Digging in the dirt

Digging in the dirt
Stay with me, I need support
I’m digging in the dirt
To find the places I got hurt
Open up the places I got hurt

It came as a stunning that’s-so-obvious-how-could-I-have-missed-it flash; randomly Googling while listening to Peter Gabriel: This song was his response to doing psychotherapy.

Suddenly it goes from being faintly obscure to being almost sickeningly blunt. Especially so for the self loathing… or at least that’s how I read the verse:

Don’t talk back
Peter Gabriel - CC from http://flickr.com/photos/marklouden/Just drive the car
Shut your mouth
I know what you are

Don’t say nothing
Keep your hands on the wheel
Don’t turn around
This is for real

It rings so true! This is the moment when the insight bites back and you see your worst actions and thoughts highlighted in terms of the kind of motives you most despise. It’s consistent because you despise the things you see in yourself, even if you’re not aware of them. Circular and nasty, and a lot like being trapped in a car with a gunman: This could kill you, and you can’t run away because it’s in your head. It’s you, but it’s a nightmarish, animalistic, vicious stranger.

This whole thing reminds me of one of my great internet wish-list items: a good honest site (i.e. not banner-ad whores or purveyors of unsafe pop-up-riddled crud) which focuses on the analysis of lyrics? The web festers with dodgy/ugly/dangerous servers for music lyrics, all with mixed qualities of transcription, but what about analysis? When Usenet was king, there was a very fine Jethro-Tull newsgroup which tended towards analysing Tull’s exquisitely obscure and suggestive lyrics. Want more! I know the world is positively teeming with people who shine at this kind of thing: fans who know all the secrets and detailed history of their favourite performer. Smarter souls than I have read the words to Looking through a glass onion and seen funny, complex hidden messages amidst the drug-haze. These people deserve their fifteen minutes of fame, and I want to pick their brains! O Web2.0, why hast thou forsaken me?

On a related but completely tangential note, is it just me, or is the entire backing for the end of Secret World ripped off in Oasis’ Fuckin’ in the bushes?

BOFHness Overtime and Crazy People

I seldom seem to write about my actual life on this blog, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending on your feelings about blogs.

Today I am writing about my life in a carefully lateral way, because there are real actual people in my life, some of whom are in charge of my paycheck and some of whom have the potential to be litigious or otherwise prickly.

There have been Retrenchments. I can say that with aplomb, because its in the press already. This has led to a distinct increase in the number of hats I wear at work. This has so far led to 55-hour weeks, not counting overtime. Strangely though, it has also given me a new-found perspective. I am no longer laboring under the delusion that certain kinds of time-management are under my control. The resulting sense of freedom has seen my actual productivity soar, and my general workplace morale begin to climb also.

At the same time (pure coincidence) one of the banes of my existence at work, an entity which gave to me the hardest-working Christmas Day and Boxing Day I have ever known last year, has finally leapt into long-overdue motion. This has yielded an abundance of overtime work. It has also given rise to innumerable phone-calls and meetings with an individual who reminds me uncomfortably of a really horrible former employer. I would really like to character-assassinate this individual in a public place, picking over their foibles in gruesome detail, but I fear my present employer would frown upon such behaviour. Maybe some other time. Suffice to say that some people are just walking explanations for how wars and murder and generalised hatred remain a part of modern life.


This burst of activity has also given me an unusual opportunity to interact with (as far as I can tell) a much younger and more naiive version of myself. At first I found these interactions deeply upsetting: no fault glares so brightly as those which fester in our own past. But yesterday I had a bit of an epiphany about it all: I am the Big Dog here. This unsettling younger self I seem to have found regards me as some kind of spooky old legend, to be learned from and *boggle* emulated!

Once I understood this, everything changed. I suddenly found myself freely talking in acronyms I haven’t used in years. The arduous pain of explaining why I did it that way became a rewarding geeky chat. It came as an astonishing revelation to me that I can just do my job without any need for gratuitous showing off, and to this young critter I will seem like some kind of guru. It feels damn good to suddenly see myself so clearly from the perspective of my somewhat younger self.

I have to admit though, there is a strong temptation to behave like a BOFH. The world-view and attitude of the BOFH had never tempted me before, until suddenly I found myself interacting with a genuine (literal!) PFY. I have this sudden desire to swathe myself in the thoroughly opaque robes of UNIX lore and generally act like a Tolkien wizard! Fortunately, the dictates of Real Work for a Real Employer intervene. Telling someone to go RTFM in the middle of a hectic deadline-stricken project is generally frowned upon by management.


Yeah, and I’m Queen Victoria!

Idle musing, while deleting my daily spam: I wonder how many real actual holiday packages and cars and such won in raffles and contests end up going to the second or third (or more) place getter because the actual winner responded to the news like this:

[Phone rings]

[Winner] Hello, Joe speaking.

[News-giver] Mr Bloggs! I’m from <insert totally random unmemorable fundraising company name here> and I’m calling to tell you that you’ve WON a three week trip for two to Ecuador!

[Winner] <angrily> I’m not interested in buying anything, and this number is on the do-not-call register. Please don’t call again. Goodbye!

[hangs up]

Rudd & the shape of politics

As a long-standing leftie (of some kind or other) I am immensely pleased to see that Australian politics is once again polling firmly in favour of Labor.

(disclaimer: my current preference in terms of Australian politics would run 1.Any promising independent 2.Green, 3.Democrat, 4.Labor, etc. although the Dems are still on very shaky ground IMO. This means that I would support a Labor victory over the Liberals, without necessarily liking present-day Labor very much.)

Rudd worried me a great deal when he first made a bid for leadership in the company of Ms Gillard. Small-minded factional in-fighting, bickering and back-stabbing within the Labor party is almost as much of a worry as it is in the Democrats, so I badly wanted to see Labor shelve their differences and pull together behind Beazley like they so painfully failed to do behind Latham. The sudden appearance of Rudd and Gillard, to my untrained eye, seemed like yet another pointless rift at the time, but I have been pleasantly surprised.

So far, Mr Rudd has been the strongest leader I’ve seen at the Labor helm since Keating, at least in terms of party solidarity and media presence. It is this last point that worries me a little though, prompting this post. As my somewhat random and erratic father put it the other day: something about Rudd yields a taint not unlike religious evangelism. I would put it differently, but I have this same feeling: Rudd is a very smooth operator.

This does not surprise me. Ever since I read Neal Stephenson and Frederick George’s Interface a few years ago, I keep seeing political debates in two completely unconnected ways:

  • The Debate: What issue is actually at stake? Insofar as it’s possible to tell, what are the approaches that each side seems to be committing to? What do I think about this?
  • The Presentation: How good do the contenders in this debate look and sound? How do I expect Joe punter who isn’t really paying attention (or who already has a dogmatic opinion or vested interest in this debate..) to react to this? How are the contenders looking in the polls? How much air-time / how many column-inches / how much sarcasm from local comedians is each side receiving?

The latter, seemingly pointless and trivial, view stems from the outrageously cynical view that is taken in Interface to presidential politics in the USA: the idea is that modern political contests are fought and won through the quality of Presentation, not the relevance or soundness of ideas brought to the Debate. I recall having some wonderful discussions about this phenomenon with Korny on occasion, particularly referring to some older members of MURP and the devastating powers of debate which enabled them to win arguments decisively while being unmistakably in the wrong, often not even believing the arguments they were expounding, but rather playing devil’s advocate, or Trolling.

That the substance of the Debate is becoming less and less relevant is hardly news. I can confidently say “Politicians are liars!” on my blog in the knowledge that this isn’t going to get my server swamped due to the controversy of my unprecedented and outrageous sentiment. Even if I were to assume that the contenders in a political debate were all devoted ideologists, bravely speaking their unscripted opinions in a frank and open manner, I can still rely on the vast and clanking apparatus of government to ensure that their plans and schemes will not be enacted exactly as they intend.

Instead, the Interface world-view suggests, I need to look at a politician’s track record, the time-proven leanings of the small army of people that follow them to power and carry out the implementation of their grand design. Then, to gain what value is present in their public appearances, I need to look carefully at their Presentation in order to see which side seems destined to win.

This is why I feel ever-so-slightly unnerved by Mr Rudd: He looks like a credible contender to beat Mr Howard. Howard is a proven arch genius when it comes to the Presentation. In fact, Howard is so good at it, that only a prodigiously canny Presenter would ever stand a chance against him. Rudd, however, seems to have a pat and populist retort for every mighty hammer-blow Howard delivers.

I’d like to see Rudd win, don’t get me wrong, but it chills me ever so slightly to think that this Labor leader, if he wins, could be anything at all. He is of the new breed, and if I’m right, that means we can only guess what he really intends, because his brilliantly doctored spin thus far will tell us nothing but the most obvious of facts: Mr Rudd means to win.