Monday, December 17, 2007

Franzy is ... out.

I'm quitting Facebook.

I've had enough. It was one of the quicker internet crazes I've seen whoosh by, but the difference was that this one hooked me in a bit. The attractive bit was the ease of interface and the instant rush of popularity when another person invited you to be their 'friend'.
'Okay. Fine,' I said. 'I'll be your 'friend'. No problem.' And that was it. Spend a bored five minutes at work filling in your details and suddenly, a week later I had replied to a few dozen 'friend requests' from people I already knew, and was already friends with, to be 'friends'. I resolved never to send out a friend request, however. Just to see how long it took before people got sick of including me in their cyberworld. It never really stopped, because other bored people at work took to scrolling through their friends' friends to see if they were friends with, knew, had met, knew of or just plain liked the look of any of the hundreds of people that were grouping together online.
But it wasn't just being 'friends' (which entailed nothing more than being another number on someone else's personal page - ie. 'I've got 238 friends now!). There are also thousands of other little games, add-ons and personalisers that you could link and share and play with, all designed to strengthen your ties with your 'friends': scrabble, movie quizzes, daily quotes and personal photos in which you could place a name-tag on your 'friends' or have a tag placed upon you to identify yourself in a blurry photo of a party from three years ago. All of these things serve to elevate the size of the numbers on your page. All of them quantifiers. But not of anything more than more than how much time you spend on Facebook. Someone who has 300 Facebook 'friends' isn't any more or less fabulous than someone who has 10, they just spend more time sending friend invites.
Facebook also emails you when someone does something to your profile. Anything. When you have been sent a 'gift' (a picture of a gift), had a funny picture or movie posted (by someone else) at the top of your message board, been compared to someone else in a computerised version of those 'would you rather' games. People even send you emails through Facebook, even though they have your email. Things that stopped being fashionable to send by email five years ago (spam warnings, naughty pictures, "send this and get the answer to the question" riddles) are suddenly back in our inboxes because Facebook doesn't let you choose who to send it to, but who not to. The default setting for that less-than-hilarious photo of the fat chick in angel wings is "Send All".
I won't even begin to discuss the lax privacy policies that permeate most of Facebook's third party applications. The default setting for every game that you play and photo that you send is "Everyone Can See What I'm Doing At All Times, Especially Advertisers Who Now Have A Direct Way Of Contacting Me Through Facebook".

None of that sounds particularly attractive, does it?

So I'm out. Fortunately there is a 'Deactivate Account' button hidden in the profile settings and the moment I have finished posting this blog, I'm skipping on over there and freeing myself of an opportunity to waste more time I don't have on things I don't care about. I believe the common term for bowing out of Facebook is the rather drastic 'Facebook Suicide' and I've heard it mentioned a few times, especially in the last few weeks. These are people who quietly and with dignity chose to end their commitment to FunWall, SuperWall, Quote of the Day, Phototagging, Friendwheel, Eggs and Aquarium and move onto the higher plane of real life.

I was inspired by Shippy, whose blog I've just learned about after he came to my birthday (photos soon) and bragged to me about his new surf-ski. I'm not sure cutting down on internet network sites and an increase in physical activity are directly related, but I'm sure that one is healthy and the other isn't.

The Jimmythins Style is up and running! Dig his cool movies!

The Blob Attacks!


The Blob Attacks: The Soldiers Fight Back


GTH - Jono is champion for this post. River gets an honourable mention (but no points!) for her further than diligent research on the 'Gedenke' header.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Flowfield Duality?

A month or so ago I left a comment on one of the few of my favourite comics that actually encourages reader feedback, The Flowfield Unity. It's a weird comic; eclectic, imaginative and simple. It's creator, Adam, writes his comics like small stories instead of punchline-directed ramps to laughter that don't always propel the reader over the requisite number flaming of buses that they should. The title of my small collection of internet comic links below - Comics are better than poetry - is probably mostly inspired by his desire for succinctness and talent for compactness. His comics often concern themselves with alternate realities as directed by scientists or madmen or both. They take a small change and explore the possible reaches of its effects.
As I always do when confronted by creativity, I get all excited and inspired and jumpy-up-and-downy, so I left the following comment on this truly hilarious comic, Teach a Man To Fish:

I have an idea for a comic that I feel only you can draw: my digital camera (and I'm assuming many other digicams) has a setting where it will play the sound of an SLR shutter clacking when it takes a photo. It doesn't have to do this, but the option is there. I've noticed that some mobile phone cameras do this too. Why is this necessary? What other new, improved technologies are designed to emulate the things they replaced so that people don't get too freaked out at the New World Order? I'm thinking mobile phones with ye olde winde upe telephone ringtones already exist, why not laptops that play a soundtrack of harddrive checking, floppy disc-drive grinding, and screen turning on boinking? How about an iPod that plays a bit of needle-find-the-groove static before each song? A Prius with hidden external speakers that play super-loud V8 sounds?
Flow it, field."

You can imagine my ecstasy and pleasure when this morning I checked my email and came across this note:

"Being as speedy as I am, I finally came up with this, an ode to televisions of yesteryear:
I've given you a shout-out, but if there's anything else I can do to say thanks, just let me know..."

What a scholar! What a gentleman! Yet, for some strange reason, he believes that
he should be thanking me, and not the other way around. So people, please, visit The Flowfield Unity, link it as recommended by franzy, or (if that little endorsement doesn't help) just leave a comment, subscribe to his RSS and enjoy!


GTH - I'm going to give points to River and Milly Moo here because they were both correct in guessing Germany. River for her diligent research and Milly Moo for having a go. Everybody wins a prize! The wall in question is in Coburg, which we did indeed visit on our EuroHoliday last year. Gedenke translates (in my muddled German head) roughly as "Memorial" but I can't read what exactly it's for in the original picture.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

*Tag* I'm it.

Memes are always a bit naff. And I'm actually quite bad at them. But, at the end of a long day of advanced bogonics (you'll find out what that means in due course), it seems like the perfect wind down. Milly Moo has tagged me and I accept the challenge!

1) Eight things I am passionate about:
The people I care about

2) Eight things I want to do before I die:
Go to Japan and eat the cuisine.
Go to Scandinavia in the winter.
Eat an entire pig.
Own a Nissan Skyline despite how embarrassed or mockful everyone I know and love will be.
Drive a Ferrari. Fast.
Publish a(nother) book and have it not be trashed as badly as I have trashed others.
Get my PhD.
Cook for someone famous. (I'm scraping the barrel here).

3) Eight things I say often:


4) Eight books I've read recently:
The Cursed.
My Swordhand is Singing.
Extra Lemon!
The Trial of Colonal Sweeto and other stories.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan.
Monster Blood Tattoo by DM Cornish.

5) Eight songs I could listen to over and over:
Blue Monday by New Order
Jambi by Tool
Know Your Enemy by Rage Against The Machine
Got Glint? by The Chemical Brothers
Nessun Dorma as sung by Pavarotti
Rez/Cowgirl (live) by Underworld
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk (I liked it way before Kanye mashed it up)
In White Rooms by Booka Shade

6) But if I were doing a triple CD set, I’d include (8 x 3 = 24)
I mentioned above that I was passionate about music, so much so that I don't believe that I can restrict I my music taste to 24 songs within an efficient time limit. That is, if I were to do justice to this question - whittling down my favourite music to just 24 - I would not be doing justice to the other things that I am passionate about: writing, friends, family, cooking. It would be a full time job and one for which I would not get paid. And after all that, I couldn't possibly do justice to my passion for music by cutting it down to 24 songs. Sorry.

7) 8 things that attract me to my friends:
They laugh at my jokes.
They tell good stories.
They are all very successful.
They are all part of me.
We agree on most things, but thankfully not all.
They still surprise me.
Most of them can juggle to a certain extent.
They would say the same things about me.

8) 8 movies I've watched at least into double figures
Life of Brian
The Holy Grail
Wayne's World
The Meaning of Life
Terminator 2
Star Wars
... and that could be about it. Which is surprising, because I'd always rather watch a movie I've seen before than one I haven't, but I suppose my saner friends have restrained me from the kind of madness that takes this practice into double figures.

So who do I tag?

Lion - Welcome to Blogworld, buddy. Here's something naff for your second post!
Jimmythins - Something to do until those movies get posted


GTH - Will of the 'not public' profile has taken the first cherry from his tree! It was indeed from the San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art. And as I explained, this was an illegal photo (see previous post's comments about museum guards and life-sized porcelain sculptures of Michael Jackson and Bubbles). Welcome Will, to the honour wall!

Friday, December 7, 2007

This can't be happening!

Hello, dear readers!

I’ve been having a lot of fun lately not doing RQF reports and (obviously) not blogging. I have been, however, indulging a little too vigorously in my own selfish pass-time of being amazed at the true drongos out there floating around the internet, leaving anonymous comments on Audrey's excellent blog. Which you must all read. If you glance at the bottom of the comments on my last birthday invitation post, you'll see the confusingly hilarious extent to which these debates run.

Aside from that I've also been wrestling with mixed feelings about the election. I realise that I should be happy, ecstatic that K-Rudd got in, that a Labor government probably won't treat its citizens like naughty children. But there's a pause in that sentence, around the word 'probably'. I have lived my entire politically interested life under Howard. My understanding of the words 'government', 'politician' and 'representation' are enmeshed with the words 'disappointment', 'disillusion
' and 'resentment'. For me, elected members of parliament are people who look after other people's mortgages at the cost of the next generation's education and health. I never stopped being angry with the federal government for as long as I could understand that what was going on in Canberra effected how I felt about my country and my future. I did stop hoping though. Even on election day when we drove down to Port Elliot to watch it all unfold on a friend's TV, I felt less excited than simply resigned. I had voted. I had done all I could bring myself to do to stop the tide of Australia's trained, ingrained selfishness for yet another election. But if Howard had scraped it in again, I would have nodded and gone back to my studies and my writing and looking out for myself and the one's I care for.
'That's what he's turned Australia into,' I would have said. 'We're not interested i
n how we look to other countries, we're not interested in art or soul or each other. A few are, but the majority of us just want to work and watch TV. Not even the threat of exploitation could stir us from our conviction that if we all just work hard enough and look out for ourselves and our families, then everything will be great and comfortable forever.'

Now that the unthinkable has happened - a Labor government - I literally don't know what to believe. It is as though the sky were suddenly legislated green. Kyoto, an apology to th
e Stolen Generations, scrapping of Work Choices - they are all happening, but I still don't believe it. There must be a catch in it somewhere. I'm almost almost hard-wired to think like this. I say almost because ... I don't know. Nothing I know tells me that my government will perform in my name as I would like them to. I'm almost waiting for Kevin to support the capital punishment of drug smugglers or privatise the roads or something so that I can stop floating around in this political dream world where the rest of the country isn't taught to distrust higher education.
I am the man on the right:


I mentioned earlier that I've been enjoying Audrey's latest blog posts, not just for their lively comments pages, but for the fact that they are reprints of her published work as the latest opinion columnist for the Sunday Mail (Radelaide's local Sunday tabloid). So she has inspired me! Not to write opinion pieces for the local arm of Murdoch's Minions, but to publish on my own blog, things that I've had printed on real paper in real life. I've done this once before, my review of Randa Abdel-Fattah's Does My Head Look Big In This? actually secured me a regular reviewing spot in the young adult book reviewing magazine Viewpoint, printed by Melbourne Uni and also received a few comments about how harsh I was being on a fellow first-time young adult author. Rest assured that I have continued on my quest to "tell it like it is" in the world of young adult novels, publishing the following review in the latest edition (available in your local library ... maybe) on an adventure book aptly named The Cursed.

The Cursed by Michael Panckridge (Black Dog Books, 2007, 9781921167553, $16.95) has one of the most imaginative ideas for an adventure novel on the shelves today. An invisible tribe in the Amazon jungle, a sinister, secret society which has vowed to rid the world of evil and the twelve-year-old schoolboy whose destiny is entwined in both. The concept is intriguing and exciting for readers of all ages. Any author talented enough to dream up these elements and brave enough to combine them in a 300-page adventure novel must surely produce tale of worth telling, indeed, worth reading!

The Cursed, while being a story worth telling, is not a book worth reading. The standard of editing is such that there doesn’t seem to have been any kind of intervention between the author printing out his manuscript and Black Dog Books giving the go-ahead for a print run. Ignoring the punctuation that veers from clumsy to incorrect and the many instances in which words were missing from the text, it is almost as though the author were deliberately trying to break every commonly-accepted rule for readable writing. For example: ‘Show don’t tell’ is a mantra for anyone who has ever come in contact with the supply end of fiction. After a sentence describing one of three hostages telling diverting stories of travel and adventure to his fellow prisoners, Panckridge felt it necessary to add: ‘He was trying to lighten the mood’ (p.219). Apparently the motive for telling diverting stories to one’s fellow captives in a hostage situation was unclear. Clichés are another aspect of writing that should begin disappearing once the author can think of their own descriptors. Panckridge actually has a laser beam slice through metal ‘like a hot knife through butter’ (p.74).

Moving on to characterisation, but staying with clichés, the schoolboy’s mentor and guardian warns the bad guys that they ‘won’t be getting away with this’ on two separate occasions. In the previous issue of Viewpoint I recommend readers watch a Jackie Chan movie instead of reading Jimmy Coates: Revenge. In the case of The Cursed I believe that an old Scooby-Doo cartoon will suffice. It was a surprise at the end when the villain didn’t complain that he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids (which, predictably, is the very reason he does not get away with it).

On the back cover James Moloney himself claims that the arch bad guy, Raymond Brampton, is ‘surely the most sinister villain since Voldemort’. Voldemort is an evil wizard who enslaves, tortures and kills. Raymond Brampton is Richard Branson but without the beard. The only difference is the spelling and pronunciation of their names. Voldemort heads up the Death Eaters, an order of wizard murderers and torturers mainly concerned with ethnic cleansing. Raymond Brampton heads up a multi-national corporation that only makes masks and yet has somehow managed to survive for over a century and turns a higher yearly profit than Westpac Bank.

Lewis Watt, the central character, barely has any character to speak of. He spends more than half the novel reading a very detailed letter from his mother that tells the story of her own run-in with the invisible Amazonians in prose that, were it not italicized, is barely discernable from the regular narrative of the book. This example of telling instead of showing is not just unskillful, it is utterly perplexing. In a book aimed at younger teens about a twelve-year-old boy and an invisible Amazon tribe, why send the boy’s mother to have the adventure? And instead of actually having the adventure with her, he only gets to read her descriptions of it after the fact. The book is 278 pages long, yet Lewis doesn’t leave for the Amazon until page 201. His mother spends more time having jungle adventures than he does. The closest Lewis comes to real action before he is finally chauffeured to Brazil is stealing the school’s four-wheel motorbike to chase the bad guy, using the GPS ‘tracking thingo’ (p.186) he just happens to build himself. This scene itself is a great contender for the silliest moment in the book. Lewis rides the quad bike into a narrow street ‘cobbled and crowded with speed jumps, tyres and ramps’ (p.191). Maybe, maybe ‘speed jumps’ instead of speed ‘humps’ or ‘bumps’ can be put down to bad editing. But I guarantee that there isn’t a city in the world that installs ramps in its narrow streets for no reason.

As amusing as it is to poke fun at the enormous list of authorial bloopers (and there are dozens more examples), it is only hollow laughter. The Cursed is a great and worrying disappointment. Not just for its poor editing, lazy writing, forgettable characters, sloppy dialogue, conflicting information, all-too-convenient technology and even-more-convenient action scenes. I suspect that this low, low standard of book was published in the first place because Michael Panckridge has sold over 100,000 copies of young teen books set in and around sport. He has probably been instrumental in encouraging boys to keep reading during an age where they traditionally stop. But sending out an undercooked second-draft like this is capitalising on Panckridge’s name as a popular author, rather than anything to do with his ability to write adventure fiction. This shows his audience a great disrespect by treating them as young buyers rather than young readers.

GTH - To River, as usual, for trying so darn hard! Not a seafood buffet, just the local deli's fare at Cinque Terre.

An explanation of The Joy Division Litmus Test

Although it may now be lost in the mysts of thyme, the poll below is still relevant to this blog. In the winter of 2008, Mele and I went to live in Queensland. In order to survive, I bluffed my way into a job at a Coffee Club.
It was quite a reasonable place to work: the hours were regular, the staff were quite nice, it wasn't particularly taxing on my brain.
There were a few downsides: In the six weeks or so that I worked there, there was about a 90% staff turnover (contributed to by my leaving). This wasn't seen as a result of the low pay, the laughability of staff prices or the practice of not distributing tips to staff, rather it was blamed on the lack of work ethic among Bribie Island's youth.
However, one of the stranger aspects of the cultural isolation that touched our lives during our time "up there" was the fact that nobody at my work had heard of the band Joy Division.
The full explanation is available here.
But please, interact a little further and vote in my ongoing poll. The results are slowly mounting up, proving one thing: people read this blog are more well-informed about Joy Division than anyone who works at the Coffee Club on Bribie Island.

Have you heard of the band Joy Division?

Chinese food, not Chinese Internet!

Champions of Guess The Header

  • What is Guess The Header about? Let’s ask regular “Writing” reader, Shippy: "Anyway, after Franzy's stunning September, and having a crack at 'Guess The Header' for the first time - without truly knowing what I was doing mind you - I think I finally understand what 'GTH' is all about. At first I thought you needed to actually know what it was. Don't get me wrong — if you know what it is, it may help you. I now realise that it's more Franzy's way of invoking thought around an image or, more often than not, part of an image. If you dissect slightly the GTH explanatory sentence at the bottom of his blog you come up with this: “The photo is always taken by me and always connects in some way to the topic of the blog entry it heads up.” When the header is put up, the blog below it will in some obscure way have something to do with it. “Interesting comments are judged and scored arbitrarily and the process is open to corruption and bribery with all correspondence being entered into after the fact and on into eternity, ad infinitum amen.” Franzy judges it, but it's not always the GTH that describes the place perfectly that gets it. “The frequent commenters, the wits, the wags and the outright smartarses who, each entry, engage to both guess the origin and relevance of the strip of photo at the top (or “head”) of each new blog and also who leave what I deem the most interesting comment.” It generally helps if you're a complete smartarse and can twist things to mean whatever you feel they should mean - exactly the way Franzy would like things to be twisted." - Shippy Blogger and GTH point scorer.
  • Nai - 1
  • Lion Kinsman - 2
  • Will - 2
  • Brocky - 2
  • Andy Pants - 2
  • The 327th Male - 3
  • Mad Cat Lady - 3
  • Miles McClagen - 4
  • Myninjacockle - 4
  • Asheligh - 5
  • Neil - 5
  • Third Cat - 5
  • Adam Y - 6
  • Squib - 6
  • Mele - 6
  • Moifey - 7
  • Jono - 8
  • The Other, other Sam - 14
  • Kath Lockett - 15
  • Shippy - 19
  • River - 32