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

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Some Free Advice for the Movie Industry

The movie business is in trouble. I don't think anyone would deny that with the advent of new technologies such as video games, the internet and especially digital distribution (both legitimate and illegitimate), the movie business is under greater threat than ever before. So, if your business is under threat, what do you do? Well, I may only possess one degree in business, but I'd probably talk to my consumers, see what they want, and maybe try to improve my service delivery. As I keep saying, your business exists to create and service customers, not just to make money.

But then, dear reader, I stumble across a couple of articles that discuss a new idea to get people back into cinemas - "Tweet Seats!" Basically, during a screening of a movie, you'll now be allowed to get your phone out and Tweet about what you're seeing. What a brilliant idea!

Or not. Christ, there's dumb ideas and then there's ideas like this. The movie companies clearly think that the young kids will only go into a movie theatre if they can use their smartphones, but they couldn't be more wrong. So allow me, a lone blogger who has no experience in the film industry but watches plenty of movies, to give the movie industry some free advice to stop people downloading films, and get them back into cinemas:

1. Social media is not the answer.
Carrying on from above discussion, I think we can all agree that getting stupid teenagers to Tweet their opinions about the latest Twilight film will not get people flocking back to cinemas again. Social media is a wonderful tool to market your film, if used correctly. The example that stands out to me is Paranormal Activity, a film that only achieved a wide release because the fans went online and demanded it. Encouraging people to create "awareness" of your film by Tweeting during every session may seem like a good idea on paper (hey, any publicity is good publicity, right?) but in reality it's going to make people avoid your film, since nobody over the age of sixteen likes seeing phones used in a cinema. Use some common sense, people!

2. Telling us piracy is wrong is not the answer
Piracy is wrong? Gee, now that I know that, I'll... uh... continue to watch the movie I just paid for? Look, I'm not here to debate the ethics of piracy, but movie companies need to learn that beating your chest and bellowing "IT'S ILLEGAL! STOP DOING IT!" is not going to stop people doing it. It just won't. Anyway, I can't believe I'm typing this, but movie studios, the people who are in the movie theatres aren't pirating your movies, you know. There's no point telling them you not to pirate - they're already not doing it! Nothing fills me with more joy than being told I'm a criminal just before I see a movie.

3. Thirty minutes of ads is not the answer
And speaking of ads, why is it that after I've just paid for my movie ticket, I have to sit through upwards of thirty minutes of ads before I see any of the actual movie? I realise there are a number of valid reasons why there are both trailers and advertisements before movies, but Jesus Christ guys, it's getting a bit ridiculous. It's gotten to the point where I can leave home when my movie session "starts", drive to the cinemas, park, buy my ticket, use the bathroom and I'll still have time to spare before the movie starts! Like I said, I understand that it's necessary (I like trailers, and ads for local businesses is good, targeted advertising), but it's just too much. Ten minutes of ads, fifteen tops. Not thirty.

4. Reboots and remakes are not the answer
I don't know whether it was watching J.J. Abrams Star Trek, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, the 2010 versions of The Karate Kid or Clash of the Titans, the trailers for the new Spiderman and Batman films before going home to see Hawaii Five-O and Charlie's Angels on television, but I'm beginning to think perhaps Hollywood has a dependence on old ideas. Look, movie studios, I'm not against using an old brand to launch your new movie, but if you're going to do that, you need to at least try to make your film different from the original. Otherwise, the public has every right to criticise you for lack of originality. Justifying a remake by saying "We're updating it for a modern audience" is a load of horseshit. King Kong, Psycho, Citizen Kane, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars are just as poignant today as they were when they were released decades ago. If you're going to remake an intellectual property, then at least make it a DIFFERENT film from the original. I know it's TV, but compare the original Battlestar Galactica to the 2003 remake. They're very different shows, but both retain the core premise of humans being attacked by robots. The 2003 series, though, brings in themes of terrorism, war and paranoia - this is updating it for a modern audience. Not just giving all the characters access to mobile phones and occasionally mentioning Facebook.

5. 3D is not the answer
But by far my biggest gripe with modern cinema, the reason I avoid the movies so much, is this damn 3D bullshit. Many other people have ranted at length about 3D (like respected film critic Roger Erbert, or heck, even this guy), but personally, I hate 3D because it actually takes me out of the experience rather than draws me in. When stuff leaps out of the screen, all it does is remind me I'm watching a movie and not actually inside the world the director has created. It's obvious why the movie companies are pushing 3D technology so much - because it gives them more money! 3D tickets are often double the price of an ordinary ticket, so it's the perfect solution! Er, no actually. Any "solution" to a business problem that involves doubling your prices is downright suicidal. If you're going to charge us twice the price of admission, movie companies, you need to offer us a little more that cheap plastic glasses so that the explosions are prettier.

So what is the answer?
It may be easy to say, "just make better movies", but this is a profoundly short-sighted view that doesn't take into account the larger issues I've brought up here. If movie companies want us back in cinemas, they need to cut the crap, and start treating us with a bit of decency. Each of the five points I've discussed above are things that are annoying people. Any industry that's getting concerned about their future should be listening to what their customers want and addressing their complaints, not by shoehorning more technology into the product. Good businesses build relationships with their customers, so that the customers will be loyal and want to come back.

After all, why do people pirate? Because the service is better.

© 2011 by The Free Man

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kyle Sandilands Needs to Go

Dear reader, it was a little over two years ago when I first ranted about Kyle Sandilands on my old blog. Then, it was because Sandilands had insensitively interviewed a rape victim, but now, it's because he has criticised a female journalist's appearance because she criticised one of his crappy TV shows. Just like last time, Kyle is losing sponsors and network deals, and just like last time, Jackie O is defending him, because she must be one of those women who likes men who have the intelligence of your average chimpanzee.

(On the off chance someone is sitting there thinking Kyle is just a normal Aussie bloke "having a laugh", I invite you to have a look at just one of many distasteful incidents on the Kyle and Jackie-O show, courtesy of The Dark Side of the Blog's old friend Media Watch.)

Now, what offends me most about Kyle (and Jackie-O, to a lesser extent) is not so much what he said in the first place, but his justification for saying it. Behold, Kyle's air-tight defence:

"We live in a country of free speech. You're allowed to say what you want and so am I."

Or alternatively...

This is a mindset journalists in Australia, and the world even, need to get themselves out of. I've previously discussed the irresponsible conduct of talk-back hosts in relation to climate change, but these men probably justified what they were doing because we live in a free country, and they have a right to say what they want.

Well, I'm afraid it's not that simple. Nowhere near that simple. Kyle defends himself by saying that because we (the public) can say what we want, so can he, but there are friggin' limits. Just because you can say something doesn't mean you should. The woman who criticised Kyle had some valid points, namely that Kyle's show (A Night With The Stars) was not performing in the ratings and that it was not entertaining. And how does Kyle respond? By criticising this woman's appearance ("a fat bitter thing", a "fat slag", "90s hair", etc.). Not only is this sexist, but it's extremely immature and lazy of him. Not once, in my entire gargantuan rant against Family Guy did I personally attack Seth Macfarlane or his team of writers. Personal attacks add nothing to an argument, and are often the product of a straw man, desperate to win the argument. For example:

PERSON 1: Climate change doesn't exist.
PERSON 2: Actually, the majority of the world's scientists say it does.
PERSON 1: But I've heard of a book by some professor who says we shouldn't be worried!
PERSON 2: That professor works for an oil company, of course he's going to say that. Besides, 97 out of 100 active researchers in the field agree that the climate is changing and that we are causing it. (source, in case you're interested).
PERSON 1: Whatever. What kind of person knows this much about climate change, anyway? Only losers who still live with their parents and spend their time playing World of Warcraft.

The idea here is that if Person 1 can make Person 2 look bad, Person 2's logic must be equally as bad, and therefore Person 1 is right. It's immature, lazy and unprofessional, especially for a man who has such an influence of people's opinions (sad, yes, but true considering his job).

The problem is that if anyone criticises radio hosts or journalists for saying something unethical, they can sit smugly behind the defence of "free speech". Free speech is all well and good, but if you going to attack someone or something, you need to back up your points with actual arguments, not just cheap shots at their appearance. Living in a country with free speech does not give you permission to be immature or rude. As depressing as it is to say this, Kyle Sandilands holds a significant sway over the opinions of many people, and he has a responsibility to behave appropriately and act with maturity, not just say whatever he feels like and pretend he's a champion for free speech.

Ultimately, Kyle Sandilands needs to be held accountable for his actions. 2Day FM has a responsibility to do what is right, not what is easy. Successful long-term businesses build relationships with consumers, and you're never going to acheive this by having your flagship presenter be a man who's hated by thousands of people. Kyle may give 2Day FM ratings in the short term, but in the long term, he's going to do nothing but damage the brand of what is supposed to be a family-friendly radio station. Kyle Sandilands is yet another example of someone who uses their position in the media purely to push their own views on the public.

That, and he looks funny.

© 2011 by The Free Man

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stop Doing Coke's Advertising for Them

I love Coke. Not just for the taste of the product, but for the fact that it is one of the strongest, most powerful brands in the world. I also admire Coke's brilliant marketing campaigns - often, they're some of the best in the industry.

This year, though... I find Coke's advertising campaign obnoxious. You know the one I'm talking about:

Isn't it unhygenic to share drinks anyway?

"Share a Coke with..." has been an immensely successful campaign for Coke. Everywhere you look, people are seeking out cans and bottles of Coke with their name on it. In fact, I'd wager at least one of your friends has uploaded a photo of a bottle of Coke with their name on it to Facebook or another social networking website (because, you know, there are so many alternatives to Facebook). At first I assumed I just needed to get better friends, but today I saw people queuing up at my shopping centre just to get a bottle of Coke with their name on it. Queuing!

You realise, don't you, that when you upload a photo of a bottle of Coke with your name on it you're doing exactly what Coke wants you to do? You are, basically, giving Coke free advertising? In fact, you're giving Coke something more powerful than a free advertisement; you're giving the brand an endorsement.

Alright, now excuse the marketing lesson here, but in the modern world tradition methods of advertising (TV, radio, billboard, newspaper, etc.) are becoming less and less effective at reaching consumers. Part of that is that there is a lot of new media competing for our attention (the internet, video games, tablet computers), but it's also because we're a lot more media-saavy these days. We won't become loyal to a brand just because they had some cool ads on TV, quite often we need some kind of endorsement from a friend before we place our trust in a brand.

Yeah, I know this sounds like a bit of a wank. You're probably sitting there thinking, "I buy what I want, I'm not affected by what other people say!" Well, you are - everyone is, whether they realise it or not. It's human nature to seek aproval for what we do in our lives - our jobs, our hobbies, even what drinks we buy. An endorsement from a friend is exactly what Coke is aiming for in this campaign - and they're getting it whenever you post those photos on Facebook, whether you intend to or not. They want you to do their work for them.

And you're doing it! Can someone please explain to me, what is so thrilling about seeing your name in print? Look, I'll let you in on a secret, if you buy a program called "Microsoft Word" (you may not have heard of it) and you press the buttons on your keyboard in the right order, your name can appear in print, just like that!


All sarcasm aside, you really need to stop doing Coke's job for them. Especially since the campaign itself is so safe, so predictable. All the names on Coke cans are nice, white, Anglo-Saxan names. Where's the can that says Share a Coke with Mohammad? It is, after all, the most popular name in the world at the time of writing.

But you know what the ultimate irony is? I started this rant against Coke with the words, "I love Coke." I've just spent a couple of hundred words discussing Coke's advertising campaign. I've given them an endorsement, of sorts.


© 2011 by The Free Man

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why I Hate Family Guy: The Complete Collection

In case you've been away for a while, I've been ranting about Family Guy a fair bit lately. You can check out the individual rants by clicking here, here and here, but it's probably best if you just click the link below to see all three rants together:

© 2011 by The Free Man

Why I Hate Family Guy: Part 3

(Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

Following on from Part 2, why should it matter that the show uses cutaway gags? Whenever I criticise the overreliance on cutaway gags, I'm always shot down with "WHO CARES IT'S FUNNY LOL". But a TV show, movie or book shouldn't strive to be funny at the expense of the plot or characters. Compare the following two films, both released in the last couple of years, both claiming to be comedies:

In case it isn't obvious, one was labeled as the best comedy film in years, the other one of the worst films of all time. It's may seem like a pointless comparison, but much of the comedy in The Hangover came from the interaction and chemistry between the three main characters. Their personalities, their quirks, their reactions to the insane situations they get themselves into is what makes the film so damn funny. Disaster Movie, on the other hand, is an incoherent mess, under the mistaken impression that dropping pop-culture references all over the place is funny. None of the comedy comes from the characters, and it just isn't funny.

Now, not all comedy has to be character-based, but if you're going to have the same characters every single week, most of your comedy should come from the characters. Otherwise, why not just make a sketch show - like Monty Python did? Saying "WHO CARES IT'S FUNNY LOL" is not an excuse for a having an incoherent plot or story.

The cutaways - and many other jokes - in Family Guy also go on way too long. Having a joke that goes on and on can be okay - if used from time to time (Sideshow Bob stepping on rakes, anyone?). Let's have at a clip that Family Guy fans will always point to as being an example of the show's brilliance, the chicken fight:

As far as I'm aware, they've done at least three more of these ridiculous fights, each one getting longer and more elaborate. There's also dozens of times in the show when we're subjected to long, drawn out violent fights, that seem to never end.

Good writing is short and succinct, or, as Shakespeare put it, "brevity is the soul of wit". He did not add "unless you're making a cartoon". It applies to everything, and don't tell me you're arrogant enough to claim to know better than Shakespeare. A joke has a very simple formula: Buildup. Buildup. Buildup. Punchline. Anything that does not in some way build towards the punchline can safely be removed, wouldn't you agree?

"Brevity is the soul of wit"

Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked - we've done comedy. Fans of  Family Guy will often try and tell you how "controversial" and "cutting-edge" the show it, but again the opposite is true. The "offensive" jokes in Family Guy often use easy targets that are sure to get a reaction from conservative folk - jokes about religion, for example. If you think about it, Family Guy's "offensive" jokes don't offend their fanbase; instead the jokes offend the kinds of people who don't watch the show - religious folk, for example. Any real cutting-edge comedy will risk offending people who watch it; but how is a penis joke supposed to offend the average Family Guy viewer?

Compare this to a show like South Park, that really does do things that might offend their viewers. The example that stands out to me is "Go God Go", an episode that showed atheists could be just as idiotic and pigheaded as religious people. I'm willing to bet South Park has got quite a few atheist viewers, yet they went ahead and make the episode anyway. Or even a film like Borat, a film made for Americans that spends almost its entire length mocking America. This is controversial, cutting-edge comedy.
So, folks, my longest rant ever draws to a close. I realise I covered a lot, but there are four main points I want you to take away from these rants:
  1. The show is not funny
  2. The characters are bland
  3. "It's funny" is not an excuse for bad writing
  4. Being controversial means running the risk of offending your viewers too
    If nothing else, remember these four points. I think I'll end this rant with a clip by none other than Seth Macfarlane himself - I find it rather ironic. The clip itself starts at the 23 second mark (there's an ad at the start). Thanks for reading!

    But wait - there's more! In anticipation of all the hate mail I'm about to receive from Family Guy fanboys, I've prepared a handy FAQ!

    "Jeeze man, why do you hate this show? If you didn't just watch clips on YouTube you might see some of the more subtle humour in the show."
    But I have! I used to be a loyal fan of Family Guy - buying the DVDs, watching it late at night whenever it was on, and so on. But as the years dragged on, the quality kept dropping and dropping, until the show was just so terrible I couldn't watch it any more.

    "If you don't like it, don't watch it."
    Like I said, I don't watch it anymore. I am just sick and tired of people telling me that Family Guy is a clever show, when it is in fact one of the worst. I have written this in the hopes that others may realise the show's shortcomings.

    "If you think you're so smart, why don't you launch your own TV series?"
    You're completely missing the point. First of all, I never claimed I could do a better job. I freely admit that I would be a lousy director, screenwriter or producer. But the people who are responsible for Family Guy are professionals, and they have according salaries. Family Guy, in strong contrast to this blog, is a commercial product for which we pay in some fashion. We have a right to criticise it. Wouldn't you want your vacuum cleaner to be fixed if it didn't work half of the time?

    "You've obviously never heard of satire. Stewie being gay, Brian being intelligent - the writers are taking established tropes and cliches and inverting them!"
    I have, in fact, heard of satire. But good satire defies your expectations, or reveals amusing truths. You can say a baby being gay is clever satire, but Stewie never acts like a baby, does he? You can say a dog being the smartest member of the family is satire, but Brian never acts like a dog, does he?

    "People are allowed to watch whatever they want, when they want, and they don't need you telling them they're stupid for doing so, it's just childish. I really don't understand why you're so judgmental of people having personal preferences."
    Believe it or not, I believe people should be able to watch whatever they want. However, as I said above, I'm sick of people telling me that Family Guy is a clever show, when it's not.

    "Arguing whether Family Guy is good or not is retarded. Some people will like it, and others won't. And both sides are correct, since appreciation is entirely subjective."
    Appreciation is subjective, but quality is not. There are probably people out there who think Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Disaster Movie are the greatest comedy films ever, but does that make them good films? No.

    "Who are you to judge? All you have is a shitty blog nobody reads."
    True, but unlike Family Guy fanatics who will just say, "IT'S FUNNY LOL!", I have articulated my points with comparisons to other TV shows and discussions about what does and does not work in fiction. I may not be a TV critic (or a TV writer), but if you're a regular reader of this blog you know I watch a lot of TV, and have quite an extensive knowledge of what makes a good show. 

    "I am a huge animation fan, and you are giving fellow fans like me a bad name if you nitpick a great show to death. Why don't you switch off your computer and go outside! Get a life!"
    How is this related to Family Guy? You are just personally attacking me, instead of sticking to the facts. You call yourself a fan, so don't tell me that you have never discussed the shortcomings or errors of Family Guy. Who do you think you are to accuse me of doing the same in a more comprehensive fashion on a permanent page?

    "You're still wrong. Most people would disagree with you and say that Family Guy is brilliant."
    Really? The majority isn't always right. I've laid out my points and if you can counter any of them, feel free.

    "You're such a loser. Pretty much everyone else agrees that it's the one of the greatest TV shows ever."
    I am far from alone in my opinion of the show. To begin with, there's a Wikipedia page all about the Criticism of Family Guy - no such page exists for The Simpsons, Futurama, South Park or Animaniacs. Or you could just click here, here, here, here or here for some more criticism by different writers. 

    "I don't care what you say, I still think the show's funny and I'm going to continue watching it."
    Sadly, I feel this will be the most common response to this rant. If you're still not convinced, next time you watch Family Guy, have a look at the show, and see how many issues I discussed here appear in the episode. You may be surprised.

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Acknowledgements: I have to acknowledge a few other writers here, particularly Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw for his rant against Ctrl-Alt-Del, which inspired me to write this whole damn thing; Jaime J. Weinman for his rant against Family Guy, who I stole a number of points from; and for uploading a huge amount of Simpsons and Family Guy clips - thanks guys!

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Why I Hate Family Guy: Part 2

    (Part 1 here and Part 3 here)

    Next up, the characters. Now, I've mentioned a few times before that characters are the most important part in any piece of fiction, but why do I say this? It seems obvious, but if a show doesn't have relatable characters in it, more often than not it will wither and die. Take any reality show - what makes them popular is that they have real, relatable people in them. When we watch The Amazing Race, Masterchef or The Biggest Loser, we enjoy the shows because we can picture ourselves reacting the same way in that situation, whether it be scaling a mountain, cooking a dinner or losing weight.

    The best non-reality shows do this as well - Lost can probably attribute much of its early success due to the fact it featured a plane crash, something we all can picture happening to ourselves since 9/11. The Simpsons was so hugely popular in the nineties because it featured a characters we could all relate to - Bart, the underachiever; Lisa, the unpopular nerd; Maggie, the silent and repressed voice; Marge, the stressful mother; and of course Homer, who almost every father in America could relate to.

    But Peter Griffin is nothing more than an irredeemable jerk.

    It's clear Peter is supposed to be an everyman, but comes off as anything but. He lies, he cheats, he steals, he's lazy, he gets into fights and he's incredibly ignorant. The ultimate irony is that Peter is anything but a family guy. I can hear you now, "BUT HOMER SIMPSON IS LIKE THAT TOO LOL!" True, Homer may be all of these things as well, but at least Homer has some redeeming qualities. Homer loves Marge. He loves his kids. Sure, he may be rude to them from time to time, and get them into trouble, but when it comes down to it, he'll do anything to protect his family (this was pretty much the entire plot of The Simpsons Movie).

    The source of Homer's charm is his complete love and loyalty to his family, even if the main way he shows it is by fixing problems he causes himself. This is hardly new - Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, Ray in Everybody Loves Raymond, Tim in Home Improvement and Phil in Modern Family all fit this trope perfectly (as well as dozens more). Peter, on the other hand, is a selfish asshole. He's rude to his wife. He hates his kids (Meg in particular). He may eventually do the right think, but only if it benefits him in some way. This is not a clever subversion of this character archetype - Peter is a jerk, and I am unable to relate to someone who is this obnoxious, this stupid, and this uncaring. Take this clip as an example:

    Nothing funnier than picking on handicapped people, am I right? You know, there's a term for people who pick on those smaller than them...

    Anyway, as you can see, Peter comes off as anything but a nice person. Now, I know what you're thinking, "NOT EVERYONE ON TV HAS TO BE A PARAGON OF VIRTUE LOL", and I quite agree. Greg House in House is a complete prick, but he genuinely believes that when he exposes someone's lie, makes someone realise what a failure they are, he's doing it for that person's own good. Brain from Pinky and the Brain wanted to take over the world not because he was evil, but because he believed the world would be a better place with him in charge.

    The point I'm making here is that the best villains, jerks and bad guys never consider themselves villains, jerks or bad guy. Hannibal Lecter only ate uncivilised people. Nurse Ratched wanted her patients to get better. HAL just wanted to complete the mission.

    Peter? He just acts like an jerk BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY LOL! (And hey, wouldn't you know it, it's not!)

    Phew. Alright. Onto the other characters, though at a much faster pace:

    • Meg: A boring, one dimensional character. Depressingly, she started out as one of the more original characters - an unpopular, awkward teenage schoolgirl is hardly new, but in western animation it had mostly been an unpopular, awkward teenage schoolboy. Sadly, when the show returned after cancellation, the writers apparently decided it'd be funnier for her family to bully her. Yes, nothing funnier than child abuse, hmm?
    • Chris: Yawn. Does he do much these days, apart from act even stupider than Peter and make references to the evil monkey? Apparently not.
    • Lois: Another character that was, initially, somewhat original, she's turned into little more than a sex, alcohol and drug addict. She used to be a nice contrast to, say, Marge Simpson, as she was a little more open with her sexuality, which was a nice change of pace to mothers on television who used sex as a weapon. Now, the jokes aren't even subtle (or funny). She's a nymphomaniac housewife, oh ho ho ho. My thighs are now thoroughly tenderised from all the slapping.
    • Stewie: Again, another character who's changed. Matricidal Stewie was reasonably clever (and even relatable!) - after all, we could all identify with a child who wants to kill his parents. When you're a kid, your worst enemy is sometimes your parents. Now, the writers seem to think it's the height of cleverness to have a character sometimes say and do stereotypical "gay" things. Straight men in gay situations is a comedy staple (think Klinger in M*A*S*H), but the gay jokes about Stewie aren't subtle or clever, all they do is scream "GAY PEOPLE ARE FUNNY LOL!"
    • Brian: Why don't we just call this character Seth and cut out the middle man, eh? Brian/Seth's lectures on politics are so blatant it makes Captain Planet look like a thoughtful and unbiased program, where children are free to make up their own mind about oil companies.

    Folks, what bothers me most about the rest of the characters is that they are so damn boring! They're one-dimensional, a collection stereotypes we've all seen before, and because of this, there is no humor to be gotten from the characters. That's why there's so many stupid cutaway gags - the writers can't make the scene interesting or funny with their current characters, so they throw together a location, an activity, a pop culture reference and then have a character say either:
    • "You think that's bad? Remember the time..."
    • "Face it Peter, you've never been very good at..."
    • "This is worse than the time..."
    Or some variant thereof. This is not good writing. In good fiction, the drama (and the jokes) flow from the characters. But because the characters in Family Guy are so bland, the writers have to write around the characters. And that, dear reader, is not good.

    Coming up in Part 3: The thrilling conclusion!

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Why I Hate Family Guy: Part 1

    (Part 2 here and Part 3 here)

    I've bitched about Twilight. Complained about Underbelly. Analysed Stargate Universe. Torn The Cleveland Show to shreds before a single episode aired. Now, it's time for a rant that I've had brewing for a very long time: my rant against Family Guy.

    Why do I hate Family Guy? It's difficult to know where to begin, but let's start by looking at this clip from season four (don't let the date fool you, it's quite typical of the show):

    UPDATE (September 2015): Hulu has since made their Family Guy and Simpsons clips private (clearly they were getting too much bad press from my blog). Hopefully they'll return some day. Sorry, but that's the web for ya! I would upload them myself, but that would mean watching more Family Guy, something I always try to avoid. The rant should still make sense even without the clips... hopefully.

     Incredibly, this video has over five million views on YouTube (at the time of writing). But anyway, here's another clip where the humour is derived from drug use, this time from season seven of The Simpsons:

    Both shows identify the humour in the situation (that people act bizarrely and do annoying things under the influence of drugs), but while The Simpsons saved the best joke for last (the fact that Burns was so drugged up he was willing to commit murder), the Family Guy clip doesn't really have a punchline, does it? Instead, it goes for the old and tired gag of getting Peter naked. Yup, nothing funnier than a naked fat guy, right?

    See folks, this is my main gripe about Family Guy - for a comedy show, it doesn't seem to know how to tell a joke. A joke should be build up your expectations, then defy them. Take any newspaper comic, for example. Look at this classic Calvin and Hobbes strip:

    You see how it works? The first three panels build up the expectation (that we're in space) and the final panel reveals it's all a fantasy of Calvin's. Family Guy ignores this, it's so excited about the gag that it blurts it out right away (PETER'S ON DRUGS LOL!) , leaving a minute or so for us to sit around and watch essentially the same joke, with no punchline at the end. (For further examples of this lazy writing see here and here, as you can see, this is merely the tip of the iceberg).

    Now, a punchline should be the strongest part of your gag. That's why it's called a punch-line. You deliver it and run. You do not hang around and repeat the punchline for the next minute. Essentially: leave with the audience laughing! Am I wrong in thinking this is how a joke should be structured?

    Apparently so. Whenever I criticise the humour in Family Guy I'm shot down by people who yell "WHO CARES IT'S FUNNY LOL!" Now, I realise humour can be very subjective, but if you find Family Guy funny you are categorically wrong. Far too often Family Guy goes for:
    • Shock humour (violence, rape, vomit or other bodily fluids)
    • Pop-culture references (the freakin' Star Wars specials being the worst example)
    Now, admittedly, there is humour to be found in shock value, but in the internet age it's getting a lot harder to shock your audience. Like it or not, people are desensitised to much of the bad stuff in the world. So what do the Family Guy writers do? Make a rape joke. A rape joke, for Christ's sake. I wouldn't have minded if it was just dark humour ("What do nine out of ten people enjoy?" "Gang rape!") because at least a joke like that is subverting my expectations. Again, there's no punchline in the gag, just: 1. Naked fat man (again, naked fat people are funny, right?). 2. Woman rapes a man. Whoa, hold on to your sides to stop them from splitting!

    I'm not objecting to dark humour or shock value, just how Family Guy tries to do it. For example, if you take the joke, "What's the difference between a Ferrari and 1000 dead babies? A Ferrari's not in my garage", the Family Guy writers would probably put that on screen as, "Why do I have 1000 dead babies in my garage? BECAUSE DEAD BABIES ARE FUNNY LOL!" Then Peter would get naked for some reason.

    And, of course, we have the pop-culture references. Now, I enjoy references to books, films, art, video games, politics etc. in works of fiction, but if you're going to do it, there has to be a point to it. Have a look at this clip from The Simpsons, parodying 2001: A Space Odyssey:

    Now look at this clip from Family Guy, parodying Dukes of Hazzard:

    I swear, I'm not even trying to come up with examples that end with the gag "Peter naked", it seems that every single Family Guy video on YouTube ends this way. But anyway, see the difference here? Much of the humour in the Simpsons clip comes from Homer eating in zero gravity, the ants talking amongst themselves and Buzz Aldrin's comment, not explicit references to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Family Guy, on the other hand, just has Stewie say, "That's more disgusting than when Peter went through that Daisy Dukes phase", then show us Peter in women's clothing (cross-dressing jokes? Seriously?). What is the humour in this joke? Is it parodying a scene in Dukes of Hazzard? A cliche of the show, a plot hole even? Nope, it's just name dropping. I haven't seen a single episode of Dukes of Hazzard, but even if I'd seen all 145 episodes plus the movie, I sincerely doubt I would have enjoyed that clip any more.

    Oy vey. We're over eight hundred words and I've barely scratched the surface. Coming up in Part 2: the characters.

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Monday, August 1, 2011

    Stargate Universe: Devoid of Life

    I don't think there's been a franchise I've seen fall so far from grace as the Stargate one. In the late nineties, Stargate SG-1 was quite simply some of the best television around. It was exciting, action-packed and it didn't take itself too seriously. To put it bluntly: the show wasn't afraid to have fun. Stargate Atlantis was, for the most part, a pretty fun show as well, though towards the end it got a bit tedious. So it was with a bit of anticipation I tuned into the very first episode of Stargate Universe, a series that promised to take the Stargate franchise into new and exciting areas. At first, I was worried the show was just going to be a Stargate version of Star Trek: Voyager, but after watching the entire show, I think it's clear that Universe was "influenced" by a number of shows:

    Yes, I'm afraid rather than being a bold show that treaded new ground for the franchise, Universe simply felt like a re-hash of other popular (and better) shows. I've mentioned Star Trek: Voyager (a show with a ship stranded millions of light years from home), but the show also stole the grim and gritty atmosphere of Battlestar Galactica, the idea of strangers having to put aside their differences and work together from Lost and lesbians from The L Word.

    Alright, they didn't steal the idea of lesbians in a show, but as awesome as it is seeing two hot girls go at each-other, it gets pretty damn tiring seeing it every week. Seriously, at every possible opportunity we saw Camile Wray (the Asian chick) and her partner having sex, kissing, having sex, hugging, having sex, talking about having sex, having sex or discussing what they were going to do when Camile got home (have hot lesbian sex). I'd expect this kind of writing from a fourteen year old, not a team of writers with over a decade of experience. I am so damn sick of writers thinking that by having your characters have sex, you've created a "mature" piece of work, when in reality the opposite is true. Universe was the first Stargate show to feature sex scenes, and they felt awkward, out of place, and purely there to keep the nerds happy.

    Another problem I have is the characters. As I mentioned in my review of Underbelly: The Golden Mile, characters are the most important part of any work of fiction. But are the characters in Universe likable? Relatable, at least? No, they're a bunch of idiots and jerks. They spend almost all their time arguing or bitching about their predicament, or they act like idiots and make dumb tactical decisions. Of particular note is Robert Carlyle's character, Nicholas Rush, who is clearly supposed to be a jerk with a heart of gold, but is in reality nothing but a jerkass. He's rude, arrogant and makes just as many mistakes as the other characters, but he gets away with it because... actually, I'm not sure, he's not even that smart, Eli's usually the one to get them out of jams.

    And speaking of Eli, boy was he a dumb character. For the uninitiated: he was an overweight nerd who was hand-picked for the Stargate program because he solved a puzzle in a video game (seriously). He might as well have just worn a shirt saying, "I'm a fan surrogate!" Still, even if we ignore this, his character felt like nothing more than a combination of Daniel Jackson from SG-1, Wesley Crusher from Star Trek and Hurley from Lost.

    Still, there was one guy I liked, the black guy:

    He was the one character with a brain, the only one who suggested the most logical course of action ("Why don't we just shoot the enemy?" "Why are we letting civilians call the shots?" "Why are you all such UTTER MORONS?"). And that is not a good thing.

    Moving on, I found it quite offensive that the key premise of the show - isolation - was abandoned as early as episode two. Those damn Ancient communication stones, in my opinion, practically ruined whatever chance the show had. The show was supposed to bring new fans into the franchise, and what better way to do that than not bogging it down with all the boring politics that plagued SG-1 towards the end of its life? Not to mention, the show is all about the crew being billions of light years from home, so you'd expect it to feature, I don't know, NOTHING on Earth? Having a magic device that transports you back to Earth pretty much destroys any feelings of isolation the show might have. To use a good example, Star Trek: Voyager waited until its fourth season before they made contact with Earth, and even then it was brief. It wasn't until season seven that the ship was in regular contact with Earth.

    I think, ultimately, the biggest problem with the show is it can't seem to settle on a tone. At times it goes for the grim and gritty Battlestar Galactica feel, at other times it goes for the light-hearted and fun tone of of SG-1 and Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode "Light" was one of the show's few highlights, a truly excellent episode where the characters all faced their own deaths. On the other hand, "Time" was a seriously cool episode dealing with time travel, but both episodes felt like they belonged in different shows - one was grim 'n' gritty, the other was cool 'n' techy.

    There were other little things that bothered me (like no opening theme), but I think the problems with this show are quite simple: there was no new creative team. The show, for better or worse, just felt like season 16 of the ongoing (and tired) Stargate franchise, rather than season 1 of a new and fresh show. If you have the same creative team for over a decade, ideas are going to get stale. Characters are going to fail at being real people. You'll grasp at straws to keep your show alive - maybe you'll steal ideas from other shows, maybe you'll throw in some sex to appear more "mature", but it won't work.

    Despite its huge cast, Stargate Universe felt like an empty show. The fun, the excitement and the wonder of the Stargate franchise seems to have completely left the show, which is a damn shame. Perhaps one day the show can come back, but if it does, I sure hope they bring some new, fresh talent on board.

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Paying for Parking is Asking for Trouble

    Today, I read something in the paper that upset me greatly. Westfield Chermside, a shopping centre in Brisbane, is planning to force people who spend more than three hours in their shopping centre to pay for parking. Why are they doing this? To deter "commuter" parking - people parking in the centre, then catching the bus elsewhere. Why does this upset me greatly? Because it's a profoundly greedy and short-sighted thing for a business to do.

    Now, to begin with, I have no issue with the concept of paying to park. I understand that sometimes, due to lack of space (like in the CBD), there is no other option, or else people would never leave. However, I do think a shopping centre charging people to use its carpark is overkill.

    Westfield claim they are doing this for their customers, but it is the customers who will feel the pain the most. It is unfair to those people who want to take their time when they shop, or have a lot of shopping to do. What if, for example, you want go shopping, then grab a coffee afterwards to unwind? Or what if you and some friends want to see a movie and then grab dinner? I see people forgetting about the coffee, forgetting about the movie, to make sure they're not charged for parking. And this is helping businesses in the centre... how? But never mind that Westfield, you're doing this for your customers, right? To hell with these slow pokes!

    Earlier this year, I did a rant on web retailers vs. traditional retailers. My basic point was that with internet retailers becoming more and more competitive on price, the only way traditional stores can compete is with excellent customer service, and by building relationships with consumers. And this is how Westfield plans to do it? By pissing people off, and forcing them to pay? Ah, but to hell with these whingers, right Westfield? You're doing this for your customers!

    As I mentioned earlier, the reason Westfield says they're doing this is because they want commuters to stop parking in its centre. This confuses me, though: Why would Westfield build the best bus interchange for kilometres in any direction if they didn't want people to use it?

    Maybe it was for the elusive bus stop tourism market? I mean, how can you resist views like this?
    If this proposal goes ahead, all this is going to do is (a) force commuters to park in the streets surrounding the shops (lucky residents, eh?) or (b) force commuters to drive all the way to work, instead of using public transport. This will increase pollution and congestion on the roads. And hey, there will be a lot less people who grab a bite to eat in the centre between buses if commuters aren't parking there. What Westfield fails to realise is that there are many, many people out there who don't live on a bus line, let alone an express bus line. But never mind that Westfield, you're doing this for your customers, right? To hell with people too stupid to not live on a bus line!

    But probably the biggest middle finger here is not to commuters, but to staff. Where are staff expected to park? They obviously spend more than three hours at a time in the centre. Westfield may say "there [will] be designated free parking areas for centre staff", but I call bullshit. I've seen the staff carparks at Westfield shopping centres - these staff areas are far away from the rest of the centre, difficult to access and dangerous at night. The staff would be probably be better off walking to work. Westfield may naively think that the staff aren't important, compared to ordinary customers, but the staff probably spend more money every day than the ordinary customers! They buy coffee, snacks, lunch, go shopping on breaks... the list goes on. Force them to pay to park, and they'll be a hell of a lot less likely to spend money on their breaks. There's an old adage that a happy worker is a productive worker - but never mind that Westfield, you're doing this for your customers, right? To hell with everyone else, and especially the staff!

    Forget about these guys! They're only in the centre every day.

    To me, the solution is simple. Instead of Westfield being greedy bastards and charging people to park, why don't they just BUILD MORE PARKING SPOTS?! If I had a business that was over capacity, I'd expand. Increase capacity. I certainly wouldn't charge my current users any more, and pretend it was to control demand. I've said it before: It really shits me when companies do something quite clearly just for the money and no other reason. But to hell with doing what's ethical, you're doing this for your customers, right Westfield?

    Yeah, right. Pictured: The CEO of Westfield

    Let me put this is in simple English: if Westfield starts charging people to park, people will shop elsewhere. Either out of protest, principle or convenience, people will shop (and work!) elsewhere. Remember: what you want (and think) as a business owner is much less important than what your customers want (and think). The reason for your business to exist is to create and service customers. Not just to make money.

    If Westfield goes ahead with this plan, they may find their customers won't be theirs much longer.

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    It's Time to Stop Pretending Climate Change Doesn't Exist

    Let's not beat around the bush here: climate change is real, and it's caused by humans. I am sick to death of people either telling me that climate change isn't real, or that it is real, but there's no way it's being caused by humans. This is pure, unadulterated bullshit. In fact, since 2007, no scientific body of national or international standing rejects the findings of human-induced effects on climate change. So why do people insist on claiming that climate change is a hoax? How could anyone reject such an idea, when the scientific community claims its real, and we are in danger?

    Well, dear reader, once again we turn to The Dark Side of the Blog's old friend, Media Watch. Recently, they've done two articles criticising the media's handling of the climate change "debate" (I use the term loosely, because its like arguing that the sky isn't blue). The first is interesting, as it highlights how even a tiny uncertainty to commit to carbon reductions by a business can suddenly mean they no longer believe in it. The second is a bit more disturbing: the slightest bit of anti-climate change "research" is page one material.

    The third, though, is far more alarming. Basically, AM talk-balk hosts such as Alan Jones, Jason Morrison and Howard Sattler seem to think it is their mission in life to disprove climate change. They bring onto the show so-called "scientists" who dispute climate change, but who ARE these nut jobs they dig up? Do they work for CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation)? No? How about The Australian Academy of Science? No? Well, surely they must at least work for the The Bureau of Meteorology? Oh, really? Well, what about NASA? The National Atmospheric Administration? Afraid not. No, what makes these "scientists" reputable is (a) they have "doctor" or "professor" in front of their names, and (b) some of them have written a book saying they're against climate change.

    Wow. Now there's fair and unbiased coverage. People believe the opinions of men and women who stand to benefit, financially, if there's doubt about climate change? To put this into perspective, this would be like asking a priest whether you should attend church, or a car salesman whether you should buy a new car. To borrow a phrase Tony Abbot is fond of, it's like putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. In fact, the best comparison in history is when advertisements like this were all over the place:

    Blow in her face and she'll follow you anywhere - am I right fellas?

    Yes, that's right, smoking. For those of you unaware, when scientists first suggested smoking might be bad for you, the cigarette companies immediately found other "scientists" to dispute these claims, because they stood to go bankrupt if everyone stopped smoking.

    But this begs the question: why are Alan Jones, Jason Morrison, Howard Sattler and countless others sticking their heads in the sands and refusing to acknowledge the reality of climate change? They work in radio, not in coal mining. It's unlikely they will lose their jobs if there's any drastic changes to energy usage. The answer is as obvious as it is alarming: they (and their listeners) are afraid of change. Changing from dirty fossil fuels to clean, green energy will not be cheap, or easy - and it could require some sacrifices. But it is my personal opinion (and that of the scientific community, for that matter), that it is well worth the effort. A great man once wrote, "there is no darkness but ignorance", meaning that nobody is afraid of the dark, but many are afraid of the unknown.

    Alan Jones, Jason Morrison and Howard Sattler need to stop acting like colossal pricks and grow up. Considering the audiences these men have, they shouldn't be spreading lies just because they're afraid of paying an extra $4.99 for electricity per quarter. It doesn't matter that these exploits drive up their ratings, they have a responsibility to report the truth, not what they think their listeners want to hear.

    Climate change is real, and it's caused by humans. It's time to stop the spread of misinformation, and start moving forward. We have a responsibility as a developed nation to do the right thing. Australia has led the world on many then-controversial issues, such as giving women the vote and restricting the sales of guns - and we did these things not because they were easy, but because it was the right thing to do. Australia can lead the world again - we need only to stop listening to the fear mongers.

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    So Over PC Gaming

    It probably won't come as a shock to regular readers of this blog that I play video games. I try not to discuss my gripes about gaming here because, well, there's plenty of other places that bitch about how the PS3 has no games (which is just plain wrong), the 360 is prone to failure (which it's not - not anymore, at least) and how the Wii is for girls (no argument from me). What's been bugging me lately, though, is PC gaming. What's been bugging me? This:


    Remind me exactly when it became acceptable for us to have to sit through hours upon hours of installations, updates and so on, just to play PC games? I decided to boot up Portal the other day, play it for a bit, just to kill some time. Boy was that a mistake. For about five minutes I was stuck with this image:

    It took forever to load. Why? Well, because I'd been foolish enough to not play any Steam games for a few months, so it had about sixty gigabytes of friggin' updates to download. Of what, I don't know, considering Portal has worked perfectly the day I installed it. I realise that Valve (the developer) has its heart is in the right place, but how about just giving me the option of downloading it?

    Well, after another ten minutes (including multiple restarts of Steam) I finally got into the game, which was exactly the same. So glad for that update, Valve.

    Still, updates aren't nearly as bad as installations. You better pray that when you buy a PC game you have an entire evening free to spend installing the damn thing. Not only are the installations upwards of 45 minutes, but some of them force you to register with their stupid communities (I'm looking at you, StarCraft II, Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2) before you can play. And hey, remember when installations used to mean little/no loading time? Not anymore! Yeah, I know games now are considerably more complex than they used to be, but considering StarCraft II takes up a whopping 12GB of space on my hard drive, I'd like the game to load my saves in BEFORE I pass out from starvation.

    Is it any wonder why PC gaming is becoming less and less popular? It's because people finally have the option of (quickly!) playing the best-looking games on their home consoles. There are some people out there who lament casual games (like Bejeweled, Peggle, Plants Vs. Zombies and, heck, even Farmville) taking such a chunk out of the PC gaming market, but I say good on them! You know how long it takes me to open Peggle? Less than a minute. I haven't played StarCraft II in a while, but I bet if I launched it right now it would require another damn update. Let's see, shall we?

    Oh my God. I was half-kidding.
    Then I get this. What.

    Even after the update is done, I'll have to type my password, sift through the menus, then spend two minutes waiting for my save to load. This is why I play Peggle, and not any of my triple-A PC games when I'm bored. Because they're ready to play in less time than it would take to go to Neptune and back.

    Some of you may be inclined to tell me that they're fixing the game, making it better, which is commendable, really. My issue is that the updates take so damn long and are so damn frequent! Sure, I have to put up with updates on my PS3, but at least they're quick and rare. Is there a solution? Yes! Release a finished product! Do NOT use me as an unpaid beta tester. A wise man once wrote, "The first time we hear the word 'patch' in relation to a PS3 or XBox 360 game, we're taking the console back to the store. Filled with our shit." Amen.

    A friend of mine asked me the other day why I bought Call of Duty: Black Ops for my PS3 and not my PC. My answer was simple: it was easier to play it on the PS3. Just pop in the disc, and I was away. No sitting around, just fun straight away. Honestly, apart from perhaps Portal 2 and Half Life 2: Episode Three, I'm pretty much done with PC gaming. I just don't have the patience anymore - and let's face it, it's not like it's getting better.

    Fun fact: Half way through this rant, I opened StarCraft II to get a screen capture of the update screen, and you know what? Fifteen minutes later, it's still updating!

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    Playing Politics is Important, Ms Gillard

    I was watching the ABC news tonight and there was (unsurprising) an article on the extreme weather Queensland has been facing this month. The article was about the "flood levy", proposed by the Labor Party, where everyone in Australia has to pay some money to help with the flood recovery. Mr Abbott, the opposition leader, has criticised this tax, basically saying the last thing people want is another tax. Then, in a moment that truly shocked me, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and the treasurer, Wayne Swan, criticised Abbott for "playing politics in a time of crisis" (click here for an article about the issue - not the article I saw on the news, but you get the idea).

    Now, I'm not really a huge fan of Abbott (or Gillard for that matter), but I think he has every right to "play politics". Why? HE'S A POLITICIAN!

    As the opposition leader, isn't it more or less his job to question the current government's actions? Criticising Abbott for "playing politics" would be like criticising Gillard for being photographed when she visited flood-affected areas.

    Look at her, playing politics. She makes me sick.

    Not to mention, if the opposition wasn't allowed to (or, heck, even discouraged) from criticising the government during a time of crisis, then wouldn't that give the government carte blanche to do whatever they wanted? Imagine if Australia was at war, and the government decided that the best solution would be using biological weapons against the enemy. Even though it's against international law, the opposition can't criticise this move, because that would be playing politics!

    Mr Abbott, you continue to criticise the government to the best of your ability. Only by seeing their flaws will any government be able to improve.

    Now if you'll excuse me, after defending Tony Abbott, I suddenly feel the need for a very long shower...

    © 2011 by The Free Man

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Big Retailers Wage War on Web (And They're Sure to Lose)

    The other day, I saw an article on A Current Affair (now there's a way to lose your audience's respect in the very first sentence...) about how a bunch of retailers are annoyed that people can buy things cheaper online. Well, there was more to it than that, but after seeing ten seconds of A Current Affair my brain had a massive hemorrhage and I woke up a few hours later in hospital. Anyway, the next day, a similar piece appeared on the ABC's 7:30 Report.Now, it was real news.

    The basic gist of the article (read it here) is that Australian retailers can't match prices with the overseas companies selling stuff online because the Australian businesses have to pay tax. Well, you know what I think? I think the retailers complaining (yes, I'm talking to you, Gerry Harvey) can suck it. Why? Well, I mentioned a few posts ago that I hate it when companies do things solely for the money, and here's yet another example of this. Do the retailers want lower taxes so they can give consumers a better deal? No. Do the retailers want lower taxes so they can put more money into serving customers? No. These retailers clearly care about one thing and one thing only: money. The overseas stores are a threat, and the local retailers are crying unfair. Well guys, I hate to break this to you, but that's the nature of capitalism. It's sink or swim.

    Some of you reading this may be agreeing with the retailers, after all, to quote Russell Zimmerman of The Australian Retailers Association, "...we have to pay superannuation, payroll tax, workers' compensation, all those things... we are behind the 8-ball when we start." Yeah, those things are such a pain, eh? If I'm interpreting this correctly, Zimmerman would love for all those pesky expenses to just go away. Better yet, Zimmerman, how about slavery? I hear it's very cheap.

    Alright, alright, I can still hear you saying, "Zimmerman makes a fair point! Australian businesses do have higher expenses." But is price really everything? You may be inclined to answer "yes", but price is only one seventh of the battle in winning customers. Take, for example, milk. Now, unless you're a connoisseur, you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference in a blind taste test between home brand milk manufactured by the supermarket (like Woolworths or Coles) and milk manufactured by distributors (like Paul's, Dairy Farmers, etc.). You'd think with home brand milk being only 2/3 the price of the commercial stuff, Dairy Farmers and Pauls would be out of business pretty quickly. Yet they survive - why is this so?

    The answer, is marketing. Dairy Farmers and Pauls have built a relationship with the consumer, so they're willing to pay a little more. Gerry Harvey and Russell Zimmerman seem to think profit is the only thing that matters, and this begs the question - how on Earth did these men get to be where they are with an attitude like that?

    Harvey and Zimmerman's attitudes remind me of a cartoon I found a while ago:

    I get the feeling all of the businesses whinging have this as their mission statement, too, but this is a very stupid thing to do. Why? Well, what you want (and think) as a business owner is much less important than what your customers want (and think). The reason for your business to exist is to create and service customers. Not just to make money.

    To be honest, this whole debate reminds me of when the music industry cried foul when people started downloading music illegally. Rather than embrace the technology, they tried to tell us that we were doing the wrong thing. Naturally, we ignored them and... well, we know how that story ends. I don't deny that overseas online retailers present a threat to Australian ones, but crying to the government for some tax breaks is not the solution. They need to adapt, come up with new strategies. If you're losing customers, chances are it's not just because the store across the road is selling the same stuff cheaper.

    After all, it's sink or swim.

    © 2011 by The Free Man