Entries tagged with “In The News”.


This man is Michael Cohen. Mr Cohen, it seems, has come by an amazing piece of video that ‘might be amongst the best proof we have that we are indeed being visited by aliens coming to us with a message of hope.’ The footage was taken in the Brazilian jungle by British tourists and ‘handed over to US secret agents’, the Brazilian government apparently having some kind of agreement with American spooks to obligingly do that kind of thing. It is unclear who then handed it on to Mr Cohen. We know for certain that the footage is Top Secret because it has a title card that says ‘Top Secret’ on it.

I mean, how much more persuasive could it be?

‘Stop stalling Reverend!’ I hear you cry. ‘Make with the video that shows us the alien Message of Hope! Well, you need to visit the site of that esteemed Australian news voice The Telegraph to see it, because I can’t embed it. Come back here when you’re done (if you don’t need a bit of a lie down first, that is).

Was that a Message of Hope or what?! Thank Xenu that we now know we are not alo… What’s that you say? You missed the alien? Seriously? Maybe you’d better watch it again. I’ve made you a little diagram so that you know where to look:

Was it better that time? Did you see the ‘mesmerising flashing light’ as well?

Mr Cohen proclaims that ‘This is highly compelling footage that will be hard to discredit’. Or it could be plain old pareidolia. I know that sounds far fetched, but hey. Should the footage turn out to be bona fide, however, what I want to know is what the little alien is actually doing here. He doesn’t seem to be delivering any Message of Hope to me. In fact, he seems… a little preoccupied.

Here’s a better resolution closeup. That’s the ‘mesmerising light’ over on the right – it’s gotta be his spaceship, right? So he’s parked it and has wandered a little way away behind a tree, and… well… it’s a bloody LONG WAY from Zeta Reticuli!

Acowlytes! Tell me I’m wrong!

As you know, Faithful Acowlytes, I am quite fond of Halloween, and I like to do something a little… ‘spooky’, for you all each year as the holiday approaches. This year I have spooked even myself. Before you click on the following link, a warning: this is NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED. Are you ready?

OK, do it.

See, I told you. Please compose yourself and we’ll reconvene in the comments for discussion.



One of the fundamental foundations of American society is the indelible belief that anyone, no matter how humble their beginnings, nor how lowly their status, can achieve their personal vision of greatness, whatever that may be. A boy with an interest in flight can become an astronaut; a little girl from the Bronx can become a planetary scientist; a black kid from Hawaii can even become President.

But what all American kids really want to do when they grow up, is to be a superhero. Well, why not, eh? Let me introduce you to someone who has made that childhood dream a reality – Phoenix Jones:

Yes, this man, whose identity is a complete mystery(i) is a real person who patrols the streets of Seattle in a funny costume protecting law abiding citizens from Evil through the use of his mysterious super powers. Well, OK, if you include under the umbrella of ‘super’ powers the ability to use pepper spray and the dialling aptitude for calling 911. And if your definition of Evil is something like two coked-up hysterically screaming women and their shiftless intellectually-challenged boyfriends.

See Phoenix Jones bringing his awesome justice to bear in this clip, where he is accompanied by his trusty lieutenant, Ghost.(ii) Sure, he spends most of his time running away, but it’s the thought that counts, right? And the costume.

Apparently, Seattle has a veritable Justice League of these dudes. There’s Phoenix and Ghost as we’ve seen, and the atramentous Pitch Black, the sapphire-bewigged Blue Sparrow, The Red Dragon, The White Baron and the Yellow Custard. Well, actually, I made that last one up, but it’s an obvious omission from the League, and at least he could run away with integrity.

The Real Life Super Hero movement to which all these defenders-of-the-common-good (DON’T call them vigilantes!) belong is supposedly about these people helping out the weak and the vulnerable in the night-time streets of Seattle.(iii) Even though I only heard about this weird story yesterday, there’s been a shitload of press coverage of Phoenix Jones and his cohorts. Something that doesn’t seem to occur to a single news reporter (or anyone else), though, is the very first thing that entered my mind: if you have an elite clique of superheroes shouldn’t you by absolute necessity have an elite clique of super villains? How can Seattle possibly aspire to be a real-life Gotham City with only drunken hookers and mentally challenged jocks for bad guys?

It seems to me like there’s an opening here, Faithful Acowlytes, and I hereby announce the formation of the Seattle Super Villains League. And the League needs YOUR help. That’s right Cowmrades, it’s a Cow Competition. It is your task to create a Seattle Super Villain – I want a name and appropriate super powers, and a description of his/her costume (extra points for artwork). Let’s give Phoenix Jones some real opposition! The funniest, cleverest, wittiest, meanest member of the SSVL wins an awesome something from the Tetherd Cow Shoppe.

Together everybody: MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

ADDENDUM: My friend Tone recommends James Gunn’s Super, the trailer of which I present below for your enjoyment:


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Footnotes:

  1. It’s not really, but people, for chrissakes – EVERYONE knows that a super hero’s real identity is secret! That’s Comicbook Tropes 101. []
  2. From the clip it’s a bit hard to tell what Ghost’s super powers are but they appear to be the ability to get in the way and the ability to stand near Phoenix looking confused. []
  3. In the daytime, the weak and the vulnerable are on their own. C’mon – no-one‘s gonna go out in those costumes in broad daylight… []

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I hate computers. I hate them in the same way as I hate audio equipment. For me, gadgets have always been a means to an end. My idea of the perfect audio system is one with no wires, no speakers, no knobs and no disks. All that stuff is ugly and distracting. I would be happy if I could just go into my favourite room and hear the music without any need for the accompanying paraphernalia.

And my idea of a perfect computer is one with no hard drives, no interfaces, no file systems, no processors. I don’t really care that something has 3 terabytes of RAM or a 16GHz processor. And the big humming boxes that house such things are ugly, distracting and hot. My idea of a perfect computing environment is one with nothing more than a screen, a sketchpad, and a keyboard(i) and where I can do stuff and get results without having to think about file management or disk fragmentation or syntax or communications protocols.

The last few days have seen a lot of discussion about the sad passing of Steve Jobs and the legacy he has left the world. There can be little doubt, even among the detractors, that his vision did change our modern lives in a most profound way. To deny it is to be trivially contrarian. For me, the greatest thing for which Steve(ii) is responsible is not the Mac, nor the iPod, the iPad or the iPhone,(iii) but the wondrous behind-the-scenes tech of the operating systems in all those gadgets.

Some of you are probably old enough to remember the kinds of computing devices that existed before the Apple Macintosh came along and changed the computing world forever. I had two of them: a Commodore 64 and an Atari ST. You communicated with the Commodore via BASIC(iv) and with the Atari via Atari DOS, neither of which were what you could remotely consider ‘intuitive’. Each of these devices required a significant amount of figurin’ if you wanted to get something useful done with them. There certainly wasn’t much need to own one unless you intended to do something that was, in those days, fairly obscure, like music sequencing or database building.

I believe that Steve Jobs greatest gift to us was to make the ‘computeriness’ of computers go away (well, at least to start making it go away – it’s still not as invisible yet as I would like personally). I think that Jobs understood in his bones that most people don’t have the remotest desire to want to tangle with computers. They just want to do stuff. They just want to have their whole music collection to choose from when they’re taking a walk. They just want a little game to play while they’re waiting for the train. They just want to snap pictures and send them to a friend – or make them into a photo album. They just want to be able to lie in bed and browse the web.

And, when they work, they just want to be able to write a letter, prepare a report, record a song, edit a movie or hold a video conference without having to understand what C+ or printer drivers or ROM or RAM or SCSI or serial ports are. Mr Jobs took us a long way along the path to never having to think about this kind of ephemera and to just getting on with doing the things we needed (and wanted) to do.

I admit, quite proudly, to being what is derogatorily known these days as an Apple fanboy. I bought my first Apple product, a Mac Plus, in 1988, and not long that after switched up to an SE. After the Atari it was like upgrading from a badly-tuned 2 cylinder motor scooter to a Rolls Royce. I was initially only interested in having a computer solely as a music tool, but with the Macintosh, suddenly I could do all this other stuff as well. It was truly an enlightening experience. The thing that captured my imagination most of all with those early Macs was that for my mind, at least, they just felt right. It was like there was someone sensible in the design process who was thinking more about me and how I might want to use the machine, than whether it had the latest chipset or the fastest clock speed. That someone was Steve Jobs. In short, I felt an immediate affinity with the Macintosh because it didn’t get in the way of what I wanted to do with it.

Advocates of PCs and the Microsoft Windows way of doing things (and to a lesser extent aficionados of worthy alternatives like Linux), can’t understand why we Apple disciples love our Apple environments so much. They look on the Apple culture as something like a fashion trend, believing us to have all been sucked in by the slick design and the tinker-toy simplicity of the computers themselves. They frequently proclaim that we have ‘drunk the Cool Aid’. What they fail to understand is that people like me simply don’t care that there are faster, cheaper, more efficient, cleverer ways to do computer things out there;(v) to us, computers are necessary annoyances, and the simpler it is to get something done with them, and the less they force you to think ‘like a computer’, the better.(vi) This was the critical insight of Steve Jobs – an insight that went on to inform the Apple music players, the phones, the tablets and the online stores. We love Apple, and we loved Steve, because he made our lives richer by giving us the power of computers without needing to be part of the arcane secret societies that had previously been the sole interlocutors for the mysterious digital magicks. This, I believe, is what the PC (and IT) crowd hate most about Apple – that it has given the peasants the keys to the church.

One of the criticisms you hear most from Apple critics is that Jobs pushed ‘style-over-substance’. This is mostly a cry of ‘How come we can’t make OUR things so neat?’, because if you think about it, how can anyone celebrate a lack of style? The real implication of this complaint is, of course, that if there is style there must necessarily be little substance. Such a deprecation indicates the profound absence of acumen of the prosaic mind. As any thinking person should realise, style is not just an outer layer in which something is cloaked, but is an integral part of its very being. To quote Jean-Luc Godard:

To me style is just the outside of content, and content the inside of style, like the outside and the inside of the human body. Both go together, they can’t be separated.

The style with which Jobs imbued Apple products is not surface deep, but reaches down into the core of the Apple brand. It is his personal philosophy that we engage with every day when we use our iPods and iPhones, our iPads and iMacs. We believe that Steve understood exactly how to allow us to engage with the world in a way that felt stylish and empowering and fun and, well, yes, insanely great.

It is for this reason, I believe, that even though we didn’t know him personally, many of us long-time and dedicated Apple users feel very deeply that with his untimely death we’ve lost a dear friend. And we fear that the people who are now taking over the reins at Apple might not truly understand what Steve Jobs seemed to embody intuitively as a driving force. Certainly, there is currently no-one else in the tech world who does, even including the very closely philosophically aligned Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

Perhaps that’s the way it happens. I guess that’s for history to judge. For now, Steve Jobs has planted the seeds of great ideas. We can only hope that they continue to grow into beautiful trees without him to tend them.

Rest in peace Steve. I, for one, am richer for having had my life illuminated by the tools and creative philosophies which you brought us.

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Footnotes:

  1. I still like typing over writing, and for the short term at least I don’t see any alternative to a keyboard. When voice recognition becomes MUCH better, maybe it will be nice to speak things to your computer, but as long as we read, I think there will be writing of some kind. Perhaps that will change when direct neural interaction becomes possible… []
  2. It’s funny how I feel quite comfortable calling him Steve. In my circles it’s always been the way. I think he has been such a big influence in our daily lives that I feel, like a lot of people I guess, that I kinda knew him personally. []
  3. I’ve always detested that pretentious and irksome ‘i’ prefix… []
  4. The C64 had no operating system as such, hard as that is to comprehend these days. When you booted it, it was just a dumb blank brain until you loaded something into its RAM. []
  5. Consider these two options: 1. An ugly car that has a theoretical speed of 300 mph, has a super-efficient engine, an optimized drive-train and is technically superior to every other car on the road – as long as you fully understood the complicated procedure for driving it; 2. A nicely designed car that reliably gets you to the shops and back without any thought on your part about how that’s achieved. Some people will undoubtedly choose the first option. People whose main concern is just getting the shopping done will be the same people who buy a Mac. []
  6. In this respect, Apple’s ‘Think Different’ campaign is not so much about how people think about the world, but about how the world was thinking about computers. Apple was truly thinking different(ly). []

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Ah, dear Cowpokes. If there’s one thing that remains completely reliable in the World of Woo, it’s that people will relentlessly find ways to re-invent, repackage and re-market good ol’ H20 as some kind of miracle product. For your delectation this morning, I present to you the following newspaper snippet that comes to you courtesy of the Weekend Australian and my fellow tweeps(i) @johncarneyau & @DrRachie.

It is to laugh. Now, I have not dined in chef Teage Ezard’s restaurant(ii) but when I read something like this:

It’s one of the cleanest waters on the planet. It’s totally pure. And it gives the food a completely different flavour.

…I already know, without the need to do any further research, that the person saying it is a nitwit. Understand this, Mr Ezard: it’s not hard to make ‘totally pure’ or ‘clean’ water. Millions and millions of litres of it are created every day for one use or another. It’s done very simply: you boil it and condense it, or you filter it. THAT. IS. ALL.

But of course for block-headed pretentious chefs-de-cuisine and air-headed credulous journalist gourmands, that’s WAY too prosaic. They don’t want ‘pure’ water, they want magic water – ‘2000 year old’ magic water from the bottom of the ocean, in this case.

Whoa, hang on there Faithful Acowlytes – no need to bang the tin cups on the bars. Yes, water from the ocean IS salty, even if it is old. So how can it be ‘pure’? Well, to answer that question we must visit the source of Chef Ezard’s mystical water, ‘the island paradise of Hawaii’ and consult the makers of the product in question: MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea Water.

[Cue Hawaiian guitars and hula dancers]

MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea drinking water comes to you from the island paradise of Hawaii, 3,000 feet below the ocean’s surface, where the water is naturally clean, pure, cold and filled with healthy minerals and nutrients.

Aha! Naturally clean, pure, cold and filled with healthy minerals! Righty-ho, that’s easy – nothing left to do but bung it in some bottles and ship it to the customers!

Koyo USA Corp. pumps the water into its ultra-modern processing facility, where it removes the excess sea salt and tests it for purity and content.

Wha? They have a processing facility? And they need to remove stuff? And then do tests? So when they told us before that their water is naturally clean and pure, they meant, ‘kinda sorta’, it seems.

Deep Sea Water contains abundant amounts of essential minerals like potassium, calcium and selenium, plus minute amounts of many of the trace elements such as iron, copper, zinc, manganese and chromium, which are missing from common surface water.

Maybe that’s so, but that’s not what’s getting into the bottle, is it?(iii) What MaHaLo is asking us to believe here is that they treat water in such a way that they can remove the sea salt, make the water ‘pure’ and still maintain its supposed magical balance of minerals. I’m highly skeptical of this. What I reckon happens in the MaHaLo plant is that they desalinate the water, measure its characteristics, and then add stuff back to it. This is not rocket science, nor is it particularly special – it happens in water bottling plants all over the planet.

These trace minerals help humans absorb the vitamins in food and pass these directly into the system.

Actually (and I’m prepared to stand corrected on this matter) I was under the impression that it’s vitamins that help the body absorb metals and minerals and not the other way around. Whatever the case, it’s plain bunk that you need to get necessary trace minerals from drinking water; whatever you need you can get from a healthy diet.

In some cases, bottled water marketed as “natural spring water” with pictures of mountain streams and lakes on the bottles’ labels is nothing more than filtered tap water.

That’s right. And in some other cases, bottled water marketed as “natural deep sea water”, with pictures of palm trees and rainbows on the bottles’ label is nothing more than filtered sea water.

We at Koyo USA take these deceptive claims very seriously and strive to meet and exceed EPA and FDA standards for our water.

The implication here is that there is something rare or special about meeting or exceeding EPA and FDA water quality requirements – this is a wondrous use of weasel language. ALL bottled water and even normal tap water is required to meet those standards. MaHaLo should be doing more than striving – they should be guaranteeing!

There is no healthier way to obtain all the nutrition your body requires from water than MaHaLo Hawaii Deep Sea® Water.

Nutrition? Really? Er… actually, your body doesn’t require any nutrition at all from water. I think they’re getting confused with food. What your body requires from water is water. Counting on water to provide nutrition is almost as dumb as counting on air to provide nutrition.

But perhaps I have this whole affair arse-about. Maybe that’s what Teage Ezard is getting at with his fancy boil-in-a-bag haute cuisine: there’s no nutrition in the food itself, so he’s hoping you’ll get it out of the water! It’s at least as plausible as claiming that it makes the food taste any different. I guess Chef Ezard feels compelled to do something flamboyant with MaHaLo Deep Sea Water: for the $13,000 per pallet that they apparently charge for it, you’d certainly not be wanting to piss the stuff away.(iv)

[More silly water stories here, here, here (bonus material in Comments), here and here.]

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Footnotes:

  1. You see how I’m actually warming to Twitter, don’t you now? []
  2. I have food allergy: I’m allergic to anything that contains hogwash. It causes me to launch into long raves about how stupid people can be. Ask Violet Towne. She’ll tell you. []
  3. And what’s with the ‘common’ surface water? []
  4. MaHaLo is certainly not spending any of their profits on their advertising. The commercial on their home page is one of the lamest, crummiest, least-persuasive ads I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen some. []

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Image CSIRO

The Conversation is carrying an enormously insightful article by Dr Matthew Bailes, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of Research at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne.

Dr Bailes was one of the discoverers of the ‘diamond planet’ that you can’t fail to have heard about recently if you follow any kind of science news. It even made a sizeable appearance in the mainstream media all across the world.

…the diamond planet has been hugely successful in igniting public curiosity about the universe in which we live… Our host institutions were thrilled with the publicity and most of us enjoyed our 15 minutes of fame. The attention we received was 100% positive, but how different that could have been.

How so? Well, we could have been climate scientists.

As Dr Bailes goes on to point out, the scientific process involved in discovering a diamond planet is exactly the same scientific process involved in gathering data on climate change. And yet, the media and the general public is happy to accept the scientific community’s assessment of one and not the other.

I highly recommend you read this article and Tweet it, Like it and otherwise recommend it to your friends.

(Oh, and seriosuly, make sure you subscribe – for free – to The Conversation. Real news, real journalism, no agenda. As it should be.)