Sydney

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Map showing "giant gambling den in relation to Sydney Harbour: click to embiggen“Is A Billionaire Former Scientologist Shaping Sydney Harbour Into A Giant Gambling Den?”, asked the headline in an email this morning from The Global Mail. Is he? Let’s see!

The story in TGM, the philanthropic media project of Graeme Wood, also a key investor in The Guardian’s forthcoming Australian edition, is obviously about plans by James Packer to build a casino at Sydney’s Barangaroo development.

The proposal is controversial, certainly. But Sydney Harbour becoming a “giant gambling den”? FFS! If it’s not immediately obvious why this is complete bullshit, I’ve drawn a picture for you. A special kind of picture called a “map”.

The black bit is Sydney Harbour, traced from Google Maps. The red bit is the entire proposed casino complex, assuming this report in the Sydney Morning Herald is still roughly correct. You might have to click through to the full-size map to see the red bit.

Sydney Harbour is clearly not becoming a “giant gambling den”. Sydney Harbour will be changed in a way that will be barely noticeable, at least if your global perspective manages to make it any further west than Glebe Point Road. And I’d have thought that the intelligent, well-educated people at TGM would be able to figure that out for themselves.

We were told that The Global Mail was about “quality journalism”, but apparently it’s just another in a long series of comfortable colour supplements for Sydney’s whining middle class, with bonus points for waving the good ol’ Scientology scare-stick.

The story itself is by Nick Bryant, whose work I like. He’s got a biography of Packer coming out, so I assume the article — which I haven’t read yet — is an extract from that book and somewhat better than the promotion it’s been burdened with suggests. I’ll let you know once I’ve read it.

People were surprised by racist abuse on a Melbourne bus this week? They need to get out more. I’ve had two racist encounters on Sydney trains this week alone.

The other night I was sitting next to Dave (not his real name) on the Blue Mountains train. He was heading home to Emu Plains after his day shift as a barman at a Sydney pub. We got talking.

He was originally from Auburn, he said, but he was glad his family didn’t live there any more because the place was run down.

I mentioned that I’d recently been told that Auburn was now the second-poorest local government area in New South Wales, and the council had trouble paying for services.

“Yeah well it’s all full of Lebs and Arabs now,” Dave said. “They’re pretty much all on the dole.”

Awkward silence ensued.

Dave’s story amused me, though, because only a few days earlier I’d been on another train, a local through the western suburbs, and I shared the carriage with a group of four or five Muslim women and a vast collection of children they’d taken on a day trip. They were heading home to Auburn.

They were friendly women. We chatted about many things, from the mystery of how children can still be so rowdy at the end of a long day to where they might do a first aid course. “St John Ambulance,” I suggested. “Or the Red Cross.”

Suddenly I felt embarrassed to have mentioned two organisations with Christian roots. “Perhaps your local mosque runs them,” I added, before realising that churches generally don’t run such things so why would a mosque? And why don’t I know what services a mosque may or may not provide?

But then why does an Anglican church in Enmore run yoga classes? It’s all very multicultural.

We chatted about Auburn too. I’d recently been told that in Auburn you can find the best Turkish Delight this site of the Bosporus.

“It’s a lovely place,” agreed the women. “But it’s not as good as it was. Too many foreigners. Chinese and the like.”

Racism is widespread in Australia, bubbling to the surface in everyday conversations.

[Photo: Gallipoli Mosque, Auburn, photographed in 2009 by Newtown graffiti. Used under a Creative Commons Attribution license.]

The following important and highly-educational video was shot on Saturday 26 November 2011 on King Street, Newtown, in Sydney.

If the video isn’t working here for you, click through to YouTube.

May I also recommend Excellence in European Linguistics, Kingsgrove and Multiply Function Pot?

These architectural features on Cumberland Street in The Rocks, Sydney, look quite lovely I suppose — until you stop, look and think. Then you’ll realise they’re completely pointless. They’re an architectural wank. Wankitecture.

The things with the red canopies look like they’re some sort of, well, canopies to protect people from sun and rain. But they’re positioned such that they offer no protection whatsoever to the benches and picnic tables. No, the benches and picnic tables sit fully exposed to the elements. The only things the things with the red canopies protect are bleak patches of pavement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Skywriting has to be one of the lowest forms of advertising, no different from an attention-seeking teenager scrawling his tag over every flat surface within reach. So I guess it’s only appropriate that the low-brow arsehats of commercial radio reckon it’s a good look.

I’ve met commercial radio executives. They’re not the sort of people you’d want to have dinner with, let alone leave with your pets unattended. Like so many who’ve congealed into the uppermost scum layers of the broadcast media cesspool, they’re arrogant beyond belief, filled with their own sense of self-importance.

Writing in The Observer yesterday, John Naughton reckons this attitude is understandable, if no longer acceptable.

What always struck me about [TV's] senior executives — in both the commercial and public sector — was how smug and self-satisfied they seemed. In a way, this was understandable: they were masters of a particular universe, rulers of a medium that dominated the information ecosystem, dictated the political agenda, and determined the daily habits of a large chunk of the population. At that time, the most powerful apparatchiks in the BBC and ITV were the schedulers — the planners who designed ways of holding the attention of a mass audience. Their craft included tricks like not scheduling some things against stronger competitors; making sure that one had a follow-on that would keep audiences from switching channels over the 9pm watershed; winning the ratings war over the Christmas period and so on. Watching them at work, one realised that effectively they were playing chess –– and that the pawns in their arcane games were the viewers.

Embedded in the corporate DNA of push media like broadcast television is the assumption that viewers are, if not exactly idiots, then passive consumers. The deal is that they receive gratefully what we, the broadcasters, decide to create.

The same for radio. The same tricks to keep listeners from changing that dial before the next 15-minutes ratings measurement slot starts. The same arrogance.

And double same for Australian commercial radio, whose executives grew fat and lazy through the 1990s as they traded metropolitan broadcast licenses for tens of millions of dollars and their testosterone-filled 4WDs cruised the suburbs handing out largesse to the proles. The rumbling and whooshing and laser zaps and deep booming voices of their station promos underlined their self-image as intergalactic heroes.

Broadcast radio is threatened, of course, especially that which does little more than play music now that everyone has a gadget in their pocket that can play whatever music they want, when they want.

It’s becoming even more threatened now that those gadgets are connected to the grid, where they can figure out for themselves what new music we might want to listen to and download it automatically. Or hook into any audio stream on the planet, including those that we and our friends create for ourselves without the help of the music director’s computer-based music scheduling system. You know the one, the one that says it’s 8.50am so we must therefore listen to an up-tempo track from 1996 with a female vocalist, because in the last hour we’ve already had 75% male vocals and instrumentals.

How much are we paying that music director, anyway, when iTunes does the same job for free?

So in the face of this challenge, what is Mix 106.5 FM in Sydney doing to shape its future?

Smoke-pissing its frequency across the sky of one of the world’s most beautiful cities. Ruining that beauty, not just for those vast migrating commuting herds who might conceivably want to listen simultaneous to exactly the same sequence of songs by Diesel, Rihanna and Nickelback as everyone else in the city — yes, that’s what they’re playing right now, inspiring eh? — interspersed with forced cheerfulness, lowest-common-denominator inanities from a B-list comedian and, of course, advertising. Advertising that for the most part hasn’t thought of a more sophisticated strategy to grab our interest than shouting at us.

This sky spam, this moronic vandalism on a glorious summer’s morning just makes you look even more out of touch, Mix 106.5. Just fuck right off. And no, I’m not linking to you.

[Photo: More sky spam by sylmobile, taken just a few minutes ago.]

A weekly summary of what I’ve been doing elsewhere on the internets.

Articles

  • ‘Open Government’ declared in Australia for Crikey. Buried in the news just before the Australian election was called last weekend, Lindsay Tanner, the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, issued the Declaration of Open Government which had been called for by the Government 2.0 Taskforce. Someone ought to tell the Attorney-General’s Department.
  • Two other articles have been written but are still in the production pipeline, one for Crikey and one for ABC Unleashed. And I’ve been researching a 2000-word feature for ZDNet Australia. So I’ve been very busy, you just haven’t seen the output yet.

Podcasts

  • Patch Monday episode 49, “The software patent controversy explained” with guest Kimberlee Weatherall. She teaches intellectual property law at the University of Queensland.
  • A Series of Tubes episode 112, in which I chat with Richard Chirgwin about the Declaration of Open Government, the Privacy Commissioner’s findings on the Google Street View Wi-Fi incident, and how the Pirate Party fell at the first hurdle. Also, Internode’s John Lindsay explains the class action they and iiNet are involved with concerning Testra’s wholesale ADSL2+ pricing, and Steve Chung, consultant at Ruckus Wireless, talks about Wi-Fi privacy.

Media Appearances

[Photo: "Paddy Maguire's Hotel", at the corner of George and Hay Streets, Haymarket, Sydney, taken from a bus window on 23 July 2010.]

Sure, the Sydney dust storm was ages ago. But I’m setting up a Posterous account and playing with its ability to post automatically to Flickr, Twitter and my WordPress website.

This photo was taken on Enmore Road, Enmore at about 7.30am on 23 September 2009. It’s a frame grab from my HD video camera.

I hate doing live experiments like this, because I care about how material is presented on my website. Perhaps that’s old-fashioned, but I don’t like things turning ugly. Presentation counts. OK, you’ve seen my dress sense? Sorry.

Posted via email from Stilgherrian’s Stream

[Update: I'll leave the formatting of this post as-is. If you look at the code, you'll see that Posterous has its own somewhat shitty ideas about HTML. It also scaled the photo to Posterous' 500-pixel width rather than my layout's 600-pixel width. Bother. I have, however, changed the category from "Uncategorised" (ugh!) to stuff that fits my taxonomy. I've also added tags. The tags I'd added for Posterous didn't make it through to WordPress.]

This illuminated roadside sign machine thing was seen on Sydenham Road, Marrickville, on 26 April 2010. I think there’s an important message here for all of us. Click to embiggen.

The 9pm Edict

Australia’s smartest meth dealer found in Leichhardt. ABC chairman Maurice Newman branches out into staff supervision. And Sydney property developers whine because, well, they just didn’t automatically get everything their own way.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, no more than 20 minutes late, is episode 5 of The 9pm Edict. Finally.

You can listen to this episode below. But if you want them all, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

Play

For more information on what I discussed today, try the NSW police media releases about Sunday’s explosion and Monday’s arrest, the Urban Taskforce media release and the ABC’s story on same, this Sydney Morning Herald story on various NSW Labor connections, Kristina Keneally’s Wikipedia entry, my post on Maurice Newman’s speech and the PM report on same, and Marcus Westbury’s column for The Age.

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

[Credits: The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]

The 9pm Edict

Kristina Keneally confuses mindless populism with leadership. The nimby-burghers of Glebe confuse concerns about the urban environment with selfishness. And the Vivid Festival… another white middle class baby boomer nostalgia wankfest.

Here, ladies and gentlemen, is episode 4 of The 9pm Edict. Finally.

You can listen to this episode below. But if you want them all, subscribe to the podcast feed, or even subscribe automatically in iTunes.

Play

If you’d like to comment on this episode, please add your comment below, or Skype to stilgherrian or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

[Update 6 March 2010: I really should link to the material I discuss. That's the Harold Park redevelopment plan and the local residents' objections, the Vivid Festival, Laurie Anderson's Language is a Virus, Dom Knight's The Premier, the portrait and the paedophile and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally's video A New Direction.]

[Credits: The 9pm Edict theme by mansardian, Edict fanfare by neonaeon, all from The Freesound Project. Photograph of Stilgherrian taken 29 March 2009 by misswired, used by permission.]

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