Monday, April 30, 2012

Titanic 2? What could possibly go wrong?

Wow, I suppose it was only a matter of time before someone decided to build a Titanic II. On Monday an Australian billionaire named Clive Palmer announced plans to tempt the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing by building a high-tech replica of the Titanic and then sending it from England to New York thus one-upping it's namesake, you know, out of respect...or something.
In your face 1,500 victims of hubris!
Like this thing for example.
What the hell is up with this thing?
Richard Branson water skis with naked models, Dick Cheney hunts people for sport but this finally proves that Australians can go head to head-case with the world's richest crazies any day of the week-incidentally that day was yesterday, which in Australia was Monday and for us is today. Still with me? I'm sure it has something to do with the Coriolis effect* or something, but I prefer to chalk it up to the fact that they do everything wrong: they drive on the left, their seasons are reversed and their billionaires see opportunity in human tragedy.

There's a lot about this I just don't get. First of all, the plan calls for a 'high-tech' replica of the original liner. According to the AP article, that means GPS navigation, a more efficient hull-design and diesel rather than steam powered engines. I'm no historian, but doesn't that just make it a regular cruise ship? What's the point, other than turning a trans-Atlantic crossing into a really morbid vacation?
It's a floating casino/mall with a buffet and staph infection. Enjoy!
On-board activities include: karaoke,
shuffleboard and deck chair arranging.
I mean if they're going for historical accuracy, will a third of its passengers have to hang out in third class the whole time? Steerage (according to this) was kind of like one of the nicer layers of hell, unless you're into cramped conditions, no shower facilities and incessant Irish jigs. Also, the stupidly tragic lesson of the Titanic was how the class-system led to a disproportionate loss of life among the poorer passengers. With people Occupying places and things all over the world, is celebrating a gilded age of privilege for the wealthy few really a good move?

Social issues aside, the ship is not exactly going to be like a trip back in time. Sure they're going to glue some decorative smoke stacks on top so it sort of looks like the real deal, but the wifi and video-poker machines throw the authenticity out the window. Educationally speaking, it'd be like going to a Renaissance Festival expecting to learn something about the 16th century.
"The Titanic is unsinkable. Do you
hear me God? Un-fucking-sinkable."

-George V of England

Look, the first Titanic (I can't believe I have to distinguish between ships named Titanic) was trumpeted by White Star Lines as unsinkable, they left the dock with half the necessary life boats and archival footage of the christening actually shows King George V breaking a champagne bottle over the bow and then waving his middle finger skyward. They were begging, begging God to sink the damn thing.

While I'm almost certain that the Titanic II won't hit an iceberg in the warm, glacier-free North Atlantic of the 21st century, it is going to be built by the lowest-bidding Chinese Shipyard a crazy Australian could find. Just keep that in mind before hopping aboard.
Taste this, and then tell me you're willing to trust these people with your life.

*I have a confession to make:

Above: Turns out that this is not
a substitute for actual science.
Please don't tell anyone, but I was embarrassingly far into my adulthood before realizing that the Coriolis effect does not make toilets drain clockwise in one hemisphere and counterclockwise in the other. I guess it's true of big things like typhoons, but the physics of bathroom fixtures are based more on the shape of the basin than the rotation of the earth. Why would I believe such a preposterous thing? Well, two reasons: The Simpson's Episode entitled Bart vs. Australia and the fact that I went to public school. Thanks education, you've screwed me again.

It was only after looking it up on Wikipedia, yeah, Wiki-goddamn-pedia that I discovered the sad truth: TV isn't always right.
We'd save ourselves a lot of time and frustration
if we just gave up and let kids use this as source material.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Oh no, Boba Fett is possibly dead again, maybe...

Thank you. Someone has finally killed off Boba Fett (via Topless Robot) Sorry, spoilers, I guess, although the comic's title is Boba Fett is Dead, so good luck. If it's any consolation this time he did meet a somewhat better, less hilarious end than his swan-dive into Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors's mouth twenty minutes in to Return of the Jedi. In the newest issue of Star Wars: Blood Ties he goes out in a fashion one would expect of a Galactic outlaw: multiple blaster hits at point blank range. As I've mentioned before I'm not the biggest Boba Fan. I admit it's an irrational dislike, I mean being a fictional character he's never done anything to me. It's just that for a buffoon with two minutes screen time (in the original trilogy anyway) and a slapstick death scene I think he gets way too much attention.
Did I mention that the Sarlacc burped after swallowing everybody's favorite badass?
See, cause burps are funny. Chalk up another for George Lucas: Master of Subtle Storytelling.
Above: The heartwarming backstory
we never asked for or wanted.
So is it wrong to rejoice in the death of an imaginary space bounty hunter? Possibly. But if it helps I offer the following solace: in Sci-Fi no one stays dead long. Now, I know what you're thinking: 'Say, he sure looks awfully dead in the picture, I mean how could they bring him back?' The answer is: pretty damn easily. The needless backstory established by the prequels revealed that Boba Fett is a clone of Jango Fett and so are all the Clone Troopers (and possibly the Storm Troopers) so it's not like the writers would have to go far for either a new Boba Fett or some cockamamie retcon about how he's not really dead (it was a some other clone pretending to be Boba) I can think of no other character in the Star Wars Universe that would be easier to bring back to life (again).

Besides, Tom Taylor, the writer of Boba's Doom mentions in the interview that he's also involved in another series which brings Darth Maul back to life. Remember him? The only marketable element, I mean decent character from the Phantom Menace? If you recall he was sliced in half and then dropped down the Naboo Royal Palace's warp core. If he can bounce back from that I'm sure Boba's blaster-wound to the chest is no big.

Note Darth Maul's increase in poster prominence between 1999 and 2012.
At least Lucasfilm's marketing department knows what they're doing.
Above: Some moon.
I don't know, I'm not by any means judging Taylor's work here, this series could be excellent. But there is something a little, you know, whorey about killing off recognizable characters in the Expanded Universe. Remember back in 1999 when (further spoilers) R.A. Salvatore dropped a moon on Chewbacca? Yeah, a goddamn moon. It wasn't really Salvatores's fault, as the decision to kill Chewie didn't flow so much from the creative process as it was agreed upon in a meeting. And as we all know, the best writing comes from committees.

Anyway, there it is. Dramatic exit for one of the SW Universe's most beloved and mysterious characters, or hollow corporate decision that will be reversed in six months? You tell me. Like seriously, let me know. I'm not going to be reading it. Like I said, I ever really cared for Boba Fett.
"Sorry buddy, EU novel sales are down this quarter, and well, it's nothing personal..."
-Han Solo, New Alliance Director of Tie-In Merchandise

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Doctor Whaaah?

I'm no scientist, but I do know
that vampires don't whine. Fact.
Hey, look at this: American sci-fi is science-ier than British sci-fi! This according to bunch of British Sci-Fi authors who have written a letter to the Manchester Review to call attention to the science gap when it comes to fiction. The U.K., according to the writers, is falling behind the U.S. when it comes to the sci in sci-fi. Wait, what? Go us, I guess. I wonder however if they're even aware that the Sci-Fi/Fantasy sections at Barnes and Noble are now almost 85% Teen Paranormal Romance. Let's not tell them, ok?

Sure they gave us Shakespeare, but
what have they done for us lately?
Anyway, the writers are specifically complaining about the lack of scientific realism in British movies, television and books. Their goal is to inspire scientists and artists to work together to present science both compellingly and accurately. A laudable goal, but it's going to be an uphill battle. If we've learned anything from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the License to Print Money, it's that realism is for chumps (or in British: chumppes).

Look, I love me some Doctor Who but every time some confusing plot point is explained away as wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff or when evil is defeated through British stiff upper-lippedness and mad-cap whimsy I can kind of see where they're coming from.
"You may have an invincible army of genocidal Daleks at your command, but they're no match for
 cricket, room temperature beer and the joy a child feels on Boxing Day morning. Advantage: Doctor."
-The Doctor, winning
Above: math.
So why fight for more science in storytelling? Science can be bo-ring, and it can make people feel stupid. Remember Armageddon (the movie, not Jesus's Ragnarok)? No? Good. I'll refresh you. It's a movie about asteroids that only hit recognizable landmarks. Not to be a funssassin, but the Earth is three quarters water so the mathematical likelihood of rocks set in motion millions of years ago hitting a Space Shuttle, Grand Central Station and the Eiffel Tower all in one day is exactly centaur. So why does Michael Bay give our brains the finger with this and every movie he's ever made ever? Because he wanted to make something that people will pay to see. 

Captain Kirk: An interstellar
grab-bag of alien STD's.

But maybe these guys are on to something, maybe it's time we (British and normal people alike) demanded smarter sci-fi. Maybe it's time we stood up and called bullshit on TIE Fighters swooshing in the vacuum of space, bullshit on whatever the hell Red Matter was, and bullshit on aliens who despite evolving on entirely different planets are not only sexually compatible with humans, but also need us to teach them about this thing we call love. 

And why the hell not? We're living in a world where Emily Deschanel solves crime with holograms and people are still fighting over whether or not evolution or magic should be taught in science classes. If ever there was a time to step up the smartness, it's now. 
Next time on Bones: The crime lab is turned upside down when
the Hologram becomes sentient and runs amok. Also, jetpacks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Wrath of Kang

"All but one of these lead to everlasting
damnation, try to guess which!"

Hey, did you know that we're not the only country that has to put up with judgmental, self-righteous, anti-gay douchebags who are convinced that anyone who disagrees with their narrow worldview will spend eternity in a lake of fire? Check out the Korean Association of Church Communication who have promised "concerted action to stop young people from being infected with homosexuality and pornography." We already knew that gayness was contagious-that's just common sense. But holy shit, did you know you could also catch porn?

"Faas-Ru-Maar!" -the Dragon Shout
for disrupting pop concerts,
weddings and bar-mitzvahs. 
Fortunately for the people of South Korea, Kang Ju-Hyun, head of the Alliance for Sound Culture in Sexuality (which is surprisingly not the name of an awesome band) knows it. He's leading his organization and others like it in a coordinated effort to stop Lady Gaga's world tour from coming to Seoul. Their weapon: praying really hard, like in a big group in hopes that God will intervene and give Gaga a migraine. After all, God's basically just a hatchet man for parent's groups who feel threatened by a woman riding in a plastic egg.

What's their beef with Lady Gaga anyway? Well, she's a friend of the gays and Jesus totally hates gay people. It says so in the Bible...doesn't it? Maybe towards the back? No? Well, in fairness, the Bible's hard enough to understand in English, have you ever tried to read Korean? Here, give it a try:
See? It's from space. For all we know this is Jesus's recipe for kimchi.
Sorry kid, God already saved you from
Lady Gaga. You're on your own here.
Look, South Korea lives under the constant threat of Zerg-attack, mutated fish-dog monsters and the possibility that one morning North Korean man-baby Kim Jong-Un might put on his cranky pants and nuke the shit out of them. You'd think Korean Christians (or Korestians) would have more useful things to get together and pray about. I'm not, as I've made clear in the past, a theologian, but what if God really does answer prayers but you only get like one or something. Is this really the solid you want God to do for you?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Vote for John Raese, or you're basically Hitler.

In fairness, John Raese is medically
incapable of keeping his beef-hole shut.
Hey, you know what's not the same thing as the Holocaust? Smoking bans. Just don't tell that to West Virginia Republican Senatorial candidate John Raese who said that a recently passed smoking ban is pretty much the same thing as genocide. Behold this horrible thing he said:

"Remember Hitler used to put Star of David on everybody's lapel, remember that? Same thing."
-John Raese

Holy shit. First of all, Hitler didn't put the Star of David on everybody's lapels, just the Jewish people. Secondly, Jewish people don't cause emphysema and cancer. Thirdly the smoking ban and the Holocaust differ in one key aspect: one was a smoking ban and the other was the fucking Holocaust.
Never forget...the mild inconvenience faced by smokers forced to step outside.
"Oh my Christ, why won't you stop
crying? What are you, Hitler?"
You know, sometimes people get overly emotional when arguing points they feel passionate about and I suppose there can be a temptation to compare people who disagree to the leader of the Third Reich. Sure, in this case Raese is passionate about the right to expose others to your second-hand smoke but Hitler was fanatically anti-smoking, so there is that. On the other hand Hitler was also responsible for World War II, the aforementioned Holocaust and some seriously mediocre paintings so maybe some perspective is in order here, dontcha think? 

Actually, perspective and some self-evaluation are in order. Check out his website. Especially this page where he sings the praises of Governor Jan Brewer's "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act"- a law which basically requires non-white people to carry around identification proving who they are, because there's nothing at all Hitlery about that...
"Hey, I've got an idea: maybe we could make all the Hispanics sew little
patches on their shirts. You know, to make it easier to keep track of 'em."
-John Raese: Idea Man*
*Ok, he didn't really suggest that, but c'mon, he's basically there.

Monday, April 16, 2012

This Post is Full of Spoilers.

Bungler? You fail again, internet.
No really, be careful, I'm going to ruin some surprises for you (specifically, and in order they are: Oedipus Rex, Downton Abbey Season 4 and for no reason, Fight Club). Consider this a spoiler of spoilers, and yes I realize there's a measure of irony in complaining about someone dropping spoilers in a complaint about spoilers. Also, I'd like to apologize in advance for the over-use of the word 'spoiler.' It can't be helped. Since caring about spoilers is only like 30 years old, the thesaurus is a little light on other options.

The ancient Greeks for example had no concept of the Spoiler. In fact, Oedipus Rex's
original title was 'Holy Shit, This Dude Boned His Mom and Then Gouged Out His Own Eyes!'

Although I am keeping my
fingers crossed for season 3.
You ready for the thing that pissed me off? Here it is. Click at your own peril. Apparently Maggie Smith is leaving Downton Abbey and the writers will probably be killing her off and-what? I watch Downton Abbey, ok? Yes, I know it's a sumptuous period piece about class difference set against the turmoil of Edwardian England and yes, I realize it is unlikely to feature robots or aliens anytime soon. I don't care, it's amazing. And for the record, I totally was into it before it was cool. Anyway, as I was saying: holy shit guys, for real?

Sorry, were you watching that?
Has no one at MSNBC never heard the expression 'spoiler alert?' I mean the spoiler is contained in the headline on the goddamn homepage, you can't not read it. While Maggie Smith putting in her two-weeks notice (or the famous-people equivalent) is arguably news, was it really necessary to tell us her character will die? I mean, for all we know she could get a recording contract and move to Nashville or marry President Taft. But now? No mystery: Dowager Crawley's gonna kick next season.

Isn't it kind of common courtesy to warn readers before needlessly giving away plot points? I'm not alone on this am I?

It would be exactly like this.

Above: The novel of the
movie of the comic. Ow...

p.s. The title of this post is a reference to This Book is Full of Spiders, the not-yet-out-follow-up to John Dies at the End by David Wong, which I read recently and found both unsettling and delightful. You should read it too. Incidentally, I want to make it clear that while I was into it after it was cool I did read it before the movie so at least I'm not that guy. You know, the guy at Starbucks sheepishly trying to cover the 'now a major motion picture' edition of whatever book they're reading. That's just embarrassing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

In defense of jaw-dropping ignorance...

Above: stupid idiots.
Hey check out this Daily Mail story about the stupid idiots on Twitter who thought the Titanic was just a movie. Thankfully, people who are better than them took screenshots of their Tweet-based confessions and then posted them on the inter-tubes so we could all make fun. On the one hand I think that's just super: ignorance should be pointed and laughed at. Shame is at the very heart of our educational system. On the other hand, the people who are laughing kind of suck too.

You see, the kids on the Twitterbook were born after 1912 when the floating metaphor for early 20th century social inequality known as the Titanic sunk killing like 1500 people they never met. So while unfortunate, the disaster wouldn't necessarily have a direct impact on most people alive today.
In fact, according to researchers, it's funny because we don't know them.

See? Climate change isn't all
bad news. For us, I mean.
I suppose you can dust off the 'those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it' thing, but does that really apply? I mean what's the lesson here? Carry more lifeboats? Check. Don't trust British Sea Captains? Way ahead of you. I'd say it's: Watch out for icebergs in the North Atlantic, but thanks to the totally natural cycle of our weather patterns spiraling wildly towards collapse, that's not so much a problem anymore.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying
winning at Cashcab isn't important.
I'm just saying it's not the only thing.

I'm not usually one to jump to the defense of our ever-increasing endumbening as a planet, but in this one instance and apart from game-show participation, does it really matter if not everyone is up to speed on last century's most expensive lesson in transoceanic boat safety? Look, I enjoy useless trivia and random knowledge as much as, and possibly more than the next guy. But it's also nice to not be a jerk.

Besides, should we really be ragging on people for assuming that only some sort of ghoul would take a massive loss of human life like the Titanic and turn it into a blockbuster about horny 20-somethings? Shouldn't their child-like naivety be a heart-warming reminder of our own innocence or something?

"Thank you, thank you. Hundreds of frozen corpses can finally rest
in peace knowing their pointless deaths made me somewhat richer."
-James Cameron, after winning all the Oscars

Monday, April 9, 2012

Today in 'That woulda been sweet...'

Stanley Jaffe has made an enemy this day. Well, actually he made an enemy back in 1992 when he shot down the best idea anyone ever had. Check this out. Someone was going to build a full-sized Starship Enterprise in Las Vegas and Paramount CEO Stanley Jaffe said no. No? Are you kidding me Stanley Jaffe? When someone says they want to build a 1:1 scale replica of the goddamn Enterprise you say goddamn yes.

"For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
-John Greenleaf Whittier, obviously referring to this

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Yes, lesbians are exactly like unicorns.

"I've just got a feeling
about those two."
In other 'what's up with Maryland and gay people?' news, two Maryland women are waiting to hear from a State Court of Appeals whether or not they can start dating again. Jessica Port and Virginia Cowan were married in California during it's brief flirtation with the 21st century but it didn't work out, so they filed for divorce (like a lot of people do) in 2010. Judge A. Michael Chapdelaine however, didn't feel like granting it and instead told them this:

"The court finds that to recognize the alleged marriage would be contrary to the public policy of Maryland to grant it [the divorce]" 
-Alleged Judge A. Michael Chapdelaine

Yup, an anti-gay judge is refusing to end a gay marriage on the grounds that doing so would imply the existence of the marriage in the first place. It's a little like refusing to step out of the way of a rampaging herd of unicorns because doing so would acknowledge a belief in unicorns and their graceful beauty.
That was less about the analogy and more about the unicorns.
So majestic, so powerful...I call them Surfrider and Heartstorm,
and they have shown me that friendship can overcome any challenge.

Legal experts agree: 'Ehhhh...?'
But if Maryland doesn't allow same-sex marriages, how can he dissolve one? That's an excellent question, and I'm glad I pretended you asked. Maryland already recognizes same-sex marriages performed in other states, and some judges have granted same-sex divorces. And some haven't. The law is sort of, you know, 'whatever' on the subject. So tough luck ladies, by sheer chance you happened to get a judge who thinks your marriage is just pretend so he can't even be bothered to put it asunder. 

It's bad enough these women had to go to the other side of the country to get married, but now have to put their lives on hold again because some judge doesn't like gay people? That's some bullshit. Can't we just make same-sex marriages legal everywhere? At least until they come up with a better argument against it than it somehow harms opposite-sex (or vanilla) marriage?
"Oh Yeah? Well maybe I wouldn't have to drink so much if gay people
 weren't allowed to get married! Did you ever think of that?"

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Honorable Judge Gaylord T. Mankiss

"Fuck yeah! In your face, equality!" 
-Prop 8 supporters 
Look, I love me some Democracy. It's swell. But can we stop putting civil rights up for a vote? There is a reason we have a legislative process: In addition to giving political lawn-sign makers something to do, it's also designed to protect people from the whims of mob rule. Remember the time California finally passed a marriage equality bill and then some well-funded homophobes with absolutely no standing convinced a narrow margin of voters that they shouldn't not vote 'no' to not un-extending marriage to gays and lesbians?

Yeah, like that. Well, now a group in Maryland is going to try and sink the state's same-sex marriage bill with a referendum. They're called the Maryland Marriage Alliance and they're all that stands between you and 'efforts to mandate gay marriage.' 

'I now pronounce you gay-married. You must now kiss the groom, and it'd better be hot.'
-Judge Gaylord T. Mankiss

Well gay people, I hope you're happy.
As you can imagine, they suck. In addition to completely made-up threats of people being legally compelled to have hot, Takei-sex within the bonds of holy matrimony, the MMA also warns Marylanders of the grim future that awaits them when the wedding industry is forced to accept millions of dollars in new revenue, cakes are topped with two grooms and school children are taught that there are gay people in the world.

As a devout Vulcantologist (it's a religion I made up this week), I believe in the idea that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, but there's no need here. The Maryland Marriage Alliance doesn't need gay people to be treated like crap under the law, they just want that because they're jerks. If they're asking for a show of hands on other people's marriages, shouldn't they have a better reason than 'we'd have to change all the dictionaries?'
Hey, look it that, already includes same-sex marriage within the definition
of marriage and civilization hasn't collapsed into Thunderdome-esqe barbarism. How 'bout that?

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Church of Vulcantology

What? L. Ron Hubbard did it,
why not Gene Roddenberry?
This Easter weekend, I think we should take a moment to remember the story of a man who came from above. A man who died so that others would live, and then returned to life. No, he didn't die for your sins, but he did get the warp core online. Join us here at the Church of Vulcantology in remembering the death and resurrection of our most venerated Human/Vulcan hybrid, Mr. Spock, and please also enjoy this illustrated telling of the Resurrection of Spock for the whole family (assuming of course that the whole family enjoys casual swearing). Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen Star Treks 2 and 3. But if that's the case, why are you even reading this?

"Settle down, all I said was that I know for a
 fact that God hates you. What's the big deal?"
-Rick Santorum, probably
Hey, but for real, I mean no disrespect to the Jesus fans out there. Anyone who stands up to a massive, super-powerful organization like the Roman Empire just to say that maybe we should all treat each other like brothers and get along is pretty awesome. On the other hand the people who take that story, load it up with a bunch of misogynistic, homophobic and racist bullshit to fit their prejudiced worldview and then use it to attack those who don't agree with them can live long and suck it. So to everyone but them, Happy Easter!