Kyle does it again

Posted Thursday November 24, 2011 by John Gunders in |

I read an interesting article on Mumbrella this morning: apparently Kyle Sandilands has said something offensive and regrettable on his terrible radio show. The station owners are in damage control and sponsors are publicly abandoning the show.

So what was it this time? Apparently he made disparaging remarks about Magda Szubanski’s weight. What? Oh, sorry, wasn’t I clear? It was an article by Tim Burrowes called “Is Kyle Sandilands’ live broadcasting career over?” published in September 2009. Read it here.

On that occasion Kyle and co-host Jackie O were taken off air for two week as punishment for a series of inappropriate stunts, most spectacluarly the lie-detector rape debacle. As I recall there was outrage on Twitter and elsewhere, advertisers furiously distanced themselves, and the man himself appeared chastened and apologetic. Sound familiar?

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It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Posted Tuesday May 24, 2011 by Lisa Gunders in |

So, Saturday or Sunday, depending on how you reckon the time zones, was supposed to be the Rapture . . . at least according to Harold Camping.

I’ve read or heard about the Rapture since I was first able to read. What has been equally clear to me since that time is that the belief that it will happen—if it happens—in the way that Camping suggests is not widespread or given much credence in the mainstream Churches. The one thing that they do agree on is that God will come again to judge the living and the dead. Now that may be some big day of judgement or, as many believe, it applies to each of us as we die. Sooner or later, each of us faces our maker and has to give an account. Which brings us to the heart of the matter – what will that account be?

One Christian challenge that is given wide credence is that we should live each day as if it were our last. And lets face it, every time we step out of our door and into the traffic that is a distinct possibility. But this is not simply a Christian thing; our culture has a strong tradition, particularly in women’s magazines, of telling stories about individuals who face serious illness or death and reassess their priorities. They decide that the really important things in life are family and friends and health and taking time to smell the roses. It’s one of those stories by which we perpetuate our cultural values, the ones we kid ourselves that we still hold in spite of the reality of our pace of life, the ones we think are really important.

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A Child is for Life Not Just for Christmas

Posted Saturday December 11, 2010 by Lisa Gunders in |

Walking through the shopping centre the other night and there amongst the silvery-green, glittery mistletoe and the bright, tacky tinsel was the World Vision stall. I leaned over to my family and said, “want to buy a little black boy?” You see, I can’t help it, but every time I see that stand, wherever it is, I’m reminded of the scene in The Blues Brothers where Jake and Elwood are sitting in the expensive restaurant gesturing at the rich, white man sitting at the next table and shouting, “the girl. How much for the little girl?”. It has to be one of the funniest scenes in film.

So when I pass the World Vision stand, with the faux-framed pictures of all the little black children waiting to be rescued sitting on boxes made to look like shipping crates, I think of Jake and Elwood trying to buy the pretty little blonde girl.

I know, of course, that World Vision actually does vital work with communities and is not in the business of selling children. But in their “sponsor a child” advertising they are in the business of selling a particular idealised image of childhood, and the effectiveness of the campaign relies on an affective response to knowledge of the gap between the reality of the individual (little black child’s) life and the valorised, affluent, white, western ideal.

And so we have a Government

Posted Tuesday September 7, 2010 by Lisa Gunders in |

Unlike most people I know, I’m not sighing “at last”. I think this has possibly been the best thing to happen to Australian politics in many years, as I indicated in my last post.

I caught as much of the press conferences today as I could, even though I’ve been avoiding as much of the speculation and teeth gnashing in the News Limited press as possible over the last three weeks – they shit me beyond belief and have since the early 2000s.

It seems to me that what ultimately decided two of the independents, and what separated them from the third, was vision. And I don’t mean vision of the two major parties; for the most part, that is still seriously lacking.

Bob Katter, love him, is a man of principle and I respect him for that, no less so for his decision today.

Social Media and Relationships

Posted Tuesday July 6, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Just so that you know that we are not all dead in memesland, I just read this article by John Birmingham on the Brisbane News website. His argument is that despite the popular stereotype of the social media user being a sad, lonely, loser, alone at a keyboard, his experience is the opposite:

The net and its various ways of connecting people is not driving us all apart. Quite the opposite. It’s creating virtual communities which can easily, and often do transform themselves into real world friendship circles or social networks, to use an uglier, more sociological term. I’ve been online for years now, and although I gathered my oldest and closest friends to me long before I sent my first tweet or wrote my first blog entry, most of my new friends, and they are real friends for the most part, have come from the unreal world of the web, from the supposedly isolating, distancing digital realms.

Most of the friends I connect with regularly on Facebook, Twitter, and other networks we have developed over the years are people I knew before the relationships moved online, the social network provides another channel to exercise that relationship. There are also people I only know through social networks, and I look forward to meeting them in person, sometime.

My eldest is an avid user of Twitter, and on turning 18 started attending the monthly meetup of Brisbane Twitter users, moving hitherto online relationships to face to face ones.

I know of research being conducted that suggests that this sort of social media use—using online mechanisms to enhance pre-existing relationships—is common. Maybe a bit more about that later…

In the meantime, Birmingham’s take is a refreshing antidote to the doom and gloom that usually surrounds social media use.

Some Thoughts on Asylum Seekers

Posted Sunday May 16, 2010 by Lisa Gunders in |

A couple of weeks ago, I took part in an Amnesty International campaign objecting to the suspension of asylum applications from people from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka. It’s one of these things where you fill in your details and they give you the outline of a letter. Of course, you can personalise the wording and I do so. I figure if I care enough about an issue to send an email, then I should care enough to think about what actually goes in it. I was rather surprised and impressed that my local member (or at least his office) replied very shortly after receiving my emails. Got to give him credit for that. It is years since I’ve received a quick reply from a politician in relation to an organised campaign. He seems to be a decent bloke. Most people are, as individuals.

For those of you who missed it, on 9 April this year the federal government announced that they were suspending the processing of asylum applications from people from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka on the grounds that the situation in each of those countries was improving and is under review by the UNHCR and that the government had denied an increasing number of applications from people from those countries in recent months. The government also intends to reopen the Curtin detention centre, as the offshore centres are overflowing.

Now obviously I have problems with the suspension, but I also have problems with the practice of routine detention, still recognising that a period of quarantine while health checks are carried out is probably in everyone’s interest. What especially gets my goat is the way that asylum seekers have been used as a political football by governments and media in a process that brings out the worst in us as Australians and deters the public expression of compassion.

Brandjacking Tourism

Posted Friday April 2, 2010 by John Gunders in |

Within hours of Tourism Australia announcing their new tourism campaign, There’s Nothing Like Australia, to be launched on 15 April, there was a spoof site registered under the domain http://www.nothinglikeaustralia.net. The campaign plans to mobilise social networking and user produced content to spread its message, a policy that might be a little risky, if the spoof is anything to go by.

The Australian reports that the tourism body is taking an unusually relaxed approach to the spoof:

Tourism Australia has had its new $150 million advertising campaign “There’s nothing like Australia” spoofed by a “brandjacker” using images of Lindy Chamberlain, the Cronulla riots and Steve Irwin.

But after investigating the website the tourism body has decided to take no action, despite the mock ads using TA’s intellectual property.

Of course, this isn’t the first time this has happened. The previous major campaign, the much maligned “Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” effort attracted a number of spoofs, most famously by Dan Ilic, and the one by the Chaser team. (Warning, possibly not safe for work). There’s even a New Zealand version. Here’s the original, if you don’t remember it.

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Kevin Drum: The Public's Right to Know

Posted Tuesday September 1, 2009 by Nick Caldwell in |

Interesting link from Kevin Drum on one of the consequences of the decline in traditional newspaper reporting budgets — newspapers are less likely to file lawsuits to obtain information from public bodies.

Drum wraps up with a sentence that tickled me somewhat:

In the great power struggle between government secrecy and the public’s right to know, the demise of the newspaper industry is a victory for the bad guys.

Well, of course. It’s because we let the bad guys — hi, Rupert! — buy up the entire newspaper industry.

Google and Digitisation (again)

Posted Tuesday June 30, 2009 by John Gunders in |

An interesting article by Lynne Spender in Meanjin about Google’s ambitions to digitise the world’s books (probably behind the paywall):

Perhaps I am optimistic by nature, but when Google first announced that it was planning to digitise the world’s books and create the greatest library ever, I was enthusiastic. I thought it was an example of digital technology doing for our generation—and those that follow—what print technology did for the generations of readers and writers after its introduction in the fifteenth century. Just as Gutenberg’s printing press brought increased and independent access to knowledge and information 600 years ago, it seemed possible that the Google Library Project’s searchable database of the world’s books would allow access to our entire cultural heritage in digital format. It would be a new res publica litterarum for a new age of digital enlightenment.

Spender’s article focused mainly on the IP and copyright issues of digitising books, but my interest is in the fundamental issue of a for-profit company owning potentially the only digital copies of the Western literary heritage. I’ve written about this before.

To this point Google seems to have acted honourably (the “Paper of Record” issue notwithstanding), but I still fear that one day all this treasure will find itself behind a paywall. Organisations such as Project Gutenberg cannot compete with the finances of Google and will be left behind.

As an update to my earlier post, it seems that Google has finally sorted out the technical problems and most of the material that was available through “Paper of Record” is now available through the Google News Archive Search. There is an interesting overview here from Inside Higher Ed. However, there remain complaints that the search interface is not nearly as user-friendly as the original.

Wanted: Australia’s missing newspapers

Posted Wednesday June 3, 2009 by John Gunders in |

If there’s a stack of old newspapers gathering dust under the bed or out in the shed, Australian libraries want to know about it. The search is on for these valuable pieces of our social history, as part of the Australian Newspaper Plan, a nation-wide initiative of state and territory libraries designed to find, collect and preserve access to historic newspapers.

Some of Australia’s most wanted newspapers include:

  • Cairns Advocate (1897-1882);
  • Croydon Miner (1887-1888)
  • Mundic Miner and Etheridge Gazette (1889-1917);
  • Pilbarra Goldfields News (1901);
  • Renmark Pioneer (1893-1895).

Once the wanted newspapers have been tracked down, they will be saved to ensure their preservation for future generations. Access will be available through the libraries. For a full list of the wanted newspapers, go to www.nla.gov.au/anplan

─Judith Dahl Taylor
Communications and Marketing Manager
National Library of Australia