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OzKitsch: the 10 funniest things I have ever seen (on the internet) | Comedy

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The original intent behind the @OzKitsch Twitter account was to have a laugh at cringey aspects of Australian life, like concrete koala letterboxes and Ned Kelly bottle openers. There’s certainly no shortage of material.

But its purpose has evolved over time. Instead of simply wincing at the olden days or wallowing in nostalgia, it seeks to examine aspects of everyday life that we have seem to have forgotten, either by accident or design: everything from regional beauty contests, monuments that were never built, and high school war cries, to Menzies’ fleeting admiration for Hitler, quack cures for the Spanish flu, and the musical stylings of Alan Jones.

It also looks at the way the world sees us and asks penetrating questions like: when did they stop playing the national anthem at the movies? How badly did “Smellbourne” pong in the 1880s? Where do the Blakeney twins sit in the pantheon of Australian popular music? And is Canberra really necessary? (Answer: no).

In its slightly cock-eyed way, it draws on the past to illuminate the present. Not so much celebrating our island story as regurgitating it with flecks of carrot and spittle.

1. The love songs of Alan Jones

Every January, OzKitsch curates The Coldest 100 musical countdown, a tin-eared antidote to the Triple J’s Hottest 100. Musical talent is not a prerequisite and yet its popularity grows with each passing year. At one point this year it was the No 1 trending topic on Twitter. Have people no taste? Evidently.

Here’s a recent chart topper.

2. This Facebook account devoted to poor masonry in Melbourne

There used to be an ad campaign exhorting Australians to strive for excellence, warning them that “near enough is not good enough”. Patently the brickies of Melbourne didn’t get the memo.

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3. Bernard King Crayfish Park advertisement

There’s a thesis to be written about forgotten tourist attractions and why they fell out of favour. Crayfish Park on the Gold Coast was the crustacean equivalent of Bullen’s African Lion Safari except that you could eat the exhibits.

4. Norman Swan conspiracy theory

Remember the conspiracy theory that claimed Victoria’s CMO Brett Sutton was not a real doctor? Comedy writer James Colley got there first. Except his observation was and remains true.

5. Johnny the Monkey Farm Hand

The farm labour shortage is hitting hard. The ABC’s Weekend Magazine has the solution: employ more monkeys.

The patron saint of OzKitsch. Once upon a time every city, town and sector of the economy had its own beauty contest. The first peanut festival Queen, Moya Hayden, pictured here atop the peanutmobile, was the mother of the cricketer Matthew Hayden. Honourable mention goes to Miss Trade Union, the Myrtleford Tobacco Queen, and the Ampol VFL Football Girl of the Week.

7. Wangaratta is alive and doing well

Public service announcement reminding viewers that north-eastern Victoria is not dead yet. Nick Cave once remarked that the “horrible misery” of Wangaratta inspired his artistic vision. This advertisement might have tipped him over the edge.

8. Russell Told Me So

In the 1980s, Channel Nine commissioned a jingle, “Brian Told Me So”, to promote its newsreaders in Sydney and Melbourne. Just as well they were both named Brian. Perth, of course, had to be different. Check out the early 80s styles and newsreader Russell Goodrick’s magnificently tonsured helmet head.

9. Sherbet’s Howzat sung in German

Australian music has made a big splash on the world stage but often in ways you wouldn’t expect, from the Russian language version of Shaddap You Face to a handful of renditions of Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport in Japanese. But no one can murder a pop song like the Germans.

10. When the Ghost Who Walks met the Emperor of Lang Park

Evildoers beware.

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Andrew Sholl is curator of @OzKitsch on Twitter



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Iran reveals use of cryptocurrency to pay for imports • The Register

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Iran has announced it used cryptocurrency to pay for imports, raising the prospect that the nation is using digital assets to evade sanctions.

Trade minister Alireza Peyman Pak revealed the transaction with the tweet below, which translates as “This week, the first official import order was successfully placed with cryptocurrency worth ten million dollars. By the end of September, the use of cryptocurrencies and smart contracts will be widespread in foreign trade with target countries.”

It is unclear what Peman Pak referred to with his mention of widespread use of crypto for foreign trade, and the identity of the foreign countries he mentioned is also obscure.

But the intent of the announcement appears clear: Iran will use cryptocurrency to settle cross-border trades.

That’s very significant because Iran is subject to extensive sanctions aimed at preventing its ability to acquire nuclear weapons and reduce its ability to sponsor terrorism. Sanctions prevent the sale of many commodities and technologies to Iran, and financial institutions aren’t allowed to deal with their Iranian counterparts, who are mostly shunned around the world.

As explained in this advisory [PDF] issued by the US Treasury, Iran has developed numerous practices to evade sanctions, including payment offsetting schemes that let it sell oil in contravention of sanctions. Proceeds of such sales are alleged to have been funnelled to terrorist groups.

While cryptocurrency’s anonymity has been largely disproved, trades in digital assets aren’t regulated so sanctions enforcement will be more complex if Iran and its trading partners use crypto instead of fiat currencies.

Which perhaps adds more weight to the argument that cryptocurrency has few proven uses beyond speculative trading, making the ransomware industry possible, and helping authoritarian states like Iran and North Korea to acquire materiel for weapons.

Peyman Pak’s mention of “widespread” cross-border crypto deals, facilitated by automated smart contracts, therefore represents a challenge to those who monitor and enforce sanctions – and something new to worry about for the rest of us. ®



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Edwards Lifesciences is hiring at its ‘key’ Shannon and Limerick facilities

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The medtech company is hiring for a variety of roles at both its Limerick and Shannon sites, the latter of which is being transformed into a specialised manufacturing facility.

Medical devices giant Edwards Lifesciences began renovations to convert its existing Shannon facility into a specialised manufacturing centre at the end of July.

The expansion will allow the company to produce components that are an integral part of its transcatheter heart valves. The conversion is part of Edwards Lifesciences’ expansion plan that will see it hire for hundreds of new roles in the coming years.

“The expanded capability at our Shannon facility demonstrates that our operations in Ireland are a key enabler for Edwards to continue helping patients across the globe,” said Andrew Walls, general manager for the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ireland.

According to Walls, hiring is currently underway at the company’s Shannon and Limerick facilities for a variety of functions such as assembly and inspection roles, manufacturing and quality engineering, supply chain, warehouse operations and project management.

Why Ireland?

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Edwards Lifesciences established its operations in Shannon in 2018 and announced 600 new jobs for the mid-west region. This number was then doubled a year later when it revealed increased investment in Limerick.

When the Limerick plant was officially opened in October 2021, the medtech company added another 250 roles onto the previously announced 600, promising 850 new jobs by 2025.

“As the company grows and serves even more patients around the world, Edwards conducted a thorough review of its global valve manufacturing network to ensure we have the right facilities and talent to address our future needs,” Walls told SiliconRepublic.com

“We consider multiple factors when determining where we decide to manufacture – for example, a location that will allow us to produce close to where products are utilised, a location that offers advantages for our supply chain, excellent local talent pool for an engaged workforce, an interest in education and good academic infrastructure, and other characteristics that will be good for business and, ultimately, good for patients.

“Both our Shannon and Limerick sites are key enablers for Edwards Lifesciences to continue helping patients across the globe.”

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Meta’s new AI chatbot can’t stop bashing Facebook | Meta

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If you’re worried that artificial intelligence is getting too smart, talking to Meta’s AI chatbot might make you feel better.

Launched on Friday, BlenderBot is a prototype of Meta’s conversational AI, which, according to Facebook’s parent company, can converse on nearly any topic. On the demo website, members of the public are invited to chat with the tool and share feedback with developers. The results thus far, writers at Buzzfeed and Vice have pointed out, have been rather interesting.

Asked about Mark Zuckerberg, the bot told BuzzFeed’s Max Woolf that “he is a good businessman, but his business practices are not always ethical. It is funny that he has all this money and still wears the same clothes!”

The bot has also made clear that it’s not a Facebook user, telling Vice’s Janus Rose that it had deleted its account after learning about the company’s privacy scandals. “Since deleting Facebook my life has been much better,” it said.

The bot repeats material it finds on the internet, and it’s very transparent about this: you can click on its responses to learn where it picked up whatever claims it is making (though it is not always specific).

This means that along with uncomfortable truths about its parent company, BlenderBot has been spouting predictable falsehoods. In conversation with Jeff Horwitz of the Wall Street Journal, it insisted Donald Trump was still president and would continue to be “even after his second term ends in 2024”. (It added another dig at Meta, saying Facebook “has a lot of fake news on it these days”.) Users have also recorded it making antisemitic claims.

BlenderBot’s remarks were foreseeable based on the behavior of older chatbots such as Microsoft’s Tay, which Twitter users quickly taught to be a racist conspiracy theorist, forcing the company to apologize for its “wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images”. GPT-3, another AI system, has also delivered racist, misogynist and homophobic remarks. A South Korean startup’s chatbot, designed to resemble a 20-year-old college student, had to be suspended after it rattled off racial slurs and anti-LGBTQ+ remarks.

Given the cesspool that is the internet, Meta appears to have expected similar things from its own service. Before logging on, users must acknowledge that BlenderBot is “likely to make untrue or offensive statements”. As Vice notes, Meta researchers have described the AI tech behind the bot as having “a high propensity to generate toxic language and reinforce harmful stereotypes, even when provided with a relatively innocuous prompt”.

“Everyone who uses Blender Bot is required to acknowledge they understand it’s for research and entertainment purposes only, that it can make untrue or offensive statements, and that they agree to not intentionally trigger the bot to make offensive statements,” said a Meta spokesperson in a statement.

My own conversation with BlenderBot did not veer into that territory, but it did highlight another flaw in the service: its utter inanity.

The bot began by asking me what subject I liked in school. The bot is open about which “persona” it is using in the conversation; our discussion involved a persona it described as “I like to read. I went to college.” When I asked it tough questions, such as which colleges accepted AI bot students, it offered nonsensical replies (“in some ways, aren’t we all chatbots?” No) and offered further reading by saying, “Here’s the link”, without providing a link. It also kept steering the conversation back to chatbots.

It did, however, maintain its firm stance against its own creators. When I said I wasn’t a fan of Facebook’s ethics, it wholeheartedly agreed: “Me too! That is why I stopped using it and just stick with reading books instead.”



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