Up here in the Northern Hemisphere we’ve been blasted by Sky, the BBC and ESPN with the Autumn rugby internationals. Apart from watching thousands of Investec ads (so tired of the zebra!), the many so-called experts rolled out always start by eulogising the local teams only to get quieter and quieter.

Just for fun, here’s a quick snapshot of what the teams looked like:

The Boks:

Tired, fatigued, bored (?); how can you describe a tour that went belly up from the first match. There is no doubt that the loss of Spies, de Villiers etc has changed the balance of the side but for the London Sunday Times to say that the ‘Boks bubble has finally burst’ is stretching it. Have a look at John Smit’s twitter – the answer is somewhere there.

The youngsters will have benefited from losing to the grizzled world mercenaries of Leicester and playing a trial match against the ex-pats of Saracens.

The All Blacks:

Dan Carter was fresh. Richie Mc Caw was inspirational. Sound familiar? The Blacks cruised around until the final game and then whack! there go the French. However, apart from the main men, there’s no real heavy penetration at inside centre and beyond. Win the World Cup? Can’t see it.

Wobblies who became Wallabies:

At the end of the smashing victory over the Welsh on Saturday, there was a great scene where George Smith gave Dave Pock a big handshake and a hug – ‘over to you now, mate’ summed up this new side. Robbie Deans has them on an upward trajectory. Young, fresh, determined and with Rocky leading the pack, a little wild and wooly. Forget the Scottish loss, Git’s moustache was tickling him.

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George, we’ll miss you but Pocock is a pretty good replacement.

 

England:

How can you describe really bad? Over coached, over-gymmed, over-anxious, bereft of talent. Excuses, excuses. Sorry, but England were awful and no more so than against the Pumas. Against the All Blacks they looked a little better but then the Kiwis were on cruise control. Don’t know of one player who showed that he actually knew what to do except moan about the ruck laws and the referees – Moody maybe? I bet Italy can’t wait for their 6 Nations game!

Ireland:

In Sexton they have found a new gem of a fly-half. Fast, well balanced and a great kicker. However, you just can’t help feel that they’ll walk the 6 Nations and fall over their own feet in the next World Cup. The forwards won’t last the pace and O’Driscoll cannot go on forever.

The rest – Italy, Scotland, Wales, Pumas and Samoa. Thanks for coming guys, you made for some good entertainment and enthusiasm. We loved your anthems.

                                                           Ex-pats, Capetonians, etc etc, puff out your chests:

Here she is –

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“I’ve heard Apple has just put in an order for millions of screens this big,” someone said, sketching out a square about 15cm x 15cm (slightly larger than a quarto page, in the old money).

Interesting, if true, as they say. At the moment we have three different screens – the full monitor/laptop size, the 25 cm netbook screen, and the iPhone screen.

None seem to be right for the work those in the media/knowledge etc world do on the fly. The portable laptop is ridiculously big, the iPhone too small, and unfolding a netbook to take emails etc already feels archaic.

My assumption has been that what would eventually come along is a double iPhone screen – foldable so that it fits in your pocket, with a minimal physical join. Thus creating a screen big enough to read multiple sites on simultaneously, ‘newspapers’ etc etc.

The new Apple one, if it’s true, sounds too big – not pocketable – but part of the process whereby online media will take another leap, and push paper media yet further into the distance.

Eventually we’ll hit on a fixed screen form, just as newspapers settled into the broadsheet/tabloid duo, books the 250 page quarto standard, and so on. At that point it will last until post-screen technologies develop sufficiently for widespread use – ie virtual screens projected by laser onto a space of air.

Even then, as with qwerty, the final screen size may become the standard frame through which we write and read for some time to come.

Once we get to this ‘ideal screen’, there will be a corresponding shift in online media – and the last vestigial traces of newspaper design will die. Everything from story length, to the old headline-standfirst-body, the pull quote, will be reconstructed.

People are increasingly noticing what media pros – especially media summary writers, this correspondent’s one time profession – already know, that newspapers are stuffed turkeys, overwritten to the eyeballs.

Now, the full portability of text has occurred, it should be obvious that news organisations will decompose – just as department stores no longer have their warehouses out the back, and chemists no longer have someone in the back making up gunk.

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Scoop of the year? Hot off the presses from today’s NT News is the scoop that pop star Robbie Williams is looking to buy a house in the Northern Territory… to hunt for UFOs:

The hot tip comes via one Lew Farkas, the owner of the Holiday Park in Wycliffe Well in Central Australia:

“A mate of his came and stayed here and was telling me how Robbie was right into UFOs and was a real buff on the subject,” he said.

“He said he would let him know about Wycliffe Well and the UFO element.”

Mr Farkas said his property – on the market since last year – would be perfect for Williams.

“I haven’t heard from him but if his mate has talked to him then maybe he’s considering Wycliffe,” he said.

Let’s face it – the NT News is compulsory reading.

No wonder Murdoch’s sh-tting bricks. Fairfax too. Everyone in the news business, actually. It’s not just the death of newspapers and broadcast media we’re looking at. Even the audience for online news is plummeting.

Nicholas Moerman, a planning intern with Proximity in London, has spotted a steady but solid decline in traffic to major global websites starting about September 2008. Check his presentation. News sites, video sites, blogs, shopping — even p-rn. Wherever you look it’s the same.

Except for social networking sites.

Sceptical? Here’s the chart for some key Australian mastheads.

 

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Every site has a spike for the 2007 federal election, seasonal slumps across December-January, a spike for (presumably) the Black Saturday bushfires — and a year-long relentless slide down and to the right.

News.com.au has been plotted rather than dailytelegraph.com.au or heraldsun.com.au here because most of the pages on those sites are served out of sub-directories such as news.com.au/dailytelegraph.

Here’s some more key sites, this time filtered to show only traffic from Australia.

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NineMSN, eBay, Microsoft and poor Mr Murdoch’s MySpace — all down and to the right.

Even Crikey and The Punch show the same decline, though perhaps it’s less clear. Down and to the right. Down. And to the right.

 

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Alas, you can’t chart Google’s own sites, including leading video site YouTube. At many social networking sites — and especially Facebook — things are very different.

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Facebook continues to grow. MySpace continues to collapse. Yes, well. No wonder, Murdoch is keen to renew Google’s advertising contract.

Twitter has grown to what appears to be a plateau. However, most serious Twitter users migrate to third-party client software rather than use the website itself.

However, advertisers are interested in eyeballs multiplied by time. Fewer visits means less advertising revenue. And certainly fewer click-throughs.

So why the traffic drop?

Could it be an artifact of Google’s methodology, a change in technique perhaps? Google couldn’t answer that, but it seems unlikely. A change in methods would surely show as a sudden change in numbers, not a steady decline.

No, I reckon this is what those annoying social media experts have been predicting all along. People are passing news directly among themselves. They’re bypassing the traditional news outlets — whether online or on sliced tree.

They’re more interested in news from their friends and family than manufactured celebrities, too. There’s only so many minutes in the day. They’re spending more of them on Facebook, fewer on news media.

If people see the headline and lead paragraph passed along via Facebook, or exchange a few snarky comments on Twitter, perhaps that’s enough to satisfy their curiosity. Who needs to click through to the whole story anyway?

Let the discussions continue!

[thanks, Stilherrigan for charts etc]

                           As the World prepares to swing its attention away from Thierry Henry, the Irish, David Beckham etc etc on to Cape Town for the FIFA World Cup 2010 draw, we received this news grab:

“Land Grab – Squatters shacks set up on Sea Point Beachfront lawns yesterday.
They had erected shacks on the lawns opposite Bordeaux and Ocean View flats in Beach Road.

Radio station, TV crews and the local Police in heated discussions.
Chickens in portable coops, a barrel braai on the go, and lots of “afena wethu boere” language!
Local residents in irate mood, shouting about rights, property values, you name it!
They had some document showing entitlement dating back to Queen Victoria who granted rights to the descendants of Adam Kok, leader of the Griquas in the late 1800’s, and more settlements would follow in the next two weeks.”

Fortunately Sepp Blatter will be staying at the One and Only and won’t see them.

Or will we have an apartheid era District Six bulldozer revival? I love the sign for the Taxi in the first pic below.

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[thanks Simon K]

Thank the lord I decided against buying shares. Following on from the discussions last week about discounting and offers at Myer, a mate put the store to the test. Armed with her viral “Family and Friends” discount voucher (she is neither Myer family and only vaguely know people working there), she went to Myer Sydney to get her 20% discount.

Someone joked that Myer was almost paying customers to shop, and here’s what happened: Arrived at store to buy shoes (already discounted). Myer having a footwear sale (get another 30% off); Myer Sydney having a special one day sale just for the store (get another 15% off) and then get my Family and Friends discount (another 20% off).

The lady in shoes said it was a good day to shop at Myer and she was right. Not so sure whether it was a good day to buy shares in Myer though.

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[another Myer giveaway]

The media is chockers with news that Murdoch and Microsoft are talking about cutting out Google and giving all the attention and content to Bing.

Let’s take a glimpse of Google without News Corp: no great loss:

Here’s a search for “lieberman public option” and “wall street journal,” but with results from WSJ.com and FoxNews.com filtered out — in other words, what Google would return if they weren’t allowed to index News Corp. pages.

All but the top two results — irrelevant HuffPo stories — show you exactly what Lieberman said in the Wall Street Journal. And would conceivably show you a link to the WSJ. So, no big loss.

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[thanks Arthur]

High up on the Vaucluse mountain plateau and some two hours from Menerbes is the tiny village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

The road trip takes you through Apt, Manonsque, Greoux-les-Bains (a big holiday destination for the locals), kilometres of wheat and lavendar fields, rocky outcrops, and hundreds of grazing sheep.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is built in the shape of an amphitheatre 634 metres above sea level and is famous for two reasons – its majolica (type of pottery) and its five-pointed star hanging from a 227 metre long chain stretched between the high rocks towering over the village. The Adou stream runs through the middle of the village, fast running water cascading from the rocks.

Moustiers was founded in 432AD but there is proof of habitation stretching back 15,000 years. Originally a monastery, the monks waged almost continuous war against the Saracens between the 8th and 10th Centuries.

These wars and subsequent inter-French quarrels only saw Moustieres regaining its former glory in the 18th Century when the Clerissy family started the majolica period – fine pottery and crafts which remain to this day.

 

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Although only 630 people live in the village, there are 16 workshops and some 30 majolica shops making Moustiers a hub of provencal industry. In contrast to the more classical bright colours, ochres and bold painted designs popular in the rest of Provence, majolica is predominantly white with fine handpainted designs of flowers and ancient fables. The custom is that the paint brush may pass over the glaze only once – no mistakes allowed. The prices reflect their individuality! E200 for a plate is the norm.

 

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The 227 metre chain with the five-pointed star is stuff of legend. The Duke of Blacas said that if he returned from Saracen captivity during the Crusades he would hang a star over the Notre Dame church in the village.

 

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[excuse the pic quality – scanned from the brochure due to the light not being good enough to capture the star in all its glory]

Frederic Mistral, the famous French poet and philosopher, invented this legend and wrote the words inscribed on the original cross:

 

 

 

 

“At your feet, Virgin Mary

I will hang my chain

If I ever return

To Moustiers my homeland”

The star was removed in 1793 during the French Revolution and then hung back in place during the Restoration period. It has fallen to the ground several times and the present one dates from 1957 with some minor repairs in 1995.

The Sainte-Marie in the village name harks back to the ‘three Saint Marys’ who were forced to flee Palestine at the time of the Crusades and settled in the Camargue region: Mary Magdalene, Mary of Jacob and Mary Salome. Some articles reputed to be of Mary Magdalene’s clothing are kept in the tiny chapel a mere 5,000 stairs up the mountainside.

Moustiers. A must see. Leaving the village, we spotted the French way of picking up leaves – a major vacuum cleaner!

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We travelled back via a southerly route along the Verdun and Durance rivers. The so-called ‘Waters of Provence’ which is a network of canals stretching hundreds of kilometres and providing life-giving water to the agricultural industry.

The route is also called the ‘Route of the Chateaus of the Southern Luberon’ and we paused at one magnificent specimen being renovated:

The 14th-18th Century chateau in the village of Allemagne-en-Provence

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River bridge over the Durance – the old and the new living happily side by side

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