Monday, August 31, 2009

TFU Files - Copyright is broken

So here’s the first cab of the rank in the TFU Files. Copyright is essentially broken. It’s also a very touchy issue that’s hard to get rational discussion on because people with diametrically opposed views tend to start screaming at each other. I’m a creator of original content. I’d like to make money doing it. I really don’t want pricks stealing my work for their own gain. But the companies pushing for more and more extreme copyright measures are nothing more than evil, lying greedy scumfucks.

A perfect illustration of this can be found here. Canada is in the throes of changing their copyright regime. The entire process is in danger of being overwhelmed by commercial interests from the USA that have ZERO interest in advancing the cause of Canadian artists. At a recent “town hall” meeting that was meant to be an example of the Canadian government including the public in their deliberations, private security guards threatened people (including opposition MPs) for the heinous sins of trying to distribute information.

Stacking these meetings so that they only represent corporate interests (foreign corporate interests at that) is bad enough. Harassing and threatening dissenting voices is far worse. But to prove just how fucked they are, the “American Federation of Musicians” has launched bizarre email attacks on people who dare to differ on issues of copyright calling the content of their proposals “disgusting”.

Really? Disgusting? You’re going with disgusting? With an almost endless parade of things in the world that are disgusting, you’re going to call a pro-independent artist copyright reform proposal “disgusting?”

Stay classy, corporate America.

The TFU Files

I used to be so motivated to keep this blog running but it really has faded away over the last year. It isn’t as if I’ve stopped doing anything - I’ve remained really active on YouTube and in fact I’ve become more focused on what I’m doing there as several people have proven it’s possible to make good money through the site. So yes, that’s apparently what it takes to hold my whore-ish attention: the offer of money.

But in all honesty, that doesn’t explain why I haven’t been posting more material here- even if all I did was post my YouTube videos here, that would be three or four new posts a week. I’ve kind of made an assumption that anyone who really wanted to see my videos would watch them on YouTube but that probably isn’t completely accurate. It really comes down to the fact I’m incredibly lazy and have been for pretty much all of my life.

That might sound strange given the amount of work I did manage to do on this blog and the hours of work I still put into YouTube but it’s essentially true. I’m very lazy and will actively avoid any sort of work unless it’s something I really want to do for myself. Of course I do my work in my day job (just in case anyone I work for/with is reading this) but that’s to earn money. I don’t want to do the job but I do want the money. But you know those people who say they’d stay at their jobs if they wont the lottery? Those people are idiots.

Maybe I have an unfair advantage because I have a very clear idea of what I’d do for personal fulfillment if I didn’t need a day job (namely, my online adventures) but the idea of doing your day job for self-actualisation seems fucking insane to me. But I’m like that. Opinionated.

It really does seem like a waste to not maintain this blog as I have managed to garner a decent amount of attention through it. The thing is, it achieved its primary goal. The name of the blog, “Angry 365 Days a Year”, was my mission statement for the first year. I was going to make at least one blog post every day for a year being angry about something. Mission Accomplished. Unlike George Bush, I didn’t get a big banner on an aircraft carrier proclaiming that. Also unlike George Bush, I wasn’t lying when I proclaimed “Mission Accomplished.

My original intent was to develop material for standup comedy routines but the combination of seeing how hard comedians work and the rise of YouTube killed that idea. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are working comedians and they work incredibly hard for frequently small returns in terms of audience size. That’s too 20th Century for me. Occasionally I piss them off by mentioning my viewer numbers on YouTube and the fact I can actually make money.

A lot of that material I have posted on this blog has ended up becoming the basis of videos and I had considered using the blog to continue to write up script ideas. But again, the whole “I’m a lazy bastard” thing rears its ugly head. Most of my videos roll out quite nicely without needing a formal script (I tend to play out the idea in my head a LOT before making the video). The ones that are scripted are usually the product of a script I scrawled out in a notebook while riding public transport on the way to and from work. So in either case, typing them up in the blog is doubling the work and I can’t be arsed doing it.

I’ve had a few ideas this year about how to bring a bit of life back to this blog. They were mainly about doing shorter posts and more visual posts but I haven’t really followed through. The thing is, I think it’s good for me to write more. It’s a good skill to practice, it keeps the mind sharp and it’s likely to help me make videos. One idea I’m almost certain I’ll follow through with (now that I’ve had it) is the TFU Files.

I’ve been running a regular video feature on Fridays for a few months now. It’s a week in review type of thing that I call Totally Fucked Up Friday (abbreviated to TFU as shown in this charming graphic done by YouTube pal DrakeMagnum).


The news items I select for the video all serve as evidence to prove my theory that world really is Totally Fucked Up.

It’s proven to be quite popular with users and now I frequently get suggestions for topics. Between the suggestions and my own reading I usually have plenty of worthy TFU stories to choose from and I end up narrowing it down to two or three choices. What I’m thinking for the TFU files is that I’ll write a short piece for every potential idea (maybe as short as a one paragraph brain fart) so I’m thoroughly geared up by Friday.

I like the idea of doing this because it essentially lets me do a response for every person who gives me a suggestion. I probably only use one in ten suggestions (or less) but I do like to encourage people to give them to me. Sometimes I don’t use a suggestion because I can’t think of any good jokes about it, sometimes I feel like it isn’t right for me (I’m very cautious about stories that involve death or personal tragedy) and sometimes the suggestions are plain fucking stupid.

Honestly, the number of people who seem to have no fucking idea about my motivations stuns me. Am I too subtle? Of all my flaws, I didn’t think one of them was leaving people guessing as to what I think about things. For instance, I get people who seriously expect me to join their racist crusades, apparently because I’m an angry white guy. They tend to get “fuck off” as a reply along with a link to one of my many anti-bigotry videos.

Another benefit of making a short post for every idea would be as a reminder to me. The number of times I’ve thought about a good idea during the week and then totally forgotten about it when it comes time to make the video is ridiculous. I normally (stupidly) wait until Friday to get down to planning the TFU Friday video. This has led to many agonising instances of me berating myself for forgetting what the hell it was I had planned to do or maybe simply being unable to find the link to the story I want.

So in short, making this blog a repository for TFU files is a win for everyone. I don’t lose material, people who suggest things to me get recognition and attention span challenged readers get plenty of tidbits to provide diversion during the day. Unless I complete fail to follow through again.

But what are the chances of that?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bo's Diary

I’ve finally started a long-overdue project, something I originally meant to start last year. So sue me, I need to work on my attention span. Last year when my girlfriend’s mum, “Bo” was visiting from England, she brought along some diaries she’d kept when she was young. Bo wants to maintain her privacy so that’s as much as she’s going to be identified by me. I have a bit of a fascination with artefacts and I found these particularly fascinating.

Besides that fact I would have found the diaries interesting in any case, by sheer coincidence she started the diaries just before the outbreak of World War Two. She started writing on December 31st 1938 and she turned 13 right on the eve of Britain declaring war on Germany. So (to me at least) they transform from being an interesting piece of family history to a unique document detailing World War Two through the eyes of an ordinary teenage girl.

Having said that, I feel like I should stress that the diaries aren’t necessarily compelling and exciting. In fact, the very mundane nature of a lot of the entires are what I like – this isn’t someone imagining they are recording history, it’s a young girl making short entries about her day to day life. (Spoiler alert- the outbreak of war doesn’t score a mention; Bo is more concerned at that point with how much birthday cake she has left.)

I love the physical books that Bo records her diary in as well. They are electrical engineer’s diaries she scored form her dad and besides the tiny spaces for daily entires there is a plethora of information that is apparently useful to engineers. This part of the diaries alone makes me feel like I have a time machine.

Because of the tiny space available for each day’s entry the entries are very short – they are like Tweets from the past. Given that I’m a little obsessed with Twitter at the moment, I’m going to set up a Twitter account for Bo’s Diary as well. If I had been more organised, I would have started this project back on December 31st and added an entry each day. I’ve decided to play catch-up and cram in a lot of entries until I reach the current date. I should be up to date within a month and then I’ll post one entry each day.

By sheer coincidence (trust me, it’s a coincidence, I don’t plan things this well) I will be posting the entries exactly 70 years after they were first written. Bo is visiting again at the moment (which is what has prompted me to finally kick this project off) and she has brought a few more diaries from later years. The original set run sequentially for 10 years from 1939, so I’m setting myself up for a 10 year project.

I’m insane.

This being the internet I’m sure I will run into people who want to prove how clever they are and the will “uncover evidence” that proves these diaries are fake. I have two things to say to that. First, thanks for thinking I’m that dedicated. Anybody who knows me knows there’s no way I’d put this much energy into a hoax. Second, fuck off. Seriously. I have no interest whatsoever in proving myself to some head-up-his-arse internet troll and I won’t waste any time with any moron who wants to snipe at this project.

The actual way I present the diary is likely to evolve over time. I’ll be able to ask Bo questions about entries (although there’s no guarantee she’s going to remember all details). I’ll do some videos showing details in the diaries. I’ll probably scan some of the other pages from the diaries from time to time. And during the war years, I’ll probably provide links to details of significant events that coincide with the entries.

The sequential nature of blogging and Twitter make them a perfect fit for this project. Ever since I became aware of these diaries I’ve though there would be an audience for them. Even if it turns out nobody outside of the family is interested, this is still worth doing as it creates a digital backup of the diaries and preserves a bit of family history.

Plus, it will give me something to do for the next ten years.