Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lake of Fools

I love power metal. I think we all know that. And that now includes Blind Guardian, after last night's awesome show at the Koko in London with Astral Doors, who I already knew I liked. But, power metal fans seem to be the biggest collection of nerds and losers I've come across since the flute-playing, ballroom-dancing, church-going supernerd student that recently left the office at my day job.

Seriously, if you go to concerts brandishing plastic swords and axes you've got to start asking yourself serious questions. Have you ever spotted someone in the street that looks like a reject from an '80s b-movie and wondered what these people do? I can tell you now, ladies and gentlemen, they were all at last night's Blind Guardian show, including that one guy who doesn't realise the '80s really did end quite some time ago and still has his perm. David Hasselhoff would look like a contemporary trend-setter amongst this lot.

Sometimes there are those surreal moments that not only cause you to double-take, but confuse you for the rest of the day. Many of the losers at the gig last night could account for several such moments, but today, I had one that topped them all. I'm sitting in a meeting to discuss data quality with about 13 other people. It was thrilling, let me tell you. But half way through, and I think only a couple of us noticed it, a procession of people, walking single file, trooped past the door and into one of the meeting rooms next door each carrying a life-size, naked, plastic baby. Some carrying them vaguely as you would carry a real baby, others just by their side by a foot, as you would carry a sliced loaf. Then they all trudged back to whence they came, sans dolls. I still can't begin to imagine what kind of training was going on in there. We don't employ many infants.

Back in the office one of the guys in my team asks "are you sure they were plastic?" Now, I'm no expert, having no children of my own to compare to, but I am fairly sure that if you carried a real child at your side by one foot it would be reasonably likely to complain in one form or another. Or at the very least move a little and not quite reflect the light so much. Perhaps he wanted to clarify they weren't made of porcelain, or potato or something.

"the devil hates a loser and you thought you had it all"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Last Command

Ok you guys, let's keep the energy levels up, and not lose focus. We'll have a meeting tomorrow, informal, just to discuss having a brief wash-up on Friday, to share our thoughts on how this is going and suggest some development points for the future. I've been getting lots of positive feedback from everyone, and what I'm picking up is that something needs to move forward. In the mean time can we all please make sure we deliver all the points discussed to those that haven't seen all of this yet and make sure that handshake goes smoothly. Thanks.

What did I just say and what did it have to do with anything? Fuck all in both cases. This is what I've come to term "new-age" management. This pretty much consists of over-use of briefings, directionless meetings that cover nothing more than the obvious and constant references to the workforce as "you guys". It's a type of management that's all talk; lots of snappy phrases and buzz words, and very little action, and generally the people in these positions create an awful lot of the unnecessary work and meetings to give people the illusion that they're doing something pro-active.

It's almost like the politically correct form of management. You get a lot of "tying in with the point you just made..." before they say something either completely unrelated to the point you just made, or the complete opposite of the point you just made. But they made sure you were aware that they'd taken your views on board. If you get asked to design/come up with something, the chances are that, unbeknownst to you, the decisions have already actually been made and they're just making you feel like you've been part of the process. Of course when the end result is nothing like what you came up with, their cover is kind of blown, but it's too late by that point. It's covert management, is what it is.

"Old at heart but I musn't hesitate"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Inside The Electric Circus

Somehow it's been a long day already. It's 11am. The new Burn (12) hasn't even gone to print yet and I'm already planning and working on stuff for the next one (yes, 13, well done). I always thought with a monthly publication there'd at least be a week off between completing one issue and starting on the next, but that's becoming less and less realistic the bigger we get.

The work proper begins tonight. Swedish power metallers Hammerfall need talking to on Saturday afternoon, so questions need writing. "What the hell is with the outfits?" isn't going to fly, so what do you ask a band that's done nothing more remarkable than make their next album? I might open with that. "What should I ask you about?" That'd throw 'em.

I might ask them why everyone's so bothered about the new iPod range that's just been announced. The big one's got a little bigger and now you can download movies and games for it. The small ones have gotten physically smaller, but expanded in capacity. That's it. Hang on a second. Back the monopoly truck up. Downloadable movies? Yes indeed. Apple have struck a deal with Miramax, Disney, Pixar and Touchstone to sell download versions of their DVD releases for playback on computers (in iTunes, presumably), the new iPod and ultimately the iTV box they're bringing out.

The big question is, what in God's underwhelmingly short name is the point? The films are set to be priced at $12.99 when pre-ordered and $14.99 thereafter. They come out on the same day as the DVD equivalent, are unlikely to include all the DVD special features, and you can watch them on a device already capable of playing DVDs (computer), a device that is essentially a set-top box that plays through a TV (like a DVD player) or a 2.5" screen with earphones. If anyone can spot an advantage in any of this, please do let me know. Can you say "gimmick"?

There are too many gimmicks around now. They're squeezing out anything of genuine worth, and it's happening in pretty much every facet of life. There are no decent TV shows anymore because all the studios are too preoccupied with the reality TV thing. Finding decent music is getting harder and harder as well. We're alright because labels are only too keen to send the stuff that won't sell. But for your average consumer it's getting near enough impossible to find out about the good stuff. We're drowning in a deluge of shite and there's very little we seem to be able to do about it.

Of course, if the act of actually looking for things wasn't such a challenge to most people it might be possible to overcome all of this. But who goes looking for a new band these days, picks up a new mag or goes to see a new film that's not been trumpeted by the mass media? Or even tries different mp3 players? No one. The one that's been pushed down our throats must be the best. We're far too content to wait for these things to drop into our laps, or allow people on the TV and radio to force their way upon us. When TV Evangelists do it we get annoyed. How is this different?

There must be a solution. And Hammerfall will know what it is. After that much conversing with wizards and kings, some of the wisdom of the ages must have rubbed off.

"I only wanted you to see things for yourself"

The Big Welcome

So, with the boss starting up a Burn Magazine blog, and turning into a full-blown internet nerd over night, he suggested all the editors start one. Unfortunately he only suggested this to me, so the other editors may not catch on just yet.

Something I've never been able to understand is the point in having a blog when you've got nothing to say. Let's face it, your average web-surfing pleb has nothing to say. No one cares what you had for breakfast this morning, what you watched on TV last night, what your mate at school did today or what tid-bit of utterly useless nonsense you found on some back-water gossip site. Seriously, no one.

Does this mean there are worthwhile blogs? Well of course. There's a worthwhile version of everything (except TV soaps). For instance, a band or musician's blog about the progress of a new album. A technical faults and fixes blog for a new piece of software. A tour/travel blog by someone people actually care about. All good stuff.

This of course begs the further question, why are Burn Magazine editors' blogs worthwhile? Well, I can't speak for all of them, because most of them don't know this is on the table yet, but for myself and Sion: I guess people read our stuff. What they get to read however, is the finished, (mostly) polished front-line stuff. They don't get the reasoning behind things, they don't get to know what we left out or elected not to cover in favour of the bits we did do and they certainly don't get to know what else we're up to that isn't directly related to the published content of the mag.

So that's what these are for. Potentially interested readers. Does that put us above the internet plebs? Well, probably not. But there's actually a chance people might care about what we have to say. It's not much of a chance, but it's a tangible possibility.

"I ain't got time for this game"