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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hungry Beast? More Like Starving Idiot

Tonight, I'd narrowed what I was going to do down to three options:
  1. Hey Hey It's Saturday reunion on Channel Nine (ironically, on a Wednesday night)
  2. Some Deep Space Nine that I downloaded (completely legally, of course...)
  3. Or Hungry Beast on the ABC
In the end, I went with Hungry Beast, as it's the new (sexier?) title of Project Next, developed by Zapruder's Other Films, who are probably most famous for introducing us to The Chaser boys and creating The Gruen Transfer (that's the show, not the transfer itself). In case you weren't paying attention last year, Project Next was designed to find new talent in Australia and let young people have a say in the media. I had high hopes for this project, so I tuned in at 9:00pm tonight eagerly.

Thirty minutes later I felt like I should have just gone to bed.

Firstly, what the hell was Dan Ilic doing on the show? He's not hugely famous, but he did feature in both seasons of The Ronnie Johns Half Hour on Channel 10 back in 2006-2007. I thought this show was supposed to feature new talent? You know, people we haven't seen before?

But I digress. First, we have an obnoxious story where we learn that the Hungry Beast team created a fake study that said Sydney was the most gullible city in Australia. It was picked up by news outlets across the country, but in the end, Media Watch (bless them) noticed it was bullshit. Tonight on Hungry Beast we saw how they put together the stunt, followed by five minutes of them saying how clever they are and how dumb everyone else is. Their conclusion? The media doesn't fact-check it's stories thoroughly. Well, congratulations, dipshits, I could have told you that! However, I hardly think this was a fair test, the scoop, "Sydney stupider than Melbourne!" is the kind of article you'd read in Mx, not in The Australian. Sure, it appeared on news.com.au's website, but did it show up on the six o'clock news?

"WHO CARES?!?" screams the Hungry Beast. "We fooled the media, and we're awesome, BITCH!"
No, I'm afraid you completely missed the point here. If you'd done a real news story, that everyone picked up, then you certainly demonstrated the fallibility of our news system. All you managed to do was appear on a few websites and the radio, then look like a smart-arse kid to everyone when they found out the truth.

Here's a tip, kids, free of charge: don't start a new TV show with a demonstration of how up yourself you are. The Chaser, for all their immature pranks, usually made an excellent point - sneaking into APEC didn't just show the ineptitude of the guards, it also pointed out that for all this time, money and effort, a man dressed as Osama Bin Laden could get right outside George Bush's house. All Hungry Beast showed us was that people like to read silly, inconsequential news stories and believe them.

Ironically, throughout the show, Hungry Beast threw random facts at us, like "THERE WILL BE 150 MILLION CLIMATE CHANGE REFUGEES IN 2050!" and "THERE ARE 10 000 CCTVs IN SYDNEY!", which we were probably supposed to scream "OMG!" at. Although they cited their sources, I wonder whether they diligently checked their sources like they suggested Australian news outlets should.

I'm sorry if this is taking a while, so bear with me. The remainder of the show features a stupid sketch about an old lady and a cat, an interview with a war widow where we learned that the soldier liked noodles (this is prime time TV?) and a discussion on whether pandas deserve to become extinct. Essentially, Hungry Beast said that "it's survival of the fittest, BITCH! Panda's are fat, they do nothing, they should die."

Hmmm. Where have I read this before?

Yes, Maddox was talking about whales, but it's the same argument, whales/pandas don't really do anything remarkable, so they should die. Still, it's obvious what Hungry Beast was trying to do here: create controversy. Going back to The Chaser, they got a HUGE amount of press every time they did something controversial - Chris swearing on Sunrise, the APEC prank, the Eulogy Song (eventually they crossed the line with the "Make a Realistic Wish Foundation" skit), so Hungry Beast obviously is looking for people to yell, "YOU CAN'T SAY THAT ABOUT PANDAS! WE NEED TO PROTECT ALL OF GODS CREATURE'S YOU DUMB KIDS!"

Then Hungry Beast will obnoxiously high five each other and say on the next episode (a) "LOL, you fell for our 'get free publicity' trick!" or (b) "Well, we can say what we want, as we represent the young generation!"

No, you do not.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't this show supposed to show stories that weren't being shown by the rest of the media? To pick two topics that have received little coverage: the internet filter and the banning of Left 4 Dead 2. Or, to pick something more recent, the stupid name for the new Vegemite: iSnack 2.0, which anyone under 25 will tell you is lame beyond words. Just browsing through my friend's Facebook status updates, I see this actually is a touchy matter for some people.

So, here's Hungry Beast in a nutshell: a TV show created by a marketing team for the "young" crowd by being hip and controversial, that instead ends up being a TV show that's hypocritical, pretentious and unfunny.

As I said a long, long time ago:
"...trying to be cheeky is likely to alienate more [people] than attract them. The small percentage of people who like the cheekiness are likely to hit their sixth birthday soon, and will just look at [you] as unprofessional and trying too hard to be cool."

I mean, The Chaser boys worked because they never tried to be cool, they just were. The Gruen Transfer is great because we have people with experience and credibility lending their opinions. Top Gear (the UK version) works because it has three genuinely funny bloke driving around cars and having a good time. None of them tried to be cool, they just were.

Don't watch Hungry Beast. Just... don't. I could have done a better job, and that's saying something.

UPDATE 8/10/09: I watched Hungry Beast again last night, and the second episode was just as bad as the first. I've finally figured out where this show belongs: with Behind the News in the middle of the day. The whole program feels like an attempt to get "cool" kids to watch the news - particuarly teenagers. All they'd need to do is drop the few F-bombs they had and hey presto, kids show.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Michael Atkinson needs to be left 4 dead

I love Australia. Granted, I haven't lived in any other countries, but I feel that our country is certainly one of the best in the world. We've got great climate, a small population, lots of space and there's very little poverty. There is one area, though, that Australia sucks rooster at: censorship. We all know about the proposed Internet filter that the government wants to introduce, but a topic much closer to my heart is the lack of an R18+ rating for video games.

The latest victim of Australia's outdated stance on video games is Left 4 Dead 2, a zombie shooter by Valve, makers of the critically renowned Half Life series. Left 4 Dead 2 has failed to meet the standards for an MA15+ rating and has been refused classification by the Office of Film and Literature classification (OFLC), effectively banning it from sale in Australia. So, unless Valve edits the game for re-submission, we aren't going to get the game in Australia.

The lack of an 18+ (Adults Only) rating for games continues to baffle me. First off, pretty much every western country in the world has one, so why not Australia? The answer is as obvious as it is silly: our government views video games as toys for children, and not the sophisticated art form that they have become. Where did this label come from, anyway? Video games have never been exclusively marketed towards young children, and they certainly aren't now.

People against the R18+ rating like to point out, "Alright, they're not just for kids, but why can't they make games that are fun for all ages?" Well, first of all, they do. Heard of Wii Sports? But there are games out there that would completely lose impact if they were forced to become G-rated - Bioshock to give one recent example. Plus, this is a double standard anyway. Films, books and movies can have violence, nudity and swearing but games can't? Bullshit. And let's not forget that most of the violence in games is far less graphic than the violence in movies (Saw, anyone?); and that the nudity and sex in games is almost on a PG level (the infamous Hot Coffee mod for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas featured clothed characters having sex, and yet it was banned. WTF?).
Next, I want you to tell me what the following games all have in common:


The answer is twofold:
  • I own all of these games
  • All of these games received an 18+ rating in other countries, but were awarded an MA15+ rating in Australia without any modifications whatsoever (with the exception of Grand Theft Auto IV, but even then, very little was changed in the Australian version)
They way I see it, the OFLC has to stretch what could fit into an MA15+ category, or else consumers would resort to pirating or importing the games (hurting the local economy). I'm actually of the opinion that the ratings board wants an 18+ rating, but can't because of one man.

Michael Atkinson.



This man is, by far, the biggest douche in Australia. Why? Well, he's the Attorney-General for South Australia. For there to be any changes in Australia's classification system, (like introducing an R18+ rating) there has to be unanimous approval from all of the Attorney Generals. Michael Atkinson, though, seems to think that giving adults the right to play whatever they want is a stupid idea, and has voted against every single proposal for an 18+ rating.

I had hope, last year, when the ABC TV show Good Game reported that a discussion paper was going to be commissioned, to determine whether the public wanted an R18+ rating. However, as soon as Atkinson saw a study done by Bond University showing a whopping 91% of the population (gamers and non-games) want an R18+ rating, he withdrew his support for the discussion paper, stalling the issue.

What. A. Prick. You can't just dismiss something because you don't like the results! Plus, it's just undemocratic for 91% of the population to want something, but the government to say "no."

Depressingly, though, it doesn't look like Atkinson will change his mind (I suppose it's difficult when you have an IQ lower than 3). Atkinson has told the press that he gets hundreds of letters and emails a day, begging for the R18+ rating, but he remains resolute. He may think this makes him a man of integrity, but I think it makes him a stubborn old fool. If received hundreds of letters a day demanding I take down my stupid Peggle Reel, I would consider it (UPDATE: I have removed it, it really was that stupid). I would not stick my head in the sand and pretend that I'm a strong man who knows what's right for everyone.

So, how do we get an R18+ rating? I see three options:
  • Atkinson loses his seat in the next South Australian election (not likely, as he sits in one of the safest seats in the county - not only is he an idiot, but he's a coward)
  • The Labor party loses the next state election, and the Liberals appoint a new Attorney General (not likely, the Liberals down there are pretty hopeless)
  • Atkinson dies (it may take a while, but this will eventually happen)
Someone once asked Yahtzee, "What do you think of people who believe video games are just for kids?", and Yahtzee replied, "Well, it's generally old people who say that, and they're going to die before me."

Exactly right, Yahtzee. Atkinson will die before us, so maybe the next Attorney General will have a functioning brain.


(Also, if anyone's interested, there's a nice article on Kotaku criticising Atkinson and a great video on YouTube that discusses the R18+ rating in Australia).

Monday, September 21, 2009

Low Fat Milk? Well, Close Enough.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sent to Woolworths by my boss at work to buy some milk. I was instructed to buy milk with no fat. Personally, I prefer full cream milk, but, hey, I can't help it if people want their milk to taste like water mixed with paint.

Anyway, I was standing in front of a huge shelf of milk, and picked one that was clearly marked NO FAT:
See how it says NO FAT, down at the bottom? Anyway, I bought the milk and went back upstairs. As I put it in the fridge in the tea room, I scanned the nutritional information on the bottle (they pay me by the hour, you see - the longer it takes to buy the milk the less time I'm lifting furniture). Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

Incredibly, it contains fat! Very little, mind you, but still some fat - enough to disqualify them from claiming it was NO FAT milk, in my opinion. I checked out other brands of NO FAT milk, and bizarrely, they all contain fat! I did some research and apparently under Australian law, as long as it contains less that 0.15% fat, it can be sold as NO FAT.

This is quite possibly one of the most blatant examples of companies lying to consumers I've ever seen. Essentially, the milk companies have eliminated 99.85% of the fat, and then thought, "Ah, well, that's close enough, those idiots will believe us if we tell them we got rid of it all."

It'd be like if a vegetarian restaurant said their tofu was free of meat, but if you read the fine print, you'd see it still contains some. Or if a bottled water company said their water was free of urine, but every bottle contained 0.15% human excrement. Or if the Germans said they weren't going to kill any more Jews, except for the 0.15% who they felt had it coming.

Now that I've started comparing Nazi Germany to Pura Milk, I think it's safe to say I've gone off track. Just remember, next time you want milk without fat, you're out of luck.