bet365, Where’s Your Tool?

I’m almost tempted to turn AdBlock off when I browse YouTube. There’s enough mind-blowingly silly ads on to keep the blog going indefinitely.

As you might be aware, Ray Winstone’s been hawking us bet365 for some time now, but it really only just hit me when I’d seen this ad before a couple of YouTube videos that something seemed horribly, horribly off:

 

 

Well, okay, a couple of things. The giant, wireframed Ray Winstone head that reminds me of Professor Kawashima from the Brain Training games. The now very stale notion we associate being able to do simple internet tasks with our phones or tablets as the coming of a Minority Report-style future where we live in houses made of polygons and almost get hit by flying transparent screens. The fact that its music seems to be very crudely imitating that bit of The Dark Knight where Lucius’s screens can show Batman all of Gotham through phone signals and such. But it wasn’t that. It took three views until that penultimate line (“now that’s a proper tool”)  hit me – I’ve sort of heard him say it before. Viewer discretion advised for the next video…

Yes, somewhere along the line, the marketing of bet365 decided that there’s nothing more they’d quite like to invoke in their high-tech, lens-flared-to-death adverts than one of the more recognisable bits of dialogue – not to mention one of the most brutal scenes – from what remains one of Britain’s most uncomfortable films. Scum was a 1979 film, in which a much younger Winstone is forced to fend for himself in a boy’s borstal. Packed to the gills with unglamourous violence, male rape and racism, it’s one of those films that, while getting on in years, never really loses its sour taste. For me, the closest to that feeling you get watching Irreversible you can get here, and very little else.

I couldn’t shake it. And it’s no coincidence – here’s an earlier ad in which the “where’s your tool?” dialogue exchange from Scum is used almost completely intact (save for the profanity, obviously):

 

I can’t tell what’s weirder – the fact that bet365 seem to think that people who remember Scum particularly well or fondly (if such a word can be applied to it) are the sort of people who’d be interested in internet gambling on their portable devices; or the fact Ray Winstone seems happy to have this exchange with a giant CGI version of his own head. I mean, hell, you’re this invested now, bet365: go the whole hog! Retell the entirety of Scum via these 30 second ads. Looking forward especially to the bit where Ray puts some of those virtual snooker balls in a sock and beats someone with it. Or one where he loses thousands on a Man U v. Newcastle game and slits his wrists in bed, but can’t finish the job and so has to summon the giant floating head for help, who simply lets him die.

Rathe T.G.

KeepYourEmailOpen

Live in the UK? You’ve probably seen this advert before your YouTube videos recently. This seems to be a slightly extended version (by 10 seconds). Anyway, yeah, have a gander.

It irritates me for reasons other than the fact I’ll be seeing it on every shared device I use that doesn’t have AdBlock for the next week or so. Consider what’s worse: the fact Google automatically advertises to you through an algorithm based on keywords you use frequently, or the fact Microsoft inherently assumes you’re a terrible person who has something they should be hiding.

First, the advert itself. It’s annoying, sure, but also incredibly daft as a comparison. Would you really email a friend about how you’re planning to run off with another’s sister, or that you’d crashed his car? Admit it, email is a pretty hard medium to have serious emotional correspondance through. At least Facebook Messenger would probably get you quicker responses. Running off and crashing cars are the sorts of things you just need to have actual face-to-face contact to work out. Or, in these instances, preferably nothing at all, you scheming scumbag, you. Despite their efforts for a sleeker, more Apple-esque image, I still feel this is Microsoft putting a greasy arm around you and saying, “it’s okay, you can still deceive your friends through us”.

Secondly, consider the real point of all this – privacy in emails, or true lack thereof. Here’s another, older video you might have seen.

That’s KeepYourEmailPrivate (apparently the official channel of this campaign, which in itself is an offshoot of Scroogled) citing an example of an email that was about a cat and how Google offered an ad relating to cat toys, and then attacks its insensitivity when the email’s content is about how the cat had been recently put down. Sure, that’s private information, and the ad’s an upsetting coincidence, but if nothing else it demonstrates the very humanlessness of the algorithm’s keyword parsing. Google won’t tell anyone if you’ve crashed someone’s car, they just want to offer you insurance, if you want some. There’s no-one there, not right now. Unless you frequently and openly discuss, say, your plans to commit credit card fraud or acts of terrorism through your Gmail, you probably aren’t going to be setting off a red light at some Google employee’s desk, prompting him to rifle through every word of your account and speed-dial the police.

But say you’re not concerned about what you’re personally doing with the email; you’re just uncomfortable with the notion that a service provider is able to access the emails and their content whenever they choose. After all, the Royal Mail don’t have a record of every letter passed through, do they? Well, sorry – that’s just seemingly now the price you pay for the convenience of a free and easily accessible email account, and you’d be naive to think Microsoft are doing any different. Hell, compare the Microsoft Services Agreement with Google’s Privacy Policy:

Microsoft: ‘3.3. What does Microsoft do with my content? …we may occasionally use automated means to isolate information from email, chats, or photos in order to help detect and protect against spam and malware, or to improve the services with new features that makes them easier to use.’

Google: ‘Information we get from your use of our services. We may collect information about the services that you use and how you use them, like when you visit a website that uses our advertising services or you view and interact with our ads and content.’ …followed by a small laundry list of how exactly they go about that.

So, really, once you know that both can have your information whenever they want – if they did – do you care that one stands to profit from it? In fact, maybe you appreciate that the ads you see are specifically tailored to you, or (like me) just find them irritating but are able to sort-of block them from view when scanning through an email? It’s a case of the more useful of two evils, I guess.

Our free and convenient digital lives have always had the capability to come back to haunt us. Now that we hear about the NSA every other day, though, we’re just that much more continually conscious of what we do. When we’re all down the Google salt mines, or Microsoft work camps, or at the mercy of whoever ends up ‘winning’, we’ll have all the time in the world to properly read our Terms of Service Agreements. For my own safety, my future posts will be cut-and-pasted from magazines and uploaded as scans from different devices several hundred miles from where I actually live before being destroyed. Talk soon, if They haven’t got me yet.

Rathe T.G.

Weird Japanese Vocab #1: 辻斬り and 傾奇者- Tsugijiri (crossroads killing) and kabukimono

DISCLAIMER: I’m learning, so my knowledge of this stuff is still shaky at best. I’ve tried to be thorough on the history and roots here without getting boring but feel free to shout at me if I get anything/all of it wrong.

Another thing I give up on with alarming regularity: trying to learn Japanese. Part of why I keep coming back to it, though, is the oddly compulsive element of picking up kanji, the logographic characters that make up the majority of their written word. It’s like collecting Pokémon, only you’re learning concepts you can build vocabulary from. Another great thing: this language has some really weird words. Some obsolete, some still used, but expressive of things that are either very hard to translate directly into another language, or are just bizarre that they even need words for it. Today we’re focusing on a couple of the more obsolete ones.

Definition from jisho.org:

辻斬り (tsu-ji-gi-ri):

killing a passerby in order to test a new sword

Yep. Let’s break this down. Assuming you know even less Japanese than I do, those first two characters are kanji (ignore the third, that’s hiragana for the ‘ri’ syllable and is there to modify/provide additional pronunciation for the kanji). The first is 辻 (the ‘tsu-ji’ for this word), which is used to express words to do with crossings, street corners, etc. The second is 斬 (the ‘gi’ for this word) and is a now an obscure term for murder, especially decapitation. So, taken literally, we have, ‘crossroads killing’. You can take the crossroads pretty liberally, too – you crossed the wrong road at the wrong time and that, as the old proverb goes, is that.

So, yeah, basically, this was an actual thing, back in the late Sengoku (‘warring states’) period, when ‘samurai’ was gradually ceasing to mean a warrior that was part of, or fought for, the nobility and starting to more befit ‘any dude with a sword trying to make a living’. Rogues would test new swords on random people at night, and that was okay because there were other things for the ‘proper’ samurai to be worrying about – the massive social unheavals, constant war, and so on.

Most of these rogues were called kabukimono, in itself another interesting word when you break up its old-form kanji (傾奇者). To put it very roughly,  傾 = ‘lean/tilt’, 奇 = ‘strange/odd’, 者 = ‘person’. So, someone who leans away from the normal and toward the strange. You could say these were dispossessed samurai: without master or having fallen out of favour, they revelled in their status as outcasts. They wore unusual clothing, like women’s kimonos; carried around odd weaponry (this here‘s a kenka kiseru , a large, double-ended metal smoking pipe you could keep in your kimono and bludgeon people with), and sometimes enjoyed killing the odd random passerby. Because hey, if you’ve waited two months for a katana to be made, you’re probably like little Timmy on his birthday who’s finally been given the Game Boy he’d begged his parents for for ages.

Okuni_with_cross_dressed_as_a_samurai

Only Timmy probably wasn’t dressed like this.

So, to finish, there’s two pretty interesting things that kind of have their roots in kabukimono. First, one of the definitions my Chrome dictionary plugin gives for its modern spelling (歌舞伎者) is ‘the early-17th-century equivalent of the present day yakuza‘. Whether or not the actual yakuza evolved from this fashion isn’t quite that simple, but it’s sort of interesting to see a group analogous to them in this era. The second is kabuki theater – Izumo no Okuni, its originator, was purportedly influenced by kabukimono. The modern characters that make up kabuki (歌舞伎 – roughly meaning ‘sing’, ‘dance’, and ‘technique/skill’, respectively) aren’t the same as the ones that were used for kabukimono, but the word itself still comes from the same archaic verb for tilted/strange. It’s the magic of etymology, kids!

Rathe T.G.

I Will Desert You

Hello, this is the first post I’m going to make here personally, and I really don’t want it to be the last.

If you’ve read our first post, you might have some idea of what we’re like as individuals. We keep to ourselves, have a small number of close friends and people we genuinely care about, and tend to retreat from everything else. For my own part, this is probably because I’m selfish.

This will be the third blog I’ve sort-of started in two years. The other two have died slow, dwindling deaths. There was also a YouTube channel that was actually surprisingly popular at one point that I now don’t really upload anything to. Each time I told myself ‘this time, it’ll be different’, or something to that effect. Nowadays, all I really run is a music-based Facebook page and this blog. But for how long?

Lately I’ve just been thinking more and more about my digital footprint. Not in the ‘oh no, those years I spent as a teenager updating my status with racial slurs has come back to haunt me’ way, though. It’s more interesting to me that all these little interrupted ventures are basically fragments of me and what my interests were from age 15 or so, but they don’t really combine into any particularly satisfactory whole that represents me as a person. It makes me wonder, how much of the internet is like this? What percentage of it is effectively abandoned; how many blogs are sitting out there that will never be updated again, or were simply created and have never had a single post?

In the meantime, some light relief.

In the end, then, what is this? I guess I’m trying to not feel guilty any more. I’m going to stay and write for a bit. This is me getting my life together, hopefully.

Rathe T.G.