James Russell, Editor, Founder & Blogger, Hot
10th September 2003
Man Australia continues to explore the often misunderstood
world of blogging.
Russel is one of Australia's most notable and respected
this interesting, reveling interview, James discusses
his career, blogging and how this fits in with the
current news media business.
advise of the main websites and bloggers that you
have created, and that you contribute to?
Pillow Book Of James George White Russell (1998-2001)
We Sleep In Separate Ditches (2000)
Frontier Gibberish (2000-2001)
Black Room (2001-2002)
late 1998 to 2001 I maintained part of the Sydney
Boys High School Old Boys Union website
but that stopped after a change in management.
2000 I was involved in a film-related project called
Screenfile that never got off the ground. I'm currently
listed as a contributor to Blogcritics http://www.blogcritics.org
haven't actually posted anything in over a month and
am thinking of letting my contributorship lapse.
Hot Buttered Death http://hotbuttereddeath.ubersportingpundit.com
is pretty much my only Internet outlet at the moment.
generation Australian, of Scottish ancestry.
in 1974. Educated variously at Matraville Primary
School (where I was Dux of the school, 1986), Sydney
Boys High School, University of New South Wales (achieving
at length a double major: BA Hons. in Film Studies;
BA in History),
TAFE (where I failed to complete the Certificate II
in Community Radio Broadcasting) and Sydney Institute
of Technology (where I'm in the finishing stages of
the Diploma in Library and Information Services).
high school work experience at my local credit union,
which was robbed on the last day I was there (not
by me, I hasten to add).
work experience includes being a shop assistant at
the Salvation Army op shop in Maroubra Junction, a
clerical assistant at Waverley Cemetery, and packing
medications for delivery to sundry old folks' homes
at Botany Pharmacy. The cemetery job is the only one
I look back at with any fondness; the other two were
frankly low points in my life.
1999 I joined Sydney community radio station 2SER,
since which time I've been a co-presenter on the program
Celluloid Dreams. Interviews I've done for the program
have included Gary Doust (filmmaker, co-founder of
Popcorn Taxi), Julien Temple (director of The Filth
and the Fury, Absolute Beginners, etc), Peter Castaldi
(critic) and Adrian Belic (producer of Genghis Blues).
are your aims and objectives?
prosaic ones, I fear. The most basic one is to find
employment of some sort, to which end I've been doing
the library course at Ultimo (currently on placement
at the ABC Sound and Reference Library).
into radio (i.e. at a level other than the community
level I'm currently at) is also something I'm interested
in, although whether I want to go as high as commercial
radio is something I'm not sure of. I suspect I'd
be happier on the ABC.
some point in the long term I'd like to get a book
published, although that'll require some overhauling
of my prose style, particularly if I do something
fictional. I used to write short stories a fair bit,
but became fairly disillusioned with the stuff I'd
written a couple of years ago and haven't succeeded
at writing anything like that since.
basic desire to inflict my opinions on other people.
I am a firm believer in the principle that other people
have a right to know what I think. They don't have
to agree, they just have to listen to me (he said
with a smile). On a slightly higher level, I've always
been motivated by the desire for knowledge. I look
on practically everything I read or watch or listen
to as being educational in some way or other.
are you best well known for?
that segment of the world's population that reads
my blog, I'm probably best known for the strangeness
of the links that I provide. When I started blogging,
I saw hundreds of other bloggers doing political stuff,
and although I do political comments now and then,
it's not what I'm really interested in doing; there
are hundreds of other people out there who know more
about it than me, and they may as well do it. I'm
more interested in the odd stuff, the freaks, the
barnyard oddities, the acts of human strangeness,
the weird things that happen on a daily basis. The
world and everyone in it is, I think, far stranger
than the strict rationalists give it credit for being.
I didn't see many blogs doing that sort of thing,
so I decided to do that with mine instead. If I'm
well known for anything, I'm probably well known for
that. Otherwise, I've been recognised in public by
exactly one person on account of the radio show.
does a good blog consist of?
very much on the individual blog. Whatever the blog
be about, I think the most you can ask for is that
it be informative, interesting, correctly spelled,
and reasonably legible.
like to get a sense of the blogger's personality.
And if you're going to be abusive on a regular basis,
try and be funny with it; there's nothing more tedious
than extended stretches of humourless vitriol.
should a good website consist of?
above, it depends on the individual site and what
its purpose is. I'd expect a website for a rock band
to have sound samples, for example. Again, be informative,
interesting, correctly spelled and reasonably legible.
And try making it look nice. You can do that without
having to spend thousands of dollars on software to
are the advantages of the new era in publishing?
You can get something out there straight away without
having to wait for a publisher's approval. When I
was still writing stories, the Internet meant I didn't
have to wait ages for them to be published. I could
have a story or an essay up on my website within minutes
of finishing it; all it took was a few minutes to
add the HTML tags to the text to make it Net-ready,
then fire up the FTP program to add the thing to the
site. Now, of course, blogging means I don't even
have to do that; I just have to type text into a box
and the software automates the publishing process.
you know of a way to make a good living from online
the biggest misconception about bloggers?
held by some bloggers: that bloggers are somehow more
powerful than mainstream media and will one day displace
them. I can't see it happening. Apparently there was
a survey carried out recently, according to which
only seventeen percent of those surveyed said they
had even heard of blogs, and only five percent said
they read them on a regular basis. I don't know if
those figures are representative or not, but if they
are then it should give bloggers a bit of a wake-up.
think bloggers can have some influence over blog readers;
unfortunately, blog readers probably constitute an
extremely small proportion of the reading public at
large, and the vast majority of news consumers will
be getting their news instead from the "old"
sources-newspapers, TV, radio-all of which have a
vastly greater circulation and reach than what bloggers
is new and fresh and exciting and all that, but its
power extends only so far.
did you learn to create such an awesome blog?
of practice from maintaining other sites. Also, observing
what other blogs do, seeing where others get their
news from, and gradually building up my own little
network of news sources.
are the best and worst aspects of TAFE?
good thing about TAFE is that it offers tertiary education
to pretty much all comers and is geared
towards practical ends.The bad thing kind of follows
on from that, in that
most of the stuff you learn in class can probably
be taught as well if not better in the workplace,
the content of the courses-or at least the courses
I've done-is, to some extent, "written down"
to the lowest common denominator.
obviously in any group you're going to get people
who grasp the subject easily and people who have more
difficulty with it.
TAFE is geared more to the needs of the latter than
the former, so that if (like me) you're one of those
people who doesn't have undue problems with the topic,
it has the potential to be somewhat dull and not very
stimulating or challenging.
one class where the teacher has actually used me as
a guinea pig (her words) to make sure her own answers
to the exercises she sets us are correct. And I've
sprung her a few times as well, too.
are your current projects?
Buttered Death. And finishing my studies at TAFE.
Also, I've been picked as a judge in the Kaleidoscope
Short Film Festival, the finals of which take place
from the 10th to the 14th of November. I should be
getting the tape with the shortlisted entrants sometime
in the next two or three weeks.
other media attention have you garnered, and what
personally. I've had one request for an interview
which I agreed to, but the interviewer never got back
to me. Celluloid Dreams got a brief mention in the
Sydney Morning Herald
a few months ago, George Palathingal picked it for
placement in the TV/radio guide bit as one of the
I don't remember exactly when it was, but it was sometime
earlier this year.
else should we know about you?
my diet is primarily carnivorous, that I've seen around
two thousand films, that I have an innate distrust
of all politicians, that I was once a production assistant
on an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, that I can use
my toes to pick up solid objects weighing up to two
kilograms, and that I have a fondness for black clothing.
That's probably as much as people need to know.
note: An interesting, in depth interview. MMA's Greg
Tingle can relate to this dude! Shame our blogger
rather sucks, but perhaps James and his blogging mates
can help us out sometimes to get our blog up to speed.
We have not heard the last of Mr. Hot Buttered Death.
Man Australia: Bloggers
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