Recent Entries in Rant

  Fun with Murder

Here's a little fun exercise that examines people's motives for killing. This was a test used by a famous American psychologist to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly.

Read this question, come up with an answer and then scroll down to the bottom for the result. For bonus points, identify the "famous American psychologist" who allegedly created this test.

"A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met this guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing, so much her dream guy she believed him to be, that she fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister."

Question: What was her motive for killing her sister? [Give this some thought before you answer?)

Answer: I'm not going to give you the answer. It's cheap. It doesn't make any sense if you give it any kind of thought. And I've been unable to find any kind of reliable information on the origin of this test. Nor have I found any kind of supporting information, such as how many serial killers were tested, how many of them answered correctly, or what that even means.

Instead, here are some funnier, more plausible alternate answers:

  • Unlike the psycho woman at the funeral, her sister was also taken with the mystery man, but the sister had the good sense to get the man's phone number. The psycho woman happened across the couple at a local strip club and murdered them both in a fit of rage.
  • The woman also killed her mother. She had always planned to kill her sister. The man at the funeral played no significant role in the whole situation.
  • The woman and the sister were conjoined twins and she committed suicide.
  • She had no sister, but pretended that she was her sister in order to track the man down without looking desperate.
  • The man's name was "Herb Sistern". The woman found him and killed him. There was a typo in the original story.
  • Her mother was her sister because (like in "Chinatown") the mother had an incestuous relationship with the grandfather. The mother/sister was actually in a state of narcolepsy when she was buried, and she escaped, threatening to void the large inheritance the woman was about to get. So she killed her "sister".
  • The woman and her sister were driving to the mall, when she caught a patch of ice and drove the car into a highway barrier. The sister was killed. No one said she murdered her sister.

I'm at 1842 this morning, listening in on a conversation between the clerks (servers? coffee-house people?) on some of the stupid things that stupid Americans think about Canada. Stuff like "Canadians live in cabins and drive dogsleds to work". Likewise, they're talking about some of the stupid fallacies that stupid Canadians think about America. Things like "all kids get automatic weapons as presents," or "everyone drives an SUV and has a gun in their glove compartment". One of the clerks is an American, the other Australian. That's why it's actually interesting to listen to this conversation: it's a new perspective on things -- I enjoy hearing this, because I don't often get an American perspective on things. Usually, I get one of two distinct opinions of the U.S. -- two different mindsets. On the one side, I get my impression of the U.S. from embedded Canadians living in various parts of the country -- from San Francisco to Texas, from Chicaco to Fort Wayne. My parents live in Florida these days, so I like to think I get a nicely rounded impression from my Canadian friends. The other impression I usually get from the U.S. is the non-skeptical patriotic propagana-ridden one, poisoned by the America-centric media. This kind of mindset believes things like "you have to support the president, just because he is the president," and "America is loved by the rest of the world, and has no imperialistic tendencies, whatsoever." Don't get me wrong... this mindset exists in Canada too; it's quite widespread, given the status of our own government today.

But it's interesting to hear two non-Canadians, embedded in Canada, talking about Canada. I like to hear that Canadians have a "holier-than-thou" attitude towards Americans, because we do. Most Canadians know we're secretly "holier-than-thou" when it comes to the U.S., so we're not afraid of dissecting it. We make fun of ourselves in our own sitcoms (one Corner Gas episode comes to mind -- where an American comes to Canada and is asked "Who is the head of Canada?" and correctly answers "The Govenor-General"). I like hearing about what others think of Canadians, not only because it's usually positive. Canadians like hearing criticism about themselves as a nation and as a culture. It tells us what we're doing wrong, and what we're doing right. We like to be informed of these things. We get our news from around the world, and while our own media isn't saturated with crazy patriotic sword rattling Canadian-centric propaganda (unless you read "The Toronto Sun"), we're still skeptical of it. We aren't afraid of asking others what they think of us, and we aren't afraid of being critical of our own government.

And, while it's warm inside, I'd hesitate to say it's delightful. Actually, the weather looks a lot better now than it did about ten minutes ago. It's still snowing and cold -- but at least it's acting a little seasonal. I'm a big fan of the whole "not snowing" thing, but recently, the weather has indeed been kind of frightful, in a "The Day After Tomorrow (2004)" kind of way. Luckily, it's not a "The Day After (1983)" kind of day, as that would mean some kind of nuclear war just started. I actually saw this on DVD at Future Shop the other day. I didn't buy it for much the same reason as I didn't "buy" it when it first came out on TV -- namely, it wasn't a very convincing movie. It was more like a long Twilight Zone episode, and had little plot, poor acting, and wasn't nearly as scary as it should have been. Nuclear war is a pretty final solution, and every documentary I've seen about it has been really scary. This film might scare a 13 year old, but it's certainly not the representation of fear that a cold-war era film should be. Essentially, the entire film is about a small American town in central Kansas, during the start of a nuclear war. There's nothing after the day after, so to speak, and while that's a little nihilistic, and one would think that works in a film like this, it doesn't really work. Besides, as time passes, I'm beginning to think that maybe a nuclear holocaust did hit Kansas, what with all the nuttiness there. People tend to get creepily religious near the end of things, so maybe Kansas knows more about this than the rest of the world. I'll say one thing: I will be pissed off to no end if the world gets destroyed and the last headlines are "The Cartoon Jihad", and "Cartoon protests a growing global crisis".

I'm probably being unduly harsh on that little film, perhaps on Kansas, also. If I am, it's because I didn't get much sleep last night. I was up late, rebooting a couple of servers for a customer, and simultaneously working on the Radio Zuckervati site. I changed the layout to three columns, and am seriously considering making another blog -- I like dynamic pages, especially now that I have a decent blog software supporting the site. I reworked the ShoutCast server, and it's streaming again. It's a little choppy if I get too many people on it, but it appears to be stabilized for the time being. I've been getting a lot of submissions from MusicSUBMIT, and now I'm even getting emails from artists and agents, who, without actually looking at my site, think that I'm some kind of music guru. Imagine, having people wanting me to add them to my playlist? Sending me MP3s and saying it's OK to broadcast them? It lends a strange air of legitimacy to what is essentially a pirate radio station -- albeit one that's analagous to playing music in your car with the windows down. That's about the limit of my listenership -- me, and maybe one or two others who happen by.

So, I've enlisted a couple of friends, and plan on having some music reviews posted on my site. This gives small, unknown artists some needed publicity, and I get some free stuff, including MP3s I can play on my site *with their permission*. Who knew? Kind of makes the music blog a good idea.

Heh. I'm wiping away tears of laughter from Orbifold's post. Let's play "count the fallacies" on an X-tian fundamentalist tract from a public washroom:

Ad hominem! Straw man! Argument from Incredulity! Appeal to Popularity! Appeal to Fear! The author didn't quite hit the Begging the Question and Burden of Proof fallacies as well, but he came pretty darned close.

orbifold: Stupid proselytizers

This is pretty weird, interesting, and depressing all at once. The very cool newspaper, "Seattle Weekly", printed in full a leaked copy of "The Wedge". It's the Discovery Institute's 1998 document outlining a strategy to promote intelligent design. It's hard to believe that DI (a religious Seattle think tank) launched the modern intelligent-design movement with a simple memo. What's harder to believe is that not only did the idea evolve into a media sensation, but that the memo appears to be foreshadowing the completion of DI's short-term goals. Whether we all smarten up and prevent the long term goals from succeeding remains to be seen.

DI's goals are simple, and quite destructive to science:

Governing Goals:

  1. To defeat scientific materialism, and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies
  2. To replace materialistic legacies with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

The paper's also got some nifty related stories, including a brief history of intelligent design, and information on the memo's original distribution on the 'Net, including a story on the guys who originally leaked the memo, back in 1999. Yes, 1999. Can you believe it? That DI's original goals were released on the Internet over half a decade ago, and it hasn't stopped them from accomplishing their 5 year plan? Luckily, people are starting to recognize where this is heading, and are trying to put a stop to it. I just hope we react a little faster when the memo about replacing cheese with Soylent Green comes out.

  Layton's got my vote back

Like I promised. But I'm warning him... Bang, Zip! Straight to the moon, Jack!

Actually, the election outcome was pretty much what I figured it was going to be. What I wasn't expecting was Martin's resignation. If a party leader resigned every time they lost a vote, well, Harper would have been fired three times already.

In any case, I'm willing to see where this goes. The absolute worst case scenario is that Harper implements a bunch of good stuff, and then gets re-elected to a majority government.

Actually, a worse case would be something like: Belinda Stronach turns out to be a clever plant by the Conservatives, whose "defection" was just enough to form a crippled Liberal government, so that more scandals could be uncovered, and the government toppled. This, in turn, would force the resignation of leader, Paul Martin, and the rise of Belinda Stronach as the new leader. Her first act as leader is to disband the Liberal party and defect back to the now all-powerful Neo-Conservative party. Heil Harper. Oh, just kidding, folks. Geez.

So, as I was saying ... the current government is fine. We'll see how it plays out. Hope to god I don't have to say "I told you so..."

Those (if any) who read my journal will know without a doubt that I am a liberal. It's fairly easy to see that I've got my nose into 'Merican politics, sure, but you don't often see me talking at all about Canada, unless it's really big. I've been trying to change that in recent months, since we live in such interesting times. Normally I leave Clvrmnky to pick up the slack there. He's quite helpful in tracking down issues about copyright, music sharing, and electronic privacy rights. Very helpful to the cause.

Again, though, I'm pretty much a liberal guy. I'm pro-gay rights, pro-choice, anti-war, pro-peacekeeping, etc. I'm a humanist (and a misanthrope, if you can believe it), but I hold respect for everyone's faith, so long as they don't stick it in my face or force it into public schools. I don't like guns, don't like violence, or drugs on the street, but I'm for the decriminalization of marijuana, I like my privacy, and I think that if you keep it in your house, it's fine by me. I like my freedom of speech, and like to act like I'm protected by the First Amendment, though I'm smart enough to know that under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (section 1), I don't have that kind of freedom enjoyed in the U.S.

In short, I'm the typical contradictory Canadian stereotype as viewed by the U.S. and other countries. I'm a liberal. Not Liberal, per se, but lowercase liberal. Not libertarian either, mind you, though I certainly have leanings there. I am, on the surface at least, an NDP supporter -- I put up signs in my front yard for my local NDP guy; I receive emails from Jack Layton, etc. However, I do this safely with the knowledge that I am in a strong Liberal riding. I know my vote won't normally make a difference, since the Liberal candidate is safe for re-election every year that I've voted in this riding. I vote NDP to prove a point -- to take away votes from an otherwise secure candidate.

But I may vote strategically this year. I shudder to think of what Harper might do to Canada -- what the Conservative party would do for human rights, for the arts, and for the common person. I hear about card-carrying PC members voting Liberal because they are afraid of the Reform Alliance (remember C.R.A.P.?) leader. What worries me is that I hear many more Liberals who want to vote Conservative this year. There are rumours of a *majority* Conservative government. Does anyone understand what that means?

Me, I'm a big fan of Layton. He's a great guy -- drinks coffee at Timmies like everyone else, works hard to keep everyone in check, and tries to bring government to the common man and woman. I think he does good work, and I think he held the PM by the balls in the last government. But that's just it ... he was doing so well. Why did he initiate the motion to bring the government down? Why would he risk a Conservative majority, and undo everything he passionately fights for? Layton's a fool to throw away power like that. That's not what I've been voting for in the NDP.

Maybe I just don't like change. Maybe I don't want my PM to say "God bless Canada" after every speech. Maybe everyone else wants that. Bring us closer to the U.S. and give in to their every whim, including a missile defense system?

Maybe we can do a Conservative minority this time. Fine by me. Let's see what they can do that's any different from the Liberals this past year. We'll see what they can do while their balls are in the firm grip of the NDP or the Bloc. Only maybe that's not going to happen. That's not very reassuring.

I can't say how I'm going to vote on Monday. I won't know until I'm there behind the little cardboard screen. I probably won't vote for the Communist candidate, but I might vote for the Green Party. It's doubtful that I would vote for the X-tian Coalition -- not even if I were an X-tian. And I'm certainly not going to vote Conservative. First of all, I know nothing about my candidate -- he didn't even send me a flyer. He's a nobody. And he represents Harper, who represents C.R.A.P. No offense to you Conservatives out there, but your leader sucks. Get another one.

I may vote for the NDP, but I am so pissed off at Layton right now. He stuck me in a January election, destabilized a perfectly fine government that was showing results because of his own work, he agreed with Harper that the constitution was OK as it was -- that the Notwithstanding Clause didn't need removing, and he may have contributed to the formation of a Conservative majority government. Tell you what, Jack, I'll vote for you after we see if the last statement is true. Honestly, you've got my vote back if the Conservatives don't form a majority. But if they do, I'll hold you responsible, K?

I finally got out to see this film. More specifically, I finally convinced R to go see the film, and I ended up doing so with a couple of free passes I got from werk. It's nice to see hard work rewarded with public recognition and free movie passes, and these tickets were burning a hole in my pocket for a couple of weeks now.

I was skeptical going in to see this film. I wondered how Peter Jackson could do such a long film based on the sparse source material of the original "King Kong" film, which, while ground breaking in its special effects, was a flawed film to begin with. The original "King Kong" was racist, albeit at a time where this was generally acceptable; it was spectacular but without body, at a time where that was the only way to get a film to a mass audience; and it was certainly dated with respect to its special effects, although they were ground-breaking at the time. There was simply not enough story to carry it any great distance.

All of that still applies to Jackson's film. And yet, none of it applies. The film is, quite simply, both flawed and absolutely spectacular.

One of the reasons for heading to Jackson's film was to see how he dealt with the racism; how the original material translated into something new. Could Jackson take limited, dated material and bring it into the modern era? Well, there are three predominant racist themes covered in this film, at least two of which are from the translated material, and the third either helps or hinders the film, but is no different than many other contemporary films. The first is Jackson's depiction of the insane natives of Skull Island. Let's be frank here: any human being living on an island full of monsters has got to be insane. Mix this body-deforming nihilism with a smattering of various and random South Pacific cultures, add a few generations of shipwreck victims and their genetic makeups, and place them on an ominous, and ancient structure made by God-knows-who to protect them from the freakish monstrosities on the island (the island itself, reminiscent of the dread R'yleh of Lovecraftian fame), and you have, essentially, the natives on Skull Island. I'm OK with this -- with what Jackson did here. I was, admittedly, uncomfortable with this whole scene, but yes, it was easily believable.

The second, and more important, frankly, of the two main themes is King Kong as an analogy for the "forbidden" relationships -- essentially *any* forbidden relationship, though specifically between a black man and a white woman -- the "black fear" of less enlightened times (and some southern U.S. states). Jackson deals with this (he has to, given the material), but does it in the proper manner. The amount of pathos given to Kong in this film is astounding -- the range of emotion evident in Kong's body language, and the situations into which he's placed forces the audience into his position. We sympathize -- no, empathize with Kong. We are easily aware of, sensitive to Kong's plight. We live our lives for over three hours, vicariously, through Kong, and through his relationship with Ann Darrow (played honestly, and convincingly by Naomi Watts).

The third, and perhaps most unfortunate racial themes, done in most action films these days, is the black supporting character who *spoiler* dies a horrific death part way through the film. I'm almost certain that there's a rule in Hollywood somewhere that says you are required to kill off the black supporting character in an action film, and I loathe it. Jackson's film is no different, but does it differently than simply killing off characters in reverse casting order. Hayes, the ship's first mate (Evan Parke) dies the most noble of deaths -- protecting an innocent -- while realizing the horrible fates which await those who persist on this doomed mission. He quotes Joseph Conrad, and helps educate the hapless Jimmy on the horrors of which Man is capable. In this respect, I think Jackson did the proper thing -- in killing off Hayes, Jackson saves him from having to lower himself to the despicable task of capturing Kong, something we suspect he would be opposed to, anyway.

With that stuff out of the way, the film is still absolutely spectacular. I have rarely, if ever, leaned so uncomfortably in my theatre seat, unable to watch the screen, wondering what the outcome of the scene will be. Almost every action scene has a trick at its beginning -- an air of foreboding -- and a wild ride for its remaining duration. There are dinosaurs, stampedes, epic (and unbelievable) battles, shipwrecks, balancing acts -- all of which grind at your gut while you watch. And despite knowing the original "King Kong" film, you wonder continuously how Jackson will take this film forward.

Obviously we know how the film will end -- how it must end. But when the inevitable happens, it happens hard, and slowly. Normally I would chastise a film for being so manipulative (see any Disney film for examples). This is not a normal film. One wonders if they ever made films like this before. It's moving, epic, long (yeah, really long), and completely engrossing. It was the first film in many years of DVD-watching culture where people *didn't* talk during the poignant quiet scenes.

Why didn't I see this movie sooner? Why did I go see "Narnia" instead of this film? Oh yeah. Because I don't like to cry at films.

Got to see the "Chronicles of Narnia" last night. It was a really good film, really well done, despite the feeling that I'd seen a good many of the shots before -- in LOTR, when they were shooting the exact same scenes in the exact same location spots. I think R got a little tired of me constantly saying " seen in other films, such as 'The Fellowship of the Ring'...". If you get past all of that, and the manipulative emotionalism of the whole Aslan crucifixion scene, it's really a good film. Sort of a Lord-of-the-Rings-lite.

But here's the thing. Religious undertones exist in many films -- most films, actually, including LOTR. Even "The Matrix" was ripe with religion, and it even had a death-rebirth scene. But if the material is good, and you aren't constantly being flogged with the message, it's usually OK. Despite the fact that "Chronicles of Narnia" uses a variety of spiritual mythologies, you still get the heavy X-tian message. It's omnipresent (no pun). And the film was marketed directly at X-tians, so, like Intelligent Design, we know what the agenda was.

I, for one, am content in laying blame squarely on the source material -- and don't get me wrong, I really liked this story, especially as a kid. It was an easy read, and kids like to see talking animals with swords, and prophecies (look at Brian Jacques' "Redwall" series, for example). But even LOTR, in all its complexity, is given to children to read. Maybe it's given to older kids, while the "Narnia" series is read by younger audiences, but it's a better overall story, imho; it's more complex, with less emphasis on the single, nebulous message of "love". Or was it "sacrifice"?

Perhaps the most glaring evidence of the story's simplicity is how limited one is when making a film based on the story. Strip away the amazing special effects, and the beauty that production money will buy, and you have the exact same film as was done many years back. This was almost identical to the animated television movie, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1979)", or at least my memory of it. Many of the scenes feel like they used this film, not the book, as the template.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" is far too tidy and simplistic a story to really make a good film. That's why I'm impressed with the result of the film. It introduces a lot of really subtle and slightly disturbing themes underneath the heavy religious cover. Take, for example the way the encounter with Edmund and the Ice Queen plays out. For a boy who loves his father and hates his mother, this boy is a little too easily trusting of stony-eyed women in blond dreadlocks who offer him candy. She quickly cures him of his non-Oedipus complex. Or the way Mr. Tumnus seduces, drugs, and kidnaps Lucy. I don't think the word "seduce" is too strong a description for what happens in this creepy scene. When you see him hide his house key on the top of the pantry, a chill runs down your spine, thanks to longtime exposure to serial killer themes in modern television and film media. Should children be encouraged to run off with spritely, shirtless guys who invite them back for tea?

The acting talent is definitely great in this film. Not only did they (finally) manage to find 4 kids who actually look like they're related, but they found good child actors. They all held to character and were very real in their delivery. Everyone was good, with the possible exception of the voiceover done by Liam Neeson. I know Aslan is supposed to be other-worldly, etc., but my mind kept going back to Jar-Jar Binks, and how hollow that character seemed (and how hollow Liam Neeson seemed when he was interacting with old Jar-Jar). He may as well have been narrating a "Hinterland Who's Who" spot on CBC.

Anyway, enough of my ranting. It was a good film. The only question is: will anyone want to see any more of the series, or will Disney end up doing straight-to-video releases from here on in? That's the problem with starting the series off with the most popular of C.S. Lewis's works -- they've saved the best for first.

As you may have just found out, Intelligent Design got its block knocked off in Dover court today. It's officially "unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom".

The decision by Judge Jones is available here. It's starting the holiday season on a good note for science. Check this out:

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

"With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom.

"Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board's decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources."

Oooh, that's gotta hurt!

  X-mas is ruined. Woohoo!

In Starbucks this morning -- the one at King and Weber. I'm drinking a tall Americano. I was going to drink a cup of their dark roast du jour, but I refuse to buy a brand of coffee for which they sued a priest. The infamous "Christmas Blend" coffee was on tap this morning, but it's not for me. I even did the typical Canadian thing and didn't make a fuss about it; just ordered the Americano and went on my way.

I'm taking some vacation time this X-mas, something I've not been able to do for almost 7 years now. I've always been the one to be on-call or in the office during the holiday season -- always been the one who had to hang around in case some irate customer decided to bitch about something or other: how the product (whatever the product was) ruined their life; how their spouse was angry at them; how they broke a fingernail opening our packaging; how their archives got corrupted; etc. But this year, I'm taking X-mas off ... in more ways than one: I'm not at werk this X-mas/Boxing Day. And, of course, I'm not celebrating X-mas -- no presents, no caroling, no sugarplums ... no nothing.

It's a nice break. Just relaxing during the holiday season, hanging out away from werk. I'll do some art, get some drinking done, and generally forget about all the stressfull family-related bullshit that everyone else has to deal with. Other people should try it.

My parents, while still celebrating, are doing it from afar this year, in Florida. They are part of the reason I can ditch X-mas without having to feel guilty about it, not that a parent's guilt would stop me this year. They've even invited me to come down and visit if I want. However, that would involve heading down to 'merica, and I can think of several more inviting, and safer places in this world -- places like Colombia, or possibly North Korea.

  Sony Rules!

Hey, way to go Sony! Not only did you implement a faulty and easily circumvented anti-piracy mechanism on CDs with the weak pretense of supporting artists' rights, but you stole open-sourced (GPL) code to do it. *And* it infects users' machines with a virus! Whooo! Keep up the good work!

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