2019 in films part 1

Flash Gordon – I guess you could call this a cult classic. I felt compelled to watch this due to the umpteen references in popular culture. It was bit of a damp squib. It’s a naff, 1980s, poor man’s Star Wars. The acting, the sets and special effects are all bad. It’s as though they made Space Balls into a serious film. You can’t get away with saying they did they best they could, with the technology they had at the time. Star Wars and 2001 were both made before this and look much better. Maybe they had bigger budgets. Also Blessed says ‘Gordon’s alive!” with more gusto in real life than he even did in the film… 5/10

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Stylistically this film is unique and quite quaint. It keeps your attention well and somehow the naff special effects don’t detract from the cinematography, rather add to it. It’s funny and gripping, though Gustave H speaks a little too quickly for my liking 8.5/10

The Revanant – Disgusting. It’s funny how retrospectively, native Americans are cast as the villains in Hollywood cinema, when it was the white Europeans who committed mass genocide on the indigenous people isn’t it? That aside (I was rooting for the natives), it’s a good thriller. The gore is a little too much, though paltry compared to Bone Tomahawk. The bear scene was impressive for the acting and CGI. 9/10

Fahrenheit 11/9 – I don’t really remember much. He did cover the Michigan water scandal, the new wave of progressive Dems and why the midterms were so important. He argued that when Democrats become centrists, there’s little difference between them and Republicans and difficult to win elections. I also remember the footage of Obama pretending to drink contaminated water. Shameful. 9/10

The Mule – Clint Eastwood is a shitty person but he’s still a good actor. This is a true story about a octogenerian drug smuggler. Quite entertaining with a predictable ending. 7.5/10

Bandersnatch – Good concept in theory. In reality, I don’t want to play a game whilst watching a film. Especially when some of the choices are pointless e.g. choose which music to listen to on the bus. Good storyline overall. 8/10

Birdman – Surreal, blurs the lines of fiction and reality. Nothing to write home about. 7.5/10

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – My gripe is that the protagonist glorifies terrorism. Though the twist was nice. It’s not as bad as everyone says it was. Average at best. 7/10

The Adventures of Tintin – Loses a point for being a kids film, it’s also plagued by the uncanny valley. The writers have blatantly lifted the plot from the first two episodes of the cartoon. 7/10

Gone Girl – What a car crash of a film throughout. Captivating and a fitting ending. 10/10

Gladiator – I saw this over 17 years ago on VHS™, and didn’t remember anything. A fantastic film: good plot, good action and good acting. Joaquin Phoenix looks very strange in this.  10/10

Transsiberian – I like films set in unusual places. The female protagonist was difficult to empathize with and some of her decisions questionable. 8/10


So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Reviewed

So You've Been Publicly ShamedSo You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite entertaining overall, it’s a collection of stories about people who have been shamed (surprising I know). The inaugural chapter is the one I enjoyed the most, where Ronson employs a personal cyber army, to leverage the shutdown of a spambot Twitter account, that was stealing his identity. The Jonah Lehrer saga I didn’t find particularly interesting, though I did find the idea of him asking for forgiveness in the vicinity of a live tweet wall, rather hilarious and outrageous. I am glad the whole book didn’t end up being about him.

I would have enjoyed this book more I think, if I hadn’t already known about some of the stories it told. Though I did experience nostalgic schadenfreude reading about Justine Sacco again, which made international news at the time. Looking at “Donglegate” I was initially pleased to see the instigator receive some form of justice after exposing an innocuous private joke. Though on reflection, the punishment certainly didn’t fit the crime.

There was an interesting titbit about the Stasi’s tracking method. They’d spray victims with something radioactive thereby making it easier to track them through a crowd using a Geiger counter. I already knew that the Stamford Prision experiments were bunk and Zimbardo was deceitful but it was nice to see why in a little more detail. For one thing, we don’t hear about that sort of behaviour in real life do we? There was only one prison officer who went out of line and that was because he was being observed and hammed it up a la Cool Hand Luke for Zimbardo (he wanted him to have good results). Zimbardo also gave the officers a pep talk which of course influenced things. It was sad to hear that the prison reforms in New Jersey were halted, because in part, the governor thought that people would incarcerate themselves to get a free college education. Even if that was true, which it isn’t, surely you should look into reducing the cost of college?

I do find the idea of Ronson lurking on the infamous /b/ board and soliciting requests for interview quite funny. Vaguely I do remember hearing about this. The story of him going undercover as a lady and him visiting a BDSM porn shoot were both hilarious. I was glad to also learn that ‘Radical Honesty’ is bullshit and I saw parrallels of Donald Trump with the disgraced academic Gustave Le Bon. It is not surprising, that firms exist that can ‘erase’ bad stories about you from search engine results. It’s big business.

Ronson’s moral of the book is essentially to moderate our punishment behaviours on social media and not to be so quick to jump to conclusions. Sadly in the years since it was written, I doubt if that has happened, if anything things have gotten worse. These sorts of behaviours do have real impacts, where people who have been shamed into taking their own lives. The author explains how on many occasions throughout history, people do evil things because they thought they were morally right. So when users are threatening someone online for a minor transgression they think they are doing the right thing. Like when the Nazis committed mass genocide they thought they were doing the world a favour – that they were the good guys. The book raises a lot of issues: who should be shamed? For how long? And in what way? Despite being a few years old the book is certainly still contemporarenous, given the zeitgeist of social media.

She told me about her favorite 4chan thread. It was started by ‘a guy who’s genuinely in love with his dog, and his dog went in heat, and so he went around collecting samples and injecting them into his penis and he fucked his dog and got her pregnant and they’re his puppies’. Mercedes laughed. ‘That’s the thread I told the FBI about when they asked me about 4chan, and some of the officers actually got up and left the room’

– Mercedes Haefer.

He said […] if I wanted to know more about his work I should google him. I did and immediately saw many close-ups of his anus.

– Ronson getting inadvertently trolled by Connor Habib

‘He said, “We have to stop the idea of giving free college education to inmates,’ Gilligan told me, ‘otherwise people who are too poor to go to college are going to start comitting crimes so they can get sent to prison for a free education”‘

– William ‘The idiot’ Weld

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Ideal Car

I’ve been thinking a lot about what my ideal car would be like, if I do end up buying another one.

I’m not too bothered about looks but feature-wise I’d imagine:

  • Parking sensors
  • Built in sat nav
  • Built in dash cam
  • Tinted windows
  • Bluetooth audio player
  • Heated windscreen
  • Heated seats
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Electric or hybrid
  • Cruise control
  • Smart wipers – they only wipe the screen when needed, instead of a fixed rate
  • Japanese

And a little futuristic:

  • Able to switch between automatic and manual – use manual for most of the time and automatic in slow moving traffic.
  • Augmented reality windscreen – images would we projected onto the windscreen. So it could paint the road you need to take the same colour.
  • Transitions windows – go darker when sunny automatically, but clear in seconds.

Fantasy Government

I believe in meritocracy, the people below mostly have qualifications for their posts.

Prime Minister: Jeremy Paxman
Deputy Prime Minister: James O’Brien
Health Secretary: Dr Phil Hammond
Science Secretary: Dr Ben Goldacre
Home Secretary: Brian Paddick
Chancellor: Martin Lewis
Foreign Secretary:Michael Palin
EU commissioner: Kenneth Clarke
Justice Secretary: The Secret Barrister
Defence: Andy McNab
Transport: Simon Calder
Pensions: Paul Lewis
Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Sir Tim Berner’s Lee
Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy: David Fishwick
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Junior Minister Jamie Oliver)
Housing, Communities and Local Government
Education: Marcus du Sautoy
Scotland: Frankie Boyle
N. Ireland:Patrick Kielty

Podcasts redux

It’s been over a year and it’s time to review my last post. I’ve found some new favourites:

Mystery Hour with James O’Brien – Ever wondered about those everyday mysteries? Well so did those people who rang up James with questions. It’s quite funny when James go ape. Especially funny when he gets things wrong and is humbled. When I discovered this, I binged like 4 episodes consecutively.

The Briefing Room – The news is guilty of describing things in the present. Not on giving the whole picture or how we ended up to this point and then expanding into the future. This podcast does just that, in so much detail.

Daniel and Jorge Explain the Universe
– I’ve mentioned before, in my spare time, I like to study the universe. Cosmology is utterly fascinating when you think about it. Fundamental forces, aliens the big bang and many more. Daniel Whiteson has an excellent radio voice and he responds promptly to my emails which is nice.

Hometown Glory – A unique take on the interview podcast. Geoff Lloyd takes guests on a trip down memory lane, by looking at their home towns on google maps. A chronological journey through early life.

Today Explained / The Daily – They both explain current affairs. Very similar style and content, hard to separate the two. Though The Daily is more formal, as it is produced by the failing New York Times. Today Explained has some incredible puns for their episodes though, e.g. “Let’s talk about tax baby, let’s talk about AOC”.

What about those podcasts that I said I would check out?

Rex Factor – This is really good. So much so, I may even rip off the format for my own series. Sound quality is an issue still though. So I may output it on some decent speakers, which hopefully makes a difference.

My Dad Wrote a Porno
– Don’t believe the hype. I listened to the opening few episodes, it’s not as funny as everyone says it is. I always find it hard to like something described as:”so bad it’s good”. It’s difficult to look past the bad. The hosts are trying really hard to make fun of the mediocre writing.

As it Occurs to Me – Listened to a few eps and liked it. I’ll make an effort to listen to more.

Reasons to Be Cheerful – Highly enjoyable and informative. The hosts have good banter with eachother. Only criticism is, that it’s hard to listen to in the car because they sometimes have people on the phone in funny accents. Similarly to The Briefing Room, the hosts delve into the history of a problem.

Presidential – I listened to the inaugural episode. It was ok. If they followed the format of Rex Factor, it’d be better. I will try to beat my previous record of listening to more than 1 a year. Or at least match it.

Mythology PodcastsThe Mythology Podcast – best of the bunch, sadly the host hasn’t made any new episodes in two years. He spoke so slowly you could up the speed and still understand it. Myths and History of Greece and Rome – Worst of the bunch, quite drab really. Myths and Legends – Adequate.

Answer me this – My premise was right. The hosts do answer audience questions! Very entertaining and sometimes very informative. I am amazed at Helen and Ollie’s detective skills.

Worse than expected

Brexitcast – Take all the BBC’s political journalists sit them down and make them talk all over eachother obnoxiously. I’ve only managed to listen to one episode. I daren’t listen further.

My Brother,  My Brother and Me – Recommended by Jonathan Strickland. One of the hosts is the husband of Sawbones‘s Dr. Sydnee McElroy, Justin McElroy. I don’t know why I thought I’d enjoy a podcast with someone I think is annoying. I didn’t really know what was going on in this show (I wasn’t paying much attention). All I remember is they were swearing a lot and trying to be funny (unsuccessfully).

Danny Wallace’s Important Broadcast
– Spoilers: it’s not important, it’s also not very good. Ok, thats a bit mean. I just didn’t enjoy the one episode I listened to.

Future podcasts

Invention – I want to know how they came up with technology we use today. So this is great.

Science Vs– I think this is about science debunking famous bollocks, that was commonly believed to be true.

The Brink – How businesses came back from the brink of bankruptcy

End of the World – All about the exitential threats to the world out there.

Control Group – Some sci-fi series about psychological disorders I think.

Parliament Explained
– Ever wondered about the conventions around the palace of Westminster? Me too. With Meera Syal.

Serial S3 – A season on how the legal system is broken in America.

– Satirical comedy about a referendum in a country where they narrowly (52% Vs 48%) to legalize capital punishment. Where have I seen those statistics before?

Surprisingly Awesome – I think this is about interesting facts.

Honourable Mentions

Techstuff – Strickland has a good radio voice, he goes into the right amount of detail most of the time. Some of his topics are sometimes really dry though.

Behind the Bastards – Tells you about the evil people from history. The sound quality of this one on my phone isn’t great so I don’t listen too often.

Part Time Genius – Feel good podcast about general shit. Will Pearson introduces the show by saying “As always I’m joined by Mangesh Hattikudur”, which isn’t even true.

Evil Genius – BBC’s version of Behind the Bastartds with Russel Kane. I don’t like how they have to vote on historical figures in a binary fashion (evil or genius). Kane needs to get some better sound effects too.

How Not to Grow Up – Reviewed

How Not to Grow Up: A Coming of Age Memoir. Sort of.How Not to Grow Up: A Coming of Age Memoir. Sort of. by Richard Herring
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is required reading for any Richard Herring fan, though don’t get your hopes up too much. Two thirds of the book is him wallowing in self pity so it’s not very entertaining. There are a few very funny moments thankfully. The start of the book was incredibly funny, the author regaled all the fights he’s had in his life. After that, it gets a bit verbose and dry. All in all, it is good to know how he ended up finishing his life of debauchery to settle down with his soulmate. He is a skillful writer and given his potty-mouth on the comedy circuit, I was actually impressed with his level of diction.

All right they might have been fifteen, but I was only looking. That’s not a crime. We can look. As long as we don’t touch. They can’t stop us looking! This is our democratic right. If a 39-year-old man can’t stare lasciviously at the bare legs of a fifteen-year-old girl then Al-Qaeda has won.

I just need to recuperate. To take stock. All right?! And if decide that that it will help if I am wanked off by a ladyboy then it is no one’s business but my own!

And yet it struck me that so many people who use ‘childish’ as a pejorative term and who see themselves as sensible and grown up, also believe in life after death and a big man in the sky who is watching over them always and judging everything they do. These people however are rarely chastised for being puerile or silly or at least take great offense when they are.

But then maybe the Virgin Mary likes to use her magical powers to make inanimate, tacky objects weep for a short period of time, rather than cure sick children or banish world poverty. Anything is possible.

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We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe – Reviewed

We Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown UniverseWe Have No Idea: A Guide to the Unknown Universe by Jorge Cham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book would be excellent if it weren’t for the cringeworthy “jokes” and lack of detail, nevertheless it is still quite enjoyable. 90% of the footnotes are terrible jokes and can be skipped entirely. If your eye notices a longer footnote than usual, it is likely a useful addendum to aid explanation and should be read. The true footnotes are actually hidden away in the bibliography at the back but sadly I only discovered those after being 3/4 of the way through the book. Here you’ll find more detail of how they know the facts in the chapters. The diagrams are mostly useless too and are again just bad jokes in illustrative form.

Examples of lack of detail: when introducing the standard model, they show the 13 particles but do not name half of them. When talking about standard candles they talk about only one i.e. Type 1A Supernovas. Helpfully, they do offer further reading in the form of Mex Tegmark, Sean Caroll’s From Eternity to Here and Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Rovelli.

After reading this book, I am less skeptical about dark matter because of the evidence presented (gravitational lensing, simulations, galactic spinning, galactic collisions). I also learned that space is not a vacuum or void, it’s a “goo” which can be bent, stretched and expanded. The idea of the Big Bang starting from a singularity is outdated and the evidence for inflation is in the cosmic microwave background radiation.

There is significant overlap with the authors’ podcast but refreshingly more explanation here. Their jokes seem to work better in the audio format but do not translate well to prose.

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Kafka on the Shore – reviewed

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time. It is very engrossing from the get go, so much so, I read 100 pages in a day. It is cleverly written, with two parallel stories told alternately, that inevitably converged, which is something that flummoxed me at first. Each chapter will usually end on a cliff hanger to keep you wanting more, pepper that with dramatic reveals too. The characters are very memorable and complex.

Retrospectively, after reading about Murakami, I wonder about the incident in the library where some SJWs were treated with disdain and outplayed. Although, I found the incident amusing at the time, I wonder if this is the author taking a swipe at feminism. What was the point of Oshima being a woman who lives as a man? Was the sole purpose so that the author could make a jibe? Certain parts did seem overly sexualised, but I’m not complaining, it’s a great read overall. Murakami strikes me as a Japanese Stephen King, I wonder if like King his novels merge into one or are unique enough to stand the test of time.

Police are just gangsters employed by the state.

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Brexit means Brexshit

Alternative titles include: Brexit means Breakfast or How I Learned to Stop Worrying about the Economy and Love Racism

I started writing this article about 18 months ago, so much of it may reflect the situation at the time, rather than contemporary events. Please forgive the lack of structure and rambling , ah suck it up. Why did it take me so long? Maybe it was an homage to Her Majesty’s government’s handling of Brexit. Or maybe, I’m just a lazy perfectionist. It’s time to finish this post. I know I probably haven’t covered the last year in as much detail as the first year post-Brexit referendum. But if I don’t finish it now, there’s a risk I’ll never finish it a la Duke Nukem Forever. I could probably write a book on this subject and this post is already long enough already.

“Brexit happened because people voted with their emotions rather than their minds”. This apt quote from a European politician sums up the whole affair well. Why did Brexit happen? A number of reasons, to my mind including:

  • Anti establishment/Protest at the current system
  • Blatant lies/misinformation
  • Immigration/Racist backlash
  • Cod wars
  • Anti EU feeling
  • Anti-Austerity

Continue reading Brexit means Brexshit

2018 in films part 3

The Yes Men Are Revolting – Good stuff as always with the Yes Men, though in this film it feels like they’ve lost their impetus for activism, what with one of them moving to Scotland to start a family. This leads the film to have a melancholic tone overall (especially the ending) but still watchable. I await their next instalment and will probably donate to their cause. 9/10

Sicario – Quite average. Alejandro and Matt come off as true bastards, a little predictable. 7/10

The Sixth Sense – A masterpiece. Gripping from start to finish, one of the few times I’ve watched a film in one go – in recent years anyway. Despite the twist being ruined for me a decade earlier, this was still highly enjoyable to watch. There was an instance where the scene was too disgusting to watch. I can only imagine how much I would have enjoyed it if, I didn’t know about the twist. 10/10

Bone Tomahawk – Very disgusting. This film comes very close to rivalling the horror I saw in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Whilst the latter nearly gave me nightmares the former merely made me turn my head in revulsion. It has a captivating plot though the ending ruins any shred of realism this film has got left, a crippled man being able to hobble long distances, ascend a hill and rescue the captives. Disappointing Hollywood hogwash. It would have worked better as a horror where they don’t make it. Was I the only one somewhat cheering for the troglodytes? 8/10

I, Daniel Blake – Another masterpiece. Tugs the heart strings, though a little predictable, it is done very well. Very good attention to detail and the mood and tone is perfect. I don’t doubt the authenticity of the narrative. Of course the government have trotted out the PR propaganda rebuttal. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to hear from actual Job Centre staff on the accuracy. 10/10

Solo: A Star Wars Story: So much promise only to be dashed as with other Disney made Star Wars films. The first hour was incredible and embodied everything a Star Wars film should be. Then flaws started to appear. It seems to be a very large coincidence that Qi’ra appears to be in the same place that Han ends up, after being separated for years especially as they say people don’t leave the planet Corelia. Then there’s the feminist robot L3, who came across as very obnoxious and unfunny. Of course the terrible dialogue/cringeworthy humour is present in this film as it is with others, somewhat of a tradition now in the Disney franchsie. The ending/twist was banal though slightly entertaining. 7/10

Rambo 2008 – I came in with low expectations, as I do with any other successful franchise revived by Hollywood after years of nothing. The dialogue was really funny, especially the cockney who was a douchebag. Though he does win you round towards the end, redeeming himself. The violence is extremely gory and graphic but overexaggerated to the point of a cartoonish caricature so you don’t feel as bad watching it. It just looks so unbeliavble to the point of being comical. 10/10

Senna – They actually managed to make Formula 1 interesting! The sport was a lot more dispicable back in the 80s than it is now. 7.5/10

Vitamania – If you’re expecting a 90 minute long Veratassium video or a treatise on vitamins, you’ll be disappointed, the film is neither. The film is too long to keep interest like his short videos and it doesn’t go into enough detail, for my liking, on all the vitamins. Maybe he felt the story of Vitamin K wasn’t interesting enough, he still could have summed it up in a minute. A few things really pissed me off about this film. First was the story of one Cian Moore, a young australian man who never ate fruit or vegetables and nearly went totally blind. Serves him right if you ask me. In a similar vein, an american man who ate nothing but american cheese and bread for many years develops rickets, I have a little more sympathy for him as his decision may be based on poverty. Secondly, Derek Muller has this ghastly fat bastard singing horribly, where there are these childish animated vitimins prancing about on screen. If I wanted to watch cartoons, I’d stick to anime thanks. Who is he trying to appeal to here? Do you think 5-14 year olds will be watching a 90 minute documentary on the history of vitamins? Thirdly, Muller asks constantly: “Should you be taking vitamin supplements?”. The answer is simple, talk to your doctor, don’t take advice from a physics graduate moonlighting as a filmmaker. Lastly, some of the information in the film is just outright wrong. He claims that bread is fortified with folate in the UK, which is incorrect. I’m glad I didn’t pay anything to watch this. Though, there was some interesting trivia here and there. 6/10

Deadpool – I really wanted to be able to say I hated this; I resent the rise of capeshit but this film was quite funny, if not distatstefully crude, and entertaining. The structure of the plot is annoying, I wouldnt mind if they showed the opening battle, brought us up to speed, then carried on from there. It’s showing minutae of the future in between the past, that irked me. I din’t like the umpteenth meta-gags. Sgt Brodie’s wife looking hot as ever. 7.5/10

I think this is the most 10/10s I’ve given out in a film review post. I must be getting soft…