Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We Were Warned (about a crap film)

True believers of this Mayan calendar nonsense annoy me a great deal, so it annoys me even more that a film about it is being made, which envisions all the cataclysmic events that the nuts propagating this impending Armageddon get a woody for.

In case you're wondering what set me off - this rigged poll on Facebook was to blame:

Quarter of a million people bothered with this drivel? Criminy. I voted, but only to get the results (not that I reckon too many people take these things seriously):

Over the course of this crummily edited trailer, it manages to tick all the boxes for a genre flick like this - the shots of random foreign cities and their inhabitants looking concerned and feeling tremors to push the 'globalness' of the catastrophe; the use of planes, trains, automobiles and ships to escape the inevitable destruction (represented as a big cloud of debris following them); the struggle of the few good men inside the governmental cover-up fighting to do the right thing, and of course, the demolition-porn of major monuments. This trailer alone shows the Washington Monument breaking apart, Rio de Janeiro's Christ the Redeemer Statue getting a powerful dose of leprosy, (what looks like) the DC Capitol building tumbling to the ground, and even the White House (which still has the lights on) being crushed under a great big freakin' tsunami carrying the USS John F Kennedy.

€5 says that either leading man John Cusack, or director / disaster-flick mogul Roland Emmerich will, in an interview about the film, enthuse about how the heart of the film is the family unit that acts as a 'microcosm' for humanity in the middle of such a global catastrophe.

I know that Roland Emmerich likes using CG to show things crumble, but did he really have to piggyback on the 2012 stupidity? Not only will the film age about as well as anything from the 90s named " 2000", but now we're going to see the same stupidity as when Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out, prompting the enlargement of the stupid fringe of alien abduction claims, leading to more 'open-minded' twats pulling on their goatees and 'discussing the possibilities' of such rubbish.


(On a side note - if there's nothing else out on the weekend this releases, I may well go see it - darn my affinity for John Cusack's everymanness)

Friday, October 23, 2009

One soul saved?

As part of my undergraduate studies, I spent a few months on work placement in Belgium, doing absurdly menial work in a third-rate "cultural institute". I found it farcical that the university was providing ridiculously cheap labour to an entirely unethical organisation [to clarify, by 'unethical', I mean "they made us lie to the police about the accommodation they were providing for reasons I won't get into"], and thought that the tone of my required work-placement report would reflect the farce I was a participant in.

Being a homo-sapien with occasional respect for his fellow-man, I tried in earnest to prevent my fellow bipeds from being sent there, but the University were unperturbed by my histrionic outbursts of woe, so I took my fight to the internet, well, this blog at least.

It brings me great satisfaction to see that at least one person has stumbled across my urgent warnings:

The entirety of the posts on the topic are available here, for those curious to see exactly just how condescendingly one can write about getting dressed for work in the morning.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Feed the world"

Holy crap! How did it take me 10 days to find this? Funnyish comedienne Sarah Silverman put together a video with a compelling central thesis. I won't ruin it for you, so have a watch:

I was mostly disappointed by the latter two minutes - I don't think that some hard facts would have hurt the video - but I still enjoy the point it makes, as anything that draws attention to the sheer opulence of the very organisation that declares living humbly a virtue is fine by me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanks but no thanks

Ever get stuck talking to one of those people who insist on finishing your sentences, even though they keep getting it wrong? Try having that same conversation when that person bald-facedly assumes that you're as perverted as the previous million people they've talked to that day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

What's the deal with iTunes pricing?

Since I'm still tooling around with my iPod Touch, I've been delving deeper into iTunes. Despite subscribing to dozens of podcasts through iTunes, I've only spent money on it once, but I poked around in their video section to see if I could find anything cool.

I was pleased to see that they've a healthy supply of TV shows available, even if I thought that $1.99 for one episode of a (fantastic) TV show was more than I was willing to pay. Taking that into consideration, I couldn't believe what record labels were getting away with when it came to music videos:

3 minutes and 39 seconds of music video costs the very same as 30 minutes of quality TV entertainment! I can only assume that these prices are so high so as not to cannibalise the music prices (which are between $0.99 and $1.99), and not because the market sustains the selling of promotional music videos that are readily available for free streaming online.

The bands are making music videos anyhow - it only makes sense that they should be able to sell it for $2 a pop to the impressionable young fans whose shallow gamut of opinion consists of "that's naff" or "DIS IS THE BEST THING EVA!!!!!!"

Fools and their money are often accompanied with obnoxious punctuation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

On being a 2nd class Internet citizen

I don't want to have to download my favourite shows through spurious channels, but I'm entirely willing to do so when I'm unable to get a hold of shows that are available for free on television.

For this reason, Comedy Central were my internet heroes - unlike most other broadcasters, they had their best content available to stream for free. Every South Park episode was available, with new episodes appearing a few days after the original broadcast date, both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report disabled streaming entire episodes for IP addresses outside of the US, but (bizarrely) the component clips of each episode could be watched in sequence with minimal fussing about. In exchange for this convenience, the viewer had to sit through the occasional ad. This was the perfect arrangement - I didn't have to part with €2 on iTunes for 22 minutes of entertainment, the content provider was getting advertising-revenue for their trouble, and the guilt I felt at torrenting fantastic shows (I helped killed Sarah Conor Chronicles) was assuaged by the notion of "If Comedy Central can do it so can everyone."

That bubble burst on Monday, when I logged onto thedailyshow.com to find an obnoxious message about videos not being available in my country.

Refusing to believe that the party was finally over, I clicked around on some random clips, hoping that this was a mistake, but to no avail. Bracing myself for disappointment, I went to colbertnation.com:


Gutted, I turned to an old reliable, southparkstudios.com - the studio headed up by two rather cool dudes who have said on record that they don't mind the illegal distribution of their intellectual property. Sure enough, episodes were still available to stream, but the site had been entirely gimped:

The selection of episodes available to download had dropped from 190 (all of them) to five! Five! That's 2.5% of what was previously available. Pretty weak, Comedy Central.

The months of goodwill that Comedy Central has built up by being the only major network to offer so much free content to international audiences certainly won't be forgotten about, but I'm sure that the internet-savvy, casual fans like myself will now turn to BitTorrent/weird Korean streaming websites to get their fix.

Good thing for Comedy Central that there are more people out there who would rather buy the DVDs.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Playing with the boyz

I'm a massive knob for admitting it, but whilst reading the RTÉ report on Stephen Gately's death, I was more troubled by the article's rough edges than I was by the (very sad) news of a man dying at the age of 33.

It was all petty stuff like clumsy wording - they talk about how "his star quickly rose under the influential guidance of pop mogul Louis Walsh". If you want to fellate Louis Walsh by calling him 'influential', that's well and good - but why place it at that point in the sentence?

I'll spare you the rest of the pedantic nonsense (even though article has been revised since, they've still left out an 'is' - kudos to the first commenter to find it) - mostly because I've made worse errors with less pressure to get a brick of text online, but I'll mention this:

The article quoted the band's official website, mentioning that 'the rest of the boyz will be flying out today'...

... and it just struck me as inappropriate. A man has died! Do you still need to use the preferred collective noun that refers to members of a crummy Irish boyband? I thought I'd go onto the website and see what context it appears in, but RTÉ didn't provide a handy-dandy link.

So I decided to take a stab at it.

Not trying to give too much away here, dear reader, but before we continue, I feel it may be prudent to introduce you to the official Sully-Branded Cock-blocker, obscurer of tricky phalluses that may interfere with your Interneting experience since 2009!

You've probably guessed it by now, so I'll see you after the next picture...

You guessed it - boyzone.com is a gay-porn portal. Who didn't see that one coming?

Think of how many young fans of Boyzone have arrived at this site, whilst the official Boyzone website is schlep away over at boyzone.net (even boyzone.ie is currently parked and not doing the bidding of 'the boyz'). Won't somebody please think of the children?

Perhaps this is all part of Louis Walsh's masterplan to turn more youths in Ireland to homosexuality. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

People who take online IQ tests are retarded

It's day four of my iPod-touch ownership, meaning I'm still goofing around with my new toy to see what it can do, which is why I bothered to download a free 'What's your IQ' app from the Top 25 Free section.

I wasn't exactly expecting a rigorous, scientific evaluation of my IQ level, but I wasn't expecting this level of farce - have a read of the screenshots and tell me how you think you'd do:

Many of the questions seem to have been pulled from the 'idiot test' meme that travelled around primary school playgrounds in my youth, and while a compelling App could be made from such grist, multiple-choice questions essentially defy the point.

So what was my result?

My IQ is 164? Interesting. Flattering, even. I decided to go back through the quiz, getting all the questions wrong along the way and see what I got.

110? Every question wrong is "slightly above average"? (unless I got one right accidentally like a retard). But please, Mr App, do continue! "Pretty impressive", you say? "None of these questions were easy", you reckon? Well, what have I learned about myself by doing this endeavour? "Keep your stomach and you can do anything".

(If only I knew what 'keeping my stomach' entailed.)

I had a look at the reviews on the App Store after, expecting to join my fellow nerds who were no doubt expectorating disdain for this celebration of mediocrity to tell the iPod Touching community to steer clear of it and stop prolonging its popularity.

I was mostly wrong:

The lesson I've learned today? Free, flattering Apps on the iPhone & iPod Touch are successful. Also, openly sharing your disgust at something free and so easily ignored is pretty pathetic, no matter what way you try to represent yourself.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

A Facebook App I don't instinctively loathe?

I've always been of the opinion that Coca-Cola have a damn fine marketing department, and this opinion was just bolstered by the Facebook App that I added to my profile this evening - it's the fourth applications I've added since the feature went live.

Coke Zero's schtick is that it tastes exactly like Coca-Cola, and this app attempts to tie into that by asking If Coke Zero has Coke’s taste… is it possible someone out there has your face? While I don't see the correlation, I still think it's about as clever as a beverage-tie in could be.

Check out the (far spookier than it ought to be) intro to the app:

So basically, the site scans your Facebook profile, finds a few suitable pictures, then asks you to pick three, and provide a 'control' image from your harddrive or webcam [and calling it a 'control' makes it sound so much more sciencey!]. Once the computer has learnt your face, it can tell you of people around the world who look the same as you - so simple, yet so brilliant! It taps into the same sense of curiosity, vanity, and/or narcissism that Hot-Or-Not type websites capture.

The whole thing is relatively painless, even if the interface strains to make things futuristic with some unnecessary bells and whistles and a strange Sci-Fi dystopia soundtrack.

Unfortunately, the end result is a bit of a damp squib:

Click to enlarge


It seems that rather than limp along with a small database, they've decided to delay gratification and wait until they get enough images to provide a decent service, which I have no qualms with, as most facial comparison apps I've encountered so far are total ass. That said, the poor yields I've had from facial recognition software so far don't have me entirely excited about how incisive the results will be, if iPhoto's efforts to find every photo I'm in are anything to go by:

Whatever happens, I'm hoping that the subject of Strange-Young-Man's comment yesterday signs up so we can settle the resemblance issue through cold hard algorithms:

Of course, the only fear I have is that this technology could be harnessed for evil - what if my girlfriend manages to locate someone with my incredibly good looks, but who lives on the same continent as her?

Pffft - as if!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

"Your Idiot Friends"

I hate Glenn Beck. He's a magic-underpants wearing racist who has the power to inspire hundreds of his fellow mentally-impaired citizens to take to the streets in loud emotional histrionics that terrify casual observers with their boisterous lack of sense.

Whilst having a chuckle at Sarah Palin's book on Amazon earlier, Glenn Beck's latest literary offering was brought to my attention:

It's titled, appropriately enough: "Arguing with Idiots" - and it certainly makes sense that one of America's foremost idiots would know a thing or two about being entirely obtuse in a discussion.

According to the book's blurb on the official website, it's a rather cynical extension of the Fox News pundit's practice of arming right-wing nutbags with pre-made 'arguments' that can be used to bring a dialogue about certain issues to an abrupt close:
The next time your Idiot Friends tell you how gun control prevents gun violence, you'll tell them all about England's handgun ban (see page 53). When they tell you that we should copy the UK's health-care system, you'll recount the horrifying facts you read on page 244. And the next time an idiot tells you that vegetable prices will skyrocket without illegal workers, you'll stop saying "no, they won't" and you'll start saying, "actually, eliminating all illegal labor will cause us to spend just $8 a year more on produce." (See page 139.)
The subtitle for this book ought to be "Why think for yourself when you can be a mouthpiece for Glenn Beck?".

Bonus: here's a clip of Glenn Beck out of his element that illustrates the slick rhetorical style that you can claim as your very own!

Zero Punctuation Reviews Tales of Monkey Island

This might be a tad esoteric, but after witnessing this review of a 'revitalisation' to the Monkey Island series I thought it'd be worth sharing here.

Not in the mood for watching a video about a game series from my childhood that shaped my sense of humour? Well, then you'll have to watch it for the splendidly racist portrayal of Irish people courtesy of an Australia-based Brit.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

UFOS: The Best Evidence

When I was younger, I was a big fan of UFO documentaries – I’m pretty sure that I sat through Unsolved Mysteries just to get to the bits about aliens and whatnot, and I would often run out to the kitchen during ad-breaks relaying to my mother the terrifying ‘proofs’ that aliens were among us and poking things up our bottoms. It was a simpler time.

Now that I’m a rather obnoxious skeptic, I consider this type of programming to be filth, as I realise how it is little more than wishful thinking masquerading as science. That said, when I saw that one of the featured videos on Vuze today was ‘UFOs – Best Evidence of Strange Encounters’, I thought it’d be ignorant of me not to give ‘the best evidence’ a cursory glance.


It’s dreck. Absolute, utter horseshit. But I sat through all 51 brain-meltingly awful minutes of it, so I’m going to write some more about it, damnit!

The video opens with the ‘Paranormal TV’ logo – which immediately put me off the entire endeavour – a name like that makes me inclined to think that they’ve got a vested interest in propagating paranormal belief, but I decided to wait and see how even handed they are with their reporting.

I'm not five minutes in and I'm already being bombarded with moody stock-footage, as well as pictures of 'strange orbs' and 'unexplained phenomena':

Look! An unexplained orb in the..... - Nevermind!

Looks like a Cheetoh under a heat-lamp to me.

The story begins in the quaint town of Fyffe, Alabama, a serene place where the neighbours look out for each other, and the happy community leaves in perfect harmony, and everything is peachy-keen. Except for the fact that cattle are getting CUT THE FUCK UP every so often!

Cue the negative-effect and zoom that sucker in! It's time to look at some butchered bovine!

And of course, the only thing more upsetting than looking at these placid animals after they've had their reproductive organs brutally plucked from their bodies is the cast of sorry characters that comprise the locals who are bothered by "them thar alien folk who be laserin' arr cattle".

That cross-eyed hick on the right? That thar bumpkin is Ted Olyphant, former paranormal-documentary filmmaker turned sheriff, who is the only man with the integrity to stand against Big Media's cover-up of the aliens who are committing these heinous acts!

The voiceover guy seems a little sympathetic to the plight of the venerable Mr. Olyphant, given his recollection of the media attention that came when Olyphant went public with his investigation's findings:
Skeptics called them "hicks and bumpkins", leaving emotional scars which are still evident"
Those damn skeptics - all they do is ignore evidence and upset people, isn't that right, voice-over guy? Surely they're not as hard on those blighted by alien abduction, are they?

"Resistence to the possibility of alien abduction has been nearly universal among scientists and mental health professionals, most of whom haven't studied the data whatsoever"
Those damn scientists and mental-health professionals! How dare most of them not study the data! Well, who does study the data?

Budd Hopkins, you say? And how do the skeptical community feel about this guy?
"A guy out to sell books" say the cynics of Budd Hopkins..."
Hmmm... Something tells me that there's a more generous description coming...

"A courageous pioneer, his supporters retort, who is dragging the scientific community, kicking and screaming into the 21st century"
And how is he 'dragging the scientific community kicking and screaming into the 21st century? By compiling anecdotal experiences into a book and calling it 'research'. Crafty.

Hopkins is the hero of the tale, according to the sycophantic voice-over guy, "Hopkins, perhaps more than any other person has risked all - including his personal life and his health, in order to convince the world to sit up and take notice of abduction reports. Finally, his efforts appear to be paying off".

I'm part of the vast conspiracy to cover up UFOs, so don't take my word for it, let's have voice-over dude explains why people are mean to American heroes like Budd:
"His lack of scientific credentials certainly opens him up for bitter criticism from those with degrees on the wall"
Note that this isn't just criticism, or incisive criticism, or even forthright criticism - this is bitter criticism - how dare he do what scientists do without having a fancy piece of paper on the wall! You mean nobody has to spend years earning a scrap of paper before opining on a given subject? Hell, I know I'd be bitter if some guy declared himself an authority on something I worked hard to qualify in!

Part of the problem I have with this documentary is how it lists innumerable anomalies, but never proffers the contravening evidence that motivates the skeptics, characterising them as elitist and arrogant - remember now, the heroes featured in this tale "refuse to accept the easy explanation".

When discussing crop-circles - or to use the correct nomenclature this drivel insists on, 'agri-glyphs' - the English farmers who admitted to starting the craze are mentioned, but the footage of them is set to silly carnival-music, and their designs are dismissed as 'primitive' whilst the viewer is beat over the head with numerous examples of beautiful crop-art messages from our celestial neighbours

Remember - these agri-glyps can't be done by humans because they're too perfect! [I'd link to a great video on YouTube if I could find it, but instead you can just check out this link]

The programme tries so hard to drive a wedge between everyday life and science, doing its very best to cast the scientific process in as absurd a light as possible. They even have an Einstein doppelganger promoting this nonsense!

"For most scientists - still rooted in the concepts of the 17th century, such concepts are preposterous - if something can't be physically measured, then it can't exist - meaning there are no souls, no human spirit, no God, no alien-worlds"

"[Abduction cases are] tailor-made to shatter the arrogance of the western world view" according to one interviewee.

"Many scientists simply refuse to believe that abductions are real, no matter what... Those scientists who do investigate are often amazed at the scope and similarity of abductee tales."
Science is old-fashioned, elitist, dogmatic, and conspires against what people believe in, so fuck science! All it ever does is try to tell us that we're stupid because we don't know stuff, but we're not going to take it any more! From now on, I'm going to trust the words of these guys. They have [stock footage of] satellites!

See! That's sciencey! Not convinced yet? Ask yourself this, whose side do you want to be on, the side of the guys who say "we've yet to make contact with extra-terrestrial intelligence", or the guys who have a gin-u-wine alien channeller guy!

Checkmate, science!