Thursday, July 29, 2010

Toy vs. God

So I saw Toy Story 3 yesterday...* and no one has pointed it out yet I don't think, not in a serious way, so here goes:
Toy Story, especially this new one, is a big metaphor about the Judeo-Christian's relationship with God.
The antagonist of this film, a big purple stuffed bear, repeatedly asserts that toys are just junk waiting to be thrown out. In the climactic scene, he betrays our heroes, asking, "where is your precious owner now?" and sending them hurtling towards fiery destruction (which is resolved with a Deus ex Machina that is actually a machine from the sky.) His back story is that his owner abandoned him, just as the characters from the Toy Story franchise have now been abandoned by Andy.
The story seems to be telling us that when bad things happen to good people, those people sometimes lose faith and become nihilists. The bear doesn't believe in that intangible, nonscientific quality that humans have in real life just as toys are imbued with in the world of Toy Story. The "I am what is" of the Old Testament is the same thing that allows Woody to flop around like that or the Potato Heads' disparate parts to move around autonomously.
This quality could also be called God, the only idea of God we can have and depend on to not, as it were, go away to college. Thus the bear's belief that "toys are junk" leads to his imprisonment of and attempts to doom our heroes to death by furnace-- imagery that isn't necessarily meant to reflect the Holocaust, but definitely evokes human atrocity in a way that is probably scarier for adults who know history than it would be even for kids who don't.
And it's fucking "Toy Story!"

Joseph Goebbels via Teddy Ruxpin.

*I want to add a disclaimer here, that this post isn't a joke, nor is it meant to be one of those "unnamed narrator and Tyler Durden are Calvin and Hobbes" memes, but anyone who's seen WALL-E should get why that's not really necessary...


David Fincher, from the beginning, wanted Yo-Landi Vi$$er from the hipster rap group Die Antwoord to play Lisbeth in his American remake of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. However she broke his heart today with the news that she wasnt interested in doing the film.

Here is the official quote:

“They contacted my agency in L.A. but we said no because it’s not something I want to do.”

... amazing.


How does this affect your tweetmood?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attacks Octopus Paul


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian leader, says Paul the Octopus, the sea creature that correctly predicted the outcome of World Cup games, is a symbol of all that is wrong with the western world.

He claims that the octopus is a symbol of decadence and decay among "his enemies".

Paul, who lives at the Oberhausen Sea Life Centre, in Germany, won the hearts of the Spanish by predicting their World Cup victory.

He became an international star after predicting the outcome of all seven German World Cup matches accurately.

However, the Iranian president accused the octopus of spreading "western propaganda and superstition." Paul was mentioned by Mr Ahmadinejad on various occasions during a speech in Tehran at the weekend.

"Those who believe in this type of thing cannot be the leaders of the global nations that aspire, like Iran, to human perfection, basing themselves in the love of all sacred values," he said.

Print Screen of The Moment

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Dads TODAY!!!!


By Andrew Hough

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years.

Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

In a new warning, Nasa said the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning” and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.

Scientists believe it could damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.

Due to humans’ heavy reliance on electronic devices, which are sensitive to magnetic energy, the storm could leave a multi-billion pound damage bill and “potentially devastating” problems for governments.

“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Richard Fisher, the director of Nasa's Heliophysics division, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigations, air travel, the banking system, our computers, everything that is electronic. It will cause major problems for the world.

“Large areas will be without electricity power and to repair that damage will be hard as that takes time.”

Dr Fisher added: “Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the earth that is rapid and like a lightning bolt. That is the solar affect.”

A “space weather” conference in Washington DC last week, attended by Nasa scientists, policy-makers, researchers and government officials, was told of similar warnings.

While scientists have previously told of the dangers of the storm, Dr Fisher’s comments are the most comprehensive warnings from Nasa to date.

Dr Fisher, 69, said the storm, which will cause the Sun to reach temperatures of more than 10,000 F (5500C), occurred only a few times over a person’s life.

Every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sun spots – or flares – hits a maximum level every 11 years.

Dr Fisher, a Nasa scientist for 20 years, said these two events would combine in 2013 to produce huge levels of radiation.

He said large swathes of the world could face being without power for several months, although he admitted that was unlikely.

A more likely scenario was that large areas, including northern Europe and Britain which have “fragile” power grids, would be without power and access to electronic devices for hours, possibly even days.

He said preparations were similar to those in a hurricane season, where authorities knew a problem was imminent but did not know how serious it would be.

“I think the issue is now that modern society is so dependant on electronics, mobile phones and satellites, much more so than the last time this occurred,” he said.

“There is a severe economic impact from this. We take it very seriously. The economic impact could be like a large, major hurricane or storm.”

The National Academy of Sciences warned two years ago that power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications could “all be knocked out by intense solar activity”.

It warned a powerful solar storm could cause “twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina”. That storm devastated New Orleans in 2005 and left an estimated damage bill of more than $125bn (£85bn).

Dr Fisher said precautions could be taken including creating back up systems for hospitals and power grids and allow development on satellite “safe modes”.

“If you know that a hazard is coming … and you have time enough to prepare and take precautions, then you can avoid trouble,” he added.

His division, a department of the Science Mission Directorate at Nasa headquarters in Washington DC, which investigates the Sun’s influence on the earth, uses dozens of satellites to study the threat.

The government has said it was aware of the threat and “contingency plans were in place” to cope with the fall out from such a storm.

These included allowing for certain transformers at the edge of the National Grid to be temporarily switched off and to improve voltage levels throughout the network.

The National Risk Register, established in 2008 to identify different dangers to Britain, also has “comprehensive” plans on how to handle a complete outage of electricity supplies.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Befores, Afters and Products That We CAN'T See

Poptimist #31 (eat ur heart out menya)

by Tom Ewing

When I was small my friend and I had an imaginary band. We only had one idea, but it amused us enough that we filled tapes and tapes with variations on it. It went like this: Each song would start off as a corny pop number but just as it hit the chorus would devolve into noise, shriekings, the hammering of biscuit tins, and so on. So like every nine-year-old we already had an idea of generic pop and of how to subvert this particular form. Except that the stuff we created as "generic pop" obviously sounded nothing really like any kind of recognizable pop, and not just because it was being played and sung by children. It was a context-free mishmash of "ooh I love you"s and "babys"; a dense string of pop signifiers with no hint of structure.

Every now and then researchers will channel their inner nine-year-old and try to come up with a generic pop song, usually with devilishly satirical intent. I read about one such this week in music tech blog Hypebot, created in part by analysing the most common words in 2010 pop. The chorus goes like this: "Love gonna stop, Imma rock your body hard-- like damn/ Had enough tonight, I wanna break the love-- like bad." This reads like what it is-- a mash-up of Peas, Ke$ha, Bieber etc.-- and works fine as a gag, but like my imaginary band it fails a pop Turing test of actually making sense.

Anyone who reads or talks about music will run into the word "generic" a lot, but as any nine-year-old or satirist could tell you it's a more slippery idea than it seems. So can generic music be good? How do we spot it? The word is rarely complimentary: most of the time it's just used as a fancier stand-in for "boring" or "bland," a word standing in opposition to "distinctive." As a dismissal it seems to me loaded with an additional implication-- that this boredom is somehow intentional: The people behind the music have purposely avoided anything that might challenge expectations. And behind that is the idea that playing with expectations and boundaries is something we should want musicians to do.

UK blog Popjustice recently pushed back against this idea. "Here's the news," it wrote in the middle of an unusually serious entry, "if you only enjoy music that breaks pop's boundaries, you are not really a pop fan." I'll look at the specific implications of this idea later, and whether it works for pop more or less than for other kinds of music. But for now let's just take it as a pointer toward a happier idea of the generic: a core of musical ideas or values, which, executed well, satisfy the fans of a genre just as much as music that moves beyond those. I got this feeling listening to the new Kylie Minogue album, Aphrodite: Not one track stood out, but I never stopped enjoying the record. As an experience it felt rather like good customer service: seamless, efficient, friendly, and inobtrusive. I don't want a Kylie album to break any boundaries, any more than I want a hotel concierge to break them: It would be nice if either exceeded my expectations by doing what they're meant to do better, but that's all.

But it's very hard to talk about this kind of experience and have it sound positive-- comparisons to customer service and compliments like "inobtrusive" are always going to be read as ironic or backhanded. Not to mention the fact that they won't actually reflect a Kylie fan's experience of the record: The fact that I enjoy Aphroditewithout needing a standout hardly implies the people behind it didn't want anything to stand out! "Generic" turns out to be one of those ideas that start to break down as you zoom in on it, and one reason to mistrust the word is that it often gets used to punish listeners who are actually paying attention to detail. The perception of genre often happens at a distance: A more involved listener might hear a record which strikes me as generic and hear a ton of intriguing choices in it. For example, I enjoy techno but I'm often drawn to obvious breakout tracks with big corny or melodic samples, like Samim's "Heater". Someone more committed to techno would simply be better equipped to appreciate the distinctions and incremental innovations in particular producers' styles. And someone more committed to Kylie would get more out of each variation on her sleek electro-pop theme than I'm doing.

Naturally, I'm happy for those people to show me what I'm missing. One positive spin on the generic rewards the faith and concentration of purists: The strengths of innovative records are individual and obvious; the strengths of a genre are collective and become apparent with hindsight. I'm thinking here of compilations like Dave Godin's excellent Deep Soul Treasures series. Godin put together collections of obscure 1960s and 70s soul sides with the emphasis firmly on the emotional intensity of each performance. This wasn't a history of innovation in soul music, but a curation of what Godin saw as the genre's core qualities: Listened to as a whole, each compilation verges on the overbearing, but almost every individual single on them is brutally powerful.

A final version of the "good generic": cover versions, where genre becomes a dressing-up box, and the point is for a recording to take on the most immediate qualities of a chosen style. Researching this piece I asked friends on Twitter what the most generic music they enjoyed is: quite a few mentioned Eurodance and Hi-NRG cover versions. I've a massive soft spot for these myself-- labels like Almighty Records specialize in taking hit songs and retooling them for gay club dancefloors. Songs by the Arctic Monkeys, the Killers, or Coldplay get a bashing house beat, diva vocals, and the melody pushed upfront by way of huge hands-in-the-air keyboard riffs. It's reliably exhilarating: Attempts at subtlety, let alone innovation, would only disappoint.

All these ways of understanding the generic-- as dismissal, as hindsight, or as drag-- highlight a particular problem with the idea: The generic is something one sees only at a distance in time or in taste. Which brings us back to that fascinating Popjustice idea: "If you only enjoy music that breaks pop's boundaries, you're not really a pop fan." Let's assume that you can substitute any kind of music for "pop": Is the implication that if you focus on the edge of a genre, you miss out on the essence of it? One way of answering that might be to think about functionality. As one friend says about techno, "sets that are all anthems don't really work; you need the filler in there to build up to the anthems," even if it's the anthems that people remember.

Not all genres have the direct practical context of techno, though-- boring pop records may help interesting ones to shine, but it's harder to imagine their makers seeing this as their function! The key word in the Popjustice formulation is "only": By implication, it's talking about a type of listener who won't use "edge" records as a way into the genre's centre but as a way of dismissing the genre entirely. This makes the apparently protectionist sentiments of the statement a lot more agreeable.

Imagine two people who don't normally listen to pop music, who then hear and enjoy the new Robyn album. One says "Gosh! This is better than I expected pop to be, perhaps I have misjudged the genre." The other says "Ah! This is better than most pop, it justifies my decision not to bother with the rest." Which one is more sympathetic? Surely the first, but the second seems as common a reaction. It would be unfair to blame Robyn herself-- it's hardly an artist's fault if critics or listeners use them as a stick to beat other music. And even if the critics love Body Talk Pt. 1over other pop records, does that really make it in some way bad for pop as a whole?

For that to stand a chance of being true, there needs to be a community of "real" pop fans, the integrity of which is weakened when boundary-breaking records are singled out for praise. In other words, the idea of a "boundary" isn't just aesthetic, it's social: The dangerous records are those that reach out beyond the community to new audiences. There are two threats here, possibly contradictory: The new audiences dilute the original scene and its values, and the attention paid to boundary records starves the center of publicity and money.

These kind of ideas have plenty of resonance for fans of some music. Fears over keeping it real, selling out, "false metal," and so on are rooted in the sense that a musical community should resist commercial exploitation or critical gentrification. But what makes sense for metal or hardcore seems faintly absurd applied to Robyn's dance-pop. This isn't because pop music is more frivolous or less authentic than hardcore, but because reaching new audiences is something pop routinely does. When you break through social boundaries in other genres, pop is often what you end up becoming.

So what attracts me in music isn't the idea of pop as a community or style but pop as a quality-- an immediacy and a desire to be heard as widely as possible. Novelty and comfort-- crossing or building musical boundaries-- are just tactics for doing this: Preferring one or the other doesn't make you any less a fan. And a focus on tactics rather than goals is why self-consciously generic-- or subversive-- pop hardly ever convinces.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This Shit is So Evil

Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don't Go by Thomas H. Benton a.k.a William Pannapacker?

So this guy has a PhD., and uses it in exactly the way that he always thought he would, except the twist is his job also involves writing articles about, paradoxically, how no one should get a post-graduate degree. I've seen a lot of these armchair sociologists out there making roughly the same point lately, and I'm inclined to agree with some of their points-- that college is too expensive, that sometimes the wrong people get farther than they deserve for the wrong reasons, that it's pretty useless in finding a job. Farbeit from me to defend the institution. This article, however, unintentionally sheds light on some of the fallacies of the anti-academic argument that's so popular in academia nowadays.

1. The hysterical tone of the article, which goes from the "I'm your friend here, I'm just trying to help you out, those other guys, they're not your friends" approach ("It was a message many prospective graduate students were not getting from their professors, who were generally too eager to clone themselves") to flat-out insulting and manipulating the emotions of an audience he must know all too well ("No one is impressed by their knowledge of Jane Austen,") to the effect of glorifying himself and his peers to a hyperbolic degree: "They seem to think becoming a humanities professor is a reliable prospect — a more responsible and secure choice than, say, attempting to make it as a freelance writer, or an actor, or a professional athlete..." Obviously this kind of sensationalism could only come out of a desire for cash, not to be the reader's cool fucking professor friend.

2. The obvious holes in his logic-- "Even if the long-awaited wave of retirements finally arrives..." it's called the unceasing march of time, dog. Some professors are gonna retire in the future.

So maybe it was irrelevant for me to post all this about some article I found from last year, but my point is, don't let this kind of shit get you down.