Carl J. Smith

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Compulsive ruminator from Auckland, New Zealand.

Dabbler in many fields, master of none.

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20 March 11

The Man Who Cried “Fire!”

Do you believe?

Movie enthusiast and fire safety advocate, Len Bing.

Local man, Len Bing, has been getting a lot of attention lately due to his habit of calling out “Fire” in crowded movie theatres. He’s been called a “scaremonger”, a “reprobate”, a “shameless self-promoter” and numerous other, unprintable epithets. The Fire Brigade have called his claims “fatuous” and building safety experts deemed them “without scientific merit”.

In the wake of last month’s tragic (and unpredicted by Bing) theatre fire in Henderson in which a 35mm film projector exploded in protest at one too many screenings of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, killing fourteen pimply Megan Fox-lovers, many authorities have called for Bing to cease his anti-social activities and just shut the fuck up.

Philosophical Zombie spoke to Len Bing and put some of these accusations to him.

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28 February 11

Hello…is this thing still on?

Yeah, I know. Long time no blog. I think you’ll find that’s typical of me—starting something with a hiss and a roar and an excess of enthusiasm, then stagnating when it ceases to be a bit of a lark and actually requires some hard work, then getting distracted by the next shiny thing that comes along. Rinse, repeat.

But I haven’t been completely idle.

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7 July 10

The real problem with “Glee”?

Glee

Honestly, I thought we were better than this. With shows like The Wire, Breaking Bad and True Blood raising the bar for television quality, I would hardly have thought that a plausibility-challenged musical series about a ragtag high school singing club would be a hit.

But what the hell do I know? Not much, obviously. Everywhere I look, I’m surrounded by Gleeks, especially on Twitter, where otherwise sane, intelligent and pleasant folk morph into twelve-year-old girls for an hour a week.

But hold on a sec — this is not just another “gleat”.

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19 June 10

Bad England #1

Danger Men photo

When I grow up, I wanna be a Danger Man too!

Sounds like an awesome job. Where do I sign up?

Takapuna, Auckland, NZ. June 2010.

16 May 10

A Shout-out to the Humble Cobbler

Thoughts from a fashion criminal.

Shoes

“They sure don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

That’s a refrain you hear a lot from people of a certain generation. Yeah, okay, “old people”. As they find themselves increasingly marginalised in today’s rapidly evolving society, statements like this are often viewed by the rest of us as the death rattle of a waning demographic.

But they’re right, of course. Everything is so much cheaper nowadays — thanks to Western culture’s shameful love affair with third-world sweatshops — that’s there no point making things to last. It’s cheaper to replace something than to repair it, so why bother?

But there’s another reason why there’s no point producing things of quality workmanship, and it’s an ugly f-word…

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9 May 10

Mother’s Day: a rambling exploration in search of a point.

So it’s Mother’s Day. Apparently. This is the one day of the year where I can be grateful that I no longer have a mother, so I can avoid taking part in yet another shallow, commercialised extravaganza masquerading as quality family time. Christmas is bad enough. At least for this one I can sit back, feeling quietly superior as the malls fill up with desperate fools hoping to buy their way out of another year of parental neglect while retailers frolic in their giant pools of cash.

I know, I know; I’m being unnecessarily cynical, you may well say. You don’t have to buy into the unfettered exchange of material goods to honour the contribution that your mother has made to shaping the person you’ve become. Most mums would be chuffed with a visit or a call (if you’re out of town) just to let them know that they’re being thought of and appreciated. No need for flamboyant displays of wealth to let them know you love them. (It’s not an 8-year-old’s birthday party, after all.)

This is true. However, as far as I can tell, it is only effective if it exists in contrast to what you normally do. Whatever your baseline relationship with your mother, you’re expected to turn up the volume on it, arbitrarily, for one day of the year. If you’re a neglectful SOB who only calls home when you need money then, yeah, a five-minute phone call will probably make the poor woman’s week. But what do you do if you’re one of those people whose mother is their BFF? How do you kick it up a notch then? Buy them a fancy meal? Take them out partying? Well, yeah, but you’re falling back on that commercial imperative again. And besides, if you’ve got a good relationship with your mum, then why make a big deal out of it one specific day?

Sounding feeble? Yeah, to be honest, I’m struggling to even convince myself here, despite the delight I take in holding a contrary point of view, so you Mother’s Day devotees are not obviously not going to have much truck with my attempts to ruin your day. Instead, let’s move into the realm of fiction to see if that yields any unexpected truths…

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3 May 10

What’s in a name? (Let’s talk about SEX)

I’ve known a number of people who, after breaking up with one partner, have had the questionable fortune to proceed to go out with someone else with the same first name. Usually a “Steve”. This leads to the inevitable joke: “No need to worry about accidentally calling out the wrong name in bed, ha ha ha”. Hilarious.

I’m sure we’ve all had the shameful experience of calling a new partner by the wrong name at some point, but I’d hope that it was in much more innocuous circumstances than in the proverbial “sack”. There’s not a lot you can you can do to talk your way out of that one. (Although, if anyone has any stories of such success, I’d love to hear them.)

However, it strikes me that the risk of such an epic faux-pas may be over-rated.

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23 April 10

Has Facebook just become the Evil Empire? What’s wrong with the new “Like” button.

Disclaimer: I’m certainly no expert on these matters, and I’d sincerely welcome some feedback from those who are more in the know — am I misunderstanding something on a technical level, being overly paranoid, or making a damned lot of sense? Or all of the above?

I’m very curious about this new “Like” button that Facebook have quietly rolled out in the last day or so. Across, oh, only the whole damn Internet! Superficially, this seems innocuous enough, but why do I have this uneasy feeling that Facebook has, this whole time, been building up a gigantic clone army and they’ve just given Order 66? Okay, so that’s a little towards the tin-foil-hat end of the spectrum, but it does seem something of a cause for caution.

Here’s why:

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20 April 10

From the Archive: “An Evening With Jeanette Wilson” reviewed.

The following is a review I wrote waaay back in August 2005 after a show by local “psychic” Jeanette Wilson. I didn’t have my own blog at the time, so a fellow member of the NZ Skeptics Yahoo! mailing list posted it on his blog, where it has attracted a number of comments. Cheers, Robin.

I’ve decided to repost it here because, well, I still stand by what I wrote, and I think it serves as a good example of cold reading techniques in practice.

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18 April 10

An encounter with evil

The one thing you don’t want to come home to after a hard day’s work is the smell of ass.

No, I hadn’t just realised that I’d soiled myself; I think I’d still be cowering under a rock of shame if that were the case. But when I walked in through my front door just shy of midnight, there was a distinct faecal aroma wafting on the air.

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