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Posts Tagged ‘video’

Updated the podcasts page

9 June 2012 Comments off

It’s been a while, so I updated the Podcasts & Vodcasts page.

Categories: media Tags: , ,

“Why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill?”

3 January 2011 Comments off

Flickr CC-BY ninjanoodles

Most of us are familiar with the scene in the fantastic 1999 film, The Matrix, where Cypher and Neo are chatting about their introduction to life outside the matrix via Morpheus’s offer of a choice between the red and blue pills. Cypher laments that he wished he’d taken the blue pill instead, making it clear he’d have preferred to be living a happy fantasy rather than risking everything by fighting against the machines.

One of the great things about Cypher’s character is that you can empathise with him. Nobody can blame him for wanting a simple, easy life — especially as he’s not The One. At that point in the film we all know that he’s just as likely to end up a smudge on the ground as make old bones.

I mention The Matrix because that’s how I’ve been feeling lately. And this is where I may lose you as a reader. Either way, so it goes

Over the last few weeks I’ve been consuming the works of two prolific writers and speakers, both world experts in their fields: Noam Chomsky and the late Howard Zinn. Chomsky (now 82) is regarded by many as “the Einstein” of his field of linguistics and cognition at MIT, though outside the classroom he talks almost exclusively about political science. Zinn was regarded similarly in his field of history at Boston University.

I first encountered Chomsky in the early 2000s via his book Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies [Amazon|UK], a collection of essays and papers focussing mainly on Central American politics and history over the last 40 years. It’s an astounding book that left me truly stunned, wondering about the rest of the world if even half it it was true. He provides full references and consistently avoids a simple answer to, “If the mainstream media is wrong, biased, controlled or corrupt, then where should we turn to get reliable information?” His answer is typically a variation of Ben Goldacre‘s, “I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.” There is no single source, type or medium of reliable, unbiased or uncorrupt information. You need to look at the mainstream, the margins, including sources you may dislike, and analyse what’s going on for yourself.

Damn. I’m going to have to think for myself. And that’s the point.

Zinn is a fairly recent discovery for me, though most people know him via his groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present [Amazon|UK], where he included the viewpoints of non-Europeans in the discovery and conquest of North America. I’ve not yet read it, but I understand that it’s a polarising work, and your reaction to it will depend upon whether or not you’re prepared to revise your views on official history. Interestingly, the FBI kept a large file on him, most notably due to his influence on Martin Luther King, Vietnam anti-war campaigning and the McCarthyist hysteria of the time.

And this is where I think many of Chomsky’s and Zinn’s detractors come from: many seem to regard them as un-American or even traitors. Both authors present alternative versions of recorded history, removing the infantile notion of good (us) versus evil (them), and add insult to that injury by presenting other reasons why such things did or are happening in the first place. It’s not as simple as the official version; it’s not even as simple as the counter-accusations or popular conspiracy theories. It’s a complex mix of power, greed, acquisition, control, domination, influence and coercion, and furthering of interests.

The use of past and present tense is deliberate — these things are still happening. Consider the endless stream of major and minor wars in the 20th and present century, the provision of “foreign aid” weapons and training to brutal and sadistic regimes, the quiet growth of internal enforcement agencies into international intelligence agencies (as has just happened with the DEA), the dismantling of union-protected workplaces that made our workers cheaper than those in some developing countries, and national elections of leaders whose candidates can be differentiated only by their party’s logo. To name a few.

Neither Chomsky nor Zinn pretend to be 100% certain about everything they say. Both admit they may be wrong, and are open to evidence-based correction. Nor should you take it from me as fact, an amateur hack who spends his spare time consuming non-mainstream information, wondering about the world and sharing the occasional thought here whenever I’m not playing computer games or socialising with friends. Use, refine and practise your analytical skills and skepticism to examine what these men say, compare it against what you see, know and/or suspect, read the papers and articles to which they refer, and then judge for yourself.

There is no universal truth, and I’m not declaring that this is it — but it makes you think. However, if you’re unwilling to have your perception of world history and current events challenged, you may want to choose the blue pill…

Here are some of Noam Chomsky’s works that you might want to look at:

  • An American Addiction [Amazon|UK]
  • Case Studies In Hypocrisy [Amazon|UK]
  • Class War: The Attack On Working People [Amazon|UK]
  • The Clinton Vision: Old Wine, New Bottles [Amazon|UK]
  • The Emerging Framework Of World Power [watch online]
  • For A Free Humanity [Amazon|UK]
  • Free Market Fantasies: Capitalism In The Real World [Amazon|UK]
  • The Imperial Presidency [Amazon|UK]
  • The New War On Terrorism: Fact And Fiction [Amazon|UK]
  • Propaganda And The Public Mind [Amazon|UK]
  • Prospects For Democracy [Amazon|UK]

Here are some of Howard Zinn’s works that you might want to look at:

(I haven’t read or seen all of these yet). Both have released many more works, but I think that will keep you busy for some time.

If you really loved me…

6 April 2010 Comments off

The regular reader of this blog already knows that I’m a huge fan of Tim Minchin. So for some pure, unadultered, politically-incorrect fun, enjoy the following music video (probably not recommended for little ears):

If You Really Loved Me by Tim Minchin

Hat tip to PodBlack Cat.

Categories: art Tags: , , ,

Official disconnection notice

2 April 2010 Comments off

Creationism is… still a lie

7 March 2010 Comments off

My love for the game of Portal is well documented along with my love for Still Alive, Jonathan Coulton‘s fantastic ending song to that game.

Now imagine my surprise and delight to discover that someone has taken Still Alive and turned it into a brilliant science education and anti-Creationism video:

Still a Lie (Portal, Still Alive parody)

How cool is that? It made me laugh, I can tell you. My congratulations to the mixer/masher from whose mind this sprung.

Fortunately, the video shouldn’t be taken down anytime soon, as JoCo releases his works under the Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0 licence (as stated on his downloads page).

Ben Goldacre on the Placebo Effect

14 February 2010 Comments off

One of my personal heroes, and author of the mind-blowingly brilliant and easily understandable Bad Science, explains what exactly is the placebo effect:

Ben Goldacre – The placebo effect

If you are not familiar with Ben Goldacre and/or are interested in finding out more about his work, here are some good places to start:

Ben is a magnificent communicator of science, health and logic-related concepts in a manner than can be understood by anyone, and he’s very active in the skeptical scene — including speaking at the inaugural TAM London last October and a recent appearance on Robert Llewellyn‘s often fascinating CarPool video podcast — though seems loathe to label himself as such. (Perhaps he’d prefer we consider that our realms of interest often coincide).

Hat tip to the always awesome PodBlack Cat.

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch…

15 October 2009 Comments off

…you must first invent the universe.” -Carl Sagan

The time between posts here is an unfortunate side-effect of having to study like mad for the archaeology course I’m doing that is rapidly coming to an end, and numerous projects I’m either doing or starting. Never enough time in the day — particularly when you have to work a day job and maintain a social life, too.

And I’m trying not to just fill the posts with random gibberish or “cool stuff wot I found on the internets” — unless you’re okay with that? (Seriously, please let me know).

So, doing just that I thought I’d take a moment to post something to do with my hero, Carl Sagan. YouTube is a wonderful medium not only for the inevitable popular (and normally copyright-infringing) snippets from popular films and TV shows, but also for historical pieces that are hard to get and for mashups and other creative exercises.

And this is one of the latter — a brilliant homage to Carl Sagan featuring none other than his brilliant British counterpart, Stephen W. Hawking:

Carl Sagan – A Glorious Dawn (feat. Stephen Hawking)

It’s just amazing, isn’t it? Maybe I’m just a big girl’s blouse, but I’m not ashamed to admit it brought a tear to my eye.

I can only convey my appreciation to the tribute’s creator, melodysheep, and recommend that you check  out his website, Colorpulse.

Categories: art Tags: , , , ,

God’s great plan? Here’s a checklist…

26 September 2009 Comments off

Finally got around to watching a YouTube video someone sent me a while ago and I’m stunned to find God’s Checklist 2.0 by Scott (aka TheoreticalBullshit) underlines and italicises so much of my argument with religion, particularly Christianity.

God’s Checklist 2.0

It’s done in an entertaining, thoughful, and challenging way, but not in a manner that would insult a reasonable theistic viewer. That’s a difficult balance to manage.

I expect some people will react to the video negatively (the video’s comments section on YouTube is ad hominem central — not that YouTube comments have a habit of being sane or rational at the best of times), and others of a mind for apologetics will offer up modern reasons why these Bronze Age inconsistencies exist. But the fact remains that Scott has done an excellent job in outlining the problem with the “party line” of many religions.

I’m looking forward to checking out more of his stuff.

The Guild: Do you wanna date my avatar?

5 September 2009 Comments off

Thought I’d take a short break from serious posts and bring to your attention something that I think is very clever and funny.

Some of you know that among my many interests is computer gaming — nearly always online with friends and mostly teamwork-oriented first-person shooters (FPS) — though I have quite a long history of trying out MMORPGs. Yes, it’s nerdy and has its pros and cons, but such games can be a fun escape from thinking, reality and seriousness every now and then. They’re not really much different from reading a book or watching a film, except you’re sharing the experience with other people and can manipulate and interact with the environment.

So imagine my nerdy delight when I discovered The Guild, brainchild of the talented and lovely Felicia Day, who is probably best known for her appearances in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Monk and Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. It was the recent release of a music video for The Guild — called Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? — that put me onto the show:

The Guild – Do You Wanna Date My Avatar

The video was directed by Joss Whedon — creator of Buffy, Dr Horrible, Angel, Dollhouse and the brilliant Firefly, and also a well known humanist. If you’re a gamer, particularly if you’re into MMORPGs of any kind and with a group of friends (group, guild, clan — whatever you call it), then I’m sure you’ll get as much of a kick out of it as I do.

The Guild is a web show about a MMORPG guild, who call themselves The Knights of the Good, who don’t know each other in real life but play together online regularly (just like your average gaming guild). It focuses upon Felicia’s character and her online and eventually real life interactions with her fellow “guildies.” It’s brilliant, it’s clever, and it deserves every acclaim that it has been receiving.

The Guild - Season 1The Guild - Season 2It has just started showing its 3rd season and is available to view online via Xbox LIVE Marketplace, as are the previous seasons — or you can even buy them on DVD.

I expect that Season 3 will eventually be viewable online as for the previous seasons, and presumably available for purchase as a DVD. Lastly, those in the US can watch them all here.

But in the meantime, enjoy…

Categories: games Tags: , ,

The CNC music factory is Still Alive

5 May 2009 Comments off

As Yogi Berra once said: It’s déjà vu all over again.

Well, almost: I’d like to start this post with a welcome to those who have found me via Planet Humanism, and to pass my thanks to nullifidian for adding me to the aggregator. He, too, seemed to find something interesting in my ramblings. Good luck.

Actually, this is a kind of half-way post to both introduce you poor lucky folk to my blog and to share something with you, although it’s been around the intertubes for the last day or two. The following contains spoilers for the game Portal — part of The Orange Box by Valve Software.

For those of you who have been lucky enough to play Portal and have finished it will know of the fantastic ending song by Jonathan Coulton called Still Alive. As ending songs go it is the perfect epilogue to what is a thoroughly enjoyable game: it ties up the loose ends, it captures precisely the personality of the game’s antagonist and, when you get the in jokes, it leaves you walking away laughing.

Here’s the ending song in all its glory:

Alternatively, here are the lyrics to Still Alive.

And here’s the point of this post: some genius has taken a CNC router and used its stepper motors to play Still Alive. Its three-dimensional motorised control means it can effectively play 3 notes: a chord. The result speaks for itself:

I’m truly hoping that you can appreciate this as much as I can. Okay, it’s geeky and is an off-the-wall kind of musical art expression. But what tickles me is that the artist has programmed a robot to play a tune about a robot that spent the entire game lying to you.

After all, you must remember:

The cake is a lie!

It’s gold, I tell ya…

Categories: games Tags: , , ,