Wednesday, June 26, 2013

SCOTUS? But we've only just met...

Well how's 'bout that? The Supreme Court, or SCOTUS if you're in a hurry, ruled that DOMA is complete bullshit, and that it totally doesn't want to touch Prop 8 with a ten foot Judging Pole. The ruling brought a swift and brutal smiting from the Almighty, just like gay marriage opponents have been saying all along. This was the scene earlier today:
"Ahhh! If only we'd listened to those assholes from
the National Organization for Marriage!"
Holy shit, I don't care about
your stupid bread bears. God, I
hope you never know happiness...
But don't propose just yet, this is real life, so obviously there's going to be a grab-bag of bullshit coming up. The Court ruled that the people who fought the lifting of the ban on same-sex marriage had no standing to do so. Cool, awesome, right? The SCOTUS has affirmed that just because two people of the same sex being married and being all gay with each other (or in the case of lesbians: lady gay with each other) weirds you out, it doesn't give you the right to use the full force of the American legal system to prevent them from enjoying hot Takei sex within the bonds of holy matrimony. Similarly, the fact that I'm sick of hearing people talk about things they saw on Pinterest (and could totally make) doesn't mean I should try to get an amendment written in to the Constitution that would make their marriage illegal. 

It just wouldn't be fair to let gay people
marry, not after these protesters worked
so hard on their signs.
While this is an important step, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals still has to actually lift the stay it put in place to give Prop 8 supporters time to complain and throw up legal obstacles. Sigh. Yeah, this again. This time they're getting yet another 25 days to appeal this ruling. 25 days to put together more pseudo-religious bullshit and legal roadblocks. Look, I know it's like super-important to be fair to the homophobic asshats who worked so hard and spent so much money making sure gay people get treated like second class citizens but the Supreme Court did just say that they're full of shit and that the 'gay people are icky' argument has all the legal standing of shut up. 

So why are they getting more time? This is time people could be getting married and starting their lives and registering for duplicates of things so they can return them to the store and keep the money. Look, today's rulings were excellent, but for real, what gives? No more do-overs for the anti-equality people. Done. They should take up Sudoku or something.
"Ok...we're going to let gay people get married now, unless anyone anywhere
has a problem with it...anyone? Last chance? Ok, when I bang this gavel it'll be official,
so going once...twice...yes! You in the back with the sign that reads God Hates Homosex!"

Monday, June 24, 2013

Dear Michael Bay, You're doing it wrong.

So you know how Michael Bay is directing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot movie? No? Well, he is and I offer this fact as proof of a cold, hostile universe that hates us. If it sounds like I'm judging this movie before it's even finished filming it's because I am, but for real, did you see Dark of the Moon?
Above: A typical scene in Transformers: Dark of the Moon...
uh, I think. Look, I really have no idea what we're looking at,
so yeah, I think my concern for TMNT is well founded.
Pictured: The turtles swimming in the
mutagenic ooze as God intended.
You may recall last year's fan-fury (known as The Great Nerd-Storm of 2012) when Bay announced that he'd be dropping the 'Teenage' and 'Mutant' from the film's title and would be re-imagining the Ninja Turtles as 'tough, edgy, funny and completely lovable' aliens. Yes, goddamn aliens who are also ninjas and love our Earth pizza. I know, right? When fans reacted with a hatred that burned brighter than a thousand suns, the studio relented (we thought) and the Turtles would be mutants once again. Because seriously, aliens?

"No, it's ok, I did kind of invade Poland." 
-Michael Bay
Bay, however, wasn't done murdering our nostalgia for 1980's cartoons because he then cast Megan Fox as plucky reporter/lab assistant April O'Neil, which is odd because you may remember her as the actress who compared Michael Bay to Hitler. But ok, so say they made up, fine, but that still doesn't explain why she's playing April. I know this is a movie based on a cartoon, based on a comic book series and as such doesn't require Royal Shakespeare Company credentials, but she is objectively terrible. Does he only know the one actress?

Recently however, it started to look like things were turning around: Will Arnett is going to be Vernon Fenwick, (the obnoxious camera man from the animated series) and set photos had Fox wearing a yellow jacket; a nod to the cartoon April's weird yellow jumpsuit. Cool, right? This thing was shaping up to be an actual TMNT movie.
Here's April in her trademark yellow jumpsu-oh god, wha-what is going on here?
Goddamnit internet, is there no part of my childhood you won't ruin?
He was great in that thing.
Yup, it looked like Michael Bay was finally getting down on his knees and offering us some serious fan service (what? What do you think I meant by that?). But then this happened. Yeah, I know, you're not going to click on it, so here, it's about William Fichner being cast as The Shredder. Look, I have nothing against William Fichner. He's an awesome character actor and you totally enjoyed him in the fifteen of sixteen things you saw him in but can't quite remember.

So what is wrong with William Fichner as the Turtles' nemesis? Versatile though he may be, Fichner is...what's the word I'm looking He's white. The Shredder, a.k.a. Oroko Saki, is a Japanese ninja master from Japan who is Japanese...usually.

Yup that's actor James Avery (on the right, with cake),
but let's face it, we all think of him as uncle Phil. 
Yul Brynner: a trailblazer for
white actors playing asian guys.

Ok, so Shredder has been played by an asian guy only once and that was in the 1990 movie (twice if you count the Vanilla Ice-marred sequel) and even then his voice was dubbed over by a white guy, but it's 2013 now, could they not get an asian actor? I guess it wouldn't bother me so much if they were trying to diversify the cast, like in Thor when they made Heimdall a black guy, or how Lawrence Fishburn played Perry White in Man of Steel. Peter Jackson even made up a female elf for The Hobbit 2 because holy shit, there are no women in Middle Earth. But taking an asian character and hiring a white guy somehow seems a little wrong, especially for the director who came up with those racist robots in Transformers 2.

I'm beginning to think that Michael Bay and I have an abusive relationship. He keeps making shitty movies based on cartoons I remember, and I keep paying him. Will I see TMNT? Of course I will. I know it's going to suck and just piss me off, but I'm still going to hand over $11.50. It's like I know that Soylent Green is people, but I keep eating it anyway.
Honest to god, he could remake the Gobots Vs. Rocklords
movie and I'd probably go see it. What is wrong with me?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bad Guys

If you don't, we'll
know who to blame...
Ok everyone, tomorrow's the big day. Nine people in shapeless robes are (hopefully)* going to announce either that gay people deserve equal treatment under the law or that same sex marriage is an abomination and must be stopped before our wrathful God smites us with his uh...wrath. So cross your fingers, pray to gay Jesus and change your profile pic to that red equal sign thing because this could go either way, which I don't even understand. I mean, why should anyone care who other people are marrying? Don't like gay marriage? Then don't get gay married, but whatever, tomorrow's the day...maybe.

You know what? Screw this legal shit, let's just see who gets the most honks.

"I was thinking we could mail a bag of dog shit to
every gay
 person in America. Whatta ya think?"
-The NOM strategy meeting
for operation: Sour Grapes
So yeah, there are still people out there with nothing better to do than crap on other people's happiness. In fact, some people make a literal career out of it. Groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Family Marriage Council are already planning to continue fighting against marriage equality if the Supreme Court doesn't find in their favor. Like, right now their strategists are sitting down in a room somewhere coming up with new ways to make gay people's lives miserable. I know the world isn't black and white and I know that there's more than one side to every debate but gay marriage opponents are just being asshats, total asshats.

They say (they who? I don't know, people who say things) that in fiction the best bad guys are the ones who don't think that they're the bad guy. Take Magneto for instance. Yeah, he did some pretty terrible things, but he only wanted to make the world a better place for mutants and that's why he had to drop so many cars and asteroids on people.
Yes, he is murdering astronauts here, but it was for a good cause...I assume.

Did you guys ever stop to think
about how gay marriage would affect
 homophobes? No, I didn't think so. 
The world hated and feared mutants and he stuck up for them. You can see Magneto's side of things and that, along with his ability to exert control over magnetic forces, is why he's awesome. But what about real life bad guys like NOM and FRC? Am I a jerk for thinking that they're just bad (or at best, misguided) people? I know they think they have a point, and I know that they think it's the right one, but as far as I can tell their side boils down to 'we don't like gays and want to treat them like second-class citizens.' That's not a position, that's hate. 

"Really, I'm the victim here. If there were no
gay people, I wouldn't hate them so much."

-Peter Sprigg, FRC
Here, take this quote from Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council:

"One of the points of frustration for me has been that supporters of same-sex marriage want to portray the opponents of it as motivated entirely by hostility towards gay and lesbians people as individuals and that's completely untrue. We are concerned about the institution of marriage and making sure it continues to perform the important social functions it has always performed."

"Ha! So much for the institution of marriage!"
-Lesbians, ruining everything
So Spirgg says that he's not motivated by hostility towards gays and lesbians as people, but he is also saying that same sex couples will be so toxic to the institution of marriage that they'll ruin it for everybody. What the hell, man? That seems both personal and hostile. Whatever their intentions, the Family Research Council and other anti-gay hate groups (yeah, they're legitimate hate groups but still get to go on TV) are actively working to combat equality for gays and lesbians, and I think that makes them the bad guys here, and not even decent bad guys.

They're like the cheesy, two-dimensional bad guys of 80's cartoons. They're the Cobra† of national discourse. Just generically evil organizations with no real motivation other than sucking the happiness out of people's lives.
"I dessspisssse puppiessss!"
-Cobra Commander

*I mean I'm hopeful that they'll make their announcement tomorrow, they'll almost certainly be wearing those stupid robes. Oh well, it could be worse. In some countries they still wear powdered wigs.
Like for real, how are these guys taken seriously?
†And before you stick up for Cobra, please explain to me what their deal was. I mean, it was just one easily-thwarted and pointless scheme after another. What was their goal anyway?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tatooine Needs Women!

Slave Leia is to sci-fi conventions
what 'slutty nurse' is to Halloween.
Hey look, there's a casting breakdown for Star Wars: Episode VII and it includes not one, but two female characters! One of them is listed first leading to speculation that the new trilogy will not only include major female characters, but maybe even feature a female lead. And before you remind me that Princess Leia is a woman and a major character do an image search and see how long it takes before you come across Carrie Fisher in a gold-bikini. I mean, she wears it for like ten minutes in Jedi yet 95% of female Star Wars cosplay is devoted to slave girl Leia.

Above: The smouldering remains of
Aunt Beru represented exactly 50% of
A New Hope's female characters
I think it's safe to say that George Lucas's universe has been somewhat lacking in female space-hero department. Seriously, name some other original trilogy female characters? You've got the Twi'lek dancers, Mon Mothma and Aunt Freaking Beru. So strippers, the Rebellion's den mother and one of like five people in the entire galaxy the Storm Troopers actually managed to hit. That's it. You'd think that George Lucas would have taken the opportunity to address this imbalance in the force when he made the prequels, but no, not so much. 

While there are certainly more women in Episodes I-III, you kind of get the impression that the Star Wars universe hates them. Behold this rundown:

"Oh...I see how it is."
So strong female characters for Episode VII. Progress, right? Well, sort of. While the characters listed do sound a little more diverse than the galactic sausage fest that was the last six Star Wars movies, there is a weird 'no fatties' subtext going on. All the characters but one are described as 'fit' and the one who isn't '[a]pparently doesn't need to be fit' (but probably will be). Anyway, as someone with nieces being raised geek orthodox, I guess I should be happy that they'll have some more nerd role-models to look up to who aren't just space Kabuki Barbie dolls and rancor snacks. 

*Yeah ok, the books and The Clone Wars series have Mara Jade and Ashoka Tano, but J. J. Abrams is probably not going to use the Expanded Universe as a basis for the new films. What few women there are in the EU (badass they might be) are soon to be consigned to non-canon oblivion so so much for that.
J. J. Abrams isn't exactly known for sticking to canon. Take Benedict Cumberbatch
in Star Trek Into Darkness. I mean, how did Eric Bana going back in time and
killing Captain Kirk's dad turn Khan into a white English dude?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In space, no one cares about your band.

Just pretend to read your paper
and above all, do not engage.
Have you ever thought someone was talking to you on the bus or on the subway and then you realize they're just talking to themselves? You try to spot a cellphone or a bluetooth, but no, it turns out they're just carrying on a conversation with voices only they can hear. Well, that's the human race, or at least it will be starting June 18th when our planet begins babbling into the void in hopes of attracting aliens. Because if there's one thing you want to do with the weirdo on the subway, it's talk to them.

It's called the Lone Signal Project, and like any human endeavor worth doing, it has a trailer. Here, check it out. It consists mostly of lens flare, flickering graphics and a bunch of actors pretending to give a shit about the possibility of life on other worlds. If anything it makes the case that our species is too pretentious to contact alien civilizations.
Attention aliens: Earth is infested with carbon-based hipsters.
Under no circumstances should you attempt to land.
It's sort of an interstellar poetry slam.
And who wouldn't want to travel
17 light years for one of those?
Instead of sitting around listening for alien transmissions, the Lone Signal Project's idea is to beam a message into space. Cool right? Well, sort of. In addition to the old hailing frequency standbys like the prime numbers, welcome to Earth in a hundred languages and directions on how to find our defenseless planet, we'll also be spewing a meaningless stream of consciousness submitted by random people. And we'll be spewing it at Gliese 526 (just a stone's throw from Zarmina Prime!) in the vague hope that someone answers.

This is kind of weird since nobody's actually spotted any planets orbiting Gliese 526, but I suppose that doesn't matter given that this whole thing is doomed to failure. I'm not trying to rain on anyone's crazy space parade here, but the LSP is making some pretty goddamn big assumptions.
Above: The crazy space parade.
Incidentally, scientists have discovered
circumstantial signs of life in Arizona.
Firstly, even if Gliese 526 has planets, it doesn't necessarily follow that they're terrestrial. On the off chance that it does and they are, there's still the distinct possibility that they are lifeless rocky deserts like Arizona. We have, to date, discovered only one life-bearing world and, well, you're soaking in it. But let's say that there is a planet in orbit of Gliese 526 and let's also say that it supports life. Cool. But is it intelligent? We might just be talking to squirrels. Alien squirrels, but still, squirrels. 

"Yeah, I'm from Earth. You've
probably never heard of it." 
But fine, let's assume that there is an inhabitable, Earth-like planet full of intelligent, tool-using humanoids who would like nothing better than to talk to our Hipster Space Ambassadors, who's to say they even have the means to pick up our signal? I mean, maybe they've moved beyond primitive radio to something more advanced like telepathy or Pandora. And even if they have radios, is blathering away at them in English really going to accomplish anything? 

Or for all we know, they could be living in caves or in their version of the Old West. This happened on Star Trek all the time, usually to save on sets by reusing the Paramount backlot, but still the premise is sound. The universe is billions of years old, there's no reason to assume that an alien civilization is anywhere near our level of development.
"Spock, let me get this straight: We've landed on a planet that's exactly like Earth in the 1960's,
so much so that the locals speak a language that sounds precisely like English? That seems...unlikely."

"Yes Captain, I am detecting high levels of bullshit."
"I know you're still there..."
Look, I'm not against the quest for life on other worlds. Really, I'm not. I think sending messages to other planets is a great idea. But could we aim for actual planets? Or better yet, let's invent warp drive and go there ourselves. Sure, you can send a message to Gliese 526, but it's going to take like 18 years to get there and assuming there's anyone listening, another 18 to get a message back. It'll be like one of those text conversations where the other person takes forever to get back to you and I just don't have the patience. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Jiroemon Kimura, we hardly knew ye!

Kimura once said of Steampunk:
"You're doing it wrong."
Sad day everybody, the planet has just lost Jiroemon Kimura, the world's oldest human. He was 116. Yes, years old. He was born in 1897. In addition to being the oldest living man (most centenarians are women) he was also one of only 22 people living today who were born in the 19th century. The nineteenth century, that's the century before the last century. You know, the sepia-tone one with all the mustaches and steam-powered cyborgs? Yeah, this guy was alive in three different centuries. That sound you just heard? That was your mind exploding.

Kimura credits his long life to exercise,
healthy diet and choosing the correct grail.
To put 116 years old into context, when Jiroemon Kimura was born there were no such things as airplanes or television and William Goddamn McKinley was President of the U.S. Kimura lived through the entire 20th century: two world wars, the founding and collapse of the Soviet Union, the sinking of the Titanic, the Spanish Flu, and being from Japan: 61 Prime Ministers, 4 Emperors, and 28 Godzilla movies. When he retired from the post office at age 65 in 1962 and became a farmer, nobody had ever walked on the moon, computers took up entire rooms and everyone wore hats, like all the time.

Kimura's passing leaves 115 year old Misao Okawa as the world's oldest living person and number one suspect. I'm not saying that she had anything to do with his death, I'm just saying that she's the only one with something to gain.
When asked where she was when Kimura died, Okawa just smiled,
whispered "there can be only one," turned and walked away.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Really? We're going with 'Schmeat'?

Say you invented lab-grown meat and you wanted to attract financial backing. Would you name your new product: A) Schmeat or B) Holy shit, anything but Schmeat? If you said A, congratulations, you might be really good at growing in vitro meat in a lab, but you're terrible at marketing.
"This schmeat is shmamazing!"™
You're welcome schmeat industry.
"We're aiming for $250 per pound by 2025."
Later this month, schmeatgineers will be grilling the world's first lab-grown hamburger at a launch party/barbecue in London. Cool right? Sort of. When I say the world's first lab-grown burger, I mean the first and, to date, only. It's one burger and it took two years and cost $338,000 to...uh...culture, so you'll want to eat a little something before you show up. The hope is that the unveiling will attract investors who will fund further research and with any luck drive down the astronomical cost of producing schmeat.

Ok, so once you get over the initial ew gross of eating vat-grown bovine tissue, schmeat actually sounds kind of awesome. Since it's grown in a lab somewhere, schmeat doesn't require grazing land, doesn't produce methane and most importantly doesn't require a bolt gun to the head. Even PETA's behind it, and they hate everything.
M&M's? Seriously? What did they do? Oh...oh dear God...
"Holy shit, you're doing what with my cells?
 I think I'd rather you just ate me now..."
Of course, the fact that schmeat is essentially a sci-fi horror show will take some getting used to and that might not be as easy as it sounds. The schmeat is grown from cells taken from a live animal, and while it doesn't involve killing it, we'll just have to try not to think about the fact that our dinner is alive and well, chewing its cud on a farm somewhere, blissfully unaware that at that very moment its muscle tissue is being digested in three-hundred million American stomachs.

But if it means murder-free burgers, I guess we can deal, right? Probably. Although how long do you suppose it will be before some weirdo in a lab coat comes up with Schmeople.™ I mean, someone's going to try it eventually...
Try the new vat-grown McLongpig!
For a limited time only.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

What, we're just making up elves now?

"Uh...that'll be $300,000."
-Christopher Tolkien
I and many others like me (nerds, mainly) have made no secret of the fact that we question the wisdom of Peter Jackson's decision to break The Hobbit into three movies. Last year's first installment: The Hobbit: Origins: The Beginening: Bilbo Rises kind of provided some vindication for us nay-sayers. It was by no means a bad movie, but it was needlessly long and padded with material ranging from Tolkien's original notes to posthumous scribblings his son 'found' on a napkin whenever a mortgage payment was due.

As we approach part two of an increasingly unnecessary trilogy, photos of actress Evangeline Lily (she was on Lost) as the Sylvan Elf Tauriel have emerged
Pictured: Lily as Tauriel, robbing the shit out of any
 rich noble who dares to pass through Sherwood.
In the rigid Elven caste system, Sylvan elves
rank above the Keebler, who toil endlessly
in the brutal cookie trees of Rivendell.
'Who the what elf?' Tauriel is a Sylvan elf which is I gather is a sort of elf-working class because apparently elves are now racist or something (elfist?). She's also Captain of the Elven guard and a childhood pal of Legolas. Yup, she's a brand new character and so I'm a little torn. I mean, Peter Jackson's stated rational for stretching the book into three goddamn long movies was to do justice to the source material, but if The Hobbit is so chock-full of screen-worthy scenes that not a single page of Tolkienian goodness can be left out, why the hell does he need to invent new characters and draw on outside material? 

On the other hand, it's not like the excellent Lord of the Rings movies didn't take some license with the trilogy. Jackson cut scenes and condensed events both for time and to make the damn thing watchable. 
I'm pretty sure Lurtz the Super-Orc wasn't in any of the books,
but Fellowship needed a Final Boss Fight so blamo, there he is.
Behold: The mighty clone-vats of Gondor
Also, it's also hard to complain about the addition of a female character to an otherwise epic sausage fantasy fest. In the LOTR movies, Jackson beefed Arwen's and Éowyn's roles because holy shit, reading the books you begin to wonder how Middle Earthlings even breed. While it's nice to be true to the source material, it's also nice when people come see your movie. A straight-up shot-for-shot, slavishly accurate Hobbit movie might please the ultra-fans who made it through The Silmarillion and speak elvish but I don't know if I'd want to sit through it. 

So, I don't know, maybe The Hobbit Into Darkness will be will be great and maybe it'll be another three-hour plod through Middle Earth where we'll sit there wondering why the Eagles didn't just drop them off at the Lonely Mountain. Either way, I'm pretty sure I'll be giving Peter Jackson and the good people of New Zealand another $11 to find out.
"Seriously Gandalf? You're just going to let them drop us off here?
We're Dwarves. Short Legs. This'll take like two more movies, at least..."
-Thorin Oakenshield,
whiner under the mountain

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


Pictured: a Hootenanny.
So let me preface this with two important points. Firstly, the following post will contain language that
some people might find offensive because it refers to sex acts. While we're all adults living in the 21st century there are still some people who can't discuss wing-wangs and hootenannies and what people do with them without snickering like twelve year olds or getting all uptight and offended before feinting in disgust. Like for real everybody, it's time we all get over it.

Secondly, the fact that Michael Douglas's cancer is in remission is awesome. Fuck cancer. And no, you're totally not allowed to be offended by the phrase 'fuck cancer,' because for real: fuck it, it's the worst.
Seriously, cancer's a dick.
No, you're thinking of aural,
this was oral: with an 'o.'
Anyway, you may recall that Michael Douglas recently told The Guardian that his throat cancer wasn't caused by smoking but was a result of the human papillomavirus or HPV which he contracted from oral sex. Wow. Thanks for being upfront about it Michael. It's nice to know that we're all mature enough as a society to discuss STD's in a frank and honest-oh wait, no, guess not. Ok. Today, Allen Burry, the actor's representative, is saying that Douglas was misquoted.

While Douglas and Xan Brooks (the interviewer) discussed HPV as a known cause of cancer, he didn't, according to Burry, cite it as the cause of his cancer. That's right everybody, rest assured that Mr. Douglas's cancer was caused by alcohol abuse, drugs and a nicotine addiction and not something repulsive like sexually pleasuring his partner.
Sometimes I think there's something seriously wrong with us...
John Bullshit? No? Alright...
Calling John Bullshit on Allen Burry's statement, the British newspaper defended itself by posting the audio of the interview. While it sounds like it was recorded several rooms away while underwater it is clear that Douglas did indeed cite HPV as the cause of his cancer.

Xan Brooks: Do you feel, in hindsight, that you overloaded your system? Overloaded your system with drugs, smoking, drink?

Michael Douglas: No. No. Ah, without getting too specific, this particular cancer is caused by something called HPV, which actually comes about from cunnilingus. 

Michael Douglas: known
fornicator. Approach with caution.

Blamo. There it is. In the audio clip, he seems pretty upfront about it, so I'm guessing that his representative was trying to walk back something he thought would hurt the actor's career, but whatever. It's pretty messed up that anyone would think they would have to keep the truth about an illness a secret because of some Victorian stigma attached to it. Like what did Douglas's rep think we were going to do, make him wear a scarlet O in his next movie?

I don't know, it seems like this would have been a great opportunity to raise awareness of an STD which is so common that anyone who has sex ever will get it at some point. Holy shit, right? On the other hand, this incident did raise awareness of what an idiot Michael Douglas's rep is. Like did it never occur to him that the interview might have been recorded?
It's not like audio recordings ever came back to bite someone in the ass.