Thursday, August 27, 2015

Let's welcome our Robot Overlords!

My question is this: should our global economy really be subject to the mood of a bunch of dipshits on a crowded trading floor shouting at each other over the din of naked commerce while swapping theoretical shares of companies? I'm just asking.
Wai-what's that face? Is it time to start lining up for bread?
"I don't know...that's a lot of fire. I think I'm
going to wait and see how this one plays out."
I don't understand how any of it works, let me be upfront about that. All I understand is that every once in a while the Dow Jones industrial average takes some cataclysmic dive because investors got nervous about a possible Greek exit from the EU or the Chinese economy slowing down. One freakout and we're all looking at another Black Tuesday so what I want to know why do we let just anyone play the stock market? I mean, if you're an investor and you're prone to panicking about investments maybe you should look into another line of work?

The world's economy is like a massive interconnected web and what happens in one market can have consequences throughout, so why do we treat it like a game? Like, we even call it playing the market. Holy shit, this is the kind of thing the apes are going to laugh at us for when they finally evolve and take over.
"Their limited cranial capacity led homo sapiens, as a species, to some questionable decision making.
Decisions which ultimately doomed them.
 The stock market, of course, but also fossil fuels, selfies,
President Trump; indeed there were many factors which played a role in the collapse of human civilization."

-Doctor Zira
What? Would you rather deal
with the super-intelligent apes?
I get that this week's market crazy is apparently over, and that's super, but what about next time? There has got to be a better way to run this, possibly involving robots. Computers already handle much of the actual trading and in some cases actually make buying and selling decisions, so why not turn everything over to them? What could possibly go wrong? Other than terminators. Look, software doesn't feel squishy human emotions so it won't get freaked out about consumer confidence reports and it won't panic if a country devalues its currency or something.

Crushing poverty is somewhat less
 adorable in real life.
Again, I don't know anything about economics, but it just seems like letting our cold-hearted robot masters handle all the buying and selling would take some of the uncertainty and gambling out of the whole thing. No highs, no lows, just sensible economic stability. Now, I know what you're thinking: if the computers are trading all the stocks for us and are just making reasoned, rational decisions based on a dispassionate analysis of the data, how is anyone supposed to get rich? Well, they're not. That's the best part. Instead of treating the world economy like a giant craps table, Robo-Trader® (yes, that's what I'm calling it) will just be there to make sure stocks get traded and that the economy chugs along smoothy without anyone having to make hobo packs and ride the rails. Less exciting? Sure. But less exciting for whom?

I guess the point is that most of the people who lost their jobs and houses last time the economy fell apart weren't the ones playing the stock market. The whole thing was the fault of stock brokers and bankers, most of whom came out just fine. All I'm suggesting is that there is no one more deserving of being replaced by machines.
Seriously? Fuck these guys.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Not All That New, Not All That Different

Straight couples are routinely shamed
 and pelted with rice just for following
the Biblical definition of marriage.
Hey, you know what never gets old? Conservatives appealing to their base by suggesting that they're being persecuted for their religious beliefs. Behold:

"There is this liberal intolerance that says that anyone that dares follow a Biblical teaching of marriage, that is the union of one man and one woman, must be persecuted, must be fined and must be driven out of business..."

-Ted Cruz, around a 
mouth full of pork chop

Yes, I said pork chop. Ted Cruz was at the Iowa State Fair grilling meat when a woman in the crowd asked him to explain why he thinks it's ok for Christian business owners to refuse service to gay people when-wait, what? Yeah, I thought that was weird too, you'd think they'd have people to do the cooking. I know he's running for the GOP nomination, but doesn't he kind of have a job already?
Grilling meat at the State Fair? How American! Nobody born in Canada would
 do something like that...wait, Canada? Who said Canada? Here, have a pork chop...
Ok, I know she only played Kitty Pride,
but still, it would have been neat to see
her sick Lockheed on Ted Cruz. 
Anyway, did I mention that he was arguing with Ellen Page? That's right nerds, Kitty goddamn Pride. Apparently, she was at the fair to confront Cruz which, while laudable, is kind of pointless. Don't get me wrong, this man deserves to get called on his bullshit everywhere he goes, preferably by the cast of the X-Men movies, but it's not like she's going to trip him up. His handlers have clearly armed him with an arsenal of anecdotes about decent, god-fearing folks whose livelihoods were ruined by gay people and their insistence on not being discriminated against.

"...or the owners of a bakery in Idaho who
were sued for discrimination and now can't
afford cancer treatment...for their puppy."
Are any of these people real? Were any of them driven out of business or hit with massive fines for failing to comply with anti-discrimination laws? Probably. I mean, it's happened, but then there's a GoFundMe campaign and they end up better off than they started. But the story is never about how they were acting like short-sighted homophobes who destroyed their own lives by stubbornly refusing to accept that sometimes not everyone is going to ask for a Biblically-sanctioned cake topper. It's about Christian business owners who heroically stood up for their faith in the face of 'liberal intolerance.'

The problem with confronting Ted Cruz or anyone who agrees with him about this is that the historical, social and logical contortion needed to make that narrative work is just not something Ellen Page can untangle in a five minute discussion over the din of a state fair. He's casting conservative evangelicals in the role of an oppressed minority, martyrs even, which is something they love to hear almost as much as he loves to spout it.
Man, you feed a few of them to the lions and they never let you forget it...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Let's take another trip to the well!

While we, as a species, might rapidly be running out of fossil fuels, water and food, there is one resource that never seems to run dry: 1980's nostalgia. While we can't eat or drink it, we can make forgettable, CGI-laden movies out of it. So why has it taken almost thirty years for someone to try and make another live action He-Man and the Masters of the Universe? I mean, other than the last ones terribleness.
Although incidentally, those other things are probably going to be a problem...
It was the bananas foster of
children's television.
If you're unfamiliar, MOTU was, like many kid's TV shows of the time, a thinly-veiled toy commercial. In fact, it was the first to be based on a line of action figures rather than the other way around. Yup, Mattel came up with a Conan the Barbarian rip-off with a loin cloth and a sword and then hired an animation studio to write a narrative around it. What they came up with was objectively bananas. Bananas on fire. Even for a time in which writers were required by their union to be entirely on cocaine, it was out there.

"Remember kids, violence is never the
answer...except when it totally is. Got it?"
The cartoon was sort of like if someone de-sexualized a cover of Heavy Metal magazine and then animated it. Everyone was in fury briefs or metal halter tops and battling one another with this bizarre combination of medieval swords and sorcery alongside sci-fi technology like lasers and spaceships. And just to keep the parent's groups off their backs, every episode would cap off with a PSA by Orko the wizard who'd try and explain to the kids why they should never resort to violence despite having spent the last 22 minutes watching He-Man do exactly that.

So my question is how are we supposed to take this even a little seriously? No matter who writes, directs or stars in it, it's still a story about a mild-mannered space Prince with a bowl cut who disguises himself by taking off most of his clothes and then rides around on a talking green tiger. I'm not trying to be a nay-sayer here, but this has been tried before and the results were...well, they were this:
Above: Dolph Lundgren getting laser-whipped by a pirate
who's also a cyborg. Not pictured: the aforementioned cocaine. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Today in people who are not Batman...

You know who's not Batman? Well, obviously lots of people aren't Batman. You, me, and pretty everyone else on Earth. But do you know who's really, really not Batman? Like at all? Donald Trump, that's who.
Pictured: Not the goddamn Batman.
So the White Walkers want our jobs? I
suppose that's more of an explanation than
G. R. R. Martin's given us in like five novels.
Why am I bringing up this rather obvious point? Because yesterday Trump, while explaining to a group of children why we should build a wall around Mexico (spoiler alert: it's not to keep out ice zombies), was asked by a nine-year-old if he was Batman to which he responded: "I am Batman." Which, ok, sure, at first glance you might pick up on some things Bruce Wayne and Donald Trump have in common. They're both rich, they both own helicopters and they both...uh...they're both rich...did I say rich already? 

Maybe the Gotham museum should stop
hosting rare, jewel-encrusted penguin exhibits.
Anyway, while they're both billionaires who run massive companies founded by their wealthy parents, the similarities end there. Bruce Wayne runs Wayne Enterprises, a combination military contractor/philanthropic organization that secretly builds bat-themed cars and planes for Batman while organizing charity balls at the museum which are inevitably crashed by super-villians. Trump on the other hand runs The Trump Organization, a conglomerate that puts up buildings, writes 'Trump' on them and then files for Chapter 11. 

There are other differences as well. For example, Bruce Wayne puts on a bat suit and fights crime in his ceaseless crusade to protect the innocent. Meanwhile, Donald Trump puts on a regular suit and does business with the mob
Yeah, Batman also deals with the mob, but there's more punching.
Beneath the leathery exterior?
Just more Trump.
Fans have long speculated that playboy Bruce Wayne is the disguise and that in many ways Batman is the real person (the real, fictional person) and I suppose it's possible that Trump works the same way. Like, by day he's a sleazy, misogynistic corporate douche bag, while he secretly spends his nights solving theme-crime and not promising to dismantle Obamacare, but I just don't see it. Something tells me that Donald Trump is really not the type for layers and nuance. I mean, some people just see Batman as a revenge-crazed lunatic who kicks the shit out of bad guys, and he kind of is, but there's more to being Batman than that. You have to like, help people too.

Look, I understand that if some kid up looks up at you and says "Hey are you really Batman? For real?" there's a tendency to want to say yes. I get that, but I'm having a hard time thinking of anyone, real or fictional, less Batman-like than Donald Trump.  
Ok, Val Kilmer is a close second.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hey, don't sweat it! Like ever again...

"Yeah, it's a pretty sweet deal. We get to sweat,
have body hair and basically rule the planet."

Hey ladies, are you tired of sweating like some filthy, biological organism? And what about that odor that sometimes accompanies physical activities like exercise or being alive? And don't get me started on body hair. In case you didn't know, being a human female with hair anywhere other than on your head makes you a genetic abnormality. You can try to shave your shame away, but it's going to grow back and everyone will know. Everyone. But there may be hope for the poor, unfortunate sweat-prone yetis among us and it involves goddamn microwaves.

A spa in Orange County, because of course it's in Orange County, will be among the first to offer a new microwave treatment for underarm hair. Yes, treatment because having hair under your arms is a disease that must be cured. You know, like leprosy.
"Whoa, back up there Spotty, first I'll need to 
know who your health insurance company is."
Hurray, a cure for sweating. Hey, do you
think maybe we could work on cancer next?
It's called miraSmooth® (which I think is Spanish for "hey look, smooth!") and it uses microwaves to remove hair by destroying the follicle. It's a new application for an existing technology called miraDry® ("hey look, dry!") which destroys your sweat glands to eliminate wetness and odor. Yeah, you heard me, people in Orange County are irradiating their armpits so that they become permanently unable to sweat. Well, from their armpits anyway, I suppose sweating in other places is somehow less shameful.

Dr. Horowitz™ is a registered trademark
of miraSmooth©.  All rights reserved.
But surely there's a medical justification for this technology, right? Like people are sweating themselves to death in Orange County or something? No? Oh. Well, I'll let a doctor explain in an excerpt from this interview/shameless plug:

"We are very excited about the recent FDA approval of the miraDry® system for hair removal. Our practice already uses the miraDry® system to treat patients for elimination of underarm sweat, but now we can use this same system for hair removal as well."
-Doctor® Jed Horowitz, 
human commercial

First of all do you suppose this guy actually says the '®' every time he invokes the name of miraDry? Secondly, if he's a doctor, should he really be shilling for a treatment that uses microwaves to cook your sweat glands to death? Do you mean to tell me there isn't some other less invasive alternative?
Like maybe goddamn deodorant? 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Sorry, but Uranus is already taken.

Hey, get this: The International Astronomical Union, the world's recognized authority when it comes to naming things we can barely see and may never actually stand on, has chosen twenty stars and is letting the public name them and their planets. By voting on the internet.
Got a pulse and an internet connection? Then you're qualified to name entire worlds. 
Johann Elert Bode: the man personally
responsible for 200 years of Uranus jokes.
Yup, the IAU is letting us, the little people, name some of the 1,900 or so extrasolar planets spotted by the Kepler array and other planet finding efforts. No longer will naming the potentially infinite worlds of the cosmos be the sole province of the many astronomers who have dedicated their entire lives to the painstaking and largely thankless science of cataloging the universe in the thin hope that they may someday make a discovery of their own and in a small way contribute to their chosen field. Of course they did give us Uranus, so whatever. Huh? No, I mean Uranus pronounced like Yer-anus, not Urine-us. Deal with it. Anyway, at first it sounds pretty great, right? Democracy in space! The stars belong to all of us, so why shouldn't we have a say in what we call them?

Pictured: Planet Daenerys in the
Khaleesi system. Because the internet.
Because we're really really bad at naming things, that's why. Check this out. According to the Social Security Department, last year parents named their kids things like Couture, Gamble and Eliminate. Yeah, Eliminate, as in to murder or to excrete, and the IAU wants us to help name planets? Like, don't get me wrong, I do think naming the planets is a good idea. With ours rapidly spiraling towards ecological catastrophe, we might need another one and since most of the exoplanets are just assigned long, nonsensical strings of numbers it makes sense that we'd want to call them something catchier.

I mean, if the colony on Kepler-329-D is being overrun with xenomorphs and you need to call in an orbital nuclear strike, you don't want the space marines bombing Planet Kepler-329-B by mistake just because of shitty subspace reception, do you?
"No you idiot, Kepler-three-two-niner-D...what? No, D as in dickweed.
Ok, just-just, forget it, I'll blow the queen out an airlock myself. Again."

-Ellen Ripley, seriously sick of this shit
"So you're from Earth which, if my universal
translator is functioning correctly, also means dirt.
And you've named our planet Doritos Prime? I see."
But I guess what bothers me more than even the likelihood of our mighty galactic space empire being made up of worlds like Google Chrome or Disney Planet, is the presumptuousness of naming what could be inhabited planets. Several of those spotted so far are rocky planets within their systems' so-called goldilocks zones so there's a chance, however small, that someone or something already lives on them. Whatever their level of technology, I can't imagine they'd appreciate a bunch of pre-warp savages telling them what to call their homeworld.
Look, I'm not saying don't go vote on the IAU's site, I'm just suggesting that maybe we shouldn't be disappointed if future space explorers, after what's sure to be a long, arduous trip across the lightyears, don't stick with whatever name we come up with just because their ancestors clicked a link three hundred years earlier before going back to checking Facebook and searching for their primitive, non-holo porn.
"Houston, this is Commander Jenkins, do you copy? I've landed on the surface of
<sigh> Pikachu Spongebob V and-no, you know what? Fuck this. Houston this is
Empress Jenkins the First calling from the surface of Planet Jenkins. Acknowledge."

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

So long universe, we hardly knew ye...

We're doomed! Dooooomed! Scienceticians at the General Assembly of the International Astronomical Union in Honolulu, Hawaii have just announced that the universe is slowly fading into nothingness and-huh? Yeah, Honolulu. I guess if you're going to get together and predict the end of all that is you might as well do it over Mai Tais.
"To the impending heat-death of the universe!"
"The good news is there's still time for you
to lose your virginity Stephen, if you hurry."
Astronomers presented the findings of their Galaxy and Mass Assembly survey, or GAMA if you're short on time (and apparently we are now), which analyzed the light from 200,000 galaxies. Then, through what I can only assume is incredibly complicated math, probably written as incomprehensible squiggles on a chalk board, they determined that the energy output of the galaxies is half of what it was 2 billion years ago. The news is confirmation of what they've long expected, that the universe is past its prime. What started as a Big Bang is going out as a Big Whimper.

Above: An artist's rendering of
the universe (source: science).
"The universe is fated to decline from here on in, like an old age that lasts for ever...[it] has basically plonked itself down on the sofa, pulled up a blanket and is about to nod off for an eternal doze."
-Simon Driver, GAMA team leader and

So what are we going to do about it? Well, nothing. The universe is going to start watching NCIS and complaining about how the kids wear their dungarees too low. That's all there is too it.

"What do you mean, if?"
But if it makes you feel any better, we've only got about 5.4 billion years before our own sun expands into a red giant and consumes us all, that is assuming we survive the next couple hundred years. I don't mean to be all gloom and portents here, but we're kind of careening towards a Mad Maxian dystopia of oil crises and water wars, that is if the robots don't get us first. You know what? Screw these guys. They're just sitting on a beach somewhere in Hawaii getting drunk and mathing up the end of all things. Shouldn't they be trying to do something about it?

Oh don't give me that look,
you're basically a space wizard.
Yeah, ok, I'll admit, reversing entropy is probably a lot to ask of a bunch of half-drunk physicists in floral shirts. Hell, it'd be asking a lot of Doctor Who, and that guy's full of scientifically implausible bullshit. Maybe we should just accept our fate and move on. I mean, according to Driver's fellow researcher Aaron Robotham, we've still got hundreds of trillions of years before the other galaxies slide out of view and the super-massive black hole at the center of our own swallows the Milky Way and then evaporates.

So really what we should be asking these mai tai-swilling ultra-nerds to do is to put down the coconuts and get cracking on a warp drive. To carry the old man couch metaphor a bit further, it's time that we, as the old man's grandchildren, piled in the station wagon and went for a visit. You know, before the end...
"These are the voyages of a 1984 Chevy Caprice wagon, it's five-hour mission:
to seek out Grandpa, and sit there while he complains about the Democrats
and then dozes in front of NCIS. To boldly complain most of the way there."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Glamp of Approval!

The good news is that the Federal Bureau of Land Management has finally given Burning Man's organizers a permit to hold the annual week-long celebration of dubstep, LED's and explosions. The bad news is that the BLM isn't getting their million dollar luxury mega-camp.
Less enthused about the news: this guy.
I'm going to have to disagree with the
sign. They're actually not that fabulous.
Sorry, did I say bad news? I meant awesome news. It's not that I begrudge anyone the glamping experience, I don't. In fact anyone who goes to Burning Man and tells you that suffering through the dust, porta-potties and lack of shower facilities is like the best part of the experience is a goddamn liar. By day three there isn't a burner alive who wouldn't sell their furry vest and EL wire hat for a flush toilet. I just think that holding the event's permit hostage until they build you what amounts to your own private hotel in the middle of the desert is kind of a dick move.

So what exactly were the feds holding out for? Get this, in addition to on-site housing for law enforcement and government officials, they wanted bathrooms with hot and cold running water, refrigerators, air-conditioning and laundry facilities. Laundry! Oh, and did I mention that they wanted ice-cream? I shit you not, the Bureau of Land Management was holding out for ice-cream. Specifically Choco Tacos. Why not go big, right?
Worth fighting for? Yes. Worth canceling an event that pumps tens
of millions of dollars
into Nevada's economy? Apparently also yes.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Who? Who calls him the Ratings Machine?

Just so we're clear, everybody already knew Donald Trump was an Omega-Level asshole, right? Like, this isn't something we discovered after Thursday's debate, or last night when he made that blood comment on CNN?
Ones of people around the world were shocked this week to
learn that Donald Trump is actually a terrible human being.
What's that? What blood comment? Here, click on this, or you could just read it below. I included some of the lead up to what he said as well because it's priceless, but the blood thing comes at the end:

Then what are we supposed to call
this thing? A rancid, over-tanned
dickhole that hates women?
"I don't have a lot of respect for Megyn Kelly...I think she's highly overrated...I go out there and uh, you know, they start saying lift up your arm if you're going to tonight and you know I didn't know there was going to be 24 million people. I knew there was going to be a big crowd because I get big crowds. I get ratings. They call me the Ratings Machine. So I have, you know, she...she...gets out and she starts asking all sorts of ridiculous questions and you know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her whatever..."
-The Ratings Machine

Donald Trump: victim of
everyone else's stupidity.
Most suspect that Dr. Trump may have been implying that Megyn Kelly, as a human female, is prone to irrational behavior due to the hormonal imbalances she experiences during menstruation. He later took to Twitter to insist that he was referring to Megyn Kelly's nose because that's where blood comes from when debate moderators call primary candidates out on all the terrible things they have said or done in the past. You know, in essence assuming that we're all idiots. And I'm not entirely sure that he's wrong.

Ok, not literally. Fox probably
provided their own.
About the 'us being idiots thing' I mean. Obviously he was being a misogynistic tool when he implied that women have no business in journalism because of their menses, but we're the ones giving him a podium. 'But I don't support him!' you say. Well of course you don't. You're a rational, intelligent voter who only supports progressive candidates, remembers to bring a reusable shopping tote to Whole Foods and probably smells good to. Is that Tom's of Maine? I love their stuff.

"If it means we can go back to
saying 'oriental,' we're in."
-Old People*
Anyway, the point is that we're also to blame because we're clearly not doing enough to browbeat and shame the millions of Americans who support him. I bet you money that when Trump said at the debate that "[t]he big problem this country has is being political correct..." there were people out there, people we know and/or are related to who nodded their heads in agreement. As if to say, 'Yeah, fuck climate change, poverty, cancer, hate crimes and gun violence, why doesn't somebody do something about political correctness?' Like, seriously? That's what's wrong with America? We're all not being rude enough to each other?

Look, I'm not saying that we should all go pick a fight with our conservative friends and family members, but try asking them if they saw the debate and if so, what do they think of Donald Trump. If they say 'he's ok,' or 'he's got some interesting ideas,' maybe think about never speaking to them ever again.
"Hey Allen, listen, we've been talking and we've decided that you are now dead to us.
Guns, abortion, gay marriage, we can agree to disagree, but Donald Trump? For real?"

*Yeah, I see the problem with bemoaning the lack of civility and sensitivity in national discourse and then seconds later making fun of old people, but statistically everyone over the age of 65 is a little bit racist. (source: ageism) 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Father, the Sun and the Holy Space Ghost

Did you know that the Vatican has its own astronomy program? Did you further know that it's run by like actual scientists and not, say, some dude ranting about how the stars are just angels waving Zippos at some kind of celestial Lynyrd Skynyrd concert?
"Goddamn took them long enough..."
-Galileo Galilei
Yup, contrary to popular perception, an organization who used to light people on fire for suggesting that the Earth revolved around the sun is actually pretty pro-science. In fact, when asked about NASA's recent discovery of 452b, a potentially earth-like planet, their head space priest, Father José Gabriel Funes, had this to say: " is probable there was life and perhaps a form of intelligent life..." Cool, right? It sort of flies in the face of the idea that western religions are necessarily hostile towards science. 

Check out what else he said:

"The bible is not a scientific book. If we look for scientific responses to our questions in the bible, we are making a mistake."

-Father Funes, crushing it
"Planck time? Quantum singularity? Quarks? What the hell are quarks?
Look, this is the bronze age, why don't we just start with 'let there be light?'
"Ok, who had the barbecued disappointment?
I mean, seitan. Heh. See what I did there?"
Holy shit, right? I mean here in the States we have entire museums dedicated to spitting in the face of the geological record by insisting that people used to ride around on dinosaurs and school boards who grudgingly present evolution as some kooky alternative like the vegan option at a barbecue and here's this guy working for the people who brought us the Inquisition casually pointing out that religion isn't science and vice versa. So like suck on that, Kirk Cameron, Richard Dawkins and everyone who feels strongly about things.

Of course being a Priest, Father Funes did have to make this about Jesus saying that while there're probably aliens, there probably isn't an alien Jesus:

"The discovery of intelligent life, does not mean there's another Jesus. The Incarnation of the son of God is a unique event in the history of humanity, of the universe."
Although in fairness, Space Jesus is only slightly more preposterous
than a 1st century inhabitant of Roman-occupied Judea being a white guy.
How quickly would you beam back up
if the first humans you met tried to
hand you a copy of The Watchtower?
Um...ok. Somehow I feel like the first question we ask when we finally meet aliens shouldn't be 'have you invited Jesus into your heart?' I mean, judging by the great lengths we go to to avoid people who talk like that on our own planet, I say we skip the topic altogether. But Funes is a priest, so of course he's going to put questions about extraterrestrial life in the context of his belief system. It's literally his job. Actually, the only thing he said that kind of gave me pause is "I don't think we'll ever meet a Mr. Spock." Yeah, so while he has no scientific or theological problem with aliens, Father Funes is depressingly realistic when it comes to the likelihood of actually meeting any.

And he's got a point. We have absolutely no idea how to deal with the unimaginably vast distances between stars and it's entirely possible that interstellar travel will always be out of reach. On the other hand, Funes believes in an ordered, sensible universe presided over by a benevolent deity. Is warp drive really all that crazy by comparison?
Ehh...probably. (source: science)