Sean Condon. The writer.

If you are looking for the Australian writer responsible for seven funny books then you've come to the right place. If not, that's fine, too.

My Career and My Future

Are in the hands of a generation who think it’s important and interesting to tweet about “eating all the cakes”. Man, that’s depressing.

Sylvie and my bicycle pump.

Last Wednesday Sylvie and I took a walk through Bangkok’s extremely amazing Chinatown. (If there is a centre for the human organ trade, it’s here.)

Untitled/ Ohne Titel

Dear Sean

Your terms of sumbission are very clever. They made me laugh, or at least smile wanly.

I can’t send this without entering a name and an email address. I didn’t see that in the terms of submission.

Anon.

Letter to Telstra Digital

 

Dear Mr Schenkel,

I am writing to tell you tale of naiveté, hope, staggering incompetence and ear-withering music. It’s a rather long read, perfectly reflecting the ordeal itself, so I hope you’re sitting comfortably and are prepared to give up ten minutes of your life in return for the approximately eight hours I lost of mine.

On Tuesday January 24 I was on holiday with my family on the south coast of New South Wales and found myself in sudden need of an Internet connection. After a brief bit of shopping around I made the fateful decision to purchase a Telstra Elite Pre-Paid USB pack.

From the place of purchase, Merimbula, I drove the twenty-five minutes back to where I was staying and installed the device hoping to attend to the half hour of urgent work required of me. ‘Installation successful!’ a screen on my MacBook informed me. Which was nice to read but unfortunately bore no resemblance whatsoever to reality, because guess what else – ‘Device could not be detected’.

I uninstalled and reinstalled three more times and received the same result: ‘Installation successful!’ ‘Device could not be detected’.

This was annoying but I am aware that we live in an imperfect world – especially when it comes to telecommunications – and decided to call Telstra support, Philippines division.

Once I got through, I explained in slow and excruciating detail that my problem was NOT trying to activate the device but that the device, after apparently being ‘successfully’ installed, could not be detected. The woman (whose name I did not record) insisted that I go through the entire activation process before anything could happen. And because she is Telstra Support and I am merely Telstra Customer, I reluctantly deferred to her superior knowledge. So we underwent the extremely non-speedy activation process. Once that was almost complete my ‘supporter’ told me that she would then put through the activation order  – do bear in my mind that this order was extremely unasked for by me – and was there anything else she could do?

 “Yes,” I explained. “You can tell me how to make my computer detect the device which you are apparently going to activate.”

She said that she couldn’t help me with that – ‘that’ being the entire point of my phone call – and that I’d need to talk to Technical Support. She put me through to the part of Telstra Support where you spend a very long time waiting to speak to someone while listening to abysmal music and the same happy advertorial nonsense over and over again. When I finally did speak with someone in Manila or San Pedro or Batangas City, I explained the precise nature of my problem all over again, principally that the device appeared to be faulty. Thirty-five questions later the person I was receiving support from concluded that the device was probably faulty and that  I should probably return it and get a new one.

The next day I drove back to Merimbula and exchanged Elite USB Device Which Does Not Know What ‘Successful’ Means for another one.

Amazingly, my problems are only just beginning. 

So I install the device (‘successfully!’) and, as I’m sure you’re aware, in order to make it work, I have to register it. In this I am unsuccessful because, even though I have been a Telstra customer for approximately thirty years and have my landline, mobile phone, home Internet and cable TV all supplied through you, and even though I have, in this absurdly attenuated ‘activation’ process, supplied ample evidence that proves I am who I am, I am finally asked for my driver’s licence number which I do not have with me. (As an aside, why on Earth do I need to jump through so many hoops just to get online? Are you aware of these things called Internet cafes and how anyone can simply walk in and, without enduring the nonsense required by Telstra, actually use the Internet? What about WIFI – do you know about that? My goodness – that’s the Internet just hanging around in the air for free – no passport required! I’m not seeking entry to NASA or the U.N, for God’s sake – just a network connection!)

Because I am only able to supply 995 out of a possible 1000 points of identification, I am now forced to register in my wife’s name; the same tedious process is once again endured and, only around 22 hours since I bought my first Telstra Elite Don’t Think You Can Get Online That Easily, I am at last ready to connect to the Internet. My wife even receives an exciting email saying that everything’s ready to go!

But, boy, is it not.

As you will recall from the paragraph before last, I have just been though the merciless ‘activation process’. Nevertheless, I am constantly being asked by the Telstra I Don’t Want To Say Its Stupid Name Again to activate it, even though that’s already been done, and I have an email to prove it. Until then, it seems, the greyed-out ‘connect now’ button will remain dim and elusive.

Once again, and with great reluctance, I call Tech Support. I’ll spare you how long I waited to talk with someone, but after about 25 minutes of Q&A, along with numerous failed connection attempts and restarts, I finally get the ‘connect now’ button to light up. But that’s all it does – light up – it won’t actually connect. It looks pretty, though, and I guess that’s something. The person I’m speaking to doesn’t know how to fix this problem and informs me that I am being transferred to Level Two Tech Support.

I wait a long while for Level Two Tech Support, hear the words, “Hello, my name is-” before being cut off, which is pretty annoying.

It’s now been about 48 hours since I first got sucked into the vortex that is the Telstra Elite USB Which Should Not Be Called Elite Because Elite Means ‘the Best of Something’ and This Thing Is Really Not That.

More dialling, more waiting, more of that goddammed music you should really consider not playing. Or consider listening to at home one night through telephone speakers for a couple of hours before deciding that other people should be subjected to it.

The name of next person I speak to is Rhesa. Yet again I explain what is wrong and, somewhat unexpectedly, Rhesa tells me that the device appears to be registered to someone entirely other than my wife or me. I explain that I genuinely am who I am, and that the device is genuinely registered to my wife, not this other person who’s suddenly shown up uninvited to this seemingly endless and endlessly complicated farrago. Rhesa takes some time to clear up this latest wrinkle and accept the fact that I would not willingly waste so much of my time pretending to be someone else all for the sake of a few minutes’ time online. As requested by her, I unplug and plug in the device about four hundred times, shut down and restart my computer repeatedly, wait on hold for ages while she goes off and does I-don’t-know-what and, about fifty minutes after first accessing the hallowed reaches of Level Two Tech Support, absolutely nothing has changed – the Elite Lump of Plastic will still not connect to anything anywhere, ever.

The problem is apparently so unique and unsolvable that I now have to speak with someone from L3 Tec Support. By this time I have spent, oh, about four hours of a vacation day dealing with this blood-pressure-skyrocketing problem and I fear another minute might tip me over the edge, so rather than risk waiting some more, listening to more of that wretched music, being cut off again and then dying far too young of Telstra-induced heart attack, I ask Rhesa to have the L3TS person please read the notes about this ever-metastasizing ‘issue’ and please call me back. Please.

You will not be surprised to learn that 22 hours later I have not been called back. I call Tech Support  at 1.55pm and waited on hold for eight minutes before speaking to Cris.

 (Please read the next sentence slowly and carefully.) After ‘verifying’ with my wife that I am able to speak on her behalf – a ‘verification’ process which consists of me handing the phone to my wife and this Cris asking her – a disembodied voice that could belong to absolutely anyone, mind you – the very same questions to which I have, just fifteen seconds earlier, given the very same, very correct answers to – we establish that there is nothing in the notes that indicates anyone was or is ever going to call me back. Even though the previous day’s call has, apparently, been recorded and I can substantiate my claim. So Cris transfers me to an L3 Tech Support person named Alex– the wait for which lasts another eight minutes or so.

Alex has something very interesting to tell me, which is “as a matter of fact, actually, Sean, we have a new rule that means I can’t help you”. Alex explains that this is because problems that have not been resolved after two phone calls must now be handled by a ‘resolution team’, for whom I have to wait on hold yet again. But only for seven minutes.

Can you believe this, Gerd? After all these phone calls, all this time, this dialling and redialling and waiting and trying not to tear my head off because all I wanted to do is quickly set up an Internet connection for thirty measly minutes to do some work and it’s ended up sapping away almost half of my holiday – after all that, I’m only now being told that I have to be handled by a different team altogether? I can hardly believe it myself, even now, a few weeks later when I’ve had time to calm down a bit and resume normal breathing. But I digress – we’re not there yet, not quite.

I’m now speaking to Gail from the ‘resolution team’. This final – yes, the saga does actually end – telephonic ordeal lasts an incredible 81 minutes and 48 secs. During this time the thought occurred to me, more than once, “I wonder what Executive Director, Telstra Digital Gerd Schenkel is doing with his valuable time right now. He’s making more money than me, that’s for sure, what with his degrees from Columbia and Northwestern, but is he really earning it? I mean, surely what I’m experiencing right now, blowing away a beach holiday courtesy of the crappy products and stupefying incompetence of Telstra Digital, surely that’s something nobody should get paid much for. Maybe they shouldn’t even get paid a dime for it. Ah, but who am I kidding - he’ll probably just blame Product. Product will blame Marketing and ultimately no-one will take responsibility for-” Gail interrupts my reverie and has me download some updates, uninstall the Elite Give Me My Life Back Machine, restart the computer, reinstall the Elite Bing-Bong, fine-tune some network preferences and hey presto, three days after I first began the process I’m online.

Installation successful!

On the side of the product box it says ‘connect quickly with auto installation for both PC and Mac’; I think you should definitely reconsider that, Mr Schenkel, or at least add a really, really long disclaimer that warns people of what a bewildering, frustrating and needlessly complicated doing something simple as connecting to the Internet can become when trying to do so with your unbelievably bad product. I’d also like you to reconsider your whole on-hold music policy.

 Yours sincerely,

 

Sean Condon

 

Tom Sizemore Has Lots of Friends: extracts from an AV Club interview.



I went to see a friend of mine named Peter Nelson… 

Kathryn Bigelow and I became really good friends on Blue Steel.

Willem Dafoe and I were good friends long before we were best friends.

 
It was a very memorable scene, and I got to be really good friends with Anthony Kiedis. John McGinley and I were friends from New York. 

I hope to revisit [Michael Mann] again when we’re friendly again, or rather good friends again. 

Oliver Stone was my Eskimo, I guess. We’d become friends on Born On The Fourth Of July. So I did it without a stuntman, and Oliver and I had become friends. 

I called him and said, “Don’t cast Michael Madsen. He’s my best friend, and I’ll kill myself.” He was my best friend at the time.

And in my relationships with Robert and Oliver and Woody and Tommy Lee [Jones] and [director of photography] Bob Richardson, they’re all my friends today.

I was doing another movie prior to that called Five Hour Friends. 

All those guys were great, especially De Niro and Hanks, who I got really close to, and Mann. Those guys are my friends. They were my friends when I wasn’t doing well, and I’m happy to report that they’re my friends today. 

A lot of people didn’t like Pete Rose. I met him; he’s easy not to like.

 

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Onions

Have you ever wondered what James Bond film titles would be like if key words were replaced with the word ‘onion’ or ‘onions’? Well wonder no more.

BOOKS/MOVIES