John Walker's Electronic House

Tag: Rants

To Clarify On Working For Free

by on Jan.12, 2012, under The Rest

A lot of people have responded to the list below by disputing the not working for free clause. I wanted to expand on it a little.

First of all, it’s important to note I wrote “for professionals”. i.e. sites that make money. That’s the crucial point. Writing for sites that don’t make money for free is a good idea. Amateur sites, whether they have ambition to become professional or not, are a great place for writers to cut their teeth. They’re a thing that didn’t exist when I was starting out. In fact, my career began in the gap between the popularity of zines, and the existence of gaming websites. So it’s something I know isn’t necessary for success, but certainly very helpful.

Writing for such sites is a good way to practice your craft, learn the skills of writing, and get noticed. Exposing that work in public is great too, because you’ll get used to feedback. It’s something you can refer to when contacting editors, and it’s also something editors may well be reading themselves.

But it doesn’t need to be an established site. Your own blog is a great place to be writing. The important thing is that you’re writing, getting better, and building up a stock of links you can send to editors. When you email an editor to suggest they give you work, you pick out two or three of your best pieces and you put those links in there. It’s an instant way to prove yourself.

So, to be incredibly clear: there is nothing wrong with writing for free for non-profit making sites. (So long as that site is not making profit for everyone involved.)

BUT, there IS something incredibly wrong with writing for free for sites that do make money. For the reasons I gave in the tips list. And it doesn’t matter how many people tell me it was how they got started, I still absolutely believe it to be wrong.

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by on Aug.11, 2011, under The Rest

The behaviour of so many who have rioted has been shocking and appalling, and the stories coming out about some of the abysmal crimes committed have been horrendous. But something else that has upset me hugely throughout our week of English riots has been the use of the word “scum”.

Of course it upsets and offends me to see the looting, arson and brutality, and I’m weary with the tedium of those who cannot distinguish between asking questions and whatever it is people think counts as “justifying”. But one of the most concerning things to have come out of these events – to my eyes – has been the language used to describe the perpetrators.

“Scum” is such a vile word. It’s a word with a clear purpose: to dehumanise.

I, like everyone else alive, do not know the motivations and backgrounds of each and every one of the thousands who rioted. It seems likely to me that some did it because they are criminals, others because they are disenfranchised and had no structure that told them not to. Some because the saw opportunity that had never presented itself before, others because they were angry, others still because they’re cruel, selfish people who do not care about the consequences of their actions. There will be some whose backgrounds are so appalling that the veneer of society has never meant anything to them at any point. Others who fancied a widescreen TV and thought it was a chance to get away with it. And every single person who took part, for whatever reason, with whatever motivation, with whatever amount of deliberate malice or idiotic inertia, is a person with a story, a life, a set of experiences that took them to the day they rioted. And the moment they’re called “scum” is the moment they are discarded and dehumanised.

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Turbulent Times: Planes Can Be Scary

by on Jun.28, 2011, under The Rest

I am alive. Which is something I wasn’t sure would be the case earlier today.

Something I’ve always wanted to do is fly in one of those research planes that go through thunderstorms with the deliberate intent of being struck. As I’ve mentioned so very often, I adore thunder, and the idea of being so close to it seems thrilling.

Well, as it turns out it’s just terrifying. Especially when you’re not in a research plane, but a small commercial vessel that’s circling above Brussels for an hour, insanely flying through the storm again and again and again. It’s hard to understand what was happening, especially since the pilot adopted that airline code of not explaining what was going on for enormous stretches of time, while we all stared at each other, not sure how much longer we had to live.

Things kicked as we approached Brussels to land, and the rollercoaster began. About twenty minutes earlier the flight attendant (the, as this was a very small plane) had warned us there was a chance of turbulence, but not said when. The plane lowered, we began our approach (wheels still up), and then dropped, my stomach left at our previous altitude. Now, I love it when that happens in planes, because I’m an idiot. It’s the ultimate ride, that sensation you get from a good coaster but without the tedium of seeing where it ends. I know that it’s just hitting an air pocket, and I know it’s fine, and I enjoy the adrenaline rush. I turned to the guy sat next to me and said, “That was a good one!”

But then it got a bit worse. And I saw the airport pass beneath us, as we continued on.

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A Few Thoughts On The End Of The World

by on May.21, 2011, under The Rest

I’ve been having a lot of fun this week, laughing at the ridiculous behaviour of Harold Camping and his followers as they so fervently predict a Judgement Day for the 21st May 2011. While such end-time predictions come up frequently, this is the first to have really caught the imagination of the internet, leading to all manner of spoof sites, news stories and Twitter attention. The profile of today’s rapture is a lot higher than any of the huge number of others that have been popped in the diary previously. There’s all sorts of excellent ideas around like this, this and this.

Come today – the day it all kicks off according to Mr Camping – I find myself feeling more sadness than anything else. Because for anyone who’s been fooled by this nonsense, tomorrow could be a really crappy day.

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Rob Bell: Universalist, Or Man Who Thinks About Things?

by on Feb.27, 2011, under The Rest

Goodness me, I get back from a peculiar day of splendid time with friends, and the miserable destruction of my car, to find that the internet (well, Twitter) is alight with anger and confusion about Rob Bell. Because he said… well, nothing whatsoever.

Rob Bell is the leader of Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, Michigan – an enormous church that is often described as being part of the “emerging church” movement, although never uses that description of itself. He has become an enormously popular figure in the modern church, recognised both for his fervent evangelical approach to the Bible combined with a consciousness of the real world and living in reality. His book Velvet Elvis was a phenomenon amongst Christians, breathing exciting ideas and stirring up entertaining controversy. Despite its awful name, it’s a superb book. His NOOMA video series made his name even more widely known. A strangely modest man, he has yet to visibly demonstrate any of the diva attitudes of so-called Christian celebrities, and he has this odd tendency not to to demand everybody’s money for a yacht-based ministry. Seeing him speak last year on his Drop Likes Stars tour, it was odd that it took place in a medium-sized church building, rather than a large theatre or perhaps even arena. Afterward he sat at a small table, saying hello to those who wanted to chat, like a stand-up comic at the end of a gig.

And with all this popularity came the obvious backlashes. Any of his ideas that are either complex, confusing, or perhaps just simply wrong, are hailed as the proof that he’s a false prophet, the devil in disguise. He upsets two sides of the church: the traditionalists who worship their religion rather than their God, and the megachurch-leading televangelists, who fear his popularity combined with his lack of money-grabbing. People are hunting for reasons to shoot him down, to deflate his rise.

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The Daily Mail And Stephen Green: A Torrid Romance

by on Jan.29, 2011, under The Rest

Today the Daily Mail has a sad story in which the ex-wife of Christian Voice front man, Stephen Green, explains how he mentally and physically abused his family for many years.

Stephen Green came to fame when the BBC announced they would air Stewart Lee’s Jerry Springer: The Opera. Considered by Green to be blasphemous (and by Christians who can think to be satirical), he vociferously campaigned against the broadcast, and then against the stage show itself, and succeeded in bankrupting the previously successful production. But his real victory was a strong media presence, his name being put at the top of most media outlets’ contact books for matters of Christian controversy. Despite it being abundantly clear that he was an extremist, and despite his organisation repeatedly having been demonstrated to be pretty much just Stephen Green in a mobile home, everyone from the BBC to the tabloid press would seek a quote from him if they wanted to spin a story as conflicting with an imagined version of Christian values. He was guaranteed to deliver, saying something printably outrageous. His ludicrous views would be countered by those affected by the story, and in the publication’s mind some manner of editorial balance had been achieved.

But most interesting is the Mail’s relationship with the man. Their latest story describes Green as a “monster”, a “fundamentalist.” The article goes on to note,

“Stephen was immersed in Christian Voice, which allowed him the autonomy and freedom to express his increasingly bizarre views unchallenged. As its founder and director, he was answerable to no one.”

And just who was it who was letting Green’s views go unchallenged?

Well, take for example this article about student stunt marriages that appeared in a newspaper just fifteen days ago:

“The students’ wedding was condemned by Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, an organisation that represents Christians.”

The story then goes on to quote Green at length, without editorial comment. And which paper is it who let this extremist monster go unchallenged? That would be the Daily Mail.

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Never, Ever Use City Link

by on Dec.30, 2010, under The Rest

I'm like Rory Bremner

City Link, the UK parcel delivery company, is abysmal. It’s predictably abysmal. A typical conversation with friends:

“My parcel’s not arrived.”

“City Link?”


Everyone knows they’re hideous. Everyone you ask has a City Link horror story. Searching the internet and you’ll find so many tales. Many people I know, including me, have been unambiguously lied to by City Link. “We put a card through your door when there was no response,” they say, when they’ve been nowhere near the house and certainly not put through a card.

And yet so many major companies still use them despite there being so many far better, far more reliable companies offering the same service. Including, terribly, Amazon.

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Sick Man Complains About Weather Forecasting Shocker

by on Dec.19, 2010, under The Rest

As I graduate from a flu so strong that I needed help to sit up, to a cold where my lungs and throat are in more pain than I know what to do with, leaning on my desk to stay upright simply because I’ll overdose myself on the pharmacy of drugs surrounding my bed if I have to lie down any longer, it’s comforting to know that I can still get furious about the mind-numbing incompetence of weather forecasting.

Sure, I’ve gone on about this a lot, and certainly I appear to be among very few who care, but in a world where people are increasingly calling bullshit on the various woo remedies and snake oils, it infuriates me that weather soothsaying escapes any scrutiny.

I think the only way to communicate the level to which it is palpable nonsense is to show not how the weather is incorrectly predicted, but how the predictions don’t even agree with themselves from the same source. So for today’s example, here’s the BBC’s current predictions for the weather for Bath tomorrow, Monday 20th December. First of all, the day’s breakdown:

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The BBC And The Police

by on Dec.14, 2010, under The Rest

And I was nearly on my way to bed before 1am before I saw this link. Yesterday, the BBC reporter Ben Brown took on his toughest target yet, the man with cerebral palsy dragged from his wheelchair by police during the student protests last Thursday. And although that sounds like sarcasm, it turns out to be true. While it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to make a man like Brown look like an idiot, Jody McIntyre does it with grace and intelligence completely undeserved by the moronic anchor.

Here’s the full interview, which unfortunately contains quite a few skips:

So in the footage we see a man sitting in his wheelchair, barely moving, being attacked by four police officers. Two in full riot gear, because you can never be too careful with those CP types. One drags him across the road by his arms, dropping him on the tarmac. This is the second time that evening that McIntyre has been dragged from his wheelchair, the first time also hit with a truncheon. But this was the time it was filmed.

Perhaps I’m mad from keyboard fumes, but this strikes me as a story about police brutality. But that’s not how crack journalist Ben Brown saw it. This was his chance to get a confession out of one of the most dangerous rioters of them all.

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Letter To Don Foster 2

by on Dec.09, 2010, under The Rest

Here is the letter I wrote to Don Foster tonight, after he voted in favour of tripling tuition fees, cutting arts and humanities funding by 100%, and unashamedly doing the precise opposite of his solemn pre-election promise:

Dear Don Foster,

I have one question for which I would appreciate an answer. If – before the Coalition was formed – you heard of an MP who made a solemn promise, signed a pledge and held this up for cameras, and was widely supported and elected based on this promise, and then voted against it, what would you think of him?

In the face of the clear will of your electorate, and the clear promises you made, that you would vote for the raise in tuition fees – no matter how you may have rationalised this for yourself – is a terrible act of deceit.

I ask that you resign, because your flagrant lying and vulgar contempt for your electorate demonstrates that you are obviously unfit for the role into which you were elected. I am quite certain that the Don Foster of March 2010 would entirely agree with me.

I’m so upset with and ashamed of you.

Yours sincerely,

John Walker
Former Lib Dem voter

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