Clan 404


Op-Ed: Church on Sundays

03 Apr 2007 by ShogZ

To break the impression that is now solely a, poorly written movie review, database I thought it time to add some content with depth.

 A recent news article over at the BBC, here:
Got me thinking on the subject of religion, faith, God et al.

I've recently read professor Dawkin's excellent book 'The God delusion' and all this has had me thinking pretty durn hard about the true nature of the world we live in.

Religion bashing is easy, with a bit of historical comparison, sourcing and textual analysis one can pick apart any of the worlds major faiths by discrediting its literature. Biblical studies over the Renaissance period yielded the science we know as religious study today. And the arguments against the worlds strongest religions remain as strong today as when Darwin first begged God's forgiveness for having to 'tell the truth' in the theory of evolution.

However, as the BBC article highlights, most of us are satisfied with very little intellectual inquiry, despite possesing the faculties to do so. We assume vague, half truths defning ourselves as 'Christian' or 'Agnostic' (In the West at least) and turn to a dimly remembered version of school-time Christianity when the going gets rough. Whilst any one religion does not have all the answers any longer and none of the major texts can (IMHO) stand up to intense scrutiny, that does not mean that belief in God is redundant or illogical.

If we define religion as beliefs supported by a set of practices then to some, science is a religion unto itself. The belief is the quest for universal truth which is suported by the practice of rigourous logic and scientific inquiry. True, scientists dont simply explain away the unknown with 'Magic Man in the sky did it' but neither do they have all the answers. The irk for most scientists or, dare I say, rationalists, as I see it is the blind acceptance by the religious masses that if there's no current answer it doesnt warrant study because 'God did it'. This is true most of the time, indeed Dawkin's refers to it as the 'God of the gaps' theory in his book. Where there is no science as yet, God exists, when science shines its light into a gap, belief simply fills another one, and so on.

However there are a group of people beyond the agnostic and the scientific, they are the deists. They believe in God, but don't necessarily feel that they have any special place in God's existance, being merely another form of life, albeit one cognicent enough to marvel at creation.
Of course this theory has its detractors too, on the religious side comes the argument 'If God exists and gifted the capacity for independant thought surely it is divine will that we search, find and subsequently praise.' And the scientific: 'Accepting the existence of God with little or no evidenc eother than the lack of explanation for certain phenomena is no more logical than ascribing all life to a giant teapot spinning in the sky over Pluto'.

Both arguments have their weaknesses, first the religious argument that if God exists we must naturally create a religion and follow/serve is somewhat self aggrandising. Whoever said mankind was so special? If that's true how do we differentiate between competing religions? Which is truly inspired by God? Who's miracles are bigger? The answer is clouded in 'we cannot know the mind of God' answers. Which sadly are circular and axiomatic. For everythnig we cant explain 'God did it' and for everythnig we dont understand but do know 'Dont ask'. Logic is not the enemy of religion, but it isn't even treated on equal terms in this argument.

Second, science. It is a myth that science jumps form fact to well established fact. It doesn't. Many areas of subjects now taken for granted (Ironically like the vague recollection of religion we all carry) are not factual, just hypothetical. Some Darwinists will crow that evolution is a 'proven fact'. Just because something is observable and repeatable in current circumstances does not make it a fact. There could be many reasons or exceptions to our rule, indeed there are many gaps in the evolutionary chain as we know it, just in general, our rule works most of the time. Second, Big Bang theory. Creationists have a problem with this one as it means the universe didnt start with God saying 'Be'. Sure the universe may not have been made in 7 days, but who said God didnt kick off the bang? Second we enter the circular realm of 'what came first' what created the bang etc. Again we have plenty of circumstantial evidence that backs up the idea of an expanding universe, but in an example of where science continues to contradict, an older-modern (If such an oxymoron can be used) view was that the universe would expand and contract, there are now studies indicating it will expand forever. Again, no answers.

We are, to borrow from Fight Club, the middle children of history. No longer obediant to religion through ignorance to the world, but not illuminated enough by Science to drop our ideas of divinity. In short, we've got problems.

All comments welcome, peace.

The Hills Have Eyes 2: More mutant rape

02 Apr 2007 by ShogZ

Having a partner who is quite the fan of the horror genre is nice, it means I'm dragged to see films I might not otherwise bother with. It is also bad, as I'm dragged to see films I might not otherwise bother with.

The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Hereafter HHE2) is actually quite good. It doesnt so much build on the first movie as just retell it underground with guns. Now for those of you who're thinking Alien here, think again. Whereas Aliens was an amazing movie that allowed large numbers of the evil creatures to face the might of future-modern military technology, this is not 'What would happen if we sent in the marines?' more 'Lets give the mutants more pretty women to rape only put them in army fatigues'.

The movie plays on several of the genre staples. First our outpost of scientists investigating the initial incident is attacked and cut off. Second an unsuspecting group of young national guard trainees go to deliver supplies ot the area and discover the situation. Unable to raise help they abandon protocol and go on a search & rescue mission for the missing people.
The movie doesn't try to get bigger than it is and makes only a few wider political jibes, an example of which is that the troops are young and stupid and in a 6 week training course for Afghanistan at the outset of the movie.

 Characters are fairly 2D aside form our 'leads' this lets you identify who's going to get mulched pretty easy from the outset. We've got a 'scientific' peacenik who will obviously become a man through a trial of blood, an angry Mexican who will have to come to terms with his violent nature and a smart, capable black man who - True to Spike Lee's nightmares, will probably die. Their tough black sergant is a good guy trying to do right who cares for his platoon add in two women, one white and one hispanic, one of whom has a child, and you're left wondering what the hell kind if platoon this is if not steretypical. All it needed was a chinese guy and a brazilian kid and they could have summoned captain Planet to help.

Stereotypes aside the movie does ok at the outset. We get the obligatory, silence followed by loud noises, claustrophobic camera angles and gory, bloody deaths by an unseen enemy. The director was obviously aware that the unseen is more scary than the average monster in the hallway so they play on it until they simply have to start showing bad guys.
The movie doesnt do anything particularely new in the way it uses sound and visuals, camera angles are standard, the score is predictable and imemorable but most of the acting is solid enough to let you sit through it. The only production gripe would be the pacing, the movie ramps it up, then slows it down, then ramps it up and so forth. This wouldnt be bad if we used the sloe time to do some characterisation or something but it's wasted in the main. I found myself shifting in my seat awaiting the next firefight.

There is of course the obligatory 'signature shock scene' which competing horror movies now have to have. Saw has it's games and voice modulated speeches, Chainsaw massacre has it's preserved skins and Hills has mutant rape. For those of you who havn't senn the first movie, buy the Directors cut on DVD. The mutant rape scene is actually rather unsettling, it's realistic without being too shwoy and just probable and horrid enough that its revolting, the production crew obivously realised this was the Hills main selling point, being as it was what critics focussed on.

So Hill 2 features just such a scene, thing is this one is predictable and is lead up to. It doesn't feel like a spontaneous evil act by the monsters, just something stuck in to give the viewers a 'shock factor'. That plus it's filming just make you feel a bit uncomfortable rather than shocked, kind of like having a sex program come on when you're watching tv with your parents.

Overall the film is your average easter monster movie. Predictable, trading on the innovations of the first movie while adding nothing new fairly run of the mill. However solid acting and a decent(ish) plot and background story bring it just a head over the monster munching competition.


Wait for the directors cut on DVD.

300 times better than Gladiator

24 Mar 2007 by ShogZ

A very short review of 300 by me, your resident critic. I do not use the title film critic as that honor is unreservedly held by Dr Gonz, who's many fine works can be found over at for want of such prowess, I present my review below:

300 is the movie Gladiator could have been if they had followed the Roman army rather than one man. Sure it wouldn't have been the personal epic it was but it would have been a massive, historical work.
I'm not going to outline the plot, if you haven't heard of this battle, or read Frank Miller's novel, or any of the other million stories about it, or seen any of the advertising for this film then you're already dead and the world wanted it that way.
The first thing that struck me was the quality of the film itself. There is no better argument or 'dont download compressed Divx copies' than watching this movie in digital at a cinema. The image was so crisp and clear, the sound clarity as clear as water ridden urine. It was, in short, beautfiul. I actually felt I'd been watching VHS tapes instead of DVDs recently. The grit, dirt and hues of colour gavwe a radiance and reality o the film that automatically killed the competition.
The acting was all round fantastic and bar, just a few tiny, misuses of the English language posing as dialogue it stood out. There were no moments when I literally shuddered at the language used and even the incredibly hammy speeches play well because of the sheer epic scope of the film.
The setup and intro are suitably powerful that you are hooked within about 5 minutes of the opening. Every camera angle and shot is milked for all it's worth, perhaps a little overstated on repeat viewing, but first time around it's visually orgasmic.
The combat effects aren't overused (The now ubiquitous matrix 'freeze and fly' camera) and none of the heroes or villians perform particularly outrageous feats of physical daring, being just slightly over the top in their exertions.
Favourite moments for me include the clash between the Spartans and Persia's immortals. Historically a 'who would win if' argument. Elite soldiers from the middle east / Asia versus those from Greece. Fantastic viewing.
There is a suitable amount of backing political intrigue with the role of 'warrior woman' played well by our hero's wife, queen of Sparta.
I defy any man not to feel that animal twinge of excitement at the first charge of the Persian infantry into the Sopartan line, sheer classic film making that plays on the emotional xylophone very well.
There are of course a few bits missing, the characters are perhaps a bit two dimensional, platying as they are an era of history rather than personalities of an age. But that's forgivable as it's what the film seeks, scope.
All in all 300 out of ten.


Mobile Games - Really?

22 Mar 2007 by ShogZ

Once, many a year ago I tried to play games on my then mobile phone. This was akin to trying to play the harp with my teeth. It hurt and there was no good to come of it.

Arguable the greatest invention that ever hit the original Nokia brands was the rise of snake. The first, green screen Anaconda style game was literally played by millions and enjoyed. Reason? Well my hypothesis is that, much like tetris, its simplicity lent itself to genuine human interest and it was perfect for its format. It was quick and could be played mobile as the good lord mobile technologies intended.

So what of mobile games in the 2.5G generation? My first gaming experience on my phone outside of the default, poorly drawn outrun style title was a game I downloaded and paid for. It was a 2d platformer, I forget the name, and it sucked the ass of evil dead clowns. This was unfortunate as I had hoped to find a new avenue for gaming. Having become bored of my GBA (Bored enough to leave it, a powerpack and 18 games on a train) I have been looking for that 'mobile gaming solution' that can follow me on my many travels.

At first I'd gone with PSP like all the other i-sheep out there. But even consistent badgering of Gonz and Shades to give me just one reason to buy one resulted in nothing. I cannot stress enough, I had already made up my mind, I wanted to buy the damn handheld, I really did. I spent hours on the net looking for screenshots, reviews or movies of anything that would excite me enough to actually go the shop and hand my money over. Nothing.

There had to be something, some hidden away title (Like evil dead pinball or Doom 2 on GBA) that would give me the incentive. ANYTHING. Please lawd, I WANT to give you my money, I already want your handheld, just give me a reason. Honest I would even email the launch sites "Please Sony, just give me a reason". When my prayers went unanswered and the small gaming people of my brain were slaughtered regardless of their piety I finally killed the religion of Sony in my head and decided never again to offer unto them the burnt calf of my cash.

So what then? GBA had failed me. Sony had died (And this is before they took an almighty shit on the gaming community, that shit being PS3 launch.) I was alone. I had only...My phone.

Could I? Could I really try? The golden days of Snake were long over, my last attempt at downloadable content had hurt me so much, was there a chance of return? Having a member of the clan who works for a major mobile games producer (SpiKe) whos recently been head hunted for an even better job in London meant I surely had to give it a go. This is when I discovered that mobile games had come along way, but that the format wars here were just as bitter as the console world, if not worse.

A mate and I were chatting about it over dinner and he showed me the content list for  his UK network, I was impressed. In fact I nearly shat my pants and vomitted when he showed me 'Street Fighter 2' on his phone. Now he doesnt have one of those all singing all dancing handsets, in fact mine's a tad more advanced but he had a decent conversion of SF2 (For the astute you will know that SF2: Turbo is my favourite game of all time) running on his damned phone. Well, his operators list of games included classics reworked such a Golden Axe and even...Final Fight. Therefore I connected my GPRS and salivated at the prospects for the games catalouge on my own (Leading and massive) international phone provider.

I was faced with crushing reality.

The 'store' was much like your average Games shop. I had a thousand EA Sports titles to choose from, mostly Fifa, Tiger Woods and Madden conversions. As a side note, can someone just fucking shoot Tiger Woods so he can't be in any more games. It's just golf for pitys sake! Just call it golf and dont pay him gozillions for the 'prestige' of having his pixellated face on a 7" phone screen in shite resolution. Damn.

Anyway, my own range of classics was limited to Sonics various incarnations. Being a fan of sonic I duly oblidged. Now, Im thinking, seriously this is just a phone I'm gonna get like one level of awful graphical tomfoolery and a blue square representing my faouvrite hedgehog. This time my suprise was good.

For just £2.50 (Probably the equivalent of about $50,000 Zimbabwean dollars) I got a pretty decent phone conversion of Sonic. It doesnt have much replay value, but its a genuince conversion. Minus sound and with a lot of juddering when you scroll fast (Hint to the company that made this: Scrolling fast is what sonic does, optimise it) it was quite fun. LAcking sound and with the odd stagger it was hardto get my drunken garden mammal to perform proprely but it was still fun. Largely through nostalgia value I got immersed and missed my stop on the train this morning. Therefore, a difficult win for the Sonic phone game.

Next I'm downloading Rainbow Six: Vegas (No shit its really there, cant imagine its a faithful version but...)

Watch this space. Or handset. Or something.

Dirty Skinning

21 Mar 2007 by Dr_Gonz

As you can probably see (if not, hit the refresh button for a sexy new stylesheet), I've hacked about with theme so it's at least a bit 404y. It's still really quite ugly, but it's ever so marginally better than just using the default skin, and I'm sure when the Design Muse hits me it will be be rectified into a beautiful glowing ball of wonderful. As opposed to a slightly reeking ball of something else.