Thursday, July 28, 2016

Today in nothing to see here...

Great, now the overlords are going
to think I'm some kind of poser.
That terrifying streak of fire and light that arced across the California sky last night foretelling future calamity and certain doom? Yeah, I missed it too, but it was apparently all over the internet. People posted videos and Tweeted about it. But did anyone think to call me? No. For all I know this could have been the vanguard of an alien invasion and instead of greeting our new overlords and pledging my undying loyalty to them in exchange for being spared the great culling, I was at home. Watching goddamn Netflix.

Crazy lights in the sky have long been associated with predictions of disaster and what with a super-contentius election coming up, it's hard not to see why everyone's a little on edge about this. But this is the 21st century; an enlightened age where such phenomena have rational, scientific explanations.
Pictured: a depiction of Haley's Comet from the Bayeux tapestry. Notice the
ignorant medieval English savages freaking out in the lower left. Pfft...idiots, right?
Not pictured: the impending Norman Conquest that would shortly befall them.
Thanks Newton...
Last night's sky-horror for instance was probably just space junk falling out of orbit. Lt. Colonel Martin O'Donnell from the U.S. Strategic Air Command says what people saw was wreckage from a Chinese rocket that was launched last month and is only now raining down upon our defenseless planet. And apparently this happens all the time, like all the time. The obvious question then is how come we never notice? Fortunately, Colonel O'Donnell has an explanation for that too:

"Something this big enters in an uncontrolled way probably once a month. Mostly they fall into the ocean-- the Earth is a big place. The chance that you get one at night, over the U.S. at a time when people look at the sky -- it is relatively low."

-Lt. Colonel Martin O'Donnell,
colonel-splaining it to us
Pictured: A grim portent of unbelievable foreboding and horror.
Or possibly space junk. I don't know, I'm not a scientist.
Above: Eat your heart out NORAD.
See? No reason to panic. This isn't a Deep Impact situation or an invasion, it's just the uncontrolled reentry of a piece of Chinese military equipment that no one at Strategic Air Command noticed until they happened to catch it on someone's Periscope feed. Look, I'm not a fan of the military-industrial whatever, so take this with a grain of salt, but it kind of sounds like we could cut back a little on our massive defense budget and just rely on social media for all our early warning needs. Did I just solve America's budget problems? You're welcome.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Spoiler Alert!

Ok, so this week might be kind of rough and not just because of the fart-in. It's the Demo-huh? No, we're not talking about the fart-in again. Here, click on this if you're that interested. Anyway, this week is the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia and not everybody is, you know, together on the whole Hillary Clinton thing.
Above: Bernie Sanders, taking one for the team.
Yeah, but you'd feel a little worse if
Trump won, right? I mean, c'mon...
Take for example Dr. Jill Stein, who's running on the Green Party ticket and hoping to sway some disaffected Bernie fans over to her side. Now you're probably asking yourself: Holy shit what is she doing? Here's what Stein told NPR:

"Put it this way, I will feel horrible if Donald Trump is elected, I will feel horrible if Hillary Clinton is elected, and I feel most horrible about a voting system that says: Here are two deadly choices, now pick your weapon of self-destruction."

-Dr. Jill Stein, picking perhaps the
worst possible time to make a point

Ok, so she's not wrong about the dangers of our entrenched, de-facto two-party system and the way the Democrats and Republicans have carved up the American electorate between them leaving no room for a viable third party, but do we have to do this right now? 
I'm just suggesting that we shouldn't underestimate the ability of conservative
white people who feel underappreciated to make disastrous choices. 
Yup, forever. I have a hard time
committing to new glasses, so
tattoos kind of blow my mind.
Dr. Stein is not delusional, she knows she won't be President but the hope is to get at least 5% of the vote which would put the Green Party on the ballot next time and that would be great, but it's just...Look, I get that it's easy for me to say this because I like Clinton and Sanders and if he won the nomination I'd totally be voting for him. Maybe I'd feel differently if I were a fervent Green Party fan or if I got a Feel the Bern tattoo and am now realizing that that'll be there forever, but since the two-party system isn't going to be crumbling anytime soon, could we maybe, I don't know, suck up and deal for one more election? You know, this is kind of a thing. The race I mean. Sure, it's early, but somehow Clinton and Trump are like super close in the polls which is befuddling since Trump is like, objectively terrible. 

And here we are, the candidates are neck and neck and I'm not saying that we shouldn't all vote our conscience or vote for the candidate we think will be the best choice. There's no such thing as a spoiler in a democracy, the votes belong to whomever has won the voter's support. But five percent might make the difference between a moderate Democrat and a Republican so rabid-foam unreasonable that Ted Cruz can't bring himself to get behind him. So let's just all think really hard about what we're doing.
I don't mean to imply that this was all Ralph Nader's
fault, but that 2.47% of the vote might have come in handy.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Better keep that nerd-belt buckled...

Spoiler alert: The past of the
future is here...again!
But...but...wah? Ok, look, I'm sorry about posting twice in a row about my fannish obsession with Star Trek, but in addition to the new movie, we nerds have been waiting to hear about the series which starts next year. There've been rumors and speculation about what the deal is. Is it another reboot, a next-next generation? Would it be set in the new movie continuity or the Prime timeline (vanilla canon)? What? And today we might have got some answers. Click here to see the teaser trailer released at Comic-Con.

"I can confirm that the show will
be set in space...maybe."

-Fuller, just fucking with us
Sigh. While show runner Bryan Fuller is still being cagey about the details, he did announce that the show will be called Star Trek: Discovery and that it would be set in the Prime timeline but he won't say when. So who cares? You might be asking yourself aloud. Well I can't hear you, but let's say that's what you said. The answer is nerds care. A lot. And thanks to our encyclopedic knowledge of trek minutia we can make some educated guesses from the teaser. Oh, and brace yourself, I'm about to lay down some geekery and I'm not sure you'll be able to respect me afterwards.

The titular Discovery (the starship in the trailer), isn't another Enterprise, but it isn't totally new either. Instead it looks a lot like some unused Ralph McQuarrie concept art for an un-produced Star Trek series from the 70's.
Fun fact: Ralph McQuarrie worked on the original Star Wars movies as well, which explains
why his concept looks like the Starship Enterprise got it on with an Imperial Star Destroyer.
Yeah ok, not that nerdy,
but close. damn close.
And that's fine, it's not my favorite, but I can get over it. The ship's registry number however is 1031; lower than Kirk's Enterprise suggesting that the series will be situated sometime before Captain Kirk but well after Captain Archer which, and I'm going to get super-speculatey here, might help explain why Paramount came down so hard on that fan production, Axanar. It was set during some pre-TOS war with the Klingons and I'm wondering if that's ground the new show will cover. Get me, I'm like a nerdier Sherlock Holmes.

And then evil Archer fought a Gorn
on a ship from the future of another
universe. Nope, I'm not making that up.
Anyway, I get that I'm totally making assumptions based on like a minute of teaser footage and I could be totally be misreading it, but the idea that this is another prequel is kind of a letdown. I didn't hate Star Trek: Enterprise, but it did tend to rely too heavily on references to other, better Star Trek episodes. Like, there was once a two-parter about how Klingons in the original series didn't have the forehead ridges but do on TNG. Turns out that it has to do with Khan and Data's creator's grandpa. Yeah, Star Trek was eating itself for awhile there.

It seems like Star Trek is about the future and when they keep going back to the past of the future, it kind of feels, you know, like the past...confused? Me too. But whatever, I suppose we should just have faith in the seriously amazing talents of Bryan Fuller and Nicholas Myers to put together something creative and awesome so finger crossed.
Yeah, I've got faith...faith of the heart. Holy shit,
I will never forgive them for that theme song.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Yup, Spock's crying again...

The Enterprise got seatbelts like three movies
ago, so you can stop making that joke now.
So obviously as a big huge nerd I went and saw the new Star Trek movie. I saw it and now I'm going to discuss it on my blog because voicing opinions about Star Trek is what the internet was built for. That and porn. As is traditional when I'm about to launch into a one-sided discussion about something particularly nerdy I give you the opportunity to bail. Now is that time, otherwise: nerd belts. Buckle'em. I'll let you know when I'm about to get spoilery.

Like I was saying, I saw Star Trek Beyond and I liked it, it was fun. Probably the best Star Trek movie since First Contact. It had a great sense of humor, more character drama and in a refreshing move for a summer action movie, didn't try to remind us of 9/11.
Holy shit movies, knock it off.
It'll never be not to soon.
It's the one where Picard and Worf save
Data by singing Gilbert and Sullivan.
No, really. Someone wrote this.
I've been kind of hot and cold on the re-boot Trek universe in general. The curmudgeon in me wants to complain about the changes J.J. Abrams made to canon, how they're kind of big dumb action movies that put special effects and explosions ahead of thought-provoking science fiction. But on the other hand they're, like, pretty good movies. Stupid as all hell, but enjoyable. You can even watch them with your friends and they'll still speak to you afterwards. Try that with Star Trek: Insurrection. I mean, holy shit.

"Save the day with meaningless sciencey
double-talk? Ach! Don't mind if I do!"
-Scotty
But Beyond managed to split the difference pretty well. Sure, there were explosions and Kirk rides around on a motorcycle, but there was also Spock ruminating on his own mortality and a bad guy with a philosophical beef with the Federation. There was some actual space exploration going on. We got some Spock and McCoy banter which had been sorely lacking in the earlier films, oh and technobabble. Not a lot, just enough to remind us that this is Star Trek. All in all, a good movie. I almost don't even want to nitpick. Almost. Ok now, look out, I'm going to get a little spoiler-y.

Still there? Are you sure? I'm not going to give away any of the surprises or anything, but if you want to go in cold, stop reading. For real.

So Kirk can do sweet
motorcycle stunts. Obviously.
Alright. Super. Like I said, Star Trek Beyond is good, but I had a few little issues. Like, if I have to complain, and as a nerd, I sort of feel an obligation here, there were some minor things here and there that just didn't work for me. Take for example the fact that this movie, like the last six Star Trek movies before it, ends with a fist fight. Yeah, they all end with either Kirk or Picard throwing down with the film's bad guy. I'm just a little tired of it is all. Also, why the shit did a derelict starship have a motorcycle onboard?

Never thought I'd miss the lumpy
forehead appliances, but here we are.
Another thing is that this movie introduces a ton of new background aliens we've never seen before which is cool, it's a big Federation, but some classic aliens like an Andorian or a Klingon would have been nice. Also, a lot of the new creatures looked kind of same-y. They're almost all variations on  'regular-humans with enormous, disproportionate and misshapen heads' that the make-up department seems super keen on. It was like they suddenly staffed the Enterprise with a crew of dashboard bobbleheads. I found it a little distracting. And gross.

Of course it's tecno-bullshit, I'm just saying
it should be consistent techno-bullshit.
Oh, and there's the Universal Translator. Usually this piece of plot-driven technology makes aliens speak colloquial, accent-free English and even manages to match the words with their mouth movements because, well, I don't know, it's magic or something. Anyway, for some reason this time the UT is more complicated and not everyone has one. There's one fairly significant alien character whose translator has a lag so we can hear her own language and then the translation. It's actually kind of cool, it's just that it's never worked that way before.

Your logical, unflappable demeanor
would be a lot more believable if
you'd stop sobbing so much... 
But these are quibbles. If I had to pick something that bothered me, it would be this: Spock cries. Yes, again. The whole thing about Vulcans is that they suppress their emotions. They're like space wasps. Sure, in Star Trek, his planet imploded, in Into Darkness his best and only friend died (temporarily) and in this movie he gets some disturbing, mind-fuck-y news from home so it's not unreasonable that his control is overwhelmed, it's just that there's not so much of an impact when he looses it it every time we see him.

I'm pretty sure that's how
the Crusades started.
Anyway, I don't really like to do movie reviews on this blog. Mostly I don't want to be that guy that harangues you into watching movies I like. I hate when people do that. Oh, and then if the thing I recommended isn't your cup of tea, you might blame me and then it'll be this point of contention between us and we'll probably make passive aggressive comments about it to each other in some weird attempt to antagonize the other in to seeing things our way and neither of us wants that.

Sorry, what were we talking about? ...right. The movie. I will say that I dug it and if you're a fan you should totally go see it. And if you hate it, just know that your subjective opinion is incorrect and I will not rest until your worldview aligns with mine.
Why must you hate all that is good and decent?
What are you, some kind of unfeeling monster?


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Today in joust cause...

*sorry about that. You might think that I'm better than that, the puns I mean, but I'm not. In fact, the truth is I'm much worse.

Funny story, it turns out I
squandered my youth.
Do you ever find yourself pining for the old days? For some people it's old photos or watching old movies. For me it's old video games because I'm some sort of man-child. But whatever our jam is (am I using that correctly?), we're usually met with the disappointing realization that our fondly remembered pursuits are not nearly as enjoyable as adults. I used to rationalize that my decades-long fascination with gaming built hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills but mostly I was just whiling away the hours with meaningless and sometimes frustrating diversions. Not saying I regret it, just that maybe I should have learned piano or something instead.

Sadly, the IOC already turned
down competitive alcoholism. 
Anyway, the point is that the past isn't always as great as we think it is but that doesn't stop us from longing for it. Where it gets weird though is when we start getting all nostalgic for something we weren't actually around for in the first place. Like, I don't know, say, jousting. Yeah, there's a group in the UK called English Heritage and they'd like to make jousting an Olympic sport. No. for real. They want to party like it's 1599. They've been talking to the Olympic committee and today are launching an online petition.

How come? Are they somehow pining for the days of bubonic plague and the Crusades? Maybe, but I kind of suspect that English Heritage is just trying to get jousting added so the UK will have a guaranteed gold. It'd be like if Scotland was pushing for the caber toss or if the GOP was trying to find a way to make racism an Olympic event. See that? I'm topical.
"Show of hands people who miss the days when men wore hats, women knew
their place and we could say Chinaman...ok, everyone? Great. Vote Trump."

-Donald Trump at the RNC
Short-tempered, festering leg wound,
 murdered two wives...you can see why
ladies were lining up to marry him.
Sure, there are jousts held all around the world, but unless you're in the UK, it's usually non-competitive things like Renaissance Festivals and Medieval Times (as in the restaurant, not the years 400-1400 AD,) but I gather that those are a little more like performances. Jousting, like for real jousting went out with doublets and heretic burning. Turns out you can get seriously injured or dead doing it. Henry VIII, England's fattest, murdery-est king was a huge fan, up until his got himself a festering leg wound that would ooze and stink up the palace for the rest of his life, and his pal Henry II of France actually died in a joust.

Sure it's hot and uncomfortable, but it looks
bad-ass and add +8 to you armor roll, so...
So what the hell is a real joust? It actually sounds kind of cool according to the English Heritage website. Competitors on horseback try to break lances on each other's shield at speeds of 30 miles per hour while decked out in 40 pounds of steel armor. Oh yes, there not screwing around. They compete in authentic armor and not like, bullshit modern padding. And what's cool is that women and men are allowed to compete with each other making jousting exactly 100% more progressive than all other sports.

Ok, fine, so the English Heritage site is going to talk it up and maybe make it more interesting than it is, but did I mention the armor and horses? Because holy shit I am all for this being an Olympic sport. And besides this is no more ridiculous or medieval than other Olympic events. Fencing? Archery? I'm looking at you...
Above: competitive archery never fully recovered
from the scandal that rocked the 1190 games when one of the
 competitors was revealed to be a clever and unnervingly sexy fox.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hey Jeff Bezos, stop living my dream.

Hang on just a minute. Can anyone explain to me what Jeff Bezos has that I don't?
Yes, obviously I mean other than being the founder and CEO of the biggest
online retailer in the world and a personal net worth of $65 million dollars...
"Obsessive fan with an encyclopediac
knowledge of Trek lore? Welcome aboard!"
-Bryan Fuller, probably
Why am I so cranky about Jeff Bezos? This, this is why. Not going to click, I know, so I'll explain. He's got a cameo in Star Trek Beyond and I am, as you can imagine, intensely jealous. This coming just weeks after learning that Bryan Fuller's new Star Trek series will be filming just across the lake from my hometown in Upstate New York; 3,000 miles from where I live now. Clearly my audition invite has been lost in the shuffle somehow, I mean I'm a gigantic fan and even have a blog where I point out when the people who make Star Trek are doing it wrong. So like, where's my cameo?

"If only there was a dash button for
Pok√©mon Go, I'd never leave the house!"

-Some consumer
Sure, I've never actually been on TV or in a movie or anything but I was once up for the role of the Riddler in Dark Knight Rises (no I wasn't). Ok, so I don't have a ton of experience, but Jeff Bezos isn't an actor, he's a business guy....which I suppose in itself is kind of acting. He has managed to convince people that going to the store for laundry detergent is for chumps and that they should buy those dash button things and never go outside again. You know in a number of ways, I'd say we're both equally qualified. What number? Well, zero.

Anyway, not only is Bezos in the movie, but he gets to play an alien, and a good one too, not one of those bullshit aliens that Star Trek sometimes cheaps out on where it's just like a regular person with magic marker spots or something. In fact, there's so much make-up and prosthetics that he's reportedly unrecognizable. So yes, to be clear, he's totally living out my dream of being a Star Trek alien while having $65 billion dollars.
Am I really asking so much?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Today in elevating the discourse...

Yes, our de-facto two-party system has a ton of problems and yes the primary election process is seriously weighted in favor of establishment candidates and our entire democratic system is rife with corruption and cronyism. Holy shit guys, we know. But seriously, a fart-in? A fart-in. Is this even for real? Because I'd very much like for this to be a joke or a hoax or something. Of course, I'd like a lot of things about this election to have been a joke.
Any time you wanna say 'just kidding' would be fine by me...
See what he did there? Stink?
Man, I bet he got his doctorate
in wit and sparkling word play.
According to this, Dr. Walter H. Tsou is getting a bunch of disgruntled Bernie Sanders fans to eat gassy foods before the Democratic Convention next week so they can fart in protest of Hillary Clinton being the nominee.

"It's a whimsical way of raising a protest. There's a lot of things that stink about this whole Democratic primary process."

-Dr. Walter H. Tsou, elevating the discourse

"Hey, that guy's ass has a good point,
whatta ya say call a roll call count!"
-The DNC. probably
So like, what's their point? Other than farts are hilarious? Do they think they're the only people that get that the system is kind of fucked up? Like, I'm not suggesting that Clinton didn't win fair and square. Both candidates were campaigning under the same rules and even if the the DNC changed the way we vote for our candidates, it sounds like Clinton would have won anyway. Do you suppose they're hoping this fart-in thing is going to change people's minds? Like they're going to flip the convention with flatus and whimsey? 

Ok, so a fart-in that's cool, whatever, but now would be a great time to come together as a party, you know? I just hope that after they have their stupid protest, Tsou and his fans are planning to like, vote for Clinton. Because no matter how valid Dr. Tsou's point about ridiculousness of the super-delegate system is, no amount of being able to say 'told ya so' is worth four years of President Goddamn Trump.
Or hey, here's a better idea: why don't they go fart-up the Republican Convention
and then, and I can't stress this enough, come back and vote for Clinton.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Today in blunt frankness...

The Terrordrome? Take Serpentor Ave,
then turn left on Destro Street, can't miss it.
So emotions run high after a terrorist attack. That's why terrorists do what they do and we can't control that. What we can control is shoving a mic in the face of lunatics to see who can have the biggest, craziest, unconstitutional-iest, knee-jerk reaction. Take for example Donald Trump who again reiterated how this wouldn't happen if we'd just stop taking immigrants from 'terrorist' nations-which is not a thing. If there were entire countries of terrorists with flags and Fodor's guides, it would be easy, you'd know where to find them but that's not how this works.

Hey, remember that time he went after
Bill Clinton for having an affair, while
totally having an affair of his own?
And here, check out Newt Gingrich's plan to out-crazy Donald Trump:

"...and let me be as blunt and direct as I can be. Western civilization is at war. We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background, and if they believe in Sharia, they should be deported."

-Newt Gingrich being as blunt and
frank as he, or really anyone could
possibly ever be, about anything ever

Anyway, leaving aside the ridiculous illegality of religiously-based profiling and the dubious reasoning that connects all Muslims with terrorism, isn't a 'Sharia-test' like, super flawed from the get go? First of all, Sharia is a bunch of religious laws and not the same thing as a terrorist agenda, but let's say Gingrich, despite the statistical improbability, actually managed to get someone who was an ISIS terrorist into an interrogation room and asked them if they supported ISIS, wouldn't a clever terrorist you know, lie about it?
"Ok, if you are a terrorist please fill in this bubble here with a #2 pencil
and please, be sure to fill it in completely or the Scantron might miss it."





Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Harsh Light of Adulthood

So this month's book for the book club I'm in was-huh? Yes, I'm in a book club, what of it? That's what I thought. Anyway, as I was saying, the book for book club this month was Larry Niven's Ringworld, which was one of my favorite books ever until I re-read it for book club.
Yup, I just ruined Ringworld for myself, by reading Ringworld.
Also, one assumes, with shorter
lines and somewhat less puking.
Ringworld, if you've never read it, is a classic sci-fi novel about an expedition to, get this, a ring-shaped world. It's a gigantic hoop that circles a star at the same distance that the Earth orbits the sun. The interior surface is all continents and oceans and centrifugal force keeps everything from drifting off into the cold, hard vacuum of space. Think of it like a super-massive version of the Round Up from an amusement park but with millions of times the inhabitable space of the Earth.

Niven's concept has been widely influential in sci-fi. Iain M. Banks' Orbitals in his Culture novels, and the Halo in Halo borrowed Niven's idea as did Elysium, that so-so Matt Damon movie about how Jodie Foster can't pull of an English accent. Like at all.
"'ello, 'ello, Matt Damon, welcome to moy spaice staishon. Spot-o-tea?"
-Jodie Foster not being 
British in Elysium
"You know, unlike women, math
never talks back, am I right fellas?"
-Larry Niven
Anyway, influential as Ringworld is, re-reading it gave me a huge icky. Huge. Like, I should take all of his books off my shelf and hide them in a drawer so that no one will ever know. I guess the thing about reading a book in middle school and then dragging it blinking into the harsh light of adulthood, is that you tend to notice things that maybe you didn't pick up on when you're a kid. Take for example Ringworld's flat, kind of unlikable characters, the frequent and brain-achingly math heavy info-dumps or say, the jaw-dropping, unrelenting misogyny that pervades the entire novel. Like, I know this was written forty-six years ago, but holy shit Larry Niven, I mean, holy shit.

Booster spice is something like the
29th century equivalent of Enzyte.
There are two female characters in the book, both of whom have tons of sex with Louis Wu, the book's two-hundred year-old protagonist. Don't worry though because despite his age, he has the body of a twenty-year old thanks to some kind of crazy future drug called Booster Spice, and Teela, his first boning buddy, is twenty. Like actually twenty, and the direct descendant of Wu's old girlfriend. Gross. And his other sex-interest is a quasi-human space prostitute. No, I'm not kidding. Shall I go on? I shall? Great.

'Pfft...women, right? Can't live
with'em, can't freeze em...or can't I?."

-Louis Wu
There are two alien characters in the story, both of whom are males from species whose females are non-sentient. At one point our hero makes a funny, funny joke about how he'd like to go off into space to be by himself, but he'd bring a woman in stasis so he could thaw her out whenever he's in the mood. And later, Louis ends up selling Teela (yes, selling her) to a Ringworld native who's some kind of cross between Don Quixote and Conan the Barbarian. Which she's totally cool with.

You didn't think I'd be able to work
Bea Arthur into this one, did you?
And sure, I get that sometimes we have to put aside an author's personal views in order to enjoy their work. Take Orson Scott Card for example. Everybody loves Ender's Game and all but he can go fuck himself. Like, for serious. The difference here is that Niven's gross is right there in his work which is a shame because the Ringworld itself is such a rad place. Niven's attitude is just weird and inexcusably backwards. Sure, he was writing in the 1970's, but did he never watch Maude?

Look, I know I'm judging his worldview decades after the fact and that a lot's changed since the age of fondue and shag carpets, but it wasn't that long ago and predicting the future is sort of his job. You'd think that with all the math he put into working out the physics of the Ringworld, he'd have been able to better calculate the trajectory of our culture.
Pictured: Larry Niven, apparently caught off guard by the suggestion that women
might one day be permitted to do things like drive and be Prime Minister of the UK.