Don’t let kids watch the news

Even though I know absolutely nothing about parenting, given my childhood experiences, I think there’s one piece of advice I should give – never let your kids watch the news. I say this because, unlike the countless other things parents accuse of corrupting children, letting your kids watch the news can do real damage a child’s mind. I should know this because when I was a kid, some of my perceptions of the world came from the news, which is a dreadful shame because the news is basically the pulpit of liars in suits.

bbc news 2007
Because in this business, lying can earn you fancy clothes and a paycheck.

When I was a kid, the news was flooded was stories of war in the Middle East, terrorists on the loose, kids getting killed on the streets, and of course, the seemingly neverending global warming crisis. That’s the kind of junk that can really mess up your child’s fragile little mind, and yet parents somehow think it’s okay to expose their kids to this crap. How is it that parents complain about sex, cartoon violence, rap music, violent video games (which they bought for their kids in the first place), and the Internet, but they think it’s okay to tell kids about Jesus’ violent, agonizing torture, or let them hear some false prophets tell them about how the world is going to hell.

I think the news media has more potential to warp a child’s mind than a cartoon, not just because kids are largely unaware of how the adult world works, but also because news reporters have the power to trick you into thinking that what they say is always true. As soon as you assume their words to be true, you leave yourself vulnerable to their mass-produced deception. It’s bad enough for adults, but try imagining your kids exposed to this?

No good parent would want this for their kids.

If you want your kids to turn out okay, don’t let them watch the news. Come to think of it, why would anyone watch the news in this day and age? It’s basically just a bunch of scripted, overdramatic sermons in the guise of information. I’d rather let my kids watch “Basic Instinct” than the news. It’s a way for the media to brainwash people into being vulnerable to deception. The only way I managed to avoid being brainwashed myself is because I know this is going on. A trick doesn’t work on you if you know it’s a trick.

With that in mind, I have a solution to this problem. All parents need to do is teach kids not to believe everything they see on TV, because every news reporter has his/her own agenda, and you may not even know what it is until it’s too late.

They just won’t let Bond die

007 sean connery
This is the most iconic image of James Bond, which is the one that’s been implanted in our brains for over 50 years now.

If there’s one character who remains in Britain’s collective imagination, it’s James Bond. He’s the archetypal secret agent, and the first Bond movies paved the way for the spy movie genre as we know it. However, there’s one huge problem. Every spy movie since the mid-1960′s followed the Bond formula, and for many decades, the Bond films were stuck in the 60′s.

Before I talk about the character, let me briefly talk about the movies. I’ve seen just about all the 007 films, except of course for Skyfall. Out of 22 Bond films, only 11 of them were good. My big problem with the Bond film franchise is that the films tend to get repetitive, particularly the Roger Moor films, which shamelessly recycle the whole stupid formula. GoldenEye was the first Bond film that was radically different from the traditional formula, but now that movie became the template for every Bond movie released after GoldenEye, not to mention that each movie after Tomorrow Never Dies just sucks harder and harder.

All that aside, I’d like to focus on the character himself. Bond as we know him in films was a product of the swinging 60′s, a time when we were afraid of being annihilated in a nuclear war that would never happen. Bond was always portrayed as this suave character who could get any woman he wanted by saying the right things. Back then, there must have been some kind of appeal, but as the 60′s wore on, attitudes began to change, with feminism becoming more popular.

Meanwhile, throughout the tenure of Sean Connery, George Lazenby, and Roger Moore, Bond’s character never changed with the times, but perhaps even more bizarrely, neither did the women. A staple of the 007 film franchise is the so-called “Bond Girls”, James Bond’s numerous passing sexual fancies who are used as ubiquitous sex symbols. One thing I’ve always wondered about is how Bond seems to have a different girl in almost every film. Is he sex mad or something? Does he view women as objects? Does he view real love as inconvenient, or is he too busy to think of love in a more complex manner?

This trend doesn’t seem to happen as much on GoldenEye, but then again, GoldenEye was more or less a reflection on how stale the old Bond formula had gotten. One of the best moments of that movie was M’s critique of everything Bond was up to that point. She refers to Bond as both “a sexist, misogynist dinosaur” and “a relic of the Cold War”. I like this for two reasons.

  1. It sums up everything about Bond up to the time when GoldenEye was made.
  2. It shows that, after over 30 years of the same mojo ad nauseum, people had finally gotten tired of the kind of man Bond was.
roger moore
Especially after they had to endure seeing this jackass for 12 years.

As true as this was, the Bond films still made plenty of money, so Eon Productions, the producers of the Bond films, kept making more Bond films, and will continue to make Bond films until the franchise becomes unprofitable. On top of that, James Bond, and everything that comes with him, have been ingrained in British popular culture, as well as the rest of the world, as the ultimate spy.

I can’t exactly blame them, but for me, the 007 franchise was over after the 60′s ended. Today, the 007 franchise now has 23 major films, with another one coming out next year. With Daniel Craig, it’s almost as though the series is on life support. Why can’t they just pass the torch to a new generation of spy films?

Today, there are so many spy films that it could make your head spin, but sadly, none could meet the challenge of replacing 007. I think we should face the fact that the spy film is a dead art form, mainly because we no longer live in the climate of paranoia and Cold War espionage required for those films to be relevant.

We can’t keep idolizing a relic of the Cold War forever. In fact, how long will it be before we finally shed all the Cold War nostalgia that’s being reinforced by dozens of ageing producers? If it really is true that nothing lasts forever, then I say that Bond is due for a major decline. After 52 years, when will Bond finally retire?

Why there is no karmic justice

endless knot
This is the endless knot, generally used as a symbol of the cycle of karmic cause and effect as believed by Hindus and Buddhists. Its relevance should be obvious soon enough.

Karma is the belief that the actions and intentions of an individual directly influence what happens to said individual either at some point in this life, or sometimes beyond. In the Western imagination, this means that doing good is rewarded with a good life, and doing bad means being rewarded with a bad life. Unfortunately, the Western version of this belief tends to utilize Christian morality, and being taught this kind of tricks you into thinking that bad things always happen to bad people, even though the truth is quite different.

In the real world, bad people can worm their way through life, while good, honest people who try to play by the rules get screwed over a lot of the time. If there really was karmic justice, this shouldn’t happen. If there’s one thing about it that’s true, it’s that bad deeds can come back to haunt you, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll pay for it, because there’s nothing enforcing any notion of karmic justice.

In this world, bad things can happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. Ever noticed how everyone who’s ever tried to change the world for the better ends up being snuffed out, all while the people who do nothing good for society live long, often luxurious lives? It’s because karmic justice is a myth. For me, this is because justice cannot exist without someone who believes in justice and can enforce it. Even the most primitive concepts of justice needed someone to act on them.

My point is simple. The world can’t wait on a vague spiritual judgement, especially when morality can be subjective. If you keeping waiting for karmic justice to happen in your lifetime, then you’ll get yourself stuck in an endless knot of your own suffering. The justice mankind can ever hope for is the justice they make for themselves, and by hoping for karma to bite people in the ass, you may not get justice at all.

Mike Scully’s “The Simpsons”: When everything went wrong

Most people agree that The Simpsons started to go downhill after Mike Scully took after. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t think that way at all, probably because I wasn’t clever enough to notice that when I was a ten-year-old boy. When I was a kid, I enjoyed The Simpsons no matter what season it was in. Today, every time I watch a Simpsons episode from Mike Scully’s tenure as showrunner, it’s gotten harder and harder to deny that under Mike Scully, one of the greatest TV shows of all time had begun to degenerate into everyday trash.

the simpsons
It may as well just be any other sitcom if it were just a cartoon.

In my opinion, no TV show should ever last more than at least six seasons. For me, The Simpsons’ golden years were over after season 9 ended, but evidently Mike Scully didn’t see it that way. Rather than keep the show as a clever alternative to the mainstream trash that was on TV, Scully went about turning it into another brand of mainstream trash to be eaten up be middle America.

To be fair, season 9 was still really good. In fact, it was the last of the classic seasons, despite some dumber moments. By season 10, however, Mike Scully had turned the show into just another cartoon. It even looked different to season 9. From here on out, the show becomes just another cartoon, complete with exaggerated personalities, cheesy dialogue, and nonsensical premises.

What’s really interesting is that the seasons under Mike Scully tend to centre around jerkass Homer. The problem here is that Homer is a guy who’s not only stuck in the 70′s, but he’s also a complete slave to the perceptions given to him by TV and movie stereotypes. In “Kill the Alligator and Run”, he tries to jam in the same crowd as a Kid Rock concert. When he takes the stage, he sings the god-awful “We Built This City”. Then again, he’s the same person who’d ask Bachman-Turner Overdrive to play “Taking Care of Business”, then skip to the “working overtime” lyric.

Another problem is that jerkass Homer reigns supreme here, but even with that, Lisa is still given special status here, even though by now she’s become a preachy know-it-all who’s never happy unless everyone does things her way.

All the other characters got royally screwed during Mike Scully’s tenure. In the old days, Marge was simply a level-headed parent who detested violence. By the end of Mike Scully’s tenure, she had become a nagging wet blanket who can only exist in a bland environment with no surprises whatsoever, believing only what she’s told.

In the past, Bart was simply a troubled kid whose misdemeanours were the result of Homer’s negligent parenting. By the time Mike Scully was done with him, he became nothing more than a dumb, attention-seeking prankster whose antics has no meaning, and I don’t think the ADD theory posited by “Brother’s Litter Helper” makes a shred of sense.

brother's little helper
Then again, does this make sense?

During the Mike Scully years, Mr. Burns’ character had been reduced to the kind of cartoon supervillain that Smithers predicted he would be in the beginning of Season 7. In season 10, he decides that he would rather be hated just because there’s no effort to it, and in season 12, he makes Homer to a bunch of degrading pranks (which including posing as a female panda) in return for money, and when Homer doesn’t want to do it anymore, he tries to coerce him with money. However, he doesn’t really do that much in those seasons. There are plenty of other cartoonishly cliché villains, and each new one that gets introduced keeps sucking harder and harder.

The big problem with Scully’s episodes is that they leave very little to the imagination. Everything’s put in front of you, as though the show is now meant for children. To be fair, some of these episodes are still funny, and they’re definitely better than all the newer episodes, but under Mike Scully’s tenure, the show became so dumb and formulaic that it has become a facet of the low-brow culture that it sought to mock.

In 2007, Mike Scully onced jokingly said “lower your quality standards. Once you’ve done that you can go on forever.”

If that’s Mike Scully’s lesson, then it’s a horrible one. I’m guessing that’s the solution the writers preferred, because after Al Jean became the showrunner in season 13, the show became even worse than ever, to the point that it eventually became the noisy, unwatchable corpse that it is today.

In conclusion, the Simpsons should have retired after season 9. The worst part is that the writers and the producers didn’t even try to fix the mess that Mike Scully made, as though they knew it was too late to undo the damage. As a result, we have a show whose writers and producers are unwilling to see that the show has past its prime, and are thus unwilling to pass the torch to a new generation.

The misinformation game

The eye of crap sees all.

There’s a hard truth out there that we have to face: the world is getting stupider, and unfortunately, the Internet isn’t helping, because when you have access to every piece of knowledge known to man, you also have access to all the stupid nonsense in the world. Once you realize that, you’ll figure out that the availability of information isn’t making us smarter.

How is this possible? Well, on the Internet, we look for information based on what we want. Meanwhile, our minds gravitate to anything that sounds more interesting. This is how conspiracy theories thrive in the public imagination, because unfortunately, most people’s minds respond positively to outrageous claims that aren’t backed by any sort of evidence.

ancient aliens
And that’s why Ancient Aliens got six seasons so far.

The sad part is that wild theories are everywhere because there are people disseminating them across the world. Unfortunately, this is not just the domain of the penniless lunatic. Today, there’s a whole industry based around spreading crap. Have you ever wondered why people like Alex Jones and David Icke still have careers, even though their theories have been discredited years ago? It’s because they’re able to make money off the morons who are willing to buy their merchandise.

Even worse is the fact that there are tons of nut jobs out there who have written books (which adults actually buy), and they’ve gotten to the top of bestseller lists, and because they’re making so much money off pure, unadulterated crap, they don’t like when someone makes an argument that could threaten their business model. At one point, former professional wrestler and actor Jesse Ventura asked David Icke how much money he was making off his books, resulting in an argument between him and Ventura. It seems to me that Icke is rather dishonest about the whole thing, and is only out to make money.

Unfortunately, the wide availability of conspiracy theories, and the theories themselves, have a disturbing effect on the people who believe them. There have actually been studies that have shown that people who believe in conspiracy theories tend to be more depressed, and more cynical about life. When that happens, the only thing that conspiracy believers know to do is take their frustration out on the world, and that’s just one aspect of how dangerous conspiracy theories can be.

The other dangerous aspect is that, by paying so much attention to these conspiracy theories in any way, we’ve taken valuable time away from tackling the real issues, such as poverty, climate change, and education. For example, instead of wasting our time on the MMR vaccine conspiracy (which was proven false years ago), we could have used all the money spent on debunking the theory to find a cure for cancer. Could you imagine a world without conspiracy theories?

The image of everyone getting along makes Alex Jones quake in his boots.

Let’s think about this for a moment. If there were no conspiracy theories based around vaccines (and how they’re supposedly out to brainwash you from birth), there’d be no needless deaths from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination. If there were no conspiracy theories about how global warming is a hoax, then we’d be more likely to better look after the Earth, and it wouldn’t come at the cost of our freedoms either, and if mindless nonsense didn’t sell so much, then we’d be less likely to take it seriously, and may even be smarter as a species.

I just hope that one day, we all get bored of conspiracy crap, so we can look back and laugh at the stupidity of ages past.

Top 5 worst pop musicians of 2014

pop musicians 2014
Don’t worry, none of them are on the list, probably because I don’t know who they are.

It’s that unholy time of year again. To be specific, it’s time for me to name and shame the very worst of the past college year’s biggest acts. Last year, I wrote a list of the 5 worst pop musicians that were big between September 2012 and June 2013. In college, I can’t escape the crap factor, and that’s how that list came to be.

This year, I’ve decided to continue that tradition, even if it’s a week later than planned. For this year, the pop stars on this list were the ones that bombarded the airwaves throughout my second year in college.

Before I get started, I’d like to make a few things clear.

  1. This is exclusively about pop & electronic dance music (since I think today’s EDM is pretty much the same as pop).
  2. This only includes musicians who have made it to the top of the charts in the UK, so no J-Pop.
  3. I don’t care if anyone reading this is offended. Please read the disclaimer for more info.
  4. I tried really hard to make sure I don’t mention anyone I put in last year’s list.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get this rant on track.

#5 – John Newman

john newman
You’ve probably heard him…against your will in a fast food restaurant.

I only know him because of his annoying debut single, “Love Me Again”, but that’s not the only reason why he’s on this list.

Even though the song itself was released three months before my second year in college started, it didn’t start getting really annoying until the last year started to end. After his debut album came out last October, that god-damn song got more time on the airwaves, which is annoying because that song was just awful.

Also, his hairstyle is just stupid, and that photo up there should give you a good idea of why. It reminds me of that hairstyle that lots of boys (presumably the more jockish boys) are trying to get. Either John Newman’s buying into that to boost his popularity, or a lot of boys are trying to emulate John Newman’s look to get laid.

To me, he’s just some punk trying in vain to be a role model that boys could look up to. If, in the distant future, I become a dad, and my son looked up to that, then I’d call myself a pretty bad father.

#4 – Avicii

Looking like a jerk doesn’t help.

I’ve heard of him for quite a while, and he’s not exactly different to any other EDM musician I’ve heard on the radio, but he’s more annoying because of the newer singles he made this year.

In September, he came out with his debut album “True”, which by all means is basically another pop album. The annoyance comes in after such songs as “Wake Me Up!” and “Hey Brother” got spammed incessantly by advertisers wanting to milk his popularity.

For me, he’s not particularly bad, it’s just that his music is annoying, mainly because it’s some of the same electronic dance crap that the media somehow expects every young person to like. I don’t like it. What about me?

#3 – Kesha

She probably holds an important position in Pitbull’s prostitution ring.

Pitbull came out with the ungodly country-style dance song “Timber”, but believe it or not, Pitbull himself isn’t on my list this time. Instead, I’d like to focus on the latest to cavort with Pitbull, and that happens to be Kesha.

In my previous list, I criticized Pitbull for basically being one of the pimps of the pop industry, and Kesha’s on this list because she’s willing to do a music video with him. That’s almost the same as signing yourself over to a real pimp. The only difference is that I’m almost certain that Pitbull doesn’t resort to violence as often as a real pimp.

The horrible thing about the music video is that it’s basically a sexed up western setting, where everyone dances to the tone of the single worst use of a harmonica I’ve ever heard.

#2 – Robin Thicke

robin thicke
Here we go again.

For some bizarre reason, I’ve kept hearing “Blurred Lines” being played over the past year, as if nobody’s even bugged by the fact that it’s basically a terrible pop song that uses a “catchy beat” to trick people into thinking that sexism and misogyny are okay.

As I mentioned before, a lot of pop music is about submission, almost as though the pop industry’s view of love is that it’s a conflict of wills, but Robin Thicke’s music video took that to a whole new low, featuring near naked women submitting to three guys.

I know that at this point, I sound like a broken record, but it the fact that they got away with it just baffles me. Robin Thicke honestly thought that he was making people realize that a lot of taboos around sex are “silly”, but he clearly has no idea. All he did was give a bunch of perverts (by which I mean the record producers) what they want to see. After all, sex appeal is the last refuge of a musician with no talent whatsoever.

Even though that god-damn song had been on the airwaves for many months, Robin Thicke is not the most obnoxious pop musician on this list.

#1 – Miley Cyrus

miley cyrus

We all know the story by the now. She used to be Disney’s teen idol until she sold herself out further by turning into just another pop diva (if you can call her that). At this point, I don’t know what’s worse: being a saccharine puppet of the Disney corporation, or being a promiscuous pop idol.

The only reason “Wrecking Ball” got as much attention as it did was because of her new, highly sexualized image. If you look beyond that, it’s just another crappy pop song with cliché lyrics. The only thing it proves is that mainstream audiences are suckers for repetitive sex appeal.

Since this is getting monotonous, I may as well end my list here until next year. What horrible monstrosities will emerge from the black lagoon known as the pop industry next? Only time will tell.

Preachers ought to mind their own business

street preachers

Yesterday, I saw some old guy in the Carmarthen town centre, and he was preaching the usual fundamentalist Christian crap, which is really strange because I only hear about this coming from America. As far as I know, this usually doesn’t happen out in Wales. There isn’t a whole lot of difference, since they all spout the same garbage, though it’s not nearly as bad as reading through a Jack Chick tract.

Of course, being an atheist, I don’t exactly relish hearing such nonsense, especially since it all about how we’re somehow going to hell. If I wanted to hear about “my eternal soul going to hell”, I’d go back to church.

Anyway, am I supposed to believe that this old street preacher (who looked more like he was on a safari trip than a preacher) has nothing better to do than preach damnation to anyone other than himself? In fairness, he didn’t call me out at all. I’m actually thankful that he didn’t notice I existed, otherwise I would have done the equivalent of telling him to go f**k himself.

If there is a god, I highly doubt that he’d have much patience for those guys. I actually think he’d want those preachers to get laid before they go insane. Seriously, I’ll bet that half the time, the preachers haven’t been getting enough time in bed with their wives (if they have any), so they vent their sexual frustration with religion.

jack chick
Behold, Jack Chick’s midlife crisis in comic book form.

A lot of times, these preachers point “sexual deviance” as causing God’s wrath. I’m probably not the only one here who think’s there’s something wrong here. You’ve got to be a total pervert if your only focus is on what kind of sex people are having, almost as though the only holy way to get laid is the missionary position. At least they don’t barge into people’s houses just to see.

Some quarter of an hour after 2pm, I noticed the preacher was gone. What happened? Did he get arrested? It wouldn’t be that far-fetched, since I’ve heard that some people in Britain have actually been arrested for spewing anti-gay passages from the Bible. For example, a few months ago, a Manchester street preacher named John Craven was arrested for preaching biblical condemnations of homosexuality directly to a teenage gay couple.

I don’t think there was a commotion in Carmarthen. In reality, the preacher I found probably realised that nobody cared, and went home. It doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s people like him that are the reason why I’m atheist. The aggressively proselytize their religion, inadvertently making it seem worse than it actually is. At least I know for a fact that most Christians aren’t like the street preacher I found.

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