Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blu-Ray, Broadswords and Boobies

In the run up to Christmas, the Euro was worth about USD$1.48 – and after noticing my proclivities to travel Stateside every chance I get, my family members seized upon this opportunity to give me dollars, making a €100 gift worth $148 (which is a much more impressive amount). I was sternly warned to get myself something nice, and not use it to keep myself in Mars bars and crisps for the next calendar year or so, as I am wont to do.

After weighing up my options – I got a PS3, primarily because of the Blu-Ray playback. It spent two months under my TV without encountering a Blu-Ray disc, so last week I decided to justify the purchase and ordered Planet Terror from Amazon.

Amazon, following up on my previous buying history of a PS3 controller, and my viewing history of innumerable PS3 games, jumped to the conclusion that I owned a PS3, and sent me a message letting me know that I should think about buying more stuff from them.

The e-mail contained a table of items that I gave a cursory glance:

New Releases New Releases Hot PlayStation 3 Games
"Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder"
"Pirates 2: Stagnetti's Revenge"
"Vanishing Point"
"Samurai 7: Boxed Set"
"Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970"
"Killzone 2"
"Shellshock 2: Blood Trails"
"Tom Clancy's HAWX"

Looks innocuous enough, but the one on the bottom left caught my eye. Pirates 2: Stagnetti's Revenge, eh? It makes sense that Pirates of the Carribbean would court some imitation, but the box art seems a little too derivative.

So I asked Wikipedia:

"Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge (2008) is the sequel to the popular 2005 pornographic film Pirates [...] wrote that Pirates II does not add a lot of new ideas to the franchise, but "...if you are a fan of the first Pirates, you'll surely like Stagnetti's Revenge". The review went on that "if you're looking for the hottest thing in porn right now, this is it""

Yup - Amazon recommended I purchase 138 minutes worth of a swashbuckling, plank-walking, parrot-feeding, high-concept pornographic adventure!

Sadly, I can't very well justify purchasing it now, as I just couldn't keep myself from reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia. I daresay that my opportunity to invest in these characters and follow their development has been spoiled by the revelation that "Olivia and Jules get off to a rocky start to their friendship, but eventually end up in a steamy lesbian experience."

Guess you've got to find some way to stave off scurvy when at sea, eh?

I like Amazon - whatever algorithms they've got pigeonholing me and my taste in books have so far been eerily accurate (often beating me to the punch with recommendations just as I'm logging on to purchase a book), so this oddity made me sit up and take notice.

My favourite part of all this?

8% of customers bought Madagascar after looking at this item! Makes me wonder - are people mistakenly thinking that this is an ideal gift for their Pirates Of the Carribbean obsessed kids and blindly purchasing, or is it from people shopping for 'mommy and daddy' movies whilst finding some wholesome anthropomorphic-animal-based-entertainment?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Here, go kill 15 minutes

Holly has put up a post about the forthcoming Lenten period, during which time she has decided to abstain from alcohol - the account of the general reaction from her friends so far makes for a compelling read, as does her shared motivations for laying off the hooch for a while.

7. You're giving up 2 of the best things in life?
8. HA! yeah right...
9. Shit, so are you just gonna go to movies and stuff now?
10. Your religion is getting in the way of our friendship.
I'm quite surprised by the seeming social stigma attached to a Chicago-dweller's decision to test her self-restraint, mostly because it takes a steaming dump on my utopian notions of the States as a safe haven for teetotallers (after all, they elected our official spokesman!).

Wish her luck, anyhow - not that she'll need it - I'm sure she can manage 40 days without alcohol (I'm on day 8,318, boasting this fact doesn't help the social stigma).

In other news, I just posted a review of the documentary Religulous on that other blog that I don't write to often enough. Go hang out, leave some comments, and feel free to ruffle the feathers of my co-bloggers - they appreciate it immensely.

Okay - that should be enough reading for today - now for the obligatory video dump:

A pressing matter

I love seeing how Google refers people to my site with the most hilariously tenuous links, but this one is especially curious, as someone actually clicked through to my site from this search:

I guess they were just looking for tips

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Print: Seed Sowing Edition

I'm in the throes of writing a piece for the next instalment of [crude] magazine, but I'm suffering from a dose of writer's block as I wait for my ideas to coagulate into an acceptable 600-word form, and so I thought that this would be as good a time as any to post the last article of mine that the magazine was kind enough to print.

It's a tradition of mine to preface any of my printed efforts with excuses to soften its deficiencies, which is why I'm about to tell you that I wrote this in a car on the way to my girlfriend's grandparent's house. Does that exonerate the cliché title? Thought not.

Sowing the seeds of doubt

Originally printed in [crude] magazine, issue two, Feb 09.

It’s a sorry reflection on the state of the human race that there is as much bad information floating around as there is, despite the fact that we are living in the only era of history in which vast nexuses of information are at our fingertips.

Bad information has always circulated in human cultures: conspiracy theories, urban legends, old wives’ tales and false medical advice have propagated as far back as recorded history goes, but in these Googling times, there’s no excuse for it.

Of course, verifying what you’ve heard from others involves more effort than brainlessly parroting it and sounding interesting at parties, but disseminating even the most seemingly benign soundbite is an insidious act. A popular myth that I’ve heard innumerable times is that we only use 10% of our brains – it’s demonstrably incorrect (even a cursory glance at a PET scan would debunk this notion with pretty colours), but it is used every day to bolster belief in psychics and other charlatans who claim to have some supernatural ability.

Blindly accepting these notions seems to have left vast swatches of society with little or no critical faculties, given the amount of people who have been taken in by alternative medicinal scams in lieu of tried-and-trusted modern healthcare. ‘Alternative medicine’ is all marketing, making impressively vague promises of ‘promoting wellness’ and ‘health-boosting properties’, whilst invoking ‘ancient Chinese wisdom’ and ‘taking a holistic approach’.

As the Catholicism of the Irish people is increasingly eroded away by the growing scientific knowledge of the laity, it’s important that we not let peddlers of pseudo-science encroach on our sense of wonder, especially when they make claims about our well-being without any objectively verified proof.

I implore you, dear reader, to take a holistic approach in nixing bad information. Regardless of what perversion of reality you encounter whilst in polite conversation, don’t let it pass unchecked. Whether it’s a mother barring her child from the swimming pool for an hour after lunch; a conspiracy theorist explaining how the twin towers couldn’t have collapsed from a plane crash alone; or a person endorsing their reflexologist, politely inform them that the scientific consensus points to their cherished beliefs being unfounded. They won’t believe you at first, but you’re planting the seeds of doubt that will hopefully lead to a better world for us all.

Despite what you may have heard…
… a goldfish’s memory far exceeds three seconds, and is believed to span at least three months.
… the Great Wall of China can not be seen from the moon with the naked eye, nor can any man-made structure
… smiling uses one more muscle than frowning does (unless it’s a fake smile).
… food eaten just before bed won’t make you fatter than food eaten earlier in the day.
… hair that has been shaved does not grow back thicker or darker.
… the belief that rice thrown at a wedding leads to exploding pigeons is untrue – it poses no threat.
… a duck’s quack does echo.
… Coca-Cola will not dissolve a tooth overnight.

Educate Yourself!
An invaluable resource of debunked urban legends and other myths
A database linking to news articles of people harmed (and killed) by alternative medicine and other new-age nonsense
The organisation set up by James Randi, a man who has dedicated his entire life to exposing charlatans and promoting good science
A site that critically evaluates the claims of alternative medicines, combats medical myths, and highlights the dangerous practices that exist

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Farewell, cruel self-respect

I was a good two minutes into my tirade before I noticed something was off.

“How is it that my computer came in with one problem and left with five?”

“It’s hardly five” the technician muttered, somewhat distractedly.

“You have the list! The DVD drive, the battery, the webcam, the monitor and the random Front Row startups – that’s five.”

“Okay” – he still hadn’t made eye contact with me – “I still don’t see what’s wrong with the monitor”.

“Ignore the monitor for a second! Do you think there is a customer in the world who could be satisfied with the problems that have arisen after a simple parts replacement?”

I was quite irate, but he was in his own world, entirely unperturbed by my fury and happy to continue doling out stock responses:

“I don’t see how we caused any problems” he told my shoes.

“They started the day after I got the computer back from you!”

“Just a coincidence”, he shot back without any seeming thought.

“A coincidence? You’re happy that the computer was put back as good as new before it left with me.”


“The screws weren’t even flush with the body of the machine!”

“That’s only because he didn’t know which screw went where”, he posited somewhat absent-mindedly, apparently following my laces with his eyes.

“Are you kidding me? You’ve had a week to put this right, but you still haven’t amended what you screwed up!”

He looked up at me, for the first time since the bollicking had started, and failed to suppress a smile.

“You’re right – I’m sorry – it won’t be much longer.”

I was utterly puzzled. What was so damn funny? Why wasn’t this asshole taking me seriously?

As soon as I got my computer back I realised why:

This is actually a very clever metaphor.The Adventures of Phil and Bill - never coming soon to a YouTube near youThis took weeks to grow - I had to take a picture for posterityI never could bring myself to make contact, lest the world implode.

For the duration of my impassioned spiel, he was trying not to think of the retarded videos from my pubescent years, the equally immature self-shots from my recent past, and fighting the mental image that he was in fact, being chewed out by the Hulk.

I was actually just envious of my friend's camera phoneRawr

Monday, February 16, 2009


Okay, so my idea of getting back to this in a ‘day or two’ was somewhat optimistic, but at least the comments beat me to the punch!

Before I attempt to rationalise all this away, I should point out that while my back certainly still gives me trouble, that day saw a rather sudden improvement – up until that day, I had spent a rather unfun two or three months having to carefully deliberate whether to sit down or not, such was the discomfort involved. As you can imagine, it was a pretty miserable time – the initial two months of physiotherapy had limited success, and I had been told it was the only treatment available. Which brings me to the first important point to be aware of – not only did I want it to work, I felt at the time that I needed it to work,

I’ve never found anecdotal evidence particularly compelling, whether it was people on TV effusing about alien encounters, or friends recounting their religious experiences, but the very sudden improvement of my grandfather was something I couldn’t ignore. Looking back, I should have paid more attention to the fact that I visited him in the hospital before the operation; at the start of his recovery, and just because I wasn’t around to witness it, it didn’t mean that his improvement wasn’t gradual. I still believe the story of his sudden recovery was accurate, as the visit to the healer may have lifted his spirit, but I’m inclined to believe that the heavy lifting was done by the conventional treatment he received.

In the waiting area, the amazing testimonies from once desperate people told in earnest, hushed tones served to bolster my preconditioning (“if it works for these desperate cases, surely it’ll work for me too”), and the sheer volume of patients – both physically present and cited as referees – was also encouraging. I can only imagine that amusement caused by the bizarre surroundings of a farm-shed hastily converted into an operating theatre contributed to the overall “flood of endorphins or some mildly hypnotic analgesic” that Jason alluded to in the comments.

After a week or two of imagining what he looked like, and a half-hour of listening to his pithy mutterings behind the partition, my sense of wonder was bombarded when I finally came face to face with the healer-man. Not only was his appearance novel, but the way he conducted himself threw me off – particularly when he disappeared behind me for a few moments, only to begin with the vigorous prodding and manipulation.

I’m inclined to believe that what he was doing was chiropractic – the spinal manipulations seemed (at the time, and even in retrospect) far too specific and expertly administered to be for show, but I’m inclined to believe that there was a placebo effect surrounding the encounter, which encouraged me to push myself beyond my established and rather limited comfort zone of spine-extension, which surely contributed.

It saddens me to contemplate that the modern day, über-sceptical Sully would never go to such an establishment, and I can envision myself scoffing at the deluded fools who went along and enjoyed their placebo effects while I suffered on with a somewhat masochistic-pride. It’s possible that if the guy positioned himself as a certified chiropractor, I’d give it a whirl, but if you told me what I heard two years ago, I’m pretty sure I know what the response would be:

“You want me to go a barn to be prodded by some old dude with a magic coathanger? What are you, fucking nuts?”

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

21st century Christ charges a €20 fee

So then, where were we? Ah yes, tales of teenage douchebaggery debauchery!

Well, now that I’ve baited you with the embarrassing stuff from a decade ago, I’m going to shift gears to my more recent past.

I’ve blogged before about the few months I spent doing slave-labour in Belgium as part of my academic obligations, but didn’t address a remarkable encounter I had shortly after coming home.

In March 2006, during a weekend-trip home, I visited my 88-year-old grandfather in the hospital. He had been having problems with his back and was spending most of his days in a wheelchair – at the time I was struck by how suddenly he had crossed the line and become frail and old, disproving the notion I held of him as a man of infinite vitality.

By the time I left Belgium for good some three months later, my grandfather was back on his feet and sprightly as ever – I was delighted to see this transformation, and enquired about what I had missed whilst I was away.

My uncle told me that my grandfather had gone to a healer – a man who lives on a farm some twenty miles away who takes a coat hanger, waves it over the afflicted body part, then manipulates it back into health. I scoffed at the story, but my uncle told me about how my grandfather sat morosely at home for months before agreeing to see this quack. On the morning he left to see this chap, my grandfather was barely able to walk from his bedroom to the sitting room, and had to be helped into the car. An hour after the encounter, he was able to get out of the car unaided. The following day, he was able to walk the 100 feet to his front gate and back. The day after that, he went outside kicking a football around with his little grandchildren.

It was a miracle!

But of course, I don’t believe in miracles.

I listened to this tale quite incredulously, but it was some rather compelling anecdotal evidence, and my grandfather confirmed that the tale was exactly how I had heard it. Both he and my uncle pushed me to go see if this mysterious chap could do anything for the recently diagnosed spinal disc herniation that had brought a great deal of misery into my life. My uncle even agreed to pay the €20 ‘miracle fee’, so I had nothing to lose!

What follows is the e-mail I sent to my then-girlfriend the following morning - and I assure you that the prescience I exhibit towards the end is word-for-word how the message was sent:

From: Seán O'Sullivan <[deleted]>
To: [deleted]
Subject: My audience with the modern Jesus
Thu, 22 Jun 2006 19:38:09 GMT

Evenin’ miss!

I was going to put off writing this e-mail until my main 'news' thread was complete, but I feel as though I should send you something to show I care in the meantime!

So here is my epic tale of visiting the healer guy! My uncle made the ‘appointment’ for me, and we drove in convoy up to the hilly forested area, and navigated a narrow dirt track to a barn – a big red one, in fact – at which point he left me to fend for myself.

I entered the small barn door and found myself in the 'waiting area', which was a partitioned off from the 'examining area' by a line of flimsy, whitewashed timber boards. In this waiting area were two chairs, a radio (with fuzzy reception) and a diesel tank! As more and more people crammed into this waiting area, I heard some truly astonishing tales about their experiences with this healer chap. These were people who had invested huge amounts of time and money in conventional medical care, but one trip to Mr. Red Barn sorted their woes almost like magic. I have to admit, I was excited by these testimonies, but I tried not to get my hopes up. The two people in the queue before me took easily 10 minutes each with the healer chap, and then it was finally my turn.

He was silver haired, had scraggy tufts of facial hair, and looked around 60 or so. He wore a suit that looked about two hundred years old. After looking blankly at him for a second he asked "are you stiff in your back"? Wondering if I should have brought along the x-rays, I told him that the discs of my lower spine were pinched together. He nodded at the stool – the only item of furniture in his open-plan surgery – and I parked myself on it.

He stepped behind me, and I stared blankly into the barren concrete floor as I tried to determine if the magic coat-hanger I had heard so much about was coming into play. No sooner had the thought occurred to me, I was being poked.

He prodded my lower left spine, then lower right spine, then tweaked my arm and twisted my leg over to one side, and told me to sit for a second. After a few seconds he told me to get up and walk around for a moment. He stood still and peered at me as I self-consciously paced in front of him.

Upon returning to my stool, he took another poke at my back, and proclaimed "You're fine”.

I got up, astonished by this bold claim. I asked him what he meant.

"You're fixed".

I stretched my back to validate this claim and didn't feel the stab of pain at my usual point of extension.

I gave him a confused "Huh" and watched him smirk at my reaction...

The whole thing took about two minutes! I was thoroughly bewildered. I wanted to make sure I was getting Uncle Phil's money's worth:

"Are we done?"

He nodded solemnly, then thoughtfully added "Don't sit on any couches for a month. No soft things."

So I left. Confused. Wondering for how long this restriction applied, and whether getting back into my car would break this covenant.

So I definitely felt better, but I'm not quite perfect yet – still feeling the familiar pains when I reach that little further, blahdeblahdeblah, but there's a marked improvement.

When I informed my uncle of this - he told me that if I give it 3 days, I'll be fine... So I woke up this morning, and – sure enough – felt a little better!

For now, I remain cautiously optimistic that whatever weird voodoo this guy is after using on me will keep working! The last glance that guy shot me was one of knowing something I didn't!

Sorry that this e-mail has rambled on so long about essentially nothing of interest for you, but at least I'll have a typed record of what happened that day after my shitty-memory kicks in and I forget about the entire thing!

I'm going to wrap it up here, but first I'll let you know that I'm being interviewed by the American Embassy on 17th July to determine whether they want to let me into the country or not. Oh and I've been accepted into RMU, so I'm happy!

I'll give you a call either tonight or tomorrow (if I ring now I'll just end up telling you what I just wrote, since I've been sitting around at home since yesterday)!

Okay – that’s all for today, kiddies. Come back in a day or two for the present-day, sceptical reflection!

Of course, feel free to steal my thunder in the comments - what do you think of all this business?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Outboard inner-child

I'm fascinated by myself.

I have no qualms about admitting this, and if you just scoffed at that admission, perhaps you need to take a second to reflect on how ego-centric you are. If you've ever taken a personality test, shown interest in what people are saying behind your back, or had slightest spark of intrigue in what a horoscope or palm-reading has to say about your personality, I'm pretty sure you're interested in yourself too.

One of the best things about having a blog is how it serves as a wayback machine, reminding me of things I've done and people I've met, and generally rendering the memories that have been long lost to the ether in satisfyingly high clarity.

This blog was founded to chronicle my exploits from the States, and I often find that when I read my entries, I'm envious of the past-Sully who is still excited from his adventures (not to mention fretful that I don't write 'em like I used to). However pathetic a reflection it is of my memory, I do enjoy that I can read what I wrote just two years ago and find more freshness than familiarity, hopefully experiencing it how outsiders did back in the day.

As valuable as this blog is for offering the recent history of Sully, it's not always an entirely 'pure' summation of what transpired, with fussy details being glossed over and characters being left out for the sake of getting on with the story.

Fortunately for me then, that I've had the same Yahoo! mail account for at least ten years! The oldest item is dated the 26th of March, 1999 - when a 12 year old Sully sent a typo-riddled happy birthday message to his aunt.

The archives span from my first girlfriend to my current, along the way featuring tales of stupidly broken bones, sordid tales of teenage debauchery (to which I always seemed a spectator), and the entire back catalogue of e-mails charting the gradual shift from long-distance friend to long-distance girlfriend. It's fascinating stuff!

Fascinating stuff that I don’t intend on sharing until tomorrow, however. Grotesque as it may seem that I’m trying to bait you into returning with the promise of further worship at the altar of my narcissism, it is entirely in the interest of keeping this entry from getting too bloated, and not the notion that my self-interest is remotely worthwhile to anyone else!


Okay, okay - I can't very well just tease you like this, so I’ll share a little. This is from Monday, 18/10/1999 making me 13 and a half, and meaning I should have known a lot better than this:

Guess this solves the mystery of why I was left out of the teenage debauchery...

Embarrassing stuff!

In the meantime, I have to ask – how far back does your written record go? What links do you have with the psyche of your inner 12 year old, if any?

The title to this entry is a reference to a great article in Wired from September '07: Your Outboard Brain Knows All

Monday, February 09, 2009

Friday, February 06, 2009

I'm Gay for Tim Minchin (still)

Cast your mind back to the start of last month, when my enthusiasm for the fantastic musedian [perhaps I should give up coining portmanteaus] Tim Minchin was tipped into 'evangelical' after I heard a bootleg of a beat poem he performed at Eight Lessons and Carols for Godless People at the Hammersmith Apollo. Of course, no sooner had I posted the video, it was taken off YouTube, which was unfortunate.

Well great news! He just had it taken down so it wouldn't steal the thunder of the quality recording he was putting up! It now has jazz accompaniment, which disappointed me at first, since it takes the edge off the timbre of his voice, and I've embedded the 'unofficial version, since it has lyrics, but it pains me to not link to the official one, so send him kudos here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Limb Loss

Misery. That's the first word that comes to mind as I reflect on my present situation.

Y'see, I'm typing this on a PS3 running Linux (Ubuntu 8.10 if you're interested), sitting about three feet from the screen with a keyboard on my lap, and not glued to the screen of that technological marvel known as the MacBook Pro. Disaster (or rather, incompetence) has struck, dear reader, and as a result I have been left without my main link to the outside world for six days now.

Over two years ago, after a bit of soul-searching just north of the US border, I came to the conclusion that home is where the computer is, and since that time, the symbiosis between man and machine has only strengthened.

I'm not ashamed to admit (although perhaps I should be) that without my RSS feeds prompting me to read up on current events, I'm rapidly falling out of touch with world affairs; without convenient access to my podcasts, I seem to be regurgitating the same science-based titbits that I was last week; without my password manager I've found myself hopelessly locked out of half the sites I once didn't think twice about logging into; without the scheduled playing of my 'morning music' those early starts are getting increasingly sluggish; and without my productivity software the simple tasks I have to do at work require a great deal more effort as I grapple with an old Windows XP machine. Oh - and without convenient Skype access, my long-distance relationship feels like it does span quite a distance.

Seeing as it serves as my primary means to accessing my educational, entertainment, and emotional needs, it's quite a loss. Earlier on I likened it to losing a limb.

On the bright side - I'm actually making progress on the books I got for Christmas now that indulging my internet addiction is more of a chore than it's worth. Always a sliver lining on this blog, eh?

So how about you, dear reader - are there any devices in your life that you can't live without? Were they ever taken from you? Leave a comment and we'll try and get a little support group going.