Whatever happened to Something Awful?

If Something Awful was completely without merit, there would be no problem. Shit is shit and let’s run this shit into the ground as they say in one of the hundreds of memes that pass for conversation on SA. But SA can be charitable, as when it raises tens of  thousands of dollars for the poor in the USA and elsewhere, it can be justified as when it took on the child pornographers that infest Reddit and drove them out for least a while. It can be an effective critic of far worse entities such as 4chan, TV Tropes and other deserts of the mind. It can even be strangely beautiful – I was one of the many people preparing a Photoshop for a ‘make a ghost picture’ thread, when up popped the very first image of Slenderman, a nonsense monster that spread over the world in a flash and recently drove two teenage girls to try murder another to appease this instant-meal myth. I know that’s a particularly remorseful kind of beautiful, but I still prefer it to most art.

original-1

You will notice that, like Drop Bears, the Slenderman joke started in Australia. Then Americans believed it, and away we go.

At the moment they are coming to the end of a revolution of sorts, it’s petering out in spasms, but still you’re likely to come across entire threads of people saying:

“I’m Gay.”
“I’m Gay.”
“I’m Gay.” at each other like some kind of demented bird call. Which in anyone’s terms is pathetic or infuriating or both. I’m not here to defend it, but to try to sum up what’s been going on in this virtual town of 189,064 or so.

Just before Halloween 2013, the main board, General Bullshit (or ‘GBS’), was in trouble. SA is actually one of the most highly moderated websites around, with probations and bans constantly raining down on the worst of the worst. Probations come for racism, gender slights, tedious trolling, sock puppeting, all the usual sins of online society – if YouTube was run like SA, their comments would be empty. But in this case the effort had been too successful, and the grotesque ball had stopped dead. The punters were unnerved – what was funny? What ribaldry was OK? What insults would be tolerated, and if this was a party – the beer had gone flat.

Halloween evening, new ‘spooky rules’ for ‘GBS 2.0.’ were posted by Zack Parsons, science fiction novelist and admin. No NSFW images, no personal fights, that’s it.

By the time I saw the board a few hours later, a few timid starts had turned into an outpouring of the most disgusting, hateful, childish garbage that anonymous fat young men could pull out of their trousers. To be clear, there was no redeeming quality to it at all. I learned that probably the worst swearword in the United States is ‘nigger’, and they were going to mount that on a flag and march it down main street. Everything had to be burned and everyone had to be smeared with ashes and shit and god knows. I stopped visiting GBS for a while, basically because there was no community to visit.

Other sections of the community carried on as before, a bit like the white flight suburbs circling Detroit. Every now and then somebody would come wandering out of the maelstrom and start the noise in the pet discussion area or such like. They would instantly get banned, without understanding why the rules were different.

r1ut_1_14_05

I thought it might go for weeks. It went for months, although after a while the tone was like the Dawn of the Dead – the zombies were beginning to assemble some parody of order, while angrily refusing it. The moderators came back in, allowed themselves to be mocked and be probated by others, sometimes with humour, mostly not. I’ll make a big stretch and compare it to the cultural revolution, when Mao had students attack the professors to keep himself up the top of the power structure.

_photos_uncategorized_2007_04_13_tibet_cultural_revolution_2

I am an imperfect witness, I’m too old, I just wandered around the desolation not knowing why. Some of it was another discussion board, FYAD, leaking out of its pink cartoon cesspit. They do not speak their name but ‘Fuck You And Die’ is probably it. What you see in there is something between a diaper fetish, people who cut themselves for attention and those that think they are Oscar Wilde and aren’t. Everything is ironic, especially typing ‘nigger’. Perhaps the plan was to draw them out? Was it a death wish? Did Zack Parsons want to prove a point? The moderators only know.

FYAD

FYAD in one image

Some time near the new year, softly, the rules were expanded and it became ‘GBS 1.3′. Probations followed. There was grumbling, but maybe everyone was too exhausted to rebel. August 2014, nearly a year later came the message from Lowtax, king of this domain: “Can we PLEASE get rid of all the racist garbage getting posted around here? As we’ve always said, unless it’s extremely remarkably wonderfully humorous, you’re going to get banned for making racist comments. For your health.”

The revolution lasted just over 11 months.

The proudly worst have discovered that while ‘tranny’ is now banned, ‘gay’ is still allowed, not specific to the sexual orientation although that’s in there, but in the school yard sense of ‘weak’. It’s highly offensive, it’s supposed to be. It tests exactly the same water as being ‘punk’ in 1976. But because the punks were at least glamorous, they now have a museum history, where once being ‘punk’ was just as awful as the ‘ironic homophobia’ that’s being thrown about now.

Nazi+punks

But who will record the revolt of the ugly fat dorks? I will. I was there for the punks, I was there for the dorks, what difference really?

My bullshit equipment list is better than AFX’s bullshit equipment list.

  • Eclectic Integrator with Phlogiston Gauge.
  • Opposable Mitts with Felt Innards.
  • Mid Range Pneumatic Foklift (n.b. not Forklift).
  • Hot Pockets, Meat Lovers, Frozen.
  • Tyrants (x7)
  • One small Bowl of Tepid Squid Bites in Springwater.
  • 12 meters of Red Sable as used on the Set of Quo Vadis.
  • MH370.
  • Britannica Entries for Ouija to Ouzo.
  • Henry Ford and Walt Disney in a Tacit Embrace.
  • Sepia in a 1 Litre Bottle.
  • lsd-03
  • A Pamphlet denouncing Central Park, dated 1992.
  • The Bomb Dropped on Nagasaki, reassembled.
  • Faintly Heard Sounds of Rats.
  • Photographs of Satan and God for sale for $15,000,000 on eBay.
  • Unsung Heroes in a Packet of 12.
  • Tincture of Racist Jibes.
  • Operation Enduring Freedom.
  • A series of eMails re: Teething Problems at Our Melbourne Data Centre.
  • Sheer Luxury in a Sports Car.
  • A well worn Statuette of Captain Scarlet.
  • 5 Japanese Girls Dancing in Strict Formation, the Camera Pans Slowly.
  • A Cure for Ebola.
  • oliverreed
  • Micrometeorologists and Decidefibrillators.
  • Singapore Sling.
  • Innards.
  • Episodes of Candid Camera, missing half the 4th Season.
  • The Four Seasons.
  • A Betamax Cassette Entitled ‘Viva Sonyland’.
  • Valium. More Valium.
  • A Pair of Dashing Red Pantaloons, Alas Too Small
  • A Near Miss, partly used.
  • Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.
  • Hector, the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War.
  • My Deepest Regrets for You, and Your Family.
  • Insipid Scissors.
  • Busty Ginger!

Musicians lie about their inspiration.

Musician interviews inevitably arrive at naming one’s inspiration. The formula involves picking your own genre, then rewinding to decide whoever was the coolest shit in that genre when you were in your mid teens and is still cool. Kraftwerk is a great one. Everyone knows Kraftwerk, it’s the cheddar cheese of influences. (I’d more likely mention Telex as that would earn a raised eyebrow from the interrogator, at the same time as being actually more cool in a daggy way).

Recently the game has levelled up. You have to name someone that requires the interviewer to fake recognition, and dive online when writing up the interview to know just who the hell ‘The Lost Jockey’ might have been, and is this a trap for the unwary? Like when I mentioned ‘Blorp Essette’, the title of a cassette by the Los Angeles Free Music Association, which mysteriously became one of the interviewer’s favourite bands.

But really, inspiration comes like a thief in the night. No one ever admits the real moment, so let me take the risk.

I was lying in bed last night listening to a storm trying to tear the roof off my house. I sleep just under that roof and so the noise is quite an experience. I’ve become intensely phobic about this happening, and to distract myself I tried to think of the moment I was first drawn to make music. Happily the storm lasted for hours so I had plenty of time to sift through the decades and land on just the right spot.

Sure, there were years with tape recorders, the old man’s Jazz 78s, sound effect records, but let’s focus on music.

It’s 1972. I am ten years old. My brother and I are off to see some disaster porn at the pictures, and it was about the time that they were starting to put some speakers in the cinemas that could actually woof, I mean woof louder than what you had at home. Make shit rumble.

poseidon-adventure

Irwin Allen’s The Poseidon Adventure. HELL UPSIDE DOWN the poster promised and who wouldn’t want to see that?

Just like today you had to have a theme song. It was a rather drab number called There’s Got To Be A Morning After which got played before the film, in the film, after the film and all over the god damn radio once it won the Academy Award for Best Song. Never mind that. What mattered was hearing some big old woofers in a big bloody theatre pumping out some tube amp sub frequencies as part of well formed melodic structure. It’s a slow song, so what I was hearing was: DROOOOOOOOONE DRONE DRONE DROOOOOOOOOONE etc. with a person singing sweetly over top. It was quite an experience, and then you got to see Ernest Borg Nine clambering up a ship funnel.

new-years

Happy New Year! Time to die!

Now I didn’t then rush out and immediately start making avant garde. I went to see the Towering Inferno instead, not nearly as good. But when Autobahn came on the AM radio in 1974, it only reinforced that I like that Kind of Thing, and that I wanted to make that thing.

So from now on I am going to say that my inspiration is Al Kasha and Joel Hirchshhorn. They’re pretty underground, so you probably haven’t heard of them.

Great career advice just for YOU.

office-worker-low

Tip 1: Make sure you get your email out of the way straight away on arrival. Categorise the contents into act now, later and pass to others.
Tip 2: Don’t look at your email for the first few hours. Follow through your own schedule and don’t get distracted by communications that deflect that schedule.

Tip 3: Plan out every hour of the day, starting at 5.30pm and working backwards.
Tip 4: Don’t plan the day by hours. Allow the larger themes of your job role to determine the proportions of your time load.

Tip 5: Take a break every half hour and switch to another task to keep a fresh mind.
Tip 6: Get yourself into the swing of the task, a mind space, in the zone, without taking breaks.

Tip 7: Visualise yourself in your next role and work at a higher level as if you are preparing to take it on.
Tip 8: Don’t try to anticipate your next role as you will always create it around you when the time comes.

Tip 9: Schedule regular public dialogue with your co-workers and take care to listen.
Tip 10: Avoid meetings unless to address specific needs

Tip 11: Don’t read those ‘life success tip’ list blogs, they are a pack of shit. All of the contradictory advice listed above comes from the same source. You don’t need to take advice from ‘idea puppy mills’.

Tip 123: They see no problem with listing contradictory advice, because the goal is not about actually achieving anything but teaching you to be an efficient component. Contradiction is actually good to keep you open to suggestion.

Tip 12: This kind of writing is an attempt to regiment your thinking so that you remain a useful cog in a system that concentrates wealth and leisure with a few people, and wastes your short life on this earth.

Tip 15: You are going to die. Time is running out. You will become sick and not be able to fulfil those aspirations that matter most to you. That’s the most important item on the schedule, so fuck email tips.

Tip Horse: The best answer to work is to change management to trust. That is, work on the basis of your humanity, not become technology.

Tip toe: And don’t be an arsehole, that’s a cheap diversionary aspiration. There is no need to act like Steve Jobs, just because it gets promoted in popular fiction as a way to exercise power. Kindness is a difficult virtue. We are all in the same tunnel.

T1#262865: But you already knew all of this.

I made an album. Now what?

So I was listening to this album of mine just then and I was thinking, well soon as the vocals are mixed in, that’s done. It’s all there. About 3 years work off and on. When I started this thing, it was all Fruity Loops. Ditched that back in 2012, went hardware. Re-recorded large sections, threw things out, the usual deal. I think the oldest track has been remixed, what, 8 times? It’s all Cubase and MIDI now.

But it’s just tipping into the don’t overdo it stage. The best tracks are the ones you just get right the first time. Could lose something if I don’t … what? Not sure.

This started around the time we’d done our 2011 shows and it was time to retire gracefully, got up to speed around the Adelaide Festival, got bogged down in Gear Acquisition Syndrome and has been slowly burning along since. Actually the G.A.S. has been a great help in revitalising my sounds. Got some nice sounds these days. (I put 30 up for you in the menus!)koala

But OK. Seeing as my current contact with the ‘market’ is to be a stuffed koala in a glass case, all mould and glass eyes… what? This really isn’t a spare-me-my-blushes moment. On one side I feel like the ugliest old hag that ever went for the role of Baby Jane. On the other side look at all those other old fucks. They’re doing it you coward.

This is a fun record, and righteous glammy. It can’t be all self-deprecating. But then, look, it’s this teaching thing, it distorts your placement when everyone you see all day is 20 something. Meh.

And look where I was in 2008.

Somehow I think this is going to happen but I just don’t know how just yet. Be patient. I might have to get this fucking doctorate out of the way.

It’s currently called RHINE. It’s named after this guy.

Straightening Spaghetti

OK let’s get to the point. I apologise. This blog has gone all maudlin and sporadic and is far below the quality that you pay for. The reasons being:

  • I am supposed to be writing my thesis paper, and therefore the act of writing has become one level up from gargling urine in my list of fun things to do.
  • I have turned sevcom.com into a blog to be able to update it more often, with the disastrous effect of me having to update it more often.
  • Tweeting. It’s like when you eat so many peanuts you get a stomach ache and can’t eat a proper dinner.
  • I am a fucking middle manager, what can I possibly write about?

The old blog fell into a routine. There would be have some guff about Kunst Kamp, which no longer exists and besides I am no longer in a position to mock the place. Then I’d put the boot into some fool, which got a bit dull, and then I might write about cybercloud la la bullshit, which hasn’t made the slightest difference to the trash that people in Google Glasses believe. All of it has been done to death, and so old articles now appear at random, which is more effective than me writing essentially the same thing.

I also think I would rather write about things that are creative and positive. The only reason to pick fights with fools and sluggards is to show how it can be done better.

There’s been a bit of time to plan how to sort this fallen empire, so here is the idea.

  • All the antiques go onto sevcom.com. That’s where things get sold and displayed that live in the past.
  • tomellard.com is going to be about making things. I know I’ve spent the last few months rambling on and on about synthesisers, but that’s been my learning process as part of making a whole bunch of music – some heard and some coming real soon. I’m also going to start supplying free samples of all the tools I’ve been collecting to go with the verbiage, and that’s a positive thing.
  • Twitter is for bullshit.

Time travel

Time flexes, distorts, the First World War draws closer, recent history tangles in a coil where 1985 lies a little closer than 2005. WW1 is on the front pages next to news of a Caliphate being carved out of Iraq. Your dreams expect the ghost of 1962 Peter O’Toole to step onto a wide screen and show those 1917 Arabs once again how a decent British officer can banish the Hun. Did WW1 ever stop in the middle east?

lawrence-of-arabia1

Seriously, how does that robe stay so frigging WHITE?

1985 is familiar for all the usual tedious reasons. The other night it got to me when somebody made a large vague offer to my long dead band, but I’ve got my cynical shields raised again.

More interesting is judging how far into the new century we have travelled. Think again, 1914, the intervening years are scarcely mentioned; 20th century, first war, boom tish. Yet, 2000; seems awfully long ago really.

Measured with technology (look, I’m a technocrat, let it be) the difference is quite remarkable. I needed to get files from a computer to an old sampler. The most efficient way turns out to be burning CD-Rs. Not DVD-Rs, which were a bit futuristic in 2000. Little wheels, motors. Carry the wheel to the tray, pop in the disc and read it. Is there a problem? Bin the coaster. Burn another disc. The sound of motors and fans, the physical objects being carried back and forth, may as well be scrolls in the Library of Alexandria for what that has to do with the current day.

I could use cards:

20140630_161852

Smartmedia card, made from disco balls.

On the left is the SD Card that you currently expect will be around forever. On the right is the SmartMedia Card that was expected to be around forever in the year 2000. Took me quite some time and cash to find some. It’s very pretty, but about 8 of the largest would fit on the smallest SD Card. It’s also horribly slow, slower than the CDs I’m burning.

For a short moment I thought maybe I should spend $40 and get all this tasty kit:

$_57

I’m glad to say I’m better now, thanks for asking. (BTW, note the blue coloured translucent plastic. Nothing says late 20th century quite as effectively).

Now…

Bq0DZN2CIAAH4Sh

Only 5 years later the PC card was the go, or a CompactFlash card. The picture shows how get my 2014 microSD to slot into the incredibly antique technology of 2005.

Was there such a distance between 1905 and 1914?

A mental exercise that helps me reach oblivion each night:

  • If an underground label in 2014 is releasing a LP from 1984…
  • In 1984, from 1954…
  • In 1954, from 1924…

Time flexes again – the change in music from 1954 to 1984! And so little from 1984 to now…

Term Break!

Yay! Term break! Long Weekend! Actually sleeping over a whole night!

For a short time I can think straight, without having to warp reality to make opposites true at once:

  • Listen to students! Survey them! Find out what they are thinking!
  • Don’t listen to the students! They say they want skills, but we are not here to teach skills. They can get skills anywhere. No, we are here to guide them into leadship roles. We are about ‘cultural leaders’.
  • But not every student wants to be top of the class. Keep in mind that students have different goals, some are simply there to pass…
  • as leaders.
  • We aspire to be held equal to leading world institutions…
  • …while maintaining 10x the intake.
  • Open more animation and video production classes, they are growing exponentially!
  • Although we should really look at moving on from animation and video classes as they are not what we are about.
  • Besides anyone can do any of that with a mobile phone. Your courses are old thinking.
  • Our new courses are not popular because you don’t support them enough!
  • Any critique of these courses is just reactionary old thinking.
  • Research must take a higher profile. Students should question the meaning of everything and not take it for granted.
  • But not question the meaning of ‘research’.
  • We want you to hold a vision for where the degree is going.
  • We disagree with your vision, here is a better one.
  • Be engaged in creative practice. Come to the meetings. Write more papers. Develop new coursework. Take part in this teaching and learning project. Deliver these lectures. Settle these disputes. Listen to complaints…

robocop2+Orion+joke+2

In some ways it’s easier when you are a casual. You are there to do a job well, and you know what doing it well means. Although casuals are the foot soldiers, fodder for the machine gun. Above that you eventually arrive at a limbo where you have a title and a responsibility and not really enough power to make it work. The days are exhausting not because you are pushing a shovel into the ground, but wading through a quicksand of conflicting ideas in which your own opinions need to be kept guarded. Meh.

Personally I think everyone involved is right, so long as you gauge their point in the framework from which is it put forward. That is, yes research is important, and yes we need more skills, and yes old artforms have to give way, yes new ideas must be tried out (so long as they really are new, and I know most are not). The effort of trying to translate all these frameworks is just miserable. The most difficult part of it is how one side will demand concessions from the other which they themselves do not feel the need to meet.

At least for the next few days I can just enjoy my old-thinking research inactive music making. Good for the soul.