Tag Archives: education

Halloween movies & Assault on precinct 13.

1 Nov

(bit of backround music for ya;)

The television lineup for the halloween weekend, bar Ghostbusters 1&2  being shown, was disapointing. Incredibly disapointing. No scream, no chucky, no nightmare on elm street, no carrie, no nothing. And this wasn’t just the Irish channels I get here either; this was cable. All the major channels from the British isles, and there wasn’t a scrap of halloween fever among them.

Noticing this, it got me thinking about my favourite scary movies.Personally, I’m not actually that big into horror movies. I watched the first ‘Saw’, got a bit of a giddy thrill out of it but then got bored pretty quickly: “oh no! yet ANOTHER dastardly mindfuck-trap? whatever will happen?!”. I was never a huge fan of the Exorcist or anything either, because that shit’s just wrong. Most movies nowadays put a young girl humming/singing chillingly in a hallway and it’s implied(or, depressingly, presumed) that it’s scary; the exorcist went to fucking town on that shit. it was wrong, and damn scary.

Sure, I don’t necessarily love or watch those films all too often, but it adds to the halloween spirit when I find myself skipping over them on the tv schedule a bit quicker than I need to for fear that letting the remote linger on them too long will awaken something dark from the floorboards…

But anyway, thinking about all of this I remembered my favourite scary film. It’s not really a ‘horror’, but damn it’ll get you in the same mood.

Years and years ago in my early teens; back when tamagotchis were the equivalent of iPhones and Zack Morris was the Johnny Depp of the day, I had the house to myself one weekend night. I stayed up late, slipping out back for a sneaky joint every once in a while and had the kind of enjoyable time to myself you can only have when your that age, feeling like it’s your house, your life and your time to do whatever you want with.

Around 1 in the night I stumbled past the Irish language television channel “TG4”, which has the uncanny ability to pick up the best cult films and tv shows around. As of writing this, it is still the only channel out of all of the ones on cable that has picked up the phenomenal “The Wire” from across the Atlantic…that’s how good it is, and it’s targeted at an Irish speaking population of about two hundred thousand (at most…that’s a high guess).

Anyway, knowing it had this ability -seeing as it had introduced me to the classic “The Warriors” only a few weeks beforehand, I stuck around for a few minutes to see what film it was lining up. Little did I know, it was about to introduce me to one of my all time favourites.

Everything in it, from the cinematography to the drawn out atmosphere of the setting to the broken down city in the backround almost acting as a supporting actor did something to scare the bejeesus out of me. I have yet to find, watch or even hear of a film that creates such a tense atmosphere without resorting to cheap orchestra music or shock value. It’s an incredible movie.

One of the single things that shook me about it though was the feeling or atmosphere that it evoked in the first half hour. In that time the film shows dusk in a city and a sad sense of apathy, isolation and hopelessness that just struck a spark with me. When watching it I could smell that feeling in the air as I have done many times when walking around the city, that dusk time emptying of the streets…it’s quite a feeling. If you’ve felt it you know, if not well..you might be best off haha, it’s some ‘dark night of the soul’ stuff.

I’m not gonna tell you much about it actually. Don’t try to find out about it, just find it and watch it. In this day and age it’s almost required that you look up everything about a film before you watch it because you don’t want to waste your time but believe me, this is worth knowing nothing about. Besides, all you need to know is up on that classic poster (they don’t make ’em like they used to).

Oh: and do not watch the remake. Don’t. Just, …just don’t. It’s horrible.

Israeli/Palestinian prisoner swap

13 Oct

Okay soooo….yeah this is a touchy subject. Gotta be careful…

In writing this, I’m not trying to take the perspective of one side or the other; I’m simply trying to highlight something. Make of it what you will. Regardless of your views, I want you to genuinely ask yourself what you think of the question I’m gonna bring up. I don’t want you to immediately fall back on ‘your sides’ arguments or justifications…I just want you to engage with the question and hopefully challenge your view on the situation. Nothing more, nothing less.

I do have an opinion on it all though, don’t get me wrong. Even though this question I’m gonna raise might make it seem like I’m favouring one side, It’s not. It’s just a question. You could change the parametres of the question a million ways to encompass a million different political viewpoints…but it would still end up being the same question.

Besides, when you take a far enough step back away from it all, it’s a bit like watching two drunks fighting over their shared loss of dignity. Both contributed to the circumstances, both agree it’s happened, but neither is willing to be the big man.

So anyway, in the news recently is the story of Gilad Shilat, an Israeli soldier who will be released after years in captivity. In exchange for his release, one thousand and twenty seven Palestinians will be released in your classic prisoner swap.

And there’s the question; hidden among the jubilation on both sides that their respective peoples are being returned home. I’m not gonna write anything about the conflict, the barrier, the two countries tearing each other apart from inside out…there’s no need for all that when a question this simple presents itself.

1 person in exchange for 1,027 people. 1 Israeli for 1,027 Palestinians.

Figured the question out yet? I don’t blame you…it hasn’t cropped up at all in the news coverage and let’s be honest here: it’s not something that would immediately spring to mind but…

When is 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others? And, more importantly, why is that 1 persons life worth that of 1,027 others?

Both sides are happy with the agreement, so it seems that the Palestinians are alright with being deemed worthless enough that over one thousand of their people are the equivalent of 1 Israeli, but still…it’s a horrible question.

As I said above,; this question has nothing to do with politics, it’s about humanity. If you comment, please leave all politics at the door. We could change the parametres to “Catholics vs Protestants” in the North of Ireland, “blacks vs Whites” in 1950’s America, or even “Terrorists vs Patriots” somewhere else in the world but it still boils down the same simple question:

When is one life worth a thousand others, and why?

 

*Off topic* Economics: an incredibly simple way to change the world…

4 Oct

A few things in the news recently have gotten me thinking about economics and a book I read a few years ago which gave me a pretty decent idea of the state of the world (‘The shock doctrine’ by Naomi Klein, read it. read it now.). The events in question are the Wall street protest, and present republican muffin/possible future american fucknut Rick Perry.

I read an article in which he reasserted his opposition to regulation of greenhouse gases and pollution in general. Whatever you believe about global warming*, you can’t argue that having factories belching out smoke and chemicals into surrounding areas is a good thing. It’s not. Whatever you think about the grand scale of things, on a small scale it’s bad for us. Simple as.

*(I hope I can make this brief, it’s a big subject: Global warming is real. The majority of scientists who believe in it are well respected, qualified professionals who measure data and present their work to be peer reviewed so that any mistakes can be picked up by other well respected and qualified professionals. Those who deny climate change, usually keep their research to themselves or else have it laughed out of the community if they release it to proper scientists for review -usually because they’ve carried out that research for a dummy corporation/foundation set up by an energy industry company…yes that does happen. More than you think. A lot more. In fact, next time you hear/read about a climate change denying piece of research, do a quick search to see what company/institute it was done in the name of. After that, do a quick search to see who’s behind that institution.

Food for thought; the term “Global Warming” was phased out in the mid-90’s in favour of the more friendly and ambiguous “climate change” because, after all, who hates change? change is progress isn’t it? change isn’t bad- it’s damn good!! Lobby groups for the Energy industry used this confusion to soften the debate, and appreciated the long term decline in interest it helped contribute to…Oh, and one more thing; There is no debate about climate change. There are scientists who do their job properly, and then there are others who say what they’re paid to say. Simple as.)

So anyway; Rick Perry is hugely opposed to regulation, because it would harm the business interests of the companies involved and therefore do damage to the economy of his home state. Fair enough, he’s looking out for his own I suppose. The thing is though, that’s the exact same reasoning as that of a CEO.

The CEO of a company has a legal duty to look out for their shareholders’ interests. Doesn’t sound like a bad thing, does it? If an investor puts a chunk of money into a company, they should expect a reasonable return, right? In the beginning of the 20th century this logic was well accepted and needed because big business was only starting out. People needed to have “investor confidence” (which had a totally different meaning back then), so this logic was inshrined in law. It’s a CEO’s/board of director’s legal obligation to look out for the interests of the shareholders.

But; and here’s the rub ladies and gentlemen, the almighty rub that has our mighty planet -socially, economically and politically- slowly crumbling under the weight of its own people collectively mumbling “Hey I’m just looking out for #1, fuck you I’ll do what I want!”…

That obligation is defined in simple money. You want to look out for your investors*? Make them money!!

*Investors nowadays are a far cry from the 19th century pioneer family plowing all of their mattress money into a travelling snake oil salesman. Sure, that used to be the majority of investors: small families hoping to improve their lot by investing in business but nowadays, it’s just a bunch of bankers.

And here’s where we tie back into good ol’ boy Rick: take those energy companies operating out of his constituency. They don’t have regulations because he’s so supportive of them, so to cut costs and make money-money make money-money, they dump a little waste into a sinkhole somewhere.That waste makes its way to an underwater aquafer somewhere else and contaminates a local river. Hey, doesn’t matter; those shareholders want money, not a damn conscience! Will a conscience pay for copious amounts of Viagra and Champagne?! Fuck no!

Let’s move into the world of business: A good old american car company wants to cut costs, so that the shareholders can see a return on their investment, see their stocks rise in value a little and maybe even cut them a nice profit. How can that be done? Well I’m glad you asked because it can be done easy-peasy: Move the damn factories to China! Their labour costs are a fifth of what they are in America, so the company’s stock will skyrocket! Happy days!

Then the company naturally hires The Fonz to deal with the redundancies, because nobody can get mad at the Fonz!
“eeeeeey; your security clearance has been revoked, go live under a bridge or sumtin alright”

One of the main reasons the world economy has been shitting itself like that old man who sits at your local bar every night, is this legal obligation and it’s interpretation. Sure, you could argue greed, self justification, irresponsibility, general dumbfuckery and all sorts of other human conditions laid waste to the fragile game of Jenga we were playing (…you don’t know how fitting that comaprison is..you really don’t…) but it all comes back to that one legal obligation: the CEO must look out for the shareholders, and that is taken to mean “the CEO must do everything possible to continue cutting costs and making profit, regardless of the ethical ramifications”. Everything that comes after is just icing on the cake.

SO. there it is. one simple way to change the world: Alter the definition of the basic duty of the CEO to take into account not only the monetary obligation to the shareholder, but also the moral health and social responsibility aspect. Simple as…

hahahaha, yeah right. Never gonna happen. Here: console yourself with a sweetbeat…

Something you didn’t know about the moon landing…

17 Sep

The moon landing was an iconic moment for the whole world. The first time man dared to touch the realm of the gods, and everyone; each man, woman and child sitting goggle eyed at the television set holding their breath, took part.

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it still make a sound? well, yes…but it doesn’t have as much significance. The moon landing would have still been significant if nobody had known of it by sheer virtue of being an incredible event, but it’s major significance came from the perfect-timing collision of the mass media becoming available to all with the rise of television, the heightened tension of the East/West divide creating an terrifyingle uneasy “deep breath before the plunge” (as Gandalf would say) and the leftover spirit from the summer of love, desperately hanging on the the idea that we might be alright after all*.

*The summer of love, although well documented and celebrated, was depressingly short. 4 months in 1967, to be exact. After that, things went back to business as usual and any large/widespread notion of humanity getting along together and pushing for the betterment of mankind gently receded. One of the major achievements of the moon landing was that it gave one last shot across the bow for peace and cooperation: one mighty reminder that we can actually achieve something remarkably inspirational, rather than something destructive

These things conspired to inspire anyone and everyone who saw the landing at the time and anyone who learns of it anew to this day. Point to the moon and tell a young child that we sent a tin bucket with less processing power than their calculator up there on a whim and a prayer, and watch the sense of wonder spread across their face. We have a tendency to get a bit blassé about these things being godly adults who have been there and done that, but don’t forget the first time you looked at the moon and though “wow…someone went up THERE?!”.

But anyway, here’s something you (probably) didn’t know about the moon landing:

When the BBC (British broadcasting company, the united kingdom’s state television company) broadcast the moon landing live, they got a relatively little known (well, not as well known as they would become..even though they were only a few years going they had a good start) band called ‘Pink Floyd’ to arrange and perform backing music to the footage.

And they did. They performed a rambling instrumental to the footage, adding an extra layer of gravitas to the proceedings with their blend of space rock and far out experimenting.

The amazing thing, to me, is that back in the day the powers that be didn’t feel the need to seperate the sciences and arts from each other. They didn’t think that people with those interests were to be kept away from each other at all costs (as is the case all too often nowadays) and they didn’t automatically assume that something as momentous as the landing had to be given an air of stuffy scientific dullness*, they just thought it would be pretty damn cool to have pink floyd do backing for the moon landing…

well now, that’s just incredible.

*I do appreciate the quiet tension of the original, non musical, coverage though, don’t get me wrong.

Here’s some of the footage anyway, enjoy

(there was a pink floyd night on BBC4 last night, it was great.)

A sense of wonder: Incredible planet discovered

28 Aug

I was sitting at lunch a few days ago and there was a (probably) four month old baby sitting with its parents at the table beside me. Normally I’d smile happily and get back to eating like a demon, but there was something about the little one that kept catching my attention. The parents held the baby in turns while chatting and kept it occupied by dangling keys, phones, toys and other stuff in front of it.

Each time it saw something new it let out the most adorable gurgle, shaking with laughter when it got it’s hands on the object. It flailed it around in its hands and generally acted like it had won the lottery with each and every thing they gave it. You probably know the feeling, it’s something we’ve all experienced whether we remember it or not. There’s something very special about seeing a baby get that feeling, because it reminds us of the joy in learning or experiencing something new.

There are a few rare things that fill me with that sense of wonder, and the universe is one of them (haha, I know…nothing big).

Recently a new planet was discovered, a very special planet.

Located in the serpens constellation, it was found orbiting a millisecond pulsar which is a neutron star formed from a supernova (a supernova being the event that destroys a star, condensing its entire mass into a smaller entity which produces the neutron star). If that makes as much sense to you as it does to me, to put it simply it means that the star in the system is a super dense star, sending out a beam of electromagnetic radiation which can only be viewed when it points at earth (like a lighthouse) which gives it the ‘pulsar’ name (…as far as I can tell).

But anyway, that’s not terribly important. If it does catch your interest, pick a few astronomy terms out of thin air, make a good cup of coffee, open up a wikipedia tab and run wild…there’s a lot of interesting stuff out there, although it could take a while to wrap your brain around it.

Anyway, usually there’s another star close to these pulsars, which either collide with or become consumed by one another; stripping them of elements with their intense gravity (on a galactic scale that is, not your average “whoah, that ollie you just flipped was tight” intense).

In this case, there seems to have been another star nearby but it wasn’t consumed fully by the pulsar. Instead, it was stripped bare of everything except for carbon and then gently moved itself out to a safe distance.

But, not before the gravity condensed all of the carbon into the planet itself which means that…

Out there somewhere, there’s a diamond planet. Not in the metaphorical “I’m writing this on an iPhone while standing in a field wearing a tin foil helmet screaming ‘E.T. beam me up to a better place; this world is not worthy!’ ” sense, but in the actual literal sense. Carbon, when put under intense pressure, forms into diamond, and in this case all of the carbon was crushed together and formed one hell of a diamond.

Let that sink in: a planet, which is completely a diamond…just incredible.

(it’s not the middle object; that’s the pulsar. It’s the one orbiting around it, and the blue trail is the electromagnetic radiation pulse…the odd spiral of it is caused by the difference between axial rotation and…something or other else…look it up)

It’s five times the size of earth (fuck you deBeers, just fuck you) but 3,000 times larger than the star it orbits. Now it’s not like somebody has actually sauntered up to the planet and knocked a knuckle on it to check for sure, but the studies done by the Swinburne university of technology in Melbourne Australia suggest that this is what happened. Congratulations to those who took part in the study, that’s some find.

More reading/original article here: http://www.space.com/12731-diamond-alien-planet-discovered-neutron-star.html

Here’s a song with a super backbone to help you process this;)

(if any -or indeed all– facts written here turn out to be wrong and you know how to correct them; post a comment below!)

Words to live by: IF.

13 Aug

I hope noone in the authors estate is gonna get antsy with me for putting this up here. All due respect to them and the man himself.

If you’re not into reading it, jump to the bottom.

IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling.

(he forgets an important -to me- line in the first stanza; “If you can wait and not be tired by waiting”, but still it’s a pretty good performance. Seems it’s an important piece to him aswell, seeing as he’s been reciting it off by heart since the seventies)

 

Captain America: This is the logic we’re teaching now? really?!

8 Aug

I haven’t seen the film yet, so no spoilers ahead. I know admitting this might render my argument completely invalid, but I highly doubt that seeing as it’s near impossible to hide a shakespearean tragedy underneath a punchy blockbuster. Yes, it happens in the comics, but almost never in films which are hoping to rake it in at the box office by aiming themselves at the widest marketshare possible.

There’s one line in the trailer that caught my attention. It’s an innocent, shy little line that can easily pass unnoticed. But, unfortunately, it’s the basis for pretty much the entire films logic.  I should tell you now that I hesitate to apply the same logic to the comics, because I do love me some Captain A. He’s a legend…I don’t want to think about it too much just yet to be honest, i don’t think I’d like it.

After Steve Rogers asks doctor Abraham Erskine, the doctor who will transform him with the super soldier serum he has created, “Why me?” The good doctor replies:

“Because weak men, know the value of strength…know the value of power”

It’s a tight argument, one I agree with to a point. I don’t agree with the implication of it though, an implication that shines through once you take into account the rest of the setup.

Steve rogers is chosen for the super soldier programme because he has repeatedly applied to join the war effort but been denied because he is physically inadequate. He doesn’t have half the muscle mass the other men have and, in the film, he’s actually ridiculously exaggerated. In the comics he’s just an average guy with a bit of an underdeveloped body but in the film he looks a malnourished child who has to grapple with gravity itself to gather enough air to breathe.

Anyway, you’ve probably seen the scene: Scrawny guy steps into a machine then steps out of the machine a hulk of a man, ready to fight for his country.

Now, my (first) problem is this: All those other guys, the odd million or so who succesfully got into the army, didn’t start off looking like Adonis. (for the sake of argument I’m gonna deny historical accuracy and ignore the fact that most of those who enlisted were nothing more than average joes who played a season or two of highschool football). They all toned themselves up through sweat and hardwork. They put in the hours working on their fitness, and it paid off. They got in by virtue of that work they put in.

But it’s not okay to give them the super soldier serum because they “Won’t know the value of strength”? Oh I’m calling that one. I’m calling that one straight up. They’ve decided to improve themselves, probably gone through a hell of a lot of heartbreak for it, and they won’t know the value of strength just because…well, damn, I dunno: just, because! Because they said so! Because!!!1!

But the kicker, and the thing that has me really worried for the state of the world, is that the implication is this:

You can bestow great power and strength on a weak but intelligent, morally strong, courageous, humble, respectful, honourable and benevolent person, but you can not bestow these virtues on a person who’s already strong and powerful.

This is the lesson we’re teaching people: If you’re strong, muscular, or if you can be described in any way near the label ‘jock’, you’re finished, we can’t teach you anything. You just keep on keeping on. No no, it’s okay, don’t worry about it. You’ve got great power and strength, but don’t you worry your little head about the essential virtues which, throughout history, have been used to keep the powerful in check and the warrior class aligned on the side of justice and righteousness. We threw those out the window with the 80’s, so just chill: you’re all good.

I’ve been scratching myself to think of a tribe of warriors in Western history that could illustrate my point properly, but none quite come up to scratch. The spartans, although they’ve gotten a good reputation in the past few years, were a crazy bunch. Sure, they pushed themselves to the pinnacle of the art of war, but they denied themselves a lot of virtues along the way that makes a good warrior. The greeks, although not in the same class as the spartans, were much the same.

The vikings, although they had a great reputation for courage and bravery, were a little bit too keen on rape and pillage to be held up as perfect examples of the warrior pinnacle. Native americans were pretty close I think, but I don’t know enough to say definitively.

No, for a good example of what a warrior should be we have to look East. The samurai in japan and the warrior class (shaolin monks, if you must…but there was a lot more to chinese warfar than the monks) in China lived by a strictly defined set of virtues and principles that kept them in check throughout their life.

Granted that didn’t stop them from getting into fights and wars the same as anyone else, but my point is that when being trained in martial arts and warfare, they weren’t simply taught how to fight, maim and kill. They were taught how to live humbly, with honour, courage, benevolence and a host of other virtues drilled into them. No matter who you were or what size you were, you were taught the same as everyone else. If you were  a weak little shrimp you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. If you were a seven foot powerhouse, you were taught how to fight and how to live a virtuous life. There was no distinction, or rather -ignorant presumption, made on someone. If they wanted to learn, they would learn both sides of the coin, not just the one which they already knew.

Sure, weak men know the value of strength and power, but who’s to say we can’t teach strong men the same?! Why can a weak man be given incredible power and strength, but a strong man not be given incredible humility and perspective?…it saddens me to know that this corrosive mentality running through society is, and will be, met with a simple “hey, that’s just the way it is” mentality.

Anyway; if your interest has been sparked by the idea of a complete person then I suggest you read ‘hagakure’ or the ‘Tao te ching’. Both were read furiously by ancient warriors in the East to help them gain a complete understanding of themselves, the world and how best to live in it.

(oh, and I’d turn this one up…those first few bars are just beautiful;)