Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A veritable who's who of who's not!

What? Look, I'm sorry, but it's kind of true.
2014 is just about over which means it's time to put together another list of famous people who died in the last 365 days. I don't really know why we do this, maybe it's because New Year's is a time to look back and think about what we leave behind. Or maybe it's because rattling off a bunch of things without actually saying anything about them is an easy way to create the illusion of meaning without worrying about things like substance or thought which are, you know, hard. Sort of like We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.

Anyway, to be clear, lots of people die in a given year, and just because we only talk about the famous ones, doesn't mean that the great many anonymous dead didn't live meaningful lives, it's just that so few of them were Poet Laureates or Ghost Busters, so who cares, right?
Show of hands anyone here who was nominated for a Pulitzer
or co-wrote Groundhog Day? Anyone? No? Psssch...nobodies...
Cloned dinosaurs: totally plausible. That
Attenborough's character wouldn't have been
sued into a fine paste: pure science fiction.
Speaking of which, can you believe we lost Maya Angelou and Harold Ramis this year? Also dead are comedians Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Jan Hooks. Actors Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lauren Bacall, James Garner and Bob Hoskins are all gone along with musicians Joe Cocker and Tommy: last of the Ramones. Oh, and Sir Richard Attenborough died this year. Most people probably remember him as the kindly old industrialist who endangers dozens of lives, including those of his own grandchildren, with his dinosaur-themed murder resort in Jurassic Park.

Also dead: Elaine Stritch. She was a Broadway actress and singer from back in the day, and she was also goddamn hilarious. Behold:
Here's Elaine Stritch saying 'fuck' on the Today Show. Because yes.
Pictured: The despotic ruler of Carbombya.
Get it? Car-bomb-ya? These guys made
Michael Bay look like an amateur.
Indoor kids who remember the 1980's (or who shop at American Apparel and pretend they do) lost Glen A. Larson, the producer who gave us Knight Rider, Buck Rodgers and Battlestar Galactica (velour capes, not the sexy reboot), Ralph Bear the inventor of the video game console, and Casey Kasem: the voice of Shaggy from Scooby Doo! He also voiced some characters on The Transformers but quit when the writers decided that it was suddenly ok to start writing anti-Arab stereotypes into a children's show. You know because cocaine.

Look, I know death comes for us all eventually, but this year he seemed to go after a lot of the people who made the world a better place. I mean, Doc from Fraggel Rock? C'mon!
Thanks a lot, dick...
Like one of these, but with hate and poo.
Of course, he also took some who were, shall we say, less than beloved. Look, I genuinely believe that it's wrong to celebrate the passing of a fellow human, no matter how heinous, but let's just say that Fred Phelps is unlikely to be mourned by many. I mean, I'm sorry he's dead, um, theoretically. Like, I'm sure his family or his crazy church pals will miss him (or not), but what I'm not sorry about is that the unrelenting shit-fountain of hate-filled vitriol that spewed forth from his rage-hole for the last few decades has finally ceased.

In fictional dead people, Marvel killed off Wolverine this year in a move sure to be permanent and have a lasting repercussion throughout Marvel's narrative universe.
Above: The Death of Wolverine.
Next Month: The Triumphant Return of Wolverine!
Thanks a lot, dick...
In abstract concepts that left us this year, Scotland's hopes of casting off the brutal yoke of the Dread Queen Elizabeth II are dead have been brutally cut down by a narrow majority of votes (and cupcakes) in last fall's referendum. Whatever confidence anyone had left in the Supreme Court and its ability to deliver sound judgements passed away when it ruled that shouting 'Because Jesus!' was all the legal justification employers need to get out of Obamacare.

65% cotton 35% everything wrong
with consumerism. Machine wash warm. 
The last lingering shred of media credibility died quietly in its sleep when the internet was captivated by a toddler toddling. Public discourse died a slow, painful death as the world debated the pros and cons of Rene Zellweger's face. And finally, good taste and basic human decency were murdered back in September when Urban Outfitters sold bloodied Kent State sweatshirts and then called us idiots for having a problem with it.

Holy shit 2014, you were kind of an awful year and we will not miss you. Welcome 2015: it's a low bar, so please don't disappoint us.
If we can go the entire year without being threatened with nuclear annihilation
over a mediocre stoner movie, then 2015 will have succeeded in being better than 2014.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Let's slow clap for the FDA!

In a stunningly progressive move, the FDA has announced that it will be ending its decades-long ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men. Um, hurray? Now wait for it, because here comes the kick in the teeth: they'll accept donations from gay men assuming that they haven't had sex in the last year. Well what do you know? Beggars can be choosers.
Sure you're not getting laid, but look on
the bright side, you can donate blood again.
Pictured: Typical physician's garb, early-mid
1980's. The mask was used to ward off evil
spirits, while the stick kept the Soviets at bay.
In place since 1983, the ban disqualified any man who'd had sex with other man, even once, anytime after 1977 from donating blood, ever. Banned for life. It was an attempt to protect the blood supply from what we now call HIV, but was back then known as, I shit you not, GRID or gay-related immune deficiency. I guess this made sense to our primitive early 80's ancestors, since at the time no one knew what the hell it was they were dealing with and most diseases were assumed to be the work of sorcerers. But ever since the availability of reliable testing methods, the ban has been regarded as outdated and arbitrary, as well as completely unenforceable.

The take away here is that people
are a veritable grab-bag of STD's.
Under the ban, a man who has had sex with another man was disqualified, but a women who has had sex with a man was not. Unless of course that woman had sex with a man who has ever had sex with another man. That's assuming of course that he shared his entire sexual history with her. Also banned would be anyone who's used ever used nonprescription needle drugs, or had sex with someone who's used needle drugs (again, assuming they told their partner). Got all that?

Great. Because in addition to being blatantly homophobic, the rules are also dependent on people being honest about their history with sex and drugs. You know, the two things everyone lies about all the time. Since every unit of donated blood is tested for every disease ever, couldn't the FDA just stop being dicks about the whole thing and drop the anti-gay language altogether? Is that so hard?
"Needle drugs? No, never. Well, heroin, but they probably don't mean that..."
-The FDA's rigorous screening process

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Pat Robertson: Reproductive Biologist

Holy shit does this man
love to talk about gay sex.
In a weird way, you kind of have to admire the almost super-human way Pat Robertson can take any ridiculous question his followers throw at him and make it about the gay sex. Take for example Crystal, a woman who wrote in to his show asking him for advice. She's frustrated, as in sexually frustrated, because the church she attends won't let its members date and her biological clock is ticking. Here's how he starts off:

"You know, those who are homosexual will die out because they don't reproduce, you know you have to have heterosexual sex to reproduce."
-Pat Robertson,
clearing a few things up
Above: Great herds of homosexuals once roamed the plains of North America,
but are today, due to their inability to reproduce, rarely seen outside of parade routes.
"You're a poofster, Harry."
-Hagrid in Harry Potter and 
the Douchey Televangelist
Wai-wah? What does this woman's impending spinsterism have to do with gay people? Nothing. But that didn't stop Robertson from taking the opportunity to throw an elbow at gays, lesbians and the many straight people who, for whatever reason, either don't choose to or can't have children. What a dick. Also, doesn't he realize that that's not how human sexual orientation works? Like, gay people don't necessarily come from a long line of gay people. It's not like wizards.

Robertson does go on to suggest that this woman should run screaming from her creepy, sexless, religious cult, which is a startlingly reasonable suggestion coming from a man whose usual advice to women is to just shut up.
"Oh, don't get me wrong, I still think Crystal should still shut up,
but she should do so at a church that holds mixers."
-Pat Robertson,
sounding more like himself

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let's get Mars-curious!

Brace yourselves, because after decades of searching, NASA scientists may have finally discovered evidence of alien life!
"Well it's about goddamn time..."
NASA's other rover, Mild Interest,
stopped transmitting after realizing
that nobody was paying attention to it. 
Now un-brace yourself because this is science and we're going to have to walk it back a bit. Said evidence is methane gas which NASA's un-inspiringly named Curiosity rover picked up in the thin Martian atmosphere along with organic compounds in the planet's soil. Alright, so it's not exactly a towering alien obelisk, or a fleet of disc-shaped starships hovering over our major cites, but still...alien life? Maybe? I mean, this is something to get excited about, isn't it? Or maybe not. With typical scientific caution, NASA's Curiosity team has been quick to manage our expectations when it comes to earth-shattering news.

Space: it's really not all that interesting,
so like, don't get your hopes up.
Here's what team member John Grotzinger had to say about the find:

"That we detect methane in the atmosphere on Mars is not an argument that we have found evidence of life on Mars, but it's one of the few hypotheses that we can propose that we must consider..."

-John Grotzinger,
disappointing us with science you've basically got nothing. Thanks NASA. And you wonder why you have to resort to shaking down billionaires just to get funding.
Pictured: An artist's rendering of NASA's new fundraising strategy.
Tremble puny Martians,
at our superior weaponry.
I don't want to tell NASA how to do its job, but-wait, yes I do. Hey NASA, here's how to do your job: instead of taking every mind-blowing discovery you make and sucking all the wonder and joy out of it like a bunch of fun-sucking space vampires, why not try and get the public excited about it? I'm not saying lie to us, I'm just suggesting that maybe instead of focusing on how it's too early to jump to conclusions (and it is), you could tell us all the things this could mean. You said that the presence of methane gas could mean that Mars is, or at least was, home to microbial life. That's kind of a big deal and it also means we could conquer Mars with a bottle of Purell. Run with that.

Look, if there's a chance of finding life on Mars, no matter how microbial and boring, we should totally go find it. Not because we're just curious about it, but because we have a burning desire to explore new frontiers. Of course we'll then probably exploit these new frontiers for financial gain, but hey, we're pretty noble up to a point...
Behold: the mighty herds of gassy Martian cows grazing on the crimson plains of the Red Planet.
Sure, it's not super-likely, but if it panned out the government would fund the shit out of NASA.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dog Gone Shame

Hey everybody, it turns out that your pets are little more than animated meat puppets and they aren't going to heaven after all. Maybe. I really don't know anymore. The whole thing is more than a little confusing. What is clear is that journalists are really, really bad at their jobs.
"Kids, meet Paws McGee! Enjoy him while you can because he,
like your childhoods, will one day fade and die leaving a void
in your soul that you'll never be able to fill. Merry Christmas!"

-The Worst Parents Ever
"And that concludes my weekly address.
Now, who's up for gelato?" 
Catholics around the world were briefly given the impression that there's a hereafter for pets when Pope Francis said:

"The Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us."

-Pope Francis, the cool Pope

The Italian word for 'of' is extremely
similar to 'Your pets have souls and
you'll see them again in heaven.'
If you didn't find that entirely clear, you're not alone. But some reporters at an Italian newspaper somehow misinterpreted his statement to mean that animals have souls and can get into heaven. This story then got conflated with the time Pope Paul VI told a sobbing child that his recently deceased dog will be waiting for him in the afterlife and suddenly every news outlet on the planet was saying that Pope Francis has just announced that Catholic heaven has a dog park. And that's when the Vatican stepped in and called 'merda taurorum.'

Above: the official Vatican response.
Or you know, whatever the Latin word for bullshit is. A spokespriest has clarified that Pope Francis said nothing about an afterlife for pets and that the journalists who ran with the story are terrible at journalism. Like Fox News terrible.

"There is a fundamental rule in journalism. That is double checking, and in this case it was not done."

-Father Ciro Benedettini,
crusher of dreams

"Goodbye Nemo, I'll miss you.
Say hi to grandma for me."
So much for doggie Valhalla then, right? Well, not necessarily. Leaving aside the irony inherent in a representative of one of the world's oldest religions calling out journalists for saying things that have no basis in fact, Father Benedettini didn't say that animals have no souls, he just said Pope Francis didn't say anything about it. And remember, Pope Paul VI did tell that kid that his dog was humping legs in next world, so if papal infallibility is to be believed, then maybe Catholic animal lovers can look forward to an eternity of picking up dog shit in heaven.

Of course if dogs and cats have souls, it stands to reason that other animals would to. Other animals like say chickens and cows, you know, the ones people tend to eat. Congratulations Catholics, you've just been given a whole new thing to feel guilty about. 
And that's why your home is haunted by
the restless spirits of a thousand hams.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rick Perry to reporters: 'I'd vote for me!'

Yup, there it is. Does he carry one
around with him or something?
Wondering about who to vote for in 2016? Well wonder no longer:

"Running for the presidency's not an IQ test. It is a test of an individual's resolve. It's a test of an individual's philosophy. It's a test of an individual's life experiences..." 

-Texas Governor Rick Perry,
probably while standing in 
front of the American flag

Here, let's take apart Perry's list of presidential prerequisites and see if we can suss out just who he thinks should be the next President:

Here, for no reason, is a map of Iraq.
'It's a test of an individual's resolve.' According to the dictionary: Resolve is a noun and means a strong determination to do something. So a person's resolve is their willingness to stick with it, no matter what. You know, stay the course. Presidents should totally have that. Unless of course the thing they're doing is a terrible idea in the first place, then resolve kind of becomes a stubborn refusal to listen to those around you even in the face of incontrovertible evidence that what you're doing is pointless, wrong and ultimately doomed to failure.

Let's use it in a sentence: It's takes a lot of resolve to compare alcohol abuse to homosexuality, in San Francisco and then offer a half-assed non-apology. Hey, Rick Perry did that! I bet he has a lot of resolve.
Resolve: It's sort of like the white, rich-guy word for 'chutzpah.'
Above: Proof that God is angry with
Texas and, by extension Rick Perry.

'It's a test of an individual's philosophy.' Something tells me he's not talking about Immanuel Kant. In fact, I think he may be referring to Christianity: America's unofficial, official religion. Say, who do we know who's not only Christian, but like, super-Christian? Hmm...let's see...hey, during his last presidential campaign, didn't Rick Perry speak at a bunch of prayer rallies? And didn't he also once ask everyone in Texas to that pray for rain during a drought? He sounds pretty Jesus-y to me.

...yet still somehow more patriotic
than the rest of us. How's that work?
'It's a test of an individual's life experiences...' Ok, so I know what you're thinking: technically, everyone who's alive has life experience, so what's the big deal? I think here, he's probably talking about political experience. Specifically the kind every president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has had, like the Senate, the House, being the governor of a State-wait a minute, Rick Perry's the Governor of Texas and that's a State (despite bumberstickers to the contrary).

Stubborn, aggressively Christian and a holder of high office? Holy shit, it sounds like Rick Perry is talking about Rick Perry! Um, incidentally, why isn't there an IQ test for presidents?
He's the total package! Why even bother holding an election?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Don't look up!

Hey everybody, good news: it looks like our civilization is probably not going to be reduced to a barbarism! At least not because of an astroid impact. Well, at least not because of this specific asteroid, and at least not in the immediate future.
Don't worry, there're still plenty of reasons our society is doomed:
Pandemics, ape/robot uprisings, alien invasion...not zombies though.
You can scratch zombies off the list. They're objectively preposterous.
Good luck with that,
future generations.
The 370-meter hunk of divine wrath was discovered recently by Russian scientist Vladimir Lipunov who said that its orbit would take it into smashing range of the Earth every three years and that we should all start living in a perpetual state of fear. NASA scientists on the other hand issued a statement yesterday saying that 2014 ur116 (yeah, that's the thing's name) is not likely to hit us in the next 150 years so we can all just relax, safe in the knowledge that ur116 is someone else's problem.

So, who do we believe? The jittery Russian scientist who's constantly looking up at the sky, (or down at his dash-cam) waiting for death from above? Or the underfunded American space agency who is still, still, having to explain to idiots that the moon landing was real?
Pictured: The third of six moon landings NASA spent billions
of dollars and years of effort faking just to fuck with us.
As foretold in Mad Max:
Beyond Thunderdome
Well, both it turns out. While we probably won't be attaching Lipunov's name to the rock that finally goes dinosaur-killer on us (better luck next time!), both he and NASA agree that we should be tracking the thousands of near-Earth objects which could (but probably won't [but theoretically could]) come crashing down upon us and reduce our cities to burnt-out ruins controlled by gangs of mutants led by Tina Turner and Master Blaster. And I'm not really sure how I feel about this.

It seems reasonable to track potentially threatening asteroids, but I guess the next question is, what then? Until we have some method of landing Bruce Willis and enough explosives to divert said doom-rock, what'd be the point?
What? Sending the star of Live Free or Die Hard makes about
as much sense as sending a rag-tag team of oil-rig workers.
Above: History was full of stupid.
In some ways, the likelihood of a significant, extinction-triggering impact, has remained more or less unchanged for all of human history. People living in the middle ages were in just as much danger of getting crushed by space rocks, but they didn't have to worry about it. Of course, they also didn't have to worry about witches or werewolves either but that didn't stop them from burning people alive. Um, what was I talking about again?

Oh. Right. Look, I'm not suggesting that shouldn't track these things, I'm just wondering if maybe we should stop freaking everybody out every time a rock flies by.
See that son? That's space. Space hates us, and wants to kill us.
It's the reason you'll never grow up. Learn to fear the unknown.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Let's hasten our rapid decline!

So have you ever been ordering at Starbucks and wished that you could, you know, avoid speaking to another human being? Well, problem: solved.
"Yeah, I'm going to need 7 needlessly complicated and time consuming
drinks for me and my entire office as well as several paninis which will
all need to be warmed up. Oh, and I'll be paying entirely in nickels."
-The person in front of me in line at 
Starbucks, every goddamn time
Above: ancient people standing
around, talking, circa 3500 B.C.E.
Starbucks, apparently in an effort to further cement their reputation as one of the accelerating factors of our civilization's rapid decline (full disclosure: I go there all the time. I'm part of the problem, and I'm at peace with it), is introducing an app which will allow you to order on your smartphone. Now, instead of having to communicate with another person like a primitive, you can order online, slouch into the store, grab your coffee and go before you even feel the death stares of the fifteen or twenty people you just bypassed in line.

"Lines. Am I right?"
Look, believe it or not, this isn't a rant about how we're turing into a bunch of glassy-eyed zombies poking at our smartphones in public instead of interacting with one another, it really it isn't. If anything, starring (or even pretending to stare) at Facebook while standing around waiting for my coffee is a great way to avoid accidentally making eye contact with strangers. Eye contact is proven to lead to small talk, and no one wants that. My issue rather, is the stunning vulnerability our increasing dependence on smartphones has left us with.

"Searching for: 'Truck-U, you
stupid. Peace of ship phone.'"
While the machines might eventually attain sentience and wipe us out in nuclear hellstorm, that day is some time off. Want proof? Try asking Siri a simple goddamn question. Scarlett Johansson in Her, she is not. That said, I don't know about you, but I can't remember a single telephone number for anyone I met after 2004, I'll check a weather app before looking out the window and I haven't owned a watch since the 90's.

Yeah, that guy.
I'm bloody helpless without it. Sure, we have the total sum of human knowledge at our fingertips at all times, but what if we loose our phone? Or a bad update bricks it? Not only will we be unable to consult IMDB about that actor that was in that thing, you know, the guy? Not only that but we'll be unable to order a Pumpkinspice Latté as the part of the brain responsible for remembering complex drink orders will have atrophied.

I'm all for the future, wherever it takes us. We could all end up as brains in giant robot bodies or as a hive mind of cyborgs, and I'd be cool with it. But let's not, I repeat not, get so reliant on our goddamn cellphones that we can't function without them.
"Shit, what was his name? He was in Guardians of the Galaxy. James 'C' something,
maybe Raleigh? O'Reilly? James O'Reilly? Is that it? Damnit, I wish IMDB was working..."

-Third of Four, not able to let this go