Imagine if you knew you were going to have a party for the 2012 presidential elections here in the United States. If you started planning for that party today, then by the time the election actually rolled around, you would be hosting the most badass party in the history of time. You would have all sorts of booze and drugs and party favors. Every person you know would have their schedule cleared for the party, and you would have a full three years of building anticipation behind it. And no matter what the result of the election was, you could be sure of one thing – your party would be totally out of control.

Well, that’s exactly what Kenyans, who don’t have another presidential election until 2012, are doing right now, except instead of planning a party, they are planning a riot. And no matter what happens politically, we can be sure of one thing – with months of planning, resource gathering and anticipation to go, Kenya is T-minus three years away from the Most Batshit Insane Riot Ever.

An interesting poll you can check out here on TPM shows that the biggest Democratic health care proposals is not what is in them, but an ongoing campaign of disinformation against them.

So this is the point where I’m supposed to rail against the big, bad Republicans for being lying liars and and using scare tactics and political bogeymen and bullying and shouting down opposition. But here’s the thing: of course they did! This is American politics – no holds are barred, and every ludicrous lie you can make up is fair game if people will buy into it. And when you’re dealing with a system in which 39% of people in one poll think the government needs to stay out of MEDICARE, it is not, in point of fact, all that difficult to fool some of the people all of the time.

If health care reform goes down in flames because Dems and progressives were unprepared or unwilling to push back against it, then frankly, we’ve got no one to blame for that but ourselves. If your opponent is making something into a shouting match, and you keep talking softly, then yeah, you might be the more mature person and have the better points – but if no one hears what you’re saying, then you have lost that argument in a public sphere. Passing any sort of meaningful health care reform at this point – even if a bi-partisan bill is as dead as disco, which seems to be the sentiment coming from the white house today – is going to be a fight. And the left can either gear up to win it, or keep playing Mr. Nice Guy and end up swallowing their teeth.

Is that a pleasant notion? No. But it’s the reality of the situation, and progressives better get used to the idea that they can’t stay out of the muck forever if that’s the only place that anti-reform advocates are willing to fight.

Oh, Barney Frank, you make my heart sing. And I’m comfortable enough with who I am to admit that I get more than a little hot when you say things like “It is a tribute to the First Amendment that this kind of vile, contemptible nonsense is so freely propagated.”

Now that Frank has stood up to these jackasses without the sky falling, hopefully more Democrats will develop the fairly minimal balls it should take to say that the stupid bigots coming out to these town halls are just that – stupid bigots, whose opinions are not worthy of our attention.

Attention, anyone was wondering how the final battle between humans and zombies will end up! Canada has done the math for you!

And I’m afraid the news is bad: We do not fare well.

According to Dr. Robert Smith? (no, that’s not a typo – he spells his name with an interrogative, in order to avoid being confused with the lead singer of The Cure, who is, as we all know, also concerned with mathematics and zombies) of the University of Ottawa have created a statistical model of what a zombie plague would look like, positing that after an outbreak has begun, infection will progress through the population at a fantastic rate. Teeming hordes of undead could overwhelm a major metropolitan area in just a matter of days.

Smith and his colleagues used the classic Romeran “shuffling zombie” as the example for their case study, which paints a bleak picture of human survival. They do,however, make the point that the best chance we would have for survival against a plague of zombies is to “hit them hard and hit them often.” In other words, the zombie apocalypse is not a time to try and cure beloved relatives of their unseemly condition or acquire a specimen for scientific study. As any right thinking person with a zombie contingency plan knows, the best thing you can do for a zombie is to release them from their hideous unlife by crushing their skull like an overripe melon. With the publication of this report, we have all officially been warned. Memo to people who live without a heavy, blunt instrument at hand – you are on your goddamn own.

Kudos to Dr. Smith? and his colleagues for their important research into this oft-ignored field, and kudos as well to the BBC for the single greatest news quote of 2009 so far:

“According to the researchers, the key difference between the zombies and the spread of real infections is that “zombies can come back to life.”

Which is, of course, a pretty big difference.

Hats off to Professor Masatoshi Ishikawa of the University of Tokyo, who has turned his scientific prowess in the field of robotics toward a subject  we can all get behind – creating the next generation of android athletes, superior to their human counterparts in every way, except for their inability to feel love.

Ishikawa’s laboratory is now home field for a robotic pitching arm that can throw strikes 9 times out of 10 and and a batting arm that can never swings at anything outside of the strike zone, and bats almost 1.000 on pitches inside the zone. Of course, that’s a tainted sample size at best, as right now it’s only swinging at 25 mph lobs across the plate.

But Ishikawa hopes that future iterations of the technology will be able to throw curves and sliders at upwards of 90 mph, hit with power to all fields and spout situationally appropriate baseball cliches. Which is great, but it’s still a couple generations of technology and a laser gun arm away from the ultimate sport – baseball played by fighting robots. Fighting robots that we can also train as gangs of ninja crime fighters.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and that’s nothing to scoff at.

I have it on good authority that scuba diving is a relaxing, often beautiful pastime. And since I’ve heard this from multiple people who I have no reason to disbelieve, I choose to take them at their word.

But frankly, I have a hard time believing that any activity in where one encounters the possibility of being attacked by cephalopods the size of a large dog can be called altogether soothing. The recent spate of attacks on divers by swarms of enormous Humboldt squid of the coast of California are, thus, forcing me to question the trust I put in certain friends and loved ones

Humboldt squid are creatures pretty much staright out of a nightmare – they can grow to become 5 feet in length and weigh in at as much as a hundred pounds. Carnivorous and often cannibalistic, the creatures are  strong enough to drag divers and fishermen out of boats or into deep water, using their tentacles  – which are lined with suckers and sharp teeth – to drag prey towards their beaks. Also known as jumbo squid or red devils for their coloration, size and generally unpleasant temperament, the squid usually live in deeper waters off the coast of Mexico.

But whether it’s ocean acidity levels, climate change or a drop in the numbers of their natural predators, the squid are venturing out of their traditional environs, venturing up and and down the west coast of North America and being found as far north as Alaska. The change in range has been accompanied by a mass migration of the enormous squid to the shallow waters off of San Diego, where some divers are avoiding the water out of the perfectly natural fear of being attacked by something that is rather large and has many arms, all of which are lined with teeth.

Video after the break.


The friendly fellas over at The Speed Gamers are 30 hours into their most epic charity event so far – a full seven day marathon of Final Fantasy, featuring live streamed marathon sessions of Final Fantasy 1 – 12.

These guys will be up all hours slaying monsters, summoning deities and saving the world more times than is reasonable to ask of them, and all they’re asking of you is to pitch a couple dollars towards autism research while you watch their minds slowly shatter under the stress of sleep deprivation and HP grinding.

You only have to watch for a little while to know that this is turn based roleplaying at it’s highest level – it’s like the All Star game of dorky pastimes. Except, you know, worth watching. Anyhow, I urge you to check it out and toss a couple bucks and a kind word their way. Cause sure, there are more soul crushing ways to raise money for a good cause by playing video games, but there certainly aren’t many.

A few days ago, I was discussing the tasering of a Texas grandmother with a few of my friends when somehow, the idea of police having to shout “Taser! Taser!” while disabling a suspect with the device was floated. It seemed like an entertaining notion, but the sort of thing that’s not exactly regulation.

Prove me wrong, police force of Nottingham, England. Prove me wrong.

Now, we don’t know the whole story here, and there’s every chance this guy may have needed to be disabled. For all we know, he may have been stealing from the rich to give to the poor, and you know how that pisses off law enforcement in Nottingham. And while there is a chance the suspect was concealing a long bow on his person, by the time this video starts, he’s obviously in no shape to use it.

But I would like to thank the officers featured here – especially the star of the show, who gets his partners to stop beating the suspect for a moment, only to taser him again, shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” –  for proving that the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on unnecessary, testosterone induced acts of violence by police officers. The UK can stand tall on that front – at least until someone repeatedly tasers them.

The item at the top of plenty of military wish lists looks like it’s on it’s way to a battlefield near you with the long awaited XM25 is out of the prototype phase and due to begin field testing in Afghanistan and Iraq this summer.

Designed to eliminate targets in cover, such as snipers standing behind walls or entrenched in caves, the XM25 is a sort of high tech hybrid of carbine rifle and precision grenade launcher that fires High Explosive Air Bursting (HEAB) 25mm rounds. Courtesy of a laser range finder, infrared, built in compass and thermal optics, the rifle can tell it’s user, via a wireless signal, exactly how far away their target is. The user can then tell the rifle how at what distance from the target the 25mm high explosive round should explode in the air, eliminating whatever material, be it trench, cave or door frame, the target is using for cover, and in all likelihood, eliminating the target as well.

Right now, the only ammunition available is the standard HEAB round, but munitions for every situation are in development, including less lethal rounds. Details on ammo and the tech heavy aspects of the last available prototype can be perused at Gizmodo. But the fact is that if even one of these $25 rounds at some point prevents troops under fire in Afghanistan or Iraq from needing to call in artillery fire or air strikes, that are far more potentially hazardous to the lives and welfare of innocent bystanders, then it has served it’s purpose admirably. The XM25 is a gun designed to prevent collateral damage and save civilian lives, and that is fundamentally a good thing.

It also happens to be one of the only ways that the United States is going to come out of the current wars in the Middle East in a better position than we entered them. Whether you believe they’re necessary or not, we’re not going to come to victory in Afghanistan on the back of a Predator drone. We have to stop indiscriminately endangering and harming civilians, and until we do, the mission on the ground – to disable the roots of global terrorist cells, rob their leaders of places to hide and cripple their ability to attack the citizens of the United States – has to be seen as a failure.

In other security news, scientists in the United Kingdom have made a big step forward in detecting concealed weapons. Researchers have unveiled the prototype for a hand held microwave radar scanner that can detect gun like objects discreetly, from a distance and, to hear the inventors tell it, outside of a laboratory environment. What exists right now is a very early but promising iteration of the technology, which resembles in principle a portable airport security sensor that’s limited in what sort of objects in can detect – guns, but not knives – and isn’t able to paint the clear picture of the object that one would get from a larger machine. But more advanced versions of the device could be helping police in the UK get a read on suspicious characters sooner than later, though it’s perceived usefulness as less a security countermeasure and more of a predictor of accuracy in ‘stop and searches’ does have the troubling ring of Newspeak to it. Then again, this is the London Metropolitan Police we’re talking about, so maybe a lack of concern for privacy that shouldn’t be surprising.

Finally, this week also brought a reminder that while microwave radars and laser range finders are all well and good, these things are not what security is ultimately about. At the end of the day, it’s about whatever works for your situation. And if that entails smiting your gigantic enemies with thousands upon thousands of stinging insects, then so much the better.

Okay, this made my Twitter on the basis of it being a pretty clear case of police brutality out of the world’s most respected bastion of police brutality, the LAPD.

But really, the most unforgivable thing about the video isn’t the kick to the head. It’s not even that the first officer in the scene is stupid enough to clearly kick a suspect in the head when he sees a news helicopter in the sky. I mean, maybe the guy doesn’t know those things usually have cameras in them. That’s understandable, right?

What’s not understandable is how an employee of a major metropolitan television station can actually be incapable of discerning the human head from the shoulder. Checking the video, you can hear the fellow in the chopper quite clearly at about 52 seconds in – for those of you playing along, that’s about 7 seconds after the cop in question tees off on the suspects dome like he’s trying out to replace Sebastian Janikowski – stating that the cop just kicked him “directly in the shoulder.”

For the benefit of any burgeoning news anchors out there –

This is a shoulder: 

This is a head:

There will be a test on his material later. For bonus points, please discuss whether, when covering an incident of obvious police brutality live on television, it is appropriate to mention that the officer kicking the suspect (in what, class? His head, that’s right!) then proceeds to high five his partner? Why or why not?

Not that I don’t understand this reporter’s reluctance to call the situation what it is. After all, if there’s any group of people capable of leaping into a helicopter to kick somebody senseless, it’s LA’s Finest.

You know how that story about Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his own ear in a fit of insanity and giving it to a prostitute as a grisly, deeply awkward gift always seemed too crazy, too perfect, too good to be true?

Yeah, well, about that. 

It turns out that, like George Washington chopping down a cherry tree or Robert Oppenheimer quoting Kali as the first atomic bomb exploded, Van Gogh slicing his own ear off may be just one more piece of apocrypha that makes a great story, but didn’t so much happen. The good news, though, is that the story of how Van Gogh actually lost his ear is almost as cool as the popular myth.

In a new book, German art historians claim that Van Gogh lost his ear in a fight. Outside of a brothel. When Paul Gauguin cut it off with a sword.

As for how the myth sprung up, historians believe that Van Gogh was just trying to protect his friend Gauguin, who, for the record, was easily as mentally ill as his better known Dutch contemporary, a fact that should only cause the artists legacy to become greater. Think of it this way –  after a probably drunken brawl, Van Gogh perpetuated a story that made him look like one of history’s craziest bastards in the interest of making sure his buddy, who had just hacked his ear off with a sword, stayed out of lockup. The conclusion: in addition to being one the most influential artists of the modern era, Van Gogh was also among the most stand up bros of all time.

I figure it’s only a matter of time before Van Gogh’s portrait of himself with a bandaged ear starts appearing alongside Tony Montana posters above beer pong tables around the world, so what better place to start than here?

Vincent Van Bro, we salute you.

Coming Soon To A Frat House Living Room Near You.

Coming Soon To A Frat House Living Room Near You.

It’ Saturday, and that means Woody Harrelson is in trouble for assaulting a photographer again, but this time, he has the best excuse ever.

Fresh off the set of his upcoming film Zombieland, Harrelson describes the encounter at a New York airport as follows.

“With my daughter at the airport I was startled by a paparazzo, who I quite understandably mistook for a zombie”

So you see, it was all just an unfortunate misunderstanding. Given the circumstances and Harrleson’s understandable nervousness about being attacked by the undead, the as yet unidentified photographer is pretty lucky that he didn’t get hit with and ax or other more traditional piece of anti-zombie armament.

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