Tuesday, July 31, 2007

to save you from your old ways

Things that irritate me #4633 "People who beat/kill their children will still beat/kill their children after the anti-spanking/repeal Section 59 bill passes, so there is no point changing the law"

Yes, yes, perhaps I should have written this while the Repeal Section 59 debate was in full swing. But in my defense I'm a man who takes his procrastination seriously. After all, as an ex-Catholic I need something to feel guilty about, and possession all those pictures of Apathy Jack with the call-girl, the nun, and Dick Cheney just doesn't bother me like it used to (that's not his first name, people - it's an instruction). Anyway, the flaw in this argument is so huge I'm constantly shocked how many people use it in conversation - and we're talking ordinary joe public, not just mooks who are paid to obfuscate for a living like politicians and creationists.

Every day large numbers of people flagrantly exceed the speed limit, cheat on their taxes, and covert their neighbour's wives; heck, there's an average of a murder every three days in this country. According to the logic of the anti-abolitionists we might as well have no laws, because people will just go around breaking them, making a solemn mockery of the justice system. No, better to have complete anarchy, because then at least we aren't fooling ourselves.


I jest. The anti-abolitionists don't really mean that. They fall under the rubric of Things that irritate me #2579, "people who say one thing for rhetorical purposes, but actually mean something else". Here, what they mean to say is
"this law would be ineffective and therefore cause more harm than good"; which is certainly a coherent argument, and therefore somewhat surprising because I'd bet 85% of the proponents of it would also support the continued criminalisation of marijuana ... (Things that irritate me #2 "people who don't even have the decency to feel ashamed about their intellectual dishonesty").

And I tend to agree - this law has a high possibility of not affecting our appalling child violence statistics, for at least two reasons. Firstly, and it's a weird analogy I know, but I think we are in a similar situation to where we were with drink driving 25-30 years ago. It took a concerted public campaign to change the average punters' attitude to the point where (mostly) drunk drivers are vilified and despised. Now that the Government has won the legislative battle I not sure they have the stomach to go the extra distance with a public education campaign and media blitz on child violence. And while the drink-drive war had the police on the front lines, the spanking issue will mostly be fought down in the trenches by organisations like CYPFS, which often seem as welcomed in public opinion as child-beaters themselves. And just to make it harder, I believe that their is a long, thin streak of puritanism* in New Zealand society that helped to push the anti-drink driving message along. That same puritanical streak will most likely work in the other direction for bringing down child violence.

The second reason I think we will be fighting an uphill battle is because the root of child violence is the widespread acceptance in our society of violence itself - as a method of solving problems. This is a subject I would like to come back to another time, given the length of this post already.

My hope is that the repeal of Section 59 (I say repeal, but really the section has been rewritten, but the word repeal is indelibly imprinted into my brain after all those months of debate so just bear with me, you bastards) with serve two purposes:
  1. allow the police to prosecute parents who take to their children with riding crops, or who perform similar ridiculous, sadistic and dangerous acts in the name of "child discipline"; and
  2. slowly, but inexorably, change people's attitudes such that people like Simon Barnett, or anyone else who claims they are belting their children "for their own good", are vilified as the perverted weirdos they undoubtedly are. How the heck did that guy get on children's television? I feel all dirty now.
NB: In the wake of the Nia Glassie case, let's get one thing straight. Maori collectively have to do something about violence against children when white people sort out serial killers and white-collar criminals. Or just read the Herald article about the link between economic circumstances and violence and be done with it.

And while you're here you can bugger right off to Public Address and read Russell Brown's post on Corporal Punishment. Why yes, I do hold Family First in the same high esteem I hold Simon Barnett - right up there with fascism and botulism**.

* Having said I believe that there is a puritanical streak in NZ, I can't actually put my finger on why I believe it. Anyone want to try and retrospectively justify my beliefs?

** What? What? Oh come on, they're both "isms" aren't they?

I want to feel that fire again

File Under: Things I'd like to see, #7

It might surprise the people who know me, but I have been known on occasion to frequent the local gym. Weights strictly, as when you're a heaving train wreck of a man you get to know your own aerobic limitations pretty quickly. And when you have mass on your side, it makes the most sense to use that large mass to move other large masses, although god only knows why it gives such a sense of satisfaction.

I like to track my progress. To that end I carry a little black book around the gym and record the simplest of data - weight lifted and number of repetitions in each set. I then throw this data into a spreadsheet and use it to give myself a simplistic "score" for each session at the gym. It's not scientific by any means, but I do like having a way of measuring progress.

But it occurs to me that this is a bit of a cumbersome, and ultimately useless process.

First of all I have to carry around a small book and a pen, which can sometimes be a pain in a gym. I have to transcribe the data twice - once into the book, and then into excel. And once it is in excel it looks pretty, but I don't know enough about what the data means for it to be useful, and I have no organised way to share the data with people more knowledgeable than me.

Secondly, it's too easy to make mistakes and/or cheat. When you're doing a set of twelve 120kg 45-degree leg presses it's remarkably easy to lose count (I have to breathe properly, count, lift 120kgs AND chew gum all at the same time, which is no easy feat, let me tell you). It's even easier to decide that 8 1/2 repetitions should be recorded as 9. It would be nice if there was an impartial observer to make these decisions for me, AND automatically record the data in a useful format for analysis later.

So what I'd really like to see is gym equipment routinely fitted with sensors. Let's be honest, they wouldn't have to be very sophisticated to get the job done: a sensor to monitor the amount of weight lifted, distance travelled, and time taken, topped off with a wireless network to transmit the data back to base in real-time (I'm thinking exclusively here of weight machines, but there is no reason not to apply this to just about any exercise machine in a gym). The final piece of the puzzle is some way of relating the data back to the gym-user, but since everyone at a gym has an ID card it wouldn't be too difficult to co-opt that. Attach a card-reader or fit it for RFID and everybody's happy.

There would need to be a backend database to capture all this, so some thought would need to go into field and table formatting. Ideally you would make the data system as lean and mean as possible to cater for menagerie of different fitness assessment programs there would be out there, which could then import the data as needed.

Presumably this technology already exists - if they weren't capturing this kind of data automatically in fields like sports medicine I'd be very disappointed. What I'd like to see is this technology made cheap and simple enough for roll-out in local gyms, and ultimately in home gyms. If anyone has seen stuff like this out in the wild, please chuck it into the comments.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl

So where to now for Harry Potter? Two words people: Grange Hill.

Oh c'mon, surely Harry Potter would work fantastically as a school drama? 8-12 1 hour episodes for each book, some of the minor characters and unnecessary subplots can get a proper fleshing out, the teenage angst can be ramped up, and, most importantly, J K Rowling gets another great wodge of cash. Obviously it's a little early to be starting such a project now, but give it another 10 years HP the series will be on our small screens.

I forgot to mention in my Order of the Phoenix review that prior to the movie was a trailer for The Golden Compass, which is actually The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman renamed. You can see the trailer at the film's website. As I am a fan of the books I'm reasonably excited by the movie, but I'm guessing they're going to have to tone down some of the content for the international audience. For international audience read: America, and for content read: anything about overthrowing God and the Church. Good luck getting that stuff through, guys.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the bastards of war

Bastard is a card game for 3+ players. I've heard it called a number of games, including Sick, Scum, Holy Jamamee, and هوو مني] جمال للفضيلة من ابنتك. But for me Bastard is a perfect description for the game, since that is the monkier I usually bestow on the people who beat me at it.

Since I initially heard the rules second-hand, and over time have had several slightly different rule-sets proposed, I thought I might write them down for the benefit of newer players. Feel free to suggest your own variations in the comments.

Note: in all versions of Bastard either one or two packs of cards can be used. It is recommended that two packs are used for any game with 4+ players. If two packs are used players must decide which 3 of Spades will start the game (so it is an advantage to play with dissimilar packs).

Right Bastard (or Classic Bastard):
  1. Bastard consists of rounds, games and sets. You play rounds in a game of bastard, and you have sets of games.
  2. All cards (sans Jokers, unless you are playing with the Funny Bastard rules, see below) are dealt to the players. The player with the 3 of Spades starts the first round of the game. They must play the 3 of Spades as their first action. If they have the 3 of Spades and another 3, or multiple 3s, of any suit they can play that as well. If multiples of the same card value are played subsequent players must also play multiples during that round (so you have rounds of singles, doubles, triple, etc, determined by the first cards played).
  3. Cards are played clockwise.
  4. You must put down a higher card than the last card played in the round. If the last card played was a 3 you must put down a 4 or higher. If the last card played was a Jack, you must put down a Queen or higher, and so on.
  5. The highest card played wins the round. 2 is always the highest card and 3 is the lowest. Players are not obliged to play their highest card, and pull out of a round at any time by saying "pass". Once you have passed in a round you cannot play any cards until the next round begins. Theoretically you can win a round simply by playing a 3 if all other players subsequently pass.
  6. The player who wins the round then gets to start the next round.
  7. The first player to play all their cards is dubbed 'The President'. The last player left with cards to play has lost the game and is therefore 'The Bastard'. Players continue playing on the last cards played by the players who have gone out (i.e. it is not necessary to start a new round when a player goes out - unless all players pass, or the last played card is a 2). The game is only finished when only one player remains with cards, at which point The Bastard can be announced.
  8. When playing with 4 or more players you can also have the positions of 'Vice-President' and 'Vice-Bastard'. It is generally recommended that 2 packs are used when these positions are in play.
  9. Once the cards are dealt, the Bastard and the President engage in Patronage - the Bastard must give the President their highest card, and the President must give the Bastard their lowest card. If the President has multiple 3s (i.e. more 3s than are required to give patronage) including the 3 of Spades then they are not obliged to give up the 3 of Spades.
  10. Where Vice-President/Vice-Bastard positions are in play the Bastard must give up their two highest cards and the President their two lowest; The VP and VB must do the same with just one card each.
  11. Once Patronage is over and all players are ready the first round of the set can begin, as per the rules above.
  12. Players may decide how many games will constitute a set, or just continue playing games until exhausted.
  13. Swearing inventively at opposing players either to distract them or after they beat you in a round/game is encouraged.

Rule variations to Bastard:
  • Run - where 3 (or more) cards are put down in sequence (i.e. 7, 8, 9 or double Jack, double Queen, double King), then any player can call 'run'. Subsequent cards played in that round must be sequential.
  • Keep the Bastard Happy - after the first round the Bastard always starts the game by playing the first hand (i.e. the 3 of spades is no longer significant). In general this makes it easier for the Bastard to change position.
  • Kick a Man When He's Down - the President can give the Bastard any card they like during patronage- they are not compelled to give their lowest card (but they are still restricted in the number of cards they give).
  • Veto (proposed by Paul Litterick) - Playing an 8 (or multiple 8s) ends the round. The 8 must be played as part of the normal sequence (i.e. you can't play it after a 9).
  • Funny Bastard - A single Joker is added to the pack which acts as a wildcard. Because the value of the card is not assigned until it has been played, the Joker is not part of the Bastard's patronage to the President. As a wildcard the Joker can be played as a 2, but cannot beat a 2.
  • Total Bastard - Games are scored to determine an overall winner for the Set. Each game played as President counts as 2-points, Vice-President 1 point, Vice-Bastard -1-points, Bastard -2 points.
For anyone who hasn't quite got the card ordering, it goes like this, starting lowest to highest: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace, 2.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

this great evil

Hands down, the most disturbing music video ever: Unkle's Eye for an Eye.

The message is unmistakeable - the forces of the Evil Teddy Bear Nation will one day come for us.

And we must make ourselves ready.

Carry on.

Seriously though, the album Eye for an Eye comes from, Never, Never, Land, is an absolute stonker and worth every penny. Happy it is not - definitely qualifying for the moniker "Mood Music", as you'll be moody as all hell after listening to it.

reputation's changeable

Not Bad. Not bad at all.

I was a late comer to Harry Potter (I saw the first two movies well before I read any of the books), and while I'll be the first to point out that they are not high art, they are definitely a jolly good romp. If I had kids I would definitely make them read them, if nothing else because they are the one true path to Satan, and much easier to read than the Necronomicon, which, to be honest, I found uninspiring and in fact rather a bore.

The problem with reading the books, though, is that you instantly start picking the movies apart, and whining miserably about the bits the movie left out. Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets are still rather pristine in my memory, but Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire are forever sullied by small annoyances: would it have killed the director to put in a scene telling us the derivation of the names Moony, Padfoot and Prongs? Or for Dumbledore to have explained why Harry and Voldemort's wands acted the way they did at the end of Goblet of Fire? One wonders why the makers haven't taken a leaf out of Peter Jackon's book and released special editions with a half hour of extra footage - is it just that HP fans are far less fanatical than Tolkienites?

On this score Order of the Phoenix comes out actually rather well. At a guess this comes down to that particular book being badly in need of a good pruning. It is by far my least favorite book being quite damned dreary and overly infected with Harry's whining teenage recalcitrance. The movie improves matters to no end, without cutting out too many important scenes. Thankfully the acting from the youngsters is also definitely improving. They also quite arfully manage to wrap up the Cho Chang affair quite nicely, even if they do depart quite spectacularly from the book.

Speaking of acting, Evanna Lynch (as Luna Lovegood**) will be one to watch for in the future. She nails the character as delightfully disconnected from world in her own serene reality, which as a first time actor is fairly impressive. It helps that the character is one of the stand-outs from the book - and that she has a fantastic irish lilt, which could potential cover a multitude of acting evils. I've always said that if I was to be reincarnated I'd like to come back as an African-American man, because black guys just naturally look better than any other race (just think about it - old balding white guy vs old balding black guy? No freaking contest. I'll take your Sean Connery and raise you one Samual L. Jackson. Or Morgan Freeman even). In light of Evanna Lynch I'd have to say if I had to be reincarnated as a woman then I would like to come back Irish. Perhaps this is not so surprising, the Irish being the niggers of Europe - everyone has treated them like dirt, even though they're so much cooler than everyone else*.

(Of course, one would hope no God would be silly enough to reincarnate me as a woman because if you gave me two breasts of my own I'm sure as hell not going to get very much work done).

But I digress. I was slightly surprised how much Luna features in the movie - I wonder whether Rowling has told that filmmakers that she plays an important part in the final book? (for my money I reckon she and Neville hook up. And I'll put money on an outside chance that it turns out the Neville ends up killing Voldemort as well - oh come on, it fits the prophecy doesn't it?).

For more musings and predictions check out Span's thread on this.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Are the Smurfs anti-Semitic Communists? - Why yes, Jimmy, yes they are.

What's the fastest-acting, most lethal poison? - I only ask because out of innocent curiousity you understand ...

* ... except when it comes dancing. Sorry, dancing is at heart a mating ritual, and Irish dancing is about as sexy as a polar bear. And not one of those pretty polar bears, either. I see you people from the North American Man-Polar Bear Love Association out there in the audience. And you're all sick, sick people I tell you.

** Okay, Luna Lovegood - excellent name for a character in a book about witches and wizards? Or something you would expect as the name of a girl in a Bond movie? It's not Plenty O'Toole, but still ... what was Rowling thinking?

"You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle aged woman: Stuff you pay good money for in later life." - Emo Philips

Sunday, July 01, 2007

trade all your heroes in for ghosts

Gentlemen - it is good.

Not Donnie Darko, Fight Club or Heat good, but good enough for an event movie, and all that that entails - explosions, fast edits and kinetic action. The dialogue is on occasion quite ropey, but mostly it knows that any movie involving giant robots fighting over something called "The All-Spark" - especially giant robots named things like Bumblebee, Ironhide, Starscream, Ratchet and Megatron (that's just a sampling, folks) - is going to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to credibility and suspension of disbelief. They make the movie work by (generally) not taking themselves too seriously.

Funnily enough it's the humans that get the best exposure - Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox do pretty well as the human leads, and the supporting cast is uniformly good as well - except for the NSA analyst/hacker subplot, which is quite frankly a waste of good space.

But in the end it's the robots whose characters are not developed enough - when one of the autobots die at the end it's kind of hard to care, which is a little unfortunate. But they leave the door wide-open (in a non-groan-worthy way - stay for the credits, folks) for a sequel, so maybe that will be an chance to flesh everyone out a little: cf X-Men 2 - and hopefully not X-men 3.

you know the secrets of the universe

Funny pictures, just because I can.

I may be thinking of particular people I know with that last one.

... especially here for the people I was thinking of with the Cat Proximity picture. And finally, it is traditional to end with this:


"One day I had an asthmatic attack. These three asthmatics jumped me. I know, it's my fault... I should have heard them hiding." - Emo Philips