Monday, September 28, 2015

Today in things that are not aliens...

So that big huge NASA discovery that we've been waiting all weekend to hear about? Liquid water and potential life on Mars! Did your head just explode?
"This is tremendously exciting. We haven't been able to
answer the question, 'Does life exist beyond Earth?' But..."
Great opportunities to investigate?
So nothing. You've got nothing...
That's James L. Green, NASA's director of planetary science raising our hopes of discovering alien life on Mars. Now, let's dash them by completing the quote:

"...following the water is a critical element of that. We now have, I think, great opportunities in the right locations on Mars to thoroughly investigate that."

-James L Green, crusher of dreams

Pfft...water? We have
that here on Earth.
Yup. NASA called a press conference to announce that they've found the 'strongest evidence yet' that there's liquid water on Mars, which while exciting if you're the director of planetary science at NASA, is perhaps somewhat less press-conference worthy than Green might think. When they announced that a major scientific discovery would be revealed on Monday, I kind of thought, you know, aliens. Or at least alien microbes or fossilized alien microbes. Something more interesting than water.

Mars could possibly have potentially
favorable conditions for life to maybe
exist. We think. But who knows?
Sure, the implication is that the presence of liquid water could open up the possibility of life on Mars, but that's not the same thing as finding life. Here, check out the study's co-authors and how careful they are when they talk about their findings:

"Our results point to more habitable conditions on Mars than previously thought."

-Mary Beth, Wilhelm
co-author of the study

Or at least evidence of smoking gun
molecules detected from orbit...
"It is very likely, I think, that there is microbial life somewhere in the crust of Mars."

-Alfred McEwen, another
co-author of the study

"What we see now for the first time is an actual detection of the water molecule so it's basically the smoking gun."

-James Wrey, yet another co-author

'Point towards,' 'very likely,' see? Careful is good. This is science, you don't want to go around making broad claims without evidence to back you up. And look, liquid water is great. We've been enjoying it for years, but making us wait three days to tell us about the water they already told us they were pretty sure is there? That just seems like they wanted to hold a press conference. 
"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, thank you for coming. Today, we we wanted to show
  you this cool thing Steve found in his desk. It's got wires and several screws. We think it
might be part of the old copier, but we won't be sure until we run some tests. Any questions?"

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What, do you hate kids or something?

"I hope you enjoyed tonight's episode of 
Scandal, because now your soul is mine!"
So remember back in 2012 when One Million Moms tried to get everyone to boycott J.C. Penny? Here, click this. No? Fine, I'll sum up: The retailer's spokesperson at the time was Ellen Degeneres, and OMM didn't want shoppers catching the gay. Holy shit right? How hate-filled and vitriolic do you have to be to go after Ellen? Very. They're a 40,000 member sub-group of The American Family Association (one of the Prop 8 organizations) who are tasked (by themselves) with warning people about how Satan-y the media is.

Above: the titular Sex Box whose opacity was
far more instrumental in the show's cancellation
 than OMM would have you believe.
How effective are their campaigns? Well, they claim to have been responsible for canceling WeTV's Sex Box, a U.S. version of a British show in which couples have sex in a sound-proof, opaque box while a studio audience sits around awkwardly. Then, when they emerge, everyone discusses. We talked about this awhile back. The show was cancelled after five episodes, which I'm pretty sure had more to do with how stupid and terrible it was, and not because a bunch of sanctimonious self-appointed media watch-dogs turned their collective frown upon it.

Anyway, why are we talking about these obnoxious Helens Lovejoy? Because now they're angry about The Muppets.
The heads of all 40,000 members of One Million Moms just exploded.
Above: The Muppets encouraging
pantslessness since 1955.
Specifically the new Muppet show which premiered on Tuesday. Its format is closer to The Office or 30-Rock in that it's a single camera, fake documentary that follows the Muppets behind the scenes of Miss Piggy's talk show. Their outrage stems from, well, some sort of personal issues I'd imagine. I'd rather not speculate, but their problem with The Muppets, is the show's slightly more adult content which, c'mon, I don't know if you've seen it yet, but it's like PG at worst.

"I just don't know what to do. If only
there was some way to turn the"
-Concerned parent
But that's subjective I guess. The group's complaint is focused on the idea that unsuspecting parents might assume that the series is for children and will then have to explain all the filthy, filthy jokes to their kids. Eww, right? I mean, who wants to prepare kids for the world around them? Or, God forbid, monitor their children's television watching? Not these mothers. You'd think they could just post a simple announcement on their website along the lines of 'Attention fellow humorless evangelicals: the new Muppet show challenges your worldview. Avoid at all costs."

But no, that would be too reasonable. One Million Moms (again, it's just a name) demands that the series halt production, all copies be burned, buried and then that the earth be salted so that nothing may grow where it lie. Because the children. The children!
I'm sorry are you saying that you don't support One Million Moms and their efforts
to clean up the media? Why do you hate the children so much? You're just the worst...

Monday, September 21, 2015

False Alarm!

Is it me or does Richard Dawkins seem like he wouldn't be all that fun at parties? The scientist is famous for his skepticism and that's awesome. Scientists should be skeptical. It's what separates actual science from say, Arkansas school board science. But sometimes it's ok to switch it off, or at least wait until you have all the facts.
"But is Steve a jolly good fellow? I'm not saying
he's isn't, I'm just asking: where's the evidence?" 
-Richard Dawkins, kind of
dragging everybody down
Yeah, better cuff him. He might
try to fashion a crude ham radio.
What the hell am I talking about? Remember last week when Texas teenager Ahmed Mohamed MacGyver'ed a clock out of a pencil case and some electronic bits and his school had him arrested for threatening them with a bomb while being named Ahmed Mohamed? He was suspended, but gained national media attention and support from like everybody. Everybody, except Richard Dawkins who hopped on the Twitter this weekend to accuse Mohamed of being a fraud. What the hell right? Ok, in fairness, Dawkins agreed that Mohamed's arrest was some bullshit, but he goes on to suggest that the whole incident was a stunt. 

"In many ways, we did the kid a favor."
-Police Chief L.A. Boyd,
not helping at all
Dawkins points out that Mohamed's arrest and subsequent newsy-ness led to a Crowdfunding campaign and an offer to meet the President, which, ok, he kind of has a point. It did sort of work out well for Mohamed, except, you know, for the arrest in front of his classmates, the rampant suspicion and the accusations of being a terrorist. But what evidence does Richard Dawkins have that this isn't on the up and up? A video on Youtube claiming that Mohamed's invention is just an alarm clock with the outer case popped off. 

"God? Preposterous! If there were a God,
why isn't there a Youtube video about him?"
Um, 'evidence' here is kind of a loose term. Sure, Thomas Talbot, the guy who posted the video, could very well be correct. Who knows? I'm not a digital clock forensic expert, and I suspect that Thomas Talbot is not either. In fact, I'm fairly certain that's not a thing you can be. Maybe Mohamed did just bust open his alarm clock and screw it to the inside of a plastic case, does that necessarily mean he's a liar? Maybe this was a stunt designed to call attention to a climate of anti-Muslim paranoia, or maybe this kid is just really bad at science projects.

The point is, I don't know and I don't think Richard Dawkins does either and before any more Youtubers or Emeritus Fellows at Oxford label him a fraud, shouldn't they get some proof or something? Besides, whatever Mohamed's intent, it seems like was a way better social experiment that it was an invention. Way better. I mean look at it:
No offense kid, but I don't think you'll be revolutionizing
the digital alarm clock industry anytime soon...

Friday, September 18, 2015

Hootenannies and Hey-theres

I don't want to tell bible thumpers how to thump their bibles, but could they maybe stop telling waiters that they're going to hell? Yeah, this againA couple went to a Marie Callendars in Boise, Idaho for lunch and when the bill came they signed it with 'Straight,' instead of, you know, with their names. Then they left a pamphlet for the waiter, a guy named Britton Weaver, explaining how he's going to hell if he doesn't stop being all gay and shit. 
"Thanks anonymous strangers! Your sanctimonious attitude and informative pamphlet
really changed my life. I can barely even remember why I chose to be gay in the first place."*

-Britton Weaver, waiter 
and former homosexual

*(not an actual quote)
"Listen, God, great stuff, but can
we maybe trim it down a bit? It's
turning into Game of Thrones here."
On the upside though, they left a $7 tip on a $40 tab. That's 20%. Not bad, right? I guess they didn't want to be rude. Homophobic and hate-filled, sure, but not rude. These jerks just decided that their waiter was going to hell for breaking whatever theologically dubious rules they cherry picked out of their handy guide to living in the bronze age. Then they took it upon themselves to save his soul with a goddamn pamphlet. A pamphlet. Like they're selling a time-share or warning him about gingivitis. I guess any belief system you can't cram onto a tri-fold leaflet probably isn''t worth your time anyway.

"Can I get you started with some appetizers, 
or a discussion about our sexual preferences?"
Also, the customers were making kind of a big assumption here that Britton Weaver is gay. He is, but that's besides the point, it's not like he strolled up and said: "Hi, I'm Britton and I'll be your gay server, who's gay." I've never been to a Marie Callenders, but at most restaurants, who everybody likes to schtup is rarely a part of the customer/server dialogue. Except maybe at Red Lobster. So what is it with super-judgey Christians and gay sex? Why all the interest? And even more confusing, what made these two think Weaver would be interested in their sex life? They felt the need to sign the bill with Straight so we'd all know how straight they are, but why?

I'd imagine that the only thing less interesting to Weaver than who these people pray to, is whether or not they're doing each other. He wasn't making polite small talk while taking their drink orders in the hope that the conversation would veer towards how the male customer likes to stick his doodle in the female customer's hootenanny. Or if she likes to strap on a doohickey and do it in his hey-there. Look, I don't care what straight, religious couples do in private, but why do they think we all want to hear about it?
"Here, in the sight of your family, your friends and God, I now pronounce you married.
 You may now engage in biblically-sanctioned, straight intercourse. Aw yeah..."

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Today in things that are not planets...

I propose that from now on we start referring to the GOP Presidential hopefuls by their preferred Secret Service code names because they are just precious.
Holy shit, Lost had a smaller cast.
Republican tradition holds that touching
Reagan's photo will cure gout.
So I only caught the tail end of the GOP's night of debate and Ronald Reagan fan fiction, but it was a treat. It was held at the Reagan Presidential library in front of Reagan's Airforce One, and did I mention Reagan? Because they did. Like a lot. Everyone on the stage was trying to out-Reagan each other and I think they'd run him again if it wasn't for the 22nd amendment and how dead he is. Some of the candidates (looking at you Chris Christie) even measure time from the moment they first voted for Reagan. I wish I was making this up. He's sort of their Jesus. Well, him and Jesus.

I came in right around the time Jake Tapper asked Doctor Ben Carson, who is a doctor, if Donald Trump should shut up about the link between vaccines and autism-a bit of fringe crazy he's been clinging to despite the fact it has all the scientifically validly of centaurs. But no one, not one of the other candidates called him out on it.
Here, let me help. The answer you're looking
for is 'fuck yes, he should shut the hell up.'
Duck Hunter? M'eh. I'd suggest
Hobby-LobbyKinsey or Chic-fil-A
Then Tapper, who I guess was just bored by hour three, asked the candidates what they would like their Secret Service code names to be if they win. Reagan's, said Tapper, was 'Rawhide,' which, c'mon, like everyone in the room didn't already know that. Scott Walker picked 'Harley,' Mike Huckabee chose 'Duck Hunter,' but by far the best was Rand Paul who chose 'Justice Never Sleeps.' Yup. Rand Paul would like to be known as 'Justice Never Sleeps.'

Look, I don't want to tell President Rand Paul how to run his Presidency, but in a tense, potentially life-threatening Secret Service situation, do you really want your body guards tripping over your ridiculous code name? And what about when he's actually asleep?
Kelley: "For the last time Rand, I'm not calling you Justice Never Sleeps."
Rand: "Just keep waving hon, we'll talk about this when we get home."
Kelley: "No Rand. We won't."
"We're part of a continent.
Also we have some islands."
There were a lot of ideas put forth tonight, a lot of opinions and lot of uncomfortable Reagan fantasies, but I think Senator Marco Rubio summed it up best when he said:

"America is a lot of things-the greatest country in the world. But America is not a planet."

-Senator Marco Rubio, giving us
 his 'I can see Russia from my house'*

And um, well you can't argue with that, America is not a planet. I uh...I think this had something to do with climate change? I don't even know.
I bet if Reagan were still alive we'd be a planet by now...

*Yeah, I know Sarah Palin never said this, but it's going to be with her forever.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Finally, something to do at the theatre...

Look out everybody, the theatre community is upset! What's got everyone's ruffled collars and dance belts in a twist? This AT&T ad the company tweeted:
Incidentally, when referring to the live performance as opposed to the cinema,
the preferred spelling is theatre. With an 're' (source: pretentiousness).
"What? It's called method acting..."
-Kevin Spacey*
Cellphones in theatres are totally a problem. Apart from being intensely rude, a ringing cell or a text or the light from a screen can be totally distracting to the actors on stage. Kevin Spacey would stop in the middle of his production of Richard III and break character so he could call out anyone who failed to silence their phone. Yup, public shaming from a guy famous for murdering children and usurping the throne. Richard III that is, not Kevin Spacey. That we know of...

This, but with social media,
and you know, lazier.
Anyway, outraged tweets followed and Playbill's website responded by asking if the company thought it was ok to tell their customers that playing with your phone in a theatre was ok. AT&T deleted the tweet and apologized saying:

"We love and listen to the thespian community. The ad wasn't meant to be taken literally and we meant no disrespect."

-AT&T, issuing 
a tweeta culpa

And that's nice, but of course they meant a little disrespect. The ad suggests that whipping out your cell during a play is not only a totally acceptable thing to do, but also the right thing to do. After all, plays are stupid and lame and not football. Sure, if you wait a few hours the football game can be summed up with a few numbers, but why wait? I mean, it's just a play.
Ok folks, it's the top of act III and brave Mercurio is dead, making the
score Capulet: 1, Montague: 0....yeah, ok, I guess it works with theatre too.
So, like an arthouse movie.
Public perception is kind of a sore spot for the theatre community. People who love theatre know it's awesome because it's alive and immediate in a way that recorded media like movies or television can never be. But if you're not into it and only have cultural references to go by, the theatre probably seems elitist and dull. In pop culture it's routinely shrugged off as a long, pretentious and boring alternative to movies.

"Pfft...the arts? Am I right guys?"
I used to work in a theatre and walking through the lobby during intermission you'd see these straight guys there with their dates. Just to let everyone know they'd rather be somewhere else and also how gay they're not, they'd always announce loudly how glad they were that it was finally half-time. Half-time. Get it? Men love sports. Men get dragged to the theatre. The unspoken message of AT&T's ad, apart from 'hey, buy our shit,' is that the theatre sucks and sports are awesome.

My favorite part is when the quarterback
scores an inning. Go sports team!
It's just how people see it, and it can be a sensitive subject for fans. The problem isn't so much the ad, although seriously, turn off your goddamn phone, the problem is the reenforcement of its bullshit and unfair reputation as the opposite of all fun. Also, it's insulting to sports fans. It's like they're saying that you have to choose. I know loads of theatre people who also love sports. Football, tennis and uh, what's the other one? Cricket? The point is there's room in our lives for more than interest.

*to be clear: I'm not accusing Kevin Spacey or murdering anyone or usurping anything. Again, that we know of...

Monday, September 14, 2015

Now what's Mike Huckabee supposed to do?

The good news is that gay Kentuckians will be able to get married in Rowan County. The bad news is that their marriages won't have county clerk Kim Davis's personal approval and will therefore be...less than. Well, at lest in her mind.
"I'm sorry hun, I just...I just can't. I know we're married on paper,
but without Kim Davis's signature it just doesn't feel...real..."
"Jesus, Ted, stop talking about Kim
Davis and pick up a goddamn hose!"
Today is Davis's first day back to work after that whole thing. Now she says she'll-huh? What do you mean 'what thing?' The Kim Davis thing. Really? It's been like all of the news for the past week which is amazing because there's been a ton of other, less stupid things going on in the world. The Syrian refugees, Russia and the U.S. are arguing over airspace and did you know that California is on fire? Like, on fire. The whole state. And still, this bullshit is frontpage news.

Davis was being held in contempt of court for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because God Himself told her that doing so would bring His righteous anger down upon her and the people of Kentucky. So in many ways she's a hero (no she's not).
"Wait, she I said what? That's not, I didn't...I was misquoted. Misquoted!"
I think he's been like crashing
on her couch this whole time...
While rotting in Rowan County's jail, Mike Huckabee and the Christian right made her sort of a hero. Kind of like Nelson Mandela, if Mandela only spent six days in prison and hated gay people. Meanwhile Davis's deputies went ahead and issued licenses to gay couples and since licenses were getting issued and everyone was sick of hearing about Kim Davis, Judge David Bunning went ahead and released her. But she's rested, refreshed and as soon as she figures out how to get rid of Huckabee, things will get back to normal.

Well, normal for a self-righteous homophobe who thinks her local government job grants her the authority to overrule Supreme Court decisions.
I'll admit that I don't remember the entire Schoolhouse Rock! song,
but I'm pretty sure the Supreme Court trumps Kim Davis.

Pictured: Kim Davis not at all enjoying
 the attention this has brought her.
Hang on, what's a 'whipping post?'
"I don't want to have this conflict, I don't want to be in the spotlight. And I certainly don't wan't to be a whipping post. I am no hero. I'm just a person that's been transformed by the grace of God, who wants to work, be with my family. I just want to serve my neighbors quietly without violating my conscience."

-County Clerk Kim Davis clarifying
that her stubborn refusal to do her job
doesn't actually make her a hero

Davis says she won't interfere with her deputies issuing licenses, but since she won't affix her +2 Holy Seal of County Clerkdom to them she's not entire sure they'll be legal. Fortunately she's not like, in charge of Kentucky, so the Governor weighed in saying:
"Oh yes they will. Don't listen to her."
-Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear*

*Ok, not a direct quote.

Radical Litigiousness!

Pictured: grown-ass adults marching
around dressed-up as bunnies. 
So you're probably sick of reading about Burning Man on this blog and I completely understand. You come here for posts about what I think about Star Trek and which Republican presidential hopeful is the biggest gaycist. That's why I try to limit myself to only one or two posts about the burn per year, but I saw this and thought I'd share: the organization that puts it on is thinking about suing Quiznos. They're upset about an ad the sandwich chain put out that makes fun of their totally serious week-long celebration of blinky lights, nudity and setting shit on fire in the desert.

It took someone hundreds of man-hours
to create this piece, but it wasn't really art
until someone came along with an iPhone.
Click on this to see what's got their Utili-kilts in a twist. I've been six times and I've got to say the video isn't entirely inaccurate. Sometimes we go by playa-names, there is a people-wash where you get squeegeed by strangers and burners do like to take photos with stupid filters. But the guy in the video says that people at the event trade back rubs for Quiznos® sandwiches and this is bullshit for several reasons. First, there's no bartering at the burn. People give things with no expectation of reciprocity. Secondly, eww, Quiznos. Right?

But the big issue is that the company is using Burning Man images and intellectual property to sell shit which is totally contrary to the spirit of the event. Brands and advertisements are considered poor form, people avoid wearing clothes with labels or logos and those who rent vans and trucks to haul their gear out to the desert are encouraged to blot out the rental company names.
We're also encouraged to mentally revert
to the age of 13. Heh. It says 'penis.'
"You'll be hearing from our lawyers..."
-The Burning Man Organization
It might seem somewhat hypocritical for an organization so staunchly opposed all things corporate and business-y to go and do something like sue someone over intellectual property, but I'm kind of on their side on this one. Yeah, the ad is a parody and pokes fun at the event's pretensions and ridiculousness, but it also makes use of art from the event, including last year's Embrace and the Man itself. I'm not like a lawyer or anything, but it seems like they'd have a case.

Sure, lawsuits are gross and so what if the ad was kind of funny? Burning Man is about freeing ourselves from the corporate oppression and branding and when someone's using your annual protest against consumerism to hawk their fast food chain, I say go get'em.
Unless it's In-N-Out. They're great. We always stop
there on the way to the burn and-wait, goddamnit...

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Today in terrifying theological implications...

"Yea verily, the meek shall inherit
the Earth, but nobody likes a quitter."

Hey look, former Texas Governor Rick Perry just dropped out of the 2016 Presidential race. For Jesus. No, really. Here, check it out:

"When I gave my life to Christ, I said: 'your ways are greater than my ways. Your will is superior to mine.' Today I submit to you his will remains a mystery, but some things have come, and become very clear to me, this is why today, I am suspending my campaign for the presidency of the United States."
-Rich Perry quitting
because he's a quitter

Perry quit while speaking to the Eagle Forum, a conservative interest group who seem remarkably unmoved by Perry's decision. In fact, click on the link and watch him pause awkwardly and scan the room after saying he's suspending his campaign.
"You heard me. I'm dropping out...hello? Is this thing on?
I just said I quit...nothing? Not even a surprised gasp?"
-Rick Perry, also-ran
It's an award for cranking out
kids and obeying the menfolk.
Congratulations? I guess?  
Anyway, you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Jesus. Well, it's in the GOP bylaws to make everything about Jesus, so that's part of it. Also, he was speaking to a conservative political religious group who just awarded Carol Paul, (Ron Paul's wife) their prestigious Homemaker of the Year Award, so I suppose he's got to know his audience. But it does kind of sound like he's saying that Jesus told him to drop out. If he's right and there is divine intervention at work here, the implications are terrifying...

"Steve, I'd like you to meet Jesus Christ,
the Trump campaign's new media advisor." 
Perry was coming in 13th in a contest of 15 potential nominees, so it doesn't exactly take the Son of God to read the polls and decide that maybe now's a good time to call it quits. But he was 13th in a field in which Donald Trump is the front runner with 24% support among Republicans which would suggest that at least in Rick Perrys mind, Jesus Christ Himself is taking a personal interest in the 2016 GOP field; telling candidates when to drop out and which markets to focus their ad buys in, I mean, how else do you explain a quarter of all Republicans saying they'd like to see the host of The Apprentice in office?

Look, I'm not really a believer or a non-beliver. In all honesty I have no idea if there's an afterlife or an all-powerful deity running everything but I do know that I'm definitely not prepared to accept a cosmology that has the gods themselves sticking their great cosmic noses into the 2016 Presidential campaign and ushering Donald goddamn Trump into the most powerful office in the world. The universe can simply not be that cruel.
Behold: The leathery, ridiculously coiffured instrument of divine will.