Sunday, December 31, 2017

Alright, who said it couldn't get any worse?

There's always next year...
Sigh... so after the unmitigated shit show that was 2016, especially that last bit, say from November on, I think we all were kind of hoping that 2017 would would be better. We were, of course, wrong to hope that. I mean, what possible improvement was January 1st 2017 supposed to bring? All of us waking up and discovering it was all a dream? Hillary Clinton popping out at the inauguration, shouting 'Gotcha!' and taking the oath herself? Or maybe just some kind of gamma ray burst or asteroid collision.

But here we are, about to watch the odometer roll over to 2018, unable to believe that things could possibly get any worse, yet also somehow aware that they probably will and that no amount of repeating 'computer end program' is going to help.
I'm not saying don't give it a try, just prepare to be disappointed.
We're basically real life's NPC's, there
to make famous people look more
heroic/rich/important by comparison.
I guess the important thing to do is to keep a positive outlook and greet the new year with a sense of hope and wide-eyed wonder, not just because it's the only way to stay sane, but because it's that unique American optimism that has always seen us through difficult times. In that spirit, let us dive in to the traditional review of all the people who have died this year. And as always, I remind you that this is a list of famous people, not the countless, nameless nobodies like you and me, people who've made a difference in the world.

"I told you to keep it down!"
-God, apparently
 not a music fan
Anyway, enough contemplating our insignificant place in the world, on to our pointless list. The Earth's largest natural satellite lost last man on the moon Eugene Cernan and 'guy who flew to, but didn't land on the moon,' Dick Gordon. In pretend astronauts, the crew of the Nostromo lost John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton from the movie Alien. Music lost, and hang on this is a long list, Chris Cornell from Sound Garden, heartbreaker Tom Petty, Allman brother Greg Allman, and Walter Becker from Steely Dan.

1950's rock and roll pioneers Fats Domino and Chuck Berry whom you might remember as the guy the movie 'Back to the Future' suggested owed his entire career to ripping off a time traveling, white suburban kid.
"Thank you mysterious stranger, the people of our time owe
you a debt of gratitude and shall build statues in your honor."

-Some guy thanking Marty
for fucking with causality
for his own amusement
Is there some thematic connection between
bunnies and boating that I'm missing?
Actor and playwright Sam Shepard died, as did Stephen Furst. Most people remember him from St. Elsewhere or from Animal House, but to we nerds he will always be Vir Cotto from Babylon 5. Della Reese from Touched By an Angel is dead and so is Roger Moore, the second James Bond. Speaking of toxic masculinity (I mean Bond, not Roger Moore), the field of objectifying women lost noted smoking jacket wearer Hugh Hefner which, yes, that's sad, but again: he spent like 70 years making a career out of creeping around his mansion dressed like a sleazy sea captain and paying women to demean themselves.

But I'm kinda not kidding...
Anyway, fans of safe, family friendly TV shows that once sheltered Americans from the harsh reality of living in the shadow of nuclear annihilation lost Partridge Family teen heartthrob/musician David Cassidy. Robert Guillaume from Benson died. Adam West the unrepentantly campy Batman of the 1960's is gone as is Rose Marie who played a female comedy writer on The Dick Van Dyke Show at a time when doctors prescribed cigarettes to women to treat hysteria. I'm kidding. It was usually pills.

And in a Dick Van Dyke double whammy, earlier this year the world also lost Mary Tyler Moore who played Laura Petrie but who is probably better remembered for starring in the imaginatively named and way ahead of its time Mary Tyler Moore Show.
Since Moore starred as a single, unmarried career woman in a position of authority, CBS
executives initially classified The Mary Tyler Moore Show as science fiction. Because the 70's.
"Why should I give a shit? I'm seventy."
-Everything wrong 
with America
In more abstract concepts, whatever tattered remains of America's credibility on the world stage died when President Trump pulled us out of the Paris agreement on climate change back in June because he'll be damned if he's gonna let the French tell us what we can and can't despoil. And then just the other day in response to the brutal winter in the North East, he made a funny funny joke about how we could use some global warming. You see it's funny because idiots think climate and weather are the same thing. Also they get to vote. That's funny, right?

"Wait 'till you see what I've got for you in
2018. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."
I could go on and on about politics and how we all have front row seats to the systematic dismantling and looting of the country that brought the world freedom, democracy and, more recently fidget spinners, but I all ready have. Like, two out of every three blog posts this year have been my blinking, sputtering shock at how preposterously low the GOP is willing to sink or how brazenly Sarah Huckabee Sanders can spout abject horseshit while simultaneously calling us all idiots for not buying it. She is, after all, a goddamn spin wizard.

The only thing it's missing is hours of
 tutorials and motion controls that suck.
Civility is dead and political discourse has been reduced to a fight on The Real Housewives of Orange County. Super. But why dwell? Let's look at the few shinning examples of good things to come out of 2017. As nerds we've had a pretty good year. Gamers got new a new Zelda game, in fact the best entry in the series in like fifteen years and a new Mario, not to mention the slightly less impossible to find SNES Classic: a whole 'other way to give Nintendo your money in exchange for games you probably already own.

Although if you're complaining that
the llama/rabbit chase scene was some
prequel bullshit, I'll allow that. It was. 
In movies we finally got not just a decent DC movie, but an actual great one in the form of Wonder Woman, and I don't know about you but I loved the shit out of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Wait, no, I do know about you, and you also liked it. If you think you didn't, you're probably mistaken, so please stop complaining about it on Metacritic. And to address your concerns: yes, Luke is human and would totally do that, no, Kylo isn't whiney, he's angry, you would be too and for the record Holdo didn't tell Poe shit because for all she knows there's a spy onboard.

What part of nine accusations of sexual
assault on underage women was unclear?
In more substantive news, noted child Molester Roy Moore was defeated in his bid for the Alabama Senate. Less encouraging was the fact that it was super close and that everyone who voted for him did so out of spite for Democrats. Or, I suppose, love of statutory rape. But a win's a win and maybe the best thing to come out of 2017 is that we all took a long hard look at American culture and suddenly decided that we should give a shit about victims of sexual misconduct which is a surprising reversal from the rest of human history.

There're now apparently consequences for celebrities and political figures who used their power and influence to get away with harassment and assault. Consequences like ruined careers, lawsuits and getting replaced by Christopher Plummer. Let's hope this trend continues. Hmm...President Christopher Plummer. I kind of like the sound of that. Anyway, Happy New Year! I'm sure it can't get any worse.
"Nation heading down the drain? Time to call the Plummer."
-Paid for by Plummer 2020

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The Dork Crystal

Finally, something for the Star Trek fan who has everything! Everything. Everything. Like, all the things in the world, because then and only then would it make sense to spend actual legal tender on this:
Bet you don't have one of these...
Also, sometimes the crew likes to
get drunk and play Jenga with them.
That, as I'm sure you are aware, is a replica of the isolinear circuit chips from Captain Picard's desk and they can be yours for just $149.00. Yes, of money. So you're probably wondering what in the name of Fek'lhr, guardian of Gre'thor, am I talking about? What is an isolinear circuit and why should you pay a hundred and fifty dollars for one. Isolinear circuits are advanced 24th century computer technology that replaced the outmoded duotronics of the 23rd century. They're key components of a starship's computer and are responsible for controlling things like life support and keeping the warp core from exploding. But more to the point this is a couple slabs of orange* acrylic that cost $149.00.

Pictured: Picard in his ready room,
handling his talky-thinky chip.
They're part of the-I shit you not-'Picard Desk Set' series of prop replicas. The second of three in fact. All painstakingly and obsessively crafted props offered by roddenberry.com. Your #1 online source for shamelessly milking Star Trek fandom. According to the site:

"Nobody quite knows precisely what purpose these circuits served for Picard, but he often handles them while talking and examines them while thinking..."

Yup, not even the people trying to sell you this thing know what it's for. Will that be credit card, or PayPal? Not to spoil the mystery here, but I'd hazard that these props were there for TV reasons. Like, for set dressing and to give Sir Patrick Stewart something to do with his hands. You know, actor business?
Above: What happens when you don't
give actors something to do with their hands.
Picard, waving a desk crystal
around. For some reason.
Anyway, these chip things follow last year's replica 'Picard Crystal Prop.' Which, did you know Captain Picard had a desk crystal? Because I didn't. Here, I'll let Roddenberry.com explain why you should give them $99.00 plus shipping for a 'Picard Desk Crystal:'

"One of the more iconic props associated with Captain Jean-Luc Picard, his "desk crystal" appears prominently in no fewer than 78 episodes...often in his hands during the iconic speeches on moral and ethical issues that are so fundamental to the character of Star Trek's most ruminative captain."

Coming in 2018: Picard's iconic computer.
Objectively more iconic than his iconic desk
crystal and even iconic-er isolinear circuit.
Huh. So I have some issues here. First of all, there should be a law, like an actual law against using the word 'iconic' twice in one sentence. Or at all. Secondly, I'm a big huge trekkie, but until today when I read this, I had no idea that Picard had a crystal on his desk. Like, what is it even supposed to be? Is it an artifact he dug up on an alien planet? Some kind of futuristic device like, an iPhone 80? Or is he secretly into hippy crystal healing bullshit? Whatever it is, I don't accept the premise that this heretofore unremarked upon crystal was either iconic, or featured prominently.

But whatever, this is just another in a long line of preposterous replicas sci-fi fans have thrown money away on. And I suppose it contains a bit of sad irony given that according to Star Trek, in the future we humans will have outgrown both money and the need to fill our lives with useless possessions.
But until that time arrives, please enjoy
this commercial of the late James Doohan
hawking commemorative Spock plates.


So how many should I put
you down for? Twelve?
*I may have erroneously referred to the 'Isolinear Circuits'  as 'slabs of orange acrylic' and that was unfair. Roddenberry.com is very clear on this point:

"Contrary to common misconception, the original acrylic circuits were neon pink rather than orange. It is only under bright lights with dark backgrounds that this material appears orange. Similarly, our replica appress variously neon pink or neon orange in different lighting environments."


-Roddenberry.com, setting the record straight

Sunday, December 24, 2017

It's beginning to look a lot like Bastille Day!

"You all just got a lot richer!"
-The President, gloating to his rich peers
I wonder exactly what percent of the food
served at Mar-A-Lago contains waiter spit?
 I'm going to guess it's in the high 80's.
Huh? Oh, no. Not us, we're getting screwed. That comment was something the President said to the wealthy white men he surrounds himself with at Mar-A-Lago Friday night. And presumably the underpaid staff that have to wait on the aging, rich parasites whose greed has ruined America forever. Trump was referring to the tax bill he and the GOP forced into law last week over the resounding objection of the American people. A bill which will permanently reduces corporate taxes and gives everyone else a few years of lower taxes before jacking them back up again as a reminder of our place.

Oh, and fun fact: the bill saves Trump $15 million in taxes personally which I'm sure isn't a gross abuse of power. Because shut up.
"How dare you suggest that the President's motivations are anything
but another example of the selflessness with which he has always
conducted both his private and professional life. Shame on you."

-Sarah Huckabee Sanders, inevitably
Come for the golf, stay for the tacky
opulence that stands as a symbol for
everything wrong with America.
And just so I'm clear, he's bragging to the wealthy elite about how awesome his tax gift to giant corporations is at his exclusive private golf resort where members pay, no lie, $200,000 to join. Two hundred thousand dollars. Of money. And then another $14,000 in annual dues. I mean, I get why rich people might support him, but what about the base? The working class who, l'm pretty sure aren't going to be reaping the benefits of this big huge break for businesses. Businesses who, famously, avoid paying most of their taxes already?

"No, really, more jobs and higher wages
for workers and...sorry, I can't even..."
-The guys who just got richer
Sure the line is these savings will get passed on to the workers, but literally no one believes that, right? According to Bernie Sanders citing a study by the Tax Policy Center:

"Many large corporations are going to use their tax breaks to make CEO's wealthier and do very little for workers."

-Bernie Sanders, pointing
out the blindingly obvious 

"You should have listened to the bird.
Remember the little bird? Landed on
my podium? That was a sign."
Which, whatever you think of Sanders, people's champion who was robbed of his shot at the Presidency by an out of touch DNC in the pocket of Hillary Clinton, or the guy who split the Democratic vote and doomed us all, you have to, have to admit that he's not wrong here. Even this op-ed from Fortune, a magazine/website whose name is another word for 'shit ton of money' agrees with him pointing out that in a poll of 300 executives asking them what they'd do with these tax breaks, most of them said 'pay down debt and buy back shares.' 

Aren't they 1% of the population?
 Like, I think we can take'em...
So in a stunning twist, when faced with a choice between social responsibility to one's country and the interests of the shareholders, businesses choose the shareholders. In a way, I suppose we can't blame them, like, they didn't write the laws, they just take advantage of them. Well, ok, they do kind of write the laws, by proxy I mean. Like, the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech, sort of legitimizing the corporate buffet that is Congress, so yeah, on the other hand, let's totally blame them. In fact, grab some torches and pitchforks. 

Anyway, incipient peasant's revolt aside, I think the lesson here is trickle down economics was bullshit in the 80's and it's bullshit now. The only difference between America then and America now is that in 2017 we should know better. 
Well, that and whatever the hell is wrong with
these people. Is it cocaine? I think it's cocaine. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Election Swingers

In defense of random chance, at least it
has a 50/50 shot of reflecting the voter's will.
Seriously? It's come to this? We're literally choosing officials by random chance? Which given the unrepentantly preposterous system that stuck us with a gameshow host for President, I suppose we shouldn't be that shocked, but still, did you see this thing about the election for the Virginia House of Delegates-huh? House of Delegates. It's what they call their House of Representatives. I guess they think it makes them sound quaint and colonial. Also, they're not the State of Virginia, they're the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Anyway, speaking of quaint, they're going to settle this election by drawing lots. No, really. So the election for the 94th District has been kind of a goat rodeo. First it went to Republican David Yancey by just ten votes and Democrat Shelly Simmonds asked for a recount. A recount she won by one vote. Hurray, great story. But then that got reversed because of this:
If I learned anything from public school it's that
Scantron sheets would one day ruin all our lives.
Pictured: The Party of Lincoln...no,
 really, they still call themselves that.
Simonds or Yancey? In the interest of full disclosure I should mention that I'm not from Virginia and don't know anything about David E. Yancey or Shelly A. Simonds. However since the Republican party has turned into some kind of pro-Nazi, pro-statutory rape, rancidity homophobic, misogynistic caricature of itself, I'm going to go ahead and root for Simonds. That said, yeah fine, it does kind of look like the voter in question ticked Simonds and then suddenly remembered Hillary Clinton's emails and how Obama is a secret gay Muslim and then crossed it out and filled in the Yancey bubble.

So now it's a tie again and thanks to some arcane procedural rules and Virginia's adorable commitment to folksiness, they're going to write the candidates names on slips of paper, stuff them into film canisters, because of course they are, and then draw one out of a tricorn hat or something...ok, it's going to be pulled out of a bowl, but a tricorn would be way funnier. 
The drawing of lots is actually a concession to modern electoral standards.
Strictly speaking, they're supposed to immerse both candidates in water
 and see which one floats. That candidate is then to be burned as a witch. 
What? Not all judges are on the up and up.
Take noted child molester Roy Moore for
example. He was a judge. Sorry, alleged.
But here's the bullshit. A three-judge panel in charge of certifying the recount picked this ballot out of the invalid ballot stack and decided it was a vote for Yancey. But is it? That may have been the voter’s intent, but if they wanted to change their mind they should have asked for a new ballot. You don't just scribble one out and check a new box, it's confusing. I mean for all we know someone could have tampered with the ballot after the fact. That's why they throw botched ballots like this out.

Like this fancy fellow here.
Look, I know I'm biased here, but GOP, as a whole, has been acting like, what's the phrase? A pack of rabid-foam crazies who just want to watch the world burn? Or let's just say jerks. They're acting like jerks and I want to see them hoisted by their proverbial petards. What's a petard? Here, let me explain through the power of pedantry: a petard is a sort of bomb used to break open a city wall and to be hoisted by one's own petard is to have it backfire and throw you up into the air. Like a schlemiel. And I'd pay real money to watch some petard hoisting.

Back to what I was saying, sure I'm biased here, but this back and forth with ballots getting un-invalidated and elections decided by drawing a name out of a bowl, smacks of shenanigans at a time where politics are especially gross and full of shady moves, shitty deals and defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.
Congratulations Virginia, you're about to decide an election
the same way swingers in the 70's chose sex partners. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

More like: 'Oumua-wah-wah...

In disappointing alien contact news, 'Oumuamua, the rigid and mighty interstellar shaft of mystery that recently plunged betwixt our solar system's quivering orbital paths and into the warmth of our primary star's embrace might not be an alien starship after all.
"Bow-chicka-wow-wow."
-NASA's official
statement on 'Oumuamua
Four if you count 'as portent of ill omen.'
Which, thanks, but we don't really need a
comet to tell us how screwed we all are.
Even more disappointingly, it might not even be an oddly shaped asteroid. A paper published this week by a researchers in Belfast, Northern Ireland, suggests that 'Oumuamua might just be a comet. They contend that the object is just a chunk of carbon-rich ice that's been cooked by interstellar radiation giving it a crust of 'organic gunk.' Their words, not mine. Anyway, according to planetary astronomer Michele Bannister, this crusty gunk layer is what's preventing 'Oumuamua from giving off the spectacular glowing tail of gases we normally associate with comets. So really this thing is disappointing us on at least three different levels.

Ok, so it's not alien, it's not some new, as yet undiscovered type of asteroid and as comets go, this one's more like an gunk covered log slowly circling the drain of the sun's gravity well.
Above: gross.
Or, if Nick Pope, the former head of the U.K.'s Ministry of Defense UFO Project has anything to say about it, it really is an alien starship and thanks to the radio signals we scanned it with earlier this month, we're all doomed. Wai-wah?

No one in a UFO documentary
could be full of shit, right?
Yeah, according to Pope:

'While nothing has been found yet, there's another intriguing possibility: If this ship is an alien probe, it's possible that our scans will awake the intelligence inside.'

-Nick Pope, presumably in a dark, smoke-
filled room with a shadowy figure looking on

All I'm saying is that maybe we
should all stop washing our hands,
...you know just in case.
Well, yeah, but it's also possible that Michele Banister is right with her crusty space log theory, right? Pope went on to explain that if this is aliens, our civilization is probably boned.

"Humanity probably wouldn't survive and alien invasion...any aliens that find us...probably have technology way in advance of anything we have."


-Pope, apparently never
having seen War of the Worlds

An interstellar civilization almost
certainly has Roombas that can manage
stairs. So what do they want with us?
Look, I would be thrilled to see alien contact in my lifetime. Just tickled pink. But why does everyone from Nick Pope up to Steven Hawking always assume they'll be hostile? I mean, what could our puny planet possibly have of value that aliens would travel lightyears to murder us for? Any natural resource of value found here on Earth can also be found floating freely everywhere else in the galaxy. Water, metals, crusty space logs. Anything. Sure, I suppose they could take us as slaves, but if they're so advanced, wouldn't they have robots or something? Why come all the way here?

It's the exact same reason the plot of
Starship Troopers makes no godadmn sense.
Pope's theory that aliens might have hollowed out 'Oumuamua to use as a spaceship is clever and all, but for this to work wouldn't they have had to sealed themselves up inside this thing thousands or maybe even millions of years ago to make it this far across the interstellar void? Like, long before civilization developed on Earth and possibly before humans even evolved? Is he saying that they hopped aboard this thing and shot themselves into space on the off chance that they might somehow, in the brain-melting vastness of the universe, stumble across a planet worth conquering?

Don't get me wrong, I mean no disrespect towards Nick Pope or his batshit paranoid claims that the least plausible explanation of 'Oumuamua is not only correct, but also signals our imminent destruction at the hands of incredibly lucky visitors from the stars, but maybe-and I say this as someone who is super pro-alien-maybe it really is just a chunk of ice?
Again, I'm not trying to be a jerk here, but according
to my calculations, the chance of Nick Pope's theory
being the correct one is exactly centaur.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Original-ish!

That movie was bananas. Bananas Foster even. I don't mean that in a bad way, it's just that-huh? What movie? I'm sorry, have you read this blog before? Because nerd stuff. Of course by that I mean I want to talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 
If I were to sum up this movie in terms of a
flaming desert, this would have to be the one.
And sometimes I write about
political stuff, so look out internet!
If you haven't seen it yet and have been avoiding spoilers by say, locking yourself in a dark, wifi-less room, possibly in a cabin or Rapture shelter, relax, I'm not going to ruin it for you. In a stunningly original move however, I am going to voice my opinion about it on the internet. Discussing Star Wars? On the internet? Yeah, I'm a trail blazer. Anyway, what I'm saying is that while I'm not going to give away plot details, I'm still going to tell you what I thought of it in broad terms, so if you want to go in fresh, maybe don't read this post. Still there?

Also space penguins.
Super. So I liked The Last Jedi, but I can totally see why it's been kind of divisive among fans and casual movie people alike. The story's a hot mess, it's about an hour longer than it needed to be and it ends like three times. There's a couple of scenes that would have been totally at home in the objectively garbage prequel films and it takes some serious liberties with characters and elements of Star Wars, especially with the Force which-I know it's space magic, but holy shit.

Are you though?
In short, this is the Zelda II of Star Wars movies. If that was a meaningless analogy for you, congratulations, you're either under thirty or you live a rich, sociable life filled with outdoor activities. I'll explain. Zelda II is divisive among fans of the series. It's weird, it's kind of broken and it doesn't feel like any of the other games. Some of us love Zelda II, others think it's the worst Zelda ever. They're incorrect of course. Skyward Sword is objectively the worst. Yes, come at me. But the point is that Zelda II is a product of a time when game developers were more willing to take risks and that's kinda what's going on with The Last Jedi.

Because even in far away
galaxy, parking is bullshit.
The writing and direction feel less reverential and precious towards Star Wars and the movie is stronger for it. Sure, there were some genuine moments of abject cheese. In particular, there's a healthy twenty minutes of the film devoted to our heroes getting delayed while on a super-important mission to save the rebellion from annihilation because of, get this: a parking violation. But whatever, this isn't art, this is a movie about magic wizards fighting space Nazis. It's not supposed to be deep, it's supposed to sell us action figures and plastic lightsabers.

You mean no one on the set
questioned this scene?
I know I rag on the prequels for things like Jar-Jar or that time Obi-wan went to a 1950's diner to consult his talking cockroach pal/poison dart expert and in fairness this movie has some preposterous moments too, but the difference is that it also has likeable characters with human emotions. I can forgive some wacky CGI buffoonery if it means not having to sit through two and a half hours of cardboard standees expounding on the subject of galactic trade law.

The Last Jedi feels original. Janky, but original. The last one, The Force Awakens was good, but if we're being honest it was a beat-for-beat remake of New Hope. And while TLJ (acronym!) does delibrately call back to The Empire Strikes Back by opening with the Rebels hoping on to transport ships and evacuating their base, it quickly goes off in other directions. Not all of them great, but at least they didn't feel like we've been there already.
Well, it feels as original as the fiftieth or sixtieth trip to this
particular well can possibly feel. Which is to say, somewhat.