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My Boy Jack

Posted on 2011.07.06 at 15:27
My boy jack is a movie about Kipling's son (two guesses what his name is) and his experience in WWI.

The basic gist of the movie is this:

Jack has bad eyesight, so kipling pulls some strings to get him into the military. At that point, Jack does really well, becomes an officer, and dies in valorous combat trying to capture a machinegun nest.

The movie kind of presents jack's poor eye sight as being responsible for his death. I call bullshit on that. It was WWI. people died. A lot. We're not talking like, "oh man today 5 guys died" it's like, "oh man today company C got wiped off the face of the earth to the last man". That's how trench warfare was. Bad eyesight or not, there was a solid chance he wasn't coming home.

That said, it's a nice movie and i kind of liked it, although mostly i enjoyed the trench warfare and such.


The Tunnel

Posted on 2011.05.22 at 10:13
The tunnel's a pseudo-documentary (done very well, coincidently) about people going into the subway beneath (some australian city, i don't know, does it matter?) and encountering a monster.

The thing is, the monster does something that i found kind of hard to credit, so i am writing about it.

Basically there's a dude standing in a doorway. Then, faster then the camera can see (it's just a blur) something hits him and he is gone completely without a trace by the time the people get to the doorway, seconds later.

Now, to do that, you would have to be ungodly fast and unholy strong. We're talking like, a tiger wouldn't be fast enough or strong enough to do this; it'd knock him down but not be able to haul him off like that.

I think what alot of people don't understand is how physics in something like that works. Basically, you have a mass, let's say 180 pounds (he was on the bigger side). That mass is - for our intents - immobile. Your momentum pulls you straight down, see, and you have to overcome that to knock you over or drag you somewhere.

The problem is this: almost all things that are big enough to do something like that are made out of meat and bone. So when they collide with something, over a certain speed, they take damage, and more importantly it stresses their muscles and tendons and (in extreme cases) bones. Let's assume the creature was moving at, oh, 20 miles per hour (which seems fair).

So it hits at 20 mph, and what's going to happen? Well, it'll impart some of it's momentum to the target, which will carry it some distance. My guess would be 4-6 feet, *likely* less. Physics is a harsh mistress.

The end result would be the target dazed and likely injured, maybe severely, with the attacker tangled on top of the victim, also probably mildly injured.

Here's what i can't see happening: you hit the guy full speed, barely even slow down, and just keep going to the point where you're out of sight in a hand full of seconds. My logic is this:

1. To absorb the impact without going down would basically mean you lifted them up and over you - a fireman's carry, basically, executed at tremendous speed.

2. To continue to run at the same speed (or thereabouts) means you weren't actually running your fastest when you hit - you still have *excess* acceleration to keep going with the extra weight.

Now, this was done in total darkness, in cramped confines, faster then a camera could catch.

My thought? That's impossible. It's not just impossible like, "james bond can't escape the death trap" impossible, it's impossible like, "physics says you cannot do that with what you've shown". Maybe if it was some kind of robot? But even then i imagine there'd be physical problems.

It really ruined my suspension of disbelief. what *could* have been an awesome movie, was kind of tainted by this.

There's other stuff i somewhat call bullshit on (mostly things that don't match up to what's previously been shown). For example, the monster has a hard time breaking someone's neck, but it's clearly strong enough to do that if it's strong enough to pull off the running-grab. The creature itself doesn't LOOK terribly strong, either; it's not the hulking monstrosity i expected to pull off such feats.

That said the movie's not bad and it's very suspenseful. Just a few minor problems.


Movies with meaning

Posted on 2011.05.05 at 08:00
So i saw a movie - Megan is Missing - the other day, and on the cover it said "A wake up call for parents". Now going in, i assumed it would hve some kind of a message or meaning to it - that it would, in short, be a sort of call to action.

But it doesn't actually.

The people in it act like, well, any normal person would (if anything, i give the film tremendous credit for the realistic portrayal of the parents). One girl is kidnapped when she goes to meet a stranger (after dark, behind a diner). Another gets kidnapped when she's off alone in a secluded park.

On the first count - how are you going to keep your kid from sneaking out at night? It's not like they announce their intentions and you get to inform them of their wrong-doing; it's not the kind of situation you get to have a rational discussion about. Sneaking out is, basically, a part of growing up, and anything that would stop it would be something beyond stifling for the person it happened to.

The second count - what are you going to do? Never let your kid more then 2 feet out of your sight, ever? Track their every movement? shove a lo-jack up their ass? That's smother-love at it's absolute worst.

So the movie basically stirs up hysteria ("your kid will be kidnapped, raped, and horribly murdered by a stranger!") without ever explaining how to prevent or stop that from happening. mostly because it's a myth that that happens at all enough to *even worry about*.

The simple fact is that relatively few people get murdered each year. Very few get kidnapped. The people most likely to hurt your loved ones are the people who know them (teachers, coaches, parents, other kid's parents, other kids), or themselves.

Every year, 13,000 or so teenagers die in america. Of those 13,000 most are killed by *accidents* - traffic accidents being a leading cause. 1892 are murdered, in some way. 1,500 commit suicide. The rest are all relatively uncommon causes - cancer, congenital defects.

Here's something that has ALWAYS pissed me off: when people engage in "security theater". Security Theater is when you do something that makes you feel better, but does not actually affect security in any positive way. Worrying about bushy haired strangers kidnapping your kids? That leads to lots of security theater, like "code words" and safe spots to run and hide in the house, or god knows what else that people assume will keep them safe.

More and more modern parenting could be boiled down to "be paranoid constantly about everything that's in and out of your control, to no good end, and never ever stop the hysterical responses to every little thing". Movies like this do not help that problem, and it contributes to a culture that thinks it's totally acceptable to treat children as (basically) toddlers until their in their late 20's. The training wheels never come off; the safety net is never withdrawn; and achievement is considered a bonus, not a necessity.

Personally, i think the world's full of dangers we can't do shit about. There's no point worrying about them because there's nothing to *do* about them. If some pervert stranger's going to snatch your kid, there's not shit you can do about that. Sitting and working yourself into a blind panic over it won't do shit.

Instead, i recommend teaching them to always wear their seatbelts, to drive safely, to assess the quality of the driver their in the car with, and to refuse a ride from anyone they feel unsafe with or who's under the influence or who's exhausted. That'd save more kids lives (of the few who die every year) then every stranger danger campaign ever created.

But it wouldn't make a good movie.

When i'm reading a book, alot of things piss me off. But this particular (Trope?) really does it, and the book "The Devil's Kiss" by William W. Johnstone exemplifies it.

So here's the set up: this town's beset by devil worshipers, whom are intent on sealing the town off and causing mayhem.

Now, the town has 2 main roads in and out, which are going to be shut down for reconstructing two bridges. Someone points out there are many county roads, however, and the protagonist says "they'll stop us from leaving".

The protagonist has shot to death at least 3 or 4 things you or i would call "horrifying monsters", and has *staked his own wife*, an ancient demon in disguise. He is carrying a loaded .45 around, and is very experienced at violence.

So, to demonstrate the futility of the situation, they go for a drive to try and leave. Some of the barriers they encounter include:

1. people saying they can't go down the road.

actually that's the only barrier that they run into. that's it. Someone saying "you can't go down that road".

Here's what's infuriating: that wouldn't stop a rational person from escaping. Someone saying "you can't go there" isn't going to even slow me down if i'm genuinely convinced of the danger. Realistically, you could just drive past them, or subdue them, or shoot them. Even with the bridges down, you can ford rivers or cross them in a raft or god knows what.

When i write a story, if people can't escape there is a *damn good reason* for it. Some guy standing there saying "you can't go this way" will not suffice.

It's not even just sloppy writing, it's sloppy logic, and it pisses me off.


Why i've stopped reading science blogs

Posted on 2011.04.11 at 09:14
Because it's about 10% science, 20% personal entries, and 80% bullshit calls to action, political commentary, personal disputes, or rehashes of tired ass anti-science debates.

The phrase "singing to the choir" is one science blogs never understood. Any point worth making they hammer into the dirt so hard you'd think it was on it's way to china. After the first 200 blog articles about the anti-vaccine movement, you get the fucking point. After the first 200 about homeopathy, alternative medicine, etc - yea, it's bullshit, we get that.

Don't get me wrong, someone needs to cover those topics, and someone needs to call bullshit what it is. But i do not need to read 300 articles every few days about what some random anti-vax fraud said on some random tv show. It's a waste of my time. The worlds full of stupid people, but preaching to the minority who are not stupid is a waste of *everyones* time.

So, fuckit - no more science blogs on the feeder. It should kick down my articles per day count massively, and i'm not losing a lot of signal for all the noise i'm cutting out.


X-30, or "How not to write a pandemic novel"

Posted on 2011.03.14 at 10:05
The problem with X-30 isn't that it's poorly written (it is). It's not that the characters are cardboard cut-outs (They are). It's not that it's totally implausible in nearly every way (it is). It's that it feels like an alimony book.

Let me explain.

The basic story of X-30 is that there's this plague based on flesh-eating bacteria that spreads and takes out the whole world. That's not a bad premise; it has a LOT of potential!

The problem is that it all feels very thrown-together and rushed. It's like the guy said, "I need to hammer out a book. I've got a good first half, let's just hack the rest of it together". It vacillates from being a hard-science thriller, to a sort-of techno-thriller, to a pandemic novel to a relationship novel to a survivalist novel. The first parts - detailing the origins, and such of the disease - is interesting, and genuinely engaging. Then the book just falls to pieces, because it's clear the author has no desire to really write about the books' premise once it goes large-scale.

In that way it's similar to the Stand, but has none of the Stands' incredible poise and style.

And worst of all, there's the psychic.

Now, i have nothing against psychics. But this guy is a fucking plot-hook from hell. In role playing games there's a concept called "railroading", where you get all kinds of hints and pressure to go a certain way. That psychic did that to this book. And when his usefulness was over (basically providing a single word, no shit), they just discarded him because having a psychic would be incredibly detrimental to the rest of the story.

The thing is, the psychic had *no idea* that they were going to kill him..how the fuck does that work?

Anyway, the book's sloppy and has a shitload of plot holes. I don't really feel the time i read reading it was wasted, but well, it was wasted.

As a final note, as is my way, i want to talk about science.

The disease presented in the book is pretty well defined: it spreads by contact, ingestion, or injection. It's a type of flesh-eating bacteria, and it tends to kill you pretty quickly - within 30 days at most, from start to dead.

The problem is, that *type* of disease would not get very far in modern america, or the modern world. Firstly, even if (as the book postulates) the president was *wanting* to destroy the world, there's other countries with medical labs (shocking i know) that would be working on a cure or treatment or vaccine.

Secondly, communities would self-quarantine. People would self quarantine. yea, a few million would die - maybe even as much as 50 or 75 million. But *the whole fucking world*? I don't think so.

Anyway, that's all for now.


A thought on epidemiology

Posted on 2011.02.28 at 06:08
We live in a world of numbers and statistics. So when i was reading a book about Necrophilia (the very well written "Necrophilia" by Anil Aggrawal, i was very interested in the section on epidemiology; how common IS necrophilia? But the author soon points out the problem in answering such a question. And in fact, it occurred to me, it's a problem that *several* related topics have. To wit:

Question: What is the frequency of necrophilia, and how does it compare to the reported cases?

Answer: probably it's alot more common then simple numbers would suggest. The reason being, *it would hardly ever be reported*. Reasons why include:

1. There's no victim to report the crime.

2. There's a societal stigma on reporting some types of offenders (ie, mortuary workers) because it would damage businesses and reputations.

3. The acts take place, by nature, in secret. That makes anyone stumbling into them, by nature, very low.

4. The people involved have a *seriously* good reason to not talk about it with others, so theres little risk of self-reporting.

5. Not every case that's found would be prosecuted, or reported, due to the disgusting nature of events.

End result? It's like cockroaches: if you see 1, there's probably *50* that you don't see. The thought is pretty unpleasant, to be sure.

What's interesting is that there's lots of incidents like this. In fact, any incident where the perpetrator is hiding, is pretty much unlikely to be properly reported to authorities. Take the case of a voyeur - how would you ever know he was watching you unless you caught him? and maybe the one time you caught him was only one time out of dozens. So you might say, "i had a voyeur i caught once', but really you'd been (voyeurized?) many times without your knowledge. So, reported rates would be lower then one would rationally think.

It's interesting to find the holes in the world like that, where our knowledge breaks down.


Was hitler gay?

Posted on 2011.02.20 at 05:24
I saw a documentary recently about the question of if Hitler was gay. It made me think of alot of interesting questions, but not really about hitler.

Hitler is basically the same thing as jesus. He's a semi-mythical historical figure who people obsess over far beyond his importance. People ask questions about him that either have no answers or have no satisfying answers. But what i want to know is - why bother? What would it *change or matter*?

Before i go on, i'd like to say that even if you had evidence of a homosexual encounter, that wouldn't mean Hitler himself was a homosexual. His own view of himself and his own view of his own sexuality is *more important* then how we view it, because he was the one who acted on his notions, rather then on our notions. I guess what i'm saying is that how you view yourself is more important then how others view you - especially for an egomaniac like hitler.

Let's say hitler was gay; that some indisputable fact comes up that proves it. What does that change about the man himself? What does it matter to history, aside from being a personal note (like his height or weight)?

Looking at the narrative of the 3rd Reich, it was all lies and bullshit, deceptions and falsehoods. It was a movement, then a government, then an entire country built on whole cloth. They marched to war (and killed *millions*) based on a notion of being a persecuted superior race, rising up against it's ignorant masters. Hitler being gay - or straight, or pansexual, or into bestiality - would not change that narrative one bit. History is fixed; it happened like it happened, and whatever the truth is, it has no bearing on past events.

As well, it's just like when people make documentaries about like, "Was jesus black?". It's an interesting question, but it's not one we can ever *definitively* know the answer to. You can sit in a research room for a decade and come up with nothing. You can travel around the world and view historical sites, and never find anything conclusive. Why? Because it's a bullshit trifling detail, and no one recorded it (or thought to record it) with any kind of fidelity. It's naval-gazing at it's worst.

Back to the thesis, though: what if he was gay?

Well, clearly, he kept it a secret from those around him, at least most people around him. There's not a smoking gun, just hints and supposition, much like with Lincoln.

Some people would say "maybe he sent gays to the camps because he felt ashamed" or some such nonsense. But i think it's more likely that sending gays was just him rubber-stamping a list of "undesirables" that sold well to the german public and nazi officials at that time. It could have just as easily been red-haired men, or women with grey eyes, had that been what the public would have responded well to.

I can't really attribute any public bit of behavior i'm aware of to him being gay or not gay. There's comments he made that the documentary dug up, that would indicate this or that, but frankly hitler's mouth ran at both ends and the man would say anything that resonated with his audience.

Overall, i can't think of anything that would be different if he was gay or not. Maybe he'd have married and had kids, but i can't imagine that giving him much of a change of heart; if anything it might have hardened his resolve to win the war to pass on a legacy to his children.

In summation, an anecdote from my own life.

In college, the first day of english class, someone asked the instructor: "will we have to read moby dick?", as a joke. Everyone chuckled. The teacher said, "Everything you need to know about moby dick could fit on a page of paper, and that's all i'd ever ask you to read of it. Most of Moby Dick has no bearing on the story and even less on literature." Asking if hitler's gay is like telling someone to read all of moby dick: It's unnecessary to understanding the man as well as anyone will ever be able to understand him.


Why do people listen to the Joker?

Posted on 2011.02.19 at 03:55
I was playing arkham asylum earlier, and my brother asked why anyone would ever willingly side with the joker. not the henchmen - who we assume are being paid, or promised loot, etc - but rather, other super-villians like poison ivy or two face or such At the time i just shrugged it off, but now I've had time to reflect.

I think the main reason is that the joker has a somewhat good reputation for getting things done. sure he's crazy and sure he's violent and unpredictable, but he's also highly competent and serious about his work. If he's inviting other villains to join him in some task, you can believe it's going to be lucrative.

As well, he's the person who's come closest most often to destroying batman, which earns him a lot of social credit in the circles of criminals. I'm sure the logic is "he came so close last time, i'm sure THIS time he'll get him for SURE!"; after all, criminals are known to be supreme optimists about their own chances of success.

Another reason is that as much as joker's good to have as an ally, he's *bad* to have as an opponent. As batman says: "Joker doesn't really take no for an answer". Telling him to fuck off might very well end up with you getting a canister of Smilex on your door step. So being at least somewhat involved in his plans is probably just common sense and self-preservation.

As well, joker does have a certain amount of brilliance and charisma. He can, in fact, be pretty compelling to some people. That probably contributes a lot to why people listen to him and go along with his plans.



Posted on 2011.02.14 at 22:11
Having recently acquired a copy of minecraft, i feel it's only proper i write a little bit about it.

As most know, i'm a *tremendous* dwarf fortress fan, and i have played that game hundreds if not thousands of hours. Many people conflate dwarf fortress and minecraft to be similar. I am not sure what to make of that.

Minecraft is both more advanced and more primitive then Dwarf Fortress. It lacks the depth of sophistication DF has (for example, there's only a few minerals you can mine, and there's only a handful of items you can craft). It's interface is *much* more advanced then DF's (it's so organic it almost feels like you're not using an interface).

The way i usually describe minecraft is that it's basically Legos. You can build stuff in it - huge structures, massive under-ground tunnels, etc - and interact with it much like a set of building tools. It has enemies, but their more irritation then danger (death's got basically no consequences).

What's most interesting to me is how organic everything is. It took me basically no time to get up and running, and basically no time to understand the environment and start making things and exploring. You left click to dig or attack; you right click to place or interact. I is inventory. WASD to move. Space to jump. Done.

So far, i've made the tallest possible tower (and directly beneath it, the deepest possible hole). I've built under-sea bases. I've crafted an elaborate dungeon. and all that without so much as a tutorial.

It's well worth the money on a time-per-dollar basis. I'd recommend it to just about everyone.

As an aside, everyone in DF or minecraft has some grand project their working on. Mine is to smooth the entire landscape around my enormous tower, with an eye to making the world look like an enormous billiard table bordered by a blue ocean. Most pleasing, so far.

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