Thursday, January 24, 2008

Woke up this morning/Got email from Mum ...

This morning I received the following email forward from my mum, who receives many of these kind of things:

"In a moment I'm going to ask you to support the most unusual campaign we have ever launched -- but first, some background.

Facebook, the social networking website, is getting a lot of attention these days. In the trade union movement, there are differences of opinion about how useful Facebook actually is. Some of us are making a real effort to find out by using Facebook as an organizing tool.

One of them is senior LabourStart correspondent Derek Blackadder, from Canada. Derek's day job is as a staffer for the country's largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). He's one of the people who thinks Facebook is potentially quite useful for trade unionists.

Well, maybe not so much anymore.

You see, a few days ago, Derek was banned from Facebook.

I'll let John Wood from the U.K. tell the story in his own words:

Derek got a note from the good book, telling him he was trying to add too many friends, and should calm down a bit, or else. Now as a union organiser, he’s quite likely to want to add lots of friends - it’s kind of what he does. So he waits a bit and tries again, and is told he can’t add any more at the moment and to wait and try later. Fair enough. He waits a bit more and tries again, same message. By now, he’s probably frothing at the mouth and muttering "must organise, must organise", so he has another go to see if the coast is clear, and promptly gets himself a ban. That being a ban from Facebook itself - no more profile, no access to the stuff he’s built up, no appeal.

John has launched a Facebook group to sign people up to protest the ban on Derek. I am writing to ask each and every one of you to take a moment and sign up to join the group. If you are not yet signed up on Facebook, join the 60,000,000 others who have done so and sign up.

We know that this isn't nearly as important as most of the other campaigns we do on LabourStart -- and if you read all of John's article you'll detect a somewhat light-hearted tone.

Still, as social networks become more and more important, our access to them as trade unionists must be protected. These are early days yet -- I know that most of you are not yet signed up to Facebook. This is good time to see whether we can mobilize the kind of support -- the thousands of names -- that will force the owners of Facebook to reverse course and allow Derek to do what he does so well: organize.

Thanks for your help on this. And spread the word! "

I'm sorry to say that this is probably one of those private vs public space things, and is a losing battle; fundamentally flawed. Facebook is and will always be used for advertising. The connections Derek is using to build up in his Facebook profile aren't owned by Derek in the way that he owns his email address book. Facebook owns every single one of those connections and addresses, Derek just uses them - working for free to maintain and add to them. Facebook plans to flog those connections to advertisers looking to micro-advertise to every one of Derek's thousands and thousands of "friends". Unfortunately, the more people Derek connects with, the broader those micro-connections become and the less defined Facebook's advertising scheme becomes. Someone could send their ads to everyone on Derek's Facebook list, only half of whom would care about it.

Also, Facebook doesn't really want to support anyone running around using it for causes that might upset their advertising dollar. Thousands of friends? All connected via one degree? The huge web he has created is perfect in that one sense, it means that it guarantees an advertising demographic all roughly similar and more likely to be susceptible to specific forms of advertising (a Facebook group of people who all fancy china collectables will be perfect for targeted advertising from eBay about collectables auctions, for example).
But a huge group of people from a public employee's union?
What do unions buy as a group? Nothing!
More importantly, what do unionists like to buy as individuals? Nothing!
What is the purpose of the union's existence? To cause trouble for capitalists and employers!
Capitalists and employers are the ones who spend bucks at Facebook to have their advertising go to just the right kind of people. Unions aren't full of the right kind of people. They are full of the Wrong Kind of People who tend to save and think rather than spend and drool thoughtlessly in front of a computer (on average).

Derek is running into the same problems one might have were they attempting to set up a protest march in a shopping mall - it's a privately-run business. They can just call the cops and chuck you out whenever you want! (See Naomi Klein's No Logo for a more detailed discussion of the loss of public spaces if you can really be bothered). Just because Facebook exists on that great modern equaliser, The Internet, doesn't mean it's democratic in even the slightest sense.

Frankly, I'm surprised that a union organiser bought the hype over Facebook. It's not a social networking site, like all it's advertising and spin says it is. It is a social categorising site that uses networking as a front for gaining a high-definition picture of each and every consumer group. You feed on the sweet sweet endorphins of fleeting popularity while you hook your life up to the machine so that as your Facebook page grows with friends and groups and causes, so does the information via which Facebook can make money of you for free. It is an utterly flawed tool for union organising, like slipping rally leaflets into mass-delivered junk mail. Unionism is about the people organising themselves to combat exploitation and to guard their rights. But what good is it when the entire communication network is owned by a single, privately-owned company, whose conditions for use are inherently exploitative?

Stick to the emails, Derek.


GTH - River skewered Guess The Header for last entry - they were indeed votive candles in a Catholic Church (Notre Dme Cathedral). This post's competition is more like homework than Where's Wally. The riddle runs thus: how does the title relate to the post? It's quite cryptic and involves a few jumps. Clue? Start with a TV show theme ...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Poor Old Heath

Friendly Fire's post has some interesting discussion (that I haven't looked into) that indicates that Heath Ledger's death may have been due to a self-medication mishap. It will all come out in the next few days I'm sure.
Days?!? Who am I kidding? Exactly two hours after I first read the supremely distasteful Age website headline "Dead in Bed" pasted tabloid-style over his smiling face (they've changed it now be in line with SMH's slightly more tasteful "Ledger Dies In New York: Pills found near star's naked body"), Mele reported that had posted the actual footage of his dead body being removed from the building in which he died.

I always liked Heath Ledger. Everyone did. I think the reason is because he wasn't a spoof or a character like your Gibsons, your Crowes or tabloid fodder. He appeared to be a professional actor who did his job well and that was about it. No weird churches, no awful publicity stunts and a respectable little body of work behind him. I believe the true measure of a celebrity's popularity is the amount of jokes that are made about their deaths. I'm betting on a score of zero for Heath.

I also have a little story about Heath that may or may not be true because it has been on to me second hand (which isn't bad, really): a few years ago two girls that Mele tutored went to Sydney. While they were there they decided to go to the movies during the day. While they were standing there, trying to pick what movie they wanted to see, one of them looks over and sees a scruffy looking young guy wearing a baseball cap and dark glasses doing the same thing.
"Excuse me," says the girl. "Are you Heath Ledger?"
Heath looks a bit sheepish and quietly admits that he is.
"Are you just here to see a movie by yourself?" she asks. Heath says yes.
"Do you want to come and see one with us?" asks the girl. Heath thinks about it and agrees. So they all buy tickets and troop into the movie theatre together and watch the movie. Afterwards he thanks them for their company and they go their separate ways. Heath didn't have to go to the movies by himself and the girls got a little celebrity story to dine out on for the next few years. I bet they're telling it as I type it.

Youtube and Tennis II

It's a little embarrassing to realise that I'm repeating myself year after year on this blog. Just about everything I'm putting into this post I replicated last year. It's also worth noting that I was completely wrong about Gael Monfils. I haven't heard anything from him since.

Anyhow ... First, the prediction. More the comment. If you are a Leyton Hewitt fan, then here is a video of the first bloke to beat him in straight sets in Melbourne since 2000. If you think Spewy is a little prick who deserves to have the pants whooped off of him, then this is, curiously, also a video for you. I give you the number three seed: Novak Djokovic.

Jim Courier is still around and I think I've solved last year's Cool Commentator or Crass Cockhead Conundrum. He is both. He is an annoying, sexist, American jock. Oversexed, overorange and over here. However, having listened to John Alexander, Todd Woodbridge and Aussie Drongo Number Three tittering and chortling over the women's doubles last night, I must say that I preferred Courier's cheeky, know-it-all and often bizarrely surreal commentary. Yes, Dad, he is American, but his input to the coverage is many times more entertaining and bearable than our national old farts whose idea of interesting is to repeat over and over again how hard the 'girls' hit the ball as though it were a revelatory insight. You could hear them stuffing their fists in their mouths when the super slo-mo camera showed a chest-high shot of Molik hitting the ball. At least Jim would have covered the comment-less silence like the Pro he is. Probably with something like: "Hur hur, boobies." And thus does my point stand. Entertaining and knowledgeable!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Imaginary letter taped up outside the fruit and veg shop in Cotton Beach, Maroochydore

Dear Arsehole,

We are two young students from Adelaide. We were married last year and haven't been on a holiday since because we've been working hard to support ourselves and to save for a trip to Queensland. We chose Queensland because I have family up here who I don't get to see very often and who my wife has never met. We also chose to come here because my wife has a lot of health problems from which she can find temporary relief in the northern tropical climate before we have to go back to dry, hot South Australia.

Here we are:

Our parents pitched in and bought us plane tickets and donated money towards hiring a car so that we would not be relying on long distance public transport with my wife's health problems and so that we would not be imposing upon my relatives for transport.

We visited Maroochydore in our car and stayed in the hostel. We bought and cooked our own meals to save money. On the morning of the fourteenth we were leaving and decided to go to this fruit shop to buy some cheap breakfast.

While we were inside, you keyed our car. It wasn't an accident. You weren't simply careless with a trolley or a surf board. We can tell by the way the particles of metallic paint came out of that long scratch across the two doors and by the way you gave it a little signature squiggle in the middle.

You've never owned a car, never had to have one resprayed. You've never had to hire a car either and never had to sign all the declarations and releases they give you in which you promise to hand over enough money to cover not only a relatively small scratch but also major damage to a new vehicle and its expensive inner workings.

When we returned the car to the airport we had to sign over
all of our life's savings to the car hire company so that they can send the car to one of their approved repairers (which we have no say in) for a quote (which we will have no control over). And that was after we talked them down because we simply couldn't afford to give them the large amount of money they wanted.

How much, you ask? How much could that little scratch possibly be? No problem, arsehole. I'll tell you:
We took it to a Toyota-approved spray shop. They quoted
$600. (That's for the metallic paint - you know, the kind they always have in car commercials because it looks better, but actually adds thousands of dollars to the cost of the base model?)
When we took it back to the hire desk they wanted (on top of the hire fee) $3000 damage excess plus $300 GST.
Then (oh no, the money does not stop!) because your petty vandalism is viewed by the hire company as a single car accident (not a multiple-car mishap for which they can charge other insurance companies) they also wanted another $2400 on top of that $3300.
So, you, my thoughtless little fistula, turned what should have been a memorable budget holiday for healing and connecting with family into a stressful and expensive exercise, tainted by the knowledge that were handing over an indefinitely large percentage of the money we had saved up for leaner times (like after returning from a much-needed holiday).

We have no idea yet what the hire company's paint shop will quote, nor exactly what we will receive when they are finished removing whatever administration fees they deem necessary.

I wish a similar experience upon you.

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32