Mar 24, 2015

IMDB message boards (with movie spoilers)

One of the things I like to read on the internet is the message boards on IMDB. Sometimes there are very thoughtful and informative posts by serious film afficionados (who probably call themselves afficionados) which add something to my understanding of a film or TV series. Sometimes (wait, no, actually always) there are long diatribes about why the main female character is a selfish harridan who has horribly oppressed her poor male partner (ugh). And sometimes there are good questions and entertaining conversations between people with opposing views.

Here are some things I've watched recently and my favourite comments from the IMDB message boards.

This post has SPOILERS for all the movies included here, so read on forewarned!

Drag Me To Hell

Drag Me To Hell is a great horror-comedy about a loan officer whose hard-hearted business decision at work leads an old gypsy woman to curse her with three days of torment followed by being dragged to hell. Many of the message board discussions are around whether or not Christine deserved to be dragged to hell, for what she did, or the kind of person she is. Dragged to hell. For an eternity of pain and torment. I love the fact people think they can debate whether or not a person (any person?!) would deserve this.

Drag Me to Hell (2009) Poster
Fair use rationale of movie posters: ditto
[The old woman who curses Christine] is an evil b!tch, and the fact that she happens to be old, sick, and poor doesn't change that. 

Christine is a vegetarian, which in my book earns her some points as a compassionate person. She kills her cat to try to appease the demon, hoping that she will be able to avoid spending eternity in Hell. I think that's totally understandable.

Why exactly did that old woman need a third extension on her mortgage? Isn't the whole point of being a gypsy means you're constantly on the move with no permanent roots?

In reply to an argument in a thread:
You are assuming that all demons behave the same way under all circumstances. 

Also opens up a side discussion on the merits of banks and capitalism generally, and the fairness or not of loan extensions.

The Walking Dead

I'm not a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I found the first episode absolutely compelling, but it kind of seems to be the same thing over and over again, and it doesn't really seem to be going anywhere. I watched Seasons 1 and 2 and felt I had probably got the idea.  But it's an interesting take on the zombie apocalypse and it's done the visuals and tropes a bit differently, so I still watch it occasionally.

One user review opines that this show is good because of character development (hmm, arguable), which is "not usually a very big trait in the Zombie genre."  Um, yes, that is true.

There is a question about why we don't see characters using bicycles more, which opened up a whole discussion about whether bikes or cars are better transport during a zombie apocalypse, including their merits with regard to fuel use, speed, dexterity, ability to use weapons while riding, conservation of fighting energy, etc.

There is a discussion about how strong zombies are, whether newly minted ones are stronger and then decay, or whether the virus has made them strong.

Here's a very good point too:

 ...inconsistency that allows a rag tag group with no training to survive yet had the military and police be wiped out in a week.

and this one:

Where are all the fat walkers? America is full of overweight folks. Stands to reason about 50% of the walkers we see should be heavy. 

Not to mention the show takes place in the south so 70% of the walkers should be crisco filled fatties.


Why aren't we seeing any child walkers?

LOL cos child actors suck at that!

127 Hours

127 Hours is the true story of Aron Ralston, who got trapped by a fallen boulder while hiking in the Utah desert, and after suffering for days without food and water, finally amputated his arm with a pocket blade, before rapelling down a cliff face and walking to find help. While it might not sound that entertaining, it's actually a pretty good movie. James Franco stars and is unbelievably good.

As you'd expect, most of the message board comments focus on the real-life story:

Be honest, could you have done what he did?
NO I would have literally $hit myself within the first 10 minutes, I would have used all the water in few hours and slit my throat by second day lol.

Why didn't he wait for like a month and get super skinny? And just pull his arm out? 
It would have rained eventually and he wouldnt have needed to cut the arm off.

In response to a serious post "don't actually drink your own urine, it's full of salt, etc":
Wow. Thanks for that great tip. I shall make sure I never drink my own p!ss. Good job I read this post. 
Who knew? 
OP - would it be OK to drink your own p!ss if you filter it first through, oh, I don't know, a sponge or a sock full of sand? You know, only if you were really really thirsty and miles from home?

How could he drink that puddle water at the end?
He had already drank his own pee at that point, I think some muddy water won't do him much harm.

am i the only one...
i guess not being familiar with mr. ralston's back story, i found the unexpected display of foolhardy stupidy.. er, bravado, totally devoid of anything i could have empathized with or relate to on a human level.. 
worse yet, after the movie was over, all i kept thinking about is that he deserved it.. 
in fact, halfway through it, i had completely lost interest and kept openly rooting for him to cut his arm off and put himself and the audience out of our collective misery.. 

Internet comment forums are well known for compassion.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Another pretty good movie. Kudos for taking a different tack to start off the franchise anew, and like all good science fiction, starting with something that is controversial now (vaccines, animal testing). Here's something in it I hadn't noticed:

I just saw this movie yesterday and there was one detail I started to notice after about an hour. None of the apes seemed to have genitals. You can clearly see that during some frontal shots. I looked it up on the internet and it seems I'm not the only one to complain about this. 

Some good responses:

Guess CGI penis is a bit too risque for a major studio like Fox.

Movies like this don't want nudity, they want to sell the tickets to the entire family if they can... it's not an art-house picture.

And an ethical discussion:

If a cure for cancer could only be found by animal testing....would you approve of it? I certainly would. I'm 110% against animal testing for cosmetics but for curing horrible illnesses and pandemics (such as AIDS), I think it's a necessary evil. 

Cancer, yes. 
HIV/AIDS, no. 

???! Let's hope this guy isn't tasked with making actual ethical decisions ever.

Romancing the Stone

My absolute favourite movie from the 80s, recently re-watched. There is some funny discussion on 1980's aesthetics, including synth pop music soundtracks, shoulder pads, curly hair and non-whitened Hollywood teeth.

But also:

A friend recommended this movie to me. Just want to check, is this movie ok for men to enjoy? Or is it more of a girls movie? (I ask because of the title)

(better not take the risk, dude!)

And a justifiable complaint here, as movies from this era had a cringingly awful habit of fetishising foreign places:

It would be nice if Hollywood people did some research about Colombia. I live in the capital city Bogota. Remember they had to take a funny bus to go to Bogota? well guess what, Bogota has an airport!   We don't have monkeys on trees even if you travel from one city to another. Bogota is not some hot tropical city as they depict, it's average 13 celsius. 

- followed by an argument between commenters over whether Colombia is tropical or not, whether it's dangerous or not, and finally one exhorting a commenter to get a Colombian girlfriend to do some research because American girls are all fat and awful.

This movie contains a visual trope I have since seen in many, many movies set in far-off places, which I've mentioned before: bus passengers carrying live chickens.   It seems to be a Hollywood shorthand for 'poor country'.

Big Eyes

Big Eyes (2014) PosterBig Eyes is Tim Burton's latest film, the true story of artist Margaret Keane whose husband falsely took credit for her work and gained it international fame/notoriety (not everyone was a fan) in the 1950s-60s. I'm not a big Tim Burton fan but thankfully this film was Bonham-Carter/Depp free and I loved it.  However the message boards asked two questions I had wondered myself:

How did Margaret get the money to fly to Hawaii and buy a house?
(not really explained... commenters assume they had cash stashed in the house but still doesn't really explain it... But apparently the real Margaret Keane left Walter for another man, which is not as cinematically dramatic as running for her life out of a burning studio, but would explain the cash question a bit better). But, you know, in movies women can't leave husbands for other men as it makes them unsympathetic.

Why does Margaret's daughter sit in the back seat of the car?
I mean this was the 1950s! Safety-conscious parents just made sure their kids weren't riding on the hood or the roof of the car, right? But following a long string between commenters back and forth about whether 1950s parents made kids sit in the back seat or not, and whether throwing your arm in front of your kid's chest will stop them flying through the windscreen in the event of a crash (it will not), the consensus is reached that it was done mainly for visual effect, which is fine by me.

The final post in the thread is by "tomisinthehouse" who says simply:
What a dumb question.

Well no it isn't, tomisinthehouse, because I had the same question and I am not dumb! So there.

What's your favourite internet comment forum?

Mar 18, 2015

Here, I've fixed it: Dear Future Husband

There is a song that is currently HUGE on the tween girl circuit that is so teeth-grindingly annoying to me that I was very glad to see Salon just called it out for being "the worst".

If you're not familiar with Meghan Trainor's "Dear Future Husband", the real lyrics are here.

Now obviously, this is a light-hearted pop song, depicting a girl fantasizing about her ideal husband, a man she seems to know does not really exist. The 1950's sound make it an obvious retro-fantasy, and it's clearly not meant to be taken seriously ("Even if I was wrong / You know I'm never wrong / Why disagree?"). So obviously, I know this is just a fun silly song and not an actual guide to life.

But I still hate it!

I hate that whole "treat me like a lady" thing, and don't want my daughters to learn it.
I hate that whole "you better treat me right" thing, and that whole "you have to love me even when I'm batshit crazy" thing.
I hate that whole "if you treat me like a princess I'll have sex with you happily" crap that no one really means or can keep up in real life anyway.

So I've made the lyrics a bit better:

Dear Future Husband Partner

Dear future husband partner,
Here's a few things
You'll need to know I think will help us if you we wanna be
My one and Each other's only all my life our lives

Take me Let's go on a date
I We deserve it, babe
And don't But let's forget the flowers every anniversary
'Cause if you'll treat me right
I'll be the perfect wife
Buying groceries
Buy-buying what you need

We'll treat each other right
No one's the perfect wife
And we'll take turns
Buying groceries
Buy-buying groceries

You got that 9 to 5
But, baby, so do I
So don't be thinking I'll be home and baking apple pies
I never learned to cook
But I can write a hook
Sing along with me
Sing-sing along with me (hey)

You gotta know how I don't want you to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting But never tell me that I'm crazy
Tell me everything's Gaslighting's never alright

Dear future husband partner,
Here's a few things
You'll need to know I think will help us if you we wanna be
My one and Each other's only all my life our lives
Dear future husband,
If you wanna get that special lovin'
Tell me I'm beautiful each and every night

After every fight
Just We'll both apologize
And maybe then I'll let you try and rock my body right we'll hold each other tight
Even if I No matter who was wrong 
You know I'm never wrong We won't stay mad for long 
Why disagree?
Why, why disagree?

Dear future husband partner,Here's a few things
You'll need to know I think will help us if you we wanna be
My one and Each other's only all my life our lives (hey, baby)
Dear future 
husband partner,
Make time for me
Don't leave me lonely And I'll make time for you
And know we'll never see your family more than mine And we'll take turns to see our families all our lives 

I'll be sleeping on the left side of the bed (hey)
Open doors for me and you might get some kisses if you go through them first, 

Or if I'm first through, I'll hold the door for you
Don't have a dirty mind 

at least not all the time
Just be a classy decent guy
You don't have to Buy me a ring
Buy-buy me a ring, (babe)

You gotta know how I don't want you to treat me like a lady
Even when I'm acting But never tell me that I'm crazy
Tell me everything's Gaslighting's never alright

Dear future husband partner,
Here's a few things
You'll need to know I think will help us if you we wanna be
My one and Each other's only all my life our lives

Dear future husband,
If you wanna get that special loving
Tell me I'm beautiful each and every night

Future husband partner, better let's love me each other right


Not quite as catchy, I'll agree - but MUCH BETTER! 
Now to get my daughters singing along to this version...

Mar 10, 2015


Time for something a little lighter. I quite liked this latest questionnaire meme on Sunday Stealing, which I came across on Princess Pandora.  Clean, short and simple.

1. Three things that scare me:

  • poverty
  • extremism: the ultra conservative right and the radical left
  • fire

2. Three people who make me laugh:

  • Phil Dunphy (Modern Family)
  • Rebel Wilson
  • John Stewart

3. Three things I love:

  • solitude 
  • dogs
  • pens

4. Three things I hate:

  • extremism
  • boasting (including Humblebrags) on Facebook and Instagram
  • loud noises

5. Three things I don't understand:

  • How perfectly nice, decent people can be so hardcore unsympathetic to those less fortunate than themselves (eg the Americans' deep antipathy to universal health care; many people's attitudes towards asylum seekers; how people with good jobs and earning good money don't understand they are also lucky)
  • men's rights activists 
  • how The Greens would run a viable economy

6. Three things on my desk:

  • towering pile of papers, DVDs, kids' drawings and notebooks
  • pack of my daughter's Hubba Bubba
  • a two-pole puncher that hasn't been used in years

7. Three things I'm doing right now:

  • blogging 
  • laundry
  • re-watching Final Destination 2 on DVD

8. Three things I want to do before I die:

  • write a book
  • live for a year in Y's Greek village
  • iPad art by my daughter aged six
  • get fit 

9. Three things I can do:

  • data mining and analysis
  • learn a language fast
  • talk in rhyming couplets

10. Three things I can't do:

  • sing
  • mix colours into ready-to-roll icing
  • watch cricket

11. Three things you should listen to:

  • birdsong in the morning when everything else is quiet
  • your favourite music, regularly
  • opposing points of view, at least sometimes

12 Three things you should never listen to:

  • talk-back radio
  • advertising aimed to make you feel inadequate 
  • anyone who claims to cure cancer with food 

13. Three things I'd like to learn:

  • how to write a novel
  • how to stay calm and relaxed
  • ballroom dancing

14. Three favourite foods:

  • chocolate
  • spanokopita: Greek spinach and cheese pie
  • steak

15. Three beverages I drink regularly

  • coffee
  • Coke Zero
  • water

16. Three shows I watched as a kid:

  • Bewitched
  • The Flintstones
  • Get Smart

Mar 8, 2015

The destruction of Nimrud by ISIS

Do I detect something new in the world's response to ISIS' destruction of the ancient city of Nimrud?

In 2001 when the Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the world was aghast. During the Iraq War when the Baghdad Museum was looted there was condemnation and outrage.

It's possible the world has got used to these wanton displays of barbarism. But I think there is something else.

The atrocities of ISIS have been so horrific and so many, and their brand of Islam so ignorant and barbaric, that we can only feel a sort of numbed sadness, but no surprise, at these latest crimes (which, obviously, are NOTHING compared to their crimes against humans).

Also, we now know how ISIS operate. With their English-language magazine, beheadings on Twitter, and horrific rhetoric, we know they need shock, outrage and publicity. They want us to be outraged, to feed their campaign of fear.

So I am detecting, in the comparatively muted media response to the destruction of Nimrud, a refusal to play into that. And this is definitely MY feeling in response as well.


You destroyed the idolatrous statutes in the Mosul Museum? You bulldozed Nimrud? And you're going to bulldoze Nineveh too?  Well SO WHAT.

You've beheaded aid workers and journalists. You've mutilated children, raped and sold girls into slavery, terrorized and tortured your populations. You've just burned a man to death in a cage, you barbaric thugs. You want to destroy your region's heritage, and knock down structures which pre-date Mohammad by centuries and have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam? You want to bulldoze ancient statues and treasures which already exist in a million photos and textbooks and videos worldwide, and so won't ever be erased?

Well go for it, you thick, ignorant psychopaths. Knock it all down, and just watch how much the world is not going to give one single shit.


"Iraq; Nimrud - Assyria, Lamassu's Guarding Palace Entrance" by M.chohan - Own work.
Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons 

Mar 7, 2015

Plainly wrong scientific theories

You know that thing where really really smart people can be clueless about something really really obvious to everyone else? Sure you do. Well, sometimes, really really smart people also go so far into the realm of theory that they come up with ideas that make a lot of sense to them, and can be backed up with all sorts of theoretical equations and logic, and which as a layperson, you try and understand and accept, but in the end you can't help but think, "Nah, I don't reckon."

Here are some examples of theories which I have decided, after long thought and using no science whatsoever, are completely wrong.

1. The Multiverse

The multiverse is a very cool, intriguing idea that everyone loves but it just doesn't stand up. The idea is that there are an infinite number of universes, with an infinite number of possibilities. Which immediately raises the stock response, that an infinite number of universes and possibilities must include one where the multiverse doesn't exist.  Plus, like, doesn't "the universe" mean "everything"? So if there are multiple universes aren't they all just part of "the universe"?

One of the theories around the multiverse is that the universe splits every time two or more possibilities exist. In simple (and probably wrong) terms, one example could be every time you make a decision. So if you turned down a job, or decided not to move to another country, then another universe exists where you accepted that job or moved to that country. Or another universe exists where JFK wasn't assassinated, Hitler drowned as a toddler, or the US didn't invade Iraq. You can see the immediate appeal of such a theory, and I don't think immensely clever theoretical physicists are any more immune to "what if" fantasies than the rest of us.

The problem with this idea is that it gets ridiculous pretty fast. More than one possibility exists all the time. So if I have cereal instead of toast this morning, or my cat jumps right instead of left, the universe splits and another me and another cat, pursue their different lives. And along with us, we take all our family members and furniture and casual acquaintances with us. But why? To what end? In the end this theory just doesn't make any sense.

In my favourite bit from Futurama (episode: I Dated A Robot), Fry travels to the edge of the universe and sees alternate versions of himself and his friends looking back at them.

Fry: Far out! So there really is an infinate number of universes?
Professor Farnsworth: No, just the two.

2. The Theory of Everything

Scientists have been searching for a unifying theory that will explain the universe and reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics, many convinced that such a single, unifying explanation of all things must exist. And what has been the best suggestion to date? String theory. The universe is made up of tiny vibrating strings and mini-universes. (I might have that a bit wrong).

I think this is a limitation of our brains - we love "truth in beauty", we love balance and harmony and we don't like loose ends. Is that a sign that the universe is the same? Or just a side effect of our wiring which has served us well in our evolutionary history?

Who says all the workings of the universe have to be unified? It's a natural assumption, and one I guess we all secretly believe (me as well). But actually it seems not to be the case. Why should it be the case? No one can really come up with a reason, other than appealing to logic and "elegance" or "beauty" which may really be things that our logical, orderly minds require more than actual physical laws.

I actually think that searching for a unifying theory of everything is the equivalent of believing in a God.

3. Quantum behaviour

OK, I might, just might, be wrong about this one. But I (like some scientists) have decided that the weird effects that are seen at the quantum level are more about a failure of our brains to perceive what's happening, than reality. Part of the reason I think this is because throughout history (and throughout my own education and growing up), every time an idea or phenomenon initially seems weird and awesomely magical and unknowable, it turns out to be actually very explainable and to make sense in a much more prosaic way than we imagined.  So I think quantum stuff will too. One day.

4. The idea that humans have unique cognition

Humans are - perhaps - different from other animals, but anyone who has or works with animals knows the differences are over-stated. Sure, laypeople anthropomorphise their pets' behaviour, and yes, humans have complex language and can conceptualise complex ideas like multi-verses. But do we really know that other animals don't do this as well, in their own way?  No we do not.

5. Climate Change

Ha ha, just kidding. Climate change is real, kids.


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