Monday, February 28, 2011

One sentence movie review: Predators

Predators (2010) 7/10

Adrien Brody is surprisingly credible as an action hero in this passably entertaining sci-fi action reboot.

The ratings:
10: Best ever
9: Profoundly moving
8: Deeply engaging
7: Enjoyable
6: Just OK
5: Sorry I watched it
4: Couldn't sit through it
1: An abomination of human endeavor

Ratings for the last 563 movies I've watched

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/24/2011)

I've been saying this for years. Literally saying it. Literally for years.

The US Army tried to use Psy-Ops on Senators.

Why don't high schools like it when atheist students try to form clubs?

As I wrote back before he was convicted, I've never understood the degree of visceral hate some people feel for Michael Vick either.

What's an elite education worth?

Back to the future: old photos reposed with the same people years later (includes one topless possibly NSFW/C/P photo).

How M. Night Shyamalan went astray.

Ben Franklin on why old women make better mistresses than young women.

If you don't read the LDS (Mormon) Stake Presidents Blog, you aren't as righteous as you could be.

Internet lesson of the day: don't be a douche to the Oatmeal guy.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/23/2011)

Oaks rebutted, part 6, part 7, and summing up.

How to foreclose on your bank.

The Annals of Eugenics.

Grace Undressed writes beautifully. Most of what she posts is behind a paywall, but once in awhile she still posts something on her blog.

Created equal: provocative portrait pairings (pictures include one topless dancer, so possibly NSFW/C/P).

The day the movies died.

"From the dawn of athletics to the first round of this month's NFL draft, the medicine ball has rolled through the centuries, its elemental formula unchanged and unsurpassed: Sphere + gravity = fitness."

Five emotions invented by the internet. Spot on.

Sarkozy admits French language a hoax after WikiLeaks exposé.

I also have this problem a lot.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/17/2011)

Scrum Central's ongoing rebuttal of Dallin H. Oaks's examples of supposed violations of religious freedom.

It's astonishing that LDS church leaders would threaten someone's standing in the church over a kind-hearted and positive video like this one.

Every time Glenn Beck has convinced me he's a brilliant performance artist, he comes up with something that makes me wonder if he isn't crazy after all. Now he's implying that Google is involved in his imaginary conspiracies.

Why isn't Wall Street in jail?

What we look at when we watch movies. One of the most interesting things I've seen in awhile.

Race, Sex, and the Trials of a Young Explorer.

Australopithecus afarensis was a "committed terrestrial biped."

I'm constantly surprised at how often people in a position of privilege try to figure out what other people want without ever thinking of just saying "Hey, what do you want?" and listening to the answers.

Is Dumbledore gay? Who gets to decide?

Animals at the dentist.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/13/2011)

A possible reason for optimism in Egypt: since 1990, 68 percent of military coups were followed by elections within five years.

The life and work of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and finding a better way to grieve.

"Uncontacted" tribes.

Why is there still violent reaction to the Muhammad cartoons?

Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest was a slave trader, massacred black Union soldiers at Ft. Pillow, and became Grand Wizard of the KKK after the war, so naturally the Mississippi Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans have asked that he be honored with a license plate.

Hints on overcoming procrastination through the Zeigarnik effect.

"That little faggot, he's a millionaire."

How "X-rated" became synonymous with porn.

The Bill O'Reilly "You can't explain that" meme.

The Wall of Shatner -- perhaps the most frightening image in the history of the internet.

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Covers that you might not have known are covers: "Twist and Shout"

"Twist and Shout"
Familiar version: The Beatles (1964)
Original version: The Top Notes (1961)
First hit version: The Isley Brothers (1962)

Maybe most people know "Twist and Shout" wasn't a Beatles original, but I bet few know that the Isley Brothers version wasn't the first one either.

The song was originally recorded by a group called the Top Notes. Their version was produced by the still-inexperienced Phil Spector, who "ruined" it according to the songwriters, Phil Medley and Bert Berns.

Berns produced the Isley Brothers version a year later, with much better results both artistically and commercially (reaching #17 on the Top 40 charts). It was eclipsed two years later by the Beatles' definitive version, but it's still excellent.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/10/2011)

Fox News insider: "I don't think people understand that it's an organization that's built and functions by intimidation and bullying, and its goal is to prop up and support Republicans and the GOP and to knock down Democrats." Wait -- there are people who don't understand that?

At the CIA, kidnapping and torturing the wrong guy gets you promoted. (I wish I could say this is shocking, but in America going to war against the wrong country gets you reelected as president, so why should we expect more from the CIA?)

The network out to crush public employees.

ORCs and YATs battle in the GOP.

Romney the Giant Pander strikes again.

The singularity is coming (to mainstream discussion, anyway; it's even made it into Time).

Women's vocalizations during heterosexual sex are not an involuntary reaction to male sexual prowess, but a way of exerting influence over their partner’s sexual response.

Singularity (the web comic): the inner dark.

Harvard economists prove that bankruptcy is mythical.

Hipster Gandalf.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/9/2011)

Shorter Dallin H. Oaks: It will be a terrible day for America when religions can no longer discriminate with impunity.

Shorter Joanna Brooks: " will be easier for LDS conservatives to protect their religious freedom as a minority if they acknowledge that Mormons live as a minority not in a depravedly morally relativistic society ...but in a democracy defined by legitimate moral and religious pluralism."

A new study finds that many women with early breast cancer do not need a painful procedure that has long been routine: removal of cancerous lymph nodes from the armpit.

What's new about the Gnu Atheists.

Data intelligence firms proposed a systematic attack against WikiLeaks.

Ghoulish mummies in the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo, Sicily.

Even more embarrassing than being killed by a mountain goat: man killed by chicken at cockfight.

The Malcolm Gladwell Book Generator.

The Little People Project; this is really cool.

Wolverine or Batmen?

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The Adventures of Leonard McCoy, Space Doctor (#47)

"My tricorder detects no puddy tats in this vicinity."

Click on the "Space Doctor" tag for more adventures!

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/8/2011)

I realize it's a hard thing when your child openly repudiates your belief system, but the response from these Mormon parents is simply despicable.

Vikings may have navigated using polarizing crystals.

George W. Bush will probably never face prosecution in the US for his crimes, but he'd better never leave the United States again.

Buddhism and neuroscience.

And practicing Buddhist meditation techniques seems to help some hard-core criminals to calm down.

On the Star Wars VW commercial: "People have accused me of being cynical simply because I wasn’t taken in by forced cuteness in a commercial for a giant corporation featuring the intellectual property of an artistically bankrupt blockbuster mainstream film series aired during the single most corporatized sporting event in the history of corporatization."

I think I've posted links to some of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre's photos of Detroit in ruins before, but these ones in the Guardian are spectacularly good.

William "The Refrigerator" Perry is also in ruins.

I'm kind of disappointed at how few of these films in this list of the 100 best British films I've actually seen. My Netflix queue is about to get even longer.

I read "Questionable Content" every day, but I especially liked this one, because I suspect that I used to react a lot like Hanners back in the day when girls still flirted with me.

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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Covers that you might not have known are covers: "I'm a Believer"

"I'm a Believer."

Familiar version: The Monkees (1966)
Original version: Neil Diamond (recorded 1966, released 1967)

This was written by Neil Diamond and recorded by him first, but the Monkees version, which spent seven weeks at number one on the Billboard charts and sold about 10 million copies, was released before Diamond's.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/4/2011)

Corvid savants.

The house where Vince Lombardi used to live.

The Washington NFL team has the second-worst owner in sports. (Only Donald Sterling of the LA Clippers is worse.) So naturally, when someone criticizes him (in a hilarious way), his response is to try to intimidate them with lawyers and money.

Feds seize sports streaming sites. Of course, they're already up again with non-US URLS anyway. (Links provided for informational purposes only.)

The Fraternity of the Keepers of the Holy Vaginas.

The hot sauce and cold showers mom from the Dr. Phil show is charged with misdemeanor child abuse.

Speaking of bad parents, these people embezzled $100,000 from their disabled veteran son.

From the Department of WTF casting: the Alex Cross reboot is replacing Idris Elba (Stringer Bell from The Wire -- perfect, right?) with... wait for it... Tyler Perry. (The comments are pretty good too, e.g., "That’s like replacing Meryl Streep with Tara Reid" followed by "It’s like replacing Meryl Streep with Tyler Perry.")

Carl Sagan and his fully armed Spaceship of the Imagination take on the Star battleship Astrology.

Mickey Mantle may have been a lush and a misogynist, but no one can say he was intimidated by authority (possibly NSWF/definitely NSF children/prudes).

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My anti-Mormon pet peeves

In the spirit of PZ Meyers taking on atheists he finds annoying, here are some things that ex/post/anti-Mormons talk about that annoy me.

"DNA evidence proves that the Book of Mormon isn't true." No, it doesn't prove that. It proves that, among those people who have been tested, there is no evidence for Book of Mormon claims. DNA evidence is yet another nail in the coffin of the historicity of the Book of Mormon, but it is not the coffin. It is probably sufficient to prove that "Lamanites" aren't "the principal ancestors of the American Indians" as is widely believed among Mormons. However, if the "Children of Lehi" were small in number and absorbed by much larger surrounding groups, as some Mormons believe, then it would still be (theoretically) possible for descendants of "Lehi" to exist without possessing the type of DNA markers that we know how to look for. So the existing DNA evidence by itself is not sufficient to prove the Book of Mormon untrue. It merely reinforces the mountain of other evidence that it isn't true.

"Spiritual evidence isn't evidence." Yes, it is. Not only is it evidence, to those who experience it, it is extremely powerful and convincing evidence. It's entirely personal and subjective, it isn't replicable or consistent, and we're beginning to understand how it is that some of what people experience isn't what's really happening, but it's still evidence. It just isn't good evidence.

The Spalding-Rigdon theory of Book of Mormon authorship. Most historians of Mormonism seem to consider this theory to have been thoroughly debunked since No Man Knows My History came out in 1945, but that's not what bothers me. If people want to argue otherwise, that's fine. What bugs me is what I see as an underlying premise of this argument, i.e., the idea that there is something so extraordinary about the Book of Mormon that Joseph Smith couldn't have written it himself. This seems ludicrous to me. I mean, have you read the thing? It's utterly banal. Banal as historical literature, banal as theology, banal as sociopolitical philosophy; it's "chloroform in print" as Mark Twain put it. I see no reason for thinking that an imaginative farm boy/con man like Joseph Smith couldn't have written it by himself.

Utah Lighthouse Ministry ("the Tanners"). I hate to see people incautiously linking to or citing this organization. ULM does some good work in the sense of uncovering historical documents and raising issues, but all of this is done to serve one agenda: making the LDS Church look bad. While I wouldn't go so far as to call them liars, on any given issue ULM seems to care far less about figuring out what really happened than it does about figuring out how to use the issue to portray the church in the worst possible light. It's a propaganda organization, not a scholarly one (sort of the mirror image of FAIR).

My larger point is this: as former Mormons, the truth is on our side. And, as someone once said, "...the truth will go forth nobly, boldly and independent, until it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every nation, and sounded in every ear...." We don't need weak arguments, lax thinking, or one-sided polemics to make that happen. We just need to tell the truth as we find it.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Good Reads/Random Cool Sites (2/1/2011)

"Dictionary Atheists. Boy, I really do hate these guys. You've got a discussion going, talking about why you're an atheist, or what atheism should mean to the community, or some such topic that is dealing with our ideas and society, and some smug wanker comes along and announces that "Atheism means you lack a belief in gods. Nothing more. Quit trying to add meaning to the term." As if atheism can only be some platonic ideal floating in virtual space with no connections to anything else; as if atheists are people who have attained a zen-like ideal, their minds a void, containing nothing but atheism, which itself is nothing. Dumbasses."

Donald Rumsfeld, Defender of the Constitution (really).

Exceptional American beliefs about mobility and equality.

The Web is running out of addresses.

Flickr accidentally deletes a user's 4,000 pictures and can't recover them.

Meg Whitman outspent Jerry Brown by over $140 million (and lost).

Glenn Beck: still America's greatest performance artist. "The entire Mediterranean is on fire." Because a snowball is starting to roll...

Here's a shocker: somebody responded to public criticism by apologizing and taking care of the problem.

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