Thursday, August 31, 2006

Skinning Cats With Celebrities

Did anyone else out there just make the mistake of watching ‘Celebrity Duets’ this evening?

For those that didn’t, let me give you a quick rundown:

Carlton from ‘Fresh Prince’ was passable. The guy from “Queer Eye For The Straight Guy” was actually good…but the rest of them were painfully bad.

Let me be clear on this. I don’t mean ‘They were bad”, I mean they were bad. Not so bad it was funny, or so bad it’s entertaining. I mean “So bad it makes your skin crawl and you actually start to feel embarrassed for them.”

They went right through bad and came out the other side, somehow discovering a parallel universe of suckiness. A world where the beat, rhythm and pitch no longer exist.

Let’s just say this is the only show that made me miss Simon Cowell. Whereas Simon tended to be too harsh, the judges on Celebrity Duets where indeed, the Anti-Simon.

They must have been listening to their iPods during the performances, because how they could call some of those vocal abortions ‘good’, means they either weren’t listening or had gone insane.

Speaking of insane, the one saving grace of the show was Little Richard who is, bizarrely, one of the judges.

I mean, what in the blue hell is that guy on? Who thought it was a good idea to give Little Richard a job where he has to talk?

It followed a strange format. First Marie Osmond would sycophantly blabber on for 20 minutes, then Little Richard would talk as though he had just stuck a pin into a dictionary and chosen random words…then the last judge (whose name I can’t remember), would have just enough time to say “Good” or “Bad”.

My personal favorite Little Richard comment came after Cheech Marin and Randy Travis had just finished singing “Digging up bones”:

“Digging up bones! Made me think of the valley! …Bones! I hope you get them outta there! Bones!”

Huh? Wha? Is that meant to actually mean something, Ricky? That’s meant to be useful, constructive criticism? No shit. That was his comment, word for word.

Come back “So You Think You Can Dance?”…All is forgiven!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Surviving America

It came as quite a shock today when I realized I’ve been living in the USA for almost two and a half years!

Where the hell does the time go? It feels like I only stepped off the plane a few weeks ago!

Well, I thought I’d put my immigrant’s knowledge of America to good use and write the following guide to all my fellow Brits who are new immigrants to the USA:

America : The Survival Guide

1) Expect to be asked the following question a lot: “Oh, I have a friend from England! His name’s Bob! Do you know him?” For some reason, you average American assumes England consists of a 100ft square island with two cottages and a castle on it.

2) When asked “Is that near London?” about your home town, just answer ‘yes’, even if you live on the most northern tip of Scotland. It saves a lot of hassle, and is true by American standards anyway.

3) They drive on the right. I know this is wrong, you know this is wrong, but driving on the left, with your horn held down is not an effective means of teaching them this.

4) Your car’s bonnet is now the ‘hood’, the boot is now the ‘trunk’ and the accelerator is the ‘gas pedal’…nuff said.

5) Do not attempt sarcastic jokes. Americans just don’t get it, and it will only end in offense.

6) If asked how much an item you bought in England costs, say ‘Dollars’ instead of ‘Pounds’ to avoid a twenty minute conversation (That you’ll have at least a hundred times).

7) Also expect to be asked “So does a pound actually weigh a pound?” (Seriously, I’ve been asked this twice.)

8) Especially in the South, do not refer to the 4th of July as ‘Uppity Colonial Day’.

9) Also, “You bastards stole my country” is not a valid greeting on the 4th of July.

10) In England, going outside to “Smoke a fag” means you are leaving the premises to smoke a cigarette. In America, it means you are going outside to shoot a homosexual.

11) Therefore, do not tell your new friends and relatives that you’re “going out to buy some fags”.

12) Do not attempt to explain the difference between Lager, Bitter, Mild and Stout to an American. In America beer is beer.

13) The words ‘Wanker’, ‘Bollocks’ and ‘Shite’ mean nothing to Americans, so feel free to use them without causing offence.

14) It is perfectly acceptable to snigger when an American uses the word ‘Shag’, as here it just means a type of carpet and a dance.

15) Everything you do that the particular American you’re talking to hasn’t experienced automatically becomes a ‘British’ thing. Offer an American a vanilla mint you just bought at Starbucks, and if they’ve never tried one before, all British people love Vanilla Mints.

16) For some reason, Americans think anyone with a British accent is intelligent. Use this to your advantage.

17) Do not attempt to explain to an American what a Crumpet is…they’re impossible to describe to anyone who’s never tried one.

18) Expect the following assumptions: You live entirely on a diet of tea and crumpets, you used to live in a thatched cottage, there’s a castle on every corner and you’re from London.

19) Also, Americans also think that Britain is at the same technological level we were back in the 1820’s (I was once asked if we have computers, supermarkets and cars in England).

20) The easiest way to answer the question “What’s Britain like?” is “A lot like here, but it ‘s colder and rains more.”

21) Expect your new friends to ‘reveal’ TV shows like “Friends”, “Seinfeld” and “Frasier” to you. It’s also a lot more fun if you pretend you’ve never seen them before.

22) New friends and relatives will also buy things like “English Peas” and “English Muffins” to make you feel more at home. Wait a while before you point out that these sorts of items bear absolutely no resemblance to real English stuff.

23) On the opposite side of the coin, all the ‘American’ things you’ve got used to in England bear no resemblance to real American things. For example, American bars do not look like the ‘American Bars’ in England.

24) When buying new clothes, don’t get completely decked out in the Stars and Stripes…you’ll look like an idiot.

25) The same is true of over-using the Union jack.

26) When being introduced to new people, they will expect you to talk like Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins”, or like Prince Charles…don’t disappoint them.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Some people...I just wanna Pimp-Slap

I think I’ve finally discovered a way to make a buttload of money with very little effort:

Step One : Get a Phd in Psychology (although making a Phd certificate on my PC would do)

Step Two : Get someone to pay me for an off-the-wall theory, delivered with authority as fact, on an issue were people want easy answers.

Step Three : Laugh all the way to the bank.

Today I read an article on ‘comfort foods’ and sugar addiction. It was about how people can get addicted to certain foods, why we are drawn to certain foods when we feel down and the vicious circles this can cause. (I eat when I’m upset and I’m upset because I’m overweight).

What made me laugh was the following quote from a ‘Phd’:

“When we’re stressed we automatically crave the foods we ate as children, a worry and stress free time.”

One word for you, fella…Bullshit.

In other words: “I’ve got to come up with a logical sounding, but ultimately stupid theory in order to convince myself I’m more intelligent than everyone else.”

First of all, when you were a kid, did you eat more high-fat stuff and candy than you do now? Probably not, considering most parents don’t see candy and junk food as the best choice for a growing child.

Secondly, childhood wasn’t as worry and stress free as we like to remember it. Fair enough, you didn’t have any real problems, but did anyone else stress out on their first day of school? The first time you were faced with a bitch teacher? The first time you had to struggle to do something?

This might just be me, but I’m far happier and less stressed out as a 25 year old than I ever was when I was 5 or 15.

So let me give another theory, this is one of my own…it might be a bit over-simplistic, but then again, I don’t have a Phd:

“When we’re stressed, we automatically crave fatty foods and candy, because they taste good and make us feel better.”

Seriously, is there any more to it than that? Chocolate or ice-cream tastes really good. It’s a pleasant experience. We’re feeling down, so we eat something we know we’ll enjoy to feel better.

I remember reading something somewhere about a guy who left college and wanted to write a book about investing, aimed at young adults. The only problem was he realized he could write everything you needed to know about successful investing on two sheets of paper. In his own words: “Who would pay for that? You’d realize you were mostly paying for the cover!”

That’s the problem with people like this Phd. There’s a very simple, common sense answer. It’s easy to understand.

However, when you want to write about it, you have to come up with alternative, more complicated theories in order to make the thing worth getting paid for.

In other words, a 350 page book on how junk food reminds us of childhood, and therefore ‘takes us back to a simpler time’ as a way of mentally escaping from our problems is far more likely to sell than a single sentence which reads:

“It tastes good and makes us feel better.”

Monday, August 28, 2006

Pointed Sticks

Well, Dear Readers, you catch me in a philosophical mood tonight.

In my last post, I commented on just how difficult it is to take and process pictures on ‘real’ film, when compared to digital.

What really made me think was MC Etcher’s comment that traditional photography is a ‘Dying Art’.

My question is simple…Is this a bad thing?

It begs the question, “What is the difference between keeping a tradition alive, and hanging on to an obsolete and outmoded way of doing things?”

For example, when it comes to photography, it takes a lot more time, effort and skill to go from triggering the shutter to finished picture traditionally than it does digitally. So, is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Traditional photographers would obviously tell you that this is a good thing. That their method is closer to true ‘art’, because of the level of skill involved. Digital photographers would obviously say this is a bad thing, because the whole point of the process is the finished picture and they can achieve the same results as a traditional photographer much more easily and in a fraction of the time.

In many ways there is a lot of jealousy and snobbery involved in these situations, simply because no one likes to see a method of doing anything come along that is so easy anyone can do it…especially when they’ve spent a large portion of their lives learning to do things the traditional way.

This happens often in the workforce, where someone has spent years training to do a particular job and then one day discovers that with a computer, anyone can do the same job with 20 minutes training. We’ve become obsolete so we choose to pride ourselves on the ‘fact’ that our way is the ‘real’ way, and anything that makes it easier is just ‘cheating’.

The same is true in pretty much all walks of life. In a few short weeks, I personally have achieved a level of skill at airbrushing in Photoshop that would take me months, or even years to achieve traditionally. While I’m still definitely a novice, I definitely couldn’t get the same results with a real airbrush that I get in Photoshop.

Inking drawings is the same. It doesn’t take nearly as much skill, because if I mess up a line, I can remove it and re-do it as many times as I like. Whereas traditional inking is a one-shot deal…digital inking is entirely reversible.

The question is then, is it the final product that’s most important, or the process of creating it? When you look at a piece of art, does the amount of time, or the skill involved to create it really have a bearing on how much you like it? Would the Mona Lisa be any less of a masterpiece if DaVinci had knocked it up in an hour in photoshop?

In some cases, the answer is clear. For example, if a family member spent weeks crotcheting a blanket for you as a gift, it would be far more greatly appreciated than a store bought blanket, due to the time, thought and effort involved.

On the other hand, is a wedding album made as a slideshow on a CD-ROM any less thoughtful than traditional pictures put into a paper album by hand? Is a reproduced print of a painting any less beautiful than the original?

If we look deeper into this way of thinking it brings up a lot more questions.

Would this blog be any more important if instead of writing it in Word, cutting and pasting into blogger and clicking ‘publish’, I wrote it out by hand, employed a typesetter to lay it out on a traditional printing press and then paid someone else to deliver it to your house?

Would your gardening tools be any more useful if they were hand-made by a blacksmith, rather than mass produced by machines?

This all reminds me of a story I read in a book about computers back in the 1980’s.

Computers were just beginning to become common and many people where complaining that computers and machines were taking people’s jobs. The book answered this complaint with the following (very) short story:

On a building site, a construction worker was watching a JCB digger digging a hole. He turned to his friend and said “You know, if that machine wasn’t here, there would be five men doing that job with shovels.”

His friend thought for a moment before replying:

“And if it wasn’t for your shovels, there would be 50 men with teaspoons doing that job.”

This highlights the flaw in the traditional versus technological debate. What exactly is traditional? Why favor a less advanced tool than the best available? Also, why is your tool the ‘traditional’ one?

If you use a drill press, why not use a hand-held power drill? If you use a power drill, why not use a manual drill? If you use a manual drill, why not use a spoon drill? If you use a spoon drill, why not just dig the wood out with a pointy stone?

For example, going back to photography for a second, isn’t it also true that the ‘traditional’ means has benefited from advancing technology?

At one time the picture was made entirely in the camera. If you wanted a large picture, you needed a large camera. The chemicals and light sensitive media wasn’t nearly as fast as more modern means, meaning the subject being photographed would have to remain perfectly still for over 5 minutes.

In this case, can’t an argument be made that ‘traditional’ photography isn’t ‘traditional’ at all, but a modernized and technologised version of the original and ‘true’ photography? Going back even further, why not use a camera obscura, which was just a lens that projected the picture onto paper or a canvas to be traced by hand?

If we follow this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, doesn’t this mean that today’s digital photographers will at some point in the future be making a case against newer technologies, because their way, of having to take a picture, run it through Photoshop and print it is the ‘traditional’ way?

“These holo-imagers are stupid. Just point it in the general direction and it picks out the best angle, records the image, gets rid of any blur and camera shake, gives you the perfect color balance and instantly transfers it to your holo-projector. In my day, you had to connect the camera to your computer…that’s right, with wires. Then you had to click ‘auto levels’ and ‘auto white balance’. This shit’s far too easy…it’s not ‘art’.”

In the end, I think as a culture we are wired to think “Difficult = Good, Easy = Bad”. You’ve heard all the sayings ,‘No short cuts’ appears to be our motto.

I’ve even heard people complain that today’s students have it ‘too easy’, because they can do research over the internet, instead of having to visit a library. The problem arises when you really think about this statement…we’re calling it a bad thing that it’s much easier for people to learn things.

It’s a matter of perspective. To a carpenter who only uses traditional tools, power tools are ‘cheating’, the Carpenter who uses power tools sees mass production machines as ‘cheating’ and so on and so on.

There is definitely a case to be made for keeping the traditional ways of doing things alive, even if only from a purely historical point of view and to remind ourselves of how easy we have it today.

On the other hand, progress is progress. If we held onto the traditional way of doing everything, we’d be digging wells instead of turning on a faucet, lighting candles instead of turning on a lightbulb, and walking everywhere instead of driving our cars.

All we need to do is, as a culture, drop our assumptions and realise that just because something is easier, it doesn’t make it any less worthwhile.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Digital Dohickeys...

A couple weeks ago, my sister-in-law got married.

Before the ceremony I either volunteered or was volunteered (I don’t remember which) to do a lot of the photography.

Now photography is something I used to be really into. I have a very good SLR camera, own a (then) top of the line digital camera…I even had my own darkroom. (Well, technically, that’s a lie. I just used to black out all the windows in my bedroom and develop pictures in there).

Seeing the pictures for the first time today, I can see that I’ve been spoiled by digital cameras, and that I’m a little out of practice when it comes to traditional photography.

You see, with my camera at least, I have a definite disability with single lens reflex cameras. You see, when you look through the view finder of an SLR camera, you’re actually looking through the camera’s lens. Pressing the trigger moves a mirror which makes the light hit the film instead of the viewfinder aperture.

So why is this a problem for me?

I wear glasses, and my camera doesn’t have very long eye-relief.

In other words, when I hold the viewfinder to my eye, I can’t see the whole picture.

So why not take my glasses off? I hear you ask.

Two words…manual focus. My eyesight is terrible, so if I focus the lens until I see the picture clearly, it’s blurred to someone with 20/20 vision.

The pictures weren’t exactly terrible, and in fact there where a lot of good ones. However, most of them highlighted one of the major downsides of traditional photography…and that’s choice of film.

I’d bought ISO 400 film. Film that’s supposed to be good general purpose film. Fast enough for low light indoor shots, and slow enough for bright sunlit shots. Unfortunately, I bought brand I hadn’t used before (big no-no), and it wasn’t the best. Outdoor shots seemed to be slightly over-exposed…and there are a lot of outdoor shots.

It made me realize how used to digital media (and how spoiled by it) I’ve become.

For example, I’d given Sunny my digital camera to use at the wedding. With the digital, you could see instantly if the picture had ‘worked’, and problems like under or over exposure, white balance issues etc are easily fixed in photoshop.

Before digital came along, a picture was either good or bad the second you triggered the shutter. You had to know stuff. For example, how your F-Stop would affect your exposure time and your depth of field. Things like taking a light reading, and setting your exposure time and f-stop accordingly. Deciding whether to use a fill-flash, or bounce the flash off the ceiling or a wall to get the desired effect.

Then, moving into the dark room, developing pictures is part exact science, part art. For example, the negatives have to be left in the developing solution for exactly the right time at exactly the right temperature. Leave them in 5 seconds too long, or at a degree over the proper temperature and the negative is ruined. The same is true if you don’t agitate to solution properly, and leave air bubbles on the developing film.

(As an aside, developing film has to be done in complete and total darkness. You can’t even use a dark-room red light. Anyone who has ever tried to open a film canister, take out the film, feed it only a specially designed spool and then seal it in a light-proof developing tub without actually touching the surface of the film, can tell you this isn’t easy. Especially if you’re an amateur like me, and are in a blacked out bedroom with four blankets over your head to make sure no light reaches the film!)

Then when you come to put those pictures onto the paper, you move into the realms of ‘art’, because you have to ‘feel’ how long you need to expose the paper for, how long to leave it in the developer and the right moment to dunk it in the fixer to stop it developing.

It’s certainly something to think about when today I can snap a picture with my digital camera, drop it into Photoshop and fix anything I don’t like with a few mouse-clicks and have the picture you want moments later.

The days of snapping an entire roll of film, just to get two or three good pictures are over.

I should point out that I’m not badmouthing the digital and Photoshop method, because using Photoshop takes a fair degree of skill…but while I can remove a particular person or object from a digital photograph without leaving a trace of them in just a few minutes…doing the same thing in a darkroom would take hours of preparation and planning.

In short…let’s just say I’m glad Sunny had the digital camera at the wedding as well.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Those Wacky C**tbag Sayers...

Back in the early 90’s, when I had my first experience of the internet, I used IRC (Internet Relay Chat) a lot.

This fascination with IRC only lasted a few weeks until the novelty wore off, because as anyone who uses IRC can tell you; people on IRC fall into one of the following categories:

50% Horny teenage males, looking for anything female to have ‘cybersex’ with.

49% Assholes looking to start an argument.

1% Normal interesting people who are fun to have a half-hour chat with.

Basically, IRC is like any social setting, you tend to make one or two friends and stick with them because the asshole ratio is so high. Considering that today we have more easy and efficient means to talk to friends over the internet (such as Skype), it surprises me that IRC is still going strong.

Now I’m not complete trashing IRC and its variations. For example, while playing Second Life recently I started talking to someone and discovered that we were both British and had moved to the USA at around the same time (Although to different states). With this as a conversation starter, we discovered that we’d both grown up in the same town, went to the same schools and even the same college, just 5 years apart.

This was an amazing coincidence, and we had fun reminiscing about our old home town, what we miss, what we like about the states, etc. Now, this may sound really pathetic, but with the fact that I currently have no job, no transportation, and the only people I really get to talk to are my new in-laws, it was fun and a real breath of fresh air.

However, it’s not the good points of IRC I want to talk about today, in fact, I want to talk about one particular negative that I don’t feel I will ever understand.

I’m talking about the IRC-BS, more commonly known as the IRC Bitch Session.

This is were for no apparent reason, someone on IRC will do everything they can to pick a fight with you. This ultimately leads to them sending as many four letter tirades your way as they can think of. Even when you’ve stopped responding and decided not to waste any more time on them…the messages keep coming.

The simple fact is anonymity makes people brave… and for some reason they think calling someone a “Mutha F**king c**tbag c**ting s**tface f**ker” actually proves something.

Here’s the deal. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Chances are we’ll never meet in real life, and even if we do, we won’t recognize each other. What’s the point in trading insults? What does it prove, and more importantly, what’s the point?

If you think about it, technically, you’re typing insults into a little box on a screen that insults you back. It’s not like you’re arguing a point. It’s not as if the other person will suddenly concede that that are indeed a ‘pale friendless virgin bastard c**t’, and thank you for the attitude adjustment.

Nope, you’ll just trade increasingly creative insults until one of you gets bored and goes away.

However, I feel that there’s something deeper in this phenomenon. Something that passes normal assholeness, and delves deeper and deeper into really foul, disturbing and dark levels of dick-ocity that most of us will never experience.

It passes straight by regular assholeness and comes out the other side, twisted and unnatural.

For example, most online games have a chat feature. However, being in an online game is a situation where if you really feel like taking your aggression out on someone who has ‘insulted’ you in some way, your character has a gun in his hands, and the point of the game is to shoot your opponents.

Why not let your in-game gun do the talking?

It’s the equivalent of you getting into an argument in real life and someone threatening to beat the crap out of you, but when you stand back and say “Go on, take a shot!”…instead of swinging, they just start getting more graphic in the descriptions of how they’re going to beat you up.

“Yeah, I’m gonna kick your ass!”

“So do it! Go on, take a swing!”

“Yeah, I’m gonna beat you so bad, your mother won’t recognize you!”

“What are you waiting for then? Come on!”

“I’m gonna knock your teeth so far down your throat, you’ll have to stick your toothbrush up your ass to clean them!”

“Sigh…I’m waiting…”

“Then I’ll…”

Let me give you an example of something that happened to me recently.

I was playing Battlefront 2 online. Before I continue, I need to explain the point of this game:

Essentially two teams fight each other in a large environment. Dotted around this environment are control points. If your team captures all the control points, or kills all the other team, your team wins.

Now, there is a certain frowned-upon practice in online shooters called ‘camping’. This is where you set your character up in a hidden spot and wait for the enemy to come to you. A particularly heinous version of this is ‘spawn camping’.

A spawn point is where players who have been killed, re-enter the game. A spawn camper waits near this spot and blasts re-spawning players as soon as they re-enter the game.

The point of this practice is that it doesn’t give the spawning players any time to react or defend themselves. You get killed, and the second you re-start you get a rocket in the face. In short, it’s a way for a player to get a huge kill count using no skill whatsoever.

However, in a game like Battlefront, camping doesn’t apply. You see, the way you capture a control point in this game is to kill all the enemies around it and stay alive for a certain amount of time while standing next to it. Once you’re within a certain distance of the control point, a timer starts to tick down, and when it reaches zero, you’ve captured it. If a player from the other team is still in proximity to the control point, the timer freezes.

Basically, if you didn’t camp, or shoot players as soon as they spawned at that control point, you couldn’t capture it.

It goes from a frowned-upon practice to a required tactic.

In other words, you over-run the control point, forcing the enemy to choose another control point that’s in their possession to spawn at. On the other side of the coin, you have to ‘camp’ at control points in your possession in order to defend them from the other team.

So let me get back to my point.

I was playing this game, and a few other members of my team and I are trying to capture a control point. With a certain degree of difficulty, we cleared out the enemy defenders and took up defensive positions ourselves to wait out the timer.

Now, any experienced player knows that when the map shows that your control point is over-run, you choose a different point to spawn at and launch a counter-attack from there.

Spawning into a control point that’s over-run is suicide, because you’re suddenly appearing amongst 5-10 heavily armed opponents. It’s far better to spawn at a nearby point, and attempt to take back the lost control point in force from there.

Not one guy.

He spawned at the same over-run control point no less than five times, and less than surprisingly, he got peppered within seconds of spawning each time. What did he expect? For my team to think:

Hey, lets not shoot at this guy! Let’s let him shoot us all, and make the big battle we just won to get to this CP completely pointless! Why bother trying to win?

Then came the IRC-BS:

“U Fucken camper shit! U suck u fucken n00b!!!”

I made the mistake of responding. I simply said:

“This is an assault map. It’s not camping. It’s called ‘suppressing a control point’.”

Seriously, this is like playing paint-ball and being accused of cheating for defending your flag.

Of course, instead of just playing the game, my response got me 25 minutes of badly spelled insults. This guy wasn’t even playing the game anymore. He was just hiding in a corner and typing messages questioning my parentage, my sexual preferences and making insinuations that I like to do illegal things with goats.

That’s the part I don’t understand.

You see, in normal IRC, if you have anger management problems, or just enjoy being a dick, showing you can’t spell and showcasing your enjoyment of four letter tirades is the only way to vent that misplaced and irrational anger.

In an online shooter, however, you’re giving a whole host of heavy weaponry, and using that weaponry against the other team is actively encouraged.

Your character is carrying a blaster-rifle, my character is out there in the environment running about. If I’ve somehow pissed you off, you’re quite within your rights to hunt me down and shoot me in the head.

So, when given that option, why do you choose instead to type insulting messages to me? If you beat me at the game, at least you’d have proven something (even if it is only that you’re better than a complete stranger at a video game). Writing four letter tirades only proves one thing. That you’re a tool worthy only of ignoring.

Ah! I think I’m beginning to see a glimmer of understanding.

The people who choose to insult complete strangers online are like the short, drunk people you see in bars. They know that everyone else in the bar could crush them into a fine powder with little effort and feel they have something to prove. They know they’d be obliterated instantly in an actual fight, so instead make as much noise as possible…knowing that most people won’t actually teach them some manners, because they’d feel bad about beating someone up who’s a clear two feet shorter than them.

…only online, they don’t have any worries at all about actually getting their heads kicked in.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Ever get that feeling you’re being purposefully dicked with, and have no idea why?

Regular readers will know my present job situation. IE: That I don’t have one, and I’m having difficulty finding one.

Well this past Tuesday, Sunny and I were out paying bills and doing our weekly shopping. We stopped at the Dollar General for dog food, and as usual, I popped into the EB Games next door.

On my way in, I noticed the ‘Now Hiring’ sign.

Now just to be clear here, a retail job is about as attractive to me as getting root canal surgery, without anesthetic, by a McDonalds employee on acid.

However, at this point, I look at it this way. It’s a job. It pays money. I can do it. If nothing else, it would bring in a bit of extra cash while I continue looking for a ‘real’ job.

So I spoke to the guy behind the counter:

“Hello.” I said. “The sign on your door says you’re hiring. Can I have an application form please?”

“I’m Sorry.” He said. “We don’t have any right now.”

I waited for a few seconds…waiting to see if he’d actually have the brains to tell me when they’d have some. He didn’t.

“Uhh, so when will you have some?”


“Thank you.”

I turn up on Wednesday, and I get the same answer. I turn up on Thursday. They’ll definitely have some on Friday.

Guess what? They didn’t!

So today, as you can imagine, today I’m feeling a little frustrated. I can understand the difficulty in getting an actual job, but this much difficulty getting an application form? Having to spend the gas money to drive to the same place four times, and being told to come back tomorrow every time really gets on my nerves.

Well, my mood picked up later on when I found a letter from Clemson University’s human resources department in my mailbox. Finally! Maybe I’ll get an interview!

I open it up, and find a very nice letter letting me know that from the end of September, Clemson University will no longer be accepting paper applications, and will only accept digital applications over the internet. However, all paper applications received before the end of September will still be accepted.

Ummm. So? It’s August. My application is already in.

Why did they feel the need to tell me this? I applied for a job with them over 6 weeks ago. I haven’t heard a thing back from them. Why do I need to know this? In case I decide to apply for the same job again?

At this point, I’m just waiting to get an interview, be told I have the job…only to turn up on the first day and have everyone laugh and tell me it was all a ‘joke’.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Ok people, here’s the deal:

A 14 year old girl lends her iPod to her friend. The friend takes it to school, and the iPod goes missing. What do you think happens next?

There are a few possibilities. Maybe the parents get angry and start fighting. Maybe the two girl’s friendship is over. Maybe one friend promises to pay the other back and everything works out.

Ok, get your theories together and I’ll tell you what really happened:


The girl is suing her friend for $475 ‘damages’ and legal costs.

Now when I was reading this story, I did feel a little glimmer of hope that the world hadn’t really gone nuts when I read the case was thrown out of court. Then I read on and discovered that the case had been thrown out, due to a paperwork glitch, but is not set to go to court in a few months.

So why is she suing for ‘damages’ and not just the cost of the iPod? Because she ‘had to do a lot of babysitting to afford it’.

Wow, you mean you actually had to work for something, so that gives you the right to ‘damages’ because it got stolen?

Now, I’m not going to go on about this. There’s nothing more that I could say that hasn’t already been said. So I’ll finish with a little message to this girl and her parents:

To the girl: Grow up, this is the real world and shit happens. You’re not entitled to a pay out every time things don’t go your way.

To the parents: What the hell are you thinking?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Protect Me From Myself

So I’m watching the news tonight, and there’s yet another story about people getting pissed off because a particular book is being studied at a local college.

That’s right, another case of ever-sensitive reactionaries, demanding they be protected from something they don’t want to see.

Now the name of this book, its content and the school in question is unimportant, because there are a few points I want to make that cover this whole situation.

Point One:

If you’re objecting to a particular piece of literature, because you feel it’s ‘explicit’ or has too many adult themes, I’m sorry, but you simply don’t belong in a college. If you’re a college student, you should have the maturity and objectivity to deal with it. The world is filled with things that you will find offensive. However, just because something doesn’t fit in with your ideology and way of thinking, does not make it ‘wrong’ or unworthy of study.

Point Two:

Literature classes are not appreciation sessions. You read these books in order to discuss, understand and gain a broader view of the world in general. If you read a book and don’t like it or find it offensive, when you come to write your dissertation, say so and write a critique of why you feel that way. For example, I find anything that was written by the Marquis De Sade absolutely disgusting, so when I found myself writing an essay on him, I focused on how he was obviously a disturbed individual who used his writing as a way to give an outlet to the feelings and drives he couldn’t lawfully do in real life.

I didn’t enjoy the book, and yes, I found it offensive, but it gave me an insight into a particular type of mind that I wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to explore.

In short, liking a piece of literature is not a pre-requisite for studying and learning from it.

Point Three:

Some literature is meant to be offensive or jarring, it’s the whole point. Moving to film for a second, look at movies like Schindler’s List. That is a film that’s incredibly disturbing, and shows how the Nazi’s treated the Jews like animals. It’s not warm and fuzzy and is certainly not what you’d call ‘family entertainment’.

Does that make it any less ‘important’ or worthy of study?


Point Four:

Quite simply, the world is not a G-Rated place and hiding from it or refusing to acknowledge the parts of life that we don’t like is both dangerous and counter productive. If we keep the fact that there are violent people out there from our children, does that make them safer?

Education is learning about the world…not just the parts we like.


Why are we slowly shifting to the situation where we are flat out asking others to do our thinking for us? Why are we demanding that we should be denied access to certain books and other media? Why can’t we accept that as adults we have the choice to read or view what we like, and that we are responsible for what our own children see?

Obviously, children need to be protected from things they aren’t ready to handle. I’m not saying that 3rd Grade children should be given books like “Black Dahlia” to read. However, this doesn’t apply in college. You’re in a voluntary situation, if you find the course material offensive, drop the course. Don’t kick up a stink because you feel that the literature you’re studying is offensive.

I suppose my biggest question is why go to college if you don’t want to be exposed to things you’re not used to or have no experience of?

Right now I feel we’re taking the first step down a very slippery scope. In schools where there are no longer winners and losers, work is marked in green pen because red is too ‘aggressive’, and parents, of even college level students, are protesting because they feel coursework material may damage their children’s poor sensibilities…what kind of new generation are we trying to produce?

I’ll tell you.

A generation of people who will have no idea how to objectively handle anything outside of their ‘comfort zone’, will live their entire lives with their horizons limited to a laser like point, and will expect a gold star and be thanked ‘for trying’, when they drop the ball at work.

In the end, I understand that everyone has their own moral compass and what is socially acceptable varies from person to person. However, just because something offends you personally does not give you the right to demand no-one else can study it.

For example, I find organized religion offensive. I feel that organized religion has become nothing more than a business designed to work on guilt, exercise control over people and a way for one group of people to make sure everyone else acts and behaves in a way that’s acceptable to them.

However, I understand that just because I feel this way, does not give me the right to demand that a stop is put to organized religion.

If I could sum up this whole post in a couple of sentences, it would be this:

Live and let live. You have no right to force your moral code or ideology on anyone else.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Well, Virtually...

Wooot! I can officially call myself a ‘working artist’!

(Now Mum, before you read on, don’t get too excited. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a real job yet.)

After listening to the Great and Godly Leo Laporte talking about the free online ‘game’ “Second Life”, I thought I’d try it out.

Now, before I get on with my main story, I’ve got something I’ve got to say…Second Life is a weird place.

For those who don’t know, Second Life is a free ‘massively multiplayer’ game. The difference is, there’s no leveling, no missions etc. The best way I can describe it is a chat room on steroids. It’s a big world that you walk around, talk to people and build and buy stuff. Instead of logging on to an IRC channel, you walk your character into a nightclub, onto a beach or someone’s in-game house and have a chat.

The other weird thing is that some people actually make their real-life living in Second Life, because of the amazing idea to make the in-game currency negotiable. That’s right, not only can you buy ‘in-game’ money with real money…you can also sell it.

So, someone could rent a plot of land (which is essentially renting a server on a rack somewhere), then build something that people playing the game pay in-game money to use.

It’s a weird idea, so let me give you an example…you can build a nightclub, and as a real master-stroke, have a live DJ who you message to request songs etc. Then people visit and either pay a cover charge to get in, or just tip the DJ etc.

That’s what first impressed me about the game. I was walking around, a little dubious of the fun-factor the game could provide, when I stumbled across a club with pretty good music. When the song I was listening to stopped, a voice said “This is DJ (Whatever) down at the (whatever) club. If you have a request, come find me on the dance floor. Coming up next is (song name) requested by (whoever).”

Thinking it was just a recording, I found the DJ, and sent him a request. I got an instant message back saying he had it, and it would be in the next set…a few minutes later, he announced it and played it.

Basically, it’s a huge gimmick, and nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it was interesting

Also, for a more traditional business, you could build an actual store that people can walk around, and simply click a picture of the real-life product you want to buy to order it. You pay in in-game money (Linden Dollars), which the shop owner then sells for real money.

However, I stumbled across something on there that actually had me rolling on the floor laughing.

So I’d just installed the game, and was looking around the map for something interesting to do. I’d already visited the freebie stores, and gone to a few ‘island resorts’ and played on the waterslides. Then I noticed a ‘popular’ landmark, which said “The Most Gorgeous Escorts in Second Life.”

I went “…Umm…Errr…Huh?”

Now, I can understand the people who have built movie theatres, or opened stores selling in-game clothing etc…but my first thought was…”This can NOT be legal.”

Bear in mind that as well as in-game stuff, plenty of people use Second Life to sell real Products. Were prostitutes and escorts really advertising their wares in Second Life? Isn’t that illegal? Why hasn’t this been closed down? Kiddies play this game!!!

So in the interests of investigating further (I swear!) I teleported to the location.

I landed in a mall with ‘escort’ ads plastered all over the walls.

…and that’s when I started to laugh my ass off.

There are women (or more likely, men pretending to be women), on Second Life who will let your in-game character have sex with their in-game character for a small fee. (From the ads plastered all over the place, I saw the going rate was around 3000 Linden an hour…which is roughly $12 real world dollars).

I honestly had tears running down my face I was laughing so hard.

I mean seriously, fellas…If you’re going to pay 12 dollars an hour, call one of those phone-sex lines, or go rent a porn movie. If a fairly crude looking computer game character in the buff floats your boat…you have problems. Serious problems.

I swear I’m not making this up. It turns out that virtual prostitution is a thriving business.

(I still laugh when I think about some horny teenager paying for this…not realizing that the person playing the prostitute is actually a 400lb construction worker with tattooed knuckles, called “Big Samson”)

Anyway, now I’ve got that off my chest, back to my main story.

I was wondering around (well technically, I was making my character fly as high as he could go, then watching him drop like a stone) and got talking to someone who told me they were into photography, a hobby I also enjoy. So the conversation got around to hobbies. I said I like to draw and gave her the link to my online gallery.

Being impressed, she asked if I would draw a portrait of her in-game character. I said ‘sure’ (I’m always looking for new stuff to draw).

Now I was planning on doing this just for fun…but she paid me 300 Linden for it!

Ok, so after I’ve just made fun of the virtual ‘Johns’, you’re probably wondering why I think selling a drawing for a tiny amount of virtual money is newsworthy to me. I mean, come on… ‘selling’ a sketch to someone for fake in-game money isn’t much of an achievement. For about $50 real dollars I could build and run my own Second Life art gallery!

Well, here’s the thing. 300 Linden works out to roughly $1.10, and with out a bank account, I can’t actually redeem this money. It’s also not a lot considering sketching, inking and airbrushing the drawing took me around 3 hours. (Woot! 35 cents an hour! I’m RICH! I tells ya).

The point is I started drawing just a few short months ago, and the fact that a complete stranger liked my stuff enough to part with even such a little amount is a real ego stroker.

…and as long as I keep the details quiet, I can honestly say:

“Yeah, I’m an artist, you know…I’ve sold a few pictures.”

Just keep the fact that I only sold it for a dollar under your hats, ok?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

If You're Reading This Blog and Not Contributing...

Public Access Television is a bit of a mixed bag.

As far as I can tell, the formula for a Public TV station in 5% good television, 40% bad television, 5% absolutely terrible television…and 50% people asking you for money to keep the station on air.

I just don’t really ‘get it’. I mean, I can see the attraction of far fewer advertisements…but what’s the pay off when you spend far longer watching someone guilt you into sending cash, than you ever did watching ads on the mainstream channels?

Put it this way, if it wasn’t for painting with Bob Ross and ‘Fawlty Towers’ our local PBS affiliate would have shut down long ago.

On the other hand, their programming does have a sort of grim fascination. You know when something is so bad, it actually becomes entertaining? Not for the reason the show’s creator intended, but for that train-wreck morbid curiosity.

For example, I just watched a guy in a local restaurant showing how to cook New York Strip steak. Now, I think he was trying to be fancy, and was trying to cook three at once, each a different way.

Now this sounds like a run of the mill television show, except for one thing.

The steak he did on the grill caught fire.

Now, I don’t mean it was flame-grilled. I don’t mean it was well done or nicely seared.

I mean the damn thing was ablaze…and the poor chef guy was completely oblivious to it for about 5 or ten minutes.

So why you’re watching him pan-sear a Pittsburgh-style steak, talking about how the granulated sugar gives it a nice caramelized black crust…over his shoulder, you can see this steak on the grill, in the middle of a foot-high flame.

I can’t stress this enough. It was on fire. Not cooking above a fire, occasionally getting licked by a flame…I mean it continued to spout it’s guttering flame when it was taken from the grill. It was charcoal…and all the time this guy was standing there, not quite sure whether to look at the camera or the guy operating it, babbling on about cooking.

It was like watching an old-fashioned pantomime: “It’s BEHIND you!”

What I liked best was the look on his face when he finally noticed, and passed it off like it was meant to be done like that all along. Let’s just say he plated that one without a comment, and drew as much attention as possible to the other two steaks. The damn thing looked like a lump of charcoal.

It’s train wreck TV at it’s best.

However, I think the worst thing I’ve seen on TV was one of the (very) local God channels.

Every single night, for about an hour, an old guy and two old ladies get together, play music and sing hymns.

Now, this on it’s own doesn’t sound like bad television. While religious programming isn’t my cup of tea, to each his own.

However, let me explain this trio.

The guy doesn’t sing, but plays bass guitar with a look of complete and total boredom on his face. He looks like he’d rather be anywhere else than in front of that camera. He also doesn’t play very well. You get the feeling that he’s married to one of the old ladies, has only been playing the bass for about a week, and his missus has hen-pecked him into playing it on TV.

One of the ladies plays the piano, quite, quite badly, and the other just sings.

Now, here’s the real kicker. A lot of the time it sounds like all three of them can’t hear each other, and that they haven’t agreed on what to play beforehand.

So you have a guy hitting what sounds like random notes in 1/4 time, a lady playing the piano in a completely different key to the bass guy at ¾ time, while the last lady sings a completely different song, in a different key with different timing.

Oh, and to really put the cherry on the top of the cake, the piano lady sings in a shrieking high-pitched voice, while the other lady doesn’t exactly sing, but just kinda shouts in a deep voice, never changing pitch.

…add to that a terrible public TV sound system, and you’ve got award winning TV.

Now fair enough, this is TV. I’m not made to watch it…but don’t you think that at some point they’d have seen a recording of their show and decided they need a little more practice? Don’t you think a close friend might have said “Umm, you’re crap…in fact, you’re painful to listen to.”

The thing with this trio is when you’re flipping through the channels and stumble across them…you just can’t change the channel. You feel compelled to watch. It’s like your brain just can’t process how bad they are. Even if you manage to change the channel, you find yourself turning back to it because the second they leave your TV screen, you instantly can’t quite believe they were as bad as you thought they were.

The first time I saw this trio, I watched it through, because I kept expecting the punch line. I thought it was a comedy show. So when it finished and they thanked everyone for watching my jaw just dropped and I couldn’t stop laughing.

So why am I telling you about this?

Well, I suppose for the same reason that when you taste something really bad, you have to get someone else to taste it to. For the same reason people say “Ugh! This stinks! Oh..My..God! That is the foulest thing I’ve ever smelled in my life! Hey! Everyone! Come and smell this!”

So people, if you’re ever feeling down, turn to your local home-grown channels…they’ll cheer you up no end, because no matter how bad things are, they still can’t force you to watch that shit.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Wasting Time

I think today I stumbled upon TRUE POINTLESSNESS

I mean, an event that was useless, had absolutely no reason to be, and was a complete waste of everyone’s time. It was a water-bucket made of a piece of tissue, it was an claustrophobic’s convention held in an elevator it was a germaphobe’s conference at the sewage works.

It was the Greenville Job Fair.

On paper, it’s great! Over 50 recruiting employers in one place. Take a walk round, distribute your resume…maybe even get an interview then and there.

On paper, it was great…in real life, there was absolutely no reason for it to be there.

First of all, just from a personal point of view, 90% of the jobs I was interested in, I’d already applied for. I told one employer this and she said “Oh, if we already have your application on file, you should be hearing from us soon, so there’s nothing else I can do for you.”

“What about telling me a little more about what the job involves?” I asked,

“Oh, you’ll hear about that at your interview if you get one.”

Well, thanks for nothing, bitch. I got the feeling it was a case of “I can’t be bothered. If you get an interview, you’ll hear what you need to know. If you don’t, there’s no point me telling you about it.”

Now, you may be thinking I’m selling this place short. Just because I had already applied at a lot of places, doesn’t mean it wasn’t helpful to anyone else.

Here’s the thing. The few places I did enquire at that I hadn’t applied at, all told me the same thing. Here’s our card, apply on the internet at…


I mean, seriously, what?

What is the point of getting all these employers in one place, if all they’re going to do is direct you to a website? Couldn’t I just have stayed at home and looked at job listings?

I could understand a website that pointed to the job fair, or pointed to an office to go to for an interview or an application…but can someone please explain to me why I got up early this morning, got dressed up in a suit and tie, got Sunny out of bed (after only getting in from work a few hours ago) to drive me way across town…to be directed back to the computer on my desk at home.?

“Ah, but Paulius!” I hear you cry. “You wouldn’t have known those jobs where available if you hadn’t gone to the job fair!”

Well, yes I would. Because the Greenville News did a special supplement that listed every employer there…as well as their web address.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Little Common Sense?

Ok, I’m going to make a call to Common Sense.


Why is it, whenever there’s a problem, we seem to choose the most difficult solution to implement, with the smallest payoff?

We’re handing over our nail-clippers, and now anything liquid at the gate to the plane, when let’s face it, if a terrorist group really wants to hijack a plane, they’re going to do it. Unless everybody is completely strip searched, X-Rayed and put through a battery of tests before a plane takes off…it’s just not going to be foolproof, and bombs will keep finding their way onto planes.

Now the problem with the simple solution is that the inmates are in charge of the nuthouse.

“A pilot with a gun means a gun on a plane. It could be taken from him and used against him.”

This makes absolutely no sense. What they’re basically saying is:

“In the hands of a terrorist, a gun is a completely unbeatable, lethal weapon. In the hands of a trained, authorized pilot, it’s nothing but a liability.”

It makes no sense. In their hands, it’s a doomsday weapon. In ours, it’s a big liability that’s going to get us killed.

Basically, guns have gotten a bad rap. The common way of thinking is “Guns are evil and we’d be better off without them.”

Here’s the thing, though. Guns aren’t evil, they’re just a tool. Knives, cars and powertools aren’t considered evil, yet in the wrong hands, they’re just as lethal as any gun.

It’s the same reason gun-bans are useless. The thinking is “Ban guns = Less people have guns = less gun crime.”

But here’s the thing that was inexplicably missed: Criminals Don’t Obey The Law. It’s kinda their job description

When guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns.

Criminals love gun bans. Why? Because it means the only gun involved in a crime is theirs. Think about this, if someone is out on the streets looking to rape or murder you, do you think they care that the gun their carrying is a crime as well? No they don’t.

Here’s something to think about:

Here in South Carolina, we have a ‘concealed carry’ law. This means that any private citizen can go and take a week-long course, and if they pass, they are issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Why is this a good thing?

Because in states with a concealed carry law, every potential murderer, rapist of mugger has to ask themselves a question. “Is this victim armed?”

In states where concealed carry is illegal, a mugger sizes up a potential victim, and the most he has to worry about is pepper spray, (in fact, in some states it is also illegal to carry those). Without wanting to seem sexist, a female victim may have taken a few self defense classes, but I don’t think it would do them much good.

Here’s the thing, I’m 6”1 and weigh 260lbs. If you’re 5”5 and weigh 120lbs, you’re not going to be much of a challenge. All I have to do is grab you and lie on top of you until you tire yourself out. Knowing where my pressure points are isn’t going to help you if I can knock you out with a single punch to the back of your head.

It’s also definitely not going to help if I push a gun in your face.

(As I’ve said in a previous post, if you’re a female and want to defend yourself, here’s the best tip I can give you…run like hell while screaming at the top of your lungs.)

The best thing about the Concealed Carry law is that it protects everyone. I’m not legally able to carry a gun yet, but the criminals don’t know that. If I see someone walking towards me in a threatening manner, I’ll just casually reach inside my jacket and hold my hand in there until the guy’s walked past.

If you want proof of this, New York City and Washington DC have very strict gun control laws, and they’re the gun-murder capitals of the USA. London has one of the highest murder rates in the world, and it’s been made completely illegal to own a handgun in the UK for almost two decades.

(Which is another big point to make, Since banning guns in the UK, the murder rate hasn’t dropped, it’s just changed from shootings to stabbins)

Other states, such as South Carolina have far more lax gun control laws…and have far fewer murders per capita than those states with restrictive gun laws.

Of course, there are plenty of arguments against guns.

Accidents are a big argument. However, more people die in car accidents every day than people die in gun accidents in a whole year.

The solution to gun accidents is education, not a ban. One of the best ideas I ever heard was when a Police Chief took a class of kids to a firing range, gave a gun safety talk, and the finale was the Police Chief shooting a watermelon with a .45 caliber weapon. The gun, of course, almost vaporized the melon, and the police chief said “That’s the damage a gun can do. Imagine if that was a friends head. If you see a gun, don’t touch it or play with it.”

A very showy example that will stick in a kids head without scaring them, and teaching them a very good lesson.

My solution is to get kids used to and educated about guns as soon as possible. If you have an 8 year old who wants to see your gun, let them, as long as it’s under your supervision. Why? Because a gun that a kid knows they can look at or even shoot your gun (as long as they ask you and you’re with them), is far less likely to sneak a look at that mysterious gun you never let them anywhere near. It also gets gun safety into their head early.

Take any kid and put them in a room with two identical toys, tell them they can play with one a much as they want to, but they can’t play with the other one…see which one they make a bee-line for.

Remove the mystery, remove the fascination. Just make sure the gun is locked away in a safe place when you’re not around. (This is elementary, you wouldn’t leave a power drill plugged in and turned on, on the floor with a 5 year old…so don’t do the same with a weapon.)

Yes, accidents happen, but accidents happen with any ‘dangerous’ machinery. This is the one thing that gets me particularly mad. A child gets hold of a weapon and shoots themselves or a friend. Then people blame the gun, instead of the parents who didn’t lock it away and keep it safe and out of their child’s hands. If a 5 year old got into a car and drove it through a house, people wouldn’t blame the car. They’d blame the parents for leaving a child unattended in a running car.

The other big one is the ‘Crime of Passion’. A man and wife have a big argument, and the wife picks up the gun and shoots her husband. Sure, this is tragic, but she could also have got a knife and stabbed him, or killed him in any number of ways.

In short, for a gun to kill someone in this situation, someone has to pick it up, point it and pull the trigger. If they’re mad enough to shoot someone, they’re mad enough to club them with a baseball bat or stab them with a knife.

The good that guns cause far outweigh their negatives.

For example, one of the most common arguments I hear about banning guns is “If someone’s breaking into your house, call a cop!” This is usually delivered with a smug expression and the manner of someone laying down an ace.

I admit, this makes sense… if cops had unlimited man-power and faster than light travel.

Think of it this way, you’re home alone and in bed when you hear the front door being kicked down. Even if you can get to your phone and call the police before the intruder gets to you, the cops are still at least 5-10 minutes away if you’re lucky.

With a gun, you’re protected. It’s that simple. It’s not a nice thought, but if I hear my door being kicked down in the middle of the night, I can get our rifle, load it and have it ready in less than 30 seconds. Then I’d just shout a challenge and point my gun at the doorway. If an intruder wants into my room, he has to walk through a couple of bullets.

The other problem is what the police will actually react to. There are hundreds of horror stories were women have been home alone and seen a strange car parked outside their house or heard a prowler…Then they’ve called the police, and been told that they can’t act until he ‘does something’. Unfortunately, by the time he does something, it’s always too late.

This isn’t a stab at the police, it’s just real life. The police simply don’t have the man power to investigate every strange noise or unusual character people see. 9 times out of 10 the strange car outside the house is a normal person who’s stopped to check their map or something…and you can’t arrest someone for standing on a public sidewalk, just because it happens to be outside the house of someone who’s a little jumpy.

Now we come to escalation. “If the criminals know you’re armed, they’ll be armed as well, meaning more of them will carry guns.”

It seems common sense. If people carry pepper spray, criminals will carry knives to get the advantage back. So the people start carrying guns, which causes the criminals to carry guns as well.

However, the reasoning is fatally flawed. It basically says “If I don’t defend myself, people won’t attack me.”

The less armed you are, the less armed a criminal has to be to overpower you. The problem is, they’re still going to make sure that they can overpower you, and they’re not following the law.

Here’s the thing. If a woman is carrying a gun, and a rapist has a gun, it’s a fair fight and both have equal chances of ‘winning’. If neither has a gun, the rapist has the advantage.

Put me in front of any average sized woman and tell us to have a fight. I know that in 99% of cases I’ll win. However, put a gun in both our hands and say fight…and I’m going to shit my pants.

So even if the escalation theory is true, ask yourself a question. If a guy kills or rapes you by using a knife or even his fists…do you feel any better because he didn’t have a gun?

Now imagine you’re walking alone and a guy wearing a baseball cap and hood starts towards you. You put your hand into your purse or jacket and close your hand around the grip of your handgun. Now you know if he tries to grab you or demands cash, you can pull your gun and tell him to back the fuck up.

Wouldn’t you feel safer?

So after all this, what’s my point?

My point is the 9/11 hijackers managed to crash three planes into national landmarks armed only with box-cutters. The way things are, if a terrorist can get onto a plane with a 3 inch pocket knife he has a good chance of being able to take control of the plane.

If the 9/11 pilots had been given side arms and trained how to use them, the Twin Towers would still be standing and thousands of families wouldn’t have lost loved ones.

Put yourself in the place of a terrorist. Right now, all they have to worry about is getting through security. Considering they’re willing to blow themselves up, do you think being arrested before they get on the planes is a big deal to them?

No, and once they get on the plane with their weapon, they’re in control.

Now imagine you’re that terrorist, and you know that once you get on the plane, both pilots are armed and you might have an armed air-marshal to deal with. First, to even things up, you have to get a gun on a plane, which is a LOT harder to hide than a razor blade…and you know to take control of the plane you have to get through a small door with not one, but two guns trained on it.

Going off topic for a second, I had another idea to make planes safer. Install knockout gas canisters in the passenger cabin. If trouble starts, flood the cabin with the gas and sort it out on the ground.

It would be perfectly safe and make perfect sense…which means it will never happen.

Why? Because the same bleeding heart’s who are trying to stop the X-Ray technology that allows security to check for hidden weapons under your clothes would complain it infringed on their human rights.

In the end, it all boils down to this:

Refusing to use the same weapons as your enemies does not make you any safer…it just makes you stupid.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Even MORE boobies...heh heh HEH HE HEH heh heh

Something’s been troubling me lately, and I finally worked out what it is.

I know you’re all probably bored to tears about me prattling on about drawing by now, but I just realized something, and I want to share it.

Since I took up figure drawing, I’ve found myself compelled to defend myself on my main choice of subject…namely women. If you’ve visited my gallery on deviantart, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve drawn almost exclusively women.

Now everything I’ve wrote on this subject so far has been true. Women are much harder to draw than men, and you always make a picture by drawing what’s under the clothes first. It’s easy to draw someone in baggy clothes. The problem is you don’t learn anything.

Like I read in a very good book on drawing, when someone says “This is (whoever), he can really draw!” What they actually mean is “This person can draw people.

For example, I could draw a skyline or a city street, and because I know how to draw in perspective, it would look good. However, that’s the problem. Why would I want to draw something I can easily do? Something where you learn about 5 simple rules and get busy with a set-square? Where’s the fun in knowing that what you’re drawing is going to turn out exactly as you want it to?

It’s easy, therefore it’s not challenging…which to me means it’s not fun.

So, before I go off on another tangent, the thing that was troubling me was why I felt the need to explain myself. Why I felt the need to write a 500 page rationalization of why I’m not a pervert every time I drew a woman.

Why was I compelled to explain myself? Why did I feel the need to explain why they are mostly in tight clothes? It was even effecting the figures I chose to draw…namely comic book females, for the simple reason drawing someone in a lycra costume allows you to practice drawing anatomy without the embarrassment of drawing a nude. The fact you’re drawing a character also helps out. It’s not just some random, sexy woman…That’s Rogue from X-Men. Didn’t you see that movie? Wasn’t it great?

All the greats at sometime or another have produced paintings and drawings of nudes or scantily clad women. Why did I feel embarrassment at doing the same thing? Why did I feel the need to defend and explain myself?

In the end, the truth is the human body is simply one of the most fun, challenging and expressive (not to mention the most beautiful) things you can possibly draw. You draw a house, and look…it’s a nice house! So what?

However, when you draw a person, you have endless possibilities. Is the person happy or sad? What are they doing? Where are they? Relaxing at the beach, or slumped at a desk?

When you draw a person and want to convey a particular movement, feeling or posture, and it actually comes off…it’s very satisfying. When you draw apples and oranges on a table…I just don’t see the fun in it.

Drawing females is all about curves. However, if you get one curve slightly off, she ends up looking deformed. We see people all the time, so whereas if I drew a cottage, very few people would say “Hmm, the thatching doesn’t look right, and they didn’t use brick until the 1800’s!” You draw a person, and something is slightly off…everyone knows it…so you get a real feeling of achievement when you start a drawing, and hours later manage to get it right!

Every time I finish a drawing, I’ll notice something I could have done better. So I make sure To make sure I get that right in the next drawing. So, basically, I’m not obsessed with drawing women…I’m learning to draw women.

So for the past few weeks, every time I see someone or something, I mentally work out how I would draw it. It becomes a habit. For example, a few weeks ago, I was sitting at the computer and sunny was sitting on the floor playing Zelda on the Gamecube, and before I knew it, I reached for my sketchpad and just sketched her.

So a few days ago, I stumbled across a picture on the internet. It was a stock-photo from deviantart. (I like to just click the link for everything submitted that day and browse). Plenty of photographers on Deviantart take pictures that they freely allow others to manipulate, paint or otherwise use in their own art.

The picture was a nude, and I liked it. Now before you start sniggering, I don’t mean in the way your regular guy usually likes pictures of naked women, I mean from an (almost, I won’t lie) purely compositional point of view. I liked the angle she was at, the way the light hit her face and the pose that gave an exaggerated curve to the hip. She looked relaxed and happy. Basically, I wanted to draw her.

So I pulled out my sketchpad and started.

Then, once I’d got the rough sketch down and like the overall shape, I started to automatically add a T-Shirt and a pair of jeans.

Halfway through I just stopped and thought What the hell am I doing? Am I always going to add clothes out of embarrassment? I know I was raised catholic, but this is ridiculous!

I’ll admit that no small part of it was the fact my Mum reads this blog, and therefore has a link to my gallery…but it made me think.

What was so embarrassing and shameful about drawing a nude? It’s art for God’s sake. An airbrushed drawing of a woman lying down at the beach. It wasn’t what you’d call pornographic or explicit. You see worse on cable TV. It’s not like it was a picture of a woman bent over, pointing her girly bits at the camera like a gun, while doing unspeakable things with root vegetables and a goat!

I mean, it’s a drawing, I’m not out actually taking pictures of naked women. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that either…just not my cup of tea).

So I took a deep breath and brought out my eraser. The jeans and t-shirt vanished.

I’d like to say my next thought was a freeing epiphany, how I felt liberated by my new attitude…but my first though actually was “Now how the hell do you draw and shade nipples?”

So, ladies and gentlemen, I drew my first nude. I tried a new coloring technique (skintones are a bitch), and while it’s far from perfect, (the chin, hands and feet don’t look right…as well as a few hundred shading issues) I’m fairly proud of it. I’m also posting it below and I’m not going to defend it or attempt to explain myself.

I drew and airbrushed it because I wanted to.

If it offends, please feel free to pretend it’s in black and white…and a little grainy.

I call it “I don’t like drawing backgrounds and can’t draw hands and feet worth a damn”

(Click the picture for a full size view.)

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm proud of's because this was my best work less than six months ago: