Category Archives: Fun

Classical music used as punishment in school

Here’s an amusing article about a school in Britain that has started using classical music to punish misbehaving students. It’s normal practice of course to punish such students by giving them detention, but the school is apparently aiming at making detention more unpleasant by piping in classical music into the hall. According to the headmaster, this seems to be working as infractions of school rules have dropped by 60 percent since he started the practice.

Once again, I’m not really a listener of classical music but I do appreciate the intellectual achievement in it, so even I feel a little sad that the pendulum has swung so far that not only do youngsters actively hate it, but that a school is willing to exploit this fact and use it as a form of punishment.

Using Facebook at work sets off alarms

It’s an accepted fact of modern office life that staff will often browse sites like YouTube and Facebook at work. Sure, some employers hate it and try to block such sites from the workplace but in general, I think that employers should acknowledge that trying to force staff to use every second of their working time only on official tasks is a poor strategy. It makes more sense to gauge the effectiveness of staff, especially in roles where a significant amount of creativity or independent thinking is required, through concrete goals and performance targets while allowing employees to manage their own time as they see fit. In some cases, using such banned websites may actually be helpful to some people in their jobs so a blanket ban is just a hindrance.

One employer however has hit on a novel strategy. Instead of directly blocking offending sites from the office computers, the employer puts such sites on a watchlist and then triggers ear piercing alarms whenever an employee in the room browses onto a site on the list. According to the blog post, this allows employees who legitimately need access to these sites to continue to use them but publicly shames employees who are just goofing off at work. The Freakonomics authors seem to think that this is a pretty smart idea but judging from the comments posted in response to their article, the vast majority of people don’t agree.

Avatar fans upset that Pandora isn’t real

Avatar is currently well on its way to becoming the highest grossing film of all time, proving that James Cameron still has the magic touch. Part of it might be because of unusually high numbers of repeat viewers. Just as Titanic inspired legions of teenaged girls to sit through the ill fated romance again and again, Avatar is inspiring its own fans to do the same thing. As this CNN article explains, fans become so immersed in and enchanted by the idealistic planet of Pandora that they feel depressed when the movie ends and they need to come back to dreary, meaningless Earth. So they go back to watch the movie again. One even claimed to be contemplating suicide in the hopes of being reborn on Pandora. You can read the original forum thread where the fans share their woes here.

I think these people need to be reminded that Avatar is a commercial movie made for the purpose of earning money. This being so, buying into the whole thing would be contrary to the ideals of the simplistic, communitarian way of the life of the Na’vi. Not that the ideals made much sense or were even coherent anyway. Did anyone notice that for all the talk of hunting in the movie, you never actually see any of the Na’vi eat anything? I think Cameron knew very well that showing the Na’vi barbecuing the wildlife and chomping into them, animal juices flowing from their lips and chins, would not mesh with the overall pro-environmental message. These people just need to grow up and solve their own problems instead of thinking that running away would make the problems go away magically.

Anyway, while movies have preyed on the white man’s guilt before and made viewers wish they belonged to another ethnic group, such as the Native Americans in Dances with Wolves or the noble Japanese of The Last Samurai, I think Avatar is the first movie to make people wish to be a different species entirely!

Math is hard

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Or at least it seems to be for the notorious U.S.-based network Fox News. The first picture above is from a month ago and anyone even casually glancing at it should realize that something is wrong with that pie chart. Apparently Fox News didn’t just make a mistake in getting the graphics right, its news anchor Byron Harlan actually spoke these figures out loud as part of his news report.

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This second graphic appeared only recently and again, it’s very obvious that the figures don’t add up. What’s worse is that the original statistics came from reputable polling agencies and their original figures certainly make sense but Fox News seems to have decided to interpret them more creatively. This post on Think Progress explains that fuzzy reasoning. Goofing up the occasional graphic is understandable, but when your news anchors repeat these mistakes on air, it smacks of a deliberate conspiracy, especially when well-educated, highly intelligent news anchors pretend to be dumb in order to better connect with an anti-intellectual audience.

Awesome stuff you can buy from Amazon.com

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It’s been a while since I wrote a silly post in this category and tomorrow’s a public holiday here in Malaysia, so here a few examples of some of the totally crazy and awesome stuff you can buy from Amazon.com. If you go check these out, please remember to read the user comments. It’s all part of the fun! Pictured above is the JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank which can be yours for a mere US$20,000.00. Unfortunately, it is not road legal, nor does it come with any actual weapons.

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Thinking of Christmas presents? If it’s someone who is frequently on the road, the Laptop Steering Wheel Desk might be a novel gift. It can instantly turn your car into a mini workspace. I’m sure nothing can go wrong with this invention. Disregard all the customer submitted photos on that page.

Finally, Amazon.com even sells fresh whole rabbits. Perfect for those moments when you need to hold a Satanic ritual at the last minute and you can’t find an appropriate sacrifice in time. Warning: buying one of these as a pet for your children would be a bad idea!

I’m pretty sure The Sycologist’s faked Andy Warhol prints would make this list too if it were on Amazon.

One Nation under God

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This painting by Jon McNaughton is currently making the rounds of the Internet. It’s easy enough to tell what the artist is getting at, but if you really need some rather heavy-handed hints, you can check out a full-sized picture at the artist’s own website where he also provides handy mouse-over explanations on what all of the symbolism is supposed to mean. Everyone who reads this site should know by now that I’m no fan of Christianity or any other religion, but what this artist and many other conservatives (in the modern rather than the classical sense of the word) in the U.S. are trying to do should be regarded by all Christians everywhere as being ridiculous and faintly blasphemous.

For one thing, they claim that the U.S. is uniquely blessed by the Christian God. It shows Jesus Christ appearing out of nowhere with a copy of the U.S. constitution in his hand and the Founding Fathers and deceased heroes of the country behind him. In the lower left corner, one immigrant is even depicted as cowering in shock as he realizes what the source of America’s greatness is. Of course, this is just one painting but it’s emblematic of the whole conservative movement in the U.S. For example, just take a look at the Conservative Bible Project, which is an initiative to create a better version of the Bible by removing “liberal” influences from it.

Secondly, the painting presents an untruthful view of history. The artist implies that the separation of church and state in the U.S. is the work of activist judges, hence why a Supreme Court judge is depicted as on the side of Satan, whereas in reality the separation is written in the U.S. constitution at the instigation of Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The paintingĀ  even portrays Thomas Paine as being on the side of Jesus Christ, the same man who wrote the following passage:

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

Finally, the painting infuriates Democrats because it mercilessly attacks the liberal movement (e.g. the liberal news reporter and the professor who holds a copy of Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” in his hand) while appropriating liberal heroes like Susan B. Anthony and John F. Kennedy for its own side. It even includes a black soldier who’s supposed to be a reference to Martin Luther King, Jr. as if King wouldn’t be considered a liberal in today’s political climate.

Of course, the funniest thing in the painting is the tree symbol on Jesus’ chest. The artist claims that it is a reference to the “Tree of Life” but it looks suspiciously like the White Tree of Gondor, prompting someone on QT3 to ask whether Jesus is supposed to be from Minas Tirith.