Saturday, July 27, 2013

The not so social side of Facebook

I have in several blogposts and other online media commented about what I consider the "antisocial" effect of the growing addiction to online social networks.

This, sadly true, story is however about another most unwanted sideeffect of being active and a bit naive on social networks, in this case Facebook.

Recently I was asked to assist a young lady who had found that one of her photos on Facebook had been copied to "less desirable" pages, the worst one being a "hookup" page where the message was (is) that she is commercial sexworker (please inbox me...).

It is not difficult to imagine that this is stressful and Harare is from some aspects a very small, socially tightly knit place.

When we then together logged in on her profile I have to admit that I got concerned. That she had all settings to "everyone can see, chat, interact, comment" and so on I expected, most people are happily unaware and seem to not give a damn in any case. I also expected the usual bunch of "slightly sexy photos of me posing with or without friends" that young women seem to find so necessary to post on Facebook.

But having near to 1500 "friends"? It seems it is some kind of "status symbol" to have many friends from near and afar, be they friends or not.

This made it clear to me (and I tried to get that message through) that even if we change all settings to the most restrictive there is a high risk something similar will happen again. I hope she is now weeding out all but "actual" friends.

The other finding, and that one is important, is that it is NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to get a photo or post removed if it is not on your pages.

Despite quite a few (real) friends reporting this page and the post, despite herself doing so we are all met with "this does not violate Facebook community regulations". OK, so having a hookup page where women are supposedly selling themselves is OK according to Facebook!!??

Parents, check your teenagers. Older and/or wiser friends, help spread the message. Once your photo is out there you have VERY little control over it.

Monday, May 06, 2013

The Earth is shrinking?

There are many who claim that "the world is shrinking". Of course it is not, it is the still the same size and shape (not totally round actually) it has been for millenia.

What it is and increasingly becoming is connected. Your friends on the other side of Earth is now no farther away then reaching for your mobile phone. Almost anywhere you go there is mobile phone cover and 3G internet included. I actually enjoy the days when I go into areas where I am off the grid and noone can reach me.

Living in Zimbabwe has been a bit like living in one of those unchartered spots on the old maps of Earth. "Here be monsters". Internet home access has been either extremely expensive or affordable but slow and unreliable.

For various reasons I have been looking for a better choice of ISP at home than what we have endured for a long time. 1 reason being the increasing number of devices at home that wants internet access (computers, phones, tablets). We are now at 7 all in all and I don't see that it will become fewer. Another one is that my home is increasingly my office and then it becomes unprofessional not to be able to do certain things online due to slow internet.

And finally it happened - a gamechanger from what it so far seems. An ISP offered 20 Gb monthly, 1 Mbit/s with installation and home wifi-router included for US 75 a month. Only condition that you sign up for 12 months. He... signed, payed and installed by Friday 3 May. So far the kids go to sleep and wake up on their tablets/phones, I am still testing out upgrades, skype calls and so on.

In short, I have better internet at home than most companies in Zim have at work. And I am not going to tell them..

Find me on skype, friends! Sinclairxp

Time to go offline a bit and do some IRL.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The legacy of a good life

What constitutes a good life? We can not all be Richard Branson or Nelson Mandela but we can all do our level best in the circumstances we find ourselves. And very few manage that, in my opinion.

Picture a small church in a somewhat rundown suburb of Harare on a hot Friday morning. It is a catholic church but with few decorations, a very far cry from the surroundings where a new Pope was announced some days ago. The benches are worn from every day use and age and could do with some maintenance.

The church is packed to capacity on this morning as we hold the funeral ceremony for André Adolfo, 86 years old at the time of his death. Father of 14, grandfather of over 60 and greatgrandfather of more than 20 and several in the making. A humble man, a carpenter, a devoted Christian, an honoured and respected member of the Sunningdale community.

To me, a dear friend. To my wife and children that he wholeheartedly accepted as if they were his own he was simply "Papa". As he was known to many many more than the actual members of his large family.

It is not often you see the priest cry, I can not remember ever having seen it before actually. But tears rolled down the face of the old priest as he and others praised the life of André. When his youngest son spoke about how he had communicated to them all not to grief as he was not only ready to go but perfectly at peace is when I started this train of thoughts in my head.

What greater gift is there than to die at peace with yourself, surrounded by children and grandchildren and simply out of old age?

Life will continue without him but he will be sorely missed.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Next Day

The Chameleon of Rock strikes again.

Some time last year I wrote to friends over the, for me, sad fact that rock icon David Bowie clearly had retired himself. Aged 65 with nothing recorded except for some few charity or "support new bands" live acts since 2004 "Reality Tour".

I, at the time, acknowledged that he had contributed immensely to the world of music and well deserved to live a quiet life raising his relatively young daughter with his wife Iman and enjoying the growing success of his firstborn son Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code). For me he has been THE rock/music star since I started to get seriously interested in music at the age of 12-13 and I have nearly everything he has released and have seen him perform live as many times as I have had the chance to. Sweden is clearly not on top of his list as performing venues go.

Little did I know - as the saying goes.

A year later, on his 66th birthday, suddenly his rather dormant website ( and equally quiet Facebook page comes to life to announce the up-and-coming release of a new album and the immediate release of a single track!

Obviously got the track "Where are we now" immediately and could barely wait for full album "The Next Day".

"Where are we now" turned out to be a slow, somewhat haunting lookback at the time spent in Berlin in the late 70s while recording the classic Low and Heroes albums. Good and one of those that eats its way slowly into your brain, you find yourself suddenly humming "where are we now, where are we now" after a while.

Between that and the release of the next track "The stars are out tonight" it became more than obvious that the best way of promoting yourself (at least if you are a superstar) is to say nothing, go into hiding, do nothing. Just the fact that it came out of the blue, no "plugging", no ads, no prereleases and actually 2 years of recording in absolute secrecy created much more publicity than any ever so clever media campaign could have done.

"The stars are out tonight" is rock head on, with wicked lyrics about how the stars (famous people that is) require us fans to survive, how they more and more penetrate our life and thinking. The video is brilliant!

Finally the whole thing was released on 11 March, that is last Monday. I was too busy to get it and then other things happened but on Wednesday I had it in full (not compressed) version and started listening. I could immediately hear 2 things: it is a strong statement and it is no "Let's Dance" full of easy listening.

However I have not really found time to really listen until now. But now I can say: this is one of his great albums! Not sure if it will be "classic", you can not know that until you find it is one of those you frequently pick out from his near 30 recordings.

I do not love all tracks, the opening "The Next Day" being one of them but others are just great. "Dirty Boys", "Heat", .. and actually most songs are not just "good" but really good.

And it is a ROCK album, not at all what "Where are we now" hinted at like some kind of slow nostalgic bunch of songs. There are riffs, drums and heavy guitars all over the place. And the man SINGS like I don't know what. One moment he sounds like he did on Aladdin Sane in 1973, next I get a feeling all the way back to "The Man Who Sold The World", then suddenly it is 1980-90 "Scary Monsters". Wow!

Never do you get any "ageing star drumming one up for the sake of it" feeling. I get a very hard to explain feeling of "echoes" of his whole career APART from the non-vocal pieces created with Brian Eno. I feel like "this would have earned a place on Ziggy, this on Aladdin Sane, this on Hunky Dory, this on Scary Monsters". Really strange.

Yet the album holds together in all its different "voices" and expressions. I am not going to analyse every song, just listen to "I'd rather be high" or "The stars are out tonight" or "You feel so lonely you could die" or "Where are we now" or... or ...

Aaaah. The man is back. In full force.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A world in shock

No, this is not about war, crimes or politics. It is about music. And to be specific, rock music.

And to really nail it down, about David Bowie. 66 years old on 8 January and a music icon. After an enormously successful career he suffered a heart problem while performing in 2004. 

This, according to "sources", prompted him to reevaluate life and concluding that almost 30 years in the music industry including writing, recording, producing and performing as well as acting in several movies, nurturing a number of other artists, being an early starter in the music internet business (bowienet) and somehow also paint... was enough.

Time to retire and devote life to his wife Iman and daughter Alexandria (now 12) as well as son and movie director Duncan Jones.  He has since lived, for being a rock icon, a very quiet life outside the limelight. When he did not even make so much as a statement on his 65 birthday last year most of us fans as well as "those in the know" gave up and accepted the fact: he simply does not want.

And I think we accepted it with crace, so to speak. Rather than Rolling Stones churning out remakes of the same music over and over, Rod Stewart in Las Vegas singing "classics" or others from the same era that has gone more or less pathetic Bowie has always had the hallmark of being restless, more focused on next album than on the ones released. Better to go while still good (Heathen is really good, Reality not so - I think) than becoming irrelevant?

And then boom. Out of the blue. On his 66 birthday suddenly his dormant website and his facebook page announces a newly released track and a coming album release! It went to iTunes UK nr.1 immediately and is doing well whereever iTunes are allowed (not here, needless to say).

The hype is huge and apparently at least 1 other artist was unlucky to announce a release on the same day... poor guy. "Why" you may ask if you are not interested in Bowie or what is loosely termed Rock music?

Well, it is a kind of "state of shock". Somehow a total icon, constantly being watched by journos, paparazzis and fans alike, managed to keep a complete lid on the fact that he for TWO YEARS has been recording new music. Few, if anyone, has managed anything even close to that media blackout.

And that is just so bastardly clever. Whatever your opinions on Bowie and his music there is no doubt that underneath it all lies the mind of a very clever businessman. He foresaw the whole digital or rather filesharing revolution, in an interview round 2000 predicted that music will be like "tap water". Went internet, sold email addresses (no I have no and made another fortune on top of the one he alreay made.

So a comeback after over TEN YEARS of mainly total quiet creates a hype like few others. Talk about huge expectations.

The other part has to do with his artistical persona. The Chamelon of Rock, Mr. Restless, Ch-ch-changes. The few times we fans and critics alike have been disappointed with any of his 30 or so albums were when he went predictable. The followup to "Let's Dance" in the 80's, "Tonight, was disaster apart from a few good songs though the worst (in my opinion) was "Never Let Me Down" and the whole Spider Tour thing. Brr, I still shudder. The 1 album I refuse to get.

Many many are the albums that did not get good reviews when released and left fans confused. But grew in sales and acclaims over time. "Diamond Dogs", "Young Americans", "Low" and "Heroes" were so shapeshifting that even core fans had problems taking them in. Then periods of silence, then the "1.Outside" and then "jungle" album "Earthling" and suddenly performing with Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails!

Then sort of quiet again, "Hours" are in my opinion 1 of the "lesser" releases. He must have been, for once, nostalgic as he apparently recorded a full album of songs from his 1966-67 debut and then flushed it. Of course it got leaked on internet (tap water...) and even I admit it is not very good.

In 2002 I was on my way to Maputo Mozambique and managed to buy newly released "Heathen" at Joburg airport. Once arrived I had a rented Kia with a good soundsystem.. I have no idea how many times "Slow Burn" and "Everone says Hi" made me stay in the car rather than go to the place I lived - that had no sound system.

"Reality" and the recorded live tour where he suffered heart problems on stage is in my opinion "good but not amazing". I have the live album and for the first time ever I heard a "I have done this so many times I can do it in my sleep" David Bowie. Not the restless, "it can be done different" artist I had come to expect.

So again, when he sort of disappeared I thought like "cool, go while on top of things. Have a nice retirement, I have all your music to listen to".

And then the Shapeshifter himself comes back. As someone pointed out not at all ashamed of being 66, instead releasing a video and photos where he looks decidely old, and again with music that leaves fans and critics divided.

So there are my musings of the hype around the comeback of an ageing rockstar. I think we need to see Bowie more as a director than necessarily just a music performer. Like some directors of movies the focus changes as you age and we are still to see what is to come.

Finally: the new song and video "Where are we now". The video has already been analyzed to pieces on internet but it turns out that the odd room it is shot in is simply the director's studio.. and the woman the director's wife. No early life love, not Björk or whooever. The song itself is slow, somewhat eerie and haunting and has numerous references to his life in Berlin during the 70's when he shared a flat with Iggy Pop. Is it good? Yes. Is it a hit? I will be surprised, regardless of iTunes sales.

But then again, that is his strength. To always surprise. And that is where he totally outperforms other megastars and icons, regardless of age.