Thursday, December 15, 2011

Herpin' derps

This morning, when I got into work ,I found myself alone in the office (not unusual when I usually arrive for work at the ungodly hour of 6.45am). On my way to the desk I saw a poster on the wall I hadn't noticed before...and it pissed me off quite badly.

It was something straight out of 'Office Space'. Emblazoned across the top were the words "Can you give an extra 1%?"...then it answered for you with: 'Absolutely'.

I'll spare you the details, but I'll give you the gist. It basically said that if everyone works just that little bit harder and makes just one more phonecall a day or schedules one more visit, when you multiply that by the number of employees in the company and then multiply that by the number of work days a year, that one extra call means millions more for the company.

This poster was drawn up by someone who has never worked in a cubicle.

You see, if I go to work and just do my job, I get paid at the end of the month. If I go into work, slog my guts out, 'go the extra mile', work through my lunch hour and be the best goddamn employee the world has ever seen...I make exactly the same amount. Worse yet, as anyone who's ever worked in a cubicle will tell you, if you up your game and start Herping 20 Derps a day instead of 10, your boss makes 20 Herps the new baseline and starts asking you to do 30.

If you translate that poster out of bullshit management speak, it really says: Work harder and make a ton more money...for someone else.

You see, if you're a department head, and your department out performs all the others, you get a bonus check and a promotion. If you work in a cubicle, you just get asked to do better next year.


In my last job before I moved to the states, I had this exact conversation with someone pretty damn high up in the company I was working for at the time (being in a position where you're moving in a couple of weeks and don't need the job or the reference any more does wonders for your honesty), and she said:

"Well, yes, but what's good for the company is good for all its employees. After all the company pays your wages and if it under performs and goes bust, you could lose your job"

Now, time have changed a bit, but I called bullshit then and I call bullshit now. If you're a high-level suit earning £80,000 a year with a company car and expense account, you're damn sure you've got a vested interest in your business doing well. If you're earning minimum wage to do all the bitch work in a cubicle, if things go wrong and the business folds...well, let's just say there's no shortage of other shitty jobs.

The other thing she said was that if you work hard you'll 'get noticed' and then you'll be the one with the flash car and expense account...which makes sense, except for the fact that this was the same woman who once told me: "Oh, we'd love to promote you, but you're irepplacable in the role you're in now." In other words, you're too good at your job and no one else is willing to put up with the same shit you put up with for seven quid an hour.

Basically, you can't motivate me with 'team spirit' or 'breaking records' or 'providing world class service', because I don't see the company as a team that I belong to. I see it as the place I have to go to every day in order to pay my bills.

Now, this may seem really cynical and mercenary to a lot of people, but here's the thing: Put me in a job where I'm well paid and well treated and you can be damn sure I'll work my ass off to keep that job.

There's truth to the saying: Pay peanuts and you'll get monkeys. Minimum wage means I can work the same number of hours literally anywhere else and I'll earn the same or better.

Now, the thing is, I don't want to give anyone the impression that I'm a 'bare minimum' kind of guy. I work hard and when something needs to be done, I make damn well sure it gets done...but if you want me to 'go the extra mile', the only way you're going to motivate me to do that is to pay me for it, because like everyone else at my level in your company, I want to go to work, make enough money to pay my bills and go the fuck home.


Thursday, December 08, 2011

Our Fault?

So, I haven't really commented on the Occupy Wall Street movement yet.

I think this is because, at the moment, it's just a bunch of angry people. Yes, the bankers screwed us over... but if you're going to protest something, you really should have a solid idea of what should be done to fix the situation.

Like the OWS movement, I think 'something' should be done...but until we can all agree on what that 'something' should be, I can't really back a 'movement' that is completely rudderless.

Something I can comment on, however, is people's attitudes.

I've personally written more words than I can count on the kids who leave school with an overblown sense of entitlement. Kids who graduate feeling that the world owes them a rockstar lifestyle. However, I was thinking about this today and had an almost total change of heart.

Yes, kids today leave school with a massive sense of entitlement...but a lot of that is our fault.

You see, we talk about these damn kids who refuse to get their hands dirty and think that flipping burgers or pumping gas is beneath them. These kids who think they're going to go directly from college to the board of a Fortune 500 company.

But, the question has to be asked: Why do they feel like that?

Sure, I can blame a lot of that on the ridiculous no-competition school system we have today which seems to be based around nothing but telling each and every kid how they're each a very special and unique butterfly... but I think the main reason is that we've conditioned kids to expect the world to be a cakewalk after graduating.

You see, I was lucky enough to come from a family that had enough money to send me to University, but was still working class enough to where I was expected to hold down a job at the same time. Basically, I was put in a position where I was forced to learn that when you need the money, no job is beneath you.

When I was living in the states, my A-levels counted as Associates degrees. Along with my bachelors I had five degrees... but that didn't stop me for applying for jobs stacking shelves at Walmart or working the warehouse at the local Home Depot when things got tight.

Now, here's the problem: We brought up the last generation of kids to believe that these crappy menial jobs are shameful and taking one means that you've failed. Think how many times you've told your kids that they have to work hard in school so they can get a good job.

Basically, you've got these kids who have been brought up to think that accepting the normal, crappy 'first jobs' that we all did as a failure state. They worked hard in school and then spent tens of thousands on a university education so they wouldn't end up flipping burgers or waiting tables.

Of course, the world doesn't work like that any more. Jobs are extremely rare and degrees aren't. It doesn't matter that you have a Master's in Computer science because so do a hundred thousand other people and they're all competing for the same hundred jobs.

So, basically, we raised all these kids telling them that they need to go to university to avoid having to work crappy, menial jobs...and then when they do everything right and graduate with a nice shiny new degree, we tell them to go do the crappy, menial job anyway...and are surprised and shocked when these kids think they shouldn't have to.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Honey and Vinegar

Just thought I'd share a hint with everyone for the next time you need to call customer service in any capacity.

Earlier this week, some guy called the IT Helpdesk with a really tricky problem...and he was a complete and total ass about it.The fix took too long, he was far too important to spend 15 minutes on the phone and it was totally unacceptable that he needed to do anything (seriously, asking him to click something was a major imposition). Once I fixed his problem, he literally hung up on me mid sentence.

The next day, a second guy called who had been waiting for a relatively simple fix for well over two weeks. This was entirely my fault (I'd taken his call on my first day and hadn't logged the ticket properlly). I was totally straight with the guy, told him what had happened and apologised for it. He laughed, told me not to worry about it and basically said "these things happen".

This morning, both these guys logged new support tickets with almost exactly the same issue.

For one of those tickets I went above and beyond, worked through my lunch hour and made sure the issue was resolved today. For the other, I just did it exactly by the book...IE, putting it in the queue for an engineer so it'll probably get seen to some time this week.

Can you guess which ticket was which?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

6 Reasons Your Company's IT Department Hates You

1) You completely misunderstand our relationship

For some reason, when you call the IT department, you  seem to believe that you're some sort of 19th century Land Baron and we're the the stable boys who have improperly groomed your horse.

In reality, you're calling a team of professionals to request a service. A team of professionals who are probably better qualified than you are...and are the only people who can pull your ass out of the fire. Remember that.

2) You think you're the only user we have to deal with.

Every time I pick up the phone on the helpdesk I get berated for how long it took you to get through or how you've left multiple messages earlier that morning that weren't returned. This, obviously, is because I spend my day playing World of Warcraft with the phone off the hook.

Only it isn't. It's because from the instant I turn my phone on in the morning to the second I log out at night the bastard never stops ringing. You get the answerphone because I'm taking a call. I don't respond to your message because I literally don't have time to listen to it because in the time it takes me to access the voicemail...the bastard's ringing again.

...and yeah, I understand you can't do your job...but neither can the hundred or so people in the queue ahead of you.

3) We are not the ones who broke your computer.

This is something you really need to understand. Just because your laptop won't power up this morning does not mean I personally broke into your house in the middle of the night and broke it. It is not my fault that you lost your data or the presentation you worked all night on.

4) You never accept responsibility.

So you didn't back up your data once a week like we told you to. You circumvented the protection we put on the laptop to visit those dodgy music sites you like. You turned off the virus protection because it 'made everything run slow' and you thought it was a really good idea to balance your coffee on top of the lid when you were carrying it to your car.
 
Now your laptop's a smoking crater. Guess who's fault that is (Hint: not mine) 

5) You think we can read minds.

So the 'thing' that used to be on the 'thing' has moved over to the other 'thing' and now the 'thing' won't work.

Awesome: Click on the thing to fix it it.

6) You expect miracles and get pissed when we can't deliver.

This is a true story: On my second day on the helpdesk a guy called who'd dropped his laptop, smashed the screen and then got pissed as hell and threatened to 'have my job' because I couldn't fix it over the phone.

Dude, we sort of work like OnStar: Unlocking your vehicle when you lose your keys is no problem. There's not much I can do when your wheels fall off.



 



Monday, November 28, 2011

Three Day Weekend

After what could only be described as a hellish first week at work (I may write about that, I may not), it occured to me that for a lot of people (especially me), a two day weekend just isn't long enough.

Here's the thing. When you factor in travel times, I'm basically putting in 11-12 hour days in a very stressful job that's one of the most mentally challenging things I've ever done. My workday also goes from 7am-4pm...meaning I've got to be on the road by six and get home shortly after five.

Yeah, I know...welcome to the real world. It's time to pull on your big boy pants and suck it up... but have you ever noticed how the weekend never actually feels like two days off?

For me, a proper day off is free time where you don't have to think about, adjust your behaviour for, or schedule anything around your job.

People say the weekend starts on Friday. While Friday is certainly the Beloved Prince of the Work Days, it's definitely not a day off. The fact I have to get out of bed at 5am proves that...and in my case, I can't enjoy Friday night because I've just finished a week of 11 hour days. When I get in on a Friday evening, I'm so exhausted, I just want to get in, eat something and go to bed. (Although out of an obligation to 'not waste the weekend' I instead sit on the couch like a zombie because I feel like a complete tit going to bed before at least 11pm on a Friday)

Saturday is a proper day off, because as I said above, I don't have to think about work, plan my day around work or get out of or into bed because of work. I can sleep until I wake up and if I feel like staying up until 3am or drinking a case of lager, there's nothing to stop me because there's nothing I have to get up for the next day.

Sunday is not a proper day off. Sure, I can sleep in again if I want to, but I can't stay up late or go anywhere Sunday night. The 5am start on Monday cripples Sunday evening.

Basically, the weekend is not two days off. It's a single day off with a bit of a buffer on each side.

What we really need is two proper days off. The average workweek should run from Monday to Thursday and give you Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.







Saturday, November 26, 2011

This is what's wrong

So I opened the paper this morning and discovered a story about a guy complaining about the National Health Service.

Here's the whole story: The guy weighed approximately 60 stones / 800lbs from eating around 24,000 calories worth of chocolate and fast food every day. So, the NHS spent over a million pounds on him, giving him gastric bypass surgery. This surgery was successful and, at this point, his weight has halved to 30 stone/ 420lbs.

Now he's in the paper, complaining about being 'left high and dry' and 'abandoned' because the NHS (read: the British taxpayer) won't pay an additional £40,000 to have the excess skin that was left behind by his weight loss removed. Oh, except they're not saying they'll never pay for the op. They're saying they're waiting to make sure his weightloss has stabilized. He just wants it right now....which is totally unexpected from a guy who would rather undergo a major op than show some self control and lose weight naturally.

So, in short, this guy has spent years deliberately and wilfully destroying his body. He then has the NHS, which is already stretched to the limit, spend a million fucking pounds on a major operation to make it physically impossible for him to eat...and now he's whining because they're not going to hand him another 50k until they're sure the fat fuck will stop eating.

Oh, and all his actual health problems are gone. The excess skin is purely a cosmetic thing. Here's the deal, guy: Instead of bitching at the NHS to fix it, maybe at this point you should put your hand in your own pocket (now that you can actually reach the fucking thing) and get that done privately.

Yeah, you look fucking ridiculous and people are pointing and laughing, but maybe you should learn from that instead of bitching about it. You see, there are consequences for forcing down 24,000 calories a day. Yeah, you avoided the main one (a slow and painful death), and you avoided that by putting the responsibility on our shoulders by making us pay for an operation instead of you exercising a little self control. Maybe being able to do a Batman impression by sticking your arms out is a small price to pay.

...but let me put this whole thing into perspective. Like I said, this guy got this way by eating too much and never getting off his fat ass and exercising. We paid a million quid because he thought it was too much trouble to get off the couch and go for a walk, or say "No, seven pieces of cake is enough, thank you".

Isn't that a lot like me stabbing myself over and over in the legs and, instead of just, you know, not stabbing myself, going to a doctor and making them spend a million quid grafting knife-proof armor on my thighs...and then complaining that the armor looks stupid and I don't like the colour?

Here's the deal, you fat fuck: You're not going to get any sympathy from me or anyone else, because while you've obviously spent years cultivating this self image where you're always the victim, nothing is ever your fault and you never have to take responsibility for your actions... the rest of the world just sees a whiny, selfish, greedy fat fuck who's like a drowning man who's only drowning because he's too fucking lazy to swim.

You think anyone's going to see your perspective that the NHS are in the wrong because they're not spending more money on you? If it was my call, anyone who gets gastric bypass surgery on the NHS would also get a mandatory forehead tattoo that reads "LAZY SELFISH BASTARD"...because that's exactly what you are.




Monday, November 14, 2011

Times Change

Duke Nukem Forever got pretty much universally panned by critics when it was released. People have come up with various explanations for this, from the idea that after a 14 year wait it could never live up to it's own hype...to the idea that the various developers were puerile idiots who hate women.

Personally, I think it goes a little deeper than that... and to understand exactly why Duke Nukem failed, you have to go back in time.

It's 1996. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are at the height of their popularity, everyone thinks 'The Fugees' are a good band for some reason... and contemporary PC's are so powerful when compared to their console counterparts that my Pentium 200 made the original PlayStation look like an Atari 2600.

Unlike today, where you can go buy one of a bajillion first-person shooters, there was only really one game in town...and that was Doom by id Software. Hell, we didn't even call first person shooters first person shooters. We called them 'Doom Clones'.

Oh, there were other shooters, and some of them were actually really good, but to most gamers Doom was the 'real' game. Why would you play one of the knock-offs if you had the real thing?

Then Duke Nukem 3D came on the scene.

I can only speak from personal experience here, and draw from what me and my friends talked about in the schoolyard but, to the mainstream audience, Duke Nukem was the first FPS we played that we didn't actually refer to as a Doom Clone. In fact, it was the first game that anyone would admit...gulp...might actually be better than the daddy of FPS's themselves.

Why? Because 3D Realms had 'pulled a Nintendo' ten years before Nintendo did.

You see, back then, FPS engines were a little primitive. The original Doom was released in 1993, and it would be literally years before games started to appear where you could look up and down.

In 1996, id Software was getting ready to unleash Quake...the first FPS game to feature fully 3D bad guys. Up until then, bad guys in FPS's were sprites: flat two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. It's unthinkable today, but back then, if you walked around a character, you'd see it head on, then as you got past a certain point, the sprite would change to the same badguy from a 3/4 view...then the side...

Basically, id Software had cornered the market. After Doom and Doom 2 they had enough money to throw into R&D to stay light years ahead of just about anyone else when it came to technology... and they'd also become the hallmark for big guns and ultra-violence.

So, whether it was a conscious decision or a happy accident, 3D Realms decided to compete with id Software by not competing with them.

Basically, instead of going for bleeding edge technology and ultra-violence, they went a completely different way. They didn't bother worrying about how many polygons the engine could render or how high the texture resolution was and, instead, went for innovation and humor... and instead of getting their edginess from blood, they got it from a touch of sexual content.

The sexual content is what everyone over 25 immediately thinks about when you mention Duke Nukem. While it's hard to imagine kids today getting excited about a  a pixelated, cartoon-character stripper who would swing her nipple-tassels at you (in a 2-frame 'animation') if you gave her a virtual dollar...  that was cutting edge stuff in 1996. More importantly, it was perfectly suited for the teenage demographic...we're talking about the same kids who would get half an hour's fun out of typing 5318008 into a calculator and then turn it upside down so it spelled 'boobies'.

But, more importantly, while everyone remembers the strippers, everyone seems to forget the innovation.

You could fly in Duke Nukem... and while every shooter out there had the pistol, shotgun, machine gun, rocket launcher and screen-clearing superweapon...Duke had things you'd never seen before. What fun was a rocket launcher when you could a shrink ray that let you shrink your enemies and stamp on them? Or the freeze ray that let you freeze your enemies solid and then shatter them with a kick?

Also, while the 'Build Engine' that Duke was built on was a 'standard' engine for the time, it was also about as good as it could possibly be. The rockets left smoke trails and, even though it was 'faked' with a palette switch, you could have different colored lights. Quake was a technical marvel for its time...but it was also really fucking ugly. Its characters might have been fully 3D, but they were made up of about 15 polygons each. Duke's bad guys may have been flat, 2D cutouts...but they were gorgeous for their time.

Basically, Duke Nukem was the resplendent horse drawn carriage to id Software's rattle-trap, 5mph, suspensionless, wooden-wheeled automobile. The car may be technologically better in every single way...but which would you rather ride in?

...but the visuals don't even matter. At the time, there were hundreds of shooters, all offering almost exactly the same experience at various levels of sophistication. Duke, on the other hand, offered us an over-the-top action-hero protagonist who swore and stuffed dollar bills into stripper's g-strings. He threatened to rip off the end boss's head and shit down its neck...and then did it... and all the while giving us cool things to do that you just couldn't get anywhere else.

So why was the sequel such a massive failure?

In a single word...timing.

I won't go into the full story because its so readily available elsewhere, but Duke Nukem Forever took a massive fifteen years from announcement to release.

You know what Duke's core fanbase did during those fifteen years? We grew up.

I was 15 when I first played Duke. I was thirty when the sequel hit the shelves.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a childish 30 year old. As the clock ticked past midnight into my 30th birthday, I was watching Star Wars while playing Mario on my DSi. However, while I'm still essentially the same person I was at 15,  my sensibilities have changed and my sense of humor is  more sophisticated. I don't snigger (as much) at poop and butt jokes. I'm not going to buy a game just for a flash of side-boob... and as a 30 year old, a game that features a virtual turd that I can pick up and throw at people for no reason other than 'LOL POOPS!' is just...well...stupid and childish.

Basically, this game just wasn't aimed at me anymore... and if it's not aimed at me, then it's not aimed at anyone in that original core audience.

But, of course, there's a whole new generation of fifteen year olds who should find this hilarious, right?

Well...not really, because today's fifteen year olds are a lot more sophisticated in their tastes in media than I was at the same age.

In 2011, the First Person Shooter is a well-known, polished genre. When Duke Nukem' 3D came out, videogaming was the realm of a few social outcasts and nerds. Today, a First Person Shooter holds the honor of being the biggest and most successful entertainment lauch of all time.

Kids today are used to FPS's with Hollywood level stories, multi-million dollar production values and well written-characters voiced by A-list stars. Duke Nukem Forever was a game with a cliched story, no notable voice talent and, thanks to being 15 years late, featured no innovations whatsoever. It was written to appeal to teenagers fifteen years ago, and those kids don't exist any more.

Sure, there's still the sex and adult humor angle, but even in that area, today's teens are far more sophisticated. They're from a generation that has never experienced not being able to instantly access any type of pornography that it's possible to think of. A video game character in a short skirt that makes a blowjob joke isn't exactly going to make them run out and buy a game.

The best analogy I can come up with for Duke Nukem Forever is 'The Black and White Minstrel Show' from the seventies. In it's time it was just considered normal, every day, entertainment until its audience grew enough to see just how horribly offensive it was... and today, we've progressed so far in terms of shock value that its not even noteworthy for its offensiveness.

That's what Duke Nukem' Forever is. It's a product aimed at an audience that simply doesn't exist anymore.


Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Rant

So, it's been a while since I've had a good rant on here... and I think I'm about to remedy that situation.

A couple of nights ago I found myself watching a documentary on TV about muggers. The sort of documentary that assumes that criminality is a symptom of a deeper issue in society than just accepting that some people are selfish, evil assholes.

Usually, these shows start with a convict explaining why what they do isn't their fault. This one didn't dissapoint. Five minutes in and here's some fuckhole talking to the camera:

"We all want nice things and to go out and have a good time, but we're all broke and we don't have the job skills to get a good enough job to pay for it. Not everyone can be a CEO or a movie director, but we still need the cash, so we go out onto the streets and take it. What else are we supposed to do?"

What else are you supposed to do? Are you fucking serious?

Let me take this point by point.

It's the standard fall back. "I don't have a job, I don't have any qualifications, so I'm forced to do this."

Bull...fucking...shit you are. The question I want to ask is why don't you have the job skills. You see, not only is highschool free here in the UK, it's fucking mandatory. If you don't go to school, someone comes to your house to find out why. Your parents can be fined or go to jail for not making you go.

My point is that here in the UK, you are just about dragged through high school. You actually have to work really hard to fail. Then, even if all you leave school with is a couple of D's, somewhere there's a vocational college that will take you on.

This really pisses me of because these assholes talk as if they've been deprived, but what they really mean is that no-one handed them job qualifications on a platter. Someone actually expected them to earn them, and they decided they'd rather fuck around than pay attention.

Secondly, the guy was absolutely right. Everyone does like nice things and to have a good time and not everyone can be a CEO or movie director. In fact, almost no-one gets to be a CEO or movie director. The vast majority of us drag our asses out of bed every single morning to go to a job we don't like that doesn't pay us as much as we want...but we all do it anyway.

What the fuck makes you so special that you think you shouldn't have to? What makes you think that working a shitty job is beneath you.

Finally, there's the whole "What else do you expect us to do?"

You try and make it sound like you have no other choice and you're forced into crime because blah, blah, blah.

Well, if you were in prison because someone caught you shoplifting a loaf of bread or a chocolate bar because you couldn't afford food, I'd have some sympathy. The fact you're in jail because you beat the shit out of someone and took their wallet and phone makes me slightly less sympathetic.

...and, yeah. I know how hard it can be. I'm about to start work again after a really long period of unemployment...but you know what I did? I went without. I still 'liked nice things' and I still 'liked having a good time'...but I couldn't fucking afford either so I went without, ate canned soup and mac and cheese...and the one thing I never considered was going and beating the shit out of an old lady to take her pension.

So here's what it boils down to: You're not a victim. You're not a symptom of some deeper 'issue' with society. You're just really fucking lazy and think the world owes you a living.

I once heard another guy like this say he burgled people's houses because his only other option was to flip burgers at McDonalds.

So what? Here's the deal: You're lazy fucking scumbag. Your options are limited because you decided you'd rather fuck around at school than learn to read and write. You're selfish, you're obviously not that bright, you've done nothing but take from society since you were born...and you have the balls to act like any employment is beneath you?

Let me clue you in. I'm not from a rich family. Growing up I wasn't even from a 'comfortable' family...but I paid attention in school and, here's the trick of it, I worked hard. From that my grades were good enough to go to college, and after college I took out a loan and worked part time so I could go to University.

You know what did when I couldn't find work? Despite the fact I had three A-Levels and a degree, I applied for jobs stacking shelves, flipping burgers and pushing shopping trolleys around car parks.

To put it another way, I didn't assume the world owed me anything, or complain that everyone and everything was against me because a career wasn't handed to me on a silver platter.

Put simply if flipping burgers isn't beneath me, it sure as fuck isn't beneath you.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Third POV

Ok, so Rayray published this on facebook:

If anyone can show me one example, in the history of the world, of a single spiritual or religious person who has been able to prove, either logically or empirically, the existence of a higher power that has any consciousness or interest in the human race, or ability to punish/reward humans for their moral choices, or that there is any reason (other than fear) to believe in any version of an afterlife, I will give you one of my legs.

Then Evan posted his answer here.

Now it's my turn.


Let me let everyone in on a little secret. This whole argument is completely and utterly pointless.

This argument basically comes down to science versus religion: Provable data versus Faith...and that's the debate equivalent of the unstoppable force and the immovable object.

You simply can't argue faith against science. If you tell me that you feel that God is real and you've felt his presence, heard him speak to you through other people, that's not going to move me at all. There's nothing provable, nothing to measure, nothing to convince me that you're right. On the other hand, I'm sure I could lecture a religious person on the inconsistencies in the bible, how the fossil record contradicts key tenets of your faith...but you're not going to care, because what do facts matter when you can feel God in your heart?

I'm not saying one point of view is right and the other is wrong...I'm just pointing out that it's impossible to argue.

But the real reason this argument is pointless is simply that it doesn't matter.

Here's what it boils down to: You can be super religious and still be an evil, amoral person. You can be an atheist and be a stand-up guy. I don't care what you believe or why you behave the way you do...if you act like a dick, I'll treat you like a dick. If you're a good, moral person, I'll treat you accordingly.

If you and your church group spend your weekends building houses for the homeless, I don't care that you're 'doing it for god', because it's a really fucking nice thing to do. If you're an atheist and you belittle people for what they believe, I don't care how right you think you are, you're still being a massive tool.

The way I see it, if I'm completely wrong and there is a God, and that God is as good and as just as everyone says he is, I'll get into the afterlife because I've spent my entire life trying to do what I feel is right. If I'm right, and there is no god, the good religious people will die knowing they've lived the best possible life they could.

It works out. The people who brandish their beliefs like a weapon to prove they're superior to everyone else are either going to go to hell or rot in a hole. That suits me.







Friday, November 04, 2011

Vindication!

I got my very first job delivering papers when I was 14. After that, the longest I was out of work for was the six months after I graduated.

Then I moved to the States and regular readers will know how that went.

Well, I've been back in the UK for seven months. For the first two to three months of that, I wasn't actually looking for work because I was busy getting my life back in order in the UK and having my surgery etc... but yesterday I went for my first real job interview in just over seven years and aced it. I just got the call fifteen minutes ago. I am now officially employed and I start work at the end of this month.

I can't tell you how good it feels to be going back to work, earning some money and getting to support my missus for a change. It feels even better that I'm going to work in an IT position in a freaking major European company.

However, the absolute best thing is that I finally feel vindicated.

You see, when you're out of work for a long time, you tell people that you're sending out about a hundred applications a month. You tell people that you've hit the pavement and gone everywhere you can think of applying for jobs. You tell them that despite the fact you've got multiple degrees, you've swallowed your pride and applied for jobs stacking shelves in supermarkets. You blame your location, you blame the economy... and most people look right back at you, shake their heads sympathetically...and walk away thinking you're full of shit. After all, they have a job, so how hard can it be for anyone else to get one.

In my case I had a few in-laws who would never say anything to my face, but would talk behind my back about how I was lazy, how I obviously didn't want a job, how I was taking advantage of Sunny and, by extension, my mother in law who gave us a place to live.

Finally, after far too long a time, I can hold my head up high and point out, with proof, just how full of shit these people are. 



Wednesday, November 02, 2011

AAAAAaaaaaAAAAaaaaa!

I have a job interview tomorrow.

Brickin' it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Mirror, mirror

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I found myself just randomly surfing the net through the wonders of Stumbleupon. I landed on one website that specialized in nothing but random funny pictures. You know the stuff, Lolcats, rage comics and other assorted meme pictures.

However, a few pages in, I noticed that along with the funny pictures, there were a lot like this folded in as well:



If you've spent any time on the internet at all (especially Facebook), you'll be used to pictures like these. Sluts taking pictures of themselves in mirrors.

These pictures iritate the hell out of me. Oh, I can't deny these girls at least superficially hot (and I choose my words carefully there), but these girls think that guys look at these pictures and think "Hey, she looks gorgeous, hot and fun! I wish she were my girlfriend."... and an awful lot of teenage virgins probably do think that...but let me tell you what pics like these really tell me about you.

1) You're too fucking stupid to work the self-timer on your camera.

Self-timers are not a new or rare thing. My cellphone has one, both my digital cameras have one. Even my camcorder and my 20 year old film camera has one. You set the timer, put the camera on something and then you can take a picture of yourself without a mirror!

Speaking of stupidity, look at the girl on the far left. Everything about that picture is set up to show extreme nonchalance. Like she was just having an average day of being perfectly made up, showing just the right amount of cleavage and dancing around, being fun and breezy when someone snapped a picture.

We can see the camera in your hand, bitch! 

2) You have no friends.

Oh, I'm sure you have thousands of Facebook friends, but in terms of actual, real people who like you?

Let's assume for a second that I accidentally gave myself a lobotomy and I can't work out the two button presses it takes to set my camera's self timer. You know what I'd do? I'd ask a friend to take a picture of me. Why don't you have any friends? Because...

3) You're a vapid, extremely shallow attention whore.

Look at the girl on the right. Low production values aside, she's put some real time into this picture. (If you've never lived with a woman before, let me just point out that the vast majority of women don't style their hair and put on full makeup just to sit around the house.)

You see, if a girl's getting ready for a night out and has just snapped a quick pic of herself before leaving, that's fine... but Blondie isn't dressed to go out. She spent all that time on her hair and makeup just for this picture. Then, she's picked an outfit, spent an awful lot of time deciding on the perfect coquettish pose, not to mention arranging her pants so just the right amount of butt-crack is showing.

Now think about that. She's spent all that time to take a picture of herself to put on the internet. Even though I never saw where this pic was originally posted, I gurantee that the caption she put on it was something like "OMG, I look so fat in this pic!"

Long story short, you think your picture makes you look hot, sexy and fun...in reality your picture makes you look like a dumb whore who's in love with herself.

Finally, this:



Someone please explain to me just how retarded you have to be to have another person there with a camera...and have them take the picture in the mirror anyway!

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Steve Jobs

A reporter on TV talking about Steve Jobs recent death:

"He asked the whole world a question: Are you a PC or a Mac? I'm definitely a Mac. Which are you?"

Well, personally, I choose not to define myself based on the consumer products I buy.

Steve Jobs was a genius businessman. He was not the Messiah.


Sunday, October 02, 2011

Call of Cthulhu

Now that I'm back in the UK (where I actually have a few friends and some semblance of a social life) I thought it would be fun to run a Call of Cthulhu (pen and paper RPG) game for Halloween.

The one fly in the ointment, however, is that I'd never run, or even played in a Call of Cthulhu game. I'd read the rulebook and flicked a couple of pre-made modules, but as for actually running or playing a game, it was all completely new to me...so this past weekend, I conscripted Sunny to play through a shortish module purely as a play test, so Sunny could be introduced to the system and I could try my hand at getting used to running it.

The first thing I discovered is that the Call of Cthulhu system is a bit of a double edged sword. Once you've actually rolled up a character, the actual game is very 'rules light' with more or less everything working on percentile rolls. For example, if I put 80 points into my character's handgun skill, that means my character has an 80% chance of hitting whatever he's shooting at... and this is simulated in game by rolling 80 or less with percentile dice. This means that it's incredibly easy for a brand new player to get into the game without having to learn a bajillion different rules.

The reason I say this is a bit of a double edged sword is because the simple rules system means there's far more of a focus on the roleplaying element of the game... and while a focus on roleplay can be a good or bad thing depending on the group, a lot of roleplay is almost universally a bad thing for newbies.

Why? Because, not to put too fine a point on it, roleplaying can be embarrasing as hell.

When you're used to it, roleplaying is fun and can be the absolute best part of the game... but when it's your first time around the table and your character gets introduced to the party... and you suddenly realize that, in front of people who may be complete strangers, you actually have to talk and act like your Arnie-inspired Barbarian Warrior...it's perfectly normal to feel uncomfortable.

For example, even though we've been married for seven years and know each other about as intimately as it's possible for two people to know each other...when our game started and I began talking to Sunny as Barney Drum, proprietor of the Lobster Pot Inn...and Sunny realized getting information out of Barney meant actually questioning him and not just rolling a diplomacy check...she immediately got embarrassed. Luckily, she got over it pretty quickly, and by the end I think she was really enjoying getting into her role as a Private Investigator.


Anyway, now I come to think of it, maybe the CoC system is a triple-edged sword, because while the game is mechanically easy for the players, things are pretty hard on the DM.

If you're usually the DM, think about how many characters you actually have to roleplay in a single session of a DnD game. Usually the number stays in single digits, and a lot of the time a lot of the NPC's don't have to be 'properly' roleplayed at all.

Basically, in a DnD game, it doesn't really matter if the barkeep has no real personality because unless he's critical to the plot, he's just background color. For example, when the players ask him if there's any rooms available, you can say "What's that, young feller? Yer need a room? (cough, cough, snort) Well, yer lucky because we got jus' one left. Did yer know that the Duke himsel' once stayed in that very room? That was in the days when I ran this place with my Angie, gods rest 'er...oo's Angie ya say? Well I'm glad yer arsked..." Or, you can say "The barkeep tells you there's two rooms available for 10 silver a night each."

On the other hand, in the CoC module I ran for Sunny, there were no less than 20 NPCs and around 15 of them where absolutely crucial to the plot. Like most CoC modules, the plot was a supernatural mystery and, for the first half of the game, everyone is a potential suspect...and midway through out game I realized that this means each NPC needs to have a distinctly recognizable personality... which means 20 different voices, along with verbal tics and mannerisms... because if your players can't even tell who's who, they're probably not going to solve the mystery either. Oh, and you need to put in as much effort on the totally unimportant shopkeeper who has two lines of bio in the module as you do for the actual murderer....because if you don't you're immediately tipping your hand to the players about who is important to the plot and who can be ignored.

Also, unless your characters are interesting, your players aren't going to be motivated to talk to them...which was a minor problem in our game. As I said, Sunny's a bit naive when it comes to gaming and doesn't realize that if I put a character right in front of her and hint heavily that she should talk to this character that there's a reason for it. After a lot of subtle hints, I straight up suggested that she should go and talk to an NPC who seemed overly upset at a funeral (so she could discover that the NPC had been having an affair with the deceased)... and Sunny looked straight at me and said "Why would I care?" She didn't speak to the character and missed a major clue.

That, without a doubt was a failure on my part. I can't blame Sunny for not meta-gaming to deduce this NPC was important...I just hadn't introduced this character in an interesting enough way to get Sunny invested in any way shape or form. To Sunny, this NPC was just a boring old lady crying at a funeral.

The only other thing that gave me a bit of a problem was the combat...which, quite frankly, is very 'realistic', unforgiving and brutal. In CoC, if someone shoots you in the face with a shotgun, you don't knock off a few hit points and shoot them back on your next turn...you die...and even if by some miracle you survive, you may be alive, but you've just been shot in the face with a shotgun. You're not going to do much but lay down and scream.

Basically, when you play a CoC game, you don't necessarily have to solve the mystery or vanquish the bad guys. It's technically a win if you escape with your life or with your sanity intact

I won't bore you with the plot but, during the game, we got to a point where Sunny was supposed to get a glimpse of the reanimated corpse of her friend that the Big Bad was using as a puppet to murder people. Now, before the game, I'd warned her how combat was treated 'realistically', and told her that the basic rule of thumb is that she should react in game in the same way she would in real life.

So, Sunny's knocks on the suspect's door and hears a blood curdling scream from behind the house. She draws her gun, circles around the house and arrives in the back yard just in time to see the zombie literally rip a woman limb from limb.

Now, in my head, I thought the encounter would go like this: Sunny sees the zombie, opens fire, sees that her bullets have little or no effect, so she turns and runs...if she doesn't just run away immediately. If things got hairy, I had a redshirt NPC with her to ensure she could get away.

Instead, I describe the scene, ask Sunny what she wants to do and the conversation goes something like this:

Sunny: "Well, there's no point shooting at him, he's already dead."
Me : (hinting like crazy)  "Well, you have your gun in your hand, you've just seen this figure in the gloom tear this woman's arms off...wouldn't you fire a few times anyway?"
Sunny: "Not if he's already dead."
Me: (hinting even more) "Remember what I said before the game? If this happened in real life, do you think you'd have the presence of mind to think that logically? Also, the whole supernatural thing is new to you...would you immediately think 'zombie' or would you think that maybe the guy wasn't really dead or maybe that this is someone pretending to be him?"
Sunny: "No, I saw his body before the funeral and I know it's him...and a bullet's not going to do anything to a dead guy."
Me: (getting a little desperate) "Not even out of panic? maybe you'd try and knee-cap him?"
Sunny: "What's the point if he's dead?"

At that point, I came to a realization. One, that Sunny picked up meta-gaming really quickly. Two, she can be as dense as radiation shielding when she wants to be and, three, I was breaking the golden rule of DMing by trying to railroad her. Just because the encounter wasn't going the way I expected didn't mean I should force her into an action to get the game back on the rails.

What I could do, however, was let the zombie attack first to teach her not to hesitate during combat.

I don't mean that in an evil DM way... Sunny is almost totally inexperienced and therefore a little naive when it comes to gaming, so I figured I'd do one combat round, which would result in a near miss or a minor hit...then the redshirt would get the zombie's attention and scream at her to run.

Basically, I wanted her to learn a lesson: When you're face to face with a superhuman zombie, you either shoot or run...you don't stand around agonizing over what to do.

Turns out I should have read the stats for the zombie a little closer before  the game.

You see, I knew that the zombie only had a 40% of hitting so I figured it was going to miss anyway.

I made my attack roll. I needed less than 40 to hit and I rolled a freaking 2...a critical hit.

I immediately regretted not bothering with a DM screen. As competitive as Sunny is, if she got the slightest hint I was fudging things, even in her favor (especially in her favor) she'd probably quit playing right then and there.

Well, I thought, the Zombie's only clawing at her, how much damage can claws do?

I looked at the stats. It turns out that claws can do two d6 damage plus a bonus d4 for the critical hit.

Did I mention that Sunny's character only had 14 hit points?

So I rolled. The dice came up 6, 5 and 2.

In case you're math impaired or all that 'd6' talk was greek to you...I wanted the zombie to miss, or just inflict a minor hit. Instead it had essentially ripped Sunny's character open from shoulder to hip and immediately rendered her unconcious.

In CoC, there's no 'instant fix' healing spells. You don't spend healing surges until you're all better. When you're injured, you regain something like 3 hitpoints per 'd4 game weeks'... plus, there was the small fact she was unconcious, rapidly bleeding out on the floor and there was a murderous zombie literally on top of her. It was game over.

Of course, as she was the only player and I really wanted to finish my play test, she awoke a few days later in the small town's Doctor's office... which resulted in some really interesting situations as the town doctor was a major suspect.

Anyway, if this was a review, I'd say I really enjoyed Call of Cthulhu and I'd highly recommend it as a nice change of pace from the more rules-heavy systems out there. It also strikes me that the game is highly adaptable....you can add or remove skills from the character sheet easily and the percentile system means you're never really stuck flipping through sourcebooks for rules. If a character wants to try something unexpected that isn't covered by the rules, all you have to do is estimate the chances of him succeeding and tell him to roll. Basically, you can remove all traces of Lovecraft's monsters and just have a great system for running a straight up mystery or adventure game. In fact, the only thing the system's really not good for is DnD style dungeon crawls.

Having said that, this system is really for players who like to roleplay, so it's only worth bringing out if you're playing with a group who are completely comfortable with each other. If you're not willing to get around a table and spend most of the evening in character, CoC probably isn't for you.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

What REALLY Just Happened

Ok, so I was sitting on the couch when my highly tuned senses picked up movement on the floor. I immediately recognized the movement as a huge spidaris gigantis, the world's rarest and most dangerous spider.

This spider is so rare that there's literally only one of it...and it's more dangerous than all the other spiders on the planet...and I don't mean it's the most dangerous spider...I mean it's more dangerous that all the other spiders on the planet, like, all at once.

My ninja skills immediately kicked in and, invoking my Shaolin Battle Cry of 'Hoh-lay-fack!" (Which, admittedly, can sound like a shrill, girlish "Holy Fuck!" to the untrained ear) I leapt up onto the couch. This, obviously, was because I knew I'd need the advantage of height in order to defeat such a dangerous opponent.

Then, spinning like an incredibly sexy whirlwind, I snatched up a cushion from the couch and used the secret Oncoming Storm of Righteous Fury technique...a technique so devastating that a trained practitioner, such as myself, can kill anything, up to and including a fully grown bull elephant, with nothing but an item of soft furnishing.

After a fierce battle, I prevailed and my foe lay vanquished before me.
     
A few moments later, after disposing of the carcass, I returned to the couch and folded my legs beneath me into a classic mediation pose. Obviously, I did this in order to dissipate my killing energies, for the safety of those around me.

I was a goddamned hero.

Now...

What absolutely didn't happen was that I saw a spider, screamed like a little girl, jumped onto the couch and then hit it with a cushion out of sheer panic...and I absolutely did not sit with my legs crossed because I was afraid to put my feet back on the floor.

...fuck you, it was a huge spider.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Once More...

So this morning I picked up the paper and saw that Ryan Donovan, the German sailor who murdered Lt. Cmdr. Molyneux on board a nuclear submarine, declared he wanted to do a 'GTA-style massacre'.

Since I started this blog in 2005 I've written more on videogame violence than I care to even think about so I won't repeat myself yet again, except to say this: GTA IV has sold well over 20 million copies. The fact that two or three people have claimed to be influenced by playing it tells me that their murderous impulses have an awful lot to do with their mental state in general... and absolutely nothing to do with their choice in media.

No, what made me write this today was a comment made by a judge who said "GTA is a game where you start a massacre and rack up points for killing'.

Am I wrong in thinking that if you're going to be making an official statement about something from an authoritative position, that you should have some basic idea of what you're talking about?

Saying GTA is a game where you 'start a massacre and get points for killing' is like me describing 'Saving Private Ryan' as 'A movie where five guys murder a ton of people in the German countryside'. From a certain point of view it's somewhat correct, but it hardly tells the whole story.

Now, normally, I'd be getting really worked up over this and talking about how we have the authorities  trying to legislate something they know nothing about in order to pander to an uninformed majority who would rather blame a technological bogey man for their kids problems rather than their own parental shortcomings.

In 2011, I don't have to.

I hate to break this to all the Daily Mail readers out there but, you see...we've already won. As Jack Thompson and Hilary Clinton discovered in the USA, we gamers aren't the socially inept, basement dwelling misfits you thought we were. They tried to make us the bogey men, the source of fear that they would protect everyone from in yet another engineered social panic...and then discovered that we were the majority.

Call of Duty 4 was the biggest entertainment launch in history. No book, no movie, no toy or game had ever been as successful. On launch day, more people picked up a controller than watched Titanic or The Matrix or any other film in history.

Long story short, we're one of the most powerful demographics on the planet. Rather than the nation being up in arms over these 'evil video games', we're shaking our heads and laughing at the dinosaurs.

In other words: Give it a rest, you're embarrassing yourself.





Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Sneak Preview

Okay, not much I can really say about this... but here's a preview of my upcoming Machinema series. I quite like how this turned out:

video

Unfortunately, Blogger compresses the ever-living hell out of the video, so you're only getting a very rough idea (just pretend you're watching through a pair of really greasy specs).

Anyway, the series is going to be another Minecraft 'Let's Play' series like I'm doing now, only this one will be played on the 'Ultra Hostile' map 'The Infernal Sky' by Vechs.

I hope you guys head over to my channel and check it out.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

It's a Lecture....

I was talking to my brother today when he suggested a topic for today's post.

Apparently, there's a comedian here in the UK who writes a regular column in one of the newspapers and he caused a bit of a stink by saying he never reads his comments because they're usually negative or rude.

My brother's angle on this story was to suggest I write about how this comedian shouldn't be writing a column in the first place if he's not willing to listen to feedback. Basically, his opinion is that if you're not interested in your audience's opinion, you shouldn't be writing for them.

I agreed to write a post on this subject...but I'm coming at it from the totally opposite angle. As a creator myself, I completely and totally understand (and even support) this comedian's point of view.

You see, the mistaken assumption here is that the people who comment on any given article are a representative cross section of that article's audience and all their opinions have merit. If that were the case, I'd agree completely with my brother... but as anyone who has ever posted anything on the Internet can tell you,  that that's just not true.

From this blog, my Podcast and my YouTube videos I can tell you the pattern is always the same:

Around 95% of your audience won't interact with you in any way besides consuming whatever it is you've created. They'll turn up, read your post (or watch your video, etc) and leave. For example, I get roughly one comment per 100 blog views, and about two or three comments/ratings per 100 YouTube video views.

The remaining five percent are the ones who will interact. They're the ones who will click a 'like' or 'dislike' button or leave a comment...but here's the rub: In any given situation, people are far more likely to express negativity than positivity. The same person who won't bother clicking a 'thumbs up' button on something he likes will be more than willing to create an account, send a confirmation email, wait an hour to be verified and then take four attempts at a captcha to tell you that you suck.

In other words, someone who comments on an article is usually skewed towards one extreme or another. They either love you or they hate you...and if they disagree, they aren't going to respond to your article with a well though out rebuttal to your argument...they're just going to say they've fucked your mum or you should go die in a fire.

In other words, even though comments sections were designed for discussion, what you're most likely to find is over the top, gushing fans or foul-mouthed trolls.

However, I think my second point is the more important one.


Personally, I think the Internet has totally skewed the way we view the creator/audience relationship. What was once a one way street has now become far more of a two way conversation.


But here's the thing, an article, blog post or column in a newspaper really isn't a conversation, it's far more like a lecture.

For example, let's say that you write an article and it gets published in a major magazine. What you're essentially doing is telling the world at large that this is your opinion... then I come along... and I dislike your article.... In fact, I absolutely hate it.

Now, ask yourself a question. In the above situation, as one of your readers, what exactly do you owe me?

Are you required to listen to my opinion? Do you have to change your opinion to please me? Do you owe me an equal forum so I can express my opinion and publicly disagree with you?

Of course not. All you did was write an article.

Take this blog, for instance. This is my forum where I express my ideas and opinions. If I write something you disagree with, you're more than welcome to comment... and there's a very good chance I'll read it...in fact, if it's well thought out and well written, you may even change my opinion... but I don't have to read it.

Right now, our relationship is one between a creator and consumer. By your being here, the only implied relationship is that I'm going to write something and you're going to read it. I don't owe you a say...and I'm no more obligated to listen to your opinion than you're obligated to listen to mine.

Basically, buying a movie ticket doesn't mean the actors are obligated to listen to us critique their acting. Going to a concert doesn't mean the musicians are obligated to listen to our opinion on how they could improve their songs...

People are angry because a writer said he didn't read his readers' opinions of his work, even though the law of averages state that 99% of those opinions are from the idiots and trolls.

That would be like me getting mad at Pavarotti because he ignored me when I said he was a fat cunt who should sing in English.








Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rebecca Black

Ok, this is something that's been bugging me for a while.

In case you have no idea who Rebecca Black is, let me sum up the story for you:

14 year old girl has a single and music video produced by a 'vanity publisher'. Video ends up on Youtube. Video goes viral as 'the worst song ever'. Shit hits fan.

If you've never seen the video, here it is:



Now, first, let me address the controversy. Black has apparently been pulled out of school due to bullying and has recieved 'death threats'.

Rebecca Black has never recieved a death threat. What she has recieved is a bunch of youtube comments by idiot kids along the lines of "zomg ur video is so terable if i see u in the street ill run u ova wit my car"... and the traditional media, who apparently have no idea what the internet is like, have grabbed that with both hands because it makes the story more sensational.

As for the bullying? Well...probably, but it's not anything really out of the ordinary. I remember highschool. Highschool is all about trying to be as average as possible. If you're too intelligent, you're a nerd, not intelligent enough, you're thick...in other words, if you do anything that places you outside the norm, you're going to get bullied and made fun of.

I guarantee that there are twenty or thirty other kids in Rebecca Black's old school who are facing exactly the same level of bullying because their parents are poor, or because they suck at sports or because they're the first (or last) in their year to start developing breasts...but that doesn't exactly warrant a news story.

Basically, I have a really hard time feeling sorry for Rebecca Black. If I were her, I'd be enjoying my fifteen minutes of fame and be laughing all the way to the bank. As well as appearing on multiple TV shows, getting major radio play and her song being bought as a novelty on iTunes she's earning approximately $24,900 a week. Not bad for mom and dad's initial investment of $4000, wouldn't you say?

All I'm going to say is that if I was walking through school and my classmates 'kept singing my song at me in a really nasally voice', I'd pull out the three and a half grand I'd earned that day, blow my nose on a hundred, check my Rolex and walk on.

Even better, when the novelty wears off and people have moved onto the next viral star, with the whole bullying, hate-mail and death threat angle, I gunarantee she's a phonecall away from a book deal about her 'harrowing experience' (Hey if fucking Snooki can get a book deal, so can Rebecca Black).

But, anyway, the main thing I want to talk about is the song itself.

Is it the 'worst song ever'? Really?

Don't get me wrong, it's truly awful. The melody is annoying, the lyrics are bland and nonsensical... but slap that song on the radio between a Justin Bieber and a Britney Spears track and I wouldn't bat a frigging eyelid.

Basically, Rebecca Black is just another bland, cookie-cutter teen pop singer, but she made the mistake of releasing a single without a multi-million dollar marketing department behind her to explain to the public that she's not shit.

If Rebecca Black had been introduced to the world as Simon Cowell's protege, 'Friday' would have been a number one smash and we'd all be talking about how 'Friday' is a genius commentary on modern pop.

Basically, I think we can all see how ridiculous the whole situation has gotten when Justin Bieber starts taking the piss out of 'Friday's' lyrics:

Yeah, Bieber, because you're such a fucking artist.

'Tomorrow is Saturday and sunday comes afterwards' is a pretty fucking terrible lyric, but I'd hardly say that "Let's go...jump on my skateboard and eat some cake along the lake," is the lyrical masterpiece you think it is.

I think we all need some perspective here. On the one hand we have a poor little rich girl who got her mom and dad to stump up four grand so she can have a music video and it went viral... on the other hand, we have a seventeen year old kid selling millions of bland, manufactured cookie-cutter records, with massive success, who actually referred to himself as the 'Kurt Cobain' of his generation.

The problem isn't that Rebecca Black released a shitty record and got called on it...it's the fact there are so many 'Rebecca Blacks' out there that people take seriously.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Something Else to Annoy Me. Also, Advice

Today, I finished my 25th Let's Play video and have it chambered and ready to upload in a few days. (I record about an hour and a half at a time, break that into 15-20 minute episodes and upload a new one every day).

I appear to have finally started to 'break through' this week. I'm getting an average of thirty views per video in the first few hours after an upload, and I appear to be gaining subscribers at one or two a day. (Yeah, I know, that's nothing by youtube standards...but it's encouraging to start getting noticed considering I've been doing this for less than three weeks).

Unfortunately, this puts me in a really annoying position.

You see, at this point I've gained an audience significant enough for other youtubers to want me to plug and/or link to their videos, but not so significant that they feel they're wasting their time in asking me.

To me, that's just not cool...and makes absolutely zero sense. If I had a dedicated audience of thousands, I'd be happy to throw a beginner a bone and give them a link if I liked their videos....but as a beginner myself with a tiny audience, if think your videos are good, the last thing I want to do is redirect my small audience to you...and if I think your videos are crap, I'm obviously not going to endorse them.

Basically, get a similar number of subscribers to me and we'll talk. At this point, the best case scenario is I just give you the audience that I've worked my ass off for.

But now for a spot of advice.

As well as the handful of people asking for a direct plug, I've gotten more messages than I can count from people who have seen that I'm making minecraft videos, so they ask me to watch their videos (and, of course, subscribe)... not through a comment, mind you, but by sending me a direct, private message asking me to check out their video.

Not only is this completely unwanted spam...99.9% of these all have one thing in common. The channel was created within the last week, and there's a single, solitary five minute video up.

I've mentioned this before about blogging, but it also applies here, if not more so:

If you want to build up an audience, the first thing you do is create good content. Worry about the marketing later. There's no point getting people into your store if you have nothing to sell them.

To me, it just appears that the majority of the internet has things backwards. They want the big audience, the praise and the adulation before they put the work in...and if you need a huge crowd of people to cheer you on before you write a blog post or upload a video, you're not going to keep at it anyway.

Put simply, if I land on someone's youtube video and enjoy it...and they have ten other current videos that show they update consistently...I'm going to bookmark their channel, watch their back catalogue and keep checking back. If I land on someone's channel and they have one or two videos that were uploaded two months apart...I'm not going to waste my time.

Basically, if you want to create something, do it for the sheer joy of making something. The more you do it, the better you'll get and the more likely people with actually want to see it. Once you've got some quality work online, you'll grow an audience.

It doesn't matter how many eyes you get to your website if they visit once and never return, and until you have some worthwhile content, that's exactly what's going to happen.

Two sides...

I read a news story this morning with the wonderfully unbiased headline proclaiming "The young girl being ripped from her family to live with her Mum's ex...in the US!"

Sound's horrible, doesn't it? There's obviously been an error somewhere, some tragic mistake that's going to send this poor little girl kicking and screaming to live with someone she knows while her loving family stand helplessly by.

Well, turns out that's not quite the case. When you read the story, you find things are almost completely the other way around.

Now, no-one is mentioned by name for legal reasons, but here's what's happening when you boil it down to the bare facts.

The mother of this child (who apparently has learning difficulties and a low IQ) got pregnant with this child from a 'casual relationship' (read: one night stand). Five months into the pregnancy...and this is important, bear in mind that this is before the child was born... she starts dating this American guy, marrying him shortly after the baby is born.

Two years into their marriage they divorce... and the child's mother fucks off and leaves the baby with the American, who then raises the child for six years with help from the child's grandmother. Also during this time, they have the birth certificate re-registered, naming the American guy as the child's father.

Then, the American decides he wants to go home and, obviously, take his daughter with him... and now the child's blood family are up in arms...and the papers claim that this child is being torn from her 'family' to live with her 'mum's ex'.

I've said a million times before that the word 'Parent' is a job description and not an honorary title. Getting someone pregnant doesn't make you a father and giving birth doesn't make you a mother. A parent is someone who loves, takes care of and raises a child... not someone who gets knocked up in a nightclub and fucks off after a couple of months.

This American guy was there before the child was born. He raised that child in a traditional family unit for two years...and continued to raise and support that child for four years after her own mother left. Now he's moving back to America and wants to take the girl he's raised for six years with him.

You know what I call someone like that? A father.

The re-registered the birth certificate makes this American the child's legal parent anyway, but in this case, legality doesn't come into it.

Who do you think this child is better off with? The step father who's been around and taken care of this child since birth. The man this child has known as 'Dad' since day one... or the family of the woman who had a one night stand and walked out on her own daughter.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Cardboard

In the past I've tried to write about why the Star Wars prequels are such a travesty, and to be honest, it's really hard to do without getting into real geek-speak and nerd talk, but today, I think I've finally worked out a way to prove conclusively why the prequels don't even come close to the original trilogy.

It's got nothing to do with the storyline, backstory or reliance on special effects, it's not about the movie contradicting accepted fan-continuity from the novels...it's straight up bad writing.

So here's how I prove that the Star Wars: Episode 1 wwas a great big pile of shit:

Take any of the main characters from either Episode 1 or Episode 4 and describe them without mentioning the way they look, their costume, their job title or role in the movie. Basically, describe their personality.

With very few exceptions, it's incredibly easy for A New Hope, but just about impossible for The Phantom Menace. For example:

Han Solo: Arrogant, cocky rogue who acts like he's out for himself but is ultimately a good person who cares about others more than he lets on.

Luke Skywalker: A naive, idealistic farmboy dreaming of leaving home and having adventures.

Obi-Wan Kenobi: A wise old wizard, a mysterious mentor. Gravely serious, but also kindly. Subtly pushes people, allowing them to learn what they're capable of.

I'll be completely honest, I've just written a sentence or two each for brevity, but I could easily write a couple hundred words one each character without breaking a sweat, but the prequels?

Qui-Gon Jin: Well, he's a jedi....no that's his job title. He's Obi-Wan's master...no, that's his role....uh, he's a bit stern, I guess?

Obi-Wan Kenobi: He's sits on a ship and complains a lot.

Queen Amidala: Errr.....

Basically, the characters in A New Hope are just that characters. The characters in The Phantom Menace are cardboard cutout plot devices.

Try it for yourself. Take five minutes and describe Princess Leia's personality...now do the same with Queen Amidala.

To put this into perspective, when we're looking at character depth, R2D2, a faceless droid who never talks beyond making weird noises, is a far more developed and likeable character at the end of A New Hope than any prequel character was after three movies.




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's Play

Did I mention that I'm doing a daily Minecraft 'Let's Play'?

What's that? You don't know what a 'Let's Play' is? You've never even heard of Minecraft?

Well, that's all the more reason to head over to my Youtube channel and check it out... and as it happens I just so happen to have a link right here:

Minecraft Awesomeness

Monday, July 25, 2011

Hypocrites


It appears to me that if you want to be a newspaper journalist, the main characteristics you need to have are a 4 second memory and the ability to be completely and unashamedly hypocritical. In other words, if you can give someone an hour long lecture about the evils of drinking with a double vodka in your hand…and completely forget about it the next day… there’ll be a paper somewhere just dying to snap you up.

Let’s talk about Amy Winehouse, shall we?

Let’s face it, Winehouse was an absolute trainwreck.. Over her career the papers continually described as a talentless junkie and they absolutely loved looking down their noses at her, telling her she should be ashamed of herself and to think of the example she was setting ‘for the children’. The only time Winehouse ever made so much as a blip on my radar was when there was another picture of her falling out of a nightclub or punching someone in the face or having yet another breakdown on stage.

Of course, to read the eight page tribute in the Daily Mirror the day after she died of an overdose, it appears that she suddenly switched from being the drug fueled crazy lady they’d spent years exploiting to a tragically misunderstood genius. Suddenly, she’s not an ‘out of control junkie’, but a ‘brave, headstrong artist who lived life by her own rules.”

My absolute favorite part is when the papers talk about ‘the media’ and the way it cruelly and mercilessly hounded her… somehow managing to forget that they are the media.

It’s like Michael Jackson all over again. The day before he died he was a disgusting, evil pedophile who should be castrated. The day after he died he was the King of Pop, a tragic loss… and the very same people who built careers on writing about he should be burned at the stake were suddenly writing long, heartfelt tributes about him.

So, let me tell it straight: Amy Winehouse was a moderately talented musician who died of an overdose that everyone with at least one working brain cell saw coming. It’s tragic, but she’s not a hero. If anything she was incredibly stupid for throwing her life and career away by getting addicted to drugs.

For me, personally, a drug addicted singer who writes a song about refusing to go to rehab just doesn’t deserve my pity and absolutely shouldn’t be held up as any kind of hero or role model.

As for the papers, well, someone can either be a talentless screeching junkie or a headstrong genius…they can’t be both.

Oh, and to the Mirror in particular: When Amy Winehouse dying of a self inflicted overdose takes up four fifths of your front page, but I have to go to page eight to read about 84 people being massacred in Norway (you know, a story that actually matters)…something is very, very wrong.

Friday, July 15, 2011

I don't feel safe here.

This is getting too much.

My Mum has two dogs. A pair of Cocker Spaniels named Tess and Barney.

Tess is fine, but Barney is a barely contained ball of murderous rage who would flat out murder you and rape your corpse without a second thought.

I took some video of him today for the inevitable court case.

Warning:The following video may be disturbing.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I'm Not Comparing This Blog To Renaissance Sculpture


Well, over the past few weeks I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking why I’m not blogging as often. The most vocal of these people has been my brother who apparently has a ritual involving the bathroom, my blog and his iPhone. To quote a conversation I had with him a few hours ago:

“Write something you fucker, I haven’t taken a shit in weeks.”

Well, I started to think why I haven’t been writing quite as much…and a large part of the reason is that since moving to the UK, the buffer between me, my family and most of my friends has shrunk from 3700 miles to zero.

Have you ever heard the expression that no artist is truly free until his parents are dead? Well, it’s true.

I mean, today we look at works of art like Michelangelo’s ‘David’ as timeless masterpieces… but you know that poor Michelangelo felt like shit when he was sculpting it.

Why? because he knew that at some point his mother was going to look at it and say “It’s nice…but did you have to sculpt him naked?” Or how his friends saw the statue’s tiny wink-wonk and asked him if he modeled it after himself.

 I guarantee that someone asked why a red blooded male would choose to sculpt a naked man.

My point is that even though I rarely write about anything properly embarrassing, I used to be able to write completely unselfconsciously. There’s no pretense in my posts. If you’re a long time reader, I can state categorically that you know me as well as anyone. In fact, if you’ve been reading since that first post in 2005, you probably know me better than a lot of my family and friends.

Of course, the other big thing is I’ve been writing posts for nearly seven years, and I’ve gotten to the point where I write a post only to realize halfway through that I’m not just repeating myself, I’m repeating myself for the fourth or fifth time.

Well, anyway, I’m not quitting and I’m still aiming to write as much as possible… but I don’t think I’ll be keeping up the same pace I was when I spent about 12 hours a day alone in my house.

Oh, and Andrew? If you’re that desperate for some bathroom reading material… buy a copy of my book you f**king cheapskate.