Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Meditation on Answering Machines


This will require a little bit of context, and then for the rest of it, context won’t help you.

 

Okay. So. My family has a phone (1). And this phone, which is naturally cordless so we can afford to wander all over the house to get away from whoever’s washing up (2), has an answering machine built into the cradle. Now, when this is turned on, it proclaims “Ahnsar, awn” in the thickest American accent you will ever hear outside of cowboy spoofs and TV comedy hillbillies (3). You could probably play it in a backwater town somewhere in the Television Deep South where everyone is issued a banjo and a wedding to their preferred relative at puberty and they would comment on how absurdly thick it was.

And this is a problem, because I live in Australia.

Seriously. Assume for the moment that you ran a phone company and had to choose a voice to use for your answering machines. To make this simple, we will also assume you have never heard of speech synthesisers and that your company has heard of the world outside your state but has never seen it played (4). Who would you ask to record the answering machine on and off announcements?

a) The employee with the mildest accent, because it’s being distributed internationally.

 

b) The employee with the thickest accent, because you’re not sure whether this “Australia” place is in Europe or Africa (5).

 

Now this may come across as a little hostile, but I have no real quarrel with Americans if you overlook the obvious (6). I just don’t understand why someone thought an armour-piercing accent midway between Classical Brooklyn and a cartoon hillbilly frying a skunk was the ideal voice to give their answering machine.

Frankly, I would have been happier with “affirmative” and “negative” beeps. Beeps are nicely international. A beep from Britain sounds just like a beep from Brazil. Jersey beeps and Japanese beeps sound exactly alike.

I think it’s time to bring back the beep.

– OSM out.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Very odd behaviour, I’m sure you’ll agree.
  2. Because, of course, there are only three times when people call: when you’re eating, when there’s a lot of noise about, and when everyone is quite a long way away from it or shut in their rooms listening to music. I’m serious, I’ve run the numbers and eighty percent of calls come at this time, it’s ridiculous. When I rule the world, phoning during dinner – especially if you’re a telemarketer – will be punished with a steam engine, a bucket of cod liver oil, and a walrus.
  3. “Oh, Ah’m a danger to mahself an’ others…”
  4. What, you’ve never heard Rachmaninov’s Rest of the World in C Flat? It’s a beautiful sound.
  5. Just in case the person responsible is reading this, the correct answer is C, none of the above.
  6. Specifically, that anyone ever voted for either Bush, the apparent allergy to the letter U, and their apparently unanimous decision that the 26th letter of the alphabet should be given an -ee sound when there were already too many. It’s “zed”, damn it.

 

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Guide to Life and Footnotes: How Not to Make a Movie


I would bet good money that most of my seven readers will never break into moving pictures. But just in case, here’s five tips I’ve picked up from my lifelong interest in terrible, terrible movies (1).

 

5. Assume Your Audience Comes From This Reality

Notable failures: Hulk (2003), everything Uwe Boll has ever done

One of the odd quirks of audiences is that when watching an adaptation of something they like, they want it to have at least a few traits in common with the thing it is an adaptation of (2). If you went to see Hulk, you probably wanted to see a lot of “HULK SMASH!” and what you got was 20 minutes of HULK SMASH and about three days of talking, angst, poorly thought out scene transitions and plot points that didn’t make sense (3). As for Uwe Boll, making fun of him is so easy I’m not going to bother (4).

 

4. When Writing A Parody, Make Sure Something In It Is Legitimately Funny

Notable failures: Space Mutiny (1988), Monster A Go-Go (1965), Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

These movies have two things in common. They’re all at least in theory parodies, and they’re terrible. Mutiny contains one legitimately likeable and funny character, and that character is neither the hero nor the villain, both of whom frankly kind of suck (5). Monster contains no likeable characters of all, plus the plot makes no sense, plus it was abandoned by one bad movie director and “finished” by another one who managed to go through the entire filming process without having a good idea (6). And Batwoman started out as a crude attempt to make money off the famous Adam West series, and then consisted of the following breakdown:

20 years: people dancing for no reason

5 years: hideously racist pseudo-Chinese gibberish

20 years: climactic battle that is neither climactic nor battle-like, and which resembles a cross between a square dance and Gonzo’s cannonball catching act from the Muppet Show

30 years: the audience staring in bewilderment at Batwoman’s…erm…“costume”, which was chosen by the actress herself, apparently after being hit on the head (7)

15 years: The annoying comic relief being annoying but neither comic nor relieving

7 years: Stockholm Syndrome

3 years: nuclear explosions that don’t even harm the guy holding the explosive (8)

 

3. Nothing is Better than a Bad Special Effect, So Use Nothing Instead

Notable failures: Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965), Reptilicus (1961)

Fog. Darkness. Obstructions. A hairy, inhuman hand/claw extending from behind the camera. All of these are good ways of concealing that your monster costume sucks. None of these are things Eye Creatures managed. Instead, what came out were men in rubber suits hanging around in athletic shoes, the zippers on their costumes fully visible (9). As for Reptilicus, well, feast your eyes on this.

 

2. Write a Tract, or Let Your Star Do the Same

Notable failures: GATTACA (1997), Battlefield Earth (2000)

Assuming your audience needs to have an Important Message slammed onto their heads without anything vaguely resembling subtlety rarely ends well. GATTACA was merely two-dimensional, with its most offensive message being that as long as you’re fulfilling your dreams it’s perfectly all right to put the lives of others at risk (10). Battlefield Earth, on the other hand, is pretty much a straightforward love letter to L. Ron Hubbard, written by John Travolta (11).

 

1. Don’t Do Anything Hal Warren Did

Notable failures: Manos: the Hands of Fate (1966)

For the uninitiated, Hal Warren was a fertiliser salesman who decided, on a bet, to make a movie. The net result has become legendary among bad movie aficionados, coming second only to Plan 9 from Outer Space in lists of the most famous awful movies in the world. If you go and watch its MST3K episode on Youtube right now, or read its Agony Booth recap, you will probably be enlightened and appalled. Mainly appalled. It takes a special kind of incompetence to take a camera that can’t record sound, get a clapperboard caught in shot anyway, and then botch the dub so badly that one guy is clearly talking to himself without bothering to change his voice at all.

–       OSM out

 

  1. Don’t be silly, this won’t be a blatant Cracked.com ripoff. Cracked doesn’t do footnotes.
  2. Don’t try this sentence at home.
  3. So why did Bruce’s dad release those monster poodles anyway?
  4. Plus, y’know, he used to be a boxer and could probably kill me with one hand.
  5. The hero tends to let his battle cry stray into the soprano reaches, the love interest looks waaay older than she’s portrayed as being (12), the villain’s evil plot makes no sense, the chase scenes are done on floor waxers, and one character – a named character, even – is killed and then turns up back at her station in the next scene. Also, what the hell? There’s a tag for Space Mutiny but not one for Manos?
  6. At the end, having run out of ideas, the monster suddenly never existed. I don’t get it either.
  7. It somehow manages to resemble neither a bat, nor a woman.
  8. “Hey, let’s just slap some black powder on the actor’s face and call it good.”
  9. Because it’s in my contract, “Folks, they just did not care!”
  10. For those who haven’t seen it, the main character is born with a weak heart and wants to be an astronaut. You will note that NASA isn’t overly keen on training astronauts who are likely to die either on the mission or when they return to Earth, not because they’re eeeeeeevil but because sending people out to die is heinously unethical and endangers the lives of everyone else on the mission.
  11. The author of this post claims no responsibility for anything it contains, and furthermore is not worth the time and effort of suing.
  12. The actress in question, Cisse Cameron, has spent a lot of energy keeping her true age a secret. I’d bet good money that her tombstone will read “Cisse Cameron, Departed This Vale Of Tears on [date]” just to make sure we never learn her date of birth.

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Friday Morning Rambling


(OK, technically I was supposed to post on Thursday but my youngest sister was in hospital – still is as I write this, in fact – I think I can be forgiven for a little bit of schedule slip.)

Now this one’s a bit soapboxy, so it’s OK to skip.

 

Recently, I was privileged to be on the Internet reading random stuff when I heard a news report on human genetic engineering going on in the next room. I wasn’t really listening, but I heard the “against” guy bring up that Beethoven was deaf. And I thought, well, what of it? How is that relevant? We have no proof Beethoven’s deafness was genetic. Nor was it the root cause of his talents. (The guy’s other example, Stephen Hawking, runs into the same problem – the ultimate cause of his disease is not known.)

But when you get right down to it, the status of Beethoven and Toulouse-Lautrec aren’t relevant. I’d rather live in a world without Beethoven where people don’t get randomly struck down by a quirk of DNA than a world that holds both Beethoven and Tay-Sachs disease or Huntington’s disease.

No, this totally isn’t a ploy to get more comments by stirring  up debate, honestly.

 

Awesomely, I passed 100 views over the past couple of days. I’d like to thank all seven of my readers.

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Americans, Guns, and Politics


I have no clue why Americans seem so terrified of their governments.

 

Don’t get me wrong, it’s the responsibility of all citizens to keep an eye out for totalitarianism. It’s just that a surprising number of American political commentators – especially those on the right-wing side of the spectrum – seem to have this bizarre conviction that if gun ownership is in any way restricted, it’ll be JACKBOOTS FOREVERRRRR starting next Tuesday.

Why do they think this? I mean, I’m pretty sure neither of the big US parties is particularly keen on taking over. I mean, despotism sounds fun, but once you get past the stage where you’re throwing the guys who picked on you in school into shark tanks and renaming all the cities after yourself, it rapidly shifts to long periods spent in a state of abject terror that one of the many, many people you’ve pissed off will shoot you in the back and take your stuff. I don’t see any rational person signing up for that. (Make your own George W. Bush joke here.)

 

Oh, and just for added hilarity points, the political party that the majority of the we-need-guns-to-stop-a-dictatorship citizens vote for, the Republicans, tend to be the ones who invest the most money in those parts of the infrastructure that an actual totalitarian government would most depend on – police, military, and intelligence agencies. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

– OSM out.

 

Disclaimer: there is a non-zero possibility that the views expressed in this post are the deranged rantings of a madman who hasn’t had enough sleep and should not be taken seriously.

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Strange but False


Every paragraph in this post contains a minimum of one thing I made up. (Some of them may actually be true, but this is quite unlikely and is purely coincidental.)

 

A crocodile’s jaw can be held closed with a rubber band. Its legs, meanwhile, can be held still by staring at them really hard.

There are exactly 367 different ways to say that there are 367 ways to say something.

Common road signs include speed limits, stop, give way, angry werewolf crossing and school zone.

Galileo was not imprisoned for saying the Earth revolved around the Sun. Instead, he was tried and found guilty of going six miles an hour in a 4mph zone.

The phrase “once upon a time” is copyright the Walt Disney corporation. They are only prevented from suing everyone who’s used that phrase by a poorly chosen contractual term which requires Walt himself to fill out the correct paperwork.

Following some experiments performed during the late 1990s by a Professor X. Harris, an average of one person you encounter on the internet each day is secretly a duck. Professor Harris has gone on record as stating that if he’d known what would happen, he never would have taught those ducklings to type.

It takes an average of fifteen minutes for a kitten to remove all the toothpaste from a tube, assuming that kitten doesn’t get distracted by something and wander off.

– OSM out

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How to Endure Edition Change Hostility


If you’re active on tabletop gaming forums, you will likely have encountered at least one example of Edition Change Hostility (ECH). It’s going on right now over on the White Wolf forums for the forthcoming 3rd edition of Exalted; Warhammer 40K has just come out of ECH within the past few months; MTG Salvation, given the rotating nature of Magic: the Gathering, spends its entire time in ECH.

If you’ve experienced it, you will probably have noticed that it is not fun. So how do you make the most of a forum while it’s stirred up into a rabid frenzy of ECH?

Well, it’s actually quite simple. You’ll just need a few things.

  1. Reinforced umbrella: Ideal countermeasure to falling sky. Can also be used to hit people who insist on talking nonsense, although tracking them down is very hard and very, very illegal.
  2. Kittenwar: Despite the unnerving name, this site simply depicts two kittens and requests that you choose which is cuter. Very useful for restoring will to live.
  3. Collection of reaction images: Because amused contempt is so much easier to pull off when you don’t need to come up with the words yourself.
  4. Party hats and streamers: If excluded for too long, middles enter a crippling state of depression and have been known to lock themselves in their rooms and talk to rocks and dust bunnies. However, if you throw a party for the middles that are being excluded left, right, and centre, they will tell you important secrets of the universe.
  5. Something you like from the old edition: Because you will probably find yourself wondering why you follow the game at all at some stage during the argument.
  6. Something you like from a totally different game: Because you will probably find yourself vowing not to follow the first game at all at some later stage during the argument.
  7. Bucket of water: Ideal tool for surviving flame wars.
  8. Inflatable rubber dinghy: To make it through the rivers people are crying.
  9. An interesting webcomic: Trust me, archive bingeing Irregular Webcomic or Hark! A Vagrant is a good way to take the sting off.
  10. Another forum not engaged in ECH: After a while, it can become hard to remember that a) there are people who are not jerks, and b) there are people who are jerks but not for reasons related to ECH. Thus, if you’re discussing, say, Exalted 3e and you need a rest, go and discuss Generator Rex or Nobilis or the Muppets or something. You’ll thank me later.
  11. A good book: Sometimes you just need to turn off the computer and go and read something that isn’t dozens of people acting like jerks to each other. Unless your definition of “a good book” involves Ayn Rand, in which case you’ll pretty much be exchanging one fire for another.
  12. Youtube: Because it’s funnier to be sarcastic with videos.
  13. Cotton candy: If you’re anything like me, a sugar rush will make you a lot more upbeat. This is likely to be very important.
  14. A sense of perspective: Just kidding. No-one on Earth has a sense of perspective.

– OSM out.

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New Words for the Web


The limits of traditional language have proved increasingly, um, limiting on the digital frontier.

So here’s some new words and phrases, mainly because I could.

This material will be on the test.

 

4channic Zenxhaustion: a state in which you have attained such a state of perfect indifference that even the dumbest of trolls cannot get more than a few seconds of actual anger out of you.

  • /b/ Threshold: an advanced state of 4channic zenxhaustion in which your reaction to a troll is to critique their post and give them a score out of ten.

 

Interprebloat: the state of major fanbases in which the nature of the actual characters is almost impossible to extract from the mass of exaggerations, parodies, shipping fics, unfunny Family  Guy references, minor background gags blown way out of context, werewolves and the deliberate manipulations of ancient alien robot Aztec invaders.

 

Hairtrigger Post: Something you spam off in the five seconds between reading the idiot’s stuff and realising they are a troll and that you have just played into their hands.

 

Whedon Syndrome: A state in which one is incapable of finishing a sentence without taking words and sticking them together into a nonsensical odd word made from bits of other words thing.

 

Dominant Meme: An in-joke or fandom hot-button issue that takes over entire threads whenever it is mentioned. Mention Twilight anywhere for a demonstration. (Except in the comments section to this post, because like five people read this blog and that’s too small a population for a proper flamewar.)

 

Recessive Meme: An in-joke that only makes sense to about five people out of nearly seven billion. Incredibly common in dubiously written fanfic, which tends to work together with terrible spelling to ensure that you cannot translate it without learning ancient Sumerian.

 

Linguistdicks: People who make up new words just because they read a dumb Youtube comment while watching the Muppet Show (cough, cough).

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