Sunday, July 30, 2017

Today in things that smacked my gob...

I'm not great at saving money, I admit this. I'm sure I should be socking it away in some kind of retirement plan or a 401K but I have to do things like pay rent and eat food, and there's just not alot left over. Also, I'm not convinced that money will be super-useful in the barren wastelands of the future.
If Mad Max has taught us anything, it's that Mater Blaster runs
Bartertown. Not Exchange Worthless Pieces Of Paper From A
Defunct Civilization For The Basic Necessities Of Survival-Town
Are you in a house with an attic? Then
congratulations, there are probably at
least three copies up there right now.
That said, did you see this? Can you even believe that? I can not. I might even go so far as to say I'm astonished-no that's not the word. Maybe gobsmacked? Yes, I am smacked squarely in the gob that someone just bought a copy of Super Mario Bros. for $30,100.44. Yes, that figure again is thirty thousand, one hundred dollars and forty four cents. Of money. For the #1 best selling NES game ever. There are 40 million copies of this thing floating out there in used game stores, flea markets and garage sales, so again, $31,000.44.

Now, to be clear, Super Mario Bros. is a great game. I'm not arguing that. I'm only saying that this person just paid about $30,999 more than anyone has any business paying for it.
For $30,000 they could have bought this collection of every NES game ever
made, eight times over. Which I sure would also be a smart business move...
Hazily...I think it was a kind of
the earth-tone Target of its day.
Ok, obviously this isn't some random garage sale copy of the game. It's in perfect condition, in its original packaging and has been untouched by grubby human hands since the day someone at a factory vacuum sealed it and a small amount of New-Coke scented, Reagan-era atmosphere within its cellophane cocoon. It even still has its $26.99 price tag on it. From goddamn Caldor. Holy shit, do you remember Caldor? Anyway, while it is legitimately rare is it $30,000 rare?

Take this skyline drawing Donald Trump did, it's rare, but does that mean it's worth $30,000? Well, apparently yes it does because that's how much someone just bought it for last week. Bad example, I know, I really just wanted to mention that someone paid $30,000 for Trump's sharpie doodle. Moving on...
In a way it's reassuring, I mean, no one with an interest
in art ever turned out to be a disastrous leader, right?
"Yeah, but the Caldor sticker..."
-Undisclosed bidder's reasoning
I suppose something like this is only worth what someone is willing to pay and some undisclosed eBay bidder was willing. Very willing, in fact they went on to drop another 11 grand on another lot of sealed-in-box games-$40,000 in all-so what I guess what I want to know is why. Rarity sure, I sort of get that but that's a lot of money. To put things into perspective, $30,000 is more than a lot of Americans make in a year. It could pay for a college education (at a state school anyway) or a wedding or medical expenses for a family of four.

The point is that just because someone has money, they don't necessarily make good choices about what to do with it. Also another, I think equally important take-away here is that America has some seriously screwed up priorities. I mean, $30,000 for a wedding? I find that also smacks my gob.
"We just threw it on top of our already crippling student loan debts.
We'll never be able to retire, but we registered at Bed Bath and Beyond
so we'll be set for life when it comes to duvet covers and slow cookers."
-Some couple

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Because business is gross.

So I'm not a business person or anything, in fact I think business is gross and I hate it, but I often have strong opinions about business things. Take this news story about the company that makes Roomba-you know, those robot vacuum cleaners? Turns out they're planning to use their robots to spy on you in order to get you to buy more stuff because, as I mentioned before, business is gross.
"It's true, we are the worst."
-Business people
The important thing is that you
tried...or at least thought about it.
In order for these things to scurry around your house doing the all the vacuuming you're too good to do yourself, they collect information about their surroundings. That way they can avoid repeatedly running into obstacles like furniture and unused exercise equipment that seemed like a good idea when you bought it but you never got in to it but-hey, life happens ok? Don't beat yourself up. The important thing is that a Roomba will know way more about you than a regular vacuum.

Makes sense, right? Sure, until you remember that old adage (that I made up a couple paragraphs ago) about business being gross. Sensing an opportunity to take advantage of its customers who just wanted to avoid menial tasks, iRobot announced plans to sell the information they have about you and your home to marketers.
It's the old Trojan Horse maneuver except instead of opening
the doors to an invading Greek army, they're telling Ikea that you
just might be open to buying a Söderhamn 4-seat sectional sofa.  
"Laserbeak, Ravage, Roomba,
eject. Operation: market research."
I'm not a hundred percent clear on this part, but from the story it sounds like iRobot isn't going to start selling new, spy-equipped Roomas but instead will just flip on some kind of pre-existing software and just start using the one that's already in your house as some kind of creepy corporate data miner. Yup, you may already have a tiny surveillance robot in your home collecting information about things already you have in your home, things you might like to buy and things you like to do when nobody except your trusty robot vacuum cleaner is around.

Now you'd think that using robots in this way would violate Isaac Asimov's three laws of robotics, and you'd be right. According to the First Law a robot may not harm a human being and helping retailers sell you more shit you don't need is certainly harmful so we are left with the chilling possibility that iRobot's robots don't even see us as human beings, but instead as nothing more than exploitable resources from whom to extract revenue...which now that I think about is is exactly what business is for. See? Gross.
"Greetings human consumers, our records indicate you have recently
been experiencing reduced sexual activity. I will now guide you to our
wide selection of marital aides and lubricants. Resistance is futile."

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Let's take the low road!

So at around 6 a.m. this morning, the President rolled out of his plush warm bed in the White House, wiped the sleep from his eyes, let out a long, basso fart and fumbled for his phone.
Pictured: Members of the Marine Corps Special Tuba Detachment
tasked with playing outside the President's bedroom for unrelated reasons.
Above: what I'm almost positive
the President's phone looks like.
Then, with thumbs crooked around what I assume is a tacky, gold plated and jewel encrusted phone, tapped out a petty, mean-spirited tweet that stripped thousands of American service people of their jobs for no reason other than he is a hate-filled, insecure man in whom must certainly lurk the deeply suppressed knowledge that he deserves virtually none of the things he has. Not his success at business, not his wealth, and certainly not the presidency. Huh? Sorry, that was pretty harsh. I should explain. Look, I don't usually go in for fart jokes but for real, tell me the droning sound of bitter old man flatulence doesn't immediately spring to mind when you picture the President sending out one of his tweets-huh?

Because, you know, the
hat promised greatness.
Oh, you meant about all that other stuff I said. Well the thing is, today's announcement is like the dickest of dick moves from the self-appointed king of dick moves, and I'm, you know, outraged. With a series of tweets, an unqualified real-estate mogul turned game show host turned technical electoral college winner with the worst approval rating in the history of approval ratings just booted all transgender people from serving in any capacity in the American armed services. So like, is America great now?

Here, check out the text of the tweets and, as always, the weird capitalization and extravagant use of ellipses are his, not mine:

"Transgender? No, the T stands for
terrific. Because I'm so terrific."
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...." ".....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming...." "....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you"

-The President after his ponderous morning fart

Above: an unrelated photo of Trump
touring our new $17 billion aircraft
carrier. Not pictured: perspective.
Thank you? Thank you? First of all, they're not the hell his generals. Second of all, according to this, the RAND corporation's study on the impact of lifting the old ban on transgender service people estimated that the medical costs to the military would increase by $2.4-$4 million per year. Yikes, right? Well, yes, but this is the government we're talking about and we spend about $6 billion (with a 'B') on medical costs for the military. Don't get me wrong, $4 million is a lot of money. I get that. But it's not unreasonable when we're talking about a budget of $6 billion.

And it's straight-up chump change when we're spending $20 million just so the president can go chill out at his golf-resort on weekends.
Ever wonder what unmitigated gall looks like? Becuase
it looks like a billionaire who spent $20 million of our money
on vacations quibbling over $4 million for our troops.
Again, I'm saying I'm not better than this.
But whatever, all this to say I'm sorry I felt the need to go low here. I'd say I'm better than that, but I think we both know that's not true. It's just, and this isn't an excuse, it's just sometimes people make me like, really mad and sometimes that anger comes out in the form of low brow humor, like fart jokes, or that time I suggested that Pat Robertson was fixated on gay sex or when I implied that the president of Chic fil-A enjoyed kinky animal role-play with his father. Sometimes this guy really makes me want to take the low road.

Oh, and before you judge me for using juvenile humor to vent frustration, and judge me you should, remember that I'm not the one firing thousands of U.S. service members for being trans, I'm just making fart jokes about the guy who did.
Huh, say, you don't suppose he only says all that stuff about being a yuge
fan of the military because it's an easy way to score points with his base, do you?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A plenary power to pardon? Preposterous!

Look, I'm not a lawyer or anything but no, just no:
Wait, that doesn't sound right, but I guess there's no arguing with all caps...
"All agree that the only real crime is looking
 into the many crimes I may have committed."

-Trump, talking to us idiots
I know I harp on this point a lot, but does this man actually think that we're all idiots? Like, that everyone in America is a complete braindead buffoon that can't see through the mind-spinning rhetorical sorcery of his tweets? 'While all agree the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon..." Well, I don't know about you, but I'm certainly accepting his premise. And hey, yeah, why are we talking about that naked attempt at grabbing unlimited power when we could be talking about all those LEAKS (caps his)?

It's not so much a legal
team as it is a legal phalanx.
No not everyone agrees that the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon and certainly not the power to pardon himself. Jay Sekulow, the Presdient's lawyer-sorry, one of the many lawyers he's retained to deal with the mounting legal issues he's facing, went on George Stephanopoulos's show to talk about it. After insisting in a totally unrehearsed and in not at all an angry way that the legal team isn't even talking about all the pardoning he might have to do, he didn't rule it out.

Two professors enter,
one professor leaves.
"I want to be clear on this George, we have not [had] conversations with the President of the United States about pardons, pardons have not been discussed, and pardons are not on the table. With regard to the issue of a President pardoning himself, there's a big academic discussion going on right now. An academic debate, you've got professor Tribe arguing one point, you've got professor Turley arguing another point...

-Jay Sekulow launching into details about 
that thing that's totally not on anybody's radar

"...and while it makes for interesting academic discussions, let me tell you what the legal team is not doing: we're not researching the issue because the issue of pardons is not on the table, there's nothing to pardon from."
", good morning and welcome to the show Mr. Sekulow..."
-George Stephanopoulos, extracting 
his head from Jay Sekulow's maw
Pictured: President Trump touring the U.S.S.
Gerald Ford on the same day he made his
pardon tweet. Not pictured: a sense of irony.
Ok, first of all, I'm sure we shouldn't read all that as defensiveness. He's probably just on edge about some other thing that's totally not related to his position on the legal team of an unpopular President around whom swirl accusations of financial malfeasance, collusion with Russia and straight up incompetence. Stephanopoulos went on to cite a Nixon-era memoranda that says 'Under the fundamental rule that a person cannot be judge in their own case, the President cannot pardon himself,' and then asked Sekulow again if he thought the President can pardon himself.

"Please, your pernicious position
on pardons is perfect poppycock..."
"I don't think that you can-first of all, it's never been adjudicated whether a president can pardon himself because it's never happened. But clearly the constitution does vest a plenary pardon power within the presidency. Whether it applies to the president himself, I think would ultimately be a matter for a court to decide...

-Jay Sekulow, hitting
those comedy 'p's

Incidentally, can we just stop doing
that whole turkey thing all together?
I mean, what's wrong with us?
Wait, what? Hilarious alliteration aside, really? The answer here is no. It's no. Of course the authors of the Constitution didn't intend for the President of the United States to have the unlimited and unchecked power to do any illegal thing he or she pleases and then to simply pardon themselves. It would be like handing the president a license to commit crime which is bad enough for a reasonable person. Can you imagine what someone like Trump would do with that? I don't even think we should trust him to pardon the turkey at Thanksgiving.

Look, I'm not a constitutional scholar or anything, and I get that Sekulow is the President's lawyer and would say that Donald Trump has goddamn superpowers if that'd shake the media scrutiny on this whole Russia thing, but for fuck's sake. I'm not suggesting that the President has done anything illegal, or at least anything we can prove, but are we really having a conversation about whether or not he has a crime-pass?
Above: President Trump exercising his constitutional
authority to command the creatures of the sea. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Today in the dogged pursuit of facts...

" you're wasting our time. Super."
-Katy Tur, probably reconsidering
some of her career choices.
Hey, remember when the President set up the Presidential Commission on Voter Fraud to investigate the massive voter fraud he made up? They've just had their first meeting so Katy Tur asked the head of the commission on MSNBC about whether he thought Clinton really won the popular vote. Here's Kobach's response:

"We'll probably never know the answer to that..."

-Kris Kobach, the guy investigating voter fraud
on the utter pointlessness of his job

The game's afoot! And also meaningless.
Wai-what? So Tur then asked him what the hell then is the point of the commission he heads..uh, my words, not hers, Kobach explained:

"It's not to justify, to validate or invalidate what the President said in December or January of 2016, the commission is to look at the facts as they are and to go where the facts lead us."

-Kris Kobach on the facts, which
suddenly everyone cares about

"In my defense, lots of people are idiots."
-Kris Kobach on how stupid
he must think we all are the commission the President set up to investigate voter fraud isn't there to validate or invalidate the President's claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election, but rather voter fraud as an abstract concept. And it's just a huge coinci-I'm sorry, a yuge coincidence that the President made those baseless claims about having been robbed of a popular vote victory that directly led to the commission-hey, Kobach and the President know about the internet, right? And how it remembers all the things they say to us?

Incredulous at the logical hopscotch and contempt for the public's intelligence, Tur pressed:

"How do you say 'we may never know the answer to that question. Really? You really believe that?"

-Katy Tur, because sometimes repeating
'Really? Really?' is all you've got left
I know this administration is tearing down the very foundations of what
makes our democracy function, and that's terrible, but the looks on the face
of the journalists trying to get answers from these people are priceless.
And when they're done with fraud, they
can get to work figuring out how many
angels can dance on this thing. Say, nine?
"Well I, what I'm saying is let's suppose that the commission determined that there were a certain number of votes cast by ineligible voters, you still won't know whether those people who were ineligible voted for Trump or for Clinton or for somebody else. So it's impossible to know...what the final tally would be in that election."

-Kobach, contemplating just
one of life's many mysteries

So the head of the voter fraud commission doesn't think he'll find anything. Great, neither do we.
I wasn't really questioning the electoral
outcome before, but now I kinda am...
And furthermore even if, hypothetically, he was able to find evidence that some illegible voters cast ballots he wouldn't be able to show who they voted for or determine if the outcome would have been affected which, holy shit, doesn't a few fraudulent voters swinging a couple crucial districts to Trump in sharp defiance of all the polling data sound like a much more plausible scenario than the 3 million illegal votes for Clinton that still failed to deliver her an electoral college win?

Ok, but that's the kind of baseless speculation that can drive you crazy. What guess I do want to know is are we paying this commission and if so, how much? Because it kind of sounds like they're about to waste a lot of time and money neither validating nor invalidating some off-handed claim the President made to make himself feel better about not being the person most of us voted for and actually raising even more questions about an election we've already got serious issues with.
Although I suppose Kobach does kind of line up with the President's
policy of hiring people with no qualifications to do a terrible job.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Yeah, but does anyone remember it fondly?

So I'm not a business person, but I think Atari made a smart move Monday by telling us what their new product is. It's a good first step in convincing people to buy it. Ok, now brace yourself, we're going to get into some very specific video game nerdom here. Now's your chance to bail out. Still there? Super.
Again, not a business guy, but I wonder if they're not
relying a bit to heavily on the nostalgic draw of wood trim.
Above: About how much
hedging I plan to do here.
Initially announcing earlier this year at E3 with a vague, information-free teaser trailer, the company confirmed that it's called an Ataribox and that it will at play 'new content' as well as 'classic games' which...look, I've been into video games for as long as I can remember and while I recall playing Atari, I don't recall particularly enjoying Atari. Yes, the games are important from like an historical perspective, but they're kind of, you know, terrible? Yes. Them's fightin' words, so allow me to hedge.

First of all, when I say Atari games, I'm lumping everything pre-NES into one giant broad characterization. Also, this is 100% just my personal experience and opinion here. If you yourself are a fan of this particular corner of gaming, good on you. Just know that I'm not trying to-I think the kids are saying 'yuck anyone's yum.'
Maybe these games were more fun during the Cold War with the
 threat of mutual assured destruction hanging over our heads?
It's like whoever designed this had
never seen a human hand before.
That said, the graphics sucked, the controllers were clearly designed to cause carpel tunnel syndrome and every single game was a frustrating exercise in futility. Which, I know some of this is unfair. The graphics, obviously, were limited by the available technology. I'm sure at the time it looked like goddamn Avatar, but it hasn't aged well. As for the controller, it was one of the first ever so it didn't have the benefit of earlier designs. But still, the gameplay. You've got to give me that.

Atari was sort of the Jean-Paul
Satre of the game industry.
Unlike NES games, Atari games didn't really have an ending. You just kind of played until the difficulty ratcheted up past the ability of the human brain to cope and then I don't know, you were supposed to write down your score or whatever. The reward was bragging rights I suppose, but at least in Super Mario Bros. you would eventually find Princess Toadstool. With Atari games, death is inevitable. I guess as a kid I just wasn't into existentialist games about the meaninglessness of existence.

Well adjusted people enjoying the great
outdoors seemingly without any visible
means of playing video games. Huh...
Oh well, those are just my surprisingly strong opinions about something any healthy, well adjusted individual probably shouldn't feel this strongly about. But to take it back to Atari's announcement, I think what bothers me here is the slow roll out of information, like they're building to something big when really they're just building to another retro game console which would be way more exciting if there weren't like fifteen plug and play Atari consoles already available not to mention the entire back catalogue already on your phone. 

Why the mystery? Ok, so this thing plays old Atari games as well as whatever they mean by 'current content.' Cool. So does every existing game console. Like, I'll admit, I'm a mighty fool when it comes to video game nostalgia but I am befuddled, be-goddamn-fuddled as to why someone thought the world needed another way to play Atari games.
I mean, Atari games were recently the subject of an actual archeological dig.
I don't want to be a jerk here, but that doesn't seem like a good omen.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Today in unsurprising reactions...

The BBC decided to announce the
casting after today's Wimbledon
match because Britain is adorable. 
Finally BBC, finally. After thirteen incarnations, the thirteenth Doctor on Doctor Who is a woman. Yeah, the math is a little weird and that should be fourteenth, but the one-off War Doctor played by John Hurt doesn't count for space reasons. Don't worry about it, the important thing is that British actor Jodie Whittaker is the new Doctor and if none of this gibberish makes any sense to you just go back to your rich full life, unconcerned with long-running British TV sci-fi and go for a jog or maybe socialize with friends.

Regenerations can be triggered by
wounds, or radiation poisoning or
just the strong dislike of the fans.
Still there? Great. If you're not super-familiar with Doctor Who, I'll give you the broad strokes. The titular Doctor is a mostly immortal alien with a time machine who can avoid death by regenerating into a new incarnation. The concept was invented because the first Doctor, played by William Hartnell was getting older and ill and needed to retire from the series and this was his out. But now it's become kind of a tradition that whenever the actor wants to move to other projects the character just turns into some other guy and blamo, the show's been on for 50 years now. Yes, some other guy.

Shut up you one-off, that was not a pun
although I did almost say balls back there.
No, I'm not better than that. I'm really not.
Because despite being around for fifty years and casting thirteen canon Doctors, all of them, all of them have been white males. Since reviving the series in 2005, the writers have repeatedly alluded to the Doctor being physically able to regenerate into a woman or a non-white person but until now they've never had the...shall we say courage? The courage to do something which twenty years ago would have seemed risky, but now feels a little 'it's about time.'

So as with any big casting news, the eyes of the world immediately turn to the learned opinion of those deemed wise enough to be granted a Twitter account:
Really? But he hasn't even seen Whittaker in the role.
I mean, maybe he'll really enjoy her performance if he-
-hell. Hell? That seems a little-
-killed the tradition of a classic show?
I guess he hasn't seen Love & Monsters.
And my personal favorite so far:

Gee, I guess you can't argue with that reasoning.

Well men, it's all over and if I were to
be honest I'd give us a C+ at best.
Alright, so obviously I picked the jerk reactions because it's fun to call them out on their sexist whining. It's not that everyone isn't entitled to their opinions, it's just that their opinions are ridiculous and they are idiots. I mean, one incarnation of one fictional time-traveling alien on one TV show and suddenly men are in danger of loosing their grip on total domination of the Earth that's lasted for thousands of years? Holy shit guys. Holy shit. And this based on 8 seconds of a one minute announcement clip that went up 2 hours ago and for these guys 50 years of Who fandom is forever spoiled by Jodie Whittaker. Oh yeah, speaking of. 

Pictured: the entire casting pool
of the United Kingdom.
Jodie Whittaker, right? Now, as a limp-writsted liberal racked by white guilt, I still feel the need to suggest they could have gone with a woman of color in the role and fully joined the future, but that's a quibble. As for Whittaker, I've only seen her on the British crime drama Broadchurch, which, incidentally also starred 10th Doctor David Tennant and Arthur Darvill who played the 11th Doctor's companion Rory. This isn't so much coincidence as it is the fact that the British TV and film industry has exactly twenty four available actors and half of them have already been on Doctor Who.

Anyway, I've only seen season one of Broadchurch but she Whittaker was pretty great in it and I think she'll make a swell Doctor. Also, judging by the entire twitter response and not just the asshats, fans are pretty excited to see the BBC take the series in a much needed direction even if it did take them fourteen tries to finally come around. I mean, seriously, fourteen tries?
"A TV show about a female immortal
alien time-traveler? Pfft...balderdash!"

-idiots on the internet