Tuesday, May 26, 2009

James Randi - The Carlos Caper

It's been a busy few weeks, so it's time to fall back on that staple of blogging - regurgitating YouTube videos that I've enjoyed!

In his pair of latest YouTube videos James Randi, skeptic extraordinaire has been describing an ambitious hoax played on the Australian people by feeding the mainstream media with (easily debunked) false information about a made-up 'channeler'.

I found the 16 minutes or so of viewing quite astonishing, as it illustrates how easily the media could be played, partly (once can assume) because the demand for such nonsense was through the roof.

Of course, looking at that archived footage, one has to wonder: would this hoax work in this era of the information age?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Daily Star: A 'News'paper.

I was on the British Daily Star's website a few minutes ago, trying to find a story that appeared in the Irish edition (which may as well not have a website), when I noticed something curious:

I'm glad to see that they're as dubious about the worthiness of their content as most are.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

'Moral Monopoly'

Watching videos like the one embedded below make me feel quite fortunate to have grown up in the modern Ireland, where a staunch Catholic upbringing wasn't the 'common sense' approach to take.

Whenever I hear a disgustingly nostalgic account about the 'Catholic Ireland' that was left behind, I think about the testimonies of people like this whose lives have been shattered by those who once held a moral monopoly*.

[Brought to my attention via http://www.atheistmedia.com/]

Good riddance to Catholic Ireland.

*An interesting aside: Tom Inglis' book 'Moral Monopoly: The Irish Church in Modern Irish Society' published in 1987 is a a fantastically relentless broadside against the evils perpetrated by the church from a pre-sex-scandal era. The 1998 updated edition: 'Moral Monopoly: The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in Modern Ireland' dials back the tone considerably, and features an extra chapter cataloguing the 'fall' of the church in a rather sombre manner, as if eulogising a stern, misunderstood father, rather than the merciless tyrant that the first edition personified the institution as.

Why the rose-tinting, Irish commentators? Answers on a postcard in the comments!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Deja Vu (in the most literal sense?)

I've a cinema-date tonight to go see State of Play, a film I've not heard anything about (which is how I generally prefer to watch movies), and while double-checking the time on the Omniplex website, I noticed this advertisement for the lazy-eyed Matthew McConaughey's latest film:

This of course, brings to mind a previous entry from December 07 (One for the Lay-deez), which featured the following image:

That's right, Matthew McConaughey's campaign to lean against every woman in Hollywood is still underway. Brace yourself, ladies.

Religiously motivated elitism? Sign me up!

More twitter spam of a religious nature to report (and in case you were wondering, no I don't write about every instance of spam I receive!), but this one takes an approach to religion that resonates with me.

After getting a retarded tweet aimed directly at me, I decided "I've ten minutes to burn, why not scoff at some nonsense for a while?"

The tiny URL lead to a website called "Spirit of Wisdom", let's have a read of what they have to offer:

When people feel like they are all alone, they often say that they feel as if they are on an island. The truth maybe that you have simply come to place in your walk that your companions are unable to ascend to. The reality is that you are not on an island at all, but standing on top of a mountain surrounded by water.
The top of the mountain is surrounded by water? An odd metaphor but I'll go with it . Hang on - it's not a metaphor - it's 'the reality'? Kinda like the Matrix? Okay, I can follow that...

For those that God has called to do a special work in life, isolation and loneliness are an inevitable. You must realize that you cannot take everyone with you. They cannot handle the altitude that you are being called to. You will begin to notice, as you continue to ascend in the will of God, that the number of people who have the ability to share your perspective of life are few and far between.
What's that? A spiritual reason to be an elitist prick? And since spirituality isn't frowned upon by society, I can practice my elitist prickery with open disregard for mere plebeian!

Therefore, your feeling of separation and isolation are not indications that something is wrong. It simply means that you have risen above the sea of mediocrity and ascended to a place that few others are able to witness.
Now we're talking! Fuck anybody who disagrees with me - I've risen above the sea of mediocrity and ascended to a place that few others are able to witness.

Your perspective is everything. Change your perspective of your situation and don't allow the enemy to cause you despise what God is doing in your life. You are not stranded on an island, but standing on the top of a mountain!
Damnit! You had to ruin it with that retarded metaphor, didn't you? Forget about the top of the mountain already! There's nothing to do on top of a mountain except climb back down.

It's difficult to deny the value of certain religious rhetoric that offers a crutch for the downtrodden, but twaddle like this actively promoting the building of walls between Jesus-freaks and common-folk is pretty evil. Guess I'll have to find another way to retroactively justify my holier-than-thou disposition.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Happy National Blasphemy Day!

National Blasphemy Day is a (fantastic) suggestion put forward by Bock the Robber to protest the inanity of a proposed Defamation Bill put forward by the minister for justice which includes blasphemous libel. From Bock:

According to the bill, A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.

And what exactly is blasphemous matter?

It’s anything grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.

That's the way laws should be, right? Very open to interpretation and on the side of those with tendencies to take offence? Oh yeah, wait, it's completely batshit insane.

Well, as part of my contribution to this noblest of excuses to blaspheme protests, I had hoped to write something clever that riffed on most major religion, but as the internal discussion over where to start and what to say dragged on and life got in the way, I've realised that it's a bit late now to be rushing something out. Just take solace in the knowledge that it would have collapsed under the weight of the absurdities it would have attempted to highlight, all the while trying to shoehorn the 'Holy Trinity' thing into an implied Mary/Jesus incest-fest.

Since you're here, I may as well point you towards Bock's post (which in turn points you towards his previous blasphemous posts), and post a YouTube video or two of a blasphemous nature.

This one might be a slow burner, but it highlights the absurdity of the whole 'Jesus' thing:

And of course, that rant from George Carlin:

Feel free to share your favourite blasphemous exclamation in the comments.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Atheism - uniting people in begrudgery

I just got home from my little brother's communion party, a function involving Irish people and alcohol, which ultimately lead to a singsong.

Myself and a few others (including the hosts of the party) took refuge in the adjoining kitchen, attempting to keep our conversations going despite the anguished crooning coming from the open doorway. The singers responded to this with outraged and indignant shushing (these are adults shushing other adults, mind), the absurdity of which succeeded in plunging our room into a stunned silence.

A woman of about 30 that I hadn't spoken to all night sidled up beside me:

"Ah Jesus Christ. Can you hear the shite that they're singing?"

"I'm afraid I'm not familiar with that song" I answered in earnest.

"It's fuckin' religious shite... I think."

We stood there for a moment with our ears perked until an agonisingly rendered "Gawd" floated out of the dining room. Vindicated, she turned to me for my facetious reply:

"How appropriate! This is a communion party after all."

She rolled her eyes. "Appropriate? At this hour of the night? At their age? They should know better"

Trying to be diplomatic about the (obnoxious) people I didn't know, I agreed that I found it a little absurd myself.

"I just don't understand the appeal..." she volunteered "...probably because I'm not religious at all."

For some reason, I found myself liking that person.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Viral Advertising done right?

I have two major peeves when it comes to viral video. The first is commercially planted viral video that tries to pass itself off as 'organic', and the other is one that plagiarises another video that came before it.

Despite this, I found the following video quite entertaining - it's billed as a 'ladies' response' to the Jizz In My Pants video (which has almost 46 MILLION views on YouTube alone!), where the female analogue - worryingly enough - involves regurgitation.

In exchange for five seconds of product placement for a fake wedding ring that can be deployed from keyring when pervy plonkers are on the prowl, you get two and a half enjoyable minutes of procrastination. The video ends with the URL for mstaken.com, where you can buy the product that you probably didn't notice in the video.

Like its source material, the first minute or so is the most worthwhile:

Saddened as I am that there's even a market for a product like this, I'm pretty sure that it'd have no effect on 90% of men anyhow. Unless there's a feature in which a great big buff dude springs out of that little keychain and administers threatening looks, I reckon you're just paying $50 for a nifty keyring and a cute conversation starter at your knitting circle.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Christian nut gives relationship advice

Can an atheist an a believer have a happy relationship together? Let's ask one of America's premier voices on theology for a nuanced discussion of the prospects:

"He's going to be serving the Devil. You're going to be serving God. It's that simple!"

Good thing this stalwart intellectual distilled a complicated topic down enough to be accessible to us lay people, eh?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Twitter Spam: Hummingbird

Twitter sent me an exclamation-mark laden e-mail yesterday to draw my attention to the two new web-denizens who subscribed to my fun-sized narcissistic twaddlings. Feeling that the occasion called for a cursory glance at these two random people, I decided to have a look:

When I saw this, I did what I always do whenever an attractive woman shows interest in me - I reacted with a great deal of skepticism. I clicked through to their profiles to begin my investigation:

Superficially, things seemed to be in order, (in that all her tweets were of a purely superficial nature), but I found the lack of any tweets aimed at other members was a little odd.

When I noticed that essentially the same message had found its way onto both profiles, I knew something fishy was going on:

One click on a tinyurl later, and I'm reading about 'HummingBird: Professional Marketing Tools for Twitter', and trying to contain my mirth.

Yes friends, that's a $197 pricetag

It seems that absolutely every bandwagon will be jumped on by enterprising peddlars of nonsense who are happy to deceive for monetary gain - you should bear in mind that a viable business model to monetize Twitter has yet to materialise.

Perhaps I'm being a bit too harsh before really examining this product. Let's consult the 'is it a scam?' checklist:

#1. Does the product claim to reveal some arcane-knowledge kept from the public by a group conspiring to hold power?

#2. Does the product offer vague, specious information whilst implying that the product in question is the only thing keeping you from becoming a guru yourself?

Yes, they just said that "Dell and Woot.com are earning Millions of Dollars on Twitter"

#3. Does the product establish itself as a way to bypass hard work, generate instant satisfaction, or generally get-rich quick?

#4. Does the product feature statements that are heavy in superlatives but light on specifics?

  • "Hummingbird is completely unmatched in power"
  • "unmatched performance"
  • "If you're comparing Hummingbird to all the little free apps & web sites that do a couple of functions at a snail's pace, you would be misleading yourself. I didn't create this software with the everyday user in mind... this is for the top dogs"
  • "Literally I can tweet a link and get a few hundred hits within the minute"
  • "Massively increase your ability to interact with an untapped gold mine of customers"
  • "Hummingbird makes you #1 in your niche."
#5. Does the product feature endorsements from dubious sources?

Alan? Alan!? Who the @*€# is Alan?

#6. Does the product attempt to imply celebrity endorsement without explicitly stating it?

Well, they do show Digg founder Kevin Rose's Twitter page in their promotional video, that's got to count for something, right?

So that's six out of six - we could go through the others on the list, including "excessive use of buzzwords" and "poor grammar on the product information page", but I think it's safe to say that this could be considered a scam.

So what is the tool for? By my reckoning, it's a Twitter account manager that you can use to generate accounts, which can then follow you, which also reach out to legitimate accounts to draw more hits to the product page. What it also means is that there are dozens of profiles spewing out identical status updates to give the impression of authenticity at first glance.

When I typed one of the updates at random into the Twitter search engine, here's what I got:

(Note the use of attractive/slutty girls in the profile pics - it's possible that the program comes with a stockpile of 'em.)

So there you have it - the latest episode of my Twitter sleuthing. Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll be blocking these fake groupies, sadly causing my followers to drop back to single digits, so feel free to remedy that!