Archive for the ‘Distractions’ Category

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, 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.

Life and Death Row

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 | Distractions

life-and-death-row

Life and Death Row is a BBC documentary series looking at young people on Death Row. Unsurprisingly, it paints quite a gloomy picture. A man with a history of depression insists on having the death penalty. A another man is executed for beating eight members of his family to death: how is that possible without any of them fighting back or escaping?

In another episode, the documentary looks at the Death Penalty Clinic, a department run by the University of Houston. Undergraduate law students come together to try and put in appeals for convicts about to be executed. It was at least heartening to see people fighting.

Details can be found on the BBC website.

That golden Eurovision moment

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016 | Distractions

eurovision-2016-scoreboard

Remember that for a short few minutes during Eurovision 2016, the UK was on the left-hand side of the scoreboard.

Can Britain win Eurovision?

Saturday, May 28th, 2016 | Distractions, Thoughts

eurovision-2016-winnerJamala wins Eurovision 2016. Photo credit: Thomas Hanses (EBU).

This will be the last post about Eurovision for a while. I promise. Probably. I want to address this issue though because a lot of people think Eurovision is a joke and there is no point us trying because we can never win. This isn’t the case.

We’re really good at Eurovision

Britain’s recent performances in Eurovision are not indicative of our past performance. A look at the all-time winners list puts it in perspective.

Country Wins
Ireland 7
Sweden 6
United Kingdom 5

We are the third most successful country in Eurovision ever. It’s only Sweden’s two recent victories of Loreen in 2012 and Måns Zelmerlöw last year that have pushed them ahead of us. The UK and Ireland between them have cleaned up. We’ve also hosted it a record number of times as we have helped out poorer countries by hosting it for them on several occasions.

Good music wins Eurovision

Here are some of our recent scores:

Year Artist Place
2011 Blue 11
2012 Engelbert Humperdinck 25
2013 Bonnie Tyler 19

Note that when we are not dragging singers back from the grave, and put a popular band in, we do much better. Blue were already arguably has-beens by the time they entered, and the song was okay and look how much better thet did. Our performance in the votes is correlated to the quality of music we put in.

Sweden, who have been smashing it recently, start picking their song in November. They have a whole music festival to decide on it. They take it seriously: and they win.

Bloc voting isn’t that important

Bloc voting isn’t as important as you might think. The Radio Times have a good write-up of the situation. UCL even published a study showing that while bloc voting has an affect, it is not big enough to prevent a a song winning the contest. Lena’s “Satellite” winning for Germany in 2010 is a good example of this. Germany don’t have many friends, but they still triumphed.

Even if it is, we’re in a bloc

Some would argue that the bloc voting is actual just cultural voting. People like the music of their culture and as their neighbours probably have a similar culture, they are likely to get votes because they share the same music tastes. Whatever the reason, the UK benefits from this.

What country do we give the most points to? Ireland! And who gives us the most points? Yep, it’s Ireland. Our neighbours across the water, France and Belgium, are also some of our most generous donors and god bless Malta who gave this year’s song, that came third from bottom, a full 12 points.

The Big Short (film)

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016 | Distractions

the-big-short

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine is a 2011 book by Michael Lewis. It is one of his best, perhaps second only to Flash Boys. I reviewed it in 2014. I recently watched the film adaptation. Coupled with The Blind Side makes me look like I am on kind of Michael Lewis-film binge, which I only noticed afterward.

It is a reasonably good retelling of how it happened in the book. Not that you can do it justice in a two hour film, but it is a good summary. Occasionally one of the characters would break the forth wall and introduce celebrities offering sarcastic explanations of how the banks fucked us.

Speaking of fucking, the one thing that draw my attention was the phone call between Mark Baum and Greg Lippmann. I’m sure in the book Lippmann actually told Baum how he was going to fuck him, rather than the watered-down reconciliation in the film.

The film even had a moral point at the end, discussing how basically nothing has changed and we are just repeating the same old patterns. And that is why I am moving to Iceland in two weeks…

Eurovision 2016 wrap-up

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016 | Distractions

eurovision-2016

So, Eurovision 2016 is over and Ukraine have won the day. Now that Russia haven’t won, I can start enjoying Sergey Lazarev’s “You Are The Only One” for the quite good song that it really is. There were no obviously rubbish songs this year. I think that is the problem with the semi-final system: it filters out all of the really crazy stuff.

Sweden rocked our world

I thought Sweden did a brilliant job of hosting. It was a little different, and definitely for the better. I am pleased Justin Timberlake performed. Not because I am a big Timberlake fan, but I hope that it will lend a note of legitimacy to the contest that will encourage bigger names to take part, which can only benefit the UK (with our massive stock of big artists).

They also stole the show with the best song of the night…

The UK did not do very well

Alas. It was looking quite good for Joe & Jake when the judges’ votes came in, but the public did not feel the same way. It’s a shame because I think it is one of the better songs we have put up recently.

The new voting system is odd

I think I prefer the old system. The new system does keep the surprise until right at the very end, but then it also makes the rest feel a bit pointless. They have to rush round the other countries, with only one score announcement each and the tedious reminder to get on wit hit. Do they not brief the people giving the scores beforehand so they know to just get on with it?

I was hoping we could make some FiveThirtyEight-style paths to victory which showed how a country was doing compared to how it should have been doing. For example, if Belarus gives us two points and Russia eight points, on the face of it, that would seem to put Russia ahead. But it doesn’t of course, because they would normally give Russia 12 points and us nothing. It would be interesting to model, but the new system makes it impossible (it would have been difficult before anyway).

The public have very different opinions

Poland, who you will remember entered a rubbish song, were rightly at the bottom when the judges’ scores had been set up. Yet when the public vote came in, they were third from top. This happened to them a few years ago when their churning milkmaids were shunned by the British jury but very popular with the British public. This time, on a European-wide scale.

I’ve come round to songs

I initially shunned Laura Tesoro’s “What’s The Pressure” when listening beforehand. However, seeing it in the contest brought it to life.

It’s a fun, upbeat song and I like the retro disco theme. Even more impressive, that girl has moves! Have you tried doing a dance that choreographed while belting out a song like that? It is damn hard to sing and play an instrument at the same time, and I imagine singing and dancing is harder.

Also, Jamie-Lee’s “Ghost” was so bizarre that I can’t get it out of my head.

As Graham Norton pointed out, they clearly had a lot of costume ideas: and liked them all.

Eurovision 2016: 24 hours to go

Friday, May 13th, 2016 | Distractions

eurovision-2016

Last weekend I published a preview of some of the songs to watch. Well, that’s all changed. I’ve been listening to the songs on Spotify all week and have some new favourites.

Russia

Not a song I want to win. In fact, I’m starting the hashtag #AnyoneButRussia. They are now heavy favourites though. Paddy Power are offering 1.57 on them. 2.0 would be evens (50% shot at winning), so they’re running away with it. The nearest rival is Australia at 11/2.

Australia

They have moved up to second favourite. It’s a good song.

Ukraine

Third favourites. They must be counting on a lot of political sympathy though. The song just isn’t that good. Bold topic, but not great music.

Poland

Poland are having a nightmare! The song I have been singing along to most this week has been Margaret’s Cool Me Down. It’s super-addictive. Great song. The bookies were loving it too.

Then I find out that they picked another song to compete in Eurovision. And it’s shit.

Norway

I’m disappointed Norway did not make it through. Agnete’s Icebreaker is a nice tune.

Malta

Another slower but nice song is Malta. It’s got that nice kick-up.

Conclusion

Obviously I hope Joe and Jake nail it for the UK. However, as I can’t vote for them, my favourite so far is Amir, representing France. It’s the only song I have been singing as much as Margaret.