Sunday, March 28, 2010

What does the Pope want with me?

Well, this was a shock. When I looked at my Feedjit site meter today, I found this:

Vatican City arrived from on "Mr.Nighttime"

I never realized that the Pope was fond of my blog, or perhaps Blade Runner. Then again, with all the latest press surrounding him, and the scandal surrounding the Irish church, I'm not sure I'd want him visiting here. Oh well, what do you think?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stand back folks...This one's gonna get ugly.

Regular readers of this blog know that I work in a survival job, doing tech support in an outsourcing company. We handle a major cable provider here in the U.S, and I just want to make a few points. I'm doing this both as a vent, and as a bit of an educational piece for anyone when they call into a customer service center. Oh let's face it; I'm really pissed off at the extreme stupidity, crassness, and outright rudeness many people show when calling in about a problem they may be having.

This is an across the board issue, no matter what you're calling in for, whether it is your cable service, internet, health care bill, electric bill, etc. I understand about being upset about an issue. Really, I do. We've all been there at one point or another. Things get screwed up. It's okay to be upset. What's not okay is thinking that the rep on the other side of the phone is evil incarnate. We're just worker bees at the end of the day. we're trying to do the best we can, and most of the time, we really can help if you just give us half a chance. If you're going to take your frustrations out on us however, you'll find that you'll get even less help than you might have expected.

Okay, enough of talking in the third person. Here's some basic information:

I am not your whipping boy! I work like you do, pay my bills like you do, and deal with the same kind of corporate idiocy on some level like you do. If you have an issue with the company I work for, then direct it to someone else that deals with customer complaints (and every company has one of these departments, at least the large ones do). I don't. I'm here to fix your problem, not be the object of a tirade. I'm sorry, but the customer is not always right. Too often, the customer is so wrong, it's almost laughable.

I'm going to ask you to verify some account information. Why? Well, isn't it a good idea to make sure you're the account holder? Oh, you mean you already punched that information into the phone? Why do I have to ask you again? Well, because sometimes the system is a piece of garbage, and the information doesn't get transferred to my screen. Sometimes, as in my case, it's because government regulations say I am required to re-verify this information. Mostly, it's because my bosses say I have to!!! Believe me, I think it's just as stupid as you do to repeat the same info over and over, but I have to keep this job for now, so don't get on my case.

Oh, you're going to scream and curse at me? How nice. How adult of you. You don't even know how to curse creatively, and now I have to lower my headset volume so that I don't puncture an ear drum. Of course, my first reaction normally is to want to tell you to go fuck off and die, but since my employers take a dim view of that, I am forced to give you three professionally administered warnings about foul language. After warning number three, I hang up on you and report you as an abusive customer. Here's a tip: You want to utter a single curse, that's fine. I can live with that. You're venting, and not directing it against me. But direct a personal attack at me and you've crossed the line. I may not even give you the grace of three warnings, and hang up on your sorry ass after the first one.

This one is simple. If I ask you a direct question, I expect a direct answer, not your life story. I know you don't want to stay on the phone with me one iota longer than is needed, and the same goes back to you. It's not that I don't want to (well, to be honest, there is a little of that), but I have a certain metric to meet. No, that's not something like a meter, kilometer, etc, but a certain number of minutes and seconds I am allowed with each customer. No more than 6.5 minutes are permitted, or at least by the end of the month, I should be averaging below that, or at worst, no more than seven minutes, or I get a tongue lashing from my supervisor.

One last thing. I am not your father confessor, or your doctor. Most especially not your doctor. I don't need to hear about every freakin' medical condition you have, nor do I care. I'm not being mean, it's just that I have enough of my own medical conditions to fill most monthly medical journals, that I don't need to know about yours. I left health care in part to be away from sick people on a daily basis, and while we're not in close proximity, the fact that you have explosive diarreha is not something that will impact your cable service, or my ability to get your cable service up and running again. So, go take some anti-diarrhea medication, and come back to the phone when you think you won't be running to the bathroom every 5 minutes, as I only have 6.5 minutes to talk with you anyway.

Sigh...I really need to get out of this job...

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Is it possible it's been two years since I started this blog? I'm just shaking my head, and wondering where the time has gone.

I started this blog after thinking about it long and hard. It wasn't that I wasn't sure if I could write, as I was already a published author. It was more about what to write, whether or not to stay anonymous, and if anything I had to say would have any relevance to anyone. On the whole, I'd have to say that I'm glad I made the decision to go ahead and start this blog.

There are two other bloggers I give credit to in spurring my interest in starting my own blog. The first would be Zoe, over at My Boyfriend Is A Twat. When I first read the title of this blog I thought, "Man, she must really hate the guy." I then realized that that this was a very playful banter between Zoe and Quarsan, her boyfriend of many years - or at least most of the time, that is. She has a wicked sense of humor, and I wold laugh my ass off at so many of her posts.

The second blogger I discovered at practically the same time, was Petite Anglaise. A Brit expat living in Paris for many years, her writings were lyrical, and honest. She was very open about many aspects of her life, while at the same time maintaining her anonymity. It was a delicate balance that she walked, and unfortunately she wound up being 'dooced" - fired for blogging about work. She was outed to the press, mainly because her blog was one of the most popular in the blogosphere, and someone had a grudge against her. Her employer - of who she would blog about at times without mentioning names, or the name of the company - began reading the blog and fired her. She had the last laugh though, as she sued for wrongful dismissal, and won a nice six figure judgment. She also became a published book author, essentially distilling her blog into a personal memoir.

As of late last year however, she has discontinued personal blogging, which is a loss, but her reasons are understandable. If you go to her blog, the second post down, "Over and Out," will explain it.

What have I discovered during these two years? Well, I have made a wealth of new friends from around the world. I have been able to peek into cultures and ways of life I only had a faint notion of in the past. I have found connections to people with similar interests, and met others who perform the same work I used, that being a paramedic. I've had the pleasure of meeting at least one of my fellow bloggers, Violet Sky, last summer. She came down from the Great White North of Canada to our Lilac Festival here in Rochester last June, and we spent a great day together. There are ugly sides to it as well: Commentators who seem to delight in abusing others for no apparent reason. This applies to bloggers as well, who seem to have no other purpose in life other than to tear down and degrade others.

Blogging has also provided me with a way to help sharpen my writing skills, and force me to write at least several times a week, though I have slacked off on that of late, due to an uptick in my freelance writing business; a good thing unto itself!

So, here's to more years of writing and discovery, and thanks to all those that I have been fortunate enough to have come into my life. Oh, and by the way, you may call me Dave.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


It occurred to me that I haven't written a post regarding Blade Runner in quite some time, which of course makes me feel terribly guilty. I mean after all, the theme of this blog is based on the movie, so one would think that I could come up with some sort of BR reference from time-to-time? So, to satisfy this lag in theme coverage, I went and watched it again, and still marvel at the things I rediscover, and discover for the first time on every viewing.

Ridley Scott's masterpiece of a movie is incredibly layered. Sometimes, the only way to try and catch everything is to pause at certain points and go through a scene frame-by-frame. It's just amazing the things you pick up when you do this. One of my favorite moments is when Deckard is chasing Zhora through the streets, and he starts shooting at her by the glass displays. The second time she's hit in the back, if you pause and look very astutely at her right hand you can see the squib (explosive effect device) trigger, and see her let it go after she squeezes it.

The "Final Cut" edition of the movie comes with "Dangerous Days - The Making Of Blade Runner," and is a must for any true fan. It's also great for any aspiring filmmaker, as it gives an inside scoop as to what it takes to mount such a movie as this. Did you know that:

- The original name of the script was "Dangerous Days?"
- The first time Deckard was supposed to be seen was on a train coming back into "San Angeles." after he was vacationing in Alaska? (1980 script draft)
- One of the scenes cut from the movie was Deckard going to visit Holden in his hospital bed after he was shot by Leon?
- Ridley Scott was fired from the movie after principal filming was finished - and then rehired almost immediately?
-Dustin Hoffman was in consideration for the role of Deckard, and had several conversations with Ridley Scott about the 'social significance" of the film.

The other thing that struck me today was this: Blade Runner takes place in 2019, and here we are, just nine years from that time. What does the movie show that even remotely resembles today? Well, there are a few things that ring true, but replicants and robot technology is certainly not one of them.

1. Oppressive corporate culture - The Tyrell Corporation, the multi-national robotic and AI conglomerate is in evidence everywhere in the Blade Runner World. It's a bit of Wal-Mart, Google, and Cisco all rolled into one giant company. About the only thing that comes close in our world might be Microsoft, and the way it has invaded so many aspects of our world here in 2010. Wouldn't it be something though if one of Bill Gates' creations suddenly showed up at his house, and declared in a solemn voice, "I want more life, father."

2. Flying cars. -
Sorry, a no-go. The Spinner, the multi-purpose police car that can either fly, or be a conventional ground vehicle is not on the horizon. It's original design as conceived by visual futurist Syd Mead was that of an aerodyne - a vehicle that can do vertical take off's and landing's (VTOL) much in the way a Harrier jump jet does. Considering the latest brouhaha surrounding Toyota, and now Honda as well, I don't think I'd like having cars zipping over major cities and then having a major engine failure. And you thought an uncontrolled acceleration was tough?

3. Image manipulation - Ah, now here's something that we can point to and say, "Well we pretty much have that!"

When Deckard is examining Leon's photo for clues, he uses a device known as an "ESPER:"
It's defined as: " A high-density computer with a very powerful three-dimensional resolution capacity and a cryogenic cooling system. The police cars and Deckard's apartment contain small models which can be channelled into the large one at police headquarters. This big apparatus is a well-worn, retro-fitted part of the furniture. Among many functions, the Esper can analyze and enlarge photos, enabling investigators to search a room without being there."

While computers today may not have quite the same capacity as an Esper, it's pretty darn close. The next time you use your computers photo downloading software, or a program like Photoshop, you're pretty close to having the kind of funtionality that Esper's do - though seeing around corners as reflected in mirrors is probably not one of them.

4. Mult-cultural/nationality cities - Score another one for accuracy. It used to be that only the truly big cities in this country- NYC, LA, Chicago - could say they were truly multicultural. Nowadays, both big and small cities are reflective of this, and one only need to go into the downtown area of a city and see this played out everyday. In the BR world, it's the population overload that's also a factor, and this is nothing new, and even more prevalent in places like China, India, and Brazil.

5. Advertising on steroids. If you've seen the movie, you'll remember these:

I think that BR was even somewhat mild in it's vision of corporate advertising on buildings and the like. One only need to go to Times Square, or as some have pointed out, the Ginza in Tokyo, or the main shopping district in Hong Kong to see just how much this goes beyond even what BR predicted.

5. TV phones -
Remember those ads from the late 50's and 60's about phones with televisions in them, so that you could see the person you are talking to? Well, certainly camera cell phones have fulfilled that promise, but I think that even more so are webcams, especially when you're using programs like Skype, Googletalk, etc. Teleconferencing is now commonplace, though the public video phone is still not there - or is it, somewhere? Still, if you notice in the pic above, AT&T is still around, and still charging too much money (This call cost Deckard $1.25 for a 1 minute call.).

One has to wonder what is around the corner for us, and what parts of Blade Runner will come true prior to 2019? Let's hope it's not replicants. I want to be able to distinguish my robots from my humans easily.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Das Miracle.

Anyone who knows me understands that I am something of a movie freak. I never get to see as many as I would like, and especially living here in Rochester which is the home of motion picture film, it is something of a travesty. Netflix however, has become my great savior in so many ways. I've been able to catch up on a lot of movies that I very well should have seen, but never had either the time or the ability to get around to viewing.

It also provides a great resource of foreign films (foreign to the U.S.) as well. I truly enjoy watching movies from other countries, as it does provide something of a window into other cultures. Still, just as those seeing American movies get perhaps the wrong impression of life here, I'm careful not to think that a movie say, from France, is an exact picture of life there. I just finished seeing a movie that, I know I should have see when it first came out in the early 80's, but never did.

"Das Boot (The Boat)" is nothing short of perfection. It has been hailed as the submarine movie, bar none, and now it's easy to see why it earned that accolade. I watched the director's cut, and while at 3.5 hours it may be too long for some, it was sheer heaven for me. The movie centers around the lives of crew members aboard a German U-boat in 1941, just as the tide was starting to turn against the dominance of U-boats in their fight with England. It's a claustrophobic look at daily life inside these floating tin cans, and the stresses they're up against. It's a miraculous piece of art.

Yes, this was a film about our enemy in WWII, but in the end I found myself rooting for these guys. It sucks you into this world hook, line, and sinker. As I said, it's not going to be for everyone, especially for those Americans that are more used to movies in this genre along the lines of "The Hunt For Red October," which I love by the way, but for different reasons (Sean Connery's horrid Russian accent, or lack thereof, not being one of them.).

Das Boot is most definitely more of a psychological thriller in many ways, and the U-boat is as much a character as are the rest of the crew. You can catch a clip here:

My advice? Watch the German version with English subtitles. While the dubbed version is done by the same actors, and is very good, I still prefer watching the German version. I still notice in the dubbed version that the actor's mouth movements don't match the dialogue, and this is very annoying to me.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Middle School Idol

So, the job issue has been laid to rest, an article I edited for a friend was published, and if all goes well there will be more editing work thrown my way for money. I'm still waiting to hear back from my friend the dentist, whose marketing materials I'll be copyediting, as I did a single letter for him gratis to show what I'm capable of. Two interesting things came my way today via my theatre.

I got a note from an organization in NYC that uses actors to train police officers to interview victims of child sexual abuse. They use adult actors (for obvious reasons), and were looking for a man, and two women. I volunteered myself, especially in light of the fact that they pay $100 for the day, which consists of about 4 hours of work total. Not too bad, actually. They're based in NYC, but travel all over the state conducting these classes, and will be doing it up here at the local public safety training center, not too far from where I live.

The second note was from a local middle school drama society that is trying to help promote local theatre as part of its efforts. They are having a talent night, and needed prizes for first, second, and third place. We often do ticket giveaways at our theatre for these types of causes, but they also asked for something extra: they needed a guest judge for the event. We were going to send one of our other people there, but the talent show was canceled from its original date, so he can no longer make it.

Up went my hand. Why, I don't know.

So now I will be the next Simon Cowell for a bunch of middle school drama students. I'm hoping to be surprised, and maybe they will tackle something like, "Waiting For Godot," or perhaps "Death Of A Salesman," or maybe even a piece from "Marat/Sade." Then again, maybe not.

I'm not quite sure what to expect, after all, they are middle schoolers. All I can hope for is something a bit more advanced than say, Jack And The Beanstalk?