Missed opportunities in “Gravity”

By now, anyone interested has seen Neil deGrasse Tyson’s slaps at Gravity’s science. There are other space nerds who have done the same. Leroy Chiao notes that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are far too attractive to be astronauts, which is actually unfair — Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are far too attractive for almost anything.

I Googled "sexy astronaut" and got this. We are a terrible people.

I Googled “sexy astronaut” and got this. We are a terrible people.

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Bringing pain into the 19th century

It’s a standard comedy trope that dentistry techniques were developed by Torquemada. The only technical advances made since then have been sterilization and making the metal hooks sharper. You’ll be happy to know that’s no longer true.

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What I learned from letting go of my dog

My apologies if this comes off a little macabre. You know how I am about sharing new experiences, and this was definitely a new one.

I promise I’m not going to keep going on about this. Maybe I need to see a nice, stupid movie to talk about…

You’re all aware of what happened with Arrow. I’ve had a lot of dogs in my life, but for whatever reason, this is the first time I actually had to make the hard choice. Sometimes they died unexpectedly, as with Vandal a few years ago. Other times it was my mom who made the decision because I wasn’t around or was too young.

Having now made that impossible choice, there are things I wish I’d known beforehand.

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Gonna be a little lonely for awhile

It’s not like we weren’t warned this was coming.

Those of you who follow me here or on Facebook have seen me post about my dog Arrow. Specifically, the medical issues he’s been having for the last few months, mostly caused by being 16 years old. Arrow’s life had been growing increasingly burdensome, as it ultimately does for all of us who get very old.

This morning, it was clear he’d had enough. We quietly and peacefully set that burden aside.

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Royul babby?

I said on Facebook that I was eager for the new royal baby to show up because he or she has no connection to the George Zimmerman business. I think we’re all ready for a not-short break from that.

But I thought about it while pounding on the treadmill. (That’s what you do to treadmills, right?) I think there’s a better option.

Prince Trayvon Juror B37 Middleton-Windsor

This is the perfect name. Sure, Trayvon is a boy’s name and Juror B37 is a girl’s name, but we only have one data point for each. The royal couple can be trendsetters.

Keep Calm and Smoulder On

Keep Calm and Smoulder On

King Trayvon (or Queen Juror B37, whichever) will be the most popular British monarch to Americans of all time — even more than that really hot one in The Tudors.

Maybe Prince William is playing a deeper game. Think how his father and grandmother will react. The Queen will simply explode (though more for the Middleton-Windsor part than anything else) and Charles will have a Rage-O-Cardial Infarction. William could become a father and the next king all on the same day.

The only danger is if Charles gets his hands on William’s throat before he has his coronary event. Kate would become a widow, she would skip the whole “Queen Consort” thing*, and jump straight to queen mum for the newborn King Trayvon. I don’t know if she would be regent until he turned 18. “Reached his majority” I think is the term. That should give her time to behead the shit out of some people.

For example, she could behead Prince Harry.  She would have to, because he would raise a rebel army with the battle cry “I say, chaps! I am bloody well not dipping the codgers to someone named Juror B37, toodle-pip!” We would have the first British dynastic wars since the mid-15th century.

Back in America, a civil war in England would be devastating. President Obama would frown a lot. Lindsay Graham would blame it on Benghazi. John Boehner would vow to condemn the bloodshed but then fail to get the House votes to do so. John McCain would get an erection so powerful he would literally turn himself inside out.

That is going to be some great television. And the whole thing would fall apart if Charles or the Queen got wind of it before the birth. They could have William drawn and quartered, making Harry only the third naked/drunk/Nazi-uniform-owning royal heir in British history. And we thought they weren’t telling us the name only to fuck with the media — admittedly, a good enough reason.

I will be very happy. Hail to the king, baby.

* As things stand now, Kate will be queen when William ascends the throne. She’ll be queen consort, which is a different bucket of peasants from what Elizabeth is (queen regnant). As the queen consort, she has the title but none of her husband’s power. Sort of like Prince Philip — except Philip can’t get the “king” title because he can’t be ranked above the queen in the actual line, since the people who thought the system up were big ol’ sexists.

Cogspanko ergo sum

Like all of you, I am thrilled to be alive in an era where we have learned that a fetus can masturbate at 15 weeks.

We owe a huge debt to Texas congressman Michael Burgess (R-Onanism) for this discovery.

Don't look sad, Michael - take a few minutes and go prove you're alive

Don’t look sad, Michael – take a few minutes and go prove you’re alive

Armed with this knowledge, I am starting a petition to change the United States Motto to Unum de multis (“out of one, many’). It makes more sense than the old E pluribus unum or even the more modern Pro se quisque (“Every man for himself”).

In Michael’s own words (and pay attention — he’s an obstetrician):

This is a subject I know something about … Watch a sonogram of a 15-week baby, and they have movements that are purposeful. They stroke their face. If they’re a male baby, they may have their hand between their legs. If they feel pleasure, why is it so hard to believe that they could feel pain?

That is obviously ironclad reasoning, but I think Representative Ruboneout needs to re-think one thing: this particular proof-of-life technique isn’t a boy’s club. The ladies can also… ummm… slide into home. The GOP has its problem with women already; no need to exacerbate it by telling girl fetuses they can’t… er…. work out at the Y.

Normally, when a Republican dumbass starts speaking about reproduction issues, lots of people (including myself) beg to have the idiot removed from office. But I hope we get to keep Michael the Milker. (Maybe we can remove him from the vice chairmanship of the Subcommittee on Health though?)

You keep being you, Michael. I’d offer you a high five, but… not this time.

All my powers

Warning! Huge spoilers for both the new Man of Steel movie and the Superman movie from 1978.

The new one isn’t bad. It’s better than its Rotten Tomato score, which I guess evens the scales. The new Star Trek movie isn’t as good as Rotten Tomatoes would have you believe. Henry Cavill does well, even after shaving his mustache.

"It's not a truck company. On my world, it means 'Mustache Rides $1'"

“It’s not a truck company. On my world, it means ‘Mustache Rides $1′”

There’s one thing that troubles me apart from the internal inconsistencies that I guess I have to live with. (Seriously, Hollywood — there are talented writers who know and love this character. You don’t have to keep hiring the same hacks.)

Flash back to 1978 or whenever you punk kids saw the original Christopher Reeve Superman. After the opening scene on Krypton, we meet Superbaby’s Earth parents.

I'm Glenn Ford. You might remember me from not being in Waterworld.

I’m Glenn Ford. You might remember me from not being in Waterworld.

We jump to Clark’s high school years, where Pa Kent dispenses from his Wisdom Faucet about how maybe he shouldn’t worry about playing football. (Why did you even land in Kansas then?) The emotional heart of the movie is set up when Pa dies from a heart attack and Clark realizes that despite all he can do, he couldn’t save his dad’s life. It’s a subtle and important message, especially for a comic book movie.

Later, the message comes full circle when Lois dies. Superman is suddenly getting shit from Marlon Brando about not interfering when he remembers his dad’s death. Then this happens.

I think he could have caught both missiles

I think he could have caught both missiles

Okay, that part was dumb and watered down the message into “Superman can’t save everyone but he will literally move heaven and earth for his girlfriend.” Why he didn’t just fly the planet back a couple of hours and stop both the missiles before they launched is a mystery.

But it’s not as much a mystery has how the new Superman turned out so stable and grounded while being raised by a seriously clueless and deranged Earth Dad.

Look, they used a Duke Boy for the TV show! I was awesome in Tin Cup!

Look, they used a Duke Boy for the TV show! I was awesome in Tin Cup!

Pa Costner here is worried about how people will react to a flying superpowered alien living among them. He even hints that Clark should have let a bunch of kids drown when their schoolbus goes off a bridge. I’d call that a morally ambiguous Daddy Teaching Moment.

What is less morally ambiguous is the dumbest death scene in recent memory. The Kent family is driving along when traffic suddenly stops because a tornado is forming. In Kansas, they don’t know much about dealing with tornadoes, you see. Clark and Pa are herding everyone under an overpass when Ma Kent realizes they left the dog in the car. Pa Kent rushes up with a recently abducted girl child as Clark is about to go save their dog, secure in the knowledge of his perfect safety. Pa hands him the girl instead and goes back to the car himself. He manages to get the dog out (who wisely runs like mad away from the tornado, because that dog is smarter than anyone who appeared in The Postman) and then stands there and waits for the tornado to whisk him off to his doom while Clark watches in horror and the rest of us watch in confusion.

“All my powers, and I totally could have saved him easily. If the tornado hit, I could meet you guys back at the farm and start trying on new glasses and hair dye.”

It was weird to see, and baffling to understand. I’m not sure what it says about us in 2013 where we get a Superman who lets his idiot father die because he’s afraid of the press. It’s two dozen rural Kansas farmers! So you get a blurb in the Weekly World News and funny looks at the feed store. Lex Luthor is going to give you a lot worse than that later.

Not that we had to deal with Lex Luthor.

"Flash! AH-aaaa!"

“Flash! AH-aaaa!”

Ah, Michael Shannon. You are a good General Zod. And I’m glad to know the legacy of obviously crazy characters will continue after Willem Dafoe is gone. But there is only one Zod I’m kneeling before.

Why do you portray me as a howling lunatic when you know I will kill you for it?

Why do you portray me as a howling lunatic when you know I will kill you for it?

One good thing

I did enjoy the movie, and I’ve always liked Superman. One thing I like about him is that he is invariably portrayed as a dog owner. Most often it’s a standard Earth dog, but always a medium to large one. For awhile in the 60s and 70s, he had a superdog named Krypto.

Did they blur that dog's junk? Or is that a scar from Superman's inept-but-necessary neutering?

Did they blur that dog’s junk? Or is that a scar from Superman’s inept-but-necessary neutering?

Always liked Krypto, but he’s kind of an absurd concept. Sure, a humanoid alien with super powers pretending to be a normal man? No problem. A canine alien with super powers pretending to be a normal dog? Too much. But at least Superman has a dog. No wonder he’s seen as morally superior. Does this universe even have cats?

It's probably good that Batman got a cat. He normally just owns Boys Wonder, who tend to not live as long.

It’s probably good that Batman got a cat. He normally just owns Boys Wonder, who tend to not live as long.

Actually, the attempts in the 60s to give Superman a cat didn’t catch on. Streaky the Supercat lives with Supergirl on a different planet in recent comics continuity. I’ll be curious to see if she adopts six or seven more.

Anyhow, the movie is fun. The stupid death scene is good for a laugh if you don’t overthink it too much, although I can’t help myself. I understand they’ve already greenlit the sequel: Superman returns to Smallville, plows up his fields, builds a storm shelter and waits for his father’s ghost to appear. I hear Costner is consulting on the script. In the meantime, watch The Tudors so you can see what Superman looks like when he has an awful lot of sex.

One of these boobs has Kryptonite and I'm going to FIND IT

One of these boobs has Kryptonite and I’m going to FIND IT

Lastly — a quick look at how the original should have ended. Enjoy!

My own medicine

TL/DR version: please recommend some conservative web sites or podcasts for someone who wants to learn the conservative thought process.

If you pay attention to me here or on Facebook, you’ve probably seen me mix it up with the politics. I’m no political scientist, but it’s easy to get caught up in the nuttiness.

I’d describe myself as an extreme social progressive but much more moderate on fiscal and foreign policy. That might be because I know little about economics or foreign relations. Averages out to fairly liberal, I suppose. At least left-leaning enough to understand the liberal philosophy even if I don’t always agree with it.

When arguing with conservative friends and family, I’m often getting the “liberals just want handouts from the government” and “lefties don’t want to work for a living” and “stop posting pictures of your damn dog.” Now, I know this is nonsense — liberals are not simply looking for someone else to pay for them, and my dogs are charming. But the conservative media and information sources and talking heads all say this is true. Mitt Romney made a similar comment in his infamous 47% speech.

Gonna take more than a De Niro impersonation to make us forget

Gonna take more than a De Niro impersonation to make us forget

So how can you get past that? Any meaningful political discussion (and I am truly tired of the other kind) must come from a similar understanding of terminology, right? How can I make my point about a liberal position if the reaction is this tired “you just want free stuff” crap?

What I tried (to so far no success) was to challenge the conservatives in my life to spend a month with liberal media/web sites/talking heads. It might not change anyone’s minds on any issues, but maybe they would learn that liberals aren’t all unwashed hippies who have no desire to contribute to society beyond whatever we get from drum circles. After that, we can at least move past the character assassinations and ad hominem attacks and talk about issues like grownups, right? How could that be a bad thing?

Knowledge may not always be power, but ignorance is invariably weakness.

Recently, it hit me — I don’t have the moral authority to suggest that of my Republicans. I have been a conservative in the past and listened to talk radio and all that, but I haven’t done so recently. Certainly not since the Tea Party started influencing the Republican platform. Being staunchly socially liberal, I tend to gravitate to information sources that are also pro-LGBT issues, pro-women’s reproductive rights, and all the other stuff that denotes a rainbow-flag-waving-white-guilt-victim-who-hates-fetuses. And while I don’t listen to a lot of talking heads, when I do it’s usually Rachel Maddow — she’s intelligent and silly and polite to her guests even when they disagree with her (though she gets few people from the right on her show).

This is where I need your help.

Fortunately, all my shows are on summer hiatus. Almost, anyway — Pretty Little Liars just started season 4, but I binge-watch those later.

Turns out I am powerless before a woman with a chin dimple. Had no idea.

Turns out I am powerless before a woman with a chin dimple. Had no idea.

So I am going to immerse myself in conservative media. I want to discover what there is behind their fiscal policy — I assume there’s more to it than “Reagan said so.” I do not understand supply-side theory enough to know if it works if implemented “properly.” The liberal media would have me believe it’s all pandering to the voters and obstructionism against a liberal president. I have similar questions about foreign policy and immigration reform.

The problem is I have no idea where to look for in-depth discussions like this. Someone please tell me. Are there websites or podcasts where you get conservative philosophy? I don’t have cable or listen to a lot of radio, so watching Fox and listening to Rush Limbaugh live aren’t really options. And life is too short to waste time on WorldNetDaily or anything spewing forth from Alex Jones.

Unless this is the most gifted intellect the GOP has...?

Unless this is the most gifted intellect the GOP has…?

Does anyone have any suggestions? Not looking for conspiracy nuts or religious nuts — I can find plenty of those on my own. Rational people writing or saying rational things, even if I disagree with their conclusions: that’s the goal.

Damned if I know where to start.

Also, here’s a picture of my dogs.

A rare calm moment at home. Not pictured: the smell

A rare calm moment at home. Not pictured: the smell

Empty nesters

I’ve had people ask me about my guardbird. That particular saga has ended.  Let me ‘splain:

All was proceeding normally. I would walk out my front door and be judged by this.

"What is it about 'FUCK OFF' that confuses you?"

“What is it about ‘FUCK OFF’ that confuses you?”

Then one afternoon, the dad popped by for a visit.

bird2

‘No, really, honey. They’re definitely your kids. All those other birds meant nothing. No, I’m not taking a blood test.”

The next morning, I saw that the bird population had increased.

bird3

Someone still needs to lose her extra ‘egg weight’ I see

By two, even.

bird4

Neither of them look like dad. But they get the ‘hating my guts’ from their mother.

I didn’t think the nest or that ledge would have enough room for much longer. Sure enough, I came home last Saturday from some car maintenance and saw this happening on my porch.

bird5

“Ignore that big stupid shape behind the window, junior. I’ll teach you to go for the eyes.”

I couldn’t tell if the baby bird had fallen and my guardbird was trying to help or what.  But 10 minutes later, the porch and the nest were empty. Upon further investigation, I found the mom and one baby sitting under some bushes in the front yard, less than 10 feet from the door. This was a little troubling, because this is where the neighbor’s damn cat sleeps when it’s sunny.

But then, a few minutes later, they were gone. I don’t know if they retreated farther into the bushes or managed to escape into some trees or what. And I don’t know about the second baby bird. Of course the dad is nowhere to be found.

So for the past five days, this is all that’s greeted me when I go through my door.

bird6

I’m still worried about touching it. Someone will pick that moment to try to move back in.

I am assuming the whole bird family is off in the trees somewhere, happy and safe by bird standards. I have no way to know — one thing about fostering mourning doves is realizing they’re everywhere around here.

So now I need to move the nest and sandblast the bird crap off my house. I guess I could put a couple of hefty rocks on that ledge to discourage future birds, but it’s funnier having birds than having rocks.

That’s about it for Elizabeak Hasslepeck. I’m sure she’s off someplace remembering me fondly.

"Go to hell, pink boy"

“Go to hell, pink boy”

All our Brosh re-belong to us

Allie Brosh is back! Like the rest of the Internet, I’m thrilled to see new content from Hyperbole and a Half. Our favorite semi-pro Paintbrush guru is back to normal!

I am available for freelance graphics work

I am available for freelance graphics work

Hmmm… Maybe not back to normal, whatever that means.

It’s been 19 long months since the last post (also about her struggles with depression), which itself followed a six month gap from the previous one. We’ve been collectively concerned about Allie for about two years. That’s why it’s thrilling to see something new from her, even if it’s a travel log from the dark places she’s been.

If this self-portrait doesn't become a meme, I don't understand the Internet at all

If this self-portrait doesn’t become a meme, I don’t understand the Internet at all

But…

Both of my long-time readers will remember the last time I wrote about depression about a year and a half ago. As usual, I was writing from ignorance: my natural genre. I’m lucky (and it really is just luck) that I don’t struggle with depression myself. Despite Allie’s best efforts, I can’t quite wrap my mind around what it’s like, no more than I could imagine having an OCD or being color blind. (FUN FACT: I can imagine what it’s like to lose your sense of taste and smell. Eat at McDonald’s three meals in a row and your brain forgets that some foods have flavors or aromas.)

In that previous post, I was lamenting that depression is misunderstood and often not treated like a “real” disease, such as cancer. I have no insight into depression, and even I have heard stories about depressed people being told to “snap out of it” or about well-meaning attempts to jolly someone back to being un-depressed. I think we still have a problem.

I’ve reread Allie’s post a few times, and something sticks out to me: the people in her life didn’t know how to interact with her. I’ve seen this before on a different scale. It’s terrifying.

(I know she condensed the last 19 months into a single post. There must have been a few people who knew what they were doing. Her fiance’, for one. But its clear she was also in a world of unprepared-if-kind-hearted people.)

I’m not trying to attack Allie’s friends or family. I can’t think of the best way to help with someone going through this either. In many ways, she’s going through this alone whether someone’s sitting next to her or not. Trying to make her laugh her way out of it, badgering her, or shaming her (“you’re making your family upset”) is clearly the wrong approach.

If I were friends with Allie or someone else going through this, what do I do? Do I act like everything’s normal? Do I try to be around more often, even if it’s just to sit there quietly? Do I leave her alone? Does it matter either way? What do I do if this person talks about dying?

Okay, I think I’ve sufficiently made Allie’s struggles all about me now.

My point is this: our awareness of depression and other mood disorders as something serious and life-ruining is growing, thanks in part to people like Allie, Jenny Lawson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones being willing to talk about it frankly. There is every reason to believe this awareness will gradually lead to more people getting medical treatment, better coverage under health insurance plans, and the like.

Those of us watching from the audience aren’t off the hook. You never know when you’ll get upgraded to a ring-side seat, so to speak, and someone in your actual life will be facing this. You don’t want to be the “snap out of it” guy. Take some time to read about depresson with an actual book or browse through an online forum (they tend to be more supportive than, say, YouTube commenters). If you’ve already got someone close to you fighting this, find (or start) a support group.

Do something. Anything is better than hoping they’ll cheer up. Your Allie equivalent might necessarily feel alone and lost, but there’s no reason you should feel the same.

But we can at least be happy the actual Allie has begun to shake it off. She’s not fully out of the water yet, but it seems she’s poked her head up. I hope she keeps posting, and her book is finally ready for preorder.

manatee

I have no idea what she’s doing. We’re better off if she keeps doing it.