Action Obama

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“I’m Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, and this is Jackass.”

So begins the president’s latest viral video—a 22-minute series of dangerous and immature stunts styled after the MTV show “Jackass.” The video is a bold new attempt to convince young Americans to sign up for health insurance at Healthcare.gov before the March 31 deadline.

Immediately after the introduction, Obama steals a gun from a Secret Service agent’s holster, fires a few rounds, yells “FOURTH OF JULY!” and is tackled to the ground.

“Young people think they’re invincible,” Obama says later in the video, suspended 30 feet in the air by a G-string. “That’s just not the case. Young people need to sign up for the exchanges by March 31 so they can be—”

Before he can finish, a catapult mechanism lets loose and deposits the president into the Potomac.

This video comes a week after the president’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns,” a tongue-in-cheek internet show starring comedian Zach Galifianakis as the obtuse host. The president’s appearance on the show was lauded as a brilliant strategy for reaching younger Americans. Detractors condemned the appearance as “desperate” and “beneath the dignity of the office.”

“You want to see dignity?” the president says in the video, apparently responding to his detractors, “Watch me punch Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack in the tit.”

President Obama, who has no known experience performing stunts, injures himself several times throughout the video. After leaping off a White House balcony and into a kiddie pool filled with hot dogs, the president can be seen clutching an injured arm.

“Without health insurance, the emergency room visit, x-ray, and cast would cost me about a thousand dollars,” says the president, wincing through the pain. “Visit Healthcare.gov and sign up for a health plan before March 31. Don’t be a jackass.”

 

CPAC

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD—The Conservative Political Action Conference wrapped up on Saturday after three days of panels and speeches from Rand Paul, Sarah Palin, and other rising stars in conservative politics.

Hundreds of sleep apnea sufferers attended CPAC with the hope of seeing the latest continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines. However, since CPAC is actually a political conference with no direct relationship to sleep apnea, many of these attendees left the conference unfulfilled.

“I’m not very good with acronyms,” admitted Rick Flanders, a 63-year-old sleep apnea sufferer.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that affects the airways during sleep, limiting oxygen and causing sufferers to wake several times during the night. A CPAP machine uses air pressure to keep the airways clear and promote a better night’s sleep.

“Someone said this conference would feature a bunch of windbags that put you right to sleep,” continued Flanders. “I guess they were right, but still—what a letdown.”

CPAC panels and speakers discussed many issues that are important to modern conservatives, including reducing the size of government, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and blocking anti-gun legislation. Sleep apnea was not mentioned once, much to the chagrin of Flanders and other sleep apnea sufferers.

“I tried to get Rand Paul to examine my throat,” said Ruth McCarthy, who also suffers from sleep apnea. “But he just stuffed it with his nutty libertarian notions.”

Sleep apnea sufferers weren’t the only fish out of water at CPAC; representatives from the ASPCA, NAACP, and Sea-Tac International Airport were also in attendance, and also very confused about the nature of the event. Several attendees claimed to be on PCP, though their bizarre rants and delusions actually helped them blend in with the other attendees.

Mars

PASADENA, Ca—Last Thursday, the team leading NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission made history when the rover Curiosity identified indisputable evidence of life on Mars—or so it seemed.

The historic discovery, initially made by microbiologist Dr. James Weaver, turned out to be an elaborate ruse Weaver concocted in an effort to “take the piss” out of his colleagues.

“I couldn’t resist,” said a very smug Dr. Weaver, “Those jagweeds were getting crazy excited about a bunch of damned rocks. It was annoying as hell. I thought I’d mix things up a little.”

NASA launched the Mars Science Laboratory in November of 2011, and the Curiosity rover successfully landed in Mars’ Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. Its goals: to study the red planet’s geology, characterize its climate, gauge the possibility of a manned mission, and determine if the planet could have supported life.

curiosity rover

In 19 months, Curiosity has traveled over 3.2 miles and discovered evidence of an ancient freshwater lake. Though Curiosity has found many of the essential ingredients of life—including nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon—the rover has not yet discovered incontrovertible evidence of past or present life forms.

“We were analyzing some amazing rock samples at the foot of Mt. Sharp when James gasped,” said Dr. Anita Dodd, an astrogeologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “When we asked what he saw, he told us to hold on. He then spent the next 5 minutes staring intently at his monitor and muttering ‘it can’t be’ over and over.”

“I kept thinking, ‘there’s no way they’ll believe me,’” said Dr. Weaver. “I really had to sell it.”

“When we looked at James’ monitor, we saw what appeared to be a paramecium,” continued Dodd. “We were ecstatic; the whole team started hugging and high fiving. We later found out that James had replaced his rover feed with a Google image. What a dick.”

“It was legendary,” said Dr. Weaver, wiping a tear from his eye. “I had them going for a full 38 minutes. They were just about to call the project chief when I said ‘Dear God—is that a duck?’ They were all like, ‘where?’ That’s when I lost it.”

“I don’t know why we keep falling for his shit,” said Gerald Griswold, a graduate student at the California Institute of Technology. “Last month, he photoshopped Old Norse runes into an image of the Wilson Cliffs. He also spent 20 minutes trying to convince me that the rover had found a Cheeto in the Gale Crater. I mean, c’mon; why would there be a Cheeto? That’s impossible, right?”

Dr. Weaver has since been dismissed from the Mars Science Laboratory mission and taken up a post at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He says he will be investigating a chain of Tex-Mex restaurants believed to have been built during the most recent Ice Age.

 

Fake Reporting by T.J. Carter, who can be reached at inmediasrad@gmail.com

universe1

STOCKHOLM, Sweden—Last week, researchers from MIT, Cambridge, The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and other renowned institutions met at the World Astrophysics Conference in Stockholm, where many of the greatest minds in astrophysics debated the properties of dark matter, the existence of multiple universes, and what happens to matter as it passes a black hole’s event horizon. By the end of the week-long conference, which was held at the Royal Institute of Technology, the distinguished attendees reached consensus on one point: The universe is fucking nutballs.

“Have you fucking thought about it?” asked Dr. Ignatius Waldgrave of CERN during his presentation on the recent discovery of what researchers believe to be the long-sought Higgs boson. “I mean, shit,” he added.

Throughout the conference, astrophysicists could be seen sitting in the hallways with their heads between their legs, muttering obscenities and trying to make sense of it all. Dr. Susana Petkova of JPL was found shaking her head and gazing at the sunset over Riddarfjärden Bay. “In the beginning, the universe was an impossibly hot and dense mass of gluon-quark plasma,” she said. “Then, it expanded and coalesced into the bullshit we see today.”

The highlight of the conference came when Dr. Richard Harbarth of Cambridge presented his recent essay titled, “What the Fuck?: Applying Quantum Information Theory to Black Holes.” While explaining the black hole information paradox—which suggests that physical information could simply “disappear” inside a black hole, thus challenging the notion that all information in the universe is conserved—Dr. Harbarth assumed a sweaty pallor and vomited into a 3D model of a black hole. “Fuck it,” he was heard saying as he exited the stage.

The science community’s awe, incredulity, and anger at the scope and mystery of the universe has roots in ancient history, when Greek astronomer Eudoxus of Cnidus developed his models of planetary movement. Though his original works are lost, later reproductions show the phrase ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω—roughly translated to “are you shitting me?”—scribbled in the margins.

After observing the moons of Jupiter for the first time, it is said that Galileo Galilei transported all his clothes to the Euganaean Hills outside Padua. A contemporary account describes a naked Galileo standing next to a burning pile of clothes while beating his chest and screaming at the night.

Outtakes from Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series Cosmos show many instances of Mr. Sagan “losing his shit” while explaining various natural phenomena. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who stars in the latest rendition of Cosmos, claims he “couldn’t get through a day of filming without downing a bottle of Pepe Lopez [tequila].” When asked why, Dr. Tyson pulled a flask from his jacket pocket, took a pull, and said “You try saying shit like ‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself’ while sober. Not fucking possible.”

This week, the world’s greatest astrophysicists return to their places of study with childlike reluctance. “I guess I’ll just look through my fucking telescope some more,” said Dr. Umberto Montevideo of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, “See if that uncovers more shit. Probably won’t, though.”

“Don’t even get me started on dark matter and dark energy,” said Dr. Petkova before hocking a loogie into Riddarfjärden Bay. “The idea that we can in no way detect 95% of the matter in the universe really pisses me off. I want answers and I want them now.”

God, the Almighty creator of all that is and was and ever will be, declined to comment.

 

(Fake reporting by T.J. Carter, who can be reached at inmediasrad@gmail.com)

Her1

NO SPOILERS; READ ON

In films like Terminator and The

Matrix, technology goes off the rails in a bad way. Humanity’s hubris and greed for innovation lead us to create artificial intelligence, and our foray into creation goes horribly awry. The machines are like us—destructive, ingenious, afraid—and it seems logical for them to destroy us. However, they’re much more efficient and have no morals to slow them down. While it’s fun to see artificial intelligence turn against us on screen, because it means things will probably blow up, it’s refreshing to see an artificially intelligent being develop feelings—to become a friend and even a lover.

Her, directed by Spike Jonze, is set sometime within the next 50 years. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is in bit of a tailspin after splitting from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). When Theodore isn’t at work writing other people’s love notes, he’s listening to melancholic music, losing at video games, and having bizarre phone sex. Then, he sees an advertisement for OS1—the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. He buys it, goes home, and sets it up. The OS setup wizard asks a few questions—including one about Theodore’s relationship with his mother—and within moments, Scarlett Johansson’s breathy tones undulate from Theodore’s computer. She puts him at ease, organizes his emails, and makes him laugh. The man doesn’t stand a chance.

Theodore and his operating system, who names herself “Samantha,” spend the next several scenes building their relationship and falling in love. She is designed to “evolve” when presented with new data, and she learns quickly. She doesn’t just make Theodore’s life easier, she makes him happier. She even talks him into going on a date. When that date doesn’t go well, Theodore goes to Samantha for “comfort.”

What strikes me about Her is its optimism, for lack of a better word. Instead of a cold, dangerous dystopia, we get a spotless, gleaming utopia. There isn’t a scrap of trash or a hint of graffiti anywhere in the film, the Los Angeles skyline has a few new shiny skyscrapers, and instead of machines that want to destroy us, we get machines that want to love us. Maybe the film’s squeaky-clean aesthetic is meant to show that people will still make themselves miserable even when everything is so great.

The disparity between natural and artificial intelligence forms the film’s main conflict. Samantha is constantly evolving, but still struggles to understand humanity in general and Theodore in particular. At the same time, the film suggests that machines and humans aren’t as different as you might think; as Samantha points out, “We’re all just matter. We’re all 13 billion years old.”

In those 13 billion years, innumerable collisions and accidents have transformed chaotic atoms into a brain that sends millions of electric signals every second. Technology, which is essentially humanity’s sped-up version of evolution, has used those same chaotic atoms to craft incredibly complex machines over eons of trial and error. As complex as the human brain is, it seems inevitable that computer technology will eventually catch up to, and even surpass, our own capacity to think, feel, and love. Films like Terminator and The Matrix show us what happens when machines think; Her shows us what happens when machines truly come alive.

In stories like Pinocchio, Bicentennial Man, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, man-made beings strive to be more human. To some extent, Her plays into this trope. Samantha longs to have a body and think like a human. However, she keeps evolving throughout the film, and eventually goes beyond the “wanting to become human” trope in a way we haven’t seen before. To avoid spoiling the plot, I’ll just leave it there.

As strange as Samantha and Theodore’s relationship seems, they’re a happy couple, and that’s all that really matters. Theodore’s college friend (Amy Adams), who is also dating an operating system, feeds us a nugget of wisdom, which I will leave you with: “We are only here briefly, and in this moment I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it.”

Fuck it indeed.

The man who did nothing

Did nothing

For fear of being wrong.

 

For years he sat silent

In his inoffensive apartment,

Abstaining from life

And trying not to think dirty thoughts.

 

Sleep, eat, repeat,

Every day.

It wasn’t right,

But how could it be wrong?

 

Before, when he did things,

He saw how wrong he could be.

Buy from WAL-MART—

Endorse cultural homogenization.

Stay in the shower longer than necessary to masturbate—

Kill polar bears.

Practice your faith—

Defy another.

Better to do nothing,

He thought,

Than offend anyone.

 

In the lonely hours

He suspected himself

Of a serious crime—

He did nothing

When he could do everything.

 

The man

who did nothing

Did nothing

Because there was nothing to do—

Except be wrong,

Except be right.

americanhustle1

By T.J. Carter

 

Occasionally, I’d like to use this site as a platform for the discussion of specific slices of media. In other words, I’d like to review movies, books, TV shows, and the rest; however, I don’t really like reviews. I feel uncomfortable judging pieces of art that talented people have worked hard to create. I don’t want to tear art a new one–I’d rather ignite a freewheelin’ discussion of what certain movies, books, TV shows, etc. add to our culture.

 

That said, I saw American Hustle the other night, and it totally blows.

 

Just kidding, I liked it quite a bit. Please read on.

 

For those who haven’t seen it yet, American Hustle is a semi-true story about con artists, lawmen, and what it means to be the good guy. Set in the late 1970s, American Hustle lurks in the shadow of the Vietnam War and Watergate–epic failures that left the American people feeling, well, hustled.

 

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), is a bloated, comeover-rocking con artist who engages in loan fraud with Syndey Prosser (Amy Adams), a former stripper whose existential crisis leaves a void that is easily filled by Rosenfeld’s schemes. The two are eventually caught by an overly eager Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), a manic FBI agent looking to make a name for himself. DiMaso gives the two con artists a choice: go to jail, or use their secret con artist magic to help entrap other criminals. With that premise in place, the film starts hustlin’.

 

It seems like most crime films are parables warning against the evils of greed. In this regard, American Hustle is no different. However, the so-called “criminals” aren’t the greedy ones–the law enforcers are.

 

Agent Richie DiMaso’s initial bargain with Rosenfeld and Prosser is to catch four low-level sleazebags. However, bigger fish keep swimming by and Agent Dimaso can’t seem to resist going after them. First a supposedly corrupt mayor, then a few corrupt Congressmen, and finally, the most notorious mobsters in New Jersey. DiMaso, a self-described “pencil-pusher,” isn’t eager to see justice served; he’s greedy for the recognition that comes with landing high-profile figures in jail. There are several amusing scenes in the film where DiMaso requests larger and larger chunks of the Bureau’s resources, and is rebuffed by his higher up (played by Louis C.K.). He grows more manic and petulant with each denial.

 

DiMaso’s greed is made all the more apparent by the fact that his main quarry–a mayor looking to acquire less-than-legal funds–is actually a pretty good guy. Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the mayor of Camden, NJ, is a bushy-tailed family man who is beloved by nearly all his

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constituents. The only reason Polito is seeking funds from shady sources is because his bid to revive Atlantic City through legitimate means is stuck in bureaucratic hell. Regardless of where you stand on the legalization of gambling, you can really believe that Polito is trying hard to create jobs and give New Jersey’s economy a much-needed boost.

 

If Agent DiMaso had his druthers, Polito would be in jail, Atlantic City would remain a crime-ridden cesspit, and the people of New Jersey would bemoan yet another failure of their government. Is that justice? Like DiMaso isn’t after Polito for the sake of the country, but for the advancement of his own FBI career. This makes him at least as much a greedy con artist as Rosenfeld and Prosser.

 

At one point in the film, Rosenfeld (Bale) says something along the lines of “everyone cons everyone.” The title of the film doesn’t just describe the nefarious deeds of two American con artists, but of all Americans. Rosenfeld and Prosser con each other, DiMaso cons Rosenfeld and Prosser, and everyone cons Mayor Polito. Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) hilariously plays Irving like a balding, beer-bellied fiddle. One of the main things I took from American Hustle is that there are good guys and bad guys on both sides of the law. Though government regulations exist for a good reason, the most important rules are those ratified by the conscience.

 

American Hustle is set in 1978 and doesn’t let you forget it. The music, the colors, the clothes, and the HAIR! Almost every character in the film has ridiculous hair, complementing the film’s manic, larger-than-life tone. The set design is bright and lavish at times, drab and dingy at other times–often in rapid succession. The juxtaposition of depressing dry cleaner’s and lavish office, vivacious nightclub and filthy bathroom stall, ritzy bar and sketchy alleyway provides a sense of polarization. This is further asserted by each character’s extraordinary range of emotions and by 1970s America itself, which was marked by the scintillating pleasures of drugs, sex, and disco in an ice bath of wounded national pride and economic stagnation.

 

There’s a lot more to say about American Hustle, but I think I’ll leave it there. It won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Musical/Comedy, and is nominated for 10 Academy Awards–including all the acting categories. Basically, American Hustle is “good” by all the traditional standards, and it couldn’t hurt to see it. I mean, it’s already been out for a month, so you probably have seen it. Just. . . just. . . do what you want.