Thursday, February 28, 2013

Individual Flexibility Arrangements in Australia

What are individual flexibility arrangements, you ask? These are arrangements between an individual employee and employer that vary the effect of one or more terms in a modern award or enterprise agreement with respect to that employee. The aim of these arrangements, according to then Minister Gillard in a speech in the House of Reps in 2008 was to enable employers and individual employees to make arrangements to meet their genuine needs so long as the employee is not disadvantaged.

Recently, the Fair Work Commission has released its report into the extent to which individual flexibility arrangements (IFAs, or ‘iffas’ to those in the know) have been agreed to. Essentially, the answer is not much: FWA’s survey results indicate that less than 10 per cent of employees and employers in 2012 have used IFAs since their inception, although the exact proportions are hard to determine because of some confusion amongst respondents about what constitutes an IFA. The low usage of IFAs had already been indicated in the report for the Fair Work Act Review.
So why aren’t IFAs more widely used? Several reasons were suggested in submissions to the FW Act Review; the Fair Work Commission report puts some numbers on how common these reasons are, at least for employers. According to the survey, the main reason is that employers haven’t found a need to use them; with over 50 per cent of employers surveyed who had not made an IFA saying it was because there was no identifiable need for IFAs. Another third said it was because employees had not requested IFAs. Then there’s another 15 per cent that said they use unwritten or verbal agreements with staff to vary conditions of employment, while about the same percentage said they use individual agreements (e.g. common law contracts) instead.
Arguably then, one might say that, for the most part, IFAs aren’t widely used because employers and employees often don’t have a need to make a flexible arrangement that meets a specific individual’s needs, or if they do, they sometimes either just use some informal way of doing it or they use individual contracts. Whether that changes going forward (assuming IFAs continue to exist) will be seen when the Fair Work Commission reports again in three years time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

BEER!! [6] – GREED

Name: GREED (The Sinner Series).
Brewery: Amager Bryghus.
Place Of Origin: Kastrup, Denmark.

Type: German Pilsener.

Alcohol Content: 4.6%.

Why I Bought It: ‘Greed’ is a beer that Amager reportedly made to extract as much money from the consumer for as little cost as possible. In tribute to the marketing manager, they put his picture on the bottle.

Taste: Not as refreshing as your usual pilsener, probably because I had just driven 25 minutes with the bottle on a hot seat before I opened it.

What I did while drinking it: Watched the mighty 49ers lose the Superbowl (on replay) to a quarterback named Joe Flacco.

What I did after drinking it: Moped on the 25 minute drive home.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Trapped In A Glass Lake Of Emotion: Music Video Clips In Water - Part Two

To recap: we’re going through and rating the music video clips through the years which have used water as a symbol for the artist’s angst. The clips are being rated on three dimensions: height (how far they fall into water), depth (how deep the water is), and length (how long they are in the drink).
Down By The Water – PJ Harvey: This was my first introduction to PJ Harvey, and for a young boy who had been raised on Icehouse and the Proclaimers it was pretty startling. PJ gets deep down in this clip, recalling Hamlet’s Ophelia, who of course went mad and drowned herself. (It’s a fair bet that if you’re evoking ‘Hamlet’ you’re going to come off as fairly tortured.) We see her drop into the blue during the clip as well, so there’s a bit of height in there. When I think of water torture clips (or PJ Harvey clips) this has to be close to the first one I think of.
She Will Be Loved – Maroon 5: I hate this song anyway, but I think I hate it more because of Adam Levine acting like a tortured soul (and not in a compelling way) for the duration of the video clip. I mean, the poor guy … he has to hang around a sunny mansion in LA, and make a tough decision about whether to sleep with his hot girlfriend or her hot mother. Anyway, Levine gets some height on his dive, and he manages to get down about as deep into the pool as he can go, but like Lana’s ‘Blue Jeans’ clip it’s hard to convey torture on an epic scale in a body of water that’s five foot deep. All in all then, this clip rates as average, which for Maroon 5 seems appropriate.

No Surprises – Radiohead: Given that Thom Yorke spends the entire clip in the one spot, this clip video doesn’t rate on the height dimension. Why it comes under consideration here though is the scene a couple of minutes in the water slowly rises up until his entire head is underwater, and for a few seconds you think “Holy shit! Thom Yorke is about to drown on music video!” As we all know, the water comes down again, leaving Thom gasping for air, but the scene remains emblematic of Radiohead’s brand of pre-millennial tension. 

BONUS: Lay It Down – The Rubens: I only mention this because I saw it on Rage around the time I was writing this. It’s essentially the Maroon 5 clip in a bigger body of water, although it ups the angst by having it rain on the band for the rest of the video clip. Alas, I thought I might like the Rubens until I came across this batch of clich├ęs.

Which then of our six clips is the best example of being ‘trapped within a glass lake of emotion’? To my mind, three clips stand out in terms of being able to rack up a reasonable score on all three dimensions: the xx, PJ Harvey, and Guns ‘N’ Roses. No-one can top Axl for height and depth, but again it’s just hard to take anyone seriously as a tortured artist when they dress like a 13 year old and end the clip sitting with a dolphin in a flannel shirt. As I said, the xx is fairly much a textbook water angst clip and it comes very, very close, but I’m going to go for PJ Harvey. No-one who has seen that clip would ever forget it, and it even has ‘water’ in the title. Plus, PJ essentially used the same image on her album cover – that’s commitment to the theme.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On The Elusive Third Oscar

Recently I tweeted the following in reference to this year’s Oscar race for Best Actor, specifically the possibility that Daniel Day-Lewis will win an unprecedented third Best Actor* gong.

Daniel Day-Lewis HAS to win, but the Academy does like to share those Oscars around.
Oh, I should know better than to make such statements without checking the stats … I’ve always had this assumption that the Academy has been prejudiced against those actors and actresses that have won before – the example which settled this in my mind was when Adrien Brody won Best Actor in the year in which was the only nominee not to have previously won it. Essentially I always figured that no Actor or Actress had ever piled up a whole rack of Oscars because the Academy likes to share the statues around. But does the data support this?

To answer this, I looked at all the actors and actresses who had been nominated at least five times for the Best Actor or Best Actress Oscar. If you’ve been nominated five times, you would be expected to win, on average, one award (since there are five nominees each year). If the Academy was really biased against those who kept on getting nominated, then you would expect the average winning percentage of the frequently-nominated stars to be less than 20 per cent.

Well, as you can probably gather from my humility, it isn’t. For actresses with five or more nominations, they have won 24 times out of 118 nominations – a winning percentage of 20.3 per cent. For actors with five or more nominations, they have won 24 times out of 114 nominations – a winning percentage of 21.0 per cent. That is, frequently-nominated actors and actresses have won about as many times as you would expect them to.

But … this assumes the top actors and actresses are more or less equal - that is, you don’t have the equivalent of Roger Federer or Michael Jordan amongst the acting ranks. If this were the case, then the Academy’s voting patterns might suggest they are bringing the very top talent back to the pack. Perhaps though, acting is one of those professions that doesn’t have outliers. 

*Yes, I know Katherine Hepburn did it for the Best Actress category.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 55

Fingers pointing in all directions this week - two whole hands’ worth in fact …

TELEVISION: Maybe I’ll stop my ‘Community’ DVD collection at season three.

TELEVISION: Who should be zombie food on ‘The Walking Dead’?

CARTOONS: Remembering Disney’s ‘DuckTales’.

BASKETBALL: Ranking the NBA players’ real names. And nicknames.

MUSIC: The end of the purity of MBV’s ‘Loveless’.

ECONOMICS: An economist’s break-up letter to his girlfriend.

ECONOMICS: Perhaps it’s because economics students are the most promiscuous.

ECONOMICS: A view on the High Court case between the ACCC and Google.

VIDEO GAMES: This is why I feel guilty about my inability to finish a Zelda game.

AUSTRALIAN RULES FOOTBALL: A tough time in the history of the Essendon Football Club.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Round Robin Results In The AFL NAB Cup

Currently, in the first round of the AFL NAB (pre-season) Cup, the 18 teams are split into 6 pools of three, and each pool of three plays each other within the course of a single night (e.g. last night Essendon played the Dogs, then the Dogs played Collingwood, then Collingwood played Essendon). On the way to breakfast this morning, Ms Wheatley suggested that I take a look at the NAB AFL Cup results and see what the results were like for ‘1v3, 2v3, etc…’

‘Damn it … ,’ I said, ‘Now I have to do that …,’

I did think of weaselling out of doing it by suggesting the topic to @AFLFootyMaths instead, but no, this was my burden to bear! Actually, it’s not much of a burden … since the round robin format only started in 2011 the sample size is just 13 pools.

For the purposes of the comparisons, team 1 in each pool is the team that plays in the first two matches of the night, team 2 plays in the first and third matches, and team 3 plays in the second and third matches.

1v2: 5 wins to team 1, 8 wins to team 2, net margin to team 1: -9 points.

1v3: 3 wins to team 1, 10 wins to team 3, net margin to team 1: -191 points.

2v3: 6 wins to team 2, 6 wins to team 3, 1 draw, net margin to team 2: +69 points.

So far, though team 1 has lost 8 out of 13 times against team 2, on point differential they have been fairly even (as one might expect). However, team 1 has fared relatively badly against the rested team 3, losing 10 out of 13 times, for a net margin of -191 points. This might indicate that team 1 is disadvantaged by having to play back-to-back matches, but again, it’s a small sample to date. In matches between teams 2 and 3, it’s all tied at 6 wins apiece (with one draw), but the net margin is 69 points in the rested team 2’s favour. Again, that might indicate a disadvantage from having to play back-to-back matches, but we might have to wait a few more years to get stronger evidence yet.

Monday, February 11, 2013

BEER!! [5] - ACME

Name: ACME California IPA.
Brewery: North Coast Brewery Co.

Place Of Origin: Fort Bragg, CA, USA.

Type: India Pale Ale.

Alcohol Content: 6.9%. Pretty hefty for an IPA.

Why I Bought It: The design of the bottle caught my eye. As a bonus, the six-pack box I got to carry my beers home had the same design!

Taste: Floral and fruity. OK, I’m cheating here – all IPAs taste similar to me, but those are the words commenters are typically using to describe it.
What I did while drinking it: Decorated the sharehouse of my three Sims: Veronica, Vera, and Vanessa Verlaine (of Veronaville).

What I did after drinking it: All the Sims and their guests jumped in the pool (fortunately they hadn’t  been drinking).

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why It’s Better To Be A Comic Book Artist Than A Writer

Flicking through the latest batch of DC Comics releases, I came across the ads for Paul Pope’s upcoming graphic novel. While I’d read some of Pope’s work in the past, I’d never seen a picture of him. Well, as it turns out, he looks less like a “comic book artist” than an artiste – one could imagine him spending days in his loft in NYC working on abstract pieces to be exhibited in nearby trendy galleries.

This cemented something that I’d suspected for some time – comic book artists are just cooler than comic book writers. Look at this group of major comic book artists, and compare them with the group of major comic book writers below.

Which group would you be more likely to party with? With the artists, you could chug beer, pick up hot women (or marry them), go surfing, ride motorbikes, mingle with rock bands, and play poker all night. In contrast, if you hang out with the writers, while you would probably have some intelligent conversations, you’d be living in fear that you’d end up bald or beardy or both.

More than that, just talking in pure comic business terms, the artists have it made. Image Comics was formed when seven artists gave the middle finger to Marvel, and went off to form their own company and become multi-millionaires. Can you imagine seven writers getting away with the same stunt? No, because the writers can’t draw the characters they create – they are always reliant on someone else to bring their properties to life. More than that, the big companies really only need about six or seven writers to pen most of their titles, whereas they’re always on the lookout for artists (relatively speaking). The odds become even tougher for writers when Hollywood big guns like Joss Whedon and J. Michael Straczynski drop by and take over the major books.

Alan Moore is the greatest comic book writer ever, and this is the advice he has for aspiring writers:

1.     Don’t

2.     No, really don’t

3.     DEFINITELY don’t — I mean it.

4.     Whatever you might be imagining about a life of writing, it’s not like that.

5.     OK, if you’re going to anyway, if you’re going to be a writer of any quality, you will have to commit yourself to writing — which is something that, when you’re young and idealistic, sounds incredibly easy to do, but you should commit yourself to writing almost as if you were some ancient Greek or Egyptian commiting yourself to a god.

If you do right by the god, then the god may, at some point in the future, reward you. But if you slack off and don’t do right by your talent or your god, then you are heading for a world of immense and unimaginable pain. If you have a gift that you choose to pursue, then you have to pursue it seriously. Don’t be half-assed about it, but realize what that commitment means.

Committing yourself to writing will mean, to a certain extent, your writing will become the most important part of your life — and that’s a big thing to say. It can have a distancing effect upon other relationships. It can be sometimes quite a solitary life. If you’re committed to your writing, you’re going to spend most of your life indoors in a silent, empty room, concentrating on a pen and a piece of paper or their equivalent. Be prepared to take it seriously and be prepared to follow where it takes you, even if that takes you to some very strange places.

This is by no means the most glamorous profession.

Don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
Heed the words of the occult master – pick up a pencil instead.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Trapped In A Glass Lake Of Emotion: Music Video Clips In Water - Part One

Last year, the video clip for the xx’s ‘Chained’ was released, featuring the members of the band encased deep in water, thrashing about, as if they were the first young people to ever discover this image could be used to represent the torture in their souls. (P.S. I do like the xx – really, I do.) In actual fact, the xx were simply carrying on a long-time tradition in music video clips.

There are three main, somewhat interrelated dimensions to a ‘water torture’ clip: height, depth and length. Let me explain further:

Height – The really tortured musician doesn’t just enter the water. They jump, they throw themselves with reckless abandon, leaving it to the fate of the universe as to whether they plunge in safely or are dashed on some jagged rocks hidden just beneath the surface.

Depth – Dipping your toe in the bath doesn’t count here. The musician should be at least partly, but ideally, fully submerged, to indicate that they are hopelessly trapped within their feelings. In a top-level ‘water torture’ clip, the musician will basically look like they are two seconds away from drowning.

Length – The water should not be just a passing prop, but an integral part of the clip. To signify the full extent of their torture, the musician should spend a fair chunk of the clip submerged.    

Let’s have a look at some of the wettest music video clips over the years, and how they rate.

Chained – The xx:  The xx certainly have the depth and length dimensions down pat. The band claim they spent two days underwater to film the clip, and they spend a fair chunk of the clip’s running time in that state, with very few background props as distraction. There’s also a pretty decent headlong dive into the drink partway through. To top off the bleakness the xx wear moody black for the entirety of the clip. A studied case in ‘water torture’ clips.

Blue Jeans – Lana Del Rey: Lana has the expressions to suggest that she can compete in the heartrending pain area, but this clip falls down in some vital areas. Filming the clip in a swimming pool means that it lacks somewhat on both the height and depth dimensions – it’s hard to believe that Lana is in that much agony when she’s entering the water by barely dipping her foot in, and all she has to do to exit it is stand up in the shallow end. Lana and her beau do well on the length dimension though; by the end of the clip they’ve built up a fairly solid sense that their relationship is heading towards some tragic doom.

Estranged – Guns ‘N’ Roses: Axl’s attempting to drown himself in the ocean takes up only a small portion of this clip, although given the clip’s massive ten-minute length that still adds up to a decent amount of deep sea thrashing. But the height! Axl doesn’t jump off the poolside – he hurls himself down into the ocean from a freaking oil tanker! He hurls himself down so far and so deep that they need helicopters to pull him back out! (Let’s see those xx kiddies top that.) Alas, Guns ‘N’ Roses are too unintentionally comedic to keep up the bleakness: it’s hard to maintain the veneer of emotional turmoil when Axl is saved from drowning by riding on the back of a dolphin, and Slash and his top hat come rising up out of the ocean to deliver the guitar solo. (Fuller appreciation of the comedic value of ‘Estranged’ is provided here.)
Next: PJ Harvey, Maroon 5, and Radiohead

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Finger Points Outwards - No. 54

MUSIC: On becoming too old for Triple J’s Hottest 100. I first heard the song that made #1 the morning of the countdown.

COMIC BOOKS: Writer/artist Kyle Baker has posted up all of his created-owned graphic novels for free.
ECONOMICS: Let a coin toss decide your future, and help Freakonomics out with their data collecting in the process.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Wooden Finger Five: February 2013

Lotus Plaza is the side project from the sideman - Lockett Pundt - of Deerhunter. Pundt sang one of the best Deerhunter songs in ‘Desire Lines’, and this song is kind of like a mini-version of that one. After about a minute and a half of lyrics, the song wanders off and Pundt just keeps repeating ‘One of these days, I’ll come around’, albeit with varying degrees of intensity, til it ends. It’s great though, and one of my favourite tracks of the past 12 months.

I got back into this song over the past month, but the problem is that I’m far too old for it. If a teenager jumps around joyfully to it (like on the iPhone ad) it’s fine, but if I did so I’d look like a baby boomer trying to mosh to Nirvana. I’m jealous of the Twitter generation for getting this song.

The Strokes’ free comeback single isn’t to everyone’s taste, however at least it sounds like a single, unlike a lot of the tunes on their last couple of albums. Julian Casablancas singing falsetto makes this more than just a Strokes-by-numbers track.

Nick Cave returns with this excellent song – Warren Ellis’ violin really stands out on this one. Along with ‘We No Who U R’, it promises good things for Cave’s upcoming album.

I have this theory: that musicians first fall in love with the music that’s playing on their parent’s car radio when they are three years old, and then spend their entire careers trying to recapture that feeling. That would certainly explain this song, which sounds like it was transported from 1993. More specifically, it’s like the Breeders crossed with ‘Crave’ by Nuno Bettencourt.