The Dark Side of the Blog

The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Channel 7 Flawlessly Demonstrates Why It's Easier Just to Pirate Everything

Dear reader, I generally don't encourage piracy. Yet as I've previously discussed, TV networks seem to be trying their hardest to drive us towards downloading everything. A prime example of this is the new season of Heroes Reborn on Channel 7. I watched the first few seasons of Heroes and enjoyed them, so I eagerly tuned in at 8:30pm on Wednesday, the 30th of September on Channel 7. Then, the very next day, Channel 7 shifted Heroes Reborn to 10:30pm the following Wednesday! That was fast! Did you maybe want to give the show a little more time to build an audience before you bump it, Channel 7?

 Save the cheerleader. Save the world. (But only if it rates well)

But you know, whatever. 10:30pm it is. Yet while this was okay for four weeks, Channel 7 has now (inexplicably and without telling the viewers) removed it entirely from next Wednesday's lineup. Why? Who knows. But what really pisses me off here is that if I were to illegally download the next episode of Heroes Reborn, Channel 7 would be very quick to point their fingers at me and scream, "You see! This is why we can't fund more local programming - because you're stealing content! You're treating us with contempt!"

We're the victims here! 

The sheer hypocrisy of TV networks in this country astounds me. What possible incentive is there for me to become invested in a show on free-to-air television in this country when I know there's a very strong chance it'll just disappear from the airwaves if it doesn't rate like crack instantly? Not that I'm endorsing it, of course, but why would any reasonable individual do that when with a few clicks, they can easily download the entire program - without ads - to their computer and watch it at their leisure? Seems like a much more enjoyable way to enjoy content to me - again, not that I am suggesting anyone install torrenting software on their computer and type "Heroes Reborn Torrent" into Google.

Ironically, I thought that Australian TV networks had fixed the problem of niche programming not rating well a few years ago - in 2009 the new seasons of LOST, 24 and even Heroes were all broadcast at late (and inconsistent) times on Channel 7. But in 2010, Channel 7 launched 7TWO, and the new seasons of LOST, 24 and - you guessed it - Heroes were all aired at reasonable times on a reliable schedule on the new channel. There was no sudden shifts in airtime and the programs didn't suddenly disappear - it seemed like the perfect way to air more niche content. So why the hell is Channel 7 shifting Heroes Reborn around and removing it when it could easily move it to one of its two (!) sub channels, 7TWO or 7mate?

You remember me, don't you Channel 7?

I get it, honestly: Heroes Reborn didn't rate well, so Channel 7 placed something else in its spot. But that doesn't explain (or excuse) the absolute contempt Channel 7 clearly has for Australian audiences when they keep changing time slots, pull programs without notice and - worst of all - ignore the possibilities their secondary channels offer. What possible incentive is there for me to do the right thing when this is the level of respect shown to me by Channel 7?

Once again, I'm not encouraging you to download TV shows illegally.

Clearly, Channel 7 is doing that job well enough on its own.

© 2015 by The Free Man

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

If You Don't Love it, Don't Leave

Dear reader, there's a phrase that really makes my blood boil, and it's this: 

Love is a very strong word...
For a very long time, it's been the catchphrase (and easiest way to identify) someone who's xenophobic and bigoted (for example, Pauline Hanson). It's a ridiculous phrase that basically says if you don't love Australia and everything it stands for, you should leave the country. Now, I thought as a society we had all agreed this a stupid thing to say, so imagine my surprise when I heard our new Prime Minister utter the following words...

It is not compulsory to live in Australia, if you find Australian values are, you know, unpalatable, then there's a big wide world out there and people have got freedom of movement

Now, I don't mind Turnbull. I think he's head and shoulders a better Prime Minister than Abbott - he's smart, moderate and very articulate. So I have to wonder what he was thinking when he said this. Because, basically, our Prime Minister is now saying, "If you don't love it, leave!"

Folks, as much as I rant about stuff on this blog, I do love a few things - and one of them is Australia. I love my country, I really do. However, as much as I love the country, I'm sure even the most patriotic bogan would agree with me that our country has flaws - every country does. Now, what I consider a flaw may be different to what someone else considers a flaw, but the fact remains our country could use some improvement. Whether it's more money to pensioners, better public transport, better roads, better education... everyone would have a different list of what needs to be fixed. Are you really saying that because I don't love every aspect of Australian culture, I should just leave?

Because that's what's wrong with the "if you don't love it, leave" argument - it ignores the fact Australia (like every country) has its flaws. We should work, as a society, to fix these flaws. The rest of the world has different ideas on welfare, imprisonment, education and so on - and just because someone disagrees with how we do things in Australia doesn't make their opinion invalid. Telling people to leave the country if they're not happy is just ignoring bigger problems.

Imagine if you visited a friend's house and they had a dog that kept jumping on you and biting you every time you walked through the front gate. Wouldn't you be annoyed if, when you asked your friend to control their dog, they just replied, "Hey, that's just the way things are here - you can leave if you like." Or imagine if you're a vegetarian and a friend invites you over for dinner - then proceeds to only serve meat because "That's how it is here!"

I'm not saying we should change everything immediately, but part of being a grown-up is accepting that other people have different beliefs and values to you, and figuring out a way to accommodate them. I could never be a vegetarian myself, but you can bet that if I had a dinner party and knew a vegetarian was coming I would make an effort to accommodate him or her. Because that's what people who aren't dickheads do - they're nice to people who are different. Isn't that a far more important Australian value than a mosque potentially being built down the road?

If I moved to another country and I didn't like the way they do a particular thing, aren't I entitled to speak out against it? You can bet your bottom dollar I would be anti-gun in the USA or anti-censorship in China. Australia claims to be a country of free speech, and sadly that does occasionally mean people are going to say things you don't like. You can't slam Muslims in one breath, hold up your hands and yell, "Freedom of speech!", then savagely criticise anyone who has a different opinion to you - freedom of speech works both ways.

I'm certainly not saying we should just bow down to whatever anyone wants (that would be stupid), but we should be encouraging outside ideas and constructive criticism, not discouraging. Nor am I saying every new idea is good. What I am saying is that it's okay for someone to criticise your country, as long as it's done in a respectful, informed and articulate manner. So no, strapping bombs to your chest is not a respectful way to get your point across. But neither is saying things like, "Halal certification goes towards terrorism!" - that's just plain ignorant.


Telling people to leave the country if they hate it is not helping. All this will do is further disenchant people from Australian culture - ironically the opposite of what Turnbull presumably wants.

This is probably my favourite poster all year

After all, with the exception of the Indigenous Australians, we're all immigrants anyway.

© 2015 by The Free Man

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ten Arguments I'm Sick of Hearing Made Against Gay Marriage

Same-sex marriage. I've been hearing quite a bit of debate about the issue in Australia recently. Unsurprising, really, given Ireland's recent referendum on the subject. I should disclose I'm personally in favour of it, but as I see, hear and read the debate unfold in the media, I keep coming across the same - fundamentally flawed - arguments against it. So, dear reader, instead of doing something productive like go outside or talk to a woman, I present to you the ten most common arguments against gay marriage I'm sick of hearing (feel free to copy and paste them in any Facebook/Twitter/Reddit/comments section debate you find yourself in - it will save you a lot of time, trust me).

1. What about the children? WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN? Children should be raised by their biological parents - who's to say children from a gay marriage won't be screwed up?
Who's to say anything about raising a child? I hate to break this to you, but we've been raising kids for thousands of years now and, shockingly, there's no sure-fire way not to screw up your kid. Some of the nicest parents with the best of intentions can have horrible kids, and vice-versa. I'm not a parent myself (that I know of), but from what I've been able to ascertain the best kind of parent is one who loves their child. While I will admit I do not know any gay parents, I know plenty of people who have just one parent, no parents (i.e. foster care) or a different arrangement altogether, like being raised by an older sibling. Claiming only a child's mother and/or father can raise them properly is a grave insult to single parents and foster carers worldwide.

 Clearly, this single parent is incapable of raising a child

2. But we shouldn't experiment with our children like this!
Nobody is "experimenting" with children - if a gay couple wants to have a child, they obviously just can't have sex and create one themselves to "experiment" on.

3. But they'll want IVF treatment and adoption rights, too!
They don't just let anyone adopt or get IVF treatments, you know. And besides, this whole "think of the children!" argument is irrelevant - the issue is about marriage, not about children. Whether or not gay people should be allowed to adopt/use IVF/take sperm donations is not the issue here! How about sticking to the actual debate, instead of bringing children into it? The Rational Wiki states that using the phrase "Think of the children" is "a logical fallacy... a very bad way of making an objective argument, whereby a debater attempts to win an argument by trying to get an emotional reaction from the opponent(s) and/or audience, e.g. eliciting fear or outrage."

4. But a study was done showing children of gay parents were upset they weren't raised by their real parents!
Still irrelevant. STOP BRINGING CHILDREN INTO THE DEBATE. We're talking about marriage here, not about children! It is possible to get married and not have kids, you know. And stop quoting some bullshit study off the Australian Christian Lobby's website at me - if you are going to try and convince me, for God's sake don't link to a website like that - obviously these sources are biased.


5. Alright, putting aside the children ("Finally, I say"), why do we have to call it marriage? Can't gays be happy with a civil union?
Short answer: no. Let me put it this way: would you be satisfied if you were told you couldn't marry the person you loved, just because you were born with the wrong sexuality? I certainly wouldn't. And besides, words change. The English language is constantly changing, and just because some document written decades ago defines marriage as "between a man and a woman" does not mean it's unchangeable. Words. Change.

6. Look, this is just how things have always been. If we change marriage to be between two people of the same gender, who's to say what other marriages will be allowed? Will people be permitted to marry animals?
Sorry buddy, you've just committed another logical fallacy - you're not very good at arguing, are you? Anyway, to the point you raised, just because something has always been one way doesn't make it right. For example, decades ago women didn't used to be able to vote or own property. Even more recently, black and white people weren't allowed to marry. Yet, we as a society realised this was dumb, and despite the cries of "it's always been this way!" at the time, we rose above it and changed things, because it was the right thing to do.

Do you really want to be remembered alongside these people?

Secondly, nobody is suggesting we marry animals. This is what we call reductio ad absurdum - basically, you've reduced the argument for gay marriage to an absurdity, by pushing the premise to its logical limit (marrying animals) and showing how ridiculous the consequences would be. Please don't do that, it's a pretty dumb way to argue. Stick to the issue. If someone wants to marry their dog, that's a different discussion (and not something I'm in favour of, for the record). We're talking about gays - human beings, in case you've forgotten - getting married here, not animals. Just like the point you raised about the children above, it's irrelevant. And hold on a minute - did you just compare gays to animals? Not cool.

7. The Bible says it's now allowed. Are you telling me to ignore my faith?
No, I'm not telling you to ignore your faith. But to quote Chief Wiggum in The Simpsons, "The Bible says a lot of things". But seriously though, I've read bits of the Good Book too. Some passages I like are:
  • Judge not, lest ye be judged (Matthew 7:1)
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31)
  • Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone (John 8:7)
Like I said, I'm not telling you to ignore your faith. But The Bible says a lot of things, and many of them are contradictory. What I am telling you to do is just accept that it's possible for two people to read the same book and come away with vastly different interpretations. My interpretation of The Bible is to be tolerant, kind and forgiving to everyone on Earth. Now, yours might be different - and that's okay - but you can't force your views on other people, that is where bigotry comes in.

8. There's bigger problems in the world right now than gay marriage. We should focus on them.
I have some unfortunate news for you: poverty isn't going anywhere anytime soon. Nor is famine or climate change. It sucks, but these things are going to take a lot of time and a lot of effort to change. If we waited until all of these "bigger problems" were solved, nothing would every change. Fifty years ago, poverty still existed in third world countries, but that didn't stop us allowing Indigenous Australians to vote. Don't you think Indigenous Australians would be massively pissed off if we'd told them "Sorry guys, bigger things to deal with right now"? Just because there are bigger problems doesn't mean we shouldn't try to fix the smaller ones.

As soon as we fix this they can marry whoever they want!

9. I wish Bill Shorten would stop politicising this! Clearly he only introduced that bill to parliament to win public support.
Are you frikkin' kidding me? I've made this point before (defending Tony Abbott at that time): Bill Shorten is a politician, he has every right to "play politics"! He has every right to introduce a bill to parliament, it's his privilege as, you know, a member of parliament. This may shock you, but the opposition is permitted to introduce bills in parliament. I'll admit it's quite likely Shorten introduced the same-sex marriage bill to win public support, but I also think it's quite likely Shorten is genuinely in favour of it, too.

10. Look - ultimately, I just don't want it, okay?? This is a democracy and I have the right to free speech.
I couldn't agree more. You have the right to your opinion, and I understand gay marriage is a bit of a hard thing to accept for some people. But sadly, you are in the minority here, and you need to accept it. Public support has never been higher, and like it or not, most people disagree with you. The majority isn't always right, but if 70%+ of people had a contrary opinion to mine, it would at least make me stop and think about my position. I have very different opinions on other controversial subjects than I did a few years ago, but rather than stamp my feet and scream "No no no!" whenever I was confronted with an opinion contrary to mine, I listened to the other side of the debate and weighed up what they were saying. As you can see, I have listened to the anti-gay marriage side of the debate, but every point I keep hearing is fundamentally flawed. If you truly want to convince people gay marriage is a bad idea, you must stop making the same tired points that I have discussed here over and over again. They just aren't working. I'm not saying let's not debate these issues - I'm saying let's debate them better.

Thinking about stuff - it's important

I know change can be scary - but change can be okay as well. Fundamentally, you must remember that gay, lesbian and transgender people are just that - people. They are real people, with real emotions, and they deserve to be treated as much. As New Zealand MP Maurice Williamson said when the Kiwis legalised gay marriage:

"All we are doing with this bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognised by way of marriage. We are not declaring nuclear war on a foreign state; we are not bringing a virus in that could wipe out our agriculture sector forever. We are allowing two people who love each-other to have that love recognised, and I can't see what's wrong with that."

And one final note to people who are for gay marriage:
Keep an open mind. Many anti-gay marriage people now were probably pro black/white marriage fifty years ago. They were raised in a different time and will never be able to see it from our point of view. The important thing is in fifty years time when we're confronted with something by our grandchildren we don't like because it's always been one way, we mustn't give a knee-jerk "NO!", we must actually listen to the other side, then make up our mind.

© 2015 by The Free Man

Further reading:
Same-Sex Marriage on Rational Wiki - This page clearly articulates why all the arguments against gay marriage are flawed. It is significantly more comprehensive that what I have written here.

Side note: I have used the term "gay marriage" mostly in this article, as opposed to other terms (such as "same-sex marriage" or "marriage equality") that may be more politically correct. No offence was intended.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Cool Daylight vs. Warm White: Light Bulb Shopping Should Not Be This Complex

Quick quiz: what colour comes into your mind when you hear the following words:
  • Cool Daylight
  • Warm White 
Now, I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "daylight", for some reason I get a picture of this thing appearing in my head:

You're certainly doing your job today Mister Sun.

That's right, our old friend the sun. Now, I know the sun isn't actually yellow, but when I hear the word "daylight", the colour I would most likely pair with it would be "yellow" - the colour of the sun as it appears from Earth. Daylight = yellow. Simple, eh?

It's going to get a bit complicated now, dear reader, but try to stay with me - when I hear the word "white", I (for some reason) think of the colour white. I dunno, maybe I'm strange that way, thinking of the colour white when I hear the word white.

I'm weird like that, thinking of this colour when I hear someone say "white"...

Anyway, you would think this type of logic (daylight=yellow, white=white) would be easily transferred to light bulbs, but oh no. If you buy a "Daylight" light bulb, you get a light that looks like this...

Yep, that colour reminds me of daylight!

... but if you buy a "White" light bulb, you get a light that looks like this:

And that colour reminds me of white!

Does this not seem absolutely retarded to anyone else? Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to make "white" light bulb give off a yellow light? And since when has any person looked at the sun and thought "If there's one colour that reminds me of, it's white"?

(Yes, I realise that the packaging in these photos gives you a slight clue as to what colour the light emits, but the brand I bought is a rare exception, most brands are not colour-coded)

Because I clearly have no life, I asked the lady at the hardware store why white bulbs were called daylight and yellow bulbs called white, and she responded it had something to do with the chemical reaction. Oh, very useful. Maybe we should stop labeling our drinks as water and milk instead label them as H2O (Hydrogen and Oxygen) and H2OCaPMgFeMoMnCuC (Hydrogen, Oxygen, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Molybdenum, Manganese, Copper, Carbon).

I get it, companies. You want brands that have a distinctive name, sound attractive. That's why you can't just buy "red" paint, there's fifty trillion shades, like midnight red, passionate red, menstrual red, and so on. But even paint manufacturers aren't stupid enough to call their red paint "passionate blue" just because it involved a blue chemical at some point, it would be extremely irritating to the consumer. So why is nobody calling light bulb manufacturers out on this? When I pointed out the confusing labeling to the lady at the hardware store, she looked at me like I was the idiot.

It's just ridiculous. No matter what the reason, the fact we're labeling white light bulbs "daylight" and yellow light bulbs "white" has to stop.

Ugh, I've had enough. I'm off to go get a drink of H2OCaPMgFeMoMnCuC.

© 2015 by The Free Man

Sunday, November 23, 2014

More Advertising is Not the Answer

This is probably going to come as a shock, dear reader, but I am a human being. What's going to come as an even bigger shock is the fact that I occasionally leave the house - in fact, I have to leave the house at least once a week for food. Now, I wouldn't describe myself as a big eater, so imagine my shock last time I went grocery shopping when the girl on the checkout gave me an enormous receipt - over 60cm long - once I'd paid for everything. But of course, not all of it was relevant to my purchases. Behold, my receipt from Woolworths:

Yes, I really have nothing better to do than measure my receipts

That's right, more than half of my receipt is not actually my receipt. It's chock full of promos and offers for other Woolworths brands (Big W, BWS, Woolworths Online, Woolworths Petrol), Jamie Oliver stickers and animal cards. But it gets worse! If we flip over my receipt we see more ads, this time for companies that aren't Woolworths!

Seriously, what else should I do? Go outside? That's crazy.

If you do the math, of my 125cm of receipt (front and back), ninety nine centimeters - or almost eighty percent! - is advertising. Does this not seem the slightest bit excessive? Surely the people who are paying for all of these ads on the back realise their message can't possibly be getting through, don't they? When I was studying advertising, a lecturer of mine once made the point that good advertising "breaks through the clutter" - in other words, it stands out because it's different from all the other promotions. In what world are any of the ads on the front or back of my receipt breaking through the clutter? Particularly irritating is the fact the ads aren't even targeted - it's just random messages being shouted out in the vague hope I might be their target audience.

Chucking more and more ads in our faces is a trend I've noticed becoming more prevalent in the advertising industry. I've previously discussed that increasing the amount of promos and ads before a movie does little more than piss your customers off - yet for some reason Hollywood doesn't read my blog and it's only gotten worse since I wrote that rant. Ads are even showing up in new places - I don't know whose idea it was to stick advertisements on the back of toilet doors and on urinals, but thank God that's around, because I really hate taking a shit without having more shit thrown at me.

Advertising on the internet is only growing more intrusive as well. Almost every video you stream on the internet forces you to sit through 10-30 seconds of advertising, regardless of the length of the clip you want to watch. The worst internet ads are the ones that automatically start to play video (with sound) when the page loads - which is hugely irritating if you have several tabs open and can't tell which one is playing the ad. And did you know that the amount of TV advertising grows every year? If you look back at the original series of Star Trek in 1966, the episodes were about 50 minutes long with 10 minutes of commercials. Now, hour long dramas (including the most recent episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise that aired in 2005) are about 40 minutes long with 20 minutes of commercials.

So, going back to my earlier point, why do the advertising companies think this will work? Don't they realise that increasing the amount of ads out there will only make it harder for their ads to stand out? Sure, I may have paid attention to the first ad I saw on the back of a toilet door or the first ad I saw on my receipt from Woolworths, but I see them so often now they're just white noise in a sea of advertisements I have to put up with every day. Admittedly I can see the logic of more ads = more sales, but I would think we as a society will only put up with this assault of advertising for so long before we start to fight back.

And wouldn't you know it... we have!

How long until I can get this on my TV?

In case you haven't heard of it, AdBlock is something you can install on your computer that blocks all advertisements you see on the internet. Yes, you read that right, from the ads on Facebook to the ads on YouTube to the ads on Google search results, every single ad is blocked. It's quite honestly one of the best programs I've ever installed, and if you don't have it, I strongly encourage you to download it, it will change your life.

Naturally, advertisers have noticed people are trying to circumvent their irritating advertising (if not through adblock, then through time-shift recording devices or piracy) and are getting upset. Rather than, I don't know, ask people why they don't watch ads, they bitch and complain that this stuff is unethical and we're robbing content creators of money. A writer I respect, Jim Sterling, did a video asking his viewers to disable adblock, but I'm sorry Jim, as long as your website has intrusive ads that disrupt my enjoyment of your content, I'm not turning it off. I'm fine with advertising on the internet - as long as it's not intrusive. If it's simple, non invasive and above all else silent I will absolutely disable adblock for a website (and I have for a few).

What irritates me is when companies cry foul when we start to fight back against their bullshit. Why do we block your ads? Because they're so frikkin' irritating! I - and, I would argue, most people - understand that ads are necessary if we're going to get stuff for free, but there's a limit to what we as a society will accept. Massively intrusive advertising, shoving ads in new places or content that's eighty percent advertising will only piss off customers, and in the digital age where consumers have the power to fight back, that's not something you want to do.

Remember, the reason your business exists is to create and service customers. Not just to make money.

© 2014 by The Free Man

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Why I Hated How I Met Your Mother

Oh boy. I feel that this is going to be one of my more controversial rants, dear reader, but what the hell, I don't like something and if I don't get this off my chest now I'm always going to seeth about it. If you are a hardcore How I Met Your Mother fan (henceforth referred to as HIMYM to save me a lot of typing), it's probably best for you to stop reading this now and go back to watching your poorly-written show. If, however, you always felt HIMYM was missing something, then, dear reader, you may want to give this rant a look...

This rant is going to be legen - wait for it...

I suppose I should preface all this by saying that while I do hate HIMYM, I don't hate it with the same furor that I do with Family Guy. I watched the first three seasons of HIMYM, and the reason I hate it is because there's a lot of missed potential here. With a bit more hard work on the writers' part, the show could have become a truly revolutionary sitcom on par with M*A*S*H, Seinfeld or Friends. Looking back after nine years... well, the show just sucks.

The first thing that bothered me is the way the story was told - the writers were just plain lazy with their techniques. Having a narrator - as I've previously discussed - is only effective in a TV show if the narrator is giving insights into the main character (like JD in Scrubs). Old Ted was frequently just there to explain jokes or explain new characters - he was a shortcut for exposition. This is not good writing. Jokes and characters shouldn't need someone to explain them, you (as a writer) should know how to communicate ideas to the audience without bludgeoning them with exposition.

However, the narrator gimmick became really annoying when the show started to do flashbacks and flashforwards all over the place. I was willing to the forgive flashbacks early in the series' run (it was an effective, albeit lazy, way to introduce the cast), but as the show progressed the flashbacks/forwards simply became a shortcut for bad storytelling. Compare M*A*S*H, Seinfeld or Friends - sure, they occasionally indulged in flashbacks, but they were rare. Like Family Guy, HIMYM's characters are so weak that they're unable to get a joke (or a story) out of them unless we have Old Ted explain situations or characters to the audience. Good writing should flow from the characters, not around them. But oh God, the characters...

Not pictured: How Ted met the kids' mother

Let's start with the big one: I hate Barney. Every sitcom needs a womaniser I suppose (M*A*S*H had Hawkeye, Seinfeld had Jerry, Friends had Joey), but I simply do not buy the notion that Barney sleeps with lots of women. Think about guys in fiction (or reality) who sleep around. Do they often just seem, well, effortless about it? Believe me, women do not go for needy guys who are doing stupid shit like putting on old man makeup, making giant belts, singing about suits or inventing bro code playbooks. There is a lot I don't know about women, but look at Joey from Friends. How did he nail the ladies? He just took one look at them and said, "How you doin'?"

I'm fine, how are you?

It was effortless. He wasn't some try-hard wanker who was desperate to sleep around - he just didn't care. Oh, sure, he wanted to sleep around, but he never let his desperation show in front of the ladies. Barney, on the other hand, is so desperate for sex it's pathetic. I refuse to accept that the majority of women find this attractive (I know, some will, and that's fine, but remember, Barney is supposed to be a man who appeals to LOTS of women). But hang on, why is Old Ted telling us about Barney's sexual exploits? I thought the show was about how Ted met the mother of his children?

But as for the rest of the cast... well, at best they came of as annoying and smug, at their worst they were bullies. Case in point: the slap bet. I know, you thought it was hilarious. But let's remember Krusty the Klown's wise words when it comes to physical comedy:

"Free comedy tip, slick: the pie gag's only funny when the sap's got dignity - like that guy! Hey Hal, pie job for Lord Autumnbottom, there!" 

*Sproing* Oh dear

The point Krusty's making is that physical comedy works best when the victim has dignity, which is then removed when they fall down, receive a pie to the face or get slapped - like Sideshow Bob above. It's a change in status, which always creates drama or comedy if done correctly. Initially, the slap bet didn't offend me too much, because Barney did deserve it. But, as the series progressed, the writers decided it would be hilarious for Marshall to taunt Barney about the remaining slaps. He posted online countdowns, teased him, made him paranoid... wow, who's got the higher status here? The guy who's paranoid and worried he's about to be assaulted, or the guys who's plotting how to humiliate his friend? These scenes don't make Marshall look like some clever schemer, they simply make him look like a bully - not a funny bully, either. And maybe I'm old fashioned, but I happen to think all bullying is wrong, regardless of how much of a dick the victim is. But hang on, why is Old Ted telling us about a slap bet? I thought the show was about how Ted met the mother of his children?

Ah, bullying people. Always funny.

Now let's talk about Marshall and Lily for a moment. At the start of the series, Lily and Marshall getting engaged was a good catalyst for Ted wanting to settle down - because his best friends were (a rare example of good writing on the show, since they actually showed us this, rather than just have Old Ted explain it). Sadly, after about episode one, Lily and Marshall served no point other than for Lily to act as a doting mother to the rest of the gang. While the episode where Lily and Marshall got married was actually pretty funny, their characters were, for the most part, just pointless. I really didn't care about their struggles to have a child or buy a house - this is staggeringly boring television! There's a reason Ross and Rachel didn't get married at the end of Season 2 of Friends, it's because there's very little comedy (or drama) to be had from a happily married couple. This is why most sitcoms feature either single people OR families - but rarely both. It's just not funny or interesting. Now, if the writers had pushed themselves, then perhaps they could have come up with some good storylines here - after all, Everybody Loves Raymond managed to make Robert's new marriage in the final seasons work from a comedy standpoint - but HIMYM opted for extremely cliched stories (like buying a house and having a baby) that didn't feel new at all. But hang on, why is Old Ted telling us about Lily and Marshall's marriage? I thought the show was about how Ted met the mother of his children?

Last but not least, we have Robin. God, what a stupid character. I suppose since you can't make fun of Asians or Blacks or gays or whatever on TV anymore (which, don't get me wrong, is a good thing!), it's perfectly acceptable to make fun of a character who's from Canada.

Nothing's funnier than Canada, eh?

And, you know, I really don't have a problem with this kind of humour - South Park's portrayal of Canadians is totally bizzare, yet extremely funny at the same time. I dunno, perhaps you have to live in the USA to find it hilarious when Robin uses the metric system and the other characters make fun of her. Personally, I just find this mean, as if it's perfectly acceptable to put down and make fun of Robin because she's different. But hang on, why is Old Ted telling us all these dumb anecdotes about a friend of his who grew up in Canada? I thought the show was about how Ted met the mother of his children?

Not pictured: the mother

Alright, I've danced around it long enough: time for my main gripe, and it's, you've guess it, the fact the show didn't stick to its premise. Credit where credit is due: HIMYM had an intriguing premise. Most sitcoms dealing with people in their late twenties are about them wanting to go out and live their lives to the fullest, having all kinds of wacky adventures. Ted, on the other hand, was unlike any character I'd seen on TV before - he was a man who didn't want to sleep with a different woman every week, he wanted to meet that special someone and settle down. For an American sitcom, this was a very original idea. Now, if the show had stuck to this premise, it actually could have been an amazing show. Sadly, they digressed far too often with the other characters. If you're going to make a show's premise (and title!) about how one guy met one girl, there should not be entire episodes (and story arcs!) that deal with other people. To use a good example, Scrubs, like HIMYM initially, was a show about one guy (JD). However, the writers of Scrubs managed to get good use out of their other characters with strong writing and relating most things back to JD. It never felt like the writers were "cheating" and abandoning the premise of the show. Occasionally they indulged and gave others the spotlight, but ultimately Scrubs was very much a show about JD. HIMYM, on the other hand, was far from being a show about Ted.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realise what the writers really wanted was to create this:

They'll be there for you as well

I mean, think about it. A bunch of friends who live in New York City have wacky adventures, fall in and out of love, get married, have kids and so on - the show was essentially Friends re-done for people born after the nineties. Yet, while Friends was (for the most part) a clever show with strong characters and well-executed story arcs, HIMYM was not.

The way they writers of HIMYM kept saying "they had a plan" was such a load of shit. I struggle to believe that at the very start of the series they sat down and mapped out all nine seasons from start to finish. I struggle to believe the writers even had a rough idea for the series from the beginning - even the writers of LOST have admitted they made up most of the mythology of the island after season one had finished (and I really struggle to believe the writers of HIMYM are better writers than the folks who worked on LOST). I guarantee the "plan" for HIMYM amounted to "wait until the ratings start to die down, then we'll introduce the mother. Until then, drip feed the audience with 'clues' about who the mother might be."

This does not count as a story arc, this is just "Hey, let's put a goat in one episode, then explain it later! Then people will think we plan these things ahead of time!"

I mean, were all of Ted's girlfriends really necessary in the story of how he met his future wife? Like I said earlier, I watched the first few seasons, and "Ted meets Robin, dates Victoria, dates Robin for a year, then eventually ends up engaged to Stella" didn't feel like a story unfolding, it felt like the writers were making it up as they went along. And furthermore, how is an audience supposed to engage in a relationship (like Ted/Victoria, Ted/Robin or Ted/Stella) when we know this woman is not the mother, and therefore the relationship isn't going to last? Hell, even if every woman Ted dated was important to how he met the kids' mother (and they weren't), are the intricacies of how he met them, how he had sex with them and how he broke up with them relevant to the story? That would be like me telling the story of how I bought my new television, but for some reason including details about how I came to acquire my previous televisions and all the great TV shows I watched on them.

Were they all necessary?

I know it seems like I'm complaining a lot here about how Ted's dating history was depicted, but you've got to remember that the premise of the show was how he met his kids' mother! You may cry, "Who cares if it's not linked to how he met the kids' mother, I still found it funny", but the simple fact is the writers were abandoning their core premise. Telling stories totally unrelated to that is lazy and insulting. Imagine if you tuned into, say, M*A*S*H and they'd decided to do an episode in Los Angeles. Or an episode of Scrubs where no medicine was performed. I know occasionally shows will abandon their premise for an episode or two (Scrubs actually DID have a few episodes that didn't feature the hospital), but episodes like this are often the exception, not the rule. I'd say that at least 90% of the stories on HIMYM had NOTHING to do with how Ted met the kids' mother!

Like I said at the beginning, the reason I hate this show is I see a lot of missed potential. What could have been a bold new sitcom that ignored tired old cliches and looked at things we hadn't seen in a sitcom before - like a man wanting to settle down - instead decided to stick with tired old cliches and merely try to imitate older, much better sitcoms like Friends.

It may not have been the worst thing on television, but it was probably the worst use of a good premise.

© 2014 by The Free Man


Monday, April 7, 2014

Mob Justice is Not Justice

Dear reader, there's a trend I've noticed on social media lately, and it's becoming a bit worrying. Let's begin with a picture. A simple picture, a picture of a dog:

Have a problem with it? Speaking personally, I don't, but then again, I am an emotionless robot. I can understand that some people would be sympathetic about the dog - I mean, the poor guy's obviously been injured. Yet, where this gets bizzare is that this picture was shared over 10 000 times on Facebook, with the original poster claiming that this dog was being abused by its owner - a pet store. Now, whether you agree that this is animal abuse or not is up to you - however, the RSPCA have decided it's not abuse (their exact words were "They've done everything right" - source). Admittedly, putting an injured dog in a store window was pretty stupid move the first place, but worries me is the "mob justice" that emerged when the photo was posted.

According to The Courier Mail's article on the incident, ...some [Facebook users] even suggested putting the shop owner in a cage. Yeah, 'cause that seems like a logical punishment for bandaging an injured animal instead of just shooting it. Now, call me naive if you will, but we have a body responsible for preventing the cruel treatment of animals, and it should be up to them - and only them - to decide what punishment (if any) this pet shop owner receives.

"Oh, come on!" I hear you cry as you flick your dreadlocked hair off your tattooed face. "We're not suggesting he actually be put in a cage!" Yes, I realise that. But what worries me here is that the public seems to want to use Facebook as a way to punish this owner without even hearing his side of the story.

I first noticed this trend a few months ago when Derryn Hinch (a radio host) went to jail for revealing the details of the killer of Jill Meagher (the ABC woman who was murdered in Melbourne). The police were unamused by this serious breach of the law, so he was fined. But because Derryn Hinch thinks he's a slightly hairier version of God, he refused to pay, so he was thrown in jail for contempt. However, it didn't take long before stupid groups like this appeared on Facebook...


"BUT FREE MAN!" I hear you cry again. "HE WAS NAMING A MURDERER! A MAN WHO KILLED ANOTHER PERSON! THIS MURDERER DESERVES NO PRIVACY!" My response? I don't care who he's naming, or what his motivations are, you do not take the law into your own hands. Ever.

We live in a society of rules and law. While the 32 000 people who've liked this stupid page may not want to admit it or not, Australia was founded on the principles of democracy and fair treatment for all. I'm not for a second saying Jill Meagher's killer is anything but a bad person, but the simple fact is that in Australia, there are people whose job it is to enforce and interpret the law. Educated people who understand why laws are in place and how they should be applied. Just because you feel what Hinch did was right, doesn't make it so. Unless you're seriously suggesting you know more about the law than the Supreme Court of Victoria? Again, call me naive if you want, but I have faith in our justice system and that whatever punishment it decides upon - for Jill Meagher's killer or for Derryn Hinch - is appropriate. You do not take the law into your own hands. Ever.

(If you're interested in the specifics of Hinch's crime, The Dark Side of the Blog's old friend, Media Watch, had a segment on Hinch's sentencing)

Dear reader, if you start taking the law into your own hands, when does it end? While Hinch may have "only" named a killer, then when does it stop? Is beating up a person accused of committing murder okay? Is burning down a business that destroyed the lives of people okay? If everyone took the law into their own hands, before long we'd be in a society with no law, ironically the opposite of what all the Hinch supporters want. History has consistently proven that mob justice with so-called good intentions - like the Salem Witch Trials or the Klu Klux Klan - are wrong. Hell, one of the oldest examples of bad mob justice was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ instead of a murderer! Though I'll admit that it's hard to tell which aspects of Jesus' crucifixion story are true, the fact remains the mob in that story had been swayed by opinion and refused to listen to the wiser words Pontius Pilate, who wanted to spare Jesus.

 Wow, I think that's the first time I've ever used the values in the Bible as an argument. I hope this doesn't mean I'm turning into Tony Abbott.

But it gets worse. If you live in Australia, chances are you've heard the sad story of Daniel Morcombe. For the uninitiated, a young boy named Daniel was abducted in 2003 and his disappearance was a big mystery in Australia for about a decade. But recently, his remains appeared, then the police started to get some suspects, and finally, they put a man named Brett Cowan on trial for the murder of Daniel. Cowan was found guilty, and sentenced to jail. Justice had been served, right? Right...?

Oh dear. Notice the typo?

"Bring back the death penalty and save our kids"? How will killing a man who's already killed a child save kids? I know, the point these people are making is that executing Cowan will deter other criminals from doing the same thing, but in actual fact, the death penalty is not a deterrent. While you or I may see death as the worst possible punishment, I'd argue that the sick, twisted mind of a man like Brett Cowan (or Derryn Hinch) is not afraid of death. And besides, how are we setting an example that killing is wrong if our only response to a killing is more killing? We teach children that responding to violence with more violence is wrong, yet it's a bit of a contradiction when we murder our murderers - exactly what we're telling the children not to do. Not only that, but the United Nations has specifically said that "Everyone has the right to life" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Claiming you know better than the UN is hugely arrogant. Australia - and indeed, most of the world - has abolished the death penalty because it simply doesn't work.

Mob justice is wrong. The death penalty is wrong. We have laws in place that protect us, and if you're reading this, it's because you live in a society where people obey the law and don't take it into their own hands.

And hey, if you truly believe Hinch was unfairly punished, or Cowan should have been sentenced more? How about getting off your arse and lobbying government to change the law? Because believe me, simply bitching about stuff on Facebook - or your blog - rarely changes anything.

© 2014 by The Free Man