Archive for the ‘Distractions’ Category

A psychologist watches Love Island

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 | Distractions

A few weeks ago we did a writing retreat for everyone on the masters programme in the School of Psychology. During one of the breaks, everyone was talking about Love Island. Somehow, they convinced me it was a subject worth study.

This isn’t unusual. Take Benefits Street, for example. That has all kind of implications, stereotypes and editing choices that provide a deep, rich dataset for social psychologists looking to elucidate and explain the way our society works (or does not work).

So, with Venla safely tucked up into bed, I headed over to ITV’s On Demand service and watched some.

I made it as far as the first “re-coupling” before I had to give up.

What is it?

If you haven’t seen it, here is a quick overview. The show’s producers have rented a giant villa. They then fill it with single people who they hope will have sex on television.

But it’s more than that. It’s a game show. They start by introducing five men and five women and couple them up. They then introduce a sixth man who has to “steal” one of the girls, and they become a couple. Each couple shares a double bed in the communal bedroom, and the person who is left over has to sleep by themselves.

They then introduce more sets of men and women in such a way that there is always a slight imbalance. At certain points, there is a “re-coupling” in which one gender has to select who to couple up with from the other gender, and the person who is left out is sent home.

At the end of the show, the public vote for the couple they like the most, who are given £50,000.

Why is it terrible?

At best, it is uninteresting. It is a bunch of shallow people doing nothing with their time but gossiping, moaning about relationships. drinking and playing ridiculous games.

At worst, it is far more ominous. They’re not shy about the tasteless nature of the show. In one of the organised games, for examples, the girls had to try and crush a watermelon with their bottom by bouncing up and down on it.

Yeah, it was a real thing that really happened:

Worse, though, are the ethical implications of the show.

If I went to the university ethics committee and said I wanted to make people pick who to couple up with, leaving one person purposely excluded, and then continued to strategically introduce other people to break up the existing relationships and make people cry on camera, I would quite rightly be burnt at the stake.

And at least I would be doing it in the name of science.

Because who would possibly subject their fellow human beings to that for the purposes of entertainment? It has been running for six series so it’s not like they can possibly be surprised when the poor people break down in tears.

Brompton announce first TT bike

Friday, July 6th, 2018 | Distractions

Brompton, the company famous for making folding bikes that you can take on the train with you, have this week announced they are releasing their first TT (time trial) bike with integrated folding aero bars.

“Now that TransPeninne Express have banned bikes, the demand for our foldable options has never been higher,” explained Managing Director Andrew Spin. “But what happens when you have a national time trial championship, and the only way to get there is by train? We think this bike is the answer.”

The new bike could also help commuters running late, allowing them to sacrifice the safety of themselves and pedestrians in order to shave a few seconds off the cycle leg of their journey.

NHS overwhelmed as millions hallucinate England winning a penalty shootout

Wednesday, July 4th, 2018 | Distractions

NHS mental services have admitted they are “overwhelmed” after millions of people sought voluntary admission to psychiatric hospitals, claiming they vividly experienced England winning a penalty shootout.

“It was so real,” explained Michelle Herbert. “I felt like I was actually happening. Obviously, it didn’t happen, because it’s England, so it seems like I am no longer able to tell the difference between imagination and reality.”

“Our services are already stretched beyond capacity,” an official for NHS primary care mental health. “Thankfully, we’ve received expert assistance from the Swedish medical authorities, who assured us that the episode would pass by the end of Saturday.”

Health secretary, Jeremy Cunt, released a statement confirming that the lack of capacity to deal with the current crisis had everything to do with the unpredictable nature of healthcare and nothing to do with him having cut 15,000 in-patient beds across England & Wales since 2012.

Introducing Lucozale

Saturday, June 30th, 2018 | Distractions

Lucozale is the world’s first isotonic pale ale. When you feel you need the bitter taste of a good ale to remind you why you’re here, and to numb the pain in your muscles, Lucozale is the sport drink to reach for.

Orange Is the New Black

Thursday, June 14th, 2018 | Distractions

Occasionally, the number and quality of recommendations for a TV show reach a threshold and I temporarily expand my TV watching to include something other than shows about people baking in tents. Orange Is the New Black recently achieved this.

It has Captain Janeway in for a start. This wasn’t quite true. It has the actor, Kate Mulgrew. So, the character Captain Janeway isn’t in it which was a little disappointing. Luckily, Mulgrew is a wonderful actor outside of Star Trek, too, so it still worked.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it tells the story of a well-off white woman who gets busted for a ten-year-old drug offence and gets sentenced to 15 months in a minimum security prison. Like anyone who finds themselves in the slammer, she is out of her depth.

It has won critical acclaim for dealing with many of the issues of the prison system including budget cuts, corruption, privatisation and inmate abuse. The characters look real. This isn’t a bunch of women walking around a prison with perfect makeup. My guess is that the “no makeup” look is a form of makeup behind the scenes, but it is done very effectively.

I’ve found the later episodes a little less gripping, probably because of my own extensive white privilege. At first, you’re following Piper as she plays out the “rich white girl in an alien world” struggle, learning to deal with her situation and trying to hold her relationship together.

As the show goes on, the focus moves to other characters. But I can’t identify with growing up in a house where drug use is normal, or in foster care, or with gang violence. It’s elucidating as to how many prisoners are victims of circumstance and upbringing but then, as a leftie, I already believed that.

It will be interesting to see where they take the show next. It returns with a new series later this month.

Mukbang: It’s videos of people eating food

Sunday, March 18th, 2018 | Distractions

I generally think of myself as digitally savvy. I’m not quite up with the young people, on SnapChat or whatever, but I know it exists. Mukbang, however, I did not even know existed. Now I do, and it turns out that it is just videos of people eating a lot of food on a live video screen.

It’s not a food challenge thing, although they do usually eat a lot of food. It’s more of a live, interactive experience. They have a chatroom and people ask them questions. It originated in South Korea but lots of other people seemed to have jumped on the bandwagon.

Why are they doing this? One theory is that it fills a feeling of loneliness. At the end of the above video, the host says “I hope you enjoyed the food” as if we had been at a dinner party with her. Which is basically what we did:

I think I will happily go back to just the three of us, but then, I’m not really the target audience.

Spicy noodle challenge

While the concept of mukbang seems relatively mainstream, an offshoot of it has taken it to almost fetish levels: spicy noodle challenges. Video sites are floodest with mostly young women eating really spicy noodles, presumably so the viewer can watch them suffer.

Footnotes

Thanks to 지식테이너김승훈 for the title image.

NFL coverage will resume

Monday, October 2nd, 2017 | Distractions

The title card says:

Coverage will resume momentarily

Which, of course, means that coverage will return but only for a moment. Which sounds about right with the number of adverts they have in the US.

According to Greta: A review

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017 | Distractions

Even the knowledge that this was a Hilary Duff film was insufficient to set my expectations low enough.

This supposed exploration of the mind of a troubled young girl is dull, predictable and uninsightful. I did not even make it to the end. It’s only one redeeming feature is that some bits of it are so embarrassing that it may be an incredibly clever parody that only the writer was in on.

The Tim Ferriss Experiment

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 | Distractions

tim-ferriss-experiment

Tim Ferriss, the author of the The 4-Hour Work Week, created a TV show called The Tim Ferriss Experiment in which he tried to apply speed-learning techniques to a number of different challenges.

He tries his hand at rock and roll drumming, golf, rally car driving, helping someone start a business and more. He has some success: he plays one song live with a famous band, and makes par on his second hole of a golf course. He also puts a rally car in a tree.

It is somewhat interesting, but I suspect it suffers from the compact format. Each episode is 22 minutes long, which isn’t enough time to really see his journey. He meets an expert, gets a few tips and then completes the challenge. It all looks too easy and you don’t really learn anything. The episode on him helping his friend start her own business is perhaps a little better, but not by much.

The website also has some bonus material for this episode. This is typically a 10 minute interview with the expert, that again falls under the category of somewhat interesting.

Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru

Sunday, August 28th, 2016 | Distractions

tony-robbins-i-am-not-your-guru

Joe Berlinger is a film maker known for his documentary series Paradise Lost. He also made Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, a film that I really enjoyed, once I understood just how the studio had butchered it after it left Berlinger’s hands. His latest film is a documentary about motivational speaker Tony Robbins’s Date With Destiny events.

It is interesting to see inside the event. But that is where the interest stops. A review in Variety earlier this year pretty much hits the nail on the heat. It is a completely uncritical look at the whole show, with no interesting journalistic merit to be found.

For example, there is no mention that I noticed of the price tag. It is around $5,000 for the basic package and goes up from there. There is plenty of footage of Robbins transforming people’s lives though, at least for the few minutes they were on camera. Still, I am sure Penn & Teller are completely wrong about these type of events being complete bullshit that never sticks. Especially at that price.

Far from Robbins graciously granting access to a documentary crew for the first time, it seems to be that he simply allowed them to make an infomercial for him.

To be fair to Berlinger, he doesn’t pretend that it is anything other than that. He decided to make the film after being invited to a Date With Destiny event and said in an interview that this was more of a “concert film”.

If you want to watch it, it’s on Netflix.