Is Hollywood Running on Empty? Reboot the Idea Machine…

Film Bundle by Dale Mastin
(CC BY-ND 2.0)

The idea that Hollywood is running out of ideas is not a new one, in fact as a saying it is getting old and repetitive. The saying is something that is spouted by people who are getting tired of what they would call the same old stories, unwanted sequels, reboots and remakes; although I dislike the term ‘reboot’, usually when a film series is rebooted it is obvious, new cast, setting, story. The term ‘reboot’ is insulting to the audience and redundant. If your aware of the previous movies then you know, if you are not aware then you don’t need to know.

The concept of Hollywood is running out of ideas, plays on the presumption that Hollywood is in the ideas business. When in fact they are not. Hollywood exists to make money from entertainment. People like to forget that most companies exist for one single purpose, the procurement of wealth, it is only how they go about it that makes them different. In fact many companies stated out doing something different to what they are doing now, and in the fast changing world it pays to be progressive.

Cinema by Steve Snodgrass (CC BY 2.0)

Netflix is one example of a company that changed its business model to better suit the environment. They started out as a DVD mail rental service, then progressed to video streaming and now produce some of their own content (Business Insider). Netflix started when Video Rentals were king, but they took something that people didn’t like, late fees and going in to the store, and made that their marketing goals. When you examine a company that doesn’t alter their business fast enough you end up with Blockbuster; they went from just over 9000 stores in 2004 to filling for bankruptcy in 2011, just 7 years later. Now the only remnants left are about 10 franchised stores in the US (Blockbuster LLC, Wikipedia). Blockbuster had monumentally failed to understand what consumers wanted.

That is where Hollywood is different, they understand what people want, and while their consumers may say they want something different it is not what they are paying to see. But that’s okay, it is alright to go out to watch a movie just for the entertainment. We don’t need to have thought provoking movies thrown at us all the time. Perhaps when you find yourself thinking that Hollywood has run out of ideas, it is more of an indicator that you are in need of something different, a palette cleansing film, something that engages you more than the standard fodder. This is where it can get a bit difficult, what do you start with? Exploration is the key. Go for reviews and trailers on YouTube, find a reviewer (such as, Mr Sunday Movies) that you like and follow them – all of these will give snippets and small analysis of films that you may not have considered before.

They also help you sort through the wash. I love a good run and explosion film, and when I’m watching those I’m not expecting anything new, sometimes they get a bit ridiculous but that is all a part of the fun. However, as much as I enjoy those – a movie that keeps you thinking about after you have watched it can be just perfect. Movies like, Black Swan, Birdmanand most recently Colossal. Colossal was brilliant and so much more than what the trailer made it seem – it is not a standard rom-com. All these movies are open to analysis with unambiguous endings, this makes them made to be discussed and that makes them interesting. 

Regardless of the brilliance of some movies, it is the standard action films that are the money makers. Hollywood will continue to churn them out until such time as they become unprofitable – just think when was the last time you watched a western genre film? These were the most popular film genre in the 1950’s & 60’s. Just remember when you start thinking that Hollywood has run out of ideas, maybe it is time to get out of your comfort zone.

Feature Image: Hollywood by eGuide Travel (CC BY 2.0)

Forget to Logout? The Expectation of Online Privacy

At work last week I was looking up the companies Facebook page and noticed that my boss had, at some point, forgotten to log out of his account. While many nefarious thoughts about what mischief I could cause ran through my head, in the end I clicked on log out and left it at that. I didn’t tell him or snoop around on the page – I’m not sure if that is my personal set of ethics kicking in or just a lack of interest. My boss is a reasonably casual guy and I don’t think he would have cared if I had hit him with a sneaky status update. We have all seen it before, someone has their account ‘hacked’, which is code for leaving their phone unlocked around ‘friends’. But it got me thinking, do you have the right to privacy if you leave an account logged in?

Facebook by Samantha Steele
(CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If the worst thing to happen was a friend writes a funny update on your status, that can be deleted as soon as you find out, then it is not really a problem. Most people that do this sort of thing would be privy to most things on your Facebook page anyway. But what about a stranger? What if you left your phone on a table for a minute and when you returned to collect it someone was casually scrolling through your Facebook page? Would you feel different or the same?

I did once find a phone at work, it was left unlocked, and we did the right thing and called a couple of her contacts to let her know that we had her phone. I have also found four wallets in my lifetime, all which were returned because I went through its contents to find information about the owner. I still felt very awkward about searching through someones private contacts. Even though on these occasion there was a reason to be searching and probing into someone’s private details.

Where does this stand with a computer, particularly one that is known to be used by other computers. So at one point my boss was in my office, most likely ‘helping’ with some paperwork – I was sick for a few days last week – and I guess at one point he checked his Facebook status and left it logged in. So if you forget to logout, do you have any rights to privacy? or is it the same as leaving a $50 note in an ATM (this happened to me once)? As soon as you walk away the expectation is that it is gone, despite what the reality may be.

Facebook by Johan Larsson (CC BY 2.0)

Generally I don’t log out of Facebook at home or on my phone, it is always logged in. This is because I am lazy, I can’t be bothered to log out and back in every time I check it. However if I found someone – even a family member – casually scrolling though the page I would feel violated. I know several time sat work I leave Google signed in, which in my view is worse than Facebook as they have access to all of my emails, drive docs, and purchased entertainment – I don’t have credit card information saved, but I suspect that many people might.

The right to privacy comes down to the location. At work you should have an expectation of privacy as it is a professional place, at home absolutely, unless you are a child. However in a public place than absolutely not, if you leave a public computer logged in to Facebook, or worse, than anything that happens is your own fault. I’d like to live in a world where this doesn’t have to be the case, but the desire to see how the other is living is a core trait of humans – it is something that has been done for survival for generations. After all is this not what Facebook and other social media is all about? We are allowing others into our lives to see how we are living. A like is really nothing more than a stranger saying that you are doing things correctly.

It would be good if Facebook had a setting that caused it to logout after a predetermined time of inactivity to prevent someone from gaining access due to a forgotten logout. But that is not reality, and even in areas where general privacy is a given, in the end it is more hope and trust than a guarantee. The only way to be certain of privacy is to log out after every use, make it a habit. In Facebook click on setting, and it is the last menu item, click it to sign out and secure your online presence.

Feature Image: PRIVACY by Metro Centric (CC BY 2.0)

Removing Religion from Public Holidays

The majority of public holidays in Australia have nothing to do with being Australian. Days that are celebrated include, New Years Day, Australia Day, ANZAC Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Christmas and Boxing Day (except SA). Other common days, although they are celebrated on different days in each state, include, Labour Day and Queen’s Birthday.

Eureka Flag and Sculpture by Takver (CC BY-SA 2.0)

With the movement to relocate Australia Day gaining intensity – it’s been an issue since 1938 – it prompted me to think about our other holidays and with the exception of ANZAC Day they hold no conclusive bearing on anything to do with our country. I agree that they did at one point, but this is no longer the case. Especially with what I call the religion holidays. In a multicultural society mandatory religious public holidays are more divisive than inclusive. I for one do not celebrate any religious holiday and while I would not support any policy that takes away a persons right to freedom of religion, I think that removing these holidays from our calendar to be a sign of a progressive nation.

What I would propose is a system where these holidays are replaced with ones that have significance to Australian Cultural events. For those in the workforce that feel the need to have certain days off in order to celebrate their chosen religion, an employer could be compelled to accept any request for time off to attend a religious gathering on nominated days. This could be limited to four days, which would cover the current public holidays and result in no change – for those without religion it could be any four days of their choosing – but the important issue is that an employer cannot say no. However an employee should nominate what religion they follow at the time of employment.

The removal of religious days as public holidays would be of benefit to companies, as some of the exorbitant penalty rates and trading restrictions applied to these days would also be removed. This is inline with the recent decision to alter the penalty rates for Sunday. Which was most likely brought in to benefit those that were asked to work on the Sabbath, which holds little bearing on today’s society.

Wall of Poppies – Rememberance Day

Of the other public holidays, only ANZAC day is a true Australian cultural holiday as it affects all Australians. Australia Day should be relocated to January 1, and replace New Years Day. Labor Day is celebrated with the Moomba Festival in Victoria, a change to Moomba Day would not be a hard push. Queen’s Birthday has ties to Australia being an English Colony, but since the signing of the Australia Act in 1986 all possibilities for British involvement in the country were ceased.

In Victoria, we have two days that celebrate sporting events, Melbourne Cup Day and AFL Grand Final Day. While I am not a supporter of either of these days, they at least have some symbolism on what it is to be Australian – as we are a sporting nation. But what of our other achievements? We have nothing to celebrate our native culture or our scientific and artistic achievements, should these not get a look in? The religious holidays have a stranglehold on how we celebrate as a nation.

In the recent Australian Census (2016) it has been made clear that the new dominant religion is no religion (30.1%), although this statistic is only dominant when the branches of Christianity are separate, but I would argue that a Catholic and an Anglican would not agree that they are the same. I believe it is time to start moving away form elements that do nothing but help divide the country and make it harder to be the true multicultural melting pot that many people, especially politicians, claim that we are.

Do you agree of disagree? What suggestions do you have for new Australian public holidays? Feel free to comment below.

Feature Image: Other Religion by Tom Rolfe (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thoughts on Entering the AI Age

The development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the next incarnation of our ever evolving digital landscape. But what does this mean and what impact will it have on society?

Some believe that it will have a massive impact on the employment rate, and others disagree. Personally I am on the side that it will affect the employment rate. We are already seeing jobs being affected by automation and while it may not be true AI, as they are not thinking, these changes have started and it would take a massive effort to reverse the trend. Think about self service machines that are appearing in many big box retailers, everyone one of these are doing the job that a few years ago was being completed by a person. Self-serve checkouts exist for one reason, to make the companies more money. Although it has resulted in an increase in theft, intentional or otherwise, these companies have determined that the resulting loss to profit is more cost effective than standard employment. Essentially it is a numbers game and one in which researchers are combating with interesting techniques.

Again while it is not AI, but rather a sophisticated multimedia device, the programming involved does seem to be teaching the program to ‘learn’, in that it may be able to predict what items are often bought together and perhaps suggest meal plans and so on to increase sales – this is something that a traditional server might not have been able to offer. However the ability for a program to ‘learn’ does not make it AI, a true AI machine would be capable of deciding if it wanted to be stuck somewhere selling people grapes. These machines are replacing a workforce, however it is nothing more than a progression of consistent workforce automation.

So here we have that machines are already replacing some jobs, but this is not something new. Machines have been replacing jobs since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Think about the job you currently are doing, does it have elements that are being completed by automation? Even the act of pouring your morning coffee has elements of automation, as at one point in time a person had to milk cows and this has long disappeared as an employable skill with the invention of the milking machine. How about a bank teller? When was the last time you walked into the bank for something as simple as making a withdrawal of funds? ATM’s (automated teller machine) have been doing this job since the 60’s. Ever bought a drink form a machine? These have existed since the 1860’s. So you can see it is a slow progression but it is certainly nothing new – jobs come and go, automation makes things easier in general.

AI and further development of automation will affect the workforce. But it is not something that any working person should be concerned about. Times change and probably one of the key indicators of intelligence is the ability to change and develop. I for one am looking forward to a time, where we have driver-less trucks on the road and completely automated shopping facilities. I believe with out the constraints of completing mundane tasks, the human population will become an artistic utopia where people will have more time available for self expression, and as long as it is not hurting anyone else, this will continue to be a great time to be alive.

How do you feel about AI and automation, does it make you fear the future or excited to see how far it will go?

Feature Image: robot by Jem Henderson (CC BY-ND 2.0)