Monday, July 08, 2013

fuck you blogger

For years the pond was a devoted reader of The New York Times, and then the 30 hits a month rule came to pass.

Now the pond has no problem with paywalls, content wants to be free, and owners want to charge, and that's the way it is.

But it made the pond look at its reading habits, and it soon became clear that one of the main reasons the pond went to the NYT was to be outraged by David Brooks, the token self-serving, Republican-serving, allegedly moderate apologist for all that's bizarre and weird in current conservative America, and by golly that kept him and the pond going week in, week out.

At the same time, it also answered the question as to what you do when you find yourself hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. Stop it, or else you might go blind ...

So the pond began to drift, just to avoid the pressure of the 30 slots. Off to The Guardian, off to old-timers like Slate and Salon, off to the Huff Post, though by golly it's click-bait misleading simple-minded tabloid headers are off-putting, and a dozen other sites, even to wannabes like the Daily Beast ...

In time David Brooks slipped from memory like a bad dream. And as an extra special bonus, so did Thomas L. Friedman!

These days if the pond drops in, it might be to pick up a story by Richard Ford, The Song of the Suburbs, or a piece by Oliver Sacks, The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)

Oh sure, Brooks is still there, but the habit is gone, the addiction and the craving killed off. If you keep chocolate in the fridge it will surely be eaten, but why waste time on compound chocolate thinking?

The pond is optimistic that the same thing can happen thanks to the Fairfax paywall.

Monday, for example, has always been Generally Grumpy Paul Sheehan day, whatever the temptations on offer behind easily evaded paywalls, and lordy lordy there are always temptations:

Yes that bear with very little brain simply can't imagine any scenario or situation where Indonesia could plausibly object to Tony Abbott's boats turn-around policy, not even a situation where a turned-around boat sank in Indonesian waters with major loss of life and attracted the same attention as a Korean Boeing trying to land at San Francisco. Or perhaps a boat load of people indulged in ritual suicide, in Indonesian waters ...

What's most interesting about this is the way these days the reptiles at the lizard Oz try to link wayward opinion pieces by their inhouse loons to alleged news stories, which are dressed up as "exclusive". 

As if it's an exclusive that some people seeking refuge have threatened to kill themselves rather than return to say the joys of life in Afghanistan:

The same routine's at work in that "exclusive" about Queensland. State the bleeding obvious - that delusional cane toads are excited about Kevin's return - and then rush off to Sean Parnell's piece in the digital carousel of doom for reassurance. 

Note the different, optimistic tone of his pitch:

Yes, announce "exclusive" signs of problems, then rush off to the reptiles Sheridan and Parnell for the news that everything is the best in the best of all possible worlds, and instead of being a barking mad right winger of the most reactionary kind, Scott Morrison will lead Australia bravely into a bold new world, and presumably Campbell Newman will keep on sacking people to improve employment figures ...

Or some such thing, but this is just skimming the surface, gliding about on a very predictable oil slick, because the pond is about to spend one of its Fairfax monthly hits, so you don't have to.

What the hell, toujours gai, Archie, the pond has always been cavalier, a toot toot Toadess of Toad Hall, spendthrift and gay, extravagant, immoderate and improvident, intemperate and profligate, reckless and dissipated, a waster and a wastrel. 

So let the fickle finger of fortune set the wheel in motion:

Alas and alack, Crown plan is no roll of the dice - remember a click will cost you a hit - was a really risky roll of the dice, and it turns out it's just another bout of Sheehan doing fuck you Jack, I'm all right.

Here's how it rolls:

I may as well throw in some personal bias. I loathe poker machines. On most days, I walk past the Star casino and it has never occurred to me to go up to one of the gaming rooms. Quite the opposite. I was recently in the world capital of gambling, Macau, which does five times as much gambling business a year as Las Vegas, and found the place mesmerising - but it never occurred to me to place a bet. I also discovered that Macau has 165 pawn shops.

Yes, and there's probably a lot of human tragedies behind those pawn shops and not always the short of story you'd feature on a jolly cable reality show about a pawn shop in Vegas.

But you see Jack, Sheehan is okay, he loathes poker machines, and he's okay Jack, so fuck you jack.

But, having made all these points, my personal bias pales into irrelevance compared with my belief that people should be as free as possible to spend, invest or waste their money without bureaucrats telling them what to do. If gambling makes people happy, without harming them, it is a good thing for them. 

Which is of course a specious eliding and gilding of the lilly ... if gambling makes people happy, without harming them ...

Sheehan of course doesn't actually go into the matter of people actually harmed by gambling, because that would get in the way of the argument:

The real logic behind the Crown proposal and the green light it has been given can be found 6000 kilometres away, in a place not noted for spendthrift ways: Singapore. The Marina Bay Sands, a giant casino-hotel complex, transformed the centre of Singapore when it opened in 2011. Transformed it for the better. The Marina Bay Sands anchors an integrated casino-hotel-retail-resort-convention development that cost almost $7 billion and dwarfs the proposed transformation of Barangaroo. 
Having visited this complex last year, the next time I go to Singapore I want to stay at the Marina Bay Sands, dine at some more of the superb restaurants and swim in the infinity pool atop the three-tower complex that is now the most singular structure in the city. I won't be gambling but that's not the point. The Marina Bay Sands is a destination.

Which says all you need to know about Sheehan and being a philistine.

It turns out that the pond has actually stayed at the Marina Bay Sands. It's an okay hotel if you like that sort of pallid international style, with a faux infinity pool of the sort that provides a mindless distraction to mindless swimmers (clearly Sheehan is suited), but it's actually removed from the interesting parts of Singapore (though cabs are cheap) and it's miles from the dynamics of say the Indian part of town.

What is truly comical, in a tragic pathetic sort of way, were the "cultural" tokens dressed in to give the gambling joint a sort of cultural gravitas.

The time the pond was there the attached arts and science museum had a third rate exhibition of Salvador Dali pieces (right now it's mummies and Charles and Ray Eames, here).

Again you had to go miles away from the Marina Bay Sands to find museums revealing interesting things about Singapore and Singaporeans ...

It's like talking about Vegas as a destination - not that the pond has anything against  Penn and Teller - when the only sensible way to approach it is as a base for a conference or an exhibition, or as an anthropological insight into the Americans who flock to it imagining they're going to have a bit role in The Hangover Part 7. It goes without saying it's built on human misery and despair, and step outside the strip, and Vegas is a very bleak town indeed ...

It turns out that world-weary Sheehan is resigned to Sydney being a shitty town:

This is the model for the Crown project in Sydney. (It's too late to save the city skyline from mediocre high-rise buildings - that horse bolted decades ago - and the specific mediocrity of the towers of Sydney is offset by their collective grandeur as a cluster. The proposed Crown development will slot right into this pattern.)

What a splendid argument. Now how about a bit of tokenism:

Measures are also under way to strengthen the response to problem gambling, which can only grow as the gambling industry grows. The same can be said about alcohol and the internet. It should not be the catch-all card for ''no''.

Say what? The same can be said about the internet? The pond's about to lose its house and family and life savings and troop off to beg Tim Costello for help because of spending too much time on the internet?

The man is barking mad, in the manner of a David Brooks.

And so to a celebratory drum roll:

The Crown project is seeking to tap one of the biggest growth stories in the world, one that has given the major listed casino companies - Las Vegas Sands Corp, Wynn Resorts, Melco Crown Entertainment and MGM Resorts International - a combined market value of about $80 billion. Packer has become one of the whales of this global gaming industry. He inherited a fortune and has made it much bigger. 

Ah yes, it reminded the pond of all the talk of how Adelaide casino was going to make Adelaide a go to place on the high roller international circuit, and soon enough it sank to its natural level, a bit above the casinos you can find littering Indian land in the United States (now there's an anthropological experience).

The one thing that Sheehan doesn't mention is the absolute certainty that within twelve months of opening, the Packer casino will be presenting figures explaining how because of cost blow outs or debt burdens or turnover being less than expected, it urgently needs poker machines and average punter gambling to sustain its dream. And the place will take on the seedy sort of come one, come all tone of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, not much better than an MGM dive.

Now the pond doesn't mind much. After all, like Sheehan, the pond doesn't gamble. Not the slightest interest. So fuck you Jack, the pond is all right, smug and complacent, and up itself, though it's bloody hard to get as far up itself as Sheehan gets up himself, Barry O'Farrell and James Packer ...

And why should you complain? The pond took a Fairfax hit for you, and now we're down to a motley 28 for the month, and some day soon hopefully Sheehan will become a fading memory, like David Brooks ...

(Below: more XKCD here)


  1. I have a question why would any society support a casino. What value does it give to a community we have all these economists trying to figure out productivity. would it be possible to find some aspect of gambling that adds to having a cohesive and productive civil society because I cannot see what can be measured to add productivity and improve our standard of living better by gambling on a preset outcome.
    What a waste to see such wealth being supported by governments and these inherited wealthy lay about good for nothings like Packer building monuments to their wealth.

  2. I wonder if Paul Sheehan knows about the deal Crown has done with a Sri Lankan developer to build a casino/hotel/retail centre in Colombo to attract Indian and Chinese high rollers? Millions and millions of dollars in tax exemptions. Now that could be a place he could visit, and never have to realise that he's in Sri Lanka. Just like the Singaporean monstrosity really, or Barrangaroo. And they don't have to travel for anywhere near as long as they do to get to Sydney.

  3. Dear Dorothy,

    In truth the NYT has done you a favour by hiding behind the paywall. It long ago lost the courage it had when it published the Pentagon Papers. Do yourself a favour and sign up to William Bowles' website below if you hanker still for news about the USA, but without the bias. Here is a sample from a journalist who dislikes David Brooks as much as you do but is willing to give credit where it is due, and suits his argument.

    I am sure you wouldlike Medialens too.

  4. Sheehan's article was a corker. This weekend I encountered the Liberal candidate for the seat of Sydney, who waxed lyrical about the newly approved casino, arguing that the jobs thus created would be good for the state and the economy. So what we want is an economy dependent of gambling? For the foreseeable future. All nicely locked in, eh! Bewdy!

  5. But Dorothy, NYT = Krgthulu - what more do you need ?

  6. Dorothy, I hate to see you wasting money on Fairfax ( who else would give Mandy Vanstone a gig ?). Just put a ban on their cookies in your browser and all OK. Till it goes totally walled over. Then we can live in peace without "News" and Fairfax.

  7. Is it Fairdoch or Murdfax?

  8. Thanks for that tip and link Anon, and Russ, you're right, I should have mentioned the Sri Lankan deal, which will see Colombo v Sydney v Macau v wherever else the usual multiplier and leisure centre crap is trotted out, and Persiflage I should also have mentioned that the Marina Bay Sands has 2,300 slot machines and a more desolate sight and vista you couldn't imagine, unless you happened to trot into a Crown Casino or the Star ... and while there is an entry levy for Sinapore citizens, the well-heeled just treat it as an annual membership.

    The pond is terminally sick of the intertubes being trotted out when right there bold as brass the big players are rolling out gambling facilities on the ground with all sorts of inducements to join in the fun and lose a shirt, while paying off politicians who act as little better than shake down merchants. It's like the subsidised meals you get at clubs knowing it comes from the blood of losers and their victim families.

    As for that mysterious unexplained header, it was a place holder because temporarily blogger introduced the need to fill in a field - the header - before you could save any text. The pond forgot to replace the place holder but strangely that field requirement seems to have disappeared today. Never mind, the header summarises the mood, so it can stand, but apologies to anyone who wondered what on earth it might have meant.

    And thanks Stan for the cookies tip. We might in due course run a piece on evading all the paywalls ....!


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