On her ship, tied to the mast, to distant lands, takes both my hands, never a frown with golden brown… unless it’s 39 degrees, in which case I’ll sulk

Holy hells, it’s freaking warm.

Which makes me think of the ice planet, Hoth. Mmmmmm… I’d sure like to be there with all that ice, tauntauns, tauntaun sleeping bags, rebel scum, and wampas.

For the life of me, I’ve never been able to work out Hoth. Sure, it’s science fiction and, sure, George Lucas was more interested in creepy, creepy incest and inter-generational sex, but at some point somebody must have looked at Hoth and thought: the ecology is all wonky.

Wampas eat tauntauns and Jedi. This is understandable and perfectly plausible.

But what the hell do the tauntauns eat? The planet is a giant snowball (mmmmm… giant snowball planet). Unless they’re eating ice and somehow converting that into energy (some of you French scientists might be thinking cold fusion, but then Luke would have got nasty radiation burn when he huddled in the guts of a tauntaun).

The Expanded Universe says that there’s lichen fields. Lichen fields on a snowball planet? You’re a crazy person.

It’s times like these that I think of the feral camels in the Australian outback. Camels were brought to Australia to help bored Englishmen adventurate across the desert. Some of them got loose and they started several colonies. The end result is a damaged ecosystem as the camels run wild.

If you were going to set up a base on an ice planet, it only makes sense that you’d bring along some tauntauns from another planet with a more diverse ecosystem. Tauntauns probably eat some plant which has grown fond of extremely cold weather. You never know. It’s space. Anything can happen (except planets which are completely iced over and which have tauntauns and wampas. That certainly can’t happen – hence the length of this post).

Concerned that some tauntauns might escape, they also brought along some wampas to keep the population in check.

‘But Mark!’ I hear you cry from the future, ‘If the planet is incapable of supporting tauntauns, why would you need a carnivore to keep the population in check?’

Foolishly, you’ve ignored the possibility of tauntauns cannibalising each other.

Okay, the heat’s finally got to me.

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Your heart’s beating at another door. I’m a damn fool to ask for more… in funding for the Olympics

Yeah, you never thought you’d see Jimmy Nail lyrics ever again, did you?

Australia sure likes its sport, doesn’t it? Mind! I don’t mean that Australia likes playing its sports. No, no. We still have tubby kids, after all.

In order to show how much we love our sport, we spend a miniature fortune each year on the sports industry.

Wait… by ‘We’, I of course mean ‘The Federal Government’. And by ‘a miniature fortune’, I mean ‘a miniature fortune of tax-payer funds’.

The history of funding sports in Australia is long and sordid. There’s  a rather famous story of the Minister who decided that we were wasting funds on the sports industry and so — correctly — reduced funding… only for his opposition to paint him (succesfully) as the horrible Minister that was trying to destroy Australia’s reputation as an elite sporting country.

A review of federal funding for sports was commissioned, called the Crawford Review. It contains such gems as:

‘The Panel believes that these matters need to be addressed if:

  • Australia is to continue to be successful at the elite level.
  • All Australians are able to participate in their sport(s) of choice.
  • The health and wellbeing of our population is improved.

The Panel believes that if the right structure and governance is put in place, there is every chance for a successful future for Australian sport. Without the right structure and governance, success will not result.‘ — Crawford Report [Source]

So what is the right structure and governance? Two bodies – one for policy (Australian Sports Commission) and one for service delivery (Australian Institutes of Sport). Everybody knows that programmes work best when you split the service delivery from the policies governing the service delivery. It sort of shows that the people writing the report were part of the sports industry and not, y’know, people who generally think about governance and policy.

In even funnier recommendations:

Australia’s high-performance sport system should be based on the principle that elite programs be delivered at optimal locations—and the system must facilitate the engagement of other providers such as universities and private organisations where appropriate.‘ — Crawford Report [Source]

It’s almost Yes, Prime Ministerish. Where should all the military officers be stationed? Right near Harrods. It’s the principle that the elite should be in the optimal locations, after all.

The Australian Olympic Committee aren’t happy with it, mostly because it means less money going directly to them. Their complaint is that less funding will mean less medals. It is a curious feature of our Olympics coverage that we don’t calculate how much each medal costs the federal government. When we’ve got crippled education, health, and emergency systems, exactly how much money can be justified in pouring into Olympic medals?

At the end of the day, there are votes to be lost if funding is diverted from sports to infrastructure and so no goverment will ever divert funding from sports to infrastructure.

Go, democracy!

Come and dance with me, Michael… and help me shift this furniture

I have removalists arriving tomorrow. I don’t know when they will arrive.

It’s times like these that I think about the Cable Guy Paradox by Hajek.

Imagine that you’re like me and you’ve called a removalist (or – in the original – a guy to come and fix your cable television). They’ve told you that they will, with 100% certainty, be at your place between 9am and 3pm. So there are three hours in which they could arrive before noon and three hours in which they could arrive after noon. If you ignore the chance that the removalist will arrive at exactly noon, there is a 50% chance that she will arrive in the morning and an equal chance that she will arrive in the afternoon.

Your housemate decides to have a bit of a wager with you as to when the removalist will arrive: morning or afternoon?

[W]e may put the reasoning in terms of a plausible diachronic rationality principle somewhat in the spirit of van Fraassen’s ‘Reflection Principle’ (1984 and 1995). The idea is that you should not knowingly frustrate a rational future self of yours. I will call it the ‘Avoid Certain Frustration Principle’:

Suppose you now have a choice between two options. You should not choose one of these options if you are certain that a rational future self of yours will prefer that you had chosen the other one—unless both your options have this property.‘ — Hajek [Source]

So we’re placing this bet and we’re trying to avoid certain frustration. If we are to place our bet on the removalist arriving in the morning, for each second that passses, the odds increase that the removalist will arrive in the afternoon.

For example, if the removalist has not arrived by 10am, then there are only two morning hours left, but three afternoon hours left.

The choice to bet on the morning interval falls squarely under the purview of the Avoid Certain Frustration Principle. It is thus ruled out. Rationality, then, requires you to bet on the afternoon interval (the only choice that is not so ruled out). This is paradoxical, because your initial reasoning that there is nothing to favour one interval over the other seemed impeccable.‘ — Hajek [ibid.]

If you’ve got a 50-50 chance of being correct, it doesn’t matter which you choose because you’ve got equal chance of being correct. And yet, here we are, knowing that, in the future, these even odds will change predictably against us if we choose the morning bet.

Isn’t that cool? Yes, yes it is. Continue reading “Come and dance with me, Michael… and help me shift this furniture”

Hey, you’ve got to hide your love away… and all of the plot holes.

I’m a bad person. I absolutely loathe The Matrix. While apathetic distaste of the sequels is a sure sign that your eyes are still working and that you’re completely sane, I even hate the first one (the popular one that made everybody think that they understood Descartes — even though the brain in the vat was Putnam’s idea, but whatever).

But let us not speak of that first one, and turn our attention to the third one (which was on telebox this evening).

Ignore the heavy handed Jesus imagery. Ignore the super annoying characters whom you could easily wipe out if given a million death drones. Ignore the dialogue which treats the audience as if they’re a bunch of stoner, undergrad Continental philosophy students (oh, wait…).

Why the McFlying Freak does Keanu Reeves have magical powers in the real world? Isn’t the whole point that he has some sort of superbrain (Keanu’s Super Brain is the most wildly improbable aspect of the first movie) which allows him to do ‘Woah’ superman moves in the virtual world? Isn’t he just a grown up version of Digimon?

When did he get the ability to make robot death machines explode with his mind? When did that happen? He seems to get a new superpower each movie; in number 2, he develops the ability to revive the dead (causing Trinity to spend the next movie as a zombie — a sharp change from the praying mantis she was portraying in the first two movies).

Oh, and if Keanu’s Super Brain was the most wildly improbable aspect of the first movie, then Keanu Rejecting Monica Bellucci because he really likes the aforementioned praying mantis was the most wildly improbable aspect of the second movie. On sober reflexion, it was the most improbable aspect of all of the movies.

So, yes. When did he get superpowers in the real world?

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord… and I’ve been playing Mario and it freaking rocks

It rocks so very, very hard.

There’s a new ‘Save the Toads who were captured like dopes’ which is a pain in the almighty freaking arse (the one I saved this evening seemed to hate life, prefering to run straight into enemies rather than staying still), but the rest of the game is an absolute pleasure to play. As you can see from the timestamp on this post, I have already lost a number of hours to the game…

More gushing about this game (and speculation regarding Mario’s furry fetish — somebody gave Princess Peach a penguin costume as a birthday gift) to follow.

‘Cause this is Thriller, Thriller night… and nothing’s going to save you from the tedium

About fifteen minutes in, my resolve started to wane. For moral support, I went to the supermarket and purchased Mountain Dew. It helped.

I can’t think of anything I just saw that wasn’t bad. Even the Twi’leks — the single most awesome race in the SW galaxy (far, far away) — were crudtacular.

But the dialogue — o Iesu, the dialogue.

Not a single word made the slightest bit of sense and, as if to flaunt the fact that nothing’s making any sense, everything gets repeated about twenty times. It’s almost as if the writers knew that the audience was going to doze off and so would need constant reminding of what was going on. I swear I saw the same piece of dialogue between Dooku and Ventress five times (I get the impression that they’ll need to discuss her failures…).

But the problems are a little bit deeper than merely that.

Action scenes are awesome when there’s a good chance somebody you like is going to snuff it. There’s an element of risk to the characters: they might not be 100% successful. When your characters are basically immortal — SPOILERS: Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader, who doesn’t die until Return of the Jedi, and Obi Wan Kenobi ends up living on Tatooine under the cunningly cunning alias ‘Ben Kenobi’ before being killed on the first Death Star by Darth Vader née ‘Anakin Skywalker’ in A New Hope — you can’t rely on putting them in potentially fatal situations for drama.

But that’s basically all they do. Indeed, they jump from potentially fatal situation to potentially fatal situation with very little plot to sustain the jumps.

The way out of this problem is to have interesting characters, baffling mysteries, and unpredictable plot twists. Instead, we get Anakin Skywalker (the single most boring character in the Star Wars universe: ‘Whine, whine, whine. Sand people killed my mum. I need to prove how awesome I am all of the time.’), Obi Wan Kenobi (git), Ahsoka (the only non-immortal, but death (alas, alas) never claims her), and an unending supply of very, very mortal clones (who frequently die on mass to the sound of my chuckles).

Speaking of those clones, they seem to be more successful when they’re stupidly outnumbered. The kill-rate exponentially increases as the ratio enemies:clones increases. No joke, they get slaughtered en masse when they think they’re going to get backup, but transform into killing machines of superhuman luck when they think nobody’s coming to help them.

Thus, unless you’re gung-ho on watching the television series (which I am) don’t bother with the ‘movie’. It will make you want to Force choke everybody involved.

So if you’re lonely, you know I’m here waiting for you… with a copy of Star Wars: The Clone Wars

The first Star Wars film I saw was Return of the Jedi. I was seven and, as far as I was concerned, it was a story about R2D2 and Ewoks.

Both Star Wars and I have come a long way since then. The Expanded Universe has, indeed, expanded (to include creatures impervious to the Force… oooooooooh…). The Expanded Universe came full circle, informing the development of the Star Wars prequels (if you can think of a bit which didn’t suck in 1,2, or 3, you’re probably thinking of something which came from the Expanded Universe. You’re also probably thinking of Aalya Secura. Thank you, Expanded Universe. It would have been nicer if the movies hadn’t killed her off but, alas, these things happen in a set of films which also included the travesty known as Jar Jar Binks).

And now we have CGI movie-ettes: Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

If I understand the story behind this, it was supposed to be a television series from the start but somebody looked at the first three episodes or something and thought: ‘Egads! This would make an excellent feature-length film if you just edit them such that there are no credits or title sequences between them!’

Thus, we get the ‘movie’ Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the television series which followed it of the same name. The television series did play in Australia, but you would be forgiven for missing it given that it only screened at noon on Sunday on Ten. Graveyard shift would have been kinder, but Ten were too busy abusing Flight of the Conchord for that (it was banished to SBS in the end).

((Speaking of sci-fi on Ten, has anybody heard what’s up with Smallville? Admittedly, I haven’t watched anything beyond the middle of season five (I think) but that’s mostly due to never knowing when (or if) it’s on telebox.))

I kid you not. I’ve tried six times to watch SW:TCW (I’m only talking about the movie unless otherwise indicated).

Here’s what happens:

1. Title credits.

2. Silly voice stating the backstory as quickly as he can.

3. Emperor Palpatine starts talking about Jabba the Hutt and then blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

4. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

My eyes glaze over and I try very hard to stay engaged, but it’s as if Lucas has some sort of Jedi mind trick working through the film: ‘This is not the plot you’re after.’

But not tonight. Oh, no. Tonight, I’m going to try very, very hard to sit the whole way through it and then tell you if it’s worth watching. I’m just that nice.