Idiots


Acowlytes! Let me introduce you to Food Babe. If you haven’t heard of her up until now, this is going to be a very special post for you. Food Babe, aka Vani Hari, is to put it quite simply, a reality-challenged, uneducated loon. Her basic schtick is to take everyday food items (anything that’s not chia or sprouts, principally) and concoct some kind of conspiracy around how they’re going to kill you.

She also gives travel tips:

The air you are breathing on an airplane is recycled from directly outside of your window. That means you are breathing everything that the airplanes gives off and is flying through. The air that is pumped in isn’t pure oxygen either, it’s mixed with nitrogen, sometimes almost at 50%. To pump a greater amount of oxygen in costs money in terms of fuel and the airlines know this! The nitrogen may affect the times and dosages of medications, make you feel bloated and cause your ankles and joints swell.

That’s right folks, airlines are trying to kill you with nitrogen. Up to 50% of it in the air they FORCE you to breathe when you fly. The fuckers!

Aside from being completely scientifically addled, that paragraph is, of course, nothing but pure unadulterated bollocks. She pulled all that information straight out of her ass – pretty much like she does with all her ‘facts’. The problem is, a HUGE number of people read this hogwash and take it as gospel.

You can read more Food Babe here, if you are a sucker for punishment. I guarantee it will make you feel more nauseous than an all-you-can-eat buffet at Outback Steakhouse.

NOTE: Not only has the main link to this article been redacted from the Food Babe site, someone is systematically moving all the cached links as well. The Google caches have been scrubbed, as has the Wayback Machine cache. In the grand tradition of historical revisionism everywhere, Food Babe is trying to make it seem like she isn’t an A-Grade idiot. Fortunately you can read the entire text of the redacted page at Skeptical Analysis.

Well, Russell Brand is at it again. And sadly, I suspect that unless someone kicks him squarely in the bollocks, he’s likely to keep banging on eternally with his simplistic call to the disenchanted to take up their pitchforks and flaming torches and… I really don’t know what. Burn the castle down? Guillotine the aristocrats? Raid the palace wine cellar? Some disgruntled display of non-specific discontent, in any event.

Not only that, there have been suggestions of late that he also has designs on the mayorship of London. This could present something of a challenge for Brand, as he has opined on numerous occasions that people shouldn’t vote. Achieving office of mayor would thus provide him with an interesting technical obstacle.

Brand is out and about promoting his new book ‘Revolution’ and it strikes me that it’s an episode of high irony that this swaggering narcissistic auteur (his Wikipedia entry now lists him as an ‘activist’) who’s made his career as a comedian, desperately wants people to take him seriously.

I have talked about him previously on the Cow, as you undoubtedly remember, and as I said then, it’s not his belief that things are broken with which I take exception. Things definitely are broken, but Brand’s simplistic call-to-arms – aligning his attitudes as he does with the Occupy movement – offers no enlightenment on the complexity of the problems, and no way forward. All Brand really has to offer, once you pare away his angry posturing and hyperbole, is a swag bag of platitudes and naive idealism.

Brand’s book has so far garnered a stack of unflattering reviews. Mark Steel at the Independent attempts a show of support of Brand with a diatribe of condescending snark that seems to suggest that the negative reaction is due to some kind of confabulated de rigueur disdain for the would-be revolutionary. He finishes off (virtually repeating the Brand mantra word for word, as if he’s come up with a new piece of insight on the whole thing):

“..in a world in which it’s accepted by all major parties that banks and giant corporations and vast inequality are inevitable and can’t be curtailed, the most radical act can be to ask why.”

Seriously? It strikes me that, as radical acts go, asking why is a bleedingly obvious question that takes no great acumen whatsoever. If that’s the very best defence he can put up for Brand (and the article offers no evidence of anything else), then he’s working with very slim pickings. Steel might like to consider that the reason that reviewers have so comprehensively trashed Brand’s book is not because they’ve all come to some complicit agreement that he’s a fashionable whipping boy, but because his ideas are, actually, lame.

Steel quite rightly (if rather obtusely) points out that Brand’s bombast will appeal to young people. Of course it will – young people always respond well to simplistic rhetoric that offers to stick it to the Man – but this is hardly an endorsement of some revelatory new political strategy. It’s simply a recycling of the same aspirational flower-waving that we all subscribed to in the ’60s. And here we are again, because, hey – that went so well.

Why do I care so much about this? Why do I bother to spend words on this arm-waving would-be Zapata? Simply because it’s all such a misdirection of energy. An intelligent person like Brand could conceivably do a lot of good by attracting a young audience and constructively channeling their discontent. Unfortunately it’s just not good enough to be opinionated, brash and outspoken, no matter how passionate you are, nor how ‘right’. Constructive politics is not an explosive and radical landscape. It’s a difficult and complex process that requires thoughtful, dedicated and often slow application of strong and considered concepts. Most importantly, I think, it asks for a few things that Russell Brand is fairly short on: patience, insight and humility.

I’m partial to a good piece of musical theatre. Call it nostalgia, or call it sentiment, but like the idea of dramas brought to life with song. I grew up in a home where my mother was constantly rehearsing for one part or another so by osmosis I know all of West Side Story, the King & I, Oliver and numerous other stellar productions of the musical theatre ouvre. Later in my life I discovered the witty brilliance of Cole Porter and then the extraordinary talent of Stephen Sondheim, who became my favourite writer of musicals.(i)

I’ve seen a few Sondheim works performed on stage – Into the Woods; A Little Night Music; Sweeney Todd – and heard most of them as recordings. I’m always intrigued when I hear that a musical is slated for a cinema treatment because I think they can work quite well in this form. I’m especially interested when it’s Sondheim. You’ll all no doubt remember that Tim Burton made a version of Sweeney Todd for the screen some years ago, starring the inimitable Johnny Depp. It’s not one of my favourite adaptations, but I didn’t hate it either.

What was kind of bizarre about the launch publicity for that film was that the initial few trailers didn’t portray any of the characters singing. Since Sweeney Todd is closer to an operetta than a musical – that is, the whole thing is pretty much sung – to produce such a trailer is not something you achieve without a great deal of contrivance.

People who weren’t expecting the film to be a musical were widely pissed off at this piece of disingenuous pretence and there were even official complaints made about it.

Now Disney is about to release a cinematic version of Sondheim’s Into the Woods – and they’ve done the exact same thing!

WHYYYYYYY?

I find it hard to imagine the kind of discussion that must have gone on in the Disney Marketing Department’s offices to arrive at this lumpen, meaning-challenged amputee of a trailer. Nevertheless, I will give it a try.

Disney Uber Marketing Boss: What we need is a trailer that will get EVERYONE to come see the film!

Disney Uber Marketing Boss’s Executive Researcher: But our data shows that everyone except senile old people and children hate musicals.

Disney Uber Marketing Boss: Then we have to FOOL people into coming into the cinema!(ii)

Disney Uber Marketing Boss’s Executive Researcher: I guess so…

Disney Uber Marketing Boss: I know! We could make a trailer that has no singing in it! Make it look like a normal film.

Disney Uber Marketing Boss’s Executive Researcher: But it’s a musical. It’s all singing. Everyone sings. All the time.

Disney Uber Marketing Boss: Surely there are some bits where they don’t actually sing?

Disney Uber Marketing Boss’s Executive Researcher: Well, yes, there are three moments in the film where the words are sort of half-spoken… and I think once or twice there may be five or six seconds where Johnny or Meryl are about to sing but haven’t quite opened their mouths…

Disney Uber Marketing Boss: Excellent. Chuck in a few special effects and a guy saying ‘In a world beyond your imagination…’ and it’s sorted! Let’s get our editor onto it!

What I don’t understand is who, exactly, their lame, half-baked, non-singing trailer is aimed at? Into the Woods is a work that is based entirely on fairy tales – do they really believe that taking the music out will give them a chance with the vast goldmine of 14-25 year olds who rock up to see Guardians of the Galaxy? Do these daft studio executives think that they’ll somehow get an opening weekend of those people who’ll be sitting there in the dark and have some kind of popcorn-infused epiphany: ‘Hey, this singing instead of dialogue is THE BOMB!!! And then text all their friends: ‘Hey G!! This musical opera thing is cray sick. I totes can’t believe I thought it was gay!’

Even more perplexingly, if the studio isn’t committed to the idea of a musical, why the fuck did they make one in the first place? It’s not exactly something you do by accident. It’s almost like they’re embarrassed by it or something.

And the thing is, I reckon you could make a really great trailer with singing – it is after all almost a music video clip. I’ll even go one step further – I believe singing should be introduced into ALL movie trailers! You have to admit – for most of them it would improve things immeasurably. And it’s not like trailers are concerned anymore with giving you any idea of what the film is like.
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Footnotes:

  1. Sondheim did of course work with the incomparable Leonard Bernstein on West Side Story, but he really began to shine when he started to compose music for his own lyrics. []
  2. Because that always works out well. []

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The person who has just been appointed to the head of Australia’s once(i) world-admired science organisation, the CSIRO,(ii) believes in magic.

Yes dear Cowpokes, Dr Larry Marshall, a man whose scientific credentials barely cast little more than a dim glow from within the deep shadow of his business escapades, and whose tumbling grammatical trainwreck of a biography uses expressions like ‘leverage’ and ‘serial entrepreneur’, wants to create water dowsing machines.

Larry says he would…

…like to see the development of technology that would make it easier for farmers to dowse or divine for water on their properties.

“I’ve seen people do this with close to 80 per cent accuracy and I’ve no idea how they do it,” he said. “When I see that as a scientist, it makes me question, ‘is there instrumentality that we could create that would enable a machine to find that water?’

You know what, Larry? When you see that – as a scientist – you should actually ask yourself why no real scientists believe, for even a nano-second, that dowsing works.

You have no idea how they do it? My suggestion is that you look up the ideomotor effect and watch this video. Several times, if you don’t get it on the first run through.

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Footnotes:

  1. I say ‘once’ because, like everything else in this country lately, it seems that the idiotic buffoons who aspire to be some kind of ‘government’ here, are hell bent on making it the laughingstock of the educated world. []
  2. You know WiFi? The CSIRO invented that. Yeah, WIFI! []

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Before we start on today’s observations, Faithful Acowlytes, I want to remind you of the century in which we currently find ourselves. It is, of course, the 21st Century, where humans have walked on other worlds, routinely fly in marvellous metal contraptions from country to country on a daily basis and communicate instantly with other humans on the other side of the planet.

Got that? Good. Try and keep it in your mind as we move on.

Now.

The Australian reports this week that people who live near Saint Thomas Rest Park, on the North Shore of Sydney, are demanding that the local government install floodlighting because the park is ‘spooky’ at night.

Saint Thomas Park is the site of one of Sydney’s oldest cemeteries and residents who are accustomed to walking their dogs there “are quick to scurry home at sundown, when the area becomes a bit eerie”, according to Australian correspondent Leigh van den Broeke. They scurry, dear Cowpokes, not for fear of the threat of muggings or attacks from dropbears, but because “There are rumours the park is haunted”.

The Daily Telegraph, another of Sydney’s stellar media outlets decided to investigate the claims, and did what any good journal should do and called in some rational, level-headed folks with scientific training who quickly dispelled the stupid rumours.

Hahahaha. No they didn’t! I’m just joshing! But I had you for a moment didn’t I? The Telegraph is a scurrilous and worthless rag, so what they actually did was consult a ghost hunter, of course. At the invitation of the Telegraph, Janine Donnellan from SOul Searches Paranormal Investigations(i) turned up at the park with her ‘electromagnetic energy measuring equipment’ and pronounced (surprise surprise) that there was a restless spirit hanging about a particular cluster of gravestones.

Said Ms Donnellan:

“It’s a male in his 30s or 40s. I saw him at one stage crouching behind one of the graves and then over to another. He noticed me and I was trying to get him engaged in conversation but he was very reticent to do that.”

Personally, I think Ms Donnellan has gotten a bit overly-excited here by her first encounter with your average garden-variety Sydney goth.

Ms Donnellan, according to the Australian, has ‘a certificate of Advanced Achievement in Parapsychology from the Australian Academy of Applied Parapsychology’. You know how fond I am of an accreditation, loyal Cowmrades, so I thought I might just look up the AAAP (as is fairly easy to do with the 21st Century internet-type technology available at my fingertips). Unsurprisingly, the only online presence I can find for the AAAP is a Facebook page which has exactly no information on it, other than offering a claim to be a university. A university? That should be very easy to check. What’s this – they don’t appear to be on the register of universtities kept by the Australian Qualifications Framework, but that’s surely an oversight, right?

The Sart Local business directory has a page for the AAAP though, even if it does give a street address that resolves at the same premises as the Australian College of Hypnotherapy, an establishment that offers courses in a veritable treasure trove of woo (including NLP and EFT(ii)) Parapsychology doesn’t appear to be on the listing.

So far Ms Donnelly’s credentials are looking about as impressive as her goth detection skills.

Continuing down the Australian article, which is as brainless as it is vague, we find that one of the local residents, a Ms Sue Hamparsum, claims that ‘phantom children’ also inhabit the park: “Three different families have taken photographs of their children at the playground and two little girls appeared in the photographs, but they don’t remember them being there.”(iii) Because we always remember everyone who appears in photographs we take, right?

Thankfully, the local council has comprehensively quashed the call for the park to be floodlit (citing, rather disappointingly, the impact on nearby properties instead of simply saying ‘Please stop tying up council staff with your superstitious hysteria you dimwits’).

There is a kind of breathtaking stupidity behind the request in any case. I wonder if you spotted it? That’s right: unless Ms Donnelly’s ghost hunting antics and the families photographing their children all took place at night (and it doesn’t sound to me like that’s very likely), then the ghosts mentioned in this article all appeared in the daytime. WHAT MAKES ANYONE THINK THEY WOULD THEY GIVE A TOSS ABOUT FLOODLIGHTING?!!!

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Footnotes:

  1. That link to the SOSPI Facebook page is really worth following if you want some awesome #headdesk #facepalm lulz… []
  2. Emotional Freedom Therapy. Yes, it’s a new one for me too. []
  3. I bet the phantom children were creepy twins. Phantom children are always creepy twins. []

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Those who know me in real life will tell you how fond I am of my barbecuing. I really love to get out there and throw a few prawns on the barbie. Problem is that as the year heads into winter, venturing out to the barbecue to cook an evening meal becomes a little more perilous as the days get shorter and the darkness comes on earlier.

Usually I fend off the shadows with a small torch clenched in my teeth, but as you can probably imagine this is not a convenient way to get a steak cooked properly. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered today the Gasmate BBQ Grill Light – an LED lamp that conveniently attaches to my barbecue with a clamp or strong magnets.

But what’s this on the packaging? The light, they tell me, is, apparently, ‘all purpose’.

Faithful Cowpokes. The instrument has – surely – only one purpose and one purpose alone: to shed light on the barbecue area. Are you with me on this? I suppose that I could, in desperation, use it as a blunt weapon or an art installation, but even then, it’s not all purpose.

Oh, the mangling of the language. It burns.

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