Friday, February 15, 2008

The Fan Edits - Sometime Better than the Real Thing

I stumbled across this website the other day, It is a site where a bunch of people that love movies but think that the originals need a little tweaking. So the edit them down themselves and the make them available to to the public to download.

I am not usually into this sort of thing as I feel most films I like are perfect the way they are. But in saying that I was fascinated when I read the list of edits that one guy had made to the Star Wars Special Editions that came out on DVD in 2004. There are some new scenes that he has created and edited in that fill in a few inconsistancies such as using the Imperial March theme which was never in the original. He has upped the ante on some of the space battles and done some colour correction. Overall it is a very good look at Star Wars the way that many fans would have liked it. And yes, in this version Han shoots first. I have included a couple of screenshots of the new stuff so you can see what I am getting at.

List of changes and edits:
1 - Star Wars Logo: originally it receded way too quickly so this has been slowed down to match the speed in the rest of the saga.
2 - The crawl appears slightly earlier now, as it did pre ANH, so it appears at the correct music cue that Williams’ intended, and how I remember it.
3 - As the camera pans down to Tatooine you now see the 3 moons instead of just 2
4 - Tatooine now rotates slightly as the ships fly overhead
5 - Re-coloured all lasers
6 - Removed the horrible blue hazing as the stardestroyers engine come into view
7 - Changed the explosion as the Tantive IV is hit to remove a lot of the smoke.
8 - Added a jerk to the motion of the Tantive IV as it is hit
9 - Speeded up the star field in that shot so the Tantive IV seems to be moving as fast as it did in previous shots.
10 - Colour correction of the whole film to remove the blue tint. The Tantive IV’s walls are now white.
11 - Re-coloured R2’s dome lights throughout the movie so they match closer to the rest of the saga. The front light now blinks from red to blue.
12 - Re-edited the Tantive IV corridor battle to fix continuity issues where troopers die more than once.
13- Added blaster flashes to all blasters that have them missing as they fire.
14 - Added blast flashes to the troopers where they are hit
15 - Corrected issues where the blasters flash as if they were fired on set but no laser bolts were present. Added the lasers to fix this throughout.
16 - Fixed the jump cut where 3PO & R2 cross the corridor on the Tantive IV & the doorway explodes.
17 - When Vader enters the Tantive IV a Stormtrooper lets go of the head of a dead trooper but that you can see that the actor slowly lowers his head. This has been fixed and the troopers head now drops at speed more like a dead body.
18 - Added blinking lights to Vader’s chest plate
19 - Vader’s eyes re-coloured to remove the red tint.
20 - When 3PO is looking for R2 a trooper falls to the floor behind him as if he has been shot but there is no laser fire. Added some lasers & a flash as the trooper is hit.
21 - Smoothed / fixed the jump cut as R2 extends his third leg and heads for 3PO & the one where he leaves 3PO
22 - Fixed the error in the scene where Vader is strangling Antilles the trooper in the background changes position in one shot. Originally his legs are closed and his blaster is in a totally different position.
23 - Fixed an FX issue when Leia is hit by the stun blaster the glow effect is missing on part of her dress.
24 - In the scene where R2 presses the button to open the pod door you now see his arm retract
25 - Re-coloured the interior of the escape pod to blue due to continuity issues in this scene.
26 - As the escape pod blasts off it now begins to rotate as it does in the rest of the shots
27 - When the imperial commander says “hold your fire” the trajectory of the escape pod has been changed so it is heading downwards and away from the ship instead or just heading straight which caused a continuity error in the next shot as we see the underbelly of the stardestroyer , which means it was heading downwards.
28 - Changed the stars & stardestroyer view from inside the pod so the ship & stars now recede at different rates
29 - You now see the escape pod enter the atmosphere of Tatooine.
30 - Every FX shot has been either touched up or redone in some form or another, but too many to mention every one.
31 - On Tatooine the escape pod canopy has been re-coloured to remove the odd blue colour
32 - In the some scenes the sky has been changed to match other shots.
33 - Added the sandcrawler from the OUT to replace the static shots when 3P0 thinks he is rescued
34 - Completely new canyon wipe so the rocky surroundings that R2 travels through matches closer to what Tatooine looks like in the PT. Also brightened the scene slightly
35 - Fixed a shot of R2 after he is captured where you see the mark of a restraining bolt before it is attached. In some previous shots it is also somewhat visible but I was unable to fix this.
36 - Fixed a placement continuity error with the restraining bolt that the Jawas fix to R2
37 - Added a battle droid to the scrap inside the Sandcrawler. Also brightened up the inside scenes Fixed
38 - Fixed R2’s eye dome in the shot inside the sandcrawler where it looks like you can see Kenny Baker inside.
39 - Inside the sandcrawler 3PO’s eyes blink as he stands. Fixed
40 - Re-coloured the sky in the SE shots of the sandtroopers & Sandcrawler so the colour the sky is less saturated and closer matches the sky we see at the homestead.
41 - When Beru calls to Luke as they are about to inspect the droids, bushes appear & disappear from shot to shot. Removed the bushes from the shots of Luke to fix this error.
42 - Removed a wire visible coming out of 3PO’s neck while Owen talks to him at the sale
43 - Removed the repeated shot of R2 & the red R5 unit to fix a continuity error. Replaced with a new shot.
44 - Fixed the pink sky effect just before this scene fades out.
45 - Added the missing glow from R2’s holo light in the garage.
46 - Brightened & desiderated the sunset scene.
47 - Fixed the colour problem in the shot where 3PO jumps as Luke activates the restraining bolt in the garage. In the 2004 DVDs this shot was sepia. An example of some very bad colour problems with these DVDs.
48 - As Luke races out of the Garage to use his macrobinoculars I have added 3PO running out of the doorway to fix an error that he suddenly appears out of nowhere.
49 - New macrobinocular graphics that add in 3PO. All other macrobinocular graphics changed too.
50 - Removed the droids tracks from a previous take make it look like it is being pulled along by a cord.
51 - When Owen shouts Luke the Treadwell droid is in a totally different place than the previous shot and a fly lands on the camera lens. Fixed both issues.
52 - In the shot where the Tusken raiders see Luke’s speeder travelling through the canyon the speeder suddenly seems to speed up towards the end and looks unnatural. Recomposited the speeder to fix this.
53 - Re-coloured the sky in some shots when Ben rescues Luke so it is more blue instead of very grey/ white, which it isn’t in the shot where Ben scares the Tusken raiders.
54 - Smoothed the jump cut where Luke ignites the sabre in Obi-Wan’s hut
55 - Added the missing ornament on Ben’s table in the shot of Leia’s hologram.
56 -Added the missing cloak on the wall behind Luke as he ignites the sabre.
57 - Re-edited the whole “Ben’s Home” not only to fix the continuity errors but also because the conversation about the force and Luke’s father is now all together and flows better instead of being split into 2 separate conversations. It now starts off with the viewing of the hologram and fixes the continuity problems.
58 - Added a new death Star sequence prior to the conference room scene to give the death star a better reveal. It now orbits a planet in all shots up until it is reported that it is fully operational.
59 - Changed the torture droids syringe arm. Removed the writings and added a laser effect.
60 - Mos Eisley approach re-edited. Removed some of the creatures on the first shot & extended the path of the landspeeder so it now fully enters the town.
61 - Completely removed the Ronto/ Jawa sequence.
62 - Removed the probe droid hit but the worker droid.
63 - Removed both Rontos from the checkpoint scene.
64 - Removed the probe droid from this scene also
65 - Fixed the ship that flies in front of the vaporator making it look tiny.
66 - When Luke looks over to the cantina it is heavily cast in shadow but as they approach there are no shadows. This has been fixed.
67 - Added facial movements to some cantina creatures.
68 - In the shot where you see Ponda Babba’s severed arm I have removed the blood & replaced the hand with the hoof like one we see him with in other shots.
69 -More facial movements & blinks for Greedo
70 -HAN SHOOTS FIRST!! Greedo no longer shoots either.
71 - Removed the Jabba scene
72 - As they approach docking bay 94 you see R2 at the side of 3PO but as the camera pans and he goes out of shot you suddenly see him appear again from a different direction, which would be impossible for him to appear so quickly. Fixed this error
73 - Re-added the fade wipe as they approach the falcon.
74 - Added the falcons dish in the docking bay shot and expanded the docking bay.
75 – Slightly re-edited the docking bay shootout to fix some continuity issues
76 - Fixed the issues with Hans “wobbly” wrist as he fires
77 - Added the missing middle strut to all the Falcons cockpit window scenes.
78 - Added the blue glow back to the Falcons engines.
79 - As the falcon escapes Tatooine it now actually does some manoeuvres instead of “listing lazily to the left”80 - New Alderaan for all the viewscreen shots81 - New Alderaan explosion
82 - Re-rotoscoped all lightsabres and fixed Luke’s green & wobbly sabre during the training session.
83 - Re-composited the holo chess character so they look more like holograms now.
84 - In close-up shots of R2 the background has the control light from the Death Star interior. These shots now have the correct background.
85 - Fixed the jump cut as Luke turns off his sabre.
86 - Added the colour to the remotes laser that was missing from the 2004 DVD’s
87 - In the scene where Vader says “I told you she would never….” he gestures after he has stopped talking. This has been fixed.
88 - More asteroids when the Falcon reaches the Alderaan system
89 - New docking bays for exterior shots to match the new interior ones.
90 - Removed the blue screen pole that is visible as the Falcon enters the docking bay and the girder crane in the top left which isn’t there when you see the interior of the docking bay
91 - Added a glow to the shield light to all shots of the docking bay interior.
92 - Added the censored shot of the officer being hit as they break into the control room.
93 - Re-coloured the displays in the control room so they are no longer black & white
94 - The Death Star’s interiors are now metallic grey instead of the horrible blue.
95 - When Han, Luke & chewy wait at the elevator a trooper walks past them wearing a light coloured uniform but in the next shot it is a dark uniform. Re-coloured the light uniform to fix this.
96 - Added the censored shot of the officer being hit in the detention cell shootout.
97 - In the final shots of this sequence a trooper falls down the stairs but only the scenery was hit. The trooper now gets hit.
98 - In the scene where the stormtroopers are about to blast their way into the detention cell, the elevator door has visible signs that it has been rigged for to blast apart and looks a mess. Fixed this issue.
99 - New tractor beam matte shots.
100 - Recomposited the SE shot of the many stormtroopers as Han chases them to look more natural
101 - New wider shot of Luke & Leia as they swing across the chasm. They now look to be a lot higher up.
102 - Re-edited the lightsabre duel to give it a faster pace
103 - The lightsabre impact flashes cover both characters even though it should only be visible in front of the character closest to the camera. This has been fixed
104 - Removed the visible power cable from the lightsabre up Ben’s sleeve
105 - As Han & chewy reach the docking bay you can see the shadows of Luke & Leia awaiting their cue. Removed the shadows.
106 - Replaced the dummy of Ben as Vader kills him. You now see his face and Vader actually slices through him and you see him disappear.
107 – Removed the bar holding R2’s legs in place when the droids head for the falcon
108 - When Luke blasts the control panel the door blast door closes, but in the next shot it closes again. This has been fixed.
109 - As the Falcon leaves the docking bay it originally left very slowly even though the engines ignite and it should have accelerated faster. It does now.
110 - Fixed the wobbly holotable as Luke gets up to head to the gun port.
111 - Removed the horribly bad motion blur from the shots of Luke & Han in the gun port as the TIEs approach
112 - Redone the TIE battle sequence so the falcon no longer appears to be just sitting there and added a few new shots.
113 - Brand new explosions for TIES in this sequence
114 - Added a faster moving star field to all interior window shots of the gun port including shots that were missing a star field.
115 - When 3PO is entangled in the wires after the battle, again the close up of R2 has the death star interior background. It now has the correct Falcon corridor background.
116 - After the battle you now see the falcon enter hyperspace.
117 - Added the Hyperspace wormhole to the cockpit sequence.
118 - The Falcon now can be seen exiting hyperspace as it approaches Yavin.
119 - In the shot of the Falcon as it flies over the trees on Yavin IV the clouds have been changed to matched the rest of the sequence. I’ve also added the falcons shadow on the trees as it flies over.
120 - New interior shot of the Hanger bay. Removed the cardboard fighters and given the hanger greater depth.
121 - Fixed the following flip shots as they step off the transport vehicle.
122 - New Death Star schematics.
123 - Darkened the rebel briefing scene and once it is over the lighting becomes brighter.
124 - New up to date briefing room graphics for the display.
125 - A lot of the Rebel pilots have Blue insignias on their helmets but there is no blue squadron in the final draft. Re-coloured all blue insignias to red.
126 - The shot of Yavin & the Death star following the briefing room scene has been changed so that Yavin matches the SE Yavin
127 - When we see Han loading up his reward the Y-wing in the background is missing one of its engines because only half the ship was built. This has been fixed.
128 - Fixed the horrible jump cut of R2 as he is loaded into the X-Wing while Luke talks to Biggs & Red Leader.
129 - Added an extra stripe to one of the high view X-Wing shots to remove the repeated red leader X-Wing shots
130 - As the X-wing lifts off it now flies forward and not just straight up.
131 - As Luke leaves the temple you can now see the exterior of the temple from the rear cockpit window.
132 - Re-edited all Rebel command centre shots to fix issues where the image has been flipped (you can tell because 3PO’s dent on his head keeps swapping sides) Also Leia keeps changing position.
133 - Added Yavin to the rear cockpit windows of the fighters as they report in and to various shots throughout the battle.
134 - Ships engines are now again red and not pink.
135 - Re-coloured R2 so his dome is now blue and not black in all space shots.
136 - Fixed few flip shots of various pilots during the battle (the microphone keeps swapping sides)
137 - Added new shots throughout the sequence including a whole new TIE battle sequence
138 - The rebel command centre table now includes holograms
139 - The death star countdown clock & viewscreen is also a brand new updated display.
140 - The window at the back of Vader’s cockpit has been blacked out because there should be no window.
141 - Fixed issues where ships were missing in numerous scenes in the trench run when they should be in view. This includes both TIES & X-wings
142 - Fixed the issue with the Trench approach where the shots clearly change from a flat matte to a model shot after the flash and really jumps out at you. It flows together between both sources better now. Also both times we see it they used the same shot. Each one now has slight differences to them.
143 - When Vader fires at Luke and hits R2 he is actually firing beneath the X-wing but then next shot he hits R2 which would have been impossible. This issue has been fixed
144 - When R2 Is hit the next shot you can see no smoke or damage through Luke’s cockpit window. This has been fixed
145 - Added damage to R2s body to match the shot where he is unloaded from the X-Wing later.
146 - Re-coloured bit X-wing & TIE targeting displays
147 - A lot of shots throughout the Death Star battle the cockpit shots just have a plain black background. All cockpit shots now show what should be visible outside.
148 - When Red Leader is killed I’ve you see an explosion but nothing makes it. I’ve added the x-wing hitting the surface.
149 - Removed all of the “swinging TIES2 seen in the rear cockpit windows. The TIEs now more naturally according to the scene
150 - A very slight edit to the Biggs death scene. Luke now reacts better to the death of his friend.
151 - When the Falcon comes to the rescue and hits the left hand TIE fighter the laser both never actually hits the TIE fighter. This has been fixed
152 - You now see the death star begin to fire as it explodes
153 - New death Star explosion shot that integrates brand new footage and OUT and removed the shock wave ring.
154 - When Vader spins out of control you can now see stars through his cockpit windows.
155 - Chewie now gets a medal
156 - Brand new end credits that include the Revisited credits and also every member of that contributed in the forums up until the second week in November 2007

Mighty Mighty Boosh in Mighty Tighty Whitey Movie

For those of you in the know, and hip with the weird TV series scene, the cult TV series Mighty Boosh is making a movie. For the others who have been living under a rock, in the dark, or just outside of England, I'd advise you to catch up with the rest of the enlightened souls and download that shit right now!

Yes, Vince Noir and Howard Moon are in production at the moment to grace the silver screen with their presence.

Stars Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt have signed a deal with BBC Films to bring the cult series to the big screen.
The show focuses on friends Vince Noir (Fielding) and Howard Moon (Barratt), who embark on a series of magical adventures.
The pair are currently working on a script for the movie, which is likely to begin filming early next year.

Sounds good. Sounds wacky, zany and madcap. Possibly with lashings of ginger beer, dance scenes with wolves of the Arctic, and and maybe a boxing match with a kangaroo.

Indiana Jones and who gives a shit - its Indy!

The trailer for the new Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull movie has been released. Looks very CGI in some places I reckon, but who gives a crap really - he's back!

Check out the trailer via Yahoo below - looks like a winner!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cartoon Madness - Jebus and Mo' Ham

Check out Jesus and Mo cartoons. Excellent stuff.

Movie Review : the Hoax

Movie : The Hoax
Director : Lasse Hallström
Starring : Richard Gere, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina
Plot : In what would cause a fantastic media frenzy, Clifford Irving (Gere) sells his bogus biography of Howard Hughes to a premiere publishing house in the early 1970s.
My Rating : ★★

Now let me start out by saying I'm not a big fan of Richard Gere. I cant remember the last movie I liked with him in it, and the last one I can recall is The Jackal with Bruce Willis. And that movie sucked on too many levels to write about.

Based on a true story, Gere plays Clifford Irving, a washed up writer on his last legs who decides in a spur of the moment decision to con one of the largest publishing houses in America. He convinces them, with the help of some handwritten letters and his research assistant Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) that he is writing a biography of Howard Hughes. For those who don't know, Hughes was the multi-millionaire portrayed by Leonardo Di Caprio in Scorcese's flick The Aviator.

I was unsure what to make of The Hoax, as I didn't know much about it, but it was easy to watch, and if you could ignore Gere's hammy acting it wasn't a bad movie. I got a few laughs out of it, and you could say I didn't feel like I had irretrievably lost any of my life watching it. There are some good performances by Molina and Stanley Tucci, and the movie ambles along at a rather nice pace.

Once I had finished it, I was curious how accurate it was, and I checked out the central character Clifford Irving on Wikipedia. Its interesting to see how far it deviates from real life - here's a quote from Irving about the movie :

I was hired by the producers as technical adviser to the movie, but after reading the final script I asked that my name be removed from the movie credits. I didn't want anyone to believe that I had contributed to such a historically cock-eyed story where the main character, almost by coincidence, happens to bear my name. It's hard to believe that sophisticated Manhattan publishers would fall for the nonsense this guy spouts in order to convince them that the moon is made of Stilton cheese. As played by Richard Gere – an actor I admire – Movie Clifford is desperate and humourless, a washed-up hack writer who lives in a conservative New York suburb. In fact I had a multi-book contract with my publisher and enjoyed the good life on Ibiza, a sunny Mediterranean island where I owned a beautiful 15-room farmhouse. Movie Clifford has the energy of a not-too-bright psychopath. If I were that man, I'd shoot myself.

It does highlight a question that always poses itself whenever I see a movie that has "based on actual events" on the poster or plot outline. Its a lovely way of saying "we took something that happened and Hollywooded it, and now it bears virtually no resemblance to reality". It happens almost too much now that I take everything I see on the silver screen with a grain of salt.

Anyhow, I'm not sure how to recommend this movie - but I'd say if its on telly in a year or two, or on cable which you've already paid for, then give it a look.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Looking good for Jebus : Getting tight with the Man

I saw an article on Stuff where a TopShop outlet store in Singapore has pulled a range of cosmetics from its shelves due to irate christian dickheads. The range called Lookin' Good for Jesus is made by an American Company and include, a "virtuous vanilla" lip balm, hand and body cream and a mirrored Jesus statuette. They feature a drawing of Jesus flanked by two adoring women and carry slogans such as "Get tight with Christ", "Get His Attention" and "Redeem Your Reputation and More".

I guess two things stand out here - yet again we pussy foot around religion for no reason and its made by an American company - supposedly one of the most christian countries on earth, so why does it offend christians?

If it was a slogan calling for the murder of religious people, then yes - they would be within their rights to complain. But its not - its bloody makeup. Apparently the irate customer said "that the products trivialised Jesus Christ and Christianity." Not surprising when dealing with a trivial subject.

The shop has pulled the product stating "We don't want to offend our customers" which means that they dont really give a shit about christianity, just the fact that they have money. A more honest answer would have been "we don't want to stop people spending money here"

Its a pretty funny idea though - makeup to help you pull the son of god? That's some serious gold digging there.

Via Stuff

Australia good place for the apocalypse

Apart from all the doom sayers and "Repent all ye sinners - the end is nigh" type people, most people live their lives without the fear that the world will end tomorrow in some cataclysmic event of global proportions. But that doesn't mean we can't write books or make movies about it.

IO9 did a nice post recently on why Australia is the best place for the End of the World, and even tagged New Zealand in the process. The Quiet Earth starring Bruno Lawrence was filmed here and is rated as one of the best PA (post apocalyptic) movies of all time.

Its an amusing piece, so get amongst it. Also see the Quiet Earth website, dedicated to all things PA.

Elephants and moths evolve at blink of an eye

In a lovely little example of human intervention becoming a factor in evolution I read about today, it appears the bollworm moth has developed a resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). "WTF?" you might say - well, Bt is a common soil bacterium that is well known for its insecticidal properties, especially against moths and butterflies. We have used it in many genetically modified plants to stop pests, such as the Bollworm Moth (cotton plant eater) and the Tuber Moth (muncher of potatoes), from destroying our lovely plants and veges.

I think its important to say a little bit about GE here, and say that I support GE, but I also support the requirement for strict controls. We need to balance the need for the advancement of genetic based science and safety of the general populous. Some people advocate a wholesale ban on GE food, and others say we should just go for it - I reckon neither position is correct, but there should be a happy middle ground.

Anyway, it has become apparent that the Bollworm moth has produced a new population that is slowly increasing in size, that is resistant to the effects of BT. Although its interesting how fast this happened since the wholesale adoption of the GE cotton plants, its not surprising in the least. A simple fact of evolution is if you put some kind of life and death pressure on a population, it will likely adapt to avoid that pressure. In this case, the Bollworm moth population was originally dominated by individuals who were not resistant to BT, as it was not a major pressure on their environment. With mans intervention, and the massive introduction of GE crops using the BT gene, that pressure became critical to their survival. As the non-resistant bugs died out, they left the individuals who were resistant to BT and they mated, were more successful in their environment, and are now dominating the Bollworm moth gene pool.

What's that got to do with elephants you ask? Well, a similar thing seems to have happened there too. With the mass killings by ivory hunters, elephants with large tusks were no longer successful in the elephant population (cause they were being shot). Tuskless elephants were not targeted, so they became more dominant in their population. This is a lot slower than the moths as their life cycle is slower, so new generations take longer to produce offspring which carry the selected genes.

"African ivory hunters, by killing only tusked elephants, have given a much larger chance of mating to elephants with small tusks or no tusks at all. The propagation of the absent-tusk gene has resulted in the birth of large numbers of tuskless elephants, now approaching 30% in some populations (compare with a rate of about 1% in 1930). Tusklessness, once a very rare genetic abnormality, has become a widespread hereditary trait." (Wikipedia)

Again, when you line up the facts this is not surprising. We see it every day in all organisms on earth from bacteria (MRSA) to shellfish (mussels) - sometimes fast, sometimes slow depending on the pressures on the population. This is why its a never ending battle against pests and diseases, and why we need to make sure we dont stop investigating genetics. If we are to stay ahead in the genetic arms race, we need to know everything we can about the mechanism's and triggers for evolution. Yay for GE and Genetic research.

Via IO9

Iain M. Banks has new book, and there was much rejoicing

The powerhouse of science-fiction that is Iain M. Banks has pumped out another Culture based novel called Matter. If you enjoy a good Science fiction novel or 30, then I fully recommend Iain M. Banks. His series of novels based around the decadent civilisation called The Culture is one of the best glimpses into and AI influenced future that I have ever read. He has also released several other Sci-fi non-Culture novels (Against a Dark Background, Feersum Endjun, The Algebraist) which are also excellent.

I recently finished reading The Algebraist and it was well written and thought provoking. I connected with the main characters, and found the alien races living in the gas giants a fascinating concept. He has an amazing way to describe an alien race that sounds unfathomable, and you are able to understand the human based races inability to deal with an alien culture.

Along with his Sci-Fi stuff he also releases standard Fiction novels under the name Iain Banks, all of which are interesting and thought provoking novels.

I will definitely be hooking into this one, but as a teaser see here for an extract and see below for the blurb.

In a world renowned within a galaxy full of wonders, a crime within a war. For one brother it means a desperate flight, and a search for the one - maybe two - people who could clear his name. For his brother it means a life lived under constant threat of treachery and murder. And for their sister, it means returning to a place she’d thought abandoned forever. Only the sister is not what she once was; Djan Seriy Anaplian has become an agent of the Culture’s Special Circumstances section, charged with high-level interference in civilisations throughout the greater galaxy. Concealing her new identity - and her particular set of abilities - might be a dangerous strategy. In the world to which Anaplian returns, nothing is quite as it seems; and determining the appropriate level of interference in someone else’s war is never a simple matter.

Whale of a Time

I went to Te Papa Museum of New Zealand on the weekend and ventured the $8 for the Whales Tohora exhibit and I must say it was excellent. I took my daughter and it was an amazing way to introduce her to the concept of evolution. And I must say its such an easy idea to grasp, that even my 5 year old daughter got it.

We were wandering along looking at the fossil record for whales that had been displayed, and although it was simplified down to 4 or 5 major examples of the different stages in whale evolution, it was still easy to understand the concept. As I explained to my daughter about the fossils, she got the idea immediately - "they changed a little bit over a long time daddy." Wow. Out of the mouths of babes and all that.

Why is it that a 5 year old can grasp the simplest concepts of science and evolution, and it is impossible for weirdo creationists to do the same? They have an egotistical fascination with their own existence that says that some fictional character created everything just for them. Bollocks to that - we are only here by chance, so lets make the most of that chance and find out as much as possible.

It amazes me that people can wander along, blinkers on, saying "god did it all, and I'm not going to question anything". Isn't it far better to say "this is all interesting stuff, lets find out how it works and how we came to be here"? Science is an incredibly useful tool that allows us to investigate, every day, the world around us, and further the human understanding of Life, The Universe and Everything. Without it, there'd be no ipods, no telly, no movies, no internet, no computers, no modern conveniences that we all take for granted. It is an irony that many of the religious right rail against the scientific community using the very things science helped create.

Anyway, go and see the Whales Tohora exhibit at Te Papa - its well worth it and I guarantee you'll learn a thing or two about whales you didnt know before. Check out the virtual Seach and Destroy movie where you learn how Sperm Whales dive 1500m down and use sonar to detect and catch fish and giant squid.

"Jesus loves you" apparently, but theres no verifiable proof.

Billboards billboards everywhere, but I really wish they'd fuck off. I hate most billboards as they are either a distraction, or a waste of space. A majority advertise products that most people couldn't care less about, or are an affront to your sensibilities. Don't get me wrong - some are amusing. The Tui ad's are usually quite urbane and witty, but they still distract people from what they should be doing - which is driving their bloody car. And although advertisers might say its aimed at people in slow traffic, or at passengers, that's crap. They want as many people, drivers and all, to read their stupid adverts about hair cream, face cream, or creamy beer just so next time you are in the supermarket, their brainwashing technique might edge you towards product X over product Y.

As a driver, its distracting when you hear someone reading a billboard, making some exclamation (laugh or tsk) causing you to whip your head around to try and read it. And if the traffic is slow, people spend too much time reading adverts and not enough paying attention to the car in front. It would be interesting to know how many accidents are caused by billboards or roadside advertising.

The lowest form of all this roadside hoarding is the god botherers. "jesus loves you" - so what? So does Santa and he's not real either (apology to anyone who didn't know Santa or Jebus was a figment of our collective imaginations). "Abortion is a choice against Life" - this one itches to have "So is Religion, and add your income too" sprayed on it. "What would Jesus do?" Who cares? Might as well ask what the Easter Bunny would do.

Apparently all over the US theres a series of B&W billboards denoting god's commandments to us all, trying to shame all them sinners into heading to their nearest collection centre, err I mean church, and handing over all their cash, err I mean donating to the money grubbing bastards.

Well, just as a counterpoint to that, comedian Mario DiGiorgio shows what his billboard replies would be. Check out the vid and have a chuckle.

Dueling Billboards

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Rollin rollin rollin.

The venerable Henry Rollins of Black Flag fame is here to tell it like it is in 3 minutes or less. Check out the video of Henry after the jump, laying down pretty quickly what his problem with ID and religion is. Nice to see he hasn't lost any of his presence and ability to get his point across quickly.

Got a ghost? Who ya gonna call? The plumber - WTF?

It is a worry to see on several channels now, programmes devoted to pulling the wool over people's eyes and spreading woo. We had the happy go lucky Medium, the ghost hunter plumbers and then seemingly endless number of Psychic talk shows.

Medium is a TV show on NBC, and was screened on TV3 in New Zealand. Patricia Arquette plays a medium who tries to use her special powers to help the cops solve murders and other such mysteries. She would have done better if she had used her special powers from stopping me being bored to death, but that's another matter. I have a big problem with this show not because of its content but because of what it's based on and what it tells people.

Now before you say "it's only TV man - let it go", let me say I don't have a problem with TV shows that have a supernatural theme. It's when they say these shows purport to be based on some real life fact that it becomes something to focus the bullshit-o-meter on. Medium is apparently based on the real life of Allison DuBois, a self proclaimed psychic and profiler who claims to have helped several Law Departments in multiple cases. Said Law Departments have denied all knowledge of ever working with her. This is a common ploy of your garden variety mystic - claim something, watch it get denied, but then say something along the lines of "They have to deny it because the establishment (read THE MAN) set a policy dictating they can't use our services. Secretly, we still work for them [wink wink]." By claiming something that is only strengthened in the minds of believers by the denial of government employees, they get away with all sorts of shit.

Our man James Randi says she is a fraud, and she uses cold reading to work her scam, along with many other tricks of the "psychic" trade. I think former FBI profiler, and behavioural science expert Clint Van Zandt said it best - "If psychics were truly successful and if their results were not simply the consequence of trickery (at worse [sic]) or good interviewing skills (at best), then why don't law enforcement agencies have psychic detective squads, a real X-Files Unit, or other ways to integrate these paranormal investigative capabilities?"

Another show I saw recently on the tube was a reality TV show called Ghost Hunter, although "reality TV" is the opposite of what it really was. A couple of plumbers (yes plumbers) who unblock drains and pull oversized turds out of toilets by day, become an intrepid Ghost Hunting duo by night, and charge people to investigate their houses for the paranormal. After walking round houses where the owners claim to hear, see or feel unexplained things, and sometimes spending the night, these two review the tapes with the owner. They come up with all sorts of freaky explanation’s about what could "possibly" be causing the aforementioned activity, but completely fail to investigate the mundane or Verynormal(sic) possible causes. If you read any number of article written by rational, skeptical minded paranormal investigators, its very quickly obvious that a majority of unexplained events are caused by such mundane things, that it wouldn't make for interesting viewing. I can see it now - "We heard a creaking stair and found that it was, in fact, a stair that was creaky due to it being very old. We also heard strange noises in the wall, and to our surprise it was bad plumbing."

You'd think that if they were plumbers they'd quickly pick up on the fact that houses make noises when people are there or not, and its always some natural force like the house settling, warming up or cooling down that creates the phantoms that plague the inhabitants. Our minds are a fertile plain for any number of weird ideas and I have even myself sat in bed wondering if the noises of the floor creaking was some psycho with an axe coming to murder us in our beds. But whenever I get up to investigate, and stand in the hall silently, it is always a case of wind, rain, heat or cold causing the house to make these strange sounds.

These sorts of shows piss me off frankly, because they play on the popular belief of the non-skepitcal to believe in LAD, hocus pocus and magic. They also play straight into the hands of the exploiters and charlatans who prey on the gullible for money.

Thankfully there are plenty of people out there willing to debunk this tide of crap, and although they may never make a TV show about it, its still published for all to read. Penn and Teller do a good show called Bullshit, and the first episode was called Talking to the Dead where they nailed most of these charlatans for what they are. James Randi runs the JREF dedicated to pointing out the woo and using his Million Dollar Challenge to slap down woo-merchants wherever he can. Also check Karen Stollznow's site Bad Language for some long and interesting discussions of famous haunted houses and the CSI (Committee for Skeptical Inquiry) for more literature on the subject.

I am thankful that these people do a lot of good work in debunking the woo, and can only hope it becomes more prevalent, and there are less shows made in the format of Medium or Ghost Hunters.

William Pickering, Kiwi rocket Scientist

There are very few names that spring to mind when the average Kiwi is asked to name a famous scientist from our little country in the middle of nowhere. People usually spring for Ernest Rutherford, a distant relation of mine (insert sounds of own trumpet blowing here), as the Nobel laureate and noted physicist is a name known to many as the one who "split the atom". Another name, however, although not very well known, does spring to my mind.

A couple of years ago, another scientist from the Nelson area was honoured alongside Ernest by the people of Havelock, and that man was William Pickering. He was one of the main people heading the American race into space, and worked at JPL for many years. He is seen in the picture below (on the left) with Wernher Von Braun (right) and James Van Allen (centre) holding a model of Explorer 1, Feb 1 1958.

I urge you to read more about this amazing Kiwi who contributed so much to the world of space flight. There's a concise rundown of his life at or you could get hold of the book on his life by Douglas J Mudgeway.

BA speaks and hysteria ceases

To follow on from a recent post regarding the end of the world, here's the man himself Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy schooling the un-schooled on TU24. Rock it Phil.

Unsubstantiated reports of TU24 death cults disbanding and UFO watchers going home and getting real jobs have been filtering in.

Bullshit and Statistics

I read an interesting article on Ben Goldacre's site Bad Science about a book called How to Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff. This small but important tome discussed the ability of people to use statistics to make claims about various topics. Not long after reading this, I read a headline on - "Kiwis prefer classic rock over pop". Now while this headline gladdens my heart, being an old school head banger myself, I immediately asked the question "How do they know?" Did they interview every single music listener in NZ and poll them on their music preferences?

Reading the article clarified it a bit where it says in the first line "CD-buying Kiwis would rather rock to Led Zeppelin than listen to younger artists, recording industry figures show." So the sample has been defined as CD buying Kiwi's, which is different to the headline which states just "Kiwis". Going on more into the article it explains that CD purchases were the basis of the statistics, and even states "Album sales were "strongly filtered towards hard copies" which were often bought by people aged 30-plus." So we have narrowed the sample even more - NZ CD purchaser's, predominantly over 30 years old.

Looking at this, its not really a surprising statistic - older people who still buy CD's prefer Classic Rock to modern pop. No shit - really? Older people like older music? I would never have guessed. Might as well have a headline "People with no teeth prefer mushy food" or "Journo's with no real news to report make shit up".

I know its not a big deal, but it did highlight to me the regularity with which the mainstream media frequently use statistics to make news. I'm not saying they are the only one - governments, corporations and advertising companies regularly do the same thing. It's just another interesting fact and something to keep in mind the next time someone says something like "MAC User's more likely to pay for music that PC users". This story in particular smells like a big pile of steaming crap and basically states that Mac users are more honest that PC users based on stats garnered by an Entertainment Industry analyst and posted on AppleInsider. Whatever.

Just remember - check the numbers and be sceptical.

Netspeak responsible for decline of man, along with everything else

LOL, LMAO, STFU. Examples of what is more commonly known as NetSpeak. I remember once upon a time where it was limited to a small subsection of the internet community, typically on-line gamers, but now it can be found on every site in every corner of the net.

I read and hear comments from people saying that its the death of the English language, and that it, along with TXT-speak will cause civilisation as we know it to slide into the abyss as our brains devolve into mush. Poppycock - as my old Form 2 teacher used to say. Language evolves every day and anywhere you listen or look, you can see it happening and its amazing to watch language morph and change.

AOLspeak or Netspeak as it is referred to nowdays is simply a way for people who want to convey an emotion or idea quickly. Whether its posting a comment on a blog, firing off an email, Instant Messaging or chatting during a gaming session, using netspeak allows people to communicate these ideas without wearing out their hands. LMAO is a good one - you can quickly embed emotion and action that cannot be seen or heard by the reader into your message, and only type 4 characters. It allows for fast and efficient transmission of ideas and reactions, and isnt that what language has always evolved as?

I saw Californication recently, a bloody good progamme IMO, and in one episode Hank (David Duchovny) gets a verbal lashing from his missus for slagging off netspeak on a radio show (he says its the death of the English language). Excellent scene, and the dialogue is great but I do disagree with good old Hank. Its not the death, but the metamorphosis of English into something more flexible, and more relavent to current technology and social communities. Its forever changing and will always mould itself into something people find useful - if this wasnt the case, surely we'd be speaking Olde English still today (or something even more ancient).

I reckon it comes down to understanding - people who may feel they are being left behind by technology, or dont understand the new generation of Blogging and Social Networking site use may also not understand the use of netspeak in place of regular english. Old farts in other words.

I will admit however, there is one type of netspeak I fail to understand - Leet speak or Gamer speak. It boggles the mind as to what they are thinking when they let rip with this bizarre pidgen English.
I roxor - you suxor, Chek my leet skillz n00b. (roughly translated as "I say old chap, I am rather splendid and magnificent whereas you are not fit not wipe the excrement from the base of the pig trough. Also, may I point out I am quite good at this video game, which you seem to be playing for the first time")
Its not abbreviating - it just drops to child level language - I rock, you suck, nee nar nee nar. I've got no problem with children using childish language, but for fucks sake if you are going to post on a blog discussing astrophysics or technology, it makes you look like a bit of a twat if you start "pwning" people.

Or maybe I've just put myself into that Old Fart category. Bugger.

Crackpots unite, world is ending - apparently.

In yet another show of some twit spreading FUD either just to get people to talk about him, or a moron with an inability to grasp rudimentary astrophysics, there's yet another hoaxer pumping video about TU24.

TU24 is an asteroid that will pass by us sometime on Jan 29th and the nuts have come out of the woodwork exclaiming End of the World scenario's. Specifically, but not limited to, an asshat called TU24dotORG who wants people to run screaming for the hills, and the people in the hills to run screaming for the coast.

Read Phil Plaits excellent smack down of this dweeb at his blog If you look in the comments, you'll also see the nutjob himself challenging Phil to a $500 bet that it will cause some disruption to our planet, but fails to point out exactly what that might be. I mean, there are thousands of events that occur every day without asteroids - earthquakes, storms, lightning strikes, people freaking out. So how do you filter out the events that may or may not be caused by an asteroid flying past? You cant - which is precisley why its a bullshit bet, just like everything else he says.

What is more worrying is the number of gullible people out there who hear this FUD and take it for gospel. He states in one post that its "a useful tool for discussion". I'm sorry but the only "tool" here is TU24dotORG. Spreading horseshit to create fear is not useful - its egotistical YouTube posturing. It simply follows that if you post enough crap with a little bit of science twisted into it, people will listen to you and stroke your ego.

"wow, you know so much that everyone else doesnt"

"gee, you seem to be the only one talking about this"

"whats your sign baby?"

Give me a break. I think Tom, a poster on Phil's site, had it right with this comment :

Here’s some homework:

1. Research the Palermo Scale:

It compares the threat that a particular asteroid has compared to the background threat from objects of similar size. A positive number is bad, and only a couple asteroids have achieved positive numbers. TU24 read a maximum of -5.45 early on, when we were unsure of its orbit, but now doesn’t even appear on the list (

2. Check this list:

and you’ll see that another (smaller) asteroid (2008 AF3) was even closer that TU24 on January 13th.

3. Follow the news of how our understanding of the threat for Apophis (2004 MN4) evolved from the highest chance of an impact ever ( to no threat (

4. Gain more in-depth knowledge of a topic before you make a video about it.

Generating interest in NEOs and their threat is good. Overplaying any particular threat (which you are doing) is bad.

Check that shit.

Via BadAstronomy.Com

Its Life Jim, but thats about it - Fear and Cheese Toasties

I've recently read a lot of articles on the internet and around regarding the crap that people spout about LAD (Life After Death). Its not only interesting to read the different perspectives that people have, but also some of the blatant bullshit that people convince themselves and others to believe in.

It is mildly depressing in a way to think that there are many people who convince themselves that there is something out there after we kick the bucket. It shows an unwillingness, in my opinion, to take ownership of their own fates, preferring instead to leave it up to some ill formed or weird idea that probably uses the word energy, soul or quantum. Throw dimensional or portal in there as well and you've covered many of the quack pot theories in existence. Of course, that's not to say that every day people can add new theories to the list of answers to the question "what happens when we, like, you know, die". Since there's no evidence of any life whatsoever after death, it means people can say whatever they like without fear of being proven wrong. Much like Homeopathy - no substantial evidence of any kind, therefore any claim can be made.

Religion, of course, has cornered most of the market in LAD. The damn bible in one hand and pointing at the cross saying "Be good and you'll go to heaven. Be bad and hell awaits ye." Its been a pretty good sales technique over the years. Since many people are unable to accept that there's nothing out there after you pass on from this mortal coil, they readily accept any answer you put in front of them. And once they take that bait, you can do the whole "Follow these rules and it'll all be fine after the kark it. By the way, here's the collection plate".

Ghost hunters, crystal wearers and mystic healers fall into another category. Using terms gleaned from science text like Energy Free States, Quantum, and Dimensional Interference they try and explain away their own fears that this is all there is. Many claim that there is some energy (never found or measured) that is unique to every living thing, that somehow, as Obi Wan from Star Wars says, "surrounds us, and binds us together". None of the theories stand up to any kind of critical thinking, and tend to come apart if you subject them to any kind of analysis. Most in fact always come back to the poor scientific theory that you can prove something by proving you cant disprove it. For example, Person Q believes in ghosts because there is no evidence to say there isn't any ghosts - this despite the fact that you can't prove there ARE ghosts.

Occam's razor provides us with a nice answer here. "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best." In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities. To me this means the simplest theory about death is probably the most accurate - when you check out, its all over. No ghosts, no afterlife, no transfers to another dimension, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Its a theory that is backed up by plenty of fact as well. No matter how many haunted houses are investigated, how many aura photos are taken or how many papal decree's are made, there is NO solid evidence whatsoever that there is any LAD. None. Period. And I mean solid evidence - not what the damn bible says, or what my spirit guide Guido says, or the fact that I saw Jebus in a cheese toastie. Because as soon as you start skipping gaily down that path, you introduce a lot of supposition and guess work that can only be explained by more and more complicated and hard to swallow horseshit. And screw that.

Fear of your own mortality seems to be the driving factor behind most LAD crap. People cant accept that this is the only chance we've got here to make a difference, so rely on soothing platitudes from others to blinker themselves from reality.

It is heartening, however, to see in this age of information and the internet, people asking questions and minds being enlightened on the subject. A nice Q&A I saw recently was on - see here for the full article but here's one of the bits I thought best :

How can there be meaning in life without an afterlife?

That is a matter of perspective: do you not enjoy a good meal because you know that it'll be over, and the plate will be empty soon? Would you not take pleasure in seeing your child take his first tentative steps, for the knowledge that soon he'll be striding along like any other person, the wonder of this balancing act completely forgotten and made mundane?

That things are finite, does not reduce our appreciation of them while they last; that is just how it practically goes. Atheists don't mope around feeling worthless and empty because they don't think that they are going to exist for ever - we enjoy the good moments of our lives just as deeply as believers do.

And an atheist doesn't need to fear death - perhaps the pain associated with the passing at most, but once dead, we cease to exist. For most of the history of the Universe, for billions of years before my birth, I didn't exist, and I don't remember being bothered at all by this fact. :) I don't expect to be any more bothered for not existing for eternity after my death; thus I see nothing to fear in death. I want to postpone it as long as I can remain healthy and enjoy this brief time in this remarkable Universe we are privileged to live in, but I've accepted it's inevitability, and do not fear it.

Need I say more.

Game Review : Crysis (EA)

The new game from Crytek called Crysis was released last year. Here's the review I did in November of 2007

Manufacturer Electronic Arts
Category Shoot 'em Up Mother Fu%$er
Platform PC (Only decent platform there is)
Date 13 November, 2007
Plot Outline Shoot the shit out of everything and the aliens too.

Riding on the coattails of the success of Farcry, Cryteks new FPS Crysis has taken running around shooting and blowing stuff up on an island to a new level. For many months before its release date, I had been looking at the screenshots and short in-play vids posted on the interweb with great excitement. I enjoyed Farcry immensely, and its successor looked every bit as good but with better graphics and in game physics. The short vids of palm tree’s being shot enough to fall over was an excellent teaser. So when it hit release date I shot straight off to the shop and grabbed a copy.

Once you get into it, its easy to see why this game has been given some pretty excellent reviews. An awesome physics engine, and relatively simple and free roaming gameplay make Crysis an easy game to immerse yourself in.


The scenery reacting in a very lifelike manner and the physics engine make this game rock. Whether its jungle blowing up from grenade bursts, punching a guy with super strength so he flies 20 metres through the air, or shooting out tires on vehicles, the whole reactive environment makes for enjoyable gametime.


The hardest bit of the game is getting used to switching quickly between modes on the nanosuit. The ability to stealth your way through situations, or open up with all guns means there is many choices on how you want to approach certain situations. Couple this with an Objective style of gameplay, and a reasonable variety of weapons customisations, you can complete much of the game however you feel. Sneaking past an enemy patrol, charging headlong into a group of soldiers and punching them out, or running away like the Flash – its up to you.


Good story and open game play combine well so that although you feel you should keep moving, the game doesn’t end if you don’t. This means you can stop and smell the flowers (or shoot down coconut trees) before moving to the next objective. The storyline, while not being totally unique (good old alien invasion) has some neat spins and twists to keep you engaged.


Graphics Engine
I had read about some of the issues around people being unable to play the game in the highest settings, and apparently this was by design. Crytek had designed the game so that the best PC of 18 months from release date would be able to play it at full spec. The unfortunate side effect is that the Recommended System Requirements are quite high – Intel Core 2 Duo proc @ 2.2ghz or AMD Athlon 64 X2 4400+, 2GB RAM, 12GB HD Space, Geforce 8800 GTS 640MB Video card.

Its also one of the first engines to take advantage of Direct3D 10 framework of Windows Vista, which many gamers are not moving to due to reported performance problems. This means if your PC was good 6 months ago, it’ll probably only play Crysis on low settings. Time to upgrade!


I felt like I was just starting to get to the meat of the story when the game ended – I felt that I had been a bit ripped off, game length wise. I completed it in 5 sessions of about 2 or 3 hours each, which seems about average reading some other reviews out there. On the flipside to this, I did want to keep playing and following the storyline – which is just as well, as this is part 1 of 3 (Crysis Wars and World in Crysis to come).

Ending (warning: mild spoiler)

Although the rest of the game was excellent, the ending reminded me to much of the old Sega days playing Phantasy Star, and Nintendo’s Zelda – big end of level meanie, flashing in sections as you hit it, section falls off as enough damage is done, leaving large middle section which gets a big nuke up the wahzoo. Not exactly what I expected.


Excellent game, well done Crytek. Look forward to the next episodes.

JREF to end Million Dollar prize, morons happy

Alas, it had to happen I suppose - the JREF is ending the Million Dollar prize so they can use the funds to further research in other areas. For those that don't know, the James Randi Educational Foundation has sponsored a 1 Million dollar prize to anyone who can prove the existence of paranormal or extraordinary powers claimed by many weirdos and mentalists. So far, in 10 years, many have tried and all have failed to claim that prize.

Any dipshit out there who claims to have extrasensory powers like mind reading, spoon bending, telepathy, dowsing, telekinesis, or palm/tarot/tea leaf reading (and they all claim its 100% true) can try and claim the prize. All they have to do is state what they can do and under what conditions, then prove it. Its seems too easy to be true, but the problem lies not within the prize, but the people who would claim it. Here's the skinny from the JREF site :

At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."

So as long as you can repeat your amazing powers under formal conditions you're rolling in it - and this is where people always fail. For instance, say you can use telekinesis (power of mind to move objects at a distance) to move pages of a phone book. They will observe you using your power, figure out the most likely real reason for the movement to be ocurring, eliminate that variable from the second test and get you to retry. In fact, that's exactly what James did on a TV show a few years ago to supposed mental master James Hydrick - see here for the clip. Ignore the fact he looks like a tool in that outfit, his claims are no different to any other supposed psychic out there.

So why has no one claimed the prize in nearly 10 years? Because psychic abilities are all bullshit. The ones who make the claims and take the test are always proven wrong - always. Remember, the protocol and testing procedure are agreed by both the tester and testee, so none of them can claim afterward it was an unfair test. How can it be unfair if they agree to it? Some do anyway, but it makes them look even more foolish than they did before.

Another aspect is the ones who are challenged to take the test but don't - i.e. Sylvia Browne, Uri Geller, any Homoeopathist. They give varying reasons but they all boil down to the fact that if they took the test, they'd be exposed as frauds and lose their income the get from fleecing the gullible.

The reason the JREF is willing to put up a million bucks for this is that all of this woo-woo (to use a Randi-ism) is merely well known stage tricks, sleight of hand, known human behaviour or a combo of all three. Due to the fact that James Randi is an experienced magician he knows most of the ways to fool people and how people fool themselves. Check out any of his stuff on YouTube and the JREF website for many hours of interesting viewing.

So, after many years the million dollar prize is coming to an end. Randi says on his site that the money could be better spent than sitting in an investment portfolio gathering interest, and I do agree with that. Money like that could be spent on any number of worthwhile activities to enlighten people to the reality of scam artists.

On the flipside however, we lose the ability to stick it to the charlatans and purveyors of woo out there who swindle people with their parlour tricks by saying "prove it and you'll get 1 million bucks". Its fun to watch them squirm when asked if they've taken the challenge or not. They prevaricate and delay, dissemble and deny but they never actually take the test because of the damage it would do to their businesses.

So, well done JREF for the years of hard work spent debunking the craptacular idiots out there. I can only hope someone else (Penn and Teller!) can do something similar so the pressure is kept on these woo merchants.

"Tell them I've gone fishing"

We missed the boat with the passing of a great New Zealander Sir Edmund Hilary by not posting an epilogue for him. But I feel that I cannot let the passing of a great actor go by without mentioning it. Roy Scheider passed yesterday in Little Rock Arkansas aged 75 due to complications from a staph infection.

He will be most remembered for the films that influenced a generation, Popeye Doyle’s partner in The French Connection, the aging Vietnam Vet helicopter pilot in Blue Thunder, taking on the role Heywood Floyd in 2010 and probably most famously for his role of Chief Martin Brody in Jaws. Jaws is widely known as the first summer blockbuster and in some respects was the catalyst for films such as Star Wars, E.T. and other summer films.

His portrayal of the Chief of police that lived on an island and did not like the water was magnificent and will go down as his most famous with one of the best movie quotes ever “Your gonna need a bigger boat”.By all account he was a humble and generous person who will be sadly missed. Rest in peace Roy Scheider.

Chasers war on Everything causes wet pants.

An excellent clip from the Aussie show Chasers War on Everything taking the piss out of Televangelists. Check it out.

Aliens Predator Come to Town

So, finally the new Aliens V’s Predator film has hit New Zealand and I have to say that it was better than I expected. After reading several negative reviews and having low expectations I was more than happy with the final result. I will split this review into sections with and without spoilers.

So the film opens at the same point that the first film finishes with a slightly different looking Predator spaceship. All hell breaks lose and the ship crashes in a small town which then gets decimated by the Alien horde. All this stuff was fairly well covered in the trailers and to be honest there is not really much more to it. But that is ok; there were plenty of homage’s to Aliens which was fine because that’s what I wanted to see.

What we got was what the first AVP should have been (even though I liked that film). AVP2 is essentially a Predator film that has Aliens and some people in it. I mean what should have happened is that when the first film was in production is they should have made it as Predator 3 and included the Aliens into that, rather than start a new franchise. Predator 2 set up the series to do just this. AVP2 is a good solid action film with some favourite creatures making an appearance. It is certainly no Alien, Aliens, Predator or even Alien3 but is still worthy of a place in the franchise.

Possible spoilers:
Things that I did like: I liked the return of the Cameron Alien design, this was great when seeing loads of Aliens running around together. I also like the used of the remastered sounds from Aliens, the Aliens screech, the face huggers tail whipping are among some of them. The actors did ok with the characters considering what they had to work with and the locations were ok, it was actually good to see the Aliens running around a normal town. I liked the ending, makes the next instalment interesting. I loved the opening sound effect, great stuff.

Things I could forgive: The refilming of the beginning of the film worked well except that spaceship at the end of the first AVP film was massive with what looked like tens of predators on board, AVP reduces the size of this ship and the amount of predators on it (No biggie really). Bad acting, but this may have been the dialogue and the direction rather than the actors fault. The Predator was not overly clever, he is sent o clean up a mess yet leaves skinned bodies hanging in the forest, not smart.

Things they need to fix because they are annoying: They made the same mistake as AVP in regards to the time frames with the life cycle, the PredAlien was born and within seconds it appears to be full size, we know from the first 4 Aliens films that it takes a lot longer to mature (annoying and needs to be addressed)

Things I didn’t like: The PredAlien impregnating the pregnant women was a bit on the nose. I was able to deal with the young boy getting face huggered at the start of the film and the subsequent chest burstering scene. I don’t think that it would have bothered me a couple of years ago but now that I have my own family I find it hard to watch stuff that involves harming pregnant women or babieschildren (I must be getting soft). The scene with the PredAlien watching the new born babies had my saying ‘Don’t go there, please’ fortunately it did not go there.

More spoilers

The PredAlien has had much said about it and not all of it good. When the first images came out I thought it looked cool, but that’s probably the best look you will ever get as the film is surrounded in darkness and rain and you don’t really get a good view of it. So for the film it kinda works. The addition of the new reproduction method does not really serve any purpose, it’s just a way of showing something new. If they wanted more Aliens running around then they should have had more facehuggers in the crashed spacecraft. It didn’t really make sense, as it was only a small part of the film I think they were able to get away with it because of the predator cross over.

The ending: I have not decided if the ending was a cop out or not, I suppose they had to do what they did to hide any traces of the Alien infestation but I don’t know if it came at the right time… I dunno, I need to think about it some more. I did like the last scene with ‘Miss Yutani’, nice touch. It links the Weyland from the first film to the company from Aliens ‘Weyland Yutani’.

In conclusion: I enjoyed this film quite a lot. I was able to forgive the Alien lifecycle timeline and the differences in the predator spaceships at the beginning but on the whole it was what I was expecting. I don’t think that they will ever be able to make an Alien film with the suspense if the first 3 films for the simple reason that the Alien is not that scary anymore, part of the horror was the creature. The Predator is different because he is not meant to be scary, he is meant to be formidable which he still is. I would give this film 6.5/10.

Borders tag Dawkins book, Jeebers botherer's pissed

Another tale of eye rolling and inane crap to come out of the Christian camp with a complaint against Borders from a bunch of religo's. Apparently Borders attached a wee tag to the Richard Dawkin's book "The God Delusion" (excellent read - go get yourself a copy) reading "O come all ye faithless". Insert wry smile, nay, chuckle here. religion

Straight away, the Church swung into action, condemning Borders as the latest tool of the heathens, godless and the devil. The Rev. Jonathan Edwards, general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain said "I am quite sure that Borders intended their Christmas card as a joke. However, I personally find it an ill-judged and insensitive joke. Christians have always been used to being punch bags but I would have hoped that, in a society in which we are seeking to show respect to all people and beliefs, we might have grown out of this kind of nonsense."

What a crock - sounds like someone desperately trying to find anything to get themselves into the news.

The Evangelical Alliance's Justin Thacker also waded into the nontroversy by saying "I think the atheists will love it because it's bashing Christians around the head. It's another thing to take a Christian festival and abuse it. Borders wouldn't do this to any other religious festival. Borders [has] made a strategic mistake and Christians will boycott it."

Christian Festival? Whatever - a renamed pagan festival celebrating the Winter Solstice is more like it.

I think the thing that annoys me the most about this is the mock martyrdom of the God Botherers - "oh woe is us. All these nasty atheists refusing to believe in our one god Thor, er I mean, Zeus, no Jehovah (pssst - which one was it again?)" When have the Christians, or any religion, been persecuted for their beliefs by Atheists in the name of Atheism? I know plenty of Christians vs Jews, Jews vs Christians, Religious Sect vs Religious Sect, Godzilla vs Mothra, but I know of no Atheists thrashing the local populace for believing in any god. Weirdos might say "what about Hitler? he was an atheist and he gave the Jew's a towelling for their beliefs." Well - the Atheist Hitler debate rages on, and he certainly was responsible for some very despicable acts, but (and lets get this straight) not BECAUSE he was an Atheist. He was very cosy with the Catholic church and the pope, so Atheism was not the motivating factor for his atrocities.

Claiming that the atheists are "bashing Christians" because a book seller puts a witty remark on a book very unlikely to be read by Christians smacks of desperation. Atheists numbers are growing year on year as people become more aware of the bullshit spewed by the church. In 1901 only 1 in 30 NZ'ers identified with no religion - and in 2001 that had expanded to 4 in 10. In the 2006 census that is up again to 43%, with another 250,000 people choosing logical thought over woolly thinking.

The outcome is a bit more positive in my book - Borders responded to the arm waving and frothing at the mouth by saying "meh". Here's the actual words :

Borders said it "did not intend it as anti-Christian or a swipe at the Christian faith," and said that it "apologizes to any of our customers who feel it was that."

The book store described the card as a "continuation" of the debate on atheism that had come as result of the book, which was a best-seller for Borders this year.

"Our customers are intelligent, curious people who enjoy exploring all types of books and music. Naturally, some of the thousands of books and music selections we carry could be considered controversial or objectionable depending on individual views, tastes and interest," Borders said in a statement.

"However, Borders stands by its commitment to let customers make the choice."

Nice one Borders - plug the book, compliment the customers, and jam that fence directly up your backside.

Via Richard Dawkins .Net

Hoagland Shmoagland - Crackpots Unite again.

Aarrgghh, I can’t take it any longer. Richard C Hoagland is a dick. I like others don’t want to give this retard anymore press than he already gets. I suppose the reason for this rant is to get people to know the name ‘Hoagland’ so that when they hear about these ‘interesting facts’ they will realise that is coming from someone that is to stupid to realise that a rock on Mars is a rock and not a Martian.

So a new image of the surface of Mars is released to the public and in the bottom corner is a little outcrop that looks a little odd, agreed. But I can tell you one thing that its not, and this is for people in the cheap seats, “IT’S NOT A MARTIAN”. I am not a scientist by any stretch, but I do believe the people from universities and science houses around the world and bet that any one of them will tell you the same.

This new image has even made the front page of the ‘World’ section in our local newspaper here in NZ and the also made it to the news. Now loads of people will look at it and go ‘Wow, there is life on Mars’. I was just speaking to a guy who thought he heard some stuff about a satellite going offline as it took photo’s of Cydonia region (face on Mars area), what rubbish. People that skim read this stuff tend to believe it. I could understand if this actually was a Martian or some kind of life on Mars, then it would be news worthy.

Anyway I can tell you what it is in the image; it’s not a rock, its Planet of the Apes. Yep that’s it folks….. The secret is out.

This guy is also the chap that made the moon hoax theory popular, that’s how much of a loon he is. He needs to read the theory of Occam’s razor which states that “All things being equal, the simplest solution is the best”. Now apply that to the new photo from NASA and what do you have? That’s right it’s a fucking ROCK.

Life on Mars would more than likely be at very low levels where there might be moisture such as the bottom of Valles Marineris or other such locations. This life would be considerably smaller and probably need a microscope to find.

Mankind has for years seen a face on the moon, but like the new image from Mars, “It’s just a rock”. Another argument says that when we see familiar things in unfamiliar places it’s actually our brain trying to make sense of it. We don’t know what Martian life looks like and when we see something that looks familiar we make assumptions. Unfortunately some people take it too far.

I know that this guy Hoagland will continue with his crusade to make people believe him. Sensible people out there need to know what he is doing and debunk this stuff if you hear people talking about it. Its nonsense, just like intelligent design, but that’s another rant for another time..

Mass Effect, effects the masses

Someone sent me this link today about the recently released PC XBOX game called Mass Effect. This is an interview on FOX news program “The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum” which features Cooper Lawrence, a chick who likes to spout shit about stuff she knows nothing about.Fox News Interview.
It is not news that the new game Mass Effect has what some people call racey cut scenes but when you go on national TV and say stuff that just is not true you just end up looking like a tool. This is exactly what self help guru Cooper Lawrence did. One of her first statements is this “Who’s paying Video games? Its adolescent males, not their dads???" Rubbish, I am sorry but I grew up with computer games and console and guess what… I am still paying them and love them. I would argue that males that grew up playing video games are still playing them now. In fact a recent study states that the average age of a gamer is 33 years. Thirty percent of PC gamers are under 18 whereas fouty-four percent are 35 and older (that does not include 18-35 year olds). The stats for console gamers is slightly different but again there are more 18+ gamers than adolescent ones. Round one to the gamers (And I got those stats from a simple google search)

Then she goes on to say, “A man in this game deciding how may women he want’s to be with” The chap that is the games expert counters this with his first words “ That’s completely incorrect, firstly you can play as a man or a woman” Maybe she should have done some research…… Dur. He follows that quickly with this, “Cooper, have you actually played Mass Effect” (knowing full well what the answer will be) to which she answers with a laugh “No”. What an arrogant bitch, she knows nothing about the game and has not even played it. It’s like complaining about a movie having never watched it, or a book and never having read it. Looks like the stupid woman is beat, but no, she comes back with this little gem.

She says, “Women are objects of desire, with hot bodies” well noticed… Seriously though, the footage in the game is no different from images from TV shows such as LOST, advertising for perfume and clothes or comics. I tell you, if these so called social guardians went into any comic shop and saw the imagery that is sold to kids everyday they would have a friggin’ heart attack. I think that the crackpot is against the ropes and about to out for the count.

The Host even says that she went on the internet and could not find anything overly suggestive even though she had to prove her age, that’s because simply there is no nudity. Like I said, there is much more offensive stuff on E channel.

I agree that some of the new games that are coming out are pretty full on and I wouldn’t want to see that kids are playing them. But that’s where parents need to be more responsible. I don’t see them complaining about the Rambo film. At the end of the day movies , magazines and internet are far worse than these games and more easily accessible. Look after your kids and leave the games alone.

Another thing is that this woman Cooper Lawrence is also a writer of self help type books. People are giving her the same treatment as she gave Mass Effect, there are reports of people giving her book negative reviews on having not read her book. That’s funny shit. Her new book has an average review of 1 star out of 5 and the tagged words are words such as “ignorant”, “Garbage”, “Hypocrite” and “Hack. And that my friends is it, a KO. Out for the count and hopefully we will not hear her name again. Crackpot..

Blade Runner : The Final Cut

They've finally released the new Blade Runner DVD
Director Ridley Scott
Plot In Los Angeles, 2019, Deckard is a Blade Runner, a cop who specialises in terminating replicants. Originally in retirement, he is forced to re-enter the force when five replicants escape from an off world colony to Earth.
Cast Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah, Brion James, William Sanderson, Sean Young
Genre Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

After waiting what seemed to be an interminable amount of time the ultimate edition of one of my favourite movies has been released. Blade Runner : Final Cut is a digitally remastered, re-edited and re-fucking fantastic edition of the original movie directed by Ridley Scott. 25 years after the original release, with the aid of a few computers, Scott has chopped out all the dross that the Producers forced him to put in. No more voice over, no cheesy ending and scenes previously consigned to the cutting room floor have been resurrected. All in all I'd have to say its an excellent addition to the DVD cabinet, and well worth waiting for. If you are going to purchase it, remember 3 choices are ahead of you - 2 Disc Edition (out now), 5 Disc Edition (Out in January in NZ), all versions of movies and doco's or super wassar Limited Edition Briefcase (out in January as well I believe for NZ). I don't really geek out over the 400 disc, special signed, limited, 1 of 4 in the world, numbered, sealed in a vault, handmade by dwarfish spider people editions - not my scene. But if you do, you'll enjoy the briefcase version I'm sure.

Rating ★★★★★ Fucking Cracker.

Sad, sad, sad....

I couldnt help it. Look at these sad bastards.
Use the Schwarz, Luke!
This is part of a new cult in LA where the only entry criteria is to be a sad bastard. I'm sorry, I am a Star Wars fan and take my fair share of shit but this is just stoopid. People get together to practice jumping around like idiots with their own lightsabers.
Here is some video, I love the first line. "Some people go to the gym 5 times a week" as if to say that this is exercise and it keeps him fit, yeah right, your still a fat bastard.
This makes liking Star Wars harder because until the Phantom Menace all that people could do was watch the films and play with their Kenner toys. Since then we have all these Lord of the Rings style Trekkie dorks ruining it for the rest of us. I bet none of these dudes have girlfirends.
I bet they all live in Second Life and only come out to pretend to be like their heroes.....
They even have a website go there and mock them.

Don't Tase Me Bro, or the Miss Teen America

The Yale top Quotes of the year have been published and here are the top 10 in all their glory.

Fred Shapiro's cry of "Dont Tase me Bro" has topped the charts. Poor old Freddy was asking some questions at Senator John Kerry's speaking engagement when University Campus police took offence and dragged him off the mic. When he resisted the rent-a-cops whipped out the cuffs and portable bug zapper and gave him a belt, ignoring his cries and pleading. The phrase made a massive impact on pop culture, ending up on t-shirts, bumper stickers and the video was the most viewed on YouTube.

2nd was the ditzy, and apparently stage frightened Miss Teen America, Lauren Upton. When asked why she thought so few Americans could find the US on a world map, she gave a rambling disjointed answer reminiscent of the President Dubbya at his most amusing.

3rd was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comment about there being no poof's in his country - "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country." Yeah right. And the world is flat in Iran. And the Sun revolves around Iran. I reckon the next Gay Pride march should be in Tehran - Mohammed Queen of the Desert.

4th in line for honours was Don Imus, a so called shock-jock radio hack. When commenting on the Rutgers Womens Basketball team he was quoted as saying "That's some nappy-headed ho's there". Theres shock, and then theres just cock. Nice one alienating two segments of the population at once Don.

Coming in at number 5 is the fat Mexican Alberto Gonzales. When being questioned over the firing of 8 federal prosecutor's, he used the phrase "I dont recall" over 70 times. Its pretty damning of the US Justice department, especially when Gonzales' former chief of staff uttered "I dont remember" 120 times 3 weeks earlier to the same comittee. Looks like they need to deflourinate the water at the Justice Dept eh.

In at 6 was Senator Joseph Biden speaking about former New York mayor and Republican Presidential Candidate Rudy Guiliani - "Theres only 3 things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, a verb and 9/11"

Number 7 was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid - "I'm not going to get into a name-calling match with somebody (Vice President Dick Cheney) who has a 9 per cent approval rating." Touche.

Number 8 was from Idaho Senator Larry Craig who apparently has "a wide stance when going to the bathroom." This was apparently why his foot touched an undercover policeman's in a bog. Footsie under the partition easily explained away.

In at 9 is Joseph Biden again with this quote about Presidential Candidate Obama - "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that's a storybook, man." Not as good as number 10 I reckon which is...

Former US Pres Jimmy Carter - "I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history." You've got to admit thats a bad sign when former presidents start slagging you off publicly.

Reuters via Stuff