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 Bastartds – 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…

How To Stop Brexit – And Make Britain Great Again – Reviewed

How To Stop Brexit - And Make Britain Great AgainHow To Stop Brexit – And Make Britain Great Again by Nick Clegg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn’t as much a book as much it is a pamphlet, a fact that Clegg himself readily acknowledges. If you wanted, you could probably read the whole thing in two hours, maybe less if you’re a fast reader. It is well written and referenced with sources which is a bonus. Nick Clegg writes eloquently dispelling misconceptions around Britian’s membership of the EU. It is a great shame, that these arguments weren’t shared during the flawed referendum of 2016.

I have to say that the author is overly sanguine. He says the silver lining of Brexit is that, the referendum has instilled a need to reform the EU for fear of further departures. Clegg says, it is likely that the EU will evolve into a satellite model, whereby member states will be organised into concentric circles with varying levels of alignment with the EU. A nice idea, though sadly this appears to have been ruled out by Michel Barnier. Clegg talks about why it is right to stop Brexit, namely the myriad of lies peddled by the Vote Leave campaign and its affiliates and also that democracy is not a one time event: people are allowed to change their minds in the face of new evidence, similar to buying a dodgy appliance and returning it later.

Examining the lies, it was the high priestess of the Tory party Margaret Thatcher herself, who was instrumental in creating the single market. Something which Brexit supporters deride, yet they idolize the Iron Lady. The author argues that Britain has held a position of great privilege and influence within the EU. The UK is not in the Schengen area, has a rebate, a veto, it is not in the Eurozone and it did not sign up to all 130 of the EUs Justice and Home Affairs laws. Far from being a vassal with no say. People often argue that, when we joined the EU in 1973, it has since morphed into a gargantuan, overarching, faceless, bureaucratic machine. They forget that throughout the decades that the UK has been setting the agenda for the policy changes that have led to the EU today. Something which domestic political parties have often boasted about in their manifestos (reform of common agricultural and fishing policies, cross border cooperation of foreign policy and terrorism, trade, expanding the EU to name a few).

On immigration, he says businesses have benefited from access to EU workers, who would otherwise face shortages of skills and labour. The change in local jobs and wage levels are small and they in fact make a net contribution through the taxes they pay. The UK was one of only three countries that did not delay free movement following EU expansion, which has led to greater immigration than in surrounding countries. So the government was the source of the so called ‘uncontrolled migration’ rather than the EU. All too often migration into the EU has been conflated with migration within the EU, largely thanks to populist opportunists. There is a design flaw within the EU: removing internal borders within the Schengen area while failing to fix eternal ones, is not working. Flaws in freedom of movement are due to failures of domestic government (open labour markets, no residence checks, universal access to healthcare), which can be alleviated by following examples in countries like Liechtenstein and Germany.

Dominic Cummins, a former government advisor, says he doesn’t think the referendum would have had the outcome it did, if they hadn’t lied about giving the NHS £350m per week on exiting the EU. They lie about being a grassroots anti-establishment operation, where they are actually backed by billionaire’s and come from positions of privilege themselves. There were also lies about Turkey joining the EU following a remain vote.

Later, he then sets out an impressive strategic action plan through ‘pressure, argument and passion’, of how to stop Brexit: i) Visit your MP monthly ii) Attend local party meetings iii) Attend party conference and table motions iv) write to Jeremy Corbyn v) If necessary walk away. On the Tory side: i) Join the party ii) Challenge Brexit MPs in remain seats iii) Vote in the leadership contest iv) Go to the party conference v) Write to Theresa May. More generally: Persuade 5 friends and neighbours, join a campaign group and use social media (e.g. Peoples Vote), mobilise with other volunteers, mobilise your union and demonstrate.

On making Britain great again, he’s talking about the UK’s future relationship with the EU. Rightly he says that things cannot stay the same in light of the Brexit vote, with reform to freedom of movement being a priority. Quite a bold proposal is a coalition of John Major and Mark Rutte negotiating Britain’s place in the concentric rings satellite model.

Nigel Farage hailed the vote for Brexit as a victory for the ‘little people, the real people…the ordinary, decent people’. A few months later Farage, a privately educated ex-City trader with a taste for a post-prandial glass of port, flew across the Atlantic to join President Trump at the billionaire’s victory party. There is a famous photo of the pair celebrating in front of one of Trump Tower’s gold-plated lift doors. The little people must have been just out of shot.

Desmond once explained his motivation: ‘I don’t know if we should be in [the EU] or not, but I don’t like being controlled by Brussels and these faceless people.’ He apparently prefers control by unelected newspaper proprietors and hedge-fund managers instead.

‘If it’s not delivered. there will be the most terrible damage to the political establishment.’ There you have it: the voice of the new Brexit elite worrying about the impact on the political establishment. Surely he, and everyone else, should be more worried about the damage being done to the country than to the reputation of the establishment?

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The Book of the Year 2018: Your Definitive Guide to the World’s Weirdest News – Reviewed

The Book of the Year 2018: Your Definitive Guide to the World’s Weirdest NewsThe Book of the Year 2018: Your Definitive Guide to the World’s Weirdest News by No Such Thing As A Fish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I actually got this book for free after attending a live podcast recording. After last year’s book I didn’t have much appetite to buy a similar book again. If like me, you keep abreast of the news then much of the stories in this book, will be revision. Though very occasionally, there is a gem of a story that is unknown to you and is genuinely hilarious. One fact that stands out is: “Scientists invented a contact lens that lets you shoot lasers from your eyes”. It was entertaining enough to stave off boredom. Like I said last time, the audiobook is probably a lot more entertaining.

This time, I skipped the “For x, see y” sections entirely because it very rarely had any jokes in it previously. There was one factual inaccuracy, in that they say cannabis is a viable cure for glaucoma. No physician in the world would prescribe smoking weed as a glaucoma treatment. I think I saw some statistics about this once, that said several tonnes of weed would have to be smoked for any tangible effect. There was a nice section on mocking Trump, as in yesteryear.

Again they do not cite sources for their content and it may be difficult to fact check the assertions or simply read about a topic further.

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Dave Gorman vs. the Rest of the World – Reviewed

Dave Gorman vs. the Rest of the World: Whatever the Game — Dave Takes on All Comers!Dave Gorman vs. the Rest of the World: Whatever the Game — Dave Takes on All Comers! by Dave Gorman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is as much about travel around Britain as it is about challenging people to games. As such, it is full of bits of entertaining trivia, e.g. Westward Ho! is the only place in Britain to have an exclamation mark in its official name. Learning the backstory of the town Lewes was nice, which sounds picturesque, perhaps best known for its outlandish effigies on bonfire night. He also deftly drops his cycling feat, of a prior cycling tour of Britain. It is an interesting experiment, announce on the internet that you’d like to play some games, what could go wrong?

Bits that really made me laugh out loud were, when he was playing poker and was called a cunt for winning a round adeptly. He descried the play in two forms, one technical and the other simple. At the end, he put himself being called a cunt in layman’s terms. There was an incident in Sheffield, where a man in his fifties indecently exposed himself at the train station to him. My home town also gets a name check and it’s intriguing to know what outsiders think of it. He is also bothered by a bunch of chavlets and alas hilariously succumbs to a trap laid by them.

It has also given me a long list of games I want to try myself, like Khet, Agricola and Cribbage being the main ones, (though Bluke, Smite, Kubb and Toad in the Hole sound interesting too).

I am somewhat skirting around the issue of the dramatic climax in the final chapters, which certainly put a new light on the whole book. If you don’t want that ruined, probably best not to read on. Inevitably, one of the people he meets up with is an absolute nutcase religious fanatic with an axe to grind. Naturally, he thinks the best way to convert Gorman is through the medium of a poorly designed board game and punching his opponent in the face. This was a rather shocking turn of events and I’m really surprised he didn’t report him to the police for assault. The warning signs were there in his demeanour and behaviour, though you can’t blame Gorman for not being able to avoid the situation entirely. To his credit, he goes on to meet people after the event, rightly concluding that they’re not all crazy like Steve.

Oi twat wiv a bag!

you cunt | lizzie called me a cunt

Oh well – maybe the [creationist] game isn’t very intelligently designed

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Trump blames numerous sexual assaults on ‘sexy women’

WASHINGTON – Donald Trump shocked the world and drew ire today at a bizarre press conference, where he blamed ‘sexy women’ for sexual assaults. Championing the #HimToo movement, the president said sexy women were a ‘huge problem’ in today’s society. Reminiscent of the infamous Access Hollywood tape, Trump said when he sees sexy women he can’t control himself and does what comes naturally to him.

The president said he and others like him, were the ‘real victims’ in this and have been vilified unfairly in the media. “Our treatment has been very unfair. It’s been bad. If you go around town in a miniskirt, you have to expect a little attention. It’s their fault for dressing sexily”. Women’s rights activists shot back, that the clothes you wear doesn’t give you a free pass to assault women. Challenged by a journalist, whether his impulse control was less of that than of a lowly animal, Trump spat back angrily that he “had a very good brain”. He proceeded to challenge her to an IQ test.

Mr Trump finished the conference by saying, he was really looking forward to his next date with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and hoped he would pick “a real nice place for them to have dinner”. Trump was widely mocked on social media, for the Freudian slip, referring to his next meeting with the dictator as a date. A deluge of homoerotic memes circulated on Twitter. The president later clarified in a tweet, that he misspoke and it was not a date and he’s definitely not gay. He expanded by saying Jong-Un is not his type. A Whitehouse lawyer later said in a statement that, “What Donald Trump says does not represent the views of the president.” He declined to comment further.