31 July 2010

Dog Soldiers DVD Review

Dog Soldiers film poster

Dog Soldiers: British horror cult classic


The Brits are no stranger to horror. Their classic Hammer films (such as Plague of the Zombies) rate amongst the best creature features in the history of cinema. Dog Soldiers carries on in this proud tradition. A no nonsense, splatter flick that manages to create tension and be entertaining while still sticking to the commandments of horror. No surprises, just stylish cinematography, lucid editing, quirky dialogue, blood, guts and werewolves.

Plot


Yes, there is some of that. I think.

Review


I accidentally stumbled upon the term Splat Pack on Wikipedia. This term refers to the new breed of directors who make excessively gory and violent films - as if there were such a thing as an excessively gory film.

What a ridiculous and absolutely unnecessary name for something that's already been labelled splatterporn or torture porn. Besides, the first Saw film can hardly be described as horror porn. Similarly, Neil Marshall's films can hardly be described as containing themes that glamorise violence. If anything, Quintin Tarantino films are horror porn. Or perhaps his films are best described as horrible porn. Splat Pack must be some homage to the Rat Pack or the Brat Pack. Well, pack is apt when it comes to Dog Soldiers.

Quintin Tarantino award image wikipedia
Quintin Tarantino winning an award. When you start winning awards like this, chances are your films suck.

Transformation


Central to the plot is the idea of transformation. This lycanthrope theme is something that reminds me of the ANC's attempts to start a media tribunal. The aim of this media tribunal is allegedly to combat the dangers of pornography. Specifically, the South African Film Publications Board is pushing for legislation whereby internet service providers would act as censors to filter pornography from the interwebz.

As we all know, the internet was made for porn. Regardless, let's not get ahead of ourselves and be hoodwinked to talk about pornography - which is exactly what the FPB and the ANC want. This is not about pornography. It is mind numbingly obvious that it is not the government's nor the FPB's role to dictate to parents what is appropriate for their children to watch.

If one looks at the recent media scandals on the political scene, such as the release of Schabir Shaik from prison due to a terminal illness that's about as terminal as an oxygen mask, the scandalous portrait of Nelson Mandela as the topic of the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (which only the savage mind can find offensive in any way) and the so-called tenderpreneurs riding the gravy train, it becomes abundantly clear that pornography is the last thing on the minds of our custodians of morality.

Similar to the werewolves in Dog Soldiers, such a censorship board can easily transform from an anthropomorphic friend to a zoo-tropic fiend. Half our government is already a bit far on the flea-carrying, animal side for my liking and in no position to lecture anyone on morality. Not even Hannibal Lecter.

No porn here


Fortunately, there is no porn in Dog Soldiers. None. Not even a werewolf dragging his nut sack across the lawn. You don't even see tits. Even if this retarded legislation goes through, we'd still be able to see films like Dog Soldiers in South Africa. In theory, at least, but in practice this is the coming of Zumababwe, or the return to the good old says during Apartheid when even Black Sabbath got banned.

Censorship means everyone loses


I really have no sympathy for children being exposed to porn. If you are a child living in a household where your parents don't even care to know you well enough to know what kind of material you download from the internet, then bare bottoms and naked breasts are probably the least dangerous things you get exposed to. If you are such negligent parents, you shouldn't be breeding. And the only thing government can fix is the national election.

The whole principle is wrong. It's like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can't have steak. - Robert Heinlein

Enough of the morons who run the country. If you aren't a savage then perhaps you'd appreciate some of Rembrandt's art. This is the painting that was referred to with the allegedly scandalous Nelson Mandela painting:

Rembrandt Anatomy Lesson of Dr Pulp image


For bonus marks, put two and two together and try to understand what the artist was trying to say with his inter text.

As for Dog Soldiers, it's brilliant (not the same kind of brilliance as the old master Rembrandt) and you can pick it up for a paltry sum in the bargain bins in South Africa because the FPB probably redistributed some of their busted pirate goods.

Director


Neil Marshall

Cast


Emma Cleasby
Liam Cunningham
Kevin McKidd
Sean Pertwee
Thomas Lockyer as Cpl. Bruce Campbell, no less

Rating


29 July 2010

Artificial Intelligence Anonymous part Deux Ex Machina

This is my attempt at providing a brief introduction to another subject I know nothing about. Much to my dismay, I never took AI. Ignorance hasn't stopped me from blogging on topics before (see my Lojban, income inequality, lottery and capitalist ideology pages) and it surely isn't going to stop me now.
  1. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part one.

  2. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part two.


How do you make artificial intelligence?


To make intelligence is easy. You look at what Homer Simpson does and do the exact opposite. To make a machine realise that being intelligent means being the opposite of stupid all by itself is a different story, however.

Homer Simpson quote brain unquote
Homer Simpson. Artificial? Yes. Intelligent? Well..

There are three main approaches to creating artificial intelligence. These are symbolic, sub-symbolic and statistical.

Symbolic AI is sometimes called Good Old Fashioned AI or GOFAI. This approach is based on the premise that human thinking is largely based on manipulating symbols. All our thoughts require symbols and the relationships between them. The first wave of the rise of the machines was heavily based on lambda calculus. Lambda calculus involves a kind of bootstrapping thinking where a function can call itself. It is meant to simulate the human ability to think about thinking. Symbolic AI is still intimately tied with programming languages that can support this mode of thinking such as LISP.

Sub-symbolic AI is concerned with describing human thinking processes algorithmically in order to simulate these processes on a machine. Algorithmically means that the process is describe in a step-by-step manner like a cooking recipe. Sub-symbolic AI is thus based on simulation of specific thinking processes instead of on the underlying thinking process of symbolic processing. Neural networks fall under this category.

Statistical AI is an extension of sub-symbolic AI in the sense that it is heavily steeped in mathematics and algorithmic thinking. Certain tasks are solved mathematically and then implemented in a machine so the machine may exhibit the same intelligent behaviour. While GOFAI researchers are often contempt with having some fuzzy logic, statistical AI researchers require that their solutions are determinable and optimal. This means they require that the machines try to do something constructive by attempting problems that do have solutions and that they do so in the best way possible.

Computational intelligence is the new blanket term for AI. While it incorporates all the waves of AI so far, it relies heavily on mathematical and statistical techniques without much regard for replicating the fuzziness of human logic.

The three main approaches are still far from creating general intelligence, even though they've made progress in creating very smart artificial thinkers for specific domains.

The lunatic fringe of AI


By lunatic fringe, I don't mean emo hair. Of course you always get those people who aren't satisfied with the norm. I am one of those people so I sympathise with the lunatic fringe of AI. Two fields that I admire are artificial life and technological singularity.

Artificial life researchers are not satisfied with merely simulating one aspect of humanity. Nay, nay, they want machines that smoke, drink and fuck. Provided of course that they evolve to this amazing level of civilisation by themselves.

Singularity researchers reason that we need not be content with creating human-level AI. We can reach further and create superintelligent beings so we can worship them. This is much the same as any other religion except you can actually reach out and touch Far-fetched Artificial Intelligence Theology or F.A.I.T.H. No, not really, I just made up that acronym.

Artificial Intelligence Anonymous

This is my attempt at providing a brief introduction to another subject I know nothing about. Much to my dismay, I never took AI. Ignorance hasn't stopped me from blogging on topics before (see my Lojban, income inequality, lottery and capitalist ideology pages) and it surely isn't going to stop me now.
  1. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part one.

  2. Artificial intelligence anonymous, part two.


What is artificial intelligence?


Pope John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence for the Dartmouth Conference in 1956. The idea behind AI is that every learning process available to thinking, drinking, smoking and fucking humans can be described so accurately that a machine may also exhibit the same learning behaviour. It is thus artificial because it is a machine doing what humans tend to do (minus the drinking and fucking, although I do wonder where computer viruses come from). Or more precisely, it does what humans are supposed to do, namely learn.


John McCarthy
John McCarthy. In the land of hobbits, he is a dwarf. The John McCarthy homepage is simple yet efficient and oh so wholesome.

There are as many definitions for artificial intelligence as there are artificial intelligence researchers, which is great because ultimately there can be no true AI until machines exhibit a general intelligence factor. Regardless, I find the quick and dirty definition of John McCarthy as valid, meaningful and descriptive so I'll go with that.

Why artificial intelligence?


Because whenever humans get a mathematical problem with decimal points, we tend to look like cowboys. Not the Brokeback Mountain kind of cowboys, but the gunslinger cowboys who reach for the hip and try to be the quickest on the calculator draw.

qbo harkopen open source hardware

Qbo, an open source hardware project with AI listed at Harkopen. Notice the uncanny resemblance to John McCarthy.

Since the abolition of slavery humans have been looking for new slaves. Computers solve this intricate masochist/sado-masochist equation in an ethical manner. The idea behind artificial intelligence is to relieve humans of mundane, repetitive thinking tasks so we can focus on more important aspects of humanity. Like drinking, smoking and fucking.

17 July 2010

Respect the dead

WARNING: This post is about Death and entirely inappropriate. But you must be used to that by now.

Death Index chart

The Chart of the Day death index from Business Insider. It shows the best spot for your final meeting with the Grim Reaper.

Why must we respect the dead?


In most cultures, it is bad luck to speak ill of the dead. When someone dies, everyone has to pretend to be upset, whether you are or not. Even if the person was a complete dud of a human being like Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who caused the suffering and death of many, we must pay respect and pretend that it's a sad event that this person passed away.

The only notable exception to this rule seems to be the Adolf Hitler biography. In that case, it was perfectly acceptable not to be upset but to call the spade a fucking shovel. His biography didn't change when he shoved off.

The dead cannot do anything to you


Unlike in films like the Poltergeist and Drag Me to Hell, the dead cannot do anything to you. They are not going to do unsolicited interior decorating while you are trying to sleep. They are not going to take your place in the queue at the supermarket. You're clear on this one.

It's too late for them to change


If he died an asshole, he's a dead asshole. He's not suddenly a dead saint. You can find any number of Kurt Cobain creeps out there who also know 4 chords and who also sound like they're chewing on their own gallbladder. Yet Kurt Cobain had the common courtesy to remove himself from the gene pool, so his songs are genius while the others who sound exactly the same are commercial or uninspired, regardless of when they started writing their camp fire classics with distortion songbook.

It's too late to bury the hatchett


If you had a grudge against them and they died, it's too late. It's pointless to be concerned over how they felt about your feud when they died, because they're dead. Maybe you want to pay respect now to ease your conscience. That's all good and well, but it doesn't change anything.

You can't do x because someone died


The most bizarre aspect of this sudden sainthood that death brings is that we, the living, are not allowed to be happy or to partake in any debauchery for an unspecified amount of time. Why? Out of respect for a bag of bones. Out of respect for slowly decaying flesh that's only different from the same you find in a butchery by virtue of the fact that it did more than respond to its name by sometimes using yours back at you.

When someone close to me dies, that's exactly when I need debauchery to cheer me up the most.

If that's how you feel, people won't respect you when you're dead


I don't need respect when I'm dead. I'm dead. In fact, let it be known that I would not want any kind of religious boredom or default metaphysical posthumous vibes towards me at my funeral whatsoever. I'd like my funeral to be a bring en braai with headbanging strippers and an open bar. The first person to get arrested would inherit my estate, but only if they do not respect me all of a sudden because I'm pushing daisies.

12 July 2010

Hacking Lojban

Those familiar with Godel's incompleteness theorems would recall that certain formal systems that are sufficiently complex contain paradoxes. Two particular paradoxes are of concern, namely:

  1. Such systems that are complete are also inconsistent (Godel's first theorem)

  2. Such systems that are consistent cannot be complete as such a system cannot prove its own consistency (Godel's second theorem).


Predicate logic, how pretty delicate thou art


Natural language is not a formal system. Partially due to this reason, ambiguities arise which renders natural language somewhat inadequate for formal expression, but rather appropriate for planting memes in the impressionable. Ask Roman Polanski.

In an attempt to rid ourselves of the ambiguities of language, projects arose to establish language based on the principles of first order logic. That is, these projects aimed at formalising natural language by injecting a set of formal rules into a mixture of natural languages. Two of these projects are:

  1. Loglan, which is one of the first of its kind and copyrighted.

  2. Lojban, which is similar to the open source nemesis of Loglan because what good is a language if you can't speak it with anyone?


In my previous post on nerd bands, I lamented the fact that I couldn't find any bands who sang in Lojban. I went through a few Lojban lessons and noticed the following:

Lojban nouns


In Lojban, there is a class of word called cmene. Cmene is the Lojban term for name. This is similar to the existential quantifier in predicate logic. In other words, without the jargon or the batty symbols:

There exists one something with one particular name. The name for this name is cmene

All cmene follow the format of CCVCV, or five letters consisting of Consonant Consonant Vowel Consonant Vowel. Even cmene, so that's pretty sweet as this barber shaves himself.

Edit: this is incorrect. All gismu (root words) follow the format of CCVCV or CCVCV. Cmene is the gismu that refers to proper nouns in Lojban. All cmene that are first names are preceded by a full-stop if they start with a vowel and end in a consonant.

Lojban verbs, or what functions as verbs


Words that function as verbs in Lojban are called selbri. In the lesson on selbri, the authors explain that a selbri and a verb are not the same thing, as a selbri merely functions like a verb does. A selbri is usually a root word from a class called gismu. Gismu is a type of word that indicates a root word in a similar way that verbs have roots, though a gismu is not necessarily a selbri, or vica versa.

All gismu have one of two forms: CVCCV or CCVCV. This means that all cmene are gismu, or that all names are root words. Right?

Edit: Since I was mistaken and cmene do not have the form of CVCCV or CCVCV if they are first names, all cmene are not gismu.

What is the hax?


Cmene (name) is a gismu (root word) because cmene is a root word that indicates a name for a group of words that indicates names.

Gismu (root word) is the cmene (name) for root words in Lojban. It has the form CVCCV. Yet all cmene are meant to have the form CCVCV. This barber does not shave himself. Maybe it's a bit of a long shot as all cmene are gismu but all gismu don't have to be cmene? Fine.

Edit: I was wrong here so the above hacks does not apply.

Selbri (connective that acts like a verb) is the cmene (name) that refers to a group of words that function like verbs in Lojban. Thus, selbri is a cmene that has more than five letters. Selbri also breaks the rule that all cmene have the format CCVCV, as it has the format CVCCCV. This barber does not shave himself either. Hello, Russel's paradox.

Edit: Selbri is not a cmene in the first name sense, but a cmene for connectives that act like verbs. This means the only cmene rule for selbri is that it has to end on a vowel, which it does.

Is Katie the cmene of Katie Price or Katherine Jenkins?


Well, this is not so much a paradox as a set on its own. A couple of nice sets within the set, though.
Katie Price Jordan twitter set rack image picture

Katie Price Jordan. I wish she'd make up her mind about her cmene.

Katherine Jenkins image picture twitter singer

Katherine Jenkins. Too classy for this blog.

I can just imagine the kind of selbri you have in mind for these two ladies, but please let me imagine it's an empty set, thank you.

11 July 2010

10 Nerd or geek bands: Fanfare for the uncommon man, part 2

This is an ode to ten of the geekiest, nerdiest bands on the planet. If you like more than three of these, chances are your idea of a walk on the wild side includes a batch of energy drinks and retro video games on a Friday night. And you don't think that is sad.

  1. Nerd bands, part 1.

  2. Nerd bands, part 2.



Yes


Due to Jon Anderson's discouragingly high vocals, Yes has often been described as the most annoying band in the world. This did not prevent them from making music - and lots of it.

Definitely not the most accessible band in the world, Yes tackles what appears to be inane subject matter and takes it to new heights, or depths. For example, their Tales from Topographic Oceans is a double album based on the Autobiography of a Yogi. I can't think of any book more boring, except perhaps something written by the Dalai Lama.

Autobiography of a Yogi book cover


The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. No drugs, no sex, no rock 'n roll. Chaste people remove themselves from the breeding populace. By the principles of universal Darwinism, we should thank them for the favour.


Yes is perhaps equally famous for featuring the art work of Roger Dean on their covers.

Can


Yes, we Can, apparently. Can is one of those bands that change their tune with each album. Relying heavily on instant compositions (or improvisation), the music is surprisingly coherent. Especially considering that the band is very multi-cultural and probably stoned out of their brackets. The influence of jazz and Karlheinz Stockhausen is apparent. Less apparent is how dangerous it is mixing jazz and Stockhausen.

Notable albums include Ege Bamyasi and Tago Mago.

Gong


Gong is known for their two most famous strands, namely the hippie commune psychobabble of Daevid Allen and the caffeine-themed jazz of Pierre Moerlen. Don't worry, it's all good.

Daevid Allen lesbian
Daevid Allen. "Nobody knows I'm lesbian".

Of course no nerd band list would be complete without a guitar hero or two. Gong features Allan Holdsworth during their marimba and caffeine stage, on such albums as Gazeuse! and Expresso II.

Ozric Tentacles


The Ozric Tentacles relies on space rock to infect the minds of their unsuspecting audience. Since they've never had major label support and yet managed to sell over a million records, they must be doing something right. Their music is instrumental, which is a bit of a relief after listening to Yes.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer


Emerson, Lake and Palmer is conspicuous because they are frequently noted on heaviest bands of all time lists even though they do not have a guitarist.

Comprising of insane drumming and some of the wildest keyboards you're ever likely to hear, they frequently cover classical repertoire in their, well, repertoire. Some muzak hits of theirs include Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man.


The cover of ELP's Brain Salad Surgery. This is artwork by H.R. Giger. The original featured a massive schlong that had to be airbrushed out to please the censors.

But rest assured, the band is really loud despite classical pretentiousness. Keith Emerson's party trick is playing keyboard with daggers. I'm not sure if he's tried it blindfolded on a wheel of fortune but he should look into that.

I couldn't find any bands who sing in Lojban. Sorry.

03 July 2010

The Demon of Morton

South African author Joan De La Haye offers Demon Friday. Surprisingly, it's each Friday and it involves a demon from one grimoire or another. She also greets us as 'freaky darlings', similar to Vampira. Top class!

This is my own take on Demon Friday, except it's not always on Fridays and it doesn't feature real demons or pictures of real demons. Sorry.

These are all my posts on demons:

  1. The demon of Laplace, regarding probability.

  2. The demon of Maxwell, regarding thermodynamics.

  3. The demon of Descartes, designed to invoke skepticism.

  4. The demon of Morton, designed to make one aware of confirmation bias.




"I knew I had a problem, and I couldn't admit it." - Lindsay Lohan, showing possession by Morton's demon.

Morton's Demon


This demon is similar to Descartes's demon in that it is a demon intent on fooling you. Except, instead of fooling you that the world is real and that you are wrong for not conforming to the world, Morton's demon convinces you that you are right and the world is wrong for not conforming to your ideals. To put it succinctly, Morton's demon is a personification of confirmation bias.

Paris Hilton pictures ganya weed pot bust South Africa world cup soccer football fifa
Paris Hilton. She knows all about critical thinking.

How to combat Morton's Demon


Naturally, combating Morton's demon involves admitting that you are wrong. This is not as easy as it seems, especially since you're already convinced that you aren't wrong. In other words, you rely on faith instead of on reason. It is deceivingly simple to substitute reason with faith, as is evident by the success of the law of attraction and the common misconceptions regarding the incompleteness theorems of Kurt Godel. A good way to combat Morton's demon is with critical thinking.

Filchers: A field guide to critical thinking


Filchers stands for Falsifiability, Logic, Comprehensiveness, Honesty, Replicability [sic] and Sufficiency. You may read all about Filchers in James Latt's excellent post on critical thinking. I shall only give a brief description of each aspect here:


  1. Falsifiability: Falsifiability means that the assertion is testable. In order for an assertion to be considered scientific, conditions have to exist that would render the assertion false. It is not always applicable to Morton's demon, especially since different degrees of belief are under scrutiny.

  2. Logic: Arguments presented to support a claim must be sound. This means that your assertions should necessarily follow upon each other. To paraphrase John Reed, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but everyone is not entitled to their own facts and logic. To paraphrase Paris Hilton, see you at the debates, bitches!

  3. Comprehensiveness: All the available evidence must be considered. This is where Morton's demon meets his match.

  4. Honesty: Evaluate evidence objectively. This means that all the evidence is evaluated without self-deception. Honesty means you come to a rational conclusion after evaluating all the evidence. Honesty is essential and complements all the other components of Filchers.

  5. Replicability: If the assertion is based on an experiment, then the experiment must be repeatable. Repeatability means that accurate predictions about future results may be made.

  6. Sufficiency: The evidence has to be sufficient to justify the assertion. Ordinary claims are supported by ordinary evidence, whereas extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.



In addition, it is helpful to keep some common logical fallacies in mind when evaluating evidence or when doing some soul searching to cast Morton's demon out of your own house. Marilyn vos Savant, one of the people with the highest recorded IQ, has a great article on logical fallacies for the layman.

Suggested reading



  • Morton's demon discussed with regards to creation science.

  • Morton's demon showing how beliefs alter reality.

  • Panda's thumb cartoon on Morton's demon. "You reach a conclusion to a theory first, then just ignore all evidence that proves you're wrong".

Private property is theft, personal property is fine

That awkward moment when reality meets your ideology. Some anarcho-communist is having a fanny wobble because informal settlers got evicted ...