Shit I loathe more than mouthy self checkouts

A few weeks ago I posted the following status update on Facebook:

There’s nothing I loathe more than a mouthy self-checkout. I will put my onions in the bag when I’m good and fucking ready, asshole.

Subsequent research has proven that’s not true. There are in fact several things I hate more than those infernal machines, including but not limited to…

  • People who are taller than me who walk really slow. Come on, Stretch. Move your ass. You got no excuse.
  • Shitty bar service. There’s an epidemic of this in Davis Square right now. Stop talking to your fucking friends and pay attention to your customers. If I have to flag you down to order food ten minutes after getting a menu, you’re doing it wrong.
  • All the bullshit about how baseball needs more scoring. Remember all those 8-7 Red Sox games from early last season? Those fucking sucked. Meanwhile, the powers-that-be are also rambling on about pace of play. You can have more scoring or you can have a shorter game. These two goals are mutually exclusive. Pick one, ya dinks
  • Old farts in big matches at Wrestlemania. I get that the idea is to use stars from the 90s to help get eyes on the new generation, but I still hate it. Goldberg’s going to need oxygen by the time he reaches the end of the ramp. Roman Reigns is only good against dudes he can run at as hard as he can, so yeah, let’s put him in the ring with the ancient fucking Undertaker. And AJ Styles gets the privilege of trying to carry Shane McMahon to something resembling a wrestling match. And they wonder why none of the current wrestlers are household names.
  • The idea that we need to protect outdated jobs naturally being fazed out by the market. I’m looking at you, manufacturing and coal mining. The former’s dying due to automation, the latter because natural gas is kicking its ass. It’s like trying to stimulate the ice delivery industry after everybody got a refrigerator. It’s a waste of time, and instead we should be spending that effort on training the people losing these jobs so they can find work in different vocations.
  • President Queef Walrus’s stupid face.

Power Rangers is a dud

My inner twelve-year-old and a slew of positive reviews convinced me to spend two hours of my life on the new Power Rangers movie. I didn’t expect much. I got even less.

Spoilers ahead.

Normally with these sorts of movies I expect the main event—the fighting robots, the giant monsters—to make sitting through all the dumb people parts excusable. It’s a trade off. With Power Rangers, however, the payout was so slim as to be basically nonexistent. The Rangers didn’t get into their armor until there was maybe 25 minutes left, and after a dull fight with a bunch of poorly-designed putties they fired up their ugly ass zords for a flat out boring battle with Rita and the giant Goldar. Like Rachel Maddow with supposedly important tax returns, it was a lot of build with no big climax.

And it was ugly. Like, bowling shoe ugly. That sort of organic-ish alien technology hasn’t looked good since Obama’s first term and even then it was pretty hit-or-miss. The Megazord in particular is embarrassingly 2010s.

The movie’s main problem, really, is the number of origin stories it needs to tell. Each of the five Rangers gets a turn, plus Zordon and Rita. These mostly work (especially the Black Ranger’s), except for the one that gets the most screen time. Jason, the Red Ranger, is a successful high school quarterback and a great dude with a bright future who inexplicably decides to pull a prank which gets him booted from the team and strapped with a transponder bracelet. When given the chance to explain, he drops a cliche “YOU’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND ME, DAD!” So yeah. I don’t know. I don’t think the writers did either.

Power Rangers also suffers from that epidemic of uber-seriousness infecting modern Hollywood blockbusters. Like most things I enjoy, the source material is campy, silly, and usually kind of stupid. This iteration is none of those things, and its few attempts to insert levity mostly feel out of place amidst all the emo doom and gloom.

Now, that said, there’s potential here for future episodes in the series to be much better. The origin stories are all told and the world is set. Elizabeth Banks’s turn as Rita Repulsa takes her work as Effie Trinket to a whole new level of insane. And, in spite of the movie’s issues, I did find myself starting to root for the Rangers as people as they slowly gelled into a team. Could be the next few movies invert my usual trade off formula and make the science fiction action the price of keeping up with the story.

So although I can’t recommend Power Rangers, I’m looking forward to the inevitable sequels. I think those will be pretty good.

Fools go Russian in

By now you’ve certainly heard all the salacious details about the phone call with a Russian ambassador that led to the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn. If you haven’t…bro, read up, you’re seriously missing out.

You know what really fascinates me about this whole debacle, other than the fact that we’d be so much obviously better off if everyone had just cut the shit and voted for Harambe? In 2017, given everything we know about the interception of telecommunications, a member of the President’s staff thought it was alright to conduct shady business over the god damn phone. Think about that for a second. Let it sink it. Let it swirl around in your brain like an extra test tube of tequila in a steakhouse chain’s tackiest frozen margarita. Unbelievable, right? How in the fuck does that happen?

Maybe Flynn and anyone else involved are just stupid. But they’d have to be amazingly stupid. How many “the government’s listening to this call!” jokes have you heard in the last month? Probably a few dozen. Those jokes are so prevalent because everybody knows telecommunications are no longer secure. Hell, I bet your grandmother’s joked about it at fucking bingo. Which, given that the supposed goal of Russia’s recent activity is to destabilize the west, makes me wonder if the ambassador on the other end of the line was setting a trap.

Or maybe the people involved are just arrogant. The administration seems to think itself above the law. Someone intercepts this call? Who cares! Nobody’s going to do jack shit because we’re the best and there aren’t enough Democrats in DC to do anything about it!

Or—and this seems very likely—Flynn and his pals are just a bunch of luddites and this is only the first such breach we’re going to see. Reports indicate President Shitgibbon tweets from an older Android phone that’s inherently insecure and that White House staff members are using private email addresses. That’s not just hypocritical; it’s inherently dangerous, and it’s likely they’ve already been compromised.

And this is why it’s important not just to follow the news, but to think about it and discuss it. The actions of the administration say a lot about the strengths, weaknesses, priorities, and mindsets of those serving the executive branch. Sure, what they’re saying is basically “Jesus tap dancing Christ on a god damn jet ski we are a yuuuuuuuge gaggle of shitgeese,” but like everything else in life there’s a lot more to it than that.

Ugh, don’t fucking riot

I absolutely understand the desire to break shit at the mere sight of Milo. Just typing his name kind of made me want to throw my bowl of oatmeal through a nearby window. But he’s just a shock jock attention whore, a Kardashian with worse fashion sense and a bigger mouth, and the proper response to that sort of troll is to shrug your shoulders and go on with your day. Leaving him to be a precious snowflake in his disgusting safe space is much more effective than running up the street to hurl bricks at a bank. Don’t feed the trolls.

You know how the wall’s a stupid, short-sighted waste that doesn’t accomplish anything? Like the immigration ban? Or the reverse buy-one-get-one-free sale on regulation? Same logic here. Fuck with people’s shit and you turn them against you and you will never, ever get what you want.

Democratic leaders at all levels need to come out and condemn this behavior and promise to prosecute the perpetrators. Grab control of the messaging for once.

And the rest of us need to keep the “see, all protests are bullshit!” and “I knew those academic wussies couldn’t be trusted!” narratives from taking hold. Protesting peacefully is a very powerful, positive thing. Reports suggest that the Berkeley protest, about 1500 strong, was peaceful until a few dozen black bloc rioters (similar to those that attacked DC after the inauguration) showed up. That’s right, kids: all it takes to make a thousand people look bad is a couple of assholes. Think of any party you’ve been to, or of your local gym in January. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been reminding people to look out for paid agitators (although I’m not claiming that’s what happened here).

Remember: government is a social contract. It’s an exchange of freedom for rights and protection. When that contract erodes, people get pissed—and rightfully so. Expecting them not to stand up for themselves would be silly, but I think we can absolutely expect them to behave better than this.

Gravity Rush 2 is a ton of fun

I’ve got nothing new to complain about this morning. It’s an odd feeling. Is this how the Undertaker felt when Brock Lesnar conquered his Wrestlemania streak?

So let’s blow some positive smoke up a good thing’s ass. I finally found a video game that’s taking serious time away from my beloved Destiny. Don’t worry, boo. I’ll be back. She and I are just going on a little business trip. Platonically. I swear. Same room, separate beds. No! Babe! Don’t walk out!

As you probably don’t know because nobody outside of my immediate family actually owns a Vita, Gravity Rush stars a spunky heroine named Kat and her magic feline pal that helps her manipulate gravity, primarily so she can fling herself across the sky or walk along walls and ceilings. It was a fun but occasionally gimmicky thing designed to take advantage of the Vita’s motion sensors and rear touchpad (HA HA “rear touchpad”). When it worked, it was great; when the wonky camera or imprecise combat got in the way, it couldn’t have been more frustrating.

The sequel (available now on Playstation 4!) has fixed all of the original’s problems. The camera’s smooth and smart and a forgiving targeting system makes combat a breeze. Using Kat’s powers to hurl random objects at enemies or missile dropkick them in the face is bad ass. Few things in gaming are more fun than recklessly dropping her off a building, catching her, and then launching her off toward the next waypoint or pack of power ups. Big, beautifully designed worlds provide plenty of space to watch her fly.

At its heart, Gravity Rush is a super hero comic book rendered in video game form. The story is told primarily via static screens styled like comic book panels. Spoken dialogue is rare and reserved for character names or emotional outbursts. It feels like a series of smaller stories rather than a single big epic. Kat uses her powers to help everyone she meets, although that sometimes gets her into trouble. Her legitimate goodness is a breath of fresh air in a medium that often seems stuck on 90s-style brooding antiheroes with just so much pain, man. The plot’s nothing special, but it works well enough and it doesn’t get in the way of the gameplay.

Insert a generic comment about how we need positive, uplifting forms of entertainment in our current climate of negativity. Dumb jokes aside, Gravity Rush 2 more than does the job.

(I am a little concerned about Kat’s cat, though. His spectral, space-y look makes me suspect he’s Taken, which makes Kat an unwitting servant of Oryx and…oh god, I play waaaaaaay too much Destiny.)

Regulate this

Yesterday, President the Donald signed an executive order mandating that for every new regulation put in place two regulations must be revoked. Yeah, I shit you not.

Regulation is neither an inherent negative nor an inherent positive. Like so many other things, it’s all about how you use it (yes, random Republican who will never admit to his friends that he reads me everyday, like a gun—we’ll get into that another time). The devil’s in the details. Yes, regulation can stifle industry, but it also protects consumers, workers, and the environment, and it establishes a framework for conducting business fairly. It’s a balancing act, to be sure.

“But Scott Colby!” you say. “Won’t the free market regulate itself? Can’t workers who aren’t treated well just go work somewhere else? Can’t consumers wronged by a business just take their money elsewhere?” In theory, sure! In reality…well, how’s any of that work in a poor town where there’s only one factory, or where Wal-Mart’s crushed all the surrounding businesses? People need jobs and they need stuff. The wealth gap and the concentration of economic power into giant conglomerates has destroyed any ability the market might have had to regulate itself. Personally, I believe evidence suggests the infamous Invisible Hand economists like to talk about is attached to a raving drunkard tumbling wildly down a flight of stairs. He’s farting a lot too.

One of my biggest issues with President the Donald and large swathes of the Republican platform is the way they take complicated problems and boil them down to meaningless little piles of nothing. Immigration, terrorism, foreign relations, the economy, and security are all extremely complex concepts. You don’t stop illegal immigration just by building a wall. You don’t stop terrorism just by telling the citizens of seven countries they can’t come in. You don’t build a strong economy just by stripping away rules that inhibit business. Every move you make comes with an amazing list of corresponding consequences that don’t seem to be getting the consideration they should. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

President the Donald billed this executive order as a means of helping small business. Bullshit burger on a bullshit bun with a side of bullshit fries on a bullshit plate. Who stands to benefit more from a general reduction of regulation? The mom and pop that might be able to hire an extra employee, or all of the Donald’s billionaire pals who now have even more capital with which to take over the economy? If you want to ease restrictions on small businesses, ease restrictions specifically on small businesses. Put your money where your mouth is and prove there’s no conflict of interest or ulterior motive.

I could absolutely get behind that. Hell, helping small businesses is a core tenet of my own still-theoretical campaign platform. I’d argue that the rules for the family bakery up the street or the guy writing software in his garage absolutely should be a lot looser than those for huge conglomerates. Are you a multi-bazillion dollar corporation that refuses to pay its workers a living wage and wants to dump all its garbage in the river? Bite me. Are you a mom and pop trying to make it work in an area where the economy’s not so great? Let’s party! These are two wildly different games and they should be treated as such. You aren’t actually helping small business if you aren’t helping them gain ground on their larger competition in some way.

Why is it two regulations that have to be revoked rather than three or four or five? And what’s to keep me from writing one giant run-on sentence regulation that encompasses all sorts of stuff? Is there a limit to the number of conjunctions I can use? How do we feel about semicolons, or parenthetical statements nested to the nth degree?

And…*gasp* what happens when there’s only one regulation left? Oh no! We’ll never able to implement any new rules! Will we have to ask Sean Spicer (the closest thing the administration has to a hobbit) to put together a fellowship and drop the One Regulation to Control Them All into the volcanic caldera of Mt. Doom? (Yes, in this joke the volcanic caldera of Mt. Doom is Kellyanne Conway’s mouth.)(Oh man I’m gonna be laughing at that one for days.)

Reducing the complexity of our government is a noble goal, but it’s something we need to be smart about. This is just another silly play to the base and another box to check off on the to-do list on the Donald’s fridge. Steve Bananas is going to give him another sticker! There are better ways to help small businesses compete…you know, like actually helping small businesses compete.

Shit like this is why we need a wanking emoji. Who do I talk to about that?


 

While we’re here, we also have to talk about Sally Yates, former acting Attorney General. News broke yesterday that she’d ordered the justice department not to defend the executive order temporarily banning immigration from seven countries. Hours later, she was fired. The press release explaining why is horrific. You need to read that.

The United States government is not a monarchy; it’s a conversation, essentially, in which a series of checks and balances at least tries to make sure one voice doesn’t drown out the others. The role of the Attorney General is to follow the law, not the orders of the President.

So he fires people who do their job correctly if it means they’re not completely loyal to him. He’s been spewing nationalist rhetoric for a year and a half. He constantly demonizes immigrants and goes on and on about law and order. He’s suggested the press needs to be muzzled.

This is basically the first page in the binder they hand out at New Dictator Orientation.

Maybe that wanking emoji isn’t quite enough.

Ban this

First off, I would like to thank President the Donald for providing me with so much blog fodder. His never-ending quest to haphazardly check off all the boxes beside his campaign promises so it looks like he’s actually accomplished something has been invigorating, to say the least.

So this immigration ban on seven Middle Eastern countries is dumb, right? Yes, I know that refugees from these areas have caused problems in Europe. Yes, I know Syria should probably be renamed Westeros at this point. Yes, terrorism is a horrible thing and we’ll remain a target as long as we’re prosperous.

I don’t care.

I could tell you we should be nicer to refugees because god damn it we’re the fucking good guys and it will pay off in the long run. I could tell you that assuming people who want to hurt us so badly won’t find a way to fake being a part of the “right” faith is extremely naive. I could tell you that declaring seven countries to be full of nothing but terrorist scum is a great way to encourage violence by people already inside our borders and is going to look amazing on the cover of ISIS’s next recruitment flyer. I could tell you that only a fucking asshole would implement changes like this without any sort of advance warning to travelers. I could tell you this whole thing will likely end up proven unconstitutional. But you’ve heard all that, so let’s get full Scott Colby on this bastard.

What this really comes down to, of course, is terrorism. Terrorists hurt people and damage property to make statements and influence the lives of their enemies. That last clause is the key, and it’s the part we’ve been doing a shit job fighting.

There’s one and only one correct way to react to a terrorist attack: help the victims, rebuild, smile and crack a beer when a drone shoves a rocket up the correct person’s ass, and don’t change a god damn thing.

When I see a metal detector at a sporting event or a concert I get pissed. When I saw a man in military fatigues carrying a big rifle in the Kenmore Square station at Red Sox Opening Day I was rip shit and I wanted to punch Wally approximately 7000 times more than I usually want to punch Wally. Every single one of these changes to our daily lives is a reminder that our enemies are slowly exerting their influence upon us—and we’re helping them. Many of these changes set a precedent that could allow future crackhead politicians to tighten down on our lives even further. It’s wasted money, time, and manpower that could be spent on more constructive efforts.

So I’m against the immigration ban not just for the humanitarian issues and logical lapses, but for the same reasons I was against the Patriot Act, expanded electronic surveillance, increased airport security, and all the rest: I ain’t fucking afraid of fucking terrorists. I’m not giving those terds the time of day. I’ve lived just north of Boston for the last decade, by the way, so don’t tell me that’s just because terrorism hasn’t impacted my life. I really don’t understand why so many Americans who live in places that would never in a million years become targets get their knickers in such a collective twist about this shit. I mean, seriously: 9/11 was horrible, but how in the fuck are we still using 9/11 as an excuse to do things? Bin Laden got got and Al Qaeda’s a smoking crater. When does it end?

If you’ve got concrete intelligence suggesting an impending attack then yeah, do something about it. If your intelligence consists solely of “these guys look like that last asshole and have a few of the same hobbies,” get the fuck outta here. If you can help fifty people but one of them might cause trouble, you absolutely help those fifty people and take your chances with that one jerk.

Refugees whose lives have been ruined by terrorism are being kept at arm’s length because they themselves might be terrorists. Wrap your head around that one. What a kick in the junk. Innocent Muslim children who don’t actually know what a Mohammed is are going to die because of this crap.

We’re the home of the brave, right? Fucking prove it.

The five most underrated sandwich ingredients

I don’t know about you, but crapping on the President all the time makes me hungry! There’s no better way to soothe the hunger pangs of an outraged liberal stomach than with a good old-fashioned sandwich. So here are the five most under-rated sandwich ingredients, because if I just write about politics all the time I’m going to drive myself nuts.

5. Spinach. Lettuce is for losers, bro. Lettuce doesn’t even lift. It ain’t swole like you and me. Now spinach, on the other hand…that shit’s lit. It fits better. It tastes better. It’s greener. Spinach all the way.

4. Caramelized onions. A source of sweetness often overlooked. Caramelized onions are the clean up hitters of the Sandwich All-Star team. They drive all the other flavors in with authority.

3. Italian meats. Salami. Capricola. Mortadella. Prosciutto. Soppressata. (…those are all Italian, right?) Here’s your muscle. Your carefully cured enforcers. Solid alone; dangerous in a group. Italian meat keeps the rest of your sandwich in line through sheer force of will. Treat it right or it will catch you outside.

2. Onion rolls. The foundation. Without some sort of bread, your sandwich is just a pile. Nobody wants a pile. A nice fluffy onion roll kicks your lunch to the next level. It’s absorbent. Stuff doesn’t fall out of it. Satisfying to hold but easy to put in your mouth (HA HA HA).

1. Stuffing. This stuff’s the shit, yo. Stuffing ain’t just for various hollowed out birds. Used appropriately, it adds a layer of moisture, flavor, and texture that can rock the Oakleys right off the back of Guy Fieri’s head. Try it. Love it. Thank me later.

And no, I’m not suggesting you try an Italian sub with spinach, caramelized onions, and Stove Top on an onion roll…or am I?

You know what doesn’t make a good sandwich? Trying to charge your neighbor for a stupid Fucking Wall you don’t need in the first place. Oh, so you’ll force them to pay with a 20% tariff on goods imported to your country? Way to pass the cost off onto your own citizens, dickweed. But I get it; it’ll never come to that, because that sort of tariff would tank the Mexican economy by allowing goods from elsewhere to undercut their prices. Investments into Mexico have already slowed and the peso craps all over itself any time the topic is brought up. Anyone with the wherewithal to cross the barren wasteland along the border ain’t going to be deterred by a wall. A wall can’t stop tunnels, aircraft, drug-launching t-shirt cannons (yup, that’s real), ladders, ropes, Brock Lesnar, human pyramids, pole vaulters, Graboids, or dynamite. There’s a reason this sort of fortification went out of style around the same time as full plate armor, broadswords, and healing people with leeches. He’s holding a friendly neighbor hostage to pay for a wasteful project that’s going to turn into nothing but a giant money pit. What a nice, reasonable fucking guy. I hope all the animals that can’t migrate past the Fucking Wall piss all over it.

Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Enjoy that sandwich!

TPP for my bunghole, and other stories

A common refrain among supporters of our new President is that we should judge him on what he does, not what he says. That’s a fair point, even though I would argue (vehemently, and with more than a few words that would make Mike Pence blush) that what he says is almost guaranteed to cause more harm than he’ll ever be able to balance out with his actions. If I’m to maintain any semblance of journalistic integrity, however, I have to at least try to look at these things fairly. At the very least it’ll help me stay informed so I can write even more crappy jokes.

At the time of this writing, President The Donald has issued five executive orders. Unless I missed one or two. It’s possible. Let me know.

1. He cancelled a Federal Housing Administration mortgage premium cut.

The FHA backs mortgages for home buyers with credit score problems and those who can only make a small down payment. It’s a popular program among low-income buyers and first-time homeowners. That cut, by the way, was of a whole quarter of a percentage point.

The verdict: I thought it was time to help regular old Americans. What an odd thing to mess with on your first day, especially given the optics. Thumbs down.

2. He signed an executive order instructing federal agencies to minimize the financial burden of the Affordable Care Act on organizations and individuals.

This mostly applies to the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires individuals to have health insurance. It likely means we’ll see the penalties imposed on those who don’t have insurance waived.

The verdict: As a dirty fucking socialist, I was rather disappointed with the ACA. Sure, it helped millions of people get healthcare that wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, but health insurance companies are parasites on the ass of society and they need to be launched into the sun. Single-payer or bust, yo. However…getting those people healthcare was a positive step, and tearing down the provision that makes all of that possible—that loathsome individual mandate—doesn’t bode well, especially when all we know so far about the supposed replacement for the ACA is just “it’ll be great, you’ll see!” Thumbs down.

3. He withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership.

An attempt to open up free trade across Asia and sort of box in China, the TPP’s long been an issue on both sides of the aisle.

The verdict: Thumbs way the fuck up. Seriously. I can’t get them high enough. I’d have to launch them from my hands like rockets headed for the moon. It’s entirely possible the TPP would’ve helped American businesses, but its provisions regarding stronger copyright law, off-shoring a really weird list of professions, and granting businesses the right to sue governments for future lost profits due to legislation were rancid bullshit. President Obama was a big supporter of this one and Hillary Clinton waffled back and forth on it. Remember, kids: the Democrats aren’t actually a liberal party. They’re moderates. They just look liberal compared to the other side. Well done, Mr. Trump.

See! I can be fair!

4. He reinstated the Mexico City policy restricting the disbursement of funds to international non-governmental organizations that perform abortions or push abortion as a form of birth control.

Every President since Bill Clinton has messed with this one exactly as you would expect. It’s worth noting that federal funds are never spent on abortions; the NGOs affected by this move this move use their own funds for abortion-related services. This simply cuts off funding to pro-choice organizations overseas and limits access to reproductive health options and birth control in the process.

The verdict: This one’s a vapid play to the base. Pence probably had to change his pants afterward. If you’re trying to limit the number of abortions, defunding other forms of birth control is an ass-backwards way to do it. If you’d rather see that money spent internally instead, well, there’s got to be a better delimiter than “they’re pushing abortion!” with which to determine who, if anyone, you’re playing ball with. And what happens when a poor country becomes overpopulated? People move into other countries, in many cases *gasp* illegally! Thumbs down.

5. He froze federal workforce hiring.

Note that this does not involve the military.

The verdict: Push. This one sucks for people who were applying for federal jobs, but I can’t blame the new guy for wanting to freeze things while he takes the time to familiarize himself with what’s going on. Short term, however, this could actually raise government costs if various agencies need to contract planned work out to consultants and contractors.

Overall

If you’re just tallying things up, that’s one big positive, three negatives, and one that can’t be quantified either way. It’s not worth reading too much into these first orders. They’re about what you’d expect from a Republican President. Stay tuned.