Monday, January 28, 2013

Damn you, damn you all to hell!

Careful, he might fling
The Right Stuff at you.
Hey, you know what's not an accomplishment anymore? Sending a monkey into space. So screw you Iran, I mean for real. The other Middle Eastern country that starts with an 'I' stunned absolutely nobody today by announcing that they had launched a monkey into space and then returned it safely to the Earth. Ok, I suppose the monkey was probably stunned, but sending animals into space is old news. We've sent monkeys into space as far back as the 1940's. Dogs, mice, even plants have all been to space. I think we were even going to send Lance Bass at one point. It's kind of a dick move since the reason we use animals is because we don't care if they make it back. So bravo guys, a sarcastic slow clap to you all, you've bravely risked a monkey's life

Sorry, but it's kind of true.
I mean, is there really anything left to learn from monkey astronauts? And it's not like the monkey had to do anything, he probably just sat there strapped into a high-tech carseat. In fact, most animals we launch are little more than living scientific instruments, which is kind of bullshit given that human astronauts spend years preparing and most never actually get the chance to go to space. With monkeys it's the opposite. The ones we send are the ones that were too slow and/or stupid to avoid capture.

I just did the math and curing cancer
would cost exactly 3 luxury yachts,
so like enjoy your fancy boat ride, jerk.
Look, space and monkeys are two of my favorite things, and it's not that I begrudge other countries their right to explore strange new worlds or anything, it just that this launch wasn't even about science. It added nothing to our understanding of the universe and was really just about showing everybody that Iran could build ballistic missiles. It's a total bummer that our space aspirations, as a species, have been reduced to GPS satellites, delivering bombs to people we don't like and giving celebrities pointlessly extravagant ways to spend their fabulous wealth.

In a shocking twist ending, the monkey returned to Earth to find the
State of Liberty intact and the planet run by talking humans.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Just let it happen...

"Beam me up Chewie...or whatever..."
J.J. Abrams is directing Star Wars Ep. 7 and really I'm ok with this. You know why? Disney isn't interested in loosing money. They gave George Lucas like $4 billion and they're not going to turn the first film of the new trilogy over to someone who's going to screw it up. If they have to make more Star Wars, he's perfect for the job, besides, he already directed a Star Wars movie. What the hell am I talking about?

Well, his Star Wars movie was called Star Trek even though it bore only a passing resemblance to the source material. Sure it had Spock and Kirk and all the beep-boop noises on the bridge of the Enterprise were there but when you got down to it was Star Wars with phasers:

Farmboy with a destiny: Check.
Luke Skywalker grew up on a moisture farm...
you know, farming moisture or something.
James T. Kirk grew up on a farm in Iowa,
apparently growing starships.
Bad guy with a planet killing super weapon and dubious rationale for using it: Check.
Grand Moff Tarkin blew up Alderaan because Dantooine was too much of a schlep.
Nero destroyed Vulcan because future Spock failed to single-handedly prevent
a super-nova (a natural phenomenon mind you) from wiping out his home
planet of an alternate future...that hadn't happened yet...
Climactic moment where the aforementioned hero is given a ship and put in a position to save the galaxy despite being severely under qualified: Check.
Either dusting crops is exactly like piloting a star fighter,
or the Rebel Alliance needed some cannon fodder.
You can either earn command of a Starship through decades of
hard work and sacrifice or you can be the guy with a famous daddy.
"Ok J.J, we're all counting
on you so don't fuck up." 
Abrams's Star Trek was cool, but it never really felt like he and the writers understood what Star Trek was supposed to be. I mean it's right there in the title: Trek. They did zero trekking in that movie, they just chased Eric Bana around while things was like a space war or something. In fairness, that last couple Trek movies kind of sucked, so it's not like anyone else was getting it right...Anyway, I know it's down right anti-Roddenberrian to put my faith in J.J. Abrams based solely on Disney's desire to make good on an investment, but for real, unless he actively sets out to destroy Star Wars, the sequels will be better than the prequels.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Kobayashi Maru

"We're not rigging the election, we're
simply compensating for voter hatred."

-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
No really, I want to know, how do these people sleep at night? Last November, the Republicans didn't do so well. Why? Well, a number of reasons. They compared a lot of things to rape that aren't rape, they called a lot of us lazy mooches, and their Presidential strategy hinged on reminding us that Obama isn't white. So what's Plan B? Drop the anti-intellectualism, homophobia and divisive culture-war bullshit, put on their big-boy pants and offer rational solutions to problems? Nope. Plan B is to change the goddamn rules.

If you have to click on this,
it's a -2 to your nerd roll.
Yeah, that's right, the GOP is going to try and Kobayashi Maru the next election. What the hell am I talking about? I'm glad I pretended you asked. The Kobayashi Maru is a test you have to take in order to graduate Starfleet academy. It puts cadets into a no-win scenario to see how they cope. The set up is simple, there's a freighter stranded in the Neutral Zone and you can A: play it safe and let the passengers die or B: enter the zone and try to rescue them knowing that the Klingons will kill the shit out of you and your crew. What do you do?

If you're James T. Kirk, you reprogram the simulator so it's possible to rescue the ship. Yes, it's cheating but you're James Testicles Kirk and the rules don't apply to you because you're the star of the damn movie.
"Cheating made me the man I am today...well, cheating, nepotism
and a magic destiny. Also I had lots of space sex, that helped."

Tough shit kid
What the hell does this have to do with elections? The last election showed the GOP that they suck and nobody likes them. A deadly combination if you're trying to get people to vote for you. You might even call it a no-win scenario. The GOP's solution is to try and change the way electoral votes are handed out. If I'm understanding this, States get two more electoral votes than they have congressional districts, think of them as bonus points. In some states these go to the winner of the popular vote. The Republican proposals would change this so that whoever wins the most districts gets these bonus votes as well.
Above in red: Real America. You might
remember it as the featureless expanse
seen from the airplane window.

Ah-hah, but if they're already winning these districts, shouldn't that count for something? Yes. And it does, this proposal would just give them the added advantage of two additional electoral votes in each state that implements it. According to the article, this would have swung the election for Romney. If you look at an electoral map that's divided up by Congressional District, it's mostly red. Romney lost because a lot of these districts are sparsely populated.

The idea behind Plan B is to 'level' the playing field so that it's possible to win the next election without, you know, persuading anyone. Look, I love me some Captain Kirk as much as the next guy, and when you're going up against a revenge crazed Ricardo Mantalban you've got to do what you've got to do but this is just election rigging. Mitt Romney didn't lose the 2012 election because the rules were unfair, he lost because he didn't have any good ideas and kind of acted like a dick.
"Good Evening my fellow Americans, I'd like to thank the exploitable
vagaries of the electoral college that made this day possible."

-Alternate Universe President Mitt Romney

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Today in dick moves...

In the name of Lloth, Queen of evil, it is
Steve's turn to take out the recycling.
So did you ever have siblings or housemates? If so, you're probably familiar with the low-level spell known as fives. Back in college when I was living with six or seven housemates and curb-score couchspace was at a premium, the rule was that if you needed to get up for a snack or to use the bathroom you could save your seat by saying fives first. Similar to shouting shotgun before getting in the car or touching your nose and saying not it when the cat throws up, invoking fives created an impenetrable forcefield of ass-defection which would allow you to keep your place for five minutes. It was a simple incantation and it worked well, but in our adult lives we put away such childish things and just rely on others to act like grown-ups.

"Hey I'm back, what I miss-uh...are
you goddamn kidding me?"

-Senator Henry Marsh
Unfortunately, acting like grown-ups is a concept lost on Virginia Republicans. Yesterday Senator Henry Marsh, a Democrat in the evenly divided State Senate, went to Washington to go to the inauguration. While he was gone, Republicans led by Senator John Watkins took advantage of the temporary one-seat advantage to push through a redistricting bill. Yup, while a 79-year-old civil rights attorney was attending the second inauguration of our first black president on Martin Luther King Day the Republicans swooped in and redrew the districts to favor the GOP.

I think this probably goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway: this is bullshit. I'm sure there are legitimate reasons to redraw a district but I'm fairly certain that because they aren't voting Republican enough isn't one of them.
"Hey, I'm just trying to level the playing field for candidates who can't win 
due to people hating them and everything they stand for. What's the problem?"
-Senator John Watkins, missing the
point of the electoral process

Saturday, January 19, 2013


"Balderdash indeed!"
-Olde timey people,
agreeing with me
Also balderdash and film flam! Look, I don't want to get too deep into the whole assault weapon controversy, that's what Facebook is for, but I do want to talk about this article about a recent poll. Wait, what do you mean what article, what poll? You see the words in blue up there? That's a link. You on the...well? Are you seriously just going to wait until I give in and sum it up for you...Goddamnit, fine, here: It's a poll that says the NRA is more popular than the entertainment industry. Yeah, that's right, the N 'out of my cold dead hands' RA is more popular than the people who make movies and music and stuff. I call bullshit, bullshit most foul.

Ok, settle down, I'm not saying that people who love the gun lobby are a bunch of right-wing loonies who care more about their particular interpretation of the 2nd Amendment than things like safety and children. I am not saying that. I may think it, but I would never say it. Out loud. Where they can hear me.
The Constitution doesn't say you can't have an ICBM, so clearly the
founding fathers meant for you to have one in your back yard.
Also, this happened.
My confusion stems from the fact that the NRA, an organization who should be acting as a voice of reason and promoting safe and responsible gun use, is instead devoting itself entirely to blaming video games, movies and music for gun violence. They act like a bunch of dicks all the time and we're supposed to believe this poll's assertion that they are somehow more likable than the entertainment industry. I mean, in what way has the entertainment industry ever hurt us? Well, other than bombarding us with violent images, portraying unrealistic expectations of what life is really like and promoting the crushingly high standards of beauty that have left generations of women and men with body issues and diminished senses of self-worth...

You got your two-year old a kitten?
Yeah, that's nice, but I don't give a shit.
Let's talk about Downton Abbey instead.
Anyway, I think the poll is a little misleading, or to put it into technical terms, bullshit. Asking people about their opinion of the 'entertainment industry' as a whole is crap, it's too broad a topic. Take television for example. TV has given us so much and asks nothing in return except that we buy whatever the hell the sponsors are selling. Think of the thousands of hours of distraction from our real lives it provides. And thanks to universally popular TV shows like Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory we all have common points of reference to get us though conversations with our coworkers. No I don't care about your children and/or cats. Yes, I did find that thing Sheldon said last night to be hilarious. Conversation: accomplished.

And television is just one of the entertainment industry's many teats we all suckle on. People love movies, books and video games. People really love music, even country (which is objectively terrible). So what gives? Are the people polled a bunch of filthy liars? Sort of.
Above: Social commentary. It's subtle,
so I'll explain: We're the baby pigs.
It's funny 'cause...Congress!
I think part of it is that we love to feel superior. Rolling our eyes at the entertainment industry is a great way to set oneself apart from the drooling, TV-addicted idiots that everyone else but you is. The other part is Congress. Yeah, that's not a punchline, it's a comparison. Whenever people are asked about Congress, they screw up their faces in disgust like they've just been offered a shit-sandwich on rye (it's better on sourdough). Ask them about their own Representative? Oh, yeah, they're great.*

The NRA is a specific organization and people either support them or they don't. The entertainment industry is the thing that's turning our children into unfeeling zombies who can't tell the difference between Grand Theft Auto and running over hookers in real life.
If you run over a prostitute in GTA they sometimes leave behind stacks of money. In real
life they leave behind forensic evidence. If it's cash you're after, you should run over the pimps. 
"Help shape national opinion?
Sure, I've got five minutes."
I suppose if the pollsters asked how the respondents felt about the gun lobby they might have gotten a different answer. Like the vaguely defined entertainment industry, the phrase has a more negative connotation.

"Who? The gun lobby? Those assholes who find loopholes in the assault rifle ban and bribe those idiots in Congress whom I loathe? I hate the gun lobby, boo! Oh, the NRA? I think my grandpa was a member or something...maybe it was NAMBLA, I don't remember, anyway I gotta go, I think I'm missing Breaking Bad."

-Randomly chosen, anonymous people whose 
opinions are for some reason important to us 

Yeah, I'm aware that I'm pretty biased abut this, but no matter what your opinion of the NRA, you've got to admit this poll is at best suspect. Like, if instead of asking a series of questions the pollsters offered respondents either a year of premium cable for free or a year of free NRA membership complete with...I don't know, a tote bag or whatever, like seriously, which do you think would win?
"I could be watching Season 3 of Game of Thrones, but instead I got a
tote bag that says I Carry and a monthly newsletter about how President
Obama was secretly born in Kenya. Oh well, I made my choice."

-Some idiot

 *Ok, actually I think most of us would be hard pressed to name their Congress person, but you get the idea.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Not helpful.

So like, if you saw the thing below light up on your dash what would you think it is?

Here's a closer look. I know, right?
Although the claw thing is
sound, if not pertinent advice.

If you said 'got me, what the shit is that?' You would be correct. If you said that's a tire pressure light, screw you. How was I supposed to know that? This shouldn't be a Rorschach test. To me, it looks like an exclamation point boiling in a cauldron which I'd interpret as: Excitement is brewing! Where do they get tire pressure? In fact, I'd argue that that symbol is open to all kinds of interpretation. It could be Caution: Beware of robot claws. Or Caution: Don't sit on the five-peg Lego. I call bullshit on this. The whole point of dashboard indicators is to communicate information. If I have to consult the internet (or god forbid, the manual) every time something lights up, the excitement cauldron isn't doing its job. Well, unless I need to know that the soup's on.

I don't think I'm being unreasonable here (although I am). For all I know this light could have meant: Alert! Explosion immanent! Evacuate vehicle! 
"If only he'd taken the time to familiarize himself with
the various warnings and dash board indicators..."
-Hindsight McToldyaso,
Volunteer Firefighter
"Woe betide those who do not firmly
screw on the gas cap after fueling."
You know what would have made more sense? A picture of a tire that's flat on the bottom or a picture of a tire gauge or I don't know, how about a little sign that says 'tire pressure.' Hey, while we're at it, what exactly about the tire pressure is this light trying to say? Does it want me to check the tire pressure? Is the tire pressure too low? Too high? Are my tires about to pop? I don't know. And which tire? I have four. Why do I have to sit there interpreting GM's crazy space language while my tires slowly deflate?

I'll admit it, this is mostly about me trying to deflect the blame for my irresponsible car ownership. After all, I should probably read the owner's manual and you know, get the oil changed sometimes but you have to admit, whoever came up with the dashboard indicators could have been a bit more direct.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January is SWHS Awareness Month!

If you don't explain it to your kids,
they'll only pick it up on the streets.
I think it's time we had the talk. No, not where do babies come from? talk, everyone knows about the doodle and the hootenanny, I'm talking about The Talk. The Star Wars Holiday Special talk. You did know there was a Star Wars Holiday Special, right? I only ask because I am shocked at the number of people I encounter who have no idea such a thing ever existed. In fact, I'd like to declare January to be National Star Wars Holiday Special Awareness Month. Yes, I realize that January is already National Bath Safety Month, but try not to slip in the tub for next five minutes while you have your awareness raised.

He even has a special sink for it.
I should start off by saying that the Holiday Special won't ruin Star Wars for you forever, so relax. At worst it's an amusing footnote in a series that's already 50% crap and while the internet is not exactly hurting for musings on how shitty it is, I did show it to some friends last night who'd never heard of it and now I feel the need to share. Of course, if you're already familiar with its crapulocity, you can skip this post. No hard feelings, I promise the next post will be about how Eric Cantor drowns puppies or something.

Name? Momaw Nadon. Screen time:
2.3 seconds. Backstory and
action figure? Check and check.
So what the hell is the Holiday Special? Here's a link to the Wookiepedia entry, but in case you're lazy and/or impatient, I'll sum up: The year was 1978 and Star Wars (the movie), its associated comic books, breakfast cereals and action figures (made out of every random extra to appear on camera at any point during the film's run time) had just made all the money in the world. Desperate for more, a pack of corporate geniuses looked at the film and thought to themselves: How can we possibly shit all over this? Their answer? Take advantage of some contractual fine print and force the cast to participate in a two-hour made-for-TV 70's style variety show.

Now I know forgiving George Lucas is sort of in right now, but I'm not convinced that he's as innocent as he claims when it comes to the special. Some sources insist he was uninvolved, others lay the blame squarely at his feet. Who's telling the truth? I don't know. The point is it happened, it can't unhappen.
Of course he is responsible for this scene in Episode III where Yoda hacks a bunch of
Clone Troopers to death with a child-sized lightsaber. A man like that is capable of anything.
This human family enjoying each other's
company at the holidays is somehow less
believable than the Wookie family in this movie. 
The 'premise' of the 'movie' is that Han is trying to get Chewbacca back to his home planet of Kashyyyk (three y's) for Life Day, which I guess is the Star Wars version of Christmas. Most of the two hours is Chewie's family sitting around waiting for him. They pass the time growling in Wookie-speak (yeah, no subtitles thank you very much) and in an oddly accurate portrayal of real families at the holidays, moving from one form of solitary entertainment to the next. Like holy shit, everything in their tree house is basically a TV.

Chewie's family is what writers would call a framing narrative, but we're going to call a flimsy pretext for jumping between variety show segments. Every time a Wookie turns on a hologram or a virtual reality porn chair, we sit there and watch them watch a cooking show, or a commercial or Bea Arthur singing.
Above: Art Carney strapping grandpa into his Virtual Reality Porn Chair.
Did you think I was kidding?
Here she is wrestling Velociraptors...
underwater. Is there anything she can't do?
Yes, indeed I did say Bea Arthur singing. She plays Ackmena, the Mos Eisley cantina nightshift bartender in one of the few watchable segments. According to her Wookiepedia page (she's got one too), Arthur was pals with some of the production staff on the Holiday Special and while filming her scene had no idea it was for Star Wars. So not only was Bea Arthur unwittingly the best part of the SWHS, she's also an official part of the Star Wars universe. Her character almost got an action figure, almost but for whatever reason, Ackmena wasn't as popular as our pal Boba Fett who was also introduced here.

Uh-huh, Boba Fett's first appearance in anything anywhere was in this special. Even more weird is that he appears as a character in a cartoon Chewie's son watches. To clarify, this is a cartoon starring his dad, Han Solo, the droids and the overrated bounty hunter who will later try to feed Chewie to the Sarlacc. Has your mind exploded yet?
Next time you see someone rocking a Fett tattoo, feel free to point out to them
that one of the Golden Girls survived on Tatooine where as the Mandalorian could not.
Evidently not.
Thought so. Now go buy a copy off of ebay or something and watch it. I'll wait. Finished? You are? Great, see what I mean? Sure it's terrible, but it's also kind of amazing, right? Mark Hamil's creepy post-car accident plastic face, Carrie Fisher singing the Star Wars theme. And what's going on with the ending? Oh, and chances are your copy (like mine) was dubbed off of someones Betamax, so it retains the original commercial breaks which themselves make the thing worth watching at least once. Still, you do have to wonder how the people involved let this happen in the first place. I mean, at the time, Star Wars consisted of the original movie and this. Weren't they worried they'd loose credibility, or to borrow cold, soulless language of marketing people, tarnish the brand?

Even more baffling? According to the laws of the Star Wars Universe, the SWHS is legitimate Star Wars. As with any fictional universe that's been around for a while, Star Wars has certain rules dictating what does and does not count in the official continuity and despite everyone involved trying to forget it ever existed, SWHS counts. Let that sink in.
Harvey Korman in drag playing the host of a space cooking show is as
validly a part of Star Wars as The Empire Strikes Back. Holy shit.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chuck Chuck Bo Buck...*

"Well, hello there..."
-Abraham Lincoln
Did you know there are gay Republicans? I mean like actual out of the closet, comfortable with who they are gay Republicans, and not just the guys who get arrested for wide-stancing in the men's room. They call themselves the Log Cabin Republicans and they're upset about the President's choice of Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. Why are they called Log Cabin Republicans? I guess Lincoln grew up in a log cabin, and he was maybe a little gay so...hey, I don't know, they just are, ok?

Look out! They're
gay-ing aggressively at us!
Anyway, while Republicans eating their own like a pack of hungry Orcs is sort of in vogue right now, the Log Cabins say they're upset about Hagel's anti-gay positions like his opposition to the Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal, and certain comments he's made like calling U.S. Ambassador James Hormel "openly, aggressively gay..." back in 1998. They're even taking out a full page ad to point out the fact that Hagel has only apologized for his homophobic comments 14 years later because he's up for the Secretary of Defense position.

Yeah, ok, so Hagel's a dick, that's fair, but this is a group who, (albeit grudgingly) endorsed Mitt Romney last year despite his record, so critics are probably right to accuse the LCR of trying to torpedo the nomination just to spite the President.
President Obama could declare March National Ronald Reagan and Waving American Flag Month
and the Republicans would fight him tooth and nail so, you know, whatever.
And I'd like a Hover Board.
Guess which is going to happen first.
So what's up with these guys anyway? According to their website, Log Cabin Republicans want " build a stronger, more inclusive Republican Party by promoting the core values of limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, free markets and a strong national defense while advocating for the freedom of equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans." Tall order, no? Look, I don't want to tell them how to run their crazy gay/conservative club, but wouldn't it just be faster and easier to join the DNC and promote free markets or whatever?

What do we want?
LGBT Equality!
When do we want it?
There's no rush.
I mean, the Republican party runs almost entirely on a platform of traditional values, which is Republican-speak for straight white Christian values, you know, the opposite of gay-friendly. Joining the GOP to advocate for gay rights is like joining the Stormtroopers to advocate for Wookie rights. It just seems, you know, counterproductive. You might even say aggressively counterproductive.
Although in defense of The Empire, they are pretty good on gay rights.
*As a matter of fact, no, I'm not better than that.