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Women driving in Saudi Arabia: hot music video

February 6, 2012 2 comments

M.I.A. – Bad Girls

I came across this jaw-dropping music video and had to share it with you because:

1. You won’t have seen anything like it before.

2. You won’t have heard anything like it before. Listen to it twice. It’s serious girl-swagger on steroids.

3. It makes a statement and it makes it well. Really well. Love it or hate it, but you can’t un-hear it. Its effect stays with you. It may even inspire me to work on my reverse-parking (because girls can do anything).

As you may know, women in Saudi Arabia are banned by clerics from driving. This restricts their ability to work, socialise and do many of the things women in the west take for granted. They are completely dependent upon males driving them and essentially supervising them in public. Read more about the stirrings of an Arab Spring for Women.

MIA, the British visual artist turned singer, will be responding to her favourite YouTube comments on 10 Feburary 2012. Go say hi.

What I love about this particular music video is that it mocks the arbitrariness of the unwritten rules which prevent Saudi women from driving as badly as their men and participating in society. It leaves their religion alone. Let people believe what they want without ridicule, but let fly at the way they conduct themselves in the world when it’s oppressive.

Occupy Brisbane, or not…. Part 1

October 23, 2011 1 comment

People would be familiar with the Occupy movement which started on Wall St and spread via social networking to a city near you. Including, to my fair city, Brisbane, Australia.

It just so happens, that I walk past this spot on my way to work most mornings, so I took a few pictures to show you what it really looks like, on an average day (without the promise of a news crew and time to assemble a rent-a-crowd.) Those who believe in genuine demonstrations or who have weak tickers, look away now.

View from the Adelaide St footbridge

So much foot traffic coming their way, every morning, from Central Station....

With so much traffic in the general vicinity, anyone with a bit of chutzpah would be able to do something with a good cause….

So, what's the cause, again? And why is there no-one around to give information at peak rush-hour?

To be fair, read the helpful sign. This cause is about the 99% of us who are apparently represented by this group, except that all of us are on our way to work, except them.

Wow. That's lots of people. (Not).

Australia Day. And no, Sir Parkinson, we’re no British mini-me

January 26, 2011 2 comments

Happy Australia Day everyone!

I hope today is the day that everyone who’s lucky enough to be here, sends up a thought or prayer of gratitude. It’s the day we celebrate our “Lucky Country” status. Even those who’ve recently been down on their luck know that if you had to be in a natural disaster, better here than just about anywhere else: more than 22,000 flood-cleanup volunteers in Brisbane on one Saturday alone would suggest this.

Australia has always been a country of droughts, floods and fires. But it’s also the place where no matter who you are, you can roll up your sleeves and make something of yourself. Even convicts who were sent to the much maligned Port Arthur convict settlement had the opportunity to work off their crimes and sins and be released into the most beautiful country, to start life anew.

British tv personality, Sir Michael Parkinson, gave this year’s Australia Day address, being the first non-Aussie to do so. If it works, so what, is the Australian attitude to most things, and this was no different. Having a whinging Pom address us as a nation on our special day? So what, turn the meat on the barbie, darl. But, after his speech, he told reporters,

Why should Australia not be a republic? “It’s its own country, its own man. I find it incomprehensible that it’s not that now.

The dear man jumped on the trendy Republic bandwagon, without fully appreciating the Australian psyche, which is a shame, given that Parky’s insightfulness is supposedly legendary.

What Parkinson missed is this.

In Australia, we’re a practical bunch. If it works, it works. We’ll fix just about anything with a coat-hanger and superglue. We don’t care what you do or how you look, as long as you try to join in and carry your own weight – except when you absolutely can’t – then we’ll carry you. We recognise that we were once a colonial outpost, but while the rest of the world was preoccupied, something happened – we grew up.

Parkinson, like many others, insists on painting Australia as a pre-teen (tween) who should move on and become a surly teenager – that, to establish its identity, it needs to deny its past (especially the good bits and harp on about the bad bits) – and move away from its roots. This is sad. It’s also a misjudgment of character. Worse still, instead of letting us celebrate who we are, Parky tells us what we should be. If the Republic rant had to be included, it could have been more thoughtful, like…

Australia is its own country. It wouldn’t be surprising if it became a Republic, but then, that’s up to the Australian people. It’s not for me to say it should be the case, because that would be me assuming some sort of colonial authority, which would be highly ironic on Australia Day.

Parky, over here, you should know, that just because we love you, doesn’t mean we’ll listen to you, particularly if you preach. So it is with the Queen. Except that she has the good grace to know her place. If we want to become a Republic and we have nothing else to spend millions upon millions of dollars upon, we’ll give you a call. Thanks, mate. Remember, we’re a practical bunch and spending millions of dollars to remove references to the Queen in all our statues, and chucking out all the dinnerware and cutlery and stationery in Parliament House and our embassies… well, it doesn’t seem that practical, does it?

So, Happy Australia Day, fellow travelers. Or, Orstraya Day. ‘Cos we don’t need to say it like Parky, to know what it means to us.

E-books & the death of book stores

November 9, 2010 5 comments


With the arrival of e-books, people in publishing are deeply worried about:
A. the survival of brick ‘n mortar book stores; and
B. the future of traditional paper publishing.
What the conversation is missing, is the consumer.

What do consumers want?
Do they want paper books to continue as they are?
Do they want physical book stores?
Do they prefer e-books and e-stores?
Can they continue to have both?
Will they mind waiting longer to get Print On Demand books, instead of just taking something off a shelf?
What about the cost of books and e-devices?

In this post, I’ll focus on the effect of pricing and invite your thoughts.

The price of books & the death of book stores

The price of books in Australia is always a contentious issue. They seem expensive and yet, very few authors can live off their writing and book sellers are bleeding. People in all aspects of publishing live modestly. There’s lots of love, but not a lot of money. Why?

Book shops are diversifying more into gift lines and coffee, since book selling is becoming uneconomic due to:
* on-line selling;
* predatory discounting practices of department stores; and
* e-book retailers because (in Australia) brick ‘n mortar stores aren’t able to sell e-books (why?!).

I’ll briefly touch upon the main players in the price wars.

Parallel importation?
Over a year ago, book sellers, led by Dymocks, thought that parallel importation would save them. The New Zealand uptake of that policy proved disastrous. You can’t have eggs without chickens. Killing local publishing to save local book selling is at best, wonky thinking.

Predatory pricing
Big department stores sell books cheaper because they demand around 70 per cent off from the publishers, and they use cheap books to lure more people into the store to spend money on other things (to offset the discount). This dynamic works for consumers until the competition is killed off, then prices go up and choice goes out the door. It’s not competition; it’s a killing field.

GST
In Australia, GST is applied to all stages of a book’s production. No government has been open to dropping it. Economists tell me it’s because book sellers will apply the GST savings to their own bottom line and not pass it on to consumers.

So the choice is: GST revenue to the government to churn and burn, or leave it in the industry so that more businesses can keep their doors open (and possibly, pass on price reductions to consumers in the line of normal competition?). Frankly, I would’ve thought that an “Education Revolution” (to use a Labor Party slogan) might’ve included books.

E-books will be the final blow to Aussie book stores, unless…
E-books are currently retailing around $9.99 on Amazon and according to Michael Hyatt, there’s no likelihood that prices will sustainably drop below that point. E-publishing and e-distribution, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t deliver big cost savings.

I think that once publishers work out all the other funky things they can do in the e-world, prices will eventually go up because they’ll be producing more on-line content to sell their books. Publishers will rise from the ashes of burned out book stores insofar as they’ll be selling directly to online consumers.

In America, e-books are rapidly gaining popularity. The Aussie uptake has been slow and the publishing industry has been reluctant to respond to the new paradigm. Australia doesn’t have the population to shoulder massive market changes as readily. That being said, we can’t put it off any longer.

Conclusion
So, what will e-books do to the price of books in Australia? Not much, it seems, unless the government removes the GST from the equation and revises competition law. With the GST in place, more people will shop on-line to avoid it and brick ‘n mortar book stores in Australia will continue their rapid decline in the face of anti-competitive practices by bigger players.

People will go to book shops to have coffee, browse inside books and then purchase them (either in paper or electronic format) elsewhere, online. That’s not a sustainable business model. Book sellers had better come up with something new, quickly, to value-add to the experience of loving books.

While $9.99 for an e-book is up to half the price of a traditional book, you have to buy the e-reader as well. And even though they are coming down in price, will you be buying one for your kids this Christmas? They aren’t so forgiving when dropped. And how many e-books do you have to buy to make up the savings as against the cost of the device?

I’m not against e-books. I’m not advocating for them, either. I love what’s inside books and where those books take me. People should have a choice. I just hope that the Australian government and industry get the balance right, before our favourite book shops bleed out.

QUESTION:
What do you wish you could tell the government or publishing industry in Australia? Do you think book shops will survive?

N.B. I encourage all respectful views. Feel free to disagree, without being disagreeable. No-one has all of the answers. Sharing is caring.

Weather for ducks

October 11, 2010 Leave a comment

To say it’s raining in Brisbane would be an understatement.

Rixie, Dixie, Nina and Rita are wanting webbed feet, or flippers. (I’ve now put them up on the clothes drying rack on the flooded back patio).


According to the Bureau of Meteorology, there’s an extreme UV risk today (um, really?) and rain will ease (eventually they’ll get it right).

I’m hoping that all this rain now, means my annual camping trip isn’t washed out after Christmas.

I’m also wondering whether the price of water will come down, or whether in some secret public/private deal, high prices will be locked in to repay all those lovely desalination plants (including the one they couldn’t turn on because the endangered Lung Fish was found nearby AFTER completion! Since it lives to 100yrs, we might be waiting a while….) (Perhaps they made their way from Traveston Dam? Rascals!). Anyone trying to FOI the government or council on water prices may find it comes under the exemption for Commercial in Confidence. Otherwise, it’s totally transparent, like TOTALLY.

Bring out the Slip ‘n Slide (while the water’s free) ….

UPDATE: Reader Lucy suggests that since someone has to pay for the new infrastructure for recycled water and desalination – that it should be footed by big water users, including industry. (That sounds pretty good insofar as it could get the domestic water bill down, but we all know we’ll be made to pay by industry indirectly sooner or later…. Still, worth considering.)

BHP Billiton finds its soul; or Marius Kloppers sees a business advantage in pricing carbon

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Not green, but MEAN. BHP plans to bury its rivals in a State forest near you ...

Has anyone wondered why the CEO of BHP Billiton Australia, Marius Kloppers, was against Kevin Rudd’s CPRS & Resource Super Profits scheme, but this week comes out ahead of anyone else to announce that Australia has to ‘get moving’ on carbon pricing?

Kloppers is a smart man, who out-maneuvered everyone on the recent mining tax negotiations. Keep that in mind, when answering this multiple choice question. And also remember, that a tax is a tax, no matter how many times you rename it, or whether you put happy-feeling words in its title.

So, is Marius Kloppers:
(a) Suddenly mad;
(b) In secret negotiations with Prime Minister Julia Gillard which could benefit BHP if he were to shout support pre-emptively (Labor modus operandi involves hanging someone else out to test public sentiment & then backing away if it goes badly);
(c) Keenly aware that it would be in the interests of shareholders and BHP to price out smaller competitors;
(d) In Team Julia, not Team Kevin; or
(e) A Greenie.

The Australia where everyone had a chance to ‘have a go’ and where small companies could work hard and grow, might just be behind us. The fact that no-one is shouting “anti-competitive behavior” is most vexing.

Australia: vibrant and competitive one day … dull and anti-competitive the next….

Mouse in need of a chiropractor & ALP in need of a bigger trap.

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Reader JB, sent in a picture and her experiences with this particular mousetrap…

JB writes:

Mouse eventually got caught using my home baked choc chip cookie in trap. However new fangled traps not good for an extra large mouse…very distressing night. Woke with banging and loud squeaking to find mouse had been caught by trap which was on my kitchen bench and its struggling caused trap to move along bench and off the end on to floor resulting in mouse running around my kitchen with trap on its head. Very disturbing night. Scott got it outside and released trap to allow a mouse to slowly walk off with a crooked neck! All this at midnight last week! Not good! It was an extremely large mouse though. Guess the moral of the story is to use the old fashioned traps which were not available in our Woolies though!

So, the mouse ran off with a crick neck (right-leaning) and was last seen in the marginal seat of Lilley.

All things considered, this is probably a good metaphor for the ALP’s 2010 federal election campaign — mistaking man for mouse. Julia, you’ll need a bigger trap to catch Tony and you might need reader JB’s recipe for choc chip cookies…

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