Sunday, 23 June 2013

Guilty Pleasures : I Was Bitten


I Was Bitten is one of these "shockumentary" shows put out by the Discovery Channel/Animal Planet. As the name implies, it's about people being taught nature's harshest lessons in the most painful ways imaginable.
(Pic : 3ringcircus.tv)

It reminds me of the old BBC show "999". Except, instead of Michael Buerk telling you what to do if you're impaled by a bicycle, you have Dr Sean Bush (pictured below) explaining – in some detail – what will happen to your body if you're half-eaten by a tiger or bitten by a massive spider.

Dr Bush comes across as the sort of doctor who unwinds at the end of the day with a raw steak and death metal.

He explains things in a very matter-of-fact manner that's not....entirely reassuring. It's as though he's trying to hold back his excitement at describing the intricacies of being killed by a snake. Like a kid in school trying to put on a deadpan look, whilst desperately wanting to raise their hand to answer a question.

His descriptions are interspersed with attention span maintaining "whoosh" noises, accompanied by computer generated - sometimes real - images of people being turned to mush from the inside out by hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

"Your flesh will begin to rot...."
WUSSSSHSSHSHSH
...."Your eyes will turn inside out...." WUSSSSHSSHSHSH...."Every single orifice in your body will drain blood like a tap...." WUSSSSHSSHSHSH...."It's probably the most excruciating way to die."

And that's just his opinion on Channel 5.


All the classic signs of a doctor who
probably knows his Cannibal Corpse
from his Napalm Death.
You also get to see nature's handywork, as the survivors hold up their scarred and/or missing limbs and appendages for the camera.

One of the standout ones for me was the removal of a botfly larvae. You could practically hear it scream as it was dragged out of it's burrow within human leg muscle.

I suppose, hiding somewhere underneath the gore and still images of people dying in hospital beds, there has to be something the audience learns from it all. It's supposed to be educational, isn't it?

You learn : not to get trampled on by an elephant, not to pick up an angry snake, give Australia a wide berth and don't piss off bears, lions, tigers, wildcats etc.

All very useful in Wales, where the most dangerous wild animal is a roidhead with too much shoulder and not enough pavement.

"You should always avoid the male in heat, putting on a pink display for the females...."
WUSSSSHSSHSHSH...."The toothbrush in the top pocket it a sign to stay clear...." WUSSSSHSSHSHSH...."You'll hear the warning call, which sounds like 'Woah, watch where you're goin', butt!'...." WUSSSSHSSHSHSH...

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Troll Biology : Unintelligent Design

Wrong! Wrong! WRONG!
(Pic : Oxford University Hospitals)
The human body is alright I suppose, but there's plenty of parts that scream out like that classic second hand car salesman/game designer's line - "It's not a fault, it's a feature!"

The Brain – True, it's good to have the brain close to the sensory organs. Even if it's well protected, it sits atop of a pretty weak neck compared to the rest of the animal kingdom. Also, all the holes (foramenae) to allow blood vessels and nerves to pass through are rather small and crowded, you could say rather sharp-edged too.

The Odontoid Process – It's a bit of bone sticking up from the second vertebrae which forms a joint with the first vertebrae. Despite this, it's not a weight-baring part, even though it plays a pretty crucial role in holding the head upright. If it breaks – which it can very easily - it can put pressure on lots of nerves, spinal cord and blood vessels.

Cavernous Sinuses – Either side of the nose. Packed full of nerves and arteries, as well serving as an important draining function for the brain's blood supply. It's why you should never pick a spot within a triangle from the bridge of your nose to the corners of your mouth. If the sinuses get infected through a zit gone bad, the infection can travel to the brain, which isn't good.

Wisdom Teeth – Not very wise. Not even needed. A very convenient pathway for infection and intense pain.

The Pharynx – There's an epiglottis to separate them, true. However, encouraging breathing and eating via the same tube sounds like a serious design flaw.

Testicles – Yes, they need to be outside the body because sperm needs a cool environment to be produced. They're also pretty much essential to ensure propagation of the species. That's why they're dangling outside within a loose pouch offering hardly any protection, and why even the slightest injury is incredibly painful.

The Appendix – An easy one. Its function is to get infected, cause extreme pain and try to kill you. However, there is evidence that it plays a role in developing gut bacteria. It's just that once you're born, it's useless. It doesn't wither away and disappear, it just stays there, waiting to get infected and kill you.

The Gallbladder – Not entirely useless as it stores bile and releases it on demand. Considering fresh bile is produced round the clock anyway, it's other major function is to form a collection of painful stones.

Feet – A part of the body with the most pressure placed on it (apart from the arse) contains some very delicate bones, sensitive nerves as well as mostly useless toenails that you get to stub on the corner of things. We would've been better off with hooves.

Male Nipples – Foetuses are female as a default and these are the visible result of that. It's interesting how nipples develop before something crucial like a properly functioning heart. Breast is best.

Recurrent Laryngeal Nerve
– A branch of the Vagus nerve, which controls all sorts of things like heart rate, sweating and peristalsis as well as the larynx (voice box). Except, this branch - instead of having a direct route to the voice box somewhere in the neck - takes a scenic route down towards the heart, loops around the aorta and travels back up the throat. Even in girrafes.

Hips, Back and Knees – Engineering idiocy. Walking upright puts immense pressure on the intervertebral discs of the lower back - so anyone over a certain age will have some sort of back problem - as well as pressure on the meniscus of the knees, which literally grind themselves down because they're not good enough. And as for the hips and pelvis – balancing body weight on two ball and socket joints? That's like sitting in a wheelie chair with two legs. Also, in women, it's too small for a baby to pass through without the potential for injury.

Proximity of the anus, urethra and vagina – A fun fair and nursery next to a sewage works. Inter urinas et faeces nascimur. Though you certainly wouldn't want to be born with a cloaca!

Not so unintelligent design

Respiratory sinus arrhythmia – Not so much a body part. "Abnormal heart rhythm" ring alarm bells, but this causes the heart rate to momentarily increase when breathing in, helping oxygenate the blood. It's more common in athletes.

The Thorax – Pretty much spot on design wise. Flexible protection in the form of the rib cage, no needless blood vessels, close proximity of the heart to the lungs for effective gas exchange and having two lungs in the first place. Though it's not a good idea to lose one.

The Liver – An absolutely remarkable chemical works, and probably the most under-rated organ. Almost everything about it is set up to maximise its role – including the rather useless gallbladder mentioned further up. It's also the only organ that can compensate for loss of tissue.

Sphincter ani internus
"Sphincter" is one of those intrinsically funny Latin words. Apparantly, this "second arsehole" (in effect) plays a key role in warning you if what's on the way out is a solid, liquid or gas. That's useful in both polite and impolite company.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

The 2013 Testing the Stadiums So Nobody Dies Cup

A horizonless void of nothingness. Signings and rumours of signings.
Wait! Is that Sepp Blatter schmoozing with sponsors!?
Protests? What protests?
The Confederations Cup starts tonight, an oasis in a footballing desert. It's been at least a whole two weeks now. A vacuous hell, filled with nothing but the torments of pong, the drawn out agony of cricket and damning temptation of "ITK" (another reason modern football is rubbish) transfer rumour Twitshit.

It's a warm up for World Cups, so it should probably be called the "Testing the Stadiums So Nobody Dies Cup" – as hinted in the title. Or even, "Abou Diaby Memorial Guaranteed Arsenal Player 3 month Injury Invitational" - aka "The Wince Cup" – because that's what every single club manager who've released players for this tournament will be doing whenever there's a robust tackle.

Group A

Brazil – The hosts and current holders. Arguably the strongest squad after Spain, you would expect them to put on a show for their own fans. They dispatched France fairly easily last week and England somehow managed to get a draw a week before that. I can see them top the group quite comfortably, but there are questions about their long-term performances as they don't have the star quality of Brazilian sides of old.

Japan – Asian champions, and the first nation to qualify for the World Cup. Their main man - CSKA's Keisuke Honda - is on fire at the moment at international level, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him move to bigger European club in the summer. They have a very experienced squad, and I don't think they'll embarrass themselves, but Italy and Brazil will probably be too strong for them.

Mexico – Currently struggling to qualify for the World Cup. On paper, there's plenty of goals there, from Man Utd's Hernandez at least. Are they too reliant on him performing? Against Brazil and Italy? I don't see it. I think Japan will give them a game too.

Italy – Qualified by virtue of being runners-up to Spain at Euro 2012, Italy have a – rather defensive - mix of youth and experience in their squad, with only one non-Italy based player. I think this tournament will be used to blood some of the newer players. Dark horses, but I'm not expecting many goals. It depends on how seriously they treat it.

Group B

Spain – Current World and European champions. Spain have, on paper, the strongest squad. What more can you say? They should get out of their group with ease, and should get to the final - at least - if they avoid Brazil in the semi finals. The question is whether the players will get complacent. However, some players like Solado might want to put in a performance as they're in the shop window for transfers.

Uruguay – South American champions. Suarez, Suarez, Suarez. What controversy will the little rat-human hybrid get embroiled in this time? Uruguay had an excellent 2010 World Cup, but look unlikely to qualify next year barring big turnarounds against the nations above them in CONEMBOL qualifying. Is this going to serve as an unnecessary distraction? Will players like Edinson Cavani be distracted by transfer talk? Will they be truly motivated here?

Tahiti – Qualified as Oceanian champions, after New Zealand were knocked out by French Caledonia in the semi-finals of the 2012 OFC Cup. If they keep their three inevitable losses in single figures, they'll be doing extremely well. I'd expect records to be broken here, unless Manuel Neuer has a French Polynesian grandmother he doesn't know about. Think Eddie the Eagle, Eric the Eel and Tim Henman.

Nigeria – A relatively inexperienced and youthful squad's been taken to Brazil. The oldest outfield player is 29. John Obi Mikel is the only "household name" in the squad. However, most of them are the same players who won the African Cup of Nations earlier this year. Could be a surprise package in terms of the group, but it's a big ask.

Semi Finals and Winner

There's the prospect of Spain v Italy and Brazil v Uruguay semi-finals, which wouldn't be too bad you've got to say. On paper, you would expect Spain to end up in the final, probably playing Brazil – who've won this competition a record three times - in front of a Brazilian crowd, in Brazil – where European teams generally don't travel well.

Spain it is, then.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Game of Thrones - Season 3 Reflections

Might contain spoilers. Might.
(Pic : Via tumblr)
I dislike fantasy –  swords, wizards etc. I even missed the whole first season of Game of Thones because I thought I wouldn't like it, and because - on reflection - I'm an moron.Then I saw the first episode of season two by accident and now I'm hooked.

That's probably because of the strength of the plot and characters, not the fact that softcore porn is shoehorned in at every available opportunity. That's a mere boobie bonus.

Season Three has just finished here, mostly dealing with the ongoing war between the various aristocratic houses for the crown. A war which took a big turn in favour of the Lannisters at the end of the second season, allowing Joffrey to play the Caligula to the hammiest maximum.

There wasn't much war this time round, and most of the political machinations occurred in the bedroom – where else – with the Lannisters keen to shore up their bloodline by uniting houses against the Starks through strategic marriages. Even the gays. Tywin Lannister is an equal opportunities bastard.

Not content with trying to breed the Starks out of existence, Tywin once again displayed his impeccable leadership credentials by setting up that "Red Wedding", which took "Don't Tell The Bride" to it's logical extreme, and got a little bit stabby. It's also probably the most interesting wedding I've ever seen, and the best use of household cutlery wedding gifts ever.

Those Lannisters, Freys and Boltons, eh? Such cheeky scamps. The lesson – which the Starks never quite seemed to grasp – never put honour before reason.

I was less concerned with all that though, and more concerned with The Epic of Theon's Willy. I think that teasing before he was relieved of it was the most brazen act of cruelty in the whole series, and Iwan Rheon has done his best to put me off jumbo sausages for life. Boys will be boys – or not as the case may be.

There's Bran Stark and chums, but they're annoying, and their plot this season occupied space that could've been taken up by ass political intrigue. At least Jamie Lannister got what was coming to him, cutting a rather pathetic – even, dare I say it, sympathetic - figure by the end. Cumming home to his sister, so to speak.

Arya's had what you could argue is the Worst Childhood Ever, and that didn't ease up. I suspect that's not going to have a happy ending, but at least we all have someone to cheer as they're put through hell.

And the disfigured girl is so cuuuuuute. Stannis, you utter bastard.

Across the Sea, Daenerys continues the most polite conquests in history. She has the army of Genghis Khan, but the attitude of Ghandi. In this bizarre world, offering any sort of hope or goodwill is offensive. We need more people on fire and disemboweled children, because that's what the show is all about.

Elsewhere, Jon Snow (aka. Jon Snur) – who, presumably after getting fed up with constantly being reminded that he "nors nothin'" – decided to terminate his blossoming relationship with Ygritte, not after getting what he wanted first. Maybe he thought a future with ginger children just wasn't worth it.

She didn't take it well, and he ended up with several arrows in his back. "Let's just be friends" and "It's not you, it's me" doesn't seem to work north of the wall.

That relationship has provided one of the more memorable quotes though. Careless ass-staring costs lives.



Sunday, 9 June 2013

A Quick Guide to Metal Subgenres


Like any ape with a complete lack of self-consciousness, I like metal.

The good thing about metal is you won't become a fashion victim because it's timelessly unpopular. Metal musicians from 40-50 years ago are as (un)popular now as they were then, so it truly spans generations.

For example, if some asked me who or what One Direction are, I'd tell them it's a road sign. But I have heard of the likes of Kreator, Cattle Decapitation (they're vegetarians) and Evile. You can like metal for what it is and be happy about that.

It takes a certain ear to appreciate the music itself, admittedly – what most people would term a "complete lack of taste".

It's not something you dip in and out of either. Metal is a lifestyle change, not unlike becoming a tramp or a monk. It can also be incredibly pretentious. Nothing symbolises that better than the subgenres.

This is very, very serious business.

Black Sabbath
– A subgenre in themselves, as they pretty much spawned the others in some way. I suppose other "Proto/Classic Metal" bands would include Blue Cheer, Cream, Deep Purple, Velvet Underground and....The Beatles.

New Wave of British Heavy Metal – Saved the whole thing, preventing the genre going the same way as punk, by taking it back to its roots and making things louder. Paved the way for the more extreme subgenres further down. Basically reduced to Iron Maiden, Motorhead and Judas Priest. It's not so much a subgenre, more a decent festival line up.

Thrash Metal – Very fast, very loud, but with some level of musicianship required. If the lead tries to hit you with their guitar, the drummer pulls faces as though they're sitting on a spike or there's lots of 20 year old Nike trainers and denim on display, it's probably thrash. You should go into it expecting to lose at least three teeth.

Black Metal
– You know that TV static noise? Picture that with someone screaming through the crackles. These musicians were disappointed Father Christmas didn't deliver a train set when younger, so now most are committed to the complete destruction of Christianity. If Denmark's chief cultural export is melodramas, Norway's is goths on steroids with severe asthma. Requires forests and snow.

Power Metal – Makes up 95% of Germany's cheese exports. Bands will have a mythical hero on album covers, with a dangerously low body fat level and thirty inch biceps. And this isn't homoerotic at all, but incredibly manly. Songs will refer to "metal" or "steel" as if you need reminding. Not suitable for wimps and poseurs.

Doom Metal – Picture the scene. An office worker returns home after a hard day. They pour themselves a drink. They pull out a CD, placing it in their hi-fi with reverence. The CD is Funeral. The drink is Toilet Duck. So ends the story. This isn't "spooky music" for psudo Goths. It's wrist-slitting, "Existence is completely meaningless, the universe is chaotic and random and you will rot alone" music. Usually expressed as :"Duuuuuuuuuuuunnnnnnngaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwooooooooooooo".

Grindcore – Probably considered an assault in certain situations. Played at a breakneck speed, so much so most of it pushes the boundaries of what music actually is. Many songs are under 30 seconds long, and the song titles are more entertaining than the songs themselves. Inexplicably further subdivided into deathgrind, goregrind, pornogrind etc. The worse of this subgenre sounds like "brieeeeeeeee!". Ill advised as lullabies.

Nu Metal – Not metal. The disowned younger sibling nobody talks about, that went through a dodgy "rap phase" and caused much embarrassment when seen in public. That's perhaps unfair, as a few decent bands have come out of this. Slipknot aren't half as bad as people claim either, I consider them a guilty pleasure. Deftones emerged at the wrong time as they're usually clumped in with this lot – which drives them up the wall.

Symphonic Metal – What do you get if Metallica and a symphony orchestra are double-booked at the same venue? Wouldn't that be funny! Ha, ha, ha....oh. Technically accomplished by metal's standards, but the music itself is usually incredibly simple - reduced to four chords and an opera singer warbling over it. It gives down on their luck classically-trained singers a gig, I suppose.

Emo/Hardcore/Metalcore – Metal doesn't want them, punk doesn't want them either, so they took some of the worst aspects of both and that's that.

Hair Metal "Murtley Krooa! Murtley Krooa!" Men who look like women who look like men. Stockings, suspenders, lipstick and perms is the very height of machismo. As music, it's pretty much confined to strip clubs now, and only brought up when people ask, "Hey? Do you remember the 80s!?" Hardly any of the bands made any money because the record companies screwed them over whilst the bands were out screwing.

Death Metal "No, that's not a herd of cattle being slaughtered, it's Endless Bloody Defecation's new album - Gagged by Entrails." Today's singers who sound like a clogged vacuum cleaners are tomorrow's throat cancer victims. "Throat Cancer" would make a good band name come to think of it. Wannabe surgeons who didn't want to do the science, so focused on the guts instead. Probably set fire to ants as a child. Yeah, it's pretty good.

Folk Metal – Somehow exists. Tungsten carbide assault fiddles and X-TremE hurdy gurdys. Requires copious amount of beer. Kudos if you sing in a regional, extinct or made up language. Popular with Finns. Says it all, really. It's power metal, but without the testosterone poisoning.

Progressive Metal – Probably the most "dominant" subgenre at the moment. If a song's over 8 minutes long and you need a maths doctorate to headbang to it, it's progressive metal. It's probably the most stuck up and smug of the sub genres though. Thinking person's metal, a bit "jazzy", but rather hipsterish (English : Different for the sake of being different).

Djent – People take subgenre's very seriously, so you can't just start one on a whim. Djent is soooo a subgenre.

Grunge – People will argue differently, but face it, Alice in Chains are a metal band. Soundgarden are a metal band. Nirvana lyrics wouldn't be out of place on a Type O Negative album. Eddie Vedder is as incomprehensible as any grindcore singer, "hurururrrrr sooouurh burrrrrr". They were just thrash metal bands who couldn't afford white high-tops, wore plaid instead of denim and couldn't keep up speed wise.

New Wave of American Heavy Metal
– Not so much a subgenre, more a movement. Emos and nu-metallers who stopped whining and grew a pair. Casts a wide net in terms of influences, and bit more punky and grittier than something like progressive metal. Ranges from sludgier, progressive bands like Mastodon to grindcore-ish bands like Suicide Silence.

And that's before mentioning Speed Metal, Industrial, White Metal, Groove Metal, Sludge Metal.....

Monday, 3 June 2013

Storm Chasers TWISTEX killed in the line of duty

TWISTEX had developed a "cone" to collect
data from inside tornadoes.
(Pic : theweatherspace.com)

I only ever watched Discovery Channel's Storm Chasers in passing, but I was shocked to hear that the TWISTEX storm chasing team - director Tim Samaras, his son Paul and fellow team member Carl Young - were killed by a tornado in Oklahoma late last week.

Storm Chasers (or at least the later series') featured three teams; one driving around in what can only be described as a a "tank", another in something out of Carmageddon and the TWISTEX team, who used a modified 4x4.

Each team had their own goal, namely to film tornadoes, or drop scientific equipment into their paths, enabling research teams to understand the storms better and improve early warning systems. TWISTEX, for example, developed a "cone" that would collect data from within a tornado.

The need for better warning systems was demonstrated quite dramatically in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago, and Joplin, Missouri in 2011. We're fortunate in Wales that tornadoes are rare, and tornadoes as strong as those the US endures are practically unheard of.

Carmageddon, dude!
But when you're dealing with 200mph winds, even
mini-tanks aren't enough.

(Pic : Discovery Channel)
The TWISTEX chasers died, it appears, simply because a tornado they had been chasing – which was "mid range" in terms of strength - suddenly changed direction, meaning they couldn't get out of the way in time.

What makes this tragedy cruelly ironic, is that TWISTEX – and in particular Tim Samaras – were portrayed as the most safety aware and conservative decision-makers of the three teams; always seemingly reluctant to put themselves in any sort of danger, and often missing out on tornadoes as a result.

These were smart people, too. Just take a look at the academic work TWISTEX have produced. For all the breathtaking images and video footage Storm Chasers had, this hits home just how dangerous it can be.

There's reality television – singing in front of gurning judges etc. And there's reality television – putting your life on the line to help understand the world better.

A third of the main cast of Storm Chasers have died – another cast member took his own life during the show's run. Not even Discovery Channel's other "hazardous job porn" shows – Ice Road Truckers, Gold Rush etc. – come close to that.

That's pretty brutal.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Welcome to No True Welshman


A spin-off blog? Well....yeah, I suppose so.

Oggy Bloggy Ogwr is currently going through its most successful spell since I started it. However, because I've built up such an "archive", many hits are on old posts and probably referral spam too. More recent posts haven't been as directly popular - with a few exceptions.

So, I've decided to maintain my interest by starting a separate blog for "other stuff" -  music, tv shows, sport/sports predictions and pretty much whatever the hell I want (when not related to politics). So it's not "Oggy Bloggy Ogwr II", and hasn't been started with any set aim in mind.

It'll open up more topics and it'll be more fun for me. That's so I don't go insane waffling on about independence, or losing the will to live sifting through Assembly stuff for no reward.

As you would expect, this will be a politics and economics free zone. If you want to discuss that, go to Oggy Bloggy Ogwr or another blog. Moderation will be stricter, but as always I appreciate and encourage comments.

I don't think this will affect "the other blog", as I want it to be lighter, so I'm going to limit word counts....hopefully!

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