Monday, October 27, 2014

In many ways, he's exactly like Moses.

Hey, do you remember that controversial stone slab Oklahoma legislators put up on the grounds of the Capitol? The one with the Ten Commandments on it? You remember, it pissed a lot of people off, there's a couple of lawsuits, an Indiegogo campaign to put up a Satanic monument in response, it was a whole thing. Well, this happened the other night:
Finally, the debate over the separation of
church and state is over forever. Uh, right?
"Let's get one thing straight, I didn't tell
him to pee on it. That part was his idea."
-Satan, wisely distancing himself
Yup, Thursday night some guy called Michael Tate Reed Jr. drove his car into the Ten Commandments monument that stands outside the Oklahoma State Capitol smashing it to pieces because, get this: Satan told him to do it. That's right, the Prince of Darkness needs some jerk in a Camry to do his dirty work for him or at least that's what Reed told police when they arrested him this morning. Oh, and also it turns out that before destroying the tablet, he peed on it, because, uh, Satan I guess.

Speaking of pissing all over things, like say the First Amendment prohibition on the state endorsing a particular religion, fans of the monument promised to rebuild it using donated funds, citing a drop in idolatry and wife-coveting since the Ten Commandments went up.
Before the monument, Oklahomans routinely worshiped
idols while coveting the shit out out each other's wives.
Above: it's either the statue of
Baphomet or a standee from
Gamestop advertising Diablo III.
Look, obviously Reed was a jerk for smashing the thing and quite possibly unbalanced (he was taken in for a psychiatric evaluation) but could it be that there is an opportunity here to take a step back and re-think? In addition to The Satanic Temple and their crowdfunded Baphomet, other groups including The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and PETA have asked to put up their own religious monuments. Not necessarily because they feel they need to have their belief system immortalized in municipal art, but because they want to make the point that the Christians who put up the Ten Commandments don't get special treatment just because there's a lot of them in Oklahoma. Sooner or later a judge would have ruled in their favor and either the Commandments would have to go or the Capitol grounds would start filling up with everyone's sacred lawn art.

Satan and Michael Tate Reed Jr. might have given Oklahoma lawmakers the out they need. In response to the flood of me-toos, the State actually put a moratorium on new monuments, so if they stick to their guns and say they can't replace the Ten Commandments, they could save themselves a long, angry slog through the courts as well as a front yard full of deities which probably don't belong on Government property to begin with.
For the record, Moses also once smashed the
Ten Commandments but no one held him over for a psych evaluation.

Thanks for Reading! Also, Porn!*

Pictured: The thing you've been reading.
Or possibly not reading...I have no idea.
Hey, you know what this is? It's-wait, you're nodding. You do know what this is? I find that unlikely, but ok, go on, what was I going to say? Hm? Oh, you don't know and you only pretended to in the hope that maybe I wouldn't ramble on about it? Say, how'd that work out? Anyway, get this: this is the 500th Onward Stranger Fiction post (or Quintocentapostian). 500, even though I ran out of things to say two or three hundred posts ago. You guys are troopers, thanks for reading!

"Seriously? 2 Broke Girls? You
might want to draw the curtains."
That is, if you actually are reading. For all I know, you could be idly cycling through complete stranger's blogs, getting brief glimpses into their lives. You know, sort of like when you walk down a street at night and you pass a house with the blinds open and the lights on and the people are just going on about their business as though they were unaware that they're in some kind of human zoo. Like, what is that? Don't they know that we can see in and are judging their decorative taste and television choices?

Before you call me out for pics of dino-
porn, ask yourself why you were looking
for Rick Santorum porn in the first place.
Out of curiosity, I decided to look up which individual post had the most views and it turns out it's a post from May of 2012 called Let's declare war on porn!. It's about some bullshit claim Rick Santorum made about porn leading to brain damage and it has 8405 hits, more than double the next most viewed post. Double. I'm no statistician, but I think the take away here is that putting the word 'porn' in the title of your blog post is a sure-fire way to get people to read your stuff. I suppose I should probably apologize to everybody who googled 'Rick Santorum' and 'porn' only to stumble across this blog and a picture of a couple of tyrannosauruses doing it.

Anyway, like I said, thanks for reading and I hope you'll join me for another 500 knit-picky discussions about Star Trek, rants against homophobic politicians and celebrations of obscure and/or fictitious holidays. Well, realistically I've probably got like 10 or 15 more left in me, but I'll try to work the word 'porn' into the titles.
Above: Star Trek The Next Generation: A XXX Porn Parody,
which, I guess, exists, and now you're aware of it. Sorry.

*actual blog may not contain porn.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Today in hey that's not really news:

Since I'm not usually one to care, like in any way about famous people and their faces, would someone mind explaining to me why the internet just had a core breach over Renee Zellweger's face?
What's a core breach? Allow me to explain: you see a starship's warp drive is powered by a
matter/antimatter reactor which can overload and-wait a minute, are you making fun of me?
Like, are these people even aware that
this nun is singing Madonna's Like a Virgin?
She showed up at something called the Elle Women in Hollywood Party and everyone flipped their shit over how different she looks from the last time they saw her. Botox? Eye tuck? Some kind of face transplant a lá Nic Cage/John Travolta in Face/Off? If you have a theory, now's the time to chime in! There are plastic surgeons analyzing before and after photos and then speculating on what sort of procedures she may or may not have had done. Look, I know it's not like we're going to run out of internets or something but holy shit don't we, as a species, have better things to talk about?

I'm not sure what bothers me more: the ridiculous scrutiny this woman is facing over her appearance or the fact that standing on a red carpet in front of a backdrop of corporate logos and having your picture taken is somehow a job.
Ok, it's the scrutiny thing, but seriously?
This is not a goddamn job.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

It's an admittedly unpleasant analogy...

So hey, like, bring the kids.
So in a recent interview, Jai Courtney, one of the actors in the unnecessary and preposterously named Terminator: Genisys, said the following:

"I would love to see it be rated R, but I don't think it will. I think in this day and age, it's much more likely to be PG-13. There were no f-bombs. But there'll be a healthy amount of movie violence."

And in doing so perfectly summed up everything wrong with the Motion Picture Association of America, and possibly Jai Courtney. I just don't understand how we're supposed to take the people who hand out movie ratings seriously when they're totally cool with gratuitous violence and cruelty as long as there're no swears or genitals. 
F-bombs: no. Hydrogen bombs: abso-fucking-lutely.
I'm not saying it's impossible,
just somewhat unlikely.
Courtney's prediction is just him talking, and not official or anything, but it would be in line with the last Terminator movie: Terminator: Salvation, which, despite being a depressing, two hour slog of murder and violence was light on swears and therefore totally acceptable for thirteen-year olds. Look, I'm not in favor of shielding kids from the real world, but it's not like genocidal chrome kill-bots from the future are likely to come up. Hearing the word fuck at some point in their lives on the other hand, is probably in the cards.

"Gosh dang, this is probably
going to smart quite a bit..."

-Carey Elwes in Saw,
before amputating his foot

Everyone knows the MPAA is a outmoded dinosaur of an organization wielding an unreasonable amount of power over a doomed industry and if we just wait long enough they'll evaporate along with the dark, sticky-floored movie houses over which they rule with an arbitrary fist, but to they have to be so blatant about it? It's objectively ridiculous that swearing warrants a higher content rating than violence, but for whatever reason MPAA and their bullshit ratings still carry an unreasonable amount of weight, effectively determining how widely a film will be distributed and how it will do commercially.

They just shouldn't be a thing anymore. It's like the emperor has no clothes, but nobody does anything about it. We all just let him continue to wave his flaccid, impotent authority at the American film industry like some creeper in the park.
Above: the titular unpleasant analogy.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What the hell is a Synod?

This had to be the least comfortable
conversation in the history of the world.
In a not-so stunning move for an organization that took 400 years to admit that maybe Galileo was on to something when he said the Earth moved around the sun, the Catholic Church has decided that  gay people are still not welcome after all. The hopes of progressives were briefly raised when Pope Francis, widely regarded as the cool Pope (let's face it, it's a low bar), convened a meeting of Bishops (or Synod, if you're fancy) to discuss family issues like divorcees getting remarried and same-sex relationships.

You know, because who knows more about marriage and gay people than 253 elderly, celibate priests? Am I right?
The answer, of course, is everyone else on Earth.
"Let us all rise and sing
hymn 235: Poker Face."
Anyway, it's not like the Church was going to start renting out St. Peter's for gay weddings, or singing Lady Gaga at Mass, all the Pope was pushing for was for the Bishops to agree on a report which stated that '[h]omosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer the Christian Community...' which is, at best, a grudging acknowledgement. The report would would have then gone on to knock same-sex marriages saying that they cannot be equal to those between a man and a woman (or Marriage Classic®). So why the hell can't these guys, in 2014, suck it up?

Well, it turns out a lot of them were prepared to suck quite a bit up. The draft with the language about gays maybe not being so bad after all got 50% of the vote, but needed a 2/3rd's majority to pass. The fact that half the priests in the room were willing to join the 21st century is itself kind of a miracle.
The Bishops finally agreed to:
"Gay people, um, exist."

Blessed Pope Paul VI, soon-to-be
Patron Saint of the Rhythm Method
Hey, uh, speaking of miracles, the Pope ended the conference with the beatification of Pope Paul VI, which is sort of a step on the road to sainthood. In nerd terms, he leveled up. The important thing is that Pope Paul VI was the guy who clarified the official Catholic stance on birth control, you know, the position that says that nothing, not even a condom, should stand in the way of God's plan, or say the rampant spread of STD's. Um, way to go guys. Way to go.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Let's lower the bar!

Just some of the planet's 7,267,055,683
people.* Keep up the good work Texas.
Are you ready to have your mind blown? You are? Good. So do you remember Greg Abbott? No? Good, he's kind of a dick. Read this, it'll catch you up. He's the Texas Attorney General who was appealing the ruling that Texas's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. His rationale is that the State has an obligation to encourage opposite-sex marriage and ban same-sex marriage because only straight couples can make babies. And then only when joined in the bonds of holy matrimony. Because in Texas, that's how science works.

Anyway, Abbott's back with a new tactic: this time he openly accepts that his justification for keeping the ban on same-sex marriage is baseless, but that it shouldn't matter because, get this: the law, he says, doesn't have to make any sense.
"I don't see what everybody's problem is. The courthouse is over there, while
the giant stone tablets with the Ten Commandments are over here. On the lawn.
They're not actually touching, so church and state are separate. See? I'm a lawyer."

-Greg Abbott, Texas AG, candidate for Governor
and one of the many reasons I'll never live in Texas
-Some Judge ruling
on the gay marriage thing
According to the brief, the ban was thrown out because it fails something called a rational basis review. A rational basis review (yes, I looked this up on wikipedia, what's your point?), asks whether or not a "government action is a reasonable means to an end." In this case, is there a legitimate reason to ban same-sex marriage or is it just some red-state horseshit put on the books by a bunch of Republicans trying to lock-up the ignorant homophobe vote? A federal judge ruled that it was the horseshit thing and blamo: the ban is unconstitutional. Sounds pretty simple right?

Every conceivable rationale? But
doesn't it kind of come down to:
sometimes people are assholes?
Because it's not. It never is. According to Abbott's appeal, the State doesn't actually have to show that the ban was doing anyone any good. Instead, according to Abbott:

"...the plaintiffs bear the burden of negating every conceivable rationale that might be offered for Texas's marriage laws--regardless of whether those rationales appear in the State's appellate brief."

-Texas AG Greg Abbott

Above: Because gay people.
I'm not a lawyer so bear with me here, but this kind of sounds like he's saying that Texas doesn't need to have a rational reason to ban same-sex marriage, just the desire to do so. If anyone wants to challenge it, then all they have do is address every imaginable scenario in which the law might possibly make sense. Even ones they haven't thought of yet. It's like he's trying to lower the bar so that ridiculous rationales for the ban like, 'encouraging straight people to breed' and 'gay marriage causes hurricanes' are taken seriously.

So is it just me, or is this like an incredibly dangerous precedent to set? The only way to over turn a bad law would be to show undeniable proof that it's completely useless in every possible way in all possible parallel dimensions throughout the multiverse and for all time. Unless we're prepared to stack the Supreme Court with Time Lords (not in itself a bad idea), I don't see how this shit is going to fly.
To be clear: Greg Abbott could say that letting gay people get married would summon Gozer
and bring about the end of the world, and it's on you to prove in a court of law that it wouldn't. 

*Here, click on this for the current population. Spoiler alert: it's gone up.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Let's Celebrate (and dread) Federation Day!

Put on your party hats people, or if you don't have a party hat, maybe fashion a crude one by rolling a piece of paper into a cone. Today is-wait, what? I don't know, tape it to your head or something, god, do I have to think of everything?
"Commander, you do not understand. Klingon honor demands
that I kill you for this. Kill. You. I won't even feel bad about it."
-Worf, son of Mogh
and noted pooper of parties
Above: Star Trek tackled tough issues like
space-racism using subtle social commentary.
Anyway, today, as I'm sure you're all aware, is Federation Day. Not aware? Shame on you, here, catch up. The Federation is sort of a high-tech space UN which, if Star Trek is to be taken as prophecy and not just as a preachy sci-fi TV show from the 60's and its many spin-offs and movies, is due to be founded 147 years from today. Usually this is a day to celebrate how awesome the future will be, but I think it's also important to reflect on what we risk losing in the face of unchecked technological advancement.

Pictured: Everything that is
wrong with the 21st century.
Yes, the future is going to be full of lycra-clad optimists boldly going and amazing technological wonders, that's a given. But this technology is going to change us and we need to be prepared. Look at Google Glass. It's been available for less than a year but already everyone who owns one is an insufferable asshole. Don't misunderstand me, I love the future and can't wait for it to get here, but technology isn't going to solve all of our problems and will almost certainly create some new ones.

Clearly in the future we'll
all be goddamn wizards.
For example, did you ever take Spanish or French in high school? Congratulations, you just wasted hours of your life on something that will be rendered pointless as soon as someone invents the universal translator. Suddenly everyone you meet, no matter what planet they're from will speak unaccented, colloquial American English. You know, the best language. How does it even work? Magic, apparently. The universal translator is invisible, can instantly pick up new languages, translate them in real-time and somehow even make alien mouth movements sync up with the translated speech. See? Magic.

"As a matter of fact I did understand
that, and your words cut me deeply."

-Quark, noted ear-wanker
So what's the downside? Universal translators will make communication between completely different forms of life not only possible, but downright effortless. It sounds cool, but some things are bound to be lost in translation. Take our many earth swears for example, they often don't translate between languages here on our planet. Check out this entire Japanese book about how to swear in English. American English, that is, because calling someone an douche bag in British English is a whole different thing. The point is there's no way the Ferengi are going to fully appreciate all the subtle nuances when we refer to them as greed-driven ear-wankers with asses for heads.

Speaking of implausible technological developments with significant downsides no one on Star Trek ever had to deal with: replicators. Sure, they're going to feed, clothe and shelter the masses of humanity and usher in a new age free of want, and that's going to be great, but not everyone is going to be able to exercise self-control. Ever watch TLC?
Oh, right, hoarding. That is totally going to be a problem.
Want more stuff? Go raid the Irish coast.
I'm not an historian, but I'm pretty sure there were no hoarders in the middle ages. Between the fifth and fifteenth centuries there was no, no Walmart. You couldn't stuff your house with whatever the medieval equivalent of Beanie Babies were because everything had to be made by hand and it took forever. Only in the 20th and 21st centuries did humans start accumulating enough things that it was actually possible to be crushed by an avalanche of your own useless crap. Now throw a magic box that makes shit out of thin air into the mix. Yikes.

The Holodeck OS 5.4 update finally
fixed a bug that allowed the creation
of sentient literary super-criminals.
Ok, so the universal translator is going to drain the color and depth out of communication, and replicators are going to drown us in an endless supply of tchotchkes. Surely something in the future will be worth preserving our heads in robot bodies just so we can live to see it. Something like, say, the holodeck. I mean, what could possibly be the downside to a technology that lets you live out your wildest fantasies with fully tactile, three-dimensional holograms? If you guessed catastrophic malfunction that endangers your entire starship, you're close, but that only happened every third episode. 

What I'm talking about is how hopelessly addicted we'll all become and how lame real life will seem after an hour in holo-land.
"Weird? Nonsense Number One. What happens
on the Holodeck, stays on the Holodeck."

-Jean-Luc Picard,
about to get freaky
Um...happy Federation Day everybody!
Look at us, right now, both staring at screens. We're never more than arms reach away from some kind of electronic entertainment/porn delivery device. Now imagine that all of us had access to a fully immersive, voice activated, computer-generated environment complete with characters we can totally have consequence-free sex with. There will be exactly zero reason to leave. Ever. Holodeck-addiction might mean the end of our species. Bummer, right?

But hey, I don't want to leave you on a down note, so maybe this will cheer you up: today also happens to be Leif Erikson Day, the day on which we celebrate the Viking explorer who discovered America long before Columbus and way the hell after the millions of people already living here. You can celebrate by talking like a Viking. All day. Seriously, it'll drive people insane. Enjoy!
It's like Columbus Day, but without the genocide.

Friday, October 3, 2014

There are easier ways to solve the maze...

"Look, we just want the mice
to get into a good school."

So this is either a really awesome idea or a really terrible idea. Here, check out this article from Go on, check it out. With me? No? Why don't I save us both some time and just sum it up: some MIT geniuses/lunatics genetically modified some mice in an effort enhance their ability to learn, which I guess is either a problem with the mice or with the expectations scientists are putting on them. Anyway, they did it by screwing with their genes until they produced the human form of a protein called Foxp2. Cool, right? Yeah, sure, people still die of cancer and AIDS, but hey, smarter mice!

It apparently worked because the super-mice were able to solve a maze faster than their non-super colleagues. The experiment however, raises some, you know, questions...
Questions like: if they wanted to solve the maze so badly, why didn't the
scientists just use their superior height and look at the maze from above?
I think it's safe to say that the
polar bears are going to be pissed...
Ethical questions. Like, if we can just ensmarten animals to a human-level of intelligence, should we? Should notn't we? And by that I mean, if animal sapience is just a genetic switch-flip away, what kind of jerks are we if we leave them to languish in stupid town while we continue to pet and/or eat them? Shouldn't they have a say? And once uplifted (it's a sci-fi thing), aren't they kind of well, people? Up until now we could be totally dicks to animals and the environment and no one said a thing. Well, other people did, but we never listen to us. What's it going to be like, suddenly sharing the planet with other species who can talk back? 

We're kind of terrible at getting along with our own species. We can't seem to go a decade without trying to wipe an entire people off the planet, so how long do you suppose it will be before we turn on our neighbors in The Republic of Gazelle, or The United Moose Emirates?
"Sure, the humans put down the Great Pig Uprising, but what
we did afterwards proved who the real animals were..."

-Quote from Ken Burns'
The Porcine War
Can we, as a species, claim to be evolved
when we keep giving Kirk Cameron airtime?
Look, I'm all for animals. I'm even sometimes a vegetarian, riding high on moral superiority until low iron makes me reach for a burger. But do we really want to mess with evolution in this way? Who are we to say that the mice in that lab are unintelligent? Maybe they're exactly as smart as mice need to be. It's not as if their natural habitat is full of right-angle mazes and cheese. And besides is human-like intelligence really all that great? I mean, didn't we invent war, slavery, industrial pollution, intolerance, homophobia, sexism and not one, but two Human Centipede movies?  

I guess the point is, shouldn't we get better at treating each other like people before we start thinking about inviting the other animals to the sentience party?
On the other hand, it'll be amusing to watch the Evangelicals
absolutely lose their shit over hot human-on-chimp action.