Sunday, 16 December 2007

prcrastination for the nation.

So. here we are. after finding out that I'd been conned by the whole Laray Carr Scam I had to leave the world of freelance writing, at least temporarily, and look for a proper job.

Unfortunately, what happened for me was that out of sheer desperation, I ended up working for Platinum Force Promotions. Unfortunately that name is one synonymous with the rather notorious Cobra Group.

oh, wait, thats their rather nice looking official page. try this one instead:

Cobra Group Wikipedia Page

Or Better yet, this one:

Cobra Group Ripoff Report.

Much as I hate to say it, the stuff in the Ripoff Report is almost exactly the same as what happened to me, 200 miles away in Liverpool. I have to admit, I honestly bought into what they were telling me for about a week. then I came to my sense and spent the next three weeks looking for a way out before I finally quit and found a new job.

I have nothing against working door to door. I'm still doing it in fact. but working door to door for 60+ hours a week with no guaranteed wage? Not a chance. never again.

in the time I worked for a cobra office, I made £460. in the time I was there, I put in approximately 246 hours. in four weeks.

that works out at approximately 53p per hour. now, bear in mind that the only time I made a decent paycheck was in my first week, where I was on the "High Rate" (£40 for a duel gas/electric Direct Debit, £20 for cash-quarterly.)

for the next three weeks after that, I made £25 for a duel-fuel direct debit, and 13 for cash quarterly.

after my 30% security bond (in case people cancelled or pulled out) I never made more than a hundred quid in a single week. after three weeks of wearing an expensive suit that I reserved for special occasions. I did no writing for the entirety of that month - at the end of my 10-12 hour day, all I wanted to do was collapse into bed and sleep. sometimes I didn't even have the energy to eat. I was completely miserable. My relationship with my fiance, thankfully, actually became much improved by the situation. although we were seeing each other less, she stood beside me and kept me going. You cant have a relationship come under that kind of pressure and not come out stronger.

see, what they don't tell you is that Cobra takes over your entire Life. this "Self-Employment Opportunity" - the company makes you register as being self-employed in order to avoid paying tax - will leave you with no time to do anything you'd like to do with your life. in the time I was there, I knew of only two people in the entire office who were in relationships - Me and one of the other guys named Gary, who was married. everyone else spent the entirety of their spare time trying to score with the opposite sex. My crew Leader, Bryan, actually set a target for the two people he was going out with from his team (Yes, they literally spent ALL their time together) on how many girls they were going to finger that night in Warrington.

so anyways, after I was kept out knocking fresh doors until 21:20 on my second Monday, I finally lost any liking for the job. Here's a typical rundown of a typical day for me whilst I was working in Cobra:

9:00am: wake up, go for a shower. Get dressed. having to wear a suit every day really just doesn't work for me, especially when I'm walking round the rougher parts of Warrington and Liverpool. I might as well have painted a big "ROB ME" sign on my chest.

10-10:30am: Set off for work. I have to be at the office by 11.

11am-approx 1:00pm: the morning consists of pitch practice with other members of the team. no-one is really allowed to talk production, although the figures are given in "pieces" at the start of the crew meeting - a piece being either gas or electric. this makes it all seem like very high amounts. in my first week I scored 22 pieces. which all sounds well and good until you realise that means I only actually sold to around ten or so people, realistically. During this time, Bryan would normally do a "Sales Impact." where he would try and drum us into doing well for the day. the scary thing is, most of us actually bought into it.

Approx 1:00 pm: Muhammed or "Uzzy", the office owner, comes in and does the morning "meeting." This really consists of him trying to sell the idea of working in these conditions to people. the room has a cult-like atmosphere, and the crew leaders would respond to the random questions he'd throw in.

1-3pm. time to grab a quick lunch and then off to terrirtory for a hard days selling.

3pm-anywhere between 8:30 and 9:30pm: On the doors, working for nothing. on some days I did a single cash quarterly, which meant I made £6 for the entire day. Legally, we are meant to stop knocking fresh doors at 8pm, and then do callbacks. not once, in my entire time at cobra did I stop knocking fresh doors at 8pm. on some occasions, I knocked until past 9pm. it is only legal for salesmen to knock until 8 - charities can knock until 9pm.

9:30pm - 10:30pm: travelling back to the office to do my paperwork. I then had to hand around for the idiotic ritual known as Bells. literally: people who had done a certain amount of sales performed a certain action: 2 sales for a promoters bell, 3 sales for a leaders bell, 4 sales to blow on a hooter and 5+ or a personal best to bang a gong.

10:30 - 11:30pm: I leave the office and catch the bus home. I arrive anywhere between 11pm and midnight. exhausted, I barely taste dinner and collapse into bed, ready to get up at 9am again he next day.

so for that 12+ hours of work, I may be getting as little as £6. sometimes I earned nothing. so thats, lets see, 0-50p and hour. entirely on commission. given that the legal minimum wage in the UK for employees is £5.50, you can see why the company makes you register as being self employed. there were approximately 60 people working out of Uzzy's office. so...

60 X 12 = 720 hours worked.

720 X 5.50 = £3960.

thats one days wages, on minimum wage, for the entire office of field reps. this is before renting the building, paying the administrators and bills, etc. given how Uzzy used to brag that his paycheck was £1000 a day, and he took 100% of the office profits, it shows just how manipulative this system is.

Moving on, to offer comparison:

I'm now employed by Home Fundraising. I'm still doing door-to-door work, trying to get charity sign-ups for worthy causes. It should be noted that Cobra also runs charity campaigns, but on the same commission basis.

At home fundraising, my day consists of the following:

10-11am: wake up at my own pace. usually I receive a text telling me where I need to meet my team at around 11-12. my work uniform consists of Jeans, battered boots and a t-shirt.

1:30pm - 2:30pm. sometime around this I set off to meet my team. the earliest I've ever started for home fundraising, training days aside, was 2:00pm. on those times, I got paid an extra hour for the travel time to distant territories.

3-3:30pm: arrive at territory. usually we have our long break now, at the nearest pub, where we relax and get our gear together for the day.

4-4:15pm: we set out for work.

4:15-9pm. we knock doors. usually there are a couple of quick breaks during the nights knocking. unless the area has been particularly bad, usually everyone is in high spirits - unlike cobra, where no-one is allowed to talk about how many they sell, at HF we actively talk about getting signups, as there is a team-score as well as a individual score. If we get a two-average (Two signups per team member) sometimes we are allowed to leave early, thus giving an active incentive to do well on the night. Unless this happens, at 9pm we stop knocking, as it is ILLEGAL to knock after this time.

9pm: we head for the bus/train and head to either the pub or home. since I dont have to be up early the next day, I can relax and have a nice pint. since my fiance works here too, first one back buys the drinks. everyone is laughing and joking, and no-one has to go if they don't want to - unlike the cobra atmosphere where you are "Encouraged" to stay late.

and thats my day. not counting inner-city travel in Liverpool, I work approximately 5 hours per day, from 4pm to 9pm. I get paid a basic wage of £7.00 an hour to do this. should I get promoted to team leader - unlike cobra's meaningless promotions - I will receive £11 an hour. I have made genuine friends at home fundraising, and NO-ONE eyes up the local schoolgirls. if I get eight signups in a week, I receive a £50 bonus. for every signup after that I receive £30 in bonus.

I didnt mean for this blog entry to turn into an extended rant about cobra and I will say that I have nothing against commission pay - when I was freelancing, it was my bread and butter - but it has to be based upon reasonable working conditions. the Cobra group preys on people who are in desperate need of a job, like I was, to make them money at the expense of the people working for them. In 2005, Chris Niarchos, the head of the Cobra Group, made £359,000. Thats approximately £7000 a week, and his profits have at least doubled since then. I, on the other, was making an average of £70 a week to live on. on those wages, it would have taken me three weeks to make enough to pay my rent.

these days, I make a MINIMUM of £150 a week, after tax (yes, I pay tax now! I never thought I'd be glad to!) with a genuine chance of unlimited earning the better I do. and just as importantly, I am able to spend time with my fiance, play video games, and write again. I'm even getting the chance to finish off a piece of freelance work I started ages ago - and I'm going to send this link to the person who hired me by way of explanation for why the work is so late, since they've been incredibly understanding.

I know no-one really reads this blog, but if you see an advert in the paper worded like this:

Stuck in a rut? Fed up with a boring 9-5, minimum wage and no business progression?
Come and join the team at this friendly Liverpool City Centre based office where the key words are fun, money and success.
As a sales and marketing company we represent national clients and offer fast track progression, a great future and an excellent incentive structure for the more ambitious.
For immediate interview contact Michelle on ********** lines open till late.
Or apply online today!

Don't pick up the phone. just ignore it. only a miserable time awaits you.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Adventures of a Freelance Writer/Filmmaker.

Yes, apparently I'm now legally considered a freelance writer, having been paid a grand total of forty quid for my first job. Believe me. It isn't a glamorous life. My first job consisted of writing Spam messages to go on Blogs - something that, were I responsible for the intent, would cause me to go into isolation and cower from the sun. The I wrote 130 descriptions of electric shavers that I haven't been paid for yet.


Production on the first Toys in the Attic film has kinda stalled for the moment. not through any fault of anyone just... we haven't had time to do it yet. we're planning on filming a documentary about the burlesque subculture in Liverpool - at least for the moment. fortunately, we have a fantastic contact in the form of Millie Dollar, who is more than understanding of the fact that we simply cant start shooting yet. Nevertheless, I really should make an attempt to get some footage down on tape - even its just to make a trailer or the showreel we promised Millie.


On an entirely different note, I actually took the time to look at the announcements on Least I could Do today. And Imagine my surprise when I noticed This:

Now, if that wasn't funny enough, the little tidbit at the end, that Blind Ferret Entertainment are making a Looking for Group Movie, almost sent me into spasms of Joy. I love this comic.

Unfortunately, theres only one downside I can see: Distribution. Making a Movie is an excellent idea, but I do wonder whether they'll be able to get a cinema distributor for something that, lets face it, is going to be a violent animation (Especially if the short was anything to go by.)

Historically, US Movie distributors really don't "Get" adult animation, and as a knock on effect, neither does the general movie-going audience. Blind Ferret doesn't really seem to do Kiddy-movies, so it seems that their audience demographic seems to really be aimed at Adults, and through their subject matter, Geeky adults at that. The only way I can really see LFG: The Movie getting a distribution deal is if Blind Ferret put up a good amount of the funding.

Counterbalancing that, obviously there are options open to them. With the PvP animated series, they showed that they have a solid digital distribution system in place. DVD is also a valid option. But ideally, we'd all like to see Richard the warlock burning down an orphanage on the big screen. Whether its going to happen, however, is a completely different kettle of fish.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Do you know what I miss? #1

Do you know what I miss? I miss Concept albums.

now, whats brought this on is listening to Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds for the three-billionth time today. I love this Album. I've listened to it so many times that I can recite most of it and just going "Dun-Dun-DUUUUUUUNNNNN" sends shivers up my spine. for me, its possibly the best concept album in the world.

Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, defines a concept album as "unified by a theme, which can be instrumental, compositional, narrative, or lyrical."

See, thats a very broad definition, and one that I feel is fundamentally wrong. a true concept album shouldnt be "Unified by a theme."

it should, by its very nature, tell a story. War of the worlds tells a story. Thats the whole point of it. To tell a tale through music.

I should point out now that there have been some concept albums in recent years. The Streets did A Grand Dont Come For Free, a tale of the main character losing £1000.

I did a little research on Wikipedia, the source of all knowledge, and whilst there are concept albums coming out, most of them seem to be severely in the realm of metal. Don't get me wrong, I like metal, but it is not the kind of music geared to telling a story. Screaming into a microphone blurs lyrics so much that you cant even hear the words half the time. Seriously, it isnt anything against the music, but I listened to Midian, Cradle of Filth's concept Album based off of Clive Barker's Novella Cabal and I really didnt get any sense of story - primarily because of their musical style.

But unfortunately, I dont have a solution. despite the fact that the aformentioned War of the Worlds is constantly riding high in the charts -now of both DVD and Music, no-one seems to be capitalising on the interest in concept albums.

But oh, wouldnt it be grand if someone truly talented made something truly worth listening to?

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Dark Corners of the Internet #1

So, as I randomly do when I'm bore beyond conceivable belief, I had a look around Youtube today, and - as it came on my play list - I decided to look up the video for the Johnny Cash Version of Hurt.

So I watched the video, got a little choked up, then made a big mistake - looked at the comments.

Check it out for moronic idiocy!

Aw Crap. why the hell did I do that to myself. See, Hurt is a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song. Johnny Cash Covered it as his swan song, before he died.

But of course, not one jot of this matters to the moronic portion of the internet. you know the portion that doesn't pay attention to such things as grammar and spelling. to them, all that matters a big ol' argument about which version is better. My idea for this type of rant was to go through individual comments, but I simply dont have the energy to deal with the sheer shitstorm of mental incapacity on that comments page.

What has the human race done to deserve this? Oh, right.

For my part?

I mean, to be honest, I prefer the Cash version. its speaks more to me as a person, and while both versions are powerful, this one means more on my level, because I didnt got threw the things that Trent Reznor went through. but Cash's version is one that can be related to by anyone who has ever reflected on their life.

I mean, clearly it affected Reznor as well. he refers to it as being Johnny Cash's song now, not his.

However It doesn't matter which version of the song is "Better" or "Original". both versions are being sung by men who have gone through hell and back to fight for their lives. At the end of the day, whether its a song about depression like Reznor's version, or a reflection on a life soon to end, Like Cash's, the fact remains that not one single damn person posting on youtube has the right to attack either version.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Nipponphiles and Me

Okay, I imagine that this rant is gonna make me a little unpopular, but frankly, I couldn't care less. its my goddamn Journal - doing unpopular rants is one of the benefits of having one.

Anyways, this is a rant I've been meaning to have for a long time. it's one that affects me personally, and its one that affects the people around me.

here's the opening sentence:

Just Because Something Is From Japan, Does Not Make It Cool.

Ah. that feels better.

the above sentence may be a little funny coming from me, but to be honest, who else is it better to come from. much as I'm loathe to admit it, I have a fairly decent perspective on popular Japanese culture. I'm head of an Anime society, for chrissakes.

But even though I like Anime, this doesn't mean that I have to start acting like everything coming out of Japan is the equivalent of Jesus popping into the corner shop for a pint of milk and a chat with the owner.

What has brought this on? well, to be honest, a big part of it is J-Music. I'd like to think I'm fairly diverse in my tastes in music, but to be frank when someone tries to convince me that some pop princess is better just because she's singing in fucking Japanese, I start to have serious doubts about their sanity.

Same goes for J-Rock. To those who know me well, my dislike of generic Metal/Rock/Indie is well known. to be honest, because my music tastes are relatively diverse, it takes a lot for a song to catch my ear these days, and since I'm not that big a radio listener anymore, airplay isn't a factor.


I've listened to J-Rock. It doesn't impress me more than most other rock. it's the same principle as my Previous rant on Independent film - Half the time, it's people trying to go "Look at Me, I'm cultured! I listen to foreign music!"

You want to convince me you're cultured? Go Listen to some Mozart, then we'll talk.

This isn't to say that everyone who is into Japanese pop culture is like this. I know plenty of people in the JMU anime society who aren't, but I've also encountered plenty of people who are. people who are convinced that because it comes from the far off distant land that gave us Pokemon and Playstations, it must be cool.

These are the same kind of people who buy this:

And No, for the record, buying a Hello Kitty Vibrator does not make you cool. It makes you, quite literally, a Wanker.

So, to wrap up. It's okay to like Japanese stuff. hell, I like Japanese stuff - I even watch Godzilla movies for chrissakes, but speaking randomly at me in Japanese and telling me that a band is cool essentially because they're Japanese doesn't impress me. There's plenty of cool Japanese stuff, but lets be honest, theres an ungodly amount of Japanese Shite as well. Seriously:

That Thing doesn't even look comfortable.


Independent "Artistic" Film.

I am starting to get naffed off with my Independent cinema module. Really. To be honest, its got to the point where it pretty much sums up everything that irritates me about film courses.

OKay, those of you who've gone through media studies courses will know what I'm going on about. everyone who does media studies, and gets into it goes through this phase where they'll only acknowledge that "Artistic" films are worth watching. Now, I've been doing Advanced Media theory for THREE GODDAMN YEARS.

I got over that phase about halfway through my first semester. the whole little arguments surrounding it are the equivalent of Intellectual masturbation, and to be honest it got old very, VERY quickly. anyone who drags out media theory on me at this point, who isn't actually a media analyst or in my Screen Studies class just doesn't impress me anymore, because frankly, I know a hell of a lot more than them.

Tell me, can you discuss the Mise-en-Scene of Kevin Smith's Chasing Amy in relation to his status as a cult film auteur? Didn't think so.

and hate to say it, but anime fans are the worst offenders. So many Anime fans refuse to accept that it isnt the god of all film genre. I love anime as much as the next man - hell, I wouldnt be head of the anime society if I didnt - but the majority of it is about as deep as the average puddle. There are a few notable exceptions, but when someone tries to convince me that Akira is up there in terms of movie-making history with Casa-Fucking-Blanca, on the basis of "ITs anime so its art", I start to get very irritated.

But moving back to the subject at hand. Today we were studying John Cassavettes. as an independent filmmaker, he was reknowned for making films that "Challenged the Norm." I wont deny, that in terms of Independent Filmmaking, Cassavettes was important, but in terms of a filmmaker....


lets just say, that Old Johnny-boy's films are shot with Long distance Zooms, out of focus shots, obvious editing and improvised acting.

And this is defined as artistic.


you know what I define a piece of film that is badly edited, with Jerky long distance zooms, out of focus shots and poor dialouge? Shoddy. It isn't artistic, its poor filmmaking. If I tried to hand something like that in as coursework, under the claim that it was artistic, Not only would my tutor fail me, she'd beat me liberally over the head and shoulders with a lead pipe for being so fucking retarded.

when I make a film, I take pride in my work, from the story through to the editing. that was why I was so unhappy with Reaped. to see someone sell a shoddy piece of crap like Shadows and actually make money off of it just depresses me beyond belief.