Friday, February 27, 2015

So long and thanks for all the Spock...

Sorry, it's a terrible title, I know, but today is a sad, sad day for sci-fi fans everywhere. Actor and nerd legend Leonard Nimoy has died at age 83.
I sure hope he put his katra someplace safe...
The real mystery of course, is why did he
ever shave off that handsome mustache?
Nimoy, as I'm sure you're aware, was an accomplished poet, musician, author, director and actor. He is probably most famous for his role in the television series Mission: Impossible as well as a reoccurring part on the more recent Fringe. Back in the 70's, Nimoy also hosted In Search Of, a documentary series in which he went looking for things like Atlantis and the Loch Ness Monster. Of course, these things are imaginary and he was totally wasting our time, but if anyone was going to solve the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, it would be Leonard goddamn Nimoy.

Nice try Leonard, but there is no escape.
In other, more obscure work, Nimoy played the half-alien Mr. Spock on Star Trek for three seasons before the series became popular and went on to consume his existence like V'Ger on Epsilon IX (nerd points!). Fearing that type-casting might damage his credibility as an actor, Nimoy for a time tried escape the affections of his legions of fans. He branched out into poetry and music and even wrote a book about how Spock he isn't. In the end however, he decided to embrace his position in the hierarchy of nerdom, writing I Am Spock and throwing himself back into the role.

Pictured: Spock nerve-pinching a
giant green panther because cartoons.
First, he voiced Spock on the Star Trek animated series (yup, it's a thing) and later revived the character again (figuratively and literally) for the first six Trek movies. Behind the scenes he directed Star Treks III and IV and produced part VI (part V of course, was all Shatner's fault). Spock returned to TV in a two-parter episode of the The Next Generation, in which he foiled the schemes of an alternate timeline version of Tasha Yar's half-romulan daughter (if you followed that, you're a nerd. Congrats). Nimoy was also the only original cast member to survive the J. J. Abrams reboot and appear in the new Trek movies.

For everyone who's ever felt like an outsider, or the lone voice of reason on a starship full of lunatics, Spock was a role model and for that we are forever in Leonard Nimoy's debt.
Leonard Nimoy showed us all that the future's so bright,
we've got to wear dorky plastic shades. He will be missed.

Oh, and incidentally, if you went on wikipedia this morning you may have gotten the impression that Leonard Nimoy also played John Munch on Law and Order. This is not true, and probably a good reason to lock the pages of famous people who have died.
Above: not Richard Belzer...although I can kind of see the resemblance. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

And just like that, ye'r Scottish!

Brace yourselves everybody, I'm about to get nerdy, and not sci-fi nerdy. This time I'm going to get geography nerdy. It's one of my lesser nerdoms. Still with me? Because it's ok if you're not, I would completely understand.
If you ever spent free period harnessing the power of geography facts in order to track down an
international monument thief who managed to steal the goddamn Sydney Opera House, then you get it.
Incidentally, was Carmen Sandiego supposed to be like a wizard or something? I mean, what was her deal?
Above: Winner of Superbowl XLIX,
this guy. Final score, uh, 15-love?
Remember when Scottish separatists had their hopes for a free and independent Scotland crushed by last fall's referendum? They decided, (45%-55%) to remain part of the United Kingdom? While the issue is far from-what? Yes, I remember the outcome of the Scottish referendum, what of it? You know, if I just rattled off the final score of the Superbowl, no one would think that was weird. Anyway, now some guy called Andrew Gray has filed a petition that would make a piece of northern England into a piece of southern Scotland.

Gray, a member of the U.K.'s Green party, wants to move the Scottish border south, back to Hadrian's Wall putting several English cities in Scotland. I say back because the wall, built by the Romans in 122, was originally put up to keep the Scots out of the rest of Britain. Under Gray's proposal, it would be doing kind of the opposite. Taste that? That's historical irony.
The wall ultimately proved ineffective when Pictish raiders
discovered that they could, you know, just step over it.
One country's national dish is another country's
early indicator of serial killer tendencies.
So why the hell does Gray and the 340 or so other people who've signed the petition want to live in Scotland anyway? Like, it's cold, rainy and holy shit, the food, right? Look, I know everyone makes fun of haggis, but it is a sheep's organs, ground up and then boiled in the animal's own intestines, I mean, Jesus Christ Scotland. Well, according to his petition, Gray believes that Scotland has a better healthcare system, cheaper education and is against nuclear weapons. Opponents on the other hand, point out that Scottish accents are fairly ridiculous, and wait, aren't they kind of the same country already?

Sort of? Maybe? The distinction between the countries that make up the United Kingdom is incredibly confusing to outsiders, and there really is no good analogy, but I guess it'd be kind of like if one of our States, say Pennsylvania, wanted to merge with New York because seriously, there's like nothing to do in Pennsylvania.
Or if Spain wanted Florida back. Well, ok, it'd be nothing
like that, but I really think we should look into selling Florida.

Let's Ask British People!

Pictured: The Middle East...for no reason.
But hey, what do I know? I'm just some random American chiming in about a contentious and complex relationship between two peoples that goes back centuries. It's one in which I have no stake and one whose nuances I can't even begin to understand. None of which of course, has never stopped us before. Anyway, BBC News has interviewed some actual British people who live in the north and have a clue about what we're talking about to see what they have to say the petition:

"No."
-This lady
"Yes."
-Someone else

Well that was uninformative. Let's hear from some local politicians:

"Tyne and Wear is a single conurbation, putting a border down the middle is just barmy."

-Nick Brown, MP, 
Newcastle East

I, uh...I think he's against it? Fortunately for us, British journalism is fair and unbiased, so the BBC also sought out opinions from both sides of the issue. Here's what Nick Brown's political opponent thinks about it:

"Does that mean Newcastle United will leave the English Premier League, stop playing the likes of Sunderland, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea, join the Scottish Premier League and play the likes of Inverness, Caledonia and Thistle?"

-Duncan Crute
Conservative Candidate, Newcastle East

Oh come on, are those even words? Seriously, watch the video. Can you follow them? Oscar Wilde once wrote "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language" and that's hilarious and all, but nothing these two guys just said could possibly have been in english. I mean, I've seen every episode of Are You Being Served? so I should be able to understand English people, but these guys could be reciting Beowulf for all I know. No wonder Gray wants to give up and join Scotland...
Mrs. Slocumbe is actually referring to her cat,
but some double entendres cross cultural lines.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let's get Oscar worthy!

Don't feel bad Doogie, in a week this
is all anyone will be talking about...
So I didn't watch the Oscars last night. In my defense, I saw exactly none of the movies that were up this year and besides, why bother with three and a half-hours of ridiculously wealthy people in the film industry congratulating each other for doing their jobs when a quick internet search in the morning is all anyone really needs to find out who won, who lost and whose hosting was awkward and uninspiring? The whole thing is just a vapid, self-aggrandizing night of commercialism and heart-felt pleas for social justice. Wai-wha?

Birdman: the story of a man who can't be taken
seriously as an actor after playing a superhero.
I'm sure we all know what that's like...
Wow, social justice is apparently the new 'I'd like to thank Jesus.' Twitter was all a titter this morning (I'm sorry I just wrote that. I really am) with reactions to Oscar winners who last night used their acceptance speeches to call attention to important causes like civil rights, immigration reform, suicide prevention and illness. It's like they suddenly realized that all the suffering and human drama they get awards to re-enact, actually happens to real people. Whowoulda thought?

By far the most post-Oscar attention has been going to Patricia Arquette for pointing out that it's 2015 and women still somehow don't have pay equality.
After making her acceptance speech, Arquette
was hurried offstage by a furious Jesus Christ. 
Ok, fine, that was mean, but bear in mind that
he gets $54 million to act. Also, he's Iron Man.
Yeah, 2015 and a woman, on average, is paid $.78 for every dollar a man gets. This even happens in the movie industry. According to this, the highest paid actor right now is Robert Downey Jr. with $54 million, while Sandra Bullock, the highest paid actress only makes $51 million. That rage your feeling? Most of it has to do with the fact that anyone would be paid $50 million for goddamn acting, but a big part of it has to do with the fact Sandra Bullock got $3 million less than RDJ and she only played a recovering addict.

And while we're on the subject, does anyone else think it's weird that there's a best actor and a best actress award? Like, why are there two awards for the same thing? There aren't best director and best lady director categories. Shouldn't Julianne Moore have won Best Actor instead of Best Actor With A Vagina?
Above: Juliane Moore girl-won the Best Actress for Still Alice in which
she lady plays a woman with early onset female Alzheimer's disease. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Oklahomophobia II: The Wrath of Kern

You know who sucks? Oklahoma State Legislator Sally Kern. Remember her? No, of course you don't, we talked about her way the hell back in 2011 when she compared the increasing acceptance of gay people to 9/11 because of course she did. Yeah, there she is. Well, she's back and has introduced three, count'em three bills in Oklahoma designed to make life miserable for gay people.
Pictured: Basically 9/11.
"Here's your grandé Pike's Place. I spit
in it because Jesus. Have a great day."
-Every Barista
The first, called House Bill 1597 was a pretty standard law that would have allow business owners who want to discriminate against gay people to do so legally and for Jesus. She's since withdrawn this one without really saying why. I'd like to say it's because she's come to her senses, but she probably just realized that opening the door to discrimination based on vague religious objections might come back and bite her someday. I mean, if citing The Lord means anything you do to a customer is nice and legal, who wouldn't want to hock a looge in Sally Kern's coffee?

If you work for Oklahoma and just looked
at his picture, you're fired. You're welcome.
Next is the 'Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act' which protects the sovereignty of Oklahoma from the Federal Government and marriage from gay people. It would fire any state official who preforms a same-sex wedding, issues a license for a same-sex wedding, goes to a same-sex wedding, sees a same-sex wedding on TV, thinks about a same sex-wedding, or eats, even accidentally, a piece of cake that at any point had a two-groom or two-bride wedding topper on it. Oh, and don't even think about challenging it because that would be illegal too.

Sorry highest court in the land
but Sally Kern called 'no blitz.'
Uh-huh, Kern included a provision in the law saying that not even a Supreme Court ruling can overturn it, which sounds kind of balderdash, because, you know, it's the Supreme Court.

"It's a statement that needs to be made...when the Supreme Court takes this up in a few months it will know that we're here instead of thinking the states have rolled over and died."

-Sally Kern, sticking up for homophobes

Above: Kern, clutching the void where
a heart would be in a real person.
Gross. Anyway, the last and most vitriol-fueled of Kern's jerkfecta is the 'Freedom to Obtain Conversion Therapy Act' which would make it illegal to ban conversion therapy. So, what the shit is conversion theory? I'm glad I'm pretending you asked because I affords me the opportunity to describe it using the word horseshit. Conversion therapy is a debunked, unscientific load of horseshit that proponents claim can change a person's sexual orientation. Does it work? Of course not. You can't browbeat a person into being straight, and anyone whose understanding of psychology and medicine doesn't come exclusively from Leviticus would know this.

Look, I'm sorry I had to dredge Representative Kern back up, but she was in the news again and I think it's important to keep you updated on people who are terrible. If you ever see her on the street, be sure to shout 'Boo.' As an antidote to the deep sense of disappointment you're feeling towards the State of Oklahoma right now, here's a picture of the Muppets. They don't really have any connection to Oklahoma, they just always cheer me up. Enjoy.
Whenever I find myself bummed out by how unrelentingly shitty people can be
 towards each other, I remind myself that Muppets exist. Works every time.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ready, SETI, Go!

"Maybe I should get a cat..."
-Humans, going down a dark path
Tired of spending yet another Valentine's Day sitting by the radio telescope waiting for aliens to call? Well, so is the human race. This week at the AAAS conference (which stands for Big Science Thing), in San Jose, Dr. Seth Shostak, the director of the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence Institute (or SETI if you're sassy) announced that his group will now be will now be actively trying to communicate with alien civilizations. That's right, the people of Earth are getting back in the game.

But wait, isn't that what SETI has been doing all along? Weeeell...not so much. Up until now, they've just been listening to space and hoping that some alien radio signal from a distant star will happen to pass by Earth, which now that I think about it, sounds like a colossal waste of time.
"What do you mean 'waste of time?' How many stars
can there possibly be? A hundred? Two hundred?"

-SETI's logic
"Greetings Earth-being, did you know you
could save 15% or more on your car insurance?"

-First contact
I mean, what are we paying these people for-huh? What's that? Oh, we're not paying them? It turns out that SETI has been privately funded for awhile. Which I guess means that if they ever do discover aliens, we'll probably have to call them the Doritons or the Galactic Federation of Geico or something. But whatever, how is just listening to space a search for extra terrestrial intelligence? That's like looking for your keys by sitting on the couch and waiting for them to come back to you.

Anyway, I say it's about time we, as a species, put ourselves out there a little. You know, get on the interstellar equivalent of OKCupid and get proactive. After all, we're never going to meet anybody just hanging out at home, watching Netflix and accumulating more cats.
Look, I'm not trying to rag on cat owners, it's just
that I don't want the human race to end up like this guy...
Above: The bleak, post-apocalyptic future
predicted by Brin in which Kevin Costner
delivers hope...and also the mail.
But not everyone's on board with this plan. Super-genius Stephen Hawking has been warning us years that if aliens ever stumbled across our primitive little backwater it would mean for our total annihilation, and at the conference, sci-fi author David Brin made a similar argument: "Historians will tell you that first contact between industrial civilizations and indigenous people does not go well." And if anyone has their finger on the pulse of the future it's Brin, after all, he wrote The Postman.

Ok, so to sum up Brin's and Hawking's point, contact between aliens and humans will result in our extinction in much the same way that the musket-toting European explorers of the 15th century nearly wiped out the indigenous peoples of North America. When high-tech meets low-tech, high-tech wins. Ipso barada facto, right?
Or in nerd terms, it's sort of like what would happen if Starfleet and the Empire ever went at it.
Phaser, wide-beam: so long Stormtroopers. There, I said it. Star Trek wins. Don't agree? Bring it!
I say gold and converts, but really,
it was all about the doubloons... 
I'm not so sure. I get that Stephen Hawking has an IQ of like a million, and David Brin has, um...Kevin Costner, but I think there're a couple of problems with their theory. True, a bunch of European explorers with more communicable diseases than sense and a penchant for gold and religious converts did have a catastrophic impact on the indigenous peoples of America, but alien contact is a totally different thing all together. First of all, the technological gap between the Americans and Europeans is nowhere near as massive as that between us and whatever visitors might drop by.

Sure, the Spanish had fancy boats capable of crossing the ocean, but it's not like the Native Americans were dumbfounded by how they worked, I mean, they knew what a boat was. Aliens on the other hand would need warp drive or Stargates or something to actually come here and that's like way beyond our science.
"Your ships float? On water? My goodness, you pasty,
fowl-smelling religious zealots must surely be wizards."
-The Chief of the Lucayan, demonstrating his people's 
advanced knowledge of sarcasm to the Europeans
Why waste the photon torpedoes when they
can open one of those creepy kiosks at the mall?
In fact, anyone advanced enough to cross the brain-exploding distance between stars would have to be so far ahead of us that the idea that they would need anything from us is absurd. I mean, do we really think they're going to be after our precious, precious shinies? They probably have replicators or something and even if they don't, there're no natural resources here that can't be found floating around in space without going to all the trouble of subjugating a bunch of information-age barbarians who haven't even cracked hoverboard technology yet.

So that leaves us with religious conversion, and while I suppose it's possible that aliens might one day beam down, knock on our doors and try to shove an Interlac edition of The Watchtower into our hands, that's no reason to just sit here on a Saturday night, petting our many cats while the universe passes us by. Besides, we're not getting any younger...
"Puny hew-mons! Prepare to welcome
Space Jesus into your hearts!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Moore's Law (No, the other Moore's law)

Pictured: Losers.
Yesterday was supposed to be Alabama's first day of marriage equality but Chief Justice Roy Moore (remember him?) thought it would be a hoot to write a letter to state officials threatening them with a strongly-worded letter from the Governor if they went ahead and started issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as they'd been order to do by a Federal Judge who-wait, can he even do that? No, of course he can't. Federal Courts trump state-level courts because we won the Civil War.

"Oh shit, I forgot Joe Pesci's birthday..."
-Some old lady
Regardless of the legality, the result was that gay couples in many parts of Alabama showed up to get married on Monday and instead found either state officials unwilling to issue licenses or the offices closed. Not because Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage was suddenly re-instituted, not because it was Joe Pesci's birthday, but because Roy Moore's theological icky carries legal weight in the State of Alabama. He insisted that the ruling that overturned the ban was itself unconstitutional, but really, I think he just doesn't like gay people.

Moore's accusations of judicial overreach might've sound half-plausible if they weren't coming from the same guy who was once fired from his job as Chief Justice because he wouldn't take down his Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Supreme Court building (no, you're thinking of the guy who did the exact same thing in Oklahoma).
"I don't see what the big deal is. As long as you're worshiping the god I tell you to worship, and not
coveting what I tell you not to covet, you've got nothing to worry about from the Stat
e of Alabama."

-Roy Moore, apparently unaware 
that this is not the Bronze Age 

Look, I'm not saying that people with strong religious convictions shouldn't be judges, but maybe people with strong religious convictions shouldn't, you know, be judges. Here, look at what he wrote about homosexuality during a child-custody case back in 2002:

Above: Alabama's earliest history.
You know, 6000 years ago.
"From its earliest history, the law of Alabama has consistently condemned homosexuality. The common law adopted in this State and upon which our laws are premised likewise declares homosexuality to be detestable and an abominable sin. Homosexual conduct by its very nature is immoral, and its consequences are inherently destructive to the natural order of society."


-Roy Moore, the guy in 
charge of the law in Alabama

Holy shit, that's not a legal opinion, that's a religious condemnation of gays handed down from the bench. I'm pretty sure Moore's job is to review lower court rulings. That's it. It's not to try and nullify higher court decisions because he feels they conflict with his interpretation of the Bible. At least, I don't think that's his job. But then again, this is Alabama we're talking about, so who knows?*
Hey Roy, can you do this? No? Then shut up.

*Sorry Alabama, but you did vote this guy into office. Like, twice.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Half-Fonzie

European geopolitics are adorable!
Well this sucks. Slovakia is holding a referendum on marriage equality today and-huh? Oh, it's in eastern Europe. It used to be called Czechoslovakia until it broke up in 1992 becoming The Czech Republic and Slovakia. They even split the name in half. So today's vote is-what now? I don't know. Fine, here, I'll look it up. Um, ok, they have a parliamentary system and their major exports include cars and refined pertoleum. Why is any of that important?

Anyway, the referendum is not unlike the usual homophobic horseshit we have here in the States: marriage is between a man and a woman, and gays can't adopt children because they'll turn them gay. Same vitriol, just with those ridiculous accent marks over all the vowels.
"A stáble home envirönment wíth twö lôving pårents?
Çán't håve that! Qúickly, to the pôlls!"
-Slovakian conservatives
Like, he knows people write down pretty
much everything he says now, right?
What does set this one apart is the involvement of Pope Francis who's thrown his support and that of the Catholic Church behind the ban. Yeah, and we all thought he was the cool Pope. This, the same Pope who back in 2013 said

"If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"

-The Freakin Pope, 
like 18 months ago

Ok, so it's not exactly the same thing as enacting sweeping reforms of the Catholic Church and welcoming gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered, but still, he kind of sounded reasonable there. That's why this billboard of Pope Francis giving the half-Fonzie* to Slovakian homophobia is so disappointing:
Who is he to judge? Apparently he's the Pope. And he's judging.

*I think it's pretty self explanatory, but for those not raised with Nick-at-Nite here's a primer:
From left to right: The Fonzie, the Half-Fonzie and the rarely used Double-Down.

Hey! Listen!

What? It is. And yes, I'm an adult. Shut up.
Hold on to your minish caps nerds, there's-huh? It's a magical talking bird-hat. Just trust me on this. Anyway, somebody's making a live action Legend of Zelda series. For those of you who don't know or care why that's simultaneously fantastic and terrible news, I'd advise you to hold reset while you turn the power off. Get it? No? Then you might not get the rest of this. That's not a judgement, it's just that we're going down a pretty deep nerd hole here and, well, I'd still like you to respect me in the morning. Still there? Ok. Don't say I didn't warn you.

So the story, and I'm still not entirely sure I buy it, but the story is that Netflix will be developing a series based on The Legend of Zelda. 
If the first 8 episodes are a tutorial on how to watch Netflix, I'm out.
Yeah, see what I did there? I just burned you Skyward Sword!
Ok, that one time. Yeah, in 30 years
he utters one line, and that's it.
If you're unfamiliar, Zelda is a video game series about a little elf boy who rescues a perpetually kidnapped princess called Zelda. Usually the games involve solving puzzles, fighting monsters and wishing to hell that Navi would stop talking. Speaking of talking, one of the things that makes this news a little weird is that Link doesn't talk. The series creator, Shigeru Miyamoto intended Link to be sort of a blank slate for the player, like a point of view character. Sure, he can speak, and other characters in the games can converse with him just fine, but the convention is that we as the player never hear him.

So despite advancements in video game technology that allow for spoken dialogue, outside of a few grunt and shouts, Link is silent. Mostly. There were a couple of shitty CD-i games with poorly animated cut scenes in which Link was voiced, but those don't count.
Besides, I said advancements in video game technology. Burn #2!
Oh, that kind of family audience...
Ok, so live-action Link will probably have lines. Fine. Fans will probably get over that. What might be harder to get over is Netflix's description of the series as"Game of Thrones for a family audience," which, um. No. Zelda is a light-hearted adventure and Game of Thrones is, kind of...well, depressing and violent. Like for real, after last season's head-crushing episode I don't think I can watch GOT anymore. Or sleep. Ever again.

Hopefully 'just like Game of Thrones' is network executive short-hand for 'it'll also make a shit-load of money, just like Game of Thrones' because dark, gritty reboot and Nintendo go together like ill-advised and commercial failure.
Above: Denis Hopper as King Koopa in the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie,
which is widely recognized as an ill-advised commercial failure. See?