation and brilliance. In contrast to a great deal of Western contemporary art, they actually have ideas, humour and the technique to carry it off and make it meaningful. Artists like Zhang Xiaogang: http://www.chinesecontemporary.com/zhang_xiaogang.htm (see images here) have made a real impression on me. The political pop art and reinterpretation of socialist realist imagery of Wang Guangyi http://www.pbase.com/daniel_allen/image/79931550 makes sense of the rising level of consumerism and capitalism which seems at odd with hard line socialist philosophy. China is emerging not only as an economic power but as a major cultural force.

Here are some other reasons to be cheerful:

Some of Buddy Holly, the working folly
Good golly Miss Molly and boats
Hammersmith Palais, the Bolshoi Ballet
Jump back in the alley and nanny goats

18-wheeler Scammels, Thumbing out the candles
All other mammals must eat their oats.
Seeing Piccadilly, Fanny Smith and Willy
Being rather silly, and porridge oats

A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it
You're welcome, we can spare it - yellow socks
Too short to be haughty, too nutty to be naughty
Going on 40 - no electric shocks

The juice of the carrot, the smile of the parrot
A little drop of claret - anything that rocks
Elvis and Scotty, days when I ain't spotty,
Sitting on the potty - curing small pox

(from Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3 by Ian Drury and the Blockheads)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to beat the fuel crisis: work from bed

telecommuting Telecommuting is a synonym for the use of telecommunications to work outside the traditional office or workplace, usually at home. Could telecommuting be an answer to the fuel crisis? The definitive answer is yes and no.

On the yes side:

If an increased number of people were able to work from home, huge reductions in emissions could be made. As telecommuting increased, the volume of commuter traffic would decrease. Huge savings would be made in fuel costs. Huge savings would also be made in road maintenance of roads and the building of new roads to accommodate relentless traffic demands. Governments could give up trying to make inefficient and inadequate public transport profitable and use savings on roads to make it free. Studies have shown that some people just aren't cut out for the 9 to 5 routine. Their body clocks are set to a different schedule and they are more active later in the day. If non early risers were allowed to work from home and manage their own working hours their level of efficiency would increase. Telecommuting could benefit not only the environment but the productivity of businesses and the economy.

On the no side:

The current telecommunications system just isn't up to the demands changes like this would make. Australia's internet connection speeds are currently the third slowest and expensive in the developed world. Only Poland and Czechoslovakia have worse systems. In Japan the speeds and bandwidth is approximately 20 times as great. I find that at least 50% of the time I spend working on a computer is spent on waiting for something to happen or to reestablish a broken connection. If just 1% of the money currently spent on cars, roads, fuel etc. was spent on high speed optic fibre telecommunications systems, we could all have super fast connections and work efficiently from home with none of the current frustrations such work entails. We could also have digital TV and entertainment services available via broadband making working from home even more attractive. 100 movies to choose from for break time? Yes please.

dr john hewson loserThe sale of the national telecommunications carrier, Telstra has made upgrading networks difficult in Australia. Having deregulated the telecommunications industry and allowed competition in the form of Optus to enter the market (hugely subsidised by tax payers), a dilemma exists with an infrastructure upgrade. According to government contracts, whichever carrier the government chooses to roll out out the fibre optics, the other carrier must be compensated to the tune of billions. The Howard government's response to this problem was to do nothing and subsequently suffers with internet connections among the worst in the world. Selling Telstra was like selling the goose that lays the golden eggs; Telstra has made as much money as it was sold for since its sale, but with little benefit to shareholders. The expected benefits of privatisation have not materialised: consumers have not experienced lower prices or dramatic improvements in service. Optus is still owned by SingTel, or in other words, Singapore; they were never silly enough to sell their national carrier from devotion to some set of half baked economic rationalist theories.

The sale of Telstra was originally outlined in Dr John Hewson's failed "Fightback" campaign of 1992. Hewson's policies, the sale of Telstra, the GST and the hated "Work Choices" industrial relations reforms were finally realised during the term of the Howard government. The fact that the Elderslie Finance Corporation, of which Hewson was chairman until recently is now in receivership bears testament that his ideas for the nation might not have been the economic panacea he believed them to be.


  • increased power usage at home
    - computer systems which integrate entertainment (why have a TV and a computer monitor?) and other functions using power saving features could overcome this
  • increased stress on workers as the division between work and leisure time becomes blurred
    - people could easily get used to the change and learn to manage their time effectively
  • loss of social interaction with work colleagues
    - I could personally do without this kind of social life. I'd much rather spend time with family and friends I actually have something in common with. It's estimated we spend more time with the people we work with than our families, and all we have in common is we work at the same place!


  • reductions in carbon emissions and environmental benefits
  • savings on fuel costs
    - you're basically going to need to drive a whole lot less
  • flexible working hours- allows people to work at times when their minds are most active
    - allows families to work and look after their children, leading to reduced costs in childcare
  • kick ass internet speeds and quality digital entertainment services
    - if work was defined by meeting goals rather than just spending time at work we could work shorter hours and allow more time for having fun
  • time would not be wasted sitting in traffic jams
    - any stress the introduction of telecommuting might bring would offset by escaping the drudgery of the rat race and road rage
  • We could all spend a lot more time in bed!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

World Youth Day: Pell's storm in a teacup

Extraordinary new powers will allow police to arrest and fine people for "causing annoyance" to World Youth Day participants and permit partial strip searches at hundreds of Sydney sites. The laws, which operate until the end of July, have the potential to make a crime of wearing a T-shirt with a message on it, handing out condoms at protests, riding a skateboard or even playing music. People who fail to comply will be subject to a $5500 fine. No consideration is given to people who find thousands of Catholics clogging the city annoying. After the extreme police powers that were applied during last year’s APEC conference, Sydney siders have had just about enough of such events.

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior man in the Australian Catholic Church has dismissed the public outcry against this rampant attack on civil liberties as “a storm in a teacup”. It has since been alleged that Cardinal Pell covered up the sexual abuse of a man in a 2003 letter. Cardinal Pell dismissed allegations of rape by a Catholic priest despite the findings of a church investigator that they were substantiated. The Cardinal’s actions can be seen as nothing if not questionable. His greatest sin might be that he was simply out of touch with the times; in the past it was standard practice to sweep problems such as this under the carpet.

Nevertheless, it is hard to understand how a priest could ever even consider such a crime. It is similarly incomprehensible that a man responsible for the religious well being of a nation would attempt to conceal such an offence. Priests are fond of telling their congregations that unredeemed sinners will burn in hell. Do priests, or Christians in general actually believe in what is preached? If they did, crimes like this would never occur and no cover ups would ever be needed. One wonders what pope Benedict's view of these developments might be. A little public annoyance might well be in order. This issue is now the source of major annoyance to Cardinal Pell and the Catholic church.

If the motivation behind World Youth Day is to promote the faith among a dwindling flock of young people, the current scandal does nothing to inspire confidence. The storm in a teacup seems set to grow into a maelstrom

Monday, July 7, 2008

Peter is from Mars, Brendan is from Uranus

Did you ever happen to notice...

Politicians have developed the annoying habit of constantly repeating what they consider to be their key catch phrases. A line like "We're about a fair go for working families" is always quickly followed by another: "yes, a fair go for working families". Do they really think the average person is so thick they won't understand the complexity the first time? Are they not aware that it really sounds just a bit patronising? In fact, this strategy serves several purposes. It allows the media to make sure they have captured a tidy sound bite, and it's also a good way of stopping yourself saying "ummmmm" when you're not sure what to say next. Both would have about the same meaning.

Whenever Brendan Nelson refers to Peter Garrett, he repeats the question: "Which planet is he from?" I'd like to offer an answer before Brendan asks again: Peter Garrett quite clearly comes from Mars. Garrett is an imposter who has been conscripted into the Labour Party in a cynical attempt to boost the youth and green vote. Even in his Midnight Oil days he professed to be just the singer and not responsible for the group's political messages. As an Environment Minister, he makes a pretty good singer, remaining a figure head and leaving the really important stuff to Penny Wong. He has put forward a policy on the momentous issue of plastic shopping bags but he remains something of an embarrassment and a reminder that cheap populism has a price. Judging by his proposed solution to the fuel crisis (5 cents!!!???) there are strong indications that Brendan Nelson may actually come from Uranus.

The Australian Democrats have finally drawn their last breath. I doubt too many people will shed a tear over their final demise. A great many middle class, small l liberals thought they were very clever during the Democrats heyday and would announce: "I vote Labor in the lower house and Democrat in the Senate, let's keep the barstards honest!". They didn't feel so clever when Meg Lees capitulated to the GST. This was surely a crime against the electorate; no one wanted it and once installed we'll know we'll never be rid of it. So much for keepin the barstards honest; Meg Lees may also be from Uranus.

Keep watching the skies...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Climate Change Political Football

earth wrecking ball On Friday 04/07/2008, in the first comprehensive assessment of the impact on Australia of climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut reported that Australians must pay more for food, petrol and energy or risk a rising death toll, economic loss and destruction of natural wonders such as the Great Barrier Reef.

The Howard Government’s policies on the environment, climate change and global warming: scepticism, inactivity and a steadfast refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol did little or nothing to address concerns raised by The Garnaut Report and other similar studies. None the less, it was to some extent highly politically astute. Howard understood that any positive measures in environmental policy would have a huge economic cost and be political poison. However, Howard failed to accurately gauge the mood of the Australian electorate and the piecemeal environmental policies he took to his humiliating 2007 sydney flooded due to global warmingdefeat were seen as too little too late. The rise of the Greens as a force to be reckoned with attests to the fact that the environment is now a major concern to considerable sections of the community.

The Kevin '07 campaign made considerable ground by declaring environmental policies which at least appeared to have some credibility, as long as the capitulation on the Gunn's pulp mill is put to one side. There were key Tasmanian seats which might have been put in jeopardy had Labor opposed the mill. The Rudd government has undoubtedly been damaged by the recent trauma over petrol prices. The decision to implement an emissions trading scheme and meet the Kyoto goals is likely to damage Rudd's government even more among sections of the population that votes with their hip pockets in mind. It may actually improve his standing among those with a genuine concern for the environment. The backroom boys have undoubtedly already weighed up the statistics. Still, the climate change political football is looming more like wrecking ball for both sides of politics.

sydney desertPerhaps this is the fundamental flaw with democracy. It is natural that any government strives to ensure its political survival. To do so, it necessarily introduces short term policies that aim for approval within the next electoral term. Dealing with the environment has always required much longer term vision and a good deal of short term economic pain; making 'climate scepticism' a very attractive response.

It seems clear that governments will always create policy agendas in line with voting intentions. The responsibility ultimately falls to the electorate. If the majority aren't willing to spend more on petrol and make sacrifices to help save the environment governments are unlikely to do anything more than make expedient noises in an attempt to pacify the minority who understand that sacrifices are necessary to ensure the survival of the human species.

The irony is the long term economic cost of ignoring conservation will be much greater than any short term hardships we might endure securing the future. How much prosperity will we enjoy when coastlines are under water and the rest of the country has turned to desert?