Saturday, December 12, 2009

What is wrong with playing hardball on the round ball?

Gather 'round children, for the gospel of the great sphere. I, like other great historical figures and heralds of new dawns, have a dream. I have a dream of watching scores of men who are paid obscene amounts of money run around a field chasing a ball with all the desire jingoism inspires. I dream of uniting this country through the greatest game ever played, the synthesis of artistic endeavour. I dream of the round ball revolution that will grip the hearts of all across this red land.

Okay, enough of that bullshit.

The way advocates of a World Cup in Australia talk about the prospect of the event being held down here, you'd think they were trying to push of the recalling of Jesus...or Johnny Warren. I'm a fan of the world game and will stay up until 2AM to watch games but I'm not going to push that old bull.

Instead, I want to talk from a practical standpoint on a few of the issues surrounding our bid for the World Cup in either 2018 or 2022. For all of our foreign listeners, you may or may not be aware that Australia may actually be in the mix to host one of these events. That's right, the gospel will come to the dark land of egg-ball heathens. That's if we can actually stop our squawking and squabbling and get our codes to play nicely.

You see, if we were to win an event rival codes such as Rugby League and Australian Rules Football may be put out for a whole eight weeks while the World Cup bandwagon comes to a rest. Their stadiums would be co-opted to be football destinations, and FIFA insist that no other rival codes operate during the World Cup as to focus the sporting attention of the country on their event.

That looks to be in danger as the CEO of the AFL Andrew Demetriou has grave reservations and misconceptions about exactly what the event would do to their code and has even gone as far as deny access to the Etihad Stadium (for which the AFL has a contract with during the event) which would be a key stadium for any potential World Cup bid. It holds more than the minimum 40 000 FIFA needs and can be transformed into a rectangular stadium which would improve viewing and atmosphere for fans.

To say the least, it's a pretty dick move. But the guy has a point, and has to look after the best interests of his code and being put out of action for eight weeks in the middle of a season may prove to be an insurmountable. Can you imagine what would happen to the clubs without a full eight weeks of gate takings? The way Demetriou describes it, it could very well spell the death of financially unstable clubs.


The fact of the matter is that some of the poorer performing AFL clubs such as North Melbourne and Melbourne have been getting assistance from the AFL for quite some time and here's the dirty little secret. They haven't been getting the numbers to their home games to make a profit from the gate anyhow. That's why you get teams playing home games in Darwin, Perth and Canberra. The AFL tries to put a happy face on it by saying they're spreading the AFL word, but it's largely an exercise in financial survival. The AFL pays the clubs to play in the outposts and the clubs take the gate.

To turn around and say that the AFL would not be able to absorb the costs of being out of action for eight weeks is fooling only the most ardent supporters of the egg-ball game. The fact of the matter is, in the long run, the money coming into the country from the World Cup via increases in tourism may actually help rival codes.

Huh? How is that possible? Well, you see, when people go to a major event such as the Sydney 2000 Olympics, tourists have this crazy little idea that they've enjoyed themselves so much that they want to come back after all the tourists have left. There was a major lift in tourism after the Olympics, and there would be one after a possible World Cup.

Post-2000, tourists visiting for leisure increased from about 1.8 million to 2.9 million in 2005. That's 900 000 people coming to our shores and spending their money, which in turn greases the wheels of business and distributes a lot more wealth across this great land. Let me ask this then - What would happen if we had a lot more people with more money in this country due to increased tourism?

Perhaps the most apt question is the one the AFL clubs ask when conducting ticketing surveys. How is the cost?

That's right folks, for a lot of people the price of match tickets is a great consideration. If a lot more people are going to have a lot more money for years after the event, then hosting a World Cup should be a no-brainer to rival codes.

It's a short term loss for a long-term cumulative gain in crowd numbers. Herein lies the true nature of the opposition from rival codes to a football World Cup in Australia.

What if these cashed-up people decide to take in an A-League game instead?

'Till next time

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What is wrong with a violation and a strip search?

The rags over the past few days have been screaming about the turmoil in the Liberal Party, and why not? It's a damned good yarn, with all the shock revelations of a lame version of the Jerry Springer show. First Turnbull decided to take a decisive party room vote on an amended ETS when the Nationals were out of the room and unilaterally declared victory for himself and the concessionists. Then came the leadership showdown, with Turnbull barely surviving a leadership vote and three of the his front bench up and quitting on him.

Meanwhile, the environment's taking another one for the team.

Not surprisingly, the Greens Party are overwhelmingly against what the Labour Party calls a 'good deal for the environment', which has been watered down to the point that the most polluting industries are being given the largest concessions by the government.


It seems to the sane rational person that the point of an ETS is to try and reduce the environmental impact of heavily polluting industires by forcing a cap-and-trade system, thus giving the whip to said industries to curb their CO2 output. Of course, the fundamental mechanics of the thing become a bit skewed when you substitute the whip for a gentle nudge. The time when industry surrenders to a gentle nudge is the day I eat my own shoes, followed by my shoes and then most humiliatingly, my words.

It's all part of trying to reduce the economic impact of this type of system upon industry and subsequently, on the economy. You see, we happen to rely quite a bit on the export of coal (and not that 'clean' coal the kids have been banging on about either), and with a rising aussie dollar and perhaps even a greener aproach from major trading partners, our exports could take quite a hit if we're forced to pass on the costs of an ETS to customers.

So instead of our trading partners having to pay a bit extra for our coal, the Rudd government has seen fit to use our taxpayer dollars to pay off major polluters toward a bill which has a lessened economic impact, but barely adresses the problem of climate change in our hot and dry country.

It also signals to investor in new sources of energy that we are not ready to be weened off the coal-tit quite yet. Imagine sinking millions into geothermal technology when the government is giving money to heavy polluters. Almost wants to make you change your investment plan, don't it?

Ladies and gentlemen, this move by one of the economically well-off countries in the world in the shadow of Copenhagen should not be taken as a sign that we are indeed taking a green future seriously, but instead are paying token respect for our generation's largest problem and worshiping the almighty dollar.

I love capitalism as much as the next guy who doesn't know how to make his own shoes, but I'd like to take my kid down to the creek one day instead of showing them a nature doco on my ridiculously expensive TV.

Meanwhile closer to the mighty state of WA, police are getting new powers to stop people and frisk them for no particular reason. Good to see my tax going toward molesting both the environment and potentially molesting random people.

To be fair, they're only getting the powers in crime hotspots but giving any arm of society extra power without a counter-balance makes me feel uneasy. Makes a heck of a lot of other people uneasy as well, such as civil libertarians and almost everybody connected with the CCC being concerened they're about to be inundated with complaints. Then there's old chestnut about people being concerened that police officers could just target anyone who looked at 'em funny, like minorities (who are kind of wary around police for some reason).

Personally, I'd like to see the police force become sancrosant. I think when somebody attacks a police officer they should go straight to jail and not collect 200 dollars. Unchecked power though, is a dangerous thing, so what I would put in place are harder punishments for police officers hauled up on corruption and misconduct causes.

Just a thought to mull over in the old brainbox the next time you're frisked in public.

'Till next time

Monday, November 16, 2009

What is wrong with an Indonesian solution?

Over the last month in the oh-so tolerant land of Australia, talking about asylum seekers has been all the rage. More than that, chins have been furiously wagging about our fearless PM's response to the 'boat people' who have been holed up in the Oceanic Viking off the Indonesian coast.

The Oceanic Viking has been a blight on the PM's seeming cruise to the next election while providing much needed respite for an opposition under the harsh light of the ETS issue (which isn't getting hotter according to certain factions in the Liberal Party). Whereas our previous PM, John Howard, had a consistent line on the dealing of asylum seekers (wrong or otherwise), the issue has made Kevin Rudd look like a man with his pants down.

During the three week stand-off which ensued, his government has tried to broker deals with several pacific nations including New Zealand to try and find a home for those aboard the ship. But, oddly enough, nobody wants to handle the political hot potato which has fallen into Rudd's lap. While 22 asylum seekers accepted an initial offer for what the government calls 'rapid resettlement', 50-odd seekers still remained on the boat, wary of what the government is was peddling (rumour has it with good reason too).

It was a month of high drama off the Indonesian coast and we still have 70-odd people in an Indonesian asylum detention centre uncertain of their future. For all the politics, all the testing of international protocol we're still NO CLOSER to finding a solution to what is already a humanitarian crisis.

The million dollar question is though: what's the solution?

Of course, all of the politicians know the answer to the question but afraid of the time and effort that it would take to implement. It's 'simply' about improving conditions in the countries from which the people are seeking asylum from. This goes for our European friends as well dealing with an influx of immigration from Northern Africa. While governments around the world spend billions 'protecting' our borders from the 'immigrants/boat people' (like they're invading, wtf?) foreign aid has not increased in any significant manner since the mid-90's, and meanwhile Bob Geldoff keeps on yelling at the top of his lungs.

It seems to me, that if you were trying to stop the supply of something you'd try and stop it at the source. That is to say, if asylum seekers had little reason to leave their country and risk a dangerous journey across open water to a country on the other side of the world, they probably wouldn't. If that's a simple matter of logic, then why has their been increased funding for border protection but no significant amount of money going to the UN to help speed up the resettlement of political refugees?

Perhaps it's time we stared ourselves in the mirror and asked that question.

Monday, October 19, 2009

What is wrong with Rupert's plan?

You know, watching Media Watch tonight and being reminded of the great News Corp free content bitchfight, I started to have some sort of activity in my brain-box. It would seem my mind grapes were filling up with juiciness, and my inner light bulb was starting to resemble somthing that was alight.

I think most observers note that it will be a cold day in hell before people pay online for general news when there are a plethora of alternative news sites and a history of being able to get the news for free. Again, most people concede that consumers will eventually pay for content which is not available now. The question on everybody's lips is though : what form would this never-seen before content take?

That's the question I grappled with for five minutes, and this being the internet, I shall now tell you with a great deal of personal conviction about the idea which I formulated for five minutes.

Already in this country, Crickey have had some success actually selling content which differed from the main news stories of the day, and this content usually takes the form of opinion and in-depth analysis of the day's events. This content is delivered straight to the inboxes to subscribers but at the moment, exactly what is delivered to their inboxes is entirely up the content creators.

With more and more sources for news and opinion cropping up, the power has shifted squarely to the consumer. What is what was delivered to these inboxes was entirely up to the consumer? Now, this already exists in some forms, but what I propose is a much more comprehensive form of consumer control.

What if people were to choose exactly what type of news was delievered? For instance, people could to have political news delivered, but not business news. Let's break that down further. What if a consumer wanted news about state politics, and news about mining business news? What if people wanted news about their sport, with a focus on football and cricket?

Consumers would have control of what they read, but this is no basis for getting money from people. This is just eliminating a certain amount of clickwork, and should in my opinion should be offered for free.

What I propose is that extra content be not the ablility of people to select and choose what they are fed for a main course, but the dessert of opinion from the consumers' favourite authors. Do people like reading Miranda Devine for some reason? They can pay to have her columns exlusively delivered to them on a daily basis. Do people love Philip Adams with their breakfast? They can pay to stream a podcast.

Couple this with the mingling of all mediums that the internet represents and we're starting to have kind of idea here. I think the old moguls really love the Citizen Kane scene where he starts to assemble a crack team of writers from publications around the country to write for his newspapers.

Let's re-cap. People get to select and choose what they want for free as a basic news service. They get the writing of their favourite authors for a small cost, maybe to be deducted monthly from the consumers bank accounts (perhaps the phone companies can get involved somehow?). What happens when this model becomes popular?

All of a sudden, we become present at the creation of a new type of media competition. All the major players will be scrambling to provide the best service to capture the market which is now dictating to the creators. When these conditions are present, a great deal of competition is also present. When the news outlets compete on a somewhat level-playing field, there's going to be a great deal of investment of what's driving their profits.

That extra content, provided by the fantastic writers, video journalists and podcasters out there. Hey, does this healthy competition sound appealing or what? The core principles of journalism will be what will set these individuals apart, and when market forces dictate competition the focus will be on investment rather than cost-cutting.

You know all that doom and gloom about journalists' working conditions? Thanks to this new playing field, they'll actually be in demand. The focus will be on providing the best product, not the same product for less.

There's a bit of brain-food for a Monday night.

'Till Next Time

Sunday, September 27, 2009

What is wrong with a mixed media diet? (part two)

This post contains allusions I made during my previous post, and I'm mostly writing this because I'm feeling guilty about leaving it short. You see, I alluded to two separate consequences of the mixed media diet in today's society.

Doesn't that sentence just feel like it belongs in undergraduate media studies? Anyhow, alongside the consequence that people have less time and inclination to read print media, the increasing number of hours spent per day on broadcast mediums has led somewhat to a decrease in literacy.

I'm not talking a major slump. I'm talking about just little things that lead me to believe the people taking care of us in the nursing homes may not be able to read the prescription on our medicine bottles properly. Don't worry, I'm not about to engage in a teen-bashing blog posting as there's already enough of those around the place. Instead, I'm going to attempt to offer some kind of insight into the media habits of the young'uns.

Oh god, I've become a social commentator.

I'd like to think that I'm not so different from teenagers today, being 22 and all, but I find these new creatures vastly different to myself. I wrote in my last post about the customer who spoke in Internet terms in the real world. Who actually said 'OMG' instead of 'my goodness gracious' or something less wanker-y.

Of course, this is starting to sound like just another blogger trying to comprehend an entire generations using analogies and broad generalisations and I fully accept that. I know there are those who express themselves quite well and are well read, in fact, that's one of the benefits of the mixed media diet.

You see, the new generation are viewing a heck of a lot of broadcast medium, and a heck of a lot of embedded media. These are the kids cooped up on a Saturday watching Skins on DVD and youtube clips of people failing. While those habits don't exactly broaden the horizons as much as reading a book the size of your head might, it is making young people more confident with the spoken word.

Granted, sometimes the words aren't correct but is it my imagination but are the new kids on the block a lot more confident? Of course, many would begrudge these traditionally uneducated kids the right to confidence these kids are a far cry from the stoic gen X'ers. Whereas the media may portray them as shut-ins attached to a screen, while they're out of the house they're not shy about their ambitions and about speaking.

Speaking, is our primary form of communication and taught before the written word. How we learn to speak is largely by listening to those who know how to speak. These kids have been given a DVD as a babysitter and are spending their time predominately listening to other people speak on their screens. They are learning and adapting to the new forms of speech, and they are now more than ever equipped to express their views. Of course the massive downside to this is that their opinions are generally ill-informed.

I wrote in my earlier post about the advantages of print media being able to offer informed and in-depth debate and fact to flesh out said debate. Whereas TV and radio try to do this, they just don't have time to, and online news don't want their readers to get eye-strain from reading too many words and following a stream of logic.

Of course, the question now is: Where are the next generation of decision makers getting their facts from?

They certainly aren't getting their informed opinion from print media. While I'm not here to bash other mediums, I think the best broadcast mediums can do in terms of news delivery is whack on a couple of opposing voices to have a bitchfight (On the topic, did anyone see Caroline Wilson and Roy Masters on Offsiders?) without ever answering the all important 'why' question. Broadcast is caught up in the politics of the day woven into a grand narrative, whereas I see print as the wise-man able to ponder, reflect and analyse before offering an opinion (at its best anyhow).

Our kids are being drawn to these mediums, and policy makers eager to get their mugs where the people can see them will be more than happy to offer up an inflamatory opinion in the hopes of being invited back next week and ultimately being re-elected.

In short, other mediums in comparisson to print media offer a lack of insight which those who want to be seen are all to happy to pander to. Welcome to Spin City.

'Till Next Time

Saturday, September 26, 2009

What is wrong with a mixed media diet?

Today, I may have gained some sort of insight into the state of literacy in our nation today. You see, today I watched the AFL Grand Final on the television, played the FIFA 10 demo on the XBOX360, read the news on my computer as well as reading Girls with Slingshots (Mad Props).

At no point during this day did I have time or the inclination to read a newspaper or try to get back into Ulysses. As such, not only did I figure out why literacy rates are dropping but gained a frightening insight into my chosen career. Those of you who read this blog would know I have ambitions of working for print media, but how are my words going to be read when people are too busy utilising other mediums?

All the talk of people not liking the product that newspapers are putting out in the new millennium is missing the point entirely. People are somewhat digging what print journos are doing, it's just that they have absolutely no time to read it. I...want to go into an industry that's becoming redundant through no fault of its own? Am I insane!? Probably.

Forgive me if I'm musing over an old chestnut, but I find myself scared by the voracious media appetite I've developed and the decreasing amount of time I have to satiate that appetite. When an increased appetite combines with a lack of time people will naturally gravitate toward the medium which can get the message to the recipient at rapid speed.

Does print do this? God no. You need a good half hour to digest the daily rag, but you need about five minutes to hear the daily news bulletin. By the same logic though, online media shouldn't be so popular as it takes as much time to read an online story than a print story.

It's a good argument, but it fails to take into account the modern penchant for multi-tasking. You can't check your emails and see what people have written on your wall while you have your nose buried in newsprint, whereas the online arena allows people to multi-task like some sort of mad German (why are they always German?) timemaster.

Of course, if people are attracted to broadcast and online mediums they're missing out on the most important question journalists can ask: why.

It's my humble opinion that print media answers this question with far more regularity than other mediums. I don't begrudge other mediums or demonise them as the 'enemy', but they're concerned with playing to their strengths. Namely, that it can be consumed quickly. The funny thing is though, the truth is never a simple thing which can be answered with a couple of soundbites and talking heads. Truth isn't simple, and requires analysis to bring out.

So why is it then, that newspapers haven't yet significantly changed? Why aren't they obsessed with answering 'why'? Why are they still merely reporting the facts and engaging in tabloid journalism instead of playing to the medium's strengths?

In some respects, the war between the mediums are the imaginings of journos wanting something to gabble on about (and for bloggers to spew over). If all mediums play to their strengths instead of playing follow the leader, all mediums will achieve their niche. Of course, the news has become a business, and businesses will always compete for a bigger market share. The best way to do that, as they see it, is to follow the leader.

It's going to take guts for someone to innovate when jobs are on the line and outlets are shutting down left right and centre, but an informed democracy is at stake. A literate one too.

You see, as part of my job which I'm working in an effort to fund my job search (huh?), I converse with a lot of teenagers. I listen as they play social pop-media commentator, using garbled English and trite catch-phrases in an efforty to impress their equally vaccous friends. I swear to the various deities I once heard someone used the phrase "OMG, that show is so fail".

The OMG in that sentence isn't abbreviated for the ease of the reader, it's a direct quote.

'Till next time

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What is wrong with prerecognition?

I've been thinking about the role social media is playing in our daily lives (to borrow a tried and true cliche) lately. It's not like I have a job of susbstance to think about...or a relationship...or a social life....Okay, I'll stop now before this becomes a whiny 13 year old's blog.

I've had the astounding thought that social networking is making forming true interpersoanl relationships evcen harder than it was during the days of dial-up and blocky porn. Why is that while we're always on, we're perpetually disconnected?

This is just my crazy theory, but I think it's becuase we've started to know too much about eachother. Do me a favour, go to your Facebook account and click on a few friend's accounts. There, you're more than likely find profile information ranging from favourite books to the minutae of their daily lives on Twitter.

So, if we already have this information before we meet a person, aren't we better equipped to make a lasting connection with someone? In my humble opinion, no.

You see, we've basically given over the process of getting to know someone to the intersplice of our digital lives and that experience is what makes the connection. You can know all you want about a person and what they like, but it's the mutual shared experience of getting to know someone which will build the interpersonal relationship.

It's about sitting down, and talking (le gasp!) face-to-face about eachother's likes and dislikes which will enivitably build that relationship. Or am I completely wrong? Is knowing all this surface information about a person helping forge relationships more quickly?


Sunday, September 13, 2009

What is wrong with playing up close?

I should preface this post by saying that I have just watched a so-so doco about gamers and their problems named 'Second Skin', but I do recommend checking it out if you're a gamer in search of a doco which doesn't condescend. Watching this construction about gaming and gamers, I started to realise that I wasn't a gamer simply because I have always looked at the subculture of gaming at an arms-length - just as this doco does.

Even though I have written for gaming sites such as The Escapist, I don't consider myself to be a gamer. Having an artsy-fartsy background (I have a 16,000 dollar arts degree) I tend to be engaged with the world of videogames from an arms length intellectual curiosity standpoint rather than being a hardcore WoW grinder.

That being said of course, I certainly don't consider myself to be a casual gamer who only surfaces for air when it comes to a latest release of Bejewelled or Peggle. From this curious distance, I can view the subculture of gaming from a stance which allows me to take in a broader view of said culture. This becomes an ethical consideration from which all journalists can learn.

It is a widely held tenant of journalistic integrity that the best sort of journalism is the 'why'-school of journalism. The type of journalism that tells you not only that there's been a terrorist attack in Mumbai, but the type of journalism which sheds light on the political instability and corruption which gives rise to these acts of terrorism in surrounding regions. It's the type of journalism which doesn't just look at surface facts but goes deeper in search of reasons.

But how does one go deeper in searching for those reasons without becoming so attached to the subject matter that it becomes a risk of becoming unbalanced? More to the point, can you ever produce quality journalism without being totally biased?

The problem is that journalism is a medium wherein truth is filtered through conventions such as narrative and scoop. No news story is simple and unequivocal truth, it's the same principle as documentary suscribes to (you see what I did there?). In short, there's a reason they're called news stories.

I can rant all night about narrative constructions and how we're programmed to see things through binary oppositions and what have you, but I'm not going to bore you with a 10,000 word thesis. Instead, I'm going to attempt to condense my argument in a pleasing and coherent fashion using words and a train of logic (you see what I did there?).

Think about the truth of your life. Your actual reality. You just live your life and try not to think about all this stuff too deeply. Now, how would that reality look if produced for the 10PM news bulletin? How would that reality look if up on the silver screen? Heaven forbid, how would that reality look if the fat guy from Michigan got his hands on it?

All of a sudden, you uniterrupted reality would have been put through a wringer of narrative and convention until it looked like something very, very different. Your overbearing landlord may become the bad guy on your noble quest toward financial freedom, your boss the villain in the piece. Sure, this logic may apply to more artistic mediums such as documentary but how does it apply to journalism?

The example I always use to explain narrative's role in journalism is a week of question time. For those of you who have watched a session of question time in it's entirety, you'd know that it's mostly a dull affair with prepared questions answered for maximum political gain. All the answers are fashioned as such that the speeches being made contain no less than buzzwords, key phrases and policy spin. Why?

Because only 60 seconds of the best jabs of the day make it onto the evening news (if that...god help them if there's a kitty stuck in a drain) wherein an entire day's policy debate is condensed into "oh no he didn't!". So, is it our goal as working journalists to reflect the reality of any given situation?


Think back to my Mumbai example earlier. How does one go about explaining the why of the situation? How does one explain the why of the terrorists' actions? One would assume you ask them questions. Questions after all are our tools of trade (unless you're from News of the World then it's hidden cameras), and at the end of the day it's all we really have to solicit answers from people.

Of course, the flaw in that plan is that terrorists generally don't talk to western journo's all that often, unless to tell them to get into the van. So, what do you have instead? You have talking heads telling the journo how the terrorist's operate (hint: the people talking to the journo's generally aren't associated with the terror groups). So in fact, for all the hard work on the journos part, by the time you've filtered these opinions through the narrative machine and come up with binary oppositions such as 'terrorist BAD, democracy GOOD' and all that jazz, your report to find the why becomes just another story with the tagline 'reporting from Mumbai'.

So, for all my jumled mess of words are we any closer to an answer about objectivity? No, my words are just filling space. There's your moment of journalistic downer-zen for the night.

Monday, August 31, 2009

What is wrong with blogging?

It's hard to pontificate to an empty room, and by god I've tried over the years.

Like most people, this isn't my first blog. First of all, there was that 'look at me I'm a teenager who's well-informed' blog which never took off and then there was the 'obnoxious ranting which is hardly insightful or revolutionary' blog, and there's this blog.

I don't particularly know why posting to this blog has become so difficult for me. After all, I'm hoping to become a somewhat profesional writer, so I should be chomping at the bit at the sight of this balnk piece of paper in which to exercise my trade and put forward my humble opinions.

Yet here I am, posting sporadically and almost forgetting this blog has an existence. I really don't want to go down the road of blaming the readership for my lack of activity, but it's hard to keep up the rage when nobody's looking. It's like trying to give a dog your dinner order; you can try all you want but at the end of the day you won't get through to the mutt and you're left hungry (Quite possibly the most derogatory similie I've ever used).

This sporadic posting has also coincided with me getting a new job to support my job hunt, which mainly involves pointing in the general direction of Twilight and putting on my nice face (which I'm sure is absolutely horrendous). When I get home after the day, I'm not exactly inclined to sit down and produce my own content. I'm just way too busy catching up on the content that I've missed during the day.

Are these the reasons why amateur blogging is on the decrease while pro bloggers are starting to dominate *cringe* 'the blogosphere'?

To look at the decline of the casual blogger, you must first catagorise the type of blogs they keep. For the sake of my argument, I'm putting forward two types of bloggers. Numero uno, the 'I have a cat and the cat's name is Mitsy'-blogger and the 'I'm a citizen journo, worship me?!'-journo.

If we suppose these types of blogs are responsible for a fair chunk of content produced by private producers, then it's easy to see why over the past year or so less people have been inclined to tell the world about the minutae of their daily lives.

In the first instance, if people really wish to tell people about their cat Mitsy and what she had for breakfast, they have other avenues for doing so now. As people become more savvy, web 2.0 has started to take over and alternate sources for information are getting out there. We now have Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites to share personal updates with the world and we also have free media-sharing sites such as Flickr and Photobucket to share photos of said Mitsy. Of course, there are many other alternate avenues, these are just examples and these have been around for quite a while. They've become entrenched in the mindset of the internet user to the point where blogging has become quite irrelevant.

So for the first type of blogger, the blogger still exists and the yearning for sharing is still there, but they've just moved on to the latest and shiniest thing to share their ideas.

The second kind of blogger which has been providing news content and discussion has be co-opted by old media trying to stay with it. As much as people love the rantings of Bob from Wagga on the subject of an effective ETS strategy, they love the same thing from 'media types' who present their views with better prose.

Professional blogging again, has been around for quite a while and this isn't a 'Who? What? Pro blogging is an emerging news outlet?'-kind of post, but stay with me here. Those sage old men in their ivory towers saw the trend toward a more personal and forthright new service and they got people who were blogging anyhow into the office to blog for them for very little scratch. Now you have the same kind of content, just under a new banner. I'm talking about sites such as the Huffington Post and The Punch for those of you up there and down here respectively.

More and more bloggers are being co-opted by the machine, and the machine is flooding the space with their own journo graduates and publicity-seeking journos woking for scale, so what room is left for the niche blogger?

Why would I want to read about Bob's take on the ETS when I could do the same thing by going to a trusted source?

So one type of content generator has moved away from the sphere and the other is being (if not already) swallowed up by traditional media yelling "The internet!? BY GOD IT'LL KILL US ALL!" Of course, this is old news and I knew this from the start, so why in the hell did I decide to blog in the first place?

I find that answer, and I may start blogging with a fair degree of regularity.

'Till Next Time

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What is wrong with me? (An ongoing oddessy)

I have a blog? Oh yeah! That's right!

Anyhow, sorry for not writing for a while for those of you who summon up the courage and possibly masochism to read this blog. As you may know I've tossed my hat into the ring for The West cadetship while starting a new job so my bank balance doesn't seem so depressing.

Anyhow, some of the people I've told my ambitions to have said things along the lines of 'why do you want to work in print, ain't print dead?', and it's a fair point. Why would I want to work in a medium where journalists are being asked to do more work for less money for a shrinking audience?

Because it's dying.

'Huh? You want to work for a medium that's dying?'. Yes, yes I do. You see, I've never been much of an optimist at the best of times (I used to take bets as to how exactly I'd get out back in junior cricket days) but something about working in a dying medium excites me.

It's because newspapers will not go quietly into the night but instead the newspaper men will try to do anything and everything to save their beloved medium. Media in general is a sector which really rewards innovation while stagnant publications will go into decline and stop existing (a la Bulletin) in a physical format.

To be working in a sector which is trying to innovate, regardless of the inspiration of said innovation, is something which I think has the potential to be professionally rewarding. Already you can see newspapers trying to innovate.

The move from respected publications into the realm of tabloid smacks of desperation from a dying medium and looking long term you can see it not working. While a sensationalist headline may sell you a few more papers than usual you can't base a business model on intermittent sales based on shock value. It's just not a long term plan which I personally see working.

Instead, there's been whispers around that the future of print may be in the past. When newspapers were about intelligent debate, discussion and insight into the issues at hand. The newspapers of tomorrow have had the immediacy of the news stolen from it, and it wont get it back but if you raise the level of journalism in the newspapers then you'll create a product which people may shell out two dollars for.

People will always want to read quality journalism, and while the numbers won't be as grand as they once were newspapers will carve out their own niche in the media landscape. It won't be dead, it will just look different.

To get in on the ground floor of that particular shift is something which exites me, and I can only pray to various deities that the newspaper men (kind of like the mad men, no?) have the foresight and courage to take the step of venturing forth in a bold new direction. To go forward, we must go back.

Till next time

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What is wrong with Manchester United?

Okay, so I'm writing this after finally waking up. It seems that when I woke up at 2AM to watch the Champions League final I was dreaming, because in all honesty I can't understand why Manchester United didn't do more to shut down the Barcelona midfield. Seems something that implausable belongs in the realm of the imaginary.

Okay, so I'm just going to blog about some of the thoughts I had about the game this morning because I forgot to take notes so I won't write a full match report on the thing.

The first ten minutes were when I started to think Barcelona were going to be swamped a la' Chelsea second-leg, when Ronaldo started to rain shots down on Vicotr Valdez's goal and a red bloodbath was in the offing. Then, it all came apart for the Mancurians.

The first goal from Samuel Eto'o, I think, demonstrated why Man United lost the match. They allowed the Barca players just a little too much space and Barca with the likes of Iniesta and Xavi only need a little bit of space to make you pay. A Braca midfielder able to skip through the lines, have the time to thread a ball through, Eto'o turns Vidic inside out and it's 1-0 and effectively game over.

I was absolutely stunned to see Manchester players allowing the Barca boys all that space. Okay, against any other team it would be okay to allow that kid of real estate but Barca, with their smooth passing game, you just need to press them like nobody's business.

The second goal again came down to Manchester players allowing the midfield too much time and space. Xavi, virtually walks through the defence and has time to stop, think about it, order a cup of tea, fill out a tax return before finally hitting a cross to Messi who does superbly to head past Van Der Sar.

Manchester to their credit has their offensive game plan working. It was expected Man United would exploit the wing backslack of pace and they did that with long lofted balls (especially to Rooney) but all too often they lacked the touch of class needed to capitalise on the chances they had and their play was becoming one-dimensional.

Manchester United, simply, were unable to deal with the slick Catalan passing game and they brought the defeat upon themselves. Pure and simple. When you play Barca, you have to take your game to the next level and Manchester just didn't do that which is why Barcelona are worthy champions and played some scintilating football.

'Till next time

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What is wrong with my portfolio?

Okay, so it's almost time to send off my portfolio to The West Australian so what I've been doing is trying to update my portfoilio but also get it up online. Now, I'm hoping this will show the power that be that I'm not neccesarily a techno-wizard but I'm all for exploring ways I can use technology to reach new audiences.

The portfolio is basically a mix of everything I've done so far, which happens to be a pretty broad range. I also included some unpublished stuff I can't include in the actual West Australian application so that they can go to the site and see what I can do with features and business.

Okay, so what I did is scanned copies of articles I had onto my hard drive, and used Nitro PDF to publish stuff up on websites into a PDF file. Once I had the PDF files I wanted I used Scribd to upload the documents. Once I did that, I grabbed the embedding code from the site and put it into the site proper. Now, employers can go to the site and have my PDF examples loaded in-browser instead of downloading the file, finding the directory you downloaded the file to and waiting for the relevant app to open up.

It's a remarkably simple system, and I recommend it to any aspiring journalism as a way to get your portfolio 'out there' and show employers you're ready for "Web 2.0"...whatever that is.

Anyhow, you can find it here but what makes a good portfolio?

Well, the first thing people assume is that you want to show work from a broad range of areas. Well, that's certainly true but you've got to be mindful that you show a range which is broadly crap. By this I mean, don't throw something in there just because it shows you can write in a certain area because it will count against you if you're not fussy about what you choose to show people.

For example, I could have put in a couple of more feature articles into my portfolio but I didn't because I looked at it honestly and I came to the conclusion that it wasn't one of my best. Remember, ideally a portfolio is a sample of your best work, not just a sample of your work.

'Till next time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What is wrong with Tim Andrews?

Okay kids, I bring you a tale which will put a smile on your dial. Now, I pride myself on being a mixture of conservative and radical (i.e- I support more social services but I know it's useles without a strong economy to back it up) but there's a site out there created by a guy called Tim Andrews which shows young Liberal (The Australian Conservative Party) gals in bikinis and skimpy outfits.

In a post titled "Why the Right Will Triumph in Australia", Andrews put forward the theory that where hot women are, men are sure to follow. Well gee whiz, such insight. He then posted the pictures saying that he had permission from each of the young ladies, but it didn't matter anyhow because all of the pictures were in the public domain.

Now, of course none of this was officially sanctioned by the Liberal Party of Australia but you've got to laugh and then shake your head. I doubt whether the girls knew what the pictures were going to be in this fashion if they were indeed contacted (one of the girls has said he didn't contact her) but it's awfully exploitative anyhow. A couple of the girls were posing in the photos while reading a copy of Atlus Shrugged which shows that either they have a sense of humour or all of the conspiracy is TRUE!

Probably the consipracy thing....they are young Liberals after all.

It's all a bit of a laugh, but it does show the potential for exploitation of a media-happy gen-Y. Think about it. Every single event or party you go to has become a photo-op for young people eager to splash photos of themselves onto the internet for the sake of vanity or self-promotion. I'm not immune from this obsession by any stretch of the imagination but I try to keep it under wraps. When more and more images of ourselves are appearing online in spaces with convoluted image ownership laws, people are inviting this sort of thing to happen.

Do I think people should stop posting pictures online altogether? No, after all, if used probably it can be a great way to share photo's among friends but this whole episode has gotten me thinking about the way people can invite this sort of thing. It's also got me nervous about the possibility of not being featured on a "Hot young journalists" site, but mostly the former.

I'm not going to provide a link to the cached site, but if you really want to you can probably find it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What is wrong with my health?

Sorry for not updating for ages, but I've been quite ill so I've tried to take my mind off strenous mental activities such as writing poorly considered rants and putting my energies into getting better and making snide comments on Facebook.

So, during this period, all not that much has happened in my life. I'm still unemployed, but I have enough money to see me through. I'm still applying for The West Australian cadetship in June, not because I thinkI'l want to be at The West Australian for the entirity of my career, but I hope the selection process will help me see where my weaknesses as a journalist lie.

There's been a federal budget, but commenting now will be really ranting after the fact. I also went to see Der Baader Meinhoff Complex, which was well done but could have been cut by about half an hour.

Anyhow, my health is on the improve and hopefully I'll be back and ranting within the coming days.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What is wrong with today?

Well, apart from my hayfever, not much I'm happy to report.

So, you know how I was banging on about writing an article for The Escapist? Well it's up right here now, and it's the lead story. Yippie-kay-yay Motherlickers! Apart from being featured on one of the more respected games journalism sites, I'm getting paid in yankee green which these days is worth quite a bit more than the aussie dollar.

Apart from playing "Where's my money?" by Busta Rhymes over and over again to celebrate my windfall, I also had somewhat of a successful interview with JB Hi-Fi to get a part time job there. It's all part of the grand plan for my future, and I was able to pimp out the fact I had written for several games sites to demonstrate my product knowledge in the area which is always a bonus.

What else struck me though, is how my cover letter was recieved. Now, these days every single job has about 60 applicants for it so I always try to make my cover letter stand out a bit by cracking a few jokes (my standard 'James is dashing, witty, intelligent and overwhelmingly humble' line got a chuckle). The interviewer actually took more notice of my application because my writing skills made my application stand out.

Just goes to show you; if you can write, you've always got a shot.

Today was also a great day because my new voice recorder and telephone pickup came in the mail. The quality is a heck of a lot better than my old voice recorder and now I have the ability to record telephone conversations which is an absolutely bonus. How often have you missed something somebody has said because you were busy writing down what they had just said? Yeah, that's why a telephone pickup is really valuable. It just allows you to really concentrate on the interview without having to worry about transcribing the interview. I heartily reccommend getting a telephone pickup mic to any up and coming journalist.

The big bits of news on the home front was the revelation the Krudd ws pushing back the implementation of an ETS by a year, and the subsequent revelation it would take six years for the budget to get back into surplus. Oh, apparently raising the target for reduction to 25 per cent from 20 per cent is supposed to offset the delay of the ETS.


Again, it doesn't matter if the government is Labor or Liberal, it seems the environment is going to have to take one for the team once again. I appreciate the Krudd government is facing some unparralelled financial constraints, but this was an opportunity to set an agenda for the next ten years.

If the government pushed ahead with an ETS, it would've shown the people of Australia that the government was actually serious about the environment. Now, it seems money has trumped the needs of the world.

Oh well, at least he's putting a cap on the number of public servants. Now, there will only be 99,000. Meanwhile, the temprature guage keeps on creeping up.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What is wrong with punching an editor in the face?

Okay, so today I open my email messages to find that article I wrote for The Escapist has been edited. That's a good thing, because you know it's gotten so far along the production line they're giving it polish before they whack it up on the intersplice/tubes.

My reaction to editing, in particular getting marked-up stuff back has always been the same, and I suspect it's the same for most up and coming writers or journalists. First there's the wince, and then you don't want to look at it. There's always that moment when you think "damn, that's a lot of red marker".

That initial experience is a really bad one. You just feel bad about your writing, and start to think you may not make it in this business after all. Okay, so maybe it's not that dramatic, but it's certainly no stroll on the boulevard. What I like to do when confronted with this feeling is to go away for about five minutes, and do something you really enjoy doing.

For example, this morning when I got the feedback I first winced and then went to spy on the comely lass next door with a telephoto lens. Okay, so I watched a bit of Seinfeld. Whatever, it's not important. Anyhow, when I came back five minutes later with an open mind and fresh perspective, I noticed the things they changed were to fit the style of their publication and a few things which were a bit stodgy with my writing.

They changed quite a bit, but often the changes were incidental and didn't mean a thing in the broader scheme of the article. I know that's what a good editor or sub editor does. They change the article without changing the crux or the style of it too much. Often, you'll see something changed and you can't figure out why they did it, but it doesn't make the article any worse and that's the mark of a good sub.

Back to my article. So I get the mark-up back, and everything's pretty standard. My article's not a complete mess, and they're just changing it to fit in with the style of the publication. Now, they removed a couple of my quips and softened it up around the edges (I was writing about a form of political protest), so why didn't I complain?

First of all, I'm not working for a major metropolitan newspaper with a readership nudging the million mark. So I know that the changes are not going to change the perceptions of me as a writer to a lot of people. Secondly, it's their damned publication and they're paying me to write the thing.

This is very important. I've spoken to a number of people about making the transition from student to professional, and the bitter squabbles you get into over incidental crap in uni will get you fired out in the real world. In uni, it'sperfectly fine to bitch and moan about every single little change which is made to your work (I often encouraged the people whose work I edited to contact me if they had any concerns) because it's a learning environment where you can ruffle a few feathers.

In the real world, if you march into an editors office with your incidental problems the standard line will be "Oh, I'm sorry we changed your work. I thought we were paying you...maybe we should stop paying you". Of course, this is second-hand stuff so my sources may be exaggerating but there's a way of dealing with criticism.

You go away, you get rid of any negative feelings and you look at them clearly and rationally.

Of course, if they change your article for the sake of pursuing ideological whims, march into their office and give them a piece of your mind. Stand up for your work and what you're trying to do as a journo, but pick your battles carefully. When newsrooms are downsizing and the economy is in the shitter, you'll do well not to unduly rub anyone the wrong way.

Especially those who sign the cheques.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What is wrong with shameless promotion?

First off, I've got to apologise for the intermittent blog posts. Real life has gotten in the way more times than I care to count over the last week, but at least something good has come out of it.

I've talked on this blog about the desire for me to get a website up and running so that number one, I can have an online presence potential employers can check out and number two to showcase some of the better citizen journalists and writers out there. I may just be one step closer to realising that dream through Weebly.

This is very preliminary, but so far I've been impressed with the service. What it is essentially, is free server space and a widget-based wepage creation toolkit. Which means that basically anyone can create a webpage using their templates or you can go under the hood and customise the code to suit your needs.

The catch is that you can only create about three websites before they ask you to pony up some dough, but how many websites do you need? It's free for crying out loud! To enjoy the freeness (yes, that's totally a word in the Dictionary of Drunkards) of the experience, you do have to put .weebly in your site's domain name, but it's a small price (actually, none) to pay for your own website.

Because I like working with images though, I'm afraid I may be spamming the Weebly servers if I put up a webcomic or something of that ilk. Not to worry though, as Wired actually got me thinking about Cloudsourcing as a way for small time operators to turn a buck.

The term basically means getting all the grudge work of the servers to another product. For example, what's stopping me from chucking up photos on Flickr and Photobucket and using those as a server for the images, while keeping a copy for myself? That way, you don't have to store the photos (or video) on the same server as your website and you can outsource that hassle to another site.

It'sall very initial at this stage, but things are looking promising on that front.

Anyhow, onto something that caught my eye while I was watching MediaWatch last night. You see, here in Australia we've had a recent spate of 'boat people' who undertake perilous trips across the waves to reach Australia in the hopes of political asylum.

Some sections of the media however, aren't merely content with calling them 'boat people' anymore. They've gone back to that old standard 'illegals', which of course implies these people are coming to our shores illegally (which they're not), and implies that these people may be criminals instead of people fleeing persecution.

Language has the power to make people laugh, give insight into darkened areas and provide hope for those with none. Words in the wrong hands can be dangerous things, as one word, one key phrase can change perceptions.

Once you change the perceptions of the voting public, you're going to have a tough time convincing them otherwise.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What's wrong with a tea party?

Earlier this week in the great ol' land of the USA, demonstrations were held protesting the high taxing of the Democratic party. Unsurprisingly, many to all of the protestors were Republican, and they objected to the trillions of US taxpayer money to bail out crippled financial companies.

Okay, fair enough, but the strange thing here is that they used the concept of
tea' to rally around in conjunction with tax season in the US. You see, they hoped to draw links back to a revolutionary moment in US history known as the Boston Tea Party, when people in Boston refused to allow tea shipped from the UK onto their lands under the grounds that they didn't want to pay tax to a sovereign nation which was not their own.

So, they threw the tea into the harbour so that they didn't have to be taxed on it. It was seen as one of the great acts of defiance against the ruling UK government and led to a revolution which kicked out the brits.

Now protestors are trying to draw paralells between that event and their current protests, and comparing the Obama government to an opressive regime which they do not support, and therefore should not have to pay tax to.

As any sound mind will realise by now, the whole thing is completely ridiculous. Sure, go ahead and protest but you still have to pay your taxes. The whole thing smacks of Republican sour grapes, as now their arguments centre upon not recognising their own government as legitimate and Obama as not a legitimate President?

They say they should have greater control over where their taxes go, and the over-spending of the Obama administration is grounds for revolution. Yeah, that'll fly.

Republicans weren't complaining when their taxes went toward providing the top end of town with tax cuts and perks under Republican auspices, and now the ineptitude of that system has been shown up and they want to protest about paying tax? Years of lax regulation under the guise of fiscal conservatism plagued the world and then US nation, and they want to complain about the opposite approach?

'Till next time
It's got to make you laugh.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What is wrong with a quick update?

This is just a quick update on a couple of things in the last blog post. The situation in Thailand got worse, with civilian deaths reported to be around the six mark, but I wouldn't be too surprised to hear that number go up to about 15.

The interesting thing though is the independant media in the country are reporting much of the strife was caused by the anti-government demonstrators , backed by Thaksin Shinawatra. Apparently they were the agressors in the conflict, driving a bus into a crowd of soldiers to inflame the situation and whereas the sound of troop guns rung out, it's understood from vision of the incident that the soldiers were shooting into the air to warn off protestors rather than at them. Some of the conflict has been between anti-government demonstrators and ordinary citizens sick and tired of the demonstrators bringing their country into disrepute.

No loss of life is a good thing, but I thank whoever's in charge of the whole cosmic show that it's only six people. That situation could have gotten very bad very quickly, but for the meantime things have seemed to settle down and anti-government leaders have conceeded they face a PR crisis which will make public support of further demonstrations very dificult.

Onto Fiji now, and foreign journalists have been escorted from the country and the Australian Broadcast Commission radio broadcast tower has been powered down by the 'government' acting under, well, I was going to say unconstitutional grounds but there is no constitution in Fiji at the moment.

I also let you know about the TV station which has refused to broadcast pro-'government' stories and how it may just help the situation. Well, it seems the local rags have gotten into the act too and started running stories about 'a man getting on a bus', and 'what we had for breakfast this morning' rather than pro-'govenment' stories which are the only stories they're allowed to run under emergency rules.

You gotta love it.

Hopefully the stories will make people in Australia and New Zealand take a little more notice rather than trivialising the issue.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What is wrong with an illusion of democracy?

Don't you just love it when you turn on the television set and see pictures of people fleeing their governments? Makes me kind of wish the news could be about a puppy on a surfboard all the time.

This week protests in Thailand and a military dictatorship in Fiji have been gathering pace, and we're about to see two traditional Australian holiday destinations become violent maelstroms of revolution and meanwhile Stephen Smith sits in Canberra and 'expresses concern over the situation'.

In Fiji, one of our close neighbours we have a military dictatorship which has seen the results of a democratic judicial ruling and thought 'nuh, don't like it'. So they (the military dictator in a Prime Minister's clothing Frank Bainimarama) trot out the President who reads from a piece of paper, seemingly bemused as to the powers he's giving himself. Basically, President Josefa Lliolo tore up the constitution and appointed Bainimarama as Prime Minister.

Oh, and about a year ago they promised to hold elections six months ago. Joyous.

Now, they've kicked out the head of the Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Fijian Human Rights Commission because they 'were formed under the constitution'. If that's not bad enough, they've basically shut down all independant media on the island, making it a crime to report 'negative' stories about the government.

So kids, what do you think the media did?

They did the only thing they could ethically do under the situation and refused to broadcast. They're doing their stories or they're doing none at all. Way to stick it to the man Fijian media, right on! Hopefully, the silence will be deafening.

Meanwhile in Thailand, simmering tensions between anti-government supporters and government officials have just started to flow over and the riot police have been called in. So far there no 'reported' casualties, but if you stand back and have a look at the picture in Thailand it may just make you lose your voice out of sheer bewilderment.

The current government, the one elected a while ago has been accused of corruption amongst other nefarious things, and seizing power illegally.

You see, the anti-government protestors are suporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the ex-PM who was ousted about a year and a half ago for 'alleged' massive coruption and supresing democracy in the nation. The military kicked him out, and he's now a criminal in the country.

That's right, the people of Thailand have basically moved from one corupt government to the next, and they're calling for the ex-PM to be re-installed to the office. What a crazy situation.

The paralells between Fiji and Thailand are quite evident at the moment, as both states are dealing with a government which was installed after a military coup, and both appear to be failing tremendously in their quest to 'restore democracy' to what they saw as failed states. Now, they're repeating the same mistakes as their predesessors and finding that power is a dark temptation indeed.

The over riding socio-political question at stake here has to be 'is it possible to violently insist upon democracy?'.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What is wrong with over thinking things?

Well, you tend to go insane and write shambolic reviews of The Sims. Like I did about a week ago for a reviewing competition. I don't think I'm going to win with this effort, but it staved off the effects of insanity for about ten minutes anyhow....or perhaps encouraged them. Goo goo ga joob!



"When I consider this carefully, I find not a single property which with certainty separates the waking state from the dream. How can you be certain that your whole life is not a dream?"- Descartes

I turn on the machine and live another life, I am ghost in the machine, and I am hungry for Baked Alaska.

When people think games, they think computer simulations with a point. Whether it be shoot a whole bunch of people, build a city or unravel a mystery, but has there ever been a game which is so nihilistically compelling?

When people ask me my favourite game, I say it is something along the lines of Fallout or Psychonauts, not because The Sims isn't popular, but because of my own shame. Each time I start up the game, I hear the hollow silence of my own coffin underneath the cheery music which permeates my consciousness.

I know that for an hour or twelve I am certainly not myself, I am not the same man who thinks playing until two in the morning isn't a fruitful exercise, instead I am not only a taskmaster but this game has somehow tricked me into believing I am a master of my own self.

I get a call on the telephone, that sim wants to come over for a while. I have work in an hour; I have no time for this foolishness. I need a goddamned promotion, I don't have any bills piled up on the table or children crying for the newest shiny toy and I feel myself lulled into a path by the promise of a piece of candy in front of my feet.

"And if you go chasing rabbits-
And you know you're going to fall"- Jefferson Airplane

I'm Alice, and I don't particularly care that the Cheshire cat is grinning at me. What do I care for the logical reality which dictates this all ridiculous? What do I care for the arguments that my time would not be served by playing a people simulator?

Paradoxically, The Sims has you obsessed with time management as you go down the rabbit-hole to confront your own shortcomings. I look at my sim, and I see an idealised version of myself. He has a job, several attractive sims a phone call away and a home that I could only dream of...and a hot tub!

For others, digital gender-play is the order of the day as their digital manifestations go and give birth to a whole bunch of more Sims which fulfils some paternal fantasies. Others though desire the game as a mere toy, the denizens of the world to do with what they will, locking them up in a room with no food or toilets for days on end and smile wryly as their sim fights for life.

What is this game where you can't just design cities, take life but instead control every aspect of a digital person's life? More to the point, why do I desire the control? In a game which takes control away from your real life and substitutes it for a program, is the need to dictate the terms of life to these beings the last bastions of our humanity telling us that this is a video game, and nothing to be feared?

Am I over-thinking this?

The reason why The Sims is a guilty pleasure is that I seek control. I demand perfection from my sims in stark contrast to my failed endeavours and this makes me feel more than a little guilty. Am I simply projecting my desires onto these hapless digital creatures? What right do I have to demand perfection from these creatures when I am sitting in my room at two in the morning playing a video game?

Perhaps a story will help illustrate my point.

It's about 7PM sim-time. The sun has just come down rather rapidly, and I'm preparing my sim for another day of promotion-chasing. He lives in a two-story house, has a good looking trophy-wife and two kids who are at the top of their classes. Yet, it's not enough.

I have to get him up four hours early, just to make sure that he's in the best condition he can be so he can chase that promotion. Most people will be happy just stumbling into work, getting through their shift so they can get their pay check and put food on the table. My mum did it after all, she raised two kids while getting a degree and working a full-time job.

I find myself now, faced with this being in my control and I'm making sure his kids have the upbringing I never had. Oh God I'm so ashamed.

Why do I want to push my sim into this path though? For some arbitrary cash bonus? Am I simply playing by the game's rules in the hopes of hearing some stupid little chime and my sim's stats getting a boost? Why am I following the pied piper to my own death? Not the death of my sim, but to the death of myself.

It's about 2AM real-world time and I feel like rebelling. The sun has long gone down and my sim is preparing for another day of work. Little does he know that he's not going to work today. That's right; I'm going to ignore the honking of the carpool.

So the hour is fast approaching, and my sim is seemingly looking toward the door. Is my sim...learning? Has years of routine finally come home to roost? It's a moot question anyway, and the car pulls up and starts honking. My sim indicates that he wants to go to work, to get the moolah, to get the points and to get the special item. No, I say, you will stay home and paint! Still he indicates that he wishes to go...I should have turned free-will off.

My sim hasn't grasped the concept or rebellion, and a look outside will tell you why. It's a sunny day outside, and as far as I can tell, it's never rained in this part of the neighbourhood. I look at the houses in the neighbourhood and notice a distinct lack of dilapidation present. This neighbourhood sickens me, but yet I want to spend every waking moment I have there? I'm so ashamed.

Back to my rebellion.

The honking is unceasing, it drives into your brain like a jackhammer into pavement, all compounded by my sim's desire to walk on the straight and narrow and my determination for him to rebel. Who am I to force my cultural ideologies on this little guy? If he really wants to go to work, I should let him. The car's honking louder now. No, I made him what he was through years of routine implementation, and it's my responsibility to show him that there's another way to live life. He doesn't have to go to work, he doesn't have to be a slave to the corporate dollar.

Back in real life I get my bank statement back, and the 90 dollars I spent on the game and 30 dollars I spent on the expansion pack stick out at me. Here I am trying to affect rebellion when I can't rebel myself.

Like a crack-addled clown I go back for more time and time again. Perhaps the greatest act of rebellion would be to turn the computer off, but there's no time for that now, the car's honking is getting louder.

Finally, the car speeds off and my sim is left in a daze, reflecting his creator's state of mind. Here I am free from the constraints of arbitrary gameplay goals and I have no idea what to do. All I keep on thinking is that he should be doing something constructive as I open another bag of chips.

He should be painting a masterpiece, getting his body in taught shape or cultivating contacts. In the middle of my ruminations, a little sim comes up to her daddy and gives him a hug before going to school.

Suddenly, it's not about rebellion anymore. The reason why my sim should aim to be all he can be is right there in a simple act of affection. Who am I to deny a future for this child because I want to rebel? That's when you realise that you're not the G-Man anymore, but instead this game has been controlling you all this time.

So, why is The Sims a guilty pleasure? Because I know it controls my mind, and yet I go back for more each night. There's an old joke, it goes something like this.

A man walks into a doctor's office and says he's depressed.

The doctor says "Polliaci is in town, he'll cheer you up"

The man says "But doctor, I am Polliaci!"

Playing The Sims is to experience all of the follies of human endeavour, and I'd be laughing at the joke if it weren't 2AM.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

What is wrong with a rollout?

Hey, remember that hilarious National Broadband Network bidding process? The one where Telstra submitted not a bid, but a list of requirements it needed to submit a bid? Yeah, that was pretty funny, what with all the laughing at Telstra and everything. Turns out that this morning the almighty Rudd has announced all of the private bids for the tender weren't up to scratch.

Therefore, the Ruddster decided it was high time a newly-created and Government controlled 43 Billion dollar company was given the tender for the process. The private investment in the company will be capped at 49 per cent with the government retaining control.

Sound familiar kiddies? Should be.

I seem to remember a certain time when Telstra was under government control in a former life, under the trading name of Telcom Australia. That was government-controlled, before the governmanet stake was split up in three parts in 1997,1999 and 2006. While investors took up the offer, the company then screwed the pooch big time.

Make no mistake, this failure to capture the National Broadband Network building tender was a kick in the teeth for the company, so much so that everybody's favourite yank with a moustache, Sol Trujilo, up and left with a golden handshake.

The question is, is history about to repeat itself? In my humble opinion, no.

Telstra moved to a private company in a climate which government regulation was seen as the big, bad wolf and privitization was the groovy thing to do. The market was rolling, the money was flowing and there was competition on the part of Optus tomake things interesting.

These days though, following the Freddie May and Mac crash I somehow think the attitude toward privatisation is a smidge different. The market may say that the way out of a crash is to invest and spend, but I doubt whether governments feel the same way.

Tighter regulation of companies, transparency of reporting and general belt-tightening are so in roght now. Would the government move to sell its stake in this new company? Perhaps not right away(the government will sell its stake within five years), but you can bet one thing about this company; It's going to be regulated to within an inch of its life. You thought the relationship between Telstra and the Government was tetchy, just wait until investors start to smell a whiff of government intervention in free enterprise.

Besides, will these be a market in five years for the government to sell its stake to? What's the value in a company which has a foundation built upon strict regulation, and very few investments or strategies for the future (I somehow don't think the government owned company will employ an agressive investment strategy).

Anyhow, this new company would build the National Boradband Network, which is sorely needed. You see, the broadband speed in Australia is akin to a snail taking it easy. The network would deliver speeds of about 10 Megabits to about 90 per cent of Australian homes and businesses.

That's all well and good, but I feel one question has to be asked.

You deliver high speeds but we can't see the hardcore porn sites? What kind of twisted game are you playing at Conroy?

'Till next time

Friday, April 3, 2009

What is wrong with people accepting your pitches?

It means that you have to go ahead and actually write an article. Why can't people pay me for just being awesome?

This week I got in my inbox a bit of exciting news. It seems the Escapist accepted my pitch to write a feature article for them, which is a step up for me. I'm used to writing small articles for the US market but this is a step up, and a great opportunity to put something meaningful in my portfolio.

Anyhow, the subject is 'political griefers'. Basically, these people use traditional griefing techniques in online games in order to make a political point. People like Joseph DeLappe who posts the names of dead soldiers in America's Army and the group known as Velvet Strike who are determined to fill testosterone-filled rounds of Counterstrike with peace and love.

Goovy, no?

So far I've managed to get in touch with DeLappe about the article and sent him through some questions, but the leader of Velvet Strike hasn't gotten back to me yet. My 1500 word article will basically go through the history of this sort of activity, as well as raising questions about a play space being politicised, and it's going to be an exercise in staying objective.

Objectivity, as Jaded Prime devotees will know, is something with pluses and minuses but with this article I'm dealing with politics. I agree totally with DeLappe and Velvet Strike and their methods, but plenty of players just think they're exploiting a space which should be left untouched by politics.

So I'm really out to maintain a neutral and calm voice instead of publishing a rallying call, and the way I'm doing that is by trying to stay outside of the subject matter and presenting it as somewhat of a social experiment. I'm really just trying to ask questions from both sides of the coin rather than provide opinions.

So anyhow, I have 15 days to get the article in the can, and I'm being paid 25c US per edited word. So you may see me around the Perth Stock Exchange hoping to see red across to board, well, for a couple of weeks anyhow.

'Till next time

Saturday, March 28, 2009

What's wrong with a centralised computer?

At the Games Developer Conference '09 being held in San Francisco, among all the juicy gossip and teases was a piece of tech which could potentially change the face of gaming. Okay, so that may be a hackneyed piece of conjecture but the announced OnLive service could be a future direction worth investigating.

It works like this. Instead of using your rig to play games which need upgrading every so often in the areas of graphical power and processsor grunt you can play games on a central computer. Wha?

Okay, so you sign up for the service, and instead of your input commands going to your machine they go via an internet connection to another computer which handles all the grunt work like processing, then the information is relayed back to your computer via the same internet connection.

This means all you potentially need to play high-end games is an internet connection, as all of the processing is outsourced to the OnLive service before being relayed back to your computer via a stream.

Sounds pretty neat, no?

While others have said this could basically stop production of high-end machines in its stride, others have expressed their concerns over the service.

For one thing, what happens when the glitches start? With your own rig, you can actually open it up and see if there's any physical damage to any of your parts and run diagnostics, but when your stream goes down you can't waltz up to OnLive headquarters and see what's wrong. At least I don't think that's included in the subscription fee.

Then there's the little matter of the internet connection. What if that goes down? You're basically stranded because you don't have access to the database while offline so there's no singleplayer if you don't have an internet connection.

If this thing really takes off like it can, then most games will be in a digital format, tied to the OnLive service. Digital may be the way of the future, but I'd like to have an analog back-up. I'd actually like to have physical proof that I own the game, and I think everybody likes going into a games store and browsing the boxes.

That being said, for all the potential drawbacks....I can play Crisis on a netbook.

If you have a stable connection, then you can outsource allof the grudge work. That's got to be worth investigating.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What is wrong with flowing prose?

Normaly, I'm a fan of words that ooze off the page like metlted butter and nestle comfortably within my subconscious but lately I'm finding great satisfaction in reading boks that are fundamentally hard to read.

By that I mean books that only tackle complex and open-ended themes which provoke many points of interest to mull over but also hard to read prose. I'm talking Dostoyevsky doing Kafka doing Cervantes.

As you can probably tell, lately I've been submerged in the worlds of Don Quixote, Crime and Punishment and Metamorphosis. The thread which ties the first two together is they've been translated from very alien languages into English.

Cervantes lived in 16th Century Spain and Dostoyevsky lived in 19th Century Russia. To try and translate an archaic form of Spanish into flowing prose is a challenging undertaking by any stretch of the imagination and to be fair the translators do a pretty good job but in the end it still remains a hard book to read.

The translators have to deal with a whole different verb structure than our own ('Lucy's in the Sky with Diamonds' becomes 'Lucy, she is in the sky with the diamonds') and you can tell the translators have tried to salvage the best out of a bad situatuion, but it still remains a challenging read nonetheless.

Dostoyevsky wrote society novels for the most part, and there is a stiltedness and formality to his writing even when ruminating of the internal thought processes of a killer, and for this reason any Dostoyevsky is hard to read for those not familiar with his style.

Yet with both remains the fact that they are totally engrossing authors with wonderful novels and need to be read by anyone who hopes to call themselves literate. Yet, you won't find the youth of today clambouring for first editions and exciting new translations but instead reaching for the modern stuff.

So, I make a point in reading hard to read novels. Sort of my statement against the intellectual laziness of today. I actively seek out books which are going to be hard to read for the mere fact that I feel there's some sort of jewell in the temple of prose and pot of gold at the end of the rainbow made up by words such as 'betwixt'.

So, I find myself with this fixation for reading ahard to read books out of some sort of intellectual protest. In an age where all meaning and prose is given to us in an eye-pleasing format why not go back to those masterpieces which are hard to penetrate? In an age where literature has become consumer product rather than adding to the lexicon of human existence, am I wrong for seeking out texts which go against this philisophy?

Or am I just mad?

'Till next time

Friday, March 20, 2009

What is wrong with Alcopops?

Alcopops, to our overseas visitors are basiaclly soft drink with alcohol added and marketing to a youth market. Varieties such as Lemon Ruski have popped up over the years, and it's led to a sharp increase of young people binge drinking. Now, Australia's always been fond of a couple of quiet ones but the level of over-excessive drinking has gotten out of hand.

The theory is that young people are atracted to these alcopops because they can't stand the taste of regular alcohol, so they choose to have alcohol with a whole pile of sugar to cover up the taste (because that's being an adult!). So, the federal government finally caught onto the trend and introduced a propsed tax on the sale of alcopops in Australia.

Not only would it curve binge drinking, the government argued, it would also be a nice little fundraiser. Now, instead of being a country run on the sheep's back we would be run on the pissed teenager's back.

Now, the sale of alcopops have suffered a hit but to make up for it teenagers are getting savvy and mixing their own drinks before they go out. They say that they save money by doing it, and this would combat any price hike the government may or may not introduce. Alcopops though, aren't the only thing driving binge drinking in this country.

The fact is, that Australia has had a drinking culture for as long as anyone could remember, with mainstream alcohol companies able to advertise during sports broadcasts to tie in the culture of sport with the culture of drinking, and this is backed up by seeing their favourite players intoxicated on the streets, groping sponsor's daughters and what have you.

It's been said that if the government outlawed all drugs and alcohol, Australians would spin around on their lawn until they couldn't stand. The question is though, how do you deal with the problem?

Senator Steve Fielding of the Family First Party yesterday had the swing vote when the alcopops tax bill made its way to the senate, and he chose to vote it down, wanting more to be done about binge drinking than taxing alcopops.

He said that any legislation had to be a comprehensive plan to get to the root causes of the problem, and would not vote for revenue-raising band-aid solution legislation. Of course, several people have criticised him for blocking the move, while others have lauded his efforts.

In my own personal opinion, I don't think putting a tax on alcopops would dramatically decrease the level of teenage drunkedness in the country but it's a start. I think the legislation should have gotten through, but Fielding has a point in his opposition to sport-related alcohol advertising.

It's a ridiculous loophole which allows alcohol compaies to advertise their product during the day time, but only in conjunction with a sports broadcast. It comes down to the dollars the companies give sports organisations in the country through sponsorship and spokesman deals. So the uniforms of the players may have alcohol logos on them, and signage at the stadiums will display the logo from time to time, and then the companies strike a deal with the television network carrying the game to advertise with the broadcast.

Then what you have is not just a logo, but an association with professional sport, and with pro athletes. Ridiculous as it may sound, many young people look up to these overpaid beefcakes and think that by drinking the particular product advertised, they can be just like their heroes.

If that's the case, then we're all in trouble.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What is wrong with a golden handshake?

Outrage this week over the executives who deserve a golden shower rather than a golden handshake. The tizzy started when it emerged that due to pre-existing conditions, the top brass at AIG were going to get a whole bunch of moolah as a bonus for doing......well you got me.

That's right kiddies, the guys running AIG, the company currently being bailed out by the American taxpayer were going to get paid obscene amounts for their incompetence. The socialists were howling at this one. Luckily it lookslike they're not going to get the money, but the reasoning behind the payments was a bit baffling.

They said it was due to a clause in a pre-existing contract and their hands were tied, and I understand that but then they came out and said something baffling. They started to argue that incentives were needed to keep talent at the company.

Hmmm, spot the flaw if you can. It seems to me that the people who ran an insurance giant into the ground aren't actually that talented, just sayin'. Is there something to the argument though?

No, of course not you dolt.

They say that to get ourselves out of this mess, they're going to need the help of the people who got them in the trouble in the first place. I can understand there perhaps are a limited number of people to run a multi-national company, but it's just ridiculous.

In no other profession is this approach taken in the face of extreme incompetence. Just imagine it now, the manager of your club has just lost fifteen games on the trot. What does the club do? They sack the hell out of him.

They sure as hell don't invite him back to try and rebuild the squad and throw a bunch of money at him. It seems though, the men with the suits and ties are somehow granted an exemption. Here in Australia, the story is much the same.

Everybody's favourite moustachioed (is that even a word?) Yank, Sol Trujilo, was given a nice little 30 million dollar handshake for advising over a company which had failed to even get on the shortlist for the new broadband network, and played bizzare power games with Stephen Conroy.

Socks, jocks and offshore-location experts Pacific Brands payed a bonus to a former CEO last year to the tune of 3.4 million dollars, a period where they would have been planning the mass sackings of Australian workers.

So you see, the problems which beset this financial world aren't just American. Everybody assumes that this whole thing was kicked of by the leveraged US companies but the problem goes deeper than that. The problem is greed on a masive scale, and that sadly, is a universal theme.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What is wrong with going stir-crazy: pt II

Many of you will remember my epic stapler review(here:, but I'm not satisfied with that, oh no. Instead, I'm not giving up until I write the most enthralling review about the most inane objects I can think of!

Here's one about a brick


By Corky McGee

If there was one darling to come out of last year's Leipzig Brick Show, it was the new Haigh brick which dazzled audiences and had brick journalists in a tizzy. Well, the day is finally here and today marks its release onto the market, but does the real deal measure up to the dazzling display at Leipzig?

For years builders and political activists alike had shown an alarming disinterest in the current generation of bricks, instead choosing to stay with the old standards such as the King and the Lindesay models, so it's no surprise the Haigh has proven to be one of the most anticipated brick releases in years.

Retaining a sleek finish, the Haigh manages to capture the charm of old-school design philosophies while adapting to emerging demands from China and India for Western building products. The Haigh will amaze many pundits with its compact design which will appeal to both markets.

Before this point, brick manufacturer's had to stake a place in either camp, and no firm has ever successfully managed to crack both markets simultaneously. Makers of the Haigh, BrickCo are hoping the brick will lead to an about face in brick market policies.

There's no doubt that in these harsh economic times, brick manufacturers are aiming to increase their market share, and to do so in multiple markets. By employing veteran project lead Jans Klaussen to head up the Haighproject, BrickCo have ensured a design which pushes forward in terms of adaptability and texture while retaining the classic brick-chic that he's known for.

The Haigh's texture was one of the things that dazzled at Leipzig, and we're pleased to report that this hasn't changed a bit at the point of release. The brick is still silky-smooth, but with a rough edge which makes the brick attractive to potential buyers. There's no doubt that under the gruff exterior of this brick is a soft and gentle side which is just so appealing.

We recently road-tested a preview model of the Haigh, and our political activists found it to be a better brick to work with as now they could throw the bricks through shop windows without having to use gloves, a key advantage when aiming for accuracy. Builders too said that after a day's build using the preview model, they felt as if they hadn't done any work at all owing to the milky texture of the brick not leaving any of the scuff marks long associated with the bricklayer.

In terms of shape, you couldn't ask for much more from the Haigh. Shape was one of the key reasons Klaussen was appointed project-lead for the brick, as his work on the Lindesay model helped forge a new generation of bricks, and BirckCo had suffered bad reviews for its previous releases regarding shape.

The shape is what you'd expect from a designer of Klaussen's experience, as the brick retains classic lines but changes things up with softer edges than we're used to seeing from his releases. It's clear that Klaussen has really tried to reinvigorate brick design from its recent slumber and this effort will force some textbooks to be re-written!

Klaussen with his design

Builders say the new design will be a godsend for those working all day long with bricks, as some of the tough lines of previous releases has left their hands with one too many tell-tale signs in the form of cuts to their hands. Political activists too are raving at the new shape, saying the softer edges actually increase the diameter of holes they can break in windows, rather than being a more concentrated area of destruction they've used in the past.

The Haigh also impresses with the colour scale employed. Rather than sporting a deep red as with most of the current releases, the Haigh uses a lighter touch and is more the better for it.

Whereas the market has been complaining about bricks all being the same colour in the past, the Haigh uses a deft touch to distinguish itself from the pack and by doing so distances itself from the frustrations consumers feel for the current generation of bricks.

The lighter tone lends itself a charm which brings back memories of a bygone era of brick design and reminds us that this brick is really what bricks are meant to be. The juxtaposition between its old world aesthetics and it's sleek new world design is a masterstroke from Klaussen who with the Haigh has reclaimed his rightful place at the summit of brick design.

Political activists, in particular are pleased as punch about getting their hands on the new brick, saying the old-school aesthetics reminds them of the work their pappies did in bringing down the government, and makes the political acts referenced by the brick a lot more poignant.

Indeed, Klaussen has always been a staunch activist and employed this new colour scheme in a majestic fashion in a nod to his predecessors. BrickCo may have been worried by Klaussen's revolutionary intent, smelling a PR disaster in the wake of the Tuscon incident, but their decision to allow Klaussen a free hand is one of the smartest business decisions they'll ever make.

Already, buyers from exotic shore have been lining up to sample the new brick, pleased the new style of brick reminds them of the fond days of colonialism. Now they'll not only be able to enjoy the comfort and sophistication of theHaigh but to appropriate the aesthetic meaning to protest western globalisation by lobbing one of the bricks through the nearest Starbucks franchise.

In closing, the Haigh measures up in every aspect to the promise shown by the Leipzig model employing some pretty cutting edge design philosophies by Klaussen to achieve an old-world charm. This is now the new standard by which new bricks will be measured, and I certainly look forward to how Klaussen and BrickCo plan to top this season's release.

P.S- I'm so lonely