31 May, 2007

Man trapped in computer:
The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Blogger

Helloooo, is anybody out there? ..Bloggers are free spirits (except in Egypt or Malaysia), but the Internet's impersonalism can incarcerate them behind impersonal glass walls of silence.
I frequently reflect on the fact that there are 800 million blogs whirling through cyberspace. Some even show signs of intelligence. In a good week, we FunkyPixers might get to read (superficially scan?) maybe 15 or 20 (maximum). By definition, therefore, we are well and truly out-of-touch on a percentage basis.

It begs the question: why continue to slave so diligently on this blog? It merely brings the total to 800,000,001. What drives me to continue it? Ego? Creativity? Getting a message over? Yes, all the above. Although FunkyPix2 is officially an Ego-Free Zone (see the header message), it was never a 'John Howard' core promise [*grin*]. Secondly, blogging is certainly an outlet for creativity… in my case, it’s aligning cool pictures with text in a semi-coherent manner. A fabulously funkylicious photo can sometimes explain SO much more than words if you choose it well and paste it in just the right spot. And lastly, I have things to say which I do (personally) think are worthwhile putting out there (ibid 'Ego').

Sometimes I feel eerie isolation behind the Internet’s walls of soundless glass, like a mime artist trapped in a silent suffocating nightmare, desperate to feel his way to an exit.

It’s all too easy not to connect with real people, or even other bloggers, from inside the cosy comforts of your own home page. In a zoo, who is the observed, and who the observer? Who the potter, and who the clay? Both them and us are trapped in mental cages of other people’s making:

Being a Progressive Left-leaning Humanist Atheist Cynic, there is no shortage of insane moral issues presenting themselves to me to bong on about - the world is a crazy and unfair place. For a start, it contains John Ducklips Howard.

I'm not trying to imagine that any blogger can single-handedly save the universe…

…but I'm more about shaking people out of their apathy and unquestioning acceptance of 'normalcy'. Presenting compassionate alternatives. Logic. Fairness. Re-fashioning the world using nothing but your own bare thoughts. I am a product of the Enlightenment, patriarchy, and the hippie movement. I blog, therefore I am. OK, OK, I confess... I am a BABYBOOMER... there, I said it. Most people I meet have been ruthlessly taught to believe what they’re told, to swallow propaganda, obey, obey, obey.....

Sure, the world could do with a little assistance in becoming a better place, but sometimes even FunkyPix2's great mentor Batman can’t produce the goods on demand when Gotham City Hall beams up for help:

I can sympathise with the condition known as Blogger Burnout:

We bloggers can’t pretend to be more than we really are…

...you know, One Swallow Doesn’t Make a Spring, etc. But on the other hand, many swallows make a flock, and lots of small raindrops can become a mighty river. I can contribute just a little: my glassful makes a tiny contribution to History. It might influence the thinking of a few people.

Consider the moral fable in this sequence of 4 quite remarkable photos of the construction of a large dyke wall in Dubai. Note the outcome of the tiny leak (bottom left):

Ooops. I often wonder what bloggers could do if there were some kind of web service which could allow us to team up, join forces, submit articles under categories. It's easy to snap a twig, but much more difficult to snap a bunch of twigs bound tightly together. But - oh dear - that might compromise individuality... and whose criteria to use for categories?

And so to blogge, perchance to dream...

29 May, 2007

AMANDA VANSTONE’s Christmases Past and Future: Careers, Affairs... we tell it all

Ex-senator Amanda Vanstone had a moonlighting second job in a lesbian jelly-wresting all-girl band, and never paid any tax. She was "Man van Rock" to her unsuspecting fans - both of them.
Amanda Vanstone’s life has been a rumpled quilt of many patches. Now she’s ended up with a sideways promotion from John Ducklips Howard and will live bitchily ever afterwards in Italy [read: “Well-away-from-Australia-where-she-is-less-likely-to-cause-trouble-to-Howard-before-the-election”].

And what an opulent Golden Handshake it was!! Howard ain’t confessing anything much about numbers, except that Vanstone’s getting the same salary as the former ambassador – who got quietly bumped at 3 hours’ notice… quite co-incidentally, of course. But wait, there’s more. Vanstone has been allocated an outfit allowance so she can buy a whole new wardrobe (if local tailors can ever find bolts of material wide enough). Clearly she’ll need a striped Gondolier’s t-shirt for her weekends in Venice. Me-wonder what she’ll wear for her début in the Colleseum… hmm, a lyin' costume, maybe?

Ex-minister Vanstone will also receive an overseas allowance, a transfer allowance, a head-of-mission allowance, household assistance, and a vehicle. She’s also getting Italian language training worth about AU$5,000 (Gosh, I wonder if refugees or migrants were ever offered that much free language training when she was Minister at the Deportment of Immigration. I bet Vanstone already knows Italian words like foccacia, canneloni, ravioli, parmesan etc. Vital words for survival in such a dangerous and remote un-Australian environment).

In Rome (quite close to the Vatican),Vanstone's personal domestic staff of 5 will comprise a butler, a maid, a gardener, a chef, and a chauffeur. Then there’s also all the staff of the Australian Embassy to help her to cook the books and to deal with all those - ugh - "persons of foreign appearance"... ewww... she tells herself to resist the urge to lock them all up in detention centres. There may also have been a quiet payment from Uno-Hoo under the table in exchange for "shutting-the-f*ck-up"... who will ever know? The lesson I take from this is that being a complete arsehole pays off.

Amanda Vanstone has apparently instructed her gardener to prepare some delicate diplomatic topiaries in preparation for meeting-and-greeting her new neighbours in Rome.

This family-size symbolic frisbee was Amanda’s parting fling to John Howard for being so kind in finding her a new job. A security man intercepted the hot pizza just in the nick of time. Neapolitan with double anchovies and diced razor-blades in the crust, he later remarked.

Howard had hedged his bets on sacking Vanstone. It was a delicate political balancing act. But, like most of Howard’s bright ideas, it eventually backfired (spot the incoming pizza).

FunkyPix2 now takes an exclusive peek through the keyhole of Amanda’s lurid life-history. Did you know she married when she was younger? Can you imagine that? Here’s a rare photo of her as a young woman:

Amanda Vanstone is introduced to her future husband Clancy
for the first time on Channel 9’s “Blind Date” programme in 1965.

It was a rather unbalanced marriage. This was the day she had lost her puppy.

A year later they separated. Clancy got literature and love-handles.

Amanda found her next heart-throb while on holiday in a Japanese winter resort. It was immediately after this that she applied to the Public Service in Wollongong – and the rest is history - all downhill.

27 May, 2007

Don’t hug trees – embrace the PAPERLESS OFFICE to demonstrate that you mean eco-business

Marie hugs trees by re-using the reverse side of discarded printer pages.

Australia consumes 1.5 million tons of paper per year. This incurs a relatively higher environmental cost than most countries because of Australia's reliance on fossil fuels in the paper-manufacturing process. However, the greatest waste-paper offender of all is, as usual – you guessed it – the USA.

America’s 300 million people (only a quarter of the size of China) represent only 5% of the world’s population, but gobble up a whopping 25% of the world’s paper. That, from the hypocrite country which refuses to sign agreements on carbon-trading. Sins of Emission.

McTree burgers? Each American consumes 740 lbs of paper per year.

Here in North Thailand, we’re trying our best to minimize unnecessary paper wastage at home, but FunkyPix2 Headquarters still resembles a “paper office”:

Our paper office.

As you can clearly see, we’re rapt in conservation principles, but are still finding it difficult to change long-ingrained patterns of paper wastage. Laziness is a big factor, but re-using printer paper as scrap note-paper is a fine start – the obverses are mostly blank. And why not buy 70gsm paper instead of 80gsm? Nowadays we’re also reading news online more often (stage whisper: ...but I confess I do still enjoy that indefinable ‘something’ about a paper daily with coffee in the morning). History is the sum of individual actions, however small.

Abundance of paper is an illusion maid in Hell. It’s all too tempting to sweep the problem under the office carpet out of sheer laziness. Ah, the flesh is weak…

Vanityfair.com published some interesting maps in its recent Green edition, one of which highlighted countries where plant species were risking extinction. Guilty countries were represented as proportionately enlarged, viz:

Note that almost all of Equatorial America, Saharan Africa, and Malaysia are stand out. It's red-face time for Ecuador. Also culpable are Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, the Phillipines ...and Sri Lanka, surprisingly. Australia comes off quite well by comparison, but it must be remembered that it contains a mere 20 million people (the same as the tiny island of Sri Lanka).

Wood as a cooking fuel could return to use as electricity from fossil fuel begins to run low. Char-grilling will take on new shades of meaning.

Paper hat job? We’re so used to infinite amounts of paper being conveniently available at a moment’s notice. Things might change when we have toilet paper priced by the individual sheet.

An Ancient Geek Temple. Archeologists from FunkyPix2 were excited to discover this Roman-style arch buried under the Parthenon at Athens. This suggests the possibility that the Acropolis was denuded of trees not by goats as previously believed, but by wood-chippers manufacturing paper for Ancient Geek printers. Finally - evidence that printing pre-dates Gutenberg.

Trees are the ecosystem’s quiet unsung heroes. We all sprook on about environment issues, but generally reserve the spotlight for the human race. We tend not to accord trees their rightful status as superstars of the wooded stage. Today, FunkyPix2 spotlights trees' extraordinary talents in a mini-gallery. We give them 15 seconds of fame.....

…and finally, if YOU don’t respect trees by using less paper, we’ll send in FunkyPix2's Ghastly Grisly Geekman to haunt your office and drop gremlins into the photocopier…

I have published many more posts on green issues. Look for "Browse by Category" in the right-hand margin of any FunkyPix2 screen, then click on the "Environment" link.

25 May, 2007

London's TRAFALGAR SQUARE is the New Wimbledon: Please Step on the Grass

Turf’s up! London’s Trafalgar Square goes green. Pip pip!

I can’t help noting the cultural assumptions and double standards lurking behind London’s publicity stunt of carpeting Trafalgar Square with 2000 square metres of lawn-grass. No wonder poorer countries feel resentment against the West for such wasteful profligacy and flippancy. Am I just being a ‘goody-two-shoes’ party-pooper? Read on…

Yeah, the London city Council cheerfully admits that it’s a thinly-disguised tourism promo. That doesn’t change my argument, but in fact adds fuel to it. Could the same stunt ever happen in Nairobi, Dhaka, or Addis Ababa? Who would supply the $$ and resources? It points up yet again the widening discrepancy between Rich and Poor due to Globalisation, but western readers of newspapers probably just chuckle at the “Eton schoolboy” humour and flip to the Comics page without a moment's deeper thought. They're not sensitive to the fact that poorer countries have to prioritise spending away from tourism and watering unnecessary lawns, and into basic infrastructure like drinkable water, electricity for lighting, and malaria prevention.

But some more aware folks do retain a grip on the grim reality of England’s (and America's and Australia's) hypocritical and uncaring stance on Neo-Colonialism, Globalisation, eg, this act of defiance by members of FunkyPix2 in London:

A 'pre-lawn' photo of blood-stained Trafalgar Fountain after a demonstration against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. England is still fighting wars in order to increase its wealth at the expense of poorer countries. Globalization is merely the freedom to move Capital around the planet in order to maximize company profits. You didn't imagine Bush actually meant Freedom for people, did you?
Our western priveliged lifestyles admit of luxuries like recreation time, holidays-on-full-pay, welfare safety-nets, maternity leave, and sickness benefits. People in poorer countries don’t know what these things even mean. I recall grounds and cleaning staff at an English Language school in Phnom Penh (Cambodia) being utterly confused when told they had holidays for 3 weeks - on full pay. They thought it was a trick to sack them, and all faithfully turned up the next day with their hair brushed carefully.

“Village London”, as the Trafalgrass event is being labeled, has placed deck-chairs on the newly-watered lawns so people can relax and have picnics. That in itself is not intrinsically a bad thing, as long as we remind ourselves of our enormously privileged advantages which make possible these fun little parlour games in the first place. Millions of poor people must gape in envy that we have sufficient spare water to sprinkle on grass which cows will never graze!

(I wonder if there are Kurdish words for “picnic” or “lawn-watering”).

On BBC World or CNN, we beam images of our wealth onto screens throughout the Third World, shamelessly flaunting our advantage, rubbing it in their faces. They are force-fed our grief during nauseating annual 911 memorial services... but who among us ever gets to experience their grief, their lost children? We've already forgotten the Israeli bulldozer massacres of Palestinians at Jenin refugee camp because there are no ghastly images on our 40" plasma TVs. If these are available, they're suppressed by Big Brother George because we westerners don't like to look at crushed bloodied bodies - we're "civilised", remember? A Convenient Untruth.

…and as usual, FunkyPix2 presents a wheely idiosyncwatic option to the Twafalgar stunt - the Pwe-emptive Porta-lawn:

( How the heck do you calculate the carbon-footprint for this?)

23 May, 2007

THAKSIN swears that his purchase of MANCHESTER CITY Football Club will assist Thailand’s debt-ridden farmers

In London, shamed and exiled Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra pauses briefly between international trips to choose a football [club] to buy.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s offer of a hundred million pounds to buy MCFC represents money that should have been kept in Thailand to circulate and benefit Thai people. That’s SIX AND A HALF BILLION BAHT, a high proportion of which has been obtained via very dodgy skullduggery. And that sum represents only a small percentage of the money he embezzled through the illegal sale of Shincorp.

Let’s put his offer of 6,545,927,800 baht in perspective. That’s sufficient money to create 6,546 Thai millionaires, or 243 Australian millionaires. Mr Square-Face is a prime example of the extreme gap between Rich and Poor, the intended outcome of unfettered globalisation (or "Freedom"). In this light, Thaksin's vacuous promises from 2001 till 2006 to assist Thailand’s poor now ring even more hollow in the wake of his unbelievably high offer to MCFC. He has not only let down debt-ridden Thai farmers and AIDS sufferers in particular, but has betrayed all Thais by his sheer greed.

For example, the Surayud government has been forced to break medical patents in order to afford assistance to its most-threatened (AIDS) patients. Its current AIDS budget is stretched at just over 2 billion baht per year, but for that amount it cannot provide both 1st line and 2nd line therapies to HIV & AIDS patients, so thousands are dying prematurely. Astonishingly - and get this stunning fact - the 2 billion baht Health budget represents only about ONE THIRD of Thaksin’s offer to the MC Football Club!! Morally bankrupt? We report. You decide.

You could also put it this way – Thailand’s total Health Budget represents about 3% of the money Thaksin pocketed from the Shincorp sale to Singapore. Plus his family was hugely wealthy even before the sale. Rest assured that if MCFC were to bellyflop, Thaksin's finances would barely recieve a dent. For instance, he lost more than a million pounds when his briefcase was stolen from McDonalds in Moscow, but didn't bat an eyelid. (...which raises two questions: 1. What was T doing in Moscow? ...and 2. Is he an un-Thai corporate whore for endorsing McDonalds all the time?)

Could Thaksin assist Thailand? Yes he could... but won’t. His puny education scholarships are peanuts in the bigger picture, and principally serve his own political interests by keeping his name in the media spotlight as people squabble over crumbs. The Center for Global Development (an organ of the World Bank, unfortunately!) has estimated that Thailand needs to spend about SEVEN times more than its current health budget if it wants to provide comprehensive care to its AIDS patients. OK, take a letter: “Dear Mr Thaksin…We were wondering if...”

Beware of anyone offering money which may yet be proven illegally obtained. Be it legal or illegal, once it is spent on the MC Football Club, Thailand will never see it again. That’s why he’s in such a hurry to seal the deal. Thaksin's family may reap riches but he is likely to go to jail. This should set alarm bells ringing at the Football Club's board meetings because it contradicts their own club constitution.

Warning: Thaksin's very likely to do the same to MC Football Club as he’s done with his other businesses via his dummy company 'Ample Rich' in the tax-haven of the Virgin Islands. He doesn’t care a hoot that Thais are bleeding. For instance, he ordered more than 2500 Thais be summarily executed in the streets without trial during his so-called ‘War on Drugs’. In other countries, that's called 'genocide'. I refer you to Mr Milosevic.

A Manchester city executive prepares to seal the big deal. The Bank of Thailand will probably regret giving Thaksin the green light to take the money out of Thailand on the grounds that "it will benefit sport in Thailand". Rot. Are they completely naive? Could poor people from Isaan afford the time or money for a trip to Bangkok, plus high ticket prices for a football game? Slipping a few token Thai players into the team won't do much to pay off rural debts accross the country either ...but it would assist his own bank balance.

Square pig into a round goal? ..If Thaksin takes over MC Football Club, he has promised to spend 50 million pounds (3,272,963,900 or 3.2 billion baht) on new ‘big name’ player contracts. That’s spare change (ngen sot) which could have spared a lot of Thai people’s misery.

Manchester City players: “Oh shit NO! Thaksin’s not going to be the new boss...
is he?..Tell me it's not true!"

Likewise, this was my reaction when I first heard that Whacko-Tacko was thinking of purchasing a football club. Somewhere between a gagging laugh and a nightmare scream.

Thaksin's newly-appointed coach fails to fool the team at training.

This white elephant was spotted on the M4 Motorway in England. It has led to speculation that Thaksin may be planning a triumphal entry into the stadium, complete with Thai cheerleaders in mini-skirts, just before the first match.

Until the takeover happens, Thaksin and his blood-sucking cronies have been sneaking into Chiangmai to have free games of golf. Note that none of them is wearing a helmet: Woo-hoo, 200 baht tea-money for the local cops.

If Thaksin had adjusted his moral vision, he could have been a great force for good. However, Thailand’s poor are beginning to realise, as we predicted, that this was never going to happen.

Manchester City hasn’t covered itself in football glory for some 40 years or so. The light-blues currently languish at 14th place on the English Premiership table.

Thaksin can afford the sharpest legal advice on the block.

Thaksin’s personalized mobile network for listening in on the Surayud cabinet meetings. He probably still gets complimentary bandwidth via Singapore, Shincorp’s new owners.

Read about the football-mad parrot in London which screams at the mere mention of "Manchester United". Don't mention this to Thaksin - he may get ideas about the elephant...