Tuesday, October 30, 2012

PROTIP: You always generate more interest if you call it "Apocalypse Prevention."

The city that I work for just emailed everybody a press release for its 2012 Arborfest celebration, which went something like this:
Spend some time enjoying the outdoors with your family this coming weekend while learning more about the dozens of different trees in ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZfuckingboring.
I was pretty much asleep for the rest of it, but I thought I also caught something about a fucking tree competition? Where the winners get plaques for their champion trees, or something? What the actual fuck is a champion tree? Is it like an Ent? Because those guys were badass:

The problem with Arborfest isn't that it's stupid or unimportant; it's just that most people find trees excruciatingly boring. They don't actively do...well, anything. They just sit there, for hundreds of years, or until some asshole comes and knocks them down because they hate breathing or something. All the important shit is stuff you can't actually see, like producing oxygen and preventing soil erosion and other things that put people to sleep because nothing's blowing up or having sex.

Really, the problem with Arborfest is just in the marketing. It would do much better if they started marketing it as HOLY SHIT IF YOU DON'T COME TO THIS YOU'LL SUFFOCATE Fest or Carbon Monoxide Apocalypse Prevention Fest. People would pay attention to that shit. For example:
Guess who's taken a sudden interest in the rainforest.
HINT: It's you, motherfucker!
See also: The Whomping Willow.
You're welcome, Arbor Day celebration marketing teams.

P.S. As I'm writing this, one of the biggest storms in the history of ever is ravaging the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada, causing floods, fires, and blizzards, and leaving millions without power, supplies, or maybe even homes. The Red Cross is in serious need of blood donations, as well as disaster relief funds. Here's how you can help:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is there a "Donald Trump Is a Giant Asshat" Foundation?

Disclaimer: This isn't meant to be a political post, so much as an explanation of the reason I just had to say, out loud, at my desk at work "What the actual fuck?"

Second Disclaimer: The following video represents 3 minutes of your life you will never get back.

For those of you who've had the incredible fortune of never having heard of Donald Trump, this is the moment when your blissful ignorance comes to a tragic end. If you can get past the arbitrary shouting (I think he may be part Dalek), you'll discover one of our nation's foremost satirists.

I think it's hilarious how he pretends to be demanding something as ridiculous as President Obama's college applications, as if it were required that he not only have gone to college and done well, but that he'd written an eloquent personal statement to get accepted in the first place. The ransom video format was a nice touch as well. "If you don't provide all these documents to my satisfaction by 5pm on October 31st, I won't donate 5 million dollars to charity!" Classic! He completely lampoons the way we distract ourselves from issues that actually matter by debating semantics or accuse another party's candidate of being ineligible for the office rather than just saying why we think they'd be bad for it. He's totally got me imagining Obama playing the President in one of those movies where he has to go "We do not negotiate with terrorists!" "But Mr. President, they've got our transparency!" "Shit, we've got to stop them! Call the Registrar's Office! Yeah, ask for Jack Bauer."

On the subject of transparency, Ana Marie Cox wins the Internet for this tweet:

I'm glad we've got Donald Trump to keep us focused on what's important in this election. President Obama is the only President in the history of this country not to release his college applications and transcripts or his passport application, and it is unacceptable that we as a nation should know so little about our leader—there's Never. Been anything. Like it. In fact, I propose a constitutional amendment to require stricter documentation of a presidential candidate's background, including all of the following:

  • Birth certificate
  • Long-form birth certificate, or whatever it may be
  • Dated, geotagged video of live birth
  • Baptismal records
  • Handwritten letter of recommendation from both grandmothers
  • College applications and transcripts
  • Passport application
  • Gym membership
  • Prescription history
  • Urine sample
  • Third-grade essay entitled "What I Want to Be When I Grow Up."
  • March Madness brackets going back at least 10 years
  • American Idol tryout video
  • Proof of Fermat's Last Theorem
  • Vial of unicorn tears
  • Tax returns (unless potentially damaging to the candidate's campaign)

Seriously, if the President actually does this—after I finish bashing my head against the wall—I hope he'll consider the Donald Trump Is a Colossal Wank Foundation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I've never been prouder.

This just happened, and it's made of awesome.

So, first of all, both of our cats are pretty much in love with books, and they'll come lie by/on my wife and me for story time. We thought it mostly had to do with the fact that they love to lie on them, but they've just pretty much proven that they're only interested in good books.
Sana is a Harry Potter fan. I'm pretty sure she's a Slytherin.
Gwen has been reading Craig Ferguson's Between the Bridge and the River with us.
Remember when I borrowed and read Twilight because my integrity is some kind of masochistic asshole that didn't feel like I should be making fun of it if I hadn't read it? Well, the other day I was finally going to get it the fuck out of my house return it, so I went to grab it off the shelf. This is what I found:
Yes, it was upside-down on the shelf. Just because it was in my house  doesn't mean I couldn't protest it.
"Sorry you had to do this, Jake." I think that was the one sentence in the whole book I could identify with.
Clearly, someone had taken issue with the quality of literature (I use that term loosely) that they found. My money's on Gwen, or at least one of the foster kittens, as they lived in that room for six weeks. Also, they were actually small enough to stand on top of the books while peeing, whereas Sana would have needed to employ some kind of crazy-ass Cirque du Soleil maneuver just to get herself into the unnatural arrangement necessary to provide this particular critique.

What I find most hilarious about the whole thing is that this was the only book on the shelf that they disliked. Neither of the books immediately next to it was even touched, which seems to imply an intentional measure of control on their part, especially since both books next to it were taller. In fact, none of the other books they could reach seemed to offend them, and it wasn't like there weren't plenty of other options:
"Thoreau, OK. Tolkien, fine. Twain, Vonnegut, good. Twilight?!? What the actual fuck?"
Seriously, I don't think I've ever been this proud. Also, I owe someone a new copy of Twilight. Sorry.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Trust me...I'm the Rug Doctor.

First of all, if you don't watch Doctor Who, then very little of this will make any damn sense to you, so you'll probably want to quit after the bit with the kittens, or else quickly go and watch a couple seasons of the series so that you can follow along. (You'll have to forgive the first episode, the one with the mannequins. Stick with it, I promise it gets better. And by better, I mean awesome.) If you don't have time for all that, but you still want to keep reading, you should at the very least read Neil Gaiman's (78-word) summary of not quite 50 years of backstory from the middle of this post.

Anyway, now that we're done with disclaimers, you either remember, or are about to learn that a little while ago, my wife and I fostered a pile of kittens. No, literally:
This is the part where you go "awwwww!" Also,
Gandalf isn't in this picture because he was busy
helping Hobbits get into places they shouldn't be,
or something. The rest, from top to bottom are
Loki, Alfredo, Rory, Guinevere (Gwen), and Eowyn.

They lived with us for about 6 weeks and demonstrated the effects of entropy on our second bedroom. Most of them also demonstrated, at one point or another, the effects of the various bodily functions of kittens on carpet, walls, floor lamps, desktops, and occasionally, litter boxes.

After all the kittens had found families, we brought home a cleaner that claimed to be a Rug Doctor, but which seemed a bit too aggressive to be telling the truth on that point. If it were really a Rug Doctor, it would have just talked to the stains until it convinced them to go back where they came from, or maybe used some kind of sonic attachment to loosen the stains from the carpet. If that had failed, it probably would have just run away until it thought of something really clever to do.
Trust me...I'm The Rug Doctor.
Of course, even after your carpet was clean, it would still keep popping back in at least every few months, insisting that you accompany it to some other beautiful-yet-dangerous faraway carpet in dire need of cleaning, until finally you were separated in a heart-wrenchingly tragic season finale.

This, however, is not actually a Rug Doctor. It's clearly meant to be a Rug Dalek–look at the shape. It's big and mechanical, and its main function seems to be to turn clean water into dirty water, which is exactly the sort of thing a you would expect a Dalek to do. Also, it doesn't do well going up stairs.

The Rug Dalek has no compassion or mercy, only hate. It will exterminate stains! Sure, it may also exterminate your carpet, furniture, house, pets, family, neighbors, and in all likelihood, entire planet, but by Davros, you'll never see those stains again–and not just because you've been blasted into oblivion by a death ray! (But yes, primarily because you've been blasted into oblivion by a death ray.)
And so will you, in all likelihood.

Friday, October 5, 2012

How to Read a Book (Without Being a Douchecanoe): A Primer.

The other day, I was telling a coworker how I had to make some "How to Read a Book" flowcharts, and she was all "What? Do you need one of those?" because apparently that's not a normal thing that people say, ever, so then I had to explain that it's for Banned Books Week, which is an annual reminder of the fact that there are some people who are so bad at reading books that when they're finished, nobody else is even allowed to read them anymore, and then after that, I had to come here and write one gigantic run-on sentence about the whole thing because I apparently have some kind of vendetta against proper punctuation today. Also, for those of you who aren't good with context clues, it's Banned Books Week, so I'm going to continue to subject you to librarian rants about intellectual freedom and not being a dick to everybody else just because you don't like something. I warned promised you yesterday that this was coming, and here it is. You should be impressed.

How to Read a Book (Without Being a Douchecanoe)

Part One: What to Do if You Read a Book You Don't Like

At some point in your life, you're probably going to encounter one of the following:
  • A bound volume of pages containing printed text and images
  • An electronic simulation of the aforementioned type of volume
  • A sound recording of someone reading text from such a volume
These–along with other formats that create a similar user experience–are what we call books. This chart will help guide you through the process of interacting with them without fucking over the rest of society in the process:
If you can't read this, click to make it bigger. If you can't read it because you're illiterate,it probably doesn't apply to you anyway.

Part Two: Help! My Child Is Reading!

If you were here yesterday, you already know that half the time this bullshit happens, it's not even someone who actually read the book; it's because their kid read the book, and they just heard that there was something bad in it. Then, because they're arrogant dickwagons who think their parenting skills are infuckingfallible they care about the children, they decide that nobody should be allowed to read it, anywhere, ever, so they go on an asshat crusade to remove it from any place they can find it. Guess what? Not everyone shares your values. This chart will teach you how to instill them in your own children without being a dick about it to everybody else.
PROTIP: If you land in the red box, a good way to celebrate is by buying every copy you
can find of the book at full retail price and having a huge book bonfire on an actual yacht.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And also ideas that we don't like. And albatrosses.

So, it's Banned Books Week, which means Librarian Rant, Motherfuckers!

Part One: Some Boring Statistics and Shit

First of all, there are probably quite a few people going "What? Ban books? This is America! Who the fuck does that shit anymore?"

Parents, mostly. Out of all the books that are ever challenged (read: bitched about in an attempt to ruin it for everybody), about half the time, it's parents who go "I don't want little Jimmy-Sue reading that; it's not wholesome!" Probably, they've never actually read the book themselves, but they heard it had a bad word in it or something. Then a bunch of other parents who haven't read it jump in and they form some kind of pitchfork mob and go storming into the next school board meeting demanding that the school board gets rid of the book, which probably they do. It never occurs to anybody to actually read the fucking thing, except maybe for the one part that somebody complained about, entirely out of context.

This is what happens roughly two-thirds of the time. Another quarter of the time, it's in a public library rather than a school, and they go to the local news rather than the school board, so that everybody can get all worked up over how those damn godless liberals are trying to corrupt the children with their books.

Part Two: "You can't read that! I don't like it!"

This is essentially the same as trying to get a McDonald's shut down because you're on a diet. Nobody forced you to go there, asshole.

Hey, let's all be afraid of ideas, because we wouldn't want to expose ourselves or our children to situations where they might have to fucking think! Also, let's ban mentioning anything unpleasant because knowing that something exists basically guarantees that you're immediately going to go and do it. This is why the media only ever report positive, life-affirming stories, and avoid topics like murder and armed robbery and war.

Here's an idea: parent, for fuck's sake. (Just your own kids, though—don't try to force your prudish bullshit values on everybody else.)

Part Three: Because of Reasons

There is a whole list of reasons why people try to get books banned. Usually, the actual content gets lumped under some generic term that does a shitty job of describing what you're missing out on. Fortunately, I've translated them for you so you can understand what's actually going on. You're welcome.

The top three reasons account for about half of all the books that get banned. I've listed them in order:

Sexually Explicit: The book acknowledges in any way that sex not only exists, but is something that people a) actually enjoy, and b) can do without a legally-binding contract. (cf. Sex Education)

Offensive Language means that one or more of the characters speaks a language other than English. (OK, that's not true. Actually, it means that the book contains certain combinations of syllables referring to parts or functions of the body which, when uttered or printed on a page, summon Satan to rip out your soul and defecate in the resultant void.)

Unsuited to Age Group: Occasionally, this means that somebody found a copy of the Kama Sutra in an elementary school's library. Usually, though, it means that the book's subject matter undermines parents' efforts to prevent their children from growing up by keeping them as innocent and oblivious as a six-year-old.

The rest I've done alphabetically. They are:

Abortion means that a character has or considers one, with little or no damnation as a consequence.

Anti-Family: 1) One or more of the characters in the book calls his or her parent on some kind of bullshit like abandoning all responsibility and forcing their children to take care of basically everything; 2) The book implies that a family can be defined as anything other than the "traditional" model of two heterosexual parents who were married in a church before ever having sex, and their legitimate offspring.

Homosexuality means that gay characters are referred to by names like "Jim" or "Steve," rather than "faggot," and are depicted doing normal-people things like going to work, rather than dying of AIDS and burning in Hell for all eternity.

Inaccurate means "I don't like what you wrote about me, even if it's true."

Nudity means that—you know what? I don't know what the fuck they mean by nudity. Maybe it mentions that somebody is naked in the book? Or describes body parts? How the fuck do you have nudity in print? Like an ASCII penis? This may be one of the dumbest things I've ever heard of.

The Occult, or Satanism: This means that either one of the characters is an atheist, or that somebody performs some kind of magic without explicitly invoking the name of Jesus.

Political Viewpoint means "not mine."

Racism denotes that the book depicts white people behaving in a racist manner. This is offensive because racism totally doesn't exist anymore, and mentioning it might inadvertently summon it back again (sort of like Beetlejuice or Bloody Mary), which would force white people–even the ones who have black friends–to prove that they're not racist.

Sex Education means that the book explains to anyone under the age of 30 that babies are not actually dumped down your chimney by a mystical love albatross, but instead come from having sex. It may or may not also explain that there are means to prevent this from happening other than eternal celibacy.

Suicide means that a character ends his or her own life, and that the rest of the book does not depict their eternal torment in the seventh circle of Dante's Inferno, but rather shows the other characters attempting to deal with the aftermath of the suicide.

Violence actually does just mean violence. It's the same shit they show all over TV, but more dangerous in print because reading actually engages the parts of your brain responsible for imagination, while TV encourages your brain to shut down; therefore, reading about violence makes people more likely to commit violence.

So that's censorship, to the best of my understanding. Come back tomorrow and I'll bitch about it some more teach you how not to be a dick to everybody else just because you read something you didn't like.