Thursday, December 31, 2015

Let's go out on some schadenfreude!

So like, it's New Year's again. That festive holiday where we drink, pretend that we're going to suddenly break bad habits and turn our lives around and most importantly take a somber account of all those we lost in 2015.
'Happy New Year's everybody! What a year, am I right?'
-The Grim Specter of Death
So long Don Featherstone, the world
is slightly less tacky with out you.
Did I say 'all the people?' That's a lie. We only sit around and remember the famous people. The planet's population is something like seven billion, so the vast majority of us will shuffle off our mortal coil in total anonymity. Instead we reflect on those who have made an impact on the lives of others by say playing Al on Happy Days or being the guy that invented Pink Flamingos. Nobody cares about your 8th grade English teacher. What? I'm sure she inspired in you a life-long love of reading, but since she didn't write Hollywood Wives, or found Motörhead, you're probably not going to see her in anyone's 'celebrating those we've lost' montages.

Just...what the fuck...
In music, B. B. King died, as did Scott Weiland of the Stone Temple Pilots and James 'All movie scores from the 80's and 90's' Horner. Actors Omar Sharif, Dick Van Patton and the extravagantly be-eyebrowed Robert Loggia are also dead. Batgirl Yvonne Craig died as did Nicholas Smith, the last surviving cast member from Are You Being Served? Oh, and so did Wes Craven, the writer/director of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Not dead is the guy that came up with Human Centipede. I'm just pointing it out.

Yeoman Rand was in charge of serving
coffee to the crew because sexism.
Trekkies lost Grace Lee Whiney who played yeoman Rand and Bruce Hyde who played lieutenant Riley, the ship's official Irish stereotype. Now brace yourself for this one, Leonard Nimoy. Yeah, Spock died this February, can you believe it? It's been a rough year for nerds. We also say so long to novelist Sir Terry Pratchett, and actor-vampire-wizard-Sith and notable metal enthusiast Sir Christopher Lee. In fictional character deaths, we also lost-oh wait, probably shouldn't say that. You know who I'm talking about. Anyway, the way I see it, the universe owes us a solid in 2016. So maybe, I don't know, aliens?

Pictured: the worst.
In abstract concepts, the last lingering shred of respect I might have had for American conservatives was brutally hatcheted to death by Donald Trump when his poll numbers hit the high 30's among Republican voters. Yup, it looks like the party of Lincoln is seriously going to run a racist, misogynistic gameshow host in November. Look, it's not like I'm ever going to vote Republican, it's just I'd like to be able to respect them. And, well, this guy, he's just, just the worst.

Journalism also died this year when the landlord of the townhouse where the San Bernardino shooters lived, opened the doors and let the media in to, I shit you not, rifle through the dead suspect's worldly possessions and speculate wildly on how Muslim they were.
All that was missing was the Benny Hill theme music
The English Language:
435 AD-2015 AD
'...sleepy face in peace sign...'
The Oxford English Dictionary lost whatever respectability it might have had left by choosing a goddamn smily face as its word of the year. Would-be cyborgs lost this century's most obnoxious eyewear when Google quietly killed Google Glass for being both ridiculous looking and kind of dangerous to wear. Oh, and we learned that bacon is secretly killing us. It's not, but we learned it anyway and then promptly forgot about it when we remembered that it's delicious and that we kind of hate science.

Oh, and no retrospective on what we, as a civilization, have lost would be complete without remembering that 2015 was the year that the Jesus-given right of homophobes to live in a gay marriage-less world was brutally murdered by 55.5% of the Supreme Court. Yup, we're really feeling for those people. Anyway Happy New Year's!
I'm just kidding. Seriously though, fuck those guys.

Today in valuable life lessons...

Hey, thinking about New Year's resolutions? Great, do those resolutions involve lying to your children and distorting their very sense of time? Cool, because Netflix has you covered.
This holiday, deceive your children with Netflix®!
This would probably do it too...
Yup, they're streaming six new kid's specials which will help you weave a festive web of deception using popular cartoon characters like The Care Bears (apparently still a thing) and Inspector Gadget (ditto) who will count down to 2016 whenever you hit play. That way your kids will think they've just rung in the new year and you can get them to shut up and go to bed in plenty of time for you to enjoy the drinking and the making of resolutions you'll never keep that are so much a part of the holiday. Think of it as The Truman Show, but for lazy parents.

In fact, I suspect your kids will never
ask to stay up late ever again. 
There, I said it. Lazy parents. Of course, I'm a childless shut-in who doesn't understand why people have pets or plants much less kids, so take my criticism with a grain of salt, but if it's that important to your kids to watch the ball drop, why not let'em? They're probably not going to make it past 9:30 anyway, and even if they do, they'll just see Kathy Griffin and Anderson Cooper shooting the shit while a bunch people in those stupid 2016 glasses yell 'woo!' at the camera. The planet's odometer will roll over and that'll be it. Bo-ring.

Or you could sit your kids down on the couch, turn on Netflix and let it parent for you. After all, that's what TV is for. Sure, smarter kids are going to notice that the sun just went down and suddenly the Care Bears are telling them it's midnight, but then I suppose you can turn this into a harsh, but valuable life lesson.
That lesson being that they should trust no one, and that
everyone, even Care Bears, are going to disappoint them.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Oh, and then this happened...

Going bananas, but on fire.
That's how crazy things got.
Is there like a zombie rage virus in the air or something? I'm only asking because two thousand people went bananas foster at a mall in Kentucky on Saturday. How come? That's the thing, nobody knows, but afterwards witnesses told police that a bunch of kids between 13-20 years old just started fighting and then one fight led to another and to another until the whole place erupted into something like a prison riot but with a Forever 21. Which I assume prisons don't actually have...

Anyway, there was punching, maybe even some shots fired, business tried to close those big metal gate things, but kids started climbing them. In the end it took like two and a half hours and fifty extra police officers to settle things down although, weirdly, nobody was arrested.
"You know according to Kentucky law, mall riots aren't technically illegal. And to answer your
next question, yes, cousin marriage totally is illegal, so suck on that, southern stereotypes."
-Some Lawyer
Above: This but with iPhones instead
of a conch and pig's head on a stick.
So I guess what I want to know is what the fuck? According to this, the police think that parents have been just dropping their kids off because you know, parenting is hard, and that left to their own devices, the whole mall naturally devolved into a sort of Lord of the Flies thing. Which c'mon, I have no love for malls. They're commercial wastelands of shitty food and low wages designed to suck out your income in exchange for useless crap you don't need but they're not your goddamn babysitters. That's just not fair to the staff.

What does he want a cookie?
Because he can have one.  
The bright side here and I mean the only bright side, is that nobody was seriously hurt.

"Our officers, they showed great restraint. Officers were focused on dispersing crowds and keeping them moving."

-Police spokesperson Dennis McDonald
proudly pointing out that his officers 
didn't beat the shit out of children

Yup, that's a police spokesperson telling us that we should be grateful that officers didn't start clubbing kids, which I'll grant you is a low bar, but 2000 rampaging tweens? That'd test anybody. But really, what is up lately? Is this a new thing? There was that thing in Florida the other day and all those fights on Black Friday including one in this same mall. Suddenly my rage virus theory isn't looking so bananas foster.
Above: The most reasonable theory.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Because Florida

Could we, I don't know, please stop shooting one another? Some jackass just opened fire in a McDonalds in Florida, our most embarrassing state.
I'm pretty sure Spain would buy it back, I mean, has
anybody asked them recently if they'd be interested?
McNuggets. Worth dying for? No.
Worth killing for? Apparently.
It was 12:30 in the afternoon in a McDonald's in Miami-Dade and two dudes got into an argument about-no, you know what? It can't possibly matter. There is nothing, literally nothing that could possibly happen between two strangers waiting for their goddamn McNuggets that could in any way warrant drawing a weapon and threatening murder. But hey, here we are. One of the men pulled out a gun saying "I'll kill you right now." And then do you know what happened? He shot him. Like right then. Shot him in the arm. 

I'm all for the 3rd Amendment though.
Those assholes can find a Holiday Inn. 
The assailant was arrested and the victim was ok, well as ok as you can be after getting shot in the arm in McDonald's, but what the hell? Look, I know we don't yet know all the facts about this incident, and I get that it's kind of a dick move to take something that happened only hours ago and use it to criticize millions of law abiding gun-owners, but the NRA is full of shit and the Second Amendment was referring to muskets. It doesn't give anyone the right to walk around with a Ruger in their pants just in case someone pisses them off at Mickey D's.

I'm not saying that we should take all the guns away, but maybe we should take all the guns away, you know? Or at least most of the guns. Like the really big ones. And the really small, easily concealed ones. If you want a gun it should be a muzzle-loader. That's what James Madison was taking about.
"Look, I didn't exactly see automatic weapons and armor piercing
bullets coming. You know, when I wrote the damn thing flush toilets
were cutting edge technology and you could legally own people."
-James Madison

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's pretty good!

What was pretty good? Why The Star Wars of course. So I don't really review things on this blog, it's more like I just talk about things I find interesting and I found the new St'Wars (contraction!) movie interesting. If I sound less than enthusiastic, it because I'm not really a gushy person. Sure, it's not a perfect movie, but it's good. Really.
I'd be the guy shouting 'shut up and turn off the goddamn plastic laser sword.'
Oh yeah J. J, right there...that's it...
One of the most valid complaints levied against the Star Wars prequels was they were confusing, sterile computer-rendered messes full of bland, unlikeable characters who lacked even the slightest hint of human emotion. STTFA (acronym?) doesn't have this problem. The story's cool, the CGI is unobtrusive, there's a ton of muppet aliens and practical effects, and J. J. Abrams is really good at reaching into fans, finding whatever organ is responsible for storing fond memories of Star Wars and massaging it to some kind of nostalgiagasm.

Pictured: the same guy. See?
I'm wrecking everything.
Ok, now comes the part where I latch on to some obscure point and rip the movie apart for some perceived violation of its own internal logic. Please don't take this as some kind of suggestion that the movie isn't fun. It was great, but as a fan of, let's say nerd things, you know I'm the kind of person who likes to nit-pick. It's what we do. If that's not your cuppa, then bail out now. Oh and if you haven't already seen it, holy shit stop reading this and go see it. I'm probably going to get spoilery.

Troposphere Wars would have
been a more accurate title.
Look, again, great movie, but we've totally seen it before. From the lonely kid on a desert planet to the trench run, it's basically A New Hope, but whatever, I'm just glad the opening crawler didn't once mention interstellar tariffs. And I'm not going to complain about how four of the five planets visited in the movie were nearly identical or the fact that the movie is called Star Wars but almost all the battle scenes took place on the ground or atmosphere. Nit-picks? Sure, but the kind that make people want to slap you.

Pictured: Snap Wexley. He
comes with a grappling hook and
realistic plot exposition action.
I am however going to complain about Starkiller Base, this movie's stand-in for the Death Star. It's objectively ridiculous. I'm sorry, and I don't know why it bothered me so much but there it is. There's this scene where Greg Grunberg, as the preposterously named Resistance pilot Snap Wexley, technobabbley explains that the Starkiller destroys entire star systems by draining off all the sun's energy and then converting it into a hyperspace explosion-ray. Yeah, ok, but the First Order built the thing into a planet which seems like it would have some drawbacks. For one, it's a planet so it can't fly around like a starship. Which wouldn't be an issue except that the thing runs on stars and it doesn't have a hyperdrive, so it seems like it would only have as many shots as there are stars in its home system. Right?

Before the Resistance even knows about it, some crazy ginger space Nazi uses it to blow up the New Republic's home system, and we then spend the next twenty minutes of the movie watching it suck up another star to power a second volley, but even if, like Tatooine, its home system had multiple stars it's going to run out pretty quick.
J. J. Abrams fun fact: this movie tops the Star Trek reboot's
casual genocide score with six, count'em six exploding planets. 
Above: space wizards are really
the most compelling reason I should
just shut up and eat my popcorn.
Maybe it does have a hyperdrive. You suggest. Ok, sure, maybe, after all, the Death Star must have had one if it made it from Alderaan to Yavin IV in anything under three-thousand years, but I don't think so. Earlier in the movie we watch Han Solo take the MillFal (abbreviation!) to light speed with some hungry tentacle monster clinging to the windshield and the force of it seemed to rip it off. If the base does have hyperdrive, wouldn't its atmosphere get ripped away? I know I'm harping on a seemingly minor science point in a movie about space wizards, but I'm just not sure J. J. Abrams knows or cares how space works.

Wait, you don't suppose this is just
about selling tie-in merchandise, do you?

Anyway, the movie's totally good and I suppose I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much if there weren't minor points to get all nerdy about. Oh, and speaking of minor points did you notice that C-3PO had one red arm? Bet you're curious as to why he has one red arm, aren't you? Admit it, it keeps you up at night. Well, luckily you can buy Marvel's C-3PO one-shot comic which comes out in February. Read it to find out the answer to the completely fascinating mystery of Threepio's red arm which you totally give a shit about.

Or you could just wait until someone explains it on Wookiepedia (that's not me making a terrible pun, that's really what the Star Wars wiki is called). I mean, c'mon Disney, don't you have enough of our money already?
"No, of course we goddamn don't."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

We're bombing who now?

Pictured: Stupid idiots. 
So they're not calling people stupid, but this poll does kind of indicate that people are pretty stupid. Public Policy Polling conducted a survey that found Donald Trump expanding his lead over over GOP candidates which, ok, not surprising. But what is both surprising and oh what's the phrase? Oh-my-god-what-the-fuck? That's it. What's oh-my-god-what-the-fuck is that 54% of his supporters said they support his proposed Muslim ban and 45% say we should shut down mosques.

Oh, and 41% would like to bomb Agrabah. No really, 41% of Trump fans pressed the 'strongly support' button for bombing the fictional city of Agrabah from goddamn Disney's Aladdin. Oh and don't look so smug people who aren't self-identified Trump supporters, because PPP found the 'bomb Agrabah' crowd included 30% among Republicans in general and at 19% among Democrats. So like, yikes, right?
What? Their broad racial caricatures and evil wizards
present a clear and present danger to American interests.
Congress: slightly better than mob rule.
Why was that even a question on the poll? Because it's fun to troll idiots and polling organizations like to point out that maybe straight-up democracy isn't necessarily the best idea we've ever had. I'm not saying we need to pick a king or something, it's just that every time someone complains about our representative form of government, it's important to remind them of shit like this poll and how it could be worse.

That percentage comes down a bit if you limit
the poll to victims of Japanese internment.
(source: obviousness) 
People like to feel like their opinions are important. I mean, they're not, but we like to feel that way. So when confronted with a poll, everyone turns into a goddamn geopolitical genius it doesn't matter that we don't know what we're talking about. Bomb Agrabah? Sure, Agrabah sounds Muslim-y, so fuck those Agrabanians! I probably shouldn't suggest that a lot of the people polled are racists, but 28% of those surveyed thought that Japanese internment camps during World War II were a good idea so it's a safe bet that a lot of the people polled are racists.

Yeah, that was on the survey too. Japanese internment, which the government's own official investigative panel called a 'grave injustice' based on 'racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership' but which a quarter of people taking some phone survey seven decades later are totally cool with. I don't know what any of this proves other than Americans are surprisingly hostile towards imaginary sultanates and that it's a good thing we don't conduct public policy by a show of hands.
"I do very well among racists and fans of grave injustice. They love me."

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Let's judge a movie by the trailer!

Look, I'm not saying that they don't already have my eleven dollars, but seriously? Yeah, look out internet, this nerd's got an opinion about Star Trek, so buckle up.
It's about to get nerdy, so strap yourself in. 
"I saw them at Bonaroo and they
pleased me, so I let them live."
Behold, the trailer for next summer's third alt-universe-quasi-reboot Trek movie is out and I don't have a goddamn clue what it's about. I do know that twenty-third century space captain James Kirk is like super into The Beastie Boys, but whatever, people still listen to Beethoven and they're basically the Beethoven of the 90's, right? I guess Khan was into them too, because according to Star Trek's dated future, Sabotage would have been recorded in the middle of the brutal Eugenics wars and he didn't have them you know, purged.

Anyway, there's a lot of explosions and one-liners and some reptilian alien we've never seen before, who's presumably evil because you know, reptiles.
The message here is you shouldn't judge beings by their outward
appearance, except if they're reptilian, in which case, phasers on kill.
Above: A typical action scene
from Star Trek TNG.
It might be really good, it's hard to tell from a minute and a half of out-of-context reaction shots, quips and things blowing-up but my expectations are kind of low. The director, Justin Lin is known for his work on The Fast and the Furious movies, which I've never seen, but understand them to be about people who drive cars, presumably while angry. Me? I'm more of a Picard fan. I like my Star Trek about people solving their problems with confusing, technological-sounding dialogue and long-winded speeches about getting along. Preferably over a nice cup of tea. The recent Trek movies have skewed a little, well, big dumb action movie and Star Trek Beyond looks like it's going to carry on that tradition. 

"Nostalgia goes straight to my thighs..."
It's not that the Abrams-verse movies have been bad, they've just been whatever the storytelling equivalent of chocolate cake is. I don't know, empty nostalgia? They're more about reminding us about how cool we think Star Trek is rather than adding anything new. Remember The Wrath of Khan? That was great. Let's do that again. Supposedly this movie isn't another retread like Into Darkness, but instead a new story, so that's good. 

On the other hand, studios aren't usually in the business of taking risks on heady, intellectual, sci-fi movies, not when Guardians of the Galaxy made like all the money ever, so yeah, I'm going to go ahead and not get my hopes up.
"Is there any way we can make this new movie more like Guardians of the Galaxy?
Maybe have Kirk listen to The Beastly Boy again? Oh and what if instead of just
some guy, Sulu was like a tree monster, you know, like Groot. The kids love Groot."

-Some movie exec

Saturday, December 12, 2015

It's a veritable frittata of church and state!

Pictured: everyone involved.
Oh shit, we're doing this again? Settle down, I'll explain. A couple of years ago there was this ridiculous fight in Santa Monica, California over some stupid chicken wire boxes in the park. For ages, religious groups had been putting up Christmas displays in the boxes, but then the local Atheist group complained that this was unfair and that they should get to put up their own displays. A big fight ensued, and everyone involved, as in grown-ass adults, threw a huge tantrum until a judge stepped in and said fine, no holiday displays for anyone. Both sides made tremendous asshats out of themselves and now it's happening again, this time in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Every year, a local Christian group called the Thomas More Society has been allowed to set up a nativity scene near the info-desk in the capitol building which, ok, is a questionable frittata of church and state, but whatever, who cares? It's Christmas.
"I don't see what everyones problem is, Christmas is just the time of year for people of all beliefs
to come together and recognize Christianity as the one true faith, and all others as blasphemous lies."

-Martin Cannon, attorney 
for the Thomas More Society 
If your point can't be summed up in Sharpie
on a poster board, you're doing it wrong.
Turns out these guys careSeven Atheist groups from the area got together and booked the official info-desk-adjacent holiday celebration area for the week between the 19th and 26th for their own holiday display. The catchily named Season for Reason will feature a reason tree, a happy humanist statue and, I shit you not, a model of a church next to a model of a federal building with a wall in between them. You know, just in case you were unclear on the concept. Yup, it's just their way of calling everyone who disagrees with them a bunch of stupid idiots which, let's face it, is kind of why people hate these guys.

We agnosto-secular Vulcanologists settle
our arguments the civilized way, with lirpas.
Look, the Atheists aren't wrong here. I mean about the legally dicey practice of putting expressly religious decorations and imagery on state property, not about the there's-no-such-thing as-God thing. As an agnosto-secular Vulcantologist, I don't really have an opinion on that one way or the other. What I am saying is that they're not wrong about the message a nativity scene on state property sends. It is like, super-Christian and having one next to the info desk in the state capitol does lend it the appearance of endorsement.

But is there maybe a better way to make the point than Grinching the shit out of everyones favorite crass, commercial pseudo-religious spend-a-thon?
Above: The true meaning of Christmas. After all, Baby Jesus would
totally want a Dora the Explorer talking backpack and a Chima Lego set.
"Sharing? Compromise? Doesn't
sound like my people..."
Could the Atheists and the Christians maybe have come to some kind of compromise? Perhaps the nativity-fans could have been persuaded to put up a more secular Christmas tree instead of the religiously loaded manger scene. Or, maybe the two groups could have shared the space. The Thomas More Society's attorney even said they would have gone havsies with the display area. After all, there's plenty of info-desk for everybody if they'd just ditch the tourist guides and maps to local points of interest. I mean, it's not like anyone goes on vacation to Lincoln Nebraska.

Or better yet, maybe the Atheists could have started their own holiday. Like, in June or something. We could have a barbecue, it'll be lovely. The point is they're not going to win anyone over by being assholes about Christmas.
"Yup, cold and indifferent. That's how 
I like my universe. Hey, more ribs?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why didn't we think of this?

Pictured: the worst. 
I mean, was this an option the whole time? Don't know what I'm talking about? That's because I like to keep you guessing. Here click on this, or wait until I give up and just explain it myself. Well? Ok, fine, here goes: Yesterday, a petition appeared on the British Parliament's e-petition website calling for Donald Trump to be banned from the UK in response to that thing he said about banning all Muslims from entering the US. You heard about that right? Yeah, he's just the worst.

Anyway, today the petition passed the one hundred thousand signatures mark meaning that it will be considered by the House of Commons. For real. It's a thing they do. Enough signatures and blamo, it's on the table.
Parliament of course, being the rubber-stamp legislative body that simply legitimizes
the brutal will of the Dread Queen Elizabeth, second of her name and tamer of corgis.  
"Balderdash and poppycock!"
-Some rich guy
The petition, drafted by a community activist Suzanne Kelly reads:

"The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech. The same principles should apply to anyone wishing to enter the UK. If the United Kingdom is to continue applying 'unacceptable behaviour' criteria to those wishing to enter its borders, the same must be fairly applied to the rich as well to the poor, and the weak as well as powerful."

Strangely equalitarian words coming from a nation that invented class privilege and is to this day is ruled by a powerful and wealthy aristocracy (source: Downton Abbey), but then rules are rules. 

Weirdly, fire-breathing turtle dragon
and serial princess kidnapper Bowser
is still allowed to enter the UK.
So like will it really happen? Britain's Chancellor, George Osbourne agrees that Trump is a mega-tool but says that it's better to engage him 'in robust debate', rather than ban him outright, which I don't know, can't they engage him via Skype and still ban him? The country's Home Secretary Theresa May has the power to exclude him on the grounds that his 'presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good' so who knows? In the past, they've barred others including a white supremacist, a French anti-Semitic comedian as well as Punch-Out!! final boss Mike Tyson. For the rape conviction, not for being impossible to beat. 

I guess what I want to know is why don't we have a system like this? You know, a mechanism whereby we can force legislative debate on an issue we care about instead of waiting for a congressperson or senator to come along and take up the cause. 
Oh, riiiiight, I guess we do have a mechanism...