Strange Visions

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 11/08/2012 - 11:26am

Another open letter to the Coffs Coast Advocate:

Dear Sir,

As visions go, the notion that Coffs Harbour residents and visitors would not only choose to spend time sitting on a narrow strip of sand bordering a car park but also - curiously - enjoy the experience, is quite a doozie. One can only speculate at the provenance of this vision. It's too bizarre even to blame on a bedtime slice of cold pizza, and the apparent assertion that it is the result of a log of claims presented by Advocate "journos, clickies, subs, sales staff and admin folk" to management is, to put it mildly, somewhat implausible.

The only actual human being I can find that you've yet cited as supporting the "opening up" of the Jetty foreshores to transform it from mere beach into "a major economic driver" is "trustee of The Observatory holiday units, Neil Manson" who, as you point out, "has a unique vantage point"; also, it must be said, a comparatively rare if not actually unique economic interest not shared by the majority of Coffs Harbour residents. I confess to being mildly curious as to who else constitutes the enormous grassroots demand for your proposed Bogan Boulevarde.

Well to be honest, like anybody who's lived here for more than a few years, I am under no illusions as to how such harrowingly concrete-centric visions have been planned and executed in the past, who has benefited, and the Advocate's role in this process as cheerleader for the development of vital and cherished civic assets like multi-story carparks. Pun intended; I mean, what carpark isn't important enough for it's mere existence to warrant multiple stories in a newspaper?

What rankles is that the absence of even a token effort to pull together a mildly credible astroturf lobby group that we can all pretend is the source of your latest vision feels like an insult to the intelligence of all concerned. Our community certainly does not lack coachable but otherwise inarticulate and intellectually inert drongos, and the claim that vegetation causes drug abuse and illicit sexual behaviour shows that you have the necessary wellspring of idiocy to fuel such a campaign. I've heard a lot of excuses from people caught in the act of socially transgressive behaviour, but "the trees made me do it!" is breathtakingly inventive. Bravo!

Anyway, to prove I'm not merely a negative Nelly, I have a positive alternative vision for you to take up and run with should you wish. It seems to me that if there's anything in the Jetty precinct that would benefit from "opening up" through the judicious application of a wrecking ball, it's the hideous mini-mall on the corner of Harbour Drive and Orlando Street. Rehousing the tenants of this complex in a new row of street level shops to match the existing and very attractive ones on the opposite side of the road could hardly be a less contentious plan; after all, you would just be replacing some shops with some shops. Nobody loses, and Coffs has one eyesore less!

I confess that I am not a wealthy landlord or property developer, nor do I represent any in my day to day business, or on Thursday evenings in Council, but I am at least willing to go on the record as the genuine author of this vision. How about it?

Matthew Davidson.

Thursday, 2 August 2012 - 7:08pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Thu, 02/08/2012 - 7:08pm in

I have little in the way of social skills. I couldn't pander or ingratiate if my life depended on it. This has a great deal of disadvantages, but it does at least mean that in dealing with me you can comfortably err on the side of optimism.

That is to say that if I have ever given the slightest indication that I don't strongly dislike you, you can be quite confident that I think you're pretty bloody fantastic. As Rudy van DiSarzio would say, you have passed the test. Feel free to say what you like to me. Provided that it's not about the global Jewish conspiracy, or how women should know their place, or something in that league of offensiveness (Ooh! Great idea for a comic book!), I'll take it in the spirit it's given, with due concession made to the fact that we're all dunderheads from time to time. I wish I could be more demonstrably affectionate towards my dear friends, but I'm pushing an envelope that's self-sealing.

So if you are in that arguably happy position, please, please, please do not hesitate to tell me when I have done something to offend you or anybody else. If I didn't mean to offend I'll be appropriately mortified and grateful for the opportunity to make amends. If I did, I'll be proud of the recognition. Just don't harbour a grudge in secret, or share it with somebody else, or swap it for something even more outrageous I did to them. I don't have the social skills to know what to do about that.

Let's keep it simple, sweetheart.

Sunday, 29 July 2012 - 11:57am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 29/07/2012 - 11:57am

I was reading about the increasing scope of Jewish dietary restrictions in post-biblical antiquity (I think it was in Rugby League Week, or maybe 4x4 Magazine), as succeeding generations of Rabbinical scholarship interpreted Leviticus more and more expansively, and it occured to me that this is a classic example of an inherent problem with blacklists. Once you've committed to maintaining one, you've also implicitly conceeded that it's only going to grow larger over time.

Whatever problem you're trying to solve with a blacklist, be it the easy availability of pornography via the Internet (Back in my day, pornography was rare and expensive, and kids valued it accordingly, damn it!), the imagined presence of reds under the bed, the question of who should be allowed on a plane, or divining the will of Yahweh at mealtimes, at some point somebody sensible is going to observe that this is all getting a bit silly and unhelpful, and we really should have thought things through a bit more thoroughly before opting to go down this road.

The Kerry Hines Advocate

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 28/07/2012 - 11:37am

An open letter to the Coffs Coast Advocate:

Dear Sir,

I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms over the lack of photos of Cr. Kerry Hines in your publication.

On most days the photos are scarce and shamefully small, and although I regret that I cannot now locate this issue in my collection, I am certain that once there were no photos of her at all!

It is hardly surprising, with journalistic standards slipping in this way, that people are deserting print media for the Internet, where photographs of Cr. Hines may be enjoyed on demand at any time of the day or night.

I have no idea what might be the motivation behind it, but I demand that you immediately cease your ugly vendetta against this fine councillor-realtor and give her the prominence to which she is due.

Matthew Davidson.

Saturday, 28 July 2012 - 10:07am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 28/07/2012 - 10:07am

When I submitted this comment:

Is it beyond the Advocate's capabilities to find a photograph of the subject of this article? Or is it Advocate policy to only run photos of their advertising clients?

The article in question was hastily amended to replace the photo of Cr. Hines with a photo of Rodney. The comment of course was not published.

Also worth noting is that the article nominally about Rodney included a roundup of other councillors' plans for the election, and a totally out of context quote recycled from an earlier article about Cr. Hines. However the earlier Hines article included no such elements of journalistic "balance". Also no byline; perhaps because it was a verbatim publishing of a press release?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012 - 6:24pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Tue, 24/07/2012 - 6:24pm

I seem to be making some more progress in adumbrating (word of the day) the contours of acceptable discourse in the Coffs Coast Advocate's reader comments.

In response to a story about LifeHouse Church successfully running some charity event for the needy, I made some comment along the lines of:

This achievement is all the more impressive when one considers the sheer logistics involved in ensuring none of the needy recipients are homosexual.

Get it? 'Cos the LifeHouse congregation are homophobes! Laugh? I nearly did.

The odd thing was that this comment was published, but a day or two later had disappeared. So we must conclude that this was a line ball, sent to the video referee for adjudication. Or if you prefer, the bowler cried "Howzatt!" and for a moment rejoiced in triumph, but though the bails had flown the umpire sternly shook his head, from underneath a pile of hats. There, I've exhausted my stock of sporting analogies.

I feel we are closer, but not yet close enough to understanding what the Advocate does and does not consider offensive, so my vigorous probing continues...

Saturday, 21 July 2012 - 8:49am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 21/07/2012 - 8:49am

I'm not sure whether I should be taking this personally. I've lost another final sentence of plodding curmudgeonly wit at some point in the Advocate's comment approval process:

Yes, the majority want to get all the nature out of the way of their view of nature. If you would care to run a poll on this you'll also find the majority want to be able to drive their cars right up to the water line so that they're never out of earshot of their Cold Chisel CDs, never out of reach of the next can of rum and cola, and never out of sight of the australian flags hanging from their car windows, painted on their children's faces, tattooed on their spouse's buttocks, etc.

This utopian vision of beach-as-bogan-car-park is likely not the objective of the Advocate's campaign here. When next you're on a beach, turn westward and peer through the trees at the expensive houses whose owners, estate agents, accountants, and assorted courtiers are the principle beneficiaries of "opening up" the view from the beach to your social betters and vice versa.

Excised this time:

A cynic might say that this "majority", in the sense of being the majority of the Advocate's advertisers, are the majority on whose behalf the Advocate is advocating.

At least this time a plausible motivation for the cut comes to mind without difficulty.

Friday, 13 July 2012 - 4:13pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Fri, 13/07/2012 - 4:13pm

Two quick points:

  • Compulsive Coffs Coast Advocate correspondant picman2 defies satire, and
  • The Advocate's comment moderation policy continues to baffle me.

picman2 posted another of his comments sounding like a particularly deranged version of the Stradhoughton Echo's Man O' the Dales, from Keith Waterhouse's sublime novel Billy Liar. (By the way, isn't it a shame that gone are the days when you could carry a novel in your pocket rather than a wheelbarrow?) The natural reaction to which is to engage in a bit of Pythonesque one-upmanship. Unfortunately picman2 leaves one without much further to go, so my effort fell a bit flat:

@picman2 Aye, an' all this were fields when I were a lad. Sigh.

God Save the Queen? Sheer luxury. In my day we had to sing the whole of Advance Australia Fair, even the verses nobody knows. With "Australia's sons" rejoicing - none of this political correctness gone mad. WITH only a bottle of warm milk with yucky skin on top to stop us dehydrating in the blazing sun before we got a chance to deposit 20c in our Commonwealth Bank savings accounts.

It's tragic that today's kids can't enjoy these simple pleasures for fear of council-appointed cyber-predators stalking and killing them for their sausage rolls and frozen Sunnyboys. All they can do is sit at home texting each other as their pants sink lower and lower with ennui. We are failing a generation, and acres of steaming ashphalt is going to waste.

So far, so hilarious. But the odd thing is I had another sentence-and-a-bit which was expurgated from the comment as published. From memory it went something like:

Childhood has gone the way of thrashing young backsides with the wooden spoon and washing out insolent mouths with soap and water. It's sad but true.

Now if this portion was excised due to being exceptionally leaden satire I can't imagine why any of the preceeding text was published at all. And it can't have been edited for reasons of concision, as the whole comment is less than half the size of the one it was replying to. Did somebody imagine I was implying picman2 or some other individual enjoys, or at lease endorses, quaintly anachronistic violence against children? As in past occurences of rejected "wit", it appears my faculties of reason are insufficiently baroque to detect the logic at work.

Streaming IS Downloading

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sat, 30/06/2012 - 4:15pm in

The way that this issue is framed, even by people who should know better, is profoundly misleading. These are not "anti-downloading measures". Viewing data from a remote machine without first downloading it would be a very neat trick.

It is therefore nonsensical to ask "Is it okay to download this video without the creator's permission?" in this context. The creator has given you this permission. The question we should ask is "Is it okay for the creator (or some intermediary) to take control of my computer in order to delete some data after I've acquired it perfectly legally?"

AFR Metaphor WTF

Published by Matthew Davidson on Wed, 20/06/2012 - 2:33pm

I only read the Australian Financial Review once a week (on a good week) these days, but I've held it in very high regard for a long time. For anybody interested in following events that have actual consequences, as opposed to celebrity gossip or party political sideshows, it's Australia's only quality daily newspaper. But lately I've been getting the distinct impression that standards are slipping.

I don't give a monkey's about how deranged the contents of the AFR opinion pages may be; opinion, whether genuine or paid for, is what the opinion pages are for. But unless I've a misleadingly rosy view of the past, I'm  sure that the AFR news pages have traditionally been pretty exclusively fact-driven, with any propaganda safely contained between quotation marks. In the last few months though I've been quite alarmed by, for instance, Washington correspondant Ben Potter writing what appear to be audition pieces for the Heritage Foundation that land not only outside the opinion pages, but often squarely on the front page.

And last Friday, there was this jaw-dropping gem from Europe correspondant Matthew Drummond about the coming weekend's election in Greece, headlined "Europe looks to its Lehman moment":

A ["radical left party"] Syriza win could be Europe’s equivalent of the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, which triggered the global financial crisis.

I'm sorry; exactly how is this an apt metaphor? I get that there's an implied threat that financial markets (i.e. the institutions which enthusastically engaged in the dodgy practices that actually led to the the collapse of Lehman and the ensuing crisis/depression) would feel compelled to punish the Greeks for getting out of line and the rest of Europe for letting it happen (no need, as it turns out), but how is an election result, no matter how undesirable, remotely like the inevitable implosion of a corrupt and and incompetent firm of moneylenders?

Now come to think of it, you could perhaps argue that a poor choice of government in Greece might be somewhat like the election of the government in the US that relaxed the regulation of financial institutions, thereby enabling the practices that led to the crash, but "Europe looks to its Clinton moment" lacks something in the dramatic zing department. Also, despite the passage of time, I still can't help thinking a "Clinton moment" is something altogether more sordid.