2016-02-03

Ewwww...I mean, killer legs!



Check out this photo of Maria Sharapova from the 2015 Indian Wells WTA event. Take a very close look at her rippling and muscled left leg which in action looks like she's 150 years old.

Now compare the same legs on her a month later at an event at Universal Studios.



Bonus Sharapova: You can buy a tennis racket that simulates the sounds she makes during sex when you swing it.

2016-01-31

North American Shoppers Against Amazonian Masterhood

If you've ever bought stuff on Amazon, you know that begrudging feeling when you decide that the deal is just too good and you click the link even though it mysteriously doesn't tell you where it's shipping from and the delivery date is way out into the future...


Yep. You've just bought something from China. Before you know it, you'll get yourself a nice cool looking China Post tracking number.

Ignore it.

Actually anyone can get a unused tracking number label from China Post very easily and free. A tracking number is invalid and non-trackable until this tracking number is attached to a parcel and sent to China Post. So many cheaters gave an unused tracking number to paypal/ebay/aliexpress just to fulfill the payment requirements.

When you get the dreaded China Post tracking number, you can either sit patiently and wait for your item (usually 4-10 weeks) or contact the shipper and complain.

Bonus China Shipping link: This is a problem that is only going to get worse.

2016-01-30

#SuckForTkachuk

As the NHL enters the highly controversial All-Star weekend the Edmonton Oilers find themselves in a sweet schedule position to heal up from their ridiculous string of injuries (featuring what seems like a regular rotation of guys too). Two of the key missing players -- Connor McDavid and Oscar Klefbom -- will be back after the break.

The lengthy span between their last game (Saturday's 4-1 home loss to Nashville) and their next game (a home game against Columbus) has also provided Edmonton's long-suffering fans an extra fringe benefit: a lengthy time period in which the team hasn't lost any games.

The psychological benefits to this cannot be understated. As a friend told me last year (she's lived in both Toronto and Vancouver) Edmonton residents rise and fall with the fate of their teams like no other NHL city in which she has resided. If the Canucks won last night there aren't really that many smiles around the boardrooms of Burrard and Georgia. A two-game Leafs losing streak won't mean the CBRE sales reps you meet with are extra ornery. But she reports that from the top of organizations to the bottom, Edmontonians feel the fate of their team and it's imperative that in her business dealings she keeps an eye on the sports page. Whether it's a high-level meeting with a CFO, a routine mid-level meeting, or interactions with front-line workers they are in one mood when the team won, another when the team lost.

Well the Oilers have not been winning very much this season. They're 19-26-5 (in other words, 19 wins and 31 losses) and sitting second-last in the entire league (and 3 of the 5 teams ahead have at least a game in-hand). Between mediocre Oilers performance and the economic ruin that comes from electing Liberal and NDP governments, there isn't much these days to be happy about in Edmonton.

Until the All-Star Break, that is. Here's the list of the longest Oilers lossless streaks so far in 2015-2016: that's periods of time where Oilers fans don't sit glued to their TVs and then shut them off in disgust three hours later.


Since the season opener (a loss) Oilers fans haven't had many days to enjoy the team's most recent win (or, in two cases in our chart, to recover from the previous loss). Also notice the sad number of streaks: of the 19 games the Oilers have won only nine of those games (and 2 streaks) have been 3 or more games in a row. Usually the Oilers win a game only to lose the next games. The schedule hole combined with the All-Star Break gives the Oilers a whopping nine days without a game, which means 9 days without a loss. Were it not for the six-game win streak in early December this would be the longest lossless streak of the season. [The Oilers have been so bad you wouldn't believe how many times Feynman and Coulter's Love Child typed "winless" in this post and I had to correct it... -ed]


Here's the lossless streaks expressed visually. Note too how the Oilers have to win their first four games post-All-Star to set a new season mark: there's a schedule cost to having this many days off.

So enjoy this All-Star weekend, Oilers fans. This might be the happiest (and at least second least saddest) time of the season.

2016-01-22

Delawarication

Red Hot Chili Pepper's Anthony Kiedis has some good advice for would-be singer/songwriters. Mention U.S. state names as often as possible, even when it sounds ridiculous.

No, wait, sorry, it's "write that shit down".

Do you know how Keith Richards wrote the "Satisfaction" riff? It popped up in his noggin when he was falling asleep in a hotel room.

But Keef wasn't lazy, he got a recorder, he delivered the idea and went to sleep.

When he woke up and listened to the tape, he heard what would become one of the most iconic riffs of all time and "then me snoring for the next 40 minutes."

2016-01-15

This day in (blog) history

Hey, remember when the Edmonton Journal pretended not to notice black people?

2016-01-14

Terrorizing history

Another month, another terrorist attack in Istanbul: though this time it was serious.

Nabil Fadli, a 28-year-old ISIL militant of Syrian origin who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1988, blew himself up after blending into a tourist group of 33 German citizens on a visit to the Obelisk of Theodosius in Sultanahmet Square near the Blue Mosque in the morning hours of Jan. 12 when the popular square was relatively less crowded compared to the rest of the day.

Tourist sites including the Hagia Sophia and the nearby Basilica Cistern were closed by the Istanbul Governor’s Office following the attack.
The symbolism here is awfully clear. Sultanahmet Square is the cultural hub of the city, but look not only at where Fadli detonated but where he didn't. The Obelisk of Theodosius was originally built aroud 1450BC and transported to Constantinople in the fourth century to be part of the now-demolished Hippodrome. It's located directly in front of another popular tourist location: the Blue Mosque. Nearby is the famed Hagia Sophia (a former mosque). It certainly isn't a coincidence that the attack took place in front of but far enough to not damage or distress a Muslim place of worship. The Obelisk is also along the side of the Blue Mosque used for tourists but nor worshippers, if that's of any relevance.

CNN is asking if Turkey's attacks on ISIS are coming home to roost rather than the most dangerous question...with all respect to the tourists (mostly German) who were killed and injured, what happens with ISIL radicals with suicide vests stop attacking people and start destroying monuments?

It's not like ISIS doesn't love destroying monuments: they've famously gone full Taliban of late, blowing up various sites including the Arch of Trumph, Temple of Bel, and the Tower of Elahbel. They don't even have to make a horrible choice between destroying history and raising the body count: they can do them both at the same time.

The logistics of tying captives to pillars in Montreal may not yet be within their grasp (but give it time!), though thanks to tourism they don't have to bring out the ropes. We are very happy to provide human targets inside historical sites.

Sultanahmet Square is, frankly speaking, not where you go to maximize your death toll in Istanbul. Even when it's busy, it's mostly full of Australian tourists and Italian tour buses. The number of people crammed into Sultanahmet Square or even the nearby tram is fairly minimal. If you want to kill a lot of people, you detonate your suicide vest in the busy Istiklal Caddesi (street) near Taksim Square -- and yes, this is how busy it is all the time -- and accept that a few non-tourists will be killed in the wake. You could put some real fear into people there.

And yet instead Nabil Fadli blew himself up in front of a Roman column in front of western visitors. His target was the visitors. Pray that his successor's target isn't the column.

The surprising film that influenced Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is action-packed, winks at all the in-jokes to the franchise, steals plot points from its popular precedessors with wild abandon, and entertains audiences in inverse proportion to how serious into fandom they are.

It's new yet old, inventive yet derivative...oh God, it's Star Trek Into Darkness isn't it?

I know, I know, you've read all this stuff already. Gary Sebben refers to Khan and the Starkiller as J.J. Abram's "fatal flaw":
It’s not a surprise. It adds nothing to who he is. It really doesn’t matter a drop. It just makes you cover your face in shame. Without Khan, Kirk saving the ship in place of Spock looks less like a rehash and more like a twist. Stuff that was an obvious callback becomes fresh because you’re not pointing back to the source. The smartest way to steal something and get away with it is to not tell us where you stole it from.

The same thing can be said of the Starkiller. The Force Awakens’ most critical fault is that it seems like a point-for-point remake of A New Hope. In a lot of ways that’s true. But nowhere else is it more apparent than with the countdown to death against a super weapon that’s about to blow the heroes up. The very idea that the Empire would build an even bigger megaweapon with a single vulnerable spot is ridiculous in the extreme. That it would remain secret from, not a small rebellion, but a major galactic government like the New Republic is even harder to swallow. Having the Starkiller reminds us this is a remake. All the other stuff was just different enough but the Starkiller is a Deathstar, period.
Luke Benjamen Kuhns goes even further, saying that The Force Awakens is "just as bad" as Into Darkness:
Just like Into Darkness, the plot of The Force Awakens relies wholly on A New Hope and elements of Return of the Jedi with enough cameos and references to drive someone insane. We revisit the young person on a desert planet dreaming of a better life, A villain with family issues, a kidnapped protagonist that needs saving, and another Death Star that needs blown up. Again there is another attempt to hide who the villain is, but when you get the obvious reveal the impact is lost. So here you don’t feel like you’ve seen anything new, but a different take on A New Hope.
A lot of the "Force Awakens Into Darkness" comparisons take a specific look at elements of the story and where they've been stolen from, that sort of thing.

However, walking out of the theatre following my viewing of The Force Awakens all I could think of was the same thing I was thinking of after hearing that J.J. Abrams would be directing the new movie:

Good, now Star Wars fans can know what it feels like to have your favourite universe destroyed.

I don't mean this strictly as an in-universe event: though noting that both Vulcan and Coruscant were destroyed by J.J. Abrams reboots. I mean that the events and stories and worlds that others have built up painstakingly over time have been obliterated, and instead we're left with the Abrams nightmare. Already you can cruise Memory Alpha (the Star Trek Wiki) and see the impact of this. There's a page for a character called Khan played by Benedict Cumberbatch, and a page for a character called Khan played by Ricardo Montalban. Wookiepedia had to redesign their biographies for all the characters, as Disney shunted the entire Expanded Universe into something called Star Wars Legends. Did you enjoy reading about Darth Caedus in the New Jedi Order series? Hope not! He's gone like the wind. He's as non-existent in this universe as the time that James T. Kirk traveled to San Fransisco to rescue whales. And of course, just like in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, the hated prequels are still canon but the much beloved later adventures aren't.

Star Trek fans have had to put up with this now for six and a half years. Uhura and FaggotSpock dated. The Enterprise was built in a field in Iowa where Kirk lived even though his mother died and his brother may or may not have been born. Scotty invented a magical interplanetary transporter. FaggotSpock.

Well now its the Warsians turn. Han and Leia only had one kid. Luke's new Jedi Order lasted 63 femtoseconds. The Sun Crusher is now called a Starkiller and is the size of an entire planet. Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara "Emperor's Hand" Jade are replaced by General Hux and Captain Phasma. I admit to not being that much of a Star Wars fan and I'm mostly aware of the Expanded Universe Star Wars: Legends through osmosis. I certainly haven't read any of the supplementary material except perhaps for a peek or two at Chapters. As far as I'm aware, Star Wars: The Force Awakens doesn't feature anything as offensive to Expanded Universe fans as, say, Captain Kirk dying and being saved by Tribble blood. But then again, J.J. hasn't reached the Star Trek Into Darkness movie count yet...wait another 11 months and maybe they will.

Sure it's technically the "Hosnian system", not Coruscant. But the movie never tell us this, did it? Even 2009's Star Trek painstakingly spells out to the audience that this is an alternate timeline, yet a planet that looks exactly like Coruscant that houses the Senate and the New Republic

The Force Awakens is technically a sequel, but as both Red Letter Media and Ezra Klein have noted, it's ultimately a "soft reboot".

The Force Awakens borrows elements from more then just Star Trek Into Darkness of course: it also borrows from Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, and Redirected. And no, that isn't a typo.


Did you see Redirected? If not, you really should (it's currently available on Canadian Netflix at the time of this writing). It's a neat little mob drama that sort of borrows some of the feel from Lucky Number Slevin, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, and most of Guy Ritchie's oeurvre (particularly Snatch or Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels). In it, a London man is "kidnapped" by his friends on his birthday and taken to a back alley and waits in the van as his friends presumably are getting him a hooker. Instead, they're involved in the violent robbery of an illegal casino run by Vinnie Jones (who, spoiler alert, spends a lot of the movie screaming and swearing), but since the birthday boy doesn't know to stay in the van and away from the cameras and the gang lets it slip during the holdout that one of Vinnie Jone's patrons was the inside man who planned the heist. As a result, Vinnie Jones goes after them all while the birthday boy tries to pursue his now ex-friends as they escape to Malaysia. They all wind up instead in Lithuania, where birthday boy tries to return home, the gang tries to retrieve their money and continue onto their South China Sea paradise, and Vinnie Jones goes after them. However, the gang members themselves are victims of some of Lithuania's seediest characters and the money and bloody assaults change hands almost faster than your eyes can keep up.

So that's basically the same plot as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, right? Vinnie Jones and Daisy Ridley are both British leads who play characters down on their luck working in a seedy part of the galaxy/city where they are accosted by shady characters who try to steal something of value (Vinnie Jones' ring, Oscar Isaac's droid). Both don't want to leave their home but are forced by consequence into a strange new world (Lithuania, Takodana) where everybody seems to be out to get them. Then a horny priest and/or horny Smuggler with a Wookie try to rescue a down on their luck guy handcuffed naked to a radiator (Gil Darnell, John Boyega) before an evil overlord (General Hux, Daniel Nehme) try to destroy Malaysia with a superlaser.

Okay, fine, you got me, the plot doesn't really match very much when you look at it that way. But what both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Redirected have in common is they exist in a universe where every possible coincidence instantly happens. We don't know for sure who Rey is: she may be Luke's daughter or Han's daughter or even Caleb Dume's daughter. Let's pretend she's Luke's daughter, who happens to live on the same world that Max Von Sydow lives on with the map to Skywalker Ranch. She's the one who finds BB-8 within a stone's throw of the Millenium Falcon. Finn happens to find the two of them (though I suppose Rey 'found' him). These are an awful lot of coincidences, and these are the ones that make the most sense. Luke may easily have left his daughter close to the man who knew how to find him, which means that Finn's aim to catch BB-8 in the vicinity makes the coincidence at least manageable. The only big coincidence is BB-8 latching onto Rey, and Uncle Owen did buy C-3PO in the original trilogy so we have to give that a pass. Likewise in Redirected birthday boy knew where to find his friends because he knew they were going to Malaysia and its theoretically possible to blindly stumble upon people you're looking for at Heathrow Airport (though about as likely as a droid finding the right girl to latch onto). There's a gag about birthday boy being a minor celebrity (he works at Buckingham Palace) which is why Vinnie Jones' gangsters can find his house within an hour after seeing him on the security videos. Since the casino patron gave up the names of the other robbers to Vinnie Jones, they could trace the flight to Lithuania and know which country to aim for. Fair enough.

But then both franchises go off the deep end. Chewie and Solo just happen to stumble across the Falcon within 30 seconds in deep space without ever noticing it on the planet 500 miles away -- despite knowing its pedigree where presumably they could have traced the "stole from who stole from" trail of begats that Rey somehow had memorized. At the time they find the Millenium Falcon it contains data required for Princess Leia, Han's ex-girlfriend, which Han and Leia's son is trying to track down. Everywhere they go, somebody already knows that the First Order is looking for BB-8. Apparently every adventure in the Star Wars galaxy features some combination of Skywalkers (Anakin, Luke, Leia, and Kylo Ren) interacting with each other. And that's without us testing to see if Snoke is related to Palpatine and Rey is related to Luke. Hell, Nien Nunb and Ackbar are back along with what looks like Porkin's overweight son. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Biggs turns out to be related to Poe Dameron and Finn is actually a Calrisian. The galaxy has ten families in it, tops.

Likewise, in the world of Redirected the nation of Lithuania is about four square miles with only a single gas station. Two of the casino robbers find themselves in a small town where the truck they steal escaping a vicious fiancee turns out to be the fiancee's smuggling truck. Their getaway is spoiled because the fiancee knows how to find them, and Vinnie Jones always knows how to find everybody he's looking for. There's apparently only a single priest in all of Lithuania, the guy handcuffed to the radiator spots the con-lady who robbed him while running around naked on a city bus. Despite the fact that the Brits are all in a strange land where they don't speak the language, they can always locate people who are often trying to remain hidden. Near the end of the film when the skinny robber is telling Vinnie Jones where to find them, the answer is "at the Lithuanian wedding" and you don't even question that despite the supposed 300km distance Vinnie Jones gets there before the cake is finished baking.

In both films, the universe (a galaxy long ago and far away and/or Lithuania) is setup to be smaller than most small towns. Seriously, spend a day where you and three other friends all go to Smoky Lake during the Pumpkin Festival but each take separate vehicles and don't try to arrange anything on your cellphone (including attending the events). Just wander around the busy-ish small-ish town and see how many Star Wars or Redirected style coincidences you can discover. Having done basically this same experiment by accident a couple of years ago, I can already tell you that it's damned-near impossible. Similarly, remember trying to meet up in large/largest malls before cellphones?

So remember, if you're always able to bump into people you need to bump into to progress the plot of your life, you might just be a Jedi.

2016-01-13

The Bounty on Rachel Arab's head has just reached $1,000,000

2016-01-11

Whatever happened to the Gin Blossoms?

Believe it or not, it's a mere six years (and not, say, sixteen years) since their last album.

2016-01-10

Star Wars and the World of Tomorrow

Did you think that Kylo Ren's ship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens looked familiar? So did I, and I figured out why.

2016-01-09

The Donald

What to make of Vladimir Putin saying such nice things about Donald Trump?

I guess half of it depends on which side of the Trump fence you're on. I'm pretty sure everybody's biases will be confirmed.

But perhaps the bigger question is which side of the Trump fence Putin is on. Which is to say, are his pro-Trump comments sincere?

“There is no doubt that he is a very bright and talented man,” the Russian leader said. “It is not our business to assess his merits; that is up to the U.S. voters. But he is an absolute leader of the presidential race."
The first part is something that the more fierce of Trump-haters (hey Paula Simons, how are you doing today?) will probably still deny: their visceral animal disgust at his beliefs is so strong that it blinds them to pretty much everybody. However it's a fairly anodyne statement when you come right down to it.

The bigger question is in the latter half of his quote. "He is an absolute leader of the presidential race". What the hell does that even mean? Is Putin just expressing a cold mathematical fact related to his poll numbers? Or is it instead more of an attempt to actually speak about Trump's leadership abilities?

Which comes to the question of whether or not Putin believes it. Much of what Putin says is hard to jive with the facts, though it's worth noting that this three hour talk caused him to accidentally speak much more plainly about the Crimea incident than he's ever done before. He may actually believe Trump is a strong leader and wished to express his appreciation. This would be a big difference between his recent treatment of another strong leader, namely Stephen Harper, who Putin basically accused of being President Monkey's toady. Putin might really admire Trump, which on a certain level makes sense. Both men have a certain bombast to them (Trump's is more vocal, Putin's is more physical) that belies a much more strategic mind underneath. They both hope that you get so distracted by their naked plays for attention that you assume that they're just an airhead. Neither is, of course, and Putin might just be giving "The Donald" a little professional courtesy. After all, Trump did the same for him two months ago.

The other possibility, of course, is that Putin doesn't really mean what he's saying and instead is using that shrewd strategic mind in the subtle ways that only a Russian truly can. In other words, knowing that he's not popular in the United States and Republicans in particular are interested in butting heads with the Russians, he's trolling them: saying such nice things about Trump to try and discourage people from voting Trump. Whether he's meaning to do this because he actually does fear having to sit across from a summit table with Trump as Mark Steyn suggests, or he's just playing around to see how much he can affect Trump's approval ratings as a feeler exercise, it's still worth considering. If you believe left-wing Bloomberg on the matter, Putin doesn't have to fear Trump anyways. Of course, Bershidsky wouldn't like the notion that Putin legitimately believes Trump to be a strong leader either, so from his perspective neither scenario is possible. I suppose he just didn't say it? Yeah, let's go with that.

Putin also, of course, praised John Kerry for his handling of the Syrian crisis. This is another data point in the "playing around with Trump" column, since after all nobody believes Kerry has done a good job in the Middle East. Putin apparently delivered that line while barely cracking a smile.

It would be fitting for a Russian

From your mom

Dilbert author Scott Adams wonders whether the future cure to sexless marriages might just be polgyamy. (it isn't his first foray into the subject).

It has Adam's usual decent mix of comedy, social commentary, and some of his crazier-than-shit thinking. The highlight, of course...

I can’t speak for women, but most men are going to be in a good mood if you offer them a sandwich and oral sex for lunch. Even if they say no. It just feels good to be asked.

Though to be honest, the best parts of Adams' blog these days are his little Trump discussions. He's not a fan of Trump in the sense that if you forced him into a voting booth right now and put a gun to his head he'd probably vote for Rand Paul. But he's a huge fan of Trump in the sense that he admires how Trump is changing the narrative for his campaign every day and seemingly (but not seemingly) at a whim.

But you don't get any good lines about blowjobs and sandwiches.