Saturday, July 23, 2011

Assassins of joy.

So let me start by saying that I like the Harry Potter. As much as I'd like to rag on it as some kind of empty, multi-media money-printing license, it's actually been a solid, consistently enjoyable series.

J.K. Rowling basically invented one of these.

What can I say? We hate fun.

I just saw pt. 2 of part 7 (or is it 8? Maybe 7.5?) and I liked it too. It's a good movie. That said, if it's all right with you, I'd like to complain about the basic premise. It's not that I don't understand that it's fiction or that I have some kind of inability to suspend my disbelief, it's just that as a geek with access to the internet I feel it's my duty to complain about sci-fi/fantasy things even if I like them. It's what we do.

So my beef with the whole Harry Potter universe is with the magic. As much as I dug the books and the movies, I think there's a huge problem with how powerful and abundant the magic is in this series. It's everywhere, does anything and never runs out.

You know, like fossil fuels.

"What, was I supposed to do? 
Use my hand?"
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi, lazy bastard
Wizards in things like Dungeons and Dragons and Final Fantasy get tired or run out of mana or something. Not so with Harry Potter. The teen-wizards can fire off Bat Bogey Hex's all day and not break a sweat. They use magic all the time, and for everything. It turns lights on, it finds your keys, everything. It's like that scene in Star Wars Episode III when Obi-Wan stows away in the bathroom of Padme's starship and instead of simply closing the door, he uses the goddamn Force to shut it for him. It's just excessive.

Combine this with the fact that one quarter of the student body at the magic school is devoted to evil and we have a problem. By the way, does anyone else find that a little weird? It would be like Westpoint turning out both G.I. Joe and Cobra, or if the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants all went to the same high school (oh, right). I'm just saying that maybe the Hogwarts PTA should step in or something.

"Hey, Snake Eyes! Long time no see! Remember when we had fifth period together?
Wow, good times. Anyway, death to America!"

By season 9 of Bewitched
Samantha ruled with an iron fist from
atop a throne of skulls.

Given that these kids are all sitting on an inexhaustible well of magic mojo and that power tends to corrupt, even without Slytherin there should be (statistically speaking) like three Voldemorts a month. And there's like hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of wizards in this fictional world, all of whom have limitless, god-like power. What's stopping them from taking over the world? The next movie should be about a rag tag band of non-wizards bringing down the oppressive Mageocracy that the Hogwarts students would undoubtably create.

Let's hear it for science!
To prove my point I propose an experiment, which I hope someone reading this will be willing to fund. Let's take ten people and give them each a million dollars and tell them to use it as they see fit. Now I have an optimistic view of humans, so I'm thinking that most people will pay off credit cards or put it in the bank, a few might even give some to charity but I guarantee you at least one of our freshly-minted millionaires will be staging monkey jello wrestling matches within a day. Twenty-four hours.

 iWeep for the future.
Now imagine that instead of money, these ten people were teens with magic powers and training. The example of any 15 year-old with access to the liquor cabinet has shown that kids can get into all sorts of shenanigans. My blood chills at the thought of what would happen if children born after 1996 had the absolute control over space, time and reality demonstrated by the kids in these movies. Television would be nothing but iCarly and Stephanie Myers would be accepting the Pulitzer for Twilight 6: Slightly Overcast. Even more unsettling is the fact that magic or no, this generation will be in charge one day.

Anyway, like I said I really did enjoy these movies and I'm a little bummed that this was the last one if for no reason other than the rabid fan base that makes the rest of us look almost normal. Somehow a grown mother of three waving a wand and shouting faux-latin curses outside the Barnes and Noble is more embarrassing than my geeky brethren play fighting with plastic lightsabres. 

If I put on chain mail and a sword to pick up the new
George R. R. Martin wouldn't someone be calling the cops?

p.s. Hey check this out, it's a clip my friend put together on the you-tubes. It's fans waiting in line for Harry Potter 7.0. And yes, they rap.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


"Dude, you see the Steelers
game last night?"

-Oscar Wilde c. 1892
Well this is crap, read this article. No? Fine, I'll sum up: A guy named Aaron Pace went to sell blood and was turned down for being gay (which we'll get to in a minute). How did they know he was gay? Well, they didn't. I mean, unless he came up to the counter and and proclaimed his love of hot Takei sex, all they'd have to go on are stereotypes and his level of eyebrow grooming. It turns out he's not gay, and was turned down because he 'appears to be a homosexual.' Bullshit, right? I thought so too, but just as I was getting ready with some righteous indignation, I kept reading. According to the article, Pace was 'embarrassed and humiliated.' Really dude? Not morally outraged at an outmoded and discriminatory policy? Alright...On a side-note, I'd like to point out that embarrassed and humiliated are sort of the same thing.  

Here's a picture of Pace
thinking about boobs.
Well anyway, here's a quote yoinked from from the Chicago Sun-Times:

"It's not fair that homeless people can give blood but homosexuals can't. And I'm not even a homosexual."
-Aaron Pace (who's totally not gay)

Yes, the ban is unfair and we get it, he's not gay...but is it just me or does it sound like he's got something against homeless people too? Am I reading too much into this?

Ok, this guy might have chosen his words poorly, but the policy really is screwed up. It's something the Food and Drug Administration came up with it back in the 1980's when people thought that the only things keeping the AIDS away were Ronald Reagan's confidence inspiring midnight-black coiffure and some kind of missile shield.

Most of our policies back then were based on paranoia and Atari. Also, cocaine was pretty big.

Although your post-transfusion BAC
is a good indicator.

The policy bans men who have had sex with other men after 1977 from ever donating blood. The assumption being that these men are more likely to be infected with HIV or Hepatitis regardless of testing or behavior. As a result, a safe-sex practicing, teetotaling, monogamous gay man is barred from donating for life where as Nicole Polizzi is not. Basically the FDA is totally cool with you having a half-pint of Snooki in your blood stream right now and not even knowing it.

Why not both?

Fine. The 80's were a different time and I think we can all agree that they were just a bad idea all together, but isn't it time we righted this wrong? And what the damn does the FDA have to do with blood donation? Like, is blood a food or a drug? Weren't there other government agencies more suited to set the blood donation rules? I don't know, like maybe they could have asked the Department of Health and Human Services? Surely they would get to the bottom of this crazy town ban, right?

After all, everyone knows science
and technology peaked in 1982.

Nope. Just last year (as in anno domini 2010) the Health and Human Services Committee upheld the ban even though all blood collected in the U.S. is tested for Hepatitis, HIV and robust flavor regardless of who donates it. So really the HHSC just decided to cling to the baseless fears of people who thought Max Hedroom would make a great TV show despite science, reason and a crippling blood shortage. Yep. This is the agency charged with protecting us from disease (and, by extension a Zombie Apocalypse).

Oh and in case you're wondering what's to stop a gay person or anyone else for that matter from lying about their sexual history or orientation, the answer is nothing, nothing at all. The ban is just there to make ignorant people feel safer by protecting them from imaginary threats. Advantage: stupid.

This is Colleen, the receptionist at the blood bank. She types 80 wpm, is proficient
with Excel and her gaydar is all that stands between you and catching the gay. 

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Geeks love things that end in '-logy.'

I had difficulty escaping the
gravity well of this display.
I've sort of been trying to ignore the fact that the new George R. R. Martin book was imminent but despite my best efforts I spotted A Dance With Dragons the other day at the bookstore. It is real, weighs a ton and one can actually exchange $35 dollars American for it. There upon the shelf it sat, mocking me with its gritty intrigue, ice zombies and hard to pronounce names, but I resisted for now. I almost don't want to read it, because I know it will be at least 2016 before the next one. What's even more daunting is that Martin is now saying that the one-time trilogy series might end up being 8 books instead of the current estimate of 7. Oy.

I sincerely hope 'octalogist'
isn't a profession.

So it's going to be an 'Octalogy.' At the rate we're going here and with the number of books being revised upwards, A Song of Fire and Ice may just be the first generational fantasy series. We'll pass the tradition of waiting for the next book on to our children and they to their children and only our remote descendants will live to see how it comes out. To them I give these words of wisdom by which to remember me: I was totally into this before it was cool.

"Ah yes Taylor, the final installment came out in 2798. It is known as A Picnic of Orcs and wraps up most of the major plot threads quite nicely. Although I do think he dropped the ball a little with Arya and the Fire Badgers." 

Friday, July 15, 2011

For 11 dollars, Michael Bay will kick you in the brain for 157 minutes.

Yup, he's a 30' robot who turns
into a palm-sized tapedeck. Deal.
Soundwave is my favorite Transformer ever. In fact, a recent poll I just made up suggests that he's everyone's favorite Transformer, in part because of his voice. He's got a sort of a sinister monotone that kind of sounds like a Cylon. Awesome right? Soundwave's original voice actor Frank Welker even plays him in Transformers 2 and 3 but for reasons passing understanding they don't use the voice modulator thing to make him sound like Soundwave, instead he sounds like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget (also Frank Welker). How could they screw this up? What the crap Michael Bay? You're just doing it wrong. Speaking of which-

Yeah, I went to see Transformers Dark of the Moon: Explosion, alterna-rock, explosion, incomprehensible dialogue, screaming, explosion, emo alterna-rock, explosion, more screaming and then (spoiler alert) explosion. There. Transformers 3. I just saved you 11 dollars and a lot of brain-kicking.

You're welcome!

It was a classier time.
(He used to have missile codes)
Far be it from me to complain about any movie that gives us transforming robots pummeling the crap out of each other for two and a half hours but seriously Michael Bay, two or three more movies like this and I might stop showing up. It's not that I want my money back (although, could I have my money back?) it's just that...well, Transformers 3 made me feel really, really old. Like you know old people drone on about how movies were better back in their day when men wore hats and people made lists of Communists? I kind of felt like that. But unlike our elders and their nostalgia for the days before polio vaccines, I'm not going to start complaining about the violence or that there're too many swears (if anything, more swears) but holy crap I had no idea what was going on for most of the two hours and thirty seven minutes (!).

The story, as much as I could follow anyway, goes like this-spoilers (I think, who knows for sure?) ahead:

"No, for real: shut up."
-Director Michael Bay
A Cybertronian starship crashes on the moon carrying these pillar things which can create a space portal allowing Transformers and later their whole planet travel to Earth. Why they now need a portal when all the robots in the previous movies just flew here is a mystery wrapped in shut up. Anyway, NASA covers this up for forty years and it's only when Professor Chang from Community is hilariously murdered by Laserbeak does anyone bother to tell the Autobots. Ok...

The blood of millions of Chicagoans
is on your hands Buzz...
Buzz Aldrin (in the best cameo this side of Bill Murray in Zombieland) finally comes clean to Optimus Prime and the Autobots go get the pillar devices. Then we find out that there're secretly hundreds more of them that Megatron already retrieved back in the 1960's despite being frozen until the 2000's (as seen in Transformers 1, remember?). So thanks to the magic space portal things, a Decepticon invasion force (which I guess came from their supposedly uninhabitable home planet) starts kicking the shit out of Chicago for some reason.

If there's one thing we Americans love it's
nightmarish imagery of buildings collapsing.
Thanks Michael Bay!
Shia LaBeouf (French for 'the beef') and his new girlfriend (Meghan Fox having been fired for comparing Michael Bay to Hitler) team up with the Army in the smoking rubble of Chicago ostensibly to blow up the 'Main Portal Thingy' but really it was just an excuse to have twenty minutes of commandos in wingsuits flying around the city while buildings collapse. Eventually they destroy the portal and Optimus kills Megatron and then turns to the camera to say how neat freedom is. Movie over.

Yup, that's the Government for you,
always with the mind-control.
Look, the Transformers movies ask us to believe that evil hyper-advanced robots from space can have their plans foiled by an Earth teen and his plucky Camaro. I'm fine with that, but what I'm not fine with is that plot doesn't make any goddamn sense. I guess Transformers 3 was a little more coherent than say Transformers 2, or this rant I saw stuffed in a newspaper vending machine (see right) but it still kind of made my brain hurt. Doesn't anyone watch these things first? What really burns me is that there's a more than decent chance (say, 100%) that I'll find myself waiting in line for Transformers 4. Goddamnit Michael Bay...

p.s. if you have any nerd in your soul, go to the Transformers Wiki. It's amazing and brilliantly snarky as it attempts to make sense of the six-dozen conflicting Transformers series and continuities (look up the Japan-only Kiss Players series, and then go shower). Also, it's where you can find this adorable picture of DJ Soundwave:

Soundwave: Superior, Transformers 3: Confusing.

*Yeah, I was going to call it 'Dork of the Moon,' but a quick and thorough Googling turned up like 15 other Dorks of the Moon. If you've got a better title, send it to me, I'll use it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Yub Nub!

Superior technology and discipline
always lose to the plucky underdog.
Put down that crumpet and spit out the tea you limey, Queen-loving haberdasher, it's the Fourth of July! Celebrate the defeat of the Empire at the hands of a rag tag band of Rebel Scum by setting off explosives and drinking heavily. Oh, and BTW Brittan, I know you once basically ruled the planet, but next time try dressing your soldiers in something other than screaming crimson. I'm no tactical genius, but unless you're conquering Mars, red doesn't really blend in. America: Celebrating 235 years of pronouncing 'aluminum' the right way.

Lieutenant Bartleby: "Dash cunning those Colonials, they seem to know exactly where we are at all times."
Colonel Havershire: "Perhaps if we put taller, more impressive feathers in our hats..." 

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's Canada Day! So try and keep it down, ok?

"Black horsey to red square, sucker."
Hey, did you know that today is Canada Day? Well, I bet you also didn't know that I'm one quarter Canadian. Sometimes I say 'a-boat' instead of 'about.' This is one of the many ways I am like the half-Human, half-Vulcan Mr. Spock. We're outsiders caught between two worlds; a part of both, but at home in neither. Also, I'm totally good at three-dimensional chess or at least I suspect I would be if it were really a thing. Anyway, those of us with a dual nature have a hard road to walk in life. A road made all the more difficult on days like today when we feel the stirring of our Canadian blood.

"Yeah, we actually call it back bacon, or sometimes just ham."
                                                                              -Canadian Proverb

"What? Like you could name
three of them. Go on, try it."
-Queen Victoria, 1867

So yeah, what the hell is Canada day? Well, it's the day when my people remember the enactment of the British North America act of 1867. It's sort of like the Fourth of July except instead of celebrating the casting off of a cruel and tyrannical King, the Canadians are celebrating the incorporation of the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Canada into the single, more easily taxed subject Kingdom of a cruel and tyrannical Queen (what? Maybe she kicked her dog. You don't know). This was because just like most of us United Statesians, Queen Victoria had a hard time remembering the names of all the Provinces. There's was only like three of them at the time, but she was having Nunavut. Thus Canada was born.

Shhh! It's Canada Day!
According to my exhaustive research of the Canada Day wikipedia site, the holiday used to be known as Dominion Day. Now this may sound like a needlessly intimidating name for a holiday that celebrates a document signing, but it was back when the country was known by the slightly more badass name: 'The Dominion of Canada' rather than the more modern 'Canada, I Beg Your Pardon' or The CIBYP. Also, since we Canadians don't like to be all in your face, no one really celebrated it until 1917 and then only at night with the curtains drawn.

So what do my people do on Canada Day? Well, in sharp contrast to the drunken, patriotic orgy of charred meat and illegal fireworks with which we celebrate the birth or our nation, Canadians mark the occasion with their usual restraint and dignity (they watch TV and have a beer). After all, they're just a little more civilized up there.

"Wooooooo, Canada!"
Dave Boucher, typical Canadian

Notable Canadians include:

Mutant Superhero Wolverine.
Noted actor and time-traveler, Michael J. Fox.

One quarter of me.