Archive for the ‘Distractions’ Category

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, 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…