Thursday, 6 November 2014

On the Road Again

Originally published at richardmckenzie.com.au


For the next few weeks, I'll be in Europe, mixing up business with pleasure and study with leisure. It's a strange sensation, going away to another continent, yet feeling as connected as ever via social media. This is something I want to actively avoid. Devices, as useful as the can be, have a habit of occupying the time that used to be spent idly daydreaming or thinking about nothing much.

The gear I am taking away is intended to refocus my photography and travel to the bare essentials. Well, not quite bare essentials. My primary photographic tools will be my Leica M4 with 35mm Summicron and my Hasselblad 503CX with Zeiss 80mm. Sure, I will have a digital (Lumix GX7 w/15mm Leica DG Summilux), but that will mainly be used sporadically for "business" related purposes.

A 35mm lens and a 80mm "normal" lens. What could be simpler?

Literary-wise, I've been inspired by Verso's 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep and A Philosophy of Walking. Both offer solace from the modern world with their slow-burn approach to pressing life issues at play today. Of course books are the sort of thing I could never go without. Bloomsbury's The Textual Life of Airports will keep me occupied (on the off-chance I need it!) in transit while an iPhone full of engaging documentaries and podcasts, along with Mahler, Tchaikovsky et al., will keep me busy in-flight. Yes, I know, "keeping busy" is probably anathema to the slow-burn ideas of the first two books, but time will tell.

Until next time...

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Leader-ing the Way

Murdoch's stable of local 'Leader' newspapers again showed why they are completely irrelevant very important with a great piece front-page 'journalism'.

Conservatively headlined "DANGER ZONES" (I can't link directly - News Corpse wants me to sign up for the privilege of sharing the permanent URL of their 'stories') , Laura Jolly's piece about speed cameras outside school zones takes the fight to speeding drivers who would dare put out little ones at risk by driving at more than 40km/h outside schools (btw 43km/h=instant death).

Just in case you, humble reader, are confused by News Corpse's weathervane attitude to speed cameras, their traffic camera style-guide/editorial thought policy manual goes something like this:
  • speed cameras on freeways and highways = revenue raising, bloody guv'ment
  • speed cameras near 6 lane school zones even where there are ample crossings and pedestrian bridges for children = justified for our precious little ones, would somebody please think of the children, why isn't the guv'ment doing anything to protect the little ones?

But the most brilliant piece of this story isn't even Laura's Januscian take on the whole speed camera bit, it's a quote from Senior Sergeant Brad Peters of Nunawading highway patrol:

“People don’t give school zones the due consideration they should be giving them,” Sen-Sgt Peters said.
“They’re placing such a precious resource as our children at risk by disregarding school zones.”

Sen-Sgt Peters seems to be confusing children with oxygen, fresh water or gold. That or he's swallowed the neoliberal justification (used by both Labor and Liberal) for public education that the whole reason we have schools is to develop productive inputs for the economy.


Friday, 31 October 2014

Plus-sized models: A few weeks with the iPhone 6 Plus (zomg unboxing video review)

Not every iPhone is used in a geometrically perfect, sterile white environment
The internet is full of conceited people who write conceited reviews of products and/or services in order to attract people to click on their content. For some, they believe a stinging critique of a particular popular product, like some form of digital tall-poppy syndrome, will render their own abilities (and web address hits) large.

I want to do no such thing. Instead of regurgitation of statistics and superfluous "feels nice in the hand" generalities, I am here to engage in a blitzkrieg of pith and (conceited) wit not for hits, but for my own gratification. Here goes.

The iPhone 6 Plus is rather large.

After owning it for a month, it no longer feels large and everything else feels small.

Its screen is 1920x1080 (or something), but due a deliberate quirk, renders everything at 2208×1242 before scaling down on the fly. Clever, but inelegant. Thus it feels a bit like a stop-gap in search of a higher-resolution screen (iPhone 6 IIs Plus S anyone?)

iOS 8 should more accurately be called iOSHATE for the feelings it engenders in the user community. I don't need to hang out in no support forums to know it's shit. (zomg appl its a knowen fawlt)

Safari crashes more than Mr Magoo on ice. And fuck me sideways, get rid of the fucking transition animations. Whether it's the PowerPoint-esque ICONS FLYING EVERYWHERE WOW, or the SOFT DISSOLVE (which is what happens when you turn off transitions), the phone feels more lethargic than Clive Palmer after walking up a flight of stairs.

iOSHATE is a generally buggy experience that transcends the specific nature of bugs and faults Apple and software engineers need for diagnosis reason. It's just shit.

Sadly, it's the first new iPhone I've owned that doesn't feel snappy. In the past, installing, say iOS 6 on an iPhone 4 meant dealing with frustrating slowness until a new phone came out. Then, whatever the new phone was, felt snappy and responsive. Now, the iPhone 6 Plus and iOSHATE feel slow from the outset.

For all these flaws, it's a great looking phone and the screen is very nice, notwithstanding the scaling workaround implemented by Apple. But enough of pleasant generalisations. Who wants those? Not me.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

An interview with Attorney-General George Brandis

How to Democracy: Welcome, Attorney-General.
George Brandis: It's good to be here.
H2D: I'm sure it is. Your fall guy in the House of Representatives, Malcolm Turnbull, introduced legislation for mandatory data retention today. Why did you not do it yourself, you yellow bellied coward?
GB: Well it is appropriate that Minister Turnbull do it in the House of Representatives, as it is the house of government and...
H2D: Yes, but the houses are co-equal with the exception of money bills, so why not do it yourself?
GB: I was busy.
H2D: You were busy?
GB: Yes. Buying Mr. Sheen. The reason for my purchase is not important.
H2D: So you were away buying Mr. Sheen while what is arguably your trademark policy was being introduced by a former investment banker and lawyer in the House.
GB: Yes. Look, those bookshelves don't clean themselves.
H2D: Tell me, does it irk you that Malcolm Turnbull is a better legal mind than you in every way?
GB: Malcolm makes a very valuable contribution to the team.
H2D: Team Australia?
GB: Well, naturally. Team Australia and the Government Team. 
H2D: You don't strike me as a team player, Attorney-General.
GB: How so?
H2D: Well, I just don't see you into your sports that much. More a, you know, bookish kind of guy. The type who would enjoy being in the stacks much more than in the stands.
GB: I enjoy all forms of enjoyment. After all, I was minister for sports.
H2D: Yes, shining moments I'm sure every Australian remembers. Moving on, the legislation introduced into the house today by the Spycatcher himself, Malcolm Turnbull...
GB: He wasn't the Spycatcher, Malcolm defended the Spycatcher. He wasn't actually the Spycatcher of the case.
H2D: Yes. I know, I just wanted to bring the conversation back to your legal mind again. So, Malcolm had the Spycatcher trial, he acted as a lawyer for Kerry Packer and led the Australian republican movement. What again qualified you for the position of Attorney-General, aside from what I assume is a large collection of John Grisham novels on your shelves?
GB: That's an outrageous line of questioning.
H2D: You're right it is, you anglo prick.
GB: What?
H2D: Sorry. Just being a bigot, you fascist pig.

(INAUDIBLE)

H2D: Back to the topic at hand, can you explain to me and the rest of the country what exactly metadata is and what metadata will be covered by this law?
GB: Well metadata is about explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world that encompasses it.
(3 SEC SILENCE)
H2D: Um, Attorney-General, I that's metaphysics.
(2 SEC SILENCE)
GB: I know.
H2D: Do you?
GB: Yes
H2D: Because you seemed pretty sure of your self right then. Were you like attempting to have a joke or something?
GB: Well, I have been known to engage in some jocularity.
H2D: This isn't funny. In fact, if that was a joke, you should surely be taken out and shot. I don't know, probably by the Greens. They are after all, in your words, Nazis.
GB: I didn't say that.
H2D: Yes you did.
GB: No I didn't. 
H2D: You did.
GB: It was taken out of context.
H2D: You said you wanted to draw attention to the "extremely alarming, frightening similarities between the methods employed by contemporary green politics and the methods and the values of the Nazis". How on earth could that have been taken out of context?
GB: I meant the Greens have really nice uniforms.
H2D: You like Nazi uniforms?
GB: Well, I have an interest. There's a book on them if you...
H2D: No, thank you. Getting back to the case in hand, what the heck is metadata?
GB: I think you'll find that's explained perfectly well in the legislation.
H2D: Well, no, it's not. It's not explained at all. In fact there's almost no description on what metadata is, which sounds like either a) you've got no clue, or b) want it to include absolutely everything.
GB: Well that's not true...
H2D: Then tell me, what is metadata?
GB: Well it's all manner of data. But not the data iteself.
H2D: You mean metadata, not data.
GB: No, not data.
H2D: But yes, metadata?
GB: Yes, metadata.
H2D: You're just repeating what I'm saying aren't you, Mr. Brandis?
GB: No.
H2D: Yes.
(2 SEC SILENCE)
GB: Web address.
H2D: What?
GB: Hashtag.
H2D: You're just saying random tech words now, aren't you Mr. Brandis?
GB: I'm afraid for operational reasons we can't share that information.
H2D: Attorney-General George Brandis, I hate you.
GB: Pleasure.

(ENDS)

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Would somebody please think of the children?


While our political leaders wage war on one "death cult" overseas, another has been welcomed warmly to Melbourne.

The city is host to the International Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses, a millennial cult who believes destruction of the earth is imminent and that "No Door Knocking" stickers exist merely for decoration.

It is believed up to 70,000 will attend events held at Dockland's Etihad Stadium which include re-enactments of Bible stories and immersion baptisms.

While adults are more than welcome to enter into the suspension of logic and reason known as 'faith', what is concerning is the number of JW adults with purple-lanyarded kids in in tow.

Like a mother drinking and smoking while pregnant, these kids have no choice but to be inflicted with the bad choices of their parents.

What should be the most wondrous and eye-opening formative years of young lives becomes nothing more than indoctrination in a faith which considers independent thought a concept "introduced by Satan the Devil".

Hey, JWs, great parenting, setting your kids up to succeed at anything in life, so long as it's theological school.

JWs don't have evidence for this claim against independent thought. Like most religions, they don't have evidence for any of their claims, just a divine directive from on high. Still, that doesn't stop them using the scientific advances of free thinkers everywhere, such as jet aircraft and the Internet, to gather in Melbourne from all around the world to advance their asinine cause.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Sex, Politics and Religion


The Eleventh General Assembly of the Synod of the Bishops has witnessed a marked shift in official Vatican rhetoric towards gay and lesbian members of the community.

Where the former pontiff Ratzinger referred to homosexuality as "intrinsically disordered", an interim report from the Bishops' conference states gay and lesbians have "gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community".

Wow. How generous of them. It sounds about as patronising as a vote-hungry politician talking about the mentally handicapped, but hey, it's better than being deemed morally evil.

Unfortunately, "gifts and qualities" seems to be where the uncharacteristic positivity ends. The Bishops' dispatch goes on to say while the church can probably try at some point to think about discussing accepting gays and lesbians into the church "community", they cannot marry, nor will the church alter its discriminatory foreign and charitable aid provisions. After all, people fighting for equality in the community are merely "inspired by gender ideology".

While the Vatican's shift in rhetoric is welcome, rational people should not be too quick to applaud it. Like a despotic regime, the Vatican has a habit of speaking nicely when people are looking, but returning to the status quo when backs are turned.

The current Pope, the former Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been praised by some as a reformer, quite rightly in some regards. But he is still the head of one of the world's most conservative organisations. One committed, as ever, to its own mediaeval concepts of morality, sin and of total domination in this life and the next.

Take the Pope's own widely-reported comments on homosexuality ("If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?"). Praised as the mark of a new and open attitude from the Vatican, these remarks were swiftly followed-up with a statement that the Pope firmly believes in the sanctity of marriage; man and woman; homosexuality a sin...blah, blah, blah.

The song remains the same.

The Catholic church will not compromise any of its dogmatic obsessions, especially in the bedroom. Even these tiny alterations in rhetoric (concessions to humanity and reality, if you will) have brought swift and predictable condemnation from the most conservative of Catholic conservatives, some of whom have called the Synod's report a "betrayal" and one of the "worst official documents ever drafted in Church history".

But we should not be surprised. Despite the shiny new pontiff and his positive words, the Vatican still declines to co-operate fully with police investigations into child abuse, refusing most recently to hand over documents to our own Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. 'Disappointing, but not surprising' was the general consensus on the Vatican's decision.

And in the last bastion of medieval Catholicism, Africa, dozens of nations continue to criminalise homosexual acts and abortions. LBGT advocates are regularly persecuted and many have been found dead. All this in the name of the Vatican's loving god.

While it is genuinely nice to see a rhetorical shift in official Vatican attitudes towards gay and lesbians, it means nothing until it is backed up by action; action against the vilification and ongoing discrimination supported by many of the church's faithful against homosexuals. For that, I won't hold my breath. It doesn't seem a bunch of 60+ year old virgins will stop having their say in Catholics' sex lives any time soon.

And now a word from our sponsors

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott chatted with 11th-grader Guy Burnham during a tour of P-TECH on Wednesday. AARON SHOWALTER/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
It sounds all so benign, doesn't it? A major corporation "partners" with the government to fund an educational institution focused on "equipping" students with practical workplace skills.

Kids end up with practical, hands-on work experience and first-in-line for jobs at major firms, while corporations get to spread their own propaganda give back to the community and tap an enthusiastic source of labour. What could possibly go wrong?

Not a lot, according to education minister Christopher Whine, imploring Australians to bow down to their corporate overlords: "We could have McDonalds or IBM or BHP Billiton or Iluka or Santos or manufacturing businesses involved in their local schools."

I for one can't wait to see a science class 'presented' by BHP Billiton, Food Tech by McDonalds and Media by News Corp. It would actually prepare students quite well for the sad reality of Australian life.

In one fell swoop, the government would be rid of global warming, the obesity epidemic and any sort of human conscience respectively. And the federal government could redirect that wasted education funding to the states in order to focus on, you know, chaplaincy programmes and mass surveillance programmes. Winningest!

In order to meet the Coalition's stringent criteria for policy implementation, this particular education policy has no supporting evidence whatsoever.

Not like those pesky Scandinavians with their saunas, reindeer and consistently brilliant education systems.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

And now for something completely different...


...I completely agree with the PM. 

But I think we had different crazies in mind.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Onward, Christian Soldiers...


I had started a long post on everything "terror", "war" and "ISIS", but to be honest, there are just too many nuances and angles to this debate; so many issues to be concerned about, that it was useless attempting to add my own half-cocked tirade to a debate that's already chockablock full of them.

Instead, let me post in full the Federal Member for Fremantle's remarks on the escalating crisis - not made in the main chamber of the House of Representatives, but in the relative obscurity of the Federation Chamber.

Melissa Parke has been brave enough to speak out at a time when those around her, including her own caucus colleagues, are utterly committed to the preservation of freedom through warfare and, incongruously, the curtailing of the very freedoms "we" are apparently fighting to protect.

Last week on Twitter a person called for my execution for treason because I had questioned the government's rapid escalation of our new involvement in Iraq from a purely humanitarian mission to one where we appear to be joining the US in an open-ended fight against IS. A call for my execution may be extreme, but it demonstrates how the beating of the drums of war and the hysteria this generates inevitably prevent the kind of calm, serious and rational discussion that is called for when decisions are being made to commit Australians overseas to kill and potentially to be killed. It is natural for us to respond instinctively to confronting images. The graphic and brutal murders of Westerners David Haines, Steven Sotloff and James Foley—people who only sought to do good in the world—have offended our sense of humanity and stoked our desire for justice in a way that countless other atrocities in Iraq and Syria—as well as in Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan and many countries in Africa—seem not to have.
But given the disastrous consequences of previous military interventions, as well as the continually evolving and incredibly complex situation in the Middle East, it has perhaps never been more important to curb that natural instinct for retaliation and the use of hard power and consider the root causes. In this it may be helpful to reflect on what an elderly woman in Northern Ireland said to one of the former heads of our national counterterrorism organisation before the peace talks: 'If you've got nothing to live for, you've got everything to die for.'
The challenges in Iraq—some caused and others exacerbated by the ill-judged coalition of the willing in 2003—arise from deep ethnic communal, cultural and religious issues. As the Ottoman Turks discovered, and as has become even clearer ever since, these issues are never going to be resolved by outsiders, especially not outsiders with guns and bombs, and not by approaching this as a crusade against a death cult. Fundamentally, this is an issue of human security. And does anyone believe you can ensure the security of humans by bombing humans? At the centre of any credible national security policy is human security—individual wellbeing and community harmony that allows people everywhere to go about their business without fear, without constraints on their freedoms as enshrined in law and without the constant worry that someone wants to take their possessions and enslave their children. That, of course, is the essential meaning of the term 'security': without worry—sine cura, for the classicists.
The authoritative and internationally respected commentator Rachel Shabi made the following observations just this week:
It should be obvious by now that if such bombing campaigns have an effect, it is to make things much worse. What western leaders portray as valiant efforts to rid the world of evil forces such as ISIL just don't play the same way in the region. In Iraq, for instance, western military intervention is viewed as support for the authoritarian, sectarian and West-approved leadership, whose persecution and air strikes are so bad that many Sunnis are prepared to put up with ISIL, for now, as preferable.
Western military intervention thus gives ISIL its recruitment fuel of choice: A war with a self-interested external enemy around which to galvanise support.
Meanwhile, arming supposed "moderates" in Syria is equally delusional: Even self-declared moderates have on the ground, allied with the currently dominant ISIL in the fight against dictator Bashar al-Assad, and even these so-called moderates have carried out beheadings and other brutalities. A cursory glance around the region shows exactly what happens when the West arms groups that somehow fit the "moderate" descriptive; as one writer most succinctly puts it: "The terrorists fighting us now? We just finished training them."
As with the situation between Russia and Ukraine, Australia has no strategic stake or status in Iraq and Syria, except as a compassionate and engaged member of the international community. One has to ask why on earth the UN was not our first port of call, especially at a time when we occupy a valuable seat on the UN Security Council, where we can examine with other countries who are more familiar with the situation in the region than we are the potential for political and diplomatic solutions. That means considering the use of smart rather than hard power.
It has been a matter of great surprise and disappointment to me that the government has not engaged with the UN before committing special forces and equipment to the so-called coalition of the concerned. In my view we should be endeavouring to ensure that there is a broadbased international partnership engaging moderate Islamic states such as Indonesia and Malaysia as well as neighbouring Middle Eastern states such as Jordan and Turkey, under the auspices of the UN, to address the very real humanitarian and human security issues that are at the heart of the current problem.
In my earlier speech on the Iraq conflict, on 4 September, I called for a formal debate in the Australian parliament. While this would be unlikely to change the result, it would represent an open and proper process for the Australian government in relation to its involvement in a conflict that will be costly and will inevitably have serious and uncertain geopolitical consequences. At this point it is very poorly defined, in terms of timescale, objectives, cost, rationale, international legal basis and underlying international agreement.
Such a debate would have the effect of airing the many issues and questions that remain unanswered. For instance, how does the use of armed force, in the manner that the US, Australia and other participants in the current coalition intend to apply it, actually serve the humanitarian and political objectives that should be at the centre of the international community's response to events in Northern Iraq and Syria?
Airstrikes in Northern Iraq may deplete IS but also are likely to displace some IS members to other parts of Iraq and Syria. After the billions spent by the coalition of the willing on training and equipping the Iraqi army, it still seems as though its capacity to deal with such threats remains limited. Does this then mean a second attempt to train and equip the Iraqis? Why would this be any more successful than the first time? Does it mean a return to boots on the ground in Iraq and, if so, by which countries? What will happen in Syria where Bashar al-Assad's forces have committed atrocities against civilians on a grander scale than IS and where various countries have provided funds and weapons, to either side, to continue that conflict by proxy?
If the proposal is to arm only moderate, Free Syrian Army fighters—as opposed to, say, an al-Qaeda linked group like al-Nusra—what would make such fighters stop fighting Assad and start fighting ISIL? Are we going to start arming Hezbollah or the Syrian army itself against ISIL? Is it possible to guarantee that weapons will not be used against civilians? How will the coalition deal with the participation of countries, such as Saudi Arabia, that have been involved in supporting Sunni jihadist groups, like IS?
Let us remember that Saudi Arabia is a country in which beheadings by the government regime are commonplace, including for the offence of sorcery. How will the coalition treat its partner Egypt, where hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been sentenced to death and where journalists, including Peter Greste, have been sentenced to long jail terms after sham trials? How will our government treat Australians citizens who have travelled abroad to fight with moderate groups against Assad and/or IS? Will they be the recipients of our weapons and assistance in Iraq or Syria, only to be prosecuted when they try to come home?
There is an enormous danger in moving so quickly that these questions are not examined and when the possible consequences are not thought through, anticipated and planned for. I am not suggesting that we should not be involved in protecting civilians from atrocities or that we should not endeavour to bring perpetrators of these crimes to justice. Our actions should be based on humanitarian objectives and in accordance with the international rule of law.
I am concerned too about the increased security risk to Australians everywhere as a result of our involvement in further action in Iraq. I was working for the UN in the Middle East when Australia joined the so-called coalition of the willing, in 2003. I was advised by security officers of the heightened risk I faced as a result of Australia's involvement in that debacle. In some places, such as Egypt, I was even advised not to disclose the fact that I was Australian.
We Australians like to think of ourselves as universally loved but this is not always the case, particularly as a result of our involvement in Iraq in 2003 and the public positions taken from time to time by Australian political leaders in support of Israel's actions against the Palestinians, even where these are plainly contrary to international law. These issues matter to a great many people in the world and we are foolish if we fail to think through the consequences of our words and actions. One of these consequences is the fertile ground such issues provide for the recruitment of new members to the extremist cause.
Finally, I note that with the present focus on national security it is extraordinary that the Prime Minister is not attending the global summit on climate change. In this year's quadrennial defence review, the US defence department describes the threat of climate change as a very serious national security vulnerability. Australia's current national security strategy with climate change, along with the threat of the resurgence of violent political groups, has a broad global challenge with national security implications. National security is not all about jet fighters and special-action forces or even the numbers and powers of the Australian police.
If the Prime Minister really wants Australians to insouciantly go about their business, he needs to re-examine his climate change policy—or lack thereof—which many Australians, as demonstrated in yesterday's climate-action rallies, regard as regressive, ignorant, destructive and politically self-indulgent.
No-one will argue against steps to genuinely improve the security of Australians, but the core issue here is whether the steps this government is taking at home and abroad are being properly considered and calibrated to meet the reality rather than the hype, to achieve properly defined outcomes rather than draw us into yet another counterproductive military engagement. That judgement cannot be made when there is no meaningful debate in the national parliament.
http://www.melissaparke.com.au/speeches/609-drums-of-war-silencing-debate-on-complex-human-security-crisis.html

Monday, 15 September 2014

It's Photokina Time



Nikon's Marketing Department develops a sudden case of honesty...

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

The Evolving Genius of Clive Palmer, MP


It's a topsy-turvy kind of day.

Scott Morrison is playing humanitarian, releasing 150 asylum seeker children from mainland detention centres on bridging visas (some 300 will remain offshore in Nauru and Christmas Island) and Barnaby Joyce is lecturing Clive Palmer on restraint in media interviews after the Member for Fairfax's colourful broadside against China on last night's Q&A.

To say Clive Palmer is an interesting character would be an understatement. The former LNP life member has been a thorn in the side of the Coalition government and is as energising and engaging as he is unpredictable and chaotic.

A living, breathing contradiction, Palmer stands in stark contrast to the Australian economic and political elite. While Rinehart et al. agitate for third-world pay and conditions from their bastions of western wealth, Palmer has offered support for penalty rates and a decent, basic wage. As the Coalition declared war on welfare, Palmer refused to countenance most of the government's "core" cuts, including those targeting dole payments for the under-30s. With both major political parties trying to out-bluedgeon each other in the asylum seeker stakes, Palmer has called for would-be asylum seekers to be flown in to Australia and processed on the mainland; in his words, given an "opportunity".

It is this contradictory Clive the Populist as opposed to Clive of the Vested Interests that has taken the established political elite by surprise. Sure, there are big question marks over some of Palmer's business dealings (and the ongoing issues with his Chinese investment referenced last night on Q&A), but his political message, which is an enticing mix of liberalism and statist social democracy, is actually much closer to what mainstream Australia desires and the major parties have largely ignored.

In an interesting piece in The Monthly, Richard Cooke looked at this fundamental disconnect between the policies of the political class and the aspirations of the population. The slow divergence between people and parties that began with the Hawke/Keating market reforms of the 1980s is now a fault line; an irrevocable rift, with the 2014/15 federal budget finally fracturing the aspirations of the people from the ambitions of their elected representatives.

Dragged kicking and screaming through the deregulation and market liberalisations of the 1980s, the broader Australian population has been ill-at-ease with its place in the globalised economic world ever since. As Cooke points out, the (neo)liberal vision of Australia promoted by the major parties is actually the opposite to how most people want their country to be:
The public is extremely hostile to privatisation and foreign investment. We want the government to take measures, up to and including nationalisation, that will protect local jobs and manufacturing. We want more spending on health care and are willing to pay higher taxes to fund it. We support regulation, and we think big business has far too much power. (read the full article here)
How many time have we been told - by both sides of politics - that "our" economy is "world-class", only to see entire sectors suffer massive job losses, shut down and go off-shore. This, we were told, was the price of globalisation. Sure, a few inefficient industries may close, but you can now buy t-shirts and plastic clothes pegs at a fraction of the price. Re-training, re-skilling and re-tooling. In the end, everyone's a winner! 

Except we're not. With the mining boom winding down and the Coalition government taking an axe to the fundamental base of the welfare state (and leaving the bloat intact), Australians are beginning to wonder what all the pain of deregulation was for. At the moment, Palmer is one of the only voices in Canberra articulating the aspirations of a large chunk of Australia. Palmer's denunciation of China (while coated in self-interest, lacking subtlety, eloquence and any sort of tact) speaks to the large portion of skeptical Australians. Skeptical about, literally, selling the farm.

For some, Clive Palmer's colourful outburst will confirm their worst thoughts of the Member for Fairfax - the LNP will do their darndest to convey this viewpoint. But for many in the broader electorate, Palmer's words will ring true, reflecting a growing concern in the community on the future direction of Australian society.

To the major parties: ignore at your peril.

One last thing: "...emotive and colourful language is not the way to do business," said Barnaby Joyce with a straight face today. Not quite sure how. Here's a few of the Member for New England's greatest hits.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Beatboxing Brandis lost in Meta(data) fiction


A former junior barrister-cum Commonwealth Attorney-General discusses how the internets works while attempting to beatbox. You won't believe what happens next...

Thursday, 31 July 2014

"I might lose you..."



It's a curiously Melbourne thing: the loss of telecommunications in the underground rail system known locally as "the Loop". Every morning and every afternoon, commuters answer a call just before entering the tunnels, answering with a weary refrain "Yep...yep...I might lose you...I'm going into the Loop".

Might lose? Why "might"? Has there ever been a time the cellular network has not dropped out on you in the Loop? Has there ever been a time you've gone from Richmond to Parliament without the familiar beeps of a disconnected call?

"...are you there??...you there?" 

A peek at the phone screen to confirm that indeed the signal has been lost and the call disconnected. Because you didn't know that already...

There are few things in life we can be truly certain of. There's the "death and taxes" bit, but I'd like to add "being disconnected in the Loop" to that staid list. Admittedly it is a little parochial, but we are nothing if not a parochial people.

Popular news reports have mentioned something about the phone network being extended to the Melbourne Underground Rail Loop. All I can say to that is Fuck Off. It's one of the few places in the modern world where you can be assured of peace and quiet sans telecommunication. Hell, it's as good an excuse as any to hang up on the boss and not call back for 20 minutes.

But more importantly it gives one a chance to observe people's forced disconnection in this modern high-paced technologically (yada-yada...Time magazine...yada-yada) world. The endless downward swipes to reload news feeds that will never materialise...the ceaseless pressing of refresh, hoping somehow cellular data seeps between concrete cracks above to the bored passengers in bored holes below...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What Was Said: The UN Security Council Bid

"There are vastly higher priorities for Australia right now than pursuing a seat on the security council,"
-Tony Abbott, July 2010

“Instead of swanning around in New York talking to Africans, she should be in Jakarta right now trying to sort out the border protection disaster...The problem with this whole Security Council bid is that it costs money. Worse, it’s distorted our priorities over the last few years as so much time and effort goes into this and not into managing the relationships that are absolutely vital to our future.”
-Tony Abbott, September 2012

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Leaked MasterChef Contestant Application Form

NETWORK TEN AND SHINE AUSTRALIA PTY. LTD
MASTERCHEF AUSTRALIA SEASON 2014
CONTESTANT APPLICATION FORM


PERSONAL DETAILS

SURNAME:________________________

FIRST NAME:_______________________

DATE OF BIRTH:___/___/___  AGE (AS OF 1 JAN 2014)____

ADDRESS:___________________________________________

___________________________________________________

STATE:______ POSTCODE:________

CONTACT PHONE NUMBER (BH):_______________ (AH)______________

EMAIL ADDRESS:__________________________________


QUESTIONNAIRE

Have close friends suffered/died from a terrible illness (preferably cancer)? YES / NO

If YES, how many? (the more, the better):______

If NO, you had better be the most interesting person in the world to get a place at the auditions.

--------------------

END APPLICATION FORM

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Leaked MasterChef Running Sheet

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

EXT. MASTERCHEF KITCHEN

Vehicles carrying contestants arrive at kitchen.

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

INT. MASTERCHEF KITCHEN

SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF surprises CONTESTANTS by appearing. CONTESTANTS magically know who s/he is even though most viewers have no fucking clue. 

CONTESTANTS gasp.

Reinforce SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF'S identity through CONTESTANT 4 talking about how s/he always conveniently looked up SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF.

CONTESTANT 4 (interview)
Oh my god, we're waiting for them to come out and SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF comes out and I'm like oh my god (laughs).

SURPRISE FAMOUS CHEF unveils IMPOSSIBLE DISH that has been perfected after decades of real experience in real kitchens as a real chef.

CONTESTANTS gasp.

CONTESTANT 1 (interview)
And I like saw it and I was like 'oh my God'.

CONTESTANT 1 looks at dish.

CONTESTANT 1
Oh my God.

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Cooking begins, insert miscellaneous non-issue of CONTESTANT 2's cooking and turn it into an issue through the magic of editing.

CONTESTANT 2 is unsure whether his/her ingredient is burnt. CONTESTANT 2 opens oven to reveal whether ingredient is burnt. 
(Brooding music)
Before it is revealed whether or not the ingredient is burnt...

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Return to CONTESTANT 2. Opens oven, ingredient is fine.
(Happy music)

JUDGES distract CONTESTANTS by going around asking all of them questions.

JUDGES to undermine CONTESTANTS.

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RECAP of everything that's occurred so far.

JUDGES talk about contestants behind their backs.

Insert another miscellaneous non-issue. Preferably involving tears.

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Rectify second miscellaneous non-issue.

COUNT DOWN to end of cooking time.

Extend the last 30 SECONDS to 3 minutes through the MAGIC of EDITING.

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

RECAP everything that has occurred...again.

JUDGES sit down to be presented with food.

JUDGES to recap everything that has occurred.

CONTESTANTS to bring out dishes one-by-one. JUDGES to recap what occurred with each CONTESTANT.

CONTESTANT to be "thanked" and exit the room while JUDGES critique food (and CONTESTANT) behind their back.

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

JUDGES recap everything that has occurred.

JUDGES eliminate a CONTESTENT. Then patronise by telling them how good they are. Eliminated CONTESTANT talks about being "INSPIRED"; vows to open kitchen/café/restaurant/bakery/catering business/taco truck/Vietnamese street food pop-up van eating hall.

Eliminated CONTESTANT walks towards car, forever shamed. End on pepped up "WHERE ARE THEY NOW" sheet. In the event of CONTESTANT depression or misery, state they are "exploring new avenues in life" or "opening their own kitchen/café/catering business".

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PROMO FOR NEXT EP. CREATE DRAMA.
DRAMA
DRAMA!!!

GRAPHIC - FLAME LOGO
(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Whitewash

Eric Gill is a name you may not be familiar with, but if you've used a computer in the past 20 years, you'd certainly be familiar with one of his works. An artist, sculptor and designer, Gill designed the exceptionally British Gill Sans typeface, seen everywhere from the covers of Penguin paperbacks to the official communications of the British Government.

He was a celebrated and award-winning designer.

He was also a sex abuser.

Long after his death, his diaries revealed his assaults on his children, an incestuous relationship with his sister and canine bestiality. By any standard, then or now, these are horrific acts. But does Eric Gill the sexual deviant trump Eric Gill the artist? Should every designer and publisher with a conscience stop using Gill Sans? Should the art deco Midland Hotel in Morcambe destroy Gill's statues and bas-reliefs as a protest against his horrid behaviour?

In most cases (although not all) the answer is a resounding "no", it would be desecration of art. Somehow, the world found a way to separate Gill's oeuvre from his depraved moral character. Perhaps this is, in part, due to the fact that little was known publicly about Gill's abuse until four decades after his death, unlike another more recent offender...

Convicted of 12 cases of sexual abuse and likely perpetrator of many more, Rolf Harris is rightly persona non grata. He also leaves behind decades worth of artistic works, spanning both the frivolous and slightly-more serious.

Custodians of Harris's artworks have been falling over themselves to erase any trace of the offender from their possession. Whether it's cathartically painting over a Caulfield mural in red (above), removing Harris's portrait from a wall of celebrities or "tearing up" a plaque dedicated to him in his home town, Harris is slowly being erased from living memory. Archived hyperlinks to his former representative gallery profile redirect back to the gallery main page (although the Google's cache and the Wayback Machine have very long memories). He was thoroughly deserving of his punishment, if not a substantially longer sentence.

Still, there is something sinister about "removing" Harris from artistic and historical memory; something decidedly Morrisonian Stalinist about it all, as if Harris never existed. Forgetting the past; doomed to repeat etc. Still, it's easy to understand why it's occurring. The victims' feelings, of course, must be taken into consideration. And if you had a trite Rolf Harris mural outside your house, would you want it displayed it to the world?

The only comfort in this dilemma is that Harris was no Gill. I don't mean in the deranged, sickening individual sense, but in artistic output. Eric Gill gave the world PerpetuaProspero and Ariel and, of course, Gill Sans. Rolf Harris gave us the wobble board, decades of interminable British Paints commercials, irreparable damage to Australian cultural reputation and a much-criticised portrait of the Queen.

Still, in a few decades' time, the next generations might be asking who this "Harris" character was. What did he do? Why didn't anyone stop him? Surely we should be able to provide a more nuanced and detailed answer than "paedophile" and "things were different back then". The only way to do that is to keep some trace of Harris as he was. To keep a record and remember and, most importantly, not paint over history.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Neoliberalism's Greatest Hits No. 1: Blame the Victims

Swanston Street Leica M4, Summicron-M 35mm, Fujifilm Velvia 50
A defining characteristic of the neoliberal worldview became obvious in aftermath of the GFC. In op-ed after TV interview after non-fiction book, neoliberal economists blamed the crisis on people who earned $7 an hour in backwater USA.

It wasn't really the fault of predatory lenders, the lack of regulation, dishonest financial advisers, or the ratings agencies, or monetary policy, or fiscal policy, it was the poor saps too hard-up to afford even a roof over their heads. Poor people should’ve known better.

Bear this in mind now a senate inquiry has found a conspiracy of deliberate "forgery and dishonest concealment" by the Commonwealth Financial Planning Limited, part of the Commonwealth Bank. It is thought CFPL misled up to 12,000 investors through compromised and corrupt financial advice, with some losing their homes and life savings.

The inquiry found some financial brokers and advisers "systematically targeted more vulnerable members of the community...without high levels of financial literacy”. With serious fraud and potential criminal activity at one of Australia's most "trusted" institutions, it’s clear there's something severely wrong with the financial sector.

The inquiry thought as much, recommending a royal commission be established in order uncover further instances of fraud and corruption in the financial advice sector. However, the Coalition (with close ties to the finance and business world) have played down any need for a one. A cynic might think there's no political mud to find by investigating one's friends.

The Australian is similarly resolute. Is fraud to blame? No. Is dodgy advice to blame? Nope. What about managerial cover-ups? Nah. According to the Oz's John Durrie, "the basic problem with the industry is investor apathy".

Wow. That's a BINGO! One could be forgiven for thinking systematic fraud, theft and conspiracy might have something to do with scandals in financial management. Nope, the blame sits with the investors for consulting accredited financial planners at one of Australia's largest financial institutions to look after their, you know, finances. What a stupid thing for people to do. That's like trusting your maid when she's cleaning 0ne's beachside villa. What, you don't have a maid? Oh. Well it's like trusting those people who clean your car not to touch the change in the centre console. You do have a car, don't you?

Speaking of cars, let's imagine another situation: you take your car to an accredited mechanic. The mechanic forgets to - I don't know - reconnect the brakes. You drive out of the shop and accidentally smash into first car you see. Who's to blame? You? Or the mechanic?

Now, imagine that mechanic received a commission not to reconnect your brakes, a commission you had no idea about and cannot possibly fathom. Perhaps that commission came from a tow truck company, or the panel beaters up the road. Who knows? You sure as hell don't. The Australian and the rest of neoliberal society want to tell you it's all your fault for trusting an accredited mechanic whose job is to, you know, fix cars. You should have been more interested in your car and less apathetic. After all, it is your safety!

It would be easy to say "serves you right" if the 12,000-odd victims were high-wealth, high-risk investors out for fast money. But they weren't. The majority were ordinary "mum and dad" investors who sought the safety of one of Australia's largest and most trustworthy institutions to slowly grow their earnings.

With the government too busy to establish a royal commission that isn’t partisan muckraking, we at least be certain the Financial System Inquiry will report with some great advice on the future of our advice and investment systems.

The FSI's chairman is one David Murray, former CEO of the Commonwealth Bank.

...we can surely expect a full and fearless report.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Almighty Smack Down



Williams v Commonwealth of Australia [2014] HCA 23.

With that simple procedural title, a Queensland father has challenged the Commonwealth of Australia and won, with the High Court of Australia today ruling federal funding of the school chaplaincy program constitutionally invalid.

Again.

This is, of course, a victory for the ages. An enlightened age where the state should not fund "teachers" to divide children based on their parents' religious biases. An age where literacy, numeracy and critical awareness should be instilled in our children, not the anachronistic ravings of a genocidal celestial dictator known as "Our Lord and Heavenly Father". 

As the federal government sliced billions of dollars from the future education budgets of the states, somehow they managed to find almost a quarter of a billion dollars to fund the teaching of a single demented world-view in our public schools. It must be a miracle. Oh, all while taking away the option of non-religious instructors should the school desire it. 

But I am being unfair. Federal coalition governments have an unblemished track record of directly funding the most vital elements of our education system. Like ensuring every school has a flagpole (and flag). Wow. Such nation. Very pride.

Don't get me wrong, if you want to practise your religion (or vexillogical predilections), then you go for it. That is one of the fundamental rights of a free and civil society. But don't ask for the government to subsidise your particular cosmic deity. Or, if you do, I expect to see tax-free status for both Christian churches and the church of the Flying Spahgetti Monster.

If you want to give your child/ren a religious education, then send him/her/it/them to a religious school, where institutionalised discrimination has the approval of the government and subsidy of the taxpayer. Hooray!

Still, the High Court has not struck down the religious nature of the chaplaincy program, only its funding method. The Court explicitly rejected the program's conflict with s116 in Williams's first case against the Commonwealth. It is now possible Court-proof legislation will be passed by the federal government to make the program constitutionally compliant.

Perhaps it's worthwhile taking five seconds to take in s116 of the Australian Constitution (and use this next time some redneck calls up 2GB and says "STRAYA IS A CRISTIAN NAYSHON"):

Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion
                   The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. 

Federal funding of school chaplains is clearly not against the letter of this law, but it arguably against the spirit.

Politics and religion make for insidious bedfellows. While it is possible and indeed a fundamental right for individual MPs to practice their own religious (or irreligious) beliefs, the union of the state and religion should be fought at every possible juncture. State-funded chaplains are a blatant breach of the spirit of our constitution and an affront to modern liberal democracy. Ron Williams has done us all a great service.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Happyvale Springs


Today, after visiting the Monash Gallery of Art with the illuminating Chris Zissiadis of Urbanlight and Lea Williams of instant fame, I took the long way home. Owing to the fact I was in a borrowed car sans electronic toll tag, I wended my way down Stud Rd for the first time since the Eastlink toll road had opened. Seeing the changes along that former main north-south thoroughfare was quite striking.

Places that used to be mental distance markers for me as a child passenger on a family trip were gone. Where the Austral Bricks quarry used to mark "almost home", now sits an ill-suited mess of mud and homogenous concrete dwellings. "HARCREST" by Metricon was spelled out in large letters; stage 2 now selling. Yet another cookie-cutter development for outer-suburban Melbourne.

I quickly pulled into the estate, hoping there were some photographs to be had in the afternoon sun (results now pending processing of film). Admist the half-completed homes sat homes ringed by mud, occupied by new tenants. Even late on a Sunday afternoon, the sales office was still buzzing, couples and families walking from the main entrance clutching reams of glossy brochures and plans. Design. Inspire. Create. said the signage for the online interior design tool.

I parked the car and wandered around. All the hallmarks of a new development were present and accounted for:
  • Geographically incongruous estate development name suffixed by geographical feature
    • (Harcrest. See also Sumerfield, Casiana Grove at Cranbourne(!), Highlands or Mayfield)
  • Generic house designs with personalised "packages" (get your choice of chrome door knobs or granite bench tops!)
  • Main drive with grandiose stone gateway and tacked-on supermarket and café(s)
  • Mud
  • Man Made Lake(s)
  • More Mud
  • Playground and park (with mud) 
  • Streets that are:
    • stupidly narrow,
    • go nowhere; and
    • bare nauseating names (The Boulevard, Bloom Ave, Verdant St, Grove Way, Appledale Way, Honey Ave)
How will the passage of time treat these overly designed and homogeneously engineered spaces? Will they develop their own personalities and be truly "homely"? Or will they end up markers of a generation of urban planning failures - mass produced suburbs jutted one up against another, lacking the necessary infrastructure and services for the development of a real community?

Here, let me save the time of developers by drawing a housing estate design that is free to use and can be adapted to almost any size parcel of land:

Richard McKenzie's Grand Adventures in Outer Suburbia (formerly "the country")
It's probably a mark of how rare it is for a piece of land this size to become available for housing in a relatively developed area that Metricon categorise this estate as "inner urban", even though it is some 25km from the CBD.

More news as it develops.
..
...
....
Ha.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Review: Wetzlar Eisenmarkt by Oskar Barnack (1913)

Wetzlar Eisenmarkt by Oskar Barnack (1913)
Wetzlar Eisenmarkt by Oskar Barnack (1913)
This image is underwhelming*, to say the least. Sharpness and definition is non-existent and the composition is lacking any real poise. If it weren't for the passage of time rendering individuals' clothing an historical curiosity, there would be nothing of note in this image. Additionally, close-up analysis demonstrates too slow a shutter speed was used to freeze motion to any great effect.

Wetzlar Eisenmarkt by Oskar Barnack (1913)
Blurred motion on the gentleman's hand
The gentleman on the right's hand is blurred mid-motion. Perhaps the photographer would do better selecting a higher ISO next time to compensate.

Additionally, the image is exposed partly into the sprocket hole area at the bottom of the image. The photographer would do well to get his camera serviced before shooting images of vital importance.

Sharpness is an issue throughout the image and may be due to sub-standard equipment keeping.
All in all, this is an underwhelming image and the photographer would do well to get both his equipment checked and his compositional skill.

Image exposed on to the sprocket hole area

*This is designed as poorly-written satire. The image, is of course, one of the most well-known and important photographs in history: one of the first images capture by Oskar Barnack with his Ur-Leica which would become the basis for Leitz's domination of small-format photography and all future Leica cameras for the first half of the 20th century. 

Monday, 19 May 2014

"Crisis"


The Abbott government's first budget is a shambolic mess of contradictions and half-measures. Despite what the News Corp prognosticators might say, there is no overarching narrative of cuts and savings for the national good, just a number of cruel an incogruous measures that do nothing to address the real structural problems in the nation's fiscal position.

A lot of people a lot smarter than I am have put forward their analysis of the budget. I'd recommend looking here, here or here for some good pieces. But there are a couple of points I'd like to add.

On the massive cuts to state funding for education and health: as many have mentioned, this is obviously a ploy to get the states to beg for an increase in the rate of the GST. Abbott will pretend to act only if the states "make a case" for an increase, but now it's almost certain to be an election issue in 2016.

The hypocrisy, though, is breathtaking. While self-proclaimed "Infrastructure Prime Minister" Abbott trumpeted the "new" (little of which is actually new) roads spending in the budget, Joe Hockey cut billions from promised health and education funding to the states, saying that it wasn't the Commonwealth's job to run schools or hospitals.

Hmm, the Commonwealth can pick and choose which parts of state expenditure it wants to contribute to. Wow. Liberals do good Federalism well. Good luck budgeting for the future, states and territories.

Second, there is the budget "crisis" the Liberals have been brewing up since 2010. Abbott has run his throat sore arguing Australia is "living beyond our means," blaming Labor for everything from the "debt" to the bad weather. This furphy of a debt argument now occupies much of the central economic narrative of this government. Too bad for them, it's largely not true.

While there is certainly an issue for any budget that runs at a sustained deficit, Australia's problem is largely one on the revenue side (i.e. taxes raised by government and concessions paid by government) rather than spending (i.e. health, hospitals, welfare, defence etc).

Duplicitously, Abbott has picked and chosen his "crises", arguing that while his confected federal budget crisis is real, the states are feigning an "emergency" on the massive health and education cuts. "...we've got three years," to come to an arrangement, Abbott reassured the states, but while the PM is busy with crisis envy in the federal sphere, the states are perfectly right to be afraid.

They have virtually no way of adjusting their revenues to meet the shortfall in federal funding. They have no income tax to levy, no GST to increase. All they can really do is increase vehicle registration fees, speeding fines and take a bit more from the pokies. And with elections due for three states in the next eight months, none will be popular.

This budget looks as if it will be very unpopular in the wider community. What we know from past experience is that voters are willing to accept tough decisions if they are explained clearly and demonstrated to be in the national interest. What the electorate doesn't appreciate is duplicity and radical changes. Abbott would do well to heed this lesson both from his conservative political mentor and Labor predecessors.

(I'll post separately on the egregious waste of money that is the quarter of a billion dollar school chaplaincy programme - it needs space of its own.)

Vox populi vox opinionem pollis...


The voters have spoken. Or at least the pollsters have gathered public opinion that claims to be reflective and representative of the general population.

No one likes the Abbott government's first budget. Probably not even Abbott. Nielsen has a majority of voters, for the first time since these particular budget questions were asked in 1996, believing this budget is unfair (63%). 

Most interesting is the shift in opinion on the previous Labor government's "toxic" taxes. A majority now oppose the abolition of the mining tax (56%) and opposition to the abolition of the carbon tax has softened. 

Why? Because compared to Abbott's pre-election "no new taxes" and "no cuts" rhetoric, both the carbon tax and the mining tax did appear to be severe economic burdens. But having seen Abbott's economic vision for Australia, voters have realised that two taxes targeted towards the big end of town are preferable than massive cuts to health, education and those most vulnerable in the community. 

But perhaps Abbott's playing the long game. The inevitable future "discussion" of increasing the GST has begun. Resistance to increasing or broadening the GST has decreased, perhaps indicating what the electorate is willing to tolerate as revenue measures. It seems voters would rather see wholesale changes to the GST than those most vulnerable in the community left to the whims of the market. There's hope for the country yet...

Whether this budget proves to be "catastrophic", time will tell. What is clear - after two terms of the previous Labor government and 8 months of the Liberals - are three things:
  1. Abbott has (dangerously) vindicated Kevin Rudd's pre-election "cuts, cuts, cuts and more cuts" rhetoric. 
  2. Labor's next election campaign has been gift-wrapped. 
  3. The electorate doesn't mind pragmatism or tough decisions, but they must be clearly explained and justified. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

A few photographs

One of my favourite photography writers (and photographer) Blake Andrews recently published a post philosophising on popularity of content online - why some (most!) content sinks but some swims...and swims and swims and swims. You know, the big spike in page visits due to a particularly popular post. The spike some bloggers and Tumblrers crave:
Popularity! I've joined the cool kids temporarily. Now if only I could figure out what I've done. I've mixed the formula but with no recipe, and I can't repeat it. In a few days the buzz will die and the hump will pass left, leaving a curve something like this. (read the rest of his post)
The humble images below are an example of that effect - the top one keeps on getting "liked" and "reposted". Is it any marker or quality? Nope. The other two I also like, but they have not reached the same number of  "likes" or "reposts". Why? Meh. Who cares.

I realise I'm not exactly in the stratospheric of interweb popularity (and I write this blog mainly for the gratification of hearing my mechanical keyboard clatter), but it does raise an interesting point. Is popularity a decent measure of anything? Why is it that so many artists, musicians, writers etc complain their most popular or well known work is far from their best? 

Would (insert famous pre-internet artist/celebrity here) have been a success today? What happens if the next Beatles were out there right now but decided against using YouTube? Does that mean Justin Bieber has subsumed the next Beatles? Or is this sophomoric and ultimately unknowable line of questioning like a 1960s op-ed writer asking "would the Beatles have been a success if they had decided against using electricity?". Perhaps. Maybe.

Melbourne Street by Richard McKenzie, Leica M4 Summicron-M 50mm Dual Range Fujifilm Velvia 50


Parliament Station by Richard McKenzie, Leica M4 Summicron-M 50mm Dual Range Fujifilm Velvia 50


Erstwhile Camera House by Richard McKenzie, Leica M4 Summicron-M 35mm Agfa Vista 400