Revenge of the Fallen

Ok, I admit I just went to see Megan Fox, but it was surprisingly good. Just like the first Transformers flick, this one is filled with explosions, and robot fu, and lots of military personnel and equipment getting jacked up - and that's just the first 10 minutes! As much I want to HATE Michael Bay (he is responsible for Pearl Harbor and both of the Bad Boys movies), I have to say that he got this one right. He seems to really understand how the whole giant robot/teenage boy/hot girlfriend/special forces/crazy parents/misguided bureaucrat thing goes together. This one has a bit more rough language than the first one, and a bit more skin. Perhaps the third one should be rated R, and there could be a Decepticon hiding in the shower with Ms. Fox (a boy can dream, right?).

There are no surprises in this film - it steals liberally from Star Wars, Terminator, the Matrix, Fifth Element, Stargate, and even a little bit from Species - but it's still quite entertaining. You could do worse with your summer movie dollar. Also, if you are a Bumblebee fan, he is certifiably bad-ass in this one.

A Poll on the Polling

Another of our polls has closed, and unlike the ones in Iran, we actually counted the votes!
We asked:
What should the U.S. do about the situation in Iran?

The Flock hasn't been so united since the Intelligent Design poll. Seems nobody wants to touch this one - could it be because most feel we already have our fingers in the Middle Eastern pie too much?

The responses:
Nothing - it's their affair. 89%
Apply political pressure to get a recount/repoll. 11%

(We offered other possible answers, including the option of going all Hiroshima on them, but no one selected them.)

I am torn on this one. On the one hand, we wouldn't want some foreign power to come over here and back some political faction - say, for instance, the Teabaggers. In fact, I'm relatively certain that we would go ape-shit crazy if that happened, and the violence in the streets would be epic. On the other hand, the current Iranian regime does seem to have stolen an election from the people. We certainly know how much that sucks, now don't we?

If I were president, I don't know what I would do. I hope the president has based his decision to stay out of it on a great deal more information than that to which we are privy. I also hope that information is better than the intelligence his predecessor was working with (or making up).

I'm not known for my optimistic stance where global politics is concerned, so I don't know where I'm getting all of this hope. It sounds a bit hollow, even to me...

I Am Pierced by Drive-Thru Cutlery...

It's 3:25 AM, and I am still awake.
I have to work at 7:30, but that fact has yet to convince my brain to shut off.

Everyone I love is far away. Some are overseas, and all are in places that are far less safe than I'd like. I can do nothing to protect or aid or save them should something go wrong. I can only watch through the lens of technology - Skype, chat, cell phones - and I figure they're sheltering me from some of the truth of their experiences. I imagine that they're not telling me about all the sketchy places and people they are encountering, because they love me and don't want me to worry. That they're protecting me is an irritant in itself, but it's the helplessness I really abhor.

To be honest, the discomfort I feel is not horrible, not a searing pain. I'd describe it as "pesky" really; a pebble-in-your-shoe kind of feeling. Not like the 'daggers in the heart' of which the emo kids are so fond. It's more like a spork... in the kidney.

There is nothing to do about it. I just have to wait it out.

Balls of Steel

If this is not photo shopped, that woman is my hero. If it's a fake, the photo shopper is my hero. Just in case you've been under a rock for the last few years, the guy she is flipping off is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the pretend president of Iran.

I hope she's not dead now.

(If you haven't voted in the poll yet, now would be a good time to do so.)

UPDATE: Unfortunately, this photo is a fake. The undoctored version can be found here.

We Are Devolving Into Giant Slugs

We have become so sedentary that even our pets need treadmills...

Ok - sit on your ass, eat Hot Pockets, and watch reality television all you like, but for fuck's sake, at least play with your pets!

Completely Stolen Content

Thanks to Fleur for sharing this completely awesome list of pseudonyms. Original post here. Naturally, I have filled in my results in italics.

Before some smart-ass thinks they have caught me in an inconsistency ("Do I contradict myself?/Very well then I contradict myself,/I am large, I contain multitudes") and gets all up in my 'bidness' about this - this is NOT a meme. Clearly not. This is simply some light amusement based on my history, family, and food preferences, and not a self-indulgent set of trivial statements about myself, thinly disguised as an attempt to "get to know my friends better." Note that I have called on no one to participate (you may enter your more humorous results in the comments if you wish, but only if you wish - you are in no way "tagged").

1. YOUR PORN STAR NAME: (Name of first pet / Street you live on):

Prissy Bradley

2. YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME: (Name of your favorite snack food / Grandfather’s first name):

Cashew Bill

3. YOUR FASHION DESIGNER NAME: (First word you see on your left / Favorite restaurant)

Regrets Anong

4. EXOTIC FOREIGNER ALIAS: (Favorite Spice / Last Foreign Vacation Spot):

Tumeric Dublin

5. SOCIALITE ALIAS: (Silliest Childhood Nickname / Town Where You First Partied):

Stumpbug Canton

6. “FLY Boy” ALIAS: (First Initial/First 2 or 3 Letters of your Last Name):

M Cal

7. ICON ALIAS: (Something Sweet Within Sight / Any Liquid in Your Kitchen):

Coconut Sherry

8. DETECTIVE ALIAS: (Favorite Baby Animal / Where You Went to High School):

Pup Alamitos

9. BARFLY ALIAS: (Last Snack Food You Ate / Your Favorite Alcoholic Drink):

Peanut Amaretto

10. SOAP OPERA ALIAS: (Middle Name / Street Where You First Lived):

Robin Crestwood

11. ROCK STAR ALIAS: (Favorite Candy /Last Name Of Favorite musician ):

Skor Bowie

"Cashew Bill" has potential, but my favorite is definitely "Pup Alamitos."

Hard-Hitting Questions

If you'd like to listen to this rather than read it, you can use this nifty embedded thingy. The show is called "Cognitive Dissonance," and my pissy little view of the world is a regular weekly feature. You should totally listen to the whole thing, but you could just wait for it to load and then go to my bit, which begins at 32:40... Also, I highly recommend you stick around for the song which plays right after me; it's a theme song of sorts for me.

Alright kids, a quick rundown of the situation this week: the Navy is getting ready to deal with a North Korean missile attack on Hawaii, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is about to go all Tienanmen Square on the protesters in Iran, Israel basically told Hillary Clinton to pack sand when she asked them to stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and we are no closer to a health care solution… So at the daily White House press briefing today, when Major Garrett from Fox News got his shot at White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, naturally he asked about the MOST pressing issue in America today – Why the President hasn’t yet decided on a church for the Obama’s to attend.

Thank the gods there are keen investigative reporters out there like Garrett, to cut through the fluff and get to the REAL problems this country faces. If the President hasn’t chosen a church yet, he might be making decisions without the guidance of a pastor, or worse yet, without consulting the invisible man in the sky!

One of the follow up questioners asked if the First Family was having a pastor come in and conduct services privately for them, either at the Whitehouse or at Camp David. This, my friends, is the kind of “Fair and Balanced” coverage that is keeping our dangerous, Liberal, Socialist, abortion-loving, and possibly Muslim president in line. Attending prayer breakfasts, and putting “God Bless America” at the end of his speeches isn’t going to be enough. If he’s going to claim to be a Christian, he’ll have to keep up the charade for his entire term, and Fox News will be there to poke at him if he doesn’t.

Now if I were the President, I’d make a contest out of it. I’d have all the prominent pastors and priests in Washington come to the White House for an MMA round-robin cage match. I’d love to see the Episcopal Priest from St. John’s use his stole to choke out the Pastor from Metropolitan Methodist – they could probably make a bundle putting it on pay-per-view. We could have a nun walk around the octagon with the round cards, and the Baptist church ladies could handle the concessions by having a bake sale. It could be a real ecumenical event, and afterwards everyone could all go home and pray for those poor lost souls who don’t belong to THEIR church.

OK – to be fair, I know that question was the last one asked in a lengthy press conference, but seriously – is this the kind of thing the American people really need to know about their president? Don’t you think he has more important shit to worry about than which church service he and his cadre of Secret Service men will invade each week? Like, perhaps, fixing the monumental mess left behind by that bastion of church-going, god-fearing Christian values, George W. Bush? I think I’m going to pray for that – or... for a pony. Because both are equally likely.

Chrysler's New Date

Good news! Fiat bought Chrysler this week. Everyone who was worried that Chrysler would fall into bankruptcy can breathe more easily - with the help of a major European auto company, there’s no way Chrysler can fail now!

Unless… it turns out like it did when Daimler Benz bought Chrysler… You remember them, the incredibly successful firm that makes Mercedes? Yeah, with Chrysler they reported losses of $1.5 billion in 2006, then they laid off 13,000 employees in 2007. From then on, Daimler was trying to pimp Chrysler out to any john who had cash. When someone finally did express interest, it was a company called Cerberus Capital Management – a firm that specializes in reorganizing dying companies. Daimler actually had to PAY Cerberus $650 million to get them to take Chrysler – that’s like when you paid the guy down the block to take your ugly little sister to the prom; and that guy at least got a little something for his trouble…

That wasn’t the first time Chrysler had to be defibrillated either. It should have died a natural death back in the late 70s, when Carter gave them a 1.5 billion dollar loan. With obvious fiscal herpes sores like these, you’d think they’d have little hope of being purchased.

Never the less, Fiat has taken the bait, and not a minute too soon. If they hadn’t stepped up to the plate, Chrysler might have died for real this time, and the American people might have been deprived of a steady flow of fine Chrysler products – like the Chrysler Town and Country, also known as the poor man’s Escalade. Or the Sebring, which really wishes it was a Cadillac Alante.

Come to think of it, these are the guys that gave us the first minivan, the first gas-gulping SUV, and the single most unexciting, asexual car of all time, the Aries K-car. Perhaps the struggles this company has experienced are not the result of the economic down-turn – this is just karma in action. You can’t pump out millions of Voyagers and Caravans and then expect to atone for it all with a few PT Cruisers with flames down the sides. One wonders what sort of horrible things Fiat must have done to deserve being yoked to this millstone of a company as the entire auto market falls overboard. Something very bad, no doubt – something like making tanks for Mussolini… yeah, that was probably it.

Well, there is a bright side to all of this – I’ve always wanted an Italian car. I was thinking more of an Alfa Romeo, but I guess an Aspen Hybrid will just have to do.

"Chip the glasses and crack the plates..."

One member of the Flock who just finished her Master's degree is now teaching in China for a year. Another Flocker who just finished her Bachelor's degrees is now headed off to Jordan to learn Arabic. A member of the cyberflock has actually been living in Albania for a while now. Three other Flockers, current inmates of Flock Hall 2.0, also just graduated, and this weekend they are all moving to Washington D.C. to start new phases of their lives and educations.

All of these intrepid souls are women. I am, once again, amazed by the women who surround me. They have a willingness to face change and the discomforts it brings that is astounding to me. I get irritated when the grocery store doesn't have my vegan cream cheese; I literally cringe at the kinds of upheaval that these ladies are taking on. They inspire me and challenge me, and to be honest, they shame me more than a little bit. I would love to say, "I'm also moving - to Kerplokistan to learn the lost martial art of the Kerplokistani Masters!" or something equally exotic, but I can't.

Truth is, I have become the world's tallest hobbit. I like my house and my schedule and my things just so. I prefer no interruptions to my self-involved pursuit of good workouts and tasty vegan food and educational reading material. A good friend (also a woman) once told me that as men grow older, they behave like bears with furniture. I scoffed at the time, but now, 10 years later, I am noticing certain growly territorial behaviors in myself that are decidedly bear-like (not THAT kind of bear, Jim).

And yet, I am restless. I want to wander, but I like my big kingsize bed and my monogrammed bathrobe. I feel the need to be more adventurous, but I dread the homesickness and strangeness of anywhere else. Could it be that despite my incessant bitching about Black Vatican City, I actually LIKE it here [shudder]? I just saw UP (which is a highly recommended flick, by the way - I give it 4 and a half Papal Mitres out of 5) and unfortunately, I saw myself in the main character. He had always meant to go to South America, but he just never got around to it.

I wish I could say that I have come to some momentous decision on this. I can only tell you that I have finally reached the point where I am seriously looking for some kind of foreign adventure. Not a vacation, but an extended stay with a job to do while I'm there. Once my Master's is done, teaching abroad seems like a good place to start. My PhD can wait a bit - I need to hurry before the Kerplokistani Masters all die off...

And Whom Would You Prefer?

Another poll has come and gone, and again you solidify my beliefs about you... for the most part. I asked:

Who is your favorite Star Trek villain?

And you answered:

Khan (Wrath of Khan) 33%
Nero (Star Trek) 0%
The Borg Queen (Star Trek: First Contact) 5%
Q (TNG) 27%
Commander Kruge (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock) 0%
Praetor Shinzon (Star Trek: Nemesis) 0%
The Tribbles (hee hee...) 11%
Someone else (these choices suck, Linus...) 22%

I agree that Khan is DA MAN, and I am pleased with Q being second in line; exactly as I would rate them. It also gives me giggles that the Tribbles got more votes than the Borg Queen - you guys crack me up. I'm a little saddened by the lack of love for Commander Kruge (come on - it was Christopher Lloyd! And he had a huge lizard/dog/thing for a pet!) but I did set up the poll for one answer per person, so I guess it's to be expected.

I am, however, surprised at the number of "Someone else" votes. Over a 5th of you thought someone was better than the group I put up above. I suppose I could have added Gul Dukat or General Chang, or even the gloriously gratuitously violent Jem'Hadar (aren't they hawt, what with all those head ridges and spikes and leather pants and stuff?) but seriously - are any of them BETTER than Khan? So you guys who chose "someone else" pony up. Tell us who your favorite Trek villain is in the comments, and why.

Sotomayor's "racist" remark...

Ok, let’s talk about the big manky mess known as racism, shall we? Sonia Sotomayor really stepped in that pile when she made the following statement:

“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Every conservative troll from Hannity to Newt Gingrich has trotted out this quote and called it racism and/or sexism. Rush went so far as to call upon her to withdraw, because a similarly racist white male candidate would be forced to withdraw.

Ok guys, time for a primer on the -isms. Racism is when you make judgments about someone based solely on their race. Sexism is when you make judgments about someone based solely on their sex. Judge Sotomayor wasn’t doing either – she was commenting on the difference between the life of a white male in America and the life of a Latina female in America. That's not racism - assuming she's just like very other "fiery Latina" and putting up political cartoons that depict her as a piñata - now THAT'S racism. And by the way - she's Puerto Rican, not Mexican, you numbnuts - if you have to take shots at her ethnicity, at least make West Side Story jokes.

If anything, Sotomayor is guilty of a kind of cultural-ism, in stating that people who have had more difficult lives make better judges. But that's just silly - everyone knows that judgment resides largely in white testicles. Am I right, ladies?

Judge Sotomayor had the temerity to suggest that true wisdom comes from surviving adversity, something white males don't generally experience to the same degree that Latinas do in this country. She's pointing out that rich white men, whose fathers and grandfathers were rich white men, might just be a wee bit out of touch with the mainstream in America.

She's suggesting that it’s likely that a person who has grown up as an oppressed minority might have a better understanding of the bulk of defendants in our court system - who just happen to be oppressed minorities. She’s simply saying that growing up on the corner of Puerto Rican street and Woman avenue might give you a more nuanced perspective than growing up in the sheltered heart of Privilege Town.

All of the right-wing windbags who attempted to flog this quote to death have missed this point. It appears that one aspect of the piñata metaphor was accurate - the men taking shots at her all seem to be blindfolded.

Changes at Flock Hall

The most recent round of graduations has hit Flock Hall pretty hard. Of the four current inmates, three have graduated and are soon headed on to greener pastures. This left your beloved Pontifex Niger with no roommates for the next semester, so a strenuous application process was initiated to fill the extra cells.

From the pool of worthy and devout applicants, we have selected the cream of the crop (that is, those who look most likely to pay rent on time) and we will be slowly introducing them to you, one by one.

Today we bring you the first of these introductions. This is Muneyuki Kato, known to his friends as Shinze. Shinze is a grad student, working on a Master's degree in Sociology, and he shares an office on campus with the Black Pope. He is a statistics whiz, and he's currently working on his thesis - a treatise on suicide.

That's not a halloween costume, folks - those are his pajamas. Apparently, it's an anime character named "Surgeon Frog." His American girlfriend loves this outfit. Hey, to each his own. At least they aren't furries.

Shinze is Japanese, and as such, he is obliged by custom to eat bizare foods. He is also obliged to offer said bizare foods to his squeamish white housemates. I am not squeamish about foreign foods, and I will try just about anything, but you have to grow up eating some ethnic foods. Shinze's dinner last night was a good example of that - rice with natto and takuan.

A takuan is basically a huge, salty, pickled daikon radish. They were invented in the late 1500s by a Zen master named Takuan Soho, hence the name. They are a staple of temple diets even today, as they are cheap, keep well, and are quite nutritious. It's very crisp, and has a nice crunchy texture that is actually quite pleasant. It tastes very little like Western radishes, and nothing like something I'd want to eat. In fact, it has a taste that never lets you forget that it's been fermenting for a good long while. Also, it has a color rarely occuring in natural foods, and it smells slightly like rotting vegetables. While I find it mildly distasteful, it is a veritable delicacy compared to natto.

Natto is fermented soybeans. By fermented, I mean to say "rotting." When you open the package, they look like they are covered in snot or spider webs, or both. The smell is basically that of feet - sweaty, unwashed feet, after a day of hiking in a swamp in leather boots. To this pungent mess you add hot mustard and soy sauce, then you mix it up until it's frothy. Apparently, the froth is part of the goodness [shudder]. As you eat it, the key is to keep the stringy slime off your face - the picture to the right gives you some idea of how difficult that can be. The taste is precisely what you'd expect from rotting beans - but with mustard and soy sauce. I know of no one who is not a native of Japan who finds natto palatable. Natto is supposedly very nutritious, and full of things which your body needs, particlularly if you are a vegan. I will just have to risk malnutrition.

Shinze loves this stuff. To be fair, he also ate most of a box of Strawberry Milkshake Oreos, which I also found completely unpalatable. Maybe it's just me...

It's going to be an interesting year. Everyone say hello to Shinze in the comments, ok?