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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away. Just to shut these people up.

Please stop spamming my news feed with this shit.

In case it isn't obvious, I live in an area of the world that is currently being soaked with rain, and some of my "friends" online have decided to share this incredible insight with the world. Look, I get it. It's been raining for a while now, but everyone knows that. There is ABSOLUTELY NO NEED for you to share this information on Facebook/Twitter!

I want you to have a look at this picture below. You see this planet?

I hate to break it to you, but when you live on this planet, it rains from time to time. Shocking, I know.

And yes, I'm aware of the irony of me complaining about people complaining, so don't bother pointing that out.

© 2010 by The Free Man

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thirteen Things I Learned from Five Years at University

(This was originally posted on my old blog as “Ten Things I Learned from Three Years at University” in December 2008. As my postgraduate degree draws to a close, I thought I might post it with a few new items...)

Thinking of heading off to university next year? Allow me to save you the trouble – what follows are the thirteen most important things I discovered while studying at university:

1. You’ll spend half of your time on public transport

As a rule, every university on the planet is either too far away from where you live or in the middle of the city. So, you better get used to sitting on overcrowded trains, buses and ferries. Here’s a picture a friend took of me on a bus the other day:
I must be the exception to the rule, because everyone else seems to love catching the public transport. Trillions and trillions of people catch the bus every day, and without fail there are always the following people:
  • Grandma or Grandpa, who take FOREVER to count out their change to the driver, and then take another ten years to get to their seat.
  • The parent with ten children, who all run around the bus like a bunch of screaming little shits
  • The guy who believes that his music sounds better when played at MAXIMUM VOLUME
  • The bogan who argues over the fare. Yes, I’m sure the bus driver really is an evil man, desperate to get that extra twenty cents so he can rule the world
  • The idiots who have clearly not planned their trip, and have to ask the driver where the bus stops
  • School children, with gigantic bags that must contain every book ever written in human history
2. Acronyms and abbreviations are everywhere
Whether you’re doing a SWOT, PEST, SIVA or IDIC analysis; or researching the 4 P’s, the 7 P’s, the Five S’s, the Four S’s or The Six I’s, you’ll have to memorise hundreds of inane abbreviations for things you’ll never need.

3. Lecturers and administrators love America
If I had a penny for every time I saw organization, optimization or internationalization in my lecture slides I would be a very, very rich man. It’s comforting to know that for my hundreds of dollars per subject, the lecturers are just going straight to the textbook’s American website and stealing the slides from there.
All of my lecturers own one of these.

4. An assignment may say 2000 words, but you’ve really got to double that.
Most assignments have a limit of 2000 words, but when you consider that the university demands several appendices, contents page, reference list and a title page for each one, you’ll find that you have to do much, much more. My final word count for one 2000 word assignment that I did was a staggering 4743 words, which is a lot of time I could have spent playing PlayStation.

5. It is impossible to get 100% on anything.
In my entire time at university, I did not once get 100% on an assignment. Even if I followed the instructions to the letter, I still never got full marks. The best I ever did was on an oral, where I got 97.5%. My tutor wrote the comment:
"You have presented an exceptional presentation that cannot be faulted. Your summary had a good reference list and was well-researched. Well done!"

Well, if it couldn’t be faulted, then why didn’t you give me 100%? Or at the very least, tell me what was wrong?

6. The University wants feedback, but refuses to give it.

Throughout my degree, I was constantly pestered to participate in the LEX (Learning Experience Survey), FYS (First Year Survey) or EYES (Exit Year Experience Survey - again with the acronyms...). Not to mention the constant library surveys, IT surveys...

But the ironic flip-side to this is that the tutors hardly give you any feedback on your work. The above example is the exception, most assignments consisted of about one sentence. The 4743 assignment mentioned above had the following enormous amount of feedback:

"V. Good"

He couldn’t even be bothered to write ‘very’! While I can understand laziness, that was just appalling.

7. Those stories about university chicks being wild...

All I’m saying is that they are greatly exaggerated. Not once did a girl come up to me and offer herself to me.
Not found at my uni.

8. Attendance is, if anything, discouraged.
I don’t think I’d be wrong in guessing that about 50% of people don’t turn up to lectures or tutorials. Now, call me a nerd if you wish, but I figure if you’re going to pay hundreds of dollars for a crappy plastic seat to sit in for thirteen weeks, you may as well turn up and get your money’s worth.

9. The staff know nothing about technology
Although there were a couple of exceptions, most of my tutors and lecturers were complete and utter technophobes:
  • Some would frequently fumble with the lecture slides, incessantly clicking whenever it froze up
  • Others were always surprised when files from a Macintosh computer refused to work on the PCs on campus
  • Occasionally, there were lecturers who refused to use PowerPoint in lectures and, in one rare case, refused to let us use PowerPoint in our oral presentations
  • Every single lecturer had a big cry in front of their classes when Microsoft Office 2007 was introduced. Yes, it is a little different, but, really, it’s not that hard to get used to.
As far as the staff at my university are concerned, computers are big, scary boxes.

10. Everybody wants something for nothing.
No matter where you go in your university life, you’ll frequently be assaulted by people who want your money. The obvious example is the student union, who robbed me of $200 in 2006 just so they could buy themselves a gold-plated toilet.

Then there’s the student groups who will find you and thrust pamphlets under your nose, especially if you’re on your own just trying to eat lunch (yes, this actually happened to me).

You’d think that the uni could help fund these student groups and the union, but noooooooo. Universities piss away money like you wouldn’t believe. They’re too busy spending money on plasma TVs in lobbies to remind people why they're so great, glossy pamphlets to remind people why they're so great, expensive functions to remind people why they're so great and open days to remind people why they're so great.

And then there’s the environmentalist/peace/violence against women/free the refugees people who will run up to you as you walk in/out of campus and ask if you have a minute to talk about the environment or something. They’ll shake your hand and block your exit, so you then have no choice but to listen to them crap on about deforestation or whatever else they have to bore you with. I mean, I’m no expert in marketing – wait, yes I am – but surely there are more effective means of recruiting people than just running up to them in the street?!?

11. The union is useless
Like I said, in 2006 the union robbed me of $200. But what did I get for my fees? A discount in the cafeteria? No. Free membership in the gym? No. Discounted membership in the gym? No. Free childcare? No. A discount at the guild bar? No. Well, what about cheaper textbooks? Yes! Thanks to the union, textbooks were a manageable $105 each instead of the outrageous price of $110 each. THANK GOD FOR THE UNION.

Yes, I'm aware the union is there for "student welfare", but as far as I'm concerned, if you're charging 40 000 students $200 each, you should be helping us out a little more than if a lecturer happens to sleep with one of us. For all the services I saw the union provide, it could have been done with $2 per student.
12. Graduations are expensive
When you do finally finish, don't expect the uni to spring for your graduation. Oh, sure, it's free for you, but if you want to bring friends or family, they'll have to buy tickets. I honestly fail to see the logic here - I didn't buy these tickets through my uni, I had to use TicketMaster. Um, why? Did my uni only book half the venue or something?

And don't get me started on the cost of academic gowns. I had to pay sixty bucks for a crappy robe and hat. And that was just to rent the gown. For that price, I could have hired twenty weeklies from Blockbuster and had a much more entertaining night. To be fair, it wasn't the uni charging me for the gown, it was the union, but I sincerely doubt that if union fees were still mandatory, I'd get the gown for free - after all, I didn't get anything else for free.

Finally, you better pray you don't want to remember the night, because the photos aren't cheap either. And it's not like this is a small little uni that's barely getting by - it's the second-biggest in Queensland! My uni must be rolling in money, and it appears it all comes from graduations and not tuition.

You'd think after giving the uni tens of thousands of dollars, they'd spring for my graduation (or at least hire the ENTIRE venue, and not just the stage), but no, too busy reminding people why they're so great, I guess.

13. University is just about the ideal lifestyle, except for all those pesky classes.
I mean, really, it is. Twelve contact hours a week (and that's a full time load!). Only twenty-six weeks a year. Always getting around in thongs and shorts. Constant drinking and socialising. Getting up at eleven every day.

Man, screw full-time employment. I'm going back to uni again.

© 2010 by The Free Man

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hey Hey, it's Time to Move On

I wish I made that quote up.

Really, I do, because Hey Hey is obviously the least original thing on TV. Why do people continue to watch it? It's dull, bland and quite clearly a desperate attempt by Channel 9 to return to their glory days of the eighties and nineties.

I am willing to concede that it may have been original when it first aired in 1971 (!), but times have changed since then. Now, in 1971:
  • Video games were pretty much limited to Pong
  • The first Star Wars film was six years away
  • VCRs didn't exist
So it's understandable with so little to do, many people turned to television to reduce their boredom. But I have to wonder, was there nothing else on in 1971? Was there really nothing better to do than watch some hack dance around with a man in an ostrich costume? (and that always bugged me - why an ostrich? Don't we have some sort of big, flightless bird in Australia? Gosh, if only.) Yes, I'm aware Hey Hey was originally a Saturday morning children's program (seriously), but can you name five other amazing variety shows that started life as children's programs? How about one? The Wikipedia page on the show says it attracted a "cult following". Huh. Is this why Channel 10 replaced Cheez TV with Toasted TV - are Jade and Ryan getting their own variety show?

When Channel 9 aired the reunion specials, I had no problem with it. A lot of people had happy memories of that show, and I had no issue with people getting nostalgic for a couple of hours. But when Nine announced the show was coming back, I groaned. The nineties were a great time and all, but just because a show worked then does NOT mean it will work now. Need proof? Think of all the shitty remakes or reboots of TV shows from three decades ago. Nearly all of them were crap (think Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, heck, even V doesn't look like it'll last much longer). Why? Well, to put it simply, they didn't change anything! Yes, they took what made the original great, but they refused to acknowledge that things have changed since the shows first aired.

Now, think of the successful remakes/reboots/re-imaginings/re-whatevers (like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Battlestar Galactica or Doctor Who). What made these shows critically and commercially successful? They got new people on board, and changed things dramatically. I can think of no better example than J. J. Abrams Star Trek. Before this film, everyone seemed to think the franchise was tired and out of ideas. Now, with a completely new creative team behind it, the franchise is healthier than ever.

Sadly, Hey Hey opted not to change a single thing, and as a result, it's only been surviving on the nostalgia factor. Actually, it did change one thing: the day. Why, oh WHY, was it on WEDNESDAY?! One would think that a show called Hey Hey it's Saturday should only air on, oh, I don't know, the day before Sunday? It really shits me when companies do something quite clearly just for the money and no other reason, and this a prime example. Imagine if Seven moved Sunday Night to a night other than Sunday, but retained the title. People would think they'd lost their minds!

Well, as you probably know, Hey Hey is returning to its Saturday slot, where I hope it dies a quite death. It may have been a fine show for its time, but its not the seventies, eighties or nineties any more. We need to move on to fresher, more original shows. Building the future and keeping the past alive may be the same thing, but that does not mean we should exclusively live in the past, getting lost in nostalgia. Ditch this shit.

© 2010 by The Free Man

Monday, August 9, 2010

Boat People Drowning in a Sea of Fear

The 2010 federal election campaign has been an interesting one, to say the least. Much more interesting than the last one, anyway, which was all Kevin '07 and Howard-and-then-after-a-little-while-Costello '07 (which didn't have quite the same ring to it, did it?). One thing that has really bothered me this election, though, is illegal immigrants, or, as both the Coalition and ALP insist on calling them, "Boat People".

The issue of illegal immigration is hardly a new topic - in the 2004 and 2007 elections, it barely registered in the media. Now, every second policy seems to be about boat people. But, Ms Gillard and Mr Abbot, do you have any idea how many illegal immigrants are arriving by boat? For the past decade - yes, even with the Rudd government - illegal immigrants arriving by boat has been less than one percent of all immigrants arriving in Australia. I've prepared this handy graph with information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Parliamentary Library that compares births, total immigration and illegal immigration (by boat). It covers from when the Howard Government took office to now:

You see the tiny, tiny rise in the purple line? That is the "influx of boat people" that Gillard and Abbot want us to be so scared of that we'll vote for them. Compared to births and legal migration, it's barely a drop in the ocean (no pun intended).

I also loathe the way that both parties are screaming "Stop the boats!", when boats aren't even the main problem. Let's look at another graph, this time prepared by the Parliamentary Library:

Source: Parliamentary Library - Immigration Detention in Australia

It's a bit more complicated than the first, but you'll note that the category "Unauthorised Boat" has remained at a pretty constant level since 2002-2003. Since then, the biggest source of illegal immigrants has been "Overstayer", that is, people who entered the country legally with a visa or passport, but did not renew it. If there is a problem with illegal immigration (and there's really not), then surely we should be cracking down on these people? Then again, I suppose it's not as catchy to say "The people doing the menial jobs that nobody else wants for minimum wage HAVE TO GO!"

But what really upsets me is the fact that Abbot and Gillard are using immigrants arriving by boat simply to get elected. True, some of them may be criminals (the immigrants, that is, not the politicians. But then again...). However, there are genuine refugees in these boats as well. It may be easy to think of boat people as "invaders" and "queue jumpers", but these are real people, with real emotions. They deserve to be treated as such.

© 2010 by The Free Man
UPDATE 10/8/10: Clearly the ABC reads my blog, as on 9/8/10, Media Watch had a segment on illegal immigrants arriving by boat, and how the media blows it out of proportion:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Underbelly: Overrated

Australian television is a bit of a mixed bag lately. Try as we might, Australians can't seem to create original drama that is as stunning as the stuff our cousins in the US and UK produce. I heard a lot of great things about Underbelly when it premiered in 2008, and I was intrigued by the concept. Something based on a true story, that was dark and adult. A show that featured ongoing story arcs and strong characters - at least, that's what Channel 9 and people I pretend to listen to led me to believe. I never saw the first series, or the second, but I decided to give Underbelly: The Golden Mile a go.

Now that it's over, I think it's fair to say it was a big pile of shit.

Well, okay, maybe it wasn't *quite* that bad, but hear me out. Again, I haven't seen the first two series, so I'm only commenting on the third, but The Golden Mile was some of the trashiest television I've watched in a long time. Why? Let's start with the most important part of any work of fiction: the characters.

To begin with, nearly all of the characters in Underbelly were poorly written and overtly "Aussie". If I didn't know better, I'd swear the show was written by an American. Nearly every second word is "mate" and there's so many barbecues in the show it makes us look like we don't have indoor cooking in this country. Not to mention some the dialogue was just plain idiotic, like when a visibly upset girl was comforted by her mother with the words, "I shoulda had an abortion." What.

The show also featured far too many characters. Now, I'm not saying shows with a large cast don't work - the first seasons of Lost and Heroes were very successful in the ratings, and they had a huge cast - but more often than not, you want to focus on a protagonist or group of protagonists, and then maybe have a supporting cast. For example:
  • The Simpsons (the main family - Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie)
  • 24 (Jack Bauer)
  • House (Greg House)
  • Supernatural (Sam and Dean)
  • Doctor Who (The Doctor)
  • Friends (the six friends)
  • Scrubs (JD, and - to a lesser extent - Turk, Carla and Elliot)
  • Desperate Housewives (those four soulless, irritating, vapid whores)
"Aha!" I hear you say. "Underbelly did feature a protagonist - Kim!" Kim Hollingsworth certainly had her own story, but for the first two thirds of the season she was really nothing more than a pair of tits, wasn't she? You may be thinking of John Ibrahim next, and, indeed, the first episode did seem to paint him as the protagonist, but after George Freeman died, he didn't really do much until the final episode. Other episodes seemed to focus on entirely new protagonists - the blonde police officer and Doc (the guy that murdered DK). Having this many protagonists made the show frustrating to watch, as it seemed like we were following one character's story (John's), only to switch to another's (Kim's) then to another's (the blonde girl who blew the whistle) and then back again (to Kim). This is not good storytelling, people!

The rest of the characters were crap too. Not because they were poorly acted, but just because they were unlikeable. Yeah, I know the show is about crime (I'm not that stupid), but criminals rarely think of themselves as the bad guys, you know. I recently finished season 8 of 24, where Jack goes rouge and murders several Russian diplomats, and even plans to assassinate the Russian president. To a civilian, Jack would seem like a terrorist, but although the audience knows what Jack is doing is wrong, we also know why he's doing it, and we side with him. Underbelly had none of this, it was too busy flashing breasts at us to explain why characters were murderers, drug dealers or corrupt police officers. And, no, Channel 9, "they did it for the money" is not sufficient justification.

At times it seemed like the characters in Underbelly were based on this guy

And let's talk about the nudity for a moment. Now, I like seeing naked women as much as any other red-blooded male, but Underbelly has so much nudity it's ridiculous, at times even gratuitous. One scene took place on a nudist beach for no other reason than so we could see Kim's (admittedly quite nice) arse. Another featured Kim and her sister at home with their tits hanging out, waiting for pizza. Now, I'd like all the ladies reading this to consider the following question:

If you're sitting around nearly naked and someone arrives at the door, delivering food, do you:
A. ...put on a gown, accept the food and pay the man?
B. the door just enough so that you can pay the man and accept the food?
C. ...invite the man into your apartment, accept the food, then dance around naked in front of him?

If you answered C, congratulations! You're hired as a writer for Channel 9! I think at least one of the writers has some talent, because the episode that featured the most nudity was ironically called "Women in Uniform." Clever.

My biggest complaint, though, is the friggin' narrator. There's nothing inherently wrong with narrators in fiction, however, they're often used as a shortcut for exposition, rather than giving insights into a character (so, JD in Scrubs is a good use of a narrator, whereas Mary Alice in Desperate Housewives is not). Underbelly uses its narrator so much I wanted to strangle the bitch by the end of the series. Two examples stood out as particularly bad:
  • In the second episode, Kim comes home after her first night as a prostitute. She's visibly shaken by the experience, and has a shower. It could have been one of the few decent moments of the series, but the producers ruined it by having the narrator say, "Kim had to ask herself - had she just sold her soul for the rent?" Arrgh! A director does NOT need to use a narrator, if the emotions being experienced by the characters are clear to the audience! You shouldn't need to bludgeon the audience with exposition like that!
  • In the penultimate episode, one character remarks, "Don't ever trust a Muslim", prompting shocked looks from the other characters around the table. I had no idea why they were upset, but then the narrator helpfully explained to the audience, "He didn't know it, but everyone else in the room was a Muslim." Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a blatant example of bad storytelling being covered up with narration. We shouldn't need to be TOLD why a remark was offensive, we should know enough about the characters so that we can interpret remarks like this as offensive. Jesus.
Underbelly's biggest gimmick - the fact that it's all based on a true story - is probably also its biggest drawback. The fact that the events of the show was spread over a decade meant that there wasn't a consistent feel to the storytelling. Characters like John Ibrahim were pushed to the sidelines for most of the series, but this is not because of the writing, but because John didn't DO anything in the first half of the nineties! Looking back at the series, I see three primary storylines that unfolded:
  1. Kim's story, from waitress to hooker to policewoman
  2. John's story, from nobody to a powerful force in King's Cross
  3. The story of the Royal Commission
Again, I don't think having multiple stories going on can't work (Summer Heights High, anyone?), but Channel 9 tried to do far too much, and as a result, the show ended up feeling unbalanced. If they'd just stuck with one of the three, instead of all of them, it would have been a much tighter show, with less padding.

I think, overall, Underbelly wasn't terrible, but it wasn't very good, either. The trouble seems to be that we're so starved for decent Australian content in this country we'll treat a few chunks of dog food as a five-star steak when it comes to television (which is probably why Kath & Kim became popular). I've compared Underbelly a lot to overseas shows, but even compared to local shows like early episodes of City Homicide, all of Summer Heights High, or even the second season of The Librarians, Underbelly just ends up being nothing more than softcore pornography. Avoid.

© 2010 by The Free Man

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Attempt at Reading Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight"

Let it never be said that I dismiss things without first giving them a fair go. I watched How I Met Your Mother for three seasons before deciding it was a poorer man's Friends. Despite a lot of criticism, I went and saw Baz Luhrmann's Australia, and actually enjoyed it. I even gave Ugly Betty a go when it first came on. But there is one franchise that even I have refused to touch, and that's the gargantuan Twilight one.

Spanning four books (five, if you count the new one) and three movies (so far), Twilight has become so popular it's become uncool to like it. Well, brace yourself, dear reader, for I'm about to give it a go.

I stole my sister's copy of the book from her room, and just looking at the cover it's not a good start. She has the film tie-in edition, with Robert Pattinson on the cover. Any franchise that made this untalented hack popular must clearly be evil. Ahem, sorry. So, I get to the acknowledgements and I skim through it, and see Meyer thanks her husband, Pancho. Seriously? Pancho? I've got this image of a seedy Mexican guy, and I'm intrigued whether this character will appear in the book. Probably not, or else the book might be interesting - no! Bad Free Man! I'm supposed to be keeping an open mind here!

Pictured: Stephenie Meyer's Husband

Further down the acknowledgements, Meyer thanks her editor for making the book "better than it started out." Given the extremely varied reviews I've heard, I wonder how bad the original manuscript must have been.

On the next page we have a contents page, and boy does this annoy me. Why on earth do we need a contents page in a NOVEL?! Harry Potter doesn't have any. None of my Douglas Adams, John Marsden, Matthew Reilly or Michael Crichton books have them. Heck, the Goosebumps books didn't have contents pages! What sane person picks up a book, looks at the contents and thinks, "Hmm, chapter 18, The Hunt, that sounds exciting, let's start on page 328"? In fact, the only novel in my room that features a contents page is Andy Griffith's The Day My Bum Went Psycho, but that probably says more about me than anything.

So, we start with a preface, and the narrator is talking about how they're about to be killed by the hunter. I turn the page, and we're at chapter one. Great. Another story that starts at the most dramatic moment possible, then the rest is told in flashback. I am so sick of this cliche. I've seen it in Battlestar Galactica, V, Flashforward, Star Trek, Lost (obviously), Supernatural, Batman Begins Iron Man and the video game Uncharted 2 to name a few. It's irritating and insulting (less so with Lost, since the flashbacks are a key part of the narrative) because it means executives think we'll only watch/read/play something if there's a really dramatic beginning. Look, Meyer, we have your book. You don't need to start with a dumb flashforward, we're not going to put it down. To be fair, the book was published back in 2005, when it wasn't as much of a cliche as it is now. I'll let this one slide for now, Meyer.

So. Chapter 1. 'First Sight'. Christ this is exhausting. This is the actual opening paragraph:
"My mother drove me to the airport with the windows rolled down. It was seventy-five degrees in Phoenix, the sky a perfect, cloudless blue. I was wearing my favorite shirt – sleeveless, white eyelet lace; I was wearing it as a farewell gesture. My carry-on item was a parka."Immediately I'm bored. You see the problem with this paragraph? It's just so... bland. Imagine if I wrote this:
"My mother drove me to the shops with the radio on. It was hot in Brisbane. The sky was blue. I was wearing my favourite green T-shirt; it was a gesture of defiance. My phone was in my pocket."

The only difference is that Meyer is a lot wordier than me, and that's not a good thing. Shakespeare once said, "Brevity is the soul of wit", and this basically means DON'T WASTE MY TIME WITH WORDY EXPOSITION! Here's my paragraph again, re-written:
"Once again, Mum had selected the worst possible radio station. There were only so many times I could hear the hits of the eighties, nineties and now before I killed someone. It was bad enough that it was a scorching day in Brisbane, let alone that I was perfectly okay to catch the bus to the shops. But no, mum insisted on driving me."
You see how much more vibrant the text is when it's not just simple exposition? There's humour, personality, backstory. And I get across essentially the same thing in roughly the same amount of words.

Gah. This is painful. Next paragraph is, if possible, even worse:
"In the Olympic Peninsula of northwest Washington State, a small town named Forks exists under a near-constant cover of clouds. It rains on this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America. It was from this town and its gloomy, omnipresent shade that my mother escaped with me when I was only a few months old. It was in this town that I’d been compelled to spend a month every summer until I was fourteen. That was the year I finally put my foot down; these past three summers, my dad, Charlie, vacationed with me in California for two weeks instead."

Where do I begin? To begin with, is it really necessary that we're given the exact geographic location? A town name is fine, a state okay, but the PENINSULA? Then we're told that it rains a lot in Forks. Twice. First, we're told it's cloudy a lot, then we're told it rains a lot. Just one of these would have been enough, you know. What was I just saying about not wasting my time with wordy exposition? Oh, and let's not forget, our yet-unnamed narrator tells us that it rains "on this inconsequential town more than any other place in the United States of America." MORE wordy exposition? Meyer, you're an American author, the book was first published in the States, I'm pretty sure "United States" or just "America" would have been sufficient for your readers. You don't see me calling Australia "The Commonwealth of Australia" in my stories.

Next our narrator begins to whine about her father. Wow. A girl with daddy issues. Meyer, I take back all my criticism, you are the most original and revolutionary writer since Dickens. Apparently, our narrator recently put her foot down and forced her dad to holiday with her in California. Straight away this makes me dislike the protagonist. Why? Well, it paints an image of our hero being a whiny, spoiled teenage girl, who is not relatable at all. Except to other whiny, spoiled, teenage girls I suppose.

I can't go on, we're only 154 words in and I can already feel a vein pulsing on my temple. To summarise: Twilight has lost me on its very first page, thanks to redundant and wordy exposition, unlikable characters and cliched plot-lines/literary devices. Once again, I'd like to stress we're only 154 words in. Unbelievable.

© 2010 by The Free Man

Monday, May 17, 2010

Extracts from Jessica Watson's Diary

Isn't Jessica Watson such a hero? An inspiration to young people and girls everywhere? She clearly only did the voyage around the world to inspire people, and not just to get rich. I mean, look at her boat. Not a single sponsor on there, is there?

(except for Ella Bache, ONE, News Ltd, Panasonic...)

But I digress. I have just hacked into Jessica Watson's laptop to bring you a WORLD EXCLUSIVE - her diary while she was at sea! Don't believe those posts she put online during her voyage, this is her real diary:

Gee, I can't believe all these people came to see me sail off. Doesn't this country have anything better to do?

I really wish I'd learnt to sail before I set off. Learning it all as you go is tricky.

You know what's really big? The Pacific Ocean. It's MUCH bigger than Mr Wellwood described it in geography, so I don't think I'm going to catch the new season of Gossip Girl. Better get Mum to Tivo it for me.

DAY 10
Boy, I wish I'd brought some magazines. Or a boy, come to think of it.

DAY 25
I had fish for dinner tonight - again. It was icky. It really sucks if you're a sailor and you don't like that stuff.

DAY 50
Wow! Fifty days. I can't believe all this support I'm getting on my website and on Facebook and stuff! Those fools! This is so much better than sitting in Mr Wellwood's boring geography class. All I'm doing is sitting naked on a boat all day watching clips on YouTube. Wheeee!

DAY 75
So, apparently, it only takes 75 days to watch every single video ever uploaded to YouTube, at least when you've got nothing else to do. Well, at least I'm still naked.

DAY 100
So bored. Sailing is quite easy, once you remember to not to invert the boat.

DAY 125
I think my isolation is starting to affect my sanity. Yesterday I thought about donating all the money I'm going to make from this trip to charity. Yikes! I must have been going really bonkers.

DAY 150
I wonder what I'll do with all my money when I get home? Perhaps take a bath in it? I sure do miss baths.

DAY 175
You know what else I miss? Shaving my legs. I forgot to pack my razor and it looks like I'm wearing a woolly mammoth from the waist down.

DAY 190
Less than a month to go and I'll be home. I'm looking forward to being on TV all the time. That ought to make Scott finally ask me to the formal, and show Kathy who's hotter now!

DAY 200
Urgh. I just put clothes back on for the first time in months, and boy, are they itchy. I suppose I should chuck out all these beer bottles, too. And maybe I ought to disconnect the cable connected to the submarine that's been towing me all this way.

DAY 209
I suppose I should come up with something stupidly cute and quotable for the tabloids. Well, I haven't got my license yet, so how about I say that I want that. No, that's too stupid, they'd never print that...

DAY 210
I am amazed at how many people turned up to say hello. Again, doesn't this country have anything better to do? Well, it doesn't matter anyway, because what with my book deal, my sponsorships and my TV interviews, I'm now STUPENDOUSLY WEALTHY! SUCK IT, BITCHES!

© 2010 by The Free Man

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Newspapers: Going, going... wait, still here

There's something that I heard quite a bit about during my undergraduate degree at uni, and that's the death of newspapers and "free" online news. On the 5th of April this year, Media Watch did a special episode on the issue, discussing what a bunch of news outlets are going to do (yes, I watch Media Watch. Hello, ladies).

But, really, let me put it simply: charging people for news online will never work. Ever.

To begin with, why do they need to charge you anyway? Last I checked, The Courier Mail makes its money off advertisements, not the tiny amount people pay for the paper. Why not just charge more for ads online? And, come to think of it, there's a paper that makes its money solely off advertising - heard of it?

Honestly, if News Limited can afford a free, daily, printed newspaper, how can they realistically expect us to pay for news online? Yeah, I know the quality of articles in Mx isn't exactly amazing (still better than The Courier Mail, though), but you see the point I'm making.

I also wonder why they put it online for free in the first place. Did they think we'd get hooked or something, and be so amazed by their journalistic skills that we'd donate our money? They've backed themselves into a corner here, 'cause once starts charging, what's to stop us getting our news from or - sites that will always, always be free?

"Journalistic standards!" I hear you cry. "The folks at the ABC/SBS are all left-wing!" (or right-wing, or they don't have enough stories about lizards on bicycles, or whatever excuse you have for not using the public broadcasters). Well, okay, say you desperately, desperately want some commercial news, will you pay for it? Will millions of people sign up and fork over millions of dollars?

No. Piracy on the internet is pretty staggering already - music being the obvious example - but the news outlets want you to pay for simple text? The easiest possible thing to distribute digitally, and they expect us to pay for it? And I guarantee you that sites like this will pop up more and more once the commercial news providers start charging (yes, I'm aware Bugmenot doesn't give passwords for pay sites, but I'm sure there are plenty out there that do. I picked a nice, legal one for my example, because I of course do not endorse piracy).

But you know what? I think newspapers aren't going anywhere soon. "Experts" are constantly predicting the death of forms of media. For example:
  • Radio comes out. The death of books is predicted.
  • Film comes out. The death of radio is predicted.
  • Television (and, later, VCRs) are introduced. The death of cinema is expected soon.
  • Computers are in every household. Television looks to be on the way out.
And we all know that books, radio, film and television are all dead... oh wait. Admittedly, radio has changed significantly from what it was in the early twentieth century, but it's still a big business area that employs thousands of people.

I really, really doubt free news on the internet spells the end of high-quality journalism. as Rupert Murdoch is so quick to claim. If anything, it might spell the end of low quality journalism. Think about it. People will easily be able to get their news from another source if their current one is crap. In Brisbane, The Courier Mail is the only daily newspaper, and it's pretty much complete garbage. But, online, I can get much better news coverage, for free, elsewhere. I could go on about the economics of it all but the simple fact is people love free stuff, and as long as we expect to get news for free, we'll get it for free.

© 2010 by The Free Man

UPDATE 17/7/15: Yes, I am aware that Mx is no longer being printed, but I stand by my points above - charging people for news is not going to work as long as they can get it for free.

Monday, February 22, 2010

20 Reasons Why I Hate 20 to 1

20 to 1 may be the worst show on television. I know that's a bold claim, but at least reality shows feature people with some talent (Australian Idol) or have people to laugh at (The Biggest Loser). 20 to 1 has absolutely no redeeming qualities. Don't believe me? Here's 20 reasons why.

1. Bert Newton
He's got a giant head, and all he does is stand there. What a waste of a TV legend.

2. Bert's stupid jokes
For pretty much every item, Bert will throw to it with a corny joke. For example, if they're listing 20 to 1 Celebrity Scandals, and Tiger Woods is on the list, Bert will say something along the lines of, "Here's a tiger, who turned into a cheetah." HA HA HA HA HA!

3. The celebrities serve no purpose
Really, what do they do? They just say, "Marvelous. Splendid. A triumph." Then sing along. Speaking of which...

4. The celebrities feel the need to sing/reenact stuff
You know that famous scene in Empire Strikes Back when Vader reveals he is Luke's father? Well, if you ever wanted to see a bunch of washed-up celebrities reenact it, 20 to 1 is your show! And every time they count down songs, the celebrities ALWAYS feel the need to give their rendition. Thanks, Channel 9. I really wanted to hear Working Class Man sung by Eddie McGuire.

5. The celebrities aren't, you know, celebrities
The people on this show aren't B-list celebrities. They're Z-list. I mean, who are Bianca Dye, Tonga Stevens, Prue MacSween, Todd Rixo and Scott Connolly? I couldn't find them on Wikipedia. And any show that keeps Nikki Webster on TV must clearly be evil.

6. The show repeats itself
I don't mean repeats in the traditional sense - oh no. To me, Great Movie One-Liners and All Time Greatest Movie Quotes are the same thing. Same goes for Celebrity Scandals and Celebrity Shocks and Shockers. Oh, and there's Sexiest Movie Scenes and Sex on the Screen. Check out this page if you don't believe me!

7. The show now calls itself "Adults Only"
Huh, yeah right. There's no swearing, no nudity, no violence and no drug use. The only thing "adult" about the new series is the fact that they count down more stuff with "sex" in the title.

8. Tony Martin used to be on it, and he's not anymore
And he was pretty much the only interesting celebrity.

9. The order is all wrong
There was one episode where they counted down "Blockbuster films". Now this is a pretty dumb countdown, but presumably they meant films that had huge ticket sales. Naturally, Titanic should be number one, since it's the highest grossing film of all time (at the time of writing). But, no, they went with The Dark Knight, because it was popular right then and there. WHO DECIDES THE ORDER? As far as I can tell, there's no voting, no statistical calculations. For all I know, Eddie McGuire pulls it all out of his arse. Another countdown was the twentiest best comedians, with Robin Williams taking the number one spot. Why? Sure, he was in Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire, but what other truly funny movies has he been in? Not to mention comedy is extremely subjective to begin with, so why even attempt to rank the twenty best comedians?

10. They omit obvious things in the countdown
Take, for example, 20 to 1 TV Couples. Taking the top spot is Sam and Diane from Cheers. Suspiciously absent, though, is Homer and Marge Simpson. Why might this be? Could it be because their show currently airs on a rival network?

11. It spawned a copy on Ten
Speaking of rival networks, Channel 10 stole the concept for 20 to 1 and made the terrible Spearman Experiment, which mercifully didn't rate well enough for it to return.

12. It means they're not showing repeats of Star Trek
Channel Nine owns the rights, and it's never on any more. Damn you 20 to 1!

13. They repackage old episodes
When 20 to 1 first started, it was hosted by Charles 'Bud' Tingwell. Then, when Bert took over, they re-shot Tingwell's scenes with Bert, and branded it as new! See here, and check out the column marked Re-edited.

14. Those annoying facts
During every item, they'll show a painfully obvious fact on screen, like "Star Wars spawned five more films and a huge range of merchandise" or, "20 to 1 is hosted by a pathetic has-been."

15. No interesting lists
Where's 20 to 1 Best Decapitations in Film? 20 to 1 Best First Person Shooters? 20 to 1 Biggest Penises in Porn? 20 to 1 Greatest Countdown Shows?
16. The recap at the end
Before they get to the end of the list, they feel the need to remind you of what you've just seen. It'd be like if I said, "Okay, numbers 1-15 in 20 Reasons Why I Hate 20 to 1 are..." then listed them, even though you've just read them and you're not an idiot.

17. The show spoils stuff
Admittedly, most people know the ending to The Sixth Sense, or whether Ross and Rachel end up together at the end of Friends, but there is a small number of people out there who don't. Does 20 to 1 give a spoiler warning? Of course they don't, and now I know that Jack dies at the end of Titanic. Oh... if you haven't seen Titanic, don't read that last sentence.

18. It's just a glorified clip show
Remember those sitcoms that would play clips from old episodes? And they pretended that they were "new" episodes, but they clearly weren't? That's essentially all 20 to 1 is, a show that plays on your nostalgia sprinkled with some obvious observations.

19. The show's called 20 to 1, and I can only come up with 19 reasons why I hate it

© 2010 by The Free Man

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cola Wars, I Can't Take It Anymore

I don't understand Pepsi. They looked like they were comfortable being the main (well, only) competitor to Coca Cola. But lately, they seem to have lost their way. First, they changed their logo (never a good sign), then, they came up with this lame campaign in Australia:

Get it? "Hit refresh"? Oooooooh... like what you do on your computer, right? How unbelieveably COOL is Pepsi, eh? Coke's campaign about enjoying summer and being outdoors does not speak to me, the cool kid who uses technology.

What baffles me is why they didn't do a little more research and change the slogan to "Hit F5" (keyboard shortcut for refresh, in case you didn't know) and slap that on someone using a computer. Because, as we all know, people who use computers a lot are the absolute coolest...

© 2010 by The Free Man

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 - A Year in Review

Happy bloody new year. Did you have fun last year? To most people, 2009 was a year like nearly every single one before it (but with more nudity, mostly thanks to Underbelly). But for deeply cynical people such as myself, 2009 sucked the big one. In lieu of human contact, I've decided to take a look back on the past year, and grade each facet of popular culture. And in case you're wondering, these grades are final. You may not appeal them.

2009 certainly had some terrific films, like Gran Torino, Inglourious Basterds and Up, but the overwhelming majority were utter crap. Most disappointing was the sheer volume of shitty romantic comedies. Really, ladies, when will you tire of films like Bride Wars, He's Just Not That Into You, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Duplicity, The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, My Life in Ruins, The Proposal, The Ugly Truth and Did You Hear About the Morgans? If I see one more trailer for a movie that features a sexy, independent woman learning about love and life, in hilarious circumstances, I just might die.

On the flip side, there were a bunch of uninspired action films this year - Terminator Salvation, Wolverine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen all sucked, and yet you stupid idiots all went and saw them, just because they were part of a franchise you'd heard of and the trailer featured explosions. Meanwhile, brilliant original films like Moon don't even get a wide release, since it doesn't feature tits, a childhood memory to exploit or an irritating shaky camera. And let's not forget that Star Trek (a franchise once renowned for overcoming its special effects shortcomings with brilliant storytelling) overcame its terrible storytelling with brilliant special effects.

Finally, enough with the remakes, sequels and films based on books. Is it too much to ask for some ORIGINAL ideas? Sure, we got Paranormal Activity, which was great, but we also were subjected to tripe like The Pink Panther 2 and Friday the 13th, to name a few.

Finally, when a critically-panned Twilight film breaks box-office records, you know it's been a bad year.

(upgraded from an E due to the few good films I mentioned)


What an awful year 2009 was for TV. Not only did we have returning crap like Australian Idol and Dancing with the Stars, but new reality shows like Masterchef rated stupidly well, meaning we're well and truly stuck with reality TV for the foreseeable future. Let's also not forget the ridiculous amount of cop shows out there. Jesus Christ guys, when is enough enough? This year we had:
  • Law & Order
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent
  • Law & Order: UK
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation
  • CSI: Miami
  • CSI: NY
  • Without A Trace
  • Cold Case
  • NCIS
  • NCIS: Los Angeles
  • Criminal Minds
  • The Mentalist
  • Bones
  • Castle
  • City Homicide
  • The Bill
That's just Australian TV, and I'm sure I've missed a few. Ironically, I've sold far more Family Guy DVDs at my work than all of these cop shows put together. Now, I know Family Guy does suck, but there's no denying its popularity. Doesn't this indicate that the TV networks have no idea what they're doing? Putting crap cop shows on night after night while popular shows like Family Guy and Lost languish in a late night timeslot is very, very wrong.


I have very little to say about the written word this year except that the biggest selling books were the Twilight novels, which are, according to Stephen King, written by an author who "
can't write worth a darn.... she's not very good." My sentiments exactly.

(at least we had a new Matthew Reilly book)

Video Games
Games fared a little better than other forms of entertainment, but still could stand to improve a lot. The biggest problem by far was the huge amount of terrible games released for the Wii that sold in stupendous numbers, despite the fact that pretty much every game released for the Wii is the same (a party game, with a theme). The Wii's big game this year was undoubtedly Wii Sports Resort, which was just another "fun collection of mini-games designed to make clever use of the Wii controller".

in the first half of 2009, the biggest selling games for the Wii weren't released in 2009, perhaps because developers are beginning to realise what a joke the system is. You people have got to stop buying shovelware, or the Wii's never going to get any respect. In fact, just stop buying the Wii, don't you realise how stupid you look?

Meanwhile, the
PS3 and 360 both did well, but with the PS3 the clear winner in terms of exclusives. What were the big exclusives this year? Well, the PS3 had Infamous, Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time and Killzone 2 to name a few, while the 360 had... um...

Oh, right, Halo Wars! And Halo: ODST! And... er... that's it. Microsoft, we get that Halo is your big franchise and all, but for Christ's sake, that does mean you're allowed to publish other games.

But before all of the PS3 fanboys rejoice and throw their praise on me, don't forget that the PS3 still suffers from looooooooooooooooooooong installations of game data and is still just a Blu-ray player with a controller instead of a remote.

So, the console of choice this year goes to the PC, simply because it's not as shit as the other three.


2009 sucked. And so will 2010.

© 2010 by The Free Man