Not As It Seems

During the series one finale of Broadchurch (which, if you haven’t seen yet, you should), we learned who killed Daniel Latimer. We also learned that it was unintentional. The killer (whom I will not name here) didn’t mean to kill the kid, just scare him, but got a bit carried away. But obviously, that doesn’t excuse it.

Though it begs the question: What exactly was going through the minds of the writers when they came up with that? Not to say it was a bad idea. I actually liked it. But what is the reasoning, thematically, behind framing the big murder as unintentional, rather than deliberate?

Well, let’s analyse this carefully. If the murderer deliberately killed Danny, and was thinking: “I want this little prick dead!” It would’ve made it much harder to handle. Because the idea that a complete sociopath could live a life in a small town without anyone noticing, is a bit beyond the pale, and probably more appropriate for something like Dexter.

It’s also the reason I think Gracepoint completely screwed that up. Sure, it’s even easier to believe that Danny’s death could’ve been a complete accident, but a major theme of the series was the idea that even though there’s a shell of sweetness and joy, this small town has a dark centre that’ll slowly get exposed. But Gracepoint didn’t really have a dark centre, because Danny’s death was a complete accident. The moral equivalent of a brick falling on his head. Terrible, but not intentional.

Ending what is ostensibly a thriller by revealing it was all just a horrible accident isn’t really appropriate for a dark character drama. It’s more appropriate for an episode of My Little Pony!

Oh by the way: spoiler warning. I’m going to talk about My Little Pony again. Continue reading

How the Rainbow Stole Winter

I’ll be honest, I love winter. And I doubt it’s for the reasons you think it is.

It’s not because of winter sports. Mainly because I hate sports. Although, I say that, but just this past winter, I got back into skiing, which is something I hadn’t done in over a decade, and I genuinely had a lot of fun. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get another chance this coming winter. But it’s not really something I’d go out of my way for. It was fun, but expensive, and also very uncomfortable trying to fit my freakishly large feet into those tiny metal braces. (They’re not actually metal, but they might as well be.) And then there’s the cold weather trying to bite my face off. So, honestly, I can take or leave it.

So what about Christmas? Well, let me put it this way: I’m an atheist, and I don’t like my family, and I never get any gifts unless you count cash, which I don’t. So no, I can’t say I like Christmas.

So why do I like winter? The atmosphere. The world around you becomes soft and white, like a pure cotton blanket has been delicately placed atop it. And as the outside, cold and frightful, bares down on your home, you can remain inside, with a cup of tea, and good book, next to a warm fire (or space heater, depending on the fire code), safe, cozy, and content.

Basically, I like to hibernate during the winter. In fact, there’s this island in Lake Huron called Mackinac that I visited a few times as a child. The only way on or off the island is by ferry, so once winter hits, the entire place is locked down. Because of this, I have this secret fantasy. I want to spend a winter there. Actually, I want to spend a whole year, but winter would be part of it. At home, isolated, little contact with the outside, I’d only have to leave to replenish my food reserves, which would be relatively easy since it’s a small island. To me, that would be perfect. They have a newspaper! The Town Crier! I could work as a reporter there! Or possibly manage the local digital infrastructure, or be the go-to computer repair guy. I assure you, I can pay my way in even the most isolated of communities, and I would love it! However, this fantasy is slightly kicked in the head by the fact that there’s an airport and internet connection. But cut me some slack, I’m slightly dependant on the web at this stage. Without Google, I’d probably snap. And without regular shipments from the mainland, I don’t see how I could manage a computer repair business anyway.

But you get my point, right? I love winter. It’s the only time I have an excuse to never leave the house. And I’m sure many share my perspective.

But not Rainbow Dash.

No, she hates the idea of staying inside where one won’t freeze their nipples off, which is where she comes into conflict with Tank, her pet turtle/tortoise/who-gives-a-shit!? Because apparently, he’s planning to hibernate for the winter. And she does not like it. Continue reading

The Filly Who Wouldn’t Grow Up

I think I may be afraid of growing up. And that is a terrifying revelation to come to in your late 20s.

This is something I only recently noticed. Because next year, I’ll be graduating college for the second time, and I have no idea what’s going to happen. After all, my last college diploma didn’t do so well for me, if I’m honest.

For a start, I’ll have to move out of the college dorms, and I have no idea where I could move to and be able to pay for. I mean, if I don’t find a well-paying job, I might have to live is some shitty share house again! I don’t want that! Mainly because I don’t want another surly and obnoxious roommate whose major hobby is calling me a ‘fag’!

Though that’s unlikely to happen, regardless.

But can that really be defined as a fear of growing up? I’m not sure. I think it’s just fear of the unknown… fear of uncertainty… fear that I won’t be able to support myself. I’m not afraid of working, I’m afraid of not working. And given how the economy has been going these past few years, it’s not looking up.

But more than that, what if I get a job I hate? Alright, I’m getting paid, but I’m miserable at the same time, so it wouldn’t really be worth it. There comes a stage where you have to admit that the job you have is worse than starvation. I really hope I never reach that point. Then again, I’m learning IT, which is slowly making me want to live among the Amish.

Am I alone here? Almost certainly not. There are probably many people around the world genuinely afraid of what their future holds… and many ponies.

Yes, Apple Bloom. The precocious little filly who’s been spending the last several years desperate to lose her virginity– Uh, I mean, get her cutie mark, is now deathly afraid of it. Oh how times change… Continue reading

A Small Fish in a Big Pond

For some reason, these days I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Let’s Plays.’

You know what a ‘Let’s Play’ is, right? They’re those videos people post of gameplay footage, accompanied by their own boring commentary.

Generally, I watch them for the talk, because the right commentator can make even the most boring game in the world, a fascinating piece of work. Case in point: Gabe and Yahtzee, who do the ‘Let’s Drown Out’ series on YouTube. They’re entertaining, insightful, and hilarious as they talk about gaming news, answer viewer questions, and comment on random shit while one of them plays a game.

It may not sound that great, but for some reason, the formula works. And half the time I just pick a random episode and use it as background noise while I’m doing some menial stuff around the house.

One of their most recent videos featured them playing ‘Papers, Please,’ (which is a really good game, by the way) and their discussion naturally drifted toward communism. Or should I say: COMMUNISM!!! [shake fist dramatically]

That doesn’t work as well in text.

Anyway, it got me thinking about why communism has never worked in the past. And really, it all comes down to the fact that no country has ever had enough money to pull it off.

Alright, part of it is human nature. If you’re not getting rewarded for doing a good job over a bad job, why would you bother doing a good job? And if everyone gets paid the same regardless of skill set, why wouldn’t you just pick the easiest job you can find?

But let’s be honest, how many jobs out there can be described as, ‘shit’? How many jobs are lamented with the phrase, ‘it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it’? How many jobs does no one want to fucking do!?

So imagine a world where that’s no longer an issue. Imagine a world where toilets were self-cleaning, robots handled shipping and loading at factories and warehouses, where machines handled our customer service… Actually, we already got that last one, which proves my point. Eventually, that’ll become a reality, and there’ll be no demand for shit work. So what does one do? How does one earn an honest living? Well, in that world, we’ll be so bogged down with resources, we won’t care! We’ll just give you food, fuck it!

This was what was envisioned by Gene Roddenberry: the Star Trek economy. They have no money in Star Trek, so they do what they want to, not what they need to.

But why would they even bother working at all in that world? Well, for recognition, responsibilities, power, fun, or simply maintaining their own sanity! It’s not for personal gain, but personal growth.

But even with plentiful resources, there is only so much land mass on this planet. How do we control that? If we can get anything we want without working for it, how do we stop people just taking five-story mansions and claiming that as their own?

Which finally leads me to a very important point: I don’t think that’s an issue, because not only does no one person need a five-story mansion all to themselves, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t even want it if they had it!

Now, to be honest, I’m not someone you’d call ‘cheap’. I do have expensive tastes. I like fine wines, and imported Scotch Whisky. I like a good meal in a fancy restaurant, Earl Grey tea, and a well-made cup of coffee (which I still haven’t found in this town). I like a custom-tailored suit and tie, with nice shoes and a sweet hat. I like nice things. What I don’t like is a giant house with 27 rooms unless it’s a goddamn orphanage! Do you know what my dream home has? A bedroom, an office, a kitchen, a bathroom, and if I’m feeling cheeky: an entertainment room for all the entertaining I never do. And if I’m living with other people, like a wife and family for instance, we’re sharing most of that.

So why would anyone in their right mind want a house ten times bigger than they need!? Where half the time you’d enter a room and go: ‘Oh, this is new, never been in here before’? Where you can get lost on your way to the loo? Where every room just reminds you of how alone you are?

No one would want that!

And that brings us, in a roundabout way, to another episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Establishing, once again, that Twilight isn’t princess material, and for once, I mean that in a good way. Continue reading

The Stepford Ponies

I’m perplexed by conformity. This desire by some people to fit in, and be the same.

Not that I don’t understand people wanting to be part of a group. That I certainly get. We all want friends, and companionship, and what better way than by being part of a group? We are social animals after all.

No, what I don’t get is people seeing a group, and deciding to fit into it by changing who they are. That is perplexing to me. And you see this happening all the time; people adapting and giving into peer pressure, particularly teenagers. A lot of social fears are heightened at that age and the fear of being ostracised can lead someone to change their entire personality. Adapt to fit the crowd. Of course, these people are young, so they’re allowed to be stupid.

But I still see this happening, even years after I left high school. People are encouraged, and oftentimes forced, to adapt to the crowd and do things the way the majority does it. For instance, I’m currently learning Computer Programming (well, technically I’m on break right now) at college, and because of that, I have to run Windows on my laptop, even though I’d much prefer Linux. I know it’s a minor point for some, but it matters to me! However, one could argue a practical limitation here. It’s very hard to develop Windows applications on Linux.

But that’s not the only pressure I experience. For instance, I prefer open source software, and whenever I mention I don’t use Microsoft Office, people look at me like I got a third arm growing out of my chest.

I know, I know. It’s a very IT-specific point to make. I’m sure most people couldn’t give a shit about my software preferences.

But here’s my point: You shouldn’t let that happen. You shouldn’t let other people determine what makes you, you. Mainly because if we did that, we would stop being. If you’re the same as everyone else, we wouldn’t need you anymore, because we have everyone else. Which sounds very nihilistic, but it’s not untrue. What makes us important, and gives us value, is what makes us unique and different.

And I’m sure I won’t get anyone to question that. I’m sure everyone can agree that we should cherish what makes us unique. Right?

Well, perhaps not everyone. Which brings us to the fifth season première of My Little Pony! Or as I like to call it: Adventures in Stepford!

Ehh… creepy… Continue reading

We’re Gonna Take You Back To The Past

It’s been nearly two years since Edward Snowden either betrayed his country, or exposed a terrible injustice by fighting for truth and honour, depending on how you look at it.

I fall more towards the latter, if I may say. The PRISM program was a heinous case of government overreach. Not only was the NSA collecting an unprecedented amount of information on people, it was doing it without any cause to, or any apparent legal restrictions.

Now, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I mean, I’ve watched 24, and I have to admit, I found it quite impressive and cool the way Chloe and the plucky gang at CTU used clever computer tricks to defeat the terrorists; Such as hacking their emails, tracing their cell phones, spying on them through surveillance cameras, and the like. And of course, we all knew the government was doing this kinda thing… to criminals. To people who should be monitored. Heck, that was what a good chunk of NetForce was about. They monitored and tracked people who were bad people, likely to perform terrorist attacks, massive computer hacks, and digital global takeovers. And all this means is that the rhetoric badgered on by one senator who said Snowden’s revelations somehow impaired their intelligence gathering techniques is frankly bullshit! Because we all knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible. Which meant criminals also already knew, or at least suspected, that it was possible and likely operated on that assumption. So, Snowden’s revelations didn’t change how they operated. It just justified their pre-existing paranoia.

But my point is: none of this is shocking. What was shocking is that it was being done to average citizens. The U.S. government was collecting terabytes of information on millions of people around the world, without any warrant or justification. It was a shotgun approach to espionage, and it seems they were doing it just to have the information, not necessarily to do anything with it.

Which brings us to the most bizarre thing about this whole fiasco, and that is the unusual reaction I’ve heard from many corners: Who cares? Who cares if the U.S. Government is collecting our information? It’s not like they’re going to do anything with it.

And that would be a fabulous argument, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s completely beside the point! Yes, they probably won’t do anything nasty with it. They probably won’t even look at it. They’ll just store the information on some server somewhere, and just let it rot. In which case, why even collect it to begin with? They have no need to collect our information, and can easily abuse it once they do. In fact, there have been cases of exactly that happening. Cases of NSA employees spying on their girlfriends with the information gathered by the program. And that’s only the cases that have been caught. These people are spies, you think they can’t hide that shit!?

Now, it’s true that the average citizen probably isn’t dating a spy. So they don’t have to worry. But that’s not the point. The point is, they shouldn’t even be collecting this information to begin with. There are limits to what law enforcement can do, and there are reasons those limits exist! The average citizen does not have a right to spy on my Skype messages, so why should the U.S. government? And I don’t want anyone, whether it be my best friend, or some prick in some NSA dungeon somewhere, aggregating details on my porn habits.

Wanting to maintain our individual privacy should not be a big ask.

But I think I know why some people don’t care. It’s because of Facebook. Hell, all social media is to blame for this! For years sites like Twitter, MySpace, LiveJournal, have all asked people to share the intimate details of their lives, despite the fact that it’s unlikely anyone else would give two shits. And because of this, news that the NSA has been collecting the data they thought was worth sharing makes them think: Hey, it wasn’t all pointless!

People have been willingly sharing the details of their lives with strangers around the world. So what do they care if the NSA just happens to be watching as well?

So I guess it’s a generational thing. Those young people who grew up on social media don’t see a problem, while those of us who are older and wiser, do. And it makes you think: What are the limits of this? What will be the point where we just give up on privacy all together? And it might be the point where a brand new and unprecedented technology eliminates privacy for us, whether we want it to or not. Perhaps a technology that allows us to witness The Light of Other Days.

Wow, that was a contrived opening, wasn’t it?

Yes, it’s time to talk about the incredible novel of time, space and insanity by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, The Light of Other Days. And let me tell ya, I’m glad I finally get to write about an unambiguously good book for once. Continue reading

It’s a Pet Shop Blitz

One thing that strikes me about Broadchurch is that it seems no one gets along with anyone. In almost every episode, everyone is fighting with everyone else! We have feuds between families, family members, former colleagues, and whole professions!

And it very rarely seems rational.

I’d say ‘never’, but the show opens with a child being murdered, so a bit of animosity between the characters can kinda makes sense.

But that was two whole series ago. Can’t they get over it!? Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we get over our petty little differences and learn that we’re all humans, wanting to make the world a better place?

This even happens in the real world! Take France and England! They may not go to war anymore, but they still constantly find ways to get on each other’s tits! Russia and the US still glare at each other from across the Pacific Ocean. And then you have the middle east, where you can throw religion into the mix and holy fucking hell! And all these feuds are pointless, and juvenile, and they all just need get the fuck over it!

And that’s the lesson that framed another episode of Littlest Pet Shop! All about conflict, and conflict resolution! Continue reading

Another Part of Them

What is a human being capable of?

That seemed to be an underlying theme during the first series of Broadchurch.

“Anybody’s capable of this murder, given the right circumstances.” – Alec Hardy

But was he right? Is anyone capable of murder? Most people have limits, lines they would never cross, which is something I talked about before. Unless you’re a sociopath, there are just some things you never do, whatever the circumstances.

But what if those circumstances involved your life being at risk? Or the life of someone you loved? I think many people would end one life, to protect another they genuinely cared about.

That was probably what Hardy was referring to. Perhaps the murder occurred because someone’s life was at risk. But Danny was just a kid. I highly doubt he could end up in such a murderous rage that a mere bop across the bonce wouldn’t have stopped him. So maybe what he really meant was that anyone could commit murder, even if their reasons are minor and irrational. Even if it’s something as spurious as: this kid’s going to reveal my darkest secret. And I’m not too sure about that. I don’t think anyone, with any moral compass whatsoever, would ever kill an 11-year-old kid.

But in that case, how does one explain the series finale? Continue reading