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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Things I Don't Understand About Bars

I don't understand bars. If you're a regular reader you can probably guess this, but for those of you who don't know me, I'm not the kind of guy who goes out to bars every weekend (yes, I know, I hide this well). Part of the problem may be my complete social ineptitude, but I do think that all of the bars out there are to blame as well. After several years of drinking, I still haven't figured out all the things that baffled me about pubs when I first turned eighteen. Things like...

1. There no prices anywhere
Go to any retail shop, anywhere, and everything will have a price on it. Go to any fast food joint, and there's prices plastered all over the walls. Yet when I enter a bar, am I able to determine exactly how much I'm going to get ripped off before I get to the bar? No. Retail businesses in Australia are required to show the price of an item, or else they risk getting fined. When I used to work in retail, the amount of times I heard some retard say, "There's no price on this item - does that mean its free?", followed by them pausing for me to laugh (I never did) was ridiculous. Yet bars are for some reason excused from displaying prices.

Seriously, if you're one of those people who says that because something doesn't have a price it must be free, you shouldn't have children

It's not just me being a tight-arse here, I honestly think that if bars prominently displayed prices people would get served so much faster. Almost every time I order a drink the bartender pours it, walks away to the till, then comes back, tells me the cost, I give him/her my cash, then they waddle back to the till, deposit my money, then waddle back over with my change. Does this not seem the slightest bit inefficient to anyone else?

2. Beer sizes make no sense
When I was young, I imagined ordering a beer would be simple. "Give me a beer", you'd say, just like ordering a Coke. I later learned about the huge variety of beers, but never did I dream that the sizes of these beers would be just as varied.

With any other kind of beverage, you can order a small, a medium and a large. Not so with beer. For reasons I'm still yet to understand, a small beer is called a "pot", a medium is called a "schooner" and a large is called a "pint". I suppose I could put up with this, but what's frikkin' stupid is the beer sizes have different names across Australia. Behold:

Oh, and Wikipedia has an even more detailed table!

In case you don't feel like reading this periodic table of beer sizes, let me point out two of the most bizarre:
  • In New South Wales and Western Australia, the "small" size of beer is called a "middy". Because, you know, medium means small.
  • In South Australia, a pot is called a schooner and a schooner is called a pint. A pint is, of course, referred to as an Imperial Pint. Obviously.
But let's assume you never leave your home town and don't have to memorise this bullshit - why are we still using Imperial terms like "pint"? The metric system has been in this country for over forty years, yet apparently every single bartender didn't get the memo.

3. You have no idea what you're drinking
Again, when I was a kid, I naively thought that beer was all the same. I eventually realised that it came in different strengths. While some beers have the decency to label themselves as "light" or "midstrength", the majority decided it'd be much more fun for you to figure it out yourself. Take XXXX for example. Their heavy is called "Bitter" and their midstrength is called "Gold". Because when I think of something a little lighter, I immediately think of one of the heaviest metals on Earth.

Even bartenders don't have a clue what they're pouring - a friend of mine ordered a light beer, so the girl behind the counter proceeded to ask whether she wanted a Hahn Premium Light (a light beer) or a XXXX Gold (a midstrength beer). Mmm, responsible service of alcohol right there.

4. Long, annoying lines
I'm somewhere in there. I think.

Why is it that when I line up at McDonalds, the post office, Woolworths or JB Hi-Fi, it's one, orderly queue, yet whenever I go to a bar, it's just a surge of people rushing forward in a barbaric attempt to get served first? In fairness, it's usually it's not an issue, but when a bar gets busy it can get hugely frustrating to stand at the bar while every girl in a low-cut top gets served before me. Still, I suppose this one's an easy fix: I just need to grow a pair of tits.

... what was I talking about again?

5. Long, annoying service
And speaking of lines, why aren't there "quick service" and "slow service" areas in most bars? No matter the bar, I always seem to be behind the gushing bride-to-be who's ordering the most complicated cocktail known to man and then insists on paying by Morse code. Can't there be a line for people who want something simple - like a beer or a coke - and another line for people who want a drink made from hippo blood, whale semen and dodo tears?

These drinks take twenty minutes to make - but only on a full moon. You'll normally have to wait a little longer.

Now that I've got onto the subject of whale semen, I think I better stop before I make a disgusting joke about sperm whales. Look, I realise most of these weird pub things exist because "it's tradition", but that doesn't make it any easier to comprehend. All I want to do is just go into a bar, and have a beer. Does it really need to be this complicated?

© 2012 by The Free Man

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Some More Free Advice for the Movie Industry

Against my better judgement, I tried something new recently: I went to a movie cinema I'd never been to before. Brace yourself for a shock, dear reader, but I'm a bit of a creature of habit. There's one chain of cinemas I like and that's about it (I would name them, but this blog isn't about the stuff I like). Anyway, this new cinema I tried had something I'd heard about a few years ago but had assumed had been abandoned when the management realised what a stupid idea it was:

Pre-reserved seating.

Yes, this crappy cinema wanted me to sit exactly where I was told - I couldn't just sit wherever I wanted. So why does this upset me so? Well, often on this blog I talk about businesses doing stupid things to drive away their customers. Last year, I did a rant on what movie theatres were doing wrong and how they could drag people away from their TVs and back into cinemas. Strangely enough, I didn't mention "force your customer to sit where you tell them to", because one would assume it goes without saying.

Now, to be fair, there is some logic behind this decision - online tickets sales must be a growth area for cinemas, so it seems logical that they would want to make it seem even more attractive. Order online, choose your seat, and show up as soon as your session begins for the perfect spot! Genius!

Because, as we all know, people who use computers a lot would never pirate the movie in the first place

Or not. I can't speak for everyone, but personally, I rarely buy movie tickets online. It's not that I'm a luddite, often when I go to the movies it's a last-minute decision. Even when it's planned in advance (like on one of those exceptionally rare occasions when I have a date) I don't go and see a film on opening night - I wait a week or more until the crowds die down. Not to mention that every time I've ordered tickets online I've been hit with a $2 "administration fee". Not a lot, but annoying to say the least.

You see, by pandering to these people who exclusively buy their tickets online (would there really be that many?) these cinemas run the risk of alienating their core customers - something you definitely want to avoid as a business owner.

I mean, this isn't a aeroplane where it's important every seat is filled (otherwise it's not as efficient - jet fuel is not cheap!) - it's a friggin' movie theatre. When I buy a ticket, I just want to walk in and take the best seat I can find. I don't want to fumble around in the dark for the exact spot I'm supposed to sit. Don't forget, I've made the effort to leave my house and pay money for something I could get for free at home (albeit illegally).

Remember kids: piracy is wrong. But if I ever figure out how to download a car, I'm so going to do it.

"BUT FREE MAN!" you cry "SURELY YOU CAN JUST SAY WHERE YOU WANT TO SIT WHEN YOU BUY YOUR TICKET LOL!" Well, I couldn't when I went to this cinema. The girl on the counter didn't even ask me if I had a preference for an aisle, the middle, the front or the side. And besides, the last thing I want is the process of buying a ticket to take even longer - I don't need some 200kg woman and her six kids arguing with the manager in front of me about why they can't sit right in the middle.

And call me crazy if you want, but I often don't know where I want to sit until I walk into the theatre. Every cinema is different - sometimes it's best to sit up the back because the screen is huge, sometimes it's better to sit to the side because there's more leg room. Plus, there's certain people you want to avoid when you're choosing your seat in the cinema - babies, really tall people, fatties who've brought a buffet with them...

The worst thing, though, it that the system is not policed. When I entered the theatre, someone was sitting in my seat. No problem, I just sat further down the row. I figured, it doesn't matter, there's plenty of seats. Then a couple arrive and pointed out I was in their seat. So I moved down a row. Then another group arrived and I had to move again. I'm sure the guy who initially stole my seat would have moved if I'd asked him, but I guarantee there will be occasions when people won't move because they're too fat, too stubborn or just, well, dicks.

Like this guy

Look, I'm fine with businesses trying new things, and I realise that it isn't 1950 anymore, but could this cinema I used really be attracting more customers with this prepaid seating system than they are losing?

I doubt it.

© 2012 by The Free Man

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Big Brother: Don't Bother

You may have noticed, dear reader, that I occassionally rant about TV shows on this blog. You may have also noticed that I've never complained about reality TV shows. Why? Well, while reality TV isn't really my thing, most of it is fairly acceptable television. Not amazing, but seeing real people achieve something, whether it be losing weight (Biggest Loser), winning a race (The Amazing Race) or being recognised for their talent (Australian Idol et al) is pretty entertaining stuff. Reality TV has evolved significantly from it's early days - don't get me wrong, the scripted stuff is always better - but it's a genre that's finally starting to mature.

So just when I thought it was safe to turn on the TV again...

Does anyone even get the 1984 reference?

That's right, the grandaddy of reality TV is returning to Australia. I've been holding off on a rant about the show for a while, waiting patiently for some more information about the show. Now, with the premiere mere days away, it's emerged the show will be...

... exactly the same as it was back in 2008.

No, I'm not making this up. While there are some cosmetic diferences (new host, new channel), the show is exactly the same as it was four years ago. A bunch of people go into a house, we see them sit around and talk about how hot they are, then they leave. Channel 9 is obviously banking on the nostalgia factor here, but beneath the cries of "oooh, it's a show I used to watch while it was younger! It therefore MUST be good!", I can promise that the show will be just as bad as before.

Actually, I think it will be worse. As I mentioned earlier, reality TV has evolved from simply seeing "real" people on TV (I know, "real" is not a word you'd use to describe the Big Brother housemates). Nowadays, reality TV is about people striving to achieve something or to better themselves. I can't speak for everyone, but I like to see people actually do something on television. Because, honestly, if I wanted to see someone sit around a house for ages and never go outside, I'd watch my own life.

Wait, hang on, I'm not being totally fair. Apparently the show is doing new things. Firstly, every housemate will have a secret...

Oh, and don't forget the last time Big Brother had a "secret" was back in 2004, when the BIG SECRET was that the prize money was being raised from $250 000 to $1 000 000. What a shocking twist, eh?

But when you stop and think about it, how is this going to make the show more interesting? The core premise of Big Brother is that these people have never met each-other before, so I can't imagine the secrets being all that shocking. It won't be anything huge like, "I used to be a man", "I've slept with everyone in this house" or "I watched The Shire and enjoyed it", it'll be boring stuff like "I once cheated on my partner" or "I keep my Vegemite in the fridge."

How can I make this claim? Well, a major part of the show's marketing strategy is that the house will have "real" people in it this time - not the bogan blokes and barbie girls that Big Brother is infamous for. The new host, Sonia Kruger, has gone on record saying, "[We're] looking for people who don’t have an agenda and people who don’t see themselves as TV types."

Now, I may not be a TV executive, but surely the people who audition to go on TV see themselves as "TV types"? If they didn't see themselves as someone who should be on TV, then they wouldn't audition in the first place. I think by this point the public knows what going on Big Brother means - you're exposing yourself (literally, in the case of Uncut) to the entire nation. Most people in Australia would not want to do that - I know I certainly wouldn't. Only those desperate for fame and fortune go into the house, not people who just want to experience the joy of being filmed sitting in a house for several months (as I said, I already sit in a house and don't go outside).

So anyway, I see two possible outcome from this "real person" strategy:
  • They don't get "real people" going to the audition (more likely), and have to fill the house with freaks
  • They do get "real people" audition, but they quickly realise that normal people are dull (good is boring, after all), so Channel 9 selects the freaks regardless
Does Channel 9 not realise that the nutjobs that go into the house is why people watch the show? It's certainly not for the story or cinematography. So either Channel 9 is just plain ignorant or they're lying to the us, desperately trying to convince the public that the show has changed.

But it hasn't. Sure, they've made every effort to make it seem like the show has changed, but it hasn't. All of the problems with Big Brother - the "do-nothing" nature of the show, the freaks who enter the house - still exist, just as bad as ever. The show is still boring, pointless drivel. It's still going to be full of gratuitous amounts of sex talk and nudity. And, worst of all, it's still all going to be about SMS voting - do you remember how HUGELY ANNOYING those constant reminder ads were on Channel 10?

"So what?" a fan might say. "The original was great, and this new version seems to be everything I love about the old one. It's gotta be good!" This logic, while it has some grounds, is hugely flawed. Here's a few American TV shows that were recently remade with minimal changes to the original:
See a pattern here? With the exception of V, all of the shows lasted only one season (and V only lasted two). The new versions bombed because all the networks did was take the original show, set it in contemporary times and hope to God people felt nostalgic enough to watch it.

And this, dear reader, is exactly what Channel 9 is doing. Don't watch Big Brother. It's yet another lazy attempt by the networks to cash in on the nostalgia factor. It may have been a fine show for its time, but reality TV has changed so much since Big Brother first went to air. 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.

© 2012 by The Free Man

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Seriously, Supermarkets, You Need to Try Harder

A couple of weeks ago I did a little rant about how the supermarkets in Australia all seem to be hung up on "freshness". Unlike the majority of posts on this blog, I wasn't particuarly pissed off at Woolworths, Coles, etc., just disappointed with their lack of originality. Yet they certainly seem to be trying their hardest to make me upset!

We're all familiar with this annoying ad by Coles:

Thanks for ruining a perfectly good Status Quo song, Coles

It didn't take long before Woolworths came up with their own, very original response to this campaign. Just kidding, they stole Coles' campaign completely:

That poor bunny

Somehow, I imagine the conversation at Woolworth's marketing department went like this:
"Damn, we need to come up with something to compete with Coles' Down and staying down campaign."
"Should we try coming up with an original idea?"
"Are you kidding? That would require effort! Can't we just steal their idea, without it looking like we stole their idea?"
"Hmm... well, we could just add the word 'Knock' into the slogan, and hope that consumers are too stupid to realise there's no difference whatsoever..."
"Of course they're stupid enough. We've finally managed to trick them into serving themselves at registers, they'll fall for this one easily."
"Phew. Thank God that's over. I nearly did something creative there."
"I know, it was a close call. Lunch?"

Still, I suppose Woolies and Coles are always like that, right? At least the Independent Grocers of Australia (IGA) have been staying original, right? Right? Yeah, I thought so too, until I saw this on TV last night:

 Because when I go shopping, I love to hear the word "lockdown"

This is getting ridiculous. Is there no originality left in the grocery industry in Australia? Why don't they just all merge into one and save some money on advertising?

On a more serious note, what I find worrying about these three campaigns is they're all promising to keep prices low. Not just lower prices termporarily, but permanently keep them low (you can't get any clearer than "staying down"). An admirable goal, but an impossible one. Have you ever heard of inflation? Short of something catastrophic happening to the global economy (and I mean catastrophic - bigger than even the Great Depression) prices are going to continue to rise. This isn't a bad thing - when prices rise, so do rates of pay - a steady rate of inflation is a good measure of a country's economy.

The graph above (source) show's Australia's Consumer Price Index (inflation faced by households) since 1999 - as you can see, it hasn't been in the negative for over a decade (probably longer, this was the only graph I could find). There's no denying it - prices go up.

So how can all of the grocery chains ever keep their promise of putting down prices and keeping them down? Well, to put it simply, they can't. They will be able to in the short term, but only by increasing the cost of other items - quietly, so you won't notice.

In the end, though, you'll be paying just as much as before, and eventually even more. I think what upsets me most about the supermarket's lazy campaigns is not that they're doing it, but the fact that you people keep falling for it. Honestly, when Woolworths proclaimed, "We're knocking down prices!", we should have collectively told them that they needed to try harder.

But oh well. At least Aldi doesn't bother with this bullsh-

I give up.

© 2012 by The Free Man

Monday, June 25, 2012

Gosh, if Only Supermarkets Offered Fresh Food

This probably won't come as a shock, but I watch a lot of TV. As such, I'm exposed to a lot of advertisements. Still, even someone who's never watched TV in their life could probably name Woolworths' slogan:

It's nothing short of a classic slogan - it's been used in Australia for 25 years, according to Wikipedia. Anyway, let's now move on to Woolworths' biggest competitor, Coles. I'm sure they're using an equally innovative slogan!

Seriously Coles? "Freshness"? Come on, you can do better than that. All you've done is just reworded Woolworths' slogan! All right, well, maybe we need to try a smaller chain of grocery stores - they must be doing something different to stand out from Coles and Woolies. How about Foodland, a supermarket in South Australia and the Northern Territory?

Son of a bitch. Surely they can't all be doing this? Let's try Bi Lo. Haven't heard from them in a while - wonder what clever advertising campaign they've-

Crap. Okay - last chance. Surely the Independent Grocers of Australia (IGA) group doesn't bang on about freshness, do they?

Phew. But hang on - if you go to IGA's website ( you get redirected to their front page. Fair enough. But look at what the URL has changed to:

Unbelievably, they feel the need to squeeze the word "fresh" in the address bar, of all places. There's not a single mention of freshness anywhere on IGA's front page, but it appears there's some law against not having the word "fresh" in your marketing if you're a supermarket.

Look, supermarkets who aren't Woolworths, I realise it can't be easy fighting Woolworths, but you have to at least try to make an effort. I'll even let you in on a secret: having the right product is only one seventh of the marketing battle. Never forget to emphasis your price, your place (location), your promotions, your people, your processes or your physical evidence (that's the Seven P's of Marketing, in case you're wondering).

I mean, I don't know about you, but when I go to the supermarket and see fresh food on the shelves, it's what I'm expecting - it's not a surprise. I have never once stepped into Woolworths and screamed, "My God, fresh food! What a novel idea!"

© 2012 by The Free Man

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Something Worse Than Family Guy? It's Possible.

I don't think I've made it a secret on this blog that I hate Seth MacFarlane's shows - particularly Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know this isn't because I object to gross-out humour or crass comedy. No, what I object to is bad comedy. Particularly bad comedy that everyone else seems to think is brilliant.

Speaking of which, Seth MacFarlane is bringing out a movie! Luckily, he's not subjecting us to Family Guy: The Movie (yet), but it's instead a movie called Ted, about a teddy bear who comes to life and does "funny" things. Behold, the official trailer:

 (If you have a YouTube account, you may want to check out the restricted trailer as well - same gags, more swearing)

As you can see, the premise of the movie is that we have a teddy bear who acts like an asshole. He drinks, he smokes, he takes drugs. Oh, how hilarious. Did you see that bit where he mimed having sex? You see, it's funny because teddy bears are normally associated with innocence! How clever!

Okay, okay, let's calm down and start from the beginning.

So, as the trailer starts, we see a kid making a wish for his teddy to come alive. A voiceover explains that magic exists and that a young boy's wish is the most powerful thing on Earth (bad luck girls!). See, immediately we have a problem. Will the existence of magic be brought up again in the movie? I doubt it. You can't just do stuff that defies the laws of science, say "it's magic", and never discuss it again. Ted, unlike Harry Potter or Star Wars (other works of fiction with supernatural elements), seems to be set in our world. You can't just bring teddies to life because a kid made a wish! He doesn't even make a wish in a wishing well, or over a birthday cake - he just wishes! Is that the secret? If that's the case, I wish Seth MacFarlane had never been born.

Anyway, so the bear comes to life and we flash forward to when they're both grown up. We see Ted smoking drugs. Laughing yet? Then this flashes on the screen:

...which really is not something I'd be advertising if I was in charge of marketing this film. Then, finally we hear Ted speak and, I kid you not, it is the exact voice of Peter Griffin. Now, I'm not suggesting voice acting is easy, but couldn't he have picked ANY other voice? Of course not, we need to remind people at every possible opportunity that this film is by the same people guilty of Family Guy.

So then we see Ted driving (how his feet reach the pedals is never explained) and having an accident. "That's my bad - I was sending a tweet." You get it? He's mentioning Twitter, a website people use! How funny! Gosh, if that's the secret to comedy, then I guess all I need to do is walk around saying "Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, Wikipedia!" and I'll start getting movie deals.

Next we see the protagonist's boss say hello to the teddy bear. Wait, what? So the main character doesn't even hide Ted from the public? How is he not hugely famous? He has a teddy bear that talks - something that doesn't have a brain, skeleton or any internal organs is not only speaking, but DRIVING A CAR. Again, I'd like to point out this is supposed to be our world, not a fanciful one like Toy Story. We don't see any other walking, talking toys in the trailer, and I'm willing to bet my entire readership of three that there won't be any in the full film.

We see a quick gag of Ted touching a breast (get it? It's funny because normally women don't like you touching their breasts!) before seeing Mila Kunis urging the main guy to kick Ted out. Kick him out? Lady, are you nuts? Put the thing on television and make millions of dollars!

Cue more stuff that supposed to be funny because a teddy bear is doing it, not a person - hanging out with hookers, getting embarrassed by a hug - before we come to what has to be the worst part of the trailer, Ted miming having sex with a cash register scanner. I honestly cannot believe I just typed that. What's worse is that the girl he's doing this in front of finds it funny. Lord knows I'm no expert on women, but I guarantee that if I did that in front of a girl at work she wouldn't be laughing, she'd be screaming.

 Behold, the height of comedy: an aroused teddy bear

Then, after the cast names flash across the scene, we see Ted and Mark Wahlberg get into a very violent fist fight, which is not only not funny or exciting, it's not even original - Family Guy did the same thing when Stewie beat up Brian in the 2006 episode Patriot Games. I realise in that instance it was a baby beating up a dog, but it is the same gag - something that's traditionally innocent, doing something very adult.

But this simply isn't funny. Comedy is supposed to defy your expectations, not just take something that traditionally does one thing and have it do another. Would it be funny if came up to you in the street and said "A vegetarian walks into a restaurant and orders a steak"? No, because there's no punchline. If I said "A vegetarian walks into a restaurant and orders a steak, and the waiter replies, 'Sorry, we're all out, there's a Hindu festival this time of year' ", then we're getting somewhere, because at least now we have a reversal of expectations and a punchline - though I realise it's not very good.

I think, dear reader, what offends me just as much as the bad comedy is the lack of originality here. I mean, Supernatural had a talking, alcoholic, suicidal teddy bear back in 2008. Now, I'm not saying just because something similar was done doesn't mean nobody else can try it, but Seth MacFarlane didn't even try to make an effort here. If you're desperate for good, original comedy involving a traditionally innocent creature doing naughty things, look no further than Wilfred - either the original version or the US remake. Wilfred is far from being excellent comedy, but it has its moments. What makes it so much better than Ted, though, is the fact that the dog can talk isn't just explained away by "magic" - in a rather clever bit of writing, it's up to the viewer to decide whether it's real, a hallucination, schizophrenia, alcohol or any number of other reasons.

Please, please, don't see Ted when it comes out. Seth MacFarlane has already ruined comedy on television - we don't want him to extend his poor, crass and unfunny writing to film as well. Once again, I'm not against crass comedy or toilet humour. What I'm against is bad writing.

© 2012 by The Free Man

(Oh, and before any of you idiots say, "THAT'S JUST YOUR OPINION!", I'd like to re-iterate that opinion may be 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.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Informal Voting is Not the Height of Cleverness

If you do this when you vote... don't get to criticise the current government. It's that simple.

You know what I'm getting really sick of? People who do informal votes and think it's the height of cleverness. You see, the state I live in recently had an election, and it's the first election I've ever seen something like the above photo. I'm not actually friends with the person who posted this photo - one of my friends "liked" it, so it appeared in my news feed, which, to put it mildly, caused me some distress.

But let's analyse this for a moment: the person who posted this photo obviously felt that of all the candidates in his or her electorate, none of them were worth voting for, right? One would hope this person researched the policies of the Labor Party, the Liberal National Party, the Greens, One Nation and Katter's Australia Party, but I'd say this person saw the TV ads for the two major parties and decided neither of them were good enough, so he or she just decided not to vote. Genius!

Or not. In Australia, when you vote for a third party you never - EVER - "throw your vote away" (as long as you still do a formal vote). Unlike, say, the United States, in Australia elected politicians are not simply whoever has the most votes. We have a system called "Two Party Preferred", where a candidate must get a majority (i.e. more than half) of the vote to claim victory. Like this:

IRV = Instant Runoff Voting (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

(There's also a pretty good video here, if you're still not quite sure how it works)

The point I'm so laboriously trying to make here that when you vote for a third party, you're not "throwing your vote away". Of course, most of these third parties are full of lunatics, but if you honestly feel that neither major party and all of the third parties are not worthy of your vote, it still does not give you the right to waste your vote.

Why? Well, because in many countries there are people who would kill - and in some countries, people are killing - for the chance to have free, open and fair democratic elections. They would love to have the chance to choose their leaders. But who cares about those losers, right? It's their fault for being born in a third world country. You want to post a funny picture on Facebook, and you'll be damned if you're going to let guilt about the third world get in the way.

When you throw away your vote (like in the above picture), you also give up the right to criticise whichever government ends up forming office. For example, if the candidate I voted for gets in and does a shocking job, I can always say, "Well, I'm not voting for him/her again, he/she is hopeless!" The reverse is true again, if the candidate I didn't vote forgets in and does a shocking job, I can always say, "I'm glad I didn't vote for him/her! I voted for someone else - if only everyone else was as clever as me!" (this viewpoint is a great one to have, as you can act all smug and superior around your friends).

But if you don't vote for anybody? Then sorry, you had your chance to decide who was the better candidate. If you can't make a decision when it actually matters at the polling booth, you do not get to criticise whoever ends up getting elected. At all. Because, by wasting your vote, you are saying that you do not care about the government, and they can do whatever they want.

There is, of course, a third option, and that to run for office yourself. Yeah, I know it's not easy - there's registration fees, paperwork and so on - but they don't want everyone running for office, only the truly dedicated. If you honestly feel that YOU could do a better job than any the candidates, then YOU should run. If you don't want to run, then you need to choose from the people who ARE running.

It's that simple.

Now, I've heard (and seen - I've worked in a few polling booths in my time) that the system we use, democracy, is the problem, and we shouldn't support such a flawed system. "I don't want to vote when voting itself is the problem!" people cry. I don't deny that democracy has its flaws, but as Winston Churchill said, "...democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."

Yes, it's flawed, but what better way is there? If you forbid certain people from voting, then that brings up the problem of elitism - just because you live in a certain area or have a different skin colour shouldn't preclude you from voting. I know, you're not suggesting we ban based on geography or race, but it's incredibly difficult to judge who should be allowed to vote and who shouldn't. Everyone should have any an equal say, no matter how dumb their ideas may be. Unless you're suggesting all human beings shouldn't be treated equally? The United Nations disagrees. Or maybe you're suggesting that humans should be treated equally, but that doesn't mean everyone should have their say? The United Nations still disagrees.

I also find informal votes greatly disrespectful to Australia. Voting is part of our national identity, just like freedom of speech, the right to an education, and so forth. Treating the vote as a joke is just like treating the national anthem or the flag as a joke. Australia is by no means perfect, and neither is our system of government, but it's a hell of a lot better than some places in the world.

 If you want to fire people up, start talking about the flag

I realise I've covered a lot here, but this is actually one of the few issues that will get a truly angry response from me in public. Sure, I've complained about Family Guy a lot in the past, but at least that show isn't telling people to throw away something that is a privilege, not a right, to posses (yet). So the next time you feel like being a comedian and wasting your vote, print this checklist and bring it with you to the polling booth:

© 2012 by The Free Man

    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    New Girl, Old Ideas

    So, New Girl, starring Zooey Deschanel. Is it any good? According to the critics, it's pretty decent. But let's step back for a moment and compare New Girl with a show that was first made over sixty years ago, I Love Lucy:

    I don't recall ever being more appalled by a TV show, and that's saying something. Despite the title, New Girl offers anything but fresh ideas. Hell, it wouldn't have offered fresh ideas if it aired sixty years ago!

    Let's start with (as always) the characters. If you're on the ball, you've probably guessed New Girl is all about a girl. Jess (Zooey Deschanel), our "hero", has just discovered her boyfriend is cheating on her, so she leaves him and moves in with three men she's never met before, rather than ANY of her friends. Right away we have a major problem: the very premise of the series is flawed. Jess moves in with three guys she's never met because she needs a place to stay. This is despite the fact that (a) she's shown to have female friends and (b) she has a full time job, and could likely afford a small apartment.

    See, folks, my main issue with New Girl is the girl herself. She's such a weak female character. As the chart above shows, we had stronger leading ladies on television sixty years ago. I realise that not all women in fiction need to be Buffy's or Xena's, but even Rachel in early seasons of Friends had some strength to her character. Sure, she was naive, but she was determined. Its the same with Daphne in Frasier and Elliot in Scrubs: these women aren't very confident women, but they're determined, dammit! They at least know what they want in life, they realise their shortcomings and acknowledge they need to get past them if they want to achieve their goals. By comparison, Jess is such a stupid flake that I cannot sympathise with her at all. When she discovers her boyfriend cheating on her, unlike Elliot, Daphne, Rachel, Lucy, Xena or Buffy, who would have at least yelled at the boyfriend; Jess breaks down and moves away. That's right: she kicks herself out, despite the fact he's the one cheating on her.

    The marketing for New Girl labels Jess as "adorkable" (someone's been reading TV Tropes), but I just find her weird. Many of her quirks don't come off as funny, adorable, or even dorky - they're just bizarre, as if someone who's never known a dork in their entire life is trying to imagine what a nerd is like. In one episode, she shoves in fake teeth and speaks with an English accent. Is this supposed to be funny? In the pilot, she tells her friend on the phone her name is "Two Boobs Johnson". Again... funny? While situations like these do indeed paint Jess as an (exceptionally) awkward girl, they certainly don't make her funny. Compare her with another character who's almost always awkward, Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. He, at least, makes you laugh when he's awkward. Like when he explains that he went to the sperm bank in the pilot or when he tries to hug Penny after she gives him Spock's DNA:

    "Look Leonard, Sheldon's hugging me!"

    You can't just make your character "weird" and expect people to find him or her funny. If you are sitting at home, laughing at Jess and thinking, "It's funny because she's different to me!", then please never, ever, have children. Trust me, you'll be doing the human race a favour.

    Another issue I have is that Zooey Deschanel is supposed to be this massive nerd, yet she's clearly quite attractive:

    How... hideous!

    This is the same problem I had with Ugly Betty. If you're going to have a character that's supposed to be unattractive, why don't you hire an actress who's not smoking hot? I get that we don't want to see ugly people on TV, but to Ugly Betty's credit, they at least gave the actress braces, glasses and bizarre clothes. A big plot point of New Girl is that Jess has trouble attracting men, yet even in the context of the show, this is ridiculous. Here is an actual shot of Zooey's character from episode three:

    By this point, I'm just using it as an excuse to type "Zooey Deschanel" into Google Images

    I simply cannot accept that any heterosexual red-blooded male would find this unattractive, unless the first words out of her mouth are, "I have a poop fetish". Even then, she is one attractive lady, so there'd probably still be a few. Making it worse is the fact that Jess' best friend in the show is a model (!), so don't try and justify her shortcomings by her social awkwardness - she just needs to go to one club with her friend and she's sure to get a phone number or twelve.

    You may be sitting there thinking, "LOL THIS IS JUST THE START OF THE SHOW. JESS' CHARACTER WILL EVOLVE AND BECOME MORE CONFIDENT!", but you're missing the point of early episodes of a TV series, which is to make us identify with and like the characters. Going back to Friends, Rachel was homeless, penniless and had just run out on her wedding in the pilot episode, yet the writers established her as a strong woman by having her run out on her wedding - she made the decision to leave, it wasn't thrust upon her because her fiancee cheated on her - she couldn't see a future with this man. Most of Rachel's screentime in the first season was then dedicated to her finding a job and finding her independence. This is how you start a character's arc.

    Now, before I finish, there may still be some people giving the Family Guy defence: "Who cares about story? All I want is to laugh." To you, I say, well, if you don't care about story, then why are you watching a TV show at all? There's a little thing called YouTube with a couple of million funny videos on it - why don't you just watch that for half an hour instead? Because while you may claim you don't care about story, you obviously do. Otherwise, you wouldn't be watching a scripted television show.

    While I do appreciate the fact that scripted comedies are being made, and I always like it when a show is bold enough not to use canned laughter, New Girl commits the heinous sin of trying to be funny, rather than just being funny. Jess isn't a believable character, and every time the writers try to make her funny, it just falls flat. Avoid.

    © 2012 by The Free Man

    Sunday, January 22, 2012

    Saying Something is Un-Australian is Un-Australian

    Do you like to gamble? Do you like to "have a punt"? Do you like to piss all of your money away every week? Do you like to go into debt? Do you like you children to starve, all so your local footy club can install gold-plated toilets? Well, if you don't, YOU'RE UN-AUSTRALIAN!

    Yes, you knew I'd have to talk about it eventually: the pokies crap we've had to put up with since the last federal election. For those unaware, basically the government wants to curb problem gambling in Australia, and they're focusing their efforts on "pokies" (slot machines). There's a number of ways they're considering doing it, but the most likely was going to be mandatory pre-commitment, i.e., you tell the machine how much you're going to lose before you give up.

    Makes sense, right? After all, nobody gambles in order to lose money, so once you've hit your limit, the machine forces you to stop, and you walk away with still enough money to buy, you know, food for your children.

    So I was a a bit surprised when I saw advertisements like this suddenly pop up everywhere...


    And tying it all together is the call to action, a website that just screams thoughtful and mature:

    Yup, that's right folks! Apparently, if people can't lose colossal amounts of money on pokies, then society will break down! Seriously though, I can't recall ever having seen a more obnoxious series of advertisements. You don't have to have an advertising degree to tell that there are two basic messages here:
    1. Introducing mandatory pre-commitment pokies will lower the revenue of clubs
    2. Introducing such a scheme is against the values of Australia
    First, let's look at point number one: yes, the clubs probably will lose money. But you know what? Tough. Quite simply, local sports clubs are not casinos, they are SPORTS CLUBS. They exist not to be a community hub for gambling, but to support whichever sports team they're attached to. I simply cannot accept that of all the billions of dollars clubs rake in thanks to pokies, all of it goes to subsidising food, drink and junior sport.

    "But what if some of the money goes to junior sport? Isn't that worth it, then?" Quite simply, no. There's so many things wrong with money raised through gambling to support children I don't even know where to begin. Why not have, I don't know, a bake sale to raise money? A sausage sizzle? Even a raffle? (which, I know, is still gambling, but you stand to lose a lot less in a raffle than a poker machine). Isn't that more... Australian?

    But onto the second point: the common theme, throughout all of these ads, is that the proposed laws are "Un-Australian". It's un-Australian to restrict people's gambling, is it? Well, I did some research here. I had a look at the Australian constitution on the Parliament House website. And the values of Australia from the Department of Immigration. Nowhere did I find a reference to pissing away money on gambling being part of Australia!

    So how on Earth can the clubs reasonably claim that what the government is proposing is un-Australian? The answer is as obvious as it is depressing: because it works. The clubs somehow scrounged up billions of dollars for a gigantic advertising campaign to convince everyone the proposed laws were a bad idea (where they got the money from, I have no idea) and now, the government has backed down and said they'll be modifying the laws.

    I am actually quite offended as to how well this advertising campaign worked. Why? Because most people don't even care about the damn legislation. At the time of writing, "It's Un-Australian" (the official page) on Facebook has 5 858 likes (an insignificant amount, for those of you unfamiliar with Facebook), which is just 0.03% of the population of Australia. For comparison, the page "Australia Needs An R18+ Classification On Video Games!" has a staggering 24 314 likes - almost five times the amount of "It's Un-Australian".

    So, obviously, when you see something you don't like, the solution is to just say it's un-Australian. It doesn't matter if said activity is not actually part of Australia's culture, you just have to associate it with things that are part of Australia's culture (like beer, sport and clubs), and hey presto, you win! This gives me an idea...

    © 2012 by The Free Man
    Postscript: If you'd like a more humourous take on the pokies legislation, check out The Chaser's discussion of the issue.