Category Archives for Personal
At rehearsal last night I was called sexist. Not just by one person, but by most of the cast all at the same time. This was particularly hurting as I consider myself a fairly rabid feminist, more so than most women apparently, or least according to the few women who’ve known me well.
I was about to start a two person scene, and my female scene partner asked the rest of the cast for a relationship. Asking for a relationship is a classic ask for in Sydney, but has always seemed odd to me. What they’re really asking for is a social relationship. There are lots of other types and aspects of relationship aside from the social relationship, but this seems to be the one we prefer to get. My guess is that by getting a social relationship (e.g. boss and worker, therapist and client, mother and daughter), there is an implied interpersonal relationship and status.
Interpersonal relationships (often referred to in improv classes as “the five relationships”) define the degree of intimacy, openness or vulnerability between two people. And the more open and vulnerable people are to each other, the stronger the emotion, the potentially higher the stakes, and the more engaging the scene. I guess players learn subconsciously that getting “a relationship between two people” more often leads to better scenes, because you no longer have to find the interpersonal relationship at the top of the scene. And of course the more you reduce scene metapragmatics, the better.
The relationship suggested last night was “a lawyer and another guy who is the criminal”. At this point I cut in and said something along the lines of “we’ll make the criminal a girl, because…” and motioned toward my scene partner. I didn’t point at her, but I did a kind of introductory sweeping motion with my hand. At this point everyone yelled out “how sexist”, with the director even saying “what, only a man can be a lawyer?!”
So let me go through my thought process. When I’m about to improvise, often my prefrontal cortex is either turned off or sitting at idle, I’m almost as present as I am while improvising. Another of my scene partners recently joked about this to an audience, the fact that when I get a suggestion for a scene, it’s not uncommon for my subconscious to kick in and start visualising the scene in my head, at which point I have to consciously notice it and stop it from doing so, at which point it starts another scene, and so on until I actually start the scene for real. I usually need an ask for, the second before I start improvising, otherwise I’ve done a bunch of scenes in my head already before we get anywhere. This isn’t me thinking, it’s me being too present at the wrong time.
Not thinking isn’t a good argument though, because you could say that without my filters and judgement, I’ve said what I really know to be true deep down, and so I actually am sexist.
What actually happened was that I heard the first few words “a lawyer”, and I straight away started seeing a lawyer in a scene in my head. By the time I heard “and another guy”, I’d already become the lawyer, and therefore I assigned the other guy to my scene partner, all without consciously choosing to do so. And before I even spoke, I’d weighed up that choice and figured that my scene partner would have more fun playing that character anyway. So that’s when I said “we’ll make the criminal a girl…” without thinking.
Now I don’t usually play high status characters, and a lawyer more often than not conjures up high status, although obviously they don’t have to be. I don’t usually play high status partly because I’m more of a low status kind of guy personally, so that’s my wheelhouse. The fact that this didn’t affect my decision is significant, because if I was consciously assigning characters to each of us, my gut would probably have given my scene partner the lawyer, and I’d have taken the criminal.
In the end I initiated that we were brother and sister criminals, which just seemed to come out in reaction to the sexist claim, but in the end was a much better choice anyway. Mum turned up mid-scene, and she was the lawyer, so suck on that sexist conspiracists!
The brain is an amazing thing, and while we still don’t know exactly how it works, the most popular theories implicate an amazing amount of subconscious input into what eventually becomes part of our conscious. And as improvisors, the more present we are, the more we draw upon the subconscious to add dynamics and depth to our scenes. You can never really tell where everything we improvise comes from, there are clues and some things seem more obvious than others, but you never really and truly know.
For more information on how improvisation works and how to improve your play, come and do one of my Sydney based courses or workshops through Ground Zero Improv, or just wait for my upcoming book.
Oh, and I’m not sexist.
When I was in primary school back in the 1970s, we had the police come to class and talk to us about a very important issue. Traffic lights. Well not the lights themselves, but the button for the walk signal. I remember it clearly because it didn’t make any sense, even as a 9 year old boy, although I did end up in career where logic is the primary skill.
Anyway, according to this “policeman”, as they were still called in those days, when you press the walk button, a timer starts counting down, and when the counter gets to zero, the traffic lights go orange then red and then the walk sign comes on. This made sense to me, the traffic would flow until someone needed to cross, and a simple clock and a couple of relays would probably have been the limit of the electronics around then anyway. Not like modern lights with multiple clocks all networked back to base for traffic congenstion logic.
But then it got weird. It seems the whole purpose of his visit was to warn us kids of something quite serious. To warn us not to press the button more than once. His logic, which I assume was official police curriculum, was that every time you press the button, the timer starts again. So if you keep pressing it, it will never reach zero, and you’ll never be able to cross the road.
This annoyed me for years afterwards because I couldn’t figure out how it could be so badly designed, or how he misunderstood the logic so badly when explaining it to us.
Obviously 40 years on it still confuses me, so if any old timers out there know what on earth he was talking about, then please let me know!
And so things have come full circle, as my 5 year old daughter had a “police officer” visit them at school this week. The topic? Stranger danger and the recent attempted abduction of a boy walking home from school.
Has society really gotten so bad that we have way more active pedophiles than 40 years ago? Or is it just, as commonly suspected, that we and our parents were simply ignorant of the threat? After all, pedophilia is genetic, so surely the per capita hasn’t changed? Or has society and culture simply made them more brazen?
I still wonder about the logic of traffic lights. Every time I press that button, a part of me wonders whether it has any effect at all. Every now and again I keep pressing it as an expression of anger at a world no longer as innocent as it used to be.
The policeman that visited us back then is now probably dead, or close to it. I wonder if he ever thought about what he taught us. And I wonder if he knew there really were more important things to be concerned about than traffic lights.
I think I’ve posted before about the increase in the Dunning–Kruger effect and unconscious incompetence across the networked world, and how everyone thinks they’re an expert because they Googled it once. Especially so when it comes to web development, everyone thinks they’re an expert.
And so we have Virgin Mobile who for the last few years have allowed me to pay my phone bill online, until a few months ago when their support for Safari suddenly broke, meaning not only Macs, but iPhone users can no longer pay their bills. And it’s not that the support was intentially removed, otherwise they’d show a message saying Safari isn’t supported. It’s a bug, because you go through all the steps for payment and it barfs with a message about cookies not being turned on when it tries to push the payment through their payment gateway. Nice. And it’s not a cookie problem, because I double checked, and I’m a … umm, expert. The message actually seems to be coming from the payment gateway or phone account authentication gateway though, or some wrapper around it, because it’s styled completely differently to the rest of the site, which in itself is a stupid oversight.
I tried to report the problem, but their online form for contacting them has the same problem, it barfs with the same cookie error when you submit the form. So I called them and they said I must have cookies turned on to login. Well, I can login fine, and 15 minutes of stepping them through the process, and two different machines, a Mac with Safari and a Windows XP machine with Safari, finally satisfied them that they had a problem and they escalated it for me. I even offered them my help at the time, to come in look at their development processes, quality control and staffing, because it’s what I do, but they passed on that.
So guess what, a month later I haven’t heard anything, and I try to pay my bill and it’s still got the same problem. And I call again, and again they don’t believe me, and again I step them through the process and they agree to escalate it as a bug. And guess what happened today a month later? Yep, the same thing.
Virgin Mobile keeping SMSing me to say I haven’t paid my bill, and I keep SMSing them back that I can’t until they fix their site. I no longer recommend Virgin Mobile to people, and I now put them in the same camp as Vodafone when I left them several years ago. Customer service fail, customer satisfaction fail, software development fail, testing and release QA fail. Virgin Mobile, company fail.
Musical hot spot is an improv warm up game, which supposedly gets you in the moment, out of your head and in a good happy mood. The problem is that not only doesn’t it work, but it can also have a negative affect and actually get people into their heads.
The game starts with everyone in a circle. Either a word suggestion is given as an offer, or someone just thinks of a song, but one person then jumps into the middle and starts singing and dancing to a song. Everyone in the circle then sings and dances along. If you don’t know the song, you still commit to singing and dancing by either copying or doing your own thing, but the point is to support the person in the middle. When anyone in the circle is reminded of a different song by one of the words being already sung, then they jump into the middle singing and dancing to the new song. The previous person in the middle rejoins the circle and the circle now sings and dances along with the new person in the middle. And so on ad infinitum, or often ad tedium. There’s also a bunch of other notes given about supporting the person in the middle etc but basically that’s the game.
I remember being in a musical hot spot many years ago which was like an audition for Whitney Houston, Celine Dion, and Bette Midler impersonators. I didn’t know most of the songs, and I hated the ones I did. In fact I thought we’d invented punk so we didn’t have to listen to crap like that. It was not a fun warm up, in fact I hated it, especially since I had to spend the whole game pretending that I was enjoying myself, and it just served to make me even more pissed off and in my head.
The problem is that the game assumes that everyone likes all styles of music, particularly pop music. Don’t get me wrong, I love music, in fact my passion for music usually exceeds most people I’ve improvised with, and the styles of music I like are definitely more wide and varied than most people. It’s just that the songs chosen in musical hot spot are usually popular crap that reflect the average age group and interests of those playing the game, regardless whether anyone likes or even knows them.
Of course people can always jump in the middle and sing a song they do know and like, and I guess it encourages prople to keep jumping into the middle. But what generally happens then is that the people who picked all the crappy pop songs then rarely support the obscure ones because they’re not use to doing so, and the person with the exception can end up being externalised from the group because they don’t seem to be working with the group’s choices.
Musical hot spot is a bad improv warm up game. It assumes people have a certain popular and mundane musical taste, rewarding those who do, and punishing those who don’t. You can’t fake being in the moment, and there is no place in improv for warm up games which encourage you to do so.
<rant>I’ve now needed to use Microsoft Word at least 30 times in the last few weeks since my last post about their licensing being restricted to certain hardware configurations, and at least 30 times I’ve been unable to use it, which negatively affects my ability to do my work, and simply reinforces my opinion of Microsoft and my passion for finding Microsoft alternatives.</rant>
What is it with RSS readers these days that they only work with Google Reader? Particularly those for mobile devices such as the iPad. I get how syncing with it would be a good feature, but not at the expense of standalone feeds. It’s not like pulling feeds is technically difficult, there were hundreds probably thousands of RSS readers in the early 2000s, and they all did the heavy lifting themselves, without dependence on a third party service. And I should know, our company at the time developed a fairly popular RSS reader application for windows around 2004. It’s not rocket science, and it’s not like any of the standards have really changed at all.
I think it’s just lazy, lazy developers calling a simple API to get the data from Google Reader and then calling another couple of pretty basic platform APIs to display them in a list.
What if I don’t want to use Google Reader? What if I don’t trust Google? What if I don’t trust Google with the already incredible amount of personal data they have about me that they sell to advertisers? What if I simply don’t trust a company which makes all its money from selling me to advertisers?
I blame Google Reader for the decline in feeds and feed reading, as people not wanting to use Google are pretty much stuck without much of a choice in RSS readers.
It’s very tempting to write my own and be done with it, and one of its features will be “doesn’t support with Google Reader”.
We went to Darling Harbour for Australia Day, so Molly could see Jay Laga’aia and friends on the kids’ stage. Well, the first song was “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands…”, followed by “stamp your feet”, “yell ya hoo!” and then all three. I was amazed at the number of sad sack fathers that just didn’t join in. They were happy to watch their kids do it, but sing along, clap, stamp and yell? Nope.
The old adage rings true, kids laugh around 400 times per day, and adults around 15. What happens to these disgruntled parents that makes them want to have kids but only from a distance? Two many hours couped up in corporate offices to think about having fun?
Regardles whether the parents enjoy it or not, the show is still for kids, their kids, and I’d have thought that by joining in they’d make their kids’ experience more fun. Jay was a slow starter and the crowd wasn’t exactly responding that well to his call and response, so even more reason to join in, to make it better for everyone.
I used to say this before I was a parent, and my opinion hasn’t changed, most people are just plain selfish by having kids, and shouldn’t be allowed to take on the most important roll we can have in life: bringing up a child.
I usually buy Panasonic phones and domestic video gear (DVD, VCR, TV), so I visited the Panasonic web site today, to look for a headset for my Pansonic office phone. Strangely, they don’t have any on the site. Although if you search for “headset”, a page of search results appears with one being a generic headset, and if you click it, it just does the whole search again.
I did a interwebs search and found dozens of Panasonic headsets available.
So I called Panasonic and spoke to what sounded like 16 year old boy in support:
RBF: I’m looking for a headset for my office phone, model xyz.
Panasonic support: I’m sorry, that phone doesn’t support a headset.
RBF: Hmm… then why is there a headset jack on the side, with a picture of a headset, complete with microphone?
Panasonic support: I don’t know sir, but my documentation here says that it doesn’t support a headset.
RBF: What, the phone doesn’t actually support a headset, or you don’t make a headset for it?
Panasonic support: It doesn’t support a headset, so you could try a third party one, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
So I called Simply Headsets, who not only had a Panasonic headset for the phone, but a bunch of other providers of professional headsets for it as well. I bought a Plantronics noise cancelling one. (I always buy Plantronic headsets for the computer, and Sennheiser headphones for my pro audio work)
You can buy Panasonic, just don’t expect support to know what they’re talking about.
My Dad passed away in hospital last week, and we had the funeral yesterday. I think it was worthy of him, although I did unfortunately accidentally say the f word in the middle of it.
Dad requested that my sister and I speak, and she didn’t feel she could, so sure I’ll speak for both of us, and Mum as well. During the arrangements there was talk of a celebrant MCing, and I’m not sure how it happened, but I ended up saying sure, I get up in front of hundreds of people each week and make stuff up without a script, wouldn’t it be better if I did it instead of someone Dad didn’t know. How hard could it be?
So then we got to the music. Oh, I had to do the soundtrack, based on Dad’s wishes, and in consultation with Mum and my sister. Oh, and we need a program, because the funeral directors don’t do that, and the few I’d seen looked like some school kid had done them in Word, pretty amateur, so sure, I’ll professionally do the program as well, nothing but high production quality for Dad.
And you know what, I may as well do the running order and Stage Manage it, considering most of the detail of that was in my hands anyway. Pre-show, intros, cue sheets, it felt like a show. We were running a show, and I would make Dad proud.
So somewhere in there I managed to write my speech as well, not as good as I’d like, I ran out of time, but pretty good I reckon.
I’m not sure what the tradition is, but people were saying afterwards how different the service was, in a good way. I figured it was the obvious to be honest. Four special speakers requested by Dad, including myself, and then intersperse it with fragments of my speech, tailored to also serve as introductions to each speaker. The narrative turned out well, and I think the pace was good.
I think Dad would have smiled, laughed, teared up a little, and said “Good job mate. Probably could have left out the fuck.” He’s right, I could have left out the fuck.