Friday, November 28, 2014

Way to go America, way to go...

She's not saying 'We're #1,' she's just counting
the number of Black Fridays where nobody died.
Hey, good news everybody! It looks like we made it through this year's Black Friday jerkstravaganza without any shopping-related deaths. Hurray for us! USA! USA! Sure, 'no fatalities' may sound like a low bar when it comes to post-Thanksgiving shopping, but here in the U.S. this non-holiday is rapidly becoming known for a certain level of senseless violence and hostility. Of course, this year did see some fights and arrests, but that's to be expected. It's tradition.

Well, it's as traditional as some bullshit marketing ploy cooked up by retailers to drum up sales can be. Wait, is that tradition, or crass consumerism?
"It's a tradition because I say it's a tradition. Now get in there, throw some elbows
and grab a limited edition Disney Snow Glow Elsa doll® before we're sold out.
Unless, of course, you hate your niece. Do you hate your niece? You sicken me..."

-Doug McMillon, CEO Walmart
Due to the lack of boiled sheep organs
and congealed blood sausage, Thanksgiving
dinner never really caught on in the U.K.
Like, what is it that compels millions of shoppers to collectively forget that there's such a thing as the internet and willingly endure long lines, crowds and lunatics with tasers fighting over the last Black and Decker toaster oven like hyenas over a dead gazelle? What's the appeal? Clearly there must be one, because the yearly rabid-foam frenzy that retailers insist we love so much has spread to the U.K. which is absolutely inexcusable as they don't even celebrate Thanksgiving. The day after is just another day over there, arbitrarily chosen by companies hoping to replicate the horrorshow that is our Black Friday.

Here, check these out and keep in mind that these are the people who invented keeping calm while doing some other thing during the goddamn Blitz.
Tesco Security: "I beg your pardon, do excuse me as I put you in a headlock and escort you from the building."
Shopper: "Why certainly, it's no trouble at all. Would you mind terribly if I hurled verbal abuse at you along the way?"
Tesco Security: "Not at all, please do."

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Also, there are some pictures of puppies...

There's never an excuse for violence. There's usually a reason, sure, but never an excuse. A reason say, like Ferguson Missouri police officer Darren Wilson not facing charges for shooting Michael Brown-an unarmed teenager. It doesn't justify rioting or anything, but did I mention that Brown was unarmed? I did? Ok.
Because I think it's important to keep that in mind, I mean, the fact
that Brown was unarmed. Here're some puppies in a basket.
Aww...look, they're getting along.
Just...just remember to breathe.
Look, you and I weren't there when it happened, and we weren't there in the court room where the Grand Jury decided not to recommend an indictment, but we all know who's fault this really is: the media's. I know, I bet you thought I was going to say the aforementioned police officer who shot an 18-year-old who, again, wasn't armed, right? Nope, it's the media. At least that's what St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch said in a press the press...whom he blames for making this whole thing difficult...

"That's the lamestream media for you...
Get it? I said 'lame' stream. It's a pun."
"The most significant challenge encountered in this investigation has been the 24-hour news cycle and its insatiable appetite for something, for anything to talk about, following closely behind with the non-stop rumors on social media..."

-Robert McCulloch,
scolding the news outlets for
reporting events that happened

So to be clear: the hardest part about investigating the events of August 9th isn't the fact that a young person is dead, or that police everywhere are viewed with even more fear and suspicion than ever before, it's that people are talking about it. Yup, this would have been a totally clear-cut case of he said/he shot until the media went and screwed everything up.
Thanks for nothing last 300 years of American journalism...

Thursday, November 20, 2014


Thundersnow? Did you know there was such a thing as thundersnow? It's a thunderstorm that's also a blizzard, like an icy chimera of suck. I didn't even know such a thing existed until I read the news about the unrelenting meteorological shitshow that has been the city of Buffalo N.Y. the last couple of days. They got seven feet of snow. Seven.
Above: Buffalo, N.Y. Schools are closed, the roads are impassable and
Tauntauns are freezing well before they even reach the first marker.
Thanks science, thanks for nothing...
That's just unreasonable. Buffalo is officially America's 4th snowiest city, averaging 96.1 inches of snow per year. 7 feet is 84 inches meaning they just got almost their entire annual snowfall in the last 48 hours. Even more preposterous is the fact that the weekend forecast calls for temperatures in the 60º's, which sounds awesome for a minute or two, until science reminds us what happens when seven feet of snow is quickly heated to 60º. Yup: calamitous flash flooding, so I guess Buffalonians have that to look forward to.

So why the hell would anybody want to live there in the first place? Got me. I moved out of nearby Rochester (#3 on America's snowiest list) for pretty much this very reason. Of course, I moved to America's sunniest active fault line, so maybe it's just about choosing which natural disaster you'd rather die in.
Nowhere is safe and death lurks around every corner. Sleep tight!

The last refuge of the screenwriter

Brace yourself fellow nerds: HBO is going to adapt Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Does that news thrill and/or enrage you? No? Allow me to explain why it should, but first read this so you know what the hell I'm talking about. I'll wait. Huh? What's that? You don't have time to read three to seven novels? Fine, here's the wikipedia page, so you can get the gist.
Pictured: Isaac Asimov (center, between the muttonchops), wrote
some of science fiction's more important works, but he, unlike some
other sci-fi authors I could mention, was not a homophobic douche.
No, I mean the shitty one with
Mathew Broderick. Yeah, that one.
Anyway, the good news is that goddamn Roland Emmerich is apparently not involved. Emmerich had been threatening to ruin Foundation for years, but was waiting for someone to take Asimov's sprawling work about an elderly mathematician who saves the galaxy with the power of statistical analyses and somehow turn it into two and a half-hour screenplay about landmarks exploding. If it sounds like I'm being too hard on the guy, remember that this is the man that made Godzilla.

'So we open on a shot of fucking Trantor:
the capitol of the whole fucking galaxy.'
Instead, Jonah Nolan, the guy who wrote Interstellar and Memento will write and produce. Here's what he had to say about it:

"Well, I fucking love the 'Foundation' novels...That's a set of books where the influence they have is just fucking massive...there are some ideas in those that'll set your fucking hair on fire."

-Jonah Fucking Nolan

Above: The Nerd Belt®
Brilliant source material, competent, swear-happy screenwriter, what's there to worry about, right? Well, two words: I, Robot. Now, buckle-up them nerd belts, because I'm going to be getting super-geeky and more than a little tangential here. I'm bringing up I, Robot not because it was a bad movie but because it was a bad adaptation. While it was never intended to be a straight-up adaptation of any of Asimov's robot stories, it used the author's name, referenced a number of his stories and was pretty much presented as a movie based on his work.

Sure, nobody was trying to shit all over Asimov's book, it's just that his stories aren't exactly action-packed. Conversation-packed, logic-packed, even periodic table of elements-packed, but rarely action-packed. The producers wanted Will Smith spouting one-liners and shooting robots instead of standing around and discussing the Three Laws, so that's what we got.
"Welcome to Earth! Uh...which I suppose is where you come from as well.
Sorry, that one still needs some work, can we take that again?"
Pictured: A robot takes a hostage
in I, Robot, because nobody
ever read the goddamn book.
Yeah, the Three Laws. Asimov's robots were unique in science fiction because they were subject to the Laws of Robotics, the first of which was that a robot could never harm a human being. Ever. Like, that never happens in any of his stories, so when the robots in I, Robot turn evil and go on a killing spree, fans were understandably upset. It wasn't a plot twist, it a was bullshit cop-out, because the screenwriter couldn't come up with anything more interesting than "the robots eyes turn red, mayhem ensues."

'The incest practically writes itself!'
So what the hell does any of that have to do with Foundation? Well, HBO did an awesome job adapting Game of Thrones for television, but those novels were practically written in screenplay format to begin with. And it certainly doesn't hurt that every other chapter ends with either murder or screwing (or sometimes both). Most chapters in the Foundation books end with elected officials negotiating their way out of political crises. Yikes.

I'm sure HBO will throw some gratuitous violence or space nudity into the mix, but it may turn out that Foundation is un-filmable as written, leaving the Jonah Nolan with an unenviable choice between staying true to the original story and creating something people might actually want to sit through.
'Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.'
-Salvor Hardin in Foundation
but, uh, I'm sure he wasn't 
talking about HBO...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Suck on it Leif Erikson!

Have you ever heard of Recep Tayyip Erdogan? You haven't? Really? He's the President of Turkey, but you might remember him as the disappointing hologram we discussed back in January. Well he's back, and making wild claims about just who discovered America.
Above: The President of Turkey.*
"Um...hello? Guys? Remember me?"
-Leif Erikson, circa 1000 A.D.
At a conference with Latin American Muslim leaders in Istanbul, he claimed that not only did Muslim sailors reach the new world as early as 1178, but that Islam was widespread in the Americas 300 years later when noted explorer and disease vector, Christopher Columbus rolled up. Balderdash, right? Well, yes, of course it is. Erdogan's evidence is a widely discredited claim that Columbus spotted a mosque on a mountaintop in what is now Cuba, but whatever, he was probably just playing to his audience. People love to feel connected to historical events, even if there aren't facts or evidence to back them up. 

Pictured: The pained expression of a man
whose worldview has been challenged.
There've been a few other claims of pre-Columbian expeditions from the 'old world' to the 'new world,' but if any of them are true, nobody's found any solid evidence yet. Until that happens, these claims fall into the category of 'History Channel Bullshit.' Still, what if one pans out someday? Like what if someone digs up some South American ruins and finds a minaret or a Quran, how awesome would that be? Not just because it would be another fascinating chapter in the story of human exploration, but because people like Bill O'Reilly and Pat Robertson would absolutely lose their shit. 

Ok, so Erdogan's spouting junk archeology, what's the big deal? Columbus fans have been clinging to their bullshit story of him discovering the new world for ages. 
"For the last time you be-pantalooned
idiot, you didn't discover shit. We live here."

-The Arawak 
That's better. It brightens up the room and
you can hardly contemplate the horror.
The problem is that both narratives kind of paint the Americas as an uncivilized no-man's land until either the Christians or the Muslims showed up with their superior ideas and pants and led the natives into the light. It's this paint job that helps make the centuries of murder and robbery that followed less horrible to contemplate, which is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. When it stops being about history, and starts being about ownership you get shit like imperialism and genocide. It's a short walk from 'I saw it first!' to 'That's mine!'

Yeah, so while it's totally important to investigate every historical instance of contact between the old world and the Americas, it's also important to keep in mind the civilizations that already existed here and the people whose ancestors crossed a frozen land bridge and fought sabertooth goddamn tigers to build them. 
Yeah, I said Sabertooth Goddamn Tigers.

*sorry. I do apologize for that one, and to be clear: no, I'm not better than that.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Buttercup II: The Revengening

10 seasons. 213 episodes. 0 ghosts.
How do they still have their jobs?
So the problem with TV documentaries and reality shows about things like Bigfoot and UFO's, is that we know how they're all going to end. Like, of course the guys from Ghost Hunters aren't going to catch a ghost on camera because A: it's preposterous and B: if they did, we wouldn't have to wait until it airs to hear about it. We live in the age of Twitter and Facebook, so if some jackass from The History Channel actually got an alien to sit down for an interview that shit'd be all over the internets at the speed of stupid.

Um...hurray for climate change?
Why then, are these guys still releasing their documentary about cloning a woolly mammoth? Oh yes, I said cloning a woolly mammoth. Sound familiar? Thanks to some still-juicy samples squeezed from the remarkably well-preserved remains of a 40,000 year-dead woolly mammoth (named, I shit you not, Buttercup) released from the rapidly melting Siberian permafrost, scienceticians from South Korea are attempting to clone the extinct mammoths back to life for...uh, some reason. I guess.

The documentary is going to be called How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth and like I said, don't hold your breath for the startling reveal of a freshly-cloned Buttercup II eating peanuts out of some scientist's hand. While the corpse is in relatively good shape, they haven't yet found any viable cells. A better title would probably be How to Want to Clone Woolly Mammoth.
How to Clone a Woolly Mammoth joins Downton Abbey, American Pickers and
everything else on television as a show not about successfully cloning a woolly mammoth.
Pictured: An animal shelter, where they'll
just give you a new goddamn dog. 
Now, I know what you're thinking: 'This is an abomination!' and 'How dare they play God!' Well settle down, because they're not so much playing God as they are playing rich dog-owner. This same technique has been used clone the beloved pets of the super-wealthy at, get this, $100,000 a pop. That's right, people with too much money can get a clone of their dead dog. Of course, it's not really the same dog, just a genetically-identical duplicate with a different life-experience and a price tag that could have put like four kids through college, but whatever floats your yacht, right?

Anyway, maybe it's not such a bad thing that cloning doesn't work the way rich idiots think it does. I mean, there's a decent chance that early humans hunted Buttercup and her species to extinction and the last thing we need is a woolly mammoth revenge-based stomping spree.
"Hey assholes, remember me? Remember meeee!?
-Buttercup II

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Omission: Impossible!

In a move sure to upset no one and totally go un-sued over, a high school student is in trouble for leaving 'under God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance. The student, Derek Giardina, had to lead the school in the pledge for his speech class and says he dropped the phrase because he isn't religious.
"You know Derek, all I ask is constant validation and praise. Is that so hard?"

Pictured: The city of Sodom shortly after
a local student left God out of the Pledge.
The school, fearing a swift reprisal from America's angry and jealous diety, handed Giardina a failing grade, arguing that he should have used the traditional version that echoes down the ages from time immemorial. And by time immemorial, I mean way back in 1954 when the phrase 'under God' was shoehorned in by religious people sucking up to God in an hilariously unconstitutional Church/State mash-up. Before 1954, school kids were just swearing blind loyalty to the nation and its flag without any mention at all of our official state religion...uh, wait do we even have one of those? What is it, like Jesus-ism or something?

Yeah, hang on. Why is the Pledge of Allegiance still a thing we make kids do? Like are we afraid that if kids don't start their day with some weird loyalty oath that they might grow up and move to Canada or hand our state secrets over to the Soviets?
"I won't do it! I won't give you the nuclear codes, I stood up in homeroom and I
 pledged allegiance. An allegiance to the flag. And that's one pledge I can't break..."
Have you ever read this? Me neither.
For all I know, Apple might own my organs.
Also, is anyone really suggesting that kids fully understand what they're agreeing to when they say the pledge? The pledge is just a thing we ask students to recite in school because we had to do it and so did our parents before us. Most of us probably never gave it much thought. It's like clicking on the iTunes end user agreement but without the legal weight. So what's the big deal if Giardina skips a phrase he's philosophically uncomfortable with? All he's doing is breaking a tradition about as old and time honored as 'I Love Lucy' and DEET.

"We pledge allegiance to Verizon Wireless,
because the man said we'd get ice-cream..."
Like, if the pledge is supposed to be a purposeful declaration of one's allegiance then they're asking Giardina and any other student who has a problem with the 'under god' part, to betray their beliefs and convictions in exchange for a passing grade. If it's just some crap we make students do every morning because that's the way it's aways been, then we're wasting class time. Time we could be selling to advertisers. See that? I just ended the pledge debate and solved our nation's school funding problems. You're welcome everybody!

Oh, and on a side note, the Pledge of Allegiance used to be recited while performing something called the Bellamy Salute (see below), a practice we dropped round about, say, 1939...for some reason. I bring this up not just to justify using this creepy picture of kids Nazi-saluting the American flag, but to illustrate the idea that the pledge, like a lot of traditions, can be changed to suit the needs of the times. Ok, mainly it's about the creepy picture, but I think my point stands.
Above: Holy shit. I mean, c'mon, that's just unsettling.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Was 'Star Wars: Tokyo Drift' already taken?

Look it's not a bad choice, it's just kind of, I don't know, uninspiring. But whatever, if the movie's decent, who cares, right?
Pictured: Episode VII has a title. You'll find it wedged between
Star and Wars like the meaty filling of a logo burger.
Grand Moff Tarkin:
"He died as he profile."
Nerds. Nerds care. A lot. Here goes: The Empire Strikes Back was an amazing title. The movie is about the Empire getting revenge for the galactic pants-ing they suffered at the hands of some whiny kid who, with exactly 20 minutes of fighter pilot experience, somehow managed to blow up their moon-sized murderball along with a couple million of their finest Storm Troopers and Grand Moffs. You better believe the Empire is going to goddamn strike back. They probably should have called it The Empire Strikes The Fuck Back.

The Force Awakens just kind of implies that the force was asleep. Like it had a long day and needed to lie down for a bit. I guess what I'm trying to say is that maybe reminding us of napping isn't the best move when half your cast are reprising rolls they haven't played in 3 decades. Does that make me a jerk?
I gather from your expression that it does indeed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

It's V for Vendetta Mask Night!

Hey, you know what tonight is? Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night, the night when British people celebrate Guy Fawkes, a simple man with a simple dream: to re-establish Catholicism as the national religion of England by murdering the Protestant King James I, Parliament and anyone else within a four-block radius using explosives planted under the House of Lords.
And he did it all for this man: Pope Paul V.
He is to Guy Fawkes what Jodi Foster is to John Hinkley Jr.
Above: Fawkes, shortly
before being discovered. 
Well, they don't so much celebrate Guy Fawkes as they do burn him in effigy. It's something they've been doing for like 400 years which is a really long time to hold a grudge. Especially when you keep in mind that not only did Fawkes fail to blow up anything, but that he was also captured, executed (sort of, we'll get to that) and that his body was then drawn and quartered and sent to the four corners of the kingdom as a warning to anyone else who might try to affect political change with a plot lifted from a Road Runner cartoon.

Look, I don't know much about how monarchies work, but Protestants and Catholics had been murdering the shit out of each other for decades, did Fawkes and his fellow conspirators really think that if the King suddenly exploded that everyone would be cool with his replacement being from the opposing religious/political faction?
"According to the rules of Royal Succession, should the King die without
an hier, his successor shall be chosen by means of a rap contest."
-Some Scholar
You know that step
that says 'not a step'?
Ok, so their plan wasn't exactly sound, but Fawkes ended up doing alright for himself. While on his way up the ladder for execution, he fell off the scaffolding and broke his neck before they could hang him thus sparing himself the inglorious death of a traitor, and replacing it with the ignominious pratfall of a schlemiel. Also, as failed regicides go, he is reasonably famous. His name is the reason men are called 'guys,' he's the indirect and historically questionable inspiration for those masks that Anonymous and the Occupy Wallstreet kids wear and by all accounts Guy Fawkes Night is kind of a rockin' party. You know, in many ways, having his corpse gruesomely dismembered before a jeering crowd was the start of some really good things for Fawkes, so uh, Happy Guy Fawkes Night!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Monarchy Now!

Hey everyone, tomorrow is election day and if you're anything like me you plan to get up early, toddle down to your local election site and poke blindly at a voting machine to make your selections for a bunch of midterms you couldn't possibly give a shit about, school board races you have no stake in whatsoever and ballot initiatives you don't even understand. Hurray for Democracy!
Above: Stupid idiots wasting their time.
"Suck on it."
-people who vote in the midterms
Why do we do this? Well, most of us don't, but for those of us who do it's a weird combination of the guilt we'll feel if we don't and the sense of smug superiority we get from those ' I Voted' stickers they give you. Of course, there's also spite. According to this, political polarization is at an all-time high. Yeah, all-time high. To be clear, that includes the time we, as a nation, once spent four years killing each other over whether or not it was ok to own people and make them work for no money.

Oh don't look at me like that.
Shouldn't you be comptrolling?
We don't even vote for people or things anymore, we vote against. I mean, it's really hard to get people motivated to weigh-in on things like Comptroller or Water Commissioner. Like, those things are boring and lame and nobody gives a shit. On the other hand, we give plenty of shits about voting against those yacht-owning, gun-humping misogynistic fascists (or those gay-marrying, tax-happy godless baby-killers if that's how you tool). Sometimes I'll just vote for everyone with a 'D' next to their name-not because I love one party, but because I hate the other one. Yeah, I'm part of the problem.

But can you really blame me? When someone's trying tell people who they can and can't marry or what they can and can't do with their bodies, it's almost always a Republican. Even if I thought one of them had a good idea (I don't, but go with me on this), I could never vote for one because of all the horseshit that comes along with them.
It's like being a vegan at a party where the only food is pizza and
nobody understands why you don't just pick the pepperoni off.*
"Low unemployment? Healthcare?
Looks like we got here just in time.
Polls indicate that the Republicans are going to win a majority in the Senate tomorrow. Not because the Democrats are necessarily bad a their jobs (unemployment is way down and the Dow is way up), but because Republicans are really good at spending money on ads that convince elderly white men that Obamacare and gays are the reason they don't understand music these days and why all the kids wear their dungarees too low and-see? I'm doing it again. Yes, the GOP, as a thing, is awful and stands for everything wrong in the world but that's not really a productive attitude is it?

Fun and reassuring yes, I mean who doesn't love to have their worldview reaffirmed? But it's not getting us anywhere. I'm not sure that there's really a solution here short of abolishing political parties or maybe selling ourselves back to Britain-both of which sound pretty damn good right now. Anyway, go know, for all the good it does...
"Well, well, well...having second thoughts about all that independence business are we?"
-The Queen, still riding high

*the answer, of course, is murder-juice and cheese.