2 degrees of Melbourne – Episode 1: Andy White

A while back I wrote a blog about how this year I was going to focus on being more creative. It turns out that living with your parents while your house is being renovated, and then moving back in to the aforementioned house, leaves very little scope for creativity. But we have been back in our house for about 6 weeks now, and I have just finished my first real creative project…and I’m really happy with how it has come out.

The idea

I love Melbourne, and I love hearing people’s stories…so one of the big projects I wanted to embark on this year was to interview some Melbourne people who I admire and create a series of short videos. Basically to talk about my home city, via the people who I think make it great. In theory this is very doable…but in reality, people who are worth interviewing and making videos of, often have better things to do with their time than talk to you for a video that they are not getting paid for.
So it was with a fair degree of trepidation that I approached my first potential interviewee, Andy White (of Fyxomatosis fame). I put off writing to him for about two weeks, then I spent an hour or so crafting the perfect email, then I spent the next 12 hours preparing contingency plans for the inevitable rejection. So it’s fair to say that when he replied with ‘Sure. When/Where?’, I was both surprised and overjoyed…not to mention impressed with his brevity.
But once you have someone who has agreed to be interviewed, you then have to prepare for the interview. You have to make sure you have all the gear that you need. Most importantly, you have to believe that you are going to create something that your interviewee will be happy with, so that the next time they see you they don’t start screaming ‘You!’ and throwing things at you.

The filming of the interview

Andy was happy to come to my house for the filming, so at least I knew we would be able to get some good light…and if we used one of our new ‘Of course your happiness is my prime concern darling…wait, HOW MUCH?!!!’ chairs I might be able to claim them as a tax deduction. I used a roll of white paper as the background (I gave a guy my mountain bike when he was looking at getting back into cycling and he repaid me with reams of white paper, which make an awesome background for filming or photography) and I shot it all on my Canon 550D and my iPhone 4 (I used a Zoom H2 for the audio).
Any concerns I had about whether I would get enough good stuff to edit with were assuaged within the first 3 minutes. Andy is a dream interviewee, he was relaxed, fearless and best of all, engaging.
After 40 minutes of interview, the sensor on my camera was starting to overheat…and Xavier had returned to wreak havoc on my film set, so we called it a day.

The edit

As I said, the interview went for 40 minutes. Normally my first cut (where you get rid of all of the stuff you know you won’t be able to use) would whittle this down to about 10-15 minutes…then I would begin the tricky job of cutting it back to 3-5 minutes. But when I got rid of all of the guff from Andy’s interview I still had 30 minutes of footage…pretty much his entire interview was great! Which is great if you’re producing a half hour doco…but when you’re producing a 3-5 minute video for the web, it’s a freaking nightmare.
I was eventually brutal enough and cut it down to 5’30″(but there was some great stuff I’ll have to find another use for!), added some photos and footage that I had (and two that I got from Andy), wrote the music track in GarageBand…and the end result goes a little something like this…

or for the Vimeo fans

2 Degrees of Melbourne – Andy White from 2 Degrees of Separation on Vimeo.

So there we have it, the ‘Year of creativity’ is finally underway…my next interview targets are Richard Gill, Danny Collis and Hanna Assifiri. So if any of you have any good contacts with them, please let me know.

A big thanks

Last but not least, I’d like to thank Andy very much for taking the time, being such a great interviewee and most of all for running the best bike ride I’ve ever done, The Melburn Roobaix.



Recovering your Hotmail account

About two and a half weeks ago, I got a weird email from my wife’s (hereafter known as Katie) Hotmail account. Feeling quietly confident that she wouldn’t be sending me emails in German that were apparently trying to get me to click on a link, I gave her a call to let her know her account had been hacked. Turns out a few other people had told her the same thing and so she was heading home to change her password. It’s fair to say things turned crap pretty soon after this, here’s our experience.

Step 1: Hotmail sends an email to your secondary account with a verification code

When Katie went to log in there was a screen saying ‘It looks like someone else is using this account. We will send a verification email to your nominated account. Just type the code from this email into the box below and you can regain access’.
Clearly this is genius, and as I’m the person with the nominated account I waited for the email with the verification to arrive…and I waited…and I waited some more. If you’ve ever had to change your password on something, or you use internet banking, you’ll know these verification emails usually arrive within about 10 seconds. After half an hour, I got Katie to try again…then again after another 20 minutes. Nothing.

Step 2: Prove your identity

There is also an option to fill in a form that proves that you are the legitimate owner. Again, genius. The form asks you all the normal questions, but also asks you to list the subjects of your recent emails, as well as the addresses of people you have recently emailed. At first blush this makes sense, after all who else would know the subjects of your emails. But in reality, if you haven’t used the account for a couple of days, or if a lot of your emails are replies to other people’s emails…how the hell are you going to remember what the subjects were? How much tolerance is built in? How many of you (without taking a peak) can say what the subjects of emails that you sent 3 days ago were? How many of you actually know people’s email address off by heart? Most email systems autofill these when you start typing, so it’s become like remembering people’s mobile phone numbers…you don’t have to because the machine does it for you.
But don’t panic. After all, this is Microsoft…a multimillion dollar company. They will have thought of all of this and built in tolerances accordingly. Just fill in the form, and tomorrow you’ll be back into your account.

Step 3: Wait 24 hours…then be told that you haven’t proven you are you

OK…so the email verification never arrived, and now their system doesn’t believe that you are the legitimate owner of your own account. Just to be clear, the system that was apparently sufficiently lax as to allow your account to be hacked by a complete stranger…is now saying it won’t let you back into your own email account.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3…twice.

By this stage we are getting furious. Katie uses her Hotmail account for a lot of her business stuff, so it’s really important to get those contact details back from her account. In desperation I actually started scouring the internet for help. After 2 hours of being bounced from the form we had already filled in…to a series of FAQ’s…to a ‘help Forum’. I was starting to feel like one of those old people who say ‘I just want to talk to a real person!’
So I did the next best thing and sent a snarky tweet to @MicrosoftHelps (Microsoft Support’s twitter account). The next day I got a reply from them, and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing they escalated our case to a ‘moderator’. At last! Clearly this was going to be the turning point…God bless Social Media!

Step 5: Abandon all hope

Ahh yes…I may have been a bit too quick on the ‘God bless social media’ thing (actually in truth, @microsofthelps were really good…it’s just the rest of Microsoft that was freaking useless). After a week of filling in the same forms (because clearly after two weeks Katie’s memory of the subjects of her emails was going to be better) and trying to convince Hotmail that Katie really is the owner of her own account. We were given a final notice that we had not proved that Katie was the real owner, so we could not get access to the account…but hey ‘Why don’t you set up a new Hotmail account…and this time be really careful with your password.’
Well there’s an idea…and here’s another idea…why don’t you go F$&# yourself?! How about you develop some security systems that actually prevent this from happening? If you can’t do that (and I appreciate it’s very difficult), then why don’t you implement some systems that actually allow the legitimate owners of the account to gain access to it? And if you can’t do either of these things, how about you don’t patronise people by saying ‘hey just set up another account’? Because sometimes people have over 10 years worth of correspondences and contacts and you can’t just get that back by starting a new account, you human paraquat!

Some advice

So after two and a half weeks of trying, we have finally given up. After over 10 years of being a loyal customer, Katie has set up a Gmail account…and all because Hotmail’s systems are so inadequate and their customer service has been so poor.
I realise that complaining about the customer service for a product that I’ve never paid for is pretty much a ‘first world problem’, but you know what? I don’t care. I’ve been nice, I’ve done everything they’ve asked, I have held fast to my belief that if you just do the right thing, then the system will do the right thing. But the system hasn’t done the right thing, it has strung me along for two and half weeks, and then dumped me on my arse (and I had more than enough of that during my teenage years from any number of girls!)

So here’s some advice for Hotmail:
Fix your systems.
Improve your customer service.

And here’s some advice for all of you:
Set up a Gmail account and transfer all of your contacts over there.
And if you you’re trying to get in contact with Katie…don’t send anything to her Hotmail account.

The song that changed my life…kinda.

Rafael Epstein has a segment on his radio show on 774 ABC Melbourne where people talk about the song that changed their life, and every time I think about it, there is one song that really stands out: ‘Red 2‘ by Dave Clark. But it’s not because it heralded the onset of some amazing time in my life, more that it marked the end of one.

The rave scene in the early 90’s

If this were a news report or documentary, this is the part where you cut to the footage of people dancing with glow sticks in a massive club while a light show explodes around them. But in truth this is not where this story starts. In year 11 and 12 ¬†at school (1992-93) I started listening to techno music. Back then it was called ‘trance’ and it was still well and truly outside of the mainstream. DJ’s who would eventually play at parties for 10,000s of people like Will e Tell and Richie Rich were still playing the back room at Insanity at the Chevron to a transient group of about 20 punters.

Community radio was the only place to find it. There was one show that I listened to religiously called ‘Beat in the street‘ (that later became ‘Transmission’) on RRR-FM hosted by Kate Bathgate. I used to tape every show, and then listen to the tape on my walkman again, and again and again at school over the next week.
Going to a private all-boys school meant that listening to anything other than MMM or Fox-FM was basically like walking into a steakhouse and just ordering a salad, it simply wasn’t done. So listening to these tapes in the common room at school had a sort of forbidden pleasure element to it.
I started going to dance parties (or in the parlance of 1994 ‘raves’) regularly when I started Uni and it was a total revelation. The venues were usually shitty warehouses with one toilet. The sound systems were prone to blowing just as everyone was going apeshit (Thomas Heckman, I’m looking in your direction) and the people attending them were the offcuts from society. There were tall and lanky guys and short squat women. They had their own dresscode (highly coloured clothes, with very wide pants and very tight tops). They didn’t drink and there was none of the agro that hung over the club scene like a fog as soon as the clock hit 2am. And the music…well it was like nothing I had ever heard! There was the big 4/4 beat driving it along, but there were also floating basslines and awesome melody lines that I just loved. If you can imagine my music up until this point being basically nothing but guitars and the occasional hip-hop track… then suddenly hearing this or this you can get an idea of just how big a change it was.
It was a very friendly and welcoming scene, and like so many sub-cultures, part of the pleasure was sharing an experience with a whole lot of like minded people. I would head to these parties at about midnight and then dance until the early morning…then catch the first train home. Some how I managed to also accommodate my exhausting 8 contact hours a week of uni. I was living the dream.

Cometh the drugs, cometh the pretty people…endeth the party

By the mid 90’s the parties were getting bigger and better, with the Hardware and Every Picture Tells a Story parties attracting thousands of people…and with that I started to notice more and more people from clubland appearing at the raves. It started with a slow trickle of muscly men in white t-shirts and their blonde bombshells…and eventually became a monsoon of pretty people armed with whistles, glow sticks and talcum powder. But of course these people weren’t here for the music…they were there because someone had told them that it was cool to go to raves and do drugs.
Now of course drugs had always been a big part of the rave scene, but suddenly people were no longer going to listen to the music and maybe do some drugs…they were going to do some drugs and maybe listen to some music. So the music slowly began to morph away from the flowing melodies and soaring chords, towards something that said ‘look, you’ve spent a lot of money on those two pills and that gram of speed…let’s give you something that you can just grind your teeth to all night’. To me Red 2 was the tipping point. It was so sparse, so mechanical, and so minimal that I felt no connection with it…and as the crowds around me generally lost their shit to it…I realised that I had no real connection with them either. And suddenly the spell was broken. I could no longer see my future self still going the these parties when I was 40 (I had earnestly announced this to people in the past), I couldn’t even see myself going to these parties in 6 months time. The dance was over.
Like any naive person in a subculture, I wanted the mainstream to see how amazing this scene was and to experience what I was experiencing. I was convinced that if the mainstream could just attend these parties, then the world would be a better place…but when the mainstream decided to drop by, they were like a drunken gatecrasher. They turned up at my house, made a pass at my girlfriend then vomited on the cat. In short they pretty much ruined everything, and Red 2 was the soundtrack they did it to.

That was 20 years ago. All of the flyers I used to have stuck on my bedroom walls are gone, the recordings I listened to religiously are on redundant technology and it takes weeks weeks to organise someone to look after the kids if I was to go out on a Saturday night…and even then, I’d have to be home by 1am because otherwise I’d be too tired for the next day. But while writing this I jumped on YouTube and started listening to some of the tracks I used to love, and suddenly I was back in a warehouse in Footscray, at 4am, dancing my heart out with a room of people who were having the best night of their lives…and I’m so glad that I got to experience that.