Living together

According to developmental psychologists, when a human being is born, there is no sense of separation between the child and its environment.  They assume that because they feel a need, that it will be automatically fulfilled.  When that need is unfulfilled, their distress causes them to wail until it is.  At between 18 months and three years, infants grow to see themselves as discrete and self-contained entities who need to negotiate for what they want, and thus the power of negotiation is born.  Born out of these conflicting world views (the separated and unseparated self), comes a desire for belonging.  A desire to be accepted and loved by other people who are not us, but are like us.  I think this is what sows the first seeds of tribal entitlement and xenophobia.  If children are not provided with an expanded sense of “other”, it’s developmentally inevitable that the kinds of “isms” and “phobias” we see in society are going to arise as children grow into adolescents and adults.

To me, it logically follows that our need to cling “to our own kind” is basically a childish fear of “the other.”  Our tendency to judge groups on the actions of a sample of their membership (e.g. Islam, men/women, white-/black-/olive-/brown-skinned people, people who don’t speak our language, people who don’t share our sexual, religious or cultural interests and mores) is a direct result of a lack of empathy for them as individuals, which in turn is basically a reflection of how we saw the world as infants.  In response to our fears, we create “tribes” – groupings of people inside our sphere of influence that typically have a large number of common traits.  Our tribes make us feel comfortable.  I suspect that the predictability of our interactions with them triggers the same sorts of mental rewards as the actions of parents who remembered that “we were they” and changed our nappies, fed us, played with us and burped us when required.

One of the impacts of information technology is that it has created new opportunities to expand our reach and to join global tribes.  However, it has also given us more information about the delicious complexity of the world around us, and the amount of difference between the people we identify with as tribe-members and those who fall into the category of the dreaded other.  It is only when we seek to understand the individuals who make up the other that we start to realize that our fears of the bogie man are unfounded and that we can start to find new ways to make room for those individuals in our tribes.  Letting the actions of the few determine our view of the many is unsophisticated, childish and counterproductive, especially when it comes to conflict resolution.  Nobody can ever negotiate a peace with an aggressor until they understand what that aggressor wants.  More often than not, this also requires us to accept that we ourselves are aggressors in our own way.  We do not have to agree with everyone on everything, but a truly adult mind accepts the possibility that other people’s views have merit and will at least accord them the respect of trying to understand how they came to those views.

Another childish instinct that is rife within our society is the sense of entitlement we have as individuals to impose our will upon others.  Referring back to the separation of self: Entitlement is what we have when we simply assume others will behave in the way that we want them to.  We demand empathy of others to our own selfish needs, even when those needs are being driven by our ids, not our conscious- or super-selves.  But few of us apply that same sense of empathy to others.  When our expectations don’t measure up to those of the people we impose them on (whether or not we’ve tried to be empathetic to their point of view before we act), we all-to-often exhibit a churlishness that does no credit to our adult selves.

It is our sense of entitlement that suggests that we have the right to make choices for other people that we would bristle at if we made those same choices for ourselves.  It is that same sense of entitlement that drives us to hoard and accumulate wealth and to justify almost any means to protect our accumulated possessions.  It is our sense of entitlement that prioritizes the needs of our tribe over the needs of those we identify as the other.  It is our sense of entitlement that drags us into just about every conflict.  It is our sense of entitlement that sends our sons and daughters to war.

In short – war is the outcome of infantile minds who can’t expand their thinking to accommodate the views of others.  The only sure path to put an end to warfare is to put an end to infantile minds.  This can only be achieved with one thing – education and training.  When I say training, I don’t mean in the sense of sitting in a seminar for several hours nodding off while the person up the front drones on about the theory.  I mean training in the same sense as a martial artist spars with others and does kata when on their own.  Training in the same way as an olympic sprinter spends years honing their mind-body connection so that on race day, they are in complete control of every aspect of their performance.  We need to train ourselves to put ourselves in situations where we can grow to understand others that are outside of our tribes.  We need this training to be societal as well as personal, which means that our media needs to step up and start taking some responsibility for this as well.  In this respect, I think SBS and ABC television in Australia do a great job – although I suspect there is still room to improve.  Our commercial networks and our radio broadcasters are not doing such a great job with this, and I think the whole shock-jock industry needs to take a long hard look at the effects of their pandering to infantile instincts.

Even worse are our politicians, which pander shamelessly to our most childish instincts.  They encourage our entitlement; they do what they can to associate themselves with our tribes; they do whatever they can to foster a sense of parental trust, even if that means a continual barrage of condescension and holding close to their chests anything they decide “we don’t need to know.”  It’s no coincidence that Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Tony Abbott and Bill Shorten all talk slowly and clearly – as if to ten year olds.  If we want to ascend to the full potential enabled by the information age, we need to start living as citizens of the information age.  We need to set aside our industrial age attitudes of working towards a common cause: The capitalists who exploited our labour to make themselves wealthy in that age have already shown a complete lack of loyalty to those whose efforts built their nest eggs and have moved on to exploiting a new set of labourers in a different set of countries.  We need to demand better of our capital-rich citizens and our politicians.

Again – the only thing we can do to bring this about is to educate ourselves and train ourselves not to be so easily swayed by propaganda that appeals to our child-selves.  Let this be your daily kata.  Let your mind be a fortress with open gates.  Rejecting the that which panders to our most childish instincts, while being open to new ideas and expanding our tribe to include others whose world-views we had previously not sought to understand.  Most of all, behave like an adult, and negotiate outcomes you want, rather than simply assuming that “the world is your oyster” so exclusively.  It’s a big oyster, and there’s 7 billion other people who have no less right to assume that it’s their oyster too.  I will be.

End Cash for Access in Australian Politics

This has been boiling away at the back of my mind for a while and I’ve finally decided to take action.  Please – if you’re an Australian voter, please head to the petition I’ve created to end cash for access in Australian Politics.  This will go to every sitting member in every state and federal parliamentary house, and will also be mailed to the head offices and state branches of our main political parties.

I think the measures I’ve proposed are fair and reasonable, and promote democratic principles.  They are designed to get the super-wealthy out of the pockets of our politicians, and give every Australian equal access to their parliamentary representatives.  I’d love your support.

512px-Parliament_House_Canberra_NS

A new year, a new project

A humble request – please go take a look at the new links listed under the category of “Help me out here!”  I’ve decided to take the plunge and jump into the crowd-sourcing fray to get a long-on-hold project moving forwards.  The intent is to get a series of 10x42minute webisodes shot, edited and published online, with a vision to getting distribution rights, and possibly additional additional funding provided by a TV network.  The setting is somewhat post-apocalyptic (although no zombies for a change) – and could be characterized as a cross between Stargate (minus the gate travel), Alias, BtVS and Fringe.  It will be procedural, but with some pretty heavy character arcs and a rich milieu full of complex individuals with even more complex agendas.

To find out more:

  • Subscribe to the project blog.
  • Like and share the Tomekeepers project on Facebook.
  • Check out the crowd-funding campaign on IndieGogo and contribute if you can
  • Keep an eye out for other ways in which you can contribute.  I’ve already asked for some feedback on the Facebook page.  This is my vision, but ultimately I want it to be a community project.
Concept art

The Tomekeepers Project

 

Journalism, Politics and Education – White Entitlement and Ignorance

I’ve been following the debate on the reintroduction of compulsory curriculum inclusions such as religion and Australian colonial/early 20th century history into all Australian schools.  I have also been appalled (at the hubris contained) and amused (by the satirical appropriation and amazon comments) in/of/on South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi’s conservative manifesto, The Conservative Revolution.  My thinking cap has been firmly planted on my head and I have formulated some opinions on these issues that must be tackled as a whole. Before launching into these opinions, I feel obliged to state clearly that they are my own, and that I am not a mouthpiece for any kind of political or irreligious organization.  Any resemblance between things I state here and facts might be intentional, and it is my intention to declare any suppositions, assumptions and ironic aphorisms as what they are.  If I forget to do so, please accept my apologies in advance. Let’s start with the rise in public profile of institutional conservatism in the last fifteen years and its relationship with news media.  It is demonstrably true that Australia’s mass media industry has become increasingly owned by a small oligarchy of multi-billionaires, with a relatively low percentage of the available public shares being traded at any given point of time – the remainder being tightly held by said oligarchs (Murdochs, Kerry Stokes, Bruce Gordon, the Bauer family and Gina Rinehart) or investment trusts.  Investment trusts are always going to vote for stability over change – it’s their remit, after all.  Keep the cash flowing, and avoid risk like the plague.  The oligarchs, however, all have their own agendas:

  • The Bauers are somewhat enigmatic – a wealthy multi-generational German publishing family that now owns what used to be Australian Consolidated Press.  The Bauers are very private in general, so there’s no point really talking about their agenda other than to suggest that they are most likely to be more interested in quality and earnings than in doing anything groundshakingly innovative.
  • Lachlan Murdoch’s agenda in the television arena is basically going to be to show his dad that he knows what he’s doing and can turn a buck under his own steam.
  • Rupert Murdoch’s agenda in the print press arena is primarily about money, but he has a conservative streak that he doesn’t mind talking about, especially when it comes to governments interfering in the interests of big business.  There have been strong rumours in the past regarding editorial interference and choices to employ conservative commentators as opinion editors.  His links to the pro-business Liberal Party via donations to the IPA are well documented, and his public antipathy for Kevin Rudd is on record.
  • Gina Rinehart’s agenda is also clearly documented.  She wants an editorial platform from which she can voice dissent over public policies that have the potential to harm her business interests.  She is a climate-change denier and has sponsored climate-change skeptic Ian Plimer’s speaking tours.  She is about what helps Gina Rinehart first and foremost, and what constitutes responsible action in the public interest a distant second.
  • Kerry Stokes is a confounding riddle, wrapped in a puzzle, wrapped in an enigma.  His roots were decidedly working class (unlike the Packers, Murdochs or Gina Rinehart).  He grew up poor and his rise to Australia’s rich list has always been a result of driving hard bargains, but also ones with a double win.  He is a very private individual, and keeps his opinions to himself.  He is quoted as having said something along the lines of “I don’t believe I have power, which is just as well – otherwise I might be tempted to wield it.”  I have no idea what he thinks about climate-change – he has interests in the mining equipment sector, and significant land holdings; along with his media interests.  However, I suspect he gives his editors-in-chief the freedom to make their own choices – as long as they are profitable.

So what does this mean for ordinary Australians?  Here’s my stab at an answer. Australian media outlets are operated for three reasons.  Depending on the media group under discussion, the priority of those reasons may change.  In my opinion, those raisons d’être are as follows:

  1. Return profits to shareholders (a fundamental requirement for any company operating under the Australian Companies Code)
  2. Operate in the public trust (important when media interests are so tightly concentrated in this country)
  3. Provide owners with a soap-box from which they can have their opinions aired in credible terms.  (This is particularly true in the case of Ten and News Corp holdings, and probably barely true at all in the case of Seven – although there have been minor exceptions when coverage might jeopardize a Stokes deal in progress)

If we were to assume that the above thesis is correct, then there are a number of social issues and impacts that need to be considered. Representative democracy works on the assumption that every enfranchised elector has an informed opinion.  In Australia, we rely on our news media outlets to inform us about the issues that will help us to make choices about who will represent us in our state and federal parliaments.  This is why operating in the public trust is absolutely critical.  When owner-driven bias or commercial concerns trump public interest in the delivery of news reportage, democracy is ill-served and the health of our nationhood is put to the test.  When we respond to such blatant manipulation by applying critical thinking skills to call bullshit and go elsewhere for our answers, it hurts ratings and therefore shareholder dividends.  Companies are then effectively compelled by the Companies Code to correct their approach and swing back into line with something closer to truthful reporting.  If, however, we do not have such critical thinking skills and simply soak up the personal opinions of media owners presented under the banner of “informed debate”, then we are denied the opportunity to provide sufficient feedback to correct the course our democracy is taking. It is my opinion that the majority of editors-in-chief in our country do their best to present balanced and informed current affairs coverage.  However, sometimes they do get over-ridden, and sometimes important issues don’t get the coverage they deserve because of their inherent lack of “sexiness” and corresponding ratings performance. Without wanting to discuss corrective legislative frameworks to deal with these issues, I do want to address how this ties into the current debate over national curriculum content. For starters, I am not entirely convinced that our current education system is equipping students with the intellectual literacy to consume information from mass media with the same degree of criticality as that of people of my generation.  As an IT professional who occasionally gets to interact with millennials in a mentoring role, I have come to some conclusions about their education as a whole. In general, they are passably literate (although not as literate as I’d like), and middlingly numerate (I see definite room for improvement) although they do tend to have a natural capacity for algorithmic thinking.  I think this ability to systematize their thinking provides them with the ability to sample information from many different sources and synthesize something approaching a full picture of an issue.  However, I think this sampling is also a core weakness in the generation that will supplant my own at the nation’s electoral wheelhouse.  If 20 sample news-bites are all remixed versions based on the same source opinion with no facts to support them, then really, all they’re digesting is a single opinion.  And what’s more, they have the impression that the original opinion is by virtue of its multiple re-mixings mean that they are facts.  This is not the kind of critical thinking that should be informing future electors.  Millennials are credulous to the point of being a little dense.  The look of horror when you show them a Snopes.com article about something they have assumed to be based in fact is both satisfying (because you can now see them starting to think critically for themselves) and disturbing (because this is the first time they’ve done so). Let’s not only blame the education system.  Let’s also give some credit to the parents whose primary responsibility once the take on the burden of parenthood is to do it as well as they can.  We also need to look at how we have taught our children to view authority and the media.  Authority figures should be respected, but also unafraid to defend their perspectives with a rational argument.  The sophistication of rhetoric required to address questions can be proportional to the age of the questioner, but by the end of primary school, children should be aware that the mass media they consume should be subject to critical inquiry at all times. What we should not be doing (sorry Christopher and Cory) is teaching children that our self-entitled white Western-European post-colonial Judeo-Christian point of view is the only one that should be considered.  Likewise, if we are going to offer students perspectives on religion, that should include all religions, and religion should be investigated as a social construct, not a source of authority that is beyond question.  I could get behind a subject along the lines of “Philosophy, Faith, Culture and Society” taught to students from year 10 and up – whose subject matter included the basic questions that led to the founding of religious faiths, the comparison of major world religions, the concept of the social contract (along with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and other core ethical concepts) and a discussion on how culture bleeds into religion and politics (and vice versa).  I would be horrified to learn that Kevin Donnelly’s suggested curriculum inclusions would be targeted at children who do not yet have the critical thinking and analysis skills to make up their own minds as to what religious principles they chose to take into their own life. Religious opinions that vilify or cast aspersions on a sector of society – be that on racial, religious, ethnic, age-based, sexuality-based or gender-based grounds – should be clearly defined as appropriate for school aged children.  We should have specific legislation that carries significant penalties for doing so, so as not to repeat the dire lessons learnt when some bad eggs laid the whole school chaplaincy program under a cloud of suspicion of a breach of the public trust.  Personally, I would rather have seen more professional school counsellors employed rather than chaplains, but if forced to play that hand, employing evangelical-types trained in proszelitising children is not a choice that I could ever endorse a school principal for making. To me, a child’s mind is a precious ball of opportunity that needs to be nurtured and guided through learning experiences that leave them fully qualified to make the most informed, effective and self-affirming choices possible.  Our education system (and their parents, and their extended learning networks) should be providing information that enhances childrens’ potential, rather than pushing them into intellectual cul-de-sacs from which they can be more easily governed by fear and institutional bullying tactics.  I’m not advocating anarchy, but I am advocating an intellectual approach to education that is free of religious indoctrination. Likewise, glorifying Australia’s colonial and post-colonial history from an entitled Western-European colonial perspective is equally odious.  It brings with it the potential to undermine modern (and post-modern) thinking about multiculturalism and pluralism, and has the potential to create a false nostalgia for an age that was horrible for anyone who wasn’t male, white and Christian.  I doubt that Christopher Pyne is advocating having teachers look into the practices of law-makers, government officials, priests and law-men whose practices of removing indigenous Australian children from their birth families.  I doubt that the honourable member for Sturt is particularly keen to see the trials and tribulations of the labour union or women’s suffrage movements laid out for the scorn of students who have been taught the skills required to put those events into not just historical, but ethical and humanist context.  If Christopher can cope with a warts and all approach, then bring it on.  But if he can’t – he should can his bleating about Australia’s mythical “Golden Age” and go read some primary accounts of those affected by crippling poverty, cultural dispossession and disenfranchisement by the people I suspect Christopher wants to glorify. Finally – a quick shout out (no more, as he deserves less) to Cory Bernardi.  My most sardonic thanks!  You have succeeded in dragging Australian public discourse down to a new low with your horrid pamphlet.  The right to free speech is important, as without diversity of opinions there can be no critical thinking.  However, the right to speak freely without consequence is not even protected by the USA’s libertarian constitution.  I don’t know how you cope with the smell having your head so far up your own rectum, especially given how nasty the ordure spilling forth from your manifesto must smell to anyone with even the very slight critical thinking skills that you have put on display.  Please – withdraw this offal from sale and take a good hard look at why you hate yourself so much.  A work of such loathing for anything that isn’t you can only come from a deep-seated fear that your reprehensible opinions are as suspect as the rest of us think they are.  As a South Australian centre-right elector, your very pre-selection for the last election has made me immensely disappointed with the Liberal Party, and the choice to run you in number one spot for the Senate makes me think that something in the organization must be truly broken.  Please see a good therapist and work on your self-awareness before opening your mouth in public again. I now return you to the delightful sound of crickets.  Hopefully I’ll have more to say before another three months rolls by!

A quick update… (the calm before the storm)

So… a quick quarterly update before a bit of an op-ed rant in a post to follow.

I’ve had a challenging last 3 months.  My contract at DEWNR was wound up in early December as a result of me being honest enough to say “Hey – you’ve run out of things for me to do.  Either sign off some stuff I can work on with the projects you’ve got me doing, or find something else for me to do.”  The last few weeks I was working a 0.5FTE work week and even then, struggling to find stuff to do.  As such – I’ve had no income since the beginning of December.  If anyone has a need for a top-flight data modeler, SQL Server guy and LightSwitch developer who can  operate at the Enterprise level as well as on more tactical solutions, feel free to make contact and ask for a copy of my CV.  I’m set up to telework (fixed IP, VOIP solutions, desktop conferencing software) if needed, so you don’t need to be Adelaide based to make use of my skills.

Since winding up at DEWNR, I’ve been able to put some time into some professional development (mainly around C# programming and WPF) , as well as more creative pursuits.  I’m currently the “Sound Guy” on an amateur feature film project which will be ramping up shortly.  I also typeset a chapbook that the “In Our Write Minds” writing group (of which I’m a member) has published (now available at Mindfield books in Blackwood) and contributed a couple of pieces.  I brought a bit of professionalism to the project that would not have been there otherwise by insisting that people provide bios and copyright details to go with their pieces.  The typesetting was done in Adobe InDesign, and I’d day I’ve now got my skills with that product up to a level somewhere between beginner and journeyman – close to a similar level to where I’m at with Photoshop and After Effects; although still a ways behind where I’m at with Premier Pro and Audition.

Healthwise, I’m doing well other than not having a couple of broken ribs diagnosed until 4 months after the fact.  I’ve lost a bit of weight, my blood sugars are down a little and my BP and lipid levels are at a healthier point than they were 12 months ago.

So… that’s all from the personal update perspective.  I’ll be back to my rational and ranty best in the post that follows this one.

If you have some paid work opportunities in the apps & data space or multimedia production side of things, feel free to ping me using the forum below.

 

3 Months?!

Wow… How can it be 3 months since I last posted here?  I guess those old Romans were right when they said tempus fugit, eh?

So – not much going on, although I’m a bit excited about the release of Battlefield 4.  It looks pretty great – a real successor to the game-play of Battlefield 2 but with better graphics, some amazing environmental destruction mechanics and the return of Commander mode, as well as some cool new game modes.  Aussies get access to this very soon, and I’m hopeful that I can polish off the last 100Kxp required to wind out my multiplayer rank for Battlefield 3 to Level 100 Colonel (i.e. the game’s level cap).  Battlefield 3 provided me several hundred hours of fun, at times frustrating and at all times frenetic gameplay, and I’m hoping the same will be true of Battlefield 4.

In other news, I’m currently attached to a “non-professional” (i.e. unpaid) feature film project as The Sound Guy.  Shooting is going to be kicking off in Febrary, so I’m looking forward to that.  Working on that project will give me the screen credit I need to get registered with the SA Film Corporation which might lead to the ability to lodge applications for project funding and/or paid work in film production in the future.

I’ve also joined a writing group in the last few months.  The “In our write minds” group meets at Blackwood once a month at Mindfield Books and there’s a really interesting cross section of writers in the group.  Some have families, some are studying writing, some have just been doing writing for years while working at day jobs to support themselves.

The following is a short flash-fiction piece I wrote in response to an image distributed by the group’s convenor.  The image is of two men sitting across from each other on grimy looking train.  One of them is smoking a cigarette; the other leaning forward as if making some kind of point.

Checkmate

“Bishop to Knight 3.  Your move, Yuri.”

Smoke curled from the end of the cigarette in Yuri Kosnetsin’s hand as the train rattled noisily on its tracks.  The nostrils framing his chess partner’s bulbous nose flared in irritation as the smoke wafted through the train’s cabin. As always – it wrankles at him. Good. Let him suffer!

Leonid Karakov sniffed, peering intently at an imaginary board between them.  Two years ago there had been a cold winter – they had burnt the board and the pieces to extract what meagre warmth they could from it.  Leonid shook his head sadly, recalling his father telling him that he would never make a living from playing chess.  He might not be rich, but that chess set had kept him alive.  The memory made him bold.

“Queen to rook 3, old goat.”

Yuri puffed furiously on the cigarette.  The sour tobacco crackled in response.  He relaxed as he exhaled, as he usually did.  “Ah.”

Boje moi!

“Yes – mate in 7.”

“Wait…”

Yuri waited.

“Dammit – I make it mate in 5.  With the rook.”

Yuri nodded quickly, seeing the move. “Yes.  Good game though.  If I had moved my pawn up to the third rank there your queen would have had me mate in 2!”

“True – but it was careless of me not to see the pawn.  Memories,” he proclaimed, explaining everything.

Yuri nodded his understanding and tapped ash from his cigarette under his seat.

“I have a cure for memories.”

“Yes?” Leonid raised his shaggy eyebrows curiously and held his breath unconsciously.

“A different train.  Maybe one that will take us out of Moscow.”

Leonid exhaled, breath whistling through pursed lips as if from a broken bicycle valve.  “The country?” he asked dubiously.

“It’s time.”

Leonid nodded reluctantly, his resolve weak, but slowly stiffening.  Both men picked up their meagre belongings and shuffled towards the door at the back of the train.  As they opened the door, the clattering of the train’s bogeys against the rails became a sharp clamour, assaulting their ears.  Leonid shouted “Okay – you win.  Another game!  You play white.”

Yuri looked back at him calmly. “Okay.  White wins in 17 moves.  Queen and bishop to finish.”

Leonid thought about this and saw that it would be so.  “Agreed.  Together?”

Yuri nodded and took his old friend’s hand.  “Checkmate.”

Some Panoramic photos from our trip to Port Elliott a couple of weekends ago.

Coast Line at Middleton Beach

Coast Line at Middleton Beach

Rainbow at Middleton Beach

Rainbow at Middleton Beach

Middleton Beach Foreshore

Middleton Beach Foreshore

Mt Jagged Wines

Mt Jagged Wines

Photos taken using Sony SLT-A77 24.3 MP Digital SLR with Translucent Mirror Technology – Body Only
with Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SAM DT Standard Zoom Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Cameras

Been quiet (again)

I should really set up a scheduled appointment each weekend to make a blog post… it might make me do this more often.

So… what’s been going on?  Mainly work, but I’ve also been diving into some new skillsets and projects.

Video and photography
I have discovered the joy of Sony’s SLT cameras and their video capabilities.  Alison and I have done a few trips around the place where I’ve taken some great photos – I’ll post some up shortly.

Film Making
I have been invited to help a local singing teacher out by recording her annual student concert for the last couple of years.  Last year’s video took quite a while to put together as I was still learning to drive the Adobe Creative Suite toolset.  I’m still in the process of editing this year’s video, but should be able to finish the work more efficiently than last time around.

I’ve also managed to get myself attached to a “non-professional” feature film production crew as “the sound guy”.  This will mean a mix of location recording and sound editing.

Writing
I’ve joined a local writing group up at Blackwood.  It’s already forced me to actually do some writing.  I suspect that a recurring appointment in outlook might also be worth considering for the writing stuff as well.  I’m currently working on a short story about a group of uni students who head to Wales and encounter the Wild Hunt.

Work
I’ve been contracting at the South Australian Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources for about 14 months, working on a couple of federally funded water projects as data architect, database developer, data analyst and  all-round data monkey, authoring reports, project documents, system documentation and playing with web services.  It’s been keeping me busy.

Gaming
I’ve been playing a lot of computer games over the last 8 months.  I should probably play less, but for me, gaming is a social activity, not just a time-burner.  As a member of a 65,000 strong gaming clan called “The Older Gamers”, I regularly catch up with fellow battlefield 3 players in TeamSpeak – an online VOIP tool – and shoot the breeze with a great bunch of guys while we play online.

That’s it for now… I’m off to create some outlook appointments!

Projects Projects Projects

Okay… over the last 3 months I seem to have rediscovered my creative juices.  So far I’ve written about 15,000 words worth of creative stuff, much of it in the form of outlines and rough narratives, but also several pages worth of screenplay text.  That’s a lot of story, across 3 discrete projects.

Project the First.

I have an idea for a TV series… think of it as a cross between Alias and BtVS set in a post-pandemic world where humanity is recovering the knowledge needed to survive.  There’s a procedural element to the show concept (Mission of the Week format), but there will also be genuinely interesting characters with complicated emotional motivations and external agendas.  I have the character arc for the two main leads mapped out for a season’s worth of episodes (12-15 shows) and a “Holy Crap…” ending for the first season which changes the rules for season 2.  The theme of this show is the importance of knowledge in maintaining a “first-worldish” standard of living in an environment that’s far more hostile than we are used to. 

The current intent with this project is to write about 5×42 minute episodes in full, complete a show bible and to script & produce a 10-12 episode web-series that introduces the setting and the backstory of some of the characters.

I put together a 3 minute video pitch for this project for the local leg of the SPAA (Screen Producers Association of Australia) Pitching Competition – my submission didn’t make it through to the next leg, but I’ve learnt some useful lessons from the process.

Project the Second.

I recently attended the “B-Keeping” workshop recently (run by the Media Resource Centre here in Adelaide) which provided a very valuable 2-day intensive workshop on story writing for feature films.  Mark from StoryNerds provided a heap of really valuable lessons on genre rules, the use of archetypes and how to break the rules without breaking the story.  Our “homework” from this workshop was to write a log-line and 150-word synopsis for a feature film project, the best 5 of which would be selected for further development and funded to the tune of up to $2500 each.

My project didn’t make the cut for funding, but the feedback I received from Mark was very encouraging, and he’s suggested that I develop the concept further as a prose (i.e. Novel-length) project.  So… that’s another project on the list.

Project the Third.

Those of you who are interested in grass-roots film-making would probably be aware of TropFest – a global short film festival started in Sydney, Australia.  Films must be under 7 minutes in length, and they accept submissions from the public.  A number of very successful film-makers and actors have had their start with Tropfest. 

This year, I’m hoping to put together a short film to submit to Tropfest.  I know the story I want to tell.  A third of the script is practically written, as the whole project is based on a piece of flash fiction that I wrote about 15 years ago.  Three stories will be told in the vernacular of “Film Noir” with a futuristic and post-modern twist.

Anyone in Adelaide who is interested in participating in the project should let me know ASAP.  I’m looking to have the three characters cast and in rehearsal by the end of this month, as the deadline for TropFest 2013 is January 3rd.

Other Stuff.

Of course, me being me – I also have other irons in the fire.  I have two external business clients on the go as well as holding down a regular contracting gig for a state government department for the last 5 months or so.  And then there’s Battlefield 3 that works very nicely indeed on my freshly rebuilt desktop computing rig. 

The Important Bit

I also have a very patient and considerate partner who continues to rock my world despite all my crazy projects and momentary obsessions.  Love you A. :)

Where did the last 5 months go?

It’s funny how life can slip by when you’re engaged and having fun with what you’re doing.  There’s a lot that’s gone on in the last 5 months, so I probably owe people a quick catchup at the very least.  So… where to start?!

How about audio?

I was enrolled in a Sound Engineering diploma at the University of Adelaide’s Elder Conservatorium of Music for the first term of the university year.  I was getting good marks on assignments, enjoying the work (even though I already knew or had experience in about 75% of the content) and was really enjoying getting to mine the experience of a number of the lecturers.  Sadly, real life intervened and I had to make a choice as to whether to stop studying and start earning some serious cash again or to make some tough choices around where I live, how I live, etc.

Money won.

That get’s me to around April.  I was also working on finalizing an IT project (coincidentally, also for the University of Adelaide – although this was for the Faculty of The Professions) which was dragging out through late March into late April as I was trying to balance not charging for dealing with the impacts of “undocumented features” in the development environment I was working in and making sure that the product met the clients’ needs against my need for cashflow, which at that point was getting pretty dire.

Cutting the proverbial long story short – I got the product shipped in the last week of April, then started job hunting in earnest.  About 3 weeks later I started contracting with the Department for Water in South Australia (now re-merged back into the Department for Environment, Water and Natural Resources) working on a number of data integration and data analysis projects.  Since then I have had the opportunity to work on some new and interesting things.  I’ve also had the opportunity to start working on a business intelligence project (more my field of specialization and interest than straight SQL query development); and commenced working as a data architect on an in-flight Commonwealth government sponsored project to standardize the way water rights are assessed, issued, traded and maintained in all state and territorial jurisdictions.

So… work… busy… good.

In the meantime I’ve also bought a DSLR and started learning how to use it, and started working more seriously with video editing.  I’m now semi-competent with Adobe Premiere Pro, Encore, Media Encoder and After Effects, and have started making headway into Photoshop as well.

I’ve completed my first (admittedly crappy thanks to my dodgy camerawork and lack of audio preparedness) project for a client in these tools (a DVD for a local singing teacher of performances by her and her pupils).  The final product had 3 DVD menus, chapter markers for the beginning of each song, animated lower-thirds titles and opening- and end-titles.

I also did about 15 hours of video editing at this year’s AVCON convention at the Entertainment Centre (working on MACs!) – a number of the pieces I worked on were played on the event’s live internet feed.  It was an excellent opportunity to work in a semi-professional environment with a bunch of guys who are very serious about their audio-visual work and gear.  Most of the kit we were working with was broadcast-quality, including a camera crane and 4 high definition video cameras streaming back to the control room over HD-SDI.

So… yeah… video.  It’s got my attention in a serious way.  While I’ve been passionate about audio and writing for a long time, video allows me to integrate what I’ve learned in those fields into a more immediate, impactful and immensely deep technical field!  I’ve started going into the “Gear Porn” side of “hobby film-making” and am starting to amass a respectable list of things that I’d like to make or buy to help me enhance my videography chops.

I’ve leveraged my previously-bought-on-special version of Adobe CS 5.5 Production Premium into a discount on Adobe CS6 Creative Cloud, and started working on my first piece of serious video production, which has the potential (in optimism and fairy-dust land) to make getting a writing idea I’ve been working on put into production – initially as a web-series showing the backstory for the main storyline I want to examine; then hopefully as a TV series.

Oh… and I also have a new IT client who I’m doing some work for after hours.

Blogging?  Who has time for blogging?!  I’ve got hobbies!  Oh… and a girlfriend who I love and enjoy spending time with. Yep – she’s more important than you guys and gals out there in word-press land.  Sorry!