Monday, 30 June 2014

The Photo Processing Crisis

I’ll tell you in on a professional secret. I maintain a list of blog post ideas.
It’s a bit similar to the idea behind Scrivener, the software used by many authors to “design” their book. Because I have many more post ideas than time to write them, I jot down the ideas’ highlights and the envisioned structure of the post so. That allows me to revisit the idea later, long after that initial spark is gone.
At the moment, my posts backlog stands at about 15. The count tends to go up and down, and occasionally it is cleared throughout, but this year it has been building and building.

There's this item that's been topping the list, which is to say the item that’s been there the longest. It has been there for over a year but I never got to it; it deals with Apple’s professional photo processing, Aperture.
Essentially, I wanted to say that the semi-pro photographer does not have to settle for Adobe and its pricing or the way it’s been treating its users. I did not want to be herded into an expensive software rental model. There is an alternative, at least if you’re a Mac user, and that alternative is called Aperture (developed by Apple, no less). Essentially, it’s the same deal as Adobe Lightroom, a piece of software that’s there to primarily manage your collection of RAW photography and also offers other strong photo processing functionality. There are areas where Lightroom is a bit better (it certainly seemed to have received more development effort recently), and there are areas where Aperture is better.
More importantly, Aperture is half the price; and if you buy your iTunes cards carefully (and I do), you can take another half of that price away.

But why am I telling you all of this now?
Because yesterday I read that Apple announced the end of life for Aperture. Next year’s Mac operating system, Yosemite, will still support it, but that would be it; there will be no further development, nor will we have further compatibility adjustments to ensure Aperture runs on whatever Macs are running in a year’s time.

Which leaves me, and pretty much everyone else who’s using Aperture, at the clutches of Adobe. Which is very sad. Apple, you’ve disappointed me.


Image rights: Apple

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

How the Mighty Get Mightier


One of my best friends in Israel has had a child born. Hooray!
We did the natural thing and bought the family a gift. Weight was a major factor, because we know how expensive airmail shipping is. Still, we did splurge [if you’re reading this: I significantly devalued the gift’s value in order to prevent you from paying import taxes]. To paraphrase my wife, she’s been eyeing this particular gift for a long time, looking for an opportunity to buy it; an opportunity that just arrived.
We then proceeded to wrap the gift up so as to keep it as light as possible.
Then: shock!

The cost of posting this 220gr package by airmail from Australia to Israel is $21.50. Apparently, Australia Post charges a minimum of 500gr on airmail packages, partially explaining the cost; but still, it's artificially enforced, and worse still - shockingly expensive even for half a kilo.
The reason I am complaining is simple. Were I to buy a similar gift with one of the major Internet powerhouses of this world, say Amazon or Book Depository (owned by Amazon), I would have paid a fraction of the postage cost. I know that because I shop with these two all the time.
But when I take matters into my own hands, I am robbed in broad daylight.
Just in case you were wondering how Amazon & Co became the monopolies they are. And yeah, I will play along: it will take something special for me to let Australia Post gain such open access to my wallet again.


Image by sharyn morrow, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) licence

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Small World

We keep on hearing about globalisation and stuff, but one thing I keep on noticing at this Brazilian World Cup is how unfamiliar I am with the bulk of brands advertised by the sides of the pitch. I suspect it goes the other way around when a South American is watching the Aussie Open, but the point is still the same: our world isn’t as small as we often think it is.
And that’s probably a good thing.


One of the things I’m most proud of with the project I’m currently working on is the team I’m working with. It is a genuine emblem of diversity, with various nationalities, races and sexes. Only one of the people on the project was born in Australia, and even he is the product of an immigrants’ family. In other words, none of us would qualify as laymen’s Aussies, yet we are all Aussies.
In your face, red necks.
Almost needless to say, this situation creates for interesting scenarios. A few weeks ago we were taking part in one of those excruciating team building efforts. The powers that be decided to divide us into groups designated with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters. This caused one of our team members some puzzlement: what is this Michelangelo tag that they’ve been assigned with?
It took me a while but eventually I figured it out. They had no idea who Michelangelo was (the real one, not the turtle). You see, they are from China; as clever and sharp as they are (reminding me of my younger self, before corporate life spoilt this formerly promising product), they had no idea.
In a few brief sentences I provided your basic Michelangelo introduction, Sistine Chapel and David included, but seriously – can I truly convey what people like Michelangelo meant to the Renascence with a few sentences? No, I can’t.
One can obviously argue for the deficiencies of the Chinese education system. I read/heard it severely restricts history studies, under the assumption that people unfamiliar with history are more likely to let the Communist Party rule continue unopposed. Regardless, given the number of people we are talking about, we have ourselves a huge portion of humanity that is probably unfamiliar with cornerstones of Western culture. And you know what? The same can be said about me and my familiarity with Chinese history and culture.
I don't need to focus on Chinese culture in particular. The World Cup is currently taking place in South America; what do I know about South America and its cultures? Most of what I know of Brazil comes from Michael Palin. In the absence of similar documentaries about the rest of the continent I am truly ignorant about their Michelangelos.
In other words, it’s a small world after all. And that’s probably not a good thing, because with the challenges facing this world it would be good to know we are all able to look at our past and draw conclusions for the future.


Image by Stephen Coles, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) licence

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

2X


In case you haven't figured it out already for yourself, the upcoming weeks will feature severely reduced blogging on my behalf. Even my upcoming review of Glenn Greenwald's No Place to Hide will have to wait. The reason is this sports tournament currently taking place in Brazil: I was already short on sleep before, but now when interrupted sleep is the rule rather than the exception then some things have to give. For now, quality computer time it is. [Have no worry, I still spend the bulk of my waking hours in front of a screen.] 
For me, the most obvious aspect of this World Cup so far has been the lack of a father to exchange notes with. My father's favourite hobby was watching [and falling asleep in front of the] TV, so imagine what a hell of time he would have had with this one! Especially when considering that to date there was only one draw (thank you very much, Iran; yes, I'm picking on you - it's in fashion), and plenty of goals. As in, teams are playing for the win, not for the draw. 
Which reminds me. I was talking to a work colleague about the unexpected effects of losing my father. He had an interesting point. He asked me "how old are you?", to which I answered "X". Well, he said, "you are used to having your father for X years, and now - for the first time in your life - he's gone." 
So maybe I'd go back to normal by the time I'm 2X years old.


Image by Breno Peck, Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) licence

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Music for All Ages

Respect.


At 63, Chrissie Hynde has just released a new album. After several hearings I can say this is not an album that knocked my headphones off my head, but it’s still definitely Hynde, voice and all. And I love her: I love her voice, I love her music, and most of all I love the personal experiences her music took me through.
It is definitely a privilege to be able to listen to her new album on its release day.

Laugh it off, if you will, but I recall this 16 year old dedicating an entire Friday afternoon/evening to a special radio event: ahead of Hynde’s band, The Pretenders, visit to Israel, this radio station – Galei Zahal (the Israeli army’s radio station) ran a six hour long Pretenders special featuring rare recordings and interviews. And I remember me being glued up to the radio and making sure I have enough stock to keep the cassette deck recording. Oh, the pirate that I was!
Indeed, some music was pretty hard to get at the time. I still remember the lengths an army friend of mine had to go through in order to put his hands on special vinyl versions of Pet Shop Boys and Yello music. I benefitted there, too, feeding him with cassettes so he can make this pirate a copy of his achievements.
And now?
Now I can get the entire Pretenders discography on Spotify at the press of a button. Those rare Pet Shop Boys and Yello recordings? They’re saved for offline listening on my phone through the Spotify app (they’re great for driving music!). My City Was Gone, the song with the wonderful bass line I remember best from that special Pretenders radio marathon? It’s also saved for offline listening on my Spotify app.
Indeed, nowadays, when I want to hear a band’s special, I just look it up and press play. I don’t need to wait for a radio station, nor do I need to work my ass off locating rare pieces of plastic. It’s all there, and it’s even legal. In fact, I run these private marathons on a daily basis and I enjoy them immensely: the music I listen to is a significant component of me being the person that I am.

You can take whatever message you want to take from the above tale. One of the main things I take is just how much further society progressed through the introduction of enabling technology (the Internet) and facilities that utilise this technology (e.g., Spotify). It’s my message to the copyright monopoly’s constant complaints, coupled with its constant demand for draconian measures to fight piracy with: give us the product that we really want, and there will be no reason to pirate.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Time for Magazines

One of the side effects of having an iPad permanently by my side is that I’ve started reading magazines again. And yes, it’s wonderful to be able to read a magazine without having to carry bulky pieces of paper and without having to wait, sometimes months, for it them arrive at my post box (all wrinkled and folded).
As previously discussed, there are several ways to skin a cat and also several ways to read magazines on an iPad. I ended up going through Zinio for two reasons: they have more of the magazines I’m actually interested in, and their prices are OK. As in, they frequently offer various sorts of discounts that can make one’s magazines consumption feel like a bargain.
I thought I’d dedicate the rest of this post to reviewing the magazines I’ve been reading. There’s a simple reason for that, aside of my built in tendency to review stuff: the magazines I am now reading are basically the same as those I have been reading during decades gone by but have stopped, through reaching one stage of life or another. In effect, the iPad gave me an opportunity to revisit my past for little effort or dollars. So here goes.

Time:
For a couple of years, around the break of the new millennium, I used to regard Time as the epitome of magazine creation. It gave me everything I wanted in current affairs, and as part of its achievements it introduced me to the world of Harry Potter and the music of Air. I recall how excited I was when Time picked Einstein to be the person of the 20th century; I also recall how touched I was to read Time’s 9/11 coverage, with its photos of people jumping off the burning building to their death.
Nowadays I see things differently. Today I regard Time as a cog in the well oiled consumerists’ machine that is American capitalism. Today I read it and I cannot avoid that feeling of nausea that comes from reading that institutional American world view of affairs. Nowadays I’m angry at the ass licking that had the Pope selected as Man of the Year over Edward Snowden.
But I can live with that. I can read between the lines. I am no longer reliant on one magazine the way I used to be; now I consume my updates from dozens of sources. Some are distinctly better sources, such as The Guardian. None of these good or better sources drips my news feed into my veins in that right mix of variety and quantity, as seen through the eyes of the world’s current dominant culture, like Time does.
I’d say Time is well worth the $20 yearly admission price I had paid.

Stereophile:
Through the heydays of my years as an audiophile, Stereophile was there for me. I passionately read it cover to cover, pondering every word and evaluating this over that. I even took an active part in the discussion, writing letters that resulted in my position compared against that of Dolby’s chief engineer in the magazine’s editorials. But then real life happened: I had responsibilities to look after, while at the same time I could no longer afford the significant portion of my income that matters of audiophilia required.
Revisiting Stereophile, I can see that not much have changed. It is interesting to see how the audiophile community has embraced advanced digital technology, but it is also interesting to see how the audiophile culture still manages to keep itself on the wrong side of relevancy. Yet between the six monthly listings of recommended components and the regular monthly reviews of music releases, as heard from an audiophile’s point of view, I don’t mind the $5 yearly subscription fee at all. It was well worth spending just for the sake of this high quality recording of Beethoven’s symphonies.

New Scientist:
My only new magazine in this post, New Scientists represents my way of revisiting the genre of science magazines from the point of view of a disappointed Scientific American reader. I have been a subscriber of the latter for more than a decade, but I quit relatively recently due to “personal issues”: on one hand, I no longer had the time to properly read the hard science Scientific American had to offer; on the other, its regular columns seem to have deteriorated in quality (or at least offer me nothing I could not find online). Further, Scientific American has a weird online policy: if one wants to be able to read the magazine digitally, one has to subscribe to the paper edition first. That’s so 20th century of them.
So I looked for alternatives, of which New Scientist seemed the most promising. Alas, the promise comes at a price: a digital subscription to this weekly magazine costs around $200 for Australians. I did what I usually do in these cases: I put on an American hat and subscribed for half the price (nowadays I would have waited for a Zinio offer to get a discount on that).
The question remains, is New Scientist worth the admission price? I would argue that it probably doesn’t. Sure, there is good reading to be had there, but there is also a lot that I wouldn’t classify as scientific writing but rather more like fluff. The level of discussion isn’t that great, either, with most articles easily summarised into two sentences. It wouldn’t have been bad for $20 a year, but for $200? Or even half that? No.
Not when the likes of Ars Technica or The Richard Dawkins Foundation can keep me up to date with the latest in science for free.

Motorcyclist and Cycle World:
Cycle was the first then-foreign language motorcycle magazine I got into back when two wheels were the main subjects of my dreams. It was by far my favourite, too. Motorcyclist joined its ranks shortly after just because I couldn’t read enough about motorcycles; it helped that I liked it, too. Then disaster struck, and Cycle’s publisher decided to kill the magazine and keep some of its leftovers under another magazine called Cycle World. I never forgot Cycle World for its crime, even if it did keep my favourite two wheels author, Kevin Cameron, doing what he did best.
Through this and that, my interest in motorcycles waned. What remained is the passion for good motorcycle writing. You see, although I’m not planning on ever riding a motorbike again, I enjoy reading about them from an engineering point of view. I find it marvellous how slight changes of angle there and timing here can create a totally different beast of a bike. Which is why I have decided to revisit the genre.
Last I visited Motorcyclist, more than a decade ago, I was disappointed with its editors knee jerk reaction to 9/11, mocking people that refer to their continent as Amrica. They probably forgot their America is a twist on an Italian dude’s name to begin with. The few recent magazines I read of Motorcyclist did not stoop that low, but they also did not rise to previous heights of detail in the reviews. Those insights on motorcycle engineering I used to like so much, the bits that would tell me why a 600cc bike from Kawasaki is so different to a 600cc bike from Suzuki that is quite different to a 600cc bike from Yamaha and is definitely a separate beast altogether to a 600cc bike from Honda. I cancelled my subscription to get the remainder of my money back.
I took on Cycle World because of a “get two years subscription for the price of one” offer. In turn, it took me by surprise: everything I liked about motorcycle writing was in there. The magazine I used to love to hate was oozing with quality!
No, I don’t read it as passionately or as regularly as I used to. But from time to time I enjoy having a go. Given this is the closest I am going to get to motorcycling, we are talking supreme bang for the buck here.


Magazine images used under assumption of fair use

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Ahead of the World [Cup]


I have posted on the virtues of the German team prior to the previous World Cup. With your permission, I will do so again, this time from a different angle. You see, just the other week I read how university fees are now an extinct species in Germany; at the same time, we have ourselves an incoming evil budget here in Australia, a budget that is set to ensure more of us are incapable of affording higher studies.
My question is, what is it that lets Germany get away with[out] such fees while our government feels the other way? I mean, here we keep on hearing about the need to be more efficient and more productive; yet can Australia, or for that matter anyone else, claim to have an advantage over Germany when it comes to productivity and efficiency? Judging by the way German made cars are looked at here, clear not.
My personal answer to this question requires winding the clock up a bit.

Growing up in Israel at the time I did, I was taught that everything German is evil. While Israel happily took holocaust compensation money from Germany, German goods were a taboo.  Change started during the eighties, symbolised by BMW cars growing to become a popular status symbol. With the cars came gradual changes in attitude.
I remember my own journey towards Germany. At first, the very thought of visiting Germany seemed inconceivable. Then, when I did end up there through work, I could not avoid the mental exercise of trying to identify old looking people on the street while wondering what part they took in history.
As usual with these prejudices, my approach only truly changed once I got to have German friends. Work had plenty of opportunities to supply me with those, personal stories and all. I learned many things from that experience, including the fact that Germans are like any other people. However, one of the more interesting impressions I took with me is that Germans, particularly the young ones, have learnt a lot from their country’s history; much more than the rest of us. More importantly, a large portion of them is actively trying to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.
The last European elections, just a few weeks ago, further prove my impressions. Of the major European powers, Germany turned out the least fascist. Compare that to the “winners” side of UK with its UKIP or France with its current Le Pen. Compare that to our modern day Australia, where the government is actively trying to militarise society (refugees taken care of by army, ex military Governor General, ex military NSW Governor General) and you will be right to ask who the real winner is.

So, given this personal insight, what is the answer to the question of how Germany does it? How does Germany manage to be productive while providing free education?
I would say the answer is staring us in the face. Germany is the only major country that seems to have read the history books in order to learn something rather than simply fill up on patriotic pride. It is the very fact that it could not fill up on patriotic pride that caused it to learn something.
And what it learned is that a healthy society needs healthy education, a healthy health system and healthy infrastructure. It is exactly because of these investments, as well as other future leaning investments in green energy, that Germany is doing so well. It is because Germany looks to the future while we look to minimise costs and bolster our national pride that they outrank us.
Sure, Germany has its own problems, most of which I am completely unaware of. It is also obvious that the Nazis and their supporters that were there, some 70 years ago, did not just evaporate into thin air. Still, from the child that detested everything German I have grown to regard modern Germany as a source of inspiration. Even in football.

I don’t foresee this German team having too much success in this 2014 World Cup. Traditionally speaking, the Germans – like most European teams – tend to not perform too well outside of European soil. But who cares? As long as they play the attractive football they have been playing at recent international tournaments, they have me on their side.


Image by Marc, Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 licence

Friday, 6 June 2014

Another Brick in the Wall, Part 3


I recently recounted the story of how my son had received a damning report from school and how disappointed I was with the circumstances through which we received that report (as well as some of its contents). This time around I would like to trace back a little to the events that got the ball rolling with school in the first place. I'm doing it because this happens to be the most burning issue for us, parents; my son's problems at school are merely a reflection of generic problems he/we are dealing with. Perhaps more importantly, I would like to do so in order to demonstrate how we seem to have been marginalised by our school.

The wheels started rolling when we first heard school was assessing kids for lagging in their reading/writing performances. Shortly afterwards we were told our son was identified as such, and to ensure there are no underlying problems we were referred to behavioural optometrists and audiology experts. That’s when shit started hitting the fan.
I took my son to one of the recommended optometrists for an eye test – an ordinary eye test that is generally funded by Medicare. The results turned out to be fine, but we were recommended to come again for a Visual Processing Assessment. This time around there was no Medicare support but there was a $200 out of pocket expense. We went ahead with it anyway.
For an outcome, we received a written report that gauged our son’s performance against 8 categories and found him to be below average on 2. Given that the average person is below average on half the things out there, I took 2 out of 8 to be a good result; however, the behavioural optometrist disagreed, recommending visual therapy. It seemed as if one has to be a superman in order to avoid receiving such a recommendation, or at least be above average in 8 out of 8 categories. Note only one of 256 people would qualify there; that is, it seemed as if out of 256 people going through this test, 255 would receive therapy related recommendations. Or, in other words, we're all sick in the eyes of the optometrist.
But I'm digressing. I was very close to booking this therapy. Very. The alarm bells started ringing only when the optometrist started detailing its terms & conditions: we will have to buy a special software licence prior to starting at a cost of $350, plus we will have to book and pay for a series of sessions in advance. In other words, we would be some $750 out of pocket before we even knew what’s going on. I paused.
In order to validate my concerns, I called on another behavioural optometrist. They did not want us to buy any software, but they did insist on us paying for 10 sessions in advance – a $550 affair. And oh, they’d have to do their own assessment first, so there go another $250.
The demand for substantive advance payments made me go back to the drawing board. I already read Wikipedia to know that visual therapy is considered unproven; now I went back and read it again, properly this time. Some Googling (actually, DuckDuckGo-ing) revealed prominent criticism of behavioural optometry, both in the forms of scientific papers as well as what seem to be substantial paediatrician organisations. Given these inputs, I could see why the therapists insisted upon getting their money first. I became a proper sceptic.

Yet in all of our interactions with school thus far, visual therapy is exactly what they have been pushing at us the most. Whenever I asked why they do so given what Wikipedia, the lowest common denominator, has to say they always appear confused; obviously, they haven’t read it. The reply we got, “everyone can edit Wikipedia”, goes both ways: if the optometrists have something to say in their defence, then why aren’t they doing so?
Then we were told that “visual therapy did wonders to some of our kids”. So, are we expected to put our eggs in the visual therapy basket based on such anecdotal evidence? Haven’t they heard of the placebo effect, for a start? If the medical system as a whole worked this way we’d all be dead by now.
The reality is, we don’t mind taking our son to visual therapy sessions; as anyone studying behavioural psychology would tell you, my son’s situation is bound to improve just by virtue of the attention he would be getting. The point, however, is to ensure he will be getting the most suitable care for his condition, whatever that may be (and at this point we have no idea what that may be). The point is not to be sending our child to the first kind of therapy that comes into mind.
Through blatantly wrong comments such as “dyslexia is diagnosed by visual therapy optometrists” it became clear to us that our school, the school that’s been telling us to go to visual therapy first and ask questions later, does not really know what it is talking about.

The audiology scene was not much better.
The audiologist our school had referred us to informed us there is no point in running their test until our son is significantly older, as the results would have no statistical significance. School’s feedback was “do the test anyway”, so we went ahead and paid top dollar out of pocket for what was, generally speaking, a general hearing test we could have otherwise been bulk billed for. The test, by the way, found nothing wrong.
The most telling artefact of the audiologist experience has been the report our teacher had to fill as input to the audiologist’s test. That report was very damning of our son, including many issues we were never informed of previously. That was the report I mentioned here, the report that left us wondering why we were never told of these things before at the “everything is alright” parent-teacher meeting we took part in just a fortnight earlier.

If so far it seemed as if there is an industry out there that is set to make money out of anxious parents’ paranoias and is aided by our school, our perceptions changed a little upon discussing our experiences with fellow parents.
It turns out we were not alone. Several – indeed, many – fellow parents received the same inputs from school and – surprise surprise – found themselves experiencing similar frustrations to ours. There also seemed to be some common ground: we were all the parents of boys.
This learning has led to develop my own hypothesis as to what is really going on in here. Our school has its own agenda on how well kids of my son's age should perform in their reading and writing, ideas that are shaped through the goal of receiving high NAPLAN scores. High NAPLAN scores will imply better status for our school, thus more students and more funding. In other words, it is all about the money, stupid.
In order to achieve that funding goal, our school is ready to marginalise a significant portion of its students, all of them happening to be boys – no coincidence there, given that at my son’s age girls are very obviously smarter than boys. Instead of the school taking responsibility for its lost boys, it tries to handball that responsibility over to the parents by using the best weapons it could ever hope to yield: parental anxiety.
Well, color me disappointed.

P.S.
I have already been given the “what do you expect, you’re sending your child to a state school” speech. But would a private school do any better? For a start, I would not dare send my child to a catholic school with all its 19th century concepts of discipline (to name but one gripe); those would guarantee mental scarring for the duration of my son’s life.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Third Time Unlucky

I have had my fair share of fun with Aldi PVRs. I bought a very simple one, with simple being an understatement, but kept it because it does its basic job and only cost me $35. Then I bought another one, which was meant to be a prime time model, but quickly returned it because it was a failure in almost every category that counts.
Well, today I bought another Aldi PVR at today's special sale: a 1TB, Bauhn branded model selling for $200 (pictured). And? And once again I will be returning it to the shop at the nearest opportunity.
The reason is a fairly mundane one. No, it is not the way too brightly lit blue standby light that shines directly into your eyes; we've covered that one up. Instead, it is the rather loud hum that comes out of the unit whenever it's off (but, oddly enough, not when it's on). It's that type of hum that can drive one crazy; it's also a sign of cheap power supplies.
Oh, and by the way, I also bought a pair of wireless headphones from Aldi today for $40. I thought they'd be good for middle of the night World Cup viewing. I should have known better: while the "reduce volume" button on the headphones works, the "raise volume" one doesn't. Yet another reason to visit Aldi at my earliest convenience.

Aldi, if you're reading this, please lift your game!


Image rights: Aldi

Monday, 2 June 2014

Fighting Censorship


The above poster for the new Sin City movie, featuring French actress Eva Green, has been censored by the MPAA. Apparently, this vile institution - known for fighting piracy in all sorts of malicious ways - deems it to feature
"nudity — curve of under breast and dark nipple/areola circle visible through sheer gown."
Aside of wanting to express my candidacy for the job of whoever it is that verbalises the above description, I think it as my duty as an anti censorship inactivist to ensure the poster is seen by as many eyes as possible.

Of course, my contempt for censorship is only an excuse to post this astounding image of Eva Green. Which raised the question: do I post the photo because of its censorship thing, or do I avoid posting it because of its sexist thing?
You might dismiss this argument, but I certainly don't. The problem stares me in the eye: there are tons of prominent photos featuring females in very compromising sexual positions, but only a fraction of similarly clad men. I will put it this way: I doubt Sin City has an equivalent poster to the one above featuring a man. My problem is, I do not want to be just another promoter of this type of sexist discrimination.
Often enough I contemplate photos for my posts, only to dismiss those that exploit the female [and thus settle for less sexist photos that also do a much lesser job at delivering the message I'm after]. It's actually a fairly common affair. Take the previous post as an example. Due to the context in which it was to be aired, I wanted a photo of Aussie women practicing sports; I even thought of using this photo. But then common sense prevailed and I decided not to stoop that low, correcting with a photo featuring a naked guy. For a change.
But was I on the verge of stooping low? Were those women in the photo I was thinking of publishing feeling exploited? I'd say they do, simply because the men playing the same game do so dressed significantly differently. Still, the question remains: when does one cross the border between the exploitation of women and the promotion of feminism? I will not pretend to have the answers.

The other issue springing to my mind with regards to Eva Green's image, particularly given the MPAA context, is the matter of copyright.
It is simple matter: Generally speaking, I do not have the right to reproduce the image. On the other hand, I doubt the movie studio would mind the publicity I am providing. And on the other other hand, the USA's copyright legislation does allow for fair use; but then again, Australia's doesn't, and what provisions there are for using copyrighted materials around here are rather thin.
I went ahead and published the image anyway. It's been all over the Internet anyway, so it's not like my publication matters much. The fact still remains, though: by publishing the image, partly in order to protest against the limitations imposed by copyright, I am legally exposing myself.


I don't know who holds the copyrights for the above image, but it certainly isn't me.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Run for Australia

I have been recently commissioned for a guest post by an illustrious (yet private) international blog dealing with all matters of running. Because sharing is caring, here is the post I wrote. It does not have much to do with running, but then again - neither do I.

Having recently been handed the voluntary task of coming up with a guest post on this famous sports blog, I found myself startled. I was hit at a soft spot: Me? Sports? What shall I talk about, the exercise my thumbs and index finger receive playing Mass Effect? Or should I dedicate thoughts to the physical punishment involved in the extreme swiping gestures that come with reading articles on an iPad? 
But then the inspirational words of sports legend Emil Zátopek rang in my head: "I prd v obecném směru! Tvoje matka byla křeček a tvůj otec cítit bezinek!”
Well, he was Czech, but he was also a long distance runner. He ran the distance. And so can I. 



Australia is famous for being a sports addicted nation. I guess it's only natural: given the lack of natural enemies, at least with the exception of stray baby loving dingos, one has to work hard to find a target for releasing one's steam on. What better, easier, target could there be than The Other Team™? 
Obviously, The Other Team™ is a rather arbitrary concept. Sports proved a major factor in Australia's teenage rebellion against the tyrannical English headmaster it had spawned from. Even today, there is no better way to define the spirit of Australia than its hatred towards the British in sports, particularly cricket and rugby. Where would we be without the English to beat? What would we see if we were to look ourselves in the mirror without the Poms to target our aggressions at? And while at it: why do we hate England so much in sports, but still accept an English person that happened to be born to certain parents as our head of state? Don't ever say that Australians make sense. 
If the unimaginable lengths of Australians’ illogical handling of sports is what you're after, you do not need to venture further than your average shopping mall's parking lot. There you will witness an obscure yet repeatedly verifiable phenomenon: those same Aussies that just finished their gruelling triathlon, the ones who were at the peak of the Everest just five minutes ago, are now desperately seeking a parking space near the entry. They will do everything for that magical parking spot: they will crawl behind pedestrians walking back to their parked cars, they will block the parking lot altogether as they wait for a car that might leave in five minutes, or they will simply wander around aimlessly in search of that invisible parking space that's surely there. What they will not do, never and under any circumstances, is drive a hundred or two meters further down to where there's parking aplenty. No, that would be totally UnAustralian of them. 

So there you go: even in Australia, sports don't make sense. That is exactly why I choose not to practice it. That, or me being lazy.
But who said I need to make sense? If it's rationality you're after, talk to Mr Zátopek.


Image by Duncan Yoyos, Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence