Another Side of Gary Turner
“There is a hole in the universe. It is not like a hole in a wall where a mouse slips through, solid and crisp and leading from somewhere to someplace. It is rather like a hole in the heart, an amorphous and edgeless void. It is a heartfelt absence, a blank space where something is missing, a large and obvious blind spot in our understanding….”
“I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in
And stops my mind from wandering…”
John Lennon and Paul McCartney
You know him as the man who completed evolution… from hobo chalking through war dialing to war chalking and finally, le bon trop: Chalkchalking.
You know him as the man who brought you blogstickers… the intellect behind “blogtank” … the egalitarian genius behind the “dropdown USA” movement… the caregiver who was inspired to assemble the Rageboy Collage…. so you may be surprised to discover with me that Gary Turner is not just another pretty face…
Gary, now that you’ve put the finishing touches on the RB collage, are you ready for your Sandhill Interview? If you score high, as many as six (unduplicated) people may read part of it!! The way it works is I convince you of my desire for you to enjoy the process, I ask simple questions, some of which will be rude and intrusive. You email me answers. I assemble the thing, then we publish it next Wednesday and my off-shore page views go way up as Sandhill Trek takes the continent by storm.
…sheesh, am I THAT famous already? OK. Lets give it a go, half my family is flying in today for the weekend but I’m sure I could snatch the odd 10 minutes here and there.
(He has these enormous pouches in his cheeks for tongue placement -fp-)
Who is Gary Turner? How old are you? Whereabouts do you live? What do you for a living when you are not creating brilliant concepts like blogstickers and chalk chalking? Are you any relation to porridge boy? How did the porridge boy thing get started? Would you like salt with that?
What do you do for “holidays?” (We say “vacation” here, but I’m trying to put you at ease by talking funny).
I am this guy I know. I have to think to remember my age, apparently I’m of an age where it’s irrelevant to me how old I am, but the last time I checked I think I was 33 going on 34, wait, its coming to me, yes I’m 34 on August 9th. Ooer.
I live in a strange place, not that it is strange per say, more that I feel like a stranger in it. This is not entirely unsurprising given that we only moved here a year ago in a quick, ill planned but perfectly executed heart wrenching detatchment from everything we ever knew. This place is Northampton, England. Particularly notable for the following; it’s about as far away as you can get from the sea anywhere in the UK, (which is strangely important to an islander race) and over 75% of the UK population is less than two and a half hours drive away.
Formerly a resident of Glasgow, Scotland, we (we being my wife Fiona and me), consider ourselves ‘townies’ and Northampton is somewhat bereft of townie friendly things, like Starbucks etc. so we’ve adopted London as our spiritual home down here, it’s about a hour away.
Work. OK, I’ve taken care not to identify my employers for reasons I’ve previously given somewhere on my blog. It could get all so messy, it probably wouldn’t but until my blog pays my mortgage, and then some (yeah, right), I’ll be quoting the 5th.
What I can say is that I am absolutely and utterly besotted and obsessed with computers and have been since I was a ‘nipper. The other day I was asked to write a short bio for our PR company and all I gave them was “Geek in a suit”. Says it all really, and they never came back for clarification. I’m, I think, a rare hybrid who sits smack bang in the middle of the whole “geek/commercially illiterate —- suit/tech illiterate” scale, actually on second thoughts, probably a little more to the left. A kind of middle-man who can talk the talk and walk the walk just enough to save himself.
My job title is Head of Sales, which in yank terms would be VP of Sales & Marketing, I think. I started selling computers to geeks around 1988, progressed to selling computer systems to businesses between 1989-1995 and since ’95 I’ve jumped the fence and worked for an accounting software developer/vendor. Exciting stuff.
We were taken over by a dotcom fruitloop in 2000 during the goldrush upon whence I became acquainted with HTML in an attempt to (a) see how hard it was – the geek in me – and (b) to develop an alternate career path just in case, and the original spoof dotcom garyturner.net site was born. Mainly as an experiment but also as a major piss-take of what our company was going through at the time. I was more of a footsoldier back then I might add. Anyway, the guys in white hats turned up, shot the baddies and sorted the shit out. Meanwhile, being tenacious, I decided it would be fun to stay, contrary to the multitude of departing colleagues at the time, got promoted, again, again, and again and now I’m almost the big-cheese, spouting forth whacky idea after idea which almost always get adopted, which is scary since they’re not always good ideas, but I keep quiet about that.
Actually ideas are big for me. For years I’d feed them into the machine to see some of them get adopted to then be passed of by the management as theirs, but I knew, oh yes, I knew they were my babies. (more of babies later).
Anyway here’s an ideas tangent, if you read this blog then you should seek medical help fast, but regular readers will know me though my ideas, I love ideas, the whole shebang, the challenge, creation, development and then the unbound adulation that follows. A bit like training an animal to do tricks in return for a reward, I’ve become conditioned to seek approval for some reason, don’t ask me why.
What blogs do you read regularly? Who are among your favorite bloggers? What do you think about blogging as journalism?
I go through phases. blogrolling is a funny thing, you feel a sort of obligation to link people out of courtesy because they linked to you but then you don’t ever read them and sometimes you link someone because you really like their blog and you do read them very regularly. I’m betwixt and between removing some of the links on my blogroll as its just getting too bloody long and the blogs I really like get lost in the crowd. So the other week I split my roll into two, my regular blogs that I read pretty much every day if not every other day and the second division blogs that I link to but only read occassionally but are still great blogs. But i’m still not satisfied, i think a healthy churn is necessary and plan to do some pruning next week sometime to trim back the numbers to make room for new fresh bloggers. but thats a can of worms when folk find out I’ve dropped them but its not like i’m sending hundreds of hits anyone’s way each day. They’ll get over it. So all of the blogs on my top blogroll are pretty much regulars for me. Of those my really regulars are Jason DeFillipo (alias Thor) who’s a really clever web guy and talks openly about his daily routine shit, but his is more interesting than most and the rest of my super-regulars without which my lunchtimes would collapse are Jeneane Sessum, Mike Golby, the three cluetraineers, (obviously), Martin Roell, Shelley Powers, Chris Pirillo and of course blogstickers – but that guy hardly ever posts these days – ahole, but I flit about a load of other ones most days too. Oh, and of course Sandtrek. Honest. [Disingenuous? Perhaps… fp]
As for journalism and blogging its an obvious association to make but I think there’s more to it than just enabling more people to publish stuff easily. Some journo’s will gravitate towards it because the mediums are similar-ish but for many i think the community aspect is or will become bigger. I spoke with Jeneane on the phone the other day as I did Martin in Germany at the weekend and I’ve taken calls from 5 or 6 bloggers including the inimitable mr locke today who made a passing comment which really requires further examination. RB said today, “I’ve just discovered the reason for blogging is to get people on the phone, we needed the internet to get people to pick up the fucking telephone.”, which lately seems to be the way blogging is going, for me anyway. On my cellphone I now have a growing list of international phone numbers of other bloggers, weird, i now recieve more personal emails every day than I do work related – and I receive a load of work related email – weirderer. You know, a whole social dimension has been uncovered here so that tells me there’s more to blogging than just journalism, i think the J-word’s a neat angle but it’s not the whole story. You had to be lucky or you had to go to the right places to meet like-minded people before the web, now it’s there in a nanosecond and more than you could eat. I’m really excited about blogging right now, i feel this is a real social renaissance period perhaps. but i’m biased.
Is Fiona a redhead?
Fiona is not a redhead, dark brown though she does sometimes put an auburn colour through it so technically you could say she is a red head right now.
Are you sexual gymnasts?
Sexual gymnasts? From reading your past form I expected the conversation would take a turn for the worse mr paynter, you sure seem to be repressing something or other. As you know us brits are famed for not liking to talk about sex, besides the image of me prancing around the room naked with that gymnastic ribbon dance thing flailing around would be too much for your readers to take so we’ll best leave it there.
I hadn’t even gotten to the part about the trapeze. Do you have any housepets?
Housepet, jeez I’m a blogger man, of course I have a cat! He even has his own webpage as all modern cats seem to these days.
How do you feel about the euro and what will it do to the language? (“In for a penny in for a pound” sort of fades away doesn’t it?)
The euro is cool, i used them for the first time last month on a trip to dublin. rather than being pro or against, i’m firmly entrenched in the ‘i don’t give a shit either way’ category.
Your creative side is constantly on display at MLoD, the blog. Over the last several months at least two of your brilliant ideas have caught on with bloggers everywhere. I’m referring of course to blog stickers and chalkchalking. (I read this morning that UK schools may soon return to the use of chalk as a direct result of your efforts). Is it true that you have investments in several Real Estate Trusts that are even now making an effort to corner the market in Dover?
Heh. I actually donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve ever had an original idea or not. Its hard to tell but what I do know is Iâ€™m a great innovator and improviser. Iâ€™m constantly aware of making something out of odds and ends of ideas, stories, words etc. Also, I habitually look for strange or quirky reverse angles on things, wordplay, puns or just plain stupid-ness of the “I am serious and donâ€™t call me Shirley” ilk.
The original Blogstickers idea was an example of me improvising an old popular idea, car bumper-stickers, and twisting it into something new which had a kind of new meaning all of its own. I didnâ€™t set out to do that though, I just happened upon it while trying to think of a cool or witty title to put in the Blogger title field one boring afternoon.
Chalkchalking is the same I guess, another parasite idea that gains initial popularity and mobility from its host, in this case Warchalking, and adds a funny or quirky spin to it. I guess thereâ€™s something there in common with what makes spoof movies popular (to a point), Airplane being a great example, again. Iâ€™m making it sound like Iâ€™ve got some kind of idea laboratory going on here and that I scientifically approach this. I donâ€™t, of course, but upon reflection, and this is the first time Iâ€™ve actually thought about it this way, I guess there is a formula or at least a trend there. For proof, read the very first post on my weblog where I talk about this â€˜problemâ€™ I have.
Actually, I get more of a kick out of it than I expect other people will, when others see the funny side thatâ€™s a bonus obviously. Making people laugh is a major theme for me, maybe thatâ€™s why I do it so much, you know that whole seeking reward/acceptance thing.
One of your brightest ideas seems to have bogged down. I’m referring of course to Blog Tank. What do you think is lacking there? Can that effort be restarted? Should it be?
Of course, I donâ€™t just sit there coming up with spoof ideas each time, blogtank is an example of a more serious one but again evidence of improvisation is there again. I guess I was somewhat taken by the apparent power we feel that we have as bloggers, you know too much too soon, I guess looking at it cynically then blogtank was an okay idea that got from zero to 100mph in no time in that it was accepted as a cool idea very quickly but hit a plateau and then died off shortly thereafter. My problem is short attention span; I get a buzz from the creation bit then get quickly bored when thereâ€™s nothing left to create. Also, time is an issue, Iâ€™m holding down a reasonably demanding dayjob and thereâ€™s two aspects to that, had I said right from the start that I was going to make blogtank my day job then Iâ€™d have given it every ounce of energy and attention I could to make it work, the other aspect is, and this is going to sound very lame, if weâ€™d kept on pushing blogtank and it became something interesting then there could have been potential conflicts with my day job in that, one day, I would have gotten a call from my boss saying “whatâ€™s this blogtank thing all about then?” which would have been followed by blogtank being my new day job. That probably sounds very conceited, itâ€™s not meant to.
Actually I do long to be in a position where I could devote 100% of my focus on MLOD or blogtank just to see what could really happen and where they could really go as projects. Reality check just taken.
As to whether blogtank could or should be restarted, I suppose it could. I also guess that someone else will do a better job of it sooner or later in another guise once threading/group collaboration apps get better, that was one of the major stumbling blocks I think.
How did you meet Fiona? When did you know you would marry?
Actually we became neighbours about 1989, she lived the the flat below mine. I remember ‘noticing’ her early on but there’s somethings you don’t do, and one of those is hitting on your new neighbour, as rejection would lead to much unecessary unpleasantness every time we passed in the hallway. You couldn’t help but ‘notice’ Fiona, she is beautiful, both inside and out. Her mother is Irish and her father was from Pakistan, before I knew better I thought she was Italian, if not then certainly Mediterannean.
So anyway, for the first few months, actually more like a year and a half, we exchanged pleasantries, smiles, I helped start her car on cold mornings, that kind of stuff. After once such good deed around December 1990 she arrived at the doorway with a gift, one of those zany coffee mug cartoon things. That was all the invitation I needed, at least if we went out on a date at that point and we never clicked then we could have lived with it on the basis that it was just two neighbours being nice to each other.
We went to my favourite Italian and then as part of a tactically perfect and exquisitely planned sequence of events we went to the movies to see Patrick Swayze (where is he these days?) and Demi Moore in ‘Ghost’ which had been out for a few months at that point but it was all the schmaltz we needed (actually I’d seen it before so I knew what I was doing). This was a couple of days after Christmas Day that year so I had a few days holiday from work to spend with her and I’d just been paid a big commission from a deal I’d sold so she must have thought I was a high-roller. Or just an asshole, anyway the money ran out after a week or so.
So we became an item, got engaged around 92, aimed to get married in 95, forgot to do so – I recall the moment of realisation, I think we were deciding on which brand of frozen peas to buy in our local supermarket one saturday in 1995 when we said, were’nt we supposed to be getting married today? Actually, I lost my job in ’94 when the computer dealer I worked for went pop, got another job, wasn’t happy, got another one and we decided to buy a house together in ’95 instead and then get married later. ‘Later’ became 5 years later and we finally tied the knot in April 2000. So, we’ve been together for 12 years, make each other laugh hysterically every day, well and truly soulmates and lovers. I think we’ve gotten even closer since we discovered Fiona’s preggers, with Turner Jr. who’s due around 9th December. We’ve never been a couple to rush into things.
When did Fiona know you two would be married?
<JOKE>I don’t know if she even knows today, but I avoid pointing that out to her whenever I can.</JOKE>
Is she an online gamer?
She couldn’t be further removed from online gaming, blogging and geek stuff. A traditional gal for sure. But remember that I more than make up for it and it’s a good balance all round I think.
Talk to me please about sales teams. building them, directing them, protecting them from siren songs and one eyed monsters. In the world of flavor of the month management theories, are there any tools that you swear by?
I have no fucking idea, period. Iâ€™ve only recently become a people manager, zero to 15 people in sixty seconds which is interesting. I have always tended to feel comfortable in the lead role in things so it hasnâ€™t been entirely a big shock, more natural but itâ€™s definitely a learning curve. Two months into the job I had to make two people redundant which was not pleasant but I got through it. People that know me well have a name for me when Iâ€™m showing my ruthless or hard side, Mr Sleekit, itâ€™s a Scots word for sly or cunning, (Taken from the famed Robert Burns poem, â€˜To A Mouseâ€™). Iâ€™ve had it since my late teens, I suppose they call me that because thereâ€™s such a contrast from the nice, funny, best mate kind of Gary you all know and love (or not) through my blog and the manner with which I energetically throw myself into difficult or cutthroat situations. Nothing major league here, no skeletors in the closet or anything, I can just seem to switch it on and off as required, I like to think Iâ€™m just ballsy.
Mr Sleekit does the things that Gary Turner wouldnâ€™t do, Incredible Hulk, Mr Hyde or dare I say it RageBoy. Adopting a persona seems to be all the rage these days.
Iâ€™m really nice as nine-pence but friends would have you think of me as the Alec Baldwin character â€˜Blakeâ€™ in the excellent David Mamet movie-cum-play, Glengarry Glen Ross. If you havenâ€™t read or seen it I most heartily recommend that you do. Thatâ€™s a sales team. Every colour, shape and kind of sales animal is pretty much covered in that play. I absolutely love the Blake character:
“Blake: We’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anybody want to see second prize? [Holds up prize.] Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. So itâ€™s fuck or walk”
And this cut with Baldwin (Blake) versus Ed Harris (Dave Moss)
“Dave Moss: What’s your name?
Blake: Fuck you! That’s my name!
Blake: You know why, mister? ‘Cause you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, I drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW. That’s my name.
Moss: Who are you? What’s your name?
Blake: You see this watch? You see this watch?
Blake: That watch costs more than you car. I made $970,000 last year. How much you make? You see pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing. Nice guy, I don’t give a shit. Good father, fuck you! Go home and play with your kids!
You wanna work here, close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit?”
The total power trip of that appeals to the Mr Sleekit side of me whilst the Jack Lemmon character reminds me of salesmen Iâ€™ve worked with in the past, tragic souls, reminiscent of Willy Loman in Miller’s, “Death of A Salesman.” Iâ€™m definitely driven, maybe not as much as Blake but Iâ€™ve certainly got aspirations to have expensive watches (tick that one) and a BMW (tick that too) though Iâ€™m not quite in Blakeâ€™s earning bracket just yet.
Shit! Iâ€™ve just realised Iâ€™ve been modelling myself on Blake all this time, the watch, the beemer. Jesus. Iâ€™m a nice Blake. Grrr. Golby calls my sleekit side PorridgeBoy, I slapped him down with a nasty bout of wit once or twice (in good humour) and I guess he caught a glimpse of Mr Sleekit then. But PorridgeBoy is much worse than Sleekit.
So you’ve got the Beamer and the raw watch…
Well, lest you take me literally, let me clarify… Firstly I do drive a BMW but it’s a small diesel powered one, nothing too flash and whilst I do own an expensive watch it isn’t a really cheesey one like a rolex or anything. I’d hate for people to peg me as a gold rolex wearer, jeez. No, my watch is an out and out total geek watch, e.g. it has a 90dB alarm, it’s shock resistant to 5,000,000 G’s (or something insane like that) and is used by astronauts on the ISS and has mission time alarms and all that stuff. I felt that I needed to say that just to re-align my geek credentials before people got the wrong idea.
I understand that you can be found on “Jolt” under your nickname “Sleekit.” What jolts you? Are you a Quaker or more of s Soldier of Fortune or Jedi Knight kind of guy?
I’m definitely a UT kinda guy. This might sound strange but I cannot play Quake 3 and get the same level of enjoyment, more than that I don’t like it. I own the game and all that, it just doesn’t click. Its a very personal touchy feely sort of thing and there was a massive battle akin to the Mac versus PC debate, Linux versus Windows, Coke versus Pepsi wars where Unreal Tournament versus Quake three was all people could talk about. Sleekit is meant to reflect my style of play, unforgiving and sneaky, the kind of guy who’ll shoot you in the back as quick as look at you and I’m kamikaze brave too, rather than run away I tend to just run after better opponents for fear and humuliation are not worthy soulmates.
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” – Archie Griffin.
I’m half Norwegian. You’re Glaswegian. I’m wondering if the town shouldn’t be spelled Glasway?
I was thinking more Glasnost actually. Wait, this reminds me of a great Gorbachev joke I once heard him tell. On a chat show I should add. It goes something like:
<joke>Three Russians are standing in a queue in Moscow, waiting to pick up some bread. There were well over 200 people ahead of them in the queue and they’d been waiting three hours already that day and didn’t seem to be making much progress towards the front. Suddenly one of them says “Right, I’ve had enough of this way of life, this is no way to run a country, to deprive your people of basic essentials like bread. I’ve decided I’m going off now to assasinate Gorbachev.” and he left in the direction of the Kremlin.
Some hours later, his two comrades were still standing in the bread queue when their friend returned looking frustrated. “Well, did you kill Gorbachev then?” asked one of the men, “No” came the reply, “That queue was even longer than this one!”.</joke>
Sometime before this is over you have to use the word “haggis” in a complete sentence. As a Scot, far from your native land, do you ever miss the highly spiced and exotic foods from home?
I don’t know about missing the foods, deep-fried Mars bars (seriously) I can take or leave, I’m a very fussy eater, not so fussy about the quantities however, so Haggis et al are not missed in any way shape or form. Traditional scottish food like Haggis, tatties & neeps, has been somewhat stolen by the tourism industry in scotland and presented in shortbread tins with pictures of scottish pipers. My favourite scottish dish is a dessert called Atholl Brose, it’s made with porridge oats (yum), cream and various whiskies. Sadly what real scottish people eat is far from romantic, it’s the heart disease capital of the universe and most of its culinary culture has been replaced with Indian curry – for which I’m not complaining – and the stable Fish & Chips. Glasgow, however, has become much more cosmopolitan in recent years and is regarded as the best shopping/eating/leisure center in the UK, after London of course – if you happen to find yourself in the UK then please do make a visit. Many overseas visitors make a B-line for Edinburgh, which is nice what with all its pipers, shortbread tins, Atholl Brose, Haggis Burgers and castle, but Glasgow is a more serious, get to the point kind of place and I guess I do really miss it. We get back once every two or three months to rewhiten my tan (I rains, basically, all the time) and to recharge my Scottishness. I still read imported Scottish papers, watch scottish TV after having ‘hacked’ my satellite receiver to do so, listen to scottish radio over the web etc. Some would say that I’m having problems coming to terms with my adopted nationality. It’ll probably fade in a few more years.
Great Britain arguably contributed much more than the US to the victory in the 1914 – 1945 thirty year war to prevent German colonial expansion. Then you turned around and gave your empire away. Do you have any advice for the United States of America as it blunders forward on a course of hegemonic expansion and domination?
Yesterday I actually stood in the bedroom where Winston Churchill was born, in Blenheim Palace near Oxford, mother and grandmother in tow. Blenheim Palace stands testament to just how bloody good us brits used to be at spending money. Serious place. Insane wealth. I read the letter/decree that JFK (I think) wrote granting old Winnie honorary US citizenship in the sixties and marvelled at his monogramed slippers, not JFK’s, Churchill’s. I think that with Churchill’s death a large chunk of British colonial history died too. He was in many ways a link to the past, born into some seriously well to do British aristocracy in 1874. These days many of our politicians come from backgrounds far less priviledged than Churchill’s was. We have just changed laws doing away with hereditary peers in the House of Lords, before this, if your father was a lord, duke or whatever, you were automatically granted a seat in the House of Lords, whether you were a complete twat or not. Most of them used to go there for a quiet afternoon nap, whilst the balance of lords was made up of House of Commons superstars, like Thatcher. We’ve changed that. With the removal of the aristocracy from many roles in British government so too has the links with imperialism of old, that’s understandable. However, it is still ingrained in the british biological make-up, some kind of mystical calling. What I can’t quite fathom yet is the new form of American imperialism. At home in the US I suppose there are many who would argue that it’s a force for good, that you need to defend and proliferate the american way. But I also suppose that this is the way that Britain saw itself a couple of hundred years ago. Its just that these days the imperial outposts are McDonalds, Starbucks, MTV and USA prioritised country dropdown lists. Couldn’t resist that last one.
Rugby or soccer, which is true sport, and how do they compare to American football in your opinion? Polo or hockey? Which hurts more do you think?
Actually, team sports and I don’t mix. The sports which interest me directly reflect my singular competitive make-up, sports where there can be only one winner. Motorsport tends to float my boat, F1 in particular. Not so much US motorsports, they’re far to even and fair what with all the cars being made by the same company, pace cars etc.
For me, Formula One is the truest form of ‘competition’, in the Microsoft sense of the word if you know what I mean. The teams, the cars, the technologies, the everything at its absolute peak of performance with the sole aim of finishing first and obliterating everyone else, as they say, second place is the biggest loser. I watched bits of the world cup, but only the important games, the ones that had a do or die outcome. As for weekly league football, it just doesn’t do it for me, if you win or lose a game in the middle of a season who the hell cares? There’s another 20 games to make it up, but when it’s an end of season crunch game, where the losers go home in tears, then i’m interested. Binary outcomes, that’s what gets me going.
Having said all that, I do really enjoy playing online team games, I’m a big Unreal Tournament player, its the only thing I play these days having been a major video game player since I was in short trousers. Unreal tournament is a quake-like game (for the record, I stand firmly in the UT camp in the big, which is better UT or Q3 debate). Games like UT and Quake are massive, much more than meets the eye. The team strategies, styles of play and possibilities are immeasurably complex. Basically, a bunch of players hook up into the same server either in a every man for himself deathmatch (where there can be only one winner 😉 ) or in co-ordinated team objective games. I predict that this kind of thing is going to become the next generation of sports activity (sedentery sports!), already there are guys that just get paid to play these things, (play in the sense of playing a sport, not a game), big companies sponsor the best teams and it won’t be long before TV/Web broadcast events are commonplace. “Unreal Tournament 2003” gets released around now and there’s talk of a whole player exchange market, with valuations, prices etc. just like regular sport transfer markets. Awesome. Totally awesome, heart attack inducing excitment. Watch these things take off in the future.
When I was a boy, the formula for happiness included sex, drugs, rock and roll, and large motorcycles (or “big bikes” as we liked to say). Has anything changed about that formula for your generation?
I think my generation was the first that learned how to program our parents VCR’s. Some of us used that early experience and went on to become supreme coders, like Shelley Powers or Jason DeFillippo and others like me went the other way. But tech is a bigger part of our generation than previous ones I think. Other than that I think the equation is pretty much the same, just more of it.
You’ve been on the geeky side for years now, but socially adept enough to actually sell things. Let’s leave that better integrated side for a moment and talk about systems. What do you use? How long have you been online?
I use a home-built PC (my friend is very talented), which is a now moderately fast 1.2gigahertz box, with more memory and hard disk space than I can actually remember – that should tell us something about the way things have changed in recent years. It runs Windows XP and Linux, the latter as a part-time hacker project for me, I’m concerned that I’m becoming too ‘normal’ in my PC experience, nothing left to discover unlike the good old days where you had to be a real hacker enthusiast just to boot the buggers up. I’m challenging myself with learning Linux, it will serve no purpose other than learning and it’s cool. Very geekish.
I first showed up online in 1995, started reading books about the web shortly before that but UK web connections were too expensive before then. With blogging, my use of the web has changed dramatically. I used to have hundreds of bookmarked sites. I’d visit someplace, book-mark it but then I’d never go back. Now I have 3-4 book marked sites, the rest live on my weblog as links to other people’s blogs. My PC use has precipitated down to three basic things since Unreal Tournament and blogging came along. Email, blogging & Unreal Tournament, I’ve bought PC games in the last year that are still in their cellophane wrappers, I’ve gotten home thinking I’ll install them but just after I check my blog or have a go at reducing some UT newbie to a smear on the wall. That’s basically my PC life these days, I’m aware that it’s probably not very healthy and I’m making an effort to branch out again, Linux being an example of that.
Talk to us about voice. The concept had great currency a few months ago. Jeneane Sessum is a writer who creates corporate voice, or identity, through her work. Chris Locke seems to be saying that each of us has one true voice and we should find it and use it. What do you think about all that?
Voice is a toughie. I’m definitely non-conformist, but not totally. I mean, I drive on the correct side of the road (left), I’m polite and courteous, I’m sensitive and caring to other people, choose my cutlery from the outside working inwards and all that but I’m definitely not just another blow-joe or a sheep when it comes to fads and fashions, or when people expect you to behave or react a certain, predictable way. An example, store loyalty cards, I refuse to have one, I refuse to be demographically manipulated by some marketing head with a freshly scrawled degree, so I like to fuck up their stats. I give the completely wrong answers in surveys, I switch off totally to any blatant form of marketing crowd control and I beat my own path, but again, not entirely.
So in the context of being just another stat, saying what you really ‘feel’ or think is gradually beaten out of you from an early age. You’re told what to think or feel, what to like and dislike. You choose to not sail too close to the wind, you tell your boss what he wants to hear and not what he needs to hear, because that might be unpleasant. This context results in many people thinking that they have nothing worthwhile to say and their real voices don’t get heard.
For me, voice isn’t just speaking frankly or in a way that might seem controversial to the pack. It isn’t non-conformism for the sake of it, and conformism isn’t exactly the most appropriate word to use here buy anyway. In some ways, voice is what you use to connect yourself with other people but not just on a conversational level, I mean to really connect, a live feed directly into their soul. What’s so good about the web is that all the other distractions you get when you physically meet someone, body language, looks, accent, age, sex, nationality, the forgetful waitress, the delayed flights, they just don’t get in the way. Words are all you have and this is a great medium for really connecting with someone through their true voice. Chris Locke is an expert at this with EGR. In some respects it’s art, in others it’s just some guy talking but what you get at the end of it is a truer picture of a person, what makes them really tick, what they really think. Like I have a pretty good fix on Jeneane Sessum through reading her blog and ‘hearing’ her voice in her writing. If I meet her one day then I’m sure we’d get on, not because we have something in common like blogging, but because I know her pretty well, probably better in some ways than her friends. She shares her voice with only a few people in real life but with anyone who’s interested online, where there’s much less background noise to get in the way.
I’m no expert but it fascinates me, I’ve loosened up a lot lately in my work, I say things I previously wouldn’t dreamed of saying, I quote obscure passages or quotes in sales letters to our reseller channel, I behave more honestly and freely, it’s much much fresher and it’s a lot more fun. People say to me “you’re not going to say that?”, and I say “hell, why not?”. It would be overly romantic to think that this is the reason why I’ve been promoted three times in two years after five years without, ever since I’ve loosened up and allowed my voice to be heard a little more. I don’t know if the voice came first or whether promotion brings confidence which brings more freedom of speech.
It is very dangerous but in careful hands it can work, you just can’t be silly about it. It isn’t just going against the grain for the sake of it, you have to be creating something or working to some purpose, otherwise why bother? I really approach working life as more of an art than a profession these days,(but still 98% profession), there’s more of play involved but it’s all still heavily focussed on being succesful, hitting sales targets and being professional but there’s a lot more fun involved. Never really answered your question there. Tough shit.
You and I share a tremendous respect for the genius of Chris Locke. Do you think Chris’ audience understands that Rageboy is a fictional character? Do you think Chris himself ever loses track of that?
I guess some people think RageBoy is a real person and I suppose in some ways he is. Heâ€™s the unacceptable face of Chris Locke. Iâ€™m sure talking about yourself in the third person like that is quite common and I for one canâ€™t criticise it. However, does Locke realise that RB is a fiction? The boundaries are very blurry and I guess itâ€™s not as important to make the distinction as it once used to be when he was writing in so-called secret. I guess RageBoy is more of a nickname now than a proper persona.
In The Chukka Bar Incident you mention your discomfiture after rolling out “Mork and Mindy” as a conversational entry point. How did you feel talking about sit coms with an authentic cultural hero!
Meeting Chris Locke was cool. Not just because he’s Chris Locke but because he’s a blogger, he’s in tune with his voice and he’s read the cluetrain manifesto a few times etc. etc., but some of the fun in meeting Chris would have been present had you and I met each other, or Jeneane, or Marek, or Elaine. You know, finally getting to meet someone you already know? But if meeting a fellow blogger (for the want of a better description) is cool and exciting then meeting RageBoy staight off the bat was definitely a dive into the deep end.
I later heard that he discussed our now infamous meeting with his audience at the BBC where he was speaking a couple of days later, and he mentioned that he thought it was strange that I’d written about reassuring him that I wasn’t a stalker and that I’d written about this whole celebrity thing that I felt. In truth I actually made more of the fan/celebrity angle when wrote about it than I should have done, I guess I was overstating the awesome-ness of the meeting the same way you recount stories to people and you over-embellish them to make yourself look even better, to impress people more. But there was definitely an element of fan meets celebrity going when we initially met that day. I did ask about Mork and Mindy which was a classic thing to do, I could say to you that I was purposely being quirky to throw him off balance, the boring truth is that the only fucking thing I know about Boulder, Colorado is that Mork and Mindy was set there and we were small-talking about where we lived. Twas a great question though.
Looking back, our meeting was just two guys chewing the fat about stuff but then sometimes I get twinges of the awesomeness of it when I’m in a book shop and see some guy who’s just picked up Gonzo Marketing and he’s scanning the inside jacket cover. It’s certainly cool to have met or to have known really interesting people. It tickles me to have Jeneane Sessum’s telephone number in my cellphone directory.
Perhaps you have read some of the <gender>ism discussion that took place a few weeks ago. I wanted to blog a male discussion of how we as men can support feminist leadings, how we can focus the power of our male-ness without an attempt to accrue further patriarchal privilege, how we may develop a sensitivity to these issues that overrides childhood programming. How do you relate to this? Do you see these as valid issues for discussion in your own life and culture? What is the staus of “Feminism” in Britain? Is it part of the conversation?
Feminism in Britain. Well, we hit a high spot in the 1980’s over here with a female Prime Minister in the role of matriarch. The thing is though, had Thatcher been a man she probably would have made it to Prime Minister too, I think that it was more of a personal destiny for her than a concerted move on the part of the psyche of the country to embrace gender equality. A red herring if you like. For since then, we seem to have slipped back into patriarchy, Blair being a prime example of a father figure leader.
Britain’s board rooms are still dominated by men and however we’d like to think that we’d embraced women in business in my short experience there seem to be only a couple of female businesswomen stereotypes that make it up the ladder and I’ve not met many of those.
If you want to succeed in business as a woman in the UK then you’ve either got to be a bold, brash and uncompromising exaggeration of maleness in a female form, the achetypeal battle-axe a la Margaret Thatcher. Or, if don’t posess those masculine traits, you’d better become a self-employed entrepreneur rather nifty or resign youself to an eternity in middle-management, repping round countryside’s gas stations for a tobacco company or be content with a ‘career’ in H.R. There’s definitely still a glass ceiling in business here. Having said all that, there are certainly more ‘professional’ working women today than there were 20 years ago, it’s not as bleak a picture as my introduction would have you think, but it’s far from great.
Gender-ism, as you put, just it isn’t up for discussion here in the UK. This year especially, what with all the royal family’s matriarchs being in the spotlight either through death or celebration – almost as if the population’s collective eyes have glazed over into submission under a barrage of imagery that harks back to a golden age where Britons were loyal ‘subjects’, the Queen Mother was everyone’s favourite granny and Britainnia still ruled the waves. The feminists voices have been drowned out this year. You have to also remember that we still operate a class society here in the UK, this also plays a role.
When feminism does manage to break cover then it is usually couched in an anarchic context or at least it appears that the only feminists that seem to get any consistent air-time, like Germaine Greer (who is an Australian btw), are portrayed as being, or actually are, anarchists.
What can men do about this? Well some guy, Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web and I think that this single act is probably as much as we need to do. The genie is out of the bottle whether men like it or not and I’m sure that the Web will become the great gender and social playing field leveller, where what sex you are, the school you went to or the colour of your skin become assets to individual progress, not governors. Grand ideology, but I kinda like it.
In Ireland, “the troubles” have continued for decades. Lebanon’s high culture fell to guerilla warfare. Palestine and Israel are at each other’s throats. America wanes paranoid regarding the apocalyptic potential of all kinds of dire terroist threats from small pox and polio, through radiation, black market warheads, and there is even talk of a plot to put turds in the swimming pools at the better country clubs. Gary, do you think there is a path to international forgiveness that could defuse all these struggles and put things right?
I have a some direct experience of the Irish problem, I’ve visited there 5 or six times year over the last 7 or so years and my home town Glasgow has long been split religiously in a mini carbon copy of the Irish troubles, the only difference being they carry guns in Ireland.
Once in Belfast, in 1996 I think, I was driving in my car about 2-3 miles away from where the IRA bombed a UK army barracks (where there were fatalities), I never heard the actual explosion but I was caught up in the commotion that followed, ambulances rushing about everywhere etc. Belfast has come on a long way in the last 5 or 6 years, a lot of new investment has been brought in and the peace process appears to be still, only just, alive. I get the feeling that there is an increasing desire among the younger generations to put the ‘troubles’ behind them but I’m afraid that we won’t see complete normality (whatever that is) for a long time, certainly not in my lifetime. A couple of days before 9/11 the main news story was how catholic parents were being abused, spat on, pipe-bombed as they walked their kids a few hundred yards up a protestant street, the protestants objected and all hell broke loose. The immediate aftershock of 9/11 silenced a lot of that but only temporarily. Just this last weekend the annual marching season barely passed off with minimal disruption. But the majority of the people of Northern Ireland aspire to a life of normalcy and I think that the tide has turned in their favour, only time will tell how long it takes.
As for America vs. The Arab World I’m less hopeful I’m sorry to say. Down the years it seems that the West is only content when there is a force of evil to focus our defences on, previously it was communist russia, then Iraq and now it seems that the state of Terrorism is the new foe. The thing I fear is that this one is only just getting started. I just read today about a couple of new online multi-player games that seem destined to fuel the fires.
Americas Army is a new PC game which has had $7M of US taxpayers money invested in it, partly as a home-front propaganda exercise, to develop a multi-player game which promotes the US military to young and old video-game players. There have previously been contemporary multi-player wargames, CounterStrike being the most popular recently with hundreds of thousands of players online simultaneously at it’s peak, it pitted Terrorists against counter-terrorists in a variety of phoney scenarios. Americas Army seems to have a more authentic feel and with its government endorsement looks as if it may take off in a big way in light of the evens of the last year, tapping into the current US fever for conflict.
Just as disturbing is another new game, Under Ash, developed by a Syrian team which recreates the first-person experiences of Ahmad, a young Palestinian joining the intifada in Jerusalem. To begin with Ahmad’s weapons are the stones off the street, to be thrown at Israeli soldiers. Later he attacks (under your control), armed israeli settlers before lowering an Israeli flag in the disputed territories. The developers say that the game is designed to reflect the nature of the conflict in that there is no real chance of resolution or victory. There are no suicide bombings in the game and any civilian casualties result in an instant Game Over scenario.
Now, you could say that these two developments represent a further, sorry decline into an all out propaganda war and that has to be true to a very large extent. However, I’ve long since harboured the hysterically naive notion that one day all wars would be fought electronically, remote controlled aircraft already exist in the US Airforce, and already technology dominates the battlefield.
That conscripts would simply line up to be armed with PC’s and fast net connections, that victories and deaths would be recorded as people-friendly credits and debits and after an allotted time the side with the most credits would be deemed to have won and the losers would have to give up whatever it was they were fighting to defend, under the auspices of the UN. Right now I can see Kofi Annan wearing his black and white striped referee’s shirt, halting play to call for a slo-mo replay of an illegal move by an american unit under the remote command of a seventeen year old South Floridian who goes by the hacker name of BADBOY2092 who, in his defence, inadvertently bombed an Afghani wedding party.
I have heard that your sales career in the field of high technology was so lucrative that now you work for a nominal 1 pound per year. If this is true, would you describe in greater detail how you dispose of that income?
Lucrative. Be serious Frank. If only. Actually, come to think of it I think, yes I’m almost certain, that I would invest it in something or other. No, scratch that, I’d spend it getting as many A4 photocopies of this here interview done as possible (about 2) and I’d hawk them around the streets of London’s Chinatown where many a failed dotcom millionaire can be found scrabbling around the garbage looking for the next big thing. I’d sell them this story and make another bajillion quid in under a year.
I have a physicist friend who maintains his CERN email address though he may never return to Switzerland. You are an early adopter and a blog culture innovator. Are there any little status symbols of net culture to which you are attached?
There’s very little evidence to show that I was actually around on the web in 1995, my then compuserve email address evoked memories of Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner (firstname.lastname@example.org – hi to my mum and anyone else that knows me) “I am not a number, I am a free man” – if you scrabble around Google Groups long enough to care then you can find my first eclectic postings around sometime in January ’96, I blogged about them back in december last year. Actually, my personal favourite artifact of my early web presence is an automated reply email from Bill Gates after I emailed him about the digital divide and what was he/microsoft going to do about it, I blogged about that last week. I remember at the time feeling perversely honoured to have received a reply, albeit automated, and I think I actually printed it off and pinned to the wall of my office for a time, seeking encouragement from his parting line “best of luck in all your endeavors”. Sad, but true. Of course, he wasn’t so revilled back then. Don’t get me wrong, he was no angel but that was before he shafted netscape, before internet explorer was any good and just after Windows 95 had been launched to a receptive world. I make no apolgies for my sad sycophancy but in saying that I wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing now.
Really, the biggest symbol of net culture for me is, of course, my own garyturner.net top level domain. That has to be about as vain as you can get on the web but it’s pretty cool in a geeky kind of way too, if only primarily for email. Millions of people out there are just an obscure number at hotmail or aol, like i was at compuserve, but no, not I. I own a few others and was gutted last week to discover that some hoser in Hong Kong nicked my MRESHOPPER.COM domain, I’d forgotten to renew it and before I could the bastards had it away. I’m actually quite pissed at that.
Thank you Gary. You have been most patient and forthcoming.