Thursday, October 21, 2010





It's just like communist China.

If you read The Age's Minister threatens to use law to force people on NBN if states revolt (cue jokes along the lines of, "The states are revolting!" "Tell me something I don't know..."), those are some things you'll notice come up regularly in the comments. I always thought readers of The Age and SMH were relatively logical lefties, but apparently not.

I'm both amused and puzzled by people flinging around the words Communist and socialist again like they're Glenn Beck and using those words somehow makes their argument against policies, infrastructure and so on watertight. Because all of those filthy Commies are evil and are out to destroy the world as we know it and... yeah... the Cold War ended some time ago, there aren't Reds under every bed and crying, "Socialist! Communist!" about things that are aimed at benefiting the community seems bizarre at best. For a start, this isn't America. I thought we were somewhat more sensible than that. But judging by the comments on various news website, apparently not.

When the moral and political distinctions between Communists and liberals (and by that, I mean small-l liberals, not the political party) aren't made, reality risks being distorted severely and in a damaging fashion for individuals and society generally. Spending money on infrastructure - whether it's a hospital, some schools, railway lines, or a broadband network - does not a Communist make. Supporting things like welfare and health care systems don't make you a socialist (if anything, community-centred ethical perspectives on such matters seem to indicate that you're just a decent human being who has concern for other human beings).

This was something that struck me when Obama was working on health care reforms in the US. When people weren't clutching handkerchiefs over the possibility of government-subsidised abortion, there were people calling the plans "socialism," saying it was part of a "socialist agenda," etc. All the way back in November 1961, President Kennedy spoke out against "discordant voices of extremism" that "equate the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with Communism.”

And yet somehow in recent times and in the minds of some, doing things that benefit society as a whole have somehow become things only Communists/socialists would do. I'm not sure whether it's a severe case of right-wing resurgence or rabid individualism or a people being seriously NIMBY about basically everything. But it disappoints me because it seems sad to turn back to what Kennedy described 50 years ago as "counsels of fear and suspicion" from the far right.

I've still to work out what people fear about the NBN.

But it seems like the a lot of the newspapers (and commenters on their sites) in Australia see it as something to be feared, judging by their coverage of it all. I suppose at least the media's demands for a cost benefits analysis for the NBN seem to have disappeared for the time being (however, if you want to go back in time and read some interesting commentary on that whole issue, Cost benefit delusions of the NBN from Pollytics is good) (additionally, apparently Malcolm Turnbull introduced a private member's bill yesterday to try to make the government do a CBA on the NBN, which is interesting...).

Perhaps the fear of it stems from a lack of understanding, not just of the technologies involved, but also of what the NBN is about as a whole. I don't think news coverage of it has been the best (perfect example for the day: The Australian's Stephen Conroy having 'hissy fit' over The Australian's NBN coverage: Chris Mitchell - it comes across as wanting to be the news rather than report it, not least because that article is actually longer than their one about the NBN not raising the cost of landlines).

Considering how long the NBN stuff has been around - the Senate site itself says, "On 25 June 2008, the Senate established the Select Committee on the National Broadband Network (NBN) to inquire into and report on the government's proposal to partner with the private sector to upgrade parts of the existing network to fibre to provide minimum broadband speeds of 12 megabits per second to 98 per cent of Australian homes and businesses on an open access basis" - the hysteria about it now seems strange.

Yet the NBN is something that has the potential to benefit everyone. Yes, it will cost money. But infrastructure does actually cost money. The wiring currently serving as our phone system cost money to put in. Railways cost money to lay down. Roads cost money. The sewerage system your house is connected to cost money. From what I recall of Telstra trying to woo me over to broadband years ago when I was on dial-up, that cost money too (for the modem in particular).

While I think of it, dial-up is a great example of "My intermawebz are perfect as they are, thankyouverymuch, I do not wish to change anything!" As if people would want to go back to dial-up now days when they've got fast intermawebz and quick access to amusing time-wasting videos of cats on YouTube.

But back to the point of cost. Last night on Lateline, Senator Stephen Conroy (yes, he annoys me as much as he annoys others) explained that there is no cost whatsoever to having the NBN connected to ones home. Although he added, "If we then roll through your suburb and roll on a few more suburbs and you suddenly change your mind, the NBN Co haven't made a final decision on this, but there's been some suggestions there could be a cost if we've gotta come back and re-do your home. But no final decision has been made on that issue."

To me, it makes sense for there to be some cost if people have to come back and do work on a place when they could have knocked it all off in one go while they were there the first time around. This is not forcing people to join up to the NBN. If you do get it connected, you don't have to use it. People can also choose to just keep what they have now - it just means that if they change their mind in the future because they had refused connection to the rollout earlier, they might have to pay for it. And to me, that seems to be their own fault. Conroy also speaks about the "furphy" relating to fixed lines and phone calls.

The stupidity about "Communists" and "tyrants" forcing everyone to have the NBN whether they want it or not makes my brain ache. Especially when people say that it's just a way for the government to go all 1984 on people (also, just a random thought, but I do wonder how many people who bring out the Communist/Marxist/socialist/1984/Brave New World/etc stuff have actually read the manifestos/philosophies/novels or just comment with it because they've heard others do so before?). Conspiracy theories, general wilful ignorance and apparent desire to not move with the times are just sad.

Besides, I didn't notice a massive outcry about switching over to digital television, even though that costs money (either to get a set-top box or upgrade your telly). If there was media coverage, I've missed it, along with all of the outraged comments from anonymous people from all over redneck Australia saying how they're perfectly happy with the television they've got only giving them five channels and how dare the government be so socialist/Communist/whateverist as to force them to have an option to look at more channels, more content and more choice. It's outrageous!

But really, much more of this sort of stuff and we will be confirming the survey that ranked Australia as "the world's dumb blonde."

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Oi! You're nicked!

"Well, there goes my Saturday night entertainment.
Guess I'm going to have to go out more now..."

Tonight I watched the final episode of The Bill.

And I had a bit of a cry at the end of it.

Okay, I know, I know. It's a TV show. It's just television, just acting, just 45 minutes a week, just a show that's been in my regular viewing schedule for as long as I can remember - in fact, almost as long as I've been alive. Woodentop, the precursor to The Bill, was on days after I'd been born.

When I was a kid, my family and I would watch The Bill every Saturday night and would occasionally watch the repeats ABC used to run on Tuesday nights if it was a particularly good couple of episodes or we'd missed it for some reason. It was always the double half-hour episodes that started out with the crime, it got investigated and solved and was done and dusted within 30 minutes. Unless it was an extra-special one and then both of the episodes would be dedicated to it.

Somehow you sort of became attached to the characters - PC Reg Hollis was one of my favourite characters, probably due to the underdog status. I can still remember one episode where he gets a date with someone and one of the other PCs disbelievingly asked what Reg had that he didn't, to which Reg replied, "Well, a working deodorant for a start."

I also really liked PC Tony Stamp, Sgt June Ackland, Sgt Bob Cryer and Superintendent Jack Meadows. But my favourite character was probably Inspector Dale 'Smithy' Smith. And no, not just because the guy who played him is hot. I liked how the character was sort of like a strong moral compass for the show or something like that. I think some amazing storylines tied in around his character, particularly the Carly Samuels one.

The worst thing for The Bill was when it went all soap-opera-esque in the early 00's. Unfortunately, it seemed like it didn't recover its viewership when they tried to fix that mistake. And it was unfortunate that the soapie-style plots were allowed to run for so long, dragging it away from the policing that had made it such an enjoyable show.

I actually stopped watching it when that happened.

Then when I was living in Victoria, I turned it on one night randomly, thinking it would be interesting to see what had happened with the show I used to love. And amazingly, it was back to policing more or less. And from there on, I'd end up watching The Bill every Saturday night. I know it's said the latest revamp was a flop, but honestly, I thought it wasn't too bad. There were some really interesting story arcs. That said, at least the ABC was consistent with its broadcast schedule and didn't knob around with the show like ITV apparently did.

Of course my love of The Bill is mostly because I grew up with it.

But I think it was a fantastic show at its best. And I wouldn't swap the time I've spent watching it for any other police show out there. Well... Maybe Midsomer Murders. But they don't have quite so many hot British guys in police uniform to drool over.

So thank you to everyone who made The Bill so enjoyable for so many years.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Light through paint

The photo at the top of the set can be purchased from RedBubble here.

While the family was away, I worked on doing some painting. There's something about painting that I really can't do if people are around. I need absolutely no distractions, other than the ones I provide myself with (music mostly), or I'll give up and not do any work on it. Or won't even make a start.

That said, there are a lot of arty kind of things I do that I'm not all that keen on having people around while doing them - photography's one. Which means I'll never be a portrait photographer. Tragedy. But no, I jest - it's hardly a tragedy when I have no interest in photographing people.

Painting is both relaxing and irritating. I like the feeling of being absorbed in the effort and losing hours in making something. But at the same time, if it doesn't look great, then I'm irritated. Or if it takes a long time it can become frustrating. I'm mainly working on a painting based around a photograph I took when leaving New Zealand earlier this year. It's fiddly, there's lots of blending work, all of these little detailed bits, I worry that when it comes to adding in the clouds I'll muck it up and have lost hours on end of work.

But so far, it's something I'm really proud of. It's the toughest painting task I've ever set myself and it's taken about 15 hours so far, although it looks like it shouldn't have for what's actually on the canvas. I'd thought before I started working on it that it'd be another matter of slapping the paint on and it'd be done in about eight hours (my usual time to paint something on that size of canvas). Instead, tiny sections of mountains have been painstaking two-hours-at-a-time processes. The photo below is some of what's been done so far. And yes, those scribbly lines on it are more mountains to paint. Oh joy!

Pansies after rain

This photo can be purchased from RedBubble here.


Thursday, October 07, 2010