Misanthropy

Jamie knew he was guilty of arrogance and misanthropy, but he compensated by being kind to strangers and tipping really well at restaurants.

Ok, I didn’t write that. Sherman Alexie did. But sometimes I do think that way about myself.

Regular readers might recall my trying to help a stranger 2 months ago. I never saw that $20 again.

Today I was walking down Collins Street after work when this girl came over to me and asked if I could spare any change. The voice sounded familiar. I turned to look at the girl – it was the girl I “lent” $20 to two months ago.

“You have got to be kidding!”, I said to her.

“What?” she said. I found I was still walking, and she was chasing after me!

“You still owe me $20 that you ‘borrowed’ months ago!”, I said.

She continued to follow, staring at me, and said, “I….I don’t know what you’re … what you’re talking about”.

She stopped following. I long ago realised I’d never get that money back, and I actually felt sad for her. She was with another girl – the other girl looked like a druggy.  The other girl then chased me and asked me, “Could you help us out?”.  I said no – a little pissed off.

I continued walking, and was confronted by a third person asking for money. What is going on in Collins Street?  I ignored this person.  I was still feeling quite annoyed.

I then saw the girl meet up with the druggy girl, and some other new guy who was carrying something in a manner that suggested he stole it off someone (sort of a ‘look what I scored, quick, put it back in my pocket’).  That’s four beggars on one journey down Collins Street.  Those 3 ran off ahead of me together – probably to work another street.

A few minutes later a guy I regularly see asked me if I could spare a dollar. I said no.

Then I felt really bad. He wasn’t part of that group, had a kind face, and he’s never been pushy. He didn’t lie to me, he just asked for a dollar. I shouldn’t have let those other 3 upset me. So, I’m sorry to that homeless guy – next time I see him I’ll give him some extra money.

See – people like that girl ruin it for everyone. I don’t think I am really misanthropic, though perhaps I wish I could be.

With a capital C

Sadly, Michael Jackson passed away last week. I was a fan, so a sad day.

A large memorial was planned and televised around the world. Although I was a fan, I wasn’t a big enough fan to tune in to the telecast in the early hours of the morning here in Australia. But I did happen to see a repeat telecast in the afternoon.

So, a little about the memorial. First, the memorial was Classy with a capital C. I mean, you had a gold coffin:

And all the men in the family wore a single silver glove:

But this post isn’t about the Jackson family and their cashed-up-bogan style. It’s actually all about Channel 7 – the Australian Free-to-air commercial television network that has its own style as classy as the Jackson’s.

Take a look back at those stills. We have a 7 network logo in the top left hand corner. Nice. Subtle.

Then look at the bottom left hand corner. Oh, classy. A hat, glasses and silver glove – just like Michael Jackson. Taking up almost a quarter of the screen. And on screen continuously throughout the broadcast.

Yep, that’s right – two “watermarks” on screen throughout the broadcast. Nice one Seven. That big orange and black one was nice and subtle.

But that’s not all. This is Seven’s SD channel. What’s on the HD Channel? Let’s take a look:

Oh they didn’t? Oh yes they did. An obscure 1940’s black and white movie, 4:3, scratchy as hell. Nice one Seven. Great use of that HD channel of yours.

Free-to-air television in Australia is Crap.  With a capital C.

The Kindness of Strangers

It was around 8:30pm. I’d been asked by my boss to attend an award presentation in his place that night as he was overseas. The awards were over and I was heading home.

I was walking down towards Southern Cross Station when this woman stopped me in the street. She was reasonably well dressed, holding only car keys, and she told me this long story about how her car had run out of petrol, she was parked in a clearway zone, and she had stupidly left her wallet in the office. As it was late, no one was in the office, and she had no money to pay for a can of petrol to get her car going again. Could I help her?

To put my state of mind into perspective here, in the past week a good Samaritan in Melbourne had come to the aid of someone being beaten up by a gang of men. The gang turned on him, chased him down and stabbed him to death. This story had really disturbed me – there are so many stabbings these days in Melbourne, and people trying to help others keep being punished for it. People used to look out for one another, and now people are too scared to do anything.

The woman’s story sounded like it could be a con. But I wanted to believe it wasn’t. I wanted to prove that people… strangers… can help one another. If she was telling the truth, I wanted to help her.

She promised that if I could help her out, and gave her my business card, she would return the money to me in the morning as she worked in the city. So I gave her $20 and my card. As I did so I figured, whatever the outcome, it would make a good blog article.

I never saw her again.

Now that could have been the end of this article. A warning not to help people. But it damn well isn’t.

I didn’t just laugh it off. I’ve felt mightily pissed off all week. Not because she conned me out of $20. I’m really upset because I wanted to be proven right that there are good people out there, people who tell the truth, people helping other people. And people like this woman make it harder and harder for people like me to continue believing in people.

This woman was worse than the angry homeless guy I often see who asks you for money, you give him $2, and he then asks you to make it $20 every time. At least he isn’t pretending to be anything more than an angry homeless guy without any money.

I know we have a global financial crisis, and people are hurting a little, but how do people like this live with themselves? How can someone feel good about taking money from someone who was trying to help them? What happened to the grifter’s code of “Never con an honest man”?

Some will call me a sucker, but I’m determined to keep trying to help people. I don’t want to live in a society where you can’t trust anyone. And I still want to believe.

Why must I have a religion?

I’ve had the same discussion with a number of friends over the years, and after yet another discussion a few weeks back I thought I’d vent. The discussion goes something like this:

Friend: What religion are you?
Me: I have no religion. I’m an atheist.
Friend: Right. So ‘atheism’ is your religion.
Me: Er….no. Atheism isn’t a religion.
Friend: Oh yes it is!

At this point I grab the dictionary.

Me: I’m looking at my dictionary. It says “Religion – the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods“. That isn’t atheism.
Friend: Oh yes it is. You have a belief. A belief that there is no God.

At this point I’ve sometimes made a little joke.

Me: I believe there isn’t a Santa Clause. Does that make my belief a religion?
Friend: Santa isn’t a superhuman controlling power!
Me: He can deliver toys to all the kids in the world in a single night! That’s superhuman!

Ok, enough with the jokes:

Me: Anyway, I don’t have a belief that there isn’t a God. I lack a belief that there is a God. That is very different.
Friend: The “superhuman controlling power” for atheism is nature. It created life from no life. It controls evolution.
Me: Because someone is an atheist doesn’t mean they believe in evolution.
Friend: I’d say the majority of athiests would believe in evolution.
Me: This argument is flawed. According to the dictionary, I would need a belief in a superhuman power and I would need to worship that power. I do none of that. ‘Atheism‘, by definition, is a lack of ‘theism‘. Theism is the belief in the existence of a god or gods.
Friend: Well that isn’t how I would define atheism.

So that’s just great. How can I win if the person I’m arguing with is now making up their own definition of atheism?

Another friend after this discussion asked me this question in all seriousness:

Friend: If you are an atheist, what stops you from going out and raping and murdering people?

Now that is scary.

So anyway, I’m not saying other people can’t have a religion – you are welcome to believe in whatever you want. I’m just saying I have no religion. Why do people who are religious insist that I must have a religion? I accept that you have one – why can’t you accept I don’t? People with a religion insist that they have a right to religious freedom. Where is my right to irreligious freedom?!

TV Week Logie Awards 2009

It’s become a tradition at Curmi the Blog to give a review of Australian TV’s “Night of Nights” each year. I’d hate to disappoint, so here it is.

What the Fuck?

I had considered just posting that.  But I love a good whinge, so I couldn’t resist posting more.  Where the hell do I start?

The Host

In 2006 we had 5 hosts at the Logies. In 2007 we had 3. Last year we had no hosts. This year we went back to 1. That host was ex-Big Brother host Gretel Killeen.

Let’s face it – Gretel is a crap host.  She’s annoying, she speaks down to people, she’s annoying, she’s not funny, she’s annoying.  And this year she was sporting a hairdo like a Vulcan. Ok, maybe I take back the fact that she isn’t funny.

I’m not sure if she writes her own material. If she does, the network shouldn’t let her. If she doesn’t, the network needs to fire the comedy team they used.  Because there was little that came out of her mouth that was funny throughout the night. But then there was little that came out of anyone’s mouth last night that was funny.

To try and make her more interesting, someone decided it would be good to have her change her dress every couple of ads. Works for me when I have to give a presentation on software development.  Here’s a selection of Gretel’s clothing changes. I didn’t include the one where she had cotton wool all over her to make it look like she was stuck in a cloud (that came from a painful sketch involving her falling through heaven).

Wil Anderson once described Gretel as “mutton dressed as hooker”.  I’ll say no more.

Overseas Guests

You know, I’ve been critical each year about the Logies bringing over overseas guests to try and make the night more interesting. I’ve always believed we should be able to stand on our own and celebrate Australian TV.  This year we almost did just that.

We had Jessica Mauboy to start off the show. She chose to sing a song that didn’t sound totally like an American pop song with a Black American rap half way through, so that was good. Unfortunately it looked and sounded like she mimed it (I could be wrong though – see below on sync issues).

We had Tom Burlinson – best known for his role in “The Man From Snowy River”. I thought his singing was piss poor, but at least he was another Australian.

It was looking good, but then we got Annie Lennox.  I’d like to say she was crap, but I’d have to say she was probably the only good thing the entire night.  Go Australia!

Comedy

I was in pain. The audience looked to be in pain.  And then we had The Umbilical Brothers. Mime is generally not funny. It doesn’t get funny just because you add silly sound effects to it. And it doesn’t become comedy gold when you spend 5 minutes adding stupid voiceovers and sound effects to the nominee videos. One minute of that crap would have been enough – I’m betting many people turned over at this point thinking they were watching Australia’s Funniest Home Videos.

Every comedy routine was painful to watch, and I think Matthew Newton said it best when he, after yet another pre-scripted routine failed, turned to the camera and quipped:

Who said Vaudeville’s dead?

If only The Logies were dead.

Out of Sync

Ok, here is my biggest whinge. Watching the presentation on 9HD, the audio and video were out of sync. Only minor sync issues with the live presentation, but whenever there was a pre-recorded segment, the segment was totally out of sync. It was painful to watch, and I know of someone who changed to another station completely because he couldn’t handle it.

Now, it could be my TV tuner (inbuilt Sony HD tuner), but the commercials were in sync, and shows before and after the logies were in sync. So the question is, why can’t Channel 9 get this stuff right? Do they not have someone who watches their stuff on a normal TV so they can tell them when things aren’t working? My guess is that everyone at 9 was watching Borat on Channel 10.

So, I may have been unjust in dismissing Jessica Mauboy as having mimed her song. It could have just been a sync issue.  Sorry Jessica.

Highlights

This is tough.  I would say this was the worst Logies I have ever seen, and I’ve seen some shockers. But the highlights were probably:

  • Kerry O’Brien sober.
  • Don Lane’s son PJ looking quite unhappy when Rove referred to him as “gorgeous”.
  • The Cadbury ad during the commercials with the two kids with dancing eyebrows.

Maybe my first comment on this review said it all.

Freeview

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Australian free-to-air television is absolute rubbish. The latest promise is “Freeview”, which apparently is nothing like the “Freeview” in the UK, and is instead some crap repackaging of what we have now, with PVRs that can’t skip ads or use the EPG if they want the “Freeview” logo on them.

Anyway, here’s a great spoof of the Freeview TV commercials. Thanks Grant for sending me the link. As I’ve said before, time to revoke the free-to-air licences and let some new blood run the system!