Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I have radio tourettes

It seems I'm a little hung up on censorship, so bear with me ...

Now, I enjoy Rage Against the Machine tracks as much as the next man - especially if I get the full (or non-neutered) version. Since moving to a region that is affectionately referred to as the Bible belt (Missouri / Kansas), I've noticed an increase in the number of Christian radio channels as well as words I would not have thought needed censoring. Case in point: apparently 'sex' is a word requiring censorship although I'm not sure why ...

I'll be happily listening to Bruno Mars' blue-balled rendition of Locked Out of Heaven up until the point where 'Your ____ takes me to paradise; your ____ takes me to paradise.' It incenses me to such a degree that I involuntarily blurt out 'SEX!' every point where the word would have been. It can be a little weird if I'm driving along with others or have the windows open at the traffic lights but I think I have a valid reason to do so. 

Other examples:
I listened to 'Teenage Dirt Bag' and apparently 'Her boyfriend's a ____ ' required censorship. I listened to Everlast's 'What It's Like' and if the radio was the only source of this song, I would never know what 'He pulled out his ____ and wound up dead.' meant. What was it? His schlong? His middle finger? His High School Diploma? And so, I don't mind censorship for a valid reason but Sex is not a dirty word. Still, the impetus to de-censor the censoring might still come with the proviso that the cops are not within earshot; especially if I'm filling in the blanks to '____ Da Police' by NWA.

Off topic ever-so-slightly: I went to Kroger and the contraceptive section had been rebranded as 'Family Planning' as in I'm planning not to have a family any time soon. Need I say more?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Waging war against food

Living in America, I notice an unerring rule when it comes to the ads shown on TV: it's either about car insurance, some kind of drug or health-related product (flexible self-lubricating catheters .... mmmm!) or food. I have a feeling that food generally takes up the largest proportion of the Ad break ... or is it that my brain more readily remembers the ads because, hey, I likes my food? I don't know. All I know is I start to see trends when it comes to food advertising.

First Law: Colouring
When it comes to the colours used, I think they take their styling cues from a horror film because if the packaging and surrounding elements aren't doused in primary reds, the food has a disturbing over-saturated reddish hue that, to me, looks like the post-production was handled by Satan.

Second Law: Slow Motion
Liberal use of slow motion of a glistening and succulent patty bouncing onto a mountain dew (not that kind of dew) kissed lettuce base on a wholesome bun; slow motion of someone prying a molten cheese-drenched salami slice of pizza whilst a cornucopia of cheese slowly oozes over the sides ... you get the idea. I liken this to food porn because all they show are 'the money shots.'

Third Law: Steam
To show it's freshness, post-production steam is added to every shot of whatever fast food product they're attempting to sell.

Fourth Law: An aggressive slogan promoting liberal consumption
The best, I mean the best, slogan I have ever come across in my 35 years of existence has to go to Carl's Jr's:

Eat Like You Mean It

Isn't that horrendous? Let me break it down for you (for those in the back row); they are prompting you to eat your food like they are evil dictators that need to be overthrown. When did eating food become about more than simply the enjoyment, comfort or, dare I say it, sustenance? I'll leave it for you to mull over while I open a can of whoop-ass on an apple.

Fifth Law: Bacon 
If, for whatever reason your sales are lagging, add bacon to it. Got a salad drenched in vinaigrette that isn't selling? Add bacon to it. Got a poor-selling ice cream flavour? Add bacon to it. Got a souffle that's not rising to the occasion? Add bacon to it.

And so, in conclusion, it amuses me that this kind of advertising can work. Yes, I know that red makes you hungry, I know that everything looks better in slow motion and yes, a catchy slogan is something you're going to remember but still, at some point these companies or patrons will have to be held accountable. This kind of warfare can only go on for so long before people such as this or (shudder) this pop out of the woodwork.

Friday, October 18, 2013

You were so nice when I first met you

Why, hello there Democracy, my old friend. I remember how personable and well-meaning you were when I first happened upon your presence. I know when you were first conceived that you were the darling of the circuit with many Countries soliciting and marketing your influence as the second coming. They spurred us on with promises of 'halcyon days' and 'every person has a voice.'  Little did they realise that all this picketing and spruiking would also attract those with less than the best of intentions. And this was the beginning of your downfall. That is, you are only as good as those you choose to associate with and, unfortunately, you chose to associate with those who have yet to comprehend the concept of ethics and only know greed. If only humans were at an evolutionary stage where they would naturally choose for the benefit of those around them.

Sure, your sleek promises and altruistic heart counts for a lot but, when you open your mouth and only garbled Satanic noises come out, I find it hard to go back to first impressions. Even if there are people who still attempt to prop up your downward spiral, there are far too many in the game just as willing to hinder any progress while remaining staunchly aligned with the questionable affiliations of their generous party contributors. The poor situation occurring in the US is a prime indication of how your endeavours can be distorted by greed and those with ulterior motives.

Herein lies your weakness. 

Who is to say that your lesser cousin, Dictatorship, is so bad? Sure, he can be quite evil a lot of the time and even though his track record is far from stellar, who is to say that one altruistic (and more-than-likely martyred) individual couldn't rule by force for the benefit of his/her fellow man? I would bet that this individual wouldn't last too long in this world if the organisations who ruled you had anything to do with it ... but think of what kind of affect an altruistic Dictatorship would have.  Isn't that something worth striving for? Sure, we would still need state/province representatives but The Martyr (as I will choose to refer to him/her) would have the ability to overrule any task that was deemed not for the benefit of the general public. Maybe I do not see the pitfalls of this path but if that person is truly for the people, then I don't see the harm. Am I looking at this too simplistically? Maybe. But all I know is what a lot of countries have now is not working.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Summer chills

Am I the only one that thinks that we're doing it wrong? When the large majority of us wait half a year for Summer to finally arrive just to switch on the AC to arctic temperatures and negate any benefit that Summer provides? When Winter spews forth its frozen icicles our way, we bring up the heat on the AC to Sub-Saharan temperatures?

Yeah ... makes perfect sense; but only if you're a schizophrenic masochist. When I have to wear a jumper (or sweater) on a balmy 30 degree C (or 85 degree F) day just to get through the Siberian Colditz-style working conditions, something has to be wrong. I can understand taking the edge off the highs and lows but not to the point of going full circle towards the Winter chills you had just been complaining about six months ago. If I were to ever run for president, the first thing I would do is abolish AC (or at least regulate it so you cannot adjust it above 20 during Winter or below 20 during Summer). Either humans are getting soft or we've simply chosen to live in the least hospitable places in the world ... just because we can. Something's gotta give and I think it's about time the air conditioner did. Don't you?

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is it any surprise?

For those of us who have been living under a rock, apparently the US government really wants to get to know you on a personal level. Of course, a government cannot simply invite themselves over for tea without the appropriate introductions. And so, as any desperate unloved individual would, they go through our garbage, break into our houses and rummage through our personal effects. That's the logical thing to do, isn't it? Right?

I cannot blame them. As international government bodies go, they're like the crazed and brash individual you might meet at an open house party who blurts out to anyone within earshot that they're morally grounded while aiming their gun at slow-moving children. Maybe I'm being a little harsh but their modern revisions to international policy have left a lot to be desired. Where was I? Oh, yes. And so, I come to the shock-horror moment: it was leaked that the NSA has been extracting and parsing personal information from Google, Facebook, Yahoo (and even Bing) for the past few years. This is, of course, all under the pretense of protecting you from all those evil-doers and members who make up the coalition of the unwilling.

I really hope this did not come as a shock to you. In the world of all-encompassing connectedness, the diminutive impact of our activities on the 'net have all been categorised as "pertinent" to the various organisations wishing to glean whether we're, like, into Justin Bieber or into into Justin Bieber. For the record, I'm very not into the Biebster, Mr Shambling Corporate Presence. I guess this is also the only way that they can truly know whether the Teletubbies have finally reached the point where only I am exercising my right to momentarily halt their movement over the cliff of irrelevance; or even whether the latest in breaded lolcat imagery is fully reaching its potential target audience. Consider for a moment that the government's super computers are trawling through pages dedicated to breaded cats. It makes me smile for a moment ... even if they also have access to highly sensitive information that no one should have ever witnessed in the first place. I am, of course, talking about those awkward hobbledehoy images which chronicled your teenage years. I've always posted under the expectation that some organisation would be reading this. I guess I should feel privileged that I made the cut ... and you should too. Now, I think it best if we all sit in a circle, rocking slowly in a foetal position, as we embrace the death of our privacy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Word of the day

Today's word (well, the first word I've ever dedicated a blog post to) is subtle. I just came to the realisation that I really like the word. It fits me even if I'm far from subtle at times. I like that the 'b' is silent. It makes writing and saying the word a subtle process of remembering that a 'b' is stealthily residing within; even if it doesn't seem to serve any purpose. Sure, my French teacher would have pointed out that its origins are from Latin and that's why the 'b' exists but it doesn't affect me. Subtle, in present-day English, is perfect.

Subtle is zen. It inhabits its subtleties and reminds us of its meaning with every utterance. That is all.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Happy happy

I'm tired of excited by technology attempting to censor helping me enlighten my diction. When I use swipe, my phone surreptitiously attempts to clean up wondrously corrects my use of darns whoopees and drats wonderfuls. It is fudging annoying. I am not a child and I should not be treated like one. If I want something a little more caliente interesting than a "darnwhoopee" it should be within my ability to express myself that way without having to resort to manually typing it in for google to enlighten me

It is a little Orwellian brilliant to think that my device would have has the power good sense to control my self expression correct my incorrections. I can picture a not-too-distant future would love a world where all my communication is auto-corrected and censored perfect. Soon all negative positive terms will be stricken from our diction so that we can only express ourselves in superlatives and positive terms. Maybe I am just being a little neurotic but I do have a hint of a point, don't I? agree wholeheartedly. I cannot be the only one who can see the innocuous and insidious path we have slowly directed ourselves tow- All hail our benevolent liberator, the <##>@<#@>.

<google has corrected this post for the purposes of enlightening and entertaining said internet users on the behalf of our benevolent liberator, the <##>@<#@>. Please be well.>

Update: It turns out I can 'hack' the dictionary in google swipe. Just type in a misspelled word, click add to dictionary and then add the word you *really* want to add in place of this misspelling. Your move, Google.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Kick 'em while they're down

It's that time again to have a tech post - bear with me while I vent.

Poor old Microsoft. Even if they made 6 billion in profit last quarter they still apparently cannot afford to buy a clue. I am, of course, talking about their ongoing failure to extend into markets with anything that doesn't contain the word 'office' or 'windows' in it. I guess the one exception would be the xbox but if that's your only hit (in how many years?), it's a little alarming. I would never have thought a multi-billion dollar company would be an underdog but that's how I see them at this point in time. Here's the list of attempts to remain cool and relevant:
  • Windows Phone - owns 4% of the market after two years.
  • Surface RT (AKA Microsoft iPad (AKA 'the neutered Windows 8 tablet')) - not even 1% of the market and no chance of improving.
  • Surface Pro (AKA 'proper Windows 8 tablet') - not even 1% of the market and only a slight chance of this improving.
  • Windows 8 (AKA 'the finger paint OS') - apparently so bad it's causing a mass defection to OSX or motivating people to upgrade back to Windows 7.
Doesn't look good, does it? On windows 8, I think the major failing is that it is trying to be everything. I can understand that you would want a touch interface if you're using a tablet but it should not force professionals to swipe with the bluntness of an index finger every time you want to do something. But enough about that. I would rather suggest ways in which they can attempt to solve most of their issues:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Say yes to logic

I recently have been subjected to watching inane shows like 'Say Yes to the Dress'. And this show could not be any less ... engaging. Maybe my queer eye is playing tricks on me but almost every dress looks somewhere between garish and tasteless. Yes, if I am forced to endure the contents of this show, I at least make the effort to critique their fashion missteps. And then comes the price.

Twenty-six THOUSAND (or more) for a wedding dress? That seems like a sound investment. In what reality does that make any semblance of common sense? I can understand spending maybe a few thousand which, even then makes my skin crawl, but spending the price of a car on a dress you wear once is just silly. If you have millions of dollars in the bank account then *possibly* that is alright but, if you're like most of the general population, that is a lot of money. When did marriage become about the spectacle and living out your princess fantasies? At what point does reality rear its ugly head to your idealisms? At what point do you think, no, I won't put our relationship in a financial hole that my parents or bank will need to fill? I would hope the answer would be never but who am I to question what the princess wants? 

It looks like she had a wardrobe malfunction (and it cost 1.5 mill)

Oh, and then there's another offshoot of this show called 'I found the gown.'  But I think they haven't gone far enough. I've got another concept that should broaden their audience: "I found twenty-six thousand dollars in my pocket (that I didn't spend on a wedding dress)." Well, at least the groom and parents would appreciate it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sweet or sour?

As any (westernised) Chinese restaurant will tell you, the dish needs to have both. You need the sweet to be offset by the sour just as the sour needs to be balanced by the sweet. If it is too sweet, the dish is overpowered by the sugar that flavours it. It makes perfect sense. You need the sour to appreciate what would be far too sweet otherwise. Now before you think I am a prattling foodie (guilty) and this blog has devolved into the words of an amateur aspiring culinarist, this rule remains just as true for other categories. And, if I can be so bold, this defines the universal rule: you need to have balance.

I was watching Dexter and even if the main plot line is far from rainbows and unicorns it generally follows a relatively smooth and 'sweet' path. The adorably altruistic endeavours of Dexter Morgan's plight to rid the world of mass-murderers is tempered by his dark passenger and lust for death. This is why characters like LaGuerta exist. Without annoying characters that do their best to disrupt Dexter's harmless endeavours, you would no longer care as much about Dexter. You like Dexter because you hate LaGuerta (or at least I do). If there are no antagonists to hold your actions in check, it just becomes a run-of-the-mill episode of Ugly Betty. And no one would want that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Nail on the head

I just read this article about the principles of making your novel compelling and I could not agree more. For those too lazy to follow the link, I will emphasise and reiterate what every good novel should contain:
  1. A good hook - if the story doesn't grab you from page one, you're doing it wrong.
  2. A strong voice - if the voice of the novel has its own style, you're half-way there to an interesting read
  3. A good/interesting story - that should go without saying
  4. Compelling characters - strong, relateable and believable characters (not just 16 year-olds with strong desires for centenarian vampires)
  5. Commentary on the human condition - something that resonates with the reader

Maybe I have rose-coloured glasses on but I know I followed those principles when writing my novel (even if I didn't know them at the time). Feel free to disagree, though, as that's what makes us human after all :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I am going crazy

There must be something wrong with me. Despite all clues pointing to the Emperor's clothes being transparent, they continue to not see. I am, of course, talking about facebook's revitalised stock price. Even with all these sad-sacks throwing millions of dollars in ad revenue at FB, I do not know how on earth the stock price can possibly reflect reality.

Google is a proven cash cow / golden goose hybrid with a proven revenue earning model, with net revenue of  $2.89 billion (great), a stock price of $758 and an earnings per share ratio of 32 (very good). To put it another way, for every share out there the company is earning an incredible $24,256.

Apple has a very strong revenue model (high profit margins), with net revenue of $13.1 billion (wow), a stock price of $459 and an earnings per share ratio of 44.1 (amazing). To put it another way, for every share out there the company is earning an amazing $20,241.

Ebay is a business built upon a core revenue model, with net revenue of $3.38 billion (great),  a stock price of $56 and an earnings per share ratio of 2 (goodish). To put it another way, for every share out there the company is earning $113.

Facebook is a 'business' built around doing social stuff ... oh, and embedding annoying ads that no one clicks on and/or games that no one buys premium stuff for, with net revenue last quarter of $131 million (fine), a stock price of $31 and an earnings per share ratio of 0.11 (ugh). To put it another way, for every share out there the company is earning $3.41.

Am I missing something? Do those numbers not disturb you? In response facebook is performing a $2 billion buy back to improve the health of their EPS (earnings per share) ratio. When facebook's company is apparently worth the same as Google or Apple but doesn't have anything resembling the net revenue or earning potential, how can this not be a dollar share?

I'll leave it for you to mull over. Class dismissed.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Ironing out the kinks

I'm going through a movie review phase, so bear with me ...

I recently saw a film called The Man With the Iron Fists and it's a love letter to the classic kung-fu films that littered the 70-80's, with notable contributors being Jet Li and Jackie Chan (to name but a few). Later on a hip hop/rap group was inspired by this movie gold so much so that they created a new sound by sampling the effects and music of the films into 'tight loops' that were 'tha bomb' of the late eighties/early nineties. That group was called the Wu-Tang Clan, headed up by the masterful productionist, The Rza.

Why am I telling you this? Well, this film is written, directed and starring Mr Rza ... and he also did the score. I think if you attempt to review this film by western standards, you will think this is complete dreck. By 'ode to kung-fu' standards, it's good but it still weak where it counts. This is also 'presented by Tarantino.' because I don't know of any other director as much in love with classic films as he is. I think he contributed with the gore and maybe some of the dialogue (and one overhead shot straight out of Kill Bill: Volume 1).

Now, my favourite Kung-Fu film is called Snake in the Eagle's Shadow. I recommend the US dub because it is so terribly brilliant. The story is weak but the action is brilliant. The dub is stupendous in the cheesiest bad dub kind of way. Watch it! Now, before you think that my mind is prattling, if you read between the lines you will understand why the Rza's film is intentionally terrible. It's because the original films were quite awful ... but brilliant to watch. Cheesy antics, average acting and corny dialogue ... but BRILLIANT action / choreography. That's Kung-Fu film in its essence.

Having said that, I would have liked the Rza to stay behind the camera but I can understand his desire to be part of Kung-Fu lore even if the end result is pretty darn weak. The choreography is fine but slow by 'mainland China' standards. There are also a few too many character arcs and the film takes itself a little too seriously (although the main baddie's hair is hilarious) for it to get a passing grade by attempting to play the kung-fu/silly card. Too much focus on gore and too little on the choreography is where the film lets itself down.

I applaud The Rza for making the film ... it's just a shame that he missed the point of Kung-Fu.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My mind is mush

I watched the film Upside Down recently and, god, it couldn't have been written worse if the responsibility had been left to the drunken ramblings of a troupe of peyote-drinking retarded chimpanzees mashing their mutilated stumps for hands against a typewriter where the only keys that worked were s, u, c and k.

This film follows the romantic formula to a tee, except it does everything in its ability to be even less intelligible by discrediting science in the process. The story's premise destroys the basis of physics to such an incredible degree that even a five-year old would state that this film makes no sense and would not have a shadow of a doubt that he was correct in his assessment.

So, the premise is that you have two planets that are perfectly aligned (they spin at the same speed, with the exact same orbit and I would surmise the same mass, considering they're not smashing into each other) such that there is a bridge that transitions between the two of them. So far, so unrealistic. Now here comes the kicker; the gravity doesn't work the same between planets. Oof. Items from the one planet only interact with the gravity of their planet. Ouch. If these foreign elements are retained too long on the other planet, they burn up. Owowowow. Also this gravity apparently only affects certain aspects at certain times (or at least the way that this film conveys it). All this 'science' is introduced so that we can have the world's most convoluted romance story possible:  (narrator voice)

Two people, living in separate worlds ... but connected by love

I'm not sure why they needed to go to such silly extents to create such a convoluted mechanism to keep them apart. Anyway the cereal box summary is: They meet each other at the closest point between the two worlds and fall in love. For whatever reason, the people of either side of the planet deny people from the other side from interacting with each other and she falls back to her planet and hits her head. Dufus (that's what I'm calling him) thinks she's dead until he sees her on TV and then finds a means of reconnecting with her ... although she doesn't remember him (quelle contrived). The visuals are really quite good but, if you've seen inception (or Ring), you should be pretty used to seeing people walking on the ceiling so that novelty wears off pretty quickly. 

And so, to summarise, this was not my cup of tea. This film is like a nightmare that you keep hoping to wake up from ... until you realise you are awake and you are actually watching your mind unravel as you try to make sense of all the inconsistencies. If you do still want to watch this, do it while stoned or heavily inebriated. You have been warned.