Sunday, 25 February 2007

Celebrate Celebrities....or not

It's the eve of the Oscars so thought what better time than now to have a dig at the celebrities - everyone else is! The definition of celebrities seems to be wide ranging now days. It appears anyone in the public eye is deemed a celebrity, from politicians to musicians, sports stars to actors, business tycoons to heiresses. The only thing you really need to become a celebrity would appear to be money, a name and a touch of insanity.

I avoid as much celebrity "news" as I possibly can (I am a chronic channel surfer thanks to this!) as they really don't interest me. Yet somehow I know that Anna-Nicole Smith died recently and Britney Spears has shaved her hair off (before or after rehab I'm unsure of). For some reason these two incidents have been of enough major importance to warrant them news items on a global scale. On the local(ish) scene, the USA Vice President was in Australia for the last few days on a promotional trip which was intended to be beneficial for both the American Republican party and the Australian Liberal Party. Being an election year, I'm sure this trip down under had more to do with PR than global politics. The media reinforced this idea by reporting more on Dick's activities and functions than on what was actually being discussed by these two power-house leaders of the free world.

Anna Nicole Smith died on Feb 8 2007. So did Florence Melton (philanthropist, entrepreneur, lecturer, yoga teacher and poet) and Nelson Polsby (political scientist at UC Berkeley whose books and commentaries focused on how political institutions evolve). I knew neither of these people, nor have I read any of their works - in fact, they are 2 random names pulled from a Google search matching obituaries for 8 Feb 2007. However, it seems to me that these 2 deceased persons are more noteworthy than Anna Nicole Smith yet not by media standards. I suppose it is fortunate for the families of the 2 non-celebrity persons that the media was not turning their passing into a circus.

Britney Spears shaved her head on 16 Feb 07. I wonder how many members of the armed forces also shaved their heads on 16 Feb 07? And why the media deems a has-been, talentless head-case shaving her head more newsworthy than the men and women posted overseas doing the same thing? I guess Britney Spears must be more important.....

Lastly, yankee-Dick's trip down under. To protect this global treasure, Australian taxpayers forked out $2M(AU) for members of our police force to act as body-guards. The government also deemed it necessary to close off Sydney Harbor Bridge so Dick could drive across it safely. I'm sure his one glance out the window between briefing papers was worth it. Last time I checked, there were only 6 stars on the Australian flag.

Maybe I'm wrong. The media and the government seem adamant that these events warrant incredibly close scrutiny and attention that they must be of major significance to the lives of all. Or maybe, as the good Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says, "In an age without God we create God" and these are the new gods.

Songs played while writing this entry:
"Deeper" Barabas & OD1
"Standing On The Outside" Cold Chisel
"Not For You" Pearl Jam
"Freak Momma" Mudhoney & Sir Mix-a-Lot
"No Sense" Cold Chisel
"Work That Mutha" Steve Poindexter
"Boss Dub" The Shamen
"Access" DJ Misjah & DJ Tim
"Under The Bridge" Red Hot Chili Peppers

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Leave Me Alone!

"The workers are going home" Weezer

I finished work today at 18:00, nothing unusual about that as I normally finish sometime between 17:30 and 18:30. I got in the lift, put my i-pod on, had a smoke on my walk to the bus stop, jumped on the bus, walked down the hill, checked the mail-box, went up stairs and let myself into my apartment. I then went through the daily ritual of unloading my pockets, including my mobile phone, to which I gave a cursory glance only to find I had 5 missed calls in the half-hour it took to leave work and get home (it must have been ringing on the bus, but the escapism of my i-pod drowned it out... for me at least).

The calls were all from work. Checking my voicemail, the caller turned out to be a guy working on a project to re-vamp the company's online store. I have been performing testing on the changes and have raised numerous defects for things which are blatantly obvious to anyone with half a brain for business. Why these issues existed in the first place is beyond me - I mean to say it only makes sense to restrict a mobile phone number field to 10 digits, not 38!! Still, it's the developer's job to put the code together by the specs they've been given and my job to pick these issues up - regardless of how blatantly obvious they are. However, I digress. The caller was requesting that I provide sign-off on the fixes which have been put in place for my defects - tonight. Given that it was 18:30 and I was standing in my bedroom at home, not sitting at my desk at work, I chose not to return the call. In the next 1 hour, my phone rang no less than 6 times. I ignored every call.

I fully appreciate that the guy making the calls has a job to do and a boss to answer to. I appreciate that he has a deadline to deliver to and requirements to meet. I appreciate that he may have a family at home having dinner without him due to his work. I just wish that he could appreciate that I had just finished a 9 hour day and was not in the right place (both physically and mentally) to answer his call and provide the sign-off that he was seeking. I was done for the day. Done, no more, finished, over and out, gone, caput.

This is a scary trend in Australian workplaces. We are being expected to work longer hours, eating into our own personal time, with no financial incentive. Certainly, no business would put it in writing that they expect you to work more than 7.5hrs per day or field work calls outside of business hours, it's unwritten law. The ACTU has this to say:

Between 1985 and 2002, the proportion of employees working 40-45 hours rose from 23.4 to 31.3 percent, while for 45-50 hours it increased from 17.8 to 26.1. The
percentage working 50 hours or more rose from 10.2 to 17.4.

Data assembled by the ACTU revealed that the number working 60 hours or more increased from 3 to over 7 percent between 1980 and 1996. The ACTU data also concluded that Australia has the highest rate of unpaid overtime among developed countries, with 25 percent of full-time employees not paid for an average of 2.7 hours a week each.

We are spending more time at work and less time living. Companies are getting more for less as workers are doing extra hours which could be covered by an additional staff member. Some companies (including the one I work for) refer to staff as "heads" - as in, "we have funding for an additional 3 heads this year". We are not heads, we are people with lives to live outside of work.

I will tolerate your bullshit while you pay me and I will put in the extra time to get my work done, but please, please just leave me alone when I'm off the clock.

Tomorrow is Thursday.....

Songs played while writing this entry:
"Impact" Sound Enforcer
"Seven Days and One Week" B.B.E.
"You Shook Me All Night Long" AC/DC
"Give It Away" Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Sweetness and Light" Itch-E and Scratch-E
"Rock And Roll Aint Noise Pollution" AC/DC
"No Sense" Cold Chisel
"Ebeneezer Goode" The Shamen
"Lithium" Nirvana

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Still Vibrating

"I'm picking up good vibrations" The Beach Boys
Recovering from yesterday's Good Vibrations festival so unable to make fully coherent sentences. What follows are thoughts which have not been completely processed....
  • The Beastie Boys are still one of the best, tightest live acts I have ever seen. Their performance at Good Vibes yesterday blew me away as much as they have every other time I have seen them play live. Talent is not reliant on age.

  • Music is a universal language with the capacity to improve the social consciousness, yet its potential to do this is thwarted by the commercial corporate record labels who promote easily marketed, safe and sanitised crap over true talent. Support underground and independent artists.

  • U2 is not the only band out there pushing a message - they just have a good PR team. Props to Jurassic 5 ("Fuck George Bush") and Nightmares on Wax ("Celebrate you being you").

  • People on illegal drugs are much nicer and more courteous than people on legal alcohol.

  • When did the words "excuse me" leave the vocabulary?

  • Being 1 of 10,000 people of different cultural and social backgrounds enjoying themselves on a glorious summer day in the open air listening sounds from around the globe is an awesome experience.

Songs played while writing this entry:
"It Doesn't Matter" The Chemical Brothers
"Satisfaction" Benny Benassi Presents the Biz
"Perception" Cass Vs Slide
"Tomorrow" Alien Factroy
"Voodoo People" The Prodigy
"It's Funky But It Aint House" Carbine
"Red 2" Dave Clark

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

V for Valentines

"Money can't buy me love" - The Beatles

As I can't be with M tomorrow due the 1,500km that separate us, I sent her a CD of mp3s that make me think of her. The CD was sent in a plain, clear case with no label or track-listing, no card or wrapping in an ordinary Aust Post satchel. All I wrote on the CD was "Music For M". The lyrics of the songs on the CD say everything that I want her to know about how I feel for her and how much I miss her.

It's easy enough to write of Valentines Day as an overly commercialised hallmark event propagated by the media and corporations to mass-market love to a lonely and distanced consumer society (which I think it is). However, there is also the simple view of Valentines Day being a reminder to say "I love you" to those you care about. It's something we don't do enough of. Really, it's a very simple concept - no need for elaborate gifts, cards, flowers, chocolates, bears, lingerie, romantic dinners, jewelery - just an action or 2 and 3 words. A hug followed by a softly spoken "I love you" and a gentle kiss. Any partner who doesn't appreciate the simplicity and sincerity in that is not worth having.

Songs played while writing this entry:
"All I Want Is You" U2
"Sweetness & Light" Itch-E & Scratch-E
"Break & Enter" The Prodigy
"Skylined" The Prodigy

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Global Revolution - Rambalations 1

WARNING: This entry contains ramblings which may not be completely coherant

You've been warned, if you choose to read on do so at your own peril.

The best thing to happen to society has been reality television.

Still reading? Ok, here's where the rambalations begin.

I'm actually serious about that statement - reality tv has opened our eyes, it has made us see the world as it actually is. We are no longer viewing scripts which have been deemed suitable by production execs who are so far removed from reality that the fiction is feasible. We no longer watch people who make their unjustifiable fortunes by pretending to be someone they are not. No longer do we see product placements and high merchandise possibilities. We look into the lives and homes of real people.

Although reality tv shows are post-scripted and edited in a way to manipulate situations that provides greater intensity and impact, there is that underlying factor of truth/reality that shows how the participants lives are. It could be you, your neighbour, you work-colleague, your sister or brother, cousin, second-cousin. We relate and learn from these shows because they hit straight at our own lives or the lives of those we know. The bimbo is really a bimbo, not some over-paid, plastic actress who, as we all know thanks to the mainstream media, is far more sophisticated and educated. The bimbo is real enough to make us think of people we know, possibly ourselves - we don't know who she is, but it is who she represents that is important. And sometimes that unknown reality participant IS you. Not literally, but so close enough that you feel like you are watching yourself in a different body.

For some strange reason, people like to pretend they don't watch reality tv shows. They will fervently deny it, point out all the weaknesses, scoff at the low-quality production. However, get them in a situation where they are the only one not participating in a conversation about reality tv show x and suddenly they know the names of the participants or the way the show works. Why pretend? Reality is now out there for everyone to see. We're sharing our stories by the millions and not just on tv. Youtube is full of people showing off their stories, talents, thoughts, interests. Flickr is providing a canvass for people to share their stories and perspectives (literally) in visual form. You may not like all of what's there, some may not be your cuppa-tea, but no one is making you look at it and there are plenty of other options. Once you find something that yanks ya crank, then you can contact the person who created it and find others who also appreciate it. Blogs are making global communities of people who share common interests, opinions, skills and goals. And while some of the content may be confrontational or different to the here-to norm, you can view it as an insight to another person.

Thanks to Matt at A Bowl of Stupid

We are starting to come together as a society on a global scale. Nationality, gender, orientation, ability, appearance - none of these things matter any more. We are learning that we are not all that unsimular which is breaking down the traditional barriers. This is happening on such a large scale and at such a fast rate that governments and corporations are actually taking notice. They can't control it or stop it, but I think it is still too early for them to actually learn from it. Instead, they are still looking at ways to harness it, take advantage of it and keep it within their comfort levels. They are scared shitless. The robots have woken up and started talking to each-other, they are no longer afraid to say what they really think.

The timing for this could not have been better. There are over 100 national elections and referendums around the world scheduled in 2007. We are scrutinising the campaigns, policies and promises and discussing them in a global public forum. They know what we're thinking, are afraid that we will soon start demanding and probably have no idea where to start addressing the real issues of their people. Corporations have been riding high the past few years on a boom period of mass-profits driven by a consumerism mentality. Now the consumer mentality is wavering because the public is not as focused on appearance, wants and surface bullshit as it used to be. We are starting to create our own identities and finding the value in each other, not objects.

One of the scariest things for the politicians and CEO's must be the fact that they can no longer pretend. We know who they are - they are not unlike us. We know how they really work because we work for them. They still don't know us, but that can no longer be used an excuse because we are putting ourselves out there for them to see, en-mass and individually. It's the en-mass part that has them worried - but they shouldn't be. All they need to do is change with the rest of us. They should be opening their eyes and doing their jobs by fixing what is wrong - starting with themselves. This world is full of talented, skilled, educated people with passion, interest and heart. Start listening to the people. Identify individual strength and harness it by respecting the person. Let us do the work we are passionate about, give us the resources to do it and set realistic timelines and budgets. Look at your countries or businesses at a micro-level and what you can achieve at macro-level.

The potential for this global coming together is over-whelming - industrial revolution over-whelming. We stand at the verge of a true shift in human civilization and society, and everyone can be a part of it - we can make sure every person on this earth benefits. There will have to be major changes across governments, industries and institutes for this to actually happen. It is our responsibility to make it happen, to revolutionise our world. For a change, the power is in our hands so let's not fuck it up.

Songs played while writing this entry:
"Born Slippy (Pink Floyd mix)" Underworld v Aphex Tiwn
"Born Slippy (Pink Floyd mix)" Underworld v Aphex Tiwn (again;)
"Heaven Scent" Bedrock
"Black Hole Sun" Soundgarden
"Chasing Cars" Snow Patrol
"Tremora Del Terra" Illuminatae
"Some Days Are Better Than Others" U2
"Say It Aint So" Weezer
"Deep" Pearl Jam
"Nightmare" Brainbug
"Rythmestec" Plutonica
"Fire" U2
"What Do You Do For Money Honey" AC/DC
"Loose Caboose" Electroliners
"Higher State of Consciousness (Tweekin' Acid Funk mix)" Josh Winx
"Elctris" Woody McBride
"Impact" Sound Enforcer
"The Chain" Breeder
"Niji" Denki Groove
"Hypnose" B.B.E.
"Mellowship in Slinky B Major" Red Hot Chili Peppers
"Dooms Night" Azzido Da Bass
"Low" Cracker

Saturday, 10 February 2007

These Days

"These Days"
Odyssey Number 5 (2000)

It's coming round again
The slowly creeping hand
Of time and its command
Soon enough it comes
And settles in its place
Its shadow in my face
Puts pressure in my day

This life well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned out nothing like I had planned

It's coming round again
The slowly creeping hand
Of time and its command
And settles in its place
Its shadow in my face
Puts pressure in my day

Soon enough it comes
Here it is again
The slowly creeping hand
Of time and its demand
Soon enough it comes
And settles in its place
Its shadowing my faith
Undignified and lame

This life well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned out nothing like I had planned
Control well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned out nothing like I had planned

Soon enough it comes
Soon enough it comes
To tie us down

Ooh, it's coming round again
Slow, slowly creeping hand

This life well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned out nothing like I had planned
Control well it's slipping right through my hands
These days turned out nothing like I had planned

Thursday, 8 February 2007

We're Happy Little Vegemites....

Ok, so this toss-pot goes on to YouTube and puts up a video diary entry paying out Australians, kangaroos, our national anthem, boomerangs and - worst of all - Vegemite! Now c'mon, don't dis the Vegemite - it's part of our staple diet. After all, any food substance that is made from the same ingredients as beer has to be good!

From watching the clip, I draw the following conclusions:

  1. toss-pot has eaten Vegemite once in his life and didn't like it, therefore no-one can possibly like it and Vegemite was created purely as a joke against unassuming Americans.
  2. toss-pot has problems articulating simple words - for those playing at home it is Veg-e-mite (just as it looks), not Vee-ge-mite.
  3. all national anthems are written about condiments.
  4. the Australian Aboriginals invented the boomerang when they came to Australia over 40,000 years ago purely for the purpose of fooling tourists in the 20th century.
  5. toss-pot has poor hand-eye co-ordination.
  6. scientific evidence proving that prehistoric kangaroos existed over 50,000 years ago is incorrect.
  7. nothing makes a tourist feel more at home than a fanny-pack (known as a bumbag in Australia due to fanny meaning a completely different part of the human female anatomy).
  8. kangaroos are vicious killing machines.
  9. toss-pot is afraid of things he has not seen in real life.
  10. the sole purpose in every Australian's life is to make fun of Americans. (We actually prefer taking the piss!)
If you have not eaten Vegemite before, please read the Wikipedia article first or you may end up forming the same deluded conclusions as our friend the toss-pot. Me, I smear it on thick - but then I've been eating it for 30-odd years now :)

Songs played while writing this entry:
"Human Behaviour" Bjork
"Twin Town" Ian Wilkie v Timo Maas
"Mutant Was In Love" Taho
"Khe Sanh" Cold Chisel
"Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)" De La Soul

Monday, 5 February 2007

Monday Blues

Ah yes, the joys of a new working week. Time to don the corporate robot mask and feign interest in the well-being of the big business. Work has been hell for the past week, with people demanding my time for their own purposes without caring that I have 15 other people also demanding my time to take care of their needs. Everyone's needs are more important than the others' and no-one is willing to deprioritise their needs. Last year, in my bullshit accepting mode, I would have allowed each demander to live under the impression that I was going to prioritise their needs over others, not to mention my own. No longer. I have begun bluntly stating that work will be done once it gets done, that there are other things more important on my to-do-list and that my time is restricted to 8 hours a day. So far there have been mixed results - some have accepted the fact and have re-negotiated their timelines, others have reacted in shock as if no-one has ever said "no" to them before. Get used to it fuckers, I don't get paid anywhere near enough to cope with all of your shit on top of my own workload.

Is it just me, or is it that the more you are paid the less you are expected to actually produce? It is as if the high altitude of the top rungs of the corporate ladder renders one incapable of actually developing their own spreadsheets and documents. Are they so scared of falling and plunging back to the depths of insignificance that the only way to survive is to cling, screaming, to the ladder and apply pressure on those below them - beating them back and tying them down under unrealistic timelines, workloads and expectations?

This is technically the 5th job I have had in my short career. In the 10-odd years of experience I have, one thing has been made clear - the managers who have real respect for their staff are the ones that get real respect from their staff. Staff are people too! If a manager takes the time to be interested in their staff, their lives inside and outside of work, their dreams, goals, ambitions, needs and worries then their staff will be happier and perform better. It has to be genuine, don't take us for fools. We can see through a veneer of interest like a wet t-shirt on a size DD blond. There is no point pretending to take interest as a prelude to assigning work, we see straight through that shit. Treat us like humans, be a leader and manage for fuck's sake - it's what you get paid to do if your job title includes the word 'manager'.

The scariest thing I find is the bright eyed, bushy tailed graduates of business, economics and commerce walking into their first job at middle-management level. These fools (generally private schooled on family money) have such a warped, naive perspective on business and no real understanding of how things actually work in the real world. Do them (and your company) a favour and make them work in a low paid, customer facing position for 12 months to show them the realities of your business. Let them earn their stripes and develop true knowledge, not the theory based bullshit that they have spent years memorising at university which paints an idealistic world with no colour. I have watched these simpletons struggle to survive, staring blankly as their theoretical worlds come crashing around them, turning into zombies as they push to meet deadlines, workloads and priorities. Part of me feels sorry for them, but then the majority of them are self-obsessed, self-important wankers who have bitten off more than they can chew so it's only a small part.

As I said, work has been hell for the past week.

4 more days to go - God give me strength....

Songs played while writing this entry:
"You Shook Me All Night Long" AC/DC
"October" U2
"Jeremy" Pearl Jam
"Iris" Goo Goo Dolls
"Oblivion" Terrorvision
"My Lovely Man" Red Hot Chili Peppers
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" U2
"Spiral" Pendulum
"Better Man" Pearl Jam
"One" U2
"These Days" Powderfinger

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