Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Robot Wars Episode Four Recap

To quote pit reporter Angela Scanlon, this episode was "the battle of the spinners."


Battle 1

Supernova Vs Wyrm Vs Frostbite Vs Hi5

Supernova is armed with a spinning disc and has competed before in the old wars.  They've achieved some success reaching the heat final in Series 6 and being runners-up in the Third World Championship.  They've also experienced a lot of failure.  In Series 5 and Series 7, they went out in the first round.  They competed last year, but bad driving sent them straight into the pit.

Wyrm were armed with a lifting wedge.  They competed last year with the wooden robot Overdozer.  Yes.  You read that correctly.  They competed with a WOODEN ROBOT.  Unsurprisingly, they went home in a bin bag.  Lesson here? Don't compete with a WOODEN ROBOT.  Thankfully, the team had learned from their mistakes and had entered a metal robot.  Although, Wyrm had very limited armour. But all credit to the Wyrm team, they were very good sports.

Thirdly, there was Frostbite who had a spinning bar and Hi5 who had a lifting arm.


Supernova was the only robot that really did anything in this fight.  They ripped away Frostbite's poor armour, exposing their vulnerable innards.  Supernova's power cannot be understated. Their 22kg spinning disc sheared away Frostbite's 6mm polycarbonate armour, also damaging one of their tyres.

Hi5 also went out early.  I'm not quite sure who took them out really.  It looked like they had just broken down.  As for Wyrm, poor driving sent them crashing into the arena wall, knocking themselves out.  Supernova were the obvious winners with Frostbite staying alive long enough to go through.  But wow.  The power of Supernova's spinning disc was just awesome.

Battle 2

Crushtacean vs Ironside 3 Vs Pulsar Vs Apex

Crushtacean are another robot veteran, although they've never achieved any real success.  They're modelled on a crab and are armed with claws, which are controlled by a pair of motion-sensor claws.  They were still driven by the same father and son team as they were in the original Robot Wars and it was crazy seeing the little boy all driven up.

Ironside 3 had also competed last year, going out in their heat.  They had a mighty bar spinner and a newly added self-righting mechanism.  Their opponents were old rivals Pulsar who were grand finalists Pulsar who took out Ironside on their way to the final.  Pulsar were armed with a lethal drum spinner, which spun at 8700 RPM.  Finally, there was Apex who had a metre-long, 37kg spinning bar.

Against three spinners, Crushtacean never stood a chance.  Their weak aluminium armour was no defense against Ironside's spinning bar.  Meanwhile, Pulsar slammed into Apex who were looking very impressive up until that moment.  Pulsar's spinning drum stopped Apex in their tracks.  They were immobilised.  And for good measure, Pulsar also slammed into Ironside 3, but Pulsar and Ironside were through to the head to heads.

Head to Heads

Supernova Vs Frostbite

Although this battle started slowly, it soon heated up.  Supernova was awesome in this fight.  They completely demolished Frostbite.  Taking out their weapon.  Their armour.  Their wheels.  Pretty much everything.  Frostbite couldn't recover and were rendered immobile.  This battle actually reminded me of when Hypno-Disc destroyed Splinter all the way back in the Fourth Wars.

This fight was regarded as one of the most destructive in Robot Wars history.

Having said that, Supernova's sheer power also caused it problems.  The chain for their spinning disc came off.  Would this cause problems later on?

Ironside 3 Vs Pulsar

Considering that Pulsar took Ironside out last series, this was a grudge match.  This battle began with some bad driving by Ironside.  Firstly, they drove into the CPZ and then onto the floor flipper.  This allowed Pulsar to get some good hits in, but Pulsar also had driving problems.  Just like Ironside, they also drove into the CPZ and were attacked by Sir Killalot.

What the problem with Pulsar is that their spinning drum is too low mounted.  This stopped them from causing any serious damage.  Meanwhile, Ironside 3 began attacking them, stopping their drive on one side. It was quite funny really.  Pulsar kept hopping up one wheel, as if it were dancing across the arena.  And then this is where the controversy started.

Ironside 3 believe that Pulsar was immobile and was being counted out, and thus they didn't finish Pulsar off.  However, this wasn't the case at all and the decision went to the judges.  The judges realised that a technical fault had caused the Ironside team to incorrectly see the 10 second countdown.  Because of this, the judges decided the fight was a draw and awarded both teams 2 points.

Pulsar Vs Supernova

This was a short but sweet fight.  Both robots powered up to full speed, before Supernova slammed into Pulsar.  Supernova was sent flying away.  The shockwave was so powerful that I felt it through my TV.  It was so destructive that Supernova was taken out in one blow.  Their spinning disc was no match for Pulsar's spinning drum.  This head-on collision completely immobilised Supernova.


To break up the Robot Wars fights, Dara O'Briain or Angela Scanlon interview one of the judges about advances in the robotics industry.  Generally, I don't cover these segments, as I'm only interested in the robot battles, but this intermission was very interesting.

Angela Scanlon interviewed judge and chartered engineer Dr Lucy Rogers who explained the best materials to construct robots out off.  Firstly, there was High Density Polyethylene (HDPE,) a form of plastic, which chopping boards are made out of.  This means they're good at absorbing energy from axe blows, but are useless against spinners.

Next there was wood, which is useless in the arena, but good for prototypes.  *COUGH COUGH* Overdozer *COUGH COUGH*

Then we moved onto the metals.  Firstly, there is aluminium.  Aluminium is popular for armour, due to how light it is, but if you want something stronger, then you should go for mild steel.  Mild steel is much more affordable than Hard Ox, although not as durable.  Lucy said that if she were to build a robot then she would use a combination of Hard Ox and HDPE.

Frostbite vs Ironside 3

Even though Frostbite were supposed to compete here, they just couldn't repair the damage they had sustained in their fight with Supernova.  This meant that they had to withdraw and Wyrm were reinstated.

Wyrm was systematically destroyed by Ironside 3.  Firstly, Ironside sheared off their lifting wedge.  And then one wheel.  And then the other.  And then the armament.  By the end of the fight, there was very little left.  A convincing win for Ironside 3.

Pulsar Vs Wyrm

Whilst repairing Wyrm, the team found that they had botched it somewhere.  The front controls now reversed the robot and vice versa.  This was hardly a good start against a powerful robot like Pulsar.

Things didn't get any better as Wyrm's lifting wedge fell off straight away.  However, Pulsar faced their own problems, as their robot began smoking, as their drive motors began smoking.  However, Wyrm's bad driving sent them into Dead Metal's clutches, which was enough to immobilise them.  Soon afterwards, Wyrm was thrown into the skip.

Supernova Vs Ironside 3

Ironside 3 played this battle very cleverly.  They targeted Supernova's exposed tyres and avoided their spinning disc.  This tactic work, as Supernova could not recover from the first few powerful slams.  Their wheels were buckled and broken and their chain broke again.  And then the sparks started flying.  Ironside 3 were through to the heat final, but all credit to Supernova.  They were a good machine.

Ironside 3 Vs Pulsar

Although Pulsar were well-armoured and had a powerful weapon, they've been plagued by technical problems.  These technical problems seriously hindered them in this fight.  Ironside 3 immediately got the upper hand by taking out one of Pulsar's wheels.  Then another hit on a sweet spot completely immobilised Pulsar.

Next week is the last heat before the grand final.  Judging from the trailers, we're going to see last year's runner-ups and winner, Apollo and Carbide, having a grudge match.  It looks like it's going to be a cracker.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Snatch Review

Number 110 on the top 1000 greatest films of all time is Guy Ritchie's brilliant 2000 film Snatch.  Snatch is a British crime comedy film.

The film follows two intertwining narratives.  The first follows boxing promoter and arcade owner Turkish (Jason Statham) and his partner Tommy (Stephen Graham) as they try to survive the fiery temper of local gangster Brick-Top (Alan Ford.)  Their narrative sees them engage with Irish Traveller or Pikey, Mickey O'Neill (Brad Pitt) who is a bare-knuckle boxing champion.

The second narrative revolves around a diamond which every gangster in London wants to get their hands on.  There is the ex-KGB agent Boris "the Blade," (Rade Serbedzija) small-time crooks Sol (Lennie James,) Vinny (Robbie Gee) and Tyrone (Ade,) American diamond jeweller Avi (Dennis Farina,) bounty hunter Bullet-Tooth Tony (Vinnie Jones) and Brick-Top.

Due to the film's vast ensemble cast and its two intertwining narratives, on the surface, Snatch looks unnecessarily complicated.  However, nothing could be further from the truth.  Everything comes excellently together due to some great editing, laugh-out-loud moments and larger than life characters.  Snatch very much reminded me of Pulp Fiction due to its intricate double plot, great music choices and many different ironic twists involving chance and causality.

The best example of this would be when we have three different sets of characters all driving along the same set of road.  After Boris takes the diamond from Sol, Vinny and Tyrone, they track him down to see that he has been kidnapped by Avi and Bullet-Tooth Tony.  They follow Avi and Tony along the road in the hopes of stealing the diamond back.  Tommy and Turkish are coincidentally driving along the same stretch of road.  When Tommy throws Turkish's carton of milk out of the window, it splashes over the windscreen of Tony's car leading him to crash.  In the ensuing chaos, Boris escapes, but he is promptly run over by Sol, Vinny and Tyrone.  This scene was just so ridiculous, but it worked well, and it was one of the funnier moments of the film.

Another funny moment comes from Sol, Vinny and Tyrone who botch the robbery of a bookie's so badly that they could be contenders for world's dumbest criminals.  From Tyrone crashing the getaway car into a van to Sol having his shotgun taken from him by the very person he was robbing, this was the funniest moment of the film.  It's made even funnier due to how the person they were supposed to rob was gambler Frankie Four Fingers (Benicio Del Toro) who had stolen the diamond in the first place.  However, the van that Tyrone crashed into contained Frankie Four Fingers who was knocked unconscious by the blow.

Snatch is also set in London, which made a refreshing change of pace to the Wild West or Hollywood.  It was great seeing the grey buildings and the grey weather, but also great hearing the familiar accents.  Speaking of accents, a quick aside to mention Brad Pitt's Irish accent.  Although the Independent deemed it one of the worst ten accents to grace the silver screen, it added a lot to the film's humour.  It was so bad that it was  absolutely indecipherable, which was supposed to be the point.  Not only did the audience have trouble understanding him, but also the other characters.  To quote Turkish:

"Now there is a problem with Pikeys and gypsies.  You can't really understand much of what is being said.  It's not Irish.  It's not English.  It's just well.. Pikey."

I also know Stephen Graham and Lennie James best from Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead respectively, so it was great hearing them speak with their regular accents - well more regular than a New Yorkian or Georgian accents anyway.

Although there was a wide range of characters, they all were easily distinguishable from each other.  The characterisation was good.  Although I was a little confused as to who was who at first, I soon got my head around over who everybody was.  What was also really interesting was how the film lacked any clearly-cut good characters.  Turkish was supposed to be the protagonist, but even he was an anti-hero of sorts.  All of the rest were crooks, gangsters or pikeys.  Despite this, except for Brick-Top who was the obvious antagonist, I think the characters were well-developed to make them three-dimensional. They were all given redeemable features of sorts.  For example, the tough as nails Bullet-Tooth Tony was unwilling to cut open the dog who had swallowed down the diamond and Avi had a deep devotion to his bodyguard Rosebud.

But the best evidence of this point would be Mickey O'Neill.  Originally, Turkish had agreed to have "Gorgeous George" compete in a boxing match arranged by Brick-Top.  However, after O'Neill knocks him unconscious, Turkish enters O'Neill instead.  Brick-Top isn't happy about this and only agrees if O'Neill throws the fight in the fourth round.  What O'Neill does instead is knock-out his opponent straight away.

Brick-Top gives O'Neill one more chance, but he refuses to fight again unless Turkish buys a new caravan for his mother.  However, Brick-Top has stolen Turkish's money, as compensation for O'Neill failing to throw the fight.  After Turkish tells Brick-Top about O'Neill's hesitation, Brick-Top burns down Mrs O'Neill's caravan, killing her in the process.  Brick-Top also threatens to kill the rest of the pikeys if O'Neill doesn't fight.  O'Neill agrees to fight.

The day of the fight comes and when it looks like O'Neill is going to go down in the fourth, he knocks out his opponent.  Just when Brick-Top is ordering his men to gun down the rest of the Irish travellers, we see him being shot down by an unseen assailant.  It is then revealed that O'Neill has been masterminding a revenge plan of his own.  Suspecting that Brick-Top will go after the rest of his community, he orders his friends to ambush and shoot Brick-Top's men.  The assailant who kills Brick-Top is another of the pikeys.  This was a great way of bringing the film full-circle and it was a great illustration of the close-knit community that Irish Travellers have.

Although this film with its large ensemble cast and intricate double plotline might seem daunting at first, it is a great film.  It's low-budget, with some hilarious moments and great performances.  One of the best British films I've seen in a while.

How dangerous is wealth? What about forgiving the unrepentant? Can euthanasia be Christian? What makes a church a sect?


How do animals and women fit into the bible? Why does evil and viruses exist?

How big was the flood? Why doesn't God intervene?

What is the trinity to other religions? Where does Jesus fit in? Does purgatory exist?

No further word from God? What about the errors? Only containing 'God's' words?

Can it have different meanings? May a bible story be a legend? Help from outside the bible?

The next section of Richard Bewes' book The Top 100 Questions: Biblical Answers to Popular Questions engages with how Christians are supposed to behave.

Q.6 How dangerous is wealth? What are the moral issues surrounding the topic of wealth creation?

The mantra that money is a corrupting influence is a common one.  "Sell your souls to the highest bidder," is a derogatory term that we use regularly.  However, Bewes argues that:

"there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wealth in itself.  And poverty is not an indispensable mark of the believer.  It is not God's will that poverty should be the rule of life across the world."

Bewes then mentions Max Weber's book The Protestant Ethic and the Spread of Capitalism.  Weber argues that the "ethos of Protestantism, promoted, as nothing else could have done, the spirit of the entrepreneur." It encourages wealth creation for charitable purposes and not for self-development.

I completely agree with this thinking. We tend to see money, as the root of all evil.  it is a corruptible, cruel force that can turn friends against each other.  But it isn't money that is doing this, but greed and the love of money.  What we need to remember is:

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:10

There is nothing wrong with having money, but there is something wrong with squandering your money on yourself.  If you're buying yachts and caviar, while your fellow man is starving, then that is a problem.  The bible tells us that we have a Christian duty to use our money to help our fellow man.  After all, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God," (Matthew 19:24)

My Christian friend Naomi poses the interesting argument that "money gets dangerous when it becomes your God." If you are poor, then you shouldn't feel a desire to chase money.  Money does not make you.  Rather you should be worried if you have a desire to make money, not for charitable purposes, but materialistic ones.

Q.64 What about forgiving the unrepentant? Is it biblical to forgive those who show no remorse for their actions?

One of the greatest things that Christ taught us is to forgive our enemies.  It is easy to be nice to our friends, but the true make of a man is whether he can be kind to those who wrong him.

"But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.  If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." Matthew 5:39

But how can you forgive someone who feels no guilt for his crimes?

Bewes argues that journalists often ask victims this question? Do they forgive their attackers? Bewes thinks this question is unfair. as it unnecessarily pressures the victim.  How could you expect them to forgive a burglar for stealing things, especially if they have showed no remorse for their actions.

However, Bewes believes that the most important thing is that we are willing to forgive in the first place, regardless if the ones we're forgiving feel no remorse.  Jesus Christ forgave those who crucified him and we should follow in his example.

Naomi believes that whilst we shouldn't forgive the unrepentant in the same way we forgive the repentant, what we should do is put aside our anger for them.  Holding a grudge against them is dangerous, as it is easy to become bitter towards them.

I can see the logic behind both of these arguments.  Whilst it is far easier said than done, forgiveness is important.  It signifies understanding and and maturity on your part.  It is also important for your own mental progression.  Holding onto the same grudge for years on end could damage your mental health.  You could go mad through your own resentment and bitterness.

65. Can euthanasia be Christian? Is it not only human, but compassionately Christian, to follow the Dutch medical trend towards assisting in the termination of a life not worth living?

This is a hotly debated question amongst Christians and Atheists alike.  Is it ever right to help somebody to die? If they are in agony, wouldn't the right thing to do would be end their suffering?

Richard Bewes provides 4 arguments as to why this might not be the case.  Firstly, he argues that it should be nobody but the patient's decision as to whether they want to die.  Doctors have no right to say when a person's life is no longer worth living.

Secondly, he argues that there is a difference between removing suffering and removing the sufferer.  Doctors who follow the hippocratic oath are breaking it by killing their patients.

Thirdly, he asserts that "there s a difference between valuing someone for who they 'once' were, and valuing them for who they always are."

Lastly, he argues that we always need to consider the effect on those left behind.  The death of someone will undoubtedly affect their loved ones.  Instead we should offer palliative care to allow people to live out the rest of their days.

Bewes' first argument is perfectly logical.  We should all be allowed to die on our own terms.  Nobody has any right to tell us that our lives worth living.  If somebody asked me to help end their suffering, then I would do it.  Otherwise, I'd be keeping them in pain, which is unfair and cruel.  However, things become muddier, once we begin discussing non-voluntary euthanasia.  But if a person if beyond hope, their closest family should make the decision.

As for Bewes' last argument, the problem with palliative care would be the sheer cost.  I know this may sound cold-hearted; how could you possibly put a price on somebody's life? But surely it's just as cold-hearted to use supplies on somebody who is beyond hope, at the expense of somebody who could be saved.

Q. 68 What makes a church a sect? Any church is surely prone to error? But at what point does false teaching turn a church into a sect?

It is no secret that there have been some sects inspired by Christianity.  I've already mentioned the People's Temple, but there is also Mormonism and the Church of Latter-Day Saints.

Bewes provides a few explanations as to what makes a church a sect.

Firstly, he argues that they warp the truth.  Instead of telling their followers everything, they tell them part-truths, or even lies.  They also target certain Christians: the young, the elderly, the ignorant.  As they have no spiritual power backing up their beliefs, they are forced to piggyback legit groups and pick off their most vulnerable members.

Next, they attach a novelty to the bible.  They dazzle their followers with some false truth, before distorting common Christian beliefs to deceive and divert the unwary.  They also exclude themselves from the rest of society and Christianity.  They disregard common Christian beliefs, claiming they have the one and only truth.  Lastly, they're power-brokers.  Power is concentrated in one charismatic individual whose authority can never be questioned.  More often than not, these preachers will see themselves as gods.

This description certainly matches the People's Temple.  Its charismatic and mentally unstable leader Jim Jones amassed almost 1000 followers before moving them all to a secret hideout in Guyana.  They were forced to leave behind their old lives and families and weren't allowed to leave the group.

Naomi argues that whilst different churches teach different things, they all have the same core beliefs: the bible is the infallible word of God, Jesus died for our sins et.  Any church that teaches anything different is a sect.

Robot Wars Episode 3 Recap

Episode One Recap

Episode 2 Recap

At the midpoint of series 9 of Robot Wars, there is one small thing I would like to address before we begin recapping the carnage.

When Dara O'Briain and Angela Scanlon are interviewing the roboteers in the pit, they're always by a crowd.  Who exactly is in this crowd? Friends and family? Random members of the audience? This has been something I've been wondering for a while.


Heat 3 was definitely the weakest heat so far.  The robots weren't as impressive and it wasn't as spectacular or destructive.  The first four robots battling were Thor, Tauron, Concussion and Chimera 2.

You may remember Thor last year where they competed in the second heat of last year's series, making it through to the grand final.  This year they came back with a morre pronounced axe/hammer, which had near a ton of force.  They were fighting Tauron who had a 20kg spinner bar, Chimera 2 and Concussion.  Chimera 2 competed last year, but they went out after their exposed wheels were damaged.  This year, they still had exposed wheels.  I feel like some logic is missing here.  Anyway, Chimera 2 were armed with an axe.  Lastly, there were new boys, Concussion, who were armed with a spinning drum that spun at 6000 RPM.


Tauron started strongly using its 20kg spinning bar to great effect.  The sparks flew and Tauron looked promising, but then it conked out.  A disappointing end to a robot with potential.

Meanwhile, Chimera 2 was being ganged up upon by Thor and Concussion.  Although it fought valiantly, it couldn't defend against the axe and spinning drum combination.  Thor and Concussion were the winners.

Foxic Vs Eruption Vs MR Speed Squared Vs Heavy Metal

Those who remember last year's series will remember that Foxic was an awful machine with an arrogant driver.  Unsurprisingly, Foxic is modelled on a fox and boasts a flipper that can flip 300kg.  Expulsion was a curious, experimental machine, made by students.  Their weapon was a spinning disc with retractable blades.  MR Speed Squared also fought last year with no real success.  They were a full body spinner.  Their team captain Pete had also made a bizarre promise to marry his long-suffering girlfriend if they lost Robot Wars.  If they won, then he'd get away with it.  Lastly, there was Heavy Metal.  Heavy Metal had weak armour, exposed tyres and no obvious weapon.  The team claimed that they had interchangeable weaponry, which could be attached to a 360 degree rotating arm, but I saw no evidence of this.

3...2...1 ACTIVATE

This fight began very quietly with all of the robots sizing each other up.  One of them hit the pit release, and bad driving sent Expulsion onto the arena floor spikes.  We also got to see MR SPeed Squared's wicked power, but also its unpredictability.  Full body spinners are notoriously difficult to control and MR Speed Squared was no exception.  Its spinning disc was so powerful that every shockwave set it flying.

However, their awesome power did immobilise Expulsion.  They tipped them over and Expulsion foolishly lacked a self-righter.  Foxic were once again rubbish, quickly conking out.  MR Speed Squared and Heavy Metal were through, despite the latter doing nothing except for taking heavy damage.

Onto the head to heads.

Thor VS COncussion

This battle saw the first occasion of the house robots going rogue in this heat.  Dead Metal quickly told hold of Concussion, but didn't cause any serious damage.  Once Concussion escaped, they slammed into Thor leading to their CO2 battle starting to leak.  But then bad driving saw Concussion get stuck over the pit.  They attempted to depress it, but instead the house robots went rogue again.  Although, they didn't do any serious damage.  However, Concussion were still stuck over the pit and Thor went in for the kill.  But this was when Concussion's spinning drum flicked Thor over and they couldn't self-right.  Thor's driver, Jason Marsten, was furious at himself, ad I don't blame him.  This error cost him a match he should have won.  He should have just let Concussion be.  But it's very easy to say this after the fact.

Heavy Metal vs MR Speed Squared

What Heavy Metal lacked in armour, weaponry and unexposed wheels, they made up for in very good driving.  Knowing the damage, MR Speed Squared could cause, Heavy Metal repeatedly slammed it into the arena wall.  MR Speed Squared just could not recover from this onslaught.  They were pushed into the CPZ where Shunt punctured them.  Eventually, Heavy Metal pitted them.  A convincing win here.

Heavy Metal Vs Concussion

This fight began very cagily.  By cagily, I mean, it was boring.  NOTHING HAPPENED.  That is until Concussion's spinning drum ripped off one of Heavy Metal's exposed wheels.  With literally one wheel on their wagon, Heavy Metal were out.

Thor Vs MR Speed Squared

Thor absolutely dominated this fight.  Just the same as Heavy Metal, Thor didn't allow MR Speed Squared the time to spin up.  Instead Thor slammed their axe into them, turning them into a colander.  MR Speed Squared couldn't recover and were out.

Concussion Vs MR Speed Squared

MR Speed Squared continued to prove that it was too power for its own good, as its own weaponry threatened to take themselves out.  However, Concussion disarmed them straight away with a hit of their spinning drum.  You might think it was all over from here, but you'd be wrong.  Concussion could not finish the job, but rather, they allowed MR Speed Squared to limp around like a wounded animal.  And as the fight progressed, MR Speed Squared came back into it.  When the fight ended, Concussion was smoking and the decision went to the judges, who awarded it to Concussion.  Looks like Pete from MR Speed Squared is getting married.

Thor vs Heavy Metal

This was the final battle before the heat final and Thor was determined to make it through to fight Concussion.  They were so determined that they relentlessly attacked Heavy Metal.  The axe swung down again and again, eventually leading Heavy Metal to lose its wheel once again.  Thor were through to the heat final.

Thor Vs Concussion

This was a close fight that could have gone either way.  Thor's CO2 bottle started leaking early on, but they still got some strong hits in.  Concussion managed to tip Thor over, but they had enough CO2 left to self-right.  This hit had caused some internal damage, as Thor became intermittently active.  But Concussion was also damaged, as they were stop and start as well.  With no clear winner the fight went to the judges who awarded it to Concussion.  Congrats to newbies Concussion.  As for Thor, they were chosen to compete in the final last year by the judges, as a wildcard.  Maybe the same will happen this year.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

For a Few Dollars More

Number 109 on the top 1000 films of all time is Sergio Leone's For a Few Dollars More.  It is the second in the Dollars trilogy, sandwiched between A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.

The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) and The Man in Black (Lee Van Cleef) are two bounty hunters in El Paso.  They decide to team up to catch the ruthless bandit El Indio (Gian Maria Volonte) who is on the run from the law along with his gang.

If you're wondering why I haven't reviewed A Fistful of Dollars, I must confess that I actually watched this film series backwards.  When I watched The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, I had no idea it was part of a trilogy.  As For a Few Dollars more, was higher up than A Fistful of Dollars and there isn't really any continuity between the films, I figured that I might as well continue watching the series backwards.


I've seen quite a few of Sergio Leone's films.  Obviously I've watched The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, but I've also seen Once Upon a Time in the West and Once Upon a Time in America and if there's one thing that Leone does well, it's setting the scene.  Just like in his other Westerns, he uses great sweeping panoramic shots to clearly establish the desert setting.  The cinematography in this film is no exception: it's awesome.  The film is set in 1872 and the great setting and production designed helped to signify this.  Similar to his next film, Leone also makes great use of close-up shots to help build up the tension.


Speaking of tension, Leone once again used music and sound brilliantly to build tension.  The film score of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is undoubtedly great, but music is also used well in A Few Dollars More.   The best example of this is the music box that El Indio plays just before a duel.  The music is haunting, but powerful.  Originally, the music box had belonged to a young couple.  However, El Indio killed the man, before raping and killing his lover.   I think this is what contributed to the music box being so sinister.  It began as a symbol of innocence and love and was manipulated into something evil.  This really helped to bring El Indio's character to life and to make him a frightening villain.  And this is exactly what music should do in a film.  It should compliment it, not detract from it.

Listen to the For a Few Dollars More theme song

Take a listen to the music box theme

From what I've heard of the Dollars Trilogy, they're supposed to progressively get better and better.  And I'd agree with this.  This was a great film in its own right, but I don't think it matches up to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  Yes the narrative was simple and easy to follow, the camerawork was great and the music effective, but it just isn't on the same level.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Can it have different meanings? May a Bible story be a Legend? Help from outside the Bible...?

This is a bumper edition of “Dissecting the top 100 biblical questions,” as I tackle seven questions that Richard Bewes answers about the bible and Christianity. These questions conclude the “bible we read” section of Bewes' book.

51. Can it have different meanings? I hear so many different interpretations of Bible passages from speakers at Christian meetings. Are they all valid?

One thing that I have always found confusing about Christianity is just how many denominations exist within it. You get Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Pentecostalism, Methodism, Calvinism, Eastern Orthodox, Church of England, not to mention countless others. They all interpret the word of God slightly differently, but are they all right in their interpretations?

Richard Bewes argues that no there isn't. He criticises the idea that “every text of the Bible is 'infinitely interpretable!' He refers back to question 49, where he argues that “a text means what its author meant. There can only be one interpretation of a Bible passage, and it is through study, and a growing knowledge of the rest of Scripture, that we can arrive at the one and only meaning of what we are reading.”

“We are to establish – as John Stott, a noted leader of the worldwide Evangelical movement, has clearly put it:

The natural meaning – without twisting words.

The original meaning – without bending the author's intention.

The general meaning – without ignoring what the rest of Scripture says.”

Bewes is arguing that there only has ever been one interpretation of the bible and there can only ever be one interpretation. Even in the days of the early church, the Apostles held universal agreement over God's teachings. And I would agree with this idea, if from a more technical perspective. For organised religion to be “organised,” it requires structure. Its members need to wholly submit to universal ideas that connect the whole group. Any splinter factions threaten the stability of the collective.

On a deeper level, I think this is a powerful argument against fundamental religion. You always hear stories of groups manipulating religious teachings to suit their own ideologies. A prime example here is the Westboro Baptist church who have latched onto the homophobic ideas in Leviticus and used them as a springboard for their own homophobic ideology. They regularly picket funerals and claimed that the Pulse nightclub shooting was just punishing for homosexuals. Their website is “www.godhatesfags.com.” However, they have been denounced as a hate group by the Baptist World Alliance and many other Christian denominations refuse to associate with them.

In the New Testament there is plenty of scripture that can be deemed anti-semitic, especially in Acts of the Apostles:

"You stick-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised.  You are just like your ancestors: you always resist the Holy Spirit.  Was there every a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One.  And now you have betrayed and murdered him - you have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it." (7: 51-53)

"Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent of it.  From now on I will go to the Gentiles." (18:6)

People who say that this is evidence that Christianity is anti-semitic are forgetting one tiny detail.  Jesus was Jewish.  He traces his ancestry back to King David who was one of the greatest kings of Israel and Judah.  Jesus' disciples were Jewish.  They preached in the Jewish province of Judah.  They quote Jewish scripture and partake in Jewish celebrations.  The early Christians would have seen themselves as an offshoot of Judaism.  If anything, I think this anti-semitic scripture is more targeted towards the religious Jewish leaders of the time who felt threatened by Jesus' presence.

An even more topical example would be Islamic fundamentalism. ISIS, a.k.a, goatfuckers international, are holding Islam hostage to promote their own negative ideologies. They want to create their own state full of Sunni Muslims, despite the Qu'ran stating that Islam does not encourage forcing people to join Islam:

"Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects Evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks.  And Allah heareth and knoweth all things." (2.256)

And let's not forget that Islam comes from the same origins as Christianity and Judaism.  They share a lot of the same prophets and stories with these other religions.  Moses and Jesus are considered major prophets.

My Christian friend Naomi agrees with Richard Bewes' argument.. She argued that “the Bible isn't meant to be cryptic in its meaning. When you read the verses in their wider context, they should make sense. The letters in the bible should be read bearing in mind they're letters.”

If you interpret scripture out of its content then you run the risk of missing out on entire meaning, leading to half-baked interpretations.

52. May a Bible story be a Legend? Is it possible that some of the Bible accounts - such as Jonah - should not be interpreted as factual narratives, but as parables, or even as inspiring fables?

Richard Bewes argues that they shouldn't be considered as parables. He uses the examples of Jonah and the Whale to distinguish between historical narratives and parables. It is obvious when a parable is a parable and when a historical narrative is a historical narrative. Bewes cites the tale of the Good Samaritan as an obvious parable, due to its instructive purposes. This same instruction is lacking in stories like Jonah and the Whale.

Bewes also mentions the interesting example of John Ambrose Wilson who catalogued a case in 1927 when a crewman on a whaling boat was swallowed by a sperm whale. When the whale was found and killed three days later, the crewman was still alive.

I also don't think that the Bible should be considered legend. I think this would undermine some of its key teachings. Quite a few of the ten commandments focus purely on worshipping God: “thou shalt not have gods other than me,” “thou shalt not worship false idols,” and “thou shalt not make any likeness of me.”

And there are many examples throughout the Bible, where God punishes the Israelites for their idolatry. In Exodus, God threatens to kill the Israelites who worship a Golden Calf on Mount Sinai. Later on, in the Prophetic texts, God allows the Assyrian and Babylonian empires to destroy Israel and Judah for their faithlessness. I think that if we treated these stories as legend, we run the risk of mythologising them. Myths can hold the same longevity and reverence as historical narrative, just look at the mythologies of Ancient Greece and Rome. Millennia later, we are still talking about them. By mythologising these narratives, we're turning them into idols to be worshipped, which completely goes against God's teachings.

Naomi takes a similar view to Bewes. She argued that if something was written down in the bible then it's fact. The parables were designed to be purely instructive and thus didn't happen, but everything else did.

53. Help from outside the Bible? How far can a knowledge of outside history, local detail or archaeology fill out and complement my understanding of the bible?

Bewes' answer to this is a very interesting one. He openly acknowledges and praises the scholarship and archaeology that exists around Christianity. He gives the examples of the Site of Capernaum and the Nabonidus Chronicle, as archaeological evidence for the first Jewish synagogue and that King Belshazaar of Babylon did really exist. Bewes argues that whilst there isn't anything wrong with biblical archaeology and scholarship, we should not use it to “prop up belief in the truth of the Bible.” By doing so, we run the risk of pedestalising biblical archaeology over God's teachings. Naomi adopts a similar viewpoint to Bewes. She argues that whilst it can help us, we don't necessarily need it.

I can respect this idea. If we use biblical archaeology to substantiate our own beliefs, then what we are doing is actually invalidating the word of God. We are saying that we believe in what happened, because of archaeological evidence, and not because it was God's will. We are saying there is more truth in archaeology, than in the word of God.

Whilst I respect and understand this idea, I don't agree with it. To help me understand the bible, it has been necessary for me to draw on a variety of sources such as Richard Bewes' book that I'm writing about now, many study guides and archaeological evidence. If I relied purely on the bible alone, then my understanding would be limited and one-dimensional. I also think that archaeological evidence validates Christianity and religion in the eyes of Atheists. A common argument I hear for why Atheists don't believe in religion is because of how it lacks any tangible, physical evidence. They believe in what they can see and touch. I think that by acknowledging the importance of this evidence will help to ground Christianity as historical fact.

56. The Bible- and listening to God? I'm told that I must spend time listening to God. But how can I know that it is His voice I'm hearing?

Bewes' answer to this question returns to the idea of religious fundamentalism. He argues that many irrational, dangerous actions have been justified through the disclaimer that “God spoke to me.” Bewes gives the example of the Christian 'Crusades,' and how God's will was twisted to justify military action against the Muslims. I think of the People's Temple – a Christian religious sect led by the unstable Jim Jones who eventually convinced his 900 followers to undergo a mass suicide. Another example is Peter Sutcliffe who became the “Yorkshire Ripper,” as he believed that he had been sent on a spiritual mission by God to murder the impure.

And Bewes also rightly mentions that saying you “have heard the voice of God […] is only a self-authenticating claim.” How can this be independently corroborated? What does God's voice sound like? Bewes argues that to hear the voice of God, we have to come to him in humility. We have to want to hear, listen and submit to his will. Only then will he speak to us. I understand this idea, but I think it runs the risk of becoming a “self-authenticating claim.” Once again, how do we know that it is His voice that we are hearing?

57. Should the Bible be banned? I read in a newspaper that someone was trying to obtain a court ruling that the Bible is an obscene book. What is the Christian answer?

I have to admit that despite how “obscene,” the Bible may be, I've never thought that it should be banned. Yes, there are countless instances of violence, drugs and sex, which may not make it appropriate to everyone. Other than the many genocides that occur, particularly gruesome sections include King Hezekiah of Israel having his sons killed in front of him by the Assyrian Empire and then having his eyes gouged out.  The far more obvious example is Christ's crucifixion. There are a number of instances of people being stoned if they break the law.  There is also the example of a man who was stoned for picking up sticks on the Sabbath:

"While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood ont he Sabbath day.  Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.  Then the LORD said to moses, 'The man must die.  The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.' So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses." (Numbers 15: 32-36)

However, Bewes argues that these more “obscene” sections are vital for our understanding of the Bible. He states that “the 'impure' events related in its pages are there as part of the realistic picture given us of fallen, unredeemed humanity.” This returns to the idea of why evil and suffering exist. We need the bad to help us understand the good. Without the darkness, there can be no light. If we were never learn to about the mistakes that our predecessors have made, we would be doomed to repeat them.

Bewes also argues that if we are to ban the bible, we would need to ban all of the other literature inspired by it. To say the bible has had a massive cultural impact would be an understatement. If we were to ban it, then poets could no longer read Dante's Inferno. Crime fiction lovers could no longer enjoy Thomas Harris' Red Dragon. John Milton's Paradise Lost will never be analysed again. No Shakespeare play would ever be performed again. We wouldn't be able to listen to the biblical inspired compositions of Mozart or Beethoven.

I also think that banning the bible constitutes an unnecessary act of censorship. I think that it's wrong to censor something just because we don't agree with it or because it offends us. If I wanted to, I could disable the comments on my blog, as I know that religion is a controversial topic. But I won't do that, as those people have a right to what they want to say. As does the Bible and those who believe in it. By censoring it, we're cutting out their tongues. We're shutting down any attempts at a conversation. To quote Voltaire: “I may not agree with what you have to say. But I'll defend to the death, your right to say it.”

58. Nothing but the Bible? Is it best if my Christian reading is confined to the reading of the Bible alone?

If you think that this question sounds similar to question 53 then you're not alone. I initially had this thought, but I think that question 53 had a greater focus on archaeological evidence, rather than biblical scholarship. Bewes' response to this question is also very similar to question 53.

He argues that it is perfectly fine for us to consult biblical commentaries or to annotate the bible ourselves, providing that we aren't directed away from it. We can use scholarship to enhance our understanding, but we must always read it in relation to the Bible itself. But we need to remember that the truth lies within the Bible and not these external sources. Naomi says much the same thing.

This is very much the point that I was making in question 53. By reading a range of commentaries, and providing some myself, I have helped to nuance my own understanding of the Bible. If I had relied on the Bible alone, any scholarship by me would be very basic.

59. What about 'atrocities' in the Bible? I have heard it said that Moses was no better than Molosovic, in the slaughters that we read about in the Old Testament. Is the morality different between the Old and New Testaments?

When I first read the Bible, I was astounded at the genocide present within it. I didn't understand how an omni-benevolent God could possibly condone the destruction of such cultures like the Canaanites in the Old Testament, but then preach “love thy neighbour” in the New Testament.

Bewes kicks off his argument by highlighting the hypocrisy of some people. People who want God to wipe out the Islamic Fundamentalism that caused 9/11, but who also condemn how he wiped out cultures like the Amorites. From here, Bewes argues that God's patience stopped him from enacting out his vengeance like this again. It is certain to happen, but God is still hoping that the sinful will repent. Bewes concludes that the purpose of these atrocities was to showcase that sin will always be punished, but also as to act as a warning to others.

Naomi argued that whilst the morality wasn't different, the historical context was. God's kingdom in the Old Testament was a strictly political, Jewish one. God didn't want his followers to become corrupted by the immoral teachings of other religions and so he condemned them to death. However, in the New Testament, the kingdom had become Christian and was far more expansive. The same rules need not apply.

In Exodus, the Israelites were wandering nomads without a home. They found a home in the Promised Land, kicking out the people who already lived there. From here they grew into two big powers: Israel and Judah, who were forced to defend themselves against outside threats. Skip forward to the New Testament and Judah is a community living under Roman rule and forced to worship Roman gods. Those who didn't were executed by the Romans. The Israelites had been culturally oppressed and weren't in a position to fight back.  

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Robot Wars Episode 2 Recap

Episode 1

The metal mashing, chrome clashing, steel smashing show feature fighting machines has returned for its second episode.  Without further ado...


Cobra Vs Eruption Vs Hobgoblin Vs Behemoth

The first heat of this episode featured four very different robots.  The first was called Cobra which was from Belgium and was armed with a crushing head.  Designed to look like a cobra, the crushing head is supposed to grab opponents and shove them around the arena.

The second robot was Eruption who had competed in Episode 4 of the last series, but failed to make it out of the heats.  Eruption was back this year with its powerful flipper.

Thirdly we have Hobgoblin described bizarrely as a "beater bot." Its weapon is a curiously shaped spinning drum and doesn't like flippers.  Whilst it did have a schrimech or self-righting mechanism, it was untested, which isn't very good.

Lastly, we have Robot Wars veterans Behemoth.  Behemoth has been competing since the second series of the original Robot Wars and has never achieved any real success.  They fought in the first episode of the last wars, going out in the heat final.  The team behind the machine is the same as well. In the original Wars, they were teenagers and now they're men.  It was pretty strange to see.

To help their chances of success, they came with some new weapons.  Behemoth has always been armed with a titanium lifting scoop, but this time, they had two new scoops.  One of them was designed to deflect against spinners and the other is a peculiar grabbing weapon.

And we finally discovered how exactly to say Behemoth.  I always thought it was said "Bear-moth," which is what commentator Jonathan Pearce says.  However, Dara O'Briain calls it "Be-he-moth." But, team captain, Anthony Pritchard also pronounced it "Be-he-moth," so now we know.  Enough talking:


Behemoth and Cobra began with their own private battle with the former pushing the latter into the arena wall.  Eruption the joined the battle on Behemoth's side and began flipping Cobra around the arena, but the alliance ended quickly, with Behemoth soon flipping Eruption.  And then Cobra and Behemoth were flipped by the floor flipper.  Flipping heck! From here the battle became a war of attrition with each robot fighting to take it to a judge's decision.  Cobra was constantly being flipped around, but pluckily kept going on the attack.  However, this wasn't enough to stop them going out to Behemoth and Eruption with their powerful flippers.

Wondering why I didn't mention Hobgoblin at all? Because they didn't do anything.  Eruption flipped them over and they were out.

Draven vs Push To Exit vs Cherub vs PP3D

Draven, similar to Cobra, was armed with a crushing arm.  Push to Exit used to be Dantomkia who fought last year, as well as in the original Wars.  They were armed with a front-hinged flipper designed to topple robots.  Next up, we have Cherub who was teamed by the children of the bizarre robot Gabriel who made it to the heat final in series 1.  Their robot was armed with a lifting arm and had some strange wing attachment to help them self-right and do a handstand.  Lastly, there was PP3D armed with a lethal spinner, which knocked out Eruption last year.


PP3D's spinning disc was devastating.  Every time it collided with other robots, sparks flew, as well as the robots themselves.  The shockwave sent them hurtling across the arena.  They dominated this battle, as Push to Exit's flipper was largely ineffective.  There were a few occasions when Cherub was perched nicely on top of them, but they missed their chances to flip them.  Draven did very little crushing.  Rather they were expertly pushed into the CPZ by PP3D where the house robot Shunt immobilised them with a well-placed axe blow.  A few more hits by PP3D immobilised Push to Exit.  PP3D and Cherub were through with the latter doing very little.

What was interesting was that in the post-match interviews, we learnt that PP3D's disc was too powerful for its own good.  The shockwave created as it collides with enough robot soon created engineering problems for the PP3D team.  These were problems that had to be addressed if the robot expected to succeed.

Behemoth Vs Eruption

As are so many battles, this was a battle of two halves and a very good one.  Behemoth went on the attack straight away, flipping Eruption all over the place.  But then bad driving led the Behemoth boys to getting stuck in the CPZ.  This allowed Eruption to take the revenge and they did not let up at all.  They punished Behemoth for their carelessness, eventually sending them out of the arena with a mighty flip.  Eruption were the convincing winners.

PP3D vs Cherub

As Craig Charles always said "controversy is never far away on Robot Wars," and I don't think there have been anymore controversial fights than this one.  PP3D with their lethal weapon looked like the obvious winners, but was their spinning disc too powerful for its own good? Meanwhile, Cherub didn't have any effective weaponry, but they did plan to attack PP3D's exposed wheels.

PP3D started strongly smashing into Cherub, denting and buckling its armour.  But all credit to the Cherub team, they didn't hide away from the scary PP3D.  Cherub then decided to hit the "Dial of Doom," in the hopes of sending the House Robots after PP3D.  This backfired as bad driving sent them into the clutches of Dead Metal who sliced into the Cherub machine.  Just as Cherub escaped, PP3D hit them with an awesome blow that sent them spinning across the arena, breaking part of the arena wall.

The fight had to be stopped for safety reasons and the arena was repaired.  Afterwards, the fight was restarted exactly where it left off.  However, there wasn't any more fight to be had.  PP3D had knocked Cherub into submission, but they had knocked themselves out too.  We learnt later that PP3D's motors was heavily damaged.

The decision went to the judges who gave it to Cherub.  This made absolutely no sense to me at first.  PP3D brutalised Cherub.  They were more aggressive.  Their aggression was controlled.  But I think that PP3D must have suffered some internal damage that we as the viewer didn't see.  The force of their powerful disc immobilised them, which it shouldn't do.  So, I respect and understand the judges' decision.  Do I agree with it? No.

Eruption Vs Cherub

This was a one-sided fight.  Eruption went on the attack from the start and Cherub just couldn't recover.  Just like with Behemoth, Eruption flipped Cherub all over the arena before flipping them out.

Behemoth Vs PP3D

To help defend against PP3D's lethal disc, Behemoth changed their scoop to one specifically designed to deflect spinning disc.  This fight exhibited PP3D's danger not only to their competitors, but also to themselves.

The fight started slowly with PP3D getting some glancing blows on Behemoth, but then one mighty blow ricocheted the robots away from each other.  And then PP3D exploded.  The sheer force of that spinning disc caused it to short-circuit and began sparking.  To make things worse, Shunt then began attacking it.  This has to be a Robot Wars first.  I've never seen a robot explode from the force of its own weapon before.  Behemoth were the winners here, but more thanks to PP3D than anything.

Eruption Vs PP3D

The most powerful flipper of the competition against the most powerful spinning disc.  PP3D began this battle on the attack getting in a few early blows, which Eruption then withstood.  But again the power of PP3D's disc led it to stop working, leaving them weaponless.  Eruption took full advantage of this and in standard style, they flipped it all over the arena before flipping them out.

Behemoth Vs Cherub

Another controversial fight, but more on that later.  For this battle, Behemoth decided to equip their bizarre grabbing scoop.  It looked like the jaws of a mighty predator.  The idea of it is to grab Cherub and then drive them into the pit or CPZ.

It didn't quite happen like that.  Behemoth pushed Cherub, just as the floor flipper sprung, leaving the latter to become stuck.  The fight was stopped, Cherub was rescued and the fight continued.  I'm not sure this was entirely fair.  Cherub was immobilised under the flipper and I think they should have been left there.  But the controversy doesn't stop here.

Whilst Behemoth's grabbing arm was largely ineffective, so was Cherub's lifter.  Neither robot did much damage to each other or showed much control.  Behemoth's bad driving sent it into Dead Metal's CPZ.  The fight went to the judges who awarded it to Cherub.

This led to Behemoth Team Captain Anthony Pritchard storming out off the post-match interview.  This unsurprisingly led to a massive online backlash branding Anthony Pritchard a sore loser.  Yes, the Cherub robot wasn't very good, but he wasn't actually upset that he lost to a group of kids.  In a later interview, he explains that he was angry at his team-members for making the decision to use the silly grabbing weapon instead of the regular scoop.  He also apologised to the Cherub team. 

Whilst the apology happened off-cameras, the explanation for his behaviour wasn't, and I do feel that a lot of people jumped to conclusions without looking at the full picture.  Also I do empathise with Anthony Pritchard.  Behemoth has one of the worst track records of any machine.  They've been competing since 1998 and have never always underperformed.  Except for the second wars, they have never made it out of the heats.  After twenty years, it must be pretty galling to lose once again.

And it's not the first time that something like this has happened.  Whilst for the most part, the Robot Wars community is one of sportsmanship and camaraderie, you do get long-running grudges.  Tornado and Razar is one of them, as well as Pussycat and Razar.  In fact I remember, Ian Lewis of the Razar team complaining about how Pussycat continued damaging them, even though they were immobilised.  He didn't think it was very gentlemanly.  Well, hate to break it to you, Ian Lewis, but all is fair in love and Robot Wars.

Eruption Vs Cherub

Time for the heat final between the impressive Eruption and the underdog Cherub.  This fight has to be a record for one of the shortest fights in Robot Wars.  One powerful drive and even more powerful flip from Eruption sent Cherub flying from the arena.  Eruption is a robot to watch, having achieved four OOTAs (Out of the Arenas.) A worthy winner indeed.