31 May 2009
So, as always courtesy of Bookforum, a couple of articles that I found intriguing in their own way.
As the global economy swoons, the prospects for the numerati grow brighter. Their efforts to target people carry the promise of efficiency and lower costs.
Only if you take a very benign view of the objectives of commerce. What will normally happen is that those who pay for the data will be looking to exploit it in either a novel or more efficient way. Novel = immediate immense commercial benefits, whereas more efficient = gradual profit increase.
Just a quick aside: yes, I am aware that "=" is not consistent with any interpretation of the regular rules of grammar. Don't be looking for consistency around these parts, it inhibits my ability to rant or, even worse, poke fun.
What Margaret Thatcher actually said about society. As is always the case with the utterances of politicians, she has been taken out of context. However, at least we get confirmation of the role of Hayek and the Austrian School in her policy inclinations. Just as an aside, if Austria's so wonderful, why don't you go and live there?
Finally, ordinary middle class communities, with or without traditional churches but more likely with contemporary variations thereof, point the way to the future of cities that will not decay.
At least it's one in the eye for Richard Florida and his particular recommendations for high income cities and regions and, simultaneously, a little swipe at the pursuit of econonomic outcomes uber alles. I did wonder when Maryborough Council (I think it was there) started spouting imminent adherence to the Florida model. That was just a step too far.
Do have a lovely week.
30 May 2009
Oh all right, I'll just put just one here:
It's a channel whose viewer demographic consists exclusively of men sitting on the edge of a hotel bed impatiently waiting for their girlfriend to finish in the shower so they can go and have a shit.
As you were.
29 May 2009
So, first funny shit was this letter in today's Sydeney Morening Herald:
The traditional Fourth Estate position of the media is being eroded by the proliferation of "news" such as "the chk-chk-boom girl" ("Chk-chk-boom sums up sensation", May 28). When public discussion is diverted from issues of greater importance to the trivial and the novel it is a sign of the slow demise of functioning democracy. Though we are connected by communication technologies on an unprecedented scale, to quote Spider-Man, "with great power comes great responsibility". Let us not abuse our abundance of communication media. It is our responsibility to create collective intelligence rather than collective unintelligence.
So, let's just have a look at this. Mr Li is concerned that the standard of news reporting is being degraded by its apparent obsession with un-selfconscious, self-promoting 15-minutes-of-fame types such as Clare Werbeloff (VVB Ed: the chhk-chhk-boom girl). He goes on to make a resoundingly deep argument that popular interest in such ephemera indicates that the basis for rational society is in decline.
In support of this argument he then quotes - quotes, mind you - a comic book character.
So, can you please tell me which part of this evidently post-modern jigsaw puzzle I'm missing?
The next bit of today's...today's something... no, that bit is long gone. Could have had something to with swapping the work Subaru for a work Camry which has, I suspect, sucked out any remaining functioning parts of my brain.
And so on to music. I found tonight's offering not long after posting last Friday's welcome to the weekend post, but this is nothing short of pure ecstasy.
Yumm yumm, does that not get the musical juices flowing, I'm off downstairs to pick up the guitar and continue my long slide into oblivion. I absolutely love three minutes pieces of pop perfection and this was one.
I compare this Byrds reunion performance to the Aston from my last blog post. Probably not absolute perfection, but McGuinn's couple of misses, both vocally and his cues on the mighty Rickenbacker, you can equate to the fact that despite the stonking V12, the Aston's not actually as quick as it ought to be. But at the end of the ride or song, you don't give a shit: you've been in the presence of something you can't do, and you just admire those who can.
"A time for peace, I swear it's not too late."
We continue to hope so.
Au revoir, mes petits.
28 May 2009
Re BookForum too, isn't Omnivore a great section title?
And so on to big things. I read this article and wondered about a suitable excerpt to get you in. I chose this one:
USA Today agreed with Frito-Lay marketers that big ol’ Cheetos “make folks smile.”
Although I could have chosen others.
These Americans, they don't know about proper big things, though, do they? The Big Banana. The Big Merino. The Big Prawn. They should all come here to learn. Like, totally.
The one fact in the Cheetos (and I noticed that Cheetos appears to be both singular and plural, so evidently it and/or they are genetically modified, which would also explain the styrofoam taste) story that didn't surprise is that on a per unit of weight basis, the new ones are more expensive than the old ones. In an economic downturn, it's important to give people an (alleged, apart from having the inside of your mouth scoured off) comfort food experience while simultaneously ripping them off because they're functionally innumerate.
Vive le capitalisme!
26 May 2009
24 May 2009
My neighbours are, overwhelmingly, decent, hard-working, respectible, law-abiding, amusing, intelligent, serious. And they're worried. And they're frightened. The world is not honoring the bargain that was made with them: work hard, obey the law and a decent life is available. Well, for many of them, it isn't, it was a lie.I get this.
Only a politics dedicated to providing opportunity and hope for working people has any chance of delivering a civilised, bearable society for all of us.
There IS such a thing as society.
Old Blighty is going to be very interesting to watch over the next 12 mnonths.
(*) For those of you who may not have known:
"Let's think of the wavering millions
Who need leaders but get gamblers instead."
This one - it's quite long - includes some fascinating history of banking in the British Isles before Lanchester gets his usual head of steam up on how an industry that thinks nothing of multi-million dollar/pound/euro/does the currency really matter salaries and 'bonuses' ("guaranteed bonuses?" asks Lanchester, "that's a salary") in the industry have turned the British economy on its head.
Lanchester gives you a basic accounting lesson before going in to the intricacies of Collateralised Debt Obligations and the other arcane financial 'mechanisms' that I was bleating about not long after I started VVB. I didn't know all this pain was coming but I was tremendously afraid of the amount of risk contained in a financial system that was simply too complex, and made up of too many people over-interested in their own welfare, to last. I've also bleated about the way in which economic thinking - or at least the language - has come to inform all aspects of our lives.
Anway, here are some excerpts from Lanchester's essay:
All of this leads us to the fourth and deepest reason why the government won’t
nationalise the banks. The deepest reason is:
4. Because it would be so embarrassing. Some of the embarrassment is
superficial: on the not-remembering-somebody’s-name-at-a-social-occasion level.
The Anglo-Saxon economies have had decades of boom mixed with what now seem, in retrospect, smallish periods of downturn. During that they/we have shamelessly lectured the rest of the world on how they should be running their economies. We’ve gloated at the French fear of debt, laughed at the Germans’ 19th-century emphasis on manufacturing, told the Japanese that they can’t expect to get over their ‘lost decade’ until they kill their zombie banks, and so on. It’s
embarrassing to be in a worse condition than all of them.
It’s for this reason that the thing the governments least want to do – take over the banks – is something that needs to happen, not just for economic reasons, but for
ethical ones too. There needs to be a general acceptance that the current model
has failed. The brakes-off, deregulate or die, privatise or stagnate, lunch is for wimps, greed is good, what’s good for the financial sector is good for the economy model; the sack the bottom 10 per cent, bonus-driven, if you can’t
measure it, it isn’t real model; the model that spread from the City to government and from there through the whole culture, in which the idea of value has gradually faded to be replaced by the idea of price. Thatcher began, and Labour continued, the switch towards an economy which was reliant on financial services at the expense of other areas of society. What was equally damaging for Britain was the hegemony of economic, or quasi-economic, thinking. The economic metaphor came to be applied to every aspect of modern life, especially the areas where it simply didn’t belong. In fields such as education, equality of opportunity, health, employees’ rights, the social contract and culture, the first conversation to happen should be about values; then you have the conversation about costs. In Britain in the last 20 to 30 years that has all been the wrong way round. There was a reverse takeover, in which City values came to dominate the whole of British life.
If you are interested in this sort of stuff I also recommend John Lanchester's earlier pieces, Citiphlia and Citiphobia, which a friend alerted me to some time ago.
Anyway, cars. There was some kind of fundraiser just a little way down the coast so I went for a look. Here's what I found:
My first car was a two door version of this Austin A30. Since 1968, it's been the only car I ever made a profit from selling. The owner had made this one somewhat more driveable by replacing the original 803cc A-series motor with a Datto 1400 and 5 speed gearbox.
I also owned several Austin Freeways like this one. "Powered by the Blue Streak Six."
However old Pommy and bastardised Pommy/Aussie cars were in the minority. Try this for size.
If you can't get enough detail, then try this.
But the Lincoln Continental leaves them all for dead.
23 May 2009
I note they are both 'Ms". This may have much to say on the matter. I never trust
a woman who uses that form of address, I am afraid - nor one who does not take
her husband's surname.
Mrs Theresa Monk, Watford,
I'm so glad we got that sorted out, although I can imgaien it leads to many differences of opinion at, say, the supermarket checkout. However, I am afraid that Mrs Monk may land on this very page and have a piece of me...
Appropos of nothing much at all, I was reminded yesterday that VVB has a wider readership than I often believe. Should serve as a reminder to be more careful about grammar, certainly.
22 May 2009
Why, it only seems like yesterday.
Back in those days, this was our favourite song. We had everything to look forward to.
Over that intervening 33 years we eventually got our house, then a couple of subsequent houses. For a while at least, we had two cats in the yard.
Now we have what we think is a very very very fine house - well it's undeniably fit for purpose - and we have one cat who will venture into the yard if we are there too.
Thirty three years seem to have just whizzed past us - where did all those years go?
They haven't been all that kind to Steven Stills, but Graham Nash is still as pure and musical as he ever was. David Crosby - well, that man's an insanely successful survivor.
I still love these guys' work: Mrs VVB and I saw them in Brissie a couple of years ago. For all the accusations that this song is maudlin, you just don't get music like this any more.
(*) No surprise, of course it is.
21 May 2009
20 May 2009
So when I came to this morning's letters to the Editor of the SMH and found this:
So our gallant navy has rescued a merchant ship from pirates firing rocket-propelled grenades, effectively saying to the pirate boats: "Go away - and do it to someone else tomorrow" ("Navy rescues a princess from pirates", May 19)? Why were not the pirate boats sunk and any captured pirates made to "walk the plank in shark infested-waters"? That is the way piracy was eliminated in the past. I demand an answer from the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister.
Rear Admiral, RAN (Retired), Fairlight
...you can guess the rest. That was after I decided it had to be a piss-take.
This has been a very short blog post brought to you courtesy of the ever increasing amount of workee that crosses my desk. Actually, it's mainly brought to you courtesy of the amount of workee that fails to cross the desk successfully and still languishes there, taunting me with its incessant "can't you figure out a way around this, you numbskull?"
No, really actually, it doesn't taunt me or in other way attempt to make contact. What I'm hearing are the little voices inside my head, the ones that usually natter about buying new cars or just drinking beer all weekend. Seems like they've got a new tune.
This is going nowhere and it's not even remotely funny, but I'm too lazy/bloodyminded/in the moment to delete it.
18 May 2009
So this post is, as Pete Townsend once allegedly self-deprecatingly said, A Quick One (I believe he said this at the Rolling Stones Circus. At least, I have a book that claims this to be so).
This is actually a T-shirt for New Zealand chucks.
This one I really like.
This is me saying TTFN.
16 May 2009
15 May 2009
I'd certainly put it down to the drugs, not insufficient attention during English classes.
Well - not that you were interested but hey, you have to go through some dross before we get to the music - most if it was due to John Howard.
No, really. Not so much to do with ideology, because there was barely a bee's dick between the espoused philosophies of the major parties, nor to do with any notion of party loyalty. It was because he was such a flagrantly reactionary little prick with a substantial streak of petty schoolyard vindictiveness. Plus, the sound of his voice made me want to strangle anything within reach.
Mind you, Kev's no better. His endless lecturing is delivered in such a pedagogical, artificial briefing style he's starting to rival Howard's whiny hectoring.
We want our leaders to be human, they respond by retreating into the media playbook. I don't think I've ever heard Rudd actually, directly answer any question he's been asked.
If I want fiction, I'll watch Law and Order or whatever.
I see on the news tonight that the Rugby League PR machine has swung into action with a vengeance. That group of meek and mild social reformers, the Brisbane Broncos, are supporting the Epilepsy Foundation through tonight's game. What a bunch of wets. And of course they are representative of all the league teams. "Rape? She was gagging for it, Your Honour. I'd never harm a woman, why, my mother is one."
We're going to get wall-to-wall propaganda for months, waddaya reckon?
Tonight's ritual whinge about the Americanisation of our language. This week I have heard Aussies whom I know well, whose pronuncation is at all other times straight Aussie, say the following:
"...well, on this rowt..."
"it's gen-you-wine..."We're fucking doomed I tell you, doomed.
Anyway, enough of the trials and tribulations of our dreary circadian existence. What we need is music, preferably lots of it and loud. Here's a tribute page. Heh heh.
So, while we're in the mood...no, not Glenn Miller, it's Paul Rodgers and Bad Co. Oh and do they have all the moves...and the trousers...
(*) Fuck me roan. A song about a carburettor. "Let the gas air mixture flow." You can't argue with that can you, where the hell would you start? Makes "four speed, dual quad, Positraction 409" seem absolutely normal.
10 May 2009
So it's been all those years during which Jensen Button has been circulating around countless F1 tracks in the middle or the back of the field (ie about 350 places ahead of Mark Webber, obligatory snipe now discharged).
But now it seems Jensen can't put a foot wrong, even as England's Up-Until-Recently-Great-But-Not-Exactly-White-Hope Lewis Hamilton, who was F1 champion last year, is a damaged brand on account of being a cheat. And once your brand is damaged, no matter how good a driver you are, you're dead meat. Nowadays, it's all about the Brand.
So let's all get behind Jensen Button. At least there we'll be giving Mark some company, boom-boom.
Having been too busy to do anything bloggish during the week beyond a couple of comments around the traps, I've been to BookForum tonight. Here's what I found.
Why FaceBook doesn't work as a business. Beats me why people use it for anything. Disclosure: I had a page for a while but I couldn't figure out how to find people whom I didn't know already. I'm sure it's simple because of all the people who've found school friends, mothers, fathers, lost pets, deceased pets, two cent pieces that had fallen down the back of the lounge and so on, but I couldn't do it. And without that gigantic incentive, it just seemed like such a waste of time.
I am on LinkedIn, but again the people I've found are ones I knew already and the only ones who post regularly only seem to be joining groups such as Obsessively Interested in Finding Enough Two Cents Pieces to Become Rich. I'm evidently missing the point - in fact I'm missing all of them.
But what about this? (That was kind of a joke).
But this is serious. I haven't heard of Carlota Perez and there are so many embedded links in the article I'd have to take a week off to get through them. But her work seems interesting (in the sense of being genuinely interesting, not in "interesting" as in "I don't like it)." Here's a sample, it's analytical and descriptive rather than normative but presumably later in the book you get to the instructions.
Anyway, if you do have a week a to spare you can go diving for yourselves.
There wasn't a Friday night music clip because we went out to see some real live music. This was the main act and he was brilliant as you'd expect, but the support was the bloke you see below and it was really good.
(*) Obscure Rolling Stones reference. Unless you're of my generation and musical tastes, I guess.
07 May 2009
But once you have seen it it will be new to you and I think you will like it.
Oh I almost forgot, here it is.
See you in about, oh, three years I reckon.
I love Poms.
05 May 2009
So I did.
The Ferrari Formula 1 team fired their entire pit crew yesterday. The announcement followed Ferrari's decision to take advantage of the UK Government's Youth Opportunity Scheme and employ people from Glasgow.
The decision to hire them followed a recent documentary on how unemployed youths from the Govan and Possilpark areas of Glasgow were able to remove a set of wheels in less than 6 seconds without proper equipment, whereas Ferrari's existing crew can only do it in 8 seconds with millions of euros worth of high tech equipment.
As most races are won and lost in the pits, Ferrari thought they had the advantage over every team. However, Ferrari got more than they bargained for. At the first practice session, the Govan & Possilpark pit crew successfully changed the tyres in less than 6 seconds, but within 12 seconds they had re-sprayed, re-badged and sold the vehicle to the McLaren team for 8 bottles of WKD Irn Bru, a kilo of speed and some photos of Lewis Hamilton's bird in the shower.
and here's one for the intellectuals amongst youse...
The financial crisis – explained in simple terms:
Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Berlin. In order to increase sales, she decides to allow her loyal customers - most of whom are unemployed alcoholics - to drink now but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans).
Word gets around and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi's bar. Taking advantage of her customers' freedom from immediate payment constraints, Heidi increases her prices for wine and beer, the most-consumed beverages. Her sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic customer service consultant at the local bank recognises these customer debts as valuable future assets and increases Heidi's borrowing limit. He sees no reason for undue concern since he has the debts of the alcoholics as collateral.
At the bank's corporate headquarters, expert bankers transform these customer assets into DRINKBONDS, ALKBONDS and PUKEBONDS. These securities are then traded on markets worldwide. No one really understands what these abbreviations mean and how the securities are guaranteed. Nevertheless, as their prices continuously climb, the securities become top-selling items. One day, although the prices are still climbing, a risk manager (subsequently of course fired due his
negativity) of the bank decides that the time has come to demand payment of the
debts incurred by the drinkers at Heidi's bar. However, they cannot pay back the debts. Heidi cannot fulfil her loan obligations and claims bankruptcy. DRINKBOND and ALKBOND drop in price by 95%. PUKEBOND performs better, stabilizing in price after dropping by 80%.
The suppliers of Heidi's bar, having granted her generous payment due dates and having invested in the securities, are faced with a new situation. Her wine supplier claims bankruptcy, and her beer supplier is taken over by a competitor. The bank is saved by the Government following dramatic round-the-clock consultations by leaders from the governing political parties. The funds required for this purpose are obtained by a tax levied on the non-drinkers.
Finally an explanation we can all understand...
02 May 2009
I distinctly remember coming to after being returned to bed finding water in my ears that at the time confused me since I had not been swimming or had taken a shower while asleep.It is, as a former supervisor used to say while reviewing something I'd written, a "rattling good read" and if you are in the slightest way uneasy at what aliens are doing to some people every night, you would be well advised to read it.
There are no references to anal probes specifically, but plenty of poking and prodding and being forced to have sex. And making metal boxes.
This, on the other hand, is far scarier as it appears to demonstrate that a focus on the superficial is really the sine qua non for both writer and reviewer and so increasingly represents the average level of public discourse and interest. But wait until you get to the first comment.
There's been an ad on TV for some time, advertising some silly thing made by Kentucky Fried Something which has as its USP that you can eat it with one hand. So some bloke ambles into a party, scratches some vinyl, performs a ludicrous hand ritual with someone and walks out. I hope they really were scratching that LP, not playing some Bach.
However, the main thing about the ad is that the rolly thing has switchity mayo among its ingredients. Switchity. I'd never heard of that stuff before. Wonder what it tastes like.
Well I was really tired last night, hence the one-picture blog instead of the usual listless traipse through the weird and wonderful, such as we have just undertaken.
But oh the horror, we have not had a song in our heart to take into the weekend. OK, now we do: ladies and gents, give it up (how on earth did that expression originate?) for the Manhattan Transfer. You don't get stuff like this on the all electric radio any more.