Friday Findings – Cracking Find

Apologies for the late entry, quantum mechanics has once again done strange things to my time space continuum, and it doesn’t seem an isolated incident.

This week, rather than youtube videos, I’ll be sharing some reading material with you, all provided by the brilliant column website cracked.com.

As a film buff, I’d be wrong to not start the list with some movie related articles:

And having just bought, waited, got frustrated by not being able to install Portal 2, found work around, and stayed up till 2 to finish the damn game, it’d be wrong of me not to have any game related articles as well:

And finally, a few gems for the non-movie non-gaming crowd:

Happy reading!

Other links included in this Friday Finding:

Film Thursday – Source Code

Source Code

The problem with visiting the cinema is, the gap between trailers being shown and the film actually starting is pretty small. If I have my way, trailer would come first, then adverts, then film. Because then I wouldn’t be stuck in the compromising situation that arose with Source Code.

Source Code is one of those films – the less you know about it, the better it can be when you watch it. This of course is in direct contradiction of trailers – which tries to hook you with the film’s unique premise so that you’d go “Hmm… I’ll give that one a watch.” Of course by giving the premise away, you start the film with better knowledge than the protagonist of what type of journey they’re embarking on – and in worse cases, you’re still in better shoes than the protagonist 2/3 way through the film.

Anyway, I digress. If you haven’t seen the trailer already, feel free not to watch it, but also feel free not to read the rest of the review – because you’re probably gonna enjoy it a lot more. It stars one of the class acts of our time:

the Gyllenhaal Heath Ledge kissed instead of throwing off a building

… opposite a bunch of familiar faces but all of which of much lower calibre.

If I’m honest, Source Code is not a performance piece – don’t get me wrong, the actors earn their keep to sucker us into suspense of disbelief, I did think she was sitting there on the train, he was definitely walking around his office in deep thoughts, and she was talking to a computer screen for the entire film. And when everyone’s under pressure to emot on screen for their next big break in Hollywood, chemistry become somewhat forced and everything becomes more “told” than “shown”.

But none of that stuff should bother you – if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what you’re expecting. A film where the protagonist tries to save a girl on a train that he “quantum leaped” into, through “the Source Code” (because every scientific projects are now named based on whether it’d make a good sounding Hollywood film) upon events that had already taken place.

The trailer really tries hard to tell you in your face that “he’s not gonna save the girl”, but after you’ve wiped your face wondering how your monitor or TV just spat at you so hard, you pretty much know what they’re REALLY saying – “But he will save the girl through our clever twist that we’re not showing you.”

And this is what troubled me more than anything about the film – the film stands on its own two feet just fine, but when a trailer tells me that there’s a clever twist at the end, I become cynical. The best twists in cinema history were done unexpectingly, until M. Knight whatyoumajig came along and fucked it all up. Said films didn’t imply the prospect of twists, red hierrings were used and emphasis placed elsewhere.

Speaking of Red Hierrings, the first half of the film was more or less “whodunit” with a bit of compulsory layers built into Jake’s character sitting in a pod. The film had no issues placing the protagonist in the audience’s shoes, with the only problem of the audience probably figured out whodunit before he did. Foreshadowing is good when done right, but it’s not often clever to do it when mixed in with too many red hierrings which are immediately debunked.

I seem awfully negative about this film, so it might surprise you to know that I enjoy rather enjoyed it.

For the running length of 93mins they’ve cramped a fair bit of content in, and however one dimensional a lot of characters are – they served their purpose in moving the plot along, and I was never actually bored waiting for something to happen.

From a sci-fi prospective, it’s certainly gonna give a few people something to talk about. But I’m more interested in how they should have ended the film on the first place, and without even without spoilers, you should know what I mean when you see it.

I guess I don’t really know what to make of Source Code. Once I start thinking about it, I’m struck by the rather thin and forceful dialogues instead of the tension that I was supposed to be experiencing – but then I knew from the start that the character would just have “another go” at quantum leaping his face into an equally weight, bodysize and handsome body, so pardon me for not being on the edge since no concept of real time urgency was placed on the second attack our hero’s city was supposed to experience.

So my score out of ten would be.

7/10

Wednesday Writing – Last Call

“Hello?”
“Hi. Is this Gemma?”
“Yes, who’s this?”
“Erm… It’s John, from the curry night out.”
“Oh. Yeah, John, Vic’s friend right? Hi! What’s up?”
“Sorry if it’s a bit rude but I got your number off Vic. I er…”
“Right… Erm… That’s okay I guess. I suppose it’s done.”
“God I’m so sorry, I can delete it straight the way, I promise.”
“No, no, it’s not that big a deal. Seriously. What’s up anyway?”
“Erm… I just… wanted to er… I don’t know… erm…”
“It’s a bit much to get my number without permission to not know what to say, frankly a bit weird, John.”
“Shit… sorry. I’m just a bit… …”
“What?”
“You ever get the feeling that you have to do something that completely betrays your norm, because you know you’ll always wonder what could have happened if you didn’t?”
“That’s a bit much John, we hardly spoke to each other. You barely know anything about me.”
“Wow, you’re pretty frank, aren’t you?”
“Not quite what you were expecting when you called, huh?”
“I didn’t know what to expect when I called. But hear me out.
I know I didn’t really talk to you, but I did listen, and I mean listening. I listened because I was interested in what you said, and the less I spoke, the more I could listen. And I know it’s a pretty bullshit excuse and if anything I probably sound more stalker-ish than anything right now. But it’s the truth, and I know I’m shit at this whole group mingling thing.
Point is, I listened, and I liked what I heard, and under a completely different circumstances or environment I probably could give you something to listen to, like now, but perhaps something a bit more constructive and interesting.
And the whole point of all this is, I want to do something about this, I wanna initiate something.”

“Is that all?”
“Yes, that’s kinda all. You can hang up now if you want.”
“Why now? Why over the phone? If I were you I’d get Vic to arrange another meal or something. Your declaration sounds more romantic in your head than over the phone.”
“Because, well… … This is going to sound pretty stupid and insane…”
“You’ve gone this far, worst case scenario I bar your number and file a restraining order.”
*nervous laughter*
“I’m only kidding. But you left a better first impression than your second, so you better do some rescuing.”
“Right. Well, it’s pretty selfish really… Like I said, I’m doing this because I don’t want to wonder for the rest of my life…”
“You didn’t say that exactly. But okay…”
“Well, the rest of my life is looking pretty short right now.”
“What?”
“I’m kinda… dying.”
“You’re dying and you’re calling me, of whom you barely know anything about? Shouldn’t you be calling your parents and love ones?”
“I already did, and a good few of them have been calling me back non-stop, it’s been pretty hard to get through my list.”
“What exactly are you dying of?”
“Blood loss. It’s a long story, the ambulance has been sent, but I have a niggling doubt that I’ll make it.”
“Jesus John, this better be a fucking joke. Either way this is pretty twisted.”
“Can I blame it on me being a bit delusional due to my current condition?”
“It’s not funny John. Tell me straight, are you seriously dying?”
“Yes.”
“Where are you?”
“In some woods off the road.”
“Shouldn’t you be on the phone to the police or ambulance to help them find you?”
“Well there’s that and I probably still end up dying, and there’s this just in case.”
“Jesus John… I don’t know what to say, you can’t expect me to know what to say to that!”
“Just tell me if I would have had a chance.”
“It’s hardly a fair hypothesis John.”
“Just be honest with me Gemma, forget about the circumstances. I know I wouldn’t have called you up without them, but let’s pretend this was me just asking you out on a date.”
“It’d probably be a no.”
“Hmm… fair answer.”
“But I hope you’re not dying.”
“Hardly expect you to hope for my death.”
“John, get off the phone and ring the emergency services back. Help them find you. Then we can go on a fucking date when you’re better. Just get off the fucking phone.”
“That’s a deal then.”

I wonder what my last thought would be. I better not be this. Maybe a reaction to sirens, or how the sirens would blur the possibly of them hearing me shout. Or maybe puppies and kittens. Or maybe what Gemma would wear on our first date. Is it like falling asleep? Should I keep thinking or let the peace engulf me? Should I check on my leg? I did f…

Charity Tuesday – Justgiving

Love it or hate it, Justgiving is a website that bounces around social networking sites such as Facebook a lot. I don’t have the stistics or useful things like real figures, but I’d say “a shit load” of us have been pestered by friends to give a “tiny bit” of money to their charity of choice for doing something “pretty awesome” like running the London Marathon, shaving their long beautiful hair off, or frying eggs on their now shaven heads.

Gone are the days we run around the playground asking friends to scribble their name and address before your sponsorship event, and then having to run back to the same people afterwards for the actual money, when most of them have either left school, hiding from the government or abducted by aliens never to be seen again, until they come up to your with their sponsorship forms.

Justgiving created a new way for people raise sponsorship money, even before online shopping and banking were common place. (And for those of you who still fail to sponsor me because “I don’t do online sponsorships because I’m scared of it even though the rest of the world are doing it, can’t I just give you cash that you’d inevitably put in your wallet, forget about, and maybe end up spending by mistake only to be out of pocket” – screw you) Now most charities wouldn’t know what to do if Justgiving decides to close down tomorrow.

So I personally find it a bit sad to think that people still sometimes criticise Justgiving as an organisation because they’re a private for-profit company who’s profiting from the service they provide.

Here’s a little insight into what a typical sponsorship form might look like:

Again, I have no statistics to back me up on this so you’ll just have to take my words for it – “fuck loads” of sponsorship forms don’t add up because of human errors, sponsors not having the full amount and sponsee eventually giving up getting the full amount. This is before taking into account the opportunity that a sponsee could simply pocket the money they’ve received.

If your charity has a decent supporter base or in midst a fundraising campaign, you’d have to sort through hundreds if not thousands sheets of mind numbing sponsorship forms.

I know you might be wondering – what’s the big deal? Just count the money and be on your way.

Problem is for the little thing called Gift Aid – an extremely valuable stream of income for charities, accounting for potentially 25-28% additional income. And to get a penny from these free money sitting at the HM Revenue, you better get your sponsorship form paperworks right – and god knows if some poor government paid intern has to sort through the millions of sheets of sponsorship paper to make sure the government didn’t get short changed by charities. It can happen.

And this is the beauty of online fundraising – it doesn’t matter if you have the handwriting skills of a snake wearing a mitten, electronic forms has the advantage of data validation meaning unless you’re really hiding from the government, your details are probably gonna be correct after you hand over your debit card details.

With electronic input comes automated Gift Aiding – you don’t need a drone sitting at their desk picking through thousands of sponsorship form a day – you submit an overall report of the sponsors details collected on a regularly basis with a click of a button.

This is money that’s essentially cost free to collect for the charity – Justgiving handles all that admin duties, which has already been substantially reduced thanks to self-verification by the sponsors and auto validation using the magic of computers.

And it’s not just about efficiency either. Let’s move away from that and think about paper sponsorship form risks:

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions by complete strangers holding pieces of paper that looked like it barely survived a nuclear fallout, with absolutely no clue to what charity they’re supporting, and these are the stupid ones. There’re literally hundreds of different authentic sponsorship forms you could download and print off for use from charities and be on your merry way to raise money for your “porno magazine subscription fund” (word of advice, those stuff are free on the internet).

Thankfully more and more charities (my beloved BCH for instance) are on the alert and started withdrawing downloadable sponsorship forms – which to be fair could most often be made by an 8 years old child on MS Word.

Of course I’d be niave to think that it’s all pros and no cons. Online transactions do no doubt involve certain risks, which everyone should be cautious of anyway. Although the biggest criticism Justgiving receives, seems to be the “for profit” nature of their organisation, benefiting from charitable money. I don’t have the latest figures and I don’t trust Wikipedia enough to state 5% as their current charge plus credit card processing fees and annual fees.

My suspicion is that with the rise of Virginmoneygiving and recently BT following suit, Justgiving has to become more compeitive possibly in their pricing AND their service which has gone through some dramatic changes over the last year.

What I have to say though is – while both Virgin and BT’s services are practically free (I think they both take a percentage from the gift aid fees), they ARE ultimately branding vehicles backed by global size for profit companies.

Justgiving proved this was a viable market that’s mutually benefitial to the charity world and its own organisation – I genuinely don’t see huge issues with them making a living out of it especially if they’re staying in touch with the charity world AND moving forward with their user base, as demonstrated with their quick integration with Facebook fairly early on.

I can go into more depth about Justgiving, and maybe I will at a later date – in how it could still improve and all that. But right now, I crave sleep and thus sign off from this rather unprofessional view of the first Charity Tuesday blog post.

Adventure Monday – That Stalactite Feeling

There’s something fascinating about unexplored territories. First step out of the plane at some holiday destination; stepping off the bus after missing your stop and ending up in “where the fuck am I?” territory; first foot print in fresh snow, even if you knew it’d only covered up the old prints made by that damn kid who didn’t have to go to school – at least you beat him this time.

And I suppose to me, that’s what adventures are – not the physical location as such, but the essence of pure unmarked turf in your otherwise mundane and well experienced domains.

And this is what Adventure Monday is all about. Recalling whatever the hell I did last week that I hadn’t done before, wherever I haven’t been.

This week features this green handhold on the top of the Grade 6a stalactite wall at Red Point Climbing Centre, which I marked with my chalk-less hand on a Thursday evening. Atmospheric pressure was reasonable, oxygen level was good, and sense of achievement was high.

I conquered my first 6a climbing challenge by placing it right between my thighs and squeezing hard, like a classic homoerotic scene out of a wrestling match.

And good job I did as well, otherwise it’d have been rather embarrassing having grade6a as my password for the entire week prior to said attempt. I mean, sure, a password can be a motivating tool – but also a painful reminder for when you fail.

So a bit of a lame blog entry again, no life lessons learnt, just left some sweaty mark on route to the top pretending I don’t have vertigo.

Woo!

Sunday Musings – Back on my feet

So a few of you might have noticed I’ve started blogging again, sorta. A few of you might also have noticed a picture I’ve posted on Facebook breaking down my week of blogging categories:

  • Adventure Monday;
  • Charity Tuesday;
  • Wednesday Writing;
  • Film Thursday;
  • Friday Findings;
  • Pixel Saturday; and
  • Sunday Musing.

Perhaps today is a good day to explain what each day is more details.

You see, Monday originated from the term “Moon Day”, falling between Sunday and Tuesday and is typically consider the first working day of the week.

I’m being facetious (yay for learning how to spell an otherwise old word).

Adventure Monday is a bit of a misleading title, but then it’s meant to be a way of talking about the “adventures of the week gone, when dragons were slain and new native civilians heavily murdered”.

The point of the 365 challenge isn’t just to let me ramble on pointlessly each day about random topics. It’s about challenging myself both in my writing abilities, and other aspects of my life I find dull, uninteresting or out right an empty void. And one such void has been my sense of adventure.

Sure, if you tell me to pack my bags and ride shotgun I’ll follow you on an adventure to the abandon nuclear falldown bunker for a bit of radioactive fishing any day, but let’s face it, that invitation never came and my fishing rod is melting from radiation.

So one such challenge is to do something, go somewhere or tackle something I haven’t done before or in a long while (a year seems a good time frame).

So Adventure Monday isn’t really about me going on an adventure every Monday, seeing as a full time job has created certain barrier to the possibilities.

Charity Tuesday is a hashtag I stole from twitter I do believe. This challenge is basically how I see the world of charity, what I make of it, and getting me to think about what I really feel I could do in this day and age in the Third Sector.

I’m hoping this will give everyone “some” sort of insight from my limited knowledge / hearsays into the world of charities, without putting myself in a compromising situation (i.e. talking about the charity I work for).

But for me, hopefully it’ll force me to research further into this sector and either find the charity I really want to work for / with; or give me enough insight to see into the feasibility of starting my own charity which I don’t seem to feel really exist yet.

Wednesday Writing is a bit of a no-brainer, both for you and for myself. This day actually differs from the others because it’s the one challenge I plan on avoiding any “planning” on.

You see, to have Adventure Monday I’d have to go on the adventure in advance; to write about charities I’d have to do my reading before writing; and same goes for pretty much everything else besides Sunday Musings.

Wednesday writing however is just that – I write a random fictional story on Wednesday from start to finish. It can be long as I can make it before clock strikes mid-night; or short as it needs to be satisfy my desire to finish the tale.

So it’s a no-brainer for me in that I’m not gonna think about it till I sit at my laptop and do my usual brain fart. Like now. Can you smell it?

Film Thursday is meant to be a movie review a week – which in turn means I have to watch at least one new film a week – something I’ve not been able to do for a while.

But let’s be realistic, after the summer blockbusters, there’s what I call the “film maker’s holiday” period. Kids are back at school, geese are migrating north, and film makers are getting ready for Christmas. So actually they’re still working hard then, but it’s the weeks prior that the lazy fuckers were doing things such as tending to their family, spending summer holidays with their kids, and undoing their bra-straps for paparazzis.

What I’m trying to say then is, I’m not gonna sink down to the level of despair watching some shitty film just to do a review for my blog when I knew from the poster or trailer that it’s a bubbly pile of shit.

So perhaps in slow weeks, I’m gonna have a go at writing about what I think of the film industry, what I think about the concept of film making and maybe some news about what to look forward to in coming weeks. Who knows… will my blog even get that far? God only know.

Friday Findings is gonna a collection of shit I’ve gathered over the week while I crawl through my 500+ weekly rss feed items where a few gems may arise.

My first attempt at this was primarily youTube videos, but the stupid blog didn’t post my entry on Facebook so chances are none of you have read it. Mind you, would you even have read this far in this blog? If you have, you can always post on my Facebook wall with “The pheasant has no agenda”. And for those of you confused, it’s one of my favourite Bill Bailey quotes.

And then come Pixel Saturday – digital representation of the “artwork” of the week gone.

I choose the word “pixel” instead of art because let’s be honest, you’re reading this over the internet on your internet available computer machine. If you’re gonna be a smart arse and print off all my Pixel Saturdays just to contradict me, I’ll papercut your eyeball to see if you can see the difference.

So that’s the pointless post of the week. Next week, I’ll blog about electricity.

Pixel Saturday

Sorry start to this blogging lark as the week has been a bit crazy for various reasons, so my plan for a relatively easy going “pixel Saturday” saves the day with this picture I took during the week:

Sorry I’m already failing at this…

20110416-224525.jpg

Update:
I just remembered a few product shots I’ve been taking earlier on in the week: