Thursday, October 16, 2008


Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

I suppose as the last active contributor here it falls to me to call "time". It has been an enjoyable four years with you all but I shall join the migration to my own projects elsewhere. The diaspora is as follows:

Brother Morthos now writes at All Embracing but Underwhelming.

Apathy Jack contributes to Johnny the Red.

I have resurrected my original foray into blogging at Lolly Scramble with a review of the North Shore candidate's meeting.

Both RSJS and Josh appear to be on blogger hiatus though Josh did produce Monkey Fluids for three years.

See you round,


Thursday, September 25, 2008

We all play games; we all pretend we’re unique enough to be heard...

Apathy Jack writes:

Probably enough out of me for the time being. Of course, I can’t go quietly, so details after the cut if anyone is interested...

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab
Brain Stab was originally conceived of as a place for a few of us like-minded interesting people to blog about issues. We mostly had livejournals and other outlets for pontificating about the day-to-day drear of our respective lives, so Brain Stab would be where we talked about social and political issues of the day – even if we were more murmuring against the machine than raging.

So, I immediately broke the rules and started blogging about my daily existence.

But, see, my life was interesting. Sure, more than once I got too self-indulgent for my own good, but the perils of Hoodrat High and the constant struggle for survival therein made for good reading – and the various people I had in comments and in real honest-to-goodness Life™ tell me how much they liked reading my stuff, and suggest that I submit it to a publisher, backed this up, and stroked my ego nicely along the way.

But, as you may have noticed, my life just isn’t that interesting anymore.

Certainly, my life is better than it used to be, but here’s the thing: my Hoodrat stories came out of a very specific environment. Hoodrat was (and, for those keeping score: still is) a monstrously mismanaged school filled with incompetent teachers and a statistically anomalous number of emotionally damaged students. I had been there longer than many of the teachers, and had built up a strong relationship with the students.

The New school, on the other hand, is filled with relatively well-behaved students, whom I simply don’t know as well as the old lot. The staff are annoying, but benign, and almost all quite good at teaching the children things.

And, as it’s impossible not to notice, my stories just aren’t as good as they used to be. Haven’t been for over a year now. Hell, I probably should have stopped posting the day I walked out of Hoodrat for the last time, and if it wasn’t for Newton’s law of inertia, I probably would have...

So while I was happy to break the rule of don’t-talk-about-boring/pointless-bollocks so long as I had entertaining stories, I’ve been posting inanities for a while now, which doesn’t sit right with me, not for a blog that was, in theory at least, about doing something a little different from that. So I’m out of here.

Now, I’m not going to stop posting stupid things my students say, random reading recommendations and whatever else pops into my brain, I’m just going to go back to doing it the old fashioned way: on an obscure blog no one reads except me and my girlfriend (when she remembers). I don’t know when I’ll start up this new blog, but if you’re a mate of mine, you’ll probably hear about it soon after I do. (On the off chance you’re a random person who actually wants to read things I write, the Brain Stab gmail is still going to go along until we forget about it, so drop me a line and say hi – I’m too much of an attention-junkie to keep the address to myself if you ask...)

Also, of course, I will continue my good work over at Johnny the Red campaign headquarters, where the posts are more frequent than my recent efforts on Brain Stab, and, frankly, of a higher quality. If you’re not reading it, you should be.

To go out, I’d like to leave you with a profound quote, but really, who would I be kidding? It would be nice to think that the wail of sadness from the Manic Street Preachers when they cry “And I just hope that you can forgive us, but everything must go – and if you need an explanation, then: everything must go” would be apt, but more so would probably be the quote from the Mercy Cage’s excellent track The Jewellery Thief which I used to head this piece, where they cynically (and more than a little desperately) spit “We all play games, we all pretend we’re unique enough to be heard.”

No, I think best would be this extract from Jon Ronson’s book What I Do, which I wholeheartedly recommend:

“The internet gives us the illusion that we're wonderfully gregarious people. When we type away in discussion boards and post comments on one another's blogs it feels like we're sitting outside a pub in the evening sunshine with our attractive, cool friends. But we aren't. That's something we used to do before we got addicted to the Internet. What we do instead is perform some empty, unsatisfying facsimile of that. We sit alone in our rooms, becoming more and more isolated from society.”

Yeah, that’ll do.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Don't Get Mad - Get Evil

Apathy Jack writes:


Some time back, me and a few politically minded folk started a project we were too feckless to continue. We have restarted it, and will be updating it daily for the next month and a half. is a site for intellectual political discourse and high-minded debate about the upcoming US elections.

To give you all a taste of just how intellectual and high-minded, I have embedded an old Johnny the Red video, shot at Auckland University, many years, and a lot of construction ago.

All of you out there who get more traffic that Brain Stab (which is, I think, all of you, so snap to it, all of you) should plug Johnny the Red unceasingly. He'll know if you don't...

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Day Today - 19th September 2008

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

The image above is a representation of which body parts are sung about the most in each musical genre. Hip Hop quite likes the booty, so it seems.
Do it yourself Fair Go.

There's four things we say over and over to readers writing in with problems who have gotten their legitimate claims spurned by regular customer service. They just keep working! They're EECB, Executive Customer Service, Chargeback and Small Claims Court. Inside, what these tools mean and how to get started using one.

Evidence Based Medicine

An Indian criminal court accepted a brain scan as evidence of guilt in a murder trial in India earlier this year. The developer of the the Brain Electrical Oscillation Signature (BEOS) test claims that it uses electrodes to detect when regions of the brain "light up" with guilty knowledge.

After placing 32 electrodes on Ms. Sharma’s head, investigators said, they read aloud their version of events, speaking in the first person (“I bought arsenic”; “I met Udit at McDonald’s”), along with neutral statements like “The sky is blue,” which help the software distinguish memories from normal cognition.

For an hour, Ms. Sharma said nothing. But the relevant nooks of her brain where memories are thought to be stored buzzed when the crime was recounted, according to Mr. Joseph, the state investigator. The judge endorsed Mr. Joseph’s assertion that the scans were proof of “experiential knowledge” of having committed the murder, rather than just having heard about it...

Ms. Sharma insists that she is innocent.

Two from Tyler Cowen...

1) The Benefits of a winning sports team is $120 per year.

...a few scholars have started to suggest that there may indeed be another kind of benefit from big-time sports. There's a catch, though: the team has to be good. In a forthcoming paper, economist Michael Davis and the psychologist Christian End say that having a winning NFL football team increases the incomes of the people who live and work in its hometown by as much as $120 a year. And while the study doesn't identify exactly what causes the boost, the authors point to psychological literature suggesting that winning fans are at once harder workers and bigger spenders. In short, buoyed by the team's success, we work longer hours, take bigger risks, and shop more avidly, all of which helps the local economy.

2) Especially pertinent - "In Soviet Russia, gang joins you!"

In Brazil, they segregate their prisons according to gang membership. No exceptions. Not even for individuals who in fact are not members of any gang.

How does that work? Easy. Upon being admitted to the prison system, unaffiliated prisoners are required to join a gang

We started with music, so we shall end with it. Music from the Death Factory.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 50 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

My Booky-Wook by Russell Brand

Down among the have-nots, the drunks and the junkies, fleeting moments of mutual connection happen quite frequently. With Barry, fine brown hair, concave chest, sad, sad eyes, the Queen’s Arms pub; ‘’Ello me old mucker, put one on the pipe for us, I’m brassick.’ With his handler Pats, who looked like Mick Reid crossed with an ox; they did house clearances – taking all the stuff out of old people’s homes after they’d died. Pats told me that the first thing Barry would do was go straight to the medicine cabinet, rifle through all the pill packets and bottles, and neck the lot. It made no difference what they were for – rheumatism, athlete’s foot, piles.
Barry, perpetually upbeat, had never got over the death of his father, who was a boxer. I once went round to the place where he’d lived with his dad. It was quite a big terraced house – and there was hardly any furniture in it. I sat in there with just this electric bar heater for comfort, smoking dope and taking daft prescription drugs.
We’d induced a comfortable silence and I glanced at Barry; orange in the three-bar glow, he just looked lost and sad, like my nan when I recognised that she was ready to die, but he was in his twenties – just a man in an empty house, lit by a bar-fire, on drugs he’d found in a dead man’s cupboard. A beautiful soul who fell through life.


It feels sort of like false advertising to post such an uncharacteristically poignant excerpt from the book (or booky-wook, if you will. I will not...) but I really liked the phraseology. While much of the book is characterised by a sense of sadness, most of it is hideously funny – Brand has a self-acknowledged need to turn his pain into attention-seeking humour, and has done so for this book. It also ranks on my list of books I really shouldn’t have taken to school with me; the students – fascinated by the cover image of Brand, who recently hosted the MTV awards they all watched – all asked to read it, but given that I was up to the part where Brand discusses the idea of using dental floss to strangle his genitals while in rehab for sex-addiction – which happens in the first paragraph of page one and then proceeds to get worse - I decided against it. (Of course, I still had American Psycho on my desk from the other day, but that has a boring cover, so none of them have asked about it yet. I should put that away...)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Books You Should Be Reading Number 49 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The conversation follows its own rolling accord – no real structure or topic or internal logic or feeling; except, of course, for its own hidden, conspiratorial one. Just words, and like in a movie, but one that has been transcribed improperly, most of it overlaps. I’m having sort of a hard time paying attention because my automated teller has started speaking to me, sometimes actually leaving weird messages on the screen, in green lettering, like “Cause a terrible scene at Sotheby’s” or “Kill the President” or “Feed me a stray cat,” and I was freaked out by the park bench that followed me for six blocks last Monday evening and it too spoke to me. Disintegration – I’m taking it in my stride.


American Psycho first came to my attention when I was eighteen and a bunch of my classmates started talking about it. This was unusual, because the fine upstanding folk that I went to school with didn’t, as a rule, discuss things that weren’t related to rugby, beer or date-rape.
“Sounds interesting,” I thought, as my peers offered such glowing reviews as: “It has heaps of killing in it and swearing and he has sex with, like, girls. Sex!” While it didn’t sound like quite my cup of tea, I filed it in the back of my brain for later reference.

Over subsequent years, I had many people recommend it to me. People from various subcultures, walks of life and pretentiousness levels have attempted to proselytise me to the way of American Psycho, most of whom reviewed it thusly: “It has heaps of killing in it and swearing and he has sex with, like, girls. Sex!”

Having read a random copy that I recently found on my bookshelf (I think I’ve figured out who it belongs to – Hey Eric, I have your book) it seems to me that these well-intentioned reviewers quite spectacularly missed the point. I mean, for a start, no one ever told me it was a comedy. (Well, satire, but you know...) I mean, hell for over a third of the book he doesn’t do anything except be a typical nineteen-eighties Wall-Street scumfuck. Twice he mentions in an offhand way that he’d like to inflict brutal harm on someone, but that’s fewer times than I’ve threatened people to their faces today... (I’m quite proud of the look I got from one of my form class this morning when I told her that if she forgot her PE gear one more time I was going to cut her head off and present it to the PE teacher as a gift. But that’s another story...)

While the sex and violence in the last hundred pages or so wasn’t really to my taste, it’s possibly the best book about the eighties I’ve ever read. An ex-student with whom I was discussing the book has recommended Glamorama – apparently it does much the same for the nineties, my personal decade of choice...

I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Today’s music video, the horrible Fluorescent Adolescence, by The Arctic Monkeys. They’re an awful band, but this video is a thing of sublime terror. Gangsters fighting clowns.

Seriously, that shit’s not okay...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Spell-check now recognises the verb “texted”. Who knew...?

Apathy Jack writes:

As those who follow my various livejournal posts and meltdowns in Real Life™ will know, I don’t understand social networking sites, so I don’t know what is accepted as normal and what is not...

So as I’m “talking” to someone over facebook’s chat function, my phone buzzes. The message I have just read has been texted to me by the same person. Now, this was, well, I don’t know the twenty-first century term, but it was an active chat; we were replying to one another at some speed – she didn’t think I had gone offline or anything, she just figured it was an important enough idea to relay to me simultaneously in two different media.

I think that counts as post-modernism, but I’m not really sure anymore...

And just while we’re talking about facebook, I’ve had a fair number of ex-students track me down, and I’ve dutifully added the vast majority of them because, you know, that’s how I understand the etiquette of these things to work. One of my recent additions is a girl who was in my class at a time when she was making quite large changes in her life; whose two sisters I taught; whose mother I got to know quite well over six years of teaching three daughters; of whom I still fondly remember the time we sat and ate lunch at Stage Challenge – all the others had spread out through the Aotea Centre, so we guarded the bags, ate our respective food and chatted on and off for a while. It was a pleasant interlude in an otherwise very stressful day. When I look at her facebook status and see that it reads “(student’s name) says cuddling afterwards is for bitches”, well, it just warms the heart, it does...

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Apathy Jack writes:

Double-header today, of videos which turn their featured bands into cartoon superheroes.

Firstly, Tadpole's Better days, which casts the band as Dragonball Z-esque warriors fighting, I dunno, some guy. I was never a fan of Dragonball Z, but damn do I like this video. It's fast paced and genuinely funny.

Nextly, Skankenstein, by Kora. Less humour, but some very nice superhero-style scenes as the band rallies to defend the Earth from a threat from outer space.

(As per usual, linked to rather than embedded because of the drop in quality that comes with embedding.)

Friday, September 05, 2008

Dear Ratepayer

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

North Shore City Council sent me a glossy newsletter, being one of their ratepayers, with a handy break-down of how each dollar of my hard earned money is spent. By my reckoning I could cut that rates bill by half on my first morning in office with no adverse effects. Those in bold are gone!

Wastewater = 23 cents.
Keep the council doing this, and other infrastructure related tasks for the time being.

Public transport, roads and footpaths = 17 cents. It's a shame they grouped these together. As with wastewater, roads and footpaths are infrastructure and we'll keep those under the council's remit. But there is no reason why getting from "A" to "B" should need government funding. There are quirks to this as transport uses roads set out by and destinations zoned by government, of course uselessly as anyone who has suffered through the Esmonde Road and Lake Road cycle lane upgrades is painfully aware. Still, interfering more with subsidies won't help any, just privatise it and leave it alone, the market works just fine.

So we'll guess and take 5 cents off for public transport leaving 12 cents for roads.

Parks, beaches and sportsfields = 15 cents. Ceased and sold to interested parties and sports clubs immediately.

Environmental planning = 11 cents. Gone. I don't need my environment planned, thanks. I'm not four years old.

Libraries = 7 cents. Also gone. perfectly good books are dirt cheap from second hand bookshops.

Stormwater = 7 cents. It is infrastructure so we'll keep it.

Community services = 5 cents. Can't think of anything worthwhile this could be.

Environmental programmes = 4 cents. I don't need my environment programmed either, just bugger off!

Economic initiatives = 3 cents. Gone. What in God's name is a government doing involving itself in the economy?

Leisure services = 3 cents. Gone. As with parks and sportfields I am quite capable of sorting out my own free time.

Governance = 3 cents. Keep, just running costs.

External levies = 2 cents. Keep.

All up we're keeping only 47 cents of the current dollar. For the average North Shore ratepayer with an $1800 rates bill for this year I'd give them back $900, or $17 per week!