Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Antiques Roadshow Drinking Game

Josh writes:

There are doubtless many variations to be found on the Internet, but in celebration of the show's return to TV1 last night, a bunch of us played with the following rules, which we made up ourselves:

The primary part of the game is a simple guess at the valuation, with the person farthest away from the correct price drinking.

All participants drink if any of the following things occur or are said:

  • A translation is given for the Asian language read from the bottom of porcelain.
  • Polite British surprise expressed a la C3PO. (Polite swearing = 2 drinks)
  • Open disagreement over valuation.
  • Oiks with highly expensive items. (Scousers = 2 drinks)
  • Extreme accents that are hard to follow (except Welsh).
  • Annoying laugh.
  • Served royalty.
  • Item bought by a relative who was a sailor (excluding scrimshaw).
  • Bought in a car boot sale.
  • "That's interesting, I have another at home."
  • Pre-1500 (except Peruvian).
  • A personal letter to that person as a child from A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, or E.H. Shepard.
  • Iconic U.S. toy made in Germany.
  • "Did you play with it as a child?"
  • Object irretrievably damaged by owner through stupidity.

These are the rules we played with last night -- suggestions for new conditions to add next time included "poorly disguised disappointment at the valuation" and "appears Japanese but actually made in China"/"appears Chinese but actually made in Japan"/"appears Asian but actually made in Britain".

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Books You Should Be Reading # 19 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night by Christopher Brookmyre

William Connor was standing outside a disused cattleshed on a bright Highland summer's morning, ankle-deep in cowshit, liquidised mercenary raining splashily down about his head from the crisp blue sky above. He wasn't an overly superstitious man, but this was precisely the sort of thing that tended to make him wonder whether fate wasn't trying to drop just the subtlest of hints.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
The category selection thing that comes with the new format has kindly counted my posts for me.

This will be post number 248.

Good lord, I think I need a holiday.

So with that, I'm off for a while. No, you bastards don't get rid of me that easily, I'm just travelling for a week or three.

To keep you occupied over the Capitalismas season, you get Christmas songs. Hewligan over at Mutopia has pointed out in his own list that Fairytale of New York is a bit trite these days, but he also makes the valid point that it's just so good that it doesn't matter. So here's the video.

In a slightly less depressing mood, here is the video for Give the Jew Girl Toys, by Sarah Silverman.

And lastly, an audio file of Hey Santa Claus, by Kevin Bloody Wilson; the only Christmas song from my childhood that is still relevant all these years later.

Oh, and while its not a song, here's something done by the fine upstanding folk at Loadingreadyrun back when there was the storm-in-a-teacup over the term "Christmas" being offensive to those that didn't celebrate it...

Merry whatever.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
So, Brain Stab has lasted two years. If that isn't a testament to something being frighteningly wrong with society, I don't know what is.

Alright, two things in repsonse to Josh's post here.

Firstly, to address the scandalous, nay; libellous suggestion that I am anything like the character of Sparky on Outrageous Fortune. Obviously, this is both untrue and hurtful, and I would like to challenge Josh to a bare-knuckle boxing match to reclaim my honour.

I'd like to, but I can't. Old knee injury acting up I'm afraid. But let me tell you, I'm giving Josh the most evil of glares the next time he isn't looking...

Anyhoo, the question was also raised (to paraphrase) - What the hell is up with Gwen Stefani? By way of an answer: an extended diatribe, with video accompaniment

This is the latest is a long line of things that are all The Neptunes' fault.

The Neptunes are Pharrell Williams and Some Asian Guy, two producers who, as far as I know, came to fame after producing Kelis' Caught Out There. Apparently they were famous before that, but I had never heard of them, so that can't be the case...

In addition to being producers, they are also a group in their own right, who, as NERD, achieved some chart success with the remarkably catchy She Wants To Move, the video for which is worth watching just for Pharrell's "I'm fucking your girlfriend" facial expression. Yes, it turns out there is a facial expression to convey that. Watch the video - you'll see...

So, when Gwen Stefani released her solo alubum, Love Angel Music Baby, she employed a number of producers. She was a cypher for each - the songs produced by No Doubt's Tony Kanal sounded like No Doubt songs, the songs produced by the Neptunes sounded like typical Neptunes tracks, and such forth.

The song that got her the biggest acclaim was the Neptunes produced Hollaback Girl. No one really knows what she was doing there - even her own explainations of the song are somewhat garbled.

But this started a new paradigm. Upon releasing her solo album, Stefani was acclaimed as the alternative diva - a Mariah or a Beyonce that the off-centre crowd could get behind. And after Hollaback Girl, they didn't bother releasing the more rocky tracks.

There are two outbreaks of what I believe is the new norm in female pop. One is Fergie, who is following the formula faithfully. This is leading to mixed results, such as London Bridge, which is without exception the worst song released this year. Sometimes, though it works, such as Fergalicious, which is hypnotic. I mean, so is being hypnotised to kill the President, but, like that, it's the good form of hypnotic.

The second outbreak is Gwen Stefani's second album, with the single on the receiving end of Josh's ire, Wind It Up. Certainly, the horror of yodelling in pop music is enough to send Colonel Kurtz screaming into the jungle, to say nothing of the very idea of sampling The Sound of Music. But...

I guess its the video as much as anything - I hated Hollaback Girl when I listened to it the first time on the CD, but the video was really quite attention-catching. Much the same with Fergalicious. The video for Wind It Up is a hell of a mess, but it really is mesmerising. I'm not sure what this says about either Gwen or Fergie - the fact that their songs are only catchy when accompanied by videos that turn them into cartoon characters. For Fergie, this is pretty much the norm - she was always the Bouncy Girl(tm) in the Black Eyed Peas. For Gwen - it seems a pity that the person who wrote Just a Girl would become this.

The hell with it. Long story short: You all suck, and Christina Aguilera still rules.


Josh writes:

Ooh! Ahh! A new look for the site! Still a work in progress -- it'll be more interesting by the time it's done, but for now at least it's in the New Blogger style, with the super-expando Archives bit and RSS feeds for comments as well as posts and the wider layout which does away with the need for the "full posts on separate pages" thing and the complete inability to handle basic JavaScript without mangling it so that it doesn't fucking work. But that's not important right now.

What is important is that the change of theme marks Brain Stab's second birthday -- look at that little first post, all the way back in 2004. This is as good an excuse as any to make a few changea around the place, some of which may be far-reaching and earth-shattering. Of course, we were thinking along similar lines after the first birthday, and nothing really came of that.

The title, for the less matrimonially-inclined among you, relates to the traditional gift for 2nd wedding anniversaries. I note that the 3rd anniversary gift is leather. Watch this space next year...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Subjectivity '06

Josh writes:

It's that time of year -- the time when people take the opportunity to pad out their blogs with arbitrarily generated Best/Worst lists. Here, then, is my collection of meaningless subjectivity for 2006:

Best Song: Lily Allen's "LDN". Any song that features "slapper", "pimp", "crackwhore" and "filth" as slang for the police all in the first verse is guaranteed to get my vote.

Worst Song: Gwen Stefani's "Wind it Up". Jack, you know about these things -- was this song produced by the Neptunes on a bad day, or by someone trying to ape the Neptunes and failing badly? In any case, there's no excuse for yodelling in popular music.

Best Album: Tim Minchin's "So Rock". If you haven't heard of Tim Minchin (and chances are you haven't), you bloody should have. He is that rarest of chimerae, a musical comedian whose act contains both good music and hilarious comedy. If you like Bill Bailey, you really need to hear this guy.

Best Music Video: Any one where Eric Roberts appears as the bad guy. Which, at last count, was all of them. Honourable mention to the James Morrison one with all the attractive young women and their multitude of barely-concealed, peach-like bottoms.

Best TV Show: Heroes, which you probably haven't seen because it hasn't started here yet (thanks, Internet). As a person who's read my fair share of comic books, I was a little leery of the concept of "doing superheroes but really real in the real world", but my fears were unfounded -- not only does the superpowers angle get an intelligent and (mostly) non-melodramatic treatment, but the show itself strikes the best balance I've seen between keeping mysterious secrets to keep you interested and revealing things to keep you fucking interested. (Compare Lost, which appears to have crossed the "OK, now you're just pissing about" line with its audience in the third season, with the stunning revelation that... um... yeah. I'd give a spoiler warning, but I don't think there's anything to spoil.)

Best Local Show: Outrageous Fortune (not like there's many to choose from). One of the very few shows I make a point of watching every week. In fact, since Green Wing ended, it may be the only one. I particularly liked the reversal this season where Van is now the Good Son and Jethro is the evil one. And John Leigh's latest turn as Sparky the beardy pyromaniac, in which he finds God and becomes a self-flagellating street preacher, which was the closest New Zealand has come to an accurate portrayal of Apathy Jack on television.

Best Movie: Children of Men. I'm not taking the piss here -- this is seriously the best film I've seen in quite some time. Bleak but hopeful, it does an amazing job of putting you right in the middle of the action alongside the main character with some incomprehensibly well-choreographed continuous shots.

Best Line of Movie Dialogue I Heard This Year: "If you're going to dine with the devil, make sure you bring a long spoon!" - Jack Palance, Cyborg 2. The film's from 1993, but this year was the first time I watched it, see? RIP Jack Palance, by the way.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Books You Should Be Reading # 18 Of A Bunch

Apathy Jack writes:

Call Of The Weird by Louis Theroux

Over lunch, he shared stories about his days 'orgying' in the seventies. One of the hazards of being a Don Juan, Ike said, was that you couldn't always remember the people you'd orgied with. 'It's not that you're being snotty. It's just they change... One girl walked up to me and said, "You don't remember me?" She did this on Geraldo's show. I said, "No." She said, "I orgied with you for three days!"'
'You "orgied" with her - what does that mean?" I asked.
With glee, Ike said, 'That, man, it were her and a lot more girls and I was doing them all.'
'Have you ever orgied, Louis?' Audrey asked innocently, and pressed her wig with her hands.
'I don't think I ever have orgied,' I said.
'You never had five or six women at one time?' Ike asked. 'Hey, life passin' you by!'

Friday, December 08, 2006

Now Hear This

Josh writes:

OK, so Blogger finally seems to be allowing team blogs to convert to Beta. I have done so. Everything looks OK so far, although Morthos has reported irregularities... disturbing irregularities... trying to log on.

If everything goes pear-shaped over the next wee while, well, you'll know why.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Annual 2006 Brain Stab Awards for 'Self-Excellence in the Face of Overwhelming Apathy.'

That Morthos Stare writes:

It's that time of the year when we here at Brain Stab decide to award ourselves prizes (and thus justify all that grant money we're getting these days). It's been a tough year but someone had to orchestrate it and fill your lives with the fun and frolics you so desperately miss.

Pity about the lack of nazi fight nuns in graveyards, though. Next year...

Without further ado, the Annual 2006 Brain Stab Awards for 'Self-Excellence in the Face of Overwhelming Apathy.'

Part Deux.

The 'Don Brash Violation' Award - Apathy Jack

Where would we be without Jack? In a happy, brighter, faster world, but one without the incriminating details of Jack's pedagogical practices, which we say is a fair trade-off. Jack, month after month, gives us the sordid details of his students' lives; their drug use, their sex lives, their continuing travesties in becoming educated. Where other men would respect the privacy of their charges Jack sallies forth to make sure that we know exactly why he is becoming ever more emo.

The 'Nicky Hagar Pearler' Award - Eric Olthwaite

Eric Olthwaite does not post often but when he does he delivers pearlers. Not all his entires to Brain Stab this year have been rude wake-up calls but everyone of them has been timely, apt and sensible. Where others of us post crap entry after crap entry in a vain attempt to look productive Eric, in his wisdom, holds back for months at a time, crafting his thoughts into pellets of fried gold, ready for viral propagation. We would admire this sort of activity if it weren't for the fact that it makes the rest of us look bad. And, if the rest of us ever improve our game, it will make Eric look lazy.

The 'Misunderstood Pendant' Award - Josh

The Blogosphere is a tawdry place best suited to the prostitution of ideas and pie-fights, but some people keep on trying to make it 'intellectual.' The frequency of such acts has meant that a kind of watchperson role has had to evolve, and of all the Brain Stab posters Josh is the most likely to be cited in fireside conversations on the topic. From distinguishing 'gaffs' from 'gaffes' to debating the logical structure of similes, Josh admonishes us to be better, faster and less emo. Still, his cleverness sometimes backfires and sees him being accused of the same faults he is drawing attention to. Which, we suspect, proves the eternal truth that no one likes a smart arse.

The 'Ayn Rand is a Flatulent Busybody' Award - Brother Morthos

Brother Morthos is not deserving of any awards. He never shall be. We just like the title of this one and Brother Morthos would approve; anything to piss of the worthless bags of flesh that are the Objectivists.

The 'Word Cannot Parse this Sentence' Award - RSJS

Of all the posters to Brain Stab only one man has endeavoured to increase his language use to cyclopodean size. This 'man' is RSJS, a man whose sentences are so lengthy and convoluted that most mere mortals keep their 'Strunk and White' beside them whenever his name appears suffixed to a post. RSJS should be gratified to know that he has single-handedly reintroduced the 'adjectival adjectiving adjective' to the English language. Well done, that 'man.'

Special Guest Commentator Award - HORansome

In so many respects HORansome is the sixth man of Brain Stab, a vital fluid in the machinery that is a Stab. In. The. Head. Whilst he doesn't post articles to the site he does provide frankly insulting commentary to so many of them that should he disappear then the collective IQ of the Blogosphere would go up, up up. Seeing that we can't have that now, can we? we award him a prize in the hope that it will keep him with us for another year. Also, we like his profile picture.

Coming up next year: Apathy Jack chucks his job as a teacher and becomes an accountant, Josh writes every post in txt-spk, Eric advocates Objectivism for Fun and Profit, RSJS provides even more pictures of his penis and Brother Morthos finally gets around to produce hardcopies of the 'Manifesto of Self-Revocation.'

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oh I'm sorry this is abuse.

Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling writes:

Sir Karl Popper, a very successful philosopher, once explained his success in the following words...

"This success of my endeavours was due, I believe, to a rule of method: that we should always try to clarify and to strengthen our opponent's position as much as possible before criticising him, if we wish our criticism to be worthwhile"

This sounds pretty obvious, I well remember David Braddon Mitchell saying much the same thing almost as an aside in the first few weeks of Stage 1 Metaphysics, but as Michael Cloud says "obvious means overlooked", and in philosophy overlooking this simple maxim is entirely to your detriment. More than any other discipline, philosophy is about arguments. Sometimes putting forward novel ones of your own, but more often than not examining the arguments of others. If you don't examine other people's arguments correctly you will simply be marked down, no matter how innocently. It's no different from transposing a number in maths.

The thing about philosophy is that it is a sort of universal acid, it seeps through everything. The skills one learns in philosophy, of analysis, of spotting logical fallacies, of skillful argumentation, can be used pretty much anywhere there is a need for analysis, argumentation, or the spotting of logical fallacies. Simply put, if giving your opponent the best shot at being right is good enough for a debate in philosophy, then it is good enough for politics, economics, history, physics, biology, anything.

Unfortunately, The Blogosphere and Karl Popper's quote are alien to each other.

Take the recent furore over txt speak in exams. In both of the previous links not only the bloggers, but many commenters simply got stuck in to NCEA without any attempt to analyse just what the decision entailed, and if there was a strongest argument that could be put forward for allowing text speak to be used (incidentally something I did try to do, as did Hewligan)

Now, go back to the Popper quote, and read it again. What is the most important word?

It is the last one he uses.


If you do not give your opponent at least the courtesy of a decent showing, then your criticism is not worthwhile, and you are wasting your time. Why? Because those you are arguing against will simply say "that's not my argument" and ignore you. You have wasted your time.

Let's take a look at another example of this happening in practice, and since I have already criticised a right winger and a libertarian we'll look a left winger now, namely the blog of Jordan Carter. Around a month ago now, Jordan complained
that his views were not taken seriously, that he was seen as simply a mouthpiece for the Labour Party and so on.

Jordan thought the reason for this was because the views he put forward were the same as those of the Labour Party, or because he doesn't comment on certain things, but to my mind both of those are irrelevant. Even if Jordan only comments on certain things, and if the things he comments come from a (well argued) Labour Party line, he would deserve to be taken seriously. Jordan's problem is that he simply does not give his opponets any weight. As is evidenced by this post where he labels the National Party as being dedicated to reshaping New Zealand's society and economy in a direction of less fairness, less opportunity and more inequality and poverty.

This is not the stuff of worthwhile criticism. No matter what you think of the National Party, the best case to be made for them is not that of a bunch of people sitting around thinking of ways to wreck New Zealand.

It might be said that I am missing the point. Jordan might not give a shit what people think of him, and he might be using his blog as a bit of catharsis, letting raw emotion and raw opinion off his chest, and saving more refined analysis for other forums. That is fair enough - but given the post he did complaining that people didn't take him seriously I don't think my criticism has been misplaced. If you are not interested in your criticism's "being worthwhile", then Popper's maxim doesn't apply to you - no big deal.

I should also point out that I'm not just having a go at Jordan, although I might have focussed on him here, I could have picked anywhere from Sir Humphries, Tony Milne, or Martyn Bradbury (especially) to prove my point, amongst many others.

So how about a group effort to get The Blogosphere creating a little more light and a little less heat, and take some time to give your opponents a fair go. And here is the inevitable Monty Python reference for those who have made it through to the end.

Mac and Cheese

Josh writes:

My whatever-the-Civil-Union-equivalent-of-a-fiancee-is got her new school laptop upgrade last week. She decided to try out a MacBook this time, to see how the other half (fifth?) lives. Like all Macs, it's stupidly pretty and fun to use. The only thing that puts me off them these days (apart from price, obviously) is the increasingly desperate "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ad campaign.

I could appreciate the earlier ones that genuinely portrayed the strengths of Macs and the disadvantages of PCs, but they seem to have run out of genuine issues, and these days they're just making shit up. While my favourite is still the one with the Japanese woman representing a new digital camera (who the Mac can speak fluent Japanese to, while the PC doesn't know what they're saying), I wasn't aware that Windows PCs had any sort of reputation for compatibility problems with new devices. The most recent one is again trying to convince us that PCs are only good for spreadsheets and doing your taxes, and that a $2000 iMac is what you want to get to entertain your 10-year-old children.

It's just going to get worse -- I predict the following for their 2007 campaign:

Mac: Hi, I'm a Mac.

PC: And I'm a PC. Say, what are you doing there?

Mac: Well, I'm dining on fine caviar while receiving fellatio from numerous supermodels and teenage celebrities. How about you?

PC: I'm halfway up a Doberman Pinscher. Which has rabies. Because using Windows is like fucking a dog with rabies.

Mac: Boy, you sure do suck some balls, huh?

PC: I have rabies also.

I may be slightly off the mark on this one -- I was genuinely surprised that the McDonalds "JASOOON!" ad campaign didn't culminate in the son drugging his parents, dressing them in school uniforms and pimping them out to child molesters for $1.95 a pop. It seemed the obvious progression.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I Speak Corruption

Apathy Jack writes:

Originally uploaded by Brain Stab.
You know what I've been remiss in plugging? Radia. A two-person band consisting of my unhealthily good looking friends Kat and Ross. They've been procrastinating over making an album for, well, ever now, but have established a myspace presence. And while myspace causes cancer of the soul, it at least gives you all a chance to listen to two of their tracks; Elysium, and the beautiful I Speak Corruption.

Go here, listen to the tracks, then email or comment or do whatever it is one does on a myspace page and tell them to make with a full album.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Dirk Gentley's Holistic Wikipedia Searching

That Morthos Stare writes:

I have a task for you, my precious lovelies. I am searching for some information online and I'm having absolutely no luck whatsoever in finding it. I have, thus, hit upon the most likely source of info-pillaging; you lot.

Your task is to search for the information for me. Now, to make this interesting (and more likely to work) I'm not going to tell you what I'm searching for. I'm just going to assume that if you start searching for something then you're going to find, as a corollary, what I'm looking for.

Understand? Good. Detail how you got to what I'm looking for in the comments below.