Supermarket Sweep: Eight (Rantworthy) Items Or Less

ab31038.jpgI went to the supermarket yesterday. I quite like going to my local Woolworths. Its poorly designed car park is a nightmare, but otherwise I really like it. It only opened eighteen months ago, so it’s very modern and it’s absolutely enormous. It has a number of reasonably unique features and generally carries loads of stuff that lots of other stores don’t. And it’s almost entirely surrounded by apartments, which means most of its customers are young couples or singles. That means there’s rarely a child in site, which is just how ranty old men like it.

These days it’s so easy to get in and out of most supermarkets without even having to speak to anyone, which is definitely my ideal shopping experience. I tend to pop into my local Woolies every few days or so to pick up whatever I need, as and when I need it. Even though I quite like going to the supermarket as a general rule, as a ranty old man I’ve no wish to be inside one for any longer than I absolutely need to be. As a ranty old man whose only other consideration is a cat and whose idea of cooking rarely requires anything more than a microwave, I’ve also no need of a big weekly shop. That’s a good thing, because the weekly shop was always a flawed approach for me in the past. Instead of collecting the 25 things on my list and maybe a couple of random things that I forgot I needed until I saw them, my shopping trolley would invariably end up significantly more full than intended. In turn, my bank account invariably ended up significantly more empty than intended. I eventually saw the error of my ways and now I’m a basket-only grocery shopper. When I go in with a basket and a list with ten things to get, I’ll almost always leave with only those ten things and a far more predictable post-purchase account balance.

Yesterday I stopped in at a different Woolworths. Like my local, it’s quite large but this one’s inside a suburban shopping centre. It’s that awful ’90s supermarket design that makes everything seem really cramped. The ceilings are too low, the aisles are too narrow and they’re too close to the checkouts, the majority of which are almost always closed anyway, so the already minimal space is generally full of people leaning on their overflowing trolleys, waiting in queues. Almost everything about the place annoys me, but I reasoned that I was passing and it would save detouring to my local on the way home.

Going into a supermarket you’re not familiar with is like some weird déjà vu / dream thing: it kind of all looks the same and you kind of feel like you’ve been there before, but nothing is quite where it should be. So I wandered up and down, back and forth, ’round and ’round looking for the six things on my iDevice shopping list. As if it wasn’t unpleasant enough that the place was heaving with people, every time I got anywhere near the front I found myself playing retail dodgeball, under attack from packs of marauding trolleys, stacked almost to the ceiling and circling skittishly, waiting to pounce on the next available service point. Seriously, they were like wild animals! Have you ever had to navigate your way through an actual minefield in the middle of an actual war zone, where all it would take is one wrong step for your life to be forfeit? Well no, neither have I, but I’m pretty sure I came close to replicating the experience in that store yesterday.

So this place that’s too cramped, too crowded, has long queues, closed checkouts, an unfamiliar layout and doesn’t stock half of what I’m looking for is also full-to-overflowing with couples flanked by two or more children. Couples! Two or more children! In a supermarket – together!? WTF!?!

SupermarketSweep_CoupleKids1Frankly couples with more than one offspring should be banned from supermarkets. Surely one of the perks of coupledom is some Woolies-sponsored time out? One stays at home with the kids, the other attends to the mundane chore of the weekly shop – isn’t that how it goes? How did so many couples not get that memo?  I really do quite like going to the supermarket, but there are any number of mundane chores that I don’t entirely dislike when I’m in the throes of doing them. That doesn’t mean I espouse their virtues as the ideal conduit for family togetherness! Are today’s parents so short on ideas that they have to make a family outing of doing the groceries? Or is it just each other they can’t bear to part from? It’s not exactly an intellectually or physically demanding task, so why the need to face the challenge together? Presenting a united front doesn’t make it easier, cheaper or any more enjoyable, particularly with an unruly litter of descendants in tow.

Incontrovertible Truth #1: no kid ever wants to be dragged around a supermarket. “C’mon kids, into the car, we’re going to the supermarket!” isn’t exactly music to kids’ ears. But get them inside one and it becomes an entirely different battle of wills, because Incontrovertible Truth #2 is that no kid ever wants a retail demand denied. Chocolates, chips, a drink, a toy or whatever other random object the kid couldn’t possibly know anything about but which they must have just because it’s there – once they’re inside that shop, all bets are off. For a couple to voluntarily introduce two or more offspring into such an environment is about as lose/lose as scenarios come.

Well-practiced parents complain about the temptation supermarkets put in the way of greedy, snatchy little hands that always want everything they see. If a parent has no choice but to take their kids shopping with them, I sympathise with them up to a point. Conversely, sympathising with them also means I’d be tolerating their children and the level of available sympathy will rapidly diminish with each passing moan, wail and piercing scream – and that’s just the parent trying to keep the kids under control. Don’t even get me started on the noises the actual children make! There’s just no excuse for couples who have the option of not turning the weekly shop into a family excursion but do it anyway. So they don’t like temptation? Here’s an idea: don’t take the kids to the supermarket! That’s the very definition of a win/win solution – the parents win because their greedy, grabby little brats won’t throw temper tantrums when they don’t get what they want; and singles and other un-bred folk don’t have to tolerate the obnoxious behaviour of over-indulged children and their parents’ ineffectual responses to it. No, there’s no reason I can see for any couple with two or more children to ever be in the same supermarket at the same time with any of their progeny, unless by an extremely unfortunate coincidence.

SupermarketSweep_SelfService2So anyway, just when I thought I was about to escape, the horror to end all horrors: why is it that self-serve checkouts are only ever used by people with no hint of technical sense, no experience in a retail point of sale role and/or who seem quite content to still be on exactly the same spot in exactly the same supermarket this time tomorrow? Young, old, in-between – age doesn’t appear to be a factor. It’s as if they’ve never been into a supermarket before or if they have, it’s as if they’ve never paid one iota of attention to what the person scanning their groceries was doing. Yet despite this, now every single time they go shopping they think it’s a good idea to wheel their half trolley of groceries up to one of a limited number of self-serve checkouts and scan it all themselves.

Very… very… slowly.

They can’t find the barcodes. They’ve got six of the same thing, but they can’t find the barcodes on any of them. They can’t get their head around the concept of placing one item in the bag before scanning the next one. They don’t actually know what the vegetable they’re holding is even called. They want to question a price. They put three things down at once, so the checkout goes into electronic apoplexy, its light starts flashing and its recorded voice tells them to wait for assistance – it’s like some personal affront, a slight on their ability. With their wounded pride and violated dignity, they stand there with a facial expression that says, “this is definitely the least-expected outcome of my day so far”.

It really says something about society today, doesn’t it? When so many people would rather put themselves – and everyone in the queue behind them – through that amount of pain, just to avoid being served face-to-face by a fellow human who’s actually paid to do that job and who would, in all fairness, probably do it better and much faster, then there’s either something horribly wrong with the service staff in our supermarkets, or a significant chunk of supermarket customers are massively antisocial.

I’m a ranty old man – what’s your excuse?

Welcome To Your Local Telco/ISP: Where Expecting Decent Customer Service = Dreaming The Impossible Dream

MattsOldManRants-ISP-Poor-Customer-ServiceAfter twenty years as a customer of Telcos and Internet Service Providers, the conclusion I’ve tried to avoid for so long is now inescapable: it really doesn’t matter which one you go with – they’re all crap!

Let me start by reiterating something I’ve said on Matt’s Old Man Rants before: I don’t go out of my way looking for poor customer service. I certainly don’t antagonise innocent telephone staff to the point where their only aim is to give me a horrible experience. Having worked in frontline customer service for much of my working life and, latterly, in roles that support those frontline service staff, I know all too well the highs and lows of working in a high-volume customer service environment. Yes, I have expectations of what makes good customer service. They’re not unrealistically high expectations, just expectations of decent, even-handed, consistent service that’s provided in such a way that shows the customer – without whom no organisation could exist – really is their #1 priority. Over time it’s become abundantly clear that my definition of acceptable customer service and the definition used by the majority of ISP and Telco staff couldn’t be any more different.

So recently I had the very great misfortune of needing to contact my ISP. I’ve had loads of hideous experiences with phone and internet providers over the years, so these days I initiate contact with any of them with extreme caution, absolute skepticism and an obsessive need to have everything in writing. But more than anything else, I enter into dialogue with any of them from a baseline of zero positive expectations.

So psychologically scarred am I from previous jousts with Telcos and ISPs that I now expect the whole thing to go pear-shaped before it even starts. I now expect to speak with ten or more different members of staff about the same thing, re-telling the entire story each and every time; my request will go missing or something will go wrong with it; I’ll have to complain about my outstanding issue just to get it resolved; the response to my complaint will be utterly rubbish, so I’ll need to ask the lovely folk at the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman to force a resolution. Going into the situation without any positive expectations makes it far easier to cope with the expected outcome. It’s a kind of twisted logic, borne of years of Telco-inflicted torment, which says that if nothing is what you expect and next-to-nothing is what you get, you can’t be disappointed.

MattsOldManRants-ISP-Poor-Customer-Service3If the many horrendous experiences that have led me to this bleak and jaded place have taught me one thing without a doubt, it’s that contact with one’s Telco or ISP rarely ends in anything but tears or, at very least, significant frustration. Unfortunately, on this recent occasion I had no choice. My connection to the internet had stopped for reasons unknown, so I needed them to work out what was going on and to resolve it. From what started as a technical issue that I was never likely to identify – much less resolve – myself, it transpired that the security of my account may have been compromised, so I was understandably concerned.

Given my position on expectations, with hindsight it was slightly absurd of me to hope for the kind of ownership and accountability that Telcos and ISPs only ever take if they’re forced to. While the immediate issue was resolved by a pleasant-enough tech support guy on one call of not unreasonable duration, both his explanation of what had happened and his general response to my obvious concern were woefully inadequate. I needed more. So after the call I went to their website to provide “feedback”, although it wasn’t really feedback. What I really wanted to do was share my security concerns with them; I wanted a layman’s explanation of how what had happened was even possible; and I wanted to understand any associated security implications. I made my point eloquently and with sufficient – but not excessive – detail, if only to ensure that nobody who read it could misinterpret anything. Or so I believed.

Their auto-generated email response to my feedback said, “We will respond to you shortly (no later than 2 business days)”.

16 days later I wrote to them again. Writing to anyone these days probably seems a bit old-school, but written correspondence is often my weapon of choice against Telcos and ISPs. Over the years I’ve learnt the hard way – I know what they’re really like! There are few sensations quite as satisfying as seeing a Telco convicted by their own words. Hoist by their own petard, if you will… but I digress. As well as providing actual feedback about the many gaping factual errors in their system generated email of 16 days earlier, I also made clear my dissatisfaction with the situation and left them in no doubt about what I’d do next if I hadn’t received a reply by <>. For anything more than the most straightforward transaction, this is almost always the base and confrontational style in which virtually all ISPs and Telcos need to be addressed just for their customers to secure a sub-par level of service. And believe me, sub-par is exactly what I got.

MattsOldManRants-ISP-Poor-Customer-Service2Perhaps unsurprisingly, their response to my passive aggression was in my inbox within seven hours (and in the early hours of a Saturday on a long weekend to boot – anyone would’ve thought the poorly constructed ESL response was sent from an outsourced Contact Centre in the Philippines or somewhere!). I could’ve started that last sentence with “credit where it’s due”, except that it absolutely wasn’t. The response to both my initial enquiry and my follow-up email was, frankly, pretty shit. It offered a token apology for exceeding their guaranteed reply SLA by two weeks, no acknowledgement of anything raised in my follow-up email and a reference to “investigation” in respect of my original concerns. This so-called investigation apparently “did not find anything to indicate any malice intent was made to your account” and they were “confident that this will not happen again”. Note that they didn’t say nothing had happened. In fact their confidence that the same thing wouldn’t happen again virtually confirmed that they’d determined what had happened to start with. All suitably vague and all the more unsatisfactory given that I’d specifically asked for a clear explanation, which was also conspicuous in its absence.

It was this combination of responses that, when wrapped up into one neat package, revealed one thing very clearly: my ISP took the clearly expressed concerns of one of their “much-loved customers” and disregarded them wholly and absolutely. Effectively, they gave me the finger. If I could even be bothered taking the matter further with them, they’d no doubt argue until they were blue in the face that this wasn’t the case. Even if they conceded that the situation had been handled poorly, they’d only dress it up with corporate platitudes and ‘customer experience’ buzzwords, before telling me that they always strive to provide superior customer service and how confident they are that this was a one-off failing, etc., before offering the written equivalent of a grovelling apology. A tad sarcastic, perhaps? Maybe, but I’ve seen it all before.

I finally made the change to this ISP after years of torment and exorbitant prices with one of the majors. Something told me this smaller, more affordable outfit would be better, nicer, easier to deal with and with a real focus on the customer. How wrong I was. It’s rather miraculous that I still had any faith in any ISP at all, but I must have. More fool me. I won’t fall for that three card trick again.

Illegal Downloads: Foxtel’s “Moral Disconnect” Disconnect

DownloadLast night’s edition of ABC1’s 7.30 featured a report on illegal downloading. Initially its focus was on the Season 4 finale of Game Of Thrones having become the “most pirated program in history” – an ever so slightly melodramatic statement, given it’s only been possible for significant numbers of people to illegally download anything at all for fifteen years. Nevertheless, the fact remains: it took less than 24 hours for the episode to become the most illegally downloaded program in the history of illegally downloaded programs.

Some hardcore fans shifted the blame onto Game Of Thrones producer HBO’s decision not to make episodes immediately available on iTunes for paid download. These same obsessive geeks (and I can say that because I am one!) obviously couldn’t bear the wait for all of Season 4 to become available for download via Google Play for less than $3 an episode yesterday morning – or, in other words, less than 12 hours after the finale’s US west coast debut.

Sarcasm aside, it does raise questions, not least of which about Foxtel. Anyone able to legitimately watch (or record) the initial Australian broadcast of Thrones at 3:30pm each Monday – less than an hour after it finished in California – needs to a) be connected to Foxtel and b) have the inflexible package of so-called ‘premium’ channels as part of their (already hugely inflexible) subscription. At $50 a month for the entry-level package and with additional packages costing $25 a month each, it rapidly escalates into an expensive habit if all you really wanted was one channel to watch one program.

As an upstanding and law-abiding citizen of the world, of course I elected to do it the right way and duly asked Foxtel to add the (inflexible) package containing the Showcase channel – “the home of HBO”, apparently – to my (already inflexible) existing subscription. You can imagine my delight when I realised that upping my monthly Foxtel bill to a whopping $109 not only allows me the privilege of watching the latest episode of Game Of Thrones in all its HD glory as soon as I get home from work of a Monday night, but it also allows me access to tens of channels and many hundreds, possibly even thousands, of programs which I’d not only never get around to watching in any given month, but which I’ve had zero desire to ever watch at any time in my life up to now. Still, despite how exorbitant the monthly charges are relative to Foxtel’s utterly inflexible approach to channel packaging, it’s probably not such a big deal for those able to afford it. For those who can’t, though, when there are so many other ways to access the material – including ways that don’t require payment – their choice is obvious.

On 7.30 last night, Foxtel’s Director of Corporate Affairs Bruce Meagher noted a “moral disconnect” and likened illegal downloaders to thieves. In one respect I absolutely agree with him: there probably are questionable morals at play when so many people are willing to steal material that they want – material which is otherwise available for legitimate purchase – simply because they either can’t afford it or refuse to wait for it to become available. Certainly, there are few other areas of our day-to-day lives where people en masse take such a position, but illegal downloading has always been one of those odd ‘grey-ish’ areas for consumers, just like video pirating and CD copying before it. In fact it’s also comparable with something that virtually every driver has done and thought almost nothing of: just like not bringing your car to a complete stop at a Stop sign, illegal downloading is also definitely illegal, its illegality is also a known quantity and doing so could also result in significant fines or even imprisonment. But for whatever reason, people just don’t seem to recognise either act as a crime. And besides, it’s not as if it’s break & enter, or murder or anything like that, so if it doesn’t hurt anybody why should it even matter?

Why, indeed. But perhaps the more pertinent question is, what about Foxtel’s own “moral disconnect”? Bruce Meagher and his ilk are comfortable making sweeping statements from their corporate ivory towers, while at the same time never once stopping to think about what they’re stealing from their own customers. They’re quick to jump on customers who don’t pay their full bill by the due date, but do they ever sit back and calculate potential customer usage versus actual customer usage? It’s a fairly safe bet that they never liken themselves or their organisations to thieves, but by forcing customers to subscribe to inflexible packages without the option of choosing specifically what they actually want or need, at a greatly increased monthly cost to the customer as a result, that’s exactly what they’re being. Everyone’s heard of the User Pays system. Foxtel itself already has a pay-per-view “On Demand” service whereby subscribers can elect to watch new release movies as and when they choose, for a one-off charge and without needing to access an entire package of channels they’ll rarely, if ever, watch. But organisations that question the “moral disconnect” rarely reference their own questionable morals when it comes to charging users for services they don’t use.

Attorney-General George Brandis appears to be on the side of Foxtel and like-minded organisations, too – as a Liberal senator, that almost goes without saying – who want the Government to do something about blocking illegal downloads. It could be argued that organisations who imply concern about lost income of artists and copyright holders are no less immoral than those they accuse of being thieves. It’s even less convincing when the name-calling is by a Liberal politician who claims to be Minister for the Arts. In the end it’s all about Foxtel’s perceived lost profit.

Australians already pay through the nose for lots of stuff that’s very much cheaper in other countries. In some cases it’s easy – or at least logical – to explain: import tariffs, transport costs, Government duties and sales taxes, sellers’ mark-up to cover overheads (employees, shop fronts, etc). Several of those reasons are less compelling when it comes to the cost of purely online content. iTunes went under the microscope back in 2011-12 amidst a torrent of accusations that digital content was unjustifiably marked up in Australia compared with the US and UK. There was even a federal parliamentary committee enquiry into the matter in early 2013, at which the likes of Apple and Microsoft defended themselves against charges of gouging, despite incontrovertible evidence that Australian iTunes customers pay around 52% more for the same popular songs as iTunes customers in the US.

Sadly, the solution – as with so many aspects of Australian life these days – is always about new ways to stop stuff from happening. When’s anyone going to ask the Government to do something to force corporate giants to move into the 21st century and treat customers equally and fairly? Decent and timely access to online material combined with flexibly packaged services at reasonable prices… it’s not that much to ask for, is it?

Shot Down In Flames: The Pitfalls Of Online Publishing

I-disagree-with-you2Picture the scene, if you will: a speaker is about to present on a topic of their choice before an audience that knows virtually nothing about them and who the speaker can’t actually see. The audience is present of its own free will and, at least broadly, they know the topic before the speaker begins. The speaker gets all the way through their presentation without interruption and as soon as they finish, they’re gone. Then the gathered masses let loose – all at once, a veritable tsunami of both congratulatory back-patting and scathing criticism. In the initial minutes and hours after the presentation, those offering their sometimes less-than-constructive critique do so at the same time – effectively talking over the top of each other.

Within the critique on offer are three distinct schools of thought: glowing praise from those who loved the presentation; tempered praise from those who also offer some considered comment on anything they didn’t entirely agree with; and vehement disagreement with some, most or all of the presentation. Not content with simply saying they disagreed, all too often this latter group make their feelings known in aggressive and sometimes offensive ways – shouting, ranting, issuing poorly constructed personal attacks, frequently using more expletives than should rightly co-exist within any one statement. Sometimes they make it clear that they were never interested in the topic of the presentation in the first place which, as feedback goes, can prove somewhat bewildering to the speaker. Sometimes they even level derogatory comment against other audience members, the viewpoints of whom they also violently disagree with. In response to their base behaviour, members of the first two groups will almost always jump to the speaker’s defense in the aftermath of a feedback bloodbath.

Following the initial frenzy of comment, further feedback on the speaker’s presentation may continue to be provided for days, weeks or even years afterwards. The speaker is rarely present when any of this is happening, but they generally have the luxury of being able to review all comments from all three groups at their leisure some time after the event. In almost all cases the speaker also retains their right of reply, though few engage it. Somehow they find ways of coping with the abrasive, irate responses that their work can generate and maintain their composure as best they can.

Sounds horrible, right? People can’t really find themselves in situations like that, can they? By-and-large that kind of unpleasantness doesn’t actually happen… surely? If you’ve never had anything published online, you’d be forgiven for thinking it couldn’t possibly be true. Rarely would anyone in an offline setting – let’s just call it the ‘actual world’ – find themselves the target of such confrontation or affronting abuse. That’s because as they go about their day-to-day lives people, as a general rule, tend not to become childishly incensed to the point of screaming abuse at complete strangers, simply because they disagree with them. It’s just common courtesy and human decency – plus most people just aren’t that unhinged.

But online – the ‘virtual world’ – is a strange and mysterious place where the rules of common decency that govern the ‘actual world’ are apparently quite different.

Late last year I started writing for a pop-culture website. It was a huge challenge but I had an absolute ball. Relative to the parameters of the site itself, I could write about an almost endless list of topics of interest to me and, to varying degrees, to lots of the site’s visitors too – in fact I racked up almost 200,000 views in just over 6 weeks and amassed several hundred thousand more during the months that followed. I even started getting paid for it my work! The ‘per 1000 views’ pay-rate made it all a bit token, but it was better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick. Previously I’d only had my ‘oldmanrants’, so I was happy with the outcome on both counts. Eventually the volume of output I needed to maintain meant that my hobby was becoming a chore. With that mindset, my creative juices quickly dried up so I stopped, but it was an invaluable experience. Certainly, if nothing else, it taught me once and for all that the very people who you want and need to be reading your work are, in many ways, the main pitfall of publishing anything online, particularly opinion pieces.

OutOfProportionAngryResponseFor some people in the virtual world it seems the word “Comment” anywhere on a web page is like the proverbial flag to a bull. In ordinary life, they’re probably reasonably well-balanced, somewhat educated, a pleasant-enough kind of person. But for reasons I’m yet to fathom, the mere presence of a Comment text box is enough to morph them into a vicious, hateful, angry beast with a chip the size of Tasmania on their shoulder and a tongue sharp enough to slash even the sturdiest writer to ribbons with its poisonous vitriol. From reading only a handful of articles on any given topic and a bio that’s all of six lines in length, these people somehow get the impression that they know everything about you and feel the need to tell you exactly what they think of you and your work. And, apparently, that taking this approach is actually OK! Social niceties go right out the virtual window with these folk – believe me, there’s no ‘softly softly’ here. They see their way clear to insult you, your opinion, your work, your brain, your appearance, the particular piece of writing in question, even the topic!

But the ever more venomous diatribes that online Comment boxes seem to encourage aren’t nearly as bewildering as some of the more fatuous remarks that are posted, the most fatuous being from those seeking to utterly annihilate the very topic of the article they’ve just read. It’s one of the many curiosities of the online world that I’ve yet to grasp – not only reading articles on topics of no interest, but then expending even more effort on commenting to that effect as well. Why would anyone do that? Are they so lost for something to keep them occupied?

Sadly the scenario I kicked this rant off with, involving our speaker’s presentation and his audience’s response, is all too real for many who publish online. It’s enormously rewarding to get feedback and comments from those who enjoy your work and whose only intention is to thank, praise or congratulate. Any writer worth their mettle also strongly encourages debate, varied opinions and viewpoints and actively seeks feedback on their work. But it’s disappointing and frustrating when people become immediately dismissive of anything they don’t agree with, at times aggressively so. It’s frighteningly evident in the way some people respond to group pages and shared posts on social media where, all too often, the passion, fury or outrage of any given response is massively out of proportion to whatever triggered it. Sadly, it’s often a very similar story when the Comment option comes into play at the foot of an online article.

But why? Is this the society we’ve become? One where it’s not OK to have a different point of view? Or where the only way to express one is to shoot another one down in flames? How can this be? And how to solve the problem when the faceless, masked nature of life online only serves to promote the behaviour? It’s wonderful how the internet has allowed some people a voice they possibly would never have found. Talent should be allowed the chance to flourish and, for so many, the internet has been a conduit for both personal growth and professional success. But the unavoidable reality is that it’s also allowed too many people who have no place publishing anything anywhere, least of all as a permanent record to the public domain, to do just that. Vile, angry, abusive people who have little of any value to say about anything.

I’m all for freedom of speech. It’s the associated costs I don’t especially enjoy.

The Return Of Oldmanrantable Things…

MOR-RantIt’s been a while between drinks here at mattsoldmanrants, though I’m not really sure why. I recently entered my fifth decade so it’s clearly nothing to do with being any less old man-esque. It wasn’t about having nothing left to oldmanrant about either. On the contrary, I’ve actually decided that this is my calling: to rant about things that almost everyone knows almost everyone else is thinking, but which almost nobody else will ever say. Venting is therapeutic, cathartic even, but there are so many people who, for reasons that may be beyond their control, can’t do it for themselves. How selfless of me to offer myself as a conduit for communal healing. I always hoped I’d discover at least one primary reason for my existence and if this is it, well, why not?

Over the years I’ve had lots of feedback about my rants. Some of them have left people feeling quite liberated, others have raised a smile or a laugh. Ultimately, that’s all I want this thing to do. As much as I make myself sound like a grumpy old bastard (I generally am one anyway, so it’s not much of a stretch) and while I’ll always stand by every word I write (involuntary retractions notwithstanding), almost everything on mattsoldmanrants is said in a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek way. I’ve mentioned that on here in the past and it’s worth reiterating now because, in isolation, a writer’s true intention is a mysterious, far-off land that can be invisible to the naked eye without very powerful binoculars.

And that’s the great double-edged sword of the internet: anyone can say anything at any time on any topic and legitimately post it almost anywhere; concurrently, rarely will anyone who reads it have any context or know a single thing about the person who wrote it. When their general tone is almost always interpreted as either ‘sarcastic’ or ‘passive-aggressive’ and without being able to see their face, hear their voice or know how they tend to think about the world, it’s very easy to get the wrong end of the stick when, in reality, there was probably never much of a stick to begin with.

But rest assured, dear reader, what you’ll find on mattsoldmanrants are merely my slightly old man views of the world around me. There’s no right or wrong about any of it – neither from my perspective, nor yours. I’ll never tell you that your viewpoint is wrong or invalid or can’t be shared and neither do I care for feedback amounting to the same thing. When all’s said and done, we’re all individuals with unique points of view. While the essence of my rants truly represent how I feel about a topic, there’s no real malice in my words and no intent to offend. Saying that, these days so many people take offence to virtually anything that doesn’t match their own world view that it’s quite difficult to avoid offending at least someone. Just as disappointing is that on the rare occasion when offence actually is intended, those at whom it’s aimed are generally too thick-skinned or arrogant to notice. Catch 22.

At any rate, nothing much has changed while mattsoldmanrants has been on hiatus. I still have a slew of old man-style rants up my sleeve. I still have an odd and, at times, irrational love/hate relationship with the modern world and life in the 21st century. And for reasons that will no doubt possibly become somewhat clearer to me at some indeterminate point in the future, I still enjoy writing it all down and publishing it online for goodness knows who to read!

For the uninitiated, the list that follows might serve as a short-form example of both the earlier articles you’ll find on this blog and what you can expect to see in future. It might also serve as a reminder to mattsoldmanrants loyalists, to whom I offer somewhat heartfelt thanks for their inconsistently wavering support over the past four or five years. It’s truly been an endless source of some degree of occasional quasi-encouragement. So here they are then: fifteen oldmanrantable things that I’ve either ranted about before or may rant about soon:

MOR-Rant1. People who walk the streets with their heads buried in a phone, tablet or other mobile device.

2. People who add to the comments sections of online news articles.

3. The gradual disappearance of physical books and music.

4. Airline passengers who somehow think it’s OK to do the exact opposite of every single thing they’re told to do.

5. 24 hour news.

6. Social media.

7. Internet and social memes.

8. The increasing violence of modern society.

9. Politicians and their increasingly knee-jerk reactions to resolve situations that have caused public outcry.

10. Press and social media coverage of issues that leads to hysteria which results in politicians and their increasingly knee-jerk reactions to resolve situations that have caused public outcry.

11. People walking in crowded areas who, for some reason, never feel the need to move out of anyone else’s way.

12. Drug-fueled violence and crime and its lasting impact on innocent bystanders.

13. What the political apathy of Australians looks like less than a year after electing a government that turns out to be as awful as those who didn’t vote for them always said they would be.

14. The Australian tabloid press and it’s increasingly ‘lowest common denominator’ approach to “news” and “headlines”.

15. Not understanding apostrophes / “rather then” / “people that” / “try and” / “perspective” versus “prospective”… or any other example of language, words and their meanings being knowingly eroded.

These are the not especially hard-hitting and sometimes flippant issues that get my oldmangoat and leave my oldmanblood boiling, maybe a little more often than they should, possibly to an extent that’s exceptionally irrational and, occasionally, in ways that are downright unhealthy. So hold on tight… new oldmanrants are coming!