Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Of Course I'm Alive, No One Can Defeat Me!

Posting has been minimal so far this week and will remain so for the duration, on account of me being real real busy. In the meantime please enjoy the funniest thing I've seen on the internet today: Excerpts from the book "Live from Metropolis: An uncensored oral history of the Justice League".

Friday, September 23, 2005

A Good Start

Àgætis Burjyn – Sigur Rós

Another rediscovery from the depths of the CD drawer. After reading the effusive reviews of Sigur Rós' latest release Takk, I gave their previous album () a listen. I was then keen to buy the new one, but I also realised I had a copy of an older album of theirs, Àgætis Burjyn, that I'd barely listened to.

Sigur Ros are justifiably raved about throughout the music press. Even though their mellow melancholic mood is far from my favourite style, I can't help but appreciate their musical talent. In and of itself their style isn't completely original, being sort of related to the post-Radiohead mope-rock movement but Sigur Rós execute it absolutely flawlessly, creating sublimely beautiful and uplifting music that even I, Mr. Obnoxious Cynic Man, find it hard to detect a note of schmaltz or tweeness in.

Every track on this album is pretty good but my favourite song would have to be Viðrar vel til loftárása, which slowly builds from a gentle piano piece to a string laden climax before disintegrating into exuberantly joyful chaos. I probably prefer this album to (), but they're both 'must own' items, and I'll be getting the new one tomorrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Book of the New Sun (Vol 1)

by Gene Wolfe

The Book of the New Sun is one of the most respected fantasy series of recent times. The cover of the book is covered with fulsome praise from todays most popular fantasy authors, so when I started it I was expecting a staggering work of tremendous importance. This first volume collects the first two books of the series, Shadow of the Torturer and Claw of the Conciliator, out of a total of four.

My first impression was that while Wolfe is a great prose writer, certainly far above the abilities of ninety percent of his peers, the underlying story was not terribly interesting or interesting. Our protagonist is a young boy named Severian with minimal knowledge of the world outside the medievaloid society he is a part of. After a whole lot of pre-coming-of-age setup events conspire to thrust him out alone into the world, with of course a couple of Important Quests. In other words it sounds like every other fantasy novel ever published (I have no idea why the coming of age story is so ubiquitous within fantasy, but it's annoying because I have minimal interest in the premise. Maybe I just haven't come of age myself yet). Fortunately once he gets out into the world (about half way through the first book) things get a whole lot more interesting.

The characters, despite their stilted mannerisms, are all very well drawn, but Wolfe's real strength, apart from his prose, is the detail of the world he's created and the clever twists he's put on the 'so sci-fi it's fantasy' subgenre, by which I mean the subset of sci-fi when it's so far in the future that people have forgotten about technology and view it as 'magic'.

Over this volume Wolfe introduces a large number of interesting and original places, people and creatures, and shrouds them all in a kind of romantic mystery which keeps you reading, despite being always unsure of exactly what is going on (in some ways this series belongs to another sci-fi subgenre as well, one that I like to call the 'what the fuck is going on' genre, see also The Malazan Book of the Fallen).

While I had my misgivings at the beginning of the story, by the end of this volume I understood completely why this series is held in such high regard. Wolfe creates a mythic, melancholy mood with his skillful writing, and gives what appeared to me at first glance to be a quite cliched story a lot of originality and mystery.

Important Announcement

The new Rammstein single kicks arse.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

She'll Come Back as Fire, and Burn all the Liars

Nirvana – In Utero

Quite easily my favourite Nirvana album, but for some reason the last one I've gotten around to buying. Their earlier messiness has given way to some more gentle songs, such as All Apologies and the ever popular Heart Shaped Box*, making it easier to appreciate Kurt's songwriting ability. Even the mental thrashy songs like Very Ape and tourette's have a more upbeat vibe than similar songs on their previous releases, they're more sardonic than angry. In fact, after listening to it it's strange to think that Kurt was going to kill himself.

The reason I like this album the best is probably the juxtaposition of messy and accessible songs, as I found Bleach for example less enjoyable because it's one big mess from beginning to end.

One of the aspects of Nirvana that is usually overlooked in my opinion is the lyrics (probably because they're mostly incomprehensible), but Kurt had real skill at stringing together meaningless phrases in a way that made them meaningful. No one knows what the fuck a 'scentless apprentice' really is, but it sure brings some interesting imagery to mind.

* Random memory associated forever with this song: Some girl ringing up the radio and going on a passionate, (but totally justified) rant about how it (Heart Shaped Box) was only so popular because everyone assumes it's a love song when really it's quite the opposite.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Astro City: Family Album

by Kurt Busiek

So I think I've clicked to the premise behind Astro City. Busiek wants to focus on the effects that the presence of superheroes would realistically have on peoples lives. Of course he's not allowed to do this with DC's normal characters, they'd have a fit if anyone did anything 'disrespectful' to Superman. So instead he's invented his own city filled with characters who look and sound suspiciously like certain other superheroes. The premise may be a bit wanky, but Busiek's a really good writer and the superhero genre is so overblown, cliched and self-important that it makes a lot of sense to do something like this.

As you might guess, Family Album is a collection of stories about family. The first one, 'Welcome to Astro City' tells the story of an ordinary family who have just moved to Astro City. It's not overly interesting, but it is kind of cool to see how regular people react to angry gods appearing and threatening to destroy the city every month or so.

The second, 'Everyday Life', deals with the problems a young girl has trying to fit in with her peers, when she's a member of a family of superheroes. Again I didn't find the main story all that appealing, but there's some nice satire of normal superhero stories.

I like the next story, 'Show 'Em All', a lot more. Coincidentally enough, it didn't have a family theme. Instead it focuses on an aging villain, the Junkman, who pulls off a brilliant bank heist, but becomes disillusioned when he realises he's outwitted every hero in Astro City and no one will ever know.

Next is 'Serpent's Teeth', which depicts the fears of a new father rather literally when a superhero is visited by various demented versions of his son from different possible futures. I enjoyed this one a lot, as Busiek combines the high concept with action very smoothly.

Lastly there's my favorite story, 'In the Spotlight'. Again, not a family story. In this one we hear the story of Loony Leo, a cartoon character who was (literally) bought to life in the fourties, and proceeds to live a very non-cartoony show business life. This one probably appealed to me a lot because of it's juxtaposition of supposedly innocent entertainment (a talking cartoon animal) and more adult show business (the drugs, hookers and crime). I'm always a sucker for that sort of subversion.

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as Confessions, the last Astro City collection I read, but it was still a pretty good read.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Post Election Special: This Will Be The Only One, I Promise

So despite everything I said, I caved at the last minute and voted for Labour. I couldn't keep honestly telling myself that I didn't care whether National or Labour won.

A few notes on the result:

  • Damn, I should have put money on it. My predictions would have been almost bang on. The only thing I was wrong about was thinking (hoping) that NZFirst wouldn't make 5%.
  • I was right about Winston losing Tauranga, which is kind of good, but not so great for Tauranga who have valiantly voted for another brainless idiot and still not managed to excise Winston from parliament.
  • I was right about Rodney winning Epsom, which is good too (although I wasn't so sure I wanted him to win when the result was still in the balance). I'm glad that ACT are still around, and it's also nice to see that they've shed a few of their more nutso MPs.
  • In the end I am not so glad that Labour won as I am that National lost. I've enjoyed having a good gloat at the expense of the smug right wing bloggers.
  • What's this bullshit the media has started about a 'divided nation'? So the election was close. Every election is close (OK, except for the last one). The fucking media are just too stupid to do their own analysis and instead just take whatever the US news is talking about and try to make it apply to this country instead.

Peculiar Incoming Searches of the Week

"drunken munters"

"danlo hanuman slash" - (see here)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sick of Politics?

Own Half-Life 2?

Try out the first episode of Minerva, a single player mod for Half-Life. It's professionally done and very intelligently written. Let off some election stress by spending an hour beating aliens to death with a crowbar.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Election Special #5: Jon's Ideal Defence Policy

So what we do, is we invite US vessels carrying nuclear weapons back into New Zealand waters and ports. Why? So we can steal them! Then we point all the weapons at major American cities, and extort billions of dollars from them! And use them to finance tax cuts!

You'll never stop us Jack Bauer! You only have 12 hours left until the bombs go off! Mwahahahahaha!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Election Special #4: What's Wrong With You? What's Wrong With Everybody In This Crazy Place?

OK, here comes the big rant. Before I start I'd like to point to these two posts at Three Point Turn which say a few of the same things I've been meaning to much more succinctly than I'd likely be able to.

One of the positive things that I've noticed during from this election campaign is how reasonable and easy going your average Kiwi is about differing political views. I think it's because this is such a small country. Everyone is exposed to all sorts of different opinions because we're all mixed up together, as opposed to say the US, where huge swathes of the country homogenously vote one way or the other and people are screaming about a divided nation, colour coding their states and proposing that people who voted for the other guy should all be shot.

Of course you wouldn't know this from watching the news or reading the blogs in the run up to our election. A vote for Don Brash is a vote to send the country down a road to economic ruin and racial civil war. Labours dwindling polls are the last gasp of a failed socialist experiment. And every two point shift in the polls is the inspiration for a spittle flecked exclamation point filled post. For Christs sake! Who can take the polls that seriously when they're differing by ten points from day to day?

And the most passionate of the people who are behaving like this are supporting either National or Labour. Now the same thing happened last year in the lead up to the American election, but I could understand it a little better there, there's a war on, thousands of lives (at least) depended directly on who got elected. But National and Labour are hardly worth getting so excited about, and I'll tell you why.

While perusing the policies of the smaller parties I always came away with a strong idea of their ideology and what you can expect them to do if elected. National and Labour on the other hand have no central ideology other than a vague hand wave in the direction of the left or right wing. Their policies are in no way in aid of any over all goal, (no matter how much Helen goes on about her vision for New Zealand), they're all just bribes, coloured in differently but fundamentally just there to garner votes. So this is why the only party that has no policies that piss me off is Labour, because their entire campaign is based around the smallest number of people a reason to vote against them.

Now I'm not saying 'the big parties are all the same, man...' there are clear differences between them, and I honestly think that Labour are clearly the lesser of two evils, but I find it quite bewildering that so many people can so passionately stand up for either of them. Supporting either party is nothing to be proud of, they're both just two crowds of loud-mouthed, obnoxious, self-interested idiots who are just doing and saying whatever they need to in order to be elected. The parties resemble a pair of opposing sports teams far more than my idea of what a political party should be. And that goes double for their supporters, the day I hear NZPundit say anything more than mildly critical of National or Russell Brown do the same of Labour will be the same day the population of Christchurch collectively stands up and says how they never really liked the Crusaders that much anyway. Almost all the political blogs in the country pretty much turned their brains off a couple of months ago and have since then stood in the corner waving a flag and yelling “Go team go!”

But back to the parties themselves. I can reluctantly see why this state of affairs is probably for the best. These big parties will never do anything radical or unexpected (unless perhaps there is a real crisis that must be reacted to quickly), meaning the law itself will change only naturally and slowly, trailing somewhat behind public opinion. This means that while it is a slow path to achieve anything worthwhile (for example our country's baby steps taken towards gay marriage), it reduces the chance that some idiot is going to show up and create a huge big mess that will do significant harm to the country in the long term. Of course, even in the most static two party systems this can still happen (*cough*Bush*cough*), but I think we're fortunate enough here not to be in that position, at least not this time around.

So in short, I don't want to vote for a party that has smugly calculated which policies will appeal the most to the broadest range of undecided voters, just so they can keep their fat ugly arses in their cushy seats for another three years, even if (for that very reason) they're the only party whose policies I find palatable. That's why I'm voting for Legalise Cannabis this year.

Next problem: I live in Wigram and refuse to vote for Jim Anderton. I know absolutely nothing about any of the other candidates, who should I vote for? (Current favorite: No Confidence.)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Election Special #3: Why I Hate the Centrists, Nutjobs and Miscellania

There's a bunch of random parties that even with my arbitrary categorisations can't really be classed as left or right wing, and we'll look at them today.

99 MP Party

Are you kidding? People actually think this is an important enough issue to start a party about?

Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party

All right! At last I've found a party whose policies I completely agree with! Of course that's easy when they only have one, but hey, I think my decision is pretty much between these guys or Labour.

United Future

More social conservatives, pretty much like Jim Anderton's party but without any of the few mitigating good points. Not a chance Pete.

New Zealand First

Well I'm not old, racist or stupid, so there's no way I'm voting for these guys. It looks like Winston might both lose the Tauranga seat and not make the 5% threshold either so if we're lucky we'll finally be rid of this idiot after this election.

So after all that it looks like I basically am going to have to make a decision between Legalise Cannabis or Labour. Legalise Cannabis are a bit of a protest vote and not much more but I'm tempted to go that way at the moment. Tomorrow I'll explain the problem I have with voting for Labour (which also applies to National).

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Election Special #2: Why I Hate the Left Wing

Today we continue our look at the upcoming election, this time I'll try and see if there's any reason the idiots currently in power (or their would be cronies) should get my vote.


So I voted for these guys last time but about a year ago I decided there was no way they would ever be getting my vote this time, on the basis that during their last two campaigns they promised to help out tertiary students, and proceeded to do precisely sweet fuck all on that front. I don't consider the student loans bribes, either this years version or last times 'no interest while you're studying' deal, 'help' because what they really should be doing is making sure fees are reduced to reduce the amount of loans in the first place.

Since I made this decision things have only gotten worse for Labour. Between George Hawkins, David Benson-Pope, John Tamihere and the PM, they've basically managed to the party as a whole look like a bunch of spineless idiots, yet still I find myself thinking that maybe I should give them my vote. You see, with the exception of the police force stuff, all these scandals have reflected poorly on the MPs character, but not on their ability to govern and when I think about it, I'm not entirely dissatisfied with what they've been doing over the last six years. Sure there's a few things that piss me off, like the smoking in bars ban, but they're pretty minor things compared to the things I'm happy about, such as the Civil Union Bill. They even seem to have the economy on track. History shows us that just because someone's a wanker doesn't mean they're not a good leader.

I don't have a loan, so their big bribe doesn't affect me personally, but on the other hand I know a lot of people who would benefit from it. So they're my kind of default choice, a more sensible alternative than the Libertarianz, but I'd still feel a little dirty after voting for them.


Whenever I read an interview with one of these guys I find myself nodding along in agreement, until about three quarters of the way through, when they inevitably go off the rails, usually because they want to have George Bush charged with war crimes or something similarly wild eyed. Of course a vote for the Alliance is pretty much a vote into the void in any case, because they have no chance in hell of getting in. I'd feel better about voting for them than for Labour, but at the expensive of inviting a greater nutjob factor into government. I'm especially uncomfortable with their anti-GE stance.

Democrats for Social Credit

They want to spend more on defence, possibly the only left wing party to do so. They are fairly socialist, promising to put lots of money into pretty much everything, but I don't have a problem with that. On the other hand they seem to share a bit of the Alliance/Greens GE-phobia and UN fetish. Overall though, they seem pretty sensible. Probably a better option for me than the Alliance.


Well at least they're not the pedophile party, but in all other aspects they may as well be Christian Heritage. Lets just all cross our fingers and hope that whoever ends up in the government next week, these guys aren't a part of it.

Direct Democracy

5 facts about the Direct Democracy party:

  1. They're nuts! - Their number one policy is based around the upcoming peak oil crisis.

  2. They're affiliated with neo-nazis – Kyle Chapman, former leader of the National Front is number 10 on their party list.

  3. They're nuts! - They believe New Zealand is in danger of being owned by evil multinational corporations.

  4. They want referenda for everything, Switzerland styles.

  5. They're nuts! - No really, they make the Alliance and the Libertarianz look totally normal.


Jim Anderton is my nemesis. His bill to reduce the drinking age is about the only policy suggested at this election that will actually directly effect me. I've mentioned this before, but on top of that I have a very strong dislike of 'Drugs-Are-Bad' nanny state behaviour. No chance Jimbo.


Don't actually have a lot to offer me, believe it or not. At any rate any socially conservative party is pretty much out of the question right from the start as far as I'm concerned anyway.


I'm right with the Greens on about half of their policies, but the other half turn me off immensely. First of all I find their anti-science hysteria with regards to GE and nuclear power quite alarming, and secondly I think that while their social views (Gender Identity Bill) are commendable, I don't think the government should be legislating morality, even when it's morality I agree with. I'd rather vote for the Alliance, their nutcase factor seems to be significantly lower.

So, common sense suggests I should vote Labour, but I have a strong disinclination towards voting for one of the two major parties at the moment. I don't have time to explain why in this post, but I suspect that issue and a few other things are coalescing into a major rant, which will likely explode onto this blog late this week.

As much as it would have amused me to vote for the Libertarianz, I think it's actually in my interests to at least vote for a party that will form a coalition with Labour, unfortunately, all of the available options fuck me off at least a little bit. But hey, there are still a few more options that I haven't mentioned yet... stay tuned for tomorrows edition.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Election Special #1: Why I Hate the Right Wing

So for the last few weeks while doing my daily blogroll I couldn't help notice that a few of those blogs listed over on the right sidebar there were talking about the upcoming election. Now, I still have no idea who I'm going to vote for so I thought I'd post my thoughts on the different parties as I try and work out which one of them I despise the least.

First up I'll start with the right wing parties (I've been pretty arbitrary with my designations of left and right, as I think the whole one-dimensional spectrum of political alignment is a fairly inadequate descriptor anyway, but I'll save that rant for another time).


First up, I don't want a tax cut. Secondly, I don't consider myself a 'mainstream New Zealander' and in fact if someone called me that I'd probably take it as an insult. I'm probably not Don Brash's idea of a mainstream New Zealander anyway. After that as far as policy goes they don't seem to have many specifics, just a few promises to review this or that, and to deal with those uppity Maoris.

That last one is the only one that bothers me, but on the other hand National have given me absolutely no reason at all to want to vote for them. It seems that they're mostly just running on a campaign of 'Labour are crap', it didn't work for John Kerry, and now I think I understand why.

So, that was 0 policies that I agree with for National, and 1 policy that pisses me off.


I've always had a lot of respect for ACT, their not afraid to stick to their modestly libertarian principles even in a situation (i.e. speaking at a university) where those views are not going to be popular. I think they get unfairly characterised as a bunch of greedy old fat rich bastards, when that's probably only really true of less than half of their candidates.

On the other hand, despite their claims to be 'The Liberal Party', their record on social issues is not so great. I'll use the civil union bill as a kind of litmus test for this sort of thing and only about half of their MPs voted for it.

Lets look at their policies one by one:

Privatise health – Thumbs down from Jon.

Tax cuts – Doesn't bother me one way or the other.

Tertiary education – Student loans can be paid off faster by people paying less tax – Fair enough...

Primary/Secondary education – nothing that sounds too dramatic, or anything that inclines me either way.

“We're Tuff On Crime!” - The perennial meaningless appeal to fear that all right wing parties are likely to trot out every now and again – Thumbs down from Jon

Rural & Economy – Yeah, these sound alright...

Enviroment – Get rid of all those useless natural parks (but not the real pretty ones, honest!) - Another big thumbs down!

Defense – Increase defence spending, which I approve of, but they also promise to fellate George Bush as vigorously as possible, so we'll call it a wash.

Small government – Thumbs up.

Superannuation – scrap it, and introduce mandatory saving – thumbs down, again.

Treaty Issues (a euphemism for Race Relations it seems) – Pretty much the same as National, but with a few added whinges that National stole it from them in the first place.

Well done ACT, one policy I liked and five I didn't. You were better off in my estimation before I read through your website. I guess it's just as well I didn't look at National's in too much detail or might have spent all day writing this post.

Christian Heritage

Well these guys were completely offensive to me even before they became the pedophile party. A quick look at their website sent me fleeing before it put me in incoherant rant mode.


I like these guys. Sure they're nuts, they want to privatise literally everything except defence and police, but I prefer their kind of open straight forward insanity to the bullshit and electioneering of the larger parties. I probably wouldn't even think of voting for them if there was any chance of them actually getting into parliament but they're quite easily the front runners for my vote among this crop of parties.


I haven't heard of these guys before, but a quick look at their website seems to indicate that they're the Anti-Maori party. Maybe they should rename themselves the Whitey Party. Not an option for my vote anyway...

So, currently we're voting for the Libertarianz. Over the next week I'll look at the other parties and hopefully I can find someone who actually matches my views with more than one or two of their policies.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


by Alan Moore

Smax is a spin-off series from Alan Moore's Top 10 series. Top 10 is a parody mash up of cop shows and superhero comics, set in a city where everyone has a superpower. It's a light, humourous story compared to Moore's usual grim tales, and damn funny to boot. One of the main characters is a huge blue silent giant named Smax with a mysterious past, and in this book we follow him back to his home dimension to have the mystery revealed.

It turns out his homeland is a stereotypical backwater fantasy world, complete with dragons, quests and brothers and sisters getting married. Being more familiar with fantasy novels than comic books I found this much funnier than Top 10, probably because I caught far more of the in jokes. The book is peppered with references to fantasy literature and games, both generic (one character asks Smax “How long will it take to get there?” to which Smax replies “About an hour, as long as we don't get any quests.”) and specific (there's a picture of Trogdor on the city walls subtitled “And the dragon comes in the night!”).

It's a very light and fluffy book, but brilliantly written. The ending is a little cheesy, with a predictable magic meets technology kind of twist, but by and large it's thoroughly delightful from beginning to end.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

One God, One Market, One Truth, One Consumer

Rage Against the Machine - Evil Empire

Again, I've waited far too long to buy this album. As certain people have been constantly reminding me for years, it is much better than their debut album. The songs are tighter and more powerful, Tom Morello's riffs are meaner and his solos are crazier, and Zack's vocals are angrier and more catchily delivered.

Of course, Rage's political lyrics are far off the deep end on the crazy hippie scale, but that's easily forgivable when the music is this good and the words are so cleverly composed. Besides, who doesn't like shouting angry slogans against the man every now and again?

The most appealing aspect of the album to me is Tom Morello's guitar playing, it's his original, catchy riffs that the songs are built around, and it's his creative, unusual uses of his instrument in his solos that set Rage apart from similar bands of the era. And he does it all with a minimal number of effects pedals. But maybe that's only exciting to me because I'm a great big music geek!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Lucifer (Volumes 2 & 3)

by Mike Carey

I had a few criticisms of the first volume of Lucifer, but they were all pretty much par for the course with the start of a long running series. The following volumes, Children and Monsters and A Dalliance with the Damned, pick up the pace a bit and develop the plot further. The first volume introduced the characters and the story, and now that the writer is in a comfortable groove things get more interesting.

As these are only the second and third volumes in a series that will probably eventually fill ten or more books, not a whole lot gets resolved, and a whole lot of plot threads get introduced that don't really go anywhere at this stage, leaving the reader somewhat unsatisfied, but again that's just the way it is with a long series.

The plot itself is hard to describe, as in the big picture there's nothing much to elaborate on the setup first volume. Lucifer hatches his own clever schemes in response to the events of the earlier book, while his enemies in heaven, hell and the afterlives of other cultures try and do the same. There are some very cool scenes, including the whole of the first story, which takes place in the Japanese version of Hell, and a very clever inverted take on the story of Adam and Eve.

These books get better as they go along, so I'm really looking forward to reading the next ones.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Kick Your Friends In Their Fucking Heads!

Evil Priest – Hardcore Gods

Earlier this year I was very impressed by Hatebreed's live show and went out and bought their album as soon as I could. I liked it a lot but it's taken me a while to get around to buying some more hardcore. My knowledgeable contacts informed me that Evil Priest (a kiwi band from Auckland I think) were worth checking out.

When listening to Hatebreed I commented that there were a few too many songs about believing in yourself and not enough about scary demons who want to eat your soul. Evil Priest go some way towards remedying this deficiency. Among the myriad thought provoking subjects they tackle on this album are “Why are horror movies not as good as they used to be?” and “Why all other hardcore bands are sellouts”.

The music is very good. There's a lot more variety than the Hatebreed album, including a reggae song and some cool country style slide guitar. On the other hand the vocals aren't nearly as powerful as those of Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed, and it's not as slickly produced (but of course that's par for the course with little known local bands). Nevertheless there's some good song writing on this album. I hear these guys have broken up now, which is a pity.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

I've Been Thinking

Human beings have become the dominant form of life on this planet through a particular evolutionary advantage; the ability to reason, which gives us the power to build tools, both physical and social. Of course, this ability can only be used because of previous evolutionary developments, beginning with obvious things such as hands or speech, and moving on up to more complex social behaviour, much of which we share with other mammalian species. Without strong social behaviour, our reason would be vastly less effective. All human achievement, in science, technology, music and literature, has gotten to where it is today by building on the achievements of those who have gone before, by learning from the traditions and records that the society has accumulated over the centuries.

But humanity has been given another characteristic through the peculiar methods of evolution, the orgasm. Orgasms are fantastic, it's hard to keep dispassionately observing while you're having one, but the next time you do try and appreciate just how intense the pleasure actually is compared to anything else that might happen to you in your day to day life. However the experience is extremely transitory, so people usually focus on finding better ways to receive pleasure, such as drugs, fighting, religion, or god forbid, personal happiness. People pursue sex with great dedication, yet in todays frantic, self-obsessed world, it's usually not just the orgasm that we're after, rather validation or social standing or to just make the voices STOP goddamn it they just keep going on and on and I wasn't bad I promise but the dirty lady looked so pretty and please don't put me in the penitence hole again.

In fact, I don't think it would be an overstatement to say that of all the motivations that propel people through their daily lives in the western world, sex would be easily the most common (as most of us very rarely have to think seriously about securing food and shelter, it's really the only animal instinct still guiding us). How is it that this incredible interdependent society, so complex and with so many achievements, and so reliant on everyone following basic social conduct that specifically restrains self-interested pleasure seeking, can continue when everyone's wandering around in pursuit of the orgasm, natures own addictive high literally designed to be the best feeling possible and hard coded into our minds to be the goal of our lives?

One reason is that to a lesser degree human minds have also been programmed to desire a stable society, so unlike in the animal world sex for humans is not intended to be a violent, emotionless act. All human behaviour is governed by societal conventions, and sexual encounters, whether they last half an hour or a life time, are no exception. But that's bullshit, we've all read or seen how people behave during a war or in a lawless area, social pressures are just the cork holding back the selfish desires of the nastier elements of the human race. What is it that allowed everyone else to overcome the same instincts, rise above the animals and to form the society in the first place? And the answer is quite simple. Masturbation.

So the next time you go to the top of a huge skyscraper, miraculously towering hundreds of meters above the ground seemingly in defiance of gravity but made stable by principles worked out by hundreds of generations of structural engineers, or engage in communication with someone on the other side of the world via the intricate collaborative computer engineering feat that has formed the internet, or enjoy a piece of music composed by Beethoven, who wrote his masterpieces after studying and learning from the work of the musical scholars who came before him, remember to say “Thank you masturbation!”

Friday, September 02, 2005

Five Things I Learned From Watching Sin City

1. You can get shot several times from a pistol and not only still be alive, but ready to kick some arse.
  1. You can get riddled with bullets from a machine gun at close range, but still be alive because it wasn't a head shot.

  1. You can get shot several times and still have energy to beat up a few cops, be in a high speed car chase and swim through the sewers for a while.

  1. If you're really tough, after that you can get run over a couple of times and still be walking.

  1. And if you're really really tough, you can also take a full swing to the head with a sledgehammer and be fine.

But despite the ridiculous parts, I still thoroughly enjoyed it, mainly because of the style which emulates the comic almost exactly while also improving on it (with the splashes of colour and the way it perfectly reproduced scenes from the book in live action). On the other hand it's let down a bit by copying exactly the comic's dialogue and voiceovers, which sound good on paper but seem pretty cheesy when delivered in live action by Bruce Willis.

Well worth watching though, for a mindless but slick thrill, even if you haven't read the books.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

It's an Emergency. There's an Emergency Going On

For those of you who don't regularly scan the sidebar for updates, Jeremy has a new blog.