Sunday, 8 June 2014

Entertainment stuff from the week 2-8/6/14

Hi princesses

Richard Dawkins has been in the News, again, this week. And guess what for... that's right - something he didn't say.

And we all know what that means, don't we, children. That's right - moronic, bilious Dawkins-baiting! And i love making fun of idiocy, so here goes...


What he did not say, was that telling children stories was a bad idea. What he did say, was that the specific genre of Fairy Tales inculcates children with worldviews in which they think supernatural bollocks can or does happen.

And it seems every village idiot and his dog has jumped up to make fallacious arguments in their defense. The deceitful, supernaturalistic Fairy Tales, that is - not the guy every priggish wanker loves to hate.

"A degree of magical content supports imaginative development"
said an epidemiologist, superstitiously, and thereby betraying the whole point of her career.

"and the transmission of the story is important as it creates intimacy, routine and a bonding experience" she continued. All these things can be had with realistic stories, which the Dawkster was expressly not condemning.

{Note: modern journalists are notorious for quote-mining - the researcher might not even have known her statements were being used to contradict RD}

'Dr David Kirby, a researcher on science and public life from Manchester University, points out that Dawkins himself is able to distinguish between fiction and reality, despite being told stories as a child.'

Yes, Dave - 'despite'. 'DESPITE'. That means his ability to distinguish reality from fantasy was held back by his parents lying to him, at an early age, when he didn't know reality sufficiently well to realise that he was being lied to. Your argument is self-decapitating!

'Little Red Riding Hood, he says, is "essentially about telling young girls to stay away from strange men".'

What, you mean like the huntsman? The story warns Little Red Rising Hood to stay away from wolves; and she is rescued by the huntsman, who is rewarded with... a kiss. From a young girl. The strange man, in this story, is made out to be the hero! Of all the examples he could have come up with, he picks that one - it's like he chose to commit polemic suicide.

"Tropes such as 'once upon a time' or 'in a far-away land' mean that these stories often begin with an introduction that immediately flags up that these are things do not occur in everyday life and help a child to inquire into what is real and what's not." says Sally Goddard Blythe, the author of a bullshit book

Once again, another prize pillock has managed to provide an example that contradicts their own argument!

Both these clauses do not suggest fantasy - they suggest a real world that's just somewhere or somewhen else, so that they can't be visited. And if they can't be visited, they can't be verified.

[But why would mum read me this story if there weren't a point to telling a completely invalid tale that couldn't be verified? Ah, i know - because mummy's trying to tell me that baseless rumour is a good thing to pass off as veritable. Yay :o) ]

"Fantasy and myths can even help children think outside the box and make the sort of leaps that lead to scientific invention and discoveries." says the article author.

Oh, i see - because arbitrary moral authorities like Mother Holle are incredibly stimulating to invention, aren't they. Grown-up programmes like Star Trek have been hailed as prophetic, because they invented props that stood in for technologies of convenience - mobile phones, tricorders, and the not-yet-existant teleporters.

What they don't help with, is when a witch just magics something to happen, completely bypassing the mechanism in the middle that might stimulate someone to work out how it could happen in real life.

Plus, this completely misses the point that Fairy Tales are not about blue-skies innovation - they are about social ethics.

The vast majority include magic in some way, invoked by a magical character - a kindly fairy or obscure strange man (I hope you're listening, David Kirby) or a wicked witch, bent only on evil - who bequeaths either great physical, monetary, or social wealth on characters that are 'nice' or horrid disfigurements and suffering on those who are 'bad'.

--  In 'The Golden Goose' for example, Dummling meets a strange man in the forest, whom he is nice to, and so he is rewarded with the Golden Goose, marriage to a princess, and thereby wealth beyond his dreams for the rest of his life. Moral of the story: be overly trusting and philanthropic towards strange men, and you'll become king despite the hereditary nature of monarchism.

--  In 'Rapunzel' a man steals rapunzel for his pregnant wife (hence the name of his daughter) from the garden of an evil witch, who claims Rapunzel as reparation. When a dashing prince discovers her, he tries to rescue her, and so the witch blindens him and takes Rapunzel away. Through magicky luvvy-duvvyness, the prince finds her again, and her tears magically give him sight back. Moral of the story: theft should be met with disproportionate punishment, and magic can repair senses. Oh, and lots of bits of silk work better than a rope!

--  In 'Table Lay Yourself' a deceitful goat meets its comeuppance, and three hard-working sons are rewarded with magic gifts, two of which are stolen by a selfish innkeeper, the third of which is used to punish him with a savage beating. Moral of the story: lies will leave you worse off than before, and selfishness too - both of which should be punished with excessive violence.

--  In 'Jack and the Beanstalk' a strange man engages in a fanciful deal with a young boy, which rewards immense wealth, through theft from a horrid ogre, who is eventually murdered. Moral of the story: mountebanks sometimes pay out, and an appropriate way to get rich, is to steal golden eggs and abduct singing harps from people who 'live in the sky' (you don't know much about).

--  In 'The Good Fairy' a fairy gives a beautiful and polite girl a reward for having a horrid step-mother and step-sister, which involves gems falling from her mouth when she speaks. Fanchon - her step-sister - is punished for rudeness, with snakes and toads falling from her mouth instead. Moral of the story: rich people got that way from being nice and obsequious; poor and lonely people got that way from being brusque.

--  In 'Mother Holle''s pretty much the same.

--  In 'The Three Little Men In The Wood' ...well, same again.

All the way through them, however, there is a consistent and nefarious equivocation between moral goodness, and physical beauty. To this day, albinos are cast as evil creatures in films, and baddies as horribly disfigured. Is this the 'thinking outside the box' that the Dawkins-bashers are thinking of?

I think not. Albinos are treated with outrageous discompassion in various parts of the world - not just Hollywood.

But i think it's pretty clear that if Fairy Tales have the power to corrupt young minds in Practice, as well as Theory, they have long been superseded by Film & TV. Within which, there is a huge equivocation between moral character and outward appearance/demeanour. 'Nice' characters are happy and chirpy, and 'bad' characters are dark, brooding, and furrow-browed.
In the most melodramatic of soap operas, scowls are such a staple, that there is rarely an opportunity for cast members to separate their eyebrows from their top lips.

J.K.Rowling nicely turned this on its head, by making Dolores Umbridge a sickly sweet, chirpy character, and Severus Snape a dark, brooding, and surprisingly good guy.

Where do i fall on the subject of telling Fairy Tales to kids? Well, i think i've largely given that away already. But lies are OK, as long as they're not deceitful...

I don't curse Rowan Atkinson, because Blackadder's not real - the whole point of fiction is that we're all engaged in the pretense. But if a Fairy Tale is not told in that vocalised context - that none of it's real - then we're leading our kids (and hence our future adults) astray. All of the protestations come from contemporary adults, who were weaned on bullshit, as children.

And as for the idea that we should 'test' their ability to tell fantasy from reality... does anyone ever really ask their kids whether believed all that nonsense? I don't think they do, so that's not a practically relevant question. But even if it were, i think there are much better ways to demonstrate that adults lie - by showing them the real world, not a fantasy one!

More from the Beeb's Magazine Monitor: this article is the very definition of pretentiousness :-D

'Smashed Hits: Another Star'

And on to the 'World Cup 2014'

No, don't be silly - it's not a glazed pottery competition - it's a Soccer competition.

As i had to explain to somone else, recently, Soccer is a kind of football. And football is a game that involves feet. That's why it's called 'football'. There's Rugby (League and Union) Football; there's Aussie Rules Football; there's American Football; and there's Association (from which the term 'soccer' derives) Football. These are the most popular, but there are others.

Uniquely, soccer is the only one of these to completely forbid (most) competitors from using their hands, which profoundly limits the application of skill that the sport can involve. All around the world, football is a game that pretty much everyone can play. Everyone can grab a synthetic pig's bladder and knock it around a field/alleyway/kitchen; but somehow, even professional soccer players can't entirely resist their instincts to put their hands out. Oh dear :-/

And yet, weirdly, it is a sport that has the highest ratio of viewers to players. A game like snooker will often be viewed by ~100 people. That's 50 spectators per player. Whereas a WC match - that's World Cup, not Water Closet - will have at least 1,000 spectators per player.

It just gets even weirder, when you consider that, well, not much happens. In fact, there's no guarantee that a single goal will be scored, in more than an hour and a half of play, in a league or round-robin match.

It contrasts quite starkly with a racquet sport, in which the whole point is to exploit the dexterity of hands, while still using the feet for moving around; and the scoring system means points can't not be scored!

But how has soccer succeeded in garnering this popularity? Well, basically through being the most derivative, basic, easy-to-engage-in sport going. It's the cut-price lager of the sporting world. That's probably why Carlsberg cashes in so much :-P

And that brings me on to the subject of advertising.

The Water Closet 2014, as with so many before it, has benefitted from completely free (and paying) advertising, through companies that wish to associate themselves with it, on the grounds that it has pre-existing popularity.

And because so many companies will spend millions on advertising campaigns, using the WC as a marketing tool, even more people know about it, and so the tool itself is strengthened, providing ever more reason for companies to use the WC as a marketing tool in future. It's like a self-fulfilling prophesy.

'Google maps World Cup soccer venues'

'Physicists test aerodynamics of soccer ball types prior to World Cup (w/ Video)'

In fact, i'm bearing it out myself, right now :-D

The more other people try to cash in, the more cash FIFA can reel in, too. In fact, the sport itself seems rather superfluous, doesn't it!?

But something that's not a self-fulfilling prophesy, is the idea that WCs will necessarily make people's lives better... well, WC toilets will, if they need better sanitation, but World Cups don't.

And they don't necessarily benefit the lives of species that they've employed as mascots.

Scientists have challenged FIFA to use their massive earnings to help Fuleco - their Cup mascot - and the armadillo species Tolypeutes tricinctus, which has recently been reclassified from 'vulnerable' to 'in danger'. That's worse, BTW.

Brazilian scientists wrote, in Biotropica "As football fans and conservationists, we challenge Fifa and Brazil to set an ambitious mark: at least 1000 hectares of Caatinga declared as protected area for each goal scored during the 2014 World Cup"

That would mean about 170,000 hectares of Caatinga (the kind of forest in which the real Fuleco lives) set aside for conservation. If FIFA doesn't (and they haven't yet responded to the challenge) then their mascot might easily become a character based on an extinct species.

'Row over protection for World Cup mascot armadillo'

Pseudoscience story of the week:

Is it true that lady-named hurricanes are more deadly than manly-named hurricanes? Some people seem to think so.

They've been claiming that it's caused by people perceiving ladylike hurricanes to be less intimidating, and so they've done less to avoid it, resulting in more deaths.

But there are huge problems with this 'study':

- The data runs from 1953 onward, and yet all hurricane names were female until 1979, since when they've alternated male and female gender
- The claimants weren't using a binary male/female system - they were using their personal perceptions of masculinity/femininity in names, even for the all-female 1953-1978 period (so Victoria was perceived less feminine than Camille)
- Removing just Hurricane Sandy swings the correlation in favour of 'manly' hurricanes being deadlier

So basically, what this means, is that the signal - the actual correlation between 'femininity' and deadliness - is incredibly weak, in order to be changeable by one data point. And weak correlations are much more likely to be a fluke.
It also means that the calibration system is incredibly subjective, in classifying names by sexist perception. That means the researchers could easily warp their perceptions, in their mind, to fit their prejudices.

So all that's happened, with this 'research' is that some sexist people saw exactly what they wanted to see - validation of sexism, by the populist fallacy.

Are lady-named hurricanes really more dangerous? Na-ah.


The 7th June 2014 was the 261st anniversary of the founding of the British Museum - one of the most awesome museums in the world.

The 5th of June is World Environment Day, and WED 2014 was marked by a new World Record for people hugging trees simultaneously. 2001 people hugged trees in a park outside Nepal's capital city - Kathmandu - for two minutes. Most were school children, but some lawyers turned up too. Guinness World Records will get back to them within a couple of months; but for now, the record officially stands with 936 people in Oregon, in 2013.

On Friday, the 6th of June 2014, the CIA joined both twitter and Facebook. So now the world can voyeurise their daily regimens, for a change. "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet," the Central Intelligence Agency quipped on its newly minted official Twitter page. Within two hours of the post, it received around 90,000 retweets and the CIA counted 115,000 followers. The Twitter Government and Politics team welcomed the posting with a #BestPractice hashtag for being "creative with your first tweet."

In other news:

The face of Jesus on a rusting air conditioning unit? Pareidolic superstition, yet again. And, of course, also another arrogant theistic wanker, claiming to be able to recognise someone they've never met :-D

Why isn't this also considered to look like Jesus? It's just as valid. You can't prove he didn't look like that, LOL

Propaganda from the American Beverage Association has 'found' that people lose more weight, if they drink soft drinks. Unsurprisingly, the claim comes with false validity, as 'research' funded by the ABA! This goes to show the deeply corrupting nature of industry funding. Research funded by industry simply can't be trusted due to the inherent and often incredibly obvious biases introduced into the data. I mean, come on - soft drinks help you lose weight? Absurd, and certainly not evidential!

Harvard has 'confirmed' that it has books bound in human skin. I'm afraid this isn't really news, but the Media seems to think it is, so what the hell. And they're always right, right? Anthropodermic bibliopegy, as it's known, has been conducted since at least as far back as the 17th century, sometimes as a post-mortem punishment but also as a poetic tribute or maybe macabre curiosity. Harvard's 'Des destinées de l’ame' comes with this description: "A book about the human soul deserved to have a human covering: I had kept this piece of human skin taken from the back of a woman." Funky stuff :o)

But if you think that's weird, then read this: a half-biological-half-engineered ear, suspended in nutrients solution, sits in the ZKM Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe. Why? It's a replica of the ear Vincent van Gogh half-severed, more than a century ago. The great-grandson of his brother, Theo - Lieuwe van Gogh - donated cartilage cells, to grow the biological bits. Even weirder: visitors can speak to the ear, through a microphone! The ear goes on tour - to New York - in 2015 :-D

A swarm of grasshoppers so large that it was picked up on weather maps, has been flying around New Mexico, USA. The meteorologists knew they weren't looking at rain, because the particles were not uniform, and moving differently - in fact, they contemplated whether their equipment was broken - until they realised they were looking at a swarm of grasshoppers!

A species of bat that was last recorded in 1890 has been caught in a trap, by researchers, once again. After 50-60 years of not being seen, a species is reclassified as 'extinct' but this, of course, can be overturned. This species lives in the hugely biodiverse rainforests of Papua New Guinea, where many more entirely-new species are discovered, every year. Unfortunately, the number of species that disappear off the map is also far greater than those that turn up, out of the blue, after 124 years! Conservation work continues, to learn as much as can be found, about this bizarre and wonderful species, in order to best preserve them, and t least get to know them before they disappear forever.

The oldest trousers ever found, have turned up in an excavation of the Chinese Yanghai graveyard, in the Tarim Basin. Carbon-14 radiometric dating has dated them to ~3000 years old. Historians believe they would likely have been used to assist in horse riding, to reduce chafing. If true, then such garments might have been worn for a millennium by the time these pair were made, as horseriding existed in the region since 4000 years ago. There's a picture of them, at the link:

I've reported on the Solar Impulse solar-powered aeroplane on this blog, before, and so i shall report on its successor - Solar Impulse II, too. It carried out a test-flight on Monday, and is due to far outperform its predecessor. SI1 managed a 26-hour flight (day and night) and SI2 is expected to do a 120-hour flight (also non-stop) allowing it to do trans-atlantic and trans-pacific journeys. And all with the power of the Sun - no fossil fuel burning :o)

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

'Captain Hook, Darth Vadar and Blofeld send their apologies'

'John and Kevin's Sunday Papers - June 2014'

'Jay Foreman - Stephen Hawking's Secret'
"Jay wrote that especially for us" Yeah, that's why he uploaded it to YouTube :-D

'Seth MacFarlane performs his Family Guy voices - The Graham Norton Show'

'A. Murray v. F. Verdasco 2014 French Open Men's R4 Highlights'

'Porsche Panamera S e-Hybrid | Fully Charged'
A hybrid Porsche, selling at £80,000, test driven by Bobby Llew. Nice :o)

'Your Family Tree Explained'

'Lo-Fi Augmented Reality!'

'D Day Science - A Week in Science'

'A Rattling Good Read'

The stuff in this video just gets better and better and better :-)

'Bites, Stings, Spines, and Spurs - Venom Delivery'

'Afterlife is Meaningless Without Afterafterlife'Theology is its own refutation, LOL

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: découpage -- the art of decorating an object by gluing colored paper cut-outs to it, maybe in combination with paint effects, gold leaf, etc

Etymology Of The Week: utopia -- coined by Thomas More in 1516, for his book about a perfect place; but from the greek roots 'ou' and 'topos' meaning 'not' and 'place'; 'utopia' therefore means 'nowhere'. often mistaken for 'eu-topos' where 'eu' would mean 'good'. the word 'dystopia' was fallaciously developed as an antonym to the original, in meaning 'bad place'

Fact Of The Week: In the Bahamas, there is a population of pigs that can frequently be seen swimming in the clear caribbean waters around the island called 'Pig Beach'. It should not, however, be confused with the 'Bay of Pigs' which is on the opposite side of Cuba, and in fact a mistranslation of 'Bahía de Cochinos' where 'Cochinos' refers to the Orangeside triggerfish (Sufflamen verres).

Film Review Of The Week: Grace Of Tax Avoidance

------------------------------------------------------ non-contemporary stuff

As is common in the world of YouTube, a channel has uploaded a bunch of videos all at once. Here are some of the videos recently uploaded by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science:

'Richard Dawkins: Vestigial Organs: The Wings of the Flightless Cormorant'

'Richard Dawkins: Insurance Policy: Two Eggs, One Survivor'

'Richard Dawkins: Show Me the Intermediate Fossils! - Nebraska Vignettes #1'

'Richard Dawkins : Comparing the Human and Chimpanzee Genomes - Nebraska Vignettes #3'

'Richard Dawkins : Ants That Farm, Compost and Weed - Nebraska Vignettes #4'

'Richard Dawkins: Diatoms: The Evolution of a New Species - Nebraska Vignettes #5'

'Richard Dawkins: Hawaii as a Nursery of Evolution - Nebraska Vignettes #6'

'Animals In Space'

'Hyper-realistic Ballpoint Pen Art'

'Massage By a Burmese Python, Anyone?'

'Poor Tim'

'Ecs Men'

'What Does the Spleen Do? ft. Harvard Medical School'
FYI: this is a parody of Ylvis' 'What Does The Fox Say?' :-P

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