Saturday, January 30, 2016

Um, what's up, Italy?

-Italian people
Tens of thousands of anti-gay protestors are heading to Rome today to register their outrage at a bill being voted in the Italian Senate next month that would give same-sex couples the same rights a married couples. Can you believe it? Rome. As in Rome, Italy which, last I checked is in Europe: the home of discotheques, universal healthcare and laid-back social equality. And it's not even a gay marriage bill, it's a gay-sorta-marriage bill that would grant same-sex couples the same rights as marriage but not actual marriage.

That's right Italy, you're up there
with Armenia, freaking Armenia... 
Bullshit, right? Embarrassingly, Italy is the only country in western Europe that doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions putting them up there Azerbaijan, Romania and wherever Doctor Doom's from. According to the bill's author:

"Italy can't remain the tail-end in Europe in the field of civil and human rights..." 

-Monica Cirinna, Italian Senator
and totally sick of this shit

Italy's not exactly famous for
starting out on the right side...
Unsurprisingly, the event's organizer also points out that Italy is a kind of hold-out among European nations, although he phrases a little more like a heroic struggle rather than a stubborn refusal to join the twenty first century:

"Italy is one of the few western countries that is still resisting this deviation."

-Massimo Gandolfini, taking a stand, 
you know, against equality

We should probably enjoy
this feeling while it lasts...
I guess this streak of conservatism shouldn't come as a total surprise. I mean, Italy is where the Pope lives. And remember a while back when Barilla brand pasta decided to chime in about gay families? Yeah, that was great. And then there was that confusingly anti-gay bullshit coming out of totally gay founders of Dolce and Gabbana. Still, it's a little weird that we Americans can lay claim to being more socially progressive than a country in Europe, even if we did only get on board with marriage equality last year.

Anyway, they're calling today's gathering 'Family Day' and protestors are descending on Rome like goddamn Visigoths. Although its organizers predicted that the event would draw as many as a million people, actual numbers are in the tens of thousands which is still a lot of angry homophobes for a country that gave us gladiator movies.
Fun Fact: the actual Sack of Rome in 410 A.D. involved something like 40,000
 Visigoths, not far off from today's protests, which, holy shit Italy. I mean, holy shit.
(source: Wiki the elder)

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lad os røve nogle flygtninge!

So that's Danish for 'Let's rob some refugees,' but you're probably wondering why. What possible occasion would prompt me to use some questionable google translation title for today's post? Unless of course the country of Denmark was actually going to rob some-
Oh shit...
"Nyah, see? The is stick up! Hand over
the non-sentimental goods, see? Nyah..."
Yup, the Danish Parliament is voting today on whether or not they should start robbing refugees. Well, ok, that sounds super harsh and probably more that a little unfair. They're actually voting on whether or not to confiscate cash and other valuables worth over the Danish equivalent of $1450 from refugees in an attempt to defray the costs of providing humanitarian aide. They insist that this wouldn't includ objects of sentimental value like wedding rings or family heirlooms still sounds super-harsh and more than a little...what's Danish for douchy?  'Døüchen?'

Anyway, in addition to turning refugees upside down and shaking out all the kroners, Parliament is also kicking around plans to prevent them from bringing family members over for up to three years. All of this is part of an effort to make Denmark less attractive to asylum seekers.
'Flee elsewhere...'
-Danish Border Control
Actually it kind of sounds like what we
do when we put old people in a home.
Obviously these people are monsters, right? First the giraffe thing and then the bunny-murdering radio host and now they're mugging and breaking up the families of people whose lives are already pretty screwed up? Yikes guys. Supporters of the bill argue that Denmark's welfare system is being overwhelmed by an influx of people, which I can kind of understand. A sudden uptick would certainly put strain on it, but is forcing asylum seekers to turn over their valuables in exchange for a safe place to live really the way to go? It's just so, you know...

I don't know, it's a complicated question and there's almost certainly no simple ans-wait, have they tried Kickstarter? Or like a garage sale? Maybe run a special on that flat-pack furniture, or am I thinking of Sweden?
I wonder if the Danish government has thought about
raiding the Irish coast to drum up funds? It's worked before.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Today in ruined childhoods...

Ok, now don't freak out. I'm going to tell you something that might, if I know you as well as I think I do, cause you to freak out a little. Ready?  Here goes: someone is going to remake're freaking out aren't you? Ok, now calm down, because it's not happening, but we'll get to that.
Yeah, I said 'don't freak out...'
Pictured: I think I just figured out why the
Goblins elected David Bowie their king...
Labyrinth, if you've never seen it, is one of those movies your friends will shout at you for never having seen and then will make some vague and insistent demand that you agree to let them show it too you. Don't worry, they almost never follow through. The point is that people are passionate about it. Like really passionate. The movie is a magical tale of child-neglect and creepy muppets in which Jennifer Connelly wishes that her baby brother would get kidnapped by goblins which, because it would be an incredibly dull movie if it didn't, happens. Oh, and David Bowie and his magnificent and un-unseeable codpiece, play the goblin king.

Above: History's greatest
monster, apparently. 
Anyway, the movie wasn't super-successful when it came out, but it was fun. It's weird and full of Jim Henson creatures and probably one of those things you had to be a kid in the eighties to appreciate fully, but it attracted a cult-following on VHS. And by cult I mean rabid-foam ultra-fans. Screenwriter Nicole Perlman, who also co-wrote Guardians of the Galaxy, was immediately tweeted at by angry fans who, upon hearing that she'd be writing a reboot of Labyrinth, accused her of grave robbing. Oh yes, grave-robbing.

Sure, Perlman's actually not remaking the film, but has instead been brought on to write a follow-up. A sequel which has been in the works for like two years, so unless @OMGNotHerAgain is accusing Perlman of being a witch or possibly a time traveler, she's being more than a little unfair:
Above: yikes.
"You know who I hate? Fans."
-Movie Producers
Yes, if you squinted or clicked the link you probably noticed that that @OMGNotHerAgain just accused Perlman of ghoulishly feasting on the memory of David Bowie to make some $$$, which I think must be some kind of emoji for money. Look, I know we all from time to time (say every third post on this blog), get a little crazed about some fannish obsession being mishandled by movie makers who maybe don't appreciate the nostalgia fans attach to things like this, but holy shit.

Oh, and check out @nevedander up there:

"Seriously? How sick are you? Please don't do this. Even a sequel is spitting in my childhoods eye. Don't mess with perfection."

-Twitter user and
cautionary tale @nevedander
Congratulations Nicole Perlman. You're retroactively ruined
@nevedaner's childhood. I hope you're pleased with yourself.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Today in budget-conscious discoveries...

Cal Tech astronomer Micheal E. Brown whose previous work in the field got Pluto demoted to dwarf planet status, is back and ready to jerk us around again. But before we get to that, to the jerking around I mean, I should probably explain.
Pictured: Mike Brown and his book about victim blaming.
Above: one of the new images of Pluto
sent back by NASA's New Horizons probe.
Between 2003 and 2005, Brown and his team at the Palomar Observatory discovered a bunch of objects floating around out past Neptune, including Eris, which is even larger than Pluto. This discovery led astronomers to come up with a firm definition of planet. In order to qualify, an object must orbit the sun, have enough mass to be roundish, not be a satellite of another object and it has to have cleared its orbit of debris. Pluto, like the one house in the neighborhood with all the crap in the yard, doesn't fit the third criteria. It's orbit is full of rocks, planetesimals and even an old lawnmower.

Pluto and other similarly lazy and market-value lowering space objects were reclassified as 'dwarf planets;' a term whose definition requires only that the object not be a moon and that it be round or round-ish because of its own gravity. 
A third, lesser known criteria requires that such planetoids be the
home of a stout and mighty race of bearded warriors upon whose
blades the unrelenting and terrible orcish hordes shall meet their doom.
Brown, Batygin and the $30 dry erase
board they used to make their discovery. 
Oh, I mentioned some jerking. Brown and his colleague Konstantin Batygin have announced that according to their calculations there should totally be a new, as yet unobserved ninth planet out beyond the orbit of Neptune. Yeah, unobserved. This discovery is totally math-based which, while cool and budget friendly, is something they probably shouldn't mention to Cal Tech's board. Not if they ever plan to go to them asking for money for a new telescope or computers or even pizza for the year-end department mixer. You can't eat math.

Having a bad week? Well holy shit
hang on, because Planet 9's going to be
 in retrograde for the next 10,000 years.
Anyway, the mathematically likely planet is mathematically probably about ten times the mass of Earth and takes between ten and twenty thousand years to complete an orbit around the sun. If and when it's finally observed it will bring us back up to nine planets, as anything that massive is sure to fit the definition of true planet. And that's good, because somehow eight planets seemed wrong, although astrology fans will have to scramble to incorporate a whole new planet into their crazy pseudoscience.

Hey, is it too early to talk names? Because I'd like to propose we name it after our dear, demoted Pluto. I know the discoverers usually get first dibs, but for real, I think this Mike Brown guy owes us one.
I give you the new ninth planet: Plutwo...wait,
no, that's terrible. How about Mega-Pluto?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Today in lavish excesses...

Finally, there's a way to get rich people in and out of film festivals without them having to take the roads like a bunch of barbarians. Uber, that service that allows you to summon total strangers to come pick you up and drive you places, is now offering helicopter rides.
Does anyone else think we're headed for another Bastille Day? 
Above: Sundance Attendees trying to
spend as little time as possible in Utah.
The service is being brought to the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and will take attendees from Salt Lake City's airport to the event in Park City. Being choppered in from the airport only takes about fifteen minutes compared to the grueling forty minute schlep through the desolate hellscape that is the greater SLC metropolitan area, so the $200-$300 ride is clearly worth it. Well, if you're ridiculously wealthy and incredibly impatient. Those 'Sundance Official Selection' logos aren't going to hand themselves out.

-Coachella Attendee
This isn't the first time Uber's offered a helicopter option to event attendees. There was an Uberchopper option available for people who like to watch cars drive in an endless circle at the Grand Prix Formula 1 races in Austin, and they've been airlifting trust fund hippies in and out of Coachella for a couple of years now. Oh yes, for just $3,000 the service will take you and four equally obnoxious friends to and from the annual music festival where you can take drugs and shout 'woooooooo!' at your favorite bands.

"Leave her, we've got to get J. J. Abrams
to the Tribeca Film Festival, stat! "
If it sounds like I'm being irrationally judgey about this whole thing, it's because I am. Maybe it's because I associate helicopters with emergencies, like putting out forest fires or mercy flights. I get that Uberchoppers aren't necessarily tying up helicopter pilots who would otherwise be saving lives, but still it just seems, I don't know, douchy to take one to Sundance. It feels like a sure sign that we're heading towards an irreversibly lopsided society where the super-wealthy spend their time 'coptering between festivals while everyone sits in gridlocked traffic shaking a menacing fist skyward.

I don't know, maybe it just bothers me that excessive luxuries like Uber helicopters make think that those kids in the Guy Fawkes masks might have a point. About gross inequity, not the masks. Like, I don't think they get the mask thing at all.
Unless you're planning to blow up Parliament and put a Catholic
king on the throne of England, you're wearing the wrong mask.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Unwilling suspension of belief!

Oh come on Church of England, I thought you guys were cool. I mean, relatively. The bar is pretty low for religious organizations. I'm talking about the Anglican Communion's decision yesterday to suspend the U. S. Episcopal Church for not hating gay people hard enough.
" people, am I right guys?"
-Justin Welby,
Archbishop of Canterbury
What? Did you think I was kidding?
Wait, the what has a problem with whom over gays and suspended the-huh? Yeah, I should explain. First let's start with Henry VIII and the fiery passion he felt deep in his comically oversized codpiece for Anne Boleyn, his not wife. Cranky over Pope Clement's refusal to grant an annulment on the grounds that he found Anne Boleyn hotter than Catherine of Aragon, Henry went and started his own Church, put himself in charge and married Boleyn. Blamo, Church of England. Oh, and then he got tired of her and had her executed.

The Episcopal Church is to Church of
England as Stargate Atlantis is to
Stargate SG-1. Analogy!
Jump ahead to the American Revolution when church leaders weren't so down with swearing loyalty to King George III when everybody just spent the better part of a decade killing his troops. They broke off and started calling themselves the Episcopal Church which basically means that bishops are in charge, instead of a Pope or some horny king. Similar Church of England spin-offs, called Anglican Churches, popped up around the world, each headed by their own Primate-yeah, Primate, and now they all mostly get along.

"More liberal than the people who
brought you the Inquisition..."
The Church of England and Anglican churches in general seem a little more liberal than the Catholic Church they broke away from, even allowing priests to marry and more recently the ordination of women. I guess when your parent organization exists because a ginger serial Queen murder with a festering leg wound and a willingness to risk excommunication for himself and his subjects (kind of a big deal back in the sixteenth century) for papal dispensation to bone anyone he chooses, it's hard to enforce celibacy with a straight face.

Anyway, the Episcopal Church elected an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003 and last year voted to perform same-sex weddings, going too far for some I guess. Which is weird because again, Henry murdered two wives. Just straight up murdered them.
-England's puffiest,
murder-iest king
Pictured: the full force
of Anglican condemnation.
Which brings us to the big meeting this week where Anglican leaders decided that they can no longer stand all this gayness. They decided that the U.S. Church will be barred from decision making in the wider communion for three years-sort an institutional finger waggle rather than a punishment with the force of law. The Anglican Communion is kind of nonhierarchical, I mean, that was the whole point of breaking away in the first place, so there's not a whole to else they can to to the Episcopal Church short of taking them off the mailing list.  

Yeah, they're still
really weird about it.
So big deal, who cares, right? Lots of people care, churchy or not. As a secular Vulcantologist, I have exactly zero stake in the decision, but I think it's a dick move, especially coming at a time when attitudes are shifting and same-sex marriage is becoming increasingly accepted. Even the Catholic Church has lightened up on the gay thing, so what's their problem anyway? Huh? Oh, I said the Catholic Church has lightened up about it. Give'em another two hundred years and we'll be good.

This decision seems like a bunch of feet-dragging conservatives conveniently forgetting that quitting the Anglican Communion is comprised of breakaway churches who were sick of having marriage rules dictated to them. Like, leaving and starting your own church is as easy as checking the 'unsubscribe me' box on an email you're tired of moving to the trash bin, so maybe the organization as a whole could try getting along?
"Seriously, give the word, we'll break off and do our own thing.
We have our own collars and flag and even our own communion wafers."
-Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church
*(might not be an actual quote)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Let's reevaluate our priorities!

Cancer's a dick. David Bowie and now Alan Rickman and probably a few million other people will die of it before 2016 is out. So I guess my question is how come we haven't worked out a cure for this yet? Like, we should really get on it.
It's that or we all need to get better at chess.
"Well then maybe just shut up and 
let us experts work on it, Ok?"
-Some touchy Oncologists
I mean, cancer doesn't just kill famous people, apparently anyone can get it. I'm not a sciencetician or anything, but if you live long enough the chances of your genes developing a typo approach like 100%. Our advanced medical science can give elderly men erections, so why can't it do a simple thing like cure cancer? Now I know what you're going to say: impotence is way easier to solve than the infinitely more complex science of cancer. Well to that I know I actually don't have a response. It probably is like super hard to cure cancer.

"Yeah sure, and after that maybe
I'll just invent cold fusion..."

-Joe Biden, snarkingly
But hard isn't impossible, right? During the State of the Union address, the President compared curing cancer to NASA landing on the moon and then Westwingingly announced his intentions to get the ball rolling. He even put Joe Biden in charge of it which was a little weird because he's a Vice President and not say, a doctor, but that's cool, whatever. Curing cancer seems like something we should be able to if we put our minds to it, right? And by minds I mean a shit ton of money.

Pictured: just some of our
nation's 318.9 million losers.
We should throw money at cancer until it's dead, that's what we should do. Millions of Americans recently bought one 1.58 billion dollars worth of lottery tickets on the mathematically insignificant chance that they might win, and do you know how many actually did? Three. Three random people out there are now absurdly rich. Don't get me wrong, that's great for them and probably anybody they owe money to, but there're now a few hundred million more losers than there were yesterday.

I'm not trying to be a funssassin here, I know everybody loves to set money on fire, but the lotto is basically a giant Kickstarter campaign where instead of a new expansion for Cards Against Humanity all we get is a couple more rich people. I bet if we all chipped in, we could have cures for all kinds of diseases. Cancer, HIV, even whatever's up with Mike Huckabee.
He actually can't hear the crazy shit that comes
out of his mouth
. It's a serious medical condition.

Let's hear it for carbon emissions!

Hey, good news! Well, maybe it's not good news, more like a silver lining. To a coffin. Oh sorry, went a little dark there, but according to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the effect of human civilization on the Earth's environment has at least one upside: it's pushed off the next ice age by another fifty thousand years. Um, hurray?
"You're welcome."
I'm not saying it's off the table
mind you, just not super-likely.
Well, no, this is science, so you have to understand that there's an open-handed slap of reality behind any upbeat headline. Human activity has mitigated the effect the Earth's orbit around the sun naturally has on the climate and in doing so thrown off the cycle of glaciation delaying the next ice age by another fifty thousand years, so a hundred thousand years in total. Still with me? Yeah, me neither, the point is that our massive carbon footprints haven't saved us from roving packs of sabertooth cats or having to hunt mastodons for food. Besides, we'll all be long dead.

'Hillary Clinton: is soft on ice ages. Me? I'll
screw the next ice age with it's pants on. Fact.'
So in many ways, it seems like this news isn't really going to help us much. In fact, it strikes me as a little counter-productive. Like, it's the kind of thing that could get latched onto in an election year as a reason to drag our feet over reducing carbon emissions. Why bother sticking to the Paris climate agreement when our reckless destruction of the environment has created a hazy orange forcefield against the next ice age? Hurray for carbon emissions! Carbon emissions are awesome!

What? Like it's any stupider than the vaccine thing. Anyway, a lot can happen in a hundred thousand years. Our species could be extinct, or maybe we'll have invented warp drive and will be fucking up alien planets. The important thing to keep in mind is that this news isn't really an upside to climate change. If anything, it's another harbinger of our planet's doom. Damn, went dark again. Sorry. Next time we'll talk about Star Wars or something, promise.
I guess what I'm saying is look on the bright side: this will be the ape's problem. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Today in tenuous connections...

Seriously, fuck you cancer.
As you've probably already heard, cancer, in a characteristically dick move, took noted musician and goblin king David Bowie yesterday. Because cancer, as we've discussed, is an asshole. But on a tangential, quantum universe note, the local newspaper from my hometown of Rochester, N.Y. decided that today would be an awesome time to remind everyone that back in 1976, Bowie was arrested there for having half a pound of marijuana in his hotel room.

Yes. Cops, who I can only assume were among the R.P.D.'s cleverest investigators, went to Bowie's hotel room after a concert and found him and his friends all smoking the pot. Did I mention Iggy Pop was there? Anyway, it was some fine police work, but why bring it up now?
Wait, for real? Just pot? Did they even look in the nightstand?
Rochester: come for the arts and nightlife,
stay for the draconian drug law enforcement!
I suppose when someone talented and influential dies, we all like to feel connected in some way, even if that way is a decades-old drug charge that could have potentially ended his career. At the time, half a pound of pot carried a maximum fifteen year prison sentence and-holy shit fifteen years? Fortunately, Bowie and the others were able to plead famous, (no, really) but still, if I were the city of Rochester I'm not sure I'd want to associate myself with nearly depriving the world of the last forty years of David Bowie's music.

You know, if decisions we make play out in some alternate universe as some physicists wildly speculate, does this mean that somewhere there's some alternate universe out there where David Bowie spent fifteen years in prison in upstate New York on some possession charge and we all sat through a shitty version of Labyrinth starring Mick Jagger, who would have been, at best, a Goblin Duke?
Yes. Other differences between Earth Classic and Alternate Earth include mandatory
casual Fridays, butter-flavored soft drinks and oh, we sold Florida back to Spain.
(source: science)

The Department of Grim Portents

In effort to distract us from the fact that they have yet to discover aliens or invent a warp drive, NASA has announced that they're establishing the Planetary Defense Coordination Office to protect us from potential threats from space. Because fuck space.
"See that? That's space, and it wants
to kill you. Never forget that."
Come to think of it, I was just as
disappointed when they did. Burn!
Take that, 20 year old movie!
Ok, really the PDCO will only look out for a specific threat, asteroid collisions, but still, that's exactly one more space threat than we've ever bothered with before. The office is an extension of NASA's Near Earth Object Observation program, and in addition to observing and cataloguing potential planet-thumpers (it's a technical term), it will coordinate with FEMA. Oh and if you're wondering where the rag-tag team on a desperate mission to use a nuclear bomb and Aerosmith to divert the asteroid come in, you're going to be disappointed. 

They uh, they won't be doing that. The office is more about giving us fair warning than it is actually defending us against anything. If space wants to kill us, I guess there's not a whole lot anyone can do about it. But hey, it a better plan than anything the dinosaurs came up with.
We'll need the time to organize and
then rig the space ark lottery.
Ok, so realistically we're not going to be able to stop an incoming object and if it's large enough all the FEMA trucks, rapture shelters and bottled water in the world aren't going to save us. So what's the point? Other than the slightly more badass name? Eh. It's mostly organizational. PDCO also coordinates what was a bunch of separate, inefficient NASA offices, and Planetary Defense sounds way better than Inter-Office Team-Building, especially when you're asking Congress for money. Besides, it's not unreasonable that we'd want as much warning as possible. 

Sure , extinction level event, riiiight.
Kiss our loved ones goodbye? Ok,
we'll get right on that Brian...
Or is it? If the Planetary Defense Coordination Office actually does spot a world-ending threat coming in, say one that will wipe us out completely, and then they tell us about it, are we better off? I mean, aren't we going to, you know, explode into a planet-wide orgy of panic and chaos the likes of which we've never seen? I wonder if they shouldn't have some kind of blissful ignorance protocol by which they let us know at the last possible minute. We do, as a species, kind of hate spoilers.

The last time a flaming ball of extinction rained down upon us was sixty-five million years ago so you could say we're kind of due, but then asteroids don't really keep a schedule. We're talking about space rocks flinging around the solar system at tens of thousands of miles per hour so it's just as likely to happen today as it is another million years from now. 
Above: Later today, or next week, the point is you don't know. Enjoy!