Sunday, January 31, 2010


Poker Face

No limit hold'em poker's extraordinary surge in popularity was partly triggered by the 2004 NHL lock-out which resulted in TV sports channels having hours of empty time to fill. At the same time the game was becoming a very lucrative internet business, allowing cheap and fast readily-available games around the clock. And important, in the world of gambling (online and live), was the ability to play against other humans rather than against a distrusted casino, with all their guaranteed mathematical edge.

As a TV spectacle, since there's so little to see beyond the dodgy baseball caps and shades, poker would have been cripplingly soporific were it not for the innovation of the lipstick camera, a cunning way for the viewers to see the players' hole cards. Thus, the fascinating inner psychological world of body language and emotional response, that's so alluring to the game's participants, is beautifully contextualised. So essentially, for us the viewers, a delicious transparent concession becomes visible; a privilege to which the players themselves are, naturally, denied.

And it's this denial of meaningful information, other than who's winning and losing, that's an integral part of the appeal for the players themselves. Because it allows them to hold on to their most cherished superstitions about themselves and others.
See, poker isn't what it at first seems to be: it's not a card game. It's a people game founded on probabilistic outcomes based on severely incomplete data.

It's rather similar to the attractive delusions us guys (typically) have about our alleged skills in the bedroom, or say, behind the wheel of a car. They're beliefs that, reassuringly, can't be challenged because neither we nor anyone else are permitted meaningful means of contrast, comparison, or calibration. It's a perfect breeding ground for zealously exaggerated I-thinks, and when added to the rushes and thrills to be had from gambling and Lady Luck, poker becomes all too irresistible.



Friday, January 29, 2010


'Great' Britain's Royal Navy, so totally pwned by the ever-intrepid Somali pirates, even offered victuals and fuel to help them get them and their captives home safely. I've also read unconfirmed reports that a number of the picaroons, awash with ill-gotten $$$, are now further expanding their both literal and figurative horizons by setting up illegal after-hours girly bars in Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road. An admirable application of a discredited capitalism. Great empires have been built on far less.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


It seems amazing that anyone would willingly eschew all Munich's wonderful traditional bierhaus, bierkeller, biergarten experiences for an oh-so-unappetising Helvetica bar or restaurant. And not just in Munich. The scourge of the H-bar is everywhere, and it's a secret wish of mine that each one that pops up like a malignant landscape tumour results in business disaster.

Whilst whingeing on so, these American Apparel goods will definitely NOT be on my birthday wish list (even though you have to admire AA's splendid Ogilvyesque advertising campaigns).


Monday, January 25, 2010


When Sylvia Kristel, totally unprompted and despite a natural demureness, let her top slide off her shoulders during the Emmanuelle audition, she demonstrated a brilliant example of preempting the inevitable forthcoming request. Naturally, she got the part she so badly wanted, and so richly deserved.

Seizing the initiative by acting before an impending directive demonstrates high social value, and, despite requiring some boldness, is utterly disarming. Paradoxically, it is often the most effective means for withdrawing compliance and establishing higher social value than those who would have you infantilised. One relevant use is against mindless bureaucratic pettiness, for example, the hateful buffoons at airport security.

Before these muppets have even been given a chance to say a word, you politely throw two or three questions yourself in their direction.

Should I remove my scarf?
And what about my belt, is that necessary too?
I've also got a few coins in my pockets, is that OK for the scanner?

Simultaneously, you remove each item. Ostentatiously. By which time they'll be rendered speechless to the point where you can enjoy the petty (but not insignifcant) 'victory' of getting your liquids through without their being checked.

Friday, January 22, 2010


wonderful week in Munich spent really getting to know the city better than the previous too-short maiden visit - and really, what a marvellously enigmatic place it is, especially outside the busy tourist season; loved the museums, the walks, the markets and their produce, the fresh air, the singular preponderance of single male shamblers, and of course the bierkellers (damn, the Augustiner beer is soooo good, and I don't even like beer)

Mignini and Giuttari convicted
that's the good news; the bad is that while Knox and Sollecito languish in jail, these two bastards are allowed to remain in office pending the duration of their labyrinthine appeals process

Thermal compounds update

we have the tools, we have the technology; we have the innards, we have the operating table - can this be brought back to life, or are the Demon's Souls forever gone?

Cut Hands on CNN
in what seems to be a remarkable coup for Vice, the Vice Guide To Liberia film is now being featured on


Thursday, January 14, 2010


More arbitraries from the last week or so.

Surgery Tourism part two
just back from a lovely weekend enjoyed in London - Saturday was spent doing the Wellcome Institute's Euston Road HQ exhibition (Helvetica Design Squad Alert :-(); the highly recommended Hunterian Museum (featuring an unfeasible preponderance of strange things suspended in jars, a unique collection of forceps and scary extraction devices, the skeleton of the Irish Giant, in addition to lots of other seriously weird surgical ephemera); and finally, the Old Operating Theatre near London Bridge, an extraordinary no-concessions bastion to the depressing onslaught of modern day museum culture - fascinating talk and demostrations, freedom to walk around and peruse the quirky exhibits close up, and even a super-quaint bookshop

Amaral said 'fala com', you fucking idiots
tabloid newspaper The Sun is officially the most obnoxious and ugly rag, notwithstanding the UK already having serious competition to that accolade, and you may already know what I think about that most loathsome of institutions that is the BBC: this story is a neat encapsulation
update 16/1/10: add that asswipe Tony Parsons of the Daily Mirror to the above

Thermal compounds
the beloved first-gen Japanese PS3 of this Sony fanboy got the Yellow Light Of Death last night, and now I'm gently assembling the necessary tools to perform open-heart surgery on its sexy innards with the aid of some sticky thermal compounds and a phallic-looking heat gun

Cut Hands update
the film is being premiered on January 19th - canNOT wait to see it; another track added to those already listed:
Cut Hands - Welcome To The Feast Of Trumpets 6:45 (written and performed by W.Bennett, 2010)


Wednesday, January 13, 2010


The Road (*)
poorly edited post-apocalyptic drear of the most mindless gratuitous implausible variety

The Lovely Bones (*)
oh-so-desperately wanting to be an overstyled Silence Of The Lambs-style horror, yet at the same time holding out for the chance of an Oscar nomination via some exceptionally dishonest characterisations and plot devices

Whip It (*)
this and the similarly deadpan smartass Juno has already officially rendered Ellen Page as irritating beyond belief - trash-by-numbers

Import/Export (*****)
this highly absorbing pseudo-documentary from Ulrich Seidl (he of the amazing Animal Love and the less-than-amazing Dog Days) is an asymmetric take on the brutally mundane horrors of two separate lives - the exteriors in the Ukraine and Slovakia are breathtaking, as are the cruel anodyne interiors in Vienna; the extraordinary final act in the old people's home echoes some of Frederick Wiseman's finest work

The Stepfather (****)
classic 80s horror a zillion times better than the recent dreadful (and pointless) remake - nice Patrick Moraz soundtrack to boot

Midnight Movie (*)
laughably bad Z-movie horror - it'd seem the entire $500 budget was blown on the cheesy heavy metal opening credits

The Time Traveler's Wife (*)
creepy (for all the wrong reasons)

Up In The Air
awful - predictable - George Clooney

The Tenant (****)
memorably excellent (and faithful) adaptation of Topor's unsettling novel, directed by Roman Polanski, starring Polanski

Susana (The Devil And The Flesh) (****)
if you love a good b&w oldie, don't deny yourself this Buñuel treat - the fast-paced dialogue matches the wonderful theatre of witnessing the wayward Susana tearing a seemingly perfect family apart

Sunday, January 10, 2010


What Are Movie Credits For?

The afternoon used to be a nice time for a movie visit if you're particular about where you sit and are averse to noisy popcorn munchers. Used to until that moment a few years ago I had that entire Las Vegas movie theatre for myself just before the start. But typical: someone else comes in and sits down.

Of course, that would be trivial if he hadn't chosen the same row two seats along from my own. Didn't anyone tell the creep that there are fixed rules for people displacement in public places such as buses, trains, urinals, and yes, cinemas? But it's moments like these when you quickly learn how much our own behaviour and emotional responses are much more a product of the nature of our environment as it's clear his proximity was only worrying relative to the room's emptiness. In other words, the physiology of the environment was the key to the scary discomfort, not where he and I happened to be sitting, which naturally would, in the presence of a larger audience, be perfectly normal.

So nowadays it's packed evenings at the cinema. There we all sit enjoying the pre-movie ritual of the trailers of forthcoming attractions. That bit where we find out about what's coming up - even though you know right away that you mostly won't like them. But occasionally, something will intrigue you, catch your eye, enough that you'll really be impatient to see it in full when it comes out, that for me, I can tell straight away.

Then there's a short pause before the curtain is drawn, which is great because that's when everybody magically shuts the fuck up. And we see the famous Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion roar, the Paramount mountain top, or the mechanised Lionsgate (whose association with the Saw franchise often causes one an ice-cold anticipatory shudder). These brief logo sequences act as a preparation to lead us irresistibly to the induction of the opening credits that hopefully allow us to enjoy reaching the extended altered trance state we crave for the entire film.

The process has become so ritualised nowadays. It's not certain how much film producers are even aware of the credits' true importance, considering them a mere exercise in vanity, and thus abusing the audience in the mistaken belief that we care much about their content (other than perhaps IDing the name of a song). The current trend for opening titles that can last for several minutes often seem to prematurely break the entry towards the desired state, rather than help us achieve it.

Going to the movies is participating in a powerful form of mass hypnosis, which is what makes it so much more memorable and fun than sitting at home and watching some thing on TV. We enter into an unwritten contract with the moviemakers to manipulate the hell out of us for the duration, and for it to be done really satisfyingly and effectively well. If we partake in eating and drinking, far better it be stuffs that don't need to be seen, that can be mechanistically applied to our cataleptic torsos.

To neatly bring us out of trance, old films would announce 'The End' or 'Fin', whilst modern films are still followed by the customary scrolling credits to allow us some valuable contemplation time to recompose our emotions, feelings, and thoughts, if not our state of un/dress. And to then file back out into the lobby in an orderly fashion. Nothing worse than being caught in the harsh glare of houselights being switched back on, is there?

Meanwhile at Las Vegas, I got the hell out of there well before any of that and left the other guy to it.

coming soon:


Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The Nature Of Facebook/Twitter Updates - Addendum

There have been a few mails requesting further details on elements included in the hierarchical list I included in the above-mentioned post - some expansion is hereby added to some of the entries.

- use of first person pronouns (I, me, my, mine etc.)
the most obvious marker of egocentricity: all discourse that we process is filtered through our own 'I', represented by our own feelings, emotions, experiences, hypotheses, sensorial awarenesses - use of first person thus demands that we, the listener, can relate to the utterances in a meaningful way, something which demands a lot of our tolerance (especially if we have no implicitly invested interest) - in turn therefore, first person statements are often reciprocated with similarly themed first person retorts to balance the interaction

- frequency of first person pronouns

- proximity of first person pronouns to the beginning (e.g. commencing with 'I')
since we process language in the order in which we receive it, the closer to the beginning of the utterance that first person forms appear in during discourse, the greater the effort required of us (see comments above) - contrast 'MY favourite new album is X' to 'X is my favourite new album' to ' the new album X is my new favourite'

- use of active or passive voice
the use of passive forms is a deceptive device that can be used to dissociate the speaker from the action in question, yet also act as a device to lessen the degree of egocentricity for the benefit of the listener, achieved
through the suppression (or delay) of first person forms

- expressions of opinion (an implicit or explicit 'I think that...')

- ratio of factual detail (times, places, names etc.) over process language (feelings)
as stated above, factual detail (unless it directly concerns the listener) can be more challenging to process as it requires more neurological energy to relate to, which is why long bouts of 'small talk', 'technical talk', 'job talk' and similar, can be -shall we say- rather less than riveting

- degree of assumption of second person interest
the degree of assumption of the listener's interest directly correlates to consciously or unconsciously perceived egocentricity by the listener - in extreme cases, this can mean an interpretation of outright arrogance on the speaker's part

- pseudo-attempts to engage (e.g. throwing out a question, attention-seeking, sympathy-seeking)
only rarely are people consciously aware of these gambits, yet after their initial responses, there are often rapid unconsciously enacted moving-away strategies when people feel their attention is being thus manipulated

- enigmatic, in-jokes

it would seem (perhaps surprisingly) that the more obscure the in-joke, the better tolerated the utterance is, possibly due to the greater potential afforded the listener for their own personal interpretation

coming soon:
DIETROLOGY : What Are Movie Credits For?