Everything Happens on the Same Day

I don't know what it is about certain days of the year but they seem to attract events. Whole weeks can go by with no committments and nothing to do. Then, suddenly there's an exhibition opening, a book launch, an international guest speaker, your favourite overseas band in a secret gig and your best friend back home for one night only.

Next week there are two events tearing me asunder. They both start at 6:30 (I think). The Sleepers Almanac launch is always a fun affair. It's an opportunity to catch up with some great local writers, see my friend Lulu (who I really don't get to see all that often and that's a shame because she's one of the special ones) and bitch with my friends about how the people who so often think so much of themselves are really just talentless arseholes.* It's a fun night and I don't want to miss it.

Then, about a 15 minute walk away, there's the one and only** Molly Holzschlag appearing in Q&A form thanks to the Web Standards Group. Molly's books and writings were a really important part of me learning my new-ish skills as a web developer. The things she wrote about CSS changed the way I thought about how websites can be built. This is an industry where geeks like me have heroes like her (and David Shea, Cameron Adams, Eric Meyer and all the people responsible for A List Apart) because they know what's going on and can explain it in ways that we can try to use to explain it to our bosses and try to actually create good products that we can all be proud of.***

So what do I do? A very rare chance to have an audience with a champion of my industry or an annual social event to keep my foot in my non-day-job camp?

I'm torn like Natalie Imbruglia (but probably less pretty).

* This, in turn, makes us think quite a lot of ourselves, giving other people exactly the same opportunity to think those things about us. They are, of course, wrong.

** There may be more than one but "the one of possibly several others" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

*** This rarely works the way I would like it to but every now and then I get to be proud and it's because of these people.

A Better Kind of Normal

Tomorrow we go back to recording Boxutters. There seems like so much television to talk about.

We've only been away for about 3 weeks but it seems like so much more.

I was thinking about all the things I need to do to prepare for it. There's lots of TV to watch, for starters. I still haven't caught up on the second season of Friday Night Lights and already there are new shows starting that need my attention.

Last night I was trying to explain to somebody how watching television and seeing movies for me is work. They thought that meant that I can't enjoy it. I can, I said, but it's just not relaxing. I don't watch TV to relax.

This was something of a shock. It was like I said "when I murder people for money I feel no remorse". It was just unfathomable to this other person.

Then fear set in: if I don't really watch television to relax, what does relax me? Now I'm all nervous because I think that maybe I don't know how to relax. What do people do when they relax? When do they have the time? I always seem to have something to do, some agenda, some task.

Relaxation? Nobody ever did anything good through relaxation.


Now I'm going to watch some TV and concentrate on it, dammit.

Hello Mr Space Monster, I’m Frankenstein

The other night Nightangel came over with a selection of new films just arrived from the US. His selection is always magnificent and it's often so hard to choose between what looks like a terrible spaghetti western, a terrible Deer Hunter/Apocalypse Now rip-off or a Jess Franco film.

Sometimes the films are surprisingly good. Alone in the Dark, for example, had some great moments in it, but we didn't hold that against it.

This particular night, armed with his fresh batch, Nightangel presented us with a very difficult choice. Four films with three of them requiring immediate viewing. We ended up watching the supremely magnificent Frankenstein meets the Space Monster.

As if the title on its own wasn't enough to suggest this film is one of the most bankrupt concepts turned productions, the proof is really in the watching. Coming in at 77 minutes, there must have been at least 30 mintues of stock footage: NASA rockets launching; NASA rockets exploding; Army soldiers entering helicopters; Army helicopters taking off; Airforce jets flying over rural areas.

The real genius in Frankenstein meets the Space Monster comes in the form of it's outrageously eclectic soundtrack. Music is not used to add emotion to any particular scene, rather it seems to exist purely as a chance to avoid having to record actors talking. There were entire scenes in which actors went through a conversation which was never heard because the latest song by The Distant Cousins or The Poets (no, I've never heard of them either) was playing instead.

They just don't make shit, morally bankrupt films like that anymore. Nowadays if they make a bad film, it's just a bad film with a big budget that takes itself too seriously. I don't think anyone on the set of Frankenstein meets the Space Monster had any illusions about what sort of film they're making and that just makes it all the more fun.

Why Have I Been So Lazy?

So I resolved last weekend to try to do some exercise every day. Originally the plan was to go to the gym first thing in the morning but, quite frankly, that sucks as an idea.

I still like the gym and it serves a purpose. Monday morning I was there at 6:15 having also been on Saturday and Sunday. Three in a row was good but yesterday morning I just couldn't be arsed. Who could? It's no way to live your life, getting exercise only on a machine and going nowhere.

So instead I decided to walk to work. It's only 40 minutes and it was a beautiful 17 degrees. I did it and it felt good.

There's this park on my way to work that is a huge dog park in the morning. Lots of dogs smiling with balls in their mouths and loving it. It's fun to watch.

At night the park turns into a beat. Lots of dogs smiling with balls in their mouths and loving it -- or so is my understanding.

Anyway, I also walked home yesterday. And then I walked to work today. I'm like a walking machine now. It feels good to do it and it's nowhere near as depressing as catching the bus.

So what else have I been missing out on because I was too lazy? Probably a lot. In fact, I know it's a lot. I have a list in my head that repeats itself and I beat myself up over it and make myself feel bad which makes me not want to do anything and thus the circle is unbroken.

Well, no more, I say.

I AM THE KING OF FRESH STARTS! (I've tried to do this before but failed due to laziness.)

Do Clients Want the Truth?

Recent events have led me to think of the relationship between a service provider and a client. In a workplace recently I heard someone refer to a project plan for a particular client and say: "We have to stick to that project plan too, by the way."

It sounded like they were making an exception for this project plan by sticking to it rather than reminding the staff that project plans are there as a rule of carrying out a project.

I've worked in businesses where people bust a gut to get projects delivered to clients on time. In those places the management provided appropriate remuneration for staff who worked long hours to meet the demands of the clients. Management also, understanding the workload of the staff, gave the clients realistic timelines of when the work could be completed. If all the staff did their job properly the project could actually be completed on time with no or minimal overtime. If something went wrong along the way and long hours did need to be put in, management would rather take it on the chin financially (providing overtime pay for support staff and dinner for other staff) than disappoint the client.

Also I've worked at businesses that promised the clients more than the business could handle. There were no long hours spent working on completing a project. When time came to deliver all that would be handed over to the client was proof of progress. The theory there being that the client should be satisfied knowning that work is going ahead.

The client might not be fooled but is financially and temporally committed. The provider thinks they have dodged a bullet but what sort of reputation are they building?

I've heard managers say that they lied to a client specifically because if they told the truth the client would not have been happy. My instant reaction is that the manager is fooling themselves more than they are the client but, รก la Carrie Bradshaw, it got me wondering: Do clients actually want to hear the truth?

If a client is told a lie and they can pass that lie on up through the chain, does that take the pressure off them? When the shit hits the fan and comes back the other way, is it easier for every person along the line to say "oh, well that's the information I was given," and pass the buck?

It seems to me there should be a responsibility in business to be honest about the delivery of services and the expectations that entails. Lying is such a short-term solution, financially. It doesn't encourage repeat business or recommendations.

But maybe I'm being too idealistic. Maybe that's not actually the way the world works. It is all too possible that the business world relies on these small time-frame based lies. Maybe honesty will cause some upheaval to the economy that I really don't understand because I don't have an MBA.

All I really know is that the job I enjoyed most was the one where management didn't feed clients or staff bullshit about expectations. I and the other staff respected those bosses and they were respected by the clients. We all worked together to bring a project in on time, we worked better as a team and we didn't resent being at work.

Perhaps that attitude will result in me branded as a communist.

A weekend of photography

Ah, what a fine weekend of arts I've had. Well, I say arts but really it was just art. One art. Photography.
Peter Milne's brief Shining Moment is a stunning display of his recent political work and exposes him for the absolute genius he is. Of course we all thought he was good when he was shooting Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds across Europe or documenting the comedians and punters during Comedy Festival but Brief Shining Moment really slaps us in the face and makes us realise just how far he has come and how far he's willing to push us.
The show was a collection of his thesis works, taking a starting point of Australian politics in the 70s and following it through to how it has shaped us today. He doesn't just capture moments but tells entire stories of power, corruption and downfall. Get yourself to 69 Smith Street in Collingwood before its gone.

I also got myself to the opening of the Frédéric Brenner exhibit at the Jewish Museum. Brenner's subject matter is interesting -- an almost 30 year exploration of Jews in the Diaspora. His photography, on the other hand is more medium than art and more expository than journalistic. Still, it exists primarily as exploration of a subject and in that it is fascinating. Of particular fascination to me were the photos of Morano Jews in Portugal performing their still secret rituals all these centuries after the inquisition has ended.

Problems at Greasy Joe’s

Greasy Joe's is a major part of my St Kilda lifestyle. While others may breakfast at any number of the cafés, bars and restaurants that launch and fail over the years, GJ's maintained a simplicity and consistency that appealed to my "get what I want every time" sensibilities of eating out.

In the last 17 years the staff turned over almost fortnightly (initiating the fun game of "What Sort of Accented Backpacker Waiting Staff Will I Be Greeted With This Week?") but the food stayed the same. That is until about 6 weeks ago.

Greasy Joe's has done away with their large-sliced white bread in favour of the more cosmopolitan and pretentious Turkish Pide. While I'm sure this new development brings almost no complaints from the tourists* the simple fact is that Turkish Pide will not soak up the yolk as it spills from my sunny fried egg. When trying to mop up excess yolk it just moves the yellow tasty goodness frustratingly around the plate.

The plates have changed as well. Gone are the simple, round and lipped plates of yore. Now my breakfast comes on a rectangular, curved and lipless plate that barely fits my two eggs and three sausages.

This morning, after recently being told that I could order sourdough instead of the Turkish Pide, I did just that. Turkish Pide arrived and I was told that they had no sourdough. Apparently this was known to the staff who failed to inform me at the time I ordered.

This may sound like whinging. In fact, it is whinging but honestly, if I wanted change I would have started going elsewhere.

Greasy Joe's once had wonderful old-skool charm. Now it's just a try-hard, keeping up with the Joneses tourist trap.

*people who do not live in St Kilda

What could it be?

It's wednesday night at 7.00 and people are lining up to get into Billboard. What the hell could they be waiting for?
Fashions vary from goth to prep to suburban shopping centre. I can see no pattern but I can't be bothered crossing the road to ask.