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Friday, April 30, 2010

Henry Mancini, "Pink Panther Theme"

Sadhu Masichism - Penis Rock Lifting in Nepal


Saw this live when I lived in Nepal. Apparently despite penis enlargement, little chance of a satisfying sex life according to the sadhu I had the fortune to spend some time with.

Man claims to have had no food or drink for 70 years - Telegraph


Prahlad Jani is being held in isolation in a hospital in Ahmedabad, Gurjarat, where he is being closely monitored by India's defence research organization, who believe he may have a genuine quality which could help save lives.
He has now spent six days without food or water under strict observation and doctors say his body has not yet shown any adverse effects from hunger or dehydration.
Mr Jani, who claims to have left home aged seven and lived as a wandering sadhu or holy man in Rajasthan, is regarded as a 'breatharian' who can live on a 'spiritual life-force' alone. He believes he is sustained by a goddess who pours an 'elixir' through a hole in his palate. His claims have been supported by an Indian doctor who specializes in studies of people who claim supernatural abilities, but he has also been dismissed by others as a "village fraud."
India's Defence Research Development Organisation, whose scientists develop drone aircraft, intercontinental ballistic missiles and new types of bombs. They believe Mr Prahlad could teach them to help soldiers survive longer without food, or disaster victims to hang on until help arrives.
"If his claims are verified, it will be a breakthrough in medical science," said Dr G Ilavazhagan, director of the Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences.

Unusual shopping list found. Is it yours?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dr Finlay's Casebook A Time For Laughing Part 1 Great Scottish Memories


Dr Finlay Dr Finlay A've goat heartburn! Get yer tit oot o ma porridge Janet
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Bruce Dale's American Southwest


Great memories of a road trip I took over 15 years ago through Southern Utah, Nevada, Southern California and Arizona. Unique countryside. Highlights included Death Valley, Arches National Park, Dead Horse State Park and the White Rim Trail. I drove it starting at 2pm and finished around 10pm. Guidebook said allow two to three days.
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The Battle of Culloden by His Esteemed Poeticness William Topaz McGonagall


'TWAS in the year of 1746, and in April the 14th day,
That Prince Charles Stuart and his army marched on without delay,
And on the 14th of April they encamped on Culloden Moor,
But the army felt hungry, and no food could they procure.
And the calls of hunger could not brook delay,
So they resolved to have food, come what may;
They, poor men, were hungry and in sore distress,
And many of them, as well as officers, slipped off to Inverness.
The Prince gave orders to bring provisions to the field,
Because he knew without food his men would soon yield
To the pangs of hunger, besides make them feel discontent,
So some of them began to search the neighbourhood for refreshment.
And others, from exhaustion, lay down on the ground,
And soon in the arms of Morpheus they were sleeping sound;
While the Prince and some of his officers began to search for food,
And got some bread and whisky, which they thought very good.
The Highland army was drawn up in three lines in grand array,
All eager for the fray in April the 16th day,
Consisting of the Athole Brigade, who made a grand display
On the field of Culloden on that ever-memorable day.
Likewise the Camerons, Stewarts, and Macintoshes, Maclachlans and Macleans,
And John Roy Stewart's regiment, united into one, these are their names;
Besides the Macleods, Chisholms, Macdonalds of Clanranald and Glengarry,
Also the noble chieftain Keppoch, all eager the English to harry.
The second line of the Highland army formed in column on the right,
Consisting of the Gordons, under Lord Lewis Gordon, ready for the fight;
Besides the French Royal Scots, the Irish Piquets or Brigade,
Also Lord Kilmamock's Foot Guards, and a grand show they made.
Lord John Drummond's regiment and Glenbucket's were flanked on the right
By Fitz-James's Dragoons and Lord Elcho's Horse Guards, a magnificent sight;
And on the left by the Perth squadron under Lord Strathallan,
A fine body of men, and resolved to fight to a man.
And there was Pitsligo, and the Prince's body guards under Lord Balmerino,
And the third line was commanded by General Stapleton, a noble hero;
Besides, Lord Ogilvie was in command of the third line or reserve,
Consisting of the Duke of Perth's regiment and Lord Ogilvy's-- men of
firm nerve.
The Prince took his station on a very small eminence,
Surrounded by a troop of Fitz-James's horse for his defence,
Where he had a complete view of the whole field of battle,
Where he could see the front line and hear the cannons rattle.
Both armies were about the distance of a mile from each other,
All ready to commence the fight, brother against brother,
Each expecting that the other would advance
To break a sword in combat, or shiver a lance.
To encourage his men the Duke of Cumberland rode along the line,
Addressing himself hurriedly to every regiment, which was really sublime;
Telling his men to use their bayonets, and allow the Highlanders to
mingle with them,
And look terror to the rebel foe, and have courage, my men.
Then Colonel Belford of the Duke's army opened fire from the front line,
After the Highlanders had been firing for a short time;
The Duke ordered Colonel Belford to continue the cannonade,
To induce the Highlanders to advance, because they seemed afraid.
And with a cannon-ball the Prince's horse was shot above the knee,
So that Charles had to change him for another immediately;
And one of his servants who led the horse was killed on the spot,
Which by Prince Charles Stuart was never forgot.
'Tis said in history, before the battle began
The Macdonalds claimed the right as their due of leading the van,
And because they wouldn't be allowed, with anger their hearts did burn,
Because Bruce conferred that honour upon the Macdonalds at the Battle
of Bannockburn.
And galled beyond endurance by the fire of the English that day,
Which caused the Highlanders to cry aloud to be led forward without delay,
Until at last the brave Clan Macintosh rushed forward without dismay,
While with grape-shot from a side battery hundreds were swept away.
Then the Athole Highlanders and the Camerons rushed in sword in hand,
And broke through Barrel's and Monro's regiments, a sight most grand;
After breaking through these two regiments they gave up the contest,
Until at last they had to retreat after doing their best.
Then, stung to the quick, the brave Keppoch, who was abandoned by his clan,
Boldly advanced with his drawn sword in hand, the brave man.
But, alas! he was wounded by a musket-shot, which he manfully bore,
And in the fight he received another shot, and fell to rise no more.
Nothing could be more disastrous to the Prince that day,
Owing to the Macdonalds refusing to join in the deadly fray;
Because if they had all shown their wonted courage that day,
The proud Duke of Cumberland's army would have been forced to run away.
And, owing to the misconduct of the Macdonalds, the Highlanders had to yield,
And General O'Sullivan laid hold of Charles's horse, and led him off the field,
As the whole army was now in full retreat,
And with the deepest concern the Prince lamented his sore defeat.
Prince Charles Stuart, of fame and renown,
You might have worn Scotland's crown,
If the Macdonalds and Glengarry at Culloden had proved true;
But, being too ambitious for honour, that they didn't do,
Which, I am sorry to say, proved most disastrous to you,
Looking to the trials and struggles you passed through.
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Afghanistan – the new skiing destination The Guardian


In a classroom just a few hundred metres from the towering niche that once housed a giant Buddha statue, someone has pinned up a poster detailing the attributes of a good ski guide: optimistic, articulate, patient, reliable, active, cheerful, punctual and extroverted.
Sitting around a table in the middle of the room, the 10 young men who hope to become Afghanistan's first ski guides are being taught how to avoid avalanches, and the importance of taking enough food and water on trips up the snow-capped mountains that loom over the town of Bamiyan.
They have all the poster's key attributes in spades. Indeed, it's hard to think of a more agreeable bunch of enthusiastic young men, who chatter in excellent English. The only problem is the one characteristic they all lack: the ability to ski.
Hey the Afghanistan Cricket team is pretty good. This was what Scottish skiing was like over 50 years ago. Mogul down the piste and watch for unexploded land mines?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BBC News - Chocolate lovers 'are more depressive', say experts


Research in Archives of Internal Medicine shows those who eat at least a bar every week are more glum than those who only eat chocolate now and again.
Many believe chocolate has the power to lift mood, and the US team say this may be true, although scientific proof for this is lacking.
But they say they cannot rule out that chocolate may be a cause rather than the cure for being depressed.
In the study, which included nearly 1,000 adults, the more chocolate the men and women consumed the lower their mood.
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Cast of Spongebob dub classics - Mildly disconcerting

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The X Spot: The Grounded Walrus What were you doing when John Lennon died?


Despite my scholarship, I still needed money during my first semester of college. So, I took a job as a campus switchboard operator. Generally, I worked really boring shifts (Sunday mornings, Monday nights), where I might get maybe five to ten calls per hour on a busy day.
A shame, too. With two banks of twenty connections each, I was loaded for bear--especially on a tiny campus with a live-in population of about 800.
One Monday night, I had settled in with a good book, anticipating yet one more shift of tedium. And for the most part, that’s exactly what I got, until suddenly, almost all eight hundred spaces lit up at once. I first thought that something had gone wrong with the console. Worse, I feared getting the blame for it. But when randomly plugging a connection into one of the calls, a terse, feminine voice from one dorm asked me to plug her into the room of another. I then fielded a call from an outside line. Another voice, another request. Time and again, I plugged in to find that someone urgently wanted to talk to someone else. Within a couple of minutes, I’d used up all forty connections, and still hadn’t made an appreciable dent in accommodating the traffic. I took my own, dedicated operator’s line. Starting from the top left, and working my way down, I plugged in, explained that I had maxed out my lines. I asked the party to call again in a few minutes, and pulled the plug out again without waiting for a response, all the while patching in fresh calls as old ones terminated.
It didn’t take me long to realize that nothing was wrong with that console. Something really big had happened. Alone at the front desk, I couldn’t even guess. Half an hour, forty-five minutes later, things had quieted down some, although I still frantically pulled and plugged.
One of the dorm head residents dropped by the office to complete some paperwork and turn it in. I didn’t have time to talk to him for at first, but eventually I got a short breather.
“What’s happened?” I asked.
The HR, looking down on his paperwork, calmly, emotionlessly said, “John Lennon’s been shot.”
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Bob Piper : Brilliant! Dave and the Common People We fuck them over. We're Tories. Thats what we do!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Australian landscapes : Dave Cheng

Michael Fish in his early years. Love the style

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Don’t talk to aliens, warns Stephen Hawking - Times Online


HE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.
“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.
One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
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Photo Hunt: Addiction



During the summer, our kids have an addiction to our pool.
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Saturday, April 24, 2010

America is waiting - David Byrne & Brian Eno

Nice video work to accompany, one of the greatest albums of all time.

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Buxton Memorial


The Buxton Memorial Fountain is a memorial and drinking fountain in London, the United Kingdom, that commemorates the emancipation of slaves in the British Empire in 1834.
It was commissioned by Charles Buxton MP, and was dedicated to his father Thomas Fowell Buxton along with William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Thomas Babington Macaulay, Henry Brougham and Stephen Lushington, all of whom were involved in the abolition. It was designed by Gothic architect Samuel Sanders Teulon (1812–1873) in 1865 coincidently with the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which effectively ended the western slave-trade.


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Friday, April 23, 2010

Iceland volcano: why we were lucky we weren't wiped out | World news | The Guardian

The map is almost uncannily similar to today's: a spray of black dots showing the recorded sightings of a foul grey haze spreading across Europe, from Helsinki to Naples, from Heligoland to Mallorca, and reaching eventually to Aleppo and Damascus – and all of it caused by clouds of ash from an immense volcano erupting far across the sea in Iceland.

But this was a map made from data collected in 1783. The volcano was called Laki, it erupted for eight dismal months without cease, ruined crops, lowered temperatures and drastically altered the weather. It killed 9,000 people, drenched the European forests in acid rain, caused skin lesions in children and the deaths of millions of cattle. And, by one account, it was a contributing factor (because of the hunger-inducing famines) to the outbreak six years later of the French revolution.

Great volcanoes have a habit of prompting profound changes to the world – very much greater in extent than the most savage of earthquakes and tsunamis, even though the immediate lethality of the latter is invariably much more cruel. Though ground-shaking events are generally fairly local in extent, their potential for killing can be terrific: 250,000 died after the Tangshan earthquake in China in 1975; and a similar number died in the Indian ocean tsunami of 2004. Volcanoes seem by contrast relatively benign: the accumulated total number of deaths in all of the great volcanoes of the last 300 years has probably not exceeded a quarter of a million: the total number of casualties from a hundred of the biggest recent eruptions has been no more than those from a single giant earthquake.

But there is a signal difference. Earthquakes and their aftershocks, once done, are done. Volcanoes, however, often trigger long-term and long-distance ill-effects, which history indicates generally far outweigh their immediate rain of death and destruction. Emanations of particles from the tiniest pinprick in the earth's crust, once lifted high into the skies by an explosive eruption, can wind themselves sinuously and menacingly around the entire planet, and leave all kinds of devastation in their train. They can disrupt and pollute and poison; they can darken skies and cause devastating changes in the weather; they can and do bring about the abrupt end to the existence of entire populations of animals and people.

Earthquakes and tsunamis have never been known to cause extinctions; but volcanoes and asteroid collisions have done so repeatedly – and since the earth is today still peppered with scores of thousands of volcanoes ever yearning to erupt, they and the dramatic long-term effects of their eruptions are in fact far more frequent, far more decisive, and far greater than those that are triggered by any other natural phenomenon on the planet.

It is worth remembering that ours is a world essentially made from and by volcanoes. They are creatures that will continue to do their business over the aeons, quite careless of the fate of the myriad varieties of life that teems beneath them and on their flanks. Including, of course, ours.

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The Sandpit Amazing miniature stop motion view of New York

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Been There Done That. How to do it wrong via @abcthedrum

This makes me feel competent.

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Skywatch Friday


Adelaide, West Terrace Cemetary earlier this week.

More, likely less spooky shots at Skywatch Friday
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Been busy this moring

BBC NEWS Laika,. First dog in space died within hours. Very sad.

The dog Laika, the first living creature to orbit the Earth, did not live nearly as long as Soviet officials led the world to believe.

The animal, launched on a one-way trip on board Sputnik 2 in November 1957, was said to have died painlessly in orbit about a week after blast-off.

Now, it has been revealed she died from overheating and panic just a few hours after the mission started.

The new evidence was presented at the recent World Space Congress in Houston, Texas, US, by Dimitri Malashenkov of the Institute for Biological Problems in Moscow.

Noted space historian Sven Grahn told BBC News Online that the new information was surprising and significant as it ended more than 40 years of speculation about Laika's fate.

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Idiots Guide to the UK Election - Private Eye


Ha Ha
Now you have all the facts, you can vote. Where is Nick Clegg?
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CHART OF THE DAY: Now YOU Can Understand How The Goldman Abacus Deal Worked

Simple eh?

Brought to you as a public service by Go Wall St (Fuck the rest of you)

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Shoppers could learn from geese, scientists say | The Australian

DO you think you are an effective shopper, capable of fighting the crowds to get quickly from fashionable shoe shop to department store? Think again.

A study of pedestrian behaviour in a busy high street has shown that shoppers are inefficient. Unlike more competent species - such as ducks and geese - which form streamlined groups to increase their velocity, humans trundle along in a way that cuts their average speed between stores by about a fifth.

Our problem is that we fall into U or V-shaped formations so we can chat with our companions, but this slows both our progress and that of people coming the other way. We are clearly more concerned with chattering than arriving at our destination - however appealing it might seem, according to the Franco-Swiss study.

The findings imply the need for wider pavements and sophisticated urban planning to enable us to keep moving in crowded shopping streets.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Gay swans set up nest at British swannery Two... - Equalitopia Blog

Two male swans have ruffled feathers at the world’s only swannery in England after they set up a love nest together, reports The Telegraph.

The happy couple at Abbotsbury Swannery are the only homosexual swans among more than 1,000 birds at the reserve. They are believed to be only the second male pair ever to hook up at the reserve. The pair show no interest in their female companions and only have eyes for each other.

Manager of Abbotsbury Swannery, John Houston, said: “The swans have been nesting together like this for several years and they get together every nesting season and form a nest together.. They sit on the nest and act in every way as if they were a pair expecting to lay eggs.”

Like most couples, the swans are known for the occasional lover’s tiff, but are quick to sort out their differences.

“They just always stay together and I hear that they have some spectacular fights with each other, but they always make up and get back together,” said Mr Houston.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

I gave the guy a blow job and still didn't get an iPad LOL

Loch Katrine

LOCH KATRINE
by William McGonagall

BEAUTIFUL Loch Katrine in all thy majesty so grand,
Oh! how charming and fascinating is thy silver strand!
Thou certainly art most lovely, and worthy to be seen,
Especially thy beautiful bay and shrubberies green.

Then away to Loch Katrine in the summer time,
And feast on its scenery most lovely and sublime;
There's no other scene can surpass in fair Scotland,
It's surrounded by mountains and trees most grand.

And as I gaze upon it, let me pause and think,
How many people in Glasgow of its water drink,
That's conveyed to them in pipes from its placid lake,
And are glad to get its water their thirst to slake.

Then away to Loch Katrine in the summer time,
And feast on its scenery most lovely and sublime;
There's no other scene can surpass in fair Scotland,
It's surrounded by mountains and trees most grand.

The mountains on either side of it are beautiful to be seen,
Likewise the steamers sailing on it with their clouds of steam:
And their shadows on its crystal waters as they pass along,
Is enough to make the tourist burst into song.

Then away to Loch Katrine in the summer time,
And feast on its scenery most lovely and sublime;
There's no other scene can surpass in fair Scotland,
It's surrounded by mountains and trees most grand.

'Tis beautiful to see its tiny wimpling rills,
And the placid Loch in the hollow of a circle of hills,
Glittering like silver in the sun's bright array,
Also many a promontory, little creek, and bay.

Then away to Loch Katrine in the summer time,
And feast on its scenery most lovely and sublime;
There's no other scene can surpass in fair Scotland,
It's surrounded by mountains and trees most grand.

Then to the east there's the finely wooded Ellen's Isle,
There the tourist can the tedious hours beguile,
As he gazes on its white gravelled beautiful bay,
It will help to drive dull care away.

Then away to Loch Katrine in the summer time,
And feast on its scenery most lovely and sublime;
There's no other scene can surpass in fair Scotland,
It's surrounded by mountains and trees most grand.

The mountains Ben-An and Ben-Venue are really very grand
Likewise the famous and clear silver strand;
Where the bold Rob Roy spent many a happy day,
With his faithful wife, near by its silvery bay.

Then away to Loch Katrine in the summer time,
And feast on its scenery most lovely and sublime;
There's no other scene can surpass in fair Scotland,
It's surrounded by mountains and trees most grand.

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Bin Laden, the common man, a secret fan of footie and Monty and a talented volleyball player - Times Online

In between plotting terror attacks and gloating about them on videos, Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most wanted fugitive, is an extremely useful presence on the volleyball court, it has emerged.

“He is so tall that he does not need to jump up to do a smash,” said Nasser al-Bahri, one of the Al-Qaeda leader’s former bodyguards. His memoir, published in Paris last week, reveals another side of the West’s favourite bogeyman: besides his uses at the net, Bin Laden also likes playing football, preferably at centre forward. Even then, he never takes off his turban.

He is a voracious reader who enjoys quoting the memoirs of Britain’s Field Marshal Montgomery and France’s General Charles de Gaulle; and besides his quest to set up a caliphate, he is passionate about racehorses, says the bodyguard.

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The Sexiest and Strangest Vintage Ads From Decades Past

Thomas the Tank Engine and his Sodor Mates Go Spectacularly Bust

The company, which is chaired by Greg Dyke, the former BBC director-general, blamed the loss on the increasingly competitive marketplace for pre-school broadcasting.

In its results statement, HIT said: "There are a number of production companies operating in this space, and while the industry has seen a proliferation of specialist kids' channels emerge during the past decade, overall TV revenue growth remains modest. This is due in part to the large broadcasters developing their own programming, and hence the demand for an independent third party has declined."

It also blamed the decline in the market for sales of DVDs and said "new offerings, such as digital downloading, will present challenges to the traditional sell-through model".

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Cultivated Play: Farmville | MediaCommons

[This essay was given as a talk at SUNY Buffalo, 28 January 2010, the day after Howard Zinn’s death. I have left the text unaltered, to better reflect the spirit of the talk.]

I’m worried that students will take their obedient place in society and look to become successful cogs in the wheel - let the wheel spin them around as it wants without taking a look at what they’re doing.
                                                      — Howard Zinn

The great social historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, died yesterday of a heart attack. Zinn devoted his life to educating Americans in their country’s history, that they might better understand their place in its present. Such understanding is today at a premium. Ours is a time of confusion, of unprecedented changes that outpace our perceptions. As Zinn might have said, the wheel keeps spinning faster, and the faster it spins the harder it is to see.

At such times, and at such speeds, the task of educating ourselves becomes all the more urgent. We are citizens of a democracy, and democratic citizenship has always been a difficult skill to master. This is why Aristotle tells us that, in an ideal state, citizens would possess ample leisure time: the education of a citizen depends upon contemplation, deliberation, and training. Citizenship requires cultivation and, as any farmer would tell us, cultivation takes time.

Perhaps it seems a waste of time to discuss video games at a moment like this. After all, this is a serious discussion, and games are supposedly frivolous things. Most any concerned parent might say, “Play is an occasion of pure waste: waste of time, energy, ingenuity, skill, and often of money….”[1] So said Roger Caillois in his book, Man, Play, and Games. Of course, Caillois went on to praise games as a source of joy, as well as a healthy means of “escape from responsibility and routine.”[2] For Caillois, as for Aristotle, games are in fact essential to citizenship: they allow us to refresh and renew ourselves, help to socialize us, and afford us opportunities to cultivate our imaginations and reasoning skills.[3]

If games are essential to citizenship, then this could be a promising time for our democracy. According to a recent survey, over half of American adults play video games, and one in five play everyday or almost everyday. Does this mean we are becoming better citizens? Ninety-seven percent of American teenagers play video games.[4] Does this mean they will become more politically active? Before you dismiss these questions, keep in mind that in October 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama became the first U. S. Presidential candidate to advertise in video games, when his “Early Voting Has Begun” ads appeared in Madden 2009, Burnout Paradise, and other Electronic Arts video games.[5]

Much has been made of President Obama’s sophisticated use of new media technologies. He utilized the internet extensively in organizing and raising funds for his campaign, and has maintained an active presence on popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. To illustrate, he is currently taking questions about last night’s State of the Union address via YouTube, and plans to answer those questions next week in a live, online video feed.[6] While it remains unclear how such events are affecting politics, it is clear that new media technologies pervade the sociopolitical realm. So we cannot simply dismiss video games and Facebook as mere ‘wastes of time.’ Instead, we are obligated to educate ourselves about them, and to try to understand what they mean, and what it means that we use them.

With this in mind, it seems appropriate to examine the most popular video game in America. Farmville is a free, browser-based video game that is played through one’s Facebook account. Users harvest crops, decorate their farms, and interact with one another, in what is ostensibly a game about farming. While this may sound like a relatively banal game, over seventy-three million people play Farmville.[7] Twenty-six million people play Farmville every day. More people play Farmville than World of Warcraft, and Farmville users outnumber those who own a Nintendo Wii.[8] This popularity is not surprising per se; even in the current recession, video game revenues reached nearly twenty billion dollars in America last year.[9] The video games industry is a vibrant one, and there is certainly room in it for more good games.

Farmville is not a good game. While Caillois tells us that games offer a break from responsibility and routine, Farmville is defined by responsibility and routine. Users advance through the game by harvesting crops at scheduled intervals; if you plant a field of pumpkins at noon, for example, you must return to harvest at eight o’clock that evening or risk losing the crop. Each pumpkin costs thirty coins and occupies one square of your farm, so if you own a fourteen by fourteen farm a field of pumpkins costs nearly six thousand coins to plant. Planting requires the user to click on each square three times: once to harvest the previous crop, once to re-plow the square of land, and once to plant the new seeds. This means that a fourteen by fourteen plot of land—which is relatively small for Farmville—takes almost six hundred mouse-clicks to farm, and obligates you to return in a few hours to do it again. This doesn’t sound like much fun, Mr. Caillois. Why would anyone do this?

One might speculate that people play Farmville precisely because they invest physical effort and in-game profit into each harvest. This seems plausible enough: people work over time to develop something, and take pride in the fruits of their labor. Farmville allows users to spend their in-game profits on decorations, animals, buildings, and even bigger plots of land. So users are rewarded for their work. Of course, people can sidestep the harvesting process entirely by spending real money to purchase in-game items. This is the major source of revenue for Zynga, the company that produces Farmville. Zynga is currently on pace to make over three hundred million dollars in revenue this year, largely off of in-game micro-transactions.[10] Clearly, even people who play Farmville want to avoid playing Farmville.

If people don’t play Farmville because of the play itself, perhaps they play because of the rewards. Users can customize their farms with ponds, fences, statues, houses, and even Christmas trees, and compare their farms with those of their friends. It’s important to note that Farmville is a public game, shared with friends across the largest social networking site in America. It makes sense that some people would enjoy the aesthetics of Farmville, of designing and arranging their farms. No doubt some users want to show off their handiwork, and impress and compete with their virtual neighbors. Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine seventy-three million people playing a game that isn’t fun to play, just to keep up with the Joneses. After all, we have real life for that sort of thing.

Even Zynga’s designers seem well aware that their game is repetitive and shallow. As you advance through Farmville, you begin earning rewards that allow you to play Farmville less. Harvesting machines let you click four squares at once, and barns and coops let you manage groups of animals simultaneously, saving you hundreds of tedious mouse-clicks. In other words, the more you play Farmville the less you have to play Farmville. For such a popular game, this seems suspicious. Meanwhile, Zynga is constantly adding new items and giveaways to Farmville, often at the suggestion of their users. Hardly a week goes by that a new color of cat isn’t available for purchase. What fun.

Again: if Farmville is laborious to play and aesthetically boring, why are so many people playing it? The answer is disarmingly simple: people are playing Farmville because people are playing Farmville.

My mother began playing Farmville last fall, because her friend asked her to join and become her in-game neighbor. In Farmville, neighbors send you gifts, help tend your farm, post bonuses to their Facebook pages, and allow you to earn larger plots of land. Without at least eight in-game neighbors, in fact, it is almost impossible to advance in Farmville without spending real money. This frustrating reality led my mother—who was now obligated to play because of her friend—to convince my father, two of her sisters, my fiancée and (much to my dismay) myself to join Farmville. Soon, we were all scheduling our days around harvesting, sending each other gifts of trees and elephants, and posting ribbons on our Facebook walls. And we were convincing our own friends to join Farmville, too. Good times.

The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss tells us, gifts are never free: they bind the giver and receiver in a loop of reciprocity. It is rude to refuse a gift, and ruder still to not return the kindness.[11] We play Farmville, then, because we are trying to be good to one another. We play Farmville because we are polite, cultivated people.

One wonders if this is a good thing. It is difficult to imagine Aristotle or Caillois celebrating Farmville as essential to citizenship. Indeed, when one measures Farmville against Roger Caillois’ six criteria for defining games, Farmville fails to satisfy each and every one. Caillois stated that games must be free from obligation, separate from ‘real life,’ uncertain in outcome, an unproductive activity, governed by rules, and make-believe.[12] In comparison:

(1) Farmville is defined by obligation, routine, and responsibility;
(2) Farmville encroaches and depends upon real life, and is never entirely separate from it;
(3) Farmville is always certain in outcome, and involves neither chance nor skill;
(4) Farmville is a productive activity, in that it adds to the social capital upon which Facebook and Zynga depend for their wealth;
(5) Farmville is governed not by rules, but by habits, and simple cause-and-effect;
(6) Farmville is not make-believe, in that it requires neither immersion nor suspension of disbelief.

Of these points, the fourth is the most troubling. While playing Farmville might not qualify as work or labor, it is certainly a productive activity, as playing Farmville serves to enlarge and strengthen social capital. Capital is defined as “any form of wealth employed or capable of being employed in the production of more wealth.”[13] New media companies like Zynga and Facebook depend upon such wealth in generating revenue, just as President Obama depends on social capital to raise money, to organize, and to communicate. Unlike President Obama, though, Zynga is not an elected official, and is not obligated to act with the public’s interests in mind.

Zynga has recently used Farmville to raise almost one million dollars to support earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.[14] Social capital can allow organizations to do great and noble things, and to do so quickly and efficiently. Zynga actually began its charitable efforts with Haiti last fall, around the time my family began playing Farmville. Also at this time, Zynga was engaged in numerous “lead gen scams,” or advertisements that trick customers into making purchases or subscribing to services. As of November, one third of Zynga’s revenue (roughly eighty million dollars) came from third-party commercial offers, such as Netflix subscriptions that came with Farmville bonuses, or surveys that involved hidden contractual obligations.[15] One user reportedly was charged almost two hundred dollars one month, as a result of cell-phone services for which she had unknowingly signed up, while following Farmville ads in search of bonuses.[16] So many users were scammed, in fact, that Zynga and Facebook are now involved in a related, multi-million-dollar class action lawsuit.[17]

The wheel keeps spinning, faster and faster. More people are signing up to play Farmville every day, as well as other similar Zynga games, such as Mafia Wars, YoVille, and Café World. Analysts estimate that, if the company goes public in the summer of 2010, Zynga will be worth between one and three billion dollars.[18] This value depends in its entirety on the social capital generated by users, like you and me, who obligate one another to play games like Farmville. Whether this strikes you as a scam or just shrewd business is beside the point. The most important thing to recognize here is that, whether we like it or not, seventy-three million people are playing Farmville: a boring, repetitive, and potentially dangerous activity that barely qualifies as a game. Seventy-three million people are obligated to a company that holds no reciprocal ethical obligation toward those people.

It is precisely at a moment like this—when Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has made it legal for corporations to spend unlimited monies on political advertisements—that we must talk about our relationship to corporations, and to one another. We are obligated to examine what we are doing, whether we are updating our Facebook status or playing Call of Duty, because the results of those actions will ultimately be our burden, for better or for worse. We must learn above all to distinguish between the better and the worse. Citizens must educate themselves in the use of sociable applications, such as Wikipedia, Skype, and Facebook, and learn how they can better use them to forward their best interests. And we must learn to differentiate sociable applications from sociopathic applications: applications that use people’s sociability to control those people, and to satisfy their owners’ needs.

As cultivated citizens, we are obligated to one another. We care about one another. As Cornel West has said, democracy depends upon demophilia, or love of the people.[19] Unfortunately, sociopathic companies such as Zynga depend upon this love as well. The central task of citizenship is learning how to be good to one another, even when—especially when—it is difficult to understand our own actions. If Howard Zinn had but one lesson to teach us, it is that cultivated citizens must constantly look around and examine what they’re doing, because there is a fine line between being a cultivated citizen and being someone else’s crop.

 

[1] Caillois, Roger. Man, Play, and Games. New York: The Free Press of Glencoe, 1961 (pp. 5-6).
[2] Ibid (p. 6).
[3] See Aristotle, Politics, from line 30 of 1337b, to line 15 of 1338a; see Caillois, ibid, pp. 37-41.
[4] These statistics were derived from a PEW Internet Project Data Memo, dated 7 December 2008 (http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2008/PIP_Adult_gaming_...).
[5] This was reported in various media outlets, including The Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/10/14/obama-video-game-ads-feat_n_134...) and Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,437763,00.html).
[6] See AFP article, “Obama to take questions via YouTube, answer them online,” 27 Jan. 2010 (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g0E0ZXCheQrRnvquv2DaS...)
[7] Fussell, James. “The Farmville Craze is a Firmly Planted Phenomenon.” The Kansas City Star 22 Jan. 2010 (http://www.kansascity.com/851/v-print/story/1692350.html)
[8] Newheiser, Mark. “Farmville, Social Gaming, and Addiction.” Gamasutra 04 Dec. 2009 (http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MarkNewheiser/20091204/3733/Farmville_Soc...).
[9] Ferro, Mike. “2009 Video Game Industry Revenue Breakdown.” Gamer.Blorge 16 Jan. 2010. (http://gamer.blorge.com/2010/01/16/2009-video-game-industry-revenue-brea...)
[10] Reuters Blog, 17 Dec. 2009 (http://blogs.reuters.com/mediafile/2009/12/17/facebook-nearing-1-billion...).
[11] Mauss, Marcel. The Gift. Chapter One of version available online at Google Books France (http://books.google.fr/books?id=xlkVAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=Marc...).
[12] Caillois, ibid, pp. 9-10.
[13] http://www.dictionary.com/
[14] http://www.ventureloop.com/ventureloop/startup_news_article.php?natId=67...
[15] Arrington, Michael. “Scamville.” TechCrunch 02 Nov. 2009 (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/11/02/scamville-zynga-says-13-of-revenue-...).
[16] Lusicombe, Belinda. “The Troubling Rise of Facebook’s Top Game Company.” Time Online 30 Nov. 2009.
[17] Arrington, Michael. “The Scamville Lawsuit.” TechCrunch 12 Nov. 2009 (http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/11/12/the-scamville-lawsuit-facebook-mysp...).
[18] http://mashable.com/2009/12/15/huge-farmville-maker-zynga-raises-an-asto...
[19] West, Cornel and Roberto Mangabeira Unger. The Future of American Progressivism. Boston: Beacon Press, 1998 (p. 12).

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Atlantics - Bombora




Saw these guys at the Adelaide Guitar Festival on the day Kevin 07 became King of the Hill. Very distinctive Aussie sound.

CalumCarr on .... Whatever: 60’s Protest Songs

The Elephant in the room for the UK election. Why are more people not angry about an unwinnable war?

Great collection of protest songs from Calum

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Amazing/Utterly Pointless « The Ben Lomond Free Press

You will never get these three minutes back. Be warned.

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Danny Gatton' s Beer Bottle Slide

Amazing guitartist. Never got to see him live when I lived in DC, although we tried a few times. Then he was dead.

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JELLYFISH ONLINE: Things I Would Rather Do Than Subject Myself To A Second Viewing Of Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Australia’

Scrub a toilet.

Go to the dentist.

Eat a bucket of overcooked broccoli.

Fling my naked body into a large clump of stinging nettles.

Initiate a conversation with the weirdos who live at Number 1 in my apartment block and are always doing something vaguely creepy when I walk past.

Wear dangly gumnut earrings.

Utter the words, ‘You know, I think those Scientologists are just misunderstood.’

Many more at Jellyfish Online

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CalumCarr on .... Whatever: Who Knows Where the Time Goes?

Time flies: never to be recaptured, lost forever.

One who was lost forever to life was Sandy Denny who wrote this beautiful song - she died in 1978 aged only 31 but she is not forgotten.

Her song has been recorded by many but none more beautiful than her own. My favourite is the version recorded with the Strawbs.

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Saturday, April 17, 2010

Photo Hunt Covered


As part of establishing our new garden bed, we covered the soil with pea straw.
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Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry lobbies for Mental Health Care Reform Come on @premiermikerann Get on Board

A critical issue that has been pushed to the side? There must be no health reform without mental health reform. Together we can make sure this silent disease, which half of us will experience in our lifetime, is on the agenda at Monday's crucial meeting of all levels of Australian Government.

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Contemplating

Process shots of famous Grace Jones album cover - Boing Boing

Slave to your rhythm Grace

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Waters return to Lake Eyre

Stunning photo gallery.

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Icelandic Volcano Erupts Photogallery from the Australian

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jean van de Velde golf collapse 1999 Open at Carnoustie

Watched this live in Singapore. The nuttiest finish to a golf tournament ever. Hello? Hit it with a putter. Not if you are French. Go for glory.

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