Oh Brother.

May 31, 2007

Another season of Big Brother is upon us. Months of mind-numbing TV involving shallow housemates looking to start their pop career, get a TV spot, or whatever. Excellent, isn’t it? I relish in Big Brother. Don’t worry, I won’t post on BB often. Despite it being insanely popular, I seem to be the only person who watches it.

So, a quick rundown of this year’s cast. My thoughts and opinions are as follows:

The twins (Image from BBC)
The twins, Sam and Amanda. Don’t ask me which is which. Fairly pretty, but they think they’re prettier still; unfortunately, this is where the substance ends. The twins are shallow, indulging in vapid conversation on anything pink or related to boys.

Lesley (Image from BBC)
Lesley, at 60 years old, will be the mother of the house who doesn’t really get on with anybody. Then she’ll moan about it, and probably leave within a few weeks. I might be wrong, but on the live feed last night she was walking alone in the garden while the others chatted. We’ll see what happens.

Charley (Image from BBC)
Not only does she have a boy’s name, she bloody well looks like one too (Steve Tyler, in particular). Probably the most instantly selfish and annoying of the housemates. She was immensely disappointed when she realised that there were no boys coming in — presumably she realised that she’d actually have to work to retain friends, rather than simply please the boys to ensure she doesn’t get nominated for eviction. Certainly the least likeable of the lot.

Tracey (Image from BBC)
Tracey, a self-styled modern hippy. Colourful, is one way to describe her character, in the best possible way; she comes across as instantly nice, but she’ll be attacked by the other girls because she dares to do what she wants, as opposed to what the popular kiddies in the house want. Could stop saying such annoying phrases as “‘ave it!”, but otherwise ok.

Chanelle (Image from BBC)
Prides herself in looking, dressing, and being like Victoria Beckham, though I’m not sure why. Her first words in the house were “Fuck me up the bum!” (before she met anybody else), and doesn’t seem to be quite as shallow as the twins, for example. Slightly intelligent and bearable. Only slightly, mind. Potentially bearable in real life, though perhaps only because of her looks.

Shabam (Image from BBC)
Obsessed with make-up. Thinks she’s funny, but she’s not actually. She says she enjoys reading on the toilet, which is indeed the seat of kings (or queens, as appropriate). Admits to being selfish. Doesn’t like working, and so is unemployed. Otherwise, there’s little to say on this one, aside from the fact that she tried way too hard when she entered the house.

Emily (Image from BBC)
Emily says she’s not a “rich bitch,” but that’s exactly what she is. She’s a “daddy bought me this” girl, through and through. Reasonably intelligent and pretty, her major fault so far is her attitude.

Laura (Image from BBC)
Laura talks too much. She also eats too much, which she admits freely so I’m not being mean here. One of those people who are genuinely nice, but she’s made little impact so far because of this. She’ll be a slow-burner.

Nicky (Image from BBC)
Lacking somewhat in substance, but hates men. Umm, that’s all I can remember. Probably out within the first couple of weeks and swiftly forgotten about.

Carole (Image from BBC)
Probably the biggest character in the house, she’s one of these opinionated but very nice people. She doesn’t have any hope of winning because she’s not pretty, she’s not young, and she’s not willing to tow the line. She will make good viewing, however.

All women, but they’re putting one man in on Friday. It’s off to an interesting start…

The Queen is dead…

May 29, 2007

… long live the Queen. But wait! She’s not dead. She’s only missing…

Seriously. Can somebody, anybody, please tell me where Queen Minx is? There’s a Queenie-shaped hole in the internet.


May 26, 2007

I spotted, a few mornings ago, in the Metro a brief item on cheating on your partner which included short interviews with perhaps five ordinary people. The item, which I skimmed quickly, seemed in particular to be focussed on business dinners with the opposite sex, whether that constitutes cheating, and if not, what does?

I was astounded by the responses. Most stated that they had never cheated. One, perhaps two, stated that they had cheated (but not with a married man, only a man who was otherwise in a relationship). That it was only the women who admitted to cheating is an aside, as it’s quite likely that men will enjoy the risk of cheating, but won’t enjoy the risk opening up about it.

Of course, having arrived at my station and put the paper down, I found myself thinking about how they hadn’t defined “cheating.”

I expect that some people, in particular men, wouldn’t consider anything less than sucking the face off someone who isn’t your partner to be cheating. Some might consider that while they had a particularly flirty dinner with a colleague, it wasn’t cheating because the partner knew about the dinner.

Different people define cheating in different ways. How many times have you received a call from an ex and entertained it, knowing fine well that exes tend to communicate with sexual desires in mind, but not told your partner? How many times did you make that call? That’s sure as hell cheating, if we define “cheating” as a betrayal of your partner’s trust. I think most of us are comfortable with the idea of keeping in touch with a couple of friendly exes, but many loath the very idea of a partner communicating with an ex. Double standards? Definitely.

It’s clear to me that there are two parts to the concept of cheating: first, the act of cheating itself and second, the act of lying to your partner. The latter is certainly distrustful, dishonest, and deceitful. The crazy part that I see is that we all play along with this idea that the former is wrong, unnatural, forbidden. Why?

We’re not monogamous creatures. If we were, any thoughts we had for anybody else would instantly vanish the moment we were coupled with somebody. So we’re not built to be 100% faithful: it’s not possible; we’re always checking out other people, interacting with other people, feeling attracted or repulsed often at a subconscious level. We all “cheat” frequently, so the problem isn’t necessarily the act of cheating itself.

I suppose then there’s cheating-lite, which we do all the time whether we know it or not, then cheating proper, which involves the exchange of bodily fluids, or possibly the exchange of mental currency such as trust.

Interestingly, some couples seem to be able to endure the actual act of cheating, provided neither partner breaks trust by concealing truth or lying. In other words, the worser part of cheating isn’t the cheating itself, it’s often the lies and deceit that go with it.

The most amusing part of the article was that the final question for each of those interviewed was “Have you ever been cheated on?” Each emphatically answered “no!”

Yeah. You just keep telling yourself that…


May 20, 2007

I’m slowing down on posting for a while. Why?

I’m busy. Project deadlines are looming in the coming weeks/months.

Various exam-related meetings take place soon, once the task of marking has taken place. Fortunately, no stupid strikes this year.

I have a couple of short trips away, scheduled right through to late July, and also some personal time off.

I’ll post intermittently, but I imagine it’ll take a while for me to get back into full swing. Be sure to check in from time to time, see if I’m still alive!


May 20, 2007

I just watched the hyped Panorama report on Scientology on youtube (linkage: part 1, 2, and 3). Wow.

I was previously aware in passing terms of Scientology, in the sense that Tom Cruise (nutto extraordinaire) is a member and he’s not exactly known as a balanced person when it comes to, well, anything really. I also knew it is all based on the writings of sci-fi author L. Ron Hubbard (credible, eh?). But that was the extent of my knowledge.

I didn’t previously know anything about the lengths they go to to protect their name (presumably they’re not aware of how useful the internet is for passing knowledge…). I didn’t realise that they “disconnected” their members from disbelievers. I’d forgotten that they consider psychiatry to be evil and want it banned worldwide. I didn’t realise just how fucking good they are at brainwashing their members into towing the line.

What a bunch of fucking freaks. I urge you to watch the youtube links above in order, to get a brief idea of what the whole thing’s about. Organised religion can often be seen as brainwashing, but these guys take the biscuit.

Fortunately, it’s not a religion over here. Not officially anyway, though I’m sure some poor people follow it anyway.

One of the guys in this video are about as extreme as the folks you see in these terrorist videos blowing innocents brains out. You’ll know which guy I mean when you watch the videos.

I’m disgusted that the western world, which we hold up as the centre of knowledge, the seat of power, the origin of industry, can still churn out wackos like these guys.


May 17, 2007

I’m due to leave any moment. I need to get to my destination, and soon. I don’t care about how much it costs. My destination is far away, certainly a long haul flight across the Atlantic away.

I’ve forgotten something, and I’m rushing. I hop in a taxi to take me into the darkest depths of rural Scotland. It’s dark and raining, but I can see the roads here are red, like the old Lanarkshire roads, but covered in extreme potholes.

“The roads are pretty bad here, eh?”

“Aye, the fucking cities take all the money. We get none out here!” the driver responds.

“I need to get to my destination.”

“Okay. But before we go I have to put on Muse, Knights of Cydonia.” Suddenly, it’s daylight. I wonder how I didn’t notice his computer set up in the passenger side; three screens controlling his sound system. The buttons on the computer appear to be made of rubber, not plastic. He starts the track playing, having not been paying attention to the road but still avoiding parked cars. We’re now in the city.

I comment on how it’s an ace song, then tell the taxi driver again where I’m meant to be going, at which point he looks panicky. “Well then, we’re going the wrong way.”

We get out of the taxi. It’s dark again, and I can see that we’re near to the motorway. He picks up the car and puts in carefully under his arm; we walk across the motorway. All the cars are stuck in a jam, everybody’s trying to get out of the city. Not one car is trying to go where we’re going, toward the city.

The driver puts the car back down, neatly placed between lanes on the motorway, ready to drive into town. I freak out. I don’t want to get back into the car with him.

I run to the airport, and soon I find myself touching down on an island across the Atlantic. I walk ashore.

This, I think, is America. The people are laughing, happy. Money is rolling around. Lots of shops are open in this place, which seems like some sort of open air shopping area. The sky is dark, but nobody seems to mind. Lots of people are wearing puffy jackets which carry the stars and stripes. I feel sickened here.

I spot a large escalator heading up. I cannot see what’s at the top, but I decide to take it anyway.

I reach the top. People are a lot more subdued here. Gone is the brashness of down the stairs, and the sky is light.

“At last,” I think to myself, “I’m in Russia.”


May 11, 2007

The internet is a constantly evolving picture of life as we understand it. There are various groups and communities within its sphere of influence. Memes, abbreviations, and porn move through the internet at alarming rates. Who remembers the Hamster dance? Or the demented car engine noise which eventually became the detestable Crazy Frog?

There is an interesting subculture related to all these memes, and that is the commentators. Those who choose to analyse, rationalise, and dissect human behaviour in these situations. I’m going to take one post in particular as example, namely this one.

I’m familiar with lolcats. The “phenomenon” of subtitling an image with a funny caption is certainly nothing new. What warrants the continued discussion is the repeated patterns, oh wait, grammar, which inhabits this realm.

Lolcats are funny. But why are they funny? Many of them are not funny, until you’ve read enough of them. They exhibit all the normal things which amuse people, for example: shared joviality (albeit indirectly, via internet forums, blogs, etc). repetition, familiarity, expectation followed by punchline (i.e., the time it takes to interpret the image + tagline), shared knowledge (inside jokes).

I’m not sure why the author chooses to restrict his scope so tightly. After all, this internet subculture is rather small. Large, perhaps, in traditional terms, but in comparison to the cultures behind old Usenet posts, on email usage, etc, small. The problem, perhaps, with his work is that this flash-in-the-pan internet phenomenon will be largely gone, or rather evolved, within a matter of a couple of years.

I think the bigger interesting question that comes out of the whole phenomenon is not the phenomenon itself, but more how humans can find things funny in isolation when laughter, the gut-wrenching sort, is generally accepted as a group activity.


May 9, 2007

The last few weeks have been intensely busy. I’m running close to a major deadline, whereby funding for one of my projects will terminate. This means I have to devote an inordinate amount of time on the terminating project, completing all milestones, drawing all graphs, and attending all meetings that are required of me.

My desk is a horrendous mess, and I really hope it naturally tidies itself as I draw this line of work to a close.

At times like this, it seems that I spend my days in the following cycle:

  1. Get up, shower, breakfast, go to work (1 hour)
  2. Work (4 hours)
  3. Lunch (half hour)
  4. Work (5 and a half hours)
  5. Go home (half hour)
  6. Dinner (half hour)
  7. Work (?? hours)
  8. Masturbate (?? hours)
  9. Sleep (6 hours)

Sometimes I’ll devote much more time to step 8 than step 7, depending on how I’m feeling. It is, without doubt, one of the best ways to relax at the end of the day, and yet also tire myself out for a power sleep, to wake refreshed in the morning.

Does anybody require the use of intelligent manflesh late each weeknight?


May 8, 2007

This should be my final election post, unless something really surprising happens in the next few days. My thoughts on the whole afair:

  • The voting mechanism was too complex. 3 votes, one election. It’s no wonder people didn’t know the difference between a constituency and a region. It’s not a surprise that people didn’t understand where to put the numbers for the local council election. With regards to the numbers, how are they counted? Is only one number used? How are the numbers weighted? Does 1 mean ‘1’, and 2 mean ‘0.5’, etc? The instructions telling me what to do with my numbers were fair enough, but if people don’t understand why they have to follow these instructions, then of course things are going to go wrong.
  • The smaller parties may have been drowned out by the noise of hundreds of leaflets in my letterbox, handed out on the street, attached to lampposts, etc. In this case, three votes in one day may have worked for the bigger parties, and against the smaller parties.
  • Labour weren’t destroyed, they didn’t lose that much. A vote for SNP was not the protest vote against Labour the media wanted us to believe. It was a protest vote against the perceived lack of change post-devolution, considering that the only party to gain seats was the SNP, and all others lost seats.
  • The vote for the SNP became possible when they made it clear that the vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence. At that point they became a valid political party. In the light of the results, it seems clear that outright independence is something a lot of Scots don’t really want. That’s fair: a lot of Scots would have grown up through the dark years of post-war depression and attribute the spectacular regeneration of the UK to the Union, not to Scotland.
  • An SNP minority Government can’t be a bad thing. If it requires more discussion and debate, then these election results could be the best thing yet to happen to the Scottish Parliament.

That’s what I think, anyway. Time will tell.


May 4, 2007

The outcome? Well, there isn’t one. Not yet, anyway. Lots of results aren’t in yet.

I was watching last night when McConnell won his extremely safe Motherwell & Wishaw constituency, and was highly amused as another candidate unrolled a banner to the effect of “No trident replacement” (exact wording lost in the mists of a headache); quite clearly over the microphone was one woman on stage who said “oh, don’t spoil it,” soon after which the banner was sheepishly removed.

It looks like the SNP have done pretty well out of things. It also looks like Labour have done pretty poorly out of things. It wasn’t the trouncing many of us enjoy seeing, but the numbers look much more balanced, and will hopefully make things interesting in the coming days, months and years.

Of note is the weird decision to run two different voting systems in one night, leading to around one hundred thousand ballot papers being null & void, I’m not surprised. Given that I received mail on how to vote, saw instructions plastered all over the BBC News website for weeks, and was offered further instruction at the polling station, I’m not surprised in the slightest that the number of void votes was that high.

In the grand scheme of things, the existing vote should be representative of the final outcome whether those void votes were counted or not. Of course, we can’t know for sure, unless we ask for only those votes to be redone (though that’s impossible to achieve), or for the whole election to be done again.

More thoughts as things unravel.

Apologies for turning this into a political blog of late, I realise that this isn’t what most people want to hear about. I’ll return to normal posting soon, once I’ve completed this huge pile of work on my desk…