Archive for the ‘Grumbling’ Category

Democracy is dead.

Friday, September 15th, 2017
Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy

Cleisthenes, the father of Athenian democracy

It’s been high jacked by the ‘popularists’

The democratic process was designed so society could move forward, towards a better future, by voting in people with vision, compassion and a willingness to selflessly serve society.

We now have candidates running for office who are more interested in remaining in power than doing anything positive.

No sooner do they win an election than they put all their resources into being re elected and remaining in power.

Their only strategy is to win the next election and their only policy is to pander to their electoral base.

Any media who is against them is considered ‘fake news’, any opposition organisations are regarded as ‘terrorists’ and any inquiries into their behaviour is a ‘witch hunt’.

They try to divide the citizens into good and bad.

This phenomenon isn’t restricted to crackpots and political minions like Pauline Hanson or Jackie Lamby in Australia. It’s playing out on a world stage, at a very high level.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Beata Maria Szydło in Poland, Viktor Orban in Hungary, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Hun Sen in Cambodia and even, as unlikely as it may seem, Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, who has turned a blind eye to the ethic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.

The list goes on.

And let’s not forget, Donald Trump in the USA.

They all claim that they have a mandate and are doing if for the ultimate good of the people.

Foreign policy is even used as tool to promote the local popularist agenda.

The increased US sanctions on Russia, Iran and North Korea will do nothing to solve the issues. They will however pander to Trump’s electoral base.

The same goes for the right wing Polish government’s demonising of Lech Wałęsa, a pivotal figure in the Solidarity movement.

And now, Erdoğan is encouraging the Turks, living in Germany, to vote against Angela Merkel because of her opposition to his draconian measures.

History has also had its fair share of those seeking the popular vote.

Stalin in Russia, Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, Tito in Yugoslavia, Franco in Spain. And more recently Frank Bainimarama in Fiji.

They are just a few who have come to power with a popularist agenda. Which usually involves marginalising some part of their society.

Then there are the countries that have tried to avoid popularist politics by holding a referendum on divisive issues.

That didn’t all go well for the Conservatives in the U.K.  Now they have Teresa May and Brexit to contend with.

There’s also trouble in the UK, north of the border, with Scotland wondering how they will survive when they are out of the EU.

Closer to home we have Malcom-in-the-Middle wondering what to do with an ex PM who seems to want to grab onto the popularist mantle and do a Lazarus, back to the top spot.

Abbott is also playing a sly hand with branch politics within the Liberal Party – some might even call it ‘branch stacking’.

All this back room politicking is happening in Australia, while housing is becoming unaffordable, infrastructure needs replacing, banks and aged care facilities are screwing their customers, climate change and aboriginal rights are being politicised, and farmers are being sidelined by the supermarket chains.

Now same sex marriage has gone to a postal vote, because the politicians don’t have the guts to have a ‘conscience vote’.

Basically no one is looking to the future.

The collective eyes are most definitely off the ball.

Many Australians seem to share my view about the demise of the current political system.

According to research, commissioned by the Museum of Australian Democracy in 2016, satisfaction with democracy has halved over the last decade.

The same research also found that federal governments, of any persuasion, were incapable of solving current issues.

The Athenians, led by Cleisthenes, established the first democracy in 508 to 507 BC.

Democracy has always been considered as the answer for social justice and equality. A system that allows all members to have equal say and power. (However this form of ancient democracy did exclude women, slaves, men under 20, foreigners and non-land owners.)

The Greek meaning of democracy is ’the rule of the people’

Popularists polarise and try to convince the electorate that only they have the answers.

If you’re not with them, you are the enemy of the people and therefore against everything that they believe is ‘good and just’.

Articulation is the answer, the ability to convince people that there are alternatives.

Not a popularist way but a way forward – one that delivers benefits to all of society.

Not policy on the run at 120 character bursts of incongruity.

There is hope and it comes from North America, Europe and across the ditch in New Zealand.

Emmanuel Macron in France, Justin Trudeau in Canada and Jacinda Ardern in NZ are offering sane, sensible and rational alternatives.

They are seen as a ray of hope, in a world of turmoil.

It will come down to how well these young, new wave, politicians can articulate their vision for the future.

Let’s hope that more politicians can move their countries forward, not just push their own agendas.

This will only happen if they can get society involved in the debate and participate in the decision making.

Then democracy may yet survive.

Whatever happened to service?

Friday, June 30th, 2017

This is where the service has gone

Ever since the post Second World War boom in consumerism, the customer has always been placed first in the US.

“The customer is always right”, was the catchphrase

Now, “Put profit first”, takes that mantle.

Auto manufacturers lost the plot in Detroit during the 80s by building cars they wanted, and ignored their customers needs. Now the service industry has done the same.

Service appears top of mind when you are in restaurants and hotels but it’s very far from reality.

Everything is done for the convenience, and profit, of the establishment, not for the benefit of the customer.

If you don’t order enough you’re frowned upon. At the Biltmore Estate we were literally scowled at for not ordering a full meal each. Thea had a side-salad and soft drink and I had a coffee, as I don’t usually eat lunch.

Their issue was the bigger the bill the greater the tip and we therefore didn’t warrant the effort.

In most Brewpubs we visited in the eastern US, you couldn’t carry your bill from the bar to the restaurant. Why? Both the bar staff and the ‘wait staff’ need to have their separate tips.

The same happens at the end of a shift. You are rushed to finish your meal so the staff can close your account and get the tips earned during their shift.

This isn’t about you, but all about the staff making tips and the restauranteur making profit.

The tipping regime is out of control.

Most ‘wait staff’ get the standard rate of $2.13 per hour – this is below the poverty line. They ultimately hope to make about $25 per hour, which comes from tips.

In effect you are paying their wage, not their employer.

Most restaurants include a ‘suggested tip’ on your bill this starts at 18% and goes as high as 35%.

Then taxes are included before the tip is calculated.

Your hotel room won’t get serviced, unless you ask. There are no longer, ‘Please clean my room’ hangers to put on the door.

The excellent concept of not changing sheets and towels every day has been extended to no service at all. Beds aren’t made, floors aren’t vacuumed, even the bathroom isn’t cleaned.

This has nothing to do with the environment, they do this to cut down on staff.

Everything is plastic and disposable.

Most cafés don’t offer anything but disposable cups, plates and cutlery, which you are expected to clear away when you are finished. However the counter staff still expect a tip.

The cost of the disposable crockery and cutlery is offset by not having to employ staff to clear tables and wash dishes, at $2.13 per hour.

Again the customer loses out.

At breakfast, In most hotels and motels, even the milk for your coffee only comes in half pint (236ml) containers.

Most people only use a fraction of the contents, the rest goes in the bin.

In effect service has gone into the trash, along with everything else.

Now I know it’s time to retire.

Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

AI-CD β

The world’s largest advertising agency, McCann Erickson, has just hired an artificial intelligence (AI) creative director (CD) – his name is AI-CD β.

This has got me worried.

AI-CD β is designed to work alongside the humans to develop the look and feel of the advertising. It is automated to troll through award winning commercials, that have been tagged as relevant. From that data it develops a brief, of what the commercial should look like, then humans take over and come up with a creative concept.

AI-CD β has a physical presence and is capable of writing the brief for the human creative team. As this bot was developed by McCann Ericsson in Japan, the brief is written in Japanese calligraphy.

To my mind this process is back-to-front in two ways.

Firstly, the look of the commercial should be driven by the idea, which should come first. The creative concept should contain the hook, or idea, that gets the consumer involved and then gives the commercial relevance and memorability.

Secondly, great creative thinking doesn’t come from copying another idea but from creating something that is uniquely different.

There is however another aspect to this use of an AI-CD that’s of more concern.

And that’s if this concept takes-off, and bot creatives become the norm and are successful, who will go up to the podium to collect the awards?

http://www.sbs.com.au/topics/science/future/article/2016/04/26/when-new-guys-robot

All’s not well in the Spamasphere. 

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

Disaster_strikes

There has been a strategy shift in the spam I get – it’s moved from greed to fear.

I receive up to six spam emails a day, and until recently they have all played on the greed factor to try and get me to respond.

I have won competitions, had thousands of dollars put into my account and been offered amazing money-making schemes.

All I have to do to unlock this wealth is to ‘Click here’

I know that they more than likely contain malware or are using ‘phishing’ to get personal information – I have therefore never clicked on anything to find out.

They seem to get around the text-based junk mail filters by disguising the content using numerals instead of letters and inserting punctuation in the middle a word.

‘The first thing you need to do is c0llect your c0mmissi0n ch.eck of 6,492.94. Set up your details here:

This has suddenly all changed.

I am now getting, with equally annoying regularity, a different form of spam. These all relate to impending disasters that will be unleashed on the USA, changing the American way of life forever.

And I don’t think they are referring to Donald Trump.

Subjects like: ‘The Imminent Danger From Within Our Borders’ and ‘The Worst Crisis Within US History is Almost Here’ now grace my inbox.

The ‘Click here’ relates to viewing secret reports or videos that will reveal these dastardly plots.

Conspiracy is now the new reason to ‘Click here’

Also to be found at the base of these emails is another link:

‘If you want to unsubscribe from our list. Click here

By clicking to unsubscribe you are actually verifying your email address.

Of course the spam will continue – that’s unless disaster strikes first.

Put the magic back into advertising.

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

rabbit_and_hat_6

The only way a client will buy an idea is if it’s sold to them.

These days they just don’t buy it without a solid, business based, rationale.

In the past an ad agency was a magnet for clients. They were drawn there because it was a wonderful world of clever thinking and creativity.

Yes, there was booze, long lunches and pretty girls but there were strange people who dressed differently and, more importantly, thought differently. They were challenging, aggressive and they had ideas that were beyond the client’s grasp but, strangely, they seemed to work.

Clients trusted the agency to create solutions that would help their business grow.

So why did the clients suddenly decide they could do it all themselves?

It wasn’t sudden, it took years, because over time we abrogated our responsibility.

We took the path of least resistance.

We failed to quantify the ROI that good creativity can deliver and settled for delivering ‘what the client wanted’ rather than ‘what the client needed’

In other words it was easier to capitulate than fight. This resulted in the client believing that he was right.

Once that happened it took the magic out of advertising.

The client then believed that they could come up with the ideas and they could make the ads. All they needed was a Mac and a technician.

The rest is history.

They now have the Macs, the technicians and a belief that agencies are nothing but a cost centre that they can probably do without.

There is also a belief that the media is the message.

Success won’t come by simply having a presence on Facebook or YouTube. These messages still need to have an idea, one that will catapult them beyond being just a public announcement.

We have to put the magic back.

This will only happen once we give our clients something that they can’t do themselves. And that is still clever creative thinking.

However there is no magic wand that we can wave to return the status quo. We now have to ‘prove’ our worth by justifying the value of that creativity.

This will come down to statistics and the ability to quantify how a creative approach is worth the perceived risk.

It will also come from reintroducing the idea that a creative solution is also better value for money than a mediocre one, or no idea at all.

Creativity sells, it always has done and still does now.

Agencies once promoted themselves as being the conduit between the client and the consumer – we have forgotten how important that is. By connecting the client and consumer, through great advertising ideas, we can again prove our worth.

Short term thinking and instant rewards are no excuse for taking the easy way out. Clients need to look seriously at their brand, its lifecycle and then be made aware of how important building a sustainable, long term, brand image is.

We must educate them to be able to articulate the importance of their brands to their senior managers.

In most cases we are not dealing with decision makers within our client’s business. At best we are talking to the people who have the power to say “Maybe”.

Arming the timid marketing person with the arguments to sell strategies and great ideas must be part of what we do.

Great work isn’t bought by clients, it’s sold by agencies. Advertising is the art of selling and great ideas need to be sold.

Niagara Falls, one of the un-natural
wonders of the world.

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

DSC07061

We wanted to see Niagara Falls and were told that the best views were from the Canadian side. Both the American and Horseshoe Falls can be seen from the western side of the Niagara River and this is in Ontario, Canada.

We arrived mid afternoon and as our motel was a fair distance from the attractions we decided to walk down to the falls and stay there for dinner.

Visiting Niagara Falls is like seeing one of the Wonders of the Natural World on a wide screen TV.

Apart from the falls themselves there is nothing natural about the surroundings or experience. They are the pinnacle of commercial exploitation of a natural phenomena.

Hotels, restaurants, fast food outlets, casinos, shopping centres and viewing points dominate the scene.

Then after dark the falls are bathed in an un-natural spectacle of coloured flood lights with a fireworks display on Friday and Saturday nights.

To compound the influence tourism has had, the water is regulated to flow less, after dark, when the tourists aren’t around. This is primarily to allow more water to be diverted for hydro electricity generation – it’s still screwing with nature.

The falls are spectacular, if you look beyond the commercialism, but it is a strain on the imagination.

This however isn’t a new phenomenon with world acclaimed tourist destinations.

The view of the Golden Arches (AKA McDonalds) behind the pyramids of Giza, is testament to this.

The first recorded siting of the falls, by a westerner, was by the French explorer Samuel de Champlain in 1604. I am sure that what he viewed with amazement back then, looks nothing like what tourists fall over themselves to see today.

Our trip so far.

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

I have written 14 blogs and taken over 3,000 snaps, but not been able to publish a thing.

The internet has been so poor in Hong Kong, Guilin, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Lanzhou, Jiayuguan, Yangshuo, Turpan, Urumqi, Almaty, Bishkek, Cholpon-Ata, Arslanbob, Osh, Fergana and now Tashkent, that I will have to resort to this map, from iPhoto, showing where we have been.

Hopefully we will get a good connection soon and I can start to post for real.

Our trip so far

First Class, Business Class, Economy Class
and now Amoeba Class.

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Amoeba

We usually fly economy, especially on shorter journeys. The service, food and legroom has alway been of a high standard, especially with Emirates, our preferred carrier for flights to Asia or Europe.

On our recent trip to Tonga we flew with Air New Zealand.

Little did we know that we had purchased a basic flight option, which was called ‘Seat+Bag’ This was, as it suggests, a seat in the plane and 1 checked bag.

Nothing else.

No food, no drinks, no movies, just tea, coffee and water.

We made the trip to Tonga in two legs. Melbourne to Auckland (3h 30m) then Auckland to Nuku’alofa (2h 50m)

We arrived in Tonga at 10pm, so by the time we had been processed through customs and immigration, and made the slow drive to our hotel, it was midnight.

As expected, the kitchen at the Little Italy Hotel was closed.

Another by-product of Amoeba Class is that, because it costs extra to have stowed luggage, a lot of passengers only travel with cabin bags.

Some of these are huge and way larger than the official size.

We seemed to always be the last to be called on board, so by the time we got to our seats all the overhead lockers were full. You are then forced to stuff leftover luggage under the seat in front of you.

Now the Amoeba is one of the lowest forms of life, and that’s how we were made to feel on Air New Zealand.

But I guess that’s a consequence of budget travel.

The worst drivers in the world.

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

It doesn’t matter if you are in Barcelona, Brisbane or Berlin, the world’s worst drivers are the ones that drive taxis.

Japan is a country where manners and civility are part of the culture. Road rage is non existent and people respect each other.

Here the taxis are retro 70s’ Toyotas and Nissans, with the occasional ‘green’, Prius. The drivers all wear ties and hats and many also have white gloves. They will even get out of the cab and help you with your luggage.

But, and there is always a but with cabbies, once they are behind the wheel they are as rude, arrogant and selfish as any of their counterparts around the world.

Cabbies are professional drivers who spend 8 to 10 hours day behind the wheel. They should be the best drivers in the world but almost to a man (and most of them are men) they are the worst.

 

Fewer choices than Gutenberg.

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468) was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, publisher and most importantly a printer. He  introduced moveable type into Europe and by doing so started the ‘Printing Revolution’

This invention is regarded as being the most important event of the modern era. It allowed books to be mass produced and empowered the average person to attain knowledge.

Gutenberg’s first publication was in 1439, a bible set in a German Blackletter font. The importance of his invention was quickly recognised and typographers very soon developed new typefaces to work with this groundbreaking technology.

Within a few years hundreds of type styles were available in movable fonts.

Today’s designers are able to choose from tens of thousands of fonts when they want to print conventionally (Ink on paper).

This isn’t the case with web design.

Due to the restrictions of HTML, the language that is used to program web pages, screen quality and computer platforms, the web designer is limited to a hand full of font styles.

Google Websafe Fonts are touted as the answer but even these are subject to vagaries of technology.

A font that works well on Safari looks like crap on Firefox.

Hayden and I had a discussion the other night that followed the usual banter between a programmer, who follows logic, and a dreamer, who just wants it to be the way they want it to be.

Here is a part of the transcript of that chat.

 

Bruce:

G’day

Hayden:

Hey

 

Bruce:

We seem to have issues with Google Fonts. They look different between the Mac and PC.

 

Hayden:

Hmmm. What browser is Thea using?

 

Bruce:

Firefox.

 

Hayden:

Right, don’t worry, that’s normal.

 

Bruce:

Thea is showing me how the Google Fonts don’t work on her monitor.

So what’s the answer – Times New Roman?

 

Hayden:

Helvetica, Verdana.

 

Bruce:

Bugger that, I thought that we had some creative flexibility.

 

Hayden:

Well, you do.

 

Bruce:

But not with the fonts I want.

 

Hayden:

The problem is crappy font support in some browsers on Windows by the look of it.

 

Bruce:

This sucks. I think we should go back to HTML websites (Sites that are not WordPress) where the designers have the say and the clients just have to pay for it.

 

Hayden:

But these are HTML websites.

The problem is that you don’t have control over the browser used to view the sites.

 

Bruce:

Well they should be done in InDesign.

The smarty that develops that interface will make a fortune.

 

Hayden:

You can’t design a proper website in InDesign. Because InDesign doesn’t move.

 

Bruce:

I am talking figuratively, in that we (Designers) need to have flexibility to design.

 

Hayden: 

Complain to Firefox, Microsoft, Google and Apple, plus the mobile manufacturers.

It’s due to incompatibility that there are so many issues.

 

Bruce:

If the computer industry hadn’t embraced film editor’s thinking when they designed editing software, we would still be doing it on a Steenbeck (old film editing machines that were first developed in the 1930s’).

 

Hayden:

Yes but every format has its limitations.

I am still sure that there must be a way to get better fonts on here. But I’m not sure how.

I mean Titanium (A  Google Websafe Font) looks okay, except on Chrome.

 

Bruce:

But isn’t Chrome a Google interface and if so why doesn’t it support Google Fonts?

 

Hayden:

I have no idea. At the end of the day the fonts are probably handled by the operating system.

 

Bruce:

It’s not your fault, it’s that the industry is still run by the geeks and and not by the designers. Once it’s controlled by the creatives, not the techos, it will improve. That’s just history.

 

Hayden:

I’m not sure. Because at the end of the day, you’re frustrated because you’re used to a different system.

Younger designers have grown up with the current limitations. In fact they’ve grown up with more restrictions than currently exist.

So, perhaps they’ll never know.

 

Bruce:

Ah, but there in lies the solution. Develop a system that has unlimited creative possibilities.

 

Hayden:

Technically impossible.

Look at Adobe products. They don’t allow unlimited creative possibilities and they’ve been in development for over 20 years.

 

Bruce:

I disagree, they allowed the designer to experiment with thousands of fonts, on as many layout options as they could imagine, and they did it all in a fraction of the time it took them to do it conventionally.

 

Hayden:

Perhaps I’m being pessimistic.

 

Bruce:

Remember I was there when there was only hot metal type and a layout pad…. 

it’s come a long way since then. 

 

Hayden:

Yes it has.

 

Bruce:

We should have this discussion in 5 years time. I think it will have changed a lot by then.

 

Hayden: 

And you’ll be complaining that you can’t do everything you want to. (-:

 

Bruce:

But that’s what it’s all about. If we don’t aspire to do it differently, it will never happen.

Letterset (Rub-down letters) came into existence because typographers couldn’t kern type tightly enough with hot metal. Then when computers took over Quark had a kerning option. The same thing will happen to web design, someone will come up with a better way, they always do.

So getting back to basics, I’m stuck with Helvetica? It’s a bit like being stuck in the 60s’

 

Hayden:

Well now. Google fonts should work okay. I don’t know why they don’t. Perhaps you could search for the best way to use a wide range on fonts on web sites.

I’ll have a look a bit later. But I’m in the middle of some IOS development at the moment.

 

Bruce:

It’s not your problem, it’s just that I thought that Google Fonts were the answer but apparently there are still many issues.

 

Hayden:

Well I’m the programmer for Caffeine Concepts, so it’s at least partly my responsibility.

 

Bruce:

Touche.

That’s the extent of my French, so I will leave you to earn a Euro/Dollar.

 

Hayden:

You missed out the accent I think.

Touché.

 

Bruce:

My French isn’t that good.

 

Hayden:

Neither is mine.