Monday, May 30, 2016

James Weeks: Libertarian Hero!

What guys? This is what you get for
hosting the Libertarian Convention.
So this happened. No, it's ok, don't worry about clicking, I'll just explain. At the Libertarian Party Convention in Orlando, Florida-because of course Orlando, Florida, James Weeks, who was running for party Chair used his time at the podium to strip. No, really. Like down to a tiny thong thing. It was...well it was weird. I said before that you shouldn't bother clicking on the link to the footage from C-Span-yes, this was on C-Span, but maybe you should. You know, just the get the full effect of the almost hypnotic weirdness.
"After all the fun we've had today, I figured this uh...we could use a little bit of fun."
-James Weeks, shortly before
the uh...the incident...
"Mr. Weeks we have one rule. One. And that
rule is pants
. Was that really so much to ask?"

If you watched the video you might have noticed a couple of things. Firstly, how incredibly weird and awkward it is to watch someone do a strip tease without music. Secondly there was all the boo-ing. Now I get that Weeks maybe doesn't have the best rhythm for a stripper, and not everybody is into lumberjack beards, but really Libertarians? Boos and jeers? Shouldn't they be applauding him for making due without music? Like, I can't think of a better example of the Libertarian principle of self-reliance. And what about his total disregard for, what I assume is C-Span's policy of no stripping during political conventions? 

Like I said, I don't really get their deal,
but they've got Ted Nugent, so...
In many ways James Weeks is a Libertarian hero. I mean, I think he is, I don't really understand what they're about. Freedom? Don't-give-a-fuck'edness? Libertarians, I gather, don't like being told what to do, and Weeks this weekend made himself the clapping, dancing embodiment of that philosophy and for that we salute him. But then they also love guns and don't believe in public roads, so I'm really glad they'll never win high office. The point is James Weeks gets it and if the squares at the convention can't handle it, they should go back to the GOP where they belong.

Of course in other ways, James Weeks is also just another symbol of the batshit crazy on all sides that has been the hallmark of the 2016 election cycle. I mean, what is going on? Is it finally time to pack in in and pick a king or a shadowy council of mysterious robed figures?
Vote Shadowy Council 2016:
"For the greater good..."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Today in things that will kill us all...

Cellphones! Yeah, cellphones, very much like the one that is probably in your pocket right now, slowly baking your nether regions with...uh, like rays or whatever.
Well yeah, I suppose it could give you super powers,
but I think the more likely scenario is, you know, tumors...
"Legitimate research, just for
the hell of it...can't it be both?"
-Some Scientist
A new and not entirely complete study says that-huh? Yeah, it's incomplete, but we'll come back to that. Anyway, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, in what I hope was a legitimate scientific experiment and not just for the hell of it, exposed rats to high doses of radio frequency radiation from before birth all the way through death. They found that a few of the rats, specifically some of the male rats, developed tumors in their hearts and brains suggesting a possible link between cellphone use and cancer. Is it time to panic?

Yes. Absolutely. There are lots of reasons that now is a great time to start panicking: the election, antibiotic-resistant super bacteria, the election, climate change, also there's an election coming up.
Oh and the election. I mentioned the election right?
Because seriously, I mean what the fuck...
Above: the grim future
of human interaction.
Yes, every day is an unrelenting nightmare fraught with uncertainty and peril but dying a slow death from iPhone poisoning is probably not something we need to freak out about. The incidences of rat cancer in the study was super-low, but since we're quickly becoming a society of constantly Tweeting, social media-obsessed cyborgs who can't seem to put our cellphones down for a goddamn minute, the scienceticians thought it prudent to release the preliminary findings early. 

"Sorry, can't talk, it turns out cell phones
might cause cancer. Can you believe it?"

-Some Idiot

Which, I don't know, was that really the best idea? To release an incomplete and preliminary study about something as freak-out-overable as a link between the RF radiation we are all of us soaking in all the time and cancer? To the public? Look, don't get me wrong, I think their intentions were good. I mean, they probably thought that by putting the information out there, people could make an informed decision about potential health risks of cell phone use, but then has putting scientific evidence into context and reacting in a measured, rational way ever been our forte?

I don't mean to suggest that we're a nation of knee-jerk lunatics who seize upon anything we read on the internet regardless of whether or not it comes from a reliable source and then make major life changes based on our limited understanding of its implications but-wait, where was I going with that?  
"My sister's husband's cousin shared an article on Facebook about a new study
that links gluten to bloating, colorblindness and plane crashes. So I stopped eating
food and now I feel, you know. Better? I'm not like a scientist, but it works for me."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

For hate's sake I cast my last vote at thee!

Above: former candidate Berni-huh? He's
still in? Because the article didn't even...oh.
I guess we should never underestimate the power of spite in national elections. Here, lookit this. It's a story from NBC News about a study they conducted that shows that voters actively dislike the candidates. So much so that opposition to the other party's candidate is the number one reason people plan to vote for their own candidate. 33% of Clinton supporters say they're voting for her because they can't stand Donald Trump while 36% of Trump fans say they're voting for the history's greatest goon because they don't like Clinton.

Holy shit, right? Look, I get that a lot of people don't trust Clinton and Trump is tied with Martin Shkreli for symbol of everything wrong with America, but it's just kind of a bummer that we're all planning to vote for the President we find least odious.
"Seriously? You had to think about it?"
-Hillary Clinton
Conventions are unpredictable and
Weird. We could end up with
Robin Wright for all anyone knows.
Yeah, and incidentally did you notice that the NBC article didn't even mention Bernie Sanders? Don't bother pretending you clicked on the link, but take my word for it, not once. It does refer to Clinton as the clear front-runner and that may be true, but there is no better way to piss off Sanders' supporters than by pretending that it's all over. Things could change at the convention, it's not bloody likely, but not impossible. I don't pretend to understand how the convex-oh, wait, I do pretend to understand it. The whole thing seems to work like the island in Lord of the Flies; anything can happen. 

The point is it's not official yet, so maybe we could all stop alienating each other? Judging by the increasingly angry and paranoid Facebook conspiracy theories, a significant chuck of the left seems prepared to sit back and let Trump have the election because they don't like the ridiculous rules by which the DNC assigns delegates.   
Except didn't they and won't it? Unless Snopes is lying to us and
if the internet can't be trusted, I don't know what to believe in anymore.
You know, if you're going to do
something, now would be a good time...
And look at this. According to the Guardian, not only are Clinton and Trump polling super-close in a hypothetical match-up (which again, assumes she's the nominee), Trump is actually ahead in some polls. I mean, holy shit everybody, it's time to start holding hands. What's it going to take for all of us to get along? Is there really no way Clinton and Sanders can't work together here? Why aren't they hopping on a unified ticket? Most of their platforms are the same, is this seriously about whose name goes first? Can't we just vote Clanders/Slinton?

Or I've got it, let's start a Kickstarter or something and buy something nice for the Vice Presidential residence, like a hot tub or a flatscreen. Look, either way half of us are just going to have to swallow our pride and pool our hatred to keep that leathery orange game show host out of office. It might not feel great but it's all we have at this point.
Yup, whoever agrees to step aside and run as VP will not only cast tie-breaking votes
in the Senate, but they'll also enjoy this game room complete with air hockey table.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Thin Veneer of Civilization

You can literally choke on your
sense of moral superiority.
We should all be vegetarians. It's healthy, ecologically sound and ethically preferable to bolt-gunning living, feeling animals and then devouring them. On the other hand, veggie burgers are gross. Try as we might to imitate the taste of animals using vegetables, science or both, it's almost always a horror show. Veggie-based efforts are usually dry, tasteless patties of disappointment, while science has only succeeded in giving us schmeat, the cow you can eat while it watches you with its black, uncomprehending eyes.

But don't despair animal fans, Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat may have finally solved the carnivore's dilemma: how to make a vegan hamburger that bleeds.
Pictured: Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat set out
 to fulfill every vegetarian's dream of feeling the hot,
red blood of murdered animals running down their chins.  
Coincidentally, $5.99 was the price of
their short-lived wet asparagus beverage
and that went over pretty well, didn't it?
I think the phrase you're looking for is 'what the shit?' Yeah, the ridiculously named Beyond Burger, is mostly made out of pea protein and contains a mix of canola, coconut and sunflower oils colored with pulverized beets to simulate the vermillion dripping fat and blood that all meat-lovers crave and all vegetarians long for. They'll be test marketing the ground-up vegetable carcass at Whole Foods in Boulder, Colorado where a package of two, four-ounce patties will sell for $5.99. While that's like four times the price of ground beef anywhere else, keep in mind that this is Whole Foods we're talking about, and it's not like anyone's going to notice.

Huh...I wonder why they picked
Colorado to test market a new
vegan hamburg-ooohhhh....right.
Here's what an actual vegetarian had to say about the cruelty-free, yet cruelty-simulated bleeding veggie burger:

"[It] tasted and felt like any other burger, and on some level I just want to be able to eat the same way everybody else eats."

-Tom Rich, Whole Foods VP
of Purchasing, Distribution and
Sadness for the Colorado Region

Above: Replicators. We could, nay, should
be enjoying them now. C'mon science!
I think what he's talking about here is what marketing people would refer to unappetizingly as the mouth-feel of meat, and if Ethan Brown has managed to pull if off, that's super, I'm in. I'm kind of tired of feeling like an cold, unfeeling monster just because I take the odd trip to In N' Out. We live in the future, shouldn't there be convincing yet guilt free meat available to us by now? 3-D printers already exist, how much longer do we have to wait for our extruded protein paste?

Of course, these efforts to simulate meat right down to the hot, dripping blood that contains the life essence of our prey, do kind of serve as an unsettling reminder. It's as though despite the trappings of civilization, some primitive part of us just wants to gnaw and tear at the raw flesh of an animal with our teeth like the un-evolved savages we are.
Just add Twitter and pants and you've got us.

Friday, May 20, 2016

In further robotic disappointments...

Hey, wait a minute, did a company in Mountainview California just rip-off Anbot, China's super-unintimidating robot? Lookit this:
I don't know about you but I'm beginning to like our chances in the robot uprising.
It also helps if the suspect is
the lower half of a mannequin.
The robot on the left is Anbot while the one on the right is-huh? You don't know what I'm talking about? Seriously? Here, click on this to catch up...back? No. I thought not. Let me refresh your memory: Anbot is a security robot built by China's National Defense University. And by security robot, I mean this thing patrols the street, assuming they're sufficiently flat. It can, if need be, tase a suspect and apprehend them with it's gripping arm, if said suspect stands around while a remote operator lines the thing up properly.

Its most useful feature is probably its ability to call the real cops for you because for real, this thing is a glorified Roomba. A Roomba with a taser. Roomba's don't have tasers, right?
"Freeze creep. Dead or alive, you're coming with me."
Like, a high-end sex toy,
but still...a sex toy.
As for which robot is the original, there were presumably Knightscopes 1-4 at some point, so I'm thinking that the Anbot is the knock-off. Knightscope lacks Anbot's electro-shock move and claw but instead relies mostly on the intimidation factor that comes along with looking like a 5 foot sex-toy. Here's what the website has to say for itself:

"If a marked law enforcement vehicle were placed in front of your facility, criminal behavior would dramatically change. Weighting in at 300 lbs and standing 5 feet tall and 3 feet wide, the K5 balances a commanding physical presence with an absolutely fascinating technology that provides a positive "state-of-the-art" image for your operations."

Although in their defense, a human
security guard would be only
marginally more intimidating.
So it kind of sounds like Knightscope knows that their crime-fighting robots is functionally useless. Yeah, it can talk to your iPhone and tell you your business or whatever is being broken into but its abilities are otherwise limited to calling for help and um, looking "state-of-the-art" (quotation marks theirs). Also, like Anbot, it will be completely stymied by stairs and is probably easily tip-over-able. So they're kind of asking us to just go ahead and take their word for it that would-be criminals will be so intimidated by the sight of a giant rolling personal massager barreling towards them that they'll simply soil themselves and run away.

I don't know how much a Knightscope costs, and the website just tells you to contact their 'sales team' so they can explain to you why you need this ridiculous mecha-dildo so I can't say with any authority whether it's worth it. But since we've never let information stand in the way of forming an opinion, I'm going to call bullshit on this. If you're going to build a crime scarecrow, you can at least go through the trouble of making it look like it can goddamn end criminals rather than just gently stimulating their erogenous zones.
Above: Knightscope 5 may never replace human security
guards, but it sure can leave them satisfied and begging for more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Mike Webb: Cyber-Cop!

You'd think that after loosing the Republican primary election for Virginia's 8th district, Congressional Candidate Mike Webb would have, you know packed it in, but you would be mistaken. Instead he pressed on undaunted, even suggesting that his rival, Matt Warvo, had sabotaged him. His proof? This screen shot:
Ha! Got you Matt Warvo, I see right through
your-huh? hang on...zoom in and enhance.
Well that's just embarrassing.
I mean, Yahoo? C'mon.
Yes, we may never know how fellow Republican Matt Warvo was undermining Webb's campaign because now all anyone can talk about are the porn sites Webb was apparently just enjoying moments before posting his schadenfreude-heavy explanation of how come he just lost a primary. Porn sites with the phrases "Layla Riviera Tight Bo" (where Bo is presumably 'booty') and "Ivone Sexy Amateur" in the titles. You know, I'm beginning to feel like Matt Warvo wouldn't have needed to sabotage this guy.

"Hi there, I'm here to amateurishly,
yet sexily repair your HVAC unit."
You know, in the interest of fairness I feel compelled to point out that we could totally be misreading this. I mean, it could very well be that he was looking at "Layla Riviera Tight Botox" and "Ivone Sexy Amateur HVAC Service and Repair." We may never know, although instead of just admitting that he was simply enjoying himself as man is oft want to do and in a post-climatic stupor failed to close all his tabs, Webb went and wrote a crazy explanation. Like crazy.

Most of his mea not-at-all culpa takes the form of a letter he wrote to a blogger in which explained that he wasn't looking at the pornography, but rather testing the 'pornographic world' for 'evil operators' who might be trying to infiltrate the Federal Election Committee's servers. In many ways, Mike Webb is an American hero.
"Yes I was looking at porn, but I was looking at porn
to protect voter information. You're welcome, America."

-Congressional candidate and 
noted masterbator, Mike Webb
Not that the GOP doesn't have a huge
tolerance for bullshit and self-delusion.
But I have some questions. Like, don't they have people for this? The government I mean? Isn't there a cyber-crimes division at the FBI? And even if there isn't, is it really up to an unsuccessful GOP nominee from Virginia to protect us from the evil operators? Also, does he think the voters are idiots? Because the internet loves porn, Webb's fiasco actually increased his Facebook likes by 25% and I guess he's still running as an independent but do we have to all pretend that he's not full of shit?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Today in people who are not a king...

A special thanks goes out to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for clarifying that President Obama is not a king. Behold:
Yes. True. Not a king. Also, Texas is not a country
and has to abide by Federal law so, shut up maybe?
Oh, and he's also into putting the
Ten Commandments on courthouse
lawns, so yeah, all around toolbox.
Who said who's not a what now? I'm glad I pretended you asked. The who is Texas' AG, and jerk Greg Abbott, who you might remember as the guy who tried to re-ban gay marriage in Texas by cleverly pointing out that baby-making requires both thingamajig and a hootenanny and therefore the state was totally within its rights to prevent same-sex couples from enjoying equal protection under the law. Obviously this didn't work because his argument was preposterous and we have a Supreme Court ruling but he's back now and going after transgender kids.

Above: conservatives, right now
over this whole bathroom thing.
Yup, his tweet up there about how the President isn't a king is in response to a letter sent out by the administration and signed off on by officials from both the Departments of Justice and Education. It instructs schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom appropriate to their gender identity citing Title IX of the Civil Rights Act which protects against discrimination based on sex. Yes, the bathroom thing. Again. And it's why the Right is throwing one of their trademark pseudo-religious and borderline successionist tantrums.

Here, check out some of the tyrannical demands being brutally imposed on Texas:

You guys like Federal funds, right?
"As a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities...A school's...obligation to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex requires schools to provide transgender students equal access to educational programs and activities even in circumstances in which other students, parents, or community members raise objections of concerns." 

No equal access, no funding. Sounds pretty Civil Rights Act-y to me, clearly these are the demands of a despot. The letter continues: "As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others' discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages particular class of students."
"But then what's the point of being a white, Christian, cis-gendered
male if everybody doesn't have to accommodate your discomfort?"
-Greg Abbott's entire argument
Pictured: Noted King and
Tyrant Barack Obama.
So how exactly is the President acting all king-like? Is he referring to himself as 'we?' Is he prancing about the Oval Office in a powdered wig and ermine-trimmed robe? No, he's just asking that schools comply the Civil Rights Act. The act bars discrimination based on sex, which is totally what we're talking about here. Sure, transgender wasn't a box you could check back in 1964, the term didn't exist at the time, but nobody's rewriting the Act, they're just applying it transgender students in order to protect them from harassment which is exactly what the Civil Rights Act is for.

What's the big goddamned deal? They're not asking Texas to grow up and stop telling kids that dinosaurs hung out with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden or to stop rolling their eyes whenever they say evolution. We're asking them to maybe stop being part of the super-hostile environment that makes life miserable for transgender students and lay off about the 'assigned at birth bathroom' thing. It costs them nothing or rather would if they weren't such unrelenting asshats about this.
Although since we're on it,
maybe knock that off too?
Not pictured: The Governor.
Here, check out what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick
had to say about-wait, Lieutenant Governor? Yeah, ok, let's hear what the 'back-up' Governor of Texas has to say about all this:

"Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver. We will not yield to blackmail from the president of the United States."

-Dan Patrick, not the Governor 
chiming in about school funding

Um...First of all, I'm confused. Like, I'm not a biblical scholar, but is Dan Patrick Judas in this scenario? Like, Judas if instead of selling out Jesus, he refused school funding so he could continue acting like a bitter transphobic hysteric.
Maybe he's unclear about how much Federal school funding Texas gets.
I think it's like $10 billion and while I'm not super-clear on the exchange rate between
dollars and 1st century Roman Sesterce, I think he's making a pretty phenomenal mistake.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Becuase branding, that's why.

Look, I'm a grown-ass man who enjoys video games, so please understand that when I say 'please stop trying to make movies out of video games,' I mean it as constructive criticism. Here, check this out. In a stroke of synergistic cross-marketing nostalgia-milking, Atari has teamed up with a production company to create movie versions of two of their classic, narrative-less video games, Centipede and Missile Command.
"The idea tests very well among late-middle-aged comic book store 
owners who restore classic arcade machines in their spare time."
-Film industry execs growing 
the shit out of their brands
It should be noted that this doesn't
work on actual turtles. Do not attempt. 
The obvious question here is 'holy shit, why?' And I'm not sure there's a great answer for this. First of all, video games don't have the best track record for being movie source material. Street Fighter, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Super Mario Bros, were all varying degrees of terrible and those were based on really good games that at least have story elements to draw upon. Street Fighter has magic karate, Final Fantasy games have wizards and rideable chickens and Super Mario is, at its heart, a heart-warming tale of heroic turtle abuse.

Name recognition and cocaine.
Let's not forget about cocaine.
Sure, there have been some successful, if not necessarily good movies based on video games. There's been like 15 Resident Evils even though the world ended back in part 3. And the trailer for Assassin's Creed: The Game: The Movie came out this week and yeah it's probably two-hours of parkour and careful choreographed fights, but it's coming from a decent series with a solid premise so it might not be objective garbage. I guess my issue is more about how they're banking on name recognition alone.

There is nothing about these games to suggest a narrative arc. They, like most ancient Atari games weren't about story, they were just about getting buzzed bar patrons to feed quarters into the slots and then testing their reflexes and ability to keep a grip a joystick slick with pizza grease. Then they just increased the level of difficulty until players ran out of lives or money or patience and then went back to doing whatever people in the 1980's did.
"This sucks...hey, who wants to do some blow
and wait around for someone to invent MTV?"
Sorry, that's not fair. Video slots tell
a story about addiction and sadness.
If you look at the box-art on the home version of Centipede you might be able to piece together a rudimentary storyline based around a chubby gnome or a hobbit or something using a magic wand to murder insects but that's it. There's nothing in the game to imply a narrative. Games back then didn't need one anymore than pinball machines or video slots do, but I can't imagine that will stop Atari from churning out The Centipede Chronicles: Rise of the Triangle Elf. In fact, I don't think anything can stop that now.

How much do you want to bet the trailer
features 99 Luftballons? All the money?
I suppose Missile Command had a little more to go on. You're like at NORAD or something and trying to repel a Soviet nuclear strike and that's cool. Movies right now are big into scenes of mass destruction and explosions. The only problem here is that like all games back then it didn't really have an ending. You just faced faster and faster waves of missiles until you couldn't keep up anymore and had to watch helplessly as your cities burned one by one and then, game over. So, War Games if it ended in nuclear war instead of making out.

I get that the film industry is grasping desperately at ways to stay relevant in the face of competition from streaming services and their taut, well-written serial dramas with intricate plots and full frontal nudity, but I'm not sure thirty-six year old bar-diversion nostalgia is the best way to go about it. Sure, I'm not like a movie executive, but I think my prediction of disastrous box-office losses will be borne out here. Prove me wrong guys, prove me wrong.
It's like they heard the dull wet thud that Adam Sandler's
Pixels made last year and say, 'yes, let's ride that train. All the way.'