About Me
I'm a Canadian PhD student living in Scotland, where I study music, media, and culture at Stirling University.


My Work
Current:
Curriculum Vitae
PhD Abstract

Academic Articles:
The rough guide to critics

Conference Papers:
Down Beat vs. Rolling Stone (IASPM Rome 2005)

Web Articles:
Sounds Prohibited
Brain Machines

CD Reviews:
Proffessor Undressor
Manitoba

Contact
m.t.brennan at stir.ac.uk
Links
Friends With Websites:
Dru (The Dominion)
Sylvia Nickerson
Inez Templeton
Inez: the blog
Clark Richards
Tara Wells
Max Liboiron
John Haney
Eva Bartlett

Musical Friends:
David Myles
Jamie (Near Earth Astronaut)
Jay (Proffessor Undressor)
Jim (Shotgun and Jaybird)
Jon (Rhume)
Kirk (Orchard Hill Road)
Mark, Mike (Barriomatic Trust)
Matt Johnston
Pat (Random Andy)
Troy (Pimp Tea)

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By Category:
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aural creativity (10)
books (1)
flicks (8)
inspiration (3)
mad science (4)
media theory (4)
music biz (10)
other (6)
personal (12)
powers that be (7)
travel (3)
visual creativity (9)
words (1)


By Month:
April 2006 (2)
March 2006 (1)
January 2006 (3)
December 2005 (1)
November 2005 (1)
October 2005 (1)
September 2005 (1)
August 2005 (1)
July 2005 (1)
June 2005 (1)
May 2005 (1)
April 2005 (1)
March 2005 (3)
February 2005 (3)
January 2005 (1)
December 2004 (1)
November 2004 (2)
October 2004 (5)
September 2004 (3)
August 2004 (1)
July 2004 (3)
June 2004 (3)
May 2004 (6)
April 2004 (6)
March 2004 (8)
February 2004 (7)
January 2004 (11)
December 2003 (2)

other

February 17, 2005

The Bitter Investment Banker

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We all experience dark nights of the soul. On such nights, I sometimes wonder whether I should give up the whole music academia thing, get a degree in investment banking and begin my ascent on the corporate ladder. But then I read the diary of "The Bitter Investment Banker" (courtesy of gawker.com) and get mercifully disabused of the notion. Here's an excerpt:

Itís all crap. Thereís no Asian/Black/Hispanic employed at your bank except the one who comes every Thursday to shine shoes. Excluding assistants, only 4% of the Ďprofessionals, are women. You knew about the sub-culture right from the get go, of course, had heard angst-ridden stories from those who graduated a year or two above you, werenít oblivious to interviewers snickering when asked what you thought the hours of the job would be. Still, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you thought you could transcend these brutal norms, carve out a niche of happiness while rolling in the big bucks.

You go to these recruiting events now. You smile and shake sweaty palms. You distribute pamphlets of people who look so bland they couldnít even model in J.C. Penny catalogues. At times you slip into a mindset you know is a product of environmental forcesísurrounded by all these desperate A-type over-achievers in a dismal economy, youíre actually pleased to have your job. A warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment for a minute or two. Then stepping outside to have a smoke, immersed in a circle of pompous Łber-nerds adjusting their Blackberry holsters, you want to scream uncontrollably, bellow so it reverberates all the way down the street, to throw your head back and burst into flame.

THE FULL ARTICLE:

Undergraduate recruiting: four months of Holden Caulfieldís personal hell. An itchy crotch from your uncleís hand-me-down mohair suit, sweaty palms doused with baby powder, shots of vodka at eight in the morning. Phony hungry dismissive smiles. Struggling in vain to recall superfluous names. A pamphlet shoved into your hand. An Asian/Black/Hispanic man and woman huddled before a sleek Titanium PowerBook, now walking down a corridor smiling. About what? Perhaps the presentation; itís really very good, you see. Itís got fonts sliding around. Pretty pictures. Itís gonna rock the financial world. Or maybe theyíre just happy to be in each otherís multicultural company. Below the picture, the Asian/Black/Hispanic man or woman describes, in titillating detail, a Day in the Life of an Investment Banker.

9:00 , A meeting with my Managing Director and the CEO of a major aerospace firm! Weí're advising on a comprehensive corporate restructuring! All this after only three months!


12:30 , Grab a vegetable wrap and fruit salad from the food court! Must stay healthy! Eating on the run because Iíve got to be at the airport in two hours! Weíre jetting off to British Columbia to pitch several logging companies! Iíve never been to British Columbia!


Sixteen months later. Itís all crap. Thereís no Asian/Black/Hispanic employed at your bank except the one who comes every Thursday to shine shoes. Excluding assistants, only 4% of the Ďprofessionals, are women. You knew about the sub-culture right from the get go, of course, had heard angst-ridden stories from those who graduated a year or two above you, werenít oblivious to interviewers snickering when asked what you thought the hours of the job would be. Still, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, you thought you could transcend these brutal norms, carve out a niche of happiness while rolling in the big bucks.


You go to these recruiting events now. You smile and shake sweaty palms. You distribute pamphlets of people who look so bland they couldnít even model in J.C. Penny catalogues. At times you slip into a mindset you know is a product of environmental forcesísurrounded by all these desperate A-type over-achievers in a dismal economy, youíre actually pleased to have your job. A warm fuzzy feeling of accomplishment for a minute or two. Then stepping outside to have a smoke, immersed in a circle of pompous Łber-nerds adjusting their Blackberry holsters, you want to scream uncontrollably, bellow so it reverberates all the way down the street, to throw your head back and burst into flame.


Instead, you grunt, down your martini. A tap on your shoulder. One of the recruits. Heís smiling broadly. Man, youíre so lucky. This is exactly what I want to do. I really want this. I want it soooo bad. You canít deal with him, not at the moment. You take a piece of paper from your pocket and thrust it in his hand before heading back inside. Itís your Day in the Life of an Investment Banker.


6:15 Ď Alarm goes off. Iíve told myself Iím going to start working out in the mornings. All those late night Subway M&M cookies. A quick calculation , two hours and fifteen minutes of sleep. Not too shabby. Only five or six coffees required to get myself out of bed. That beeping noise; there must be a bunch of sound technicians tinkering away in a room trying to find the perfect frequency to completely crush your soul.


8:20 , Shit. That infernal Pavlovian pushing of the snooze button. Ten minutes until Iíve got to be at a pitch. Canít remember what itís about though stayed up until four in the morning cranking it out.


8:40 , The Star printed out the books. Heís one of the analysts who sits in my nook of the office. The guy you want to hate but canít find a reason to do it. Heís simply too nice. Able to work ungodly lengths on no sleep and still has this beatific grin every morning. The Star is passionately in love with investment banking. Youíll be talking to him about this movie you managed to squeeze into your weekend and all of a sudden heíll have this eerie smile, heíll rock back and forth on his toes, blurt out, Weíre so damn lucky. You roll your eyes. In deadpan serious, No, I mean, how perfect is this, Can you really see yourself doing anything else? Try sleeping, buddy.


8:50 Ď Oh god. Glaring error on page 17 of the pitch book. Forgot to convert Canadian dollars into U.S.í classic analyst f*ck-up. Iíve also got to pee. Pee real bad. Client has his eyes half-closed; heís not even paying attention. The Sycophant, my VP, sits across from me. Client says something. The Sycophant responds, Oh yes, thatís spot on, you really hammered that point across perfectly. Client says something else. The Sycophant says, Thatís brilliant, a truly remarkable observation. Even Client cringes. Page 16 of the book. One page away from the Clientís eyes snapping open, suddenly acutely aware of things, a loud and brusque, What the hell is thisí The Sycophant reduced to a weeping mess, groveling at his feet. At least it might distract me from my bladder.


9:20 Ď Iím going to piss myself.


9:25 Ď Iíd gladly give up my full bonus for one adult diaper. Half my bonus for a plastic bottle.


9:30 Ď Way too close.


10:30 Ď Starbucks. Buy the Star a consolatory cappuccino for printing out the books.


10:35 Ď The Star really saved your ass this morning, ehí This from the Defeated One, the other analyst who sits in my neck of the woods. Heís the Starís antithesis. He would be the Starís arch-nemesis if the Star gave any opportunity to hate him. But no, the Starís just too nice. The Defeated One despises Investment Banking though heís never going to leave. Itís not that heís sado-masochistic. Itís the high maintenance girlfriend. Itís the presents that must be lavished on the high maintenance girlfriend after heís cancelled their dinner plans for the fourth time that week. Also a particularly nasty coke habit.


10:45 Ď Sycophant calls me into his office. Wants some follow-up research for the Client. Also 60 bound booklets of trivial information anybody with a web browser could download for themselves.


11:20 Ď Utterly Incompetent Assistant has printed only one side of double-sided document. No matter; document is for wrong company anyway. Utterly Incompetent Assistant should have been fired long ago but incredibly sheís managed to survive the corporate reshufflings following the tech bubble burst and post 9/11 financial armageddon. Weíre fairly certain sheís sleeping with the Philandering Managing Director, a bulky ex-linebacker Alpha male type whoís previous four assistants resigned abruptly over the past six months. Interrupt her horoscope reading to point out the mistake. Utterly Incompetent Assistant pays no attention. Utterly Incompetent Assistant guffaws into phone, probably to widespread network of Utterly Incompetent Assistants guffawing into their respective phones throughout the downtown core. Utterly Incompetent Assistant knows sheís here to stay, utterly secure in her incompetence.


11:25 Ď Starbucks.


12:30 Ď Finished binding 60 booklets.


12:45 Ď The Defeated Oneís skimming through the Daily M&A Activity Update. Itís from the IT guy; he amalgamates all the porn blocked by the servers and sends it out to the junior employees. The Defeated One has just enough time to close a picture of two midgets doing disproportionate acrobatics with a pylon before Utterly Incompetent Assistant comes by asking if she can help with the binding. Thereís two very obvious towers of pitch books beside me.


1:20 Ď Sycophant wants two sections of the books reversed.


1:25 Ď Utterly Incompetent Assistant gone to read the latest Shopaholic novel on her two hour lunch break. Unbind the 60 pitchbooks


1:45 Ď Rebind the 60 pitchbooks.


2:30 Ď Lunch with the Defeated One. We have this new policy of going outside for two, at most three minutes, to enjoy the spring weather before bringing the same congealed General Tao chicken up to our desks. A young couple clean and preppy enough to be in one of those Gap commercials, the annoying one where everybodyís snapping their fingers, stroll by grinning away like Cheshire cats. Itís frickiní Tuesday, the Defeated One grimaces. Heís boring a pencil into his wrist. Weíre not even alive, the Defeated One mutters. Iíve heard this rant before; indeed, have heard a daily variant of this rant since we started working together: I could be dead and nobody would give a damn, one of those old pricks who passes off in his trailer and the rotting corpse isnít found for months afterward. Or: I am nothing more than an accumulation of spreadsheets. Really, my neurons are nothing more than linked cells. Shit, I feel a circular reference coming on. Itís one of those jokes that only an investment banker could appreciate but still itís not very funny. Chuckle as a reflex. Heís managed to draw blood with the pencil. Arenít you worried about lead poisoningí If I should be so lucky. Besides, itís not lead, itís graphite. What about graphite poisoningí Letís go back inside. The Defeated One stares at the receding backs of the Gap-commercial-clean couple, nods solemnly, and follows me to the elevators.


2:45 Ď Sycophant wants a precedent transactions multiple analysis: hours of accumulating obscure data that may or may not exist, tabulating a column, inserting some cockeyed formulas and coming up with the number seven. Itís always seven. Across continents, industries, other investment banksíitís always seven. Thereís an obvious question begging to be asked. Itís the sort of maddening question that jostles around in your cranium with the vigour of children high on caffeine. Iíve learned its best not to ask yourself this sort of a question. Also why youíve just received a phone call from the Sycophant to bind 30 more books while the Utterly Incompetent Assistant has her legs up in the back seat of the Philandering Managing Directorís Lexus. And how the Star can defy the bodyís need for REM rejuvenation and maintain that perpetual Buddha-like disposition.


3:15 Ď Finish binding additional 30 booklets.


4:10 Ď Starbucks.


4:15 Ď Still hunting for that elusive seven.


5:15 Ď Log on to a site storing novels that are too old for copyright restrictions to apply. Theyíre all in plain text without graphics so the screen is perfectly inconspicuous. Read the first chapter of Siddhartha. Follow your destiny, Siddhartha learns, go scavenge around a forest in India for Enlightenment! Iím going to do it. I really am. Not the India part, thatís too far away, but Iím going to shut down my computer, put the new Air CD in my pocket, give a half-salute to the Star and the Defeated One, push the elevator button for the last time, that little screen teaching me a word Iím never going to use, step out into the cool breeze and smile up at the sky. I see the Sycophantís reflection in my monitor and close the browser. Whatís the numberí Uhm, six. Itís supposed to seven. Yes, I guess so. Why isnít it sevení I donít know. Keep on at it until its seven. Sure thing. Note to self: no more reading Siddhartha at the office.


5:30 Ď Utterly Incompetent Assistant returns from parking garage, face flushed, checks her e-mail, guffaws into phone, heads home.


6:20 Ď Starbucks.


6:30 Ď Sycophant drops by on his way out. Client meeting next Friday but wants complete turn of a pitch for first thing tomorrow morning (tomorrow morning = when he finally gets around to looking at it at some point next week). A quick calculation; thereís no way Iím getting out of here before four in the morning.


8:15 Ď Dinner. Subway again. Start with the shredded lettuce, then gorge myself on six M&M cookies.


9:30 Ď Argue with the Defeated One over the music selection. His taste was somehow stunted after junior high. Heís still listening to Phish and the Tragically Hip and all those other bands that everybody else makes fun of in a bittersweet nostalgic way because though theyíve officially entered the realm of the has-been, it was still the music that rocked our formative adolescent years, the soundtrack to that first mushroom trip in the bar that served liquor to well developed fourteen year olds. I put on Broken Social Scene. Heís boring a pencil into his wrist. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The Defeated One writhes on the floor, pulling at his receding hairline.


10:30 Ď Coffee from the acne-scarred Vietnamese lady who runs the most Depressing Donut Store in Downtown, the only place thatís open at this hour. Its chock-full of old men literally weeping into their cups of tepid coffee when theyíre not coughing up phlegm or gnawing away on chocolate glazed crullers.


10:30 Ď Thereís a little concealed niche between the back of my desk and the window. God, could I squeeze back thereí Probably not after all those Subway cookies. Note to self: lose weight, then bring in blanket and pillow.


10:35 Ď The Defeated One returns from the washroom sniffling.


10:40 Ď The Defeated One starts cawing.


10:45 Ď The Defeated One says, Iíll bet you boys donít think Iíd jerk off in front of you, eh, would do something as crazy as that, huhí The Star and I donít look up from our Excel macros. Huhí Slumping in his chair, the pencil again at his wrist, You guys are so frickiní lame.


12:15 Ď E-mail from your buddyís Blackberry. He works at the investment bank in the next building over. Hey dude, got off work early, having a couple beers with this smoking new associate, what do you sayí Though the situation has been reversed many times, though youíre well aware heís getting his ass clobbered just as bad as you, you write back: Capacity. That wordís thrown around in the industry like candy at Bar-Mitzvahs. He writes back: Climbing the corporate ladder, thatís all.


12:30 Ď Rest my head against my desk.


1:45 Ď Wake up. The Defeated Oneís gone. The Starís mirthfully plunking away at his keyboard, occasionally stopping to kick his legs in glee. I wipe the drool from my desk, get back to my spreadsheet.


3:00 Ď Iím plotting deviant ways to kill that Office Assistant paper clip, the one that suddenly materializes with an annoying ping whenever you least expect him. Figure Iíll unwind him first, delight in his high pitched squealing: No mister! Iím going to stick Mr. Gates on you! Thatís asking for trouble, yesirreee! Heís going to be one straight line of paper clip agony, ready for insertion in the moist orifice of the Starís buttocks.


3:05 Ď The Star yelps, It balances, It balances, his eyes glazed over in sheer bliss. He rocks back and forth in his swivel chair and then does three full rotations, giggling like a Japanese school girl in a Tarantino movie.


3:50 Ď Finished. Leave the Star to his swivel chair rotations.


4:00 Ď The only people out are the homeless. The Asian lady who sits in the bus shelter with her shopping bags full of garbage. The young girl that looks a heroine addict with a ratty copy of Atlas Shrugged beside her filthy blanket. Canít think straight. Everything is foggy, like a heavy mist has set around my brain. That girl; if she could get through that god-awful 100 page rant at the end of Atlas Shrugged, even worse, if she believes in it, truly believes that everybody should become capitalistic bastards, shouldnít help each other out, should stop being human, shouldnít care if youíve got a cold and all you want to do is go home and get some sleep, not work until four in the frickiní morning, then surely sheís equipped to find sevení Iíve stared too long and she throws a piece of donut at me. What did I do todayí Bind 60 bookletsí 120í You know thereís something important, buried in the contrast between you and the Asian lady with the garbage-filled shopping bags, no, itís not buried, itís obvious, itís right there in front of you, the way she looks at you (you give her five dollars) but then youíve lost it, you know itís a bad thing, to have lost it, but all you want more than anything else is to fall asleep, to escape, to dream about being young, when life wasnít like this.

Posted by matt at 11:59 AM

April 26, 2004

Web wackiness

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I was talking to my brother recently, and he mentioned that while he enjoys the articles I've been posting on this website, the subject matter of my more recent posts is lacking in some of the wackiness of earlier ones (I assume he's talking about some of the oddities you can find in my weird pop culture category). So to correct the situation, here are a few of my favourite very strange things that I've encountered on the web recently. I hope they're silly enough for ya.

Subservient chicken: This is just plain creepy. Watch a "chicken" on a webcam and order it to perform for you.

A song about badgers: Be careful this little number doesn't get stuck in your head.

Mo Kin: A truly amazing amazing music video of Mo Kin, a cute, three-year-old North Korean girl performing a very complicated and interesting song on the xylophone.

Posted by matt at 12:37 PM

February 02, 2004

An eco-friendly Leo, lookin' smug...

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So apparently celebrities have taken to assuaging their environmental consciences by buying entire forests. In order to offset the CO2 emissions they produce with their Hollywood lifestyles, Elijah Wood, Jake Gyllenhaal, Leonardo DiCaprio and a bunch of other actors pay other people to plant trees for them.

Future Forests "calculated that Leonardo produces 11 tonnes of the 'greenhouse gas' carbon dioxide, from his cars and home and travel, per year. This is approximately half the CO2 emissions produced by the average U.S. citizen in one year. Leonardo has chosen to reflect his Carbon Neutral Citizenship by having trees planted, by Future Forests, in Mexico. In addition to planting trees, Leonardo is also participating in alternative energy resources; a micro-hydro dam in Germany and in Biomass Gasifiers in India.

Future Forests is establishing Leonardo DiCaprio forests in four locations around the globe: Mexico, India, North America and Europe. You too can have trees planted in these same forests, by dedicating trees to offset your CO2 emissions."

Okay, so this scheme is ridiculous for a lot of obvious reasons. But in a twisted way, there's an argument to be made that these actors are in fact "carbon neutral," since those forests wouldn't be there without them. Even though they're living their nutty fantasy lifestyles, they've done something to balance things out. Which is more than I can say for myself.

Posted by matt at 04:24 PM

January 28, 2004

Pope blesses breakdancers

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I love weird news. And this is of the loveliest and weirdest order:

CNN: In an unusual spectacle at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II presided over a performance of break-dancers who leaped, flipped and spun their bodies to beats from a tinny boom box. The 83-year-old pontiff seemed to approve, waving his hand after each dancer completed a move, then applauding for the entire group. He watched the performance from a raised throne. "For this creative hard work I bless you from my heart," he said.

Posted by matt at 12:34 PM

January 06, 2004

Ever heard of talk therapy?

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I've always found the idea of a Prozac nation disconcerting, not least of all because I see peers suffering from depression and anxiety disorders all too frequently. I guess I'm not alone in observing this, because the World Health Organization predicts that within 20 years, depression will become the second leading cause of disability in the world.

Much as I know that anti-depressants can help people who are suffering, it's doesn't make it any easier to see people you love experience the mad side-effects that accompany many anti-depressants. (For more on that check out this great BBC documentary on Seroxat - the same drug is called Paxil in North Ameria - online). That's why the following news inspired some hope:

"A new Canadian study has found that talk therapy may give sufferers of depression an even bigger boost than popular drugs such as Prozac -- with none of the accompanying effects. In fact, the benefits of talk therapy over antidepressants were so high, they surprised even the researchers involved in the study."

Posted by matt at 10:00 PM

January 05, 2004

Great Teacher Onizuka

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Everyone my age seems to have at least one friend who's teaching English in Japan. One of my good friends just returned to Canada and showed me an amazing Anime TV show called "Great Teacher Onizuka." Here's a quick synopsis:

"Tough on the outside, all heart on the inside, Onizuka turned to the life of a high school teacher for less excitement and action... or so he thought. GTO, A.K.A.: Great Teacher Onizuka, is the racy story of Onizuka, a former motorcycle gang member who becomes a teacher to make a difference and... to meet girls?"

Small wonder all the foreign ESL teachers in Japan love it.

Posted by matt at 08:23 PM