Turn depression into anger.



I spent most of today working on 1985. It felt stupid, because it is totally stupid – whatever achievements took place today were all derivative. Yeah sure I have a lot of vinyl reissues that need fixing up and mastering and packaging and then once they come out a whole bunch of people will say how happy they are that they can have something that has already popped out the other side of any risk. Have some money!

Of course that’s normal. Most successful artists do the same thing over and over again. Replicate the first work that got them notice. The same installation idea they had 20 years ago dragging its arse from gallery to gallery. How the hell do they ever reconcile this with their creative spirit? I’m not waving my finger here, I’m asking O great artists, tell me how you avoid feeling that dead, useless, depressing choke of stale air and limp will?

Money! And Applause! and invitations to the Red Queen’s ball! All the shit you don’t get when you’re trying to make real progress. I managed to play it right when getting the HH game up at Adelaide. Play old music, get new game. That was like burning wet leaves but hey, it was a solid attempt.


(There are journalists at the virtual door! They want to talk about 1985. Do I still have my 1985 studio set up? Maybe I could dig up some dead band members to join in the chat?)


L-R: Deering, Knuckey, Racic, Jones, Bradbury, Ellard.

At my work we’re getting all fussed up about creative coding and giant dome shaped TVs – on one side that’s all just Pyramids for Pharaohs, but on the other side there’s still a lot to do in that realm to make an audience cry or smile. Not that I would ever be allowed to besmirch any of that tasty kit – unless of course it was something I did in 1985.

Got to clear my head. Get all this memento mori out the door and then get back to something risky. As far as the world is concerned that’ll be a return to failure but it is a sure thing that when no one cares you are forced to care enough for the whole world.

It’s in the game realm. That’s where the action is. I don’t know how and I don’t know where exactly, but that’s where the transgressions take place.

Five reasons why I’m not an ‘artist’.

1. When I worked in advertising I was surprised to meet people who didn’t do anything. They are called ‘art directors’. People like myself that perform the actual tasks are called ‘operators’ and there is a strong class distinction which leads ‘art directors’ to cross their arms while speaking near any object that they may accidentally use*. I was employed to move text on a page for an irate person standing a few feet away from the means to do it. Apparently their pureness of thought would be sullied by contact with a mechanism.

It was shameful to then work at a university where I would speak as an ‘academic’ and have a ‘support’ staff member come in and touch the equipment I was speaking about. This partly comes from film production, where the auteur tells a camera operator what to do. The day that Alex Davies was sent in to touch the equipment for me I called bullshit on the whole idea. I touched the equipment. I will not accept this division between worker and foreman.

I can use a video camera, I have practised its handling over many hours and learned the muscle skill of it. I position the tripod, sand bag it, frame the shot. I set the shutter and the aperture. I raise lights and aim them. I replace bulbs. I write code, slowly and poorly and am even worse at soldering – but I do it. I make digital composites in Photoshop and After Effects. I build games and animate 3D objects. I replace daughter boards. I justify text on an A4 spread. I cut vinyl, print, sew.

When I taught ‘digital media’ I assured my students that they would some day not have to put up with ‘art directors’. I’ve since lost that hope. The gatekeepers have been torn down but artium magister now stands ready to keep the techniplebs under foot.

This post was prompted by something I read about field recording. Yes, I hold a microphone. I choose the appropriate kind; shot gun, crossed pairs. I set the levels on the recorder. I set edit points. I cut tape. I adjust clip amplitudes. I apply filters and set fades at the edges. Does someone have a problem with any of this? Because I don’t care. I have a problem with people who rely on ‘operators’ and ‘assistants’, who are ‘ideas people’, who ‘direct’ others, who evidence a distaste for production, who have tried to turn their ignorance into some kind of superiority. Like eating in restaurants somehow makes them a chef.

2. The first time I made an ‘artist talk’ at a significant event was a Sydney Biennale. Up on stage was a gaggle of ‘media artists’, who like me had a sculptural sound or video work currently on display. When asked to explain the work I said that if I had to use words, it had failed to do its job, and that the audience should go and see it if they needed. That was the first time I encountered a deeply angry ‘artist’ who spent the rest of the panel punishing me for sacrilege. It’s not been the last, but these days I laugh at them.

In every definition of art I’ve read it comes down to context. The ‘artist’ creates a work ‘in a studio context’, which then goes into the marketplace ‘in a gallery context’ for an audience who engage with the work ‘in an arts context’. This explains how somebody’s dirty old bed and their trash gets shown in the Tate Gallery; it’s in context. This is a fantastic sleight of hand which suggests there’s a hidden aspect to everything that is visible which evades scrutiny. A kind of dark matter holding art together.

Even if you don’t want to go down that rabbit hole, just see that an exchange between two parties takes place. There is communication. When I communicate I think it best to use the appropriate means to do so, which shouldn’t then require subtitles. I insist that the thing itself is what matters, and I deny the idea that there’s a separate rather mystical layer to the whole business – a mysticism that often gets turned into International Art English. I have great respect for writing and words. But I don’t think that they are always necessary.


3. Opening night comes and everybody does their entrances and dances like an 19th century costume ball, followed by days of empty rooms and bored gallery staff. It’s such an ineffective means of connecting with a wider audience that the sham is obvious – the audience is the least important aspect of it. It’s about the congregation, their bonds and alignments. Every career involves some politics; being ‘an artist’ is no exception and requires constant stroking of the powerful and important. All of which distracts from the work (and probably why so many artists employ operators).

Recently I was speaking about visual music at a gallery. Halfway through the talk there was a flurry of suits and the audience fluttered around in an agony of politeness. The incoming federal arts minister was making an inspection and much bowing and scraping was in order. I didn’t care, did not pause or give the suit man an inch. It was my talk, and fuck the politics.

Worse in my eyes is that real friendships are masked by the arranged ones. I’ve met some good people who are also ‘significant artists’ and so we could only communicate via approved dance steps of interviews, panels, audiences. As I get older I forget to follow protocol and do things like punch ‘significant artist’ arms – it seems to shock but I think the actual person is grateful for being reminded that human contact is still possible.

4. I’ve said it too many times: the ideal of an artistic career is inertia. Innovate for a while. Find a practice, a style, a scheme that earns attention. Repeat it endlessly, never daring to step outside your persona because the system will need to bind you to an iconic representation of yourself. Do you reproduce famous paintings as slow motion videos? Or use a skateboard as your macguffin? Better stick to that. Keep on making action painting, or ‘industrial’ tape cut up until you die – which is your prime function, sealing off the quantity of your saleable work.

Artists that constrain themselves are recognised more quickly, they are funded, they are more acceptable to publications because they are easier to digest. They are the cheddar cheese of creativity, and when I am I told that ‘all the best work is happening over here’, I know the place to look is anywhere but there. Innovation is part of a continuing vitality, and confusedly being alive is more important than being neatly dead. We should never ever pre-organise ourselves into categories that fit nicely in museums, journals and repositories. That’s like pinning yourself into a display case.

5. The quality of much ‘celebrated art’ is debatable and fails to inspire any true love or respect. Given that the audience is not required, the thing itself needs endless explanation, the auteur has no skills and innovation is abandoned as soon as it gets in the way it’s amazing that there is any good work at all. It’s made by people that don’t buy into all this bullshit. That’s what I want to be.

What will we call ourselves? The Kraftwerk guys were onto something when they called themselves ‘music workers’. But I have another idea. In advertising the term ‘creative’ is a mixed signal, it seems to be a positive, but can be a polite substitute for ‘operator’. I’ve often heard somebody say, ‘we’ll get our creatives onto that’. It means ‘all slaves to the oars’. If so, perhaps we can claim ‘creative’ or ‘operator’ back. It can be our own swearword.

* ‘Class’ seems a heavy handed term until we recall that some societies such as ancient Greece and pre WW1 England defined the upper class by their inactivity.

It is the ruin of all that is good and fair in this world.

Not [H.H]. That’s not causing anyone any trouble, except me.

But the VERY IDEA that you shoot a film at 48 frames per second! Peter Jackson shoots a film at double speed, film critics outdo themselves in hysterical stupid.

After a while my eyes adjusted, as to a new pair of glasses, but it was still like watching a very expensively mounted live TV show on the world’s largest home TV screen.

Says it all really. Making a film twice as clear turns it into … television.

The unintended side effect is that the extra visual detail gives the entire film a sickly sheen of fakeness… I was reminded of the BBC’s 1988 production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and not in a good way.

Television!! How lower class!!

For people shots and pans, the smoother motion of 50 fps looks more like … newer TVs to us, although we find it to be less noticeable on action shots.

… but when actors, costumes and sets appeared the clarity made every pore and flaw visible, breaking the spell of the film


OMG Television!!! Even worse it’s like one of those horrible Computer Games that young people seem to like!

It’s not … FILMIC!


One day I hope to take ‘filmic’ and bury it alive under a slab of concrete, along with its addiction to blur as the answer every problem. Blur is the Valium of ‘film’, the scratchy grain, the losses of optical printing, the blur of shallow focus, the juddering pans that 24fps has offered for the last 100 or so years. All of this keeps the image soft, and politely out of our personal space.

Of course when you run out of Valium or Heroin or whatever your fancy, the world is harsh and bright and terribly in focus. Horrible nasty real world, not abstracted by analogue media – the rumble of the turntable, the hiss of tape – ready to provide a meta level where the story can be kept at a distance.

In 2012 there are still people who want to keep it blurry and grainy so that they aren’t confronted by pores and hairs and all that nasty reality. The Dogme movement was one attempt at blowing that out of the water – too rough and ready and Jackson is better equipped to strip off the bunny rug.

Of course this is also political. Never mind that television has been for quite some time the equal and in some cases the better of the cinema. That video cameras have been used for ‘film’ for about a decade. ‘Film’ is pulling rank, which is all it has left really. The smart directors like Jackson are crossing boundaries and forging a hybrid where the size of screen will no longer be compartmentalised.

The Future of the Future

Time’s Harry McCracken does a worthy compilation of Futuristic prediction videos. He goes beyond the usual tittering by including both Future Past and Future Current and calling out the overall pointlessness of the exercise. As he says, imagining is not imagineering in the Disney sense and these dreams are rhetorical to the progress of engineering as a whole. The admen aren’t really aware of  the back end; they’re just another noisy user group. With a budget.

Oddly he includes the British Post Office in ‘Corporate America’. I smell a subeditor.

He’s shy to analyse the latest videos in the collection – the dreams of the late 2000’s are ‘too soon to predict’. Hell, I’ll predict them – that’s my job. I’m mainly looking at Microsoft’s 2009 opus Productivity Future Vision:

PIPES: all these videos are obsessed with pipes (or what Brazil called ducts). Whether it’s railroads, highways or datastreams, the visionaries can’t get over moving stuff from place to place, which is just a sublimation of their childish vroom vroom. This goes with centrally controlled data, the cloud and all that push to have everything locked up in a safe to which you can hire access. Local storage is smelly right now. It’ll take a few oops events to change that view back to having a library at home. Like your own garden (which is currently fashionable).

CLEANLINESS AND ORDER: Even the goddamn coffee cup has an allocated space on the virtual office desk of the future. Walls are clean of fingerprints. All the children have clean hand inspection every 30 minutes and jam sandwiches are verboten. No chair has a coat thrown over it. Every future office looks like an ad agency (e.g. Google circa 2009). The future is always off-white with tasteful splashes of colour – a world that looks like a magazine layout.

Everywhere I have worked has been a chaos of shit everywhere and where the hell is my pen. I am a mess and yet I am in the main efficient. My data is all over the place despite every attempt to corral it, and heaven help any algorithm that thinks it’s going to ‘smart folder’ anything.

Part of ‘the future’ is hiding unpleasant things. Amazon delivers neat clean little packages to your door so you don’t have to see the wait staff or have any sympathy for their situation. An interface is a way to hide unwanted information. Like other people’s bodies.

WEALTH: Good for those Indian kids in the video, the ones teaching American children how to write funny. They are obviously not the 58% under 5 years old who are stunted by malnutrition. Here’s a nice infographic that could be really cool to put up on the virtual classroom wall. The wealthy American and Indian kids can discuss it by drawing animated poor people chasing food scraps.

I like the house that the American guy owns, maybe it’ll become unoccupied by foreclosure – it would make a good squat. But really the point is that shovelling graphical information around in circles is not the same as actually making things which is what I thought was ‘productivity’. No one seems to make anything in utopia; they just graph what the Morlocks are doing in some remote part of China and wonder at their increasing irrelevance. Twit all you like, it’s not actually creating a damn thing and you are going down the toilet.

AGE: People are getting older, and they can’t work out the bar at the top of Microsoft Office let alone all the cyberpunk that the ad people are hurling onto every surface. My direct experience with trying to help the aged in using technology was a humbling one, and I expect that humbling to be the dominant feature of the coming years. Only when the people making the ads are themselves arthritic will they stop with all this pinching and flicking and diddling all over bits of glass. The elderly will not be using tablets, and you are going to be elderly.

LOGISTICS: Did you like the bit where the Chinese guy catches a plane and there’s no queue? (I mean there’s no one in the damn airport at all, which is back to the whole paleofuture fetish about hiding other human bodies which are utterly distasteful). There’s no one on the plane? So how the hell does Boeing manage to keep flying when no one is on their damn plane and fuel prices just keep rising and rising? Maybe we could push some graphs around a piece of glass and work that out.

(Oh yeah I should mention the teacher at the beginning flying first class and working out her curriculum on the plane. Can I have that job please? Sure would be sweet to just arrange stuff and make it happen without being on the ground to physically make sure that it’s going right.)

ACTUAL REAL WORLD TESTING: We recently had an upgrade at our main teaching hall. To operate the lights and sound you use an iPad fitted into the lectern. So to turn down the lights you push the button on the pad, swipe to open the application, touch the interface to start it, touch the tab to switch to lights and then touch one of about 5 lighting levels to set the mood. That sure beats turning a knob. I mean if you had a knob that would mean you could instantly set the lighting level to a near infinite number of levels. With the iPad, you get to see the logo of the university each time, and that my friends is the future.

My executive take on this is that to create our optimal future as shown in this genre of video we should immediately tear down anything old and start genocide of the poor, elderly, and children that have dirty hands. You might find that sentence distasteful, but why didn’t you find the video version of it distasteful?

What to do with “Australian Film”?

Have you ever owned a pet that uncontrollably shits everywhere? It’s usually a cat but probably ferrets and turtles are just as bad. You love the little blighter to death but it would be really great if you could somehow CORK IT UP. Meanwhile you get pretty good with paper towels.

This is the Australian Film Industry. Love the poor little furry thing but Jesus will it stop shitting things out?

Recently three more films plopped onto screens around this great nation, slid down onto the floor and were mopped up with very few people even noticing. Much discussion ensues about where the funding went (and I must say that the 7 million bucks pissed away on A Heartbeat Away is a sackable offence) but all of this really misses the point.

Let’s start with two phrases, and see how they resonate with you:

A Good Film.      A Good Australian Film.

Note how the second phrase seems to pull the punch. This is a Good Film, but it’s Australian. Seeing as all you really wanted was the Good, the second descriptor can only be a qualification. The only people that would really care about Australian are Screen Australia, because Screen by itself doesn’t collect much glory.

And, really why does the federal government fund films? Well, we have a grudge. Our first film studio opened in 1897, a division of the Salvation Army. They produced the first long format film / mixed media presentation in 1899 called Soldiers of the Cross. We made the first feature film The Story Of The Kelly Gang in 1906. Australian film production was bigger than that of the UK and the USA up until 1912 when some idiot banned bush ranger (basically cowboy) films and the distributors signed a deal with theatres to import cheap American films.

Australia does two things (a) come up with ideas well before other countries and then (b) totally fuck it up. As you play audio samples on your mobile phone marvel at two things that came out this country – samplers and WiFi. That the CSIRO won back the rights to WiFi is unusual, that Fairlight created a giant white elephant that was quickly nibbled away is typical. (And have you seen the Fairlight CMI app for the iPhone? They want 12 bucks for the DEMO, the full thing is 40 dollars.  GarageBand is 5 bucks. Fairlight will not learn).

The current paradigm came about  when John Gorton become prime minister in 1968. Some facts about Gorton: He went to school with Errol Flynn, who probably used the Inception device on him given later events. In second war he was a fighter pilot, and losing a dogfight landed pretty much face first. It would be two years before he would get hospital treatment which was two years too late – he was the first guinea pig to run a country. He became PM on the machinations that followed the disappearance of Harold Holt who it was said was captured by a Chinese submarine, but I suspect Errol Flynn. Initially slightly to the right of Genghis Khan, he mellowed rapidly and went on a mad spending spree for the arts, starting up AFTRS, the Australia Council, and the Australian Film Development Corporation. He would in 1973 sponsor the law decriminalising homosexuality in this country. Good for him.

(I met John Gorton and his wife. The meeting was photographed by a newspaper. When it was published they had mysteriously replaced myself and wife with some other couple. Again I blame Errol Flynn).

Once the government started to fund films there was a gold rush of what are now called Ozploitation films, which over some time honed into our golden age of pan flutes, little girls in slow motion and Mel Gibson. Australian films were for a while pretty cool, but that was a while back and the people that made it happen have all gone overseas where you can get a reasonable budget. Leaving a large hole that just never seems to heal.

I am the doctor.

First, geography is no longer of any importance when one of the largest nations on earth is FaceBook. Australia is just another suburb within flying distance of the main shopping mall, hardly exotic. Nationhood is quaint. Every time somebody starts a project dependent on nation, they are polluting art with politics. The word ‘Australian’ should no longer appear before ‘film’.

Secondly, somebody should go around to AFTRS with a broom and sweep out the 1970’s. AFTRS is a training ground for cavalry officers – who ride off gallantly on their shining white horses straight into machine gun fire like the French at the start of world war one – but played on an endless loop. Film school is a kind of military training that has not adapted to guerilla warfare. The guerillas are winning.

Thirdly, ‘film’ itself is a questionable means of story telling bolstered by a wall of spurious and pretentious pseudo-science. That somebody somewhere is still lecturing about the filmic ideas of Lacan is as horrifying as the call to enforce creationism in science classes. ‘Film’ is a vain attempt to insulate against the hordes that happily make their own moving pictures and upload them to the web – 35 hours a minute. ‘Film’ despises the hordes at the same time pretending to entertain them. The neuroticism of this relationship is all on the side of film makers, the hordes don’t give a fuck.

Fourthly, if you only have enough ideas for a short and only enough money for a short then make a short. That goes for a whole nation as much as an individual. Look how our animated short films are world class. Do that.

‘Film’ started with the cinematograph. It was ended by the DV camera.

As always you make me laugh out loud Uncle Tom. And laughter leads to thinking and thinking leads to commenting…

Alas, I am dismayed at the post i want to comment on has its comment fields disabled..? Thus Im am commenting here as a by proxy way of commenting  on the previous post entitled “What to do with an Australian Film” (hopeful that you may paste it over to its correctly associated post)
I too am frustrated with Australian Film and indeed my frustration is on many levels;
– the word FILM itself
– The idea that feature films are top of an arbitrary hierarchy
– that in the age of netflicks we should even think box office numbers relevant.
– that Australia is still obsessed with ‘quirky Aussiness and ‘telling our stories’
– that we insist on making $10 million films when the best you can hope for at the Aussie feature in Australian is 2million (and that assumes its done well)
BUT… where I have to call you a point is your assertions about AFTRS.
You say “somebody should go around to AFTRS with a broom and sweep out the 1970′s.” You’re not the first to say it and indeed when i was at the national screenwriters conference back in feb I coped a public whacking from playwright David Williamson who seemed to think AFTRS and its focus on Auteur Directors was the primary problem with Australian Screenplays being so bad. (if nothing else I think DW greatly over estimates the influence of AFTRS) But… my main response is to suggest that the broom has indeed already gone through and the AFTRS you refer to is, in fact, no more.
Now, of course I do work at AFTRS and my federally funded welfare payments to do so, ensure that i must defend the place. But I think I can respond with some evidence not conjecture that the old auteur feature film centric cavalry-charging artiste is not the dominant paradigm at AFTRS any more (and hasn’t been for a good number of years) That old the paradigm and perspective has shifted seismically. Of course, the results of this change we shan’t see until our graduates stat making good stuff over the next 5-10 years but such is the nature of educational institutions.
The perception that AFTRS is Auteur Art centric and introspectively self absorbed doesn’t hold up when you look at the kinds of courses we teach and how they’re taught. I don’t want to espouse an essay so I’ll go in dot points.
– the first two weeks for all Grad Dip students are spent studying Genre cinema and working collaboratively on no-budget, fast turn around, all digital sketches in genres of scifi, horror, rom-com, magic-realism, mockumentary and so on. This sets a collaborative and audience-focused tone to the entire course for all students.
– The Foundation diploma is an all digital laptop and video camera 1yr program where the core modules include virtual worlds, website development, 360 transmedia storytelling and game design along side classical storytelling, screenwriting, doco and short filming.
– AFTRS has numerous courses in numerous states specifically on animation, 2d and 3d, compositing and Animation Directing which are enormously successful.
– There are barely any projects made at AFTRS on film anymore. I think only 2 last year across the whole school and all courses. DSLRs, RED, Sony VG10’s, Alexa and so on are the mainstay. Its very much a digital school with a very forward-thinking future focused head of cinematography in Kim Bannerham.
– The Screenwriting department has been completely reinvented with an entirely new curriculum under the guidance of Ross Grayson Bell (the creative producer of Fight Club) and a mix of Australian and International teachers who’ve worked across film, Tv and online media. We have current students in this program for example working in placements with Australian cable TV drams producing parallel web-series projects.
– This year saw a brand new graduate course that i co-designed and am teaching which is specifically dedicated to Online Episodic Series development. Every student is handed a laptop, a Sony VG10 HD video camera and a backpack to put them in. The course focuses a long-form process of developing an episodic drama or reality series to be delivered online and exploiting the delivery and audience engagement opportunities the web offers. The students continually shoot, sketch, draft, upload and shoot again – very much a guerilla approach to fleshing ideas and addressing that major missing element of so much australian screens production – proper development time. The course is also designed to circumvent the short comings of short-films as both industry calling card and learning vehicle and focus on making audience-focused stories with broader appeal and Bigger ideas.
These are just a few of the forward-thinking programs AFTRS offers and we havnt even got to the research projects we’re undertaking and publications we’re producing all focused on ensuring we are thinking hard about the future and not self-absorbed about the past.
The real challenge for AFTRS is communicating to the wider world that the 70s have long been swept away, and prompt everyone to see that AFTRS, as the national screen arts and broadcast school, is very much alive and vibrant and relevant in the digital age.
Your criticisms of the problems with ‘Australian Film’ are more than valid – tragically so – but your perspective on AFTRS as an ongoing part of that problem is sorely outdated my friend.

Audio Mouth Breathers

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a new breed of idiot to celebrate.

Recently I become annoyed at people on You Tube that had my music up as soundtracks to a still image. There’s plenty of reasons to despise this:

* If they had made a video to go with the music, they would have added some small thing to the store of art. They didn’t and haven’t.

* They often see themselves as providing something that otherwise would not be heard. 10 seconds with Google would have told them otherwise. Their self promotion allows no such deviation.

* They often describe themselves as some sort of collector. A collector, the way that somebody picks up my garbage. Again they have not actually researched anything, have no idea of what it means and have no inkling that the year 1990 passed some time ago. It’s 2011. You are old and fat and so are The Bangles.

* Like all good Fascists they pretend to speak ‘on my behalf’. Particularly distressing are those academics that promote their redistribution of other people’s work as ‘a gift economy’ – the same that would condemn anyone that spoke on behalf of another person with less power – but then academia and hypocrisy are siblings.


I could go on. But let’s get to the meat.

I was told by one that he was a connoisseur of vinyl and that he wanted people to hear what the music sounded like on that format. Now, the idea that by streaming audio over the incredibly low bandwidth of YouTube Flash format you were demonstrating the quality of analogue audio is so UTTERLY FUCKING STUPID that I regret my membership of the human race.

Perhaps it’s not clear – let me put it this way – if you said that an original oil painting was better than a print and you prove this by providing a black and white photocopy of the painting then you are as thick as two short planks. No one would for a moment believe a word you said. And yet somehow there are people out there who are commenting on the superior sound they are streaming down from YouTube.

One particular serial retard based an entire critique of my later music on what they had downloaded from YouTube. Well yes, everything I have done recently has a bandwidth of 12KHz. You’re so perceptive.

It’s worth repeating (how many more times?) that everything we recorded since 1985 was recorded digitally. The record labels would make a tape from that and press vinyl and leave me to cry at just how BAD these unnecessary modifications have made the sound. Then when some oaf tells me that the vinyl sounds superior it broadcasts their ignorance. Let alone over YouTube. Ye Gods!


I have the original recordings. Telling me what it is supposed to sound like makes you a fool. Get it?

Now I am getting some people who complain about how loud CDs can be. It’s on the level of ‘Why is this loud-over-the-top-noise-music loud-and-over-the-top? Why are you making this thumping sound like thumping and this screeching sound like screeching? This is not how it sounds on the vinyl I bought 25 years ago!’ Well no shit Sherlock. When you cut vinyl you have to turn it down. You have remove bass. You have to compress the stereo image. You have to run it through limiters. You end up with something which is called ‘warm’, like a pie that’s been too long on a heating tray. Vinyl sucks and the really loud and crunchy CDs are free of these compromises that I have hated.

Bottom line – if you want to live in the past go ahead. But to try drag it all back to your youth is desperate. Let the rest of us go on ahead, we don’t need you.


And here it comes … the hate mail!

A depressing number of people of course didn’t actually read what I said and started another chorus of that tired old song about analogue, unicorns and rainbows. Good for you.

One guy decided that I was in no position to call the Bangles (and presumably him) fat. Actually that’s the point dear chap, I’m not the one injecting sonic Botox. The sweet bird of youth is dead on the bottom of the cage, so let’s all be grown ups now. Look in the mirror. I’m near 50 years old, it’s 2011, and 1982 may as well be 1882 for what it matters any more.

I particularly liked an impassioned plea that I respect ‘fans’. You have to ask what a ‘fan’ means? Let’s see:- no idea about what’s been happening for the last 20 years, never buys anything, steals my shit, never contacts me. Oh yeah, right that’s a FAN. With fans like that who needs indifference? Or maybe it’s a case of be kind to these people because they are particular delicate flower who ‘mean well’?

I have a community of people who I DO respect, and they in turn respect me and this is far healthier than the notion of a ‘fan’ – a kind of hostile dependency that should have been taken out back and shot a few decades ago.

The rant is valid, the rant calls out bullshit. I will denounce things that suck.

Try remember how to individuate.

For some time there have been things that have pissed me off, yet in denouncing these things I have often failed to translate my personal distrust into a coherent, communicable reason for such curmudgeonly thinking. Although you wouldn’t know it, I’ve been held back by the worry that I’m quite possibly just an old git and no better than the infinite number of stupid people online (there I did it again).

Tonight something twigged. It’s a wonderful moment, possibly like for a UFO believer if a flying saucer were to land in front of the UN building. Bear with me while I flick through some old ideas again – I hope to offer a shareable joy.

Google has released a little application builder for their Android mobile phones. It’s more BASIC than C++ and the ‘professionals’ are already deriding it as the source of more fart pianos. But, I thought to myself, at least people can make their own fart pianos, which is more than I can do on my iPhone. At which point the whole thing that pisses me off went klunk.

You see, I’ve been hanging around the community for GameSalad, which is a game authoring tool for the iPhone. This was the tool my students used in my Intro To Game Design class. The GS community has become a tedious place where all the talk is about how to get on the App Store, how to make money on the App Store, who is selling the most on the App Store blah blah blah – as if it’s a musicians’ forum where everybody talks about stocking shelves all day. The conversation has been defined from above by the way the entire iPhone ecosystem is set up.

(Stop press – latest addition to GameSalad – in-game advertising. OH right, of course – no arrays, no string parsing – let’s have ADVERTS first. Because it’s not about game design it’s about money. Not teaching this tool next year – their capitulation to Jobsism is complete.)

Instead the Google application builder lets the phone owner slap together something only they might want and without it having to be stocked. It’s a Do It Yourself process – something that has been missing for some time – something which was once a given feature of computing.

Not just the BASIC language of old computers but more recent tools like Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard on the 80’s Mac, or 90’s AmigaVision. These tools served one user as well as they served many. They were part of the personal computer revolution – a revolution that is now being dissolved in “clouds” and “spaces” – the smiley face return of mainframes. A centralised marketplace has (by constant reinforcement) become axiomatic in computing and that is what the rabid social science people call ‘a violence’. I kind of like that. ‘A violence’.

Aligned words from Dale Dogherty on the iPad:

… I am just pointing out the lack of really good tools available for amateurs and professionals to use to create new kinds of applications for the iPad. HyperCard was not only used by The Voyager Company; it was used by teachers to create coursework; or students to prepare a report; it was used by individuals to develop novelty applications like recipe databases…

… If the iPad is just another consumer platform for consuming and not creating content, then it will just be another way to watch TV …

Which is exactly what it is supposed to be.

Following the Android page leads to MIT’s Scratch project which I’d looked at before and decided wasn’t suitable for teaching game design. But another look, particularly reading this article (warning PDF) has led to clarity. As the MIT crew explain they are trying to inspire creative programming of the sort that’s been missing since the old home computer days, empowering people and reversing a tendency to passive social networking (“I have X friends, I have X cows”). Justifiably proud of their achievements they may have neglected some other people working on the same problem – e.g. Microsoft’s SmallBASIC which leads up to Visual Studio Express or HyperNext which is a free HyperCard replacement. And GameMaker which has just hit the Macintosh.

All of these initiatives are politically important. You can see what happens when in the case of GameSalad the whole dialogue becomes one of seeking approval from a gatekeeper. It’s like the old idea of ‘broadcast standards’ that kept control of television with the major networks. Of course the majors broadcast rubbish in the way the App Store stocks fart pianos – the idea of ‘broadcast standards’ is not about the worth of the programming but control of the programming. Or use the example of bands and record labels if that’s your concern. Recent malarkey with the terms of use in the App Store simply yanks the chain to cause anxiety, break dissent and remind the community of where the power lies.

But along with this self policing governmentality comes a smokescreen of limited and directed dialogue – where arguments are merely about brand allegiance and ‘fanbois’ line up to defend the people that exploit them. A more pathetic version of the way the lower middle class can be whipped up to vote for the controlling upper classes by controlled media.

wonderful great amazing

If you have previously bothered to read this blog you will recognise old themes I have tediously covered many time before. The change is that a coherent protest is starting to form – which therefore promotes a coherent response. And given I am responsible for teaching digital media it is my responsibility to go over this again and again trying to form the most helpful and liberating ideas.

Try to remember how to individuate, to rebel. There are infinite ways – that’s the key – there’s not the correct way. The person that uses FaceBook to coordinate their Friday nights with their real friends should lecture me, who looks at FaceBook like a poisonous snake. For my part I begin to understand why I instinctively took on the teaching of game design. The computer has become a projection, a kind of idol with which we’ve become intertwined. As more and more people have adopted a computer as identity (an avatar, a persona, a mediator) there’s been a push to make it an appliance and therefore an aid to what Foucault termed ‘technology of the self’. This constantly connected, linked to a mainframe, rights managed consuming device serves as a very poor role model – to individuate it to run unique, self serving, (even if badly written) applications is healthy for individuating our minds.

I can sum it up: D.I.Y.
Make software for the self and not the marketplace.

In the way that ‘indie’ was a term introduced to dis-empower independence and ‘alternative’ was adopted by the major labels to market rock, the use of ‘my’ and ‘i’ by the new major broadcasters is an obvious signal of the intention to remove the real ‘I’ and ‘My’ from our creative palette. The only way to regain these is to know the difference and exercise it.

To program, and perhaps to programme to entertain ourselves, not mediated by a marketplace, is effective (and fun) dissent.


A far reaching poll of both the publishers and editors of the Sydney Morning Herald has confirmed that which the paper has reported for some time: constant belligerent press coverage of the Labor prime minister has eroded his popularity.

Said one editor, “It’s hard to fathom how this mealy mouthed lying son of a bitch KRudd has lost his shine over the last few months. Just a short while ago he was extremely popular with the public, who were obviously deluded and needed to be re-educated on a daily basis.”

“As a mother of three beautiful girls I can’t wait for the Labor Party to be put in a gas chamber.”

Many of those that opposed the Emission Trading Scheme are disgusted that the bill was defeated twice in parliament. “We were resolutely opposed to this going ahead”, said one lobbyist on condition of anonymity. “So when the government decided to delay it rather than call an election we were appalled at getting exactly what we wanted. It just shows you can’t trust Bolshies”.

Also causing anger was the stimulus cheque sent out to help individuals make ends meet during the recent financial crisis. “I cannot believe the hide of that man, sending money to help us out”, fumed one citizen. “Just because Australia is in a far better position than most other countries in the world doesn’t mean this government is acting responsibly!”

Australia’s position as one of only three OECD countries to avoid recession last year has led to calls to bring back hanging and the stocks.

Much of the angst started with the failure of environment minister Peter Garrett to personally oversee all the subsidized home insulation provided last year. Tragically some houses burned when householders chose completely dodgy installation services. The opposition spokesperson for the environment said that a conservative government would come round to your house and put in the Pink Batts themselves.

Particularly grating to the public is the suggestion that multinational mining companies be taxed for ‘super’ profits during boom periods to help pay medical costs. “Hey, it’s my dream one day to become a multinational mining corporation, and this government is raining on my dream!”, fumed another citizen from the same source as the previous one.

So far the polls show the conservative opposition only slightly more popular than the government. The Sydney Morning Herald predicts that with constant opinion pieces the natural order of things will be restored, as conservative rule was cut ‘dreadfully short’ after only 12 years.


When asked for their views, the publishers at News Ltd. said they were currently “more interested in stringing up that commie nigger in the white house”.

Social Sciences Drankin’ Game

Oh no! Boring social sciences conference coming up!

champagne party guy

You need a flask of hooch. Let’s play!


  • There are more speakers on stage than people in the audience. SIP.
  • Speaker from university executive makes big show of acknowledging indigenous land ownership – but doesn’t suggest giving any land back. SWIG.
  • Guest can’t be here –
    – has an exhibition in Venice. NO POINTS
    – attending a games conference in Barcelona. NO POINTS
    – running a film festival in Shanghai. NO POINTS
    – in prison in Adelaide SKULL!
  • They will instead speak via Skype. SWIG!


  • Person on Skype is overwhelmed by uncontrollable feedback loop through PA. SWIG!
  • Guest has brought a DVD burned by their students that they didn’t test before the conference. Wastes ten minutes trying to play it. NIP.
  • What is this thing called microphone? SIP.
  • Step through their PowerPoint in design mode, every second slide is [Type Text Here]. SIP.
  • DESIGNED IN CALIFORNIA PRIZE: Guest denounces working conditions in China, while presenting on a Mac laptop. NIP.
  • Speaker is expert in every aspect of media production except how to do it. SWIG!
  • Uses scientific terms in vague, almost surreal babble. NIP. Including ‘quantum physics’ = ‘any magical shit’. SWIG!


To win Mad Minutes the speaker has to state the bleeding obvious followed by a spectacular name drop. Examples:

  • ‘Ideas change over time. As Foucault noted…’ NIP!
  • ‘Film can seem like real life. As discerned by Deleuze…’ NIP!
  • ‘People can see things in different ways. Derrida …’ NIP!
  • OLDE SCHOOL BONUS PRIZE ‘Rich people are less numerous than poor people. Marx says…’ SWIG!
  • Bonus 2x ‘Bruno Latour Multiplier’ for attacking ‘hard science’ while unashamedly aping it with ‘disciplines’, ‘research outcomes’ etc. DOUBLE SHOTS REST OF SPEECH.


  • Speaker tediously details their completely indifferent research conducted in some exotic place. ‘So I have Eskimos fold paper into paper air-planes blah blah’. NIP. Double nip if they thank some death ray corporation that paid the air fare.
  • Research exploits ‘youth culture’. NIP. Research involves ‘online social networking’. NIP. Speaker evokes ‘the cloud’. SWIG!
  • Complex analysis of artworks that comes down to racism/sexism. ‘What would be a misspelling of PINEPAPLE by anyone else is an auto-empowerment of this coloured woman’. SIP.
  • Famous, strongly accented foreign presenter speaks for an hour without anyone understanding a single word they say, but nodding furiously to show that they are hip to the message. FINISH THE BOTTLE.


  • Government funded academic denounces governmentality. SPIT AND WAVE BOTTLE.
  • Denounces America in their PowerPoint presentation, wearing blue jeans. SPIT AND THROW BOTTLE.
  • Speaker has body language crossed between Fidel Castro and an angry four year old. NIP. They also wear lots of metal bangles that hit the microphone. SWIG!
  • Social worker haircut. (The proper social worker haircut must look like it was fashionable when the speaker was 20, but has now become an ill formed, over dyed and lopsided memory of the original). SWIG until the haircut looks OK.


  • Inscrutable chart like an underground rail system in Hell makes subject less clear than it already is. NIP.
  • Venn Diagram with completely inane legend. E.g. ‘Twitter’ intersecting with ‘Toilet Training’. NIP.
  • The speaker is shown shaking hands with smiling foreign people. NIP.
  • Speaker is also shown wearing a pith helmet. SKULL!
  • I have no idea what that is, seriously. NIP.
  • Notes are in the original Mandarin. NIP.
  • You’re drunk enough that you can seem to read them. HAVE SOME MORE.


  • Speaker goes over time. NIP. Every speaker goes over time. SWIG for each minute over time.
  • There’s drinks after! Way to go!

*Stop The Presses*

Notorious cybergoth and loss lead marketer Trent Reznor has finally realised that his online fan community is filled with jealous resentful people who are only there to try get a knife into him. (Thanks to Earthrid for this earth shattering news). Everyone here at Ellard (that’s me) is kind of proud and just a little sad that Trent has finally made the mental connection between anonymity, the Internet and death threats. Onya, big boy, always a few years behind but still doing great in the fame game.

But I’m sad that Trent seems puzzled as to what fuels this Iago-esque situation. Why are these hambeasts so MEAN about him getting a little love? Sit on grandad’s knee and I’ll explain.

You should have read the first post on this blog, because it explains what is going on, and that is YOU. You had an online community about YOU. People came to read about YOU. And for all the pretend gee golly gosh, you were trying to charm people into not noticing your arrogance. People are not interested in YOU, they are interested in THEMSELVES and you just happen to be a convenient way to define themselves as ‘fans’. The edifice must not be cracked and they will kill you to make sure of that.


Fan is short for fanatic. Trent, do I have to tell you, this is not a good word? They want blood, and you have to keep providing it or they will make do with yours. Being a fan means you believe in the Wizard of OZ, and beat up that man behind the curtain. Truth is, they have always resented you, they only wanted to wear your skin. You can throw all the free downloads you like at people, it only inspires them to demand more free downloads and then your head on a platter.

But Trent, your post count on your own forum is 42. That’s kind of underwhelming for somebody who is bitching about their interactions with the great unwashed. I must have racked up thousands of posts over the 16 or so years we ran discussion areas and I did my damned best to make the majority of those years kick arse, because I am stupid and do things I love even when no one cool is watching.

If you are for real then I’ve got some advice for you: close down your band. Do something else. It won’t kill you, in fact you might be much happier. Sure, you ‘ll miss being Angry Cyberdude, but its all getting a little smelly now isn’t it.

Watch these films: The King of Comedy (Jerry Lewis plays ‘YOU’) and Stardust Memories by Woody Allen. Between those two, all will become clear. Seriously.

And get ready for the ones that play hardball. Trent, even when you say goodbye there’s a few that won’t give up. I’ve started forwarding messages and phone recordings to the police, hoping to get someone to leave me the hell alone or get a warrant. And I’m nobody. When you walk away, the crazies will be out baying at the moon.

Wonderful wonderful Rupert Pupkin…