LANDMARK SMACKDOWN: John Hancock Center vs John Hancock Tower

Show me your John Hancock, America!, I said

And America showed me TWO.

1225_01_77_web john-hancock-tower-boston-ma072

The first one is a famous skyscraper in Chicago. The second one is a not-as-famous glass rectangle in Boston. But which is BETTER? Let’s evaluate:

Aesthetics: The Center is tall, imposing, black, and generally kind of scary. The Tower is a mirror reflecting Boston’s soul and I always liked it better than “The Pru.” WINNER JHT

Height: The Center is 1.500 feet tall. The Tower tops out at 790. WINNER THE METRIC SYSTEM BECAUSE FEET ARE SMELLY

Marriages: I attending a wedding at Copley Square, where the Tower is. I did not attend a wedding in Chicago. WINNER JHT

Movie Moment: Is the Center in “Transformers 3”? Is the Tower in that movie about the Red Sox? Do any monsters climb up these facades? Do aliens destroy these buildings at some point? I plead ignorance. WINNER EVERYBODY

View From The Top: Can’t see Russia from either one. Don’t even think you can see Canada. WINNER NOBODY

Radio antennae: The Center has two, the Tower has none. WINNER JHC TIMES TWO

Funnest Fun Fact: The Center was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City in 1968. Also it has the world’s highest swimming pool. When the Tower was first built, glass plates from upper floor windows would crash to street level and they had to close off certain blocks on windy days. Also on windy days the building swayed and upper floor workers got motion sickness. WINNER THE WIND…AND JHT

Nickname: “Big John” (Chicago) vs “The Hancock” WINNER JHC

So now we’re all even at 3-3. What do you think?

Advertisements

“Star Trek Week”: Why I Hate the Early Astronaut Theory

d6157de7320e

“Star Trek” comes out later this week. In honor of screenwriter Damon Lindelof, an overrated talent at best, I have some sci-fi related rants prepared that I’ll whip out for today’s rainy day.

I wrote this a while ago, after watching “Prometheus”, a Lindelof project.

“I really hate the early astronaut theory.

I have an “open mind” about other bunkem such as the search for ghosts or various conspiracy theories and unsolved mysteries of the world. I even am interested in the idea of modern aliens and astronauts.

But early astronauts? Forget it.

The early astronaut theory is basically the idea that either our great human ideas or higher thought or even life itself is derived from some

First of all, there’s no evidence for this. So let’s get that out there right away.

Second, this is the worst pseudoscientific bullshit, akin to putting people on dinosaurs in a horrible attempt to match the Bible with the fossil record. This is creationism and intelligent design mascerading as science fiction. But it’s a hell of a lot worse.

At least many of religious faith accept God as ‘unknowable’ or at least mysterious. Imagining our ‘creators’ to be aliens brings back the problem of personification back up again.

Third, I hate these theories because in some way they really take away the majesty and brilliance of human potential. What, we can’t believe that humans built the pyramids? That life progressed from simple cells to Kim Kardashian over a billion years? That human emotions originate with humans and not some crazy alien bosses?

It’s infantile. It’s like we need a ‘father’ or ‘mother’ alien/god/engineer watching over us or guiding us. Because we are afraid of our own responsibility and independance.

This fear is something everyone must struggle with, I believe. Can we cope with our own indviduality, and self doubt, and find purpose from within?

Fourth, the early astronaut theory really just puts off the important existential questions, as opposed to answering them. It just makes us once removed from those ideas.

So if aliens made us, who made the aliens? If life was created on Earth intelligently and with intent, where did THAT life originate from?

Theologists have at least made attempts to answer this paradox, but what kind of lame ass answer can an EA Theory promoter give? I guess he could give the same one, that the aliens are beyond our understanding or something. But that’s facecious, since the novelty of the EA Theory is that little green men are like the Jews of the universe, secretly controlling and manipulating everything.

If EA theorists admit or decide that the motivations of origins are beyond our understanding (ie, fourth dimensional aliens who do not contemplate time or life existing in ways that we have not yet fathomed) then all of the sudden we are just getting bogged down in symantics, “aliens” or “early astronauts” suddenly just becoming synanimous with “meteors carrying amino acids” or “the magic of space” or “God.” The terms and in fact the theory itself becomes meaningless, basically reduced to “something happened that preceded life.”

One more final thing: the EA Theory is a useful tool in the sci-fi world because it accomplishes one thing big thing, which has nothing to do with big ideas and everything to do with the limitations of human (film) art. That thing is: it explains why most aliens in the Universe look like humans with funny foreheads, because the universe was seeded with similar DNA. That’s also an explanation of how our sci fi Universes contain a suspicious amount of relatable alien lifeforms. It helps explain why a giant slug named Jabba the Hutt would be sexually attracted to a human female princess. Or why Vulcans and Romulans are the same fucking thing.

The EA Theory says more about us than it does about the truth. Proponents are exposing their hand, demonstrating their cultural bias with is dependant on western science fiction and pop culture tropes, and Biblical/classical notions of authority and intent.”

Landmark Smackdown: Empire State Building VS Big Ben

Created by MDKGraphicsEngine - Licensed to LEGO System A/S21002

Don’t let the relative size of the pictures fool you; the LEGO Empire State Building is AT LEAST as tall as LEGO Big Ben, and both are even taller in real life!

Building these two in my living room yesterday naturally begged the question: which is BETTER? I think this will start off a series on my blog.

Only the most important criteria have been chosen to determine this. Here we go:

HEIGHT: Well, here’s something pretty objective. The tower that is erroneously named “Big Ben” (BB is the bell inside the clock tower) is 96 metres, or just over 300 feet. The ESB is 1250 feet tall…and that is BEFORE you include the radio antenna! WINNER ESB

ARCHITECTURE STYLE: “Big Ben” is neo-gothic (right???). ESB is Art Deco. Both are pretty iconic. WINNER EVERYBODY

BUILDING CHALLENGES: The bell, “Big Ben”, cracked and had to be lifted horizontally up the tower shaft. That’s pretty cool. But it did take over a decade to build, which was merely like standard and stuff for the 1850s. The Empire State Building’s native American construction crew had to withstand crazy winds and vertigo and they still built it in 40 days. The ESB still ranks as a terrific achievement in swift construction. WINNER ESB

FUNCTION: “Big Ben” tells the time. The ESB is…usually not at capacity. It holds offices and stuff. And a terrible Kevin Bacon “3d experience”. However, it was once thought to be able to serve as a landing site for blimps. WINNER BB

GETTING TO THE TOP: Only UK nationals are allowed inside “Big Ben.” Only unsuspecting tourists are allowed inside the ESB, where they are subjected to high ticket prices and a terrible Kevin Bacon “3d experience”. WINNER NOBODY

HISTORY: The ESB was hit by a plane and stayed upright. It changes colors during the year. I don’t know much about the history of BB and I’m not even going to use wikipedia. My ignorance = WINNER EVERYBODY

BEST MOVIE MOMENT: For the ESB, has to be King Kong, right? He’s climbed to the top of the ESB in two different movies. What movies even feature “Big Ben”? Like as a “character”? Probably quite a few, but off the top of my head I can only think of “The Great Mouse Detective”, when Professor Ratigan and Basil of Baker Street are hanging off the clock hands. Also, the animated gears inside look pretty cool too. I guess animals like to be imperiled atop fancy buildings. WINNER EVERYBODY

PROXIMITY TO 12 DOVER DRIVE: 200 miles vs like 3000 miles. WINNER ESB

Well, that’s everything important. The Empire State Building wins, sort of, but don’t take my word for it. Vote in the poll!

An Openly Gay MLB Player?

This is copied directly from the fabulous website http://www.wildonsports.com/2013/05/an-openly-gay-mlb-player.html.

Please note the name of the author. Also below is a picture of Torii Hunter who won’t play with gay teammates because that would distract him with impure thoughts.

Detroit Tigers Hold Press Conference Introducing Torii Hunter

An Openly Gay MLB Player?

By Wild on Sports MLB Insider Aaron Dorman
*Disclaimer – The thoughts and views expressed in this article are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the site*

This week, NBA Center Jason Collins announced that he was gay, becoming the first openly gay professional athlete in any of the four major American sports. His courageous announcement is just the tip of the iceberg, but begs the question when players in other sports will follow suit. I cannot speak for football or hockey, but it is no sure thing, despite the progression in social mores towards universal acceptance of homosexuality and gay rights, that a baseball player will come out anytime soon. Certainly not when players are publicly stating that they would never be able to play with a gay teammate, as Torii Hunter said at a press conference this winter.
Hunter was subsequently miffed when there was negative backlash in the press. If anything, he should be ridiculed, not criticized, for speaking his mind about the issue, since it’s almost certain that he’s playing alongside a closet gay player right now. If baseball demographics match that of the rest of America, there should be about 4 or 5 gay players on every baseball, give or take. Now, that number is probably a little lower, since there is probably a self-selecting aspect to a profession that is openly hostile to potential gay members, but as of now it would be nearly impossible to objectively assess such a thing. I believe it is very safe to assume that professional sports has plenty of gay athletes who thus far have not felt stating their sexual identity would be worth the fallout, which would likely involve ostracism, hate mail, intense press coverage, etc.
But it will happen one day in the near future. Baseball was integrated over a decade before the nation at large, and similarly, it would be nice to see the sport take the lead once more on a progressive social issue. However, just like Jackie Robinson was no ordinary African-American player, the first baseball player to come out may be a calculated move, one designed to permanently make it okay to for players to be honest about their sexuality. And more personally, such a player might want to make sure that the historical significance of coming out isn’t outweighed by the risks. Therefore, here are some criteria to consider: HISTORY OF SUCCESS: Break the homophobia barrier will not be like integration. There is no separate “gay league”, all the gay baseball players are already in the MLB, hiding in the closet. Nevertheless, it would be a significant precedent if a bona-fide star came out, as opposed to a bench guy or AAAA fodder. No doubt the stereotype exists that gay athletes are less ‘manly’ or capable of handling the rigors of professional sports. Therefore it would send a strong message if someone with a history of success came out, thus forcing people to challenge their beliefs: what do the value most, ideas about ‘appropriate’ gender relations or helping their team win?
Don’t believe that it would take a good player to make a difference? Read this article from “The Atlantic” about the “first” openly gay player in pro sports, marginal bench OFer Glenn Burke, who tried to be a role model but was shut out by the media. That’s not his fault of course, and times have changed since 1979, but nevertheless, it’s easier to imagine someone like him being marginalized as an outlier, not a trail blazer.
LONG-TERM CONTRACT: This is key. Most team owners value on-field talent over controversy or “team chemistry” issues; how many cheaters, wife beaters, drunk drivers, or just all-around jerks have been celebrated as they lead their team to a pennant? However, there is a notable exception: when the controversy might cut into sales or drive away a large portion of the fan base. Collusion in baseball is forbidden but ask Barry Bonds or Jose Canseco if that made a different at the end of their careers? I find it highly plausible, albeit deplorable, that owners would shy away from signing an openly gay player either because of their personal beliefs or fear that the backlash from the fans or the media would be too great to make it worthwhile. These are businessmen, after all.
And while it would be courageous for any player to come out of the closet, can you blame someone for keeping their sexual identity a secret with millions (or hundreds of millions) of dollars on the line? It would be unfair to ask martyrdom from a player just open the floodgates.
Therefore, it would make sense for someone to come out only after they’ve probably been guaranteed most or all the money that they’re going to get. Such players could always be denied insider jobs like coaching or management after their playing career, but that could change with time and shifting cultural norms.
SUPPORTIVE MARKET/FAN BASE: Some cities have a larger and more active/vibrant/supportive gay community, mostly the big ones. I can imagine a player coming out in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco/the Bay Area, perhaps Toronto, maybe Seattle?? There’s probably about a dozen places that make sense. I could certainly understand being leery about coming out in a market like Philadelphia; one can only imagine unruly fans chucking batteries and dildos into the outfield. More conservative areas like Cincinnati or Kansas City may similarly contain a larger hostile element of fans. It will also be up to players to support their teammate, although that is something a manager/owner could enforce. And ironically, players may be more replaceable than fans.
On the other hand, a smaller market could be perfect for a gay player to ‘quietly’ come out, without a media circus making a huge deal of such an event. Particularly if it happened during the season. Some players just don’t want to have to deal with being hounded by the press, and most assuredly a gay star in New York would have a face-full of microphones for at least a few weeks (until the story died out).
Once again, this is a thought experiment. This is not attempt to define “boundaries” for a player to come out, it is just guessing about what would be circumstances conducive to such an event. The “fall-out” from Jason Collins’ decision has been quiet thus far, and it may happen that player will slowly and quietly come out with little fanfare over the next few years or decade(s). Maybe people in the coming decades will wonder what the fuss was all about. But right now, it looks like it will take a special player to overcome a sports climate that has not followed the military in shaking off “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Game of Thrones and Thomas the Tank Engine: THE SAME EXACT SHOW

game-of-thrones-poster thomas-the-tank-engine

I knew there was a reason why Game of Thrones felt so familiar. I experienced the same emotions, learned the same lessons, eye-rolled at the gratuitous nudity, lived vicariously through the same characters twenty years ago. Except back then, I wasn’t following the front lines around the country of Westeros, I was rolling along the branch lines of the Isle of Sodor. That’s right, Game of Thrones is a blatant rip-off of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, the British TV show which was filmed using narrow-gauge model trains and featured the sturdy yet subtle voice-over narration of Ringo Starr.

You won’t win this argument, but if you dare try, here are the clinching irrefutable facts:

ONE: Like Game of Thrones (abbreviated hence forth to GofT), Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends (abbreviated hence forth to TtheTEandFbitchez) takes place on a fictional island that is vaguely meant to respresent Great Britain. Yes, technically Sodor is meant to be between GB and the isle of Man but really its meant as a fictional fantasy-land copycat of the real place. And Sodor’s topography, geography, demographics, history, rail map, etc etc, has all been real thought out. Yeah, so forgive me if I’m not impressed that you know can point out King’s Landing out on a map. You don’t know shit if you can’t tell Culdee Fell from Ffarquhar.

Sodor1958

At least the Rev W Awdry was from England. George RR Martin is just some dude from New Jersey.

TWO: I watch GofT for one reason and one reason alone: amazing special effects I want to know who is going to win the game! Who is going to get their head cut off? Who is going to mount an assault on the capital? Who is going to buy a slave army? The machinations of all these crazy houses and noble families is titilating to the maximum. It’s well written, sure, but it can get a little campy. A little gratuitous.

wallpaper-jaime-1600

And that’s also why I wanted to watch Thomas.  Like GofT, Thomas and Friends offers a decentralized world of industrious and ambitious engines fighting to maintain control of their various rail lines, often at the expense of one another. The title character in fact doesn’t even appear in most of the stories, it’s usually the big engines like Gordon or Henry who are fucking up and causing trouble and dumping on each other. And when these engines fuck up, it’s an awesome shit show. The best episodes are the ones where an engine does something stupid and gets derailed into a mine pit or the ocean or something.

19thomas-600

Okay, so the engines never “die” in TtheTEandFbitchez, but SPOILER ALERT characters come back to life in GofT too! There’s that priest character who’s been cut seven times. And all those zombies north of the wall who’ve been reanimated.

In both universes, it is often difficult to discern some kind of overarching plot arc. Moves are simply behind made, wheels being turned, until winter comes or diesel power replaces steam power as the main source of locomotion.

George RR Martin is a true fan of history, and that’s where many of his storylines come from. Supposedly he based the battle of the Starks and the Lannisters after the fight between the Lancasters and the Whatevers in olde England. The good Reverend Awdry liked history too. And trains. He liked train history. Almost all the trains in his original stories are based on real trains, although the real ones don’t have faces or talk.

thomas-lbscr-e2

THREE: Both worlds offer a complex and sometimes contradictory take on the role of women in their respective societies. GofT is a world full of wenches and whores and rich girls doing their hair, but it also has a dragon lady and a warrior woman and a wise cracking grandma. Some of the women get good lines and reflect on their plight in society, and yes sometimes the women have to do things to the men to get power but that’s just “the way things were back then.” And at the end of the day there are plenty of women pulling the strings in various parts of Westeros and the outlying lands. I think the character of “Margary” is my favorite since she so obviously is now pulling the strings on evil Joffrey (more on him later).

EP302 Daenerys-Targaryen-game-of-thrones-23107710-1600-1200

In “Thomas” there just aren’t any lady trains. Off the top of my head I can think of two (although for some reason I always feminized Bertie the bus, I think Bertie might have been bicurious at the very least). There is a caboose named “Henrietta” that doesn’t have a face and doesn’t speak, but I’m assuming that might be a lady train too. New “Thomas” stories have added a “main character” named “Emily” to try to be more politically correct but that doesn’t count, since those stories were written after 1990.

However, the two lady trains are like a big deal. They are both diesel engines, so by their very nature are more important and powerful than the other trains. Daisy the trolley is kind of like Cersei Lannister; she’s not nearly as smart as she thinks she is and both characters got this major attitude/chip on her shoulder since they don’t want to be stereotyped as a “woman” but then they don’t assert themselves or transcend gender politics.

300120cersei-lannister

Mavis the tram diesel is more like Danaerys; at first Mavis starts out as a dainty waif engine but gradually comes into her own as she learns to work with the other engines and become the most important train on Thomas’ branch line.

mavis

Also you never hear ANY of the women in “Thomas” talk about “boys” or complaining about their periods or taking time out of scheduled journeys to “go shopping.” When a lady train is running on all cylinders, that lady train is judged on her own merits, same as the guy trains. Come to think of it all of the trains on Sodor are too busy with business to get down to any kinky business.

So both worlds are very obviously being told from a “male gaze”, but they at least half-ass an attempt at fully realized characters of both sexes.

FOUR: A well-established hierarchal social order. Every engine knows his make and model and place in the world. Status is everything. In GofT are you a Lannister or a Karstark or a wilding or a whore or a butcher’s boy? In “Thomas”, better to be a tender engine (and by tender I mean the thing on the back with coal that couples to the rest of the train, not a gentle loving nature) than a tank or tram engine, or even worse…a freight truck! As GofT has its troublesome eunuch army, “Thomas” has its troublesome trucks who can’t even move on their own but almost universally resent their inferior anatomy. They are always just a bunch of assholes.

TroublesomeTrucks_0008

I could go on about how some characters get “direwolves”, some trains get to pull the passenger coaches, some characters get henchman or guards, some trains get personal break vans, some characters get their own personal castle, some trains get their own branch lines, some characters are twins, some trains are twins, some characters who are twins have incestuous relationships…but I don’t need to go on. I think my point was very well made.

Game of Thrones

FIVE: A great villain. You gotta give little King Joffrey his due. Somehow he has been able to go beyond the “rich spoiled prince” archetype to basically be the richest, most spoiled, most sadistic evil little creep on television. He steals every scene with his wicked temper tantrums and/or torture-driven orgasms. You want him to die a horrible death, but that would mean he wouldn’t be on the show anymore. He’s a scary guy.

joffrey_2800Deisel

And yet he can only hope to match Diesel. Diesel is a real SOB. He’s smarmy and self-righteous and secretly (or not so secretly) ‘racist’ against the other engines who he begrudgingly works with, envisioning a time when the Diesels/Aryan master race with “rule” the tracks and all the steam-powered engines are lying in a scrap heap somewhere. He also has a nasty temper that he can’t control. For what it’s worth, he’s one of the few trains with a square face instead of a round one. That’s scary. I used to have nightmares about this train running me over, or trying to. He even has really creepy theme music. With the exception of him, every other engine on Sodor has a redeeming quality or wants what is best for the rail lines. Not Diesel. He’s in it for himself. Just ask “Duck”.

4102641915_5ec6f7a9d7_z

SIX: Dragons

Drogon-Game-of-Thrones untitled

SEVEN: George RR Martin wears a cap just like Mr. Conductor. (except really Martin is like GofT’s “Fat Controller” in terms of his ability to manipulate the narrative)

george-r-r-martin-imageringo-starr-thomas-the-tank-engine-01

FUN FACT: GofT was originally going to be called “Peter Dinklage the Sexy Dwarf and Friends” but they were worried about copyright infringement.

Nobody knows whether or not “Thomas the Tank Engine” was originally going to be called “A Trance of Trains” or “A Feast of Freight.”