Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reasons YouTube Rocks!

I'd always intended to do a companion piece to my recent "Reasons YouTube Sucks" post and I've been prompted to do it now because somebody has linked to it from a forum somewhere which has sent a bunch of new readers here. I think it's only fair that while the negative article is generating some interest I take the time to highlight the positives.

There is no getting around the fact that the number one benefit of YouTube is that it's free. I've said this before but it really is astonishing that this service is available for free. The second best feature of YouTube is that they've made it so damn easy to upload videos. Once your account is set up, you upload videos with a few clicks. No special software requirement. You're not made to jump through hoops. You just get your videos up with a minimum of fuss.

Then there's the audience. The number of views enjoyed by the highest performers make it clear the potential audience offered by YouTube is well into the hundreds of thousands if not millions. No other online platform offers this potential audience. Nobody. I'm open to being shown otherwise but I'm not aware of any podcasts that are being downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. I'm not aware of any personal websites or blogs being viewed hundreds of thousands of times a day.

Another one of YouTube's great advantages is that it's the world's biggest test lab - for amateurs and professionals alike. Some professional producers are starting to work this aspect of YouTube out. The opportunity to test what works and what doesn't has never existed on this scale before. This can work for TV, movies, music and advertising. Forget test screenings and focus groups - that's the past. This is the future.

For me as an amateur (with greater aspirations) it's an amazing platform for developing something that works. The constant feedback loop is the best way to improve. Stand-up comedians crave stage time because doing performances is the only way to get better. But it's fucking hard to get stage time! YouTube gives you all the screen time you want and the potential for an incredibly broad cross-section of people to provide feedback. Actually, the contradictions in the feedback provide me with quite a bit of amusement and I'm not talking about the "you suck/you're great" contradictions. I don't know if the commenters notice that other people are saying the opposite but I'm always seeing "Do longer bits/do shorter bits", "Do more like this/do less like this", "Take your mask off/leave your mask on."

And while I'd love to have the tens of thousands of subscribers that the top performers have, now that YouTube is the site on everybody's lips I don't have to reach everyone, I just have to reach the right people. Case in point is the guys from "The Fizz". Like everyone else in the media, they're trying to work out if this massive activity on YouTube can be turned into something they can sell. So they've built a show around online videos and they've paid me actual currency to be part of their show. So eat that shit sandwich all you haters! Achieving you goals is definitely an awesome way to get revenge against fucked-up losers who try to drag you down.

YouTube has also been incredibly good for simply providing an opportunity to interact with great people that I never would have come into contact with otherwise. I'm not saying this just because this is the positive post to balance the negative one - the positive interactions outnumber and overpower the negative ones by a massive margin. And not just for me, the number of marginalised people I have seen gain some positive interaction is fantastic. Older people, isolated people, people with disabilities and people who were simply shy are finding this window onto the big wide world. And that fucking rocks!

And let's not forget the catharsis! Lots of people comment to me that my anger is a great outlet for them - I get angry so they don't have to or I inspire them to release their own anger positively. How do you think it feels for me? It is SO MUCH FUN to simply let loose and scream occasionally. Admittedly, I don't go crazy most of the time (I think it would get old if I did) but the creative outlet helps me be way more balanced and happy in my day to day life.

That's just a few of the reasons I spend about 40 hours a week doing this stuff. Yes, that's right 40 hours on top of my 40 hour a week day job. When you combine the work I do on this blog with the videos it's easily 40 hours in an average week. This figure tends to space a lot of people out, they can't fathom why I would spend so much time doing it. My simple response is because I'm having so much fun. Are they suggesting I should use that time doing something I enjoy less?

The shortcomings of YouTube haven't stopped making me angry (the fucked-up commenting system drives me abso-fucking-lutely crazy!) but there's no two ways about it. Despite all its failings, YouTube rocks!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Shopping for stage make-up, costumes and masks in Melbourne

Nobody in Australia knows how to use the fucking internet! I know this because every time I try to find something I want online I can't fucking find it! Case in point: recently, I was doing exactly as the topic of this post says, shopping for stage makeup, costumes and masks here in Melbourne. I had this crazy idea that if I plugged those terms into Google, I'd find what I was looking for. No such fucking luck.

I had a bastard of a time finding what I was looking for. I did find one place that had bought the appropriate adsense keywords, so they at least knew how to pay to show up at the right time on Google. But the free listings (search results) were fucking useless. I'm desperately trying to give someone my money and they don't know how to take it!

I eventually found a few places that weren't too far away but it was a hard slog. I'm willing to bet that within a week I'll be one of the top search results for this sort of thing. And I won't have paid a cent to get there. I should get these stores to sponsor me. The good ones are REALLY good - they're like Aladdin's cave to me. So many possibilities with props, make-up and costumes. I'm thinking of taking a video just walking around one of these shops showing the various things and asking for suggestions on which ones I should use.

So when you see me occasionally introduce a new character in a video, it's because I've been shopping and found a mask I like. Usually I find a mask and have no clear idea of how I'm going to use it - I just like it and so I get it. Then I spends some time (sometimes a long time) working out what sort of character suits the mask. I did this again on the weekend, I found a silver, almost featureless mask. It looked very android-y and I decided almost straight away I had to have it. It was so devoid of expression it was almost the anti-Mr Angry.

The initial idea I had was that this character would send back videos "from the future". Quite a few people do this on YouTube to varying degrees of jokiness and success. Why should I be any different? I shot a video on Sunday but didn't put it up until Tuesday night because I honestly thought it was kind of dorky. I have been surprised by the reception yet again - he seems insanely popular on YouTube. That surprise happens to me often - I'll post something here or on YouTube thinking "people really aren't going to like this" and everyone thinks it's great.

Without further ado, I present the Blogging Bot with an important message from the future:

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Looking forward to a live review from Gruntski

I've just been talking to Gruntski on the phone and he's bringing along a few people to the open mic night I'll be performing at tonight. This will be a first for me - one of my blog regulars coming along to a live performance. On the off chance anyone else from Melbourne reads this it's at the All Nations Backpackers, 2 Spencer Street, Melbourne at about 8.30pm.

Performing to drunk backpacker should be... an experience. I'd actually prefer a large crowd of hostile drunks to a small, indifferent crowd. Like Gruntski said, it will be a good introduction to Australian "culture" for the backpackers. I'm thinking of opening the piece by saying "Welcome to Australia, motherfuckers! If you think vegemite's bitter, wait until you taste this."

I'm using this opportunity to refine the routine that I'm submitting to The Comedy Channel for their competition to get a spot on air. I have the rest of the week to work on it so every chance to try something out is worth it. Here are the first two iterations of my "Agile Comedy" experiment that have been posted to YouTube:

Version 0.1

The URL for this video is

Version 0.2

The URL for this video is

Just to expand the nerd talk, tonight's performance will be beta release 1.

How to lose an argument

I continue to be a fuckwit magnet on YouTube. Lucky, lucky me. I'm glad I was already a cynical misanthrope because exposure to these cretins surely would have destroyed any sunny disposition I may have had. The majority of inbred freaks still flock around my anti-nazi videos but they crop up all over the place from time to time.

The only thing that keeps me sane is treating them all like the pathetic jokes they are. If I thought these freaks were really representative of humanity I'd have to take drastic action. As it is, insulting them and taunting them is enough fun for me. It's flattering their bleating to call it an argument but they do fall into some of the classic "bad argument" traps.

My favourite is when they tell you what you HAVE to think in response to them or what you HAVE to do because of how they perceive you. Most people (myself included) at least occasionally fall into the trap of saying to someone "You have to admit that..." Usually this is just lazy misuse of language (the intended meaning is more like "do you see my point?") but some of these freaks get really insistent. They really really think I HAVE TO CONFORM to what they say. They get well miffed when my response is to laugh at them.

The other frequent habit of the nazis that cracks me up is their apparent view that I should care what they think. They tell me they hate me in a way that suggests I should be upset by this. They really don't seem to understand that being respected by such contemptible low-life would actually be a bad thing. I'd know I was doing something wrong if I actually had nazis on my side.

Then there are the common or garden variety haters. I don't know what it is about the internet that makes people act like utter fucking morons but people's character flaws seem to magnify online. I actually think the root cause is the feeling that people won't have to answer for what they do. In many cases, people are absolutely wrong when they think this way about their online "exploits" but this illusion of invulnerability is doubtless a big part of what makes people act in such an anti-social way. Their behaviour is ten times more aggressive than anything they'd dare in real life because they think they'll never have to answer for what they do.

I'll indulge in a little armchair psychology here and put forward the theory that a lot of these people really aren't very happy in their lives. It seems as though they'll feel better about themselves if they drag someone else down so their attacks tend to be rather arbitrary and nonsensical. They don't want to actually reach anyone in any meaningful way, they simply want to hurt for the sake of hurting. God help you if you have anything that makes you different, any apparent disability or exhibit any sign of weakness or frailty. Because I've seen these evil fuckers really rip into some vulnerable people.

Which leads me to wonder why the fuck they waste this effort on me. They launch really pointless attacks on me ("you're not funny," "that mask is stupid," "all Australians are dumb,") and they seem to genuinely believe they're going to upset me. Sometimes I point out to them the obvious flaw in their approach. Look at my videos, listen to the way I talk, read what I write.

What is there in all of that that leads you to believe you could possibly get to me you pathetic fucking loser?

Monday, November 27, 2006

The best job in the world

No, I'm not talking about my job. Now, if I was being paid to blog and vlog that would be the best job in the world for me and what I want to do. Actually, as a side note, I thing "vlog" is the wrong term for video blogs. Blog was coined as a contraction for weblog so for the truly obsessive it would be spelled 'blog to indicate some letters had been taken from the start of the word. Following this convention, the currently broadly accepted terminology for video blogs would be punctuated as v'log because the contraction is in the middle.

I think for the sake of consistency olog would be better. And it would be easier to say. I don't know about you, but I pronounce v'log as "vee-log". So we're not even getting the efficiency of a single syllable contraction. And don't go telling me you pronounce it as a single syllable "vlog" because that sounds too much like blog and nobody will ever know what you're talking about. I know my readers aren't that silly.

But "olog" sounds a bit crap. I think is sounds better if you claim the entire sound from the last syllable of video so it becomes "yolog". That's it! I hereby embark on the pointless (and probably ultimately fruitless) quest to have video blogs known as yologs. None of which has anything to do with what I was going to write today.

I have decided the best job in the world must be to write for one of those tabloid gossip magazines. If you can look past the fact you have to be a soul-less life-hating scumbag to work at one. Look at the upside: you are paid to make shit up. People give you money to vilify famous people who have lives much better than your own will ever be. Everyone hates people with privileged lives. Gossip mags are the ultimate revenge.

We've all seen them. On the newsagent shelf or next to the supermarket register. Colourful glossy mags screaming out "this person is too fat", "that person is too skinny", "so-and-so is on drugs", "guess who's gay?" Always with the exclusive gossip regarding the collapse of a celebrity's life "according to sources close to the star." I know I'd feel much happier if I could start each day by thinking "what celebrity do I want to fuck with today?"

Yeah, Tom Cruise... what has that fucker done for me lately? Here's a flash photo of Lindsay Lohan that makes her look a bit weird. She'd probably look like that if she was on drugs! Hey, check it out! This photo has a shadow on that star's face that could be a bruise if you use your imagination. Let's say they're in an abusive relationship!

My girlfriend reminds me sometimes that this is the sort of shit I'm inviting upon myself by wanting to be famous. That might be the definition of fame in the modern world - famous enough to be slandered by a gossip rag. The thing is, I know I'm completely screwed if I ever attain any sort of fame under my own name. I think you have to reach some sort of critical level of fame for the tabloids to start inventing lies of their own volition. My problem is a psychotic revenge-oriented ex-girlfriend who would go to town if she ever saw my name in any media.

She hasn't seen my name for a while because, in order to get away from her, after breaking up with her I changed jobs, moved address, changed phone number and changed email address. Yes, she's that fucking crazy. I've thought of pre-empting any of her attacks on me by doing a series of yologs detailing her insane behaviour. Then, if tabloids ever start quoting her, I can reply by saying "I've already documented what a psycho she is, if you want to hang your tissue-thin credibility on the ravings of an absolute lunatic, that's up to you."

I'm not all that worried. The future for these shitty gossip rags is very limited. One thing I would most definitely do if I got famous would be to maintain my blog. I haven't seen any celebrity taking effective advantage of blogging yet but it's only a matter of time. Why would anyone believe the bullshit gossip when they could communicate with the stars directly? The only reason these gossipy tabloids (both print and broadcast) exists is because of the gap between stars and fans. Take that away and you take away their power.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Busy Busy Busy

Very busy weekend. Kids parties, long drives, train rides. Hardly even did any videos. Here's one; my take on the "Black Friday" sales:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Public dickheads

I've been touristy things today, taking the kids from rides on olde tyme steam trains. So besides having toxic levels of soot in my system, I'm pissed off from having to deal with dickheads in public. I don't know if you've had the experience but for me, whenever I'm at a tourist attraction there'll be some wanker who shoves their way past you to take the advantageous spot you've scored for yourself.

They don't do anything extremely physically violent, you know, nothing you can have them arrested for but they're really fucking obnoxious. Basically, they do something beyond the normal bounds of decency and your only choices are to let the fuckers get away with it or call them on it which inevitably leads to an ugly confrontation. These pricks don't have the decency to be openly and honestly aggressive with their fuckwittery - they do their passive-aggressive shit and act like they're doing nothing.

That's what pisses me off the most - the type who acts like a really obnoxious prick but does it in a way that they think gives them "plausible deniability". When you call them on it, they act like it's you who has a problem. They go through life playing on the fact that the vast majority of human don't want unnecessary trauma in their lives. When some obnoxious fucker gives you static you're more likely let them get away with it than invite even more shit upon yourself. These bastards are in desperate need of a smackdown.

The funny thing is when two of them clash and inflict their stupid shit on each other. This happened to me one time in the line at the supermarket. The two fuckwads in question seemed really different; one was early twenties and the other was late fifties or early sixties. But what they had in common was their identical fucked up personalities. Basically they both realised they were going for the same spot in the same line from different directions and so they actually ran. They raced each other for the spot in line.

They still ended up reaching the line at pretty much the same time. So with no clear winner they both made it clear they were utter losers. There was pushing and shoving (nothing aggressive enough to actually be called a fight) and some boisterous words. Then one of them actually started trying to drag others in the line into their stupid shit, saying: "He's an idiot isn't her?" At this point, I lost it and said in a rather direct and forceful tone (some wussies might have called it shouting):

"WHAT? You want us to take sides? You expect US to decide which of you is the bigger dickhead? Because if that's what you're after, I can't do it. I've been watching the two of you in action and I can't separate you. Congratulations, you're co-winners of the dickhead of the year award. Now take this shit the fuck away from decent people you cretinous sacks of shit."

Or at least that's what I was thinking as I paid for my 40 litres of high-caffeine cola.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Agile Comedy

I've discussed IT methodology on many occasions on this blog. One term that crops up regularly in IT circles when discussing how to get things done is "Agile". I can only honestly discuss this approach as an outsider as I've never followed it in a work situation.

Essentially, the idea behind Agile is that rather than spending a long time designing and planning what you're going to do, you get to the actual creating phase as quickly as possible. What comes out the first time is unlikely to be "right" but it's a prototype that you can actually assess in a hands-on way. Then you go through iterations of the project as quickly as possible, discarding what didn't work in the last iteration and adding enhancements.

My view of this as an IT methodology is that it includes some good ideas but I recommend practicing extreme caution around anyone who preaches its virtues in an evangelical way. And regard anyone selling books/training/seminars on the topic with deep suspicion. Having said that, I've decided to apply my rather limited knowledge of Agile methodology to a non-IT "project" I'm undertaking.

I've mentioned before that a cable TV comedy show is running a competition whereby you submit a video of yourself doing a comedy routine and if you win, you get to perform on the TV show. This would probably be viewed by marginally more people than the stuff I put on YouTube but it would sound cool to be able to say I've been on TV. The stuff for "The Fizz" hasn't gone to air yet so far as I know so this would be my first TV performance if I won. I have about a week before the deadline for submission to practice.

So the plan is this: I put up a video of me doing a routine (nothing new there), then I ask for feedback (also nothing particularly new there). But then I employ Agile methodology. Based on feedback (plus what I think of the performance) I do another "iteration" of the routine and post that video the next day. I ask for feedback and review this iteration again, trimming the bits that aren't working so well and maybe adding some new bits. I repeat this process as often as I can (or as often as seems useful) up to the point where I submit my piece to the competition.

This is history in the making, people. Applying IT methodology to the world of comedy using the vast internet as my test lab. I hope you can all join in. I also announced this plan on YouTube last night via the following video. And just for Suroor, I added a bit about how goddam angry my business shirts make me :)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Is Michael Richards (Seinfeld's Kramer) racist or just a shitty comedian?

I rarely comment on the overdone topic du jour on this blog but the disaster that is Michael Richards' "nigger" rant is interesting to me on a number of levels. First, although I never intended it, I've become a bit of a target for racists on YouTube because I made a couple of anti-racist videos. Second, I have some aspirations to being a comedic performer and this spectacular cock-up by Richards will, I believe, ultimately come to be seen as the quintessential example of what a stand-up comedian MUST NOT DO.

Rule one for comedians: when faced with a heckler, do not lose your shit. Rule two for comedians: when faced with a heckler DO NOT LOSE YOUR SHIT! And just for Richards, I'll throw in rule three: if you're going to use racial epithets, make sure you know where you're going with the routine. After having watched the video of Richards, I came to two conclusions. One; he certainly has racist tendencies. He may not have overt racist tendencies in his day to day life and he may even consider himself not to be racist at all, but at the very least, significant amounts of latent racism came spewing out of him. Two; he really isn't a very good stand-up comedian.

For those who like to watch videos, here he is:

For those who don't watch videos, here are the lowlights. The video is taken on someone's camera phone - they seem to be a quick thinker who realises that Richards is losing it and they start videoing after he has already started screaming. The video starts with him yelling:

"Shut up! 50 years ago we'd have you hanging upside down with a fucking fork up your ass!"

To my mind, this is the most racist thing he says. He really sounds like he's missing the good old days when white folks would simply string up any uppity niggers. He then continues in the following vein:

"You can talk, you can talk, you can talk! You're brave now motherfucker! Throw his ass out! He's a nigger, He's a nigger, he's a nigger! (at this point you hear the holder of the camera say "oh my god!") A nigger! Look, there's a nigger!"

At this point the recipient of the abuse (and the audience generally) seem stunned by the tirade and Richards continues:

"Ooooh, oooh. All right, see? This shocks you, it shocks you to see what's buried beneath you stupid motherfuckers?"

At this point, someone in the audience (it seems like it's the target of Richards' abuse) responds:

Audience Member: "That was uncalled for."

Richards: "What was uncalled for? It's uncalled for for you to interrupt my ass you cheap motherfucker! You guys have been talking and talking and talking. I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."

There is still laughter at this point. Some nervous, some seems genuine and some seems to be laughing at the spectacle of Richards self-destructing. The holder of the camera says "This guy is going nuts."

Richards: (said in a gentle tone of voice) "What's the matter? Is this too much for you to handle?" (the video cuts at this point and then continues - I don't know why.) "They're going to arrest me for calling a black man a nigger?"

Right about here the audience seriously turns on him. You can hear quite a few angry voices and people start to leave, one saying "That was uncalled for you fucking cracker-ass motherfucker," on the way out. This is actually how I respond to the racists on YouTube, I'm always calling them hillbilly crackers. This seems to be pretty much the exact response Richards wanted and now it looks as if he's trying to make a point:

"Cracker ass? You calling me cracker ass, nigger?"

There's a bit of back and forth until the audience member hits Richards with the ultimate insult, the truth:

Audience Member: "You're just not funny. That why you're a reject, never had no shows, never had no movies, 'Seinfeld' - that's it."

Richards: "Oh I guess you got me there, you're absolutely right. I'm just a wash-up, gotta stand on the stage."

Audience: "That's un-fucking-called for. That aint necessary."

Richards: "Well, you interrupted me pal. That's what happens when you interrupt the white man, don't you know? You see? You see, there's still those words, those words, those words."

At this point, Richards simply gives up and walks off stage. The whole thing stunned not so much because he repeatedly said nigger but because he didn't know where to go once he'd done it. He clearly thought he was saying something funny, then saying something insightful. But he was nowhere near good enough to carry it off. Any sort of performance is a risk and the higher the risk of your act, the better you have to be to carry it off. If you're walking a tightrope one foot off the ground, it doesn't really matter if you're no good. If you fall you won't be seriously hurt. But if you're 100 metres up with no net you'd better be fucking good because if you screw up, the results will be catastrophic.

Plus, can someone explain to me why he always says things three times? I think he should go with Tourette's Syndrome as a defence. Richards undoubtedly knows the following Lenny Bruce routine (he wishes he was good enough to shine Bruce's shoes). In what is probably Bruce's most famous routine, he underlaid his monologue with a character, an imaginary audience member:

"The reason I don't get hung up with, well, say, integration, is that by the time Bob Newhart is integrated, I'm bigoted. And anyway, Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin are geniuses, the battle's won. By the way, are there any niggers here tonight?

(Outraged whisper) "What did he say?'Are there any niggers here tonight?' Jesus Christ! Does he have to get that low for laughs? Wow! Have I ever talked about the Schwarzes when the Schwarzes had gone home? Or spoken about the Moulonjohns when they'd left? Or placated some Southerner by absence of voice when he ranted and raved about nigger nigger nigger?

Are there any niggers here tonight? I know that one nigger who works here, I see him back there. Oh, there's two niggers, customers, and, ah, aha! Between those two niggers sits one kike-- man, thank God for the kike! Uh, two kikes. That's two kikes, and three niggers, and one spic. One spic-- two, three spics. One mick. One mick, one spic, one hick, thick, funcky, spunky boogey. And there's another kike. Three kikes. Three kikes, one guinea, one greaseball. Three greaseballs, two guineas. Two guineas, one hunky funky lace-curtain Irish mick. That mick spic hunky funky boogey. Two guineas plus three greaseballs and four boogies makes usually three spics. Minus two Yid spic Polack funky spunky Polacks.

AUCTIONEER: Five more niggers! Five more niggers!

GAMBLER: I pass with six niggers and eight micks and four spics.

The point? That the word's suppression gives it the power, the violence, the viciousness. If President Kennedy got on television and said, "Tonight I'd like to introduce the niggers in my cabinet,: and he yelled "nig- gerniggerniggerniggerniggerniggergigger" at every nigger he saw, "boogeyboogeyboogeyboogeyboogey,nig-gerniggerniggernigger" till nigger didn't mean anything any more, till nigger lost its meaning-- you'd never make any four-year-old "nigger" cry when he came home from school."

The routine of Bruce's is doubly audacious when you realise he did it about 40 years ago. When you really look at what Richards said, I think it's safe to say he's probably no more than halfway up the racism scale for white people (a lot of latent racism but he'd be very unlikely to act in an overtly racist way in his day to day life). Stress has a way of revealing what you're really thinking. Driving is often a good measure of how tolerant you really are - if you can drive through heavy traffic without ever hurling a racist or sexist epithet, you're doing fairly well.

Apparently, Richards actually went back onstage in the same club the next night. That would take some balls, mostly because he has to realise that he got himself in this position because he's really not a very good stand-up comedian. His rather shell-shocked attempt at an apology on Letterman is quite revealing too. He never once tries to justify what he said (good for him) but he doesn't say anything particularly coherent. Letterman keeps feeding him lines to respond to but he's too dazed to properly take advantage of the opportunities offered.

I found it quite revealing watching Jerry Seinfeld during this exchange. Seinfeld is clear that he thinks Richards deserves the chance to make amends but he never once utters the old chestnut "I know he isn't racist." Seinfeld seem really uncomfortable, even pissed off by the whole thing. I wouldn't be surprised if he feels tainted by association. It seems like he's saying "Here's your platform to make amends but that's all I'm doing. You're on your own with this one, buddy."

All I know is that it would be very unlikely for me to call someone a nigger onstage in any circumstances. And I certainly wouldn't attempt a similar riff to Bruce's without a shitload of rehearsal. Having said this, here a video response to the situation I did last night:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Stupid business shirts

A recurring frustration of mine is the impossibility of finding a business shirt that actually conforms to my body proportions. The main problem is sleeve length - sleeves are almost always too long for my stubby arms. Then, if I roll up the cuffs, the sleeves are too short. This is a small thing to be sure but have you ever noticed how often it's the small things that push you over the edge?

You can be dragged into the boss' office and unfairly abused for something that wasn't your fault but you sit there and take it because it's the boss. You can get stuck in some pointless, boring meeting with some idiot droning on and on and you can feel your brains leaking out your ears and your spirit slowly dying but you don't slap some sense into them because that would be bad office politics. But then you get back your desk and some fucker has moved your pen six inches from where you left it and you EXPLODE!

"Who's been touching my shit? This is my desk! My stuff! Nobody touches my stuff!"

And that one little outburst earns you the nickname "office psycho." Not that it's happened to me. Much. There was a little incident where I adjusted my shirt cuffs for the fiftieth time during the day and it was still uncomfortable and I kinda lost it. But I didn't shout. I just kind of hissed, "Shit! Stupid fucking shirt!"

You know those magic moments when a previously noisy area goes suddenly quiet and you've chosen that exact moment to say something which means everyone around you hear what you said? Yeah, that was my day. Side note: I think the funniest example of this is Vince Vaughan in "The Wedding Crashers" having a whole church hear him say "I'm a cocksman!" At least I wasn't proclaiming my sexual prowess. Not this time, anyway.

So I'm thinking my only solution to a life of frustration is travelling to somewhere in South East Asia where I can have shirts custom made for less than a K-Mart special. And I'll write the trip off as a business expense. Of course, there will be the problem with the material I choose for the shirts going out of fashion. This means I'll have to go overseas several times a year. It's a cross I'll have to bear.

Yeah right - this from someone who hasn't travelled overseas in ten years. I can dream.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mr Angry Remixed

Sometimes I wish I knew why my brain worked the way it does. I get fixated in ways that make no sense. For instance, on Sunday I was obsessed with doing that street art video. I spent hours wandering the streets getting the images then I spent hours editing it. Any sensible person would have paced themselves and left the editing for another day. But I happen to not be particularly sensible.

I had this weird obsession that I had "promised" to do the video over the weekend and so I had to do it. It isn't as if the world would have stopped turning if I'd done something else but my brain tends to be fairly linear. An idea got into it and I wanted to follow through on that despite the fact that common sense may have dictated a different course of action.

Now I'm feeling really run down. Maybe I can blame my obsessive-compulsive delirium on some illness. Yes, that's it! I'm not mental after all. Just a little sick.

So I've also done a bunch of stuff for The Fizz. I might as make the best of my surge of activity. If anyone actually gets DirecTV let me know and I'll tell you the airing dates. It's slightly weird - being on TV but not knowing anyone who will actually see it. Once it's been on TV it will probably be on YouTube so I'll post it here as well.

As I'm feeling too run down to write a particularly long post today I'll finish with another video. This is actually a remix of one of my "angry news" pieces done by one of my subscribers. His user name is Conmech and he puts an amazing amount of work into his videos - check out the special effects! I have his footage as well so I'm doing my own "director's cut" later in the week.

He lives in Turkey so we're promoting it as a more positive collaboration than previous Australian/Turkish "adventures". Maybe the cross-cultural aspects will finally get me featured on YouTube!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Workplace crimes

Is there any workplace crime so heinous as a truly appalling fashion choice? I've just been confronted with a cow-orker choosing to wear tailored shorts and long white socks. I'm against the death penalty on principle but still, some people are begging for some extreme retribution. You know you're working in the public service in Australia when someone wears daggy shorts and long white socks to work.

I remember years ago when I had a holiday in Darwin, noticing that this was pretty much the uniform for office workers there. It's fairly intense tropical heat there, the temperature is 30 - 40 Celsius all year with the only variation being in humidity. That varied from 75% to 95%. So I'm not surprised that they don't wear business suits but surely there's a less appalling choice than knee length tailored shorts meeting knee length white socks? And the pants were always beige! White short sleeved shirt, beige shorts, white socks and brown shoes.

And I even saw one freak wearing a full-on fucking safari suit! My dad wore these getups all the time when I was growing up but at least he had the excuse that it was the 70s. I think the pinnacle of his sartorial splendour was a lime green number. I should talk, I had a denim safari suit as a kid and I thought it was the coolest thing going. Two of my brothers had identical outfits - we were quite a sight: three pre-teen boys all in dark blue denim safari suits. Sometimes I still have nightmares that I open my wardrobe and that's all there is to wear.

This has also reminded me that as I look towards my next contract, one of the many variable I have to deal with is the dress code in the new workplace. There is quite a bit of variation in Australian workplaces; there's the suit and tie places (still the most common), "business casual" (reasonably common) or full casual (the rarest).

While I actually hate wearing a suit and tie, there are some saving graces to this. Mainly, I don't have to think as hard about what to wear. Then there's the fact that there's a clear separation between your work wear and home wear. Sometimes that psychological separation can be really important. Plus, I'm also less worried about the impression I create with what I wear - a suit and tie is pretty hard to screw up. I don't move in the rarefied circles where everyone wears Armani suits and sneers at my off the rack numbers.

When an Australian workplace specifies "business casual" it usually means no jeans and men have to wear shirts with a collar (you can usually get away with polo shirts if that's your thing). Full casual sounds good in principle but it's really easy to screw up or go too far. One recent workplace had a "no rules" policy but a few people memorably pushed the limits of what was acceptable even there. Some men in particular had a tendency to wear beachwear in the warmer weather: board shorts, t-shirt and thongs (that's Australian footwear thongs, not bum-floss underwear thongs). There was one young female who famously had a tendency to wear outfits that even if you saw her wearing them in a nightclub you'd think she was a skank. But wearing them to work? What the fuck was she thinking?

Oh well, maybe I'll get "discovered" on YouTube in the meantime and I can forget all about this office shit.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Braving the riots

I am so friggin' tired right now. I braved the barricaded streets of Melbourne today to get some footage for another street art video. There is so much of this stuff around Melbourne, it's amazing. I only used about half the stuff I shot in the end - and there's still heaps more I could find. I stopped at this point so the video wouldn't be too long.

The "riots" were a bit of a non-event - several streets were closed, including some seedy back alleys that have some good stencils usually. The local tabloid had a field day, calling it a "day of shame" and foaming at the (metaphorical) mouth about the terrible miscreants. I swear, those fuckwits need a good beating so the get a sense of perspective. Admittedly, beating them might not make their worldview more balanced but I'd enjoy beating them.

Anyway, this video took forever to edit, so enjoy it dammit!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Rioting in the streets

Well, maybe - maybe not. It's hardly a Paris-level riot but there a bit of carrying on in Melbourne today while the G20 convention is in town. I was going to take some more pictures of graffiti to make another video but it turns out this is a bad idea today. Skulking around back alleys with a camera and a mask is likely to get my head caved in with a baton if the cops see me.

I had been out at my daughter's birthday party on the other side of town and thought I'd stop in the city on my way home. Getting a few photos while I was out seemed more efficient than going out again tomorrow. Instead of getting photos I got stuck in road blacks and traffic jams, now I have a headache and feel absolutely fucked - as if I'd been out all night.

I was up a little late but only watching cartoons and making videos. I actually did a new intro for my angry news pieces, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

Friday, November 17, 2006

I deleted your comment because I hate you

Well, not really, but that heading probably got your attention. I really hope that I haven't deleted anyone's legitimate comments but it's distinctly possible I have because, for the first time, I've just deleted the comment spam blocked by Akismet without checking for "false positives". I did this because in the last 24-48 hours 610 comment spams have been blocked. And I'll be fucked if I'm looking through a list that long manually.

That number is five times higher than I'm used to. I guess that means I'm popular. I remain forever indebted to Akismet but I can't help but be horrified by this onslaught. It was only a week ago that I mentioned Akismet had blocked around 7,500 spam for me, that figure is now almost 9,500! Without Akismet I would literally have given up on blogging. It simply wouldn't be any fun to deal with that tsunami of spam manually. Actually, just putting up one of those stupid "captcha" things seems to work as well. But I really like being able to let people comment on my blog without any barrier.

On a related note, Spamhaus (who I've covered in one for my Blogging Times vlogs) have published a list of the world's worst spammers, a comparatively small group of people responsible for 80% of the world's spam. I've said it before and I'll doubtless say it again - I want these fuckers dead. They'd better hope I never score a big lotto win because I'll be using the money to hire hitmen.

While I'm doing a self-indulgent blog post essentially about my own blog, I think I'll share the news of the successful execution of the next stage of my plan for world domination. At each 100 post milestone I've publicly set myself a challenge to achieve in the next 100 posts. I do this publicly to prod myself to keep trying to achieve more. Left to my own devices, I'm incredibly lazy. At post 100 I said I'd start doing podcasts of my written posts and I actually took it one step further and started doing videos. At post 200 I said I'd start doing live performances and I did that. At post 300 (the most recent milestone) I said I'd cut a new deal either with someone I didn't already know or one that made me some significant money.

I'll be honest with you, this most recent one scared me a bit, it was out of my comfort zone. I'm a mass of contradictions, one of which is that despite brash appearances on this blog, I'm actually not very good at self-promotion. And I deliberately made this a "stretch" goal (as annoying management types say) that would be a challenge to actually reach. I could have made it much easier in a way that none of you would have been any the wiser about but this goal-setting is for me and what's the use of lying to myself?

I knew Howard was launching Wallstrip during this goal period and I knew I could convince him to let me do posts for Wallstrip. So if I had just said "I'll get Mr Angry published anywhere else" it would have been too easy. Wallstrip was a lock and I wasn't going to cheat - I already knew Howard so I deliberately ruled Wallstrip out of the list of acceptable achievements. Having said that, I do actually feel quite proud of being included in the Wallstrip conversation, I think this is going to be quite big. And in case anyone is worried I'm being exploited, yes, I was offered payment for both The Blogging Times and Wallstrip but getting in on the ground floor of an exciting opportunity is way more important to me right now than short-term money.

You might have worked out by now that I'm building up to something. Anyone who spends time on YouTube (or pays close attention to this blog) is likely to have seen "Mr Safety". This popular YouTuber (real name Cory Williams) is going to be HUGE! Mark my words, you'll be seeing him on mainstream TV or movies soon. You can already see him on DirecTV in the states if you get that service because he's hosting a show built around online videos. The people who produce that show saw one of my responses to a Mr Safety video and invited me to contribute to the show. For money!

So, I've already achieved the goals I set at post 300! A deal with someone I don't know AND being paid. The money they're offering per appearance is quite reasonable, not enough to quit my day job (unless I do about a dozen appearances a month) but enough that I feel sorta professional. For anyone interested in sponsoring me, I'd need to be making about a grand a week to feel like it was worth doing full-time. That's a LOT less than I get for my day job but it would be enough to dedicate myself to something I love doing.

So you might see more frequent posts from me now than the one daily written post I've been doing. I'll be honest with you; I wasn't sure I could actually reach this goal, it was bit scary. I was going to stretch out the time available to me for as long as possible while keeping to my minimum one post a day. And I might post videos more frequently as well rather than occasionally putting four videos in a single post. I think I know the challenge I have to set myself for post 400 but that's at least a month or two away so I'll keep it to myself for now.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

That tears it!

I've wasted far too much time this week talking about big, important issues. It's time to have a spray about one of those little issues that absolutely shits me up the wall. I've mentioned before I had to move buildings at work recently (my current employer spreads operations across a number of buildings.) Having to move is a minor pain in the arse but coming to terms with all the little changes to the available facilities is what really pisses me off.

The kitchenette has some pluses and some minuses. On the plus side, the fridge seems to get a lot less use here than had been usual in other areas (this is my 5th move of the year) so there's always lots of room for my truckloads of high-caffeine cola. On the down side, there's a bit of a crappy sandwich toaster. I like making toasted sandwiches for my lunch but there are a range of different sandwich presses in the different kitchens and this is one of the crap ones.

Good sandwich presses have a little control on the side that lets you adjust how far the top comes down, thus saving your sandwich from being squashed. This is important because the sandwiches taste better if the bread isn't squashed. It does so make a fucking difference! Stop looking at me like I'm some sort of obsessive-compulsive freak. But this isn't even the thing that's pissing me off.

What's sending me around the bend is the paper towel dispenser in the toilets. Namely, the fucking thing doesn't work. There is a distinct lack of paper being dispensed. It's a real struggle to pull paper out without it ripping. As your hands are wet when you try to get paper (pretty much by definition) this makes it even more likely that you're going to rip off useless little scraps rather than get the full sheet you need which in turn clogs up the dispenser making it harder again to get any paper out.

It boggles the mind how this is possible. This isn't a new building so it isn't as if someone's recently installed the wrong facilities. It doesn't happen in the other buildings. And it's hard to blame the guy responsible for repairing facilities because I've seen him in there a few times trying to solve the problem. He's tried filing the sharp edges off the dispenser and taping over the edges but it still doesn't fucking work!

The only thing I can think of is that someone has recently started buying a different sort of paper and its dimensions are ever so slightly out of whack with the dispenser which results in them getting stuck. This would be a shame if it's the case because it's nice paper - much softer than you usually get in workplaces. Plus, they probably bought a truckload of the stuff and they're not going to throw it out instead of using it.

It's lucky that I like most aspects of this job. In some of my other jobs that had me in a bad mood most of the time anyway, an annoying thing like this would have sent me on a rampage of destruction that would have ended in multiple fatalities. As it is, I've managed to limit myself to punching a few of the more annoying cow-orkers who I figure deserved it anyway.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

When Project Management Works

OK, I don't want to sound completely negative but I'm going to start this post by saying that even when Project Management works, things go wrong. But that's OK because things going wrong isn't necessarily the death knell for a project, it doesn't even have to be particularly problematic. It's all about how you react when things go wrong.

I'm going to tell a happy Project Management story now. The project I am just coming to the end of has been one of the best run projects I have ever worked on and in the last ten years of contracting I've worked on a hell of a lot of projects. I wasn't the Project manager, so I'm not big-noting myself. It's easy to point out what's wrong in dysfunctional projects or dysfunctional workplaces generally but it's really refreshing to be able to cite a real world example where most things went right.

Here's the summary version: for a major project to work, you need to have ALL of the following in place -

  1. A Plan
  2. Flexibility
  3. Communication
  4. Support
  5. Respect

1. A Plan. It doesn't have to be an exhaustive plan with every task measured down to the micro level (see my previous Project Management post for my views on this idea) but you need to have an idea of where you're going with clearly defined milestones that tell you when you've reached key points in the project.

2. Flexibility. Just deal with the fact that you won't have thought of everything in the plan. Be prepared for the fact your estimates may turn out to be wildly inaccurate. Being right or wrong isn't as important as how you react when you are wrong. When you discover something you didn't know before, take it on board and analyse how it is going to affect the existing plan and milestones. DON'T PRETEND IT ISN'T HAPPENING! Don't pretend you can stick to the original plan if you work a little harder. This is why "Waterfall" fails - things change and it's useless to pretend otherwise. And if you happen to work somewhere toxic enough to punish you for telling the truth about these sorts of things - get another job. Quit or quit complaining.

3. Communication. I'm not talking about a series of interminable meetings that waste everybody's times. I'm talking about real communication - letting people know what's happening and how it will affect them. How you do this is up to you - the best method will vary with the situation; face-to-face, email and/or a wiki are all viable options. I'll do another post on identifying the appropriate levels of communication on another day.

4. Support at all levels of the business. If everyone involved isn't fully on board you are going to face a lot of unnecessary fights. The IT team has to agree, the business has to agree, the users have to agree, management has to agree, external customers have to agree and any vendors involved have to agree. Every day you spend in the early stages of a project getting various "champions" on your side will save you from a week to a month or more further down the line.

5. Respect. You have to respect everyone in your team. Your team has to have the respect of other areas of the business. Without this the project will get derailed by ridiculous shit-fights along the lines of "this is all going wrong because Bozo over there doesn't know what they're doing." The person in question may well be a Bozo who knows nothing. But if there isn't professionalism within a project then everyone suffers.

A few war stories from this project. One of the biggest strengths of this Project manager was that he was always diligent about controlling scope creep. Every time someone had a new idea he would let them know the implications. He didn't start discussions with "No, you can't have that," (a recipe for nasty conflicts) but he would always say "We can look at that but we have to do some analysis first. That's outside the scope we've already agreed on and we need to be sure of what impact it would have on our existing plan." So nobody was ever given a straight "no" but the project didn't turn into some horrific, never-ending death march.

The worst thing that happened was when an influential manager who was nothing directly to do with the project was given the specification documents to read. It wasn't a bad idea to get his opinion, he's an intelligent and experienced IT professional. But it was a terrible idea to show him the specs for the first time a week before we were planning to send the tender out to potential vendors.

You can't "un-ask" someone important (in the political sense) for their opinion just because their opinion becomes inconvenient. The end result of this was that the process of getting the Tender finalised to everyone's satisfaction and sent off kept dragging on. Because this was a totally unplanned event we had no way of knowing how long it would take to resolve and instead of lasting the week we'd allowed for, it took about 5 weeks. And every day we were thinking "maybe we'll be finished in another day or two."

I almost lost it at week 4 and was ready to go postal on my cow-orkers.

I'll finish with what was one of the best surprises of the project. At a critical point in the evaluation process, the project team had committed to the management steering committee to have a decision within two weeks - an aggressive timeline given the circumstances but one we were confident we could meet. The head of the steering committee (the second most senior manager in the entire company) had a look at our proposal and said:

"I don't think you're allowing yourselves enough time. This is a big decision and I'd rather it was done right than done quickly. I think you should spend an extra month on the evaluation and then come back to us."

This sort of common sense shouldn't be a surprise. But I don't remember the last time someone on the business side said, unsolicited, to an IT project team: "You should take more time to make sure this gets done right."

And now, because I'm a contractor, I'll be moving on. With my luck, the next place will be the polar opposite of this place - a madhouse where everything gets done wrong. At least it will provide a lot of blog material.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Things that suck about YouTube

One thing YouTube has in common with every online environment I've experienced in the last ten or so years is that it's full of bitchfights. I've voiced my own displeasure (in my usual restrained way) with its shortcomings both on this blog and on YouTube itself but even I think there's a few people who need to sit down to a three-course serving of calm the fuck down.

I actually had a video of my own taken down by the powers that be for being "inappropriate" for the first time recently. This is enough reason in itself for me to get pissed off at the YouTube administrators again but it's far more the way they do things than what they do that pisses me off. In short, their decision making process is completely opaque - they provide no communication about what they're doing or why they're doing it. Considering they're providing a service that allows for unprecedented levels of open communication this is almost ironic. It isn't quite ironic - it would be more accurate to call in mind-fucking-bogglingly stupid.

Take my case; the video they took down had been up for about three months without causing the collapse of western civilisation. I say "about" because I don't know when it was taken down because I was given no notification whatsoever of the takedown. It would be obnoxious enough if I was told about it and given no opportunity for recourse but I wasn't even told that it had happened. I stumbled across the fact by accident when I was randomly going through my rather large collection of videos checking stats. One among 150 doesn't exactly stand out.

Now, the "inappropriate content" in question was obviously the semi-nude image right in the middle of the video. This is a little game you can play on YouTube - whatever image is in the exact centre of the video is what gets "grabbed" as the image to represent the video. So if you couple a suggestive image with a series of suggestive tags, all of which are completely irrelevant to the body of the video, you catch a bunch of horny YouTubers looking for some hot porn action. I've done this twice for a bit of a laugh - included a bunch of my out-takes with a suggestive image in the middle - and the two videos were viewed over 100,000 times.

There are a number of things about the decision to remove this video that are amazingly stupid (on top of how unforgiveably fucked it is to not even tell me about it.) First, the concept that a bit of butt crack is offensive is blindingly stupid. Second, the video had been up for months - it was no longer possible for someone to stumble upon it randomly so it could only be found by people deliberately searching for it (i.e. people looking for porn). The fact that the video could only be found by someone looking for porn content leads me to believe that the complaint lodged against it was malicious, not genuine outrage by some poor soul who was offended by it.

The malicious individual could fall into one of a number of camps (based on my experience). First, they might be a common or garden variety hater who simply saw this as an opportunity to fuck with me. Second, they might have been a specific type of hater with a specific axe to grind against me. This is most likely to be a racist/nazi or a Michelle Malkin supporter. The MM crowd could just possibly be mad at me because after using the image I had the thought that one of the women looked kinda sorta like Malkin and so I promoted the blog post as "Michelle Malkin's secret lesbian sex tape". Now if anyone happens to type "michelle malkin lesbian" into a search engine they get pointed to me. Whoops.

The funny thing is, if you look at the blog post, you can't play the video but the grabbed image still comes up with a message saying the video is no longer available. So the central joke is still there. Ha fucking ha you piece of shit loser haters.

But what it all comes back to is the thing that really pisses me off about YouTube is the complete lack of communication with users. They can't be unaware of what's making users angry because people are making dozens of videos about what they hate every day. But they don't communicate with the YouTube community as a whole to let them know that the concerns are understood and being acted on. Hey geniuses, POST A FUCKING VIDEO BLOG! The things that suck about YouTube that the YouTube administrators are doing a pissweak job of addressing include:

  1. They seem completely unconcerned that people are using the reporting/complaint process in a malicious way rather than to express genuinely felt offence. My case is relatively minor, several users have had their accounts banned simply because they were controversial and some dedicated haters constantly attacked them.
  2. The comment and messaging systems are utterly fucked. Somehow they can manage the awesome act of serving up hundreds of millions of videos but they can't get a simple system for community interaction working. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that they don't care. YouTube ignores this at their peril. Hey competitors: don't waste your time trying to lure YouTubers with payment systems, create a community that works and users will come in droves!
  3. Everything in their rating system is absurdly easy to game. Like the commenting system, this would be comparatively trivial to fix. YouTube simply seem to have totally underestimated how important this is to the community. I don't get as worked up about this as a lot of people do, but it's really annoying that their ratings systems are so easily abused.
  4. Their selection criteria for "featured" videos is completely opaque. This is a major feature of the site and can easily be worth hundreds of thousands of views and instant "fame". Some really good videos have been featured and this has brought a lot of attention to people who really deserved it. But a lot of really fucked videos have been featured as well. If I see one more "cute animal" video gets featured, someone will pay. Seriously. I don't need to see another fucking video of a fucking bunny eating fucking lettuce. Fuck!

Does that last paragraph make me sound bitter? Can you tell I've never been featured? Would I complain a lot less if I was featured and suddenly gained thousands of subscribers? Hell yes!

So what it all comes down to is YouTube ignoring their community. As the folk stories tell it, the original concept for the site was very community oriented but it got real big real quick. I should throw in the standard disclaimers so this doesn't sound totally whiny. YouTube is free and it's a little churlish to whine about free services. The founders picked up a few billion bucks worth of Google stock for their work so they could feel justified in thinking they're doing the right things despite the whinings of poor know-nothing users. But this goes beyond wanting more features for free (although I do want more features. For free.)

This is the single biggest threat to YouTube's long term viability. So-called analysts keep pointing to competitors offering to pay content creators as the biggest threat to YouTube. Guess what? These competitors have been offering payment for a while now and neither users nor creators have left YouTube in droves. The one high profile creator who tried to jump ship to Revver, the creators of "Lonelygirl15", failed miserably and came slinking back to YouTube. A competitor that remedies every problem YouTube is having with "community" and comes across as responsive to user complaints is in a very strong position to do some very serious damage to YouTube.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I have no future in Public Relations

There are several reasons I will never work in PR or marketing. First and foremost, I have not had a soul-ectomy. My soul is still intact and so I am obviously precluded from working in this field, favoured as it is by Satan's most devious minions. Another reason is that I'm no good with names and so could never master the dark art of "schmoozing."

You know those people who can walk around a room full of people they've met may once, shaking hands and calling everyone by name? That isn't me. I need to talk to someone day after day for weeks until I remember their name. I'm far worse than average at this and this makes life as a contractor a little difficult. Usually I end up in new workplaces two or three times a year which means I have to learn a whole bunch of new names each time. And it's horribly unfair - they only have to learn one new name (mine) while I have to learn all of theirs.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time walking around saying "Hey, how are you going?" without using a name then walking off in horror thinking "Oh god, they know my name, who the hell was that?" People usually end up thinking I'm very security conscious because I always suggest that everyone should wear prominently displayed name tags at all times. The building manager thinks "Fine idea, it will be easier to spot unauthorised people." I think "at least I'll have a slightly better chance of getting people's names right."

I know I'm not unique in suffering from this social disability. Some friends of mine had a band called The Sweets of Sin and they summed up the feeling of groping for a name you feel you should know very well in one of their songs, "What's In A Name?":

Like running underwater, stumbling in the darkness/
Fumbling from the bedroom to the bathroom in the night/
Like feeling for that mousetrap you placed behind the fridge/
Searching for those names only getting them half right.

This affliction is playing on my mind for two reasons at the moment. First, I've had to move desks for the fifth time this year in my current job. All the team surrounding me remain the same but there are always new people just over the cubicle wall. A disturbing number of them already know my name so I'm spending a lot of time nodding and smiling but refusing to actually speak. Second, this contract is almost over so I'll be going somewhere new and starting the whole horrible process all over again.

Even the interview process sucks for me. Five minutes after being told someone's name in an interview I've forgotten it. So I spend the whole interview trying to act friendly and personable while avoiding saying names in an attempt to avoid admitting I've already forgotten. Then, straight after the stress of an interview, the agency always wants to know how it went. That's OK but they always end up asking "Who did you talk to?" I don't fucking know, some people. You're supposed to organise these things, don't you know who I spoke to?

I'm sure I have a reputation as a total flake. Even with people who don't know about this blog. I wish I had a drug habit I could blame it on.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lazy Sunday Blogging

Well, it's Sunday and I don't feel like writing anything epic, so I bring you a few news highlights from this week. The single most common comment I get on these Angry News videos on YouTube is "I never heard about this, I'm glad you bring us these stories." I think it's some strange combination of amusing and tragic that I'm the most trusted news source on YouTube.

This first story is about a guy who would have been a sure-fire Darwin Award winner if only he had died.

The URL for this video is

This next story was inspired by the sort of headline you really don't want to see too often: "Killer missing from mental hospital":

The URL for this video is

To round things off, this last video isn't a news story. It's another of my Melbourne travelogues, this one has been quite popular on YouTube - it shows off a range of the graffiti art about town.

The URL for this video is

Saturday, November 11, 2006

An opportunity presents itself

So I've been working on what the next steps for me and the whole Mr Angry character might be. Exploring the live arena has seemed like the way to go while I wait to be "discovered" via this blog or YouTube. I've been doing the occasional open mic night but now an opportunity has come up that seems right down my alley.

Cable TV here in Australia is not like in the US - it's really on the fringe, probably less than 1/3 of Australians have any sort of pay TV. I have pay TV mainly for entertainment for the kids and animated shows for me. At least 50% of my viewing is on the Comedy Channel (heavily reliant on the US cable channel Comedy Central for content). Recently, the Comedy Channel began running a locally produced standup series each weeknight with a range of comics doing 5-10 minute sets. And now they're running a competition where anyone can win a spot on the show by submitting a 3 minute video.

Now I feel like I have an automatic advantage because I'm all over this doing comedy on video thing. But I am asking for a little help from my faithful readers/viewers. What should I do for the three minute video? Of all my stuff you may have read or watched on video, what's the funniest (that I can squeeze into 3 minutes)? Or if you want to go left field feel free to suggest something you think I COULD do that I haven't done before.

My longer term readers/viewers have already been asked this question several times - I ask for input each time I go to do a live performance. So don't give me a hard time about putting you on the spot. I'm here every day for you, don't fucking wimp out on me now. For fun, I'm including the video plea on the same topic I did on YouTube. And if you happen to like the "Angry Aussie" theme music I often use on YouTube videos you can download it from here:

Apologies ahead of time for the amount of popups this site spawns, but hey, it's free.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Grief Junkies

I wrote a post a little while ago about witnessing a minor car accident on my way to work and referred to "grief junkies" and how angry they make me. I also promised to explain the concept of grief junkies more fully and now seems as good a time as any.

In the context of this accident, the grief junkie was a person from another car who felt compelled to get out and comfort the driver of one of the cars involved in the accident. Now, the main reason this person pissed me off is they left their car in the middle of traffic in peak hour to comfort someone they didn't fucking know who hadn't even been injured. What it comes down to is they wanted to be part of the trauma. They're a grief junkie.

The perversity of grief junkies bubbles up in all sorts of circumstances. Probably the creepiest and least meaningful is public outpourings of grief at the death of a public figure. The most prominent and also the worst example of this was the death of Princess Di. It isn't that I wanted her dead, more that in the grand scheme of things she was fucking meaningless. A spoilt, privileged individual, some things didn't go her way, she did use some of her public profile for noble causes, she died an untimely death, boo hoo. End of fucking story.

It did not warrant the disgusting outpourings and international chest beatings that ensued. I think that description is totally justified. Disgusting. Thousands of people die every day before their time. Most of them in conditions of horrific deprivation and pain. That someone who lived a life of luxury unimaginable to most died in a car crash is a little unfortunate but it's no fucking tragedy. Until the real tragedies of the world are addressed I'm unwilling to waste my emotions in situations like this.

I think Di may have been the first large scale grief junkie frenzy of recent times but there have been plenty more. Certain circles in the US indulged quite a bit when JFK junior crashed his plane. In Australia (and to a lesser extent worldwide) their was quite a bit of grief junkie posturing over the recent death of Steve Irwin. It's fine to remember people, recognise their contributions and even honour them where appropriate. But when you don't actually know them, acting like your life has been touched and expressing your deep personal anguish is just perverse.

It happens on a smaller scale in the media with personal tragedies too. When someone is killed in an accident or is murdered, the media loves playing up the tragedy angle - particularly if the victim is a small child or the parent of a small child. I can't imagine anything worse than the death of my own child but when it's someone else's child it's their personal grief, not an opportunity for the public grief junkies to get their jollies. I hate the obsession with putting us on a first-name basis with the victims - it's always the tragedy of baby X or poor little Y. I don't know these people and I don't want to intrude on their lives.

And in case anyone thinks the media is acting in the public interest in these cases, here a little tip about the media: They. Don't. Fucking. Care. Their single concern is selling advertising. They are pimping out individual grief in the name of ratings and dollars. Indulging in grief junkie mentality is simply playing into their hands and being complicit in their sick, manipulative games.

I get really pissed off when it happens to someone close to me. A few years ago there was an incident that brought home to me how useless this outpouring of grief junkie emotion is to someone suffering genuine grief. I'd been in a new job for about six months and was getting on particularly well with one guy in my team. We were getting to the point of being quite good friends when his wife of less than a year was killed in an accident.

He was very popular in the workplace so when he came back after taking some time off people were all over him. It was really creepy to see an almost constant procession of people coming up to him and going on at great length about how sorry they were and how they were "there for him" if he needed them. We sat in the same cubicle pod and I hadn't seen 90% of these people say two words to him in the previous six months so I don't know why they thought they meant so much to him.

The thing was, I felt like they were putting me in impossible position. They descended the instant he arrived so I hadn't had a chance to talk to him before a swarm of grief junkies had vomited their deeply felt condolences all over him. So then I don't know what to say - I feel like I can't say anything without coming across as empty as the ghoulish grief junkies that seem intent on sucking the tragedy right out of him. But I can't say nothing. So I'm sitting there with my brain imploding trying to think of what to do and eventually I tell him exactly what I'm thinking.

Essentially, I said that I knew nothing I could say or do would possibly make him feel any better but I feel like I can't sit there and say nothing. At the same time I can see people virtually smothering him with their concern and I don't want to make that situation any worse. So I'm here for whatever you need but I'm not in your face if you don't need to talk to anyone. He said he appreciated it and he particularly appreciated the fact I was giving him space instead of trying to force some sort of response out of him.

Hmmm, this got a lot more personal than I intended when I started. I really fucking hate grief junkies.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Spammers continue their barrage of comment spam on my blog (currently over 100 a day) and Akismet continues to hand them their balls on a platter. I don't understand why this isn't a bigger story. Akismet should be getting a fucking ticker-tape parade. Everyone bemoans spam and all the problems it causes and wonders what the solution might be. Apparently the answer is Akismet. I don't pretend to be an expert on the technology behind it but I'd love to know why it isn't directly applicable to email.

Akismet has blocked over 7,500 comment spam in the last six months, the thought of having to delete all of those manually is horrifying to contemplate. It's at least 99% effective - hardly any comment spam get through and there are very few false positives (meaning I have to recover genuine comments that were misidentified as spam). Although, here's a warning: careful about putting links in comments, this is often a red flag for spam filters. And with the tsunami of comment spam I'm getting at the moment there's a high risk I might miss any false positive thus losing the comment forever.

The stats on their site are scary - they've collectively blocked over 310 million spamm and catch several hundred thousand more every day. By their estimation 93% of all comments are spam. This seems on par with many estimates for the proportion of spam email as well.

But I don't have a significant problem with spam email either. Both my gmail and yahoo accounts have spam filters that are nearly 100% effective so I just have to check occasionally to make sure there are no fals positives there instead of having to wade through mountains of spam to get to my real email.

So why does spam keep happening?

If there was any intelligence or direction behind the comment spam they surely would have given up on trageting Wordpress blogs ages ago. This leads me to believe that most of it is coming from zombie nets. Foolish people without sufficient anti-virus protection whose hijacked computers are spewing out millions of spam without them realising it. I can't help thinking that some people are just too stupid to be allowed to have a computer. Then again, I think that there are lots of people who are too stupid to be allowed to breathe. One day I'll get my way.

I still advocate that those mega rich IT types should forget about solving world hunger and disease and instead donate a bit of their money to hiring hitmen to kill spammers. Not quietly and secretly either; video their executions and put it up on YouTube. Now that's a video I'd pay to see! Actually, if you want some cathartic reading, try this article from Wired about the gruesome murder of a Russian spam king.

Microsoft are trumpeting their shiny new anti-virus and anti-spam weapons which, based on their track record, is probably bullshit but from what I've seen they're going about it the wrong way anyhow. They're obsessing over stopping spam and viruses from coming in

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The myth of Project Management

I first discovered the term "consensual hallucination" when reading William Gibson's seminal cyberpunk novel "Neuromancer". He used the term to describe his concept of cyberspace - a place that didn't actually exist but it was a representation of a massive computer network that people could conceptualise well enough to deal with. For ease of understanding, everyone treated an abstract concept as a physical reality - they consented to believe in the hallucination because it was easier to understand that way.

Life is full of consensual hallucinations. If you live in a democracy, you tend to believe you have a say in what happens even though the whole political system is completely under the control of vested interests. Voting is a sideshow but we tend to indulge in the consensual hallucination that it means something because life is easier to bear that way. In fact, pretty much any political or religious belief system is a consensual hallucination. Which is not to say that they are all by definition untrue - simply that they are abstract systems that people tends to treat as concrete reality despite the complete lack of empirical evidence to support this consensual hallucination.

When you work in IT, you deal with the consensual hallucination of Project Management. There is an almost universal belief that it is possible to predict ahead of time how long a project will take, how much it will cost and what will happen along the way. In the broadest sense, this is possible. If you have enough experience you can come up with ballpark figures; last time we did something similar it took this long and cost this much.

But some people believe Project Management should tell you these things down to the day and the dollar. A project plan should tell you every task that needs to be completed. A project plan should be flawless and leave nothing to chance. And a project plan should be completed before ANY work is done on the project.

Despite the fact this is clearly insanity, it is a terrifyingly common mindset in management ranks. Project planning and goals are obviously important at some level (otherwise how the hell would you know what you are doing?) but how did we move from "let's have a clearly defined set of project goals and a strategy for how we'll get there," to "this is 100% accurate, carved in stone and will never change"?

I think there are a number of reasons the myth of Project Management has been elevated to the level of holy scripture:
  • A whole industry of consultants who base their existence on the lie that they can provide definitive solutions to Project Management
  • Several rainforests worth of books purporting to offer the definitive methodology for flawless Project Management
  • Nobody likes to look stupid. If you're a professional and someone puts you on the spot to answer "how long will this take?" you like to have an answer
  • When you do work that is measurable in retrospect ("we wrote this many lines of code and it took this long") it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you should be able to project forward accurately ("it should be this many lines of code which should take us this long to do.")
  • Very few businesses are keen to hand over an open chequebook - when you buy stationery, you know what you're getting and how much it will cost. Why is it so hard to get the same thing with software?
So how do we escape the consensual hallucination that there is a way to do Project Management that is absolutely foolproof and provides definitive answers? Well, the first step is to kill all the consultants. Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. Let's limit ourselves to killing the consultants who act as though they have some mystical powers that enable them to succeed where all other have failed. Maybe even that's going a little bit too far. Surely there's a solution that doesn't involve the risk of incurring jail time?

There is no silver bullet (although there's quite a good essay entitled "No Silver Bullet") that will solve this issue but there are things that can be done to improve the situation. How about we all sit down to a big three-course serving of reality together? If you're on the development side, one of the best things you can do is to have the courage to say "I don't know," when you don't, in fact, know the answer to a question. Sure, the geek mystique might take a bit of a hit when you admit you're not infallible but it's worth it in the long term. If you're on the business side it means LISTENING when your IT people tell you that a definitive answer isn't possible. The obsession some people have with getting an answer, any answer, even when they know the answer is totally inaccurate is nothing short of stupidity. Just don't do it.

It's perfectly reasonable (and I would even suggest that it's necessary) to come up with some sort of estimate in a project plan. So long as everyone agrees that's what it is: an estimate. And, more importantly, the estimate will need to be revisited at key milestones to see if anything has been uncovered that will affect previous estimates. For this to work, everyone has to be open and everyone has to listen and be responsive. Or we can keep flailing about saying it has to be this way because the sacred Project Plan says it's this way.

To illustrate the ups and downs of Project Management, in another post I'll be documenting the project I'm finishing up on right now. I'll be using my current project as an example because it's one of the best managed projects I've ever worked on (I'm not the Project Manager so don't worry - I'm not big-noting myself). It's a good illustration because it's quite a big project and most of the Project Management was done really well but there were still some problems. And at the end of the day, it's the way everyone involved handles the unexpected that drives whether a project will succeed or fail.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Possibly the worst excuse for a public holiday ever

Yes, it's Melbourne Cup day which means no work for me today. Does anywhere else in the world have a public holiday for a horse race? I find it mildly embarrassing. Also, as I'm a contractor it means I don't get paid today. So screw the Melbourne Cup - I'm glad the idiots who went there got rained on.

On a totally unrelated note, here are some angry new bulletins. The first one covers one of the big recent stories, disgraced evangelical Ted Haggard.

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This story is a bit more more obscure, but pretty weird. UK scientist want to combine cow and human DNA:

The URL for this video is

And to close off, a bit of a palate cleanser. This is a place I found while I was walking around Melbourne. It's sort of the anti-Mr Angry zone.

The URL for this video is

Monday, November 06, 2006

An Angry Bike Ride

Yesterday was a rather nice day, so when one of my favourite YouTubers, Mr Safety, posted a video of him riding around his town and encouraging others to do the same, I thought I'd join in. The first spanner in the works for this plan was that I hadn't ridden my bike in ages so the effort was likely to kill me. The second problem was that because I'd left the bike idle for so long, both tyres were flat. So the first part of the ride was actually a walk as I went out to find a service station where I could pump up the tyres.

This wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. The first one I reached had no air hose - apparently someone had stolen it. After walking about a kilometre I reached one that had a working air hose. It also featured a sign saying to not use the air hose for bikes. Fuck that shit. So finally, I had the tyres pumped up and i set off on my ride towards St Kilda Beach.

It was quite windy which is something the microphone on my little camera can't cope with. As a result, I couldn't use any of the insightful commentary I provided on the ride because it wasn't actually audible. The fact that most of it consisted of heavy breathing and me saying "I'm so out of shape, this fucking headwind is killing me," is besides the point. The plus side of this is I used my Angry Aussie theme music as the soundtrack for most of the video rather than my laboured breathing so, if you are interested in such things, you get to hear more of nsgmusic's stellar work in all its glory. The negative side is that you don't get to hear me getting really angry at the idiots.

The first idiot was some tool who opened his car door right as I passed his car. This was in a busy street so it was remarkably hard to avoid hitting his door AND avoid being killed by traffic at the same time. I have no idea if my assertions about his parentage were actually true but I stick by my shouted opinion. Then there were the fucking pedestrians. I swear I'm going to do a pro-pedestrian rights blog post at some point because I'm worried I sound like I blame pedestrians for everything. Let me make this clear: I only blame stupid fucking pedestrians for their own stupid behaviour.

Riding along the St Kilda Beach bike path is one of life's simple pleasures that I quite enjoy. Walking along the walking path is another enjoyable past-time that intend to indulge in regularly now daylight saving has kicked in (preferably while enjoying a white chocolate ice cream in the company of my lovely lady.) But the bike path and the walking path are two different paths. So the fucking pedestrians should stay the fuck off the fucking bike path. For their own safety if nothing else. Getting whacked by a bike is unlikely to injure you seriously like a car would, but it isn't gonna tickle.

You'll get a pretty good idea of how many of these morons there were if you watch the video. This wasn't even a crowded day (probably because of the wind and the rather mild temperatures) but there were morons all over the bike path. The worst thing about them is they're totally oblivious. They are completely unaware of their surroundings - every time I went by one of them they seemed totally amazed that a bike was going by them. On a fucking clearly marked bike path.

I'd be less angry at these morons blocking the bike path if they didn't have a designated walking path. I'd even be slightly less angry at them if the walking path was a long way away and they couldn't be bothered going over to the proper path. But most of the time the walking path is within a metre of the bike path. If the cretinous fucks would take two steps in the appropriate direction there would be no issue.

I started off by just doing a running commentary for the video as I approached the idiots. A quiet "look at these dickheads," - nothing they would hear. Then I graduated to commenting as I passed them "Another moron who can't be bothered to walk on the walking path." Then I reached the tipping point and started screaming as I approached them: "THIS IS THE BIKE PATH GET OUT OF THE WAY!" The looks I got in response were quite amusing. You could almost see each individual thought crawl across their stupid monkey faces.

(1) What is he saying? (2) How does he know this is a bike path? (3) Oh, that big sign there. (4) And the markings on the path. (5) And that other sign says the walking path is just there. (6) So I should be on the walking path, not blocking this attractive man's bike path. (7) How did he get to be so much smarter than me? (8) Why doesn't anyone ever come to my birthday party?

So here's the video of my ride:

I expected to be really sore today from this ride but maybe I'm not as out of shape as I feared because I don't have the aching legs and arms I anticipated. Mind you, I'm still suffering from a bizarre thing I did last night before getting into bed. I had an itch on my calf. Now, I could have simply reached down and scratched it. But instead, I stood on one leg and tried to scratch the itch with the big toe on my other foot. Then for some reason I twisted around a little on my one leg and my body screamed out "you're 40, you idiot!" Then my hip gave out and I collapsed in pain.

My hip still fucking hurts today.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Talking to myself

For anyone who wasn't sure whether or not I was insane, the way my YouTube videos are developing should answer the question. I'm increasingly doing multiple characters who talk to each other and I'm started to flesh out their "back story" and what their relationships to each other are. Take the following two videos.

This first one is essentially a re-enactment of one of my recent blog posts (nothing new there) but then I decided to show the other half of the story. First, Mr Angry expressing his frustration with workplace motivational strategies.

Then, a "response" video from this other character that I have decided is basically Mr Angry's nemesis. He's responsible for everything at Mr Angry's work that sucks.

I think I'm better off if I let these characters out of my head.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Lateral thinking in action

My current workplace is a rather big and sprawling cubicle farm - it actually spreads over several buildings. Most of it is fairly open which minimises the horrors of the cubicle farm life but by some quirk of construction, there is a blind corner right near the kitchenette. It's solid walls so you can't see who's coming around the corner and it's a busy thoroughfare so it's quite likely someone is coming around the corner at any given time.

Making things worse is, because it's near the kitchenette, people are often coming around the corner carrying hot drinks or food. There are about a dozen near misses a day and even though I'm not aware of any major mishaps it seems like it's only a matter of time before someone has their eyeballs scalded out with boiling coffee. All sorts of strategies had been tried without much success. It started with basically saying to people "don't be a fucking idiot when going around that corner." In a perfect world, this would work but it doesn't take into account how many people really are fucking idiots.

Then there were the attempts at signage. Various helpful signs like "keep left" and "warning: blind corner" had very little effect. Then we got serious and put a parabolic mirror on the ceiling which effectively let you see around the corner. This was less effective than you might think because surprisingly few people walk around looking at the ceiling. Then came the stroke of genius.

I wish I could say this was my idea (I was sorely tempted to do so - how the hell would you know it wasn't?) One of the guys applied some lateral thinking and put a large pot plant right on the corner. You can see this from whatever direction you approach and it forces you to pay attention and walk AROUND the corner instead of simply cutting around quickly thus risking a collision. I was admiring his handiwork and made a comment like "this will work great because you can't walk into a plant this big by accident." To which the inevitable whiny cow-orker standing nearby said:

"I could walk into it, I think it's dangerous."

Now in retrospect, I shouldn't have said "Then you're too fucking stupid to live." It's obviously a true statement but I could've waited for them to forget to breathe and thus die quietly in their cubicle without me ever humiliating them by pointing out how fucking thick they are. They looked sad. Like I give a shit. Straight after this, I had a run-in with the second-stupidest person in the office.

We've all had those situations where you end up on a collision trajectory with someone walking towards you and you both correct at the same time then end up doing the back and forth dance for a while. Ha ha it's very funny. I've developed a coping strategy for this that goes through several phases. First I slow down, then I pick a very definite direction and don't waver so the other person knows my intention. If they are still going back and forth I'll eventually stop completely and indicate that they should walk by.

This usually works but there are occasions, like this morning, when the other person is simply too stupid to cope with the situation. It was at "pot plant corner" which is now too small to go around without making some concession to oncoming traffic. I had stopped completely but this guy just couldn't deal with it. He's rocking back and forth like Bill Gates in the throes of an Asperger's attack. And because he's rocking from side to side I can't get past. And he won't get out of the way. So I did the only thing I could do.

I punched him in the face and stepped over his now-prone body. What can I say? I'm a solutions-oriented kind of bloke.