15 August 2006

'Tiser keeps abreast of the times

There's an identity crisis in the Adelaide media, or at least that large chunk of it owned by News Ltd. The Advertiser has recently revamped and renamed its website Adelaidenow (no space between words). This is the only website of the News metropolitan dailies which has changed its name from that of the parent paper. Notwithstanding this, Adelaidenow is offering a free subscription to the (online only) " Advertiser PM Edition" (or "edtition" as the home page describes it ).

Adelaidenow or Advertiser? Is this a marketing exercise designed to gauge the interest in a separate online infotainment daily (which, as Adelaidenow does, can draw its stories from all over the News empire) or is it evidence of in house divisions in the city where Mr Murdoch began his rise to global ascendancy?

13 August 2006

A community event

This week is the hard rubbish collection week in my street. The council gives residents the opportunity to discard unwanted items which are too large to be taken in its regular collections. The items are supposed to be put on the kerb between noon on the Saturday and 7 am of the Monday of the relevant week. What also happened today is that people, both residents and outsiders I'd guess, toured the area looking for items for which they might have some use. I put out a settee and a lounge chair , and they were snapped up by a person further down the street, who in turn put out a floral lounge chair. I've not checked to see if it is still there.

This scavenging, and that word with its negative connoations doesn't seem quite right has become a local custom, and one to which little if any stigma is attached. It gives neighbours something to talk about, and more of them do stop to talk about it and some, such as my next door neighbour, act informally to assist potential collectors. I believe that it provides a modest form of community strengthening: by doing our bit to tidy up our own homes we sometimes even help our neighbours in unexpected small ways.

10 August 2006

Advertisers out of step with reality

As the media, including the BBC , Aljazeera and news.com.au report, air travel to and from UK airports has been disrupted by what the BBC describes as an "airlines terror plot".

A common thread of all reports, supported by references to and pictures of chaos at Heathrow, is that intending travellers should defer travel if possible or otherwise be prepared for long delays and extra security precautions, including restrictions on cabin baggage (which seem to extend to personal reading matter).

As I seek more information on the subject, the advertisers who fasten on to my searches seem oddly inappropriate, to say the least. Here are some example of "sponsored links" (sponsored not by me needless to say):

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Chauffeur London Airports

Luxury Mercedes in South East UK 1st Class Taxis at Great Rates

Airport Transfers London

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Heathrow Flights

Compare cheap flight deals to Heathrow from top airlines.

08 August 2006

Census: room at the internet

Tonight I completed my census form on the internet. I wouldn't have been surprised had the census website collapsed under the pressure applied by the estimated 1,000,000 others doing likewise, but it didn't. Whether this was because fewer than expected chose this option or because the system had been built strong enough to carry the load, or whether others have had a different experience, I don't know, but I'll give credit where credit is due and say "Well done ABS".

Fourth test snippets

Where there's mucking about there's money

I'm listening to the BBC radio online description of the Headingley England v Pakistan test. Because the game was evenly poised at the start (though is no longer as I type with Pakistan 5/84 at lunch chasing 300+) a good crowd turned up but caught the ground authorities napping.

The BBC invited the Yorkshire secretary to explain why so many people willing to pay 15 quid ($38) to get in had to wait for so long to do so. His explanation was bizarre: each ticket had to be sold individually, and then the stubs reconciled, presumably while the queues inched forward.

I'll be interested to see how widely this bumbling is reported elsewhere in the British media.

Sun's cricket man gives soccer a boost

In the lunchtime discussion a panel including John Etheridge, the Sun's cricket writer (is "correspondent" too multisyllabic a term for that paper?), ruminated about various matters sporting. In the course of conceding that this northern summer's cricket season hadn't grabbed the public's imagination as last year's had done, Mr Etheridge actually referred to the world game as "soccer". I hope that all the people in Australia who have insisted that the game be called "football" take note.

Mud soup in Guantanamo: on the Cuban side of the wire

Despite my criticism of the practices allegedly condoned by the authorities supervising the US "facility" at Guantanamo Bay I'm not entirely blind to the shortcomings of the Cuban regime on the other side of the wire. Spiegel Online (English version) reports how the regime treats dissidents, for example "
A former detainee of a jail in the Cuban city of Guantánamo recalls that the drinking water was so muddy you had to wait for the sand to settle before drinking it."

07 August 2006

The man who wasn't there

Today's Australian "Cut & Paste" section (p15, not online) prints an excerpt from what appears to be a review on ABC Radio National by Imre Salusinszky of "Honour Bound", a "theatrical performance based on the imprisonment of David Hicks". The excerpt includes these comments

David Hicks doesn't present himself automatically as a subject for these performances. Artists have to accept responsibility for the choices they make, and I think this one is not just out of touch with the Australian community, but somewhat offensive, given what international Islamism has done to us.

We all say that al-Qa'ida is the enemy and we have to flush them out before they kill again, yet we choose this one man, who admits to being in al-Qa'ida and, because he has an Australian passport, make him the focus of protests and petitions and films and plays. There's a great inconsistency here.

Mr Salusinszky did indeed say these words on the arts program The Deep End (audio still available) last Thursday. What
The Australian didn't say (apart from that Mr S is its NSW political reporter) is on the program website: "
Imre Salusinszky hasn't seen Honour Bound as yet - but he's got some strong views about putting the story of David Hicks on stage."

In its arts pages today the paper does print
a review of Honour Bound
"Hicks's jail tale triggers passionate response" by John McCallum, who appeared with Mr S on The Deep End discussion.

It's clear from his descriptions of the action

In a vast steel cage, six performers, choreographed superbly by Garry Stewart, are surrounded by projected texts and video, enveloped in sound and voices, and awash with harsh, shredded light as they fly, hang or turn in the air, crashing against the bars, floor or each other and dance violently, abjectly or tenderly around this frightening, nightmarish space"

that he has actually seen the piece, though he acknowledges that

Because David Hicks has become such a powerful symbol -- a monster, a victim, a terrorist, a martyr, depending on who's talking -- it will anger and upset different audiences for different reasons.

Now that his piece has been mentioned in The Australian I wonder whether Mr S will be clarifying that he didn't see the performance. Somehow I doubt it.

04 August 2006

Stop it, you'll go bland

Today in Spiked Frank Furedi explores the event to be held in London tomorrow which will bring into the open (and to the nation's television screens) a practice which has hitherto been " associated with sad old men wearing dirty raincoats".
He continues "now it is no longer seen as a sordid exhibition, but rather as an exercise in raising awareness about safe s-x." In keeping with the best traditions of political correctness doing drugs, drinking alcohol and smoking will be forbidden, while the event will be open to "people of both genders and s-x-al orientations", though people who exhibit "prejudice, disrespect and intolerance of other people" will be blackballed, ...er... sorry, asked to leave. Libertarians need not completely despair: fully clothed people will not be allowed into the rooms set aside for the competition.

What is this practice? If you've not deduced the answer already, read the article.

Levity aside, Furedi makes many pertinent points, not just about the subject of tomorrow's event. Take this for example:

In recent decades, intimate relationships between people appear to have become more complicated. The expectation of failure and of instability surrounds the institution of marriage, even of cohabitation. It is now common for people to approach their private relationships with a heightened sense of emotional risk. Popular and academic culture contributes to this process: it helps to legitimise our insecurities regarding the possibility of finding love and experiencing fulfilling and passionate relationships.

Today’s ‘therapy culture’ transmits clear signals about ourselves and our attachments to others. We are continually instructed to attend to our own needs in order to fulfil ourselves. Even happiness is discussed as a problem if its realisation depends on others. Indeed, feelings that distract individuals from the goal of self-fulfilment are often defined in negative terms. That is why in many self-help books the feeling of love, especially of the intense and passionate variety, is treated as a problem. Although love is portrayed as the supreme source of self-fulfilment, it is also depicted as potentially harmful because it threatens to subordinate the self to another. The passionate feeling of love towards another person is represented as destructive and dangerous.

03 August 2006

Gratuitous comments about community standards

In today's Crikey (not online) Misha Ketchell reports that The Age's policy of reimbursing the cost of meals consumed by its restaurant reviewers no longer extends to the reimbursement of gratuities paid by the said reviewers.

After pointing out that The Age is the odd person out in the Fairfax media in this respect , he goes on to argue that in Australia there is a "community standard"of a "modest tip, usually of between 5 and 10%.
To unilaterally absolve oneself of this obligation is a bit like declaring you're no longer obliged to stand up for the elderly on public transport."

IMO this is balderdash: the Australian practice, custom, community standard, call it what you will, is that tipping in restaurants is not obligatory, though it may be voluntary eg where a higher standard of service than expected has been provided , or where a group of people have chipped in to cover the cost of their meal and there is some change left over. If tipping is accepted as a "community standard" we won't be far away from the situation common in UK, and perhaps other countries, where an "optional" or "discretionary" service charge (in my limited experience usually 12%) is added to bills.

02 August 2006

Britain doesn't waive rules on rubbish

The UK Daily Mail has recently reported some bizarre examples of the British nanny state in action.

They include instances of children arrested for climbing a tree and cautioned for playing hopscotch in the street.

The authorities have also not gone soft on adults who break the increasingly prescriptive laws.
Putting rubbish out early is now an offence, while residents who fail to prevent local fauna from disturbing their rubbish or who put junk mail in a public rubbish bin instead of their domestic one have been threatened with fines.

At least a small measure of commonsense seems to have prevailed in the case of the woman who was
charged with
putting her rubbish in the wrong bin : she was acquitted after refusing to pay the fine.

I try to do the right thing with my waste, which is put into wheelie bins for collection, but I'll be even more vigilant now in case my local council tries to enforce crackbrained rules like these.

01 August 2006

Farewell VHS movies

Today I culled my collection of VHS movies and consigned most of them to the bin to await tomorrow's collection.

I've already replaced many of them with DVD copies, which take up less space and are easier to operate. I particularly like those with extras such as directors' commentaries and English for the hearing impaired subtitles (my hearing's not bad enough to qualify for the DSP but I occasionally miss a muffled comment or two).

I'm always on the lookout for new DVD releases (and rereleases), both local and international, though I'm annoyed by regional coding(what's happening to it under the Aust-US Free Trade Agreement?) which puts barriers in the way of Australians who want to buy DVDs available elsewhere.

I'd also like to see more reviews of DVDs in the media. The SBS Movie Show has IMO been unfairly terminated but its ghost lingers, at least for the moment, on the program's website. ABC TV's otherwise worthy At The Movies doesn't deign to review DVDs, which leaves the local street mag Rip It Up and Lawrie Zion's "Letterbox" column in The Weekend Australian as my principal sources of information on new DVD releases. Unfortunately neither the mag's reviews nor Lawrie's column are online.

Last weekend's, Lawrie asked his readers to nominate movies which aren't available on DVD, either because they've never been released or are no longer available. A brief look at IMDb will reveal many films, eg the Charles Chauvel Australian movies Jedda and Sons of Matthew and world cinema greats such as Satyajit Ray's Charulata , which are not available in that format, even though many of them are or have been available on VHS.

I'll be getting in touch with Lawrie and adding my five cents' (or more) worth. If you have your own suggestions you can contact him at lawrie.zion@bigpond.com