Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Have You Got Another Jump I Could Hoop Through?

Speaking of spooky psychic stuff, today I was preparing a lecture when two things struck me almost simultaneously: Sloan's song "She Says What She Means" popped into my head, and I had to pee like a racehorse. I scurried to the bathroom; relief filled me as I emptied my bladder, all the while humming the tune. And what did I see as I glanced down to gauge the effectiveness of the last few shakes? Why, it was the word "Sloan", the very name of the band whose song was on my lips, who, I now know, share their name with the makers of fine urinals.

Coincidence? Subliminal urinal expertise? Or something more?

Oh, and the best thing I've overheard at Western in a while was heard today. A guy says to the girl beside him, in an 'I'm so disappointed in myself' sort of voice: "I ate 150 shrimp."

Happy Halloween kids!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I watched this new show called Phenomenon on Wednesday. Basically, it's American Idol with magicians (mentalists, to be specific). Criss Angel plays the part of Simon Cowell, and Uri Geller plays the part of Paula Abdul.

First of all, I loved the show. It's all done live (supposedly), which gives it a realistic feeling that you don't get with a lot of modern magic on TV (e.g., Mindfreak or David Blaine's specials). The guy with the nailgun was particularly intense; you know he probably won't screw it up, but just knowing there's a small chance he'll puncture his brain on live television is enough to keep it interesting. The bear trap guy was less impressive. Dude, you didn't even hide the fact that you switched the trap. And are you in pain or not? At least keep your act consistent.

But there is a degree of confusion in this show that sorta pisses me off. On one hand, there's Uri Geller there, who claims to have "real" psychic abilities. In the introductions to the contestants, some of them told stories about sensing the death of a loved one, or whatever. The show seems to foster the belief that these people really do read minds.

On the other hand, Criss Angel is there. I think Criss Angel is awesome. If you watch carefully, you see that his approach is actually quite skeptical. On his show, he sometimes reveals how he did his tricks. He refers to his feats as "illusions" or "demonstrations", and never claims to have any supernatural abilities. I think this was epitomized in one episode of Mindfreak, when he spent the entire episode putting on a seance and freaking people out by having them see and feel ghosts. At the very end of the show, he said something like "so do you believe in ghosts now? I don't." Nice. On Phenomenon, these people are illusionists; what they do is amazing, but not supernatural. They can make it look like they are reading minds, but they are not. It's awe-inspiring in a similar manner to really good special effects in a movie. You almost believe it's real, but you know it's not.

Phenomenon can't decide if it's trying to amaze us by tricking us into thinking it's real, or by showing us really good performances by people who we know are trying to trick us. Now, you know I'm not one to completely dismiss psychic phenomena. There's something to them, and they're worth researching scientifically. But nobody in their right mind is going to believe that flawless mindreading is going to happen on a reality show (nor any other silly game). I'd be more impressed if the show was up front about that.

My guess is that Uri Geller prevents it. He wants people to believe that stage magic is a genuine demonstration of psychic abilities, so that his own stage magic thrives. The dude does some impressive stuff, but come on, he can't really bend spoons with his mind. Again, with him, I'd be more impressed if he didn't put on the whole "everything I do is because I'm actually psychic" act. He did a demonstration of his "abilities" live on the show, by having the audience choose a symbol (one of the five Zener card symbols) that he had sealed in an envelope. It just barely worked out - and hey Uri, any chance you always pick the star in demonstrations like this? How about randomly selecting the symbol next time?

Anyway, like I said, loved the show, but I do wish it wouldn't perpetuate the myth that stage mentalism and "real" paranormal phenomena are the same, or even related. I have a long standing interest in both, but they are completely separate things.

Bonus fact: Uri Geller designed the logo for *N Sync. It must have taken all his psychic energy to conjure up a star to put in front of the band's name. Oh hey! Maybe it's related to the fact that most people out of any randomly selected group will choose a star over other symbols. Well played, Uri.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In Triumph

I was poking around the NaNoWriMo web site's forums, and came across this writing practice thing called prompting. The idea is that someone posts a short "prompt", then everyone else has 15 minutes to write whatever they want about that prompt.

I saw that a prompt had just been posted: "In Triumph". Written like that, with a capital T. So I ran with it and excreted a quick and dirty little story in 10 minutes, and I thought I would dump it on my web log.

It's a heart-worming story about the light at the end of the tunnel. Here is "In Triumph":

Doug snuggled up close to his friend Henry.
"It's almost time," said Doug.
As if in response, the walls around him shook. A deep rumbling filled their ears.
"I'm still skeptical," said Henry. "It's not the usual time. He hasn't even had supper yet!"
Doug wriggled up closer to the exit.
"I see light!" he said. "Really, it's almost time!"
The walls shook again. Globs of thick slime dripped down from the pink ceiling. The wet ground inched forward, sliding toward the exit.
"I guess you're right," said Henry. "He must've eaten something gross."
"Well we wouldn't be here if he wasn't prone to doing that," said Doug.
They began to laugh together, but then the tube began to shake and rumble again. They had to wrap their long bodies around each other to keep from slipping down to the exit.
"I'm scared," said Henry.
"Don't worry," said Doug. "I've done this a million times. Something else will come along in no time and we'll have a brand new host."
"I guess a change of scenery 'll be nice."
"That's the spirit."
A bright light blossomed at the end of the tunnel.
"Here we go!" squealed Doug, and the two worms, tail-in-tail, slid to freedom.
As they began the first moments of their new life together, they could hear a booming voice far above their heads.
"Good boy!" said the booming voice. "Good poo poo! Who's a good boy? Triumph's a good boy!"

Monday, October 22, 2007

NaNoWriMo 2007

It's nearing the end of October, and that means it's almost November, which is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)!

To get further practice for my new career in fiction writing, I'm going to give it a go again. The idea is to write an entire novel in one month. I tried this last year, and failed. But hey, I called it, when I wrote this:

... I'll have to write 2000 words or so a day. Yeah. Right. I'm destined to fail, but it's the participation that matters more than success. Maybe I'll work my way up to actually completing NaNoWriMo next year, but for now, I'll just give myself an A for effort.

See how I set myself up to succeed even if I failed? That's how to get ahead in life.

Perhaps I will post the aborted novel attempt here sometime later. I went back to read a bit of it recently, and the good news is that it sucks. That's good because it means I've improved my writing in the last year to a point that I can recognize suckiness in my own past work.

Anyway, I was setting up my profile on the NaNoWriMo web site, and it asked what my favourite novel is. Hmm...never thought of that before.

Then I remembered what my favourite novel ever is. The problem is that I don't remember who wrote it, what it is called, or what it is about. All I remember is that I was about 10 or 11 years old when I read it, and I couldn't put it down; I stayed up all night reading it all in one sitting. I also remember that it scared the living shit out of me. I haven't read a book like that since.

Actually, I do remember a few more details about it. Maybe you, worldwide internet, can identify my long lost love of a book (and subsequently crush my memories when I find out it's actually crap). Here is what I remember:
  • It took place in a forest.
  • The front cover was dark - mostly black - with a photographic picture on it - but the title and author were in brightly coloured letters (yellow or orange).
  • It was part of a series. The other books in the series had similar covers, with a photograph of something (usually objects, not people) overlaid with brightly coloured letters, all in the same font.
  • It may or may not have taken place in Canada and/or been by a Canadian author.
  • It was probably written for young people. It may or may not have been available in those Scholastic book fair things (do they still do those??).
  • It may or may not have had a sasquatch in it.

Another memory from my childhood is coming back to me: seeing the movie below in the back horror room of Jumbo Video (which had a life size Freddy statue and was awesome) and being freaked out by it.

I think I always assumed it was a chick with the wolf head coming out; I guess I never looked long enough to notice the flat chest (or maybe it's just proof that I've never been a boob man). I also never noticed Red Riding Hood in the background, because that wolf is so fucking scary.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Classification and Generalization of Shit and Shit-Based Language

I have been doing some research, and here is a handy guide to the different types of shit.

  • Living Shit: Living shit is born when people become frightened. They will often exclaim "you scared the living shit out of me!", and they will no longer have sentient shit living inside of them.

  • Bull Shit: Living shit is not always entirely truthful. When it tells a lie, perhaps to bolster its own (often fragile) self confidence, or to further its political agenda, it becomes bull shit.

  • Horse Shit: When bull shit's lies become so persistent that they cause anger in those exposed to them, it becomes horse shit. People exposed to horse shit will often exclaim "this is horse shit!", and will then throw a chair across the room.

  • Ape Shit: The danger of horse shit, of course, is that it breeds ape shit. When horse shit induces such a severe degree of anger as to cause complete irrationality, the bearer of the anger transforms into ape shit. Ape shit is dangerous, and should not be approached. It will cut you.

  • Bat Shit: The most damaging consequence of ape shit is bat shit. When the irrational rage of ape shit persists long enough, it transforms into bat shit. Bat shit is incapable of coherent thought, often dropping small nuggets of bull shit that do not know they are bull shit. Bat shit can scare the living shit out of people, thus renewing its life cycle.


It seems that are shit-based reverse-euphemisms for most emotions: Anger = ape shit, fear/surprise = living shit, happiness = pig in shit. I propose the following for some of the remaining emotions:

Jealousy = Lizardshit. Because lizards are green and so is envy. E.g., "I am lizardshit jealous of the number of comments on your blog."

Sadness = Platypus-shit. Because platypuses are the Earth's saddest freaks of nature. E.g., "I was feeling platypus-shit down, so I listened to Fall Out Boy and cut myself just a little."

Disgust = Skunkshit. Because there's nothing more disgusting than combining the two things that can come out of a skunk's ass. E.g., "People seem to think Natalie Portman is hot, but I think she's totally skunkshit."; "Thank you for baking this cake for me, but I'm afraid it's skunkshit."

That's all for today's lesson. Have a good day now.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Leave Britney Alone

I had a dream last night that I was Britney Spears' ninja bodyguard. She had very tight security wherever she went. Even at the grocery store, there was a special platform put there for Britney Spears's protection; spikes would come out of the platform if you pressed buttons on a nearby panel. When a group of rival ninjas attacked, I managed to impale most of them with the spikes, but I did have to take out some of the leftovers by hand with my ninja martial arts skills.

When I woke up, my back hurt from raking leaves yesterday.

I went from kickass ninja to broken old man in a matter of seconds. Real life sucks.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Dead Hamsters and Dead Leaves

My Xbox 360 finally came back (after being sent off for surgery). Except it's not my Xbox 360. It's somebody else's. Sure, this one works just fine, while mine didn't, but it's just not the same.

I feel like the kid whose parents "accidentally" killed my hamster in an incident involving plastic tubing and saran wrap, then went out and bought a new one to put in the cage, like I wouldn't even notice. Well I noticed, Bill Gates. I noticed.

Oh well. At least my Xbox is still blogging as if nothing's changed. And you can still be a crazy stalker and see how much time I've spent playing, and when, at Live Eye. Yes, more than a day of my life has been spent playing Bioshock. Awesome, awesome game. It's the first one I've ever beaten, then gone right back and started playing through again.

In other news, I really like fall. The new TV season has started, school hasn't gotten too intense yet, the weather is just the right temperature, and everything smells like musty sweet rotting leaves.

I raked leaves today. Another first homeowner type thing for me. I don't really get the point of raking leaves...more will always fall, and they'll just turn into nice rich soil anyway. There are starving kids in Africa who would kill for some nice soil.

It's decided then. I will attach a label to my bag of leaves that says "To: Africa, From: Mike. You don't have to kill for soil any more." The garbage men will know what to do.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Capital Idea

I was reading a charming little article at New Scientist, called "How Does it Feel to Die?", and came across the following passage:

Despite the public boasting of several prominent executioners in late 19th-century Britain, a 1992 analysis of the remains of 34 prisoners found that in only about half of cases was the cause of death wholly or partly due to spinal trauma. Just one-fifth showed the classic "hangman's fracture" between the second and third cervical vertebrae. The others died in part from asphyxiation.

Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, has found similar results in US victims. He concluded, however, that even if asphyxiation played a role, the trauma of the drop would have rapidly rendered all of them unconscious. "What the hangmen were looking for was quick cessation of activity," he says. "And they knew enough about their craft to ensure that happened. The thing they feared most was decapitation."

I'm so proud of my school. If it weren't for this fine Western scholar, we'd all lie awake at night worrying about whether hanging victims were conscious while they were strangled to death.

Hanging ain't so bad after all. Crime, here I come.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

We Got a New Camera

So this is a photo-blog now.

The camera is a Canon Powershot SD750 and it's very nice. It can recognize human faces and focus on them, just like The Terminator. It has not, however, killed anybody or time traveled. Yet.

I don't like people much, though, so I only take pictures of dogs.









Thursday, October 04, 2007

It Hurts When I Wii

As a follow up to yesterday's post, check out what the creators of the Nintendo Wii game Manhunt are doing to promote the game. They're giving away a blood-covered Wii. And it's not just cheesy cartoon blobs; it really looks like someone got the urge to play Super Paper Mario after murdering their family.

P.S. Since it's October and Halloween is coming up soon, pretty much every post this month will involve blood, guts, zombies, or candy. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


V and I have been watching Dexter lately. It's a show about a serial killer who works for the police and kills other bad people. What's amazing is that this show's main character is an evil man, with little empathy, compassion, or any other emotion toward other people, yet he's still, somehow, likeable. Maybe it's because he's so different than most of us that the show is fascinating (and how flashbacks to his past, which can be boring backstory in a lot of TV and movies, are actually some of the best stuff in Dexter).

We're still on Season 1, but apparently Season 2 recently came out. To promote it, the creators made a fountain in Philadelphia flow with blood instead of water. Awesome.

More pictures here.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Future of Music

The way we get music is changing. A big first step happened when Apple released iTunes Plus - DRM-free music. But that isn't good enough; lack of DRM infection is confounded with a quality increase, allowing them to charge more for music that you can actually listen to. The selection is also very limited. Even artists that offer some older albums on iTunes Plus (I'm thinking Smashing Pumpkins) have their latest album in the same old broken format.

Now Amazon.com has its own MP3 download service, with DRM-free music, a larger selection than iTunes Plus, and all for cheaper (on average; unlike iTunes, they have variable pricing). Another step in the right direction, but not available in Canada yet.

What I think is even cooler, though, is what some individual artists are doing. Trent Reznor (i.e., Nine Inch Nails) is clearly unhappy with the label he's currently stuck with. After doing some creative new stuff to promote his latest album, at concerts he told people that it was a rip off to buy it; people should just steal it. He then released the raw tracks to the songs on the album and allowed the world to remix it. The best remixes were released, in various qualities, with cover art and everything, totally for free (get 'The Limitless Potential' here).

Radiohead isn't constrained by a label any more. So with similar philosophies to Reznor's, they can put their money where their mouth is and try something new. Check out the web site for their newest album, In Rainbows. If you manage to find your way to the store, you'll see that (in addition to a cool physical collector's edition), you can download the whole album for whatever price you feel like paying for it. You could put in $0.00 if you really wanted to, and get it for free. But I'll be paying the usual $10.00 plus a $2 or $3 tip for being so awesome. This is the way to do things. No matter how much record labels "protect" music, it will be on the internet, for anyone who wants it to easily download for free, weeks before it's even released in stores. Might as well put it on the band's official site, and get some bonus money from the people who are willing to pay (of which I'm sure there are many).

This is the future of music. Record labels are no longer needed when anybody with a computer can create and release music to the world. Soon they'll be as obsolete as their name ("record"? what the hell is a record?). When online music is actually worth paying for, I think people will do so - and that money will go directly to the people who created it.

It's gonna get harder and harder for me to stubbornly insist on sticking with physical CDs.

Update: It looks like the site for Radiohead's new album is sorta broken at the moment. You can still preorder it here though.