Monday, 31 March 2008

Superhero Circle 5 (including anti-superest)

A double helping of delicious Superest-style goodness to be had today. Firstly a short-but-sweet vaguely-Easter-themed non-circular traditional-style superest:

Cardinal Sin: Not leading you not into temptation.

beaten by

Grammar Jesus: Died for your sins and abhors double negatives.

beaten by

Pontius Pirate: Dispatches the son of God with the twang of the seven seas.

beaten by

The FBI: Because piracy funds terrorism, and 'Pontius' is an awfully foreign-sounding name...

And secondly, a new flavour: the mentally-distressing concoction that is 'anti-Superest'. Inspired by those people who seemed unable to get the hang of drawing something connected to the previous entity, the object is instead to draw something unconnected to the previous drawing. Preferably with a suitably non-sequitur-ish caption:

Robo-Gilby: "Beep-Blip-Communism".

beaten by

The Cat: Say it ain't so Joe, say it ain't so.

beaten by

Viscount Beanington: "Oh Lordy".

beaten by

The Window of Opportunity: "Count me in, Watson".

beaten by

Why dogs cannot play American football:
1) They cannot close their visors
2)They cannot hold the ball
3) Contrary to the diagram, they cannot stand on their hind legs for any length of time.

beaten by

Luxembourg: It's haunted, they say.

Ignore that last one if bizarre, unconnected and decidedly silly things do not interest or amuse you.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Weirdest. Freaking. Sunday. Ever.

So I went to a club today. I'm not normally a club-kinda-guy, but on special occasions, I can be badgered into it. I'm not totally anti-club, since I enjoy shouting along with 80s songs as much as the next guy, but the combination of the expense, the claustrophobia, the physical abuse and the noise and prevention of normal conversation make the whole thing generally unappealing.

As I said, I'm not beyond being persuaded to engage in club-based festivities for a special occasion, and have previously been found in such places on the occasion of a friend's birthday. This is the situation I found myself in again today, as I made my way across London to Kentish Town, for 'Church'. Originally a weekly loose gathering of antipodeans, the event has developed into a more structured show open to all nationalities (although with a distinctly Aussie/Kiwi/SA feel to it). I'd never heard of it before, and had no real idea what to expect, which is possibly one of the reasons why the events of the day made such an impact on me, but I ended up in one of the most surreal four-hour chunks of time I have ever experienced. In any case, I'll describe the experience as best I can remember, and hopefully the bizarre events will speak for themselves.
The event was held in what looked like an old theatre or cinema, 'The Forum', and doors opened at midday. We payed the £7 entrance and £1 cloakroom fees, and made our way into the club, a single huge room with a stage and dancefloor at the front, multi-level standing room towards the back, and two bars, one on each side. The bars themselves were run with a 'beer ticket' system, with one £7.50 ticket allowing you to purchase 3 cans of beer or (opened) bottles of alcopops. The beers were handed to you in a clear plastic bag (to allow you to keep hold of them through the night), and there were also cans of coke and bottles of water available for 50p. While this system was clearly doing no damage to the club's income, forcing people to buy their alcohol in bulk, and (by opening all bottles on purchase) ensuring quick drinking, there was also the beneficial side effect that people's bar trips were much shorter and easier, and so there was never any wait to be served at the bar, a nice change from the normal club experience.
With drinks in hand, then, we investigated the main club area. The stage was large and backed with the grammatically questionable phrase "The Church. Still rocking since 1979", and the dance floor in front of it was slowly filling up. There were two huge screens on either side of the stage, and at least two cameras providing crowd shots that were projected onto them. This provide an interesting focal point to gaze at, as well as the occasional moment of terror as the camera passed over you and you saw yourself on one of the huge screens. The cameramen weren't interested in people standing around trying to have civilized conversations, of course, and focused mainly on people in fancy dress (of whom there were many), people drinking (thus encouraging them to down their drinks), and girls with short skirts and low cut tops (thus encouraging them to expose themselves further). In any case, during the actual show itself, the cameras were mostly focussed on the stage, to provide an alternate point of view for anyone who couldn't see clearly.

The music level cranked up slowly, until the atmosphere was that of an actual club, and most people were engaged in singing and dancing (and eating pies; there was a pie shop at the back of club; did I not mention that?). Occasionally we reminded each other incredulously that it was, in fact, half past one on a Sunday afternoon. At this point, however, some weirdness began to creep into the proceedings. Firstly, there was some activity on the stage, with spotlights and smoke machines, and a ticket was drawn to win some free beer. Then, there were a couple of announcements, and a large man in a leather jacket arrived onstage to sing (or sing-along to, or mime, it was never totally clear) a number of old favourites. This was no problem - we all sang along with him and wondered if there was a karaoke element to the evening (sorry, afternoon). During his songs, however, he slowly began to remove more and more clothing, exposing one by one a stars-and-stripes top and some striped trousers, a spandex singlet (that left nothing to the imagination) and finally a pair of boxer shorts. Throughout this he leapt around the stage, exposed various bits of his anatomy, insulted various audience members, and generally acted like a 5-year-old who wants attention. So far, so strange. His act came to a close (as it became clear that he was not, in fact, going to leap naked into the crowd [to the crowd's great relief]), and he introduced the next act.
The second act turned out to be 'Cayman', a young lady who proceeded to demonstrate both her flexibility (impressive) and her willingness to remove her clothes in front of an audience (also impressive). Having never seen a strip show, I can't really comment on the relative merits of her performance, but it seemed pretty professional, and she certainly ticked the box of removing items of clothing in time to music, ending in just a thong and boots. Not expecting anything of the sort from the afternoon's entertainment, we were somewhat taken aback, naturally, but applauded her efforts. She then proceeded to produce a (male) volunteer from somewhere and got him onstage, where she both performed a lap dance for him (during which she removed almost all of his clothes) and used him to simulate a number of different sex acts (with enough energy to seemingly risk serious pelvic trauma). It was unclear whether he was a member of the crowd, or a fellow performer, but he seemed to have no problem when she partially removed his boxer shorts, covered him in whipped cream and them beat him with a belt and a whip, or when she blindfolded him and poured freezing cold water over him. This was not what we had expected from our Sunday afternoon (even with the previous events viewed), and we took the opportunity to go and get another drink.
As Cayman tied up her act, the club returned to normal business, and despite our shock at the strange things going on onstage, we were able to enjoy another excellent set of 80s music. Shortly, however, Cayman was back (or another girl very like her), dressed as a schoolgirl. She performed what seemed to be the same strip-tease as before, before putting her top back on, and getting another (male) volunteer up on stage. Again, she performed a lap dance for him, stripping him down to his boxers. In a confusing few minutes, she then turned him around and set fire to his boxers with an aerosol and lighter several times, before lighting a line of fire on the stage with lighter fluid and appearing to suggest that he do something manly and reckless involving the flames, before someone official stepped on and told her to put it out. It was not clear if this was part of the act, or if something had gone wrong. Nevertheless, her volunteer got dressed again and returned from whence he came. Cayman (or whoever it was), then performed a further strip, ending up in just her boots, at which point she began wandering up and down the stage, juggling fire poi. This, by now, did not seem out of place, and we all just accepted that it was happening in as blasé a fashion as one can when a naked girl is dancing with rings of fire 40 yards away.
After this point, the show begins to blur together, but there were other drinking games and competitions for crowd members onstage, in which girls could gain an advantage to herself or her team by exposing her breasts to the audience. There was also more drinking and dancing and singing, and plenty of the usual club business of people fighting (mostly with inflatable hammers and foam swords), burning each other with lighters, throwing alcohol everywhere and forming momentary amorous attachments. Before long, however, the house lights came up, and we traversed the sticky floors to emerge, blinking, into the blinding glare of 4pm Sunday evening.
I said at the beginning that I'm not really a club-person, and that in general there are many activities I would rather do than go to a club. This experience, however, seems to be so bizarre, so weird, so unusual, that I can't really classify it in my head as a club experience. The other patrons seemed entirely au fait with the various performances, so I suppose a lot of the shock and strangeness of it comes from my own inexperience with the club and with the type of entertainment offered. Even taking that into account, though, the afternoon has already taken on a dreamlike atmosphere in my mind, as I begin to question whether parts of it really happened or not, so outside my realm of normal experiences they were.

In any case, if the weird hedonism of an afternoon like that sounds appealing, head over to the Church in Kentish Town, and give it a try yourself. I think their show (and less frequently their location) changes, so I can't promise you'll have the same experience, but if it's anything close, it should be a memorable one.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Almost Entirely Pointless

I've just finished converting all my CDs (bar a few that seem to have gone missing, which is a bit weird/annoying) to 192kbps, which was a relatively formidable job, having about 160 CDs in my collection. However now that I'm done I'm not sure what I'll do now when I'm sat in front of my computer, it was kinda fun feeding it CDs.

EDIT: Quick note about the title, I'm refering to the act of posting this rather than the converting of the CDs, which I think does give it a more fuller sound.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Linkables 28/3/8

It's sort of a cop-out, but I've had a madly tiring week or so, and need a few days to compose myself before writing something meaningful. So some more fun and games from the rest of the internet:

Remember how I was thinking about addiction. Turns out other people were too.

A fun geography-based quickfire game. Turns out I'm pretty crap at it.

Stereotypist, who's comics I do not necessarily love, answers 50 questions, an idea and execution thereof that I do love. Necessarily.

Humorous images, of a wet floor and helicopter warning, the latter from this discussion on the always excellent 'ask metafilter'.

Were you to be the kind of person who watches awesome mind-fuck series 'Lost', you may enjoy this compelling theory of what the fuck is going on. I stopped before the end, because I'm deathly afraid of teh spoilz0rs, but it's an excellent read so far. It's quite deliciously Primer-esque too. If you haven't seen Primer, watch it now. Now.

If you didn't start reading Bête de Jour back when I recommended him, I'm giving you a second chance. He's an awesome writer, and has the balls to write about some ridiculously personal stuff, such as the current saga of him and his best friend and a girl. Read his 'significant moment' posts too, if you like it, they're all great, and revealing, and refreshingly honest.

Ways to really teach someone a lesson #94: Get a mob to steal all their stuff. Seriously, how fucked up is that. It reminded me of this similar story I found a while back via post of the week.

And, to lighten the mood a little, millionaires fucking up the very simplest of things:

Not sure that first one from Dyer should be there - not exactly the easiest chance in the world. The others are pretty awesome, though.

That's all for this week, hope there's something there to keep you entertained over the weekend.

Thursday, 27 March 2008

escalators, orphanages and nanofoods

It always amazes me how weird it feels to walk on an escalator that isn't working. Theoretically it should be just like stairs, but no matter how much you tell yourself this your legs end up feeling like gravity was just doubled. Transport for London has obviously conditioned me well.

I went to see "The Orphanage" last night and it is a beautiful and inteligent film that I recommend you all to see. The director (who also made "Pan's Labyrinth") is also a master of building unbearable suspense, misdirecting you to think it's safe and then making you jump out of your seat.

I read in the guardian the other day about nanotechnology in foods, and I may be a sucker for science, but it sounds awesome. Tiny capsules that store the vitamin C in orange juice, to release it when you drink it (apparently it's often lost otherwise), pesticides that metaphorically explode only on entering an insects stomach, reducing the amount needed. Ideas like this, and the fact people are always looking into them make me a great believer in humanity and confident of our survival. Sure we sometimes generate effects we don't want (e.g. global warming) but we're always advancing and coming up with new solutions.

Which reminds me of a piece I read a while back (I think in the FT) discussing how Europeans (and most of the rest of the world) see global warming as something that will be solved by us cutting back on what we use; stepping backwards before we do any more damage. Americans on the other hand want to try and solve it with new ideas and inventions (e.g. those glass tubes to suck carbon into the ocean - yeah, I have no idea how they work).

As with many things a bit of both may be the answer.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Favouritest Favourity Things

Purely because I've just started listening to the Soundtrack from the film (after blasting out the first second of a rage against the machine track with my door open at quarter past midnight with my parents in the next room, ooops) I've decided to make a quick list of my favourite things, which isn't something I normally do as I enjoy so many things, that it seems a bit mean to set one thing above the rest. So some sections will have a list within the list to reflect my general liking of them all equally, meaning they're in no particular order other than rememberance.

Anyway onto the listing.

Film:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
(such a wonderful sound track, idea, cast and feel to the whole thing. Love it!)


Artist (musical):
Radiohead
Jeff Buckley
Sufjan Stevens
Deftones
Ida
(Depends on my mood)

Artist (the other kind):
Mark Rothko
(I don't really know any other artists and I'm not very cultured)

Vegetable:
Potato
(mashed is best!)

Xbox Game:
Gears of War
(It's just fun and bloody)
Rainbow Six Vegas (1 & 2)
(Tactical shootery fun)

Book:
Harry Potter etc.
(I'm a loser, and don't read much)

No doubt I've forgotten to put some things down, so I may add to this, but then again I probably wont.

Technological Highs and Lows

Deja Vu? I'm just being lazy.

Highs:

Mildly pre-emptive, but I've been ripping in all my CDs at 192kbps, so that they are all at nice near CD quality level and I'm into the Ss (essiss) so nearly there. It's been fun finding out which CDs I've bought but not burnt into iTunes (some are just WMP so they could go on my phone).

I also recently got a new battery for my video camera which lasts more than an hour (like way more) so it's now actually a useful commodity.

I dabbled in a bit of 3D Studio Max recently, which was fun. Hopefully I'll do some cool stuff with it and produce something of merit at some point.

Loooowwwss

As posted on MY BLOG I managed to break my Xbox 360 today, mostly the stupidest thing I've done, all year. However on a high, I then fixed it, so it's all OK.

I also continue to not have a digital SLR yet have had numerous occasions where I wish I'd had one. If anyone would like to buy me one let me know.

Also stupid vaguely technical thing, the stylus on my phone has a habit of flying out when I pull it out of my pocket. Such a wonderfully technical device, yet it fails to do the simple task of holding something in place.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Technological highs and lows.

Just a very brief post, partially since I'm still catching up on a lot of my backlog of internet-based business after the weekend-without:

High: I've finally managed to download the first three series of Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe [see also this post] after 6 months of being stuck at 97%:

I therefore spent most of last night watching them all, which made me very happy (and very tired at work this morning).

Low: Thanks to a combination of Windows and the stupid software that came with it, my brand new 8GB flash drive has locked itself down to a far, far less exciting 8MB flash drive. And the company that wrote the software seems disinclined to respond to emails.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Fetcher la vache

First off, apologies again for the hiatus in entries from me here. However, having just checked to see when I actually last posted something and finding out it was just over three weeks ago, my excuse is that the last three weeks have been hectic in terms of my course: getting used to a new school, a different way of doing things, and just remembering how to plan and teach a lesson, have had to take priority over many other things. I have a week back down in London this week, and I intend to make some entries during that time, most likely about music and films. Hopefully writing that here will galvanise me into making sure I take the time to write something when I have some spare time.

For now, here's a link to a highly enjoyable song about militant cattle. The song has some very clever lines and is a well-made parody of the country ballad style, and the animation is enjoyable enough if fairly simple. Overall worth a look, though.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Withdrawl

It's not nice to be unable to access something to which you are hugely addicted, and leaves you feeling weak, helpless and angry. Virgin digital are generally pretty reliable as internet providers, but for both last Easter and this Easter, I've had no internet access for 3 or 4 days.

It's about the most annoying thing I can imagine happening, since it cripples a lot of my communication and entertainment options, and leaves me constantly feeling out-of-touch.

That's all - nothing particular else to say - but it's a pity that something so small can do so much damage to an otherwise excellent long weekend.

Also happy Easter all :D

coolest/weirdest flash thing ever...

I bought a .net magazine a while ago for it's web developer/design tips, and was flicking through it today and found this in the back, it's fantastic and so very weird, supposedly updated ever now and then.

Infact the whole of vectorpark.com is a wonderful world of flash mucking about.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

In defense of crazy people.

Hey Andy, thanks for the quick and detailed response. Just feel I should pick up on a couple of your points, and defend some of the original poster's arguments:

Firstly, I don't think that her lists of pros and cons were intended as an exhaustive analysis, or as proof of a clear cut argument. As she says, they are lists reproduced from a psychological study, and, from the description of the study, they are the most common answers given by parents and people who have chosen not to have children.

In terms of the lists themselves, I'm not sure it's possible to classify them properly as selfish or unselfish without defining 'selfishness' first, something that will differ from person to person and culture to culture.

Secondly, I don't believe that the author was claiming that this action would solve the world's problems, or asking for such a system to be enforced. Instead, I think that she was saying that the act of having children is one that is not typically thought about in the context of environmental impact (whereas your examples of electricity use and driving are commonly used and widely known), and that perhaps this an area in which people could do think about making changes too, in the same way that they might recycle, or offset carbon emissions.

Finally, you said: "I'm not going to have a kid for the sake of it, I'm going to have one because I really want one and for many other reasons besides that."

Is there any particular reason that you would want to actively produce a kid rather than adopting? Would the issue of environmental impact ever have anything to do with your decision, or do you not think it is a consideration people should be making?

Just interested. :D

Bloody parents CRAZY PEOPLE, ruining things for the rest of us.

To me this seems like an entirely pointless sentiment, so this will no doubt be scathingly written.

Tip for reading the crossed out text:
Select text in website
Copy
Open Notepad
Paste
Ahh unlined bliss.

As a quick disclaimer, I use "you" to mean generic human person not necessarily YOU!

As Patrick said, selfishness is a part of humans so not having a kid so that you can be less selfish is not by any means a cure to the problem.

Anyway, if the writer is going to suggest not having your own kids to reduce resource use, why not suggest not driving anywhere or even not using electricity (IE. TO POWER THE COMPUTER SHE'S USING TO WRITE THIS DAMNED THING) or to teach your kids to conserve resources etc. that's what my parents did, I actually care about the planet so try to do stuff to help (I could do more, but I'm still a little too lazy). It seems a bit of an obscure point, also if this is to be a global thing, then surely the number of children to be adopted will be less than the demand. Also, my knowledge is not great on this, but from the little I know it seems that adopting and raising a kid is not the same as having your own kids, there are various psychological things to go with it. Also try inforcing it, China has (had) a one child policy and that was hardly popular, but then is that what we're getting at with this?

I'm not sure whether the reasons behind a decision to have kids can be compressed into 9 statements, and then just because you can think of 13 reasons not to have kids, it's a clear cut argument, this in not the case, and never should be. Lists of Pros and Cons need weighting for certain things, making them more important than others. (I really want to produce an absurd list making this point, but I'm too lazy)

He're my opinions on the given lists:

NINE COMMON REASONS GIVEN FOR HAVING CHILDREN:

* Personal experience – to have the experience of being a parent
- selfish
* Personal pleasure – the fun and joy of raising children
- selfish, but then we all know that raising kids isn't fun fun fun, they get to an age where they're just plain annoying and demanding and then they become teenagers and turn into complete turds (well that's what I did, although not so much on the demanding side).
* Personal extension – carrying on the genetic heritage or family name
- selfish/vain
* Relationship – the close bond which is shared with children
- not overly selfish
* Personal status – culture affords some respect just for being a parent
- bollocks, when is this the case? how many people do you know who thought "I'm going to have a kid so that people can look at me better"
* Personal competence – gratification from facing the challenge of parenting
- selfish (but only really the gratification bit, the actually facing the challenge is not necessarily selfish)
* Personal responsibility – the opportunity to look out for the welfare and education of another
- unselfish, unless not thinking about yourself can be classed as selfish
* Personal power – some find the power they have over children gratifying
- this is a common reason for becoming a child abuser not a parent
* Moral worth – some feel it is a good and selfless act to put the life of another first, or that it is a moral obligation to have children
- Again not sure if many people think "hey I must have a kid, if I don't I'll be being a bad person"

Bloggers Additions

* Biological/emotional desire for pregnancy
- selfish, but then who really wants to grow enormously, fell sick frequently, have trouble using the bathroom and then have to push a thing the size of a water melon out of their lady bits?
* Seeing the resulting genetic mix (actually, this is already mentioned under Personal extension, but I want to make the classic ‘physical expression of our love’ point)
- selfish, although anything which has my genes is probably going to wish it was dead.
* The world needs more of my genes
- selfish/stupid/vain/shush!, it's hardly a common reason to have a kid

So all in all not 100% selfish or common really, This hardly paints a good view of parents if their main motivation for having a kid is to play around with genes and stuff like that, if that's the case just go and buy spore when it's released. let's move on.

THIRTEEN COMMON REASONS GIVEN FOR NOT HAVING CHILDREN:

* Time together – more time each other and for other interests
- selfish
* Freedom – more opportunity to pursue other areas of life
- selfish
* Other children – can enjoy other children, and can help children who are already here through foster parenting or charity work with children
- errr. what, enjoy other children, this must be one of those things that can't be done when you're a parent, just too much to do with your own kids to do anything else.
* Dual careers – both people may pursue careers full time, a person (woman) does not have to quit, and a child is not raised by day care
- selfish, "We wants more money!!!" and I now of some stay at home dads. Also don't send your kid to a daycare for so long, go home and spend time with them.
* Financial security – more money to pursue other interests
- selfish, what other interests will you do? computer games, fine dinners, nice car, feed the poor (unlikely).
* Community welfare – greater opportunity to get involved in community organizations
- unselfish, but then why do people do community support? some do it for gratification, moral superiority etc.
* Difficulty – parenthood is a demanding and difficult job which is not always enjoyable
- Then you should just quit before things get to hard. Life is not always easy, deal with it.
* Strain on environmental resources – the world is already overpopulated and is unable to support the people who are already here
- unselfish, but not having kids doesn't solve this, we'll still pump out crap and burn oil and rip down trees etc. etc.
* Increase in overpopulation – having children geometrically increases this problem and all of the problems that come with it
- Repeat of above point.
* Choice not mandate – parenthood has to be a choice, not everyone is meant to be a parent
- Sorry are we dealing with the issue of forced parenthood, ahh now it all makes sense, yeah I agree, we shouldn't be forced to have kids, oh no wait this is a stupid point.
* Irrevocable decision – once the decision is made it cannot be changed, so people must be sure it is what they want
- Well yeah we should never do anything that can't be Ctrl-Zd, shame I can't go back in time and undo half of the stupid things I've done in the past. Also not really a reason to not have kids, just a piece of advice for those pondering.
* Failure – some people had unhappy or abusive childhoods and fear that they would not be a good parent
- then stand up to the challenge and don't be your parents/abuser, or don't have kids.
* Danger – the world is a dangerous place and it is not right to bring a child into it
- so is taking a crap, you never know when a crocodile could come up and bite your bum. Or more seriously, so are so many things we do on a daily basis, let's go hide in a cupboard and hope it all goes away.

So there's some selfish reasons for not having kids and some stupid points.

"I’m afraid I cannot think of a single justifiable reason to sexually reproduce in this day and age."

- Then think harder and stop being crazy!

On the whole it seems that some of the CONS points are more about a case by case approach to things, not just having kids to have kids, but really thinking about it and making sure it's what you want. I really don't think that it is as clear cut as that blog made out, having a kid is not ethically/morally unsound, but it can't also be classed as 100% ethical/moral, but then what can?

I guess there may be differences in my attitude because of being a Christian, I'm not going to have a kid for the sake of it, I'm going to have one because I really want one and for many other reasons besides that. It also comes down to my desire not to be told not to have kids by some crazy person. But that may just be me being selfish.

"For anybody who attaches any value whatsoever to other human beings [i.e. if you say you are opposed to human suffering as a principle, and you think you really mean this] I am pretty sure the only non-schizophrenic, logical conclusion is that you should not create a baby. Go on, correct me. I’d love an ethical baby someday."

- Yeah, going for the whole 2=2=4,576 BILLION! If you're opposed to human suffering as a principle then you need to stop driving a car, people are suffering in Iraq because of it, you need to stop eating anything that isn't fair/equitraded or imported into the country for cheap, you need to not buy anything from any highstreet shops, you need to not buy meat that hasn't come from a farmer that isn't being ripped off, you need to do so many other things aside from not having kids it's untrue. Also I'm not sure if you can class this decision as logical and she's most likely going to have a kid whether or not she gets corrected, which will undoubtedly come down to selfishness and finally by way of a total dig, schizophrenia has very little to do with this decision, I think she meant split-personality disorder and made the common mistake, oh well.

Bloody parents, ruining things for the rest of us.

An interesting post on Warwick blogs about having children vs. adopting (if you can bear reading it given the fact that the author has symbolically crossed the whole thing out). The author posits that in the current world situation, having a child of your own is a fundamentally selfish act, bringing happiness to yourself, whilst increasing the global problems of resource-depletion and overpopulation.

The argument, I guess, is that if you want a child, adopting one gives you all of the benefits of having a child (what you want), while providing a caring home for an existing child (what they want), and preventing further overpopulation (what we all want).

As far as adoption being a better idea than giving birth, it seems like a solid idea, and the only real argument I could see would be that for many people, it may seem more difficult to love a child who is not (biologically) your own. Short of slipping orphaned newborns into the arms of parents who have unknowingly just lost a child, there's no real solution to this, and so for those people, the argument comes down to whether it is morally justifiable to bring a child into the world, versus not doing so.

The argument then comes down to whether it is 'better' (in as objective as possible a sense) for life to be created than for it not to. Is it always better for a child to be given life, even if that life is likely to be short and unpleasant? Should we be aiming for the ideal of bringing as much life as possible into the world (trying to maximise potential for happiness), or trying to increase the quality of life of those already existing (trying to maximise actual happiness)?

Ultimately, of course, the problem comes down to one of moral imperative, and selfishness. Labelling bringing a new child into the world as a selfish act seems on balance to be a resonable thing to do, but this needs to be balanced by the meaning of the word selfish. I would argue that we all do so many selfish things every day (maximising our own local potential happiness at the expense of other people's actual happiness) that the 'selfish' label is maybe not so much of a deterrent. Having a child may be selfish, but so is going out for a drink with friends rather than volunteering at the local homeless shelter, or driving to work rather than selling my car and giving the money to charity. Or making any purchase other than food, drink and shelter.

So, the questions really come down to: If we want to eliminate (or reduce) selfishness in the way that we act, day to day, is not having a child (and potentially therefore adopting one) a meaningful decision to make? Would it make any difference in the glorious tide of selfishness that is modern life? Is it possible or desirable to eliminate selfishness as I describe it, and does the presence of such selfishness in the world actually matter?

I'm not going to answer these questions, because if I did, you wouldn't learn anything. Feel free to discuss in the comments, though.

The discussion also reminded me of vhemt, of whom I'm not entirely sure what I think.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Linkables 18/3/8

Google, breaking new ground in targeted advertising, and, via POTW, a heartening story.

Via iSpy, an awesome video mashup:


And a couple of awesome cool image blogs:

Photoshop Disasters, a record of publicity images that were not given enough of a once-over before being let out into the world. I particularly like this one.

Strange Maps, a really niche set of images, but made far more accessible by the text accompanying each map, that explains the context and history of the map, putting it into a much more interesting light for those of us who may not be up-to-date with our cartography. A good example.

Ich leibe Radion-Head

I like Radiohead, they're fantastic and Thom Yorke is an utter legend. here are some of the reasons why I think they're awesome, both musically and other things (all in video form :D )

video1
video2

It appears Adam Buxton had something to do with atleast one of these videos, but I dunno details.

UPDATE: link 1 now works, there was an erroneous 2 (most likely from me not hitting shift when doing "s)

Monday, 17 March 2008

Facebook I err. well actually I'm a little embarressed, err... sorry.

A response to the response from Patrick about my post about... well you get the idea.

From a web 2.0 standpoint, facebook ticks many boxes, and I don't begrudge it that.

I also don't want to discourage people from using facebook, as you so rightly said it is the community that makes it, so to discourage people would be to make it worse, not make it better. One of my housemates left facebook as he thought that too many social events where being organised through facebook and then people without facebook where missing out, he has some odd ideas anyway, but this I thought was particularly pointless.

I have also been using facebook (along with various other web2.0 site) as models for my own social network type site for my dissertation, so it has many plus points which should be noted (as you have) which I should also do.

I like the profile page, I like how you can put a variety of things on there that help to define you to an extend in the virtual world, without the need for knowledge of web design etc. I like how you can post a note to someone on their wall, it's fun and you can just do it whenever about anything. And there's probably more stuff, but I can't think of them right now.

However it also has it's annoyances, but then so does everything, I may have got slightly carried away with my ramblings, which can happen, and come across as all out facebook hating ness things. But that's not really the case, the annoyances don't outweigh the good stuff

I do however only use facebook infrequently now, which is due more to my current lifestyle (ie. doing more work and less sitting in front of a computer doing nothing) but also a little to do with the annoyance I have with facebook at times.

There is also a slight feeling of "jack of all trades" that makes me think that the site is trying to do too much all at once (could be wrong). As I've said somewhere before (maybe my blog) I've recently started using flickr (how slow on the uptake am I with that, only been going for like 5 years or so) which I do like for displaying my better photos, where facebook is more for silly ones, and I will have my own site soon(ish) that will hold everything else I want to put on the intermaweb. But flickr caters for one thing, photos, which is does well. And there are other sites that cater for other single interests, which they do well too, but facebook does lots of stuff and sometimes feels like it crams it all into one space. humm half formed thoughts there, sorry.

So in some form of conclusion, I was overly critical of facebook, but it's more to do with the application creators and the "friends" who keep sending me crap, so I'll tell them off and go on using facebook infrequently. However I still meh it, if someone mentions facebook, I probably wont go off on an hour long rant about how crap it is and how everyone who uses it should die (mainly because it'd include me), but I'm also not going to sing it's praises. Maybe if it had stuck with it's university exclusiveness then it may be a better place, as it wouldn't start catering for kids and the like, but maybe it wouldn't. Anyway I'd much rather see it change to be a better functioning site, where the user is allowed to control the content they receive more (web 2.0 hooooo) than to see it disappear into the interland or get painted with the emo brush (poor myspace).

Well there you have it, Andy's not that crazy really.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Facebook, I actually rather like you.

This is a vague response to Andy's post of a couple of days ago on the shortcomings of Facebook, and the applications system in particular. While I'm sure some (most? (all?)) of it was tongue-in-cheek, it seems to me representative of many people's reactions to facebook as an easy target for criticism. I'm certainly not going to claim that facebook is perfect, that it is the pinnacle of the social web, or that it is without some fairly serious problems, but I do feel that a lot of the criticism it gets is unwarranted, or, at least, overblown. So, here's my rundown of the things that make facebook great:

It's a web app: Facebook is constantly evolving, without the need for user-interaction. Where a local application needs your permission to install an upgrade (and so is only likely to prompt you occasionally, for fear of annoyance), the facebook developers can and do upgrade their code continuously. There is no delay on bugfixes, and obvious problems can be fixed as soon as they arise. This means that judging it on particular problems is less useful than for more fixed-state applications, for which a particular problem may be around for much longer.

It's still young: Social web applications have been around for a fair while now, but with the expansion of the web in the last couple of years, the latest generation (facebook, myspace, bebo, friendster) now have a large enough userbase that they are interesting other businesses for the first time as a marketing tool. The fact that this is only just happening means that the 'rules' are yet to be made, and the users when those rules are made will have a lot of power over the form they take. Want to make sure that advertising doesn't ruin social sites? Make sure you are still using the service when the as the marketing starts to take effect, so that you can make your reactions known. And this 'service youth' is not just restricted to marketing opportunities, but to the whole social model. For the first time, a community the size of a country is using the same software at the same time. We won't know the problems or opportunities that this might create until they happen, because it is an entirely new type of business, but it seems silly to leave just when it's getting exciting.

It's extendible: The Facebook Development Platform is a hugely exciting tool, taking the 'user generated content' idea to the natural next step by allowing users to define parts of the software for themselves. See something that might be fun and useful, but does not exist? Write it yourself and put it out there. Naturally, the apps that thrive will be the ones that are spread around most easily (at the moment these are mostly viral pyramid-scheme type apps), and this is probably the largest annoyance to the community in general at the moment. While the 'youth' point might excuse the fact that this problem was not anticipated, the 'web' application' point should imply that something can be done about it relatively quickly. And, indeed, a solution has begun to emerge, providing a number of different alternatives to let the community filter the types of applications it wants to see.

It needs to be good: I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating - there is no use for a social network with no community. If facebook do something that pisses off users to the point that they leave, they are risking their entire business model. This is not to say that the model is fragile since people become attached to any software, and will take a certain amount of bad service in their stride before looking for alternatives. However, with the fact that everyone and their brother is able to write a social app nowadays, it becomes more and more important for facebook to stay ahead of the game. If someone else comes along with an app that is percieved to be more secure, more user friendly, more accessible, facebook will need to react or lose users. And such an app will appear if facebook is percieved to have weaknesses. This combined with the relatively small cost and time-investment required online, means that facebook must react quickly to users to give them what they want, rather than (as in other business models) being able to do the bare minimum and still rake in the cash.

So I don't think that the percieved application problems outlined by Andy should be enough to force anyone away from facebook as a social app. Firstly, it it your friends, not random people, who are causing these problems, and it should be relatively easy to convince them to stop (and if not, why are they your friends). And, secondly, as mentioned above, the problem is clear, important and fixable, and is therefore being addressed by the developers.

While I don't think that people should use facebook if they do not enjoy it, since otherwise all pressure on them to keep the service good goes out of the window, I believe that people need to be aware of what is being done, and what can be done, and that rather than a fixed product, facebook is something that can and will change according to the wishes of the community.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

Review: Cloverfield

Way back at the start of the year, I tried to express how excited I was by the prospect of Cloverfield. I wasn't sure at the time both whether my excitement would last until I saw the film, and whether the film would in any way live up to my expectations. As it is, I was still excited when I finally sat down in the cinema, having managed to avoid as much speculation and background and as many spoilers as I could. I'd also managed to convince myself to lower my expectations, which was a good idea as it turned out. That is not to say that Cloverfield is a bad film, it is an extremely accomplished monster movie, but aside from the pure entertainment, there's not a huge amount there.

The strongest and weakest points of the (short) trailer were the ambiguity of the images. There was no explanation, no real setting (other than, obviously, New York) and, most importantly, no confinement of expectations. This left people free to develop their own visions and ideas about what was happening, and their own back stories and explanations as more details were revealed. This was a real hook, because it avoided alienating people by giving away any context, while providing them with a clear idea of the style of film to expect, a disaster movie from the point of view of a handheld camera. The other side of the coin, of course is that there is no way that the film itself could live up to the multitude of possibilities that could be suggested by the trailer, and hence there is the risk that many people who end up seeing the film are going to be disappointed by the actual plot and scripting decisions that were made. This, then was the reason I tried to keep my expectations low, to avoid being underwhelmed by something that had in reality not promised anything at all.

So, on to the film itself, and, as I said before, I did enjoy it. It is very much a popcorn movie - lots of action and special effects without too much story or too many character dynamics to distract from the pretty pictures - and accepting it as just that definately makes for an entertaining 84 minutes.

The uniqueness of the presentation, showing us events through a single camera carried by one of the actors (though not permanently on) is not a truly original idea, of course, but it is the first time (that I am aware of) it has been used in conjunction with a big budget and large-scale special effects. In general, I thought it worked very well - there are a few moments where suspension of disbelief is required, as to whether the characters would keep hold of the camera, much less point it appropriately, and it feels sometimes like we are looking at what the character is looking, rather than it being truly footage from a heavy piece of equipment being carried. For example, there are a noticeable lack of scenes where conversations take place with the camera rested on the ground and forgotten - most of the time (even if nothing notable is happening) the camera moves and looks where the character holding it looks, even if the situation doesn't really seem to warrant it.

This is a minor point really, though, since there needs to be some artistic licence given to allow the film to feel dramatic and connected, rather than disjointed and jarring (as I feel actual 'found footage' would be). There are other ways in which the central idea is used well, particularly the way that we see glimpses of the previous tape footage when characters review the original tape. This simple idea gives another dimension to a film that otherwise would be relying too much on on-camera exposition and background. The scenes from the past and the present are clearly designed to fit together meaningfully, but rather than being jarring, this feels nicely poetic, and I thought it was one of the film's strongest points.

The main problem with the handheld camera view, for me, was not the shaking (which I had no problem with at all, but which seems a major bone of contention for a proportion of those who have seen the film) but with the character holding it. While none of the characters showed particular imagination or personality, the one holding the camera for the majority of the film came across as a hugely irritating half-wit. I have no problem with the idea of a character like that existing, and some of the moments with him saying totally the wrong things to try and comfort one of his friends were nicely done, but having him essentially be the commentator and guide for the whole film becomes really quite wearing after a while.

There is a certain level of horror-movie type plotting through the film (though without any particularly scary moments), and the brief amount of time allowed for character development means that the main characters seem to make some fairly bizarre decisions. It would have been nice to perhaps have some more focus on the development a couple of characters, but whenever this seems to be happening, there is generally some interruption to move the plot forward. This is not to say that the characters feel totally one-dimensional, necessarily, but there is sometimes the feeling that the choices they make are for scripting purposes rather than ones true to the character.

There is a significant portion of the start of the film dedicated to character setup, and while it provides a good contrast to the dynamic later scenes, there is a fair amount of trivial back-and-forth, which fits with the setting of a party, but possibly wastes too much time, given the length of the film. Having said that, the dialogue throughout seems pretty realistic, with long speeches and monologues generally avoided, helping it feel more like a 'found' piece than a scripted one.

Although the characters may occasionally feel slightly off, they are inhabiting a world that shows huge attention to detail. The early scenes of panicking crowds and large scale destruction are excellently done, and the backdrop of devastation throughout the film is detailed and consistent. The special effects are great, and the main monster is strange enough to be constantly disconcerting when glimpses of it appear.

In general, and ignoring some of the concessions that need to be made in order for the story to be cinematic (84 minutes of people hiding in a cellar might be more believeable, but would be less interesting), the film is excellent fun, barrels along at a good pace, and has just enough to the characters to keep it interesting. There are some minor points that don't work, and I thought it might have been a better film without the final 10 minutes of the original tape, but it's definately a worthy addition to a genre that gets written off too easily.

Verdict: Tightly produced, and entertaining to watch. The short run time keeps the pace up, but leaves possibly too little room for interesting character development. 7/10

Video Games

Well I just finished Star Wars Knight of the Old Republic (KOTOR for short) which was fun, well I say that, I resorted to cheats as "the fun" had been beaten to a bloody pulp by he end part, along with my character. But I did 99.99999% of it without cheats, so I feel proud.

The thing with KOTOR though is that you can either play it going down the dark side route (which I chose this time round) or the light side (which I chose all the other times I've played it, but never completed it)and various shades of gray, so I have actually fully completed it, maybe in a few years time I'll go back and play it all the way through again as a lovely light side person.

As much as I enjoyed being a complete bastard and ending up ruling the galaxy, hurrah, I felt a little sad for the poor jedi etc. who I deserted/killed, I'm obviously a nice person really, however having the power to kill people from a far with the force or fire lightning at them was very enjoyable, until such time as the people you where fighting became too powerful and immune to your various puny attempts to hurt them, hence the resorting to cheating, but only for the very very last battle.

So I guess onto my point, If there is indeed one. It frustrates me when games, in an attempt to make things challenging decide to dispense with fun and just make things too hard. This may say a lot about my gaming err.. prowess, or lack there of, that I find bit of games too hard. There is also the fact that with games like KOTOR a lot of the fun comes from the fact you wield such great power, lightsabers are the best thing in the universe and the force powers are so much fun it hurts, but when their effectiveness is taken away from you in order to make it more difficult, you feel like you've just had your limbs removed aswell. I think also of much more recent games like Gears of War, where the final boss was stupidly difficult (on easy as well as the harder difficulties) and didn't really give you a hint as to how best to dispatch with him, It eventually happened, but only after not playing the game for weeks then picking it back up and replaying this one section over and over until I finally killed him. Repetition annoys me in games, why should I have to do the exact same thing over and over because my head exploded? why can't it adapt to my way of playing, allowing me to have to really put effort into defeating my foe, but without having to go back to the start constantly? This should hopefully work so that whatever skill level you have you can still have a good battle, without the annoyance. I'm not a game developer and never will be so I'm not likely to be able to do much about this, but hopefully they'll realise that games are meant to be fun and when they become repetitive or more like a chore they need to sort it out.

Anyway on to KOTOR2, weeeeee.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Videos

I've got a couple of half written posts, but they're not ready to go up here, yet, so I'm stuck giving you yet more links. In this case, to various videos I've enjoyed over the last few weeks:

Firstly the wider availability of handheld recording devices is being expertly countered by increasingly realistic CG effects in the battle to prove or disprove the existence of alien visitation. Two particularly viral fakes:

Haiti UFO [fake]



[fake]

Secondly, this video was linked from woot a while back, providing as it does an imagined english interpretation of an indian song:



and it reminded me of this 'Songs of Praise' reinterpretation by Adam Buxton:



Then we have some insane football skills, again, via woot:



Thundercat outtakes, put to some appropriate video from the show:



And finally some awesome dating video clips from the 80s. Tell me Louie doesn't sound like a Will Ferrell character:

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Facebook I Meh You!

In the days when facebook was trendy and exclusive (and Salford university was such a nonentity that it wasn't worthy of being part of facebook, here may lie the problem) I really wanted to join and be part of the whole wonderfully new thing. Now I wish that I could be back when I wasn't allowed to join along with the hordes of other losers who now make up the bulk of the facebook community. I still have a facebook account, as it still holds some use, however I wish I could block bits of it from my eyes.

Most of the applications (I'll admit not all of them) are completely pointless and I'm getting a little tired of rejecting requests to add an application which helps you to find out "which animals rectum do you most resemble" or even "what productive task would you be doing right now if facebook didn't exist" (these aren't real applications, as far as I know, but they probably should be).

This leads me nicely onto my point. It'd be great to create an application called the "prickometer" (or "prick-o-meter", depending on your was of pronouncing it) where by you instantly receive 1,000 prick points for installing the app, then it looks at how many apps you already have (10 point per app), then at how many app requests you've sent to friends (4billion points per request, well maybe just 20), then it looks at how often you're on facebook (1 point per minute, -25 for every day in a row you're not), then at when you joined, pre or post open to all day (-25 points for before, +100 for after) and finally it asks you a pile of completely pointless questions, comes up with a "personality" for you and then asks you if this matches with your real personality (with an additional 1,000 points if you chose yes). Finally you get to display your prickitude on your home page, which will be a stupidly huge box (which only sits in the main window) with the words "I'M A HUGE PRICK" in big primary colour letters with a funky pointer thingy on a graded scale beneath it displaying just how much of a prick you are, and a link for your friends to find out how much of a prick they are too!

Here's an artists impression:



Now this all sounds very harsh, and to be honest I don't mean it in an overly aggressive way. I just had the idea and thought it'd be fun, although it may have come out all aggressive, oh well :D

Oh by the way the title refers to my general feelings about facebook these days, "meh" I could live without it quite happily, but since it's here I may as well use it, but I may get bored of it soon.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

COFFEE POOPS!!!! is what I cry!

Hey look I've posted a err... post, stupid words. Incidentally stupid gravity too as it just made some tapes (video, not audio) fall off my speakers, doing mild damage to the (unlit) candle beneath them, grrr. which also leads me onto stupid wobbly table, but I digress and this is not the reason for the post.

I've been drinking coffee more than usual recently (ie actually drinking it rather than not) which is a weird sort of way of trying to get my brain to go, wow coffee that means I must work, as I've been drinking coffee whilst working (or in this case blogging). However coffee being the mild laxative that it is (or something like that) it means that I then have to go do potty (hummm... I worry about my sanity at times, this post may reflect my current mood, and may also explain why for the past few weeks I've been acting like a crazy person, maybe coffee's bad for me), to which I have been refering to it as "Coffee poops" as... well it seems to make sense.

So anyway, this is what can only be described as a misguided post and I may have to edit it when I've stopped being a crazy person, or not.

OOOOH, on a more serious not (what a relief) if any of you loverdy people have a nectar card, they're giving 1,000 points if you take the nectar film club (in association with lovefilm.com) 2 week trial, which isn't long, but two weeks of free dvds is always fun. Get the 3 Dvd package, load your list and cancel with enough time to send them all back intime and you'll hopefully get 1,000 points (28 days after all the criteria are met, which could include doing a little jig for the queen for all I know, and who checks 4 weeks later to see if they went in?). Go make happy film time for yourself!

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

On Shaving.

My face should not have to interact on a daily basis with something that can cause it to bleed for five hours. That is all.

Damn you, Gillette.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Linkables 10/3/8

A nice round up of The 20 Best "That Guy"s of all time. Especially David Morse - I don't think I'd ever even heard his name before, but he's teh awesome. Not sure Tom Wilkinson should be on there, he's a pretty awesome actor in his own right (*cough* Michael Clayton *cough*). Good reference point for excellent supporting actors though.

For the geeks among you, a video introduction to SQL injection (and why you should never rely on client-side validation).

A brilliant little stylish flash game. Seriously, this one's got that whole 'gameplay' thing down to a fine art.

Also, hot pants.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

This weekend...

...I have been mostly pleased by...

  • ... listening to Heretic Pride all weekend, and loving every track.
  • ... being in sustained and rewarding contact with some of my wonderful friends with whom I had not been in contact with for a while.
  • ... getting into some awesome commenting-conversations on (not so) old blog entries.
  • ... playing stupid games and eating junk food in front of good films.
  • ... finally eating at Wagamama, and finding it to be quite acceptably tasty.
  • ... the FA cup quarter final madness.

...while I have mostly been frustrated by...
  • ... web hosting companies that upgrade from PHP4 to PHP5 without warning or notification, thus causing their faithful clients to spend hours pulling their hair out over why their code is breaking.
  • ... webcomics without rss feeds.
  • ... the fact that I want to connect a laptop to a television but keep buying the wrong cables.
  • ... the fact that the aforementioned television refuses to accept a widescreen resolution when linked from a laptop, despite actually being widescreen.
  • ... the fact that spending time with some of my wonderful friends precludes spending time with other wonderful friends.
  • ... the fact that some of my wonderful friends make it very difficult to arrange time with which to spend with them.
  • ... the fact that I've resorted to random lists in order to keep a vague semblance of life about this blog, after a hugely productive January and February.
  • ... the fact that Newcastle can't buy a slice of good luck at the moment.
  • ... the fact that it's over so quickly.
So a mixed one in total.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Think of the children.

There was a story on BBC Breakfast this morning, which doesn't appear to have made it onto the BBC website about a school that replaced all of the children's faces in their website's photos with smiley faces in an apparent attempt to protect them from paedophiles. Without spending too much time on the fact that the overall effect is deeply creepy, with blank, lobotomised expressions looking out at the camera from above school uniforms, it's a still pretty ludicrous move by the school.

The photos are useless with all the faces covered - why have photos including children's faces at all if you're going to have to cover them. There was a suggestion on the BBC this morning that the covering up was a reaction by the school to the realisation that they did not have the parent's permission to put up the photos, and so were covering themselves while they checked.

Either way, I'm not going to write anything really interesting about it, but it reminded me of two excellent posts from immedia reaction that cover similar issues: closer to home and the issue of identity.

Also, why is one of the faces sad? Again, creepy as hell.

UPDATE: immedia reaction posts a far better analysis than I was willing to attempt.

Who's Gary?

I've always wanted to try D&D, but never really found anyone else who was interested. Hence I don't really have anything to add to Gary Gygax's death. I never really knew anything about him, my experience being limited to his appearance in Futurama, and what I have read since his passing. In either case, D&D was clearly a massive milestone in the development of modern RPGs, both tabletop and digital, and the news has reawakened my desire to try it out.

In addition, his death has been very well represented in the webcomic section of the blogosphere by (in order of preference of the comic in question): PA, xkcd, OOTS, Weregeek.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

I can seeeee you...

Someone loan me a grand for these real life x-ray specs and I'll spend the rest of my life lounging by the beach. There's some kind of justification talking about the police being able to see hidden weapons and through darkened glass, but seriously, we all know what this is really used for... 95% penetration of modern swimwear. Sweeeeet. (pics NSFW).

And, via W00t, an awesome interpretation of global conflict from WW2 onwards, though the medium of the local delicacy. (Plus one with captions naming the conflicts in question).

Monday, 3 March 2008

Mclink

nothing to do with Mcdonalds, just wanted a more scotish feel.

phun, is what you shall have. It's similar to the crayon game, but with more features.

I made a trebuchet :D

also while I'm here, I now have a flickr account and some picture within, clickity clickity clickity click

Post(s) of the Week(s)

I've spent the last couple of days reading through the past winners of Post of the Week. It's an interesting little voting community, where nominated posts are whittled down to a short list by a panel of judges and then voted on by the site's readers. It's a really useful way of finding blogs with great writing but without a big readership, especially since blogs that are nominated a lot are removed from the circulation, keeping the award going to newer blogs.

Some of my favourites so far:

Interesingly (I don't know whether this is by design or by accident) most of the winners seem to be personal-experience based and anecdotal in nature. Some of them are funny, some of them are moving. Most of the ones I've chosen above are funny, but the moving ones are by no means less impactful.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Look you stupid bastard, you've got no arms left

I've been intending for a while to start a quasi-series of entries (or several of them) for this blog about things that I have a significant interest in. One that I'd like to start is reviews of my favourite movies, taking a slightly different tack to the film reviews that have appeared on here by focsing mainly on why they are my favourites and what makes them to my mind some of the best cinematic pieces ever committed to film; I haven't done this thusfar as I'd really like to include some relatively hefty analysis, and I just don't have time to do that properly at the moment. So I'm going to now try and make the inaugural entry covering my music taste, which will hopefully become one of those quasi-series that I mentioned earlier.

I take pride in the fact that my music taste is exactly that: whatever music I like. There are very few genres and artists I will write off without giving them a fair try first. Having come from a family very much into listening to music (my dad's vinyl collection is truly a sight to behold) my music taste has come out as expansive, varied and eclectic. I do have specific areas of music that I'm more interested in that the rest, and it is these that I'd like to cover in these entries.

I'd like to point out before I get started that I'm not intending for these entries to be aimed mainly at people with an interest in music themselves. If anything, I'm writing more for people who maybe don't have as much time for music as me or don't see it as something they are really into. Part of the function of these posts will be as a starting block on discovering more about the genres and artists I mention, almost with a "beginners' guide" vibe to it, except not using that terminology, as that sounds very self-important and condescending. I urge everyone to give this and future music posts of mine a go.

The only reason I chose the Python quote for the title of this entry is the word "bastard", as I now intend to talk about one of my favourite genres: bastard pop. The songs in this genre are generally known as "bootlegs", "mash-ups" or "cut-ups", with the latter two seeming to have perforated mainstream culture more than the first, or indeed the genre name. An extensive history and explanation of the genre can be found on Wikipedia here, so there's no need for me to go through all the details. The most common form of mash-up uses the instrumental part of one song and the acappella of another, mixing them together to create a new track (generally known as "A+B" mash-ups, for obvious reasons). More sophisticated mash-ups can include DJ techniques such as sound manipulation, or might incorporate parts of several different tracks. The simplest mash-ups can often be the most effective however.

The main reason I like bastard pop so much is the simplicity of the idea that can often create some truly breathtaking results. The most impressive mash-ups are ones where it feels like the creator has made a completely new song. I'll be listing some of my favourite mash-ups later in the entry, and some of those have that effect. Others include songs of which I'm not a big fan of the original versions but love the mash-ups. I've had a go at making some of my own mash-ups with mixed results. When you create a combination which you know sounds really good it's a fantastic feeling. Playing around with time and keys is also great fun. It can be frustrating but, once again, when you get it right, the feeling is worth it.

So, if you've not experienced much in the way of mash-ups, or even if you have, here's a selection of my most favourite bastard pop tracks, with links where possible:


Dreadlock Child (Destiny's Child vs 10cc) by 2 Many DJ's - these guys are truly pioneers of the genre, and have produced some of the best mash-ups around. This one is so simple and yet so effective. It's also one of the ones I mentioned where I don't like the original (not a Destiny's Child fan really), but the combination works so well that I can't help but love it. Definitely a track to test out how you feel about mash-ups. You can find it on the album As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt.2 - an excellent album all round - although I'd be surprised if it wasn't floating around the internet as a stream or something somewhere...

Smack My Bitch Up The Orinoco Flow (Enya vs The Prodigy) [Lenlow Edit] by Apeboy - this currently holds the position of my favourite mash-up above all others. It's just ingenious. I've played it to people before who aren't really fans of The Prodigy and/or Enya and they've been entranced by its brilliance. Another example of simplicity working to a phenomenal degree. You can grab it here, and I urge you to check out some of Lenlow's other mash-ups as he's made some pretty decent stuff.

Daytrip To Never Never Land (Michael Jackson vs The Beatles) by Go Home Productions - GHP (aka Mark Vidler) is my favourite mash-up creator. Being as he is a professional DJ his standards are hard to beat, but he also has a great sense of humour in many of his tracks. This track in particular is one that always makes me smile when I hear it. Again, the simplicity of the idea of it is one of the strengths of the track. GHP has recently made his entire back catalogue of bootlegs and remixes available for download on his website. If you fancy a fairly hefty but consistently high quality introduction to mash-ups then I can't think of a much better way to do it than download all 16 albums of Mark Vidler's tracks, but if you wanted an easier way to get into his stuff, there's also a "best of" compilation - This Was Pop (2002-2007) - which can be downloaded as two halves here and here. The track I've named above isn't on it though; you can get it on this compilation. The next few tracks below are all also available on the GHP website.

Ray Of Gob (Madonna vs The Sex Pistols) by Go Home Productions - this one actually sounds like a new song. It's available here.

Backstab Me One More Time (Britney Spears vs The O'Jays) by Go Home Productions - Great fun and a combination I doubt many people would ever fathom. Here's where to find it.

Pinochiohead On LSD (Walt Disney vs Radiohead vs The Beatles) by Go Home Productions - a truly eclectic combination, and another that I love despite disliking one of the original artists (Radiohead). Oh, and the misspelling of Pinocchio is not my mistake. Get this one here.

Let It Beast (Beastie Boys vs The Beatles) by dj BC - dj BC is another mash-up artist worth checking out extensively. He's currently made two albums consisting entirely of Beastie Boys vs Beatles tracks which used to be available here but are currently not online. They shouldn't be too tough to track down on the 'net however. This track I've picked out as one of my favourites, as it's one of the tightest all round from both compilations.

What More Can I Say (Jay-Z vs The Beatles) by Danger Mouse - I realise this list has been pretty Beatle-heavy so far, but they're just one of the most utilised mash-up artists. Plus I'm a Beatles fan. Besides, the album this track comes from - The Grey Album - is one of the most important in the entire bastard pop genre. The production is second to none, the combinations are fab. The Grey Album isn't available anywhere specifically currently because of legal issues, but once again, look around on the internet for it and it'll make itself known to you.

Marshall's Been Done To Death (Eminem vs... ) by The Freelance Hairdresser - purely comic mash-ups come from The Freelance Hairdresser, alter ego of Soundhog. This one always makes me laugh. Again, its simplicity is one of its main strengths. It also plays off the fact that the acappella of Eminem's Without Me, as well as most other well-known Eminem songs, can be put over pretty much any backing and sound all right. Look around the internet and you'll find hundreds of Eminem mash-ups that have no doubt been made in ten minutes or less. That's what makes this track so funny. Just download it and have a listen. Here's the rest of The Freelance Hairdresser's tracks.

American Jesus (Green Day vs... ) by Dean Gray - another one off a whole bootleg album, and I recommend you get hold of the whole thing. The track's here, and the whole album seems to be available here at the moment, but this is another one that had legal complications when it was first made available, so I'd grab it sooner rather than later. Some incredible combinations and high-quality DJing is evident throughout the album, with the opening track American Jesus as a tour de force of bastard pop.

Gwen's Electric (Gwen Stefani vs Oasis) by BamBi - yes, this is a shameless plug for my own mash-up, but I'm quite proud of some of the tracks I've made recently and I'm keen to get people to listen to them. I've received some positive feedback on this track from fellow mash-up enthusiasts and creators for which I was grateful. Incidentally, the Get Your Bootleg On forums are a good place to get hold of a wide range of bastard pop tracks. And all my mash-ups are available here.


So, there you go. A fairly hefty post in the end, so I'll curtail things there. The tracks I've listed I reckon are a good starting point as an overview of what there is within the bastard pop genre. If I think of any more I'll make a follow-up entry and continue the list. And although this entry has taken far longer than I intended, I've really enjoyed writing it and will try to do another one of these music posts on another genre, or maybe an artist, in the near future. But for now, get going on the mash-ups.