Friday, July 4, 2008

Neo Makes the Earth Stand Still

One of science fictions greatest movies is in the process of a remake. The Robert Wise masterpiece ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ is being updated by Scott Derrickson, known for such epics as Hellraiser: Inferno???, Urban Legends: Final Cut??!!!!??!?!? And the more well known Exorcism of Emily Rose. Robert Wise directed the original and went on to direct Run Silent Run Deep, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Andromeda Strain so maybe this will do for Derrickson what it did for Wise. Who knows.

I am quietly excited by this remake, I was very dubious before I saw the trailer which was released today but now I feel like it could be pretty interesting. Keanu Reeves plays the part of Klaatu previously played by Michael Rennie, an interesting choice. I think that Reeves has reached the age now that he can play these sorts of roles. Plus with the Matrix trilogy firmly under his belt I we can accept him in semi dramatic science fiction flix and not the dumb surfer cant act for shit FBI type guy.

Needless to say the new trailer for TDTEST looks dark and apocalyptic. There is a sense that the Earth is going to get totally trashed in a Roland Emmerich kind of way. That’s cool because I like that sort of stuff and when it’s done with a sci-fi background its even better. I hope that the message within the story is nice and clear. One of the great things about the original was its lack of ambiguity; unlike other B-grade sci-fi picture from the 50’s which needed more work to see the symbolism. Even when I watched the film as a kid I was able to walk away and say, ‘Great film, and it was all about how bad war is’. In saying that I understand that the remake is more about save the planet rather than don’t fight amongst yourselves.

Anyway it is scheduled for a December release which gives us plenty of time to speculate on what it will be like. Check out the trailer for the original film. Great stuff.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Stuff poll stuffed with....well stuff

The lovely people over at Fairfax media ran an article over the weekend regarding creationist material being sent to schools in New Zealand, as Mr Fett alluded to in a previous post. They also ran a poll for 12 or so hours along with it and Should schools be allowed to teach 'intelligent design? was the question posed. Now, we saw some pretty feverish posting from both sides for the duration of the poll, but the final results were Yes 15479 (46.5%) and No 17814 (53.5%). I didn't realise that many people read stuff let alone cared enough to vote - WTF?

I can only suppose that after it was posted on the Pharyngula and a bunch of creationist sites that both sides of the debate went nuts with poll scripts trying to outdo each other, because over 30,000 people voting on an internet poll is pretty bizarre even for a contentious topic such as this. To give you something to compare and contrast against, here's a run down of some of the totals for other super important questions posed by Stuff "

What's your favourite season?
11264 votes and summer was the winner. Crazy I know - who'd have guessed.

Pick your worst ever cover
11103 votes. When I first read this I thought it was talking about insurance - turns out its Music Covers. Winner was Celine Dion - You Shook me all night long. I didn't even know she did a cover of that, but she would have got my vote just for the simple fact she's couldn't sing her way out of a wet paper bag.

How financially literate are you?
8048 respondents, and I must admit I have no idea what the question means. Does it mean "Can you read a bank statement?", or is it talking about the stock exchange? No idea really - winner was "somewhat" which sounds more like a question itself - Some what?

And the pièce de résistance
Will warnings about long-term use of jandals make you rethink wearing them?
Of the 8853 people who bothered answering this one, over 5000 said "No way, I love my jandals." Wow. What illuminating information. I don't know about you, but I feel changed.

These internet polls we see on so many new sites these days are much like the ones I post on this site - a load of bollocks. A majority of them either ask questions so inane it would send your caffeine and cocaine hammered druglord neighbour to sleep within seconds (How interested are you in politics? 85% say Sod off!), or are so badly worded they are not even really worth answering.

This poll about ID for instance - the question, as pointed out by Bjorn over at Pharyngula was nothing to do with the article it linked to. The article spoke about creationist material being sent to schools in an effort to get their brand of nonsense into the science class. The poll asked a different question - should it be taught? In all fairness, who am I to say what the jebus nutters teach in their churches? Its their right to teach religion in religious classes or creationism in Sunday school. I may wish they wouldn't, as its total crap, but that's their right as a religion to teach the tenets of their faith. The same goes for a science class inasmuch as only science should be discussed therein, and since ID\Creationism is not science, it has no place there.
Bjorn did point out that if he ran a class he would mention it as a "this is not science" and while I agree with his philosophy behind the argument, I probably would agree with Alison and restrict that kind of thing to the higher years of school science and university. Our standard schooling should be teaching the science framework, creating skeptical and enquiring minds, and not bombarding them with every example of bad thinking in the world.

So if I were to answer the question on its own merits, I would agree with my Bjorn Free commenter and say Yes - people should be allowed to teach it. But in the context of the article, I would say No - not in the state schools.

And my point? Internet polls are bullshit. The question can be obtuse, you can use scripts to load them (much as this one obviously did) or you can be so confused you don't answer and the results are skewed beyond all recognition. Even Stuff say "Stuff polls are not scientific and reflect the opinions of only those internet users who have chosen to participate" and that's the best description ever - they are not scientific. They are meaningless.

The problem is that this information is used by lazy ass journo's to write articles. You see them frequently now on the major news sites "according to a poll on our site last week, 42% of people want to be flogged with licorice twice a week". Or they drop the "on our site" and it becomes "according to a poll taken recently, 85% of respondents have eaten a VW Beetle".

I guess all I'm saying here is that these polls cannot be taken seriously, and we should read closely what articles say when referring to polls.

“Opinion polls measure the public's satisfaction with it's ignorance”

"I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex."
Erma Bombeck

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Las Vegas plagued by ghosts; or just the wind

Recently the James Randi foundation held the latest TAM (The Amazing Meeting) in Las Vegas, number 6 in a continuing line of excellent get togethers for those of a skeptical bent. People like Phil Plait, James Randi, Penn Gillete, Adam Savage, Richard Wiseman, the Skepchicks, PZ Myers, Michael Shermer and more attend and speak about skeptical thinking, science and other such interesting topics. And while I would have loved to have gone, I am among the many who missed out. But apparently apart from the 700 or so people who turned up, there was also 1 million ghosts. Yes, you read that right - 1 milllllllioooon. (thanks Dr Evil)

Yes, some whack job called Doc Paranormal organised a march of the paranormal - 1 million ghosts marching down Las Vegas strip. He has his own blog dedicated to all things kooky and weird - namely himself. Heres a quote :

"Who am I? Let's just say I'm a national journalist and former adjunct professor at the late, lamented Edgar Allen Poe Community College. I've been exploring the strange since Mulder was in kneepants. You can call me Doc Paranormal."

Riiiight. Lets just say you're a weirdo who can make up any shit he wants, a former professor of a made up college, a Chris Carter aficionado with a short pants fetish and doctor of bugger all.

Apparently while the conference was going on in Vegas he had called on all his mates (they were both away unfortunately) to call up as many denizens of the underworld to plague Las Vegas, doing a march down the strip to protest the meeting. And apparently if his site is to be believed, there was plenty of media coverage of the march, and no coverage of the TAM. This is despite the fact that he does not supply any links to any media coverage, I cant find any on the internet, and none of the major news sources have anything on it whatsoever.

The funniest bit is that it looks like he posts questions to himself and then answers them on his blog in a kind of Agony Aunt style. Heres a wee sample :

Hi Doc:
I live in North Las Vegas where it was 110 degrees yesterday. Yet when I got out of my car to go to my job at the Flamingo, I felt a sudden chill pass across me. And then another. Since "cold spots" are often associated with the presence of spirits, could I have encountered a ghost or two involved in the Million Ghost March?

Dear Custodian:
Could be. I have received several reports like yours. The march appears to have already begun. It should continue throughout the day as our friends from the Other Side come and go.

He\she stepped outside, and felt a cold spot? Could this apparent "cold spot" possibly be the wind? Wow - what an amazing pile of crap.

Apparently there were several stickers on show at the TAM meeting, and this weirdo has claimed that they were there specifically to deter the marching spirits, and that Jeff Wagg wore a talisman during the meeting to ward off the supernatural. Ha! What a joke.

Pity you cant leave comments on his blog - I can imagine the ones that most people would leave if they ever visited his site.

As for the 1 million ghosts, I somehow doubt that they were the spirits flowing on the Strip in Vegas that night - probably more of the alcoholic nature were involved.

Check out the latest Swift on Randi.Org for more info.