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Archive for June, 2017

The future of the web is ad-free

Your future and my future are certainly ad-free. We use uBlock Origin and the MVPS hosts file.

I’m about to tell you what all those people on Youtube and other places have missed, when they cry foul of adblockers, or put up anti-adblock messages. Are you ready?

It used to be that only the tech-savvy knew how to navigate their way around such things. That was way back when though. Times have moved on since the 90’s, and the so-called tech-savvy are in a group I would be hard-pressed to define other than that we love computers and love to tweak, test, modify, and when necessary code. The problem that others don’t realise is that what used to be “tech-savvy” is the new norm. Times have moved on, and people have become aware they don’t need to buy Microsoft Office at a retail store and can either get a legal copy as cheap as $70 or use free software instead. I remember way back when a less tech-savvy guy had had his computer infected with a virus and the first thing he did afterward was (of course) to buy Norton Antivirus, and went on to say how great it was. He could have installed AVG for free instead, and at the time I had no idea why he would choose a paid option.

No one likes ads. So just to make this clear this post isn’t at all about whether or not ads have a right to exist, I think they do, but collectively we all hate them. Internet ads pose significant privacy issues, although that’s well beyond the scope of this post.

I think it would have been great to invest in Google in 2000, and to sell your shares now. Actually that may not be great financial advice. But look, Google is a cunt of a company. I’ve said so countless times before. Why only this week they have be fined over 2 billion Euros by the EU for something that I criticised WAY BACK FUCKING WHEN! Why was I the only one that cared that they removed the google product search and replaced it with the shopping tab. JESUS CHRIST am I really the only person on the whole internet that noticed this? It happened on 31 May 2012.

The business model of certain companies is to keep people down. Sometimes that includes consumers. But what we have seen, if nothing else, over the last 20 years is the internet build into something accessible to everyone. And everyone deserves privacy, and the best possible experience going forward. The golden age of internet advertising is over. And it didn’t come soon enough!

Do you see any ads on my blog? Of course not. I’m just grateful you took the time to read this, I hope your experience navigating and loading the site was smooth, and I don’t want a cent from you.

Time for a new Doctor Who

And I don’t mean the actor. I mean the show runner. There were some things about Russell T that I didn’t like, but overall he did a much better job than Steven Moffat. And I’m going to explain in detail why Moffat goes wrong.

Firstly, he fails time and time again to build genuine mystery into the shows. Think about the cliff hanger at the end of “Empty Child” for example. Moffat perfers to have a stronger focus on single-episode stories, and that’s fine, but we shouldn’t know what’s going on until the third act of the story. Yet how many times does he give the game away right from the very start?

Secondly, and this is very closely tied to the first point, he has Doctor Who explaining way too much to his companions. For example, in the penultimate episode for Series 10, he has them encounter the genesis of the Mondasian Cybermen. Okay, that’s fine. But why did he have to give the game away right from the very fucking start? We knew that the Cyberman and two versions of the Master would be in the final episodes. Think about this, he already made the same mistake with Dark Water. Dark Water’s reveal would have worked brilliantly if we didn’t expect Cyberman at the end of the episode. And worse still, the second part was completely lacklustre.

No one would have known what the proto-Mondasian Cybermen were if we didn’t expect the Mondasian Cybermen. No one would have expected that Razor was really John Simm’s Master in disguise. Instead I easily recognised Simm early in the episode during one of Razor’s conversations with Bill.

Instead Jorj shoots a hole in Bill’s chest. That is followed by an annoying and unnecessary flashback. Why is there a flashback? Well because Moffat didn’t built the story into the series properly – had he done that he could have dropped all the subtle hints he wanted along the way and not need to do any flashbacks. I also suspect he did it because he thinks it mirrors The Tenth Planet somehow (even though there are no flashbacks in that episode).

One of the biggest flaws in this episode is the time dilation. It could have worked brilliantly. But it just doesn’t work. For one thing, they must have waited several years before sending men up to bring Bill down to the hospital – according to how long it takes for time to move at the top of the ship compared to the bottom. Also, it means Bill has waited for years – yet her hair stays in exactly the same style, and she only ever meets three human characters? It just doesn’t feel like she’s been there for years, it feels forced – just like Matt Smith’s supposed 300 years on Trenzalore. Not only that, but Cybermen are supposed to be emotionless creatures – stop toying with them and bring them back to their basics.

Finally, I’m not looking forward to the final. I think if Moffat had stuck to the basics it could have made for a great episode, but there will just be way too much going on. We essentially know at this point that Capaldi’s Doctor begins regenerating at the end of the series. The working theory, well mine anyway, is that he “degenerates” back to the first Doctor, at least for the duration of the Christmas special, before taking on his 14th Doctor form. Now again, that would be a great way to mirror Romana’s regeneration way back in season 17, if we didn’t expect it. But I think at this point that’s what we’re expecting to see in the Christmas special.

And this is all down to Maffat. All these problems are avoidable. He went ahead and told everyone that “this regeneration will be different” – WHY?? Why not just wait until the show airs and let people discover it for themselves, this is the show runner himself running the series reveals well in advance of them happening! I look forward to what Chibnall will bring, hopefully he will learn from the mistakes that Moffat made, and bring us a series more in line with RTD’s tenure.

Pink tribute artist Zoe Alexander on X-Factor UK Auditions:

What a train wreck? Well no. It wasn’t, let me explain what happened here.

The “audition shows” on these talent shows are not the real audition, the real audition happens weeks or months beforehand. People go and appear before producers, and the producers decide who is going to go on to the television audition shows and appear before the judges. They are not looking for talent. Let me repeat this: they are not interested in talent. Darci Lynne Farmer got the golden buzzer on “America’s Got Talent”, even though she wasn’t a particularly good ventriloquist.

If they were looking for talent then talent-less people couldn’t get through to the audition shows in the first place. The producers only care about entertainment – they let some people through specifically so they can be thoroughly humiliated on television, which is what happened in this case. Although Zoe is obviously not completely talent-less, they set her up to fail, probably because they discovered she had a tendency for angry outbursts during her audition in front of the producers.

After her audition one of the judges says to her “I’m confused because you said you wanted your own identity as a singer, but then you did a Pink song”. And she says “I didn’t want to sing a Pink song, you guys told me to sing a pink song. I didn’t want to sing a Pink song, I wanted to be me, you guys told me to sing a Pink song”. The judges all say “we didn’t tell you sing a Pink song”. Hmm, really? So Zoe’s just completely stupid and irate over nothing? No – I’ll tell you exactly what happened. The producers told her they wanted her to sing So What by Pink. Whatever you’re going to perform you have to have pre-approval from the producers, she didn’t want to sing Pink but did it because the producers on the show told her to. Then they edited the end of the audition to make it appear that she was accusing the judges specifically of asking for a Pink song.

“It is contrived, it is manipulative, and if you want to get through on that show you do not need to have talent. All you’ve got to do is give them a good sob story. And they do love exploiting people’s problems on that show. Offer up a talent that they would never expect to come from that contestant. Throw in some crap about how great Britain is, Amanda will love that. And then whatever rubbish you perform in front of the judges they will tell you it was the most incredible performance they’ve ever seen, because without that hype the millions of viewers watching at home just might start to notice just how devoid of talent the acts actually are.” Simon Brodkin

Simon Brodkin’s BGT Success Formula:

  1. You don’t need talent
  2. Give them a sob story
  3. Make your act unexpected
  4. Be patriotic

To see this in action view this:

One lie perpetrated by Evangelicals is that we atheists can’t explain what happened to the body of Jesus after he was crucified. We actually don’t know what happened, and don’t claim to know, but can put forward a number of different options all of which enjoy scholarly support. In addition I have formed a new hypothesis over how the resurrection myth started.

Why is this important, does it matter?

I think the brutal attacks from fundamentalists on both extremes go to show why it is. Fundamentalists, whether theists or atheists, have a narrow closed-minded perception of reality, with a dogmatic view that their beliefs are without any error and anyone who disagrees is stupid. And they are the ones that have in my experience used this question as a personal attack on my intelligence, or on the intelligence of others. Often claiming that it’s not worth consideration. Well, there are several academic disciplines of study that disagree. Saying that it’s stupid is no different to saying that studying science or philosophy is a complete waste of time. In fact I now believe that children should be taught in schools about all the major religions – not indoctrinated, but taught about their beliefs, their histories, their creeds, their ceremonies, their requirements, their texts, and their religious leaders. That is how we advance – through education. Religion is a natural phenomena of the world, just like language is, and culture, and social structures. We find language and social structures in animals as well. Mindlessly attacking people’s religions is about as intelligent as mindlessly attacking their culture or language.

I have been looking into piecing together what happened in the first century after Jesus died for the last 5 years. Since before I de-converted from Christianity.  It interests me, it may not interest anyone else, but I’ve already developed new and fresh ideas. I’m not claiming they’re unique, in fact I rather doubt it, but they are my ideas that I came up with independently.

Was Jesus crucified?

It is fair to ask whether Jesus was even crucified at all. Perhaps he fled to India as some believe, or perhaps he was executed through a less public spectacle such as beheading. On this I am happy to take the New Testament accounts. For two reasons, the most important of which is the fact that it formed the basis of early Christian theological thought right from the very start as evidenced in the Pauline epistles, the gospels and other early Christian books and writings. Many scholars have pointed out the difficulty in explaining the origin of such a mythology if it had no historical basis. But look, with that said they struggle to explain the origins of many other mythologies also that are not believed to have a historical basis either. Most historians agree that if Jesus was killed through a less humiliating method then that narrative would have survived, and if he had not died that he would have continued peaching for which there is no evidence.

Was Jesus buried?

I honestly don’t know. What I can say for certain is that scholars can trace the belief that he was buried right back to the 30’s AD. It’s important as it serves the basis for early Christian theology. But that the early apostles believed it to have happened of course doesn’t prove it for certain, just as their belief that Jesus had been risen to the heavens isn’t proven but was also an important early theological belief. The difference between the two is that one is a claim to the natural world, and the other the supernatural. Supernatural claims don’t require ordinary terrestrial evidence.

But what is the evidence? The synoptic gospels make it clear that the disciples abandon Jesus before he’s strung up to die – so they weren’t there to witness his anguish, or his death, or his burial. The earliest accounts that are given (particularly Mark, but also Acts and Luke) say that the Jews buried Jesus.

You may have read the claim that Bart Ehrman makes that Jesus would have been left to rot on the cross and not buried. I doubt he’s the only scholar that thinks that way. It’s certainly possible that Jesus was left on the cross and was not buried, and the literature reveals that possibility cannot be ruled out despite what the gospels claim. I suppose one good reason for this is the fact that it was known that some people chose suicide over crucifixion in the ancient world because they knew their bodies would be buried. There are several things however that makes this less likely: 1. If Jesus’ crime was seen by the Romans as being so bad as to refuse burial, why did they not persecute the disciples? The Romans appear to have been satisfied to execute only Jesus, and leave his followers alone. 2. Jewish culture would not have allowed the Jews to tolerate it, without at least protesting and requesting burial from the Roman authorities. 3. The earliest account of the Passion (Mark) is not that flattering to Jesus. For this I will draw on the teachings found in Crucifixion in the Mediterranean World by John Granger Cook…

Crucifixion was a slow, miserable, and utterly shameful way to die. Jesus of Nazareth did not wish to be crucified, and he certainly didn’t enjoy the experience. And in fact the Bible says as much as Jesus is said to let out a cry of dereliction “Eloi Eloi Lema Sabachthani”/ “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” Of course we don’t know that Jesus actually cried this out, in fact I rather doubt it for reasons that will become apparent. However the gospel writer did not attempt to insert any “song of victory” into Jesus’ misery on the cross, unlike modern Christian theology. And after Jesus died he was not even buried by his loved ones or given a decent burial, a fact pointed in the New Oxford Annotated Bible:

“Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council that had condemned Jesus (see 14.64), but like the scribe in 12.28–34, interested in the kingdom of God, asked for the body. Apparently eager to dispose of it before the sabbath, he wrapped it,and secured it in a rock tomb sealed with a heavy stone (cf. 16.3n), without even a gesture of proper burial rites.” (p.1823).

As the Biblical account of Jesus’ burial is so unflattering I find it difficult to believe it has no basis in reality. If you were going to make up a burial for your messiah, why not invent a proper burial?

Who buried Jesus?

I have had a hard time believing that a disciple buried Jesus. I hypothesised that the family of Jesus would have been far more likely to bury him than his disciples who fled from Jerusalem when he was arrested. But then I discovered something interesting, something very few Christians are even aware of (I certainly wasn’t), and that is that there are not four accounts of Jesus’ death and burial in the Bible, there is in fact a fifth in Acts 13:

“Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.” (Acts 13:27-29, NRSV)

Armed with this knowledge I delved deeper by reading some academic literature and considering the information in a new light. All the gospels claim that a man named Joseph of Arimathea claimed the corpse of Jesus from Pilate and then went and laid him into a stone-cut tomb. All the gospels agree that he was a “member of the council”. It’s only two gospels, Matthew and John that make the claim that he was a disciple. A claim that is almost certainly false for a number of obvious reasons, and if true would contradict the account in Acts completely.

Now, some Christians claim that the “they” in Acts 13:29 refers to a different group. To that I say, I have a difficult time believing that the author meant another group that he didn’t mention. And if that is the case, if it can be read that way, why is it that all English translations give the clear reading that the “they” are the Jews that brought Jesus to Pilate to have him killed? When all English translations read exactly the same way and you want to read it in a different way then you better have a pretty good piece of evidence to support your reading as the onus of proof is on you.

My hypothesis was that the family would be the most likely to bury someone who had been crucified. This hypothesis brought on problems however for Jesus’ burial. Nowhere in the gospels does it claim that the family of Jesus claimed the body. And if they had then the empty tomb myth could not have developed, at least not unchallenged.

So the conclusion is this – the Jews buried Jesus, just as the Bible claims they did. Probably not though in a nice stone-cut tomb as claimed though.

How did the empty tomb myth begin?

I have developed a new hypothesis. The disciples as we know fled before Jesus was crucified. They had no way of knowing how long it took for him to die, what he said on the cross, or where he was buried by the Jews. Furthermore, the family of Jesus did not know either, because if they were there then they would have been the ones to claim the body and bury it.

So here is what I think happened: Some of the disciples returned after Jesus had been crucified. It might only have been one disciple such as Peter, or it could even have been one of the women. They went and searched out his cross and found it empty. The body was gone. Not from the tomb, but from the cross. They then went and told the other disciples “the body is gone”. I don’t think they realised that the Jews had gone ahead and buried the body at that time, and by the time they did realise it they couldn’t find where it had been laid. For this reasons I doubt the narrative that a specific person named Joseph of Arimathea buried the body, because if they did know who buried it then they could have found the tomb/grave.

What about the resurrection myth?

This is actually rather easy to explain. Interestingly Evangelicals often claim that the disciples would not have believed without proof, and that therefore Christianity would not have started. Nonsense. These same Evangelical Christians believe that their loved ones are risen to the heavens after death with no empirical evidence. Belief in the afterlife does not now, and never has before, require proof. And that’s all that the resurrection started out as – the belief that Jesus had been risen to the heavens.

I think we can say pretty confidently that some of the disciples had visions of Jesus soon after his death. Again, Evangelicals claim this is evidence – it’s not. It happens. It’s perfectly normal that some people experience visions of deceased loved ones. Sometimes they’re extremely vivid and contain conversations.

Prison break series 5 review (SPOILERS)

Well, with the last episode having aired in the US, it’s time for me to give my review. In my first review I suggested that the series started well, but I was sceptical of where it would go. Well I was not wrong. I was originally going to post this before the last episode aired as I thought it was blindingly obvious how it would wrap up (and it was), so I’ll go through what I rightly predicted as well. In fact I may as well start there.

Paul Scheuring stated before the season even began that Prison Break series 5 is based on The Odyssey by Homer. So for this reason the finale was predictable. For example, in The Odyssey the Greek hero Odysseus outsmarts Poseidon and successfully traps him. So for that reason I knew that Michael was going to trap Poseidon somehow, and that he didn’t have any intention of killing him. Poseidon in both the Odyssey and in Prison Break is overly confident that Odysseus/Michael can’t possibly outsmart him.

So I knew Michael was going to outsmart and trap Poseidon in the finale – what else did I know? Well I knew that neither he, Sarah, or Mike could die, and probably not Linc too. I also knew that it was Poseidon’s henchman Van Gogh that gets shot at the end of the penultimate episode. I didn’t know where Sarah was, I will admit, and I think that was a huge cop-out and let down to have her so easily escape. I had also worked out that Michael didn’t actually want T-Bag and Whip to kill Poseidon, I didn’t even think it was Poseidon he asked them to kill, and I also knew that Michael actually didn’t care about either of them – I knew that from Poseidon’s Game Theory speech he gave to Sarah: “You make them love you so much that when they’re up against it their loyalty will make them act against their own best interests”. Michael had already manipulated Whip into killing Ramal for him, and Sid into sacrificing himself for the good of the team. I also knew that Blue Hawaii would have a role, although in hindsight I should have known that he would have been involved in the trap. Oh, and I knew that most of the information encoded in his tatts was useless and intended to waste Poseidon’s time.

Overall the season finale was lacklustre. It was thoroughly predictable. Yes the trap itself was executed very well, but the sub-plots were hastily wrapped up in a dissatisfying way for the main part, and “errors”/contradictions made throughout the series were not addressed – I guess they really were errors. Also, the tatto on the back of his hands was never in the previous episodes (although I did wonder why his knuckles were always black) – and it was revealed in the promo for the episode – bad form! You want proof that the tat isn’t there? Here:

hands-1

hands-2

hands-3

hands-4

Now here’s what I do love about the finale – Michael spectacularly manipulated and betrayed Whip. Now that was beautiful in its own dark-twisted way to show the dark side of Michael. The mechanical hand that he gives T-Bag has a purpose – so that T-Bag will betray his own best interests and land back in gaol. Speaking of which, how the fuck was he released after only 7 years? Why change the fucking timeline to begin with? The original show Seasons 1-4 take place in 2005, not 2010. As a part of the betrayal, Michael lies to T-Bag and Whip and claims that Poseidon will go after him – when in fact there’s no evidence at all that Poseidon has given Whip a second thought, and Whip would be in no danger so long as he remained ignorant of Poseidon’s identity. Anyway, great to see that betrayal and they’re both none the wiser. On the other hand, the relationship between T-Bag and Whip never felt very satisfying.

I also didn’t buy the final scene where Michael has asked the CIA to have Poseidon placed in T-Bag’s cell. Michael wants Poseidon to suffer, not face instant death at the robo-hand of T-Bag… although I doubt that T-Bag actually killed him as is implied in the final scene (he wouldn’t kill someone in his own cell, he’s not that stupid). It was anticlimactic and unnecessary.

So overall, this series just pushed too many subplots that went nowhere. It should have focused itself entirely on Michael’s slow meticulous plan unfolding, and not wasted time on anticlimactic victories along the way. Instead they wanted to do way too many things – Michael has to “escape” the prison, Michael has to “escape” Yemen and ISIS, Michael has to be saved from being poisoned, Michael has to smuggle himself to the US, Michael has to outsmart and get revenge from Poseidon. Also, Linc has to free himself from the debt and get the girl. Jesus it was pathetic.