Guess I finally have a political platform to run on

I don’t know when you last watched Family Guy, but maybe keep it that way.

When I was 14 or 15, I loved Family Guy. It was this blend of irreverence, dirty humour and pop cultural references that gelled perfectly with a burgeoning teenage brain. It was something fresh, a kind of amalgam of The Simpsons and South Park, an animated comedy where reality played second fiddle to a good joke. The archetypes were way out there, and I watched a lot. It got cancelled, eventually, then brought back. It’s had 17 seasons now, which is probably 14 seasons too many.

At work last night I had to describe some episodes from season 12. It was fun to work on, with a huge variety of description, but egads, what a shitshow. I mean, also a shit show. It’s abysmal. I swear it wasn’t always this bad, but who knows? The plotlines are contrived and unnecessary. There’s very rarely ever any message or meaning to them. Just an excuse for crude comedy. That makes me sound like I’m trying to shit on the hoi polloi, but I’m not. I like crude comedy. Have you seen how often I talk about poop here? I think farts are funny, but part of that is how you use them. Crude comedy for the sake of being crude or edgy lacks real bite. Do something clever with it. I dunno. There was an episode I worked on yesterday where Peter gets a whip (the entire plotline got discarded after ten minutes). During this time he slashes Meg, whips Stewie (the infant) across the face, enough to leave a bloody gash. He goes to a Devo concert and whips fellow concertgoers. That’s about it. I’m not coming at this with any hesitation over an animated show causing violence to an animated, talking infant, but there was no point to the gag. He whips his kid for retreading a dumb “cool whip” joke from early in the show’s run. The kid sits there with a bloody face for two seconds. End scene. The crowd roars with applause?

Here were some plotlines I saw last night:

  • Peter, Jo and Quagmire get ousted from their usual booth at the Drunken Clam by some tough looking dudes. They feel emasculated, and everyone in their lives starts taking advantage of them. Lois tells Peter to Man Up, so they go back to the bar and get the shit beaten out of them by the dudes in a 3-4 minute fight scene. It turns out the dudes were soldiers, and the bar holds them up as heroes. End episode.
  • Stewie and Brian become blood brothers to cement their friendship. Stewie gets herpes from Brian. Turns out Chris got herpes from Brian too. They enact revenge. They sabotage his date. Chris steals his car. Stewie and Brian make up.
  • Chris starts dating Pam, the daughter of Jerome (bartender at the Drunken Clam). Pam is black. The family has no issue, but Jerome doesn’t want his daughter dating a white man. There’s a dumb song (and it’s seen as dumb in the show. Great lampshading there /s) about all the amazing things that white people have given black people. Eventually, Jerome is okay with it. End episode.

I can only imagine what season 17 is like. Who knows? Maybe the show had a major mea culpa and changed course. Maybe it has something to say. Somehow I doubt it. Then again, since Family Guy‘s popularity waned, there have been a ton of great adult animated shows to take its place. Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman, Archer, Bob’s Burgers. It’s not like the show even needs to be relevant any more, so maybe who cares?

Now that I think about it, “maybe who cares?” is a great motto.

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Keep eating gravy and you’ll never work a day in your life?

I have a secret that I don’t want you to share. Please, promise me, internet denizen.

I submitted my first invoice, and it actually doesn’t make sense for me to get paid this much for a something I actively enjoy doing. That’s my secret, don’t tell my bosses. Thing is, my job is cool. If you’re out of the loop, I started working in Described Video. We describe onscreen actions to make television more accessible for low or no vision audiences. I’m sure there’ll come a time where it gets stressful. We’re on the verge of Fall Launch, where the year’s hottest TV shows debut or return. It’s a Big Deal. I’m sure stuff is gonna come down the pipeline with urgency, and we’ll have to focus on quick turnaround. To be honest, I think that’s happening this week. So this weekend I get to focus on honing my skills, getting quicker. Already I’ve noticed how useful it is to read the waveform, to gauge where pauses in dialogue will most likely be. Certain shows have certain kinds of rhythm, and this job is really showing it.

I did an episode of Pawn Stars, and there’s a formula. It’ll return from break, I’ll describe the logo, there’ll be a few quick establishing shots of Las Vegas for me to describe, then it’s into the store. Time lapse shots of customers walking through the store, with a focus on a customer/staff interaction on a certain piece. I’ll decribe that. Then a customer will approach the counter and a scene will begin. I’ll mention what the customer is holding before the dialogue gets too heavy for me to describe, but eventually there’ll be a breakdown of the item. I’ll introduce the customer by name, as the show describes the item. They’ll talk with the staff and provide historical background on the item. All dialogue, no chance for me to describe. There’ll be a break in dialogue, and I’ll get to describe the nature of the interaction. The staff member will call for an expert. I get to describe their entrance. They’ll give background on the item, if I’m lucky there’ll be a chance to describe, then the expert will leave. The staff member will haggle with the customer. I’ll most likely be able to describe their reactions, then the deal will be struck. There’ll be a breakdown with the customer’s reaction, and I’ll describe their body language. Lather, rinse, repeat eight or so times, and you’ve got an episode.

It’s early days, I’ve still got a lot to learn, and I’m sure I’ll only get better at understanding how best to provide for the audience. I hope I get a greater grip on how to work between genres, to improve the experience. Here’s the thing though, for the first time in ages I actively feel like I’m providing a service. I’m helping people get access to media that would otherwise be out of their grasp. Do you know the coolest thing? Sometimes we do cartoons. As a kid I was obsessed with cartoons. I didn’t watch live action shows until maybe age 13 or 14. Cartoons were my everything. Imagine how amazing it feels then, to know that I’m helping kids who would otherwise lose out on the whimsy and wonder animation provides? My work directly aids little kids in watching cartoons. That’s really fucking cool.

Like anything accessibility based, it feels important. Everyone should have a seat at the table, and too many people are held back from activities most of us take for granted. Finally being in a position I enjoy, I’m trying to soak up and retain gratitude. If I spent the past three or four years toiling, I’m hoping I can stay gracious for at least as long. I’m lucky, and I think that’s something to treat with respect. The fact that I get paid to do it is awesome. The fact that I almost feel overpaid to do it is just gravy.

Yet again though, please keep it between us. I quite like gravy.

The collective noun for rhinos and bandicoots alike is a “crash”

Between jobs, are assassins just killing time?

Does this mean they’re always on the clock?

Does the industry hire a lot of temps?

Are bosses at watch companies in the business of time management?

Ugh, I’m pooped after eating a ton of food/bread (it’s its own category), from a weekend that very rarely involved pure relaxation. I was moving a bunch on Saturday (given that I helped a friend and his mum move stuff), then went to a friend’s barbecue yesterday. I had a burger, but there was no cheese. I wasn’t sure if that counted, so when friends brought cheese along, I had to have another to make sure.

Wait, in this day and age of exploitative unscripted television, how do we not yet have a gameshow called “Truth or Dairy”, where lactose intolerant people are asked incredibly invasive questions that they can choose to either answer, or eat dairy instead? I think it would be a terrible show based off brutal, lowest common denominator entertainment, but I have no doubts that it would be entertaining:

Host: Our first contestant Melissa. So Melissa, we want to know the full name of your worst ever sexual partner. Are you gonna tell us? Or eat half a wheel of brie?
Melissa: Well, I guess Hubert Collins of Kansas City Missouri can go fuck himself, ’cause he did a rubbish job of fucking me.
Host: So Steve, when was the last time you shit yourself in public?
Steve: Well in ten minutes, I guess we’ll be able to say “right now.”
Host: Hi Deborah. What’s the worst crime you’ve ever been charged with?
Deborah: According to my NDA, cracking the porcelain in the aftermath of this gallon of milk.

Speaking of talking shit, I’m coming in hot with fists swinging, here for a takedown. You know what? Bars fucking suck. I hate bars. I rarely ever want to go to bars, and if I do it’s hardly my choice. They’re wildly popular though, and I guess I’m not the target demo. The only fun thing about being in a bar is that liquor is also hanging out there. But the liquor is all hanging out in its exclusive VIP area, which is much less fun. There’s always a gatekeeper. So I guess my first issue is, bars are fucking expensive. I’m not super high on cocktails, which makes it extremely rare that a bar could fix a drink I couldn’t just have at home or a friend’s house. Can I get it from a liquor store? Then why would I want to pay at least three times the price for it in a busy establishment? I could just buy it myself, and consume the quantity I was looking for if I wasn’t in a bar. Instead, here in Canada, we’re getting up to $10 (after tip) for a beer. Or I could get the same one for maybe $3 at the LCBO (still steep for a single beer).

Bars are crowded, they’re noisy, the music is dictated by whatever algorithm they choose to load up. I can’t talk to friends without yelling, so the whole point of socialising is moot. I have no interest to go to bars to pick someone up, why would I be there? Bars suck. Okay, so I guess we’re nailing it down. Clearly I’m a control freak, and a bar puts all the control into someone else’s hands. There’s no aux chord I can use, or well-curated playlist done by a friend. I don’t want to have to deal with volume issues, or be stuck in pre-determined areas instead of flitting around easily. I get stuck tolerating strangers’ bullshit all the time, and working around them. I just want to hang out in a kitchen or hallway, drink what I want when I want, and go between conversations with impugnity. Maybe throw in a couch or two. And, I dunno, not have to pay for privileges. I’m not saying there’s no reason to go to a bar ever, but my rule is that bars suck, and that non-sucky bars are the exception.

So who’s throwing a house party I can crash?

Okay, he can kick too. Happy?

I underestimated One Punch Man.

Spoilers will follow.

It’s easy to do. The premise sounds dumb. There’s a superhero who can kill anything with a single punch. You know what? It is dumb, and that’s why it’s great. Because it takes a simple, dumb premise and elevates it exponentially for comedic effect. Saitama, the hero of One Punch Man decided one day to become a hero for fun. His arduous training consisted of doing 100 push ups, 100 sit ups, 100 squats and a 10km run every day, and it caused him to gain limitless strength and endurance. Yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. Yes, the anime pokes fun at how the workout isn’t actually well-rounded, and would in no way bring supernatural feats to anybody. In the show, however, he becomes literally unbeatable. He can dispatch anyone or anything with a single punch, and instead of bringing him to new heroic heights, he just gets ennui because it’s all too easy.

It all sounds like a one-note joke, but the magic of One Punch Man is that Saitama happens to be the lone straight man in a crazy world. He’s just a normal dude who reads manga, loves food, gets bored, tired and cranky. He’s ultimately drawn to doing the right thing, but often under duress. He mostly can’t be bothered. The Japan of OPM is filled with superpowered miscreants, monsters and world-ending threats. The stakes ramp up dramatically with each episode, but of course Saitama can defeat them all with one punch, so really there are no stakes (despite how heavily the show leans into the gravity of the situation). At the same time, while we understand this, the world virtually always disregards it. The answer would always just be send Saitama in to handle it, but every time he’s the last ditch effort.

The genius, is that the show makes everything harder than it has to be. The world-building becomes incredibly convoluted. There’s a superhero organisation mired in bureaucracy and lingo. There are hero tiers with definitive rankings, and responsibilities for each member based on rank. The alert systems are based on scale, with differing tiers required to handle issues of ascending difficulty. The number of goofy heroes they create is aspirational, with inane powers that the in-universe characters take extremely seriously. It’s all set up for maximum efficiency, communicative prowess and competence. Which all means nothing when Saitama can just punch the thing. Still, the organisation basically ignores our hero, and when he finally joins it’s at the lowest rank possible (because he did poorly on the entrance exam written test).

The true charm of the show, is that while it’s parodying the unending tropes of the medium, it’s doing so with utter reverence. The non-Saitama heroes all try their best, repeatedly putting their lives on the line against insurmountable odds. The villains all respond in kind, with verbose monologues and worldviews. Everything takes so much longer than it needs to, when invariably Saitama will come in and finish it all off with little effort. The joke doesn’t get old or strained, simply because we all know and love these tropes. In fact, the entire world of One Punch Man could exist as its own show without Saitama, but his mere presence warps everything around him, without the rest of the cast understanding this whatsoever.

The show wears its heart on its spandex sleeve, and it’s hard not to respond in kind. I don’t know that I’ve enjoyed an anime this much since Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. It’s a love letter to the genre, and worth sticking with all the way to the end. It only gets better as it goes.

Yeah, but a Trillion dollars is way cooler than a Billion

An unusual, possibly informative and likely boring entry today. It’s also probably riddled with factual inaccuracies. I had to do a short presentation at work, so I whipped this up in 40 or so minutes.

Here goes.

My hypothesis is that the future of broadcasting is going to greatly resemble the structure of cable in the early 90s. With all of these companies splitting their online content into exclusive services (Disney taking its content from Netflix, NBC taking back Friends and The Office, etc). My uneducated guess, is that larger companies will start creating “packages” of these services (maybe a Corus subscription comes bundled with Prime Video and Tidal or something).

Because of this, my guess is that people are going to find it too expensive and confusing to get all the content they want. Many will likely turn to other methods.

Today I’m gonna try and do a little ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) on Torrenting.

Let’s jump back 20 years, because some of you are literal zygotes and might not remember this. Napster. Remember when Justin Timberlake told Jessie Eisenberg that a Billion dollars was cooler than a Million dollars in 2010’s The Social Network? That was one of the guys who made Napster.

Napster was peer to peer (P2P) software that allowed users to share mp3 files over the internet with other users. It was all searchable, and if you found someone who had the song you wanted, you could download it directly from them. It was amazing, revolutionized how music could be shared and sold. It was also a colossal breeding ground for copyright infringement.

Eventually this split into a bunch of copycat software. Morpheus, Kazaa, Bearshare, Limewire, etc etc etc. These programs let users download all manner of file types. Images, video, etc etc. Mostly, a lot of movies and TV shows. I downloaded a lot of anime. Because I was 14.

I want to state that P2P software and file serving are not illegal. The software can be used for very legitimate reasons. It mostly isn’t. It’s debatable whether or not most modern streaming and download services would exist without the advent of P2P software, because if there’s one thing these industries love, it’s locking people into the outdated status quo for profit. Why let people download an album for cheap, if they can charge $30 for a physical CD? In my day I bought a lot of $30 CDs.

Enter BitTorrent.

Programs like Napster, Limewire, etc all work around making files available through a specific client, and you download from the person who has that file. BitTorrent is a little different. With Torrenting (the verb for using this process), a file is split into a number of sections, so you can download from many many people simultaneously.

Reddit user Slukaj puts it this way:

Imagine you want a copy of a book. You get online and say “Hey, anyone have this book?”
A conventional download would be like one person saying “I’ve got that book. Let me give it to you.”, and then giving you the whole book.
A torrent is more like 200 people saying “Hey. We’ve each got pages of this book. Let us give you the pages and you can put the book together yourself.”

Torrent files work like little beacons. You download a torrent file of the content you want, and it says “hey all you people who have this file, I also want this file” then it downloads little bits from those people in a random order, and assembles them into a complete file you can use. Then you can in turn upload that file to other people who are looking for it. Quick, easy distribution.

My guess is that Torrenting is going to become more and more popular as the streaming service market diversifies into exclusive silos. It’s not definite by any means, but I think it’s worth knowing about. A quote:

According to Sandvine, distributors of the Global Internet Phenomena report, “Back in 2011, Sandvine stated that BitTorrent accounted for 52.01% of upstream traffic on fixed broadband networks in North America. By 2015, BitTorrent’s share of upstream traffic on these networks had dipped to 26.83 percent, largely thanks to the rise in quality, inexpensive streaming alternatives to piracy.

File-sharing accounts for 3 percent of global downstream and 22 percent of upstream traffic, with 97% of that traffic in turn being BitTorrent. While BitTorrent is often used to distribute ordinary files, it remains the choice du jour for those looking to distribute and trade copyrighted content online.”

Karl Bode: “The Rise of Netflix Competitors Has Pushed Consumers Back Toward Piracy” – Oct 2 2018

For reference, Netflix is 15% of the total downstream volume of traffic across the entire internet. BitTorrent is currently 1/5 of that.

A lot of people wanted to watch Game of Thrones. A lot of people did not have access to HBO Go or Crave. A lot of people found ways to watch Game of Thrones. There will be more GoT style tentpole shows, and these will be more expensive to access as they diversify across providers. There will very likely be a point of fatigue where consumers don’t want to pay for five different TV streaming services. My assumption is that they’ll have one or two, then find ways of acquiring content from the other ones.

I don’t think BitTorrent is an emerging technology, but I do think that until something else more efficient or accessible comes along, BitTorrent is going to become a re-emergent technology.

I would not last long in Westeros with my Big Dad Energy

*Leon has changed this group from closed to secret*

It’s been a weird day. Wait, scratch that, I’ve been weird today. I don’t know if it’s particularly out of the ordinary for me to be in an odd mood, but my mood was anything but ordinary. I got distracted very, VERY easily. I kept getting different songs in my head, whether it was the Night Court theme, Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” (someone had the audacity to say “making my way”) or Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message”. I wasn’t quiet about it in the office. I mean, I’m rarely quiet anyway, but today was quite something. After the “children” I work with (they’re probably sub 25) didn’t get my Charles in Charge reference, I walked the floor polling people on whether or not they knew of the classic Scott Baio sitcom. Most under 30 didn’t.

Here’s some literal dialogue from today:
Me: Look, I wasn’t born when it came out either. That doesn’t mean I don’t know it existed.
Co-worker: Uhhh.
Me: Ever heard of a little thing called WATERGATE? Were you alive for that? Still know it, right?
Co-worker: I don’t-
Me: –Charles in Charge is nothing if not the Watergate of the sitcom world. It had Scott Baio. Jesus, you kids. Read a book or something,

Without a doubt, this is how I get written up for harassment. It’s not like I was being (entirely) serious. I think.

Maybe I’m just in a rosy mood ’cause I’m 24 hours away from a weekend holiday. Friends and I have booked an Air BnB an hour outside of Toronto. It’s gonna be amazing to get away, eat good food and share abundant fun with close friends. I think it’s important to check in before vacation on how people are looking to approach the holiday. Y’know, so you can make sure everyone’s getting the most out of it. I’d done some check ins, and people were on similar wavelengths. Still, there was one question I felt almost afraid to ask. I put the question to the group…

“So, uh. Out of any question I could ask, this is the one I feel weirdest about asking… Do we have any way of/interest in watching Thrones on Sunday? I’d usually be like “we’re away with friends. Fuck TV”, but it’s also kind of the current largest pop cultural product on the planet.”

Almost immediately a chorus of “fuck yeah we are” chimed back. Undisputed. I’m usually pretty hardlined about my use of internet and whatnot while in the presence of others. I don’t like being on my phone when I could be doing face to face interaction. The notion of spending a large portion of our final night away focusing on a fucking television show felt wholeheartedly wrong. But like, what other options were there? The show is inescapable, to the point where its existence and the conversation around it defines internet use in its wake. Fear of spoilers makes certain parts of the internet (ones that I frequent) virtually inaccessible (surprisingly no pun intended). It’s wild. But it can also mean a ton of fun dissecting how it ends. The finale of a television juggernaut like GoT is a huge pop cultural experience ripe for deeper examination. It’s a blast to hear alternate takes, analysis and observations of others who have witnessed the exact same text. I loved watching it in the company of others, riffing on the absurd developments of a show that got way out of hands of its writers. Gorgeous as it looks onscreen, it’s a colossal clusterfuck, and I can’t imagine who I’d rather share that with than good mates.

So maybe it’s not about winning or dying, but how you play the game.

Is there such a thing as too much marzipan?

Sorry friends, I didn’t end up getting a Met Gala ticket. Which is a pity, ’cause I was planning on dressing as Childish Gambino’s debut studio album.

I woke up tired and I wonder if I’m still dreaming. It’s been a weird day. No real issues, but the air has been laden with a surreal sensibility. Everyone around me is feeling the same sense of instability. Not that anything’s going wrong, but that something’s off. A guy I ranted to about the Garfield pizza restaurant the other day came back to me having looked it up. We chatted on its stunning peculiarity, the nonsensical portmanteaux and the culty enthusiasm of its Chief Entergagement Officer. While this conversation was of course a delight, I rant about weird shit all the time and so few people actually check it out. What’s happening? Did I evolve a modicum of charisma in the past week or two?

I had this moment on the subway today. It’s important to note that I’m generally pretty body capable. I understand movement well enough to rarely misstep too badly. If I do happen to fumble I, often end up accidentally making some clutch catch that defies the laws of physics. This isn’t a brag, so much as a lead in. So I was on the subway, I’d stepped into a new carriage, put my bag down and settled in. It was the morning, I was absent minded, but there was abundant room for once. That rarely happens during rush hour, so I casually stretched out my arm to grab the pole as the train rumbled onwards. I missed. It wasn’t even that I fumbled my grip. My hand shot out to the left, fingers clamped shut, like I was clutching a phantom pole. I had nothing in my hands. My balance was all shifted into this movement, and with the train on its way I was shit out of luck. I stumbled back, one clumsy step after another. My some miracle, empty train car and all, I hit nobody. I staggered, freewheeling, arms flailing wildly. Then I stopped, finding my feet completely.

Everything was fine, crisis averted. I was simultaneously relieved and dumbfounded. I burst out laughing at the top of my voice. I looked around and there were no eyes staring back, but I knew mere seconds before they’d all been on me. I closed my eyes and laughed harder, genuine mirth flooding my brain. I walked back to the pole and gingerly grabbed it, laughing the whole time. For the next ten minutes before arriving at my location, I’d periodically chuckle thinking of it, which inevitably grew back to a full on laugh. Whether or not people were staring, I’m sure they had no reservations assuming that a lunatic was before them. I didn’t care, my joy and humour were so sincere, I could’ve happily vanished into the aether, never to be seen again. I could relive that moment on loop for the rest of my life and have lived a life worth something.

Also I finally caved and watched the pilot of the critically and commercially panned, cancelled sitcom Cavemen (y’know, based off the Geico commercials?). Oh, heh, “caved”. That worked out better than expected. My pun, I mean, not the show. I know I’ve linked it there, but please do not watch that episode. It’s dull, stupid, crass and overabundantly sexist. Even on 2x speed, you’re wasting 4x the amount of your time that you should. Don’t watch it. Please. I coudn’t make it the whole way through.

At least my accident was confined to the subway, and not broadcast on national TV.