De omnibus dubitandum
25 May 2011
I’d been reading several intriguing reviews of a new BBC documentary series: All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. Variously called ‘cerebral’, ‘bewildering’, and ‘intellectually challenging’, it seemed a very promising piece of television, so I caught it on BBC iPlayer to see it for myself.
I was disappointed. Instead of an intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking documentary, the first episode of All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace is a disjointed collection of vaguely related concepts and events, mixed up with cleverly edited visuals and sound effects in an attempt to paint a specific picture.
To be honest it looked like its creator, Adam Curtis, had a specific point to make, and instead of testing that point against reality he decided to cherry-pick from reality in order to make that point. It reeked a bit of a conspiracy theory, truth be told.
Having said that, I’m pretty comfortable with the economic aspects of the documentary, showing a small elite of financial power-brokers manipulating politics and the course of nations for their personal gain. That’s not a particularly new insight – anyone with common sense should know that.
But when he makes the leap to information technology, when he tries to lay the blame at the increased interconnectivity of the world via computers, that’s when his argumentation falls flat and the whole thing comes crumbling down like a house of cards. It’s almost as if he’s trying too hard to position computers as the culprit of all this evil – while in fact it’s just human greed.
The reviewers I mentioned earlier seemed to be overwhelmed by Curtis’s use of imagery and sound. But after you penetrate that façade, what remains is a fairly hollow intellectual argument. It has some merit, but it tries to make leaps and connections that are simply not there to make.
I suppose the attempt to include the certified nutcase Ayn Rand and her deranged philosophy in his argumentation doesn’t help his case. Nonetheless I’ll probably be watching the other episodes of this series, if only to see what other logic-defying leaps Curtis is willing to make.
9 Jun 2010
I can’t. Hate Tom Cruise, that is. I can’t help it, I love the guy.
Yes I know he’s a Scientologist, that totally bizarro-world nutcase religion with some really whacked-out ideas about space thetans and trillion-year old aliens, the same religion that’s not above using violence and extortion to keep their secrets intact. But hey, at least they don’t rape kids.
It’s not that all of Tom Cruise’s films have been so awesome – some have even been pretty damn bad. Really, really bad. But you have to admit that many of his films have been pretty good. Some films have even been really, really good.
But none of this really matters. Because the main reason I can’t hate Tom Cruise is because he doesn’t take himself very seriously.
This is one of Hollywood’s leading men, a one-man box-office hit-generator who is arguably one of the most famous people alive on the planet, and he goes around and does things like this:
And then, for no other reason than because he wants to, he goes ahead and repeats it on one of TV’s biggest annual events: the MTV Movie Awards.
(Unfortunately there’s no video available outside of the US due to Viacom’s anally retentive copyright-obsessed lawyers denying the rest of the world the glory of Les Grossman via legitimate means, so I suggest you find the video on your favourite file-sharing site.)
A man that is that famous, and yet possesses sufficient quantities of humour and self-mockery to do this sort of thing and enjoy it, deserves praise.
So there you have it. I like Tom Cruise. I really do.
12 May 2010
Airport security event:
Customs Official: ‘May I know your name?’
Passenger : ‘Batman’
Customs Official: ‘What’s your name?’
Passenger : ‘My name is Batman’
Customs Official: ‘Trying to be funny? What’s your surname?’
Passenger : ‘Superman’
Customs Official: ‘So you’re telling me your name is Batman Superman?’
Passenger : ‘Yes’
Customs Official: ‘Arrest this guy’
When they had him in custody, he was asked to show his identification card:
(I know this is an oldie but it’s still so damn funny.)
9 Apr 2010
New research published today suggest there may be a link between UK news consumption and IQ test scores.
The research, conducted by Emeritus Professor Ian Connell of the Francis Anthony Institute of Liverpool, has revealed that people who regularly read tabloid publications such as the Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, and Daily Mail, are much more likely to achieve scores below 100 on official IQ tests.
The study was performed on a group of 150 volunteers from across the United Kingdom. Each subject was administered an IQ test at the start of the study, then made to read the same national newspaper publication every day for a week, after which the IQ test was administered again.
The results showed that readers of ‘tabloid’ papers found their IQ scores dropped dramatically after a week of exposure to these news sources. Researchers also made note of a number of side effects in this group of subjects, such as a greater tendency to wear pyjamas during the day and increased viewing of commercial TV reality shows.
Readers of mainstream ‘quality’ papers such as the Times, the Telegraph, and the Guardian, were found to have no significant statistical change in their IQ scores before and after their exposure to their selected newspaper. In some cases however readers of the Telegraph started raving uncontrollably about ‘climate change conspiracies’ and Guardian readers tended to develop a strong preference for the colour red.
Participants of the study that were made to read the Independent showed a marginal but ‘statistically significant’ increase in IQ test results, as well as a propensity to speak whole sentences in Russian. The researchers however referred to this test group as ‘an anomaly’.
Commenting on the study, Emeritus Professor Ian Connell of the Francis Anthony Institute of Liverpool said that this research “may have exposed some alarming side-effects of the choices made by the public in their consumption of news content.”
Referring to similar research performed by the Delft University of Medical Branches, which revealed a similar effect of lowered IQ scores for readers of the Telegraaf newspaper in the Netherlands, professor Connell added that it was “encouraging to see other researchers take the effects of news consumption on human intellect more seriously.”
“However,” he added, “correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. More research is required.”
22 Jun 2009
20 Jun 2009
This is one of the biggest reasons straight men should not be friends with attractive females. An excerpt:
I really like you. I do. You’re so nice, and sweet, and you listen to all my problems and respond with the appropriate compliments. But, well, I don’t really see a relationship in our future. It would be terrible if we let sex destroy this great friendship we have where I get everything I want and you get nothing you want. Don’t you think?
The inevitability of this type of one-way friendship is exactly why I stopped being friends with unmarried women.
12 Jun 2009
Here’s a sample of a hilarious set of splash pages a web developer considered putting up on his site for every IE6 user: