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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

This Is Why I Don't Buy Newspapers

Against my better judgement, I ventured outside my house the other day. I know, it shocked me too. I decided that I better get some of that "sunlight" I'd heard about and went to a little town called the Gold Coast, which for my international readers, is a town you can Google if you haven't heard of. Anyway, while eating lunch, I picked up the local newspaper, the Gold Coast Bulletin, and boy was it an educational experience. After flicking through the typical Murdoch press trash that qualifies for news, I made it to the opinions page. Behold, dear reader, what qualifies for intelligent debate on the Gold Coast:

Ah, nothing like bagging the politicians, eh? It's an old chestnut, but what worries me most about this is the blatant typo in the middle of it (nat₵ion). Did nobody proofread this before the paper went to press? (Incidentally, inserting the cent symbol is pretty difficult to do - there's no key on the standard keyboard or a typical phone keypad that will allow you to do it, so I'm at a loss to understand how this could "accidentally" happen)

Overall, though, apart from the typo, not the worst letter to the editor I've read. Then I saw this charmer:

Again, we have the fact that clearly nobody proofread it (in case you weren't paying attention in grade 2, "cant" is not how you abbreviate "can not"). At first I thought this was a clever subversion, saying that kids can't spell when the writer of the letter clearly can't spell either, but then he or she blames the problems on...
  • Feminists
  • "Goo-brained lefties"
  • Lack of a "dad in the home"
I don't claim to be a feminist myself, but last time I checked, feminists and women in general were not advocating for a reduction in literacy and numeracy skills. Blaming "lefties" (Labor/Greens) is also amusing, considering Australia's federal government and most of Australia's state governments are, in fact, right-wing (Liberal) at the moment. Come to think of it, wasn't there a left-wing government that was recently voted out who promised to implement a little something called Gonski? And I love the notion that a lack of a father figure in the home means children will inherently have problems, which seems to suggest that women are incapable of raising children on their own.

Anyway. On to letter number three. Surely there's some intelligent discussion in this paper?


God, more spelling errors? How hard would it have been to capitalise Simon and Jody's names, use the correct "you're" on line five, use the correct "it's" on line six and spell "won't" correctly on line eight? I know it seems like I'm harping on spelling and grammar a lot here, but this isn't some blog nobody reads, this is the daily newspaper for one of the biggest cities in Australia. It should have correct spelling! The Australian, for all its faults, rarely has spelling or grammar errors in its opinions sections. Good God, did I just use The Australian as a good example? But getting back to the letter, this one at least seems to be making a fair point, that raising children is an experience more pleasurable than any material goods. Maybe I was wrong about the Gold Coast Bulletin?

Then again, perhaps not.

Well, at least this one doesn't have any spelling or grammar errors, but oh boy does it worry me that opinions like this are still being considered valid. Our charming writer here wants Australian schools to bring back the cane. Never mind the United Nations has explicitly said "Violence against children, including corporal punishment, is a violation of the rights of the child" (source), this guy clearly knows better than the UN. Just because it worked "in your day", that doesn't mean it's going to work today. Following this logic, we should stop immunising children against diseases, because, hey, we managed to get by without immunisations back in the old days, right? And you know what, I'm going to make a bold claim here and say that kids today are no worse or better than kids fifty years ago. How can I make this claim? Well there's a quote I heard a while back and it's an interesting one...

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Who originally said this is debatable (some say Socrates, others say Aristophanes), but you know when it was said? Approximately 400 BC. The notion that fifty years ago, every child in school was sitting eagerly awaiting an education is pure fantasy, and the sooner we stop allowing opinions like the one above to be broadcast the better.

So, in conclusion, dear reader, I don't think I'll be subscribing to the Gold Coast Bulletin. Newspapers may not be dead yet, but if they keep printing sexist, ageist, poorly researched opinions that have multiple spelling and grammar issues, I doubt they'll be around much longer.

© 2013 by The Free Man

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Why Are We Still Arguing About Global Warming?

I have a simple question for everyone:

Why are we still arguing about global warming?

Specifically, why are we arguing whether climate change is caused by humans, and will lead to dire consequences? During the last election, this chestnut got dragged out again for people to argue about, and recently The Dark Side of the Blog's old friend, Media Watch, talked about an article in The Australian that said the dangers of climate change had been exaggerated. Media Watch proved The Australian was very wrong, and you'd think that would be the end of it, but then Andrew Bolt came out and slammed Media Watch for daring to be pro-climate change. Then, a little later, Alan Jones began parroting The Australian's article in his usual alarmist fashion.

Now, I've previously discussed the frustrating attitude some people have towards climate change - it basically amounts to this...

I understand that it's a part of human nature to just pretend scary things don't exist. And look, I'm not saying we all stop driving out cars and become tree-hugging luddites. However, as far as I'm concerned, there are no major disadvantages to admitting climate change exists and making some changes.

"No major disadvantages?" you might say. "What about all the people who would lose their jobs if we stopped mining, stopped burning coal, stopped buying petrol cars?" I - and, dare I say, most people - are not suggesting we shut down the mining industry overnight, that would be stupid. Yet, I think even the most ardent climate change skeptic will have to admit that one day, we will run out of stuff to dig out of the ground. Obviously, nobody knows when this day will be, but at some point in the future we WILL run out of fossil fuels.

And then what? Well, we'll need to switch to renewable sources of energy like solar and wind, or energy sources not yet widely used, like hydrogen or nuclear. Naturally, though, switching energy sources will be a difficult and expensive process if all done at once.

So here's my point: we have nothing to lose by starting to switch to renewable sources of energy now. Already I can hear the first argument against: "Cleaner energies are more expensive!". Well, sure, now they are, but I personally don't mind spending an extra $5 a week on cleaner energies. If it's really that expensive, why not have one less beer or one less packet of cigarettes a week? Just cut down on the luxuries guys, it's not hard.

And anyway, the key word above is starting. At the moment, cleaner energies are more expensive, but that's because they don't have the existing equipment, experience and marketing power that the fossil fuel companies have. If we offer incentives (such as rebates) and introduce taxes (like carbon taxes) it will help these cleaner sources of energy become more competitive. And then, as more and more people begin to buy them, they will become cheaper to produce (that's a little thing called economies of scale, in case you're wondering).

Seriously, what do we stand to lose? Even if the scientific consensus on climate change is wrong (which is extremely unlikely, but, let's face it, the scientific community has been wrong before), we will be reducing our reliance of fossil fuels in the long run. Isn't that a good thing? It may be easy to stick our heads in the sand now and say, "Well, I'm not going to have to worry about the day we run out of fossil fuels, that's hundreds of years from now", but this is a very selfish attitude. I would like to leave the world as a better place than when I entered it, not in an even worse state. Look, I even prepared a flow chart!

As I said at the end of my last rant on climate change skeptics: Australia has a responsibility as a developed nation to do the right thing. We have 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.

© 2013 by The Free Man

Further reading:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Aren't There Enough Washed-Up Celebrities Here in Australia?

This may come as a shock, dear reader, but I watch television (I know, I hide it well). Sadly this also means I see a lot of ads, and I've noticed a disturbing trend lately. First, it was a series of ads for KFC with Joel Madden from Good Charlotte:

Click here to see the original ad. Caution: Joel Madden attempts to act.

If you haven't seen them, the ads are pretty dull, basically Joel Madden serves people in a KFC drive-thru. I'm not sure what message KFC wants to get across here: that celebrities want to work there? That their drive-thru staff are fun and wacky? That they're cool? (this must be it, nothing says cool like a sideways cap).

Anyway, what really bothers me about the ad is that this is an Australian campaign, with an American celebrity endorsement. Couldn't we have gotten some washed-up rocker from Australia for the campaign?

I guess I can let that one slide - after all, KFC is an American company, perhaps they'd just recycled a campaign they'd used in the US. A few weeks later, though, I saw this ad with Eric Stonestreet (Cam - the fat gay guy - from Modern Family) for Big W:

Click here to view the ad. Caution: it's stupid and irritating

To this ad's credit, it's obviously got a clear message: that even big-shot celebrities would find Big W amazing. But again, I have to ask, why is this American guy promoting an Australian company? Granted, Modern Family is popular here, but surely the public isn't stupid enough to believe Eric Stonestreet actually shops at Big W?

Oh, but it gets worse. Just recently, Target has started a new campaign featuring Gok.

Click here to view the original ad. Caution: Gok's in it

Yeah, I hadn't heard of Gok either, but apparently he's some fashion guy from the UK. Well, at least Target bothered to get a Q-list celebrity from a country other than America. Yet again the message is unclear - is Gok endorsing Target, or is Target saying that it has no idea what its Australian consumers want and have had to bring in some guy from the UK? (probably not the latter) But putting aside the message confusion, I have to ask: why is some celebrity from the UK is endorsing Target? Until Target Australia approached Gok with their chequebook, he probably didn't even have a clue they existed. The public can't be dumb enough to think he actually shops there... can they?

Then again, they listen to this guy...

Oh, but it's not just the advertising industry that's being invaded, dear reader. Reality TV has been hit by this as well! Behold, the imported judges for The Voice:

 L-R: Seal, Ricky Martin and Joel Madden (again). Christ, does this guy not even go to America any more?

While it's annoying that they're all not from Australia, at least these people are all musicians. Where it gets stupid, though, is the imported judges for Australia's Got Talent:

L-R: Dawn French, Geri Halliwell ("Ginger Spice"). I'd like to play with her spices, if you know what I mean

We can probably assume Halliwell knows a thing or two about talent (or at least, how to trick people into thinking you have it), but Dawn French? Why is she here? Does anyone believe she gave the slightest shit about Australian TV until Channel Nine drove a dump truck full of money to her house?

Finally, here's the imported judge for The X Factor:
Stefan Gordy - oh, sorry, "Redfoo" (sigh)

Words fail me here - though I do have something to say. LMFAO produce fine music, sure, but just look at Redfoo. Obviously he's not in the business of finding new musicians, he's a performer. And even if he was interested, why would he care about finding talent in Australia? Nobody really believes he's doing this for any reason other than the money, do they?

Folks, to put it bluntly, there's way too many imported celebrities on our screens. It reminds me of this old gag from The Chaser:

Now, I have nothing against the United States (I think it's a great country), but Jesus Christ guys, this obsession with America is getting ridiculous. I hesitate to blame KFC, Big W, Target and Channels Nine and Seven too much, since they're just going with what the public wants. But I don't know about you, but if I'm going to bother shopping at an Australian store (instead of buying online) or watching some Australian TV (instead of a DVD or another Simpsons repeat), I want to get some of my own culture.

I know Australians like American culture and all (and I like it too), but if we let them invade what tiny bits of culture we have (yes, advertising and talent shows are culture, but just barely) it won't be long before McDonald's starts offering "American" food as a special promotion, as if it wasn't already an American restaurant. I mean, that idea is just so ridiculous, it'll never, ever-

Oh, forget it. Just replace the Union Jack with the Star Spangled Banner already.

© 2013 by The Free Man

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Boat People Still Drowning in a Sea of Fear

During the last federal election, I did a rant about how both sides of politics were using illegal immigrants arriving by boat to Australia as a way to get votes. Each side promised to "STOP THE BOATS", despite the fact that (as I demonstrated in the original post) boat people are:
  • Insignificant compared to other population growth (i.e. births and migration)
  • Insignificant compared to other forms of illegal immigration (e.g. people overstaying their visas)
Obviously, though, neither Julia Gillard or Tony Abbot read my blog (their loss, I suppose) because the other day I received this rather charming piece of advertising in the mail:


 Back. I question the legitimacy of these figures, as you'll see below.

Lovely, isn't it? I particularly like how they picked the most flattering pictures of Gillard and Rudd - some subtle political commentary there, eh? Anyway, dear reader, it seems I have to dig through some statistics to once again prove that boat people are not something to be alarmed about. Behold:

Sources: Australian Bureau of Statistics - Australian Social Trends (Population) and Parliament of Australia - Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976. The figures on refugee arrivals from the Parliament of Australia website differ significantly from the mail I received. I did some Googling and was unable to obtain a link to the Coalition's figures. I even contacted the coalition MP running in my seat, but he ignored my requests for information. Curious, eh?

See how the green line (illegal immigrants arriving by boat) is utterly insignificant compared to births and net migration in Australia? While there was a tiny increase in 2011-12, I'm not too alarmed since the exact same thing happened back in 1999-00.

Folks, what pisses me off here is that both political parties are using one of the most vulnerable groups in society - refugees - simply to scare people into voting for them. While I understand not everyone who arrives in Australia is a genuine refugee, many are. I said it last time, and I'll say it again (bigger this time, since the message didn't sink in):

It may be easy to think of boat people as "invaders" and "queue jumpers", but these are real people, with real emotions. They deserve to be treated as such.

Never forget that for someone to seek asylum in another country, there's got to be some pretty crazy shit going on back home. I for one would only leave my country in the most extreme circumstances - yet Labor and the Coalition want us to believe that these people are taking the easy way out. Far from it - illegal immigrants arriving by boat have exhausted every other option they can think of. Would you take your family on a flimsy boat through dangerous oceans - even if it was illegal - if it meant safety from persecution? It's not an easy decision to make, yet Labor and the Coalition would have us believe asylum seekers just woke up one morning and said, "Gee I'm bored. I think I'll go to Australia!"

They're not seeking asylum, they're seeking fun!

I'm sick to death of this scapegoating, this deception and this horrible behaviour. We have a responsibility as a developed nation to do what we can to help those less fortunate. I'm not suggesting we let just anyone waltz into the country - that would be ridiculous - but the boat people bashing has to stop. Otherwise, we run the danger of this turning into another dark chapter of Australia's history - just like the Stolen Generation or the White Australia Policy.

I, for one, would hate to say I voted for a government like that.

© 2013 by The Free Man
Further reading: You may be interested to read the myths about refugees and asylum seekers that the Refugee Council of Australia has put together.

Monday, April 8, 2013

You Bought a Jeep? Who Cares?

Dear reader, there's been a series of ads on TV lately that I'm sick to death of. They're for Jeep, and it is a possible contender for both most annoying and most pointless ad ever. Behold:

Now, just in case the video doesn't play for you, here's a transcript:
MAN: So what did you end up getting?
WOMAN: I bought a Jeep.
MAN: (Unable to believe that his partner has spent $25 000 without consulting him) You bought a Jeep?
WOMAN: Mmm hmm. I bought a Jeep.
MAN: (Panicking, as they are now in serious debt) You bought a...?
WOMAN: Yes Michael, I bought a Jeep.
(Cut to a bunch of shots of a Jeep driving around, accompanied by The Potbelleez's "Don't Hold Back")

"Why would you do that to me?"

And that's it. I hesitate to use the phrase "worst ad ever", but I'm mighty tempted. Something tells me if this was a real couple, the next few lines of the conversation would be:
WOMAN: Yes Michael, I bought a Jeep.
MAN: What the hell did you do that for? We can barely afford rent as it is, and then you go and spend an exorbitant amount of money on something that has hideous fuel economy and we're never going to take off road. And WHY didn't you at least phone me first?
WOMAN: I bought a Jeep!
MAN: God damn, the doctors warned me you weren't ready to come out... why didn't I listen to them?
WOMAN: I bought a Jeep!
MAN: I just got laid off! I'm never going to be able to afford-!
WOMAN: I bought a Jeep!
(MAN begins to weep silently, while WOMAN keeps repeating "I bought a Jeep" over and over. Fade to black, sound of a GUNSHOT is heard).


But seriously though, what's worse is that Jeep are obviously very happy with this campaign - it's been running since 2011 and they keep making ads exactly like the first. I've studied the ad with a team of scientists and I've come to the conclusion that the message Jeep seems to want to get across is that Jeeps are no longer this uber-expensive car that only the mega rich can afford - anyone can "buy a jeep".

Yet, this message isn't getting across. Just look at the comments on YouTube version of the original ad:

Update: Jeep have made the original copy of the ad "private" since this rant was posted. Clearly, they're worried about all the bad publicity I'm giving them. These comments are from the original, "private", video.

The message that Jeep wants to get across is fine, but the execution is stunningly bad. When I first heard (and, alas, as I continue to hear) "I bought a Jeep", my reaction is, "So what?" However, if the tagline of the ad was "Anyone can buy a Jeep", then it might have been an effective ad. As it stands... it's just annoying.

© 2013 by The Free Man

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Most Pointless Business Ever

So, for reasons out of my control, I had to call a human being the other day. It was a guy I'd only met once before, and I wasn't even sure I had the correct number - but it was an important phone call. I needed to speak to Frank pretty urgently. Anyway, here's what happened:

 (Phone rings)

OTHER PERSON: Hello, Jill speaking, can I take a message?

ME: (slightly thrown off) Uh... is Frank available?

OTHER PERSON: This is a messaging service, can I take a message?

ME: (still confused) But this is Frank's number, right?

OTHER PERSON: I don't know, this is a messaging service. I can confirm that this number belongs to (reads off the number I'd just typed into my phone, as if I'm an idiot who can't dial correctly). Can I take a message?

ME: Well, are you able to tell me whether he'll get back to me this afternoon? I kinda need to speak to him.

OTHER PERSON: (getting annoyed) I don't know, this is a messaging service. Can I take a message?

ME: (getting equally annoyed) But what's the point in a human answering the phone, then? I don't want to belittle your job, but it seems to me a machine could do your job just as efficiently. I'd even argue it would be more efficient, considering a recorded message could at least confirm I'd called Frank.


ME: Fine, get him to call me on this number...


I mean, Christ, I know there's a lot of pointless businesses out there, but this takes the cake. Unless you're physically incapable of answering the phone (i.e. disabled), what possible use could anyone have for a human answering machine? Surely once the answering machine was invented it made this entire industry obsolete? I realise some people are desperate for work, but how do you even explain a job like that to your friends?

© 2013 by The Free Man