Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What's up, Denmark?

Which is like, all of them...
From the people who brought us melancholy princes and school field trips to watch zoo keepers slaughter giraffes, comes this story about a Danish radio host who killed and cooked a rabbit on the air. Because animal welfare. Wai-wah? Yeah. Radio24syv host Asger Juhl bludgeoned a nine-month old rabbit to death with a bicycle pump to make a point about the treatment of animals. That point being watch out for Danish people with bicycle pumps.

"I knew that we would spark debate. We were provocative, on purpose. Of course there are some misunderstandings we need to deal with. People are saying we didn't do it in a humane way-we did." 
-Asger Juhl, making a point about hypocrisy 
in the most hypocritical way possible
No stranger to controversy, the host recently taught
a Copenhagen family a valuable lesson about fire safety.
Couldn't they have just sung
an opera about it instead?
Misunderstandings? Unless that rabbit was threatening Juhl with a knife, I'm pretty sure we all understand what happened. The station insists that it wasn't a stunt and that the intent was to draw attention to animal cruelty but Je-sus. It's a goddamn radio show, it's not like we can see what he's doing. He could have just told us that he'd killed a rabbit or broadcast live from a slaughterhouse or something. Do they really expect us to believe that there was no other, less bunny-murdery way to make a point?

To prove it, here are two adorable,
un-clubbed bunny rabbits. 
Why did Juhl think that more animal cruelty was going to help? Sure, people are outraged and want him fired, but is the story about animal welfare or is it about how this Asger Juhl guy is a total psycho? Also, when you club a helpless animal to death on the air just to make a point, you kind of surrender the moral high ground which is a shame because he's not wrong. About the need for more discussion about animal rights, not the clubbing. Just to be clear, I am anti-bunny clubbing.

Juhl's argument is that if we eat meat, we don't have a lot of room to complain about the mistreatment of animals and that's true. Like, no matter how pleasant the living conditions and how painlessly we think they're being dispatched, we're still killing and eating them and at the very least, we should be aware of what we are doing. It's just, couldn't he have said it with words instead of a bicycle pump? I mean, holy shit dude...
"Oh, no it's ok. This is organic grass-fed free range beef, so it got to run around a
little before someone bolt-gunned it in the skull and processed its carcass."
-Most of us, deluding ourselves

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Everybody needs a hobby, right?

Langley gazing at a reconstruction of
Richard III's head and making everyone
else in the room very uncomfortable.
We all have our fandoms, and that's cool. Some people like sports, some people like to dress up as anime characters and go to cons. And then some people, like historian Philippa Langley, are King Richard III super-fans who live out their fannish dreams by putting together archaeological digs to search for his remains. Then, after discovering said remains, such an R-III fan might then organize a state funeral for a guy who may or may not (but almost certainly did) have had his nephews murdered so he could usurp the throne. Should she for this be made the object of ridicule and derision?

Maybe, but then Langley along with a team from the University of Leicester in England did successfully locate, exhume and identify the long-lost bones of Richard III. Show of hands any one who's ever found a medieval English King buried under a parking lot? No? Nobody? That's what I thought.
Pictured: People who are not us discovering a dead
king under a parking lot. Advantage: them.
Delicious? Colorful? I don't know,
the metaphor doesn't really hold up...
Yes. You heard that right: under a parking lot. They tore up the asphalt and corpse one was Richard "My Kingdom for a Horse' III. Corpse one. Can you believe it? It was probably the most stunningly serendipitous archaeological find of 2012 and certainly a once in a lifetime find for Langley, so of course she's going to try again. This time she'll be digging up a different parking lot in hopes of finding the lost burial site of Richard III's ancestor, Henry I because apparently dead kings are to England what funfetti is to cake.

Now before you ask why the English keep paving over the remains of their rulers, I should explain that Henry I's was buried at Reading Abbey which was later destroyed in 1538 when Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church. Turns out the Pope wasn't cool with him divorcing his wife and marrying his younger, frencher mistress. Anyway, thanks to Chubs McFesterleg and his tantrum, no one knows for sure where Henry I's body is now.
Above: Henry VIII, King of England and proof that monarchy is,
objectively speaking, ridiculous. Sorry British people, but it's true.
"Decades of research and hard work?
Nonsense, all you need is a shovel."

-Philippa Langley*
No one that is except Philippa Langley, who's convinced that the remains of the Abbey and Henry I, now rest under a school (or possibly its parking lot) in modern day Reading, and is now backing a plan for a new dig. And I wish her well, I really do, but say they bring in the backhoe, start digging and immediately find Henry I, his jaw bone still clamped around the under-cooked lamprey that killed him (no really, that's how he died), will I be the only one who gets a little suspicious? I mean, career-making discoveries take decades of painstaking research and dedication, don't they? 

I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but I just have this feeling that we're going to read about her someday having been pulled over for a broken tail light with her trunk full of bones and a shovel on her way to plant Æthelred the Unready behind a Tesco. 
Welcome to Tesco. Get 30% your entire purchase
if you discover the remains of a pre-conquest monarch!

(15% for a Duke, some restrictions apply. Offer good through 
May 31st. Does not include sale items. See an associate for details)

*not a real quote. Although I suppose she might have said something like that at some point, who knows? So sure, let's say it's a quote. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Trouble with Threequels

So I think we need to talk about Simon Pegg. I have...concerns. Yeah, about Star Trek, so if you want to bail out now is the time. First let me start by saying that I like Simon Pegg. Go watch Hot Fuzz. Like, right now. I'll wait...back? I know, right? Anyway, Pegg is currently involved in a little nerd controversy. A nerdtraversy, if you will (it's ok if you won't, I wouldn't).
In fact it's the greatest nerdtraversy since the Star Trek
versus Star Wars conflict that nearly drove our kind to extinction. 
Lets catch up. In an interview with Radio Times Pegg said...

Fair point, but could you maybe
not make it while hanging out
with your wacky alien sidekick?
"Obviously I'm very much a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema but part of me looks at society as it is now and just things we've been infantilised by our own taste. Now we're essentially all consuming very childish things--comic books, superheroes. Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously....it's taking our focus away from real-world issues. Films used to be about challenging emotional journeys or moral questions..."

-Simon Pegg, not being wrong

Above: Another memorable scene from
the Hobbit-or Maleficent? Shit, maybe
it's from the Legend of Hercules?
The internet was collectively outraged, but he's got a point. He later clarified on his blog that his issue is not with genre fans, but with movie makers who will often substitute empty, CGI-laden spectacle for complex story-telling and imagination. It's not because they're lazy or lack creativity (although, they often are and do) it's because that's what sells and until we all stop showing up to things like The Hobbit: The Confusing Battle of the Five Similar and Blurry Armies, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
Ok, cool. He's put his finger on it. The problem with the current glut of sci-fi and fantasy movies is that too many of them are nothing more than CGI showpieces with paper-thin characters and nothing interesting to say.
 Optimus Prime riding Grimlock in Transformers 4 which made $1 billion.
Yeah, you heard me, one billion dollars. Of money. 
I don't know...that chocolate cake looks
a little too chocolate cakey for my taste.
I guess this means that we can all rest easy that Star Trek Beyond, the new Trek movie Pegg is co-writing, will be a smart, challenging sci-fi film that takes the series back to its roots. Here's Pegg on why he was brought on to help pen the sequel:

"They had a script for Star Trek that wasn't really working for them. I think the studio was worried that it might have been a little bit too Star Trek-y..."

-Simon Pegg, crushing our hopes and dreams

Oh, and did I mention that Bones built a
remote control for Spock's brainless carcass?
Because he did. That's how low the bar is.
Shit. He goes on to explain that the studio would like to "make a western, or a thriller, or a heist movie, then populate it with Star Trek characters so it's more inclusive to an audience..." Am I kind of jerk for reading 'inclusive to an audience' as meaning 'dumbed down?' Yes I am. But you know I'm kind of right. To be clear, I don't know what makes a financially successful movie, but I do know a lot about Star Trek and Spock fighting Khan on top of a flying garbage truck in Into Darkness was the stupidest moment in Star Trek history, and there've been some seriously stupid moments. Like that time aliens stole Spock's brain in an episode entitled: Spock's Brain. 

Anyway, it kind of sounds like the plan for Star Trek 3 is to make a generic western/thriller/heist and plug in Kirk and Spock, which doesn't seem like a recipe for 'challenging emotional journey,' so much as it sounds like bullshit pandering and creatively void movie making. Which is exactly the problem with the nerd genre that Simon Pegg was just bemoaning. But then again, he did make Hot Fuzz.
So like, benefit of the doubt?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Behold: a Chimera of Sedentary Pursuits!

"Oh go on, mate. It's for science. What?
 Is it weird for you if we watch?"
You know how in science fiction there's this reoccurring cliché where aliens use psychic powers or virtual reality to let humans live out their ideal lives? It can be a precursor to conquest, or a diversion so they can perform experiments on us. Sometimes they just want us to breed so they can populate some kind of human zoo. Whatever the reason, there's usually something that tips the humans off that all is not as it seems. Like, the fantasy goes too far and someone's like, 'hang on a minute, this is too good to be true...'

Well, hang on a minute, this is too good to be true. Yeah, I think we may be living in some kind of kinky alien experiment and if so, I don't want to wake up. Behold:
My twelve-year-old self's head just exploded.
Fortunately we learned from an early
age not to expect much from the future.
...what? You have no idea what you're looking at, do you? Fine, I'll explain and then you can get back to your rewarding, full life, with your human interaction and those ridiculous outdoor physical activities. If you had asked a room full of fifth graders in 1992 about their hopes for the future, they would describe this very thing. Not family, not a good job, but this. It's called a Retro Freak and it's some kind of magic, grey market video game console that plays like every important platform from our misspent and sedentary youths.

Blast Processing and Mode 7 in the
same console? What sorcery is this?
Original NES, Super-NES, Sega Genesis, Gameboy, even the misleadingly named and preposterously spelled TurboGrafx-16. They're all there, existing side-by-side in a single plastic shell and sold through a shady online retailer. How can such a thing be? Well, I gather it's essentially a cheap computer, pre-loaded with an emulator (software used to play pirated games on your PC) and attached to a bunch of cartridge slots. You can even copy games to an SD card meaning you won't have to physically change cartridges. You heard me, no more getting up like a goddamned barbarian. Yes, the future is here.

Although, in many ways I suppose it's probably for the best this didn't exist when I was a kid, getting up to swap games was my only exercise from 1987-2003. 
Nice try Nintendo. I discovered early on that it was much easier
to just kneel on the floor and pound the thing with your hands. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grape and Violins on Television!

Pictured: George R. R. Martin doing
publicity for GOT. Not pictured: him
working on goddamn Book Six. 
Um, so Game of Thrones the other night. I uh...what the hell? Look, George R. R. Martin wrote a pretty dark series, which admittedly I kind of gave up on when it became clear that book six would be hitting sometime in the late 2070's, but the scene in question doesn't even happen in the novels. I guess the TV series' writers just decided that the show didn't include enough wedding rape. I'm not going to get into details, both to avoid spoiling plot points and because the details are depressing and gross.

Above: twins Jamie and Cersei about to-
you know what? Let's just move on...
If you don't follow the show, or haven't kept up, it's kind of like that now. Unrelentingly grim I mean, particularly in its treatment of women and LGBT characters. The series is set in a pseudo medieval world where everyone's constantly scheming for more power and that's great, but where it started off with elaborate palace intrigue, inter-house politics and a sort of looming, supernatural threat, the series has kind of devolved into a show about people just being horrible to one another.

Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament:
100% more historically accurate than
anything on Game of Thrones.
I think there's an instinct to chalk up the cruelty and violence on the show to some kind of historical accuracy. As if life in the middle ages was nothing more than a brutal, disease-ridden and short existence with the wealthy elite routinely getting away with murder and women being bought and sold as property, which-yeah, ok, was probably kind of true, but isn't Game of Thrones supposed to be a fantasy? Sure, everyone dresses like they're going to a Ren Fair, but they're on some other planet with ice zombies and dragons. I mean, couldn't they lighten up a bit?

Hey, speaking of, what ever happened to the ice zombies and dragons? They've been teasing us with the prospect of Daenerys and her dragons battling not only the depraved medieval dickweeds of Westeros but also the unstoppable army of corpses from the north. Instead we've had nothing but five seasons of rape, torture and head-crushings. This show should be nothing but dragons and ice zombies.
Of course, given HBO's track record, we'd probably be subjected
to dragons having non-consensual sex with the zombies.
Next time on HBO's
Game of Legislative Procedure...
I don't know exactly when I turned into Emily Litella, but all these violins can't possibly be good for us. Sometimes horrible things happen to innocent victims on GOT and sometimes they happen to people who kind of deserve it, but we're enlightened 21st century viewers. Shouldn't we be wanting to see these characters work through their issues and grow as people? Ok, obviously not, that would be boring, but then so is the constant parade of horrors GOT has turned into. The violence just sort of blends into the background and at some point, you have to wonder if anyone is going to be left alive when the zombies show up to eat them. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Today in questionable uses of funding:

Did you ever wonder if scientists aren't just making shit up? Like, I don't mean that they're lying to us or anything, it's just that sometimes researchers do stuff that make us scratch our heads and want to ask them how cures for things like cancer and HIV are coming.
"We're working on them, but first we're looking into a
cure for erectile dysfunction in men over 70."

"I don't care what you do with it, just,
 just science something, would you?."
Take for example, biologists at Yale and Harvard, who recently used what I can only imagine was a combination of genetic manipulation and dark sorcery to create a chicken embryo with a dinosaur snout instead of, you know, a beak. Yes...for uh...science. The experiment involved-huh? What's that? You'd like to know why did these researchers decided to spit in the face of God and create a dino-chicken throwback? That's an excellent question involving dinosaurs, evolution and what I presume is a massive grant with little expectation of accountability or practical results.

Dinosaurs, as that stupid kid in Jurassic Park kept harping on every five minutes, didn't so much disappear as they did evolve into modern birds which is both fascinating and a massive trade-down for dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs learned the hard way that evolution is kind of a dick.
Beaks: the enigma that has
puzzled ones of humans.
This disappointing downgrade from thunder lizard to nature's perfect waffle companion has left scientists with many questions including, for some reason, why birds have beaks instead of snouts:

"Whenever you examine an important evolutionary transformation, you want to learn the underlying mechanism."

-Bhart-Anjan Bhullar, lead researcher 
and foremost authority in the field of beak-research

Like what's up with
Kirk Cameron?
Ok, but do we need an answer badly enough to warrant not only the expense, but the questionable ethics of breeding chicken monsters? I don't mean to sound like some anti-science nutbag. In fact, I'm all for sciencing the shit out of the mysteries of nature, but Bhullar and his team now have a batch of genetic horror shows and the answer to a question I'm not sure anyone was really asking. The experiment did shed some light on a cluster of genes related to beak development, and that's super, but aren't there more pressing questions science could be answering?

I mean, what was the point of all this? Even Evolution: The International Journal of Organic Evolution, the journal that's publishing the study, isn't entirely sure. One of the abstract tags, in fact, the first tag, is 'Novelty.' Again, I love science but funding strikes me as kind of a limited thing, so really, where are we on cancer?
'Novelty' is just the peer reviewers way of saying
 'just 'cause they wanted to see what would happen.'

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mr. Jackson, if you're nasty.

Pictured: Every goddamn time you
go out to eat with friends.
Hey, remember that time a construction worker from New York started an internet campaign called Women on the 20's to replace Andrew Jackson on the twenty dollar bill with pretty much anyone else as long as they're a woman and not one of history's greatest monsters? You don't? Well, she did. Her name's Barbara Ortiz Howard and her organization held a contest to select an historically significant woman to be the face of the only bill anyone has in their wallet when you need to split the check.

American fex-machine, Ben Franklin.
Now before you freak out at the thought of a world in which someone other than a white president comes spewing out of the ATM, keep in mind that Alexander Hamilton (the $10 bill guy) and Benjamin Franklin (the $100 bill guy) were never president. Hamilton was the first Secretary of the Treasury and is only on the ten, so nobody cares. Meanwhile Franklin was a gout-ridden 18th century statesman, inventor and essayist. Additionally, he had all the sex, which I presume to be a result of people in the 1700's being unfamiliar with how STD's spread. Anyway the winner of Women on 20's' poll? Abolitionist and suffragist Harriet Tubman.

You know what?
Fuck Andrew Jackson.
Cool, right? And don't worry, she and Andrew Jackson actually aren't all that dissimilar. I mean, they were both American. Oh, and they're both um, dead, so there's that. Jackson owned people and made them work for no money, while Harriet Tubman was owned and forced to work for no money. Speaking of slavery, Tubman is probably most famous for leading over three hundred people out of slavery. While Jackson is...uh...also famous for moving people from one place to another. And did I mention that Harriet Tubman once killed a guy with the power of prayer? Because she did.

"Please, screw with Harriet Tubman.
I'm in an Old Testament mood."

Yup. It's a little fun fact that I'd never read until today, but apparently Harriet Tubman used to pray that her owner, a guy called Edward Brodess, would change his ways and not be such a unrelenting dickbag (her words, not mine), but when that didn't happen she asked: "Oh Lord, if you ain't never going to change that man's heart, kill him, Lord and take him out of the way." A week later, the dude was dead. Sure, this was like the 19th century and people dropped dead like all the time for no apparent reason but Tubman was convinced that the Almighty had offed him and carried the guilt for the rest of her life.

"Hey! I...uh...holy shit, when you put it
that way, I
 do sound pretty terrible..."

-Andrew Jackson
Of course, you can't just vote on the internet and start swapping out historical figures. Who's on the money is up to Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew, and he works directly for the President in much the same way that God apparently works for Harriet Tubman. Neat, huh? All Women on the 20's has to do then is convince the President that a woman who spent her life fighting against slavery and for women's suffrage is a better choice than a slave-owner who signed the Indian Removal Act which led to the forcible relocation of Native Americans and the deaths of thousands of them.

Sorry to keep harping on the whole Trail of Tears thing, but seriously, we should be putting Andrew Jackson on urinal cakes or digging up his bones and taking turns using his skull as a prop in some kind of hilarious ventriloquist act. Yeah, ok, that one might going a little dark, but this should not be a difficult choice.
The twenty? We should be putting this lady on all the money.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Today in newsworthy sneezes:

This. Go on, click on it. It's as disgusting as you think it'll be. A fifty-one year-old man in England sneezed with such force that he dislodged a rubber suction cup from a toy dart that had been lurking, unbeknownst to him, somewhere in his sinuses for 40 years. If it sounds like I'm impressed by this, I am, but only because it's somehow news.
See? Right there under the story about the
unrelenting human disaster unfolding in Nepal.
Pictured: Steve Easton and the thing
he sneezed out and then felt
compelled to share with the world. 
"It was a very strange sensation so I retrieved it to examine it..." 

-Steve Easton, 51, talking to the BBC 
about what just came out of his nose

Ok, a foreign object comes rocketing out of your nose, so you examine it. I get that. That's a perfectly reasonable thing to do. But why did he then inform the press? What made him think that anything he found in his handkerchief would be newsworthy?

What? Don't look at me like that. It's the
plural of Doctor Who. Like mothers in law. 
I mean, at best this is an inspirational story about a nine-year old in the 70's who used to cram his toys up his nose yet managed to become a functioning adult. If there's anything remarkable here, it's that he didn't suffer some kind of brain damage. Like, you'd think he'd be reluctant to admit to that this hunk of dried out rubber was in his head through ten Doctors Who without his knowledge, but no, he called the BBC. Which brings up an even more unsettling question:

Why does the BBC care about this guys nose-find? If he sneezed out say, a horde of Viking gold or Richard III's bones, that would be news. But for some reason a rubber suction cup was good enough for the people who covered the Blitz to send a crew? Was it a slow day?
"Good evening. We interrupt our coverage of the invasion at Normandy
to bring you this important update about objects people have stuck up their noses..."

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Let's Declare War on Biology!

Yeah. A war on biology. That's what what we're doing when we let transgendered people use the right bathroom. At least that's the read from Tucker Carlson who, as a Fox News host, is only allowed to describe stuff that happens in terms of things we are and are not at war with.
"Weather continued its War on America today, bombarding the
 north east with upwards of six inches of military-grade snow.
Meteorologists blame the jet stream and Obamacare..."
"Am I the only one worried
about kids catching the gay?"
Ok, so why and how are we at war with biology exactly? The why is because a school board in Virginia added gender identity to its anti-discrimination policy. The thing that's got him frothing at the mouth like a rabid, helmet-haired dog is that transgendered students may now use the bathrooms and locker rooms assigned to the gender with which they identify instead of the ones assigned to the gender into which they were born. Oh and he's also pissed that parents can't opt to take their kids out of classes taught by transgendered people. 

Pfft...that's the federal government for you:
always pushing us around, collecting taxes,
telling us who we can and can't own...
For the how, he turns to Elizabeth Schultz, the one person on the board who had a problem with the new policy. Not because she has an issue with transgendered people, but because she believes in state's rights:

"Well the question really comes down to whose agenda is this? And what have we done about government overreach into local school boards across the United States of America?" 

-School Board Member Elizabeth Schultz,
missing the entire point of everything

Schultz goes on to explain how the federal government is going to take away kid's lunch money if local school boards don't comply, which, ok, is sort of true. A school can loose its funding for failing to meet non-discrimination standards, but maybe they should try meeting the non-discrimination standards? I mean, is it so hard not to be dicks to one another? 
Pictured: Elizabeth Schultz waving her arms in impotent rage as the rest of the board
decides to brutally curtail her right discriminate against the transgendered.
Fact: It is biologically impossible for humans
to pee in the same room as the opposite sex
(source: basic biology)
Anyway, since it's Tucker Carlson's show, and journalism is alive in America, the host had to chime in with how right he thinks his guest is:

"Isn't it a little weird that a school which is supposed to be rooted in science, in the scientific method, is teaching now that there is no difference between men and women that you can change your sex when, of course, that's contrary to basic biology?"

-Tucker Carlson, suddenly a goddamn scientist

Perhaps someday science will come
up with a surgical treatment for whatever
makes Tucker Carlson such a fancy asshat.
Ok, no it's not weird and nobody's arguing about the biological difference between men and women, just the societal one that says we all have to lose our shit over which restroom somebody uses. Also, you can change your sex. Sex re-assignment surgery has been around since the 1930's. What is weird is that assholes like Elizabeth Schultz are freaking out over goddamn bathroom assignments when there are transgendered kids (and adults) suffering constant bullying, ostracism and depression because they were born one sex on the outside but another sex on the inside. 

But you're right Liz, the real victims here are the local school boards and PTAs who are having their authority challenged by civil rights. Let's loose sleep over them. 
"Won't somebody please think of the school board?"