I'm sick of Crash

I run a DVD store on Fridays and weekends. I'm the only making sure the store, machines and computers are all in order. I also help out clients and explain to them how the system work. I've noticed that a lot of people look up the movie 'Crash' as a first search, not to rent it, but to see whether our database is up to their standards.

A lot of these people actually cannot find the movie so they come up to me and ask. Once I find it for them easily, they simply nodd. I first ask them if, of course, they're talking about the Cronenberg version or the American version. The reaction of most is: "Crash is a remake?". I get this feeling in my gut when somebody mentions this, or when they tell they've never heard of the Cronenberg version. I get this urge to tell these people off. They arrogantly think that seeing 'Crash' and liking it makes them some fucking movie guru, and my system should stand up to their ever so developped taste buds, yet these fucking assholes don't know much about cinema.

Let's get one thing straight. I'm sick of people recommending 'Crash' (the American movie). Don't recommend me a stereotyped film. It isn't because black people are popular that making a movie about some 'nigger hater' shows just how the world is. Fuck you for being so fucking gullible. This movie isn't close to reality, it isn't setting some fucking boundaries or pushing the envelope. All the themes developed in the movie have been taken from several foreign films, and even some American films. Just because a movie has a form of narration slightly outside of conformity doesn't make it a masterpiece, especially not when the subject is treated with archetyped characters.

So do me a favor, and put 'Crash' in your piece of shit 'Napoleon Dynamite' bin and shut the fuck up.


A False Transition to Adulthood

I never got around to telling this story, so here are my thoughts, several weeks late. I met some friends from elementary school that I hadn't seen since... elementary school. We all went out drinking, and a number of very funny situations occurred.

1) The whole gang decided to head out on the dance floor together. This is fine with me. We all got some beers before, and so this posed an interesting situation. Some of the people had beers in their hand on the dance floor, and so they were either just standing there with the group and not dancing at all, or doing so awkwardly (as I was trying to do). It was a real funny mix. Everyone was determined to stay together as a group, but the dynamics were absolutely zero. A couple of the guys bought a pitcher and split it. The one holding the pitcher on the dance floor was doing the funniest move I've ever seen. He was essentially shaking his hips, while alternatingly raising the pitcher up and down in the air.

2) One of my best childhood friends got into a fight with his girlfriend. We ended up staying outside for a good part of the night while she flirted with some other guys and generally didn't pay attention to him. Ordinarily, this would be a tragic situation. What was even funnier is that he dealt with this situation in exactly the same manner as he would have in elementary school. Not a single thing had changed. it was like a gigantic hissy fit. All the people who were outside felt obligated to console him. Even funnier were the single girls (his friends, and girls I went to elementary school with as well) who were trying their best to capitalize on the situation with comments like: "Listen, you're such a great guy! You don't deserve this!"

I couldn't wait to see how the group dynamics would be. For the most part, I wasn't too surprised. Everything seemed familiar and yet awkward. Things had changed, and yet not really. Nobody seemed fully comfortable with each other, and none of the conversations were very productive. I couldn't help but smile through it all, though.


Myths and Myths

Isn't it funny that the two most important Catholic celebrations/holidays/hoaxes of the year are also associated with myths geared more toward children? I'm specifically referring to Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. It seems somewhat disturbing to me. It's almost like we're conditioning children at a young age to accept a myth of some sort. It usually starts off with the Easter Bunny, and an introduction to Jesus. As the kid grows up, and easily rejects Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny as being dumb stories, they are told that it is instead the story of Jesus that we are supposed to be celebrating.

The difference is that most people don't grow out of the Jesus story. Whereas a large proportion of adults are indoctrinated to believe this myth, the proportion of people around to call their bullshit is considerably lower. Also, the difference is that the myth isn't directly and coherently propagated by people who know it isn't true. It would be like atheists telling people that Jesus existed and we must worship him on certain days. What's so scary is precisely that these myths continue to be propagated to younger generations because they are taught this "truth" by members of society who deeply believe this myth, just as I once believed in Santa Claus.

There are three stages of religious myths in Western society. The first is when you are a child, believing in fairy tales like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny because people who care for you and who you deeply trust and respect lie to you. Once you turn 8, you start questionning the whole thing. You learn that you've been lied to by adults. Next you believe in Jesus, and this is actually a myth for pre-teens and teenagers. When you develop rational capacities, as I have argued in the past, you realize that this is precisely the same bullshit as those childhood myths. Those who you trust have propagated and falled for this story. The real tough step is the transition to rational adulthood. It's difficult because nobody is there to hold your hand and tell you that they lied to you about Santa Claus. The saddest is that most adults still continue to stick with the rational capacities of a 14 year old.

A sign of cultural decadence

The major difference between the last century and the ones that previewed it is the fact that we can cut down the 20th century into decades easily. Starting from the 50s, several trends emerged and this is the decade where a new class was formed: Teenagers. Teenagers were given media power and were seen as a stage in the life of everyone. Since then, we can almost assosciate a word per decade to the type of popular trend at the time: (some of these might be negociable) 50; greasers; 60; hippy; 70; disco; 80; rock; 90; pop. Their seemed to be some progression in music as well, starting from the strong use of the electric guitar and falling into the more electronic tones. Yet, something must of happened between the 90s and now as it can easily be seen that a regression has been taking place.

Popular music wise, we've gone from creating music to rehashing music. We're no longer remaking music, we're remixing it. All that means really is that we're not changing anything from the earlier beat, we'll just modify it a bit and add a few sounds over. Now, it's been done for years, remaking music, but it's never been done before that someone illiminates all the words and simply talks over the tracks instead. So we've gone to creating something to showing almost no effort into creating anything.

The same can be seen in popular movie-making. The parody genre being the genre coming out of it all completely knocked out. The standards for parody movies were set by a lot of Lesley Nelson movies, I'm not saying they were the best movies, but let's just say the bar has been completely lowered by the Scary Movie franchise. In a way, it's almost impossible to make a parody movie and release it in theatres wide in North America because most of the audience will be expecting something of the same level. So unless you abide to firing most of the writer's staff and replacing it with a bunch of degenerates, then you might have a few issues.

There is this cultural decadence. A popular trend that most people seem to assosciate themselves with. The whole 'underdog' idea and the whole victim-turned-hero is what gets at teenagers, yet the actual backdrop to most of these stories are so far from the truths and realities that teenagers live in today that it makes no sense that this be popular.

One's gotta ask himself if it was such a great idea to give teenagers media coverage back 60 years ago.

Oh well, just can't wait for the Arab trend to surface. After all, they're true underdogs.


I'm sick of commercials

I remember as a kid, back when I didn't have cable TV, I use to complain about commercials. The complaint is still logged. I find commercials to lack information about products they sell and to a certain extent insult the audience.

Ever seen a commercial about some sort of medication and they never actually tell you what the medication is about? A lot of those anti-drug commercials often defy logic completely and leads me to believe that they think people are stupid.
"Yesterday *puff puff* some kids told me that smoking a joint would be cool *puff puff*. Today, *puff puff* some kids told me to outrun fluffy...the guard dog...*puff puff* boy I make stupid choices." Don't take drugs.

What the fuck? I'm sick of uninformative and insulting commercials. I don't exacly understand how it is you can actually pitch to someone the use of commercials in the first place:
"Check this out, I've got this amazing idea. You write a show...and a third's way through it, we'll show a bunch of small things that have NOTHING to do with your show. We'll do it again 2-3 times to make sure the audience no longer pays attention."

Intelligence Without Reason

I refuse to believe that a person can be intelligent without demonstrating some kind of rational capacities. By this I mean that, if a person is religious, I do not consider them to be intelligent. You can be the most knowledgable mathematician in the world, but if you believe in the fucking tooth fairy, you're still a moron.

Case in point: I was talking to this girl the other night, and questioning her on her religious beliefs (as I often do to people in a first conversation...). She tells me that she doesn't adhere to any specific religion, but does believe in God and Jesus Christ and all this stuff. Her view tends to be more like Christianity but she doesn't like its over-reliance on the Bible for everything.

Ok, ok. Here's a very smart girl who, for whatever reason, has completely fucked up in her rational capacities. People who adhere to a religion and follow a book of some sort at least have an argument. They've been indoctrinated, of course, and their beliefs are completely wrong, illogical, and ridiculous, but at least they have a belief that the Bible or whatever other book is an account of the truth.

I usually don't understand religion, but I understood this girl's beliefs even less. I asked her what type of historical basis she had for her beliefs. Obviously the concepts lie in Christianity, but if she didn't really base herself on the Bible (which is a must for a Christian), then what even makes her think that her beliefs are the truth. Of course, I got the typical answer. She has no proof that it's true, that it's a question of faith, etc. She also sways from Christanity, though. She believes in heaven, but not in hell. Therefore I'm guessing she doesn't believe in the original sin. It seems like a completely illogical pick-and-choose type of belief system with no basis in anything at all. Adherents to religion are blind, this is just stupid.

Therefore, I came to the broad conclusion that you cannot be intelligent until you have dismissed religion altogether. Beleiving in fairy tales so that you can feel good when you wake up in the morning is a dilusional fantasy. I'm so fucking sick and tired of all this religion bullshit. There is not a single tiny shred of evidence that an almighty God exists, so why do so many morons keep basing their moral values on what an old book of unknown provenance and an institution led by a guy with a point hat say. I dare any religious person to provide me with some evidence (no, the Bible, the Koran, etc. do not count). It is a mental illness and, in my eyes, not only demonstrates moral weakness and a complete lack of character strength, but also the lack of important traits like reason, curiousity, intelligence, and a basic adherence to the scientific method's principle of empirical evidence.

To all you religious zealots: I'm sick and tired of your shit. I was "born" a Catholic, but ended up being agnostic starting from around 9-10 years old, notwithstanding my education in a Catholic elementary school. I officially declared myself to be an atheist around the age of 14-15, when I started to develop critical thinking skills. Are you going to tell me that you're dumber than a 9 year old? Out with the evidence or shut the fuck up.


Minimum Wage

I feel it's important to tell you about this little rant Bill Maher did on his show last Friday on the topic of minimum wage. I actually did not know this fact, and yet it doesn't surprise me, but the minimum wage has not been raised since 1997 in the US. That's absolutely appalling and ridiculous.

The entire concept of minimum wage is based on the fact that it should be the lowest possible wage on which a person can live and sustain himself. This prevents exploitation and, in a sense, slave labour, by corporations seeking to take advantage of the situation. There are millions of people in the United States (and Canada) who earn no more than the minimum wage. The US federal minimum wage is currently at $5.15, which is considerably lower than what we have in Canada. Adjusted for inflation, this is lower than it was in the 1960s! Admittedly, some states have raised their minimum wages higher (thanks to legislation introduced by Clinton), but there are some which are actually LOWER than the federal level, and some which do not have any type of minimum wage legislation at all! A quick calculation shows that the annual income for a person earning minimum wage in the US is just slightly above $10,000 before taxes. Woooooooooo! Busting the bank there...

Check out Maher's rant (it's at the end of the video if you want to skip past the other funny stuff).


Hoaxes, Stupidity, and Damned Dirty Lies!

When I got home from work tonight, my mom approaches me and randomly says that I don't eat very healthy -- too much food in the microwave. Ok. I wondered what brought this up. A little later in the evening she says that I shouldn't microwave things in plastic containers, because the plastic releases chemicals that go into the food, which ultimately can cause cancer. Isn't this the typical scenario that everyone has heard.

-Mom, that sounds like a hoax.
-No Eric, it seems legitimate to me. And this isn't the first time I've heard of this.
-So because you've heard the same old wives' tale a few times makes it legitimate?
-Well, it's just something I've always heard, it's not good for you. I'll send you the e-mail

Of course, I did some real quick research. The first Google hit pointed me to snopes.com, a well-known urban legend debunking site. It very clearly pointed out that this was no more than an urban legend. Whodathought?

There is a very common pattern in these types of legends. They usually involve death. Mythbusters tested out a number of microwave myths a little while back to predictable results. It seems to come from strange cold war fears and people linking microwaves to nuclear-something-or-other, when a microwave has absolutely nothing to do with anything "nuclear".

It makes me wonder just how fucking stupid people are. You get an e-mail. Ok... it comes from a family members. Add 10 credibility points! If mama gustav said it's legit, then clearly it must be! The provenance of these e-mails is always very sketchy, and nobody bothers to check out any of the facts to make sure they've been corroborated elsewhere. This is just typical of how gullible people are. People hear something from someone from someone from someone who clearly must be an expert in the field, and it becomes a part of the culture.

This seems like a religious issue to me. I say this because I believe atheists are perpetual skeptics, and require a much greater burden of proof in order to believe something. The person who told me about this, my mother, is rather religious. The person who sent it to her is also religious (my grandmother). I would be willing to bet that there is a positive correlation between religion and gullibility. Just a hunch. They don't question God, so why not question microwaving plastic if an e-mail says so. After all, e-mails are never wrong!

Somewhere out there, there's a bunch of religious people who think that plastic in microwaves cause cancer, washing machines are the source of the devil, and taking showers over 5 minutes in length causes your skin to melt and warts to form over your eyelids.

According to God

As it turns out, my parent's 25th year of marriage is coming up very soon. It might seem like a big figure, but 25 years is actually a bullshit amount of time: They were together 8 years prior to their marriage. So I was asked, what about those 8 years? Do they go unnoticed because God has a blind spot?

How is it that couples have to start counting from scratch the amount of time they were together because a ring, and some nutcase priest said a few lines. "From this on forth, we shall start counting again. Because we are counting...fod GOD now! How exciting is that?" Doesn't this mean God is somewhat of an ignorant moron, or does this mean that most people thing they've outsmarted God somehow? "Yeah, we've fucked...but don't tell God alright?"

"Wow Betsy! It's been 25 years since we last wasted a full day to my best friend the invisible man!"


Your Cultural Coffee

Ontarians have a thing with coffee. It's fine to like or even love coffee, but there's a point when it goes too far. There are some people who just can't let go of their freakin' metal mug. Case in point: I was stopped at a red light the other day and glanced at the car to the right. I couldn't help but notice that this guy was driving with his mug permanently in his right hand, as if he couldn't leave the house without a coffee. This is a ridiculous obsession. I love tea, and I enjoy coffee, but it doesn't mean I have to take some with me everywhere I go.

Tim Hortons has admittedly had a large role to play in this. I'd be willing to bet that many of those who partake in this buy their coffee at Tim Hortons and don't actually brew at home. This, of course, is dilusional because it affirms that Tim Hortons coffee is the best there is. There's no better! Gotta have some Tims every freakin' day! When I was living downtown late last year, I was amazed on my morning walks to school to see the number of government employees patiently lined up outside the numerous Tim Hortons on Laurier just for their morning cup. Nobody has, of course, thought that it would be cheaper and tastier to have coffee before leaving home, or brew some coffee at work. Of course not! A Tim Hortons cup is much more of a status symbol than endulging in your drug alone where nobody can see you.

I suppose it's the perfect example of why Tim Hortons has been successful. They have managed to become a part of the culture. It is not only a status symbol to be seen drinking Tim Hortons coffee, but you are associating yourself with everything that goes along with the image. ie. Your average friendly Canadian, a hockey fan, a good father/mother, a participant in your community, etc. This is also why each year around Roll Up The Rim time, you get someone in the media complaining about how they don't win, and it always ends with Tim Hortons being the good guy, sending that person some free goodies. Oh boy! So I spent $500 through the year on coffee cups which end up on the street somewhere, and didn't win a damn thing. It's ok, though, because Tim Hortons rocks! So Canadian, eh!

On the matter of Tim Hortons coffee, it's a very funny situation. It's far from being great coffee. It's not too bad, but don't every try and drink it when it's just warm or even coolish. You'll quickly realize that this probably isn't real coffee, and instead some weird genetically modified chemical powder that ensures you get the exact same cup each time, year in year out. The final irony is in the ever-popular double-double. You're taking an already mild flavoured coffee and adding a ton of milk, and a ton of sugar. What more could say: "I love coffee!"?


Don't Honk At Me

I can't even count the number of times I've encountered this situation: I'm walking on the side of the road somewhere, and someone who knows me is driving by. They decide to honk and wave their hand out the window.

Don't ever do this. You only look like a fucking moron because, no, I don't recognize your car and, no, I don't recognize your waving arm sticking out of the window. I can't hear what the fuck you're yelling at me. I wasn't able to see your face. Just don't do it. Take it from me... when I see you walking on the side of the road, I won't slow down traffic just to honk and wave at you, because you won't know who the hell is honking anyway.


Why PDFs Suck

In the context of research for my courses, I often find myself sifting through hundreds and hundreds of pages of work. My task is to read all this material and to summarize it so that it can be used in a research project of sorts. The problem is when you are looking at any form of current events, you have little choice but to rely on journal databases. These are almost always in PDF format (though some offer HTML-based readers). The problem is that you want the flexibility of printing out the pages to peruse them, highlight the important parts, write notes in the margins, etc. PDF, being a read-only format, is essentially a digital paper replacement.

PDF's strengths do not lie in the consumer market, however. If it had been thought out properly from the start, PDFs could be a far more useful technology. For example, if I have a 10 page document, and I'd like to mark things down, I have no choice but to print it out. Acrobat Reader or a compatible software will not allow me to do any type of marking to the document. It almost seems like common sense to have this feature, though. In PDFs, there is the potential of an almost paperless society. Instead of me printing off dozens upon dozens of pages of text just so that I can mark it up, why not have a very simply highlight function which would allow me to digitally do this? I have no problem with reading on my screen, but Adobe has not thought through this option. It doesn't seem like it would be that complicated to be able to save your marked changes to the document in a database of sorts. Much as in the case of regular paper, the authors' works are semi-protected in terms of copyright legislation, and for those requiring the text for any sort of serious purpose are given tools to facilitate the task.

Journal readers are only part of the solution. I already have a laptop, and I don't really need anything that has OCR and a digital pen. A mouse would work perfectly for highlighting and marking up things. It should be simple to add comments to the margin of a PDF document, and yet nobody has thought of it. Why must I be stuck printing off all these documents just so that I can research efficiently?

So I was partially wrong about this. Adobe does include advanced markup features in the full version of Acrobat. The point is still valid, however. Why should I have to pay hundreds of dollars just to get some basic markup tools? I don't need anything else that Acrobat offers, and it seems like basic markup tools should logically be present in the free Reader app. Considering the popularity of the PDF format, especially in academia, why does Adobe keep crippling it because they feel that highlighting is a "premium" feature?