Monday, June 27, 2016

I'll never wash these lungs again!

So my friends were all, 'Hey, wanna come see a Star Trek opera tonight?' And I was like 'A Star Trek opera? Sure, there's no way that could be ridiculous'...and so I went and we got our picture taken with Q, but we'll get to that.
For those unfamiliar with Star Trek, Q was sort of a magical space
wizard who occasionally showed up with a mariachi band. No, really.
At least the opera wasn't in Klingon,
which is also a thing that exists.
That's right, goddamn Q directed a staged workshop of Menagerie: The Trial of Spock at UC Santa Cruz. As a production in progress we only saw the first act, and there were no sets of costumes, just an orchestra and people opera-ing which, is actually somewhat outside my wheelhouse, but the nerd angle was enough to pull me in. It was, well is was kind know, it was an opera where people sing about engaging the warp drive and scanning for life forms, so it was weird. Not bad weird mind you, but weird.

One beep for 'yes,' two beeps for 'no'
and three beeps for 'just let me die.'
The story was based on the original series two-part episode 'The Menagerie,' but on the off chance that you live a full and active life, un-obsessed with the plot details of Star Trek episodes, I'll refresh your memory. It's the one where Captain Pike, the Enterprise's former captain, is horribly injured and must spend the rest of his life motionless, in some kind of life-support box and can only communicate with beeps. Spock, just trying to do his friend a solid, shanghais the ship and sets a course for a forbidden planet full of telepathic aliens who will use their powers to create an illusion for Pike where he can live out his days making out with some woman he met once, like eleven years prior. Because Star Trek. 

"We prefer the term, 'fancy'
thank you very much."
-Monocle and Top Hat Guy

Anyway, like I said, the show isn't finished and what I saw was (incredibly) put together in just a few days as a way to get the word out and hopefully attract producers, but it could really be a thing. The production team stuck around afterwards and took questions, one of which was, hey, why a Star Trek Opera? And their answer was why not? The music director, Ben Leeds Carson pointed out that for most of its existence opera was popular entertainment for everybody and that it's only recently that we think of it as a pursuit for the monocle and top hat crowd. So why not embrace pop culture and make some new opera fans?

Cool, right? Ok, so back to Q. I'm sorry to say that we were totally those people. I'm not proud of it, but after the Q and A session (sorry, that's what they actually called it), we went and stood in line to get our pictures taken with John de Lancie, who, I don't know, probably just wanted to go home but was totally a good sport about it.
Above: My pal Kiley, me and Mr. John de Lancie all breathing the same air.
Nitrogen mostly, with just enough oxygen that we didn't die. Oh, and some
argon, but nobody really cares about that, the point is Q. I mean, Q!

Friday, June 24, 2016


Well that sucked. I mean, I'm not like a stock-market guy, and I don't have a portfolio or follow the NASDAQ's or whatever, but I gather that this thing is causing a monumental economic shitstorm. What thing? You know, Britain's exit from the EU. Huh? No. I'm not going to say it. It's a terrible portmanteau and you can't make me use it.
"It's as if millions of investors suddenly
cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."
'For when you can't be bothered...'
So like most Americans chiming in on the UK's vote to leave the European Union, I don't understand it. Like, I get that it's an international political and economic organization that operates using a supernational and intergovernmental system and works to ensure the free movement of people, goods and services between the member states, but that's just because I read the wikipedia article. I don't, in any useful way, grasp the situation but that's fine because I'm not Brittish.

On the other hand, Leave did have the
man behind the Ministry of Silly Walks...
What I do get is that the 'stay in the EU' camp had more and smarter celebrity supporters including Stephen Hawking, Sir Ian McKellen, J.K. Rowling, Idris Elba and Barack Obama. Team 'let's get out' had John Clease, Micheal Caine and Joan Collins and they're great and all but they also have Vladimir Putin and he stole Crimea. Like, straight up took it over. And yeah, I get that going by which famous people support your cause is like the height of ignorance and a sign that one is politically disengaged, but holy shit, when Donald Trump is on your side it's probably time to reevaluate.

Oh yes, Donald Trump who's in Scotland right now Tweeting at us at how wild they're all going. But I think he's confused about why they're shouting, because Scotland was overwhelmingly in favor of staying in the EU and is now talking about seceding from the UK over this vote. Yes, again.
What's he doing there anyway? don't suppose he's campaigning do you?
 I mean someone on his staff would have told him Scotland's not a state, right?
"Oh shit, if this all falls apart we're
going to have to get real jobs."
Like I said, I don't get the particulars here, but then I suspect it's fairly complicated and that not everyone who voted really sees the whole picture either. The Euro and the Pound totally took a dive today which-sorry, I shouldn't try to use economy lingo, British money and EU money became uh...less money today because investors don't know what to make of either's future. People are freaking out and I'm not sure that being angry about regulation or immigrants is really a good enough reason to plunge the planet into turmoil.

Ugh...remember these assholes?
No one knows how this will effect the UK's economy or if the EU will still be around in ten years and that has international repercussions that we'll all have to deal with. I mean, are complex multi-national organizations and global politics really the kind of thing you can sum up with a campaign ad or on a button? Am I like a total fascist for thinking that not everything should be up for a show of hands? Probably. But remember Prop-8? Like what the shit was that?

Look, I don't want to be a jerk, but sometimes just having an opinion about something like say, gay marriage or the complex interconnected web of the global economy is not the same thing as having an informed opinion from which to make sound decisions. 
"What? Ridiculous! We made signs and everything..."
-People who believe in things

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Today in Satyagraha...

What the hell is satyagraha? you ask. I looked it up and it's sanskrit for non-violent insistence on the truth. Ok, cool, but why is Nancy Pelosi talking about it on CSPAN? Because she and other Democratic Congresspeople and even some Senators are participating in a sit-in organized by Georgia Congressman John Lewis to force House Republicans to allow a vote in some gun control measures kind of like the ones the GOP torpedoed on Monday.
Also she's dropping sanskrit because she represents
the Bay Area and that's just how people talk out here.
"If there's one thing the American
people admire, it technicalities."

-Ted Poe, (R) Texas
Ok, but why the shitty camera? Because when the sit-in started Republican Congressman Ted Poe declared a recess and had the cameras shut off. However, because we live in the future everyone pulled out their cellphones and did a live feed because fuck yeah. Look, procedurally Poe might have been correct. I guess if you're not congressing, then the session should technically go into recess, and that's what Poe did. But this wasn't so much about parliamentary procedure as it was about sour grapes. Classy. Oh, and did I mention that John Lewis organized this? Because he did.

I mention it because Congressman Lewis is a 76 year-old civil rights activist who used to hold sit-ins back in the 60's to protest segregation and often got the shit kicked out of him for his trouble. And now Ted Poe has turned the cameras off on him while he was trying to get Republicans to allow a vote the Democrats are pretty sure they'll lose. Yeah, lose. The reason the GOP can gavel the cameras off in the first place is that they have a majority in the House and could totally kill these bills if put up for a vote, so why the sit-in?
Here's a picture of that time John Lewis suffered
a skull fracture while marching for civil rights.
Congressman John Lewis apparently
forgetting the the GOP is biologically
incapable of feeling shame.
Why shame of course! If they allow a vote, then the GOP will be voting 'no' on a couple of measures that have overwhelming popular support but exactly 0% support from the NRA who as we've discussed, basically own them. If they don't allow the vote they're the stubborn, gun-loving jerks who stood in the way of democracy and made an elderly civil rights activist sit on the floor all night. In the mean time, the Democrats are the tech savvy rebels fighting the good fight and Periscoping about satyagraha on CSPAN.

The only way something gets passed tonight is if Speaker Paul Ryan shows up at like 10 o'clock on a Wednesday night, alone, and lets a bunch of Democrats who've been shit-talking him since noon vote unopposed on bills he can't support. Anyway, that's not super-likely so the Democrats might want to order Thai or something, between the sit-in and the Big Bang Theory marathon on TBS, I think Paul Ryan's staying in.
"Public shame for myself and my party?
In an election year? Sure, I'll be right there!"

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Other Hobby Lobby

Holy shit, GOP Senators love their gun lobby money. Loooove it. So much so that they blocked four different measures (including two proposed by Republicans) today that would have expanded background checks, closed gun show and internet sales loopholes and made it more difficult for people with mental health problems to buy guns.
Normally these would be subject to restrictions and background checks but
since the're on a folding table in a convention center, go nuts. Well, not mentally
unstable of course...or do, it's cool. Apparently we don't give a shit either way.
"No, for the last time we have no
shame, and I wish you'd stop asking."
-Senate Republicans
And yeah, like I know nobody thought these measures were going to pass but public support is super high, like 92% when it comes to expanded background checks and 85% when it comes to preventing felons and people with mental issues that might make them dangerous. Harry Reid today, in what has become a sort of tradition of impotently shaming Republican senators, pointed out that those poll numbers include Republicans. So an overwhelming majority of Americans support tougher gun control laws but still all four measures were defeated today. What the hell, right?

In fairness they'd need to pass like a dozen
 new gun laws to mitigate this much crazy.
Like, this should have been an opportunity for the GOP to look like rational people while at the same time doing something politically popular. Why then would they instead go completely against the public sentiment at a time when they're struggling to convince the country that they're not a disorganized mess of out-of-touch lunatics being bullied by a former gameshow host? Hang on, you don't suppose that they're so thoroughly owned by the NRA that they'd actually vote not only against their conscience but against their better interests?

Pictured: NRA President Wayne
LaPierre and the gun he caresses
lovingly in the privacy of his own home.

Yeah, ok, I know we already know all this and I get that it's not something that's going to change anytime soon, but it's infuriating, isn't it? It seems so unreal that the NRA can exercise so much control over elected officials that we can't get important legislation passed. I mean, they're essentially a club. A club with money and lobbyists, but still, a club. A group of people dedicated to the hobby of owning and, I suspect, gently caressing, firearms. You know, for sexual gratification? And it just seems so undemocra-huh? What? Hey, what firearm enthusiasts do with their guns is their own business. There's no judgement here. The point I'm trying to make is that we have serious problems when we allow a hobby group to dictate policy.

You know, other fan clubs don't do this sort of thing. Trekkies, comic book fans, cosplayers, they don't buy senators, so how come we're cool with the NRA doing it? Could you imagine if Bronies wielded this kind of power? Is that the kind of world you want to live in?
Although I suppose we'd have tougher gun control and more grown-ass
men dressing up like magical friendship ponies, so really it's kind of win/win.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Zoltan Istvan: The Pro-Cyborg Candidate

I'm not saying that Zoltan Istvan wouldn't make a great President or that he won't cure death and make us all immortal but I am saying that if he'd like to be taken seriously in either role, maybe he should stop driving around in a coffin-bus.
Yes a coffin-bus. It's a bus shaped like a coffin and yet
he's not the craziest person running for President right now.
"It must be some kind of tele-pornic
masturbatulator! Fantastic!"
-1900's Guy
Look, I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but even Istvan has to admit that coffin-bus isn't super-presidential. It doesn't exactly scream 'you can trust me with the missile codes,' but then that's not what this is about. Istvan's actual goal is to-huh? Wait, hang on, exactly which part are you having a hard time with, the running for President thing or the bus? Because both sound kind of crazy town. Or are they? Well yes, obviously, but look at our computers and cellphones. These magic slabs of glass and plastic let us talk to each other over vast differences, give us access to the sum of human knowledge and can even be used to look up pictures of people doin' it. That would have sounded like sorcery to people a hundred years ago but then that's Istvan's point. 

No, not the porn-slabs, the future. Zoltan Istvan isn't running for President because this election cycle isn't circus-y enough already, he's running to call attention to the cause of transhumanism and he's doing it by driving around the country in The Immortality Bus and explaining to people just what the hell transhumanism is.
Although I suspect that whoever designed his website
might have thought he was running for Terminator.
We had a choice to address the problems
we face as a nation or to come up with
hilarious selfie-filters. Guess which won?
Transhumanism, as a philosophy, advocates human evolution and improvement by biological or technological means. Cool right? Yes, but it's also a political party with Zoltan Istvan as their 2016 Presidential candidate. He's sort of like their Bernie Sanders but instead of income equality, Istvan is outraged at the fact that people get old and die. According to the Transhumanist Party's website, they want to put science and technology first instead of whatever the hell our national priorities are now. Anger and Snapchat? It's hard to tell. Anyway, check out the Transhumanist Party's website, specifically their Bill of Rights. 

I keeping my eye on you...
You should totally click on the link and read it for yourself, but I'll sum up. Basically it states that all humans, sentient artificial intelligences, cyborgs and advanced sapient life forms are entitled to extended life and that it's the government's job to make that happen up to and including protecting us from the threats posed by war, global warming and confusingly, artificial intelligence. I guess robots are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness unless it looks like they might turn on us, then it's open season on those guys.

What could possibly go wrong?
If you can get past the part about cyborgs, it some of it sounds pretty reasonable. Transhumanists believe in equal rights, they're anti-war, sure they want to make us all immortal, but why is that so out there? Who wouldn't want to live forever? I mean here is a political party that doesn't want to stop with universal healthcare, they want to eliminate aging, disease and illness entirely which, assuming the planet has infinite space and resources, seems like a swell idea.

We do have infinite space and resources right? Huh? No? Oh. Well that does seem like a problem, but not necessarily an insurmountable one. Article 5 of the Transhumanist Bill of Rights specifically calls for 'all nations and governments to embrace and fund space travel...' You know, just in case we fuck up this planet and need a new one.
"So immortality, cyborgs and warp drive. No problem President Istvan,
anything else we can do for you? A unified field theory, or maybe a snack?"
On the other hand, immortality might
be a more achievable goal than figuring
out whatever's wrong with these people.
If my tone sounds a little, you know, condescending and rude it's not that I disagree with all the Transhumanist's goals. I totally think they have some good ideas. Science and technology should absolutely be where we focus our resources, but I'm not convinced that shooting for immortality is the best use of our time. Maybe start with, I don't know, cancer? Or maybe social issues like violence and bigotry? Don't get me wrong, I'm all for having my brain transferred into some kind of deathless cyborg body someday, I'm just not sure I'm ready to get behind a guy driving around in a coffin-bus.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Let's add insult to incredulity!

Remember them? McCain and the Tina Fey
impression that were almost in charge of
the whole country? Shit, that was too close.
So emotions are running high right now and that's totally reasonable but c'mon, for real. Huh? For real what? Did you not see what John McCain said? He told a bunch of reporters that-huh? What'd ya mean, who? John McCain, he ran for President against Barack Obama back in 2008 and, you know, lost? Anyway, I sort of though he was coming around to being a person after he expressed his shock and horror over the Orlando Massacre and supported LGBT protections in the defense reauthorization bill, but then he said this horrible thing to some reporters earlier today:

"I'm sorry, would you say that again?
I thought you said this was all my fault
and that can't possible be what you meant."
"Barack Obama is directly responsible for it [the massacre] because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama's failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama."

 -John McCain on how
the President

Pictured: Basically what McCain is trying
to do with his clarifying statement.
Um, what about the guy with the gun? I mean, yikes, right? You can't un-say something like that. There's no amount of clarifying statement that can walk back holding the President responsible for a massacre. Anyway, later McCain issued a statement in which he clarified that he wasn't saying that the President was personally responsible, just his actions. Did I mention that this was all going on while the President was in Orlando comforting the victims' families?

"I misspoke. I did not mean to imply that the President was personally responsible. I was referring to President Obama's national security decisions, not the President himself."

Although I suspect Gilly is
profoundly disappointed in him.
Ok, we all misspeak sometimes. Like when you say 'affect' when you mean 'effect' or when someone drops 'impactfulness' into a sentence and then carries on like they didn't just commit a crime against the english language. But he didn't imply anything. His exact words were "Barack Obama is directly responsible..." Look, I don't think John McCain's a bad person, I mean, he probably loves his family and I don't know, his dog. And yeah this is a difficult time for everybody but holy shit. I mean holy shit. By passing this off as a verbal gaffe he's kind of calling us idiots; adding insult to incredulity. He's on tape...or audio file, I guess, saying just that and it's all over the internet. Forever.

I'm not like a Senator or anything but I think the classy thing here might be for him to admit that he went way too far and apologize. Profusely. To everyone in the world.
In turn. Line forms to the left.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Chris W. Cox: Spin Wizard

"Nope, political correctness.
Now don't you all feel like idiots?"
-NRA spin wizard 
Chris W. Cox
And there it is. It's not from Wayne LaPierre, but it is a response from the NRA to Sunday morning's massacre and it turns out we got it all wrong. According to Chris W. Cox, Chief lobbyist and political strategist for America's favorite firearms fan club, it turns out that the problem isn't the ridiculous ease with which anyone can lay their hands on assault rifles that's the problem, it's political correctness which is surprising because I'd read that Omar Mateen used an assault rifle to kill or injure a hundred people, but I guess I've just been listening to the liberal media.

They're like any other piece of sporting
equipment...any piece of semi-automatic
sporting equipment with 30-round magazines.
I know right? It's not that we, as a country, have a weird obsession with violence and an even weirder insistence that an assault rifle is sporting equipment and not  an assault rifle, it's that the President didn't uh...actually I'm not sure what Cox is suggesting here. I mean, he talks a lot about how awesome assault rifles are and how banning them didn't make a difference, but they were banned between 1994 and 2004 and, I don't know, doesn't it seem like we have a shit ton more mass murders involving them now that they're easier to get a hold of?

Besides, if we ban assault rifles again,
what are people like Ted Nugent
supposed to recklessly brandish?
The NRA says no, but then they would right? Like, it's literally Cox's job to point to anything other than lax gun laws as a contributing factor in gun violence.

"It's time for us to admit that radical Islam is a hate crime waiting to happen. The only way to defeat them is to destroy them--not destroy the right of law-abiding Americans to defend ourselves."

-Chris W. Cox on how we should totally defeat 
the're not pro-terrorist are you?

"I'm sorry, is the NRA complaining that
we're not being Big-Brother-y enough?"

-The FBI, incredulously
Cox also said that terrorists aren't deterred by bans, but since they're not banned anymore I guess we'll never know. He went on to suggest that the FBI, who investigated Mateen, didn't do anything to prevent this because of the 'Obama administration's political correctness' but I kind of get the impression that they didn't do anything because Mateen was one of hundreds of people on their 'to keep an eye on list' and since apparently buying an arsenal isn't in itself a crime and resources are limited he slipped past them.

"Um, let me think about that, no we shouldn't."
-Some gun enthusiast

Look, I'm climbing up on the soap box here but for real, in what sporting or home defense scenarios are one going to need an AR-15? The only ones that spring to mind are ones in which they're hunting man, the most dangerous game, or that they're defending their homes from an ATF raid both of which seem problematic and point to bigger problems in one's life. Why then are we totally cool with these things being manufactured in the first place? Shouldn't public safety be just a little higher on the priority list than gun enthusiasts' right to lethal sporting goods?

Like, assault rifles seem to only have one possible use and that's mass-murder...or maybe defending yourself against Predator, but that's not super-likely, so maybe we could talk about some reasonable restrictions?
Ok, if Predator is in the mix fine, I'll back off on the assault rifles but don't forget, he
has lasers, blade discs and a cloaking device, so you're probably pretty screwed either way.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Today in 'I can't even...'

So...what'd you do this weekend? Did you stare helpless and horrorstruck at the vile and meaningless acts of violence people are capable of? Hey, me too! I can't even. I can't even. But what I can talk about is the stupid that inevitably follows horrible every time.
And now here is a picture of
a baby deer nuzzling a kitten.
Pictured: NRA President Wayne LaPierre
and the face hole he's sure to be spouting
ridiculous bullshit from any minute now.
Like, look at this, and spoiler alert, it's not a link to a thing about Wayne LaPierre. You think you know me so, this is a link to the shitty things Donald Trump is saying about how yesterday's massacre happened because of immigration. And yes, I know that Donald Trump was going to be your second guess.

"The killer...was born in Afghan of Afghan parents who immigrated to the United States..."
-Donald Trump on the
killer, Omar Mat-wait, what?

It's a cozy pop of color that makes a great
addition to any room, but it's not a country.
Yeah, a quick search of Wikipedia or really any news website in the last 24 hours will show universal agreement that Mateen was born in New York, specifically Long Island making him exactly as American as Trump who was born in Queens. Also, Afghan is not the name of a country, it's the name of a blanket. And apparently he was reading from a teleprompter for once meaning someone would have had to type these remarks out in advance, so you'd think they'd have had time to look these things up? 

Seriously, it takes like a second.
Like, it's the one supporting 'fact' upon which he based his entire anti-immigrant screed, doesn't he have a staff for this? Or internet access? Anyway, Trump went on to talk about how if he were President none of this would have happened because he would have banned all immigration from Muslim-y countries after the San Bernardino shooting. Countries like Afghan I suppose.

"The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here. This is a fact and it's a fact that we need to talk about. We have a dysfunctional immigration system which does not permit us to know who we let into our country and it doesn't permit us to protect our citizens properly."
"That's great. What else would you have done differently
if you were the president Donald? I'm just dying to know."

-The actual President
Although Biff Tannen is essentially
Donald maybe? 
So first of all, the bottom line shouldn't come in paragraph eight of a sixty-one paragraph speech. Secondly, he's making a sort of Back to the Future argument here. Ok, so if his parents never immigrated to the U.S. Sateen wouldn't have been born here. Fine, and if his parents hadn't met, Mateen would have never been born at all and would simply fade out of photos. Problem solved. But unless Tump's got a DeLorean and a Mr. Fusion, I'm not sure why he's bringing this up. Unless... 

"An esoteric but ultimately apt
analogy...qwaaa qwa qwaa!"
Do you suppose he's trying to remind us that like the San Bernardino shooting, there was an Islamic extremist connection to yesterday's attacks? Yeah, both massacres were carried out by people claiming to be acting on behalf of jihadists but that's not the same thing as a link between Islam and violence. Blaming all Muslims for the horrible things Islamist groups would be like blaming all birds for crimes committed by The Penguin. His crimes might be bird-themed, but that doesn't make other birds guilty by association. That's just racist...birdist? Whatever. 

Say, you know what a more relevant connection might be? One of the guns Mateen used, the AR-15 was the same kind used in the San Bernardino attack. And it was also the kind used in the mass-shooting at the movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado back in 2012, the other 2012 mass shooting in Newton Connecticut and the shooting at a community college in Roseburg Oregon last year, none of which were Islamist-related. So maybe we should look into banning those? You know, again?
Without reading the article, I'm going to guess it's because it can be used to kill lots of
people very quickly and because we have a serious problem standing up to the gun lobby.

In continuing horror...
Probably not. But here're some puppies.

Oh and get this, there's an 'active shooter' right now in West Virginia. Police are looking for them, but you know, someone with a gun, running around shooting. Like, can we not go a day?