Friday, August 28, 2009


This isn't a post about "Anonymous", the 4chan meme (although that is a fascinating story, so maybe I'll have to do that some other time)*. I want to write something now about being anonymous. I've been thinking about blog anonymity a lot lately, but I'm still really uncertain about it. Maybe writing will help me make up my mind. Maybe you can help me out in the comments.

First: I started a blog a while ago. I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do with it, but I thought it would be good opportunity (and excuse) to force myself to practise different ways of writing. Which is what it's actually been, more or less, I think. I posted as "Thoapsl" because in my mind, that stood for "think of a pseudonym later". (Yeah, I know, I know...)

BUT. As of Wednesday, I'm no longer anonymous: my blog now carries my actual name. So? Even before, it was possible for people to figure out my identity if they tried hard enough. But I'd always had a vague paranoia that without anonymity, I was more vulnerable; that I couldn't post anything without fear of it haunting me irl. Anonymity meant the freedom to relax.

That's what I thought my motivation was. But in fact I've always cared about what I post, anyway, whether anonymous or not. Thoapsl's reputation isn't my reputation, but it's a reputation that I care about. I've even gone out of my way not to swear online, mostly, despite the fact that my natural inclination is to swear like a m*therf*ck**g c**tf*xed tro**er.

So if it's not really about freedom, what's my real paranoia? Am I maybe worried about potential employers not hiring me, because of something on my blog that they don't like?

I know I'm definitely conflicted about angling for employment via my blog. I want my personal blogging to be for fun and random – I don't want to feel constrained by purpose. I definitely don't want to seem mercenary. But if someone actually emailed me tomorrow and said "Hey Tim, I read your blog and I would like to give you money for something" – that would be great, wouldn't it? And if there's nothing on my blog that would actually lose me a job – at least, any job worth having – then what's the worst that could happen?

Maybe I've talked myself into it. Maybe I'm still unsure. Either way I probably need to work on my blogger profile some more. (Maybe I'm just embarrassed that I don't have a real "occupation" to fill in on my profile, yet.)

Is anonymity worth it? Do you care about it, yourself? Would you (or do you?) blog anonymously, or under your real name? Best answer wins a prize.

anonymous cat
*Hey, wait a minute! I just noticed, I am totally jumping on the mentioning-4chan-but-then-not-actually-talking-about-it-although-still-leaving-open-the-possibility-of-talking-about-it-later bandwagon. What a weird coincidence. Hat-tip to Carla!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mondays Can Be Disturbing

Um… do I have to?
Gosh I'm pretty sure I'd rather not, actually


Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm Like A Bird

I've resisted joining Twitter for a long time because, you know, Twitter? Only journalists, nerds and stupid celebrities (and their stalkers) use Twitter, everybody knows that! It's just a wank, right? Worse than blogging, even. Forget about it.

That would probably be a dumb and unfair exaggeration, but that doesn't mean it's not a common reaction. It seems that because Twitter has gone from what? to it's everywhere! with such speed, a lot of people I know already feel that it's just not cool anymore. Of course back when it was cool, hardly anyone was using it, so there was little point in signing up. But now that it's been aggressively colonised by mainstream celebrities, it's just tragically unhip.

It's the same thing that happened to Facebook after your mum and dad joined. The difference is that Facebook, unlike Twitter, enjoyed a good year or so (i.e. 2007) dominated by twentysomethings – the parents and bosses didn't make it over until more recently.

If you were born in the 1980s, you and your friends joined Facebook around 2007–08, right? That was the crucial year-without-parents that entrenched Facebook's social essentiality. And even if you've now changed your mind, even if you now openly despise Facebook, now it's too late! Because if you quit tomorrow, how will you get invited to parties? How will you flirt? How will you play Scrabble? Facebook today is like a mobile phone: it's so culturally pervasive that it's more of a hassle to avoid than it is to play along.

Twitter hasn't had Facebook's luxury of incubated hipster coolness. It has had a huge amount of press coverage and good buzz, but I have a weird suspicion that this might be due to two unusual factors:

1. Twitter is excellent for journalists. It's a 21st-century evolution of the wire service, perfect for concise bulletins and constant updates. And if a whole bunch of journalists are suddenly using a new technology, it makes sense they're going to be interested enough to write a whole bunch of articles about it – even if these journalists are actually an unusual minority, compared to everyone else.*

Of course, I could well be wrong about this. I live in a social bubble of my own. Most people I know don't really dig Twitter, but "most people I know" is not a meaningful demographic – everything I've said here could easily be way off. And yet, recent data indicates that I might be right: it turns out that most Twitter users are older professionals, while twentysomethings are definitely in the minority. But is this the way Twitter is going to stay, or will the demographic suddenly broaden after it passes the tipping point (as recently happened with Facebook)? And so what if it does, and so what if it doesn't?

Anyhow. My point: I joined Twitter this afternoon. Why?
Because yesterday, my housemate joined. Which meant that I suddenly had a total of two close friends on Twitter. If that's all it takes to convince me to join, maybe Twitter really is the future. I honestly don't know.

Answer me, people: is Twitter cool?

And, either way: so what?

*This is only a hypothesis, unfortunately: I've been able to find some data on Twitter demographics, but nothing that talks quantitatively about journalists. So this hunch of mine may be, in fact, complete crap.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I usually don't do linkblogs, but goodness me: this is spectacularly awesome, I think.

Hat-tip to the fine people of io9, and there's more detail here.

(Pic unrelated. But if it intrigues you, you should really go check this out.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Things learned during the Melbourne International Film Festival

1. Spending about 1000% more time than usual watching movies really shakes things up, let me tell you. I ran out of food, I grew out my hair, I changed my brand of anti-perspirant. Heck of a fortnight all over.

2. If you see a film which has an awesome twist in it, but the only reason the twist works is because you aren't even slightly expecting it, you're in a pickle: how can you convince people to go see this film without hinting at the twist's existence? If you describe the film's premise and people just say "aw, that doesn't sound that interesting, can you lend me five bucks?" – how do you convince them that the story isn't as dull and obvious as it sounds, without making them think that there might be something unusual and twisty about it? Ah, it's a pickle...

Moral: if I say a film is great but I can't convincingly explain why, you should go see it anyhow.

3. Subtitles (in English) for actors speaking in thick accents (in English): insulting to the (English-speaking) audience, an overreaction, or just incredibly distracting? Okay, okay, in the end I guess it wasn't as distracting as it might have been, and I'm sure those audience members unfamiliar with the Yorkshire patois were appreciative, but holy cats! Subtitles Were Annoying.
Films were pretty fine, though.

4. Australian Horror Films. I've been seeing a lot of them lately, I should really do a whole post on the topic. But instead I'll just shut up and tell you this: you should see Lake Mungo. The only modern Australian horror film that might rival it for quality would be Wolf Creek, but that's a really inappropriate comparison – the two films could hardly be more different. Lake Mungo is a ghost story (which is rare), and it's a horror that goes for deep chills rather than shock-jolt scares (which is even rarer). I saw it in a dead silent, almost-deserted cinema: the perfect viewing environment for non-jokey horror. It's excellent.

Lake Mungo did not play in the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival. It has had only a limited cinematic release in Australia, and that within this last month or so, but it was picked up for an American remake nine months ago. Somebody needs a bigger marketing budget, okay.

5. Latauro is surprisingly recognisable. The guy is everywhere.

6. Is Korean cinema in some kind of a golden age for creepy, off-kilter films this past decade, or what? Park Chan-Wook has been doing absolutely brilliant stuff for a while, but I was really doubtful that anyone could do anything worthwhile or new with vampires, anymore. I was totally wrong. I also thought that while The Host was a great monster film, it was probably a one-off; I didn't imagine that it had been made by any especially brilliant filmmakers. Again, I was wrong.

Anyhow, the films "Thirst" and "Mother": I recommend them.

7. Nazi Zombies. Exactly what you were expecting, but in a very satisfying way.

That's a lot of points related to horror films, isn't it? I did see a bunch of artsy intellectual movies, too. In other words:

Oh, Catherine Breillat, you crazy kidder! Good one.

So, hey, Michael Haneke, are you extremely clever? In all seriousness, I honestly can't tell. I think so? Probably? I think so. But I'm going to have to think about it some more. And this is not a bad thing. I think.
(I'm not being sarcastic, here, btw...)

And that's not everything I saw, but it's enough to be bothered writing about, I think.
--the Cinematic Thoapsl

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Molly Ringwald's Fault

A lot of John Hughes films were about the consequences of attention, or the lack of it: trying to get the attention of someone you like, what happens when parents don't pay attention to you, what it's like to be lonely and misunderstood. Blogging is all about attention, too – the blogosphere is like a 1980s high school movie where popularity is everything. Or, let's be more specific: your problem is that your (allegedly) wonderful personality is useless and irrelevant, until you can get your hot crush to notice you. Once you've been noticed, a happy ending is inevitable. Either your hot crush (i.e. internet audience) likes you too, or else you realise that you never really wanted them after all, and you end up with your best friend instead. (The internet is not your best friend.)

I got to thinking about this after I followed a link from here to here – a blog post by a woman who was became John Hughes' pen-pal after writing him a fan letter. (Seriously, go read it.) It's a genuinely touching post. But what struck me, looking at the rest of her blog, is how she's now gone from having practically no readers (3 comments on one post, 0 comments on the next post, 2 comments on the next, etc) to suddenly having 1000+ comments – which implies a readership of, say, presumably 10,000+? I know this is not a bad thing – the blogger in question is obviously sincere, it would be massively unfair to suggest otherwise* – but I can't help feeling weirdly uncomfortable about the implications.

Attention-seeking behaviour doesn't have to be nice to be successful. What are you willing to do in order to get attention (on the internet)?

• Will you lie about who you are?
• Will you say something controversial, even if you don't entirely believe it?
• Will you insult somebody?
• Will you post pictures of yourself naked?
• Will you promise something?

Here's my promise: if everyone from my class at uni comments on this post, I will bake you a cake.

On the other hand... are readers the purpose of blogging, or are they irrelevant? Plenty of people blog on despite only single-figure readerships (e.g.) – but do they care? Does it matter? Without readers, are they wasting their time? Presumably they're getting something out of it themselves, or they wouldn't continue. I guess the real question is: are these blogs readerless because they're no good, or because they're not trying hard enough to get attention? (Whether an audience matters either way is a different question, I think.) It's possible to regularly read dozens or hundreds of other people's blogs, so it must be possible for every single blogger to have dozens or hundreds of regular readers. Why don't they?

What aren't they willing to do?

*Although that hasn't stopped some people, apparently.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Rage Roundup @ July '09

Howdy howdy howdy! It's been a while since the last one of these roundups, but the word "irregular" has a nice ring to it, yeah?
Alright, then: these are some music videos that I saw on Rage. I have surrounded them with words.

The sheer sonic variety in this is gorgeous, I think. Basement Jaxx have done some clever, inventive pop singles in the past, but the arrangement of this tune is just explosive. The promise of electronic music is that you'll never need to accept the limitations of a live performance – i.e. a consistent set of realisable instruments – but few musicians take full advantage of this idea. Modern music often uses different instrumental sounds for different musical sections within a song (e.g. the "quiet acoustic verse, loud electric chorus" mid-90s grunge template), but "Raindrops" uses different sounds from one note to the next. The drums carry a stable rhythm, but everything else is in flux; even the vocals are processed differently from word to word. This could easily be jarring or ridiculous, but it's not. The tonal mosaic always serves the music: as it progresses, the sonic texture continually rearranges itself to match the song's melodic whims. It's impressively intelligent stuff.

The other reason it all works is that it's simply a catchy, well-written tune. And the video is a great visual fit to the sound: a brilliant, decadent kaleidoscope of colour and rhythm. It's also full of near-naked dancing girls, which would usually be questionable... but the visuals are ultimately too bizarre and abstract to seem really exploitative, I think. Clever work, this. Splendid.

Lotsa buzz around these Dirty Projectors people, lately. Did they get a good review on Pitchfork, or something? (Why, yes they did.)

What I find really interesting about this is the way that it's clearly indie-hipster-indie in every appearance (e.g. the Pitchfork thing, the outfits that are MC Hammer via American Apparel, this album, etc etc) and yet it's also just so pop. Squint with your ears, and the music could easily be a Timbaland production; a lost Kelly Rowland single, with slightly less impressive vocals and unprofessional dancing in the video. It's like the wannabe-disco/80s-revivalism of 2009 indie has caught up to the abstraction of mid-00s avant-pop — although approaching from different directions, they're suddenly both in the same place. Isn't that something?

Anyhow, I probably wouldn't mention it if the song wasn't also catchy as heck. The structure of the melody is fractured and drawn out over several phrases before it resolves; it's a weirdly intellectual way to write a tune, almost like a doped-up bebop melody, but it certainly hooked my attention. I hardly ever remember lyrics, but "there is a higher mountain!" has been rolling around my head all day. Addictive listening, this stuff. Maybe I should go buy their album.

Not much in the way of full-on guitar musics released this month, sadly – "guitar groups are on the way out" – but there was this. (There was also something from The Dead Weather, I guess, but I really can't be bothered talking about that.) There's nothing especially groundbreaking about this song, but the arrangement is very good; the intertwining guitars are unusually effective, and the gasping rhythm of the chorus is excellent. The vocals in the first verse were dangerously close to something that I wouldn't like, but the singer's performance in the choruses carved up enough edge to win me over. It's hard to find anything that's superb, here, but all things are at least above average: simple, but effective. It's just a nice, tasty wedge of alt-rock. The lyrics are more interesting than the usual, too – "you don't need me" is not a common lyrical sentiment. I like it.

"Heartbreaker" is not an uncommon song title, but then there are a lot of heartbreakers out there irl. (Am I right, folks, amirite?!)

This particular "Heartbreaker" is built around a piano riff. It's not easy to make a piano sound cool (you can't pitchbend* an ordinary piano, for one thing) but Mstrkrft's riff is impressively sharp. The chord progression is circular in a way that cleverly builds tension without losing energy; the vocals are quite decent, too. Mastercrafty music.

What happens in the video? A gang of ugly hooligans disregard the private property of a local storekeeper. The least ugly hooligan and the storekeeper's daughter totally don't make out. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

*Pitchbending being the easiest method by which an instrument might mimic the emotive qualities of a human voice; guitars and horns pitchbend to make cool sounds all the time...

This post is about finished, I think. For a Bonus (!) I'd like to mention Stone Cold Sober by Paloma Faith. It's an unusually interesting little soul-pop single, and I like how it has the guts to drop out the sound on the words "Stone! Cold!" – certainly an attention-grabbing move, that.

So: it's August now. Seriously. August, 2009. *pff!h*
--the Musical Thoapsl