Friday, October 28, 2016

Today in wise investments...

Not to be confused with Pokémon: The Card
Game: The Video Game 
game, based on the
card game which is based on the video game.
That can't possibly be right can it? $50,000? Of money? That's how much a Pokémon card (yeah, it's a card game too) is supposed to go for in an online auction. I hope you'll join me in a hearty exclamation of  'holy shit!' followed by an open palm to your forehead and plenty of judgmental opining about other people's priorities. The card, called Pokémon Illustrator is, according to the description, is one of only thirty nine ever printed. It was created for some contest in Japan and is considered the rarest of Pokémon cards.

At least you still admire my
skill, rare Pokémon card...
Obviously this is just a stupid card that just sits there, but even within the context of the game for which it is ostensively meant, it doesn't even do anything, unless you count emotional validation. Like I mentioned, the card is basically a trophy for a contest, a drawing contest for Japanese children in the late 90's and the text on the card says:

"We certify that your illustration is an excellent entry in the Pokémon Card Game Illust Contest. Therefore, we state that you are an Officially Authorized Pokémon Card Illustrator and admire your skill."

on the card some idiot's going to buy

Accuracy and journalistic integrity are
the very foundation of the internet.
 Well, that and porn. Lot's of porn.
Ok, so first we should walk this back a little bit. Fifty thousand is what the video game website IGN says the auction site is expecting, so already we're sort of second handing that number. I checked the link to Heritage Auctions, and I don't find anything about how much the card is expected to sell for, but what do I know? Other websites have picked up the story, and if you can't trust the internet, who can you trust? But whatever, let's say, for the sake of argument that a person pays that much for this card. Who is this person? Some kind of idiot?

Yeah, you could send your kid to a
moderately priced state university,
or you could invest in the future.
Idiot like a fox. I'm sure after dropping what amounts to the average American household income on the card, the hypothetical buyer will turn around and sell it someday, probably for a lot more money, and that kind of bums me out. Like, yeah, I get that it's the scarcity that makes it valuable, but that scarcity is manufactured. A limited number were printed with the expectation that they would someday be valuable. That's why they call them collectibles. This isn't some rare piece of art or a First Folio or something, this is something deliberately made in limited numbers just so people will pay a more for it.

So I guess my question is are collectors smart business people who make wise investments, or are they total chumps who will buy anything as long as it's a special limited edition or #399,999 of 400,000? Either way, fifty thousand dollars...holy shit, right?
The Middle Earth Limited Edition box-set
for only $499?  I'd be an idiot not to buy it!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Or we could just stick with the plan...

"...I'm just thinking to myself, we should just cancel the election and just give it to Trump right? What are we even having it for? What are we having it for?

-Donald Trump speaking about himself in the 
third person without the slightest hint of irony
I guess it's the kind of thing you can only say when you're
surrounded by people chanting your name and waving signs that
say 'you' for President. Any other time you'd just look crazy.
"Losing and terrible? Get in line, Donald."
-Gary Johnson, the one your
grandpa will vote for out of disgust
Yeah, that was today at a rally in Toledo and to be clear, of course he was kidding. I mean, I don't give him a lot of credit, but I'm sure he understands that the reason we have elections is because we're not Saudi Arabia. And even if there was some constitutional mechanism by which we could call the election early-huh? I don't know, maybe if one of the candidates turns out to be a couple of kids stacked up and wearing a big coat? Whatever. But wouldn't we give it to whomever was ahead in the polls or something? Like we certainly wouldn't give it to the one who's behind and terrible. 

But since the presidency doesn't have a 'buy it now' button like some kind of electoral eBay auction, I think we should just to go ahead and stick with the plan. 
Yes, the ridiculous, cumbersome, barely representative plan that only like
half of us turn out for, but at least it's better than just give it to Trump, right?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Marlowe: The Sega of Playwrights!

Let's hear it for Christopher Marlowe! Yeah, who? Exactly. The playwright, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, is probably best known today as Joseph Fiennes' rival and accidental quote machine, played by Rupert Everett in Shakespeare in Love. But he was actually kind of a big deal in 16th century London's theatre scene and now some fancy scholars are giving him credit for co-writing three of Shakespeare's plays.
"Alright, alright, I'll settle my tab. God, how sharper than
a serpent's tooth it is to have an impatient bartender..."
-Marlowe in Shakespeare in Love, and yes, the whole 
movie is like that. Shakespeare is basically Forest Gump
Or to put it into SAT analogy terms:
Marlowe is to Shakespeare as
Sega Genesis is to Super NES. 
Yeah, buckle up, we're going into theatre nerd territory. William Shakespeare, as it turns out wasn't the entire English entertainment industry between the years 1589 and 1616. In fact, Elizabethans had lots to do to pass the time: there was bear-baiting, catching the plague or watching any of the five or six million (source: blind guess) other plays that people who weren't Shakespeare wrote and performed. Among the most talented and popular non-Shakespeare of the time was tortured artist Christopher Marlowe.

Yes, they had tortured artists back then too, both in the sense of emotional problems and in the literal sense of thumbscrews and the rack. Elizabethans were basically savages.
Yeah, the culture that gave us Shakespeare also used to make
bears and dogs murder each other for fun. Let that sink in...
Pictured: Steve and Ellen Marlowe, looking
disappointed in their son's choice of career.
Anyway, Marlow, in addition to pissing off his parents by taking his fancy college degree and then going into theatre, was also gay and an atheist. A gaythiest! Which, as you can imagine, didn't go over well at a time when heretic burning wasn't completely off the table. Oh, and he might have been a spy too and that might have played a role in him getting stabbed in the eye in a random bar fight, but then again, this is ye olden times, and eye-stabbings were fairly common. Again, I refer you to my broad characterization of early-modern English people as barbarians.

"Plagiarism? No, it was an homage..."
-Alexander Pope, the 
Shia LeBoeuf of his day
So back to the thrilling world of scholarly theatre research. Remember awhile back when Shakespeare, despite being dead for four hundred years put out a new play? No? That's because he didn't, but he was posthumously credited for a play because researchers used some kind of sophisticated analysis software on a comedy called Double Falsehood and by comparing vocabulary and writing style discovered that it was actually the lost Shakespeare play Cardino, but with some guy called Alexander Pope's name on it.

Based on comparisons with some of Marlowe's other works, the editors of The New Oxford edition of The Complete Works Of Shakespeare have decided to credit him with co-authorship on the three parts of Henry VI. Which is kind of a-huh? No, you're thinking of Henry V with Kenneth Branagh. That was totally good. This is Henry VI. It's, uh...well it's a trilogy which, in a surprising move is not as good as its prequels.
Yes, I'm still picking on these movies and no, I will not move on.
"Because, like all writers, my dream
was to die in obscurity. That's why."

-Christopher Marlowe
Ok, so Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare activated their wonder twin powers and wrote a kind of boring trilogy of plays, who cares? Not a lot of people actually, unless you're like super-into the conspiracy theory that Marlowe secretly was Shakespeare. Wai-huh? It's called the Marlovian theory of authorship, and the idea was that there never was a Shakespeare and instead Marlowe just put on a different hat or something and wrote all his best plays under an assumed identity. Why? Because shut up, that's why.

Anyway, I suppose evidence suggesting that the two worked together on some plays would kind of make it difficult for them to be the same person. Unless he deliberately cultivated two different writing styles and then pretended to collaborate with himself as part of an elaborate scheme to throw future generations off the scent so that he can be remembered as the other playwright who was almost as good as Shakespeare...who is also him. Marlowe, you magnificent bastard, it looks like you got us.
Batman pulled off something similar by dressing Robin up as Batman
and then casually strolling in as Bruce Wayne. Of course he was motivated
by a desire not to get sued for property damage, so what's Marlowe's deal?

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Today in un-shut crumpet-holes...

Not so fast Wilde! Yeah, that thing where the British Government was going to start overturning convictions of men charged with gross indecency back when being gay was a crime? Well now it's not happening because Minister of Justice Sam Gyimah talked too long. Wait, wah? Long-windedness? In government?
Pictured: Justice Minister Gyimah not shutting his
crumpet-hole long enough for the bill to be voted on.
Parliament? Think the senate scenes in
the Star Wars prequels, but slightly
more interesting and you have it.
Yeah, the guy who as recently as this week was talking about how important it was to un-convict thousands for the crime of being gay just filibustered (a term with it's origins in piracy which the British call Privateering. Burn!) a bill that would do so. What gives? The thrilling drama of complicated parliamentary procedure gives that's what. The bill Gyimah just talked all over, called the 'Turing Bill' would have granted blanket pardons to anyone, living or dead, convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes, i.e. gay stuff or, as they would spell it gaye-stuffe.

Fun fact: goat rodeos are both a
metaphor meaning a chaotic shitshow of
a situation as well as a rodeo with goats.
So what's Gyimah's beef? He's concerned that that bill didn't make enough provisions for distinguishing between pardons for men convicted of having sex with other men and those convicted of sex with underage males. Instead, Gyimah is supporting a different bill that would amend an existing law that would overturn only the convictions of dead people while leaving the door open for people who are still alive to get their convictions overturned through a type of appeal called disregard process. Confused? Yes. We all are. The whole thing is kind of a mess. It's what the British would call a sticky wicket, or in American: an unmitigated goat-rodeo. 

But ok, it sounds like both sides are at least well-intended here. Everyone agrees that pardons for people convicted of being gay are long overdue, right? No. Not George Montegue, who was convicted in 1974 of gross indecency and is having none of it:

Pictured: a 93 year old gay Brittish
man, who's had quite enough of
this bullshit, thank you very much.
"I couldn't be more happier about it, except one thing: I will not accept a pardon. To accept a pardon means that you accept that you were guilty. I was not guilty of anything...I think it was wrong to give Alan Turing, one of my heroes of my life-wrong to give him a pardon. What was he guilty of? He was guilty of what they call me guilty of, of being born only able to fall in love with another man."

-George Montague, being right...well, he's
not right about more happier, that's just 
bad grammar, but everything else he said
is just spot on. Well done and cheerio

While it seems like the Minister of Justice's filibust-Privateering, just punched Britain's LGBTQ community right in the perfectly straight teeth (what? I don't buy into every stereotype...), and in many ways it did, maybe this is also an opportunity for people like George Montegue to get their point heard. Like, he's right, pardons are bunk. They need to expunge these convictions, issue a formal apology to everyone in turn and then the Queen herself should take every wrongfully convicted man out for drinks. 
"Sorry, sorry, so sorry, sorry, drinks are on me..sorry, sorry..."
-The Queen, with just a few thousand 
more of these to go and then, margaritas


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Today in gross indecencies...

Hey, good news for Oscar Wilde: after one hundred twenty-one years, Britain's Ministry of Justice might finally be granting him pardon. Of course the bad news is that a two-year sentence of hard labor destroyed him physically, mentally and spiritually and he died broke and in self-imposed exile on the streets of Paris.
"About goddamn time assholes..."
-Wilde, in one of his trademark witticisms
I'm not sure a culture that made corpse
desecration into a party game is really
in a position to judge others.
Ok, so they're not specifically talking about Wilde, who was convicted of 'gross indecency' back in 1895. They're talking bout-huh? Gross indecency? That's what they used to call gay sex. Gay at the time just meant happy and uttering the word 'sex' in the 19th century was a capital offense. You see Victorians were sort of famous for being squirrelly about sex, especially when it comes to the love that dare not speak its name. You could also say sodomy, giving caudle or buggery and gay men were sometimes called sodomites, Mary-Anns and, I shit you not, Gentlemen of the backdoor. Gentlemen. Of the backdoor.

Not to go off on too much of a tangent here, but this was a civilization who ruled a decent percentage of the Earth's surface area. They waged entire wars just to keep people addicted to opium and once gave India to a private corporation and said go nuts. But gay sex was, for reasons that boggle the mind, just too much for the British Empire to handle.
A map of the vast Empire the British once ruled through
perseverance, stiff-upper lip'edness and certainly no gay stuff.
So while Edward II is off the hook,
Richard III is not. Murdering rivals
for the throne is still totally a crime.
Aaannnyway, the Ministry of Justice (or MiniJuice, if you're sassy) announced today, well tomorrow, well, today for them, tomorrow for us, that they will begin the process of expunging the records of men convicted of hot backdoor Mary-Anning which today is no linger a crime. Informally known as 'Alan Turing's Law,' it's making good on a promise the Ministry made after Alan Turing was pardoned in 2013 for being gay. A pardon that came fifty years after his gross indecency conviction directly led to his suicide, but still a pardon.

Um, so is it weird that I see the phrase
'historic sexual offenses' and immediately
think of Benjamin Franklin? It is, right?
Oh, and a Benedict Cumberbatch movie. So like, everything's cool, right? Even Steven? Here's what the Minister of Justice said/will say today/tomorrow:

"It is hugely important that we pardon people convicted of historical sexual offenses who would be innocent of any crime today. Through pardons...we will meet our manifesto commitment to put right these wrongs."

-Sam Gyimah, Minister of Justice

So yes. Turing's Law is great and it's awesome that they're finally moving on this. While symbolic, the pardons are long-overdue and are a statement of the Britain's commitment to acknowledging these wrongs. That said, it's not really putting them right either. These convictions destroyed lives and the gross indecency is that it took this goddamn long to officially clear them. So unless Minister Gyimah's got a time machine or something (sorry, I guess he'd call it a TARDIS), symbolism can only go so far.
And so Sam Gyimah finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right
what once went wrong, and hoping that the next leap will be the leap home.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Lachenwerldschmertz!

Earnest went on to say that he'll be
 here all week and invited the press to
try the waiters and to tip the veal.
Today in awkward yet reasonably funny for a press secretary (it's a low bar) jokes, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest suggested that all that sniffing and general weird behavior we saw from Donald Trump were actually signs of drug use which Carrie Fisher totally called like a week ago, but whatever. When asked by a reporter about the White Houses position on Trump's suggestion that Presidential candidates should be asked to take a drug test, Earnest said:

"It's going to be the best enemies list anyone
ever saw. You're not going to believe it."
-Trump, hyperbolizing
"So you're telling me that the candidate who snorted his way through the first two debates is accusing the other candidate of taking drugs? That's a curious development in the campaign."

-Josh Earnest, totally making 
Donald Trump's enemies list

Yes. Curious. And, what's the other emotion this election is bringing out in people? Amusement but also a sense of being sick to one's soul at the state of our democracy. Is there a word for that?

"Have you tried copious amounts of alcohol?
It really helps with lachenweldschmertz."
I don't know, I'm sure the Germans have one, but since I don't speak German, I'm going to make one up. Lachenwerldschmertz. It means 'laughing world pain.' Anyway, under most circumstances it would probably be inappropriate for a White House spokesperson to hurl wild accusations like that about the other party's candidate but, then Trump did bring it up in the first place. And besides, any claim the GOP had on mutual respect and polite conduct went out the window when they nominated Hot Mic McGrabbygrope. 

So you want to like, I don't know, say
something here? Something to your
fans about maybe not staging a coup?
And did you see see this? The not-at-all veiled threats of assassination and coups? That's coup as in d'etat. I know, it looks like coup, like with chickens, but it's not. Anyway, check this out:

"If (Clinton)'s in office, I hope we can start a coup. She should be in prison or shot...We're going to have a revolution and take them out of office if that's what it takes."

-Trump supporter Dan Bowman-holy shit...

I mean, holy shit. Yikes, right? I mean, what's November 9th going to look like? Assuming Trump's coalition of dude-bras, meth enthusiasts and white people with persecution complexes doesn't stage some kind of bloody coup. Seriously, when this is over will we ever be able to look one another in the eye again? Or are we just going to go on, bathed in the background radiation of divisiveness this election has brought out in us.
Above: a false color image of political background radiation that will be left over
from this election. The purple is vitriol, the blue are particles of hatred for other worldview
and the bright band across the middle is a combination of gamma rays, neutrinos and fuck you.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Computer, end program!

Hey, did your mind just get blown by that two trillion galaxies thing? Huh? Really? It was like yesterday. But whatever, doesn't matter because the infinite wonder of the universe around us is all just a hoax. You've heard about this, right? Simulation Hypothesis? The theory that what we accept as reality is actually just an elaborate computer simulation? Kind of like that ridiculous movie, The Matrix. Yeah, you heard me, ridiculous.
Above: the human batteries the machines were using to power their
simulation so that the human batteries wouldn't know they were in a
simulation and being used as human batteries. (source: illogical plots)
Above: assorted hats, perfect for
holding onto in moments of surprise.
Did I just re-blow your mind? No? Good. Because after all, the idea is preposterous, insane and untestable. It's the kind of thing college kids come up with after a long night of Assassin's Creed and pot. Well hold on to your hats or, if you're not wearing a hat, why not try one on? I think it'd look good on you. Anyway, hold on to it because some ultra-rich Silicon Vally tech guy is not only trying to prove that we're all being Truman Show'd by aliens, but he's trying to find a way to get out. Which seems like a remarkably terrible idea.

It would explain a few things.
Look, I'm not saying that it's impossible that we're all living in some giant holodeck, I'm saying that if we are, breaking out of it is probably not the best move. The theory suggests that the universe as we know it, all two hundred trillion galaxies of it, are a simulation being run by aliens or a A.I. or humans way more advanced than us, possibly as some kind of game or experiment. We're basically living in The Sims, and maybe someone's throwing things at our civilization to see how we'll react. Hurricanes, pandemics, whatever.

In my defense, it's not nearly
as good as you remember.
Great. Anyway, the tech guy, who will doom us all? Sam Altman. The article about him in the New Yorker was written almost entirely in business-speak which I don't understand or care about, also says that he's got scientists working on a way to break the simulation. And then what? Well, nobody knows. With access to the inner workings of reality I suppose we could do anything. Like, anything. Live forever, fly, spout pseudo-philosophical nonsense while trying to look serious in wrap-around sunglasses. Yeah, like a dog with a bone.

Above: So this, but with reality.
Ok, god-like control of our universe sounds pretty awesome. Granted. But if everything we know is a super-realistic simulation, wouldn't messing with it, I don't know, skew the data? If I were the hypothetical ultra-advanced beings who built all of reality as some kind of science experiment and my Sims suddenly started flying around and learning Kung-Fu, I'd have to hit the reset button. I mean, the data would be useless, right?

Look, I'm not trying to sound all pro-alien overlord here, I'm just saying that on the off chance that Simulation Hypothesis fans are right and all of this is just running in someone's Xbox, maybe we shouldn't poke at the source code, you know?
For those keeping score, Silicon Valley's tech industry has not only made the
Bay Area completely unaffordable, it now threatens reality as we know it. Way to go.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today in our increasing insignificance...

Hey, guess what's bigger and faker than we thought? Give up? The universe. NASA announced today that there are probably two trillion galaxies in the universe. Trillion with a 'T.' That's 2 followed by twelve zeroes. A number that is something like ten to twenty times as many galaxies in the observable universe than was previously believed.
"Holy shit everybody, I mean...just holy shit."
-Some NASA guy
"One trillion, nine hundred ninety-nine
billion-wait, sohoisticated computer-
-are you for goddamn kidding me?"
So I think the obvious question here is if there're so many galaxies and galaxies are, generally speaking big. Like, a few hundred billion stars each. Then how did astronomers not notice there were so many? The answer of course, is shut up. The universe is brain-meltingly huge and astronomers like to watch Netflix sometimes, just like everybody else. Also, it turns out like 90% of galaxies are too far or too faint to be seen. And it's not like you just go out and count them, you use 3D-imaging and sophisticated software.

According to University of Nottingham researcher Christopher Conselice:

Pictured: Two spiral galaxies,
totally getting down. Aw yeah...
"It boggles the mind that over 90 percent of the galaxies in the universe have yet to be studied. Who knows what interesting properties we will find when we discover these galaxies with future generations of telescopes?"

-Christopher Conselice, 
University of Nottingham
go fightin' Sheriffs!

Is your mind, like Christopher's, boggled? Great. That other thing you're feeling? That's just the creeping realization that we're ten to twenty times less significant than we thought we were. On the upside, all the shitty things about your life shrunk proportionately as well. Now your shitty wifi signal and tedious, unfulfilling job are ten to twenty times less important than they were when you woke up this morning. Bright side.
Above: some planet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Federation Day! Yes, again...

Hey, guess what today is? Give up-huh? Yeah, it is Federation Day. How'd you know? Did you look it up while I was talking? Because that's cheating. You're a cheater. I hope you feel good about your-oh, or maybe you just read the title of the post.
Speaking of, if you're ever playing poker with Data from Star Trek and he doesn't
win, either you're cheating or he's throwing the game. Don't give me that human
intuition
bullshit. either. You're playing cards with an android. A literal computer.
In other accurate predictions
about the future: guyliner.
Anyway, for those who didn't look it up, or remember from previous years (like this one, this one and it's sequelthis one, this and that one and that time I almost forgot) it's the day marking the founding of the Federation from Star Trek which according to Roddenberrian prophecy is now only 145 years away. Sure, it was just a TV show, but it made a lot of accurate predictions. Take cell phones, they used to flip open, just like the communicators so...you know, prophecy. Excited? Don't be. You and I will be long dead.

Einstein, pscht...what did he know?
No, seriously, he was a mathematician,
why'd they name a med school after him?
At least according to these jerks from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in The Bronx. Their new study published last week in Nature (it's a scientific journal, not like, nature the thing), suggests that no matter what advances we make in the way of longevity, the ceiling for living long and prospering (sorry) is about 115-ish and no amount of drugs, genetic engineering, or yogurt that helps you poop is going to change that. Ok, you say, but what about that French lady that lived to be 122? Shut up say the scientists. She, according to study co-author Professor Jan Vijg, was an outlier.

"Work to better ourselves...did I
did I really say that? Was I high?"

-some space captain
Ok, so thanks to Professor Vijg and the funsassins at AECM, none of us living today will actually get to see the bright, peaceful utopia where everybody gets along and humans have abandoned money in favor of an economic system where we all:

"...work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity."

-Captain Jean-Luc Picard on 
the one Star Trek prediction even 
less plausible than warp drive

Bummer, right? Yeah, sure it is, but not entirely, this is just mostly a bummer.

"Captain, tell me of this thing
you earthmen call, 'the clap.'"
Long lifespans have a downside as well and one that was explored in one of the original Star Trek's stupidest episodes. It's called "The Mark of Gideon" and it's about the planet Gideon whose inhabitants have cured all diseases and increased life-spans to such a degree that overpopulation has run wild and there's not an inch of free space anywhere. Sort of like the Bay Area (burn!). What makes the story so preposterous is that the planet's leader concocts a scheme to trick Captain Kirk into having sex with his daughter so that she can catch some space STD's and re-introduce pathogens to their world.

-huh? I...oh, right. Well ok,
maybe that one time.
Yup, her planet's in trouble and only Captain Kirk can save it. With his junk. Ok, so leaving aside the fact that Gideon's president needed to trick James 'Space-Whore' Kirk into sleeping with a female, and the part of the plan where the Gideonians felt the need to construct an exact replica of the Enterprise to do it instead of, you know, renting a room at the Holiday Inn near the space port. While the episode does point out the dangers of not letting people go gently into that good night, this is totally why I was a Next Generation fan, they never did anything as insultingly stupid as-

Above: the Holodeck where you can have
sex with computer simulations of other
people and no one thinks it's weird.
Ok, so we're doomed to bite it long before calamitous future wars and alien contact inspire us to put aside our petty bullshit and found a space-UN. That doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate the nerdiest holiday of the year. How? By living the life, that's how. We're probably not going to see Star Trek's predictions come true, fine. 3-D printers are decades away from being replicators, warp drive could easily be a pipe dream and those ridiculous virtual reality headsets are no where near the holodeck, but those aren't the best parts about the future. Well, ok, they are, but they're also like the least attainable, so let's focus on the things we can do.

We can learn to talk to one another instead of resorting to violence, we can accept people's differences and we can just generally be decent to one another. See? It's that easy. Easy, of course, being a relative thing. Let's just say it's somewhat easier than breaking the light barrier. Oh and we can totally dress up like characters from the show. That's totally easy. You can do that today. What are you waiting for?
In fact, don't even wait for a Comic Con, just
go nuts. Like, anytime you want. Fly that flag.