Holiday Rerun Post: Thankgiving Multi-Tasking

Just as TV networks show the same holiday specials every year, I thought I’d recycle this Thanksgiving post from three years ago, with a slight update of movie titles.

A couple of years ago around Thanksgiving, I wrote about what I called “Russian Doll Food”– turduckens and all its offshoots like the veggieducken, the fictional turbriskafil from The Big Bang Theory and the possibly-actually-existing superducken from the Italian province of Nuoro: a young bull, stuffed with a goat, stuffed with a piglet, then a hare, then a partridge, and then an unspecified “small bird.”

The turducken now has so many imitators, I’m surprised the concept hasn’t spread into other product categories. People have so little time these days; it seems natural that they’d want to do several things at once, just as the turducken allows us to eat several things at once. It’s kind of like hyper multi-tasking; we simply need the tools that let us do it.

For instance, let’s say you want to watch daytime talk shows while you’re prepping your cranyambean casserole, the side dish for your turducken. It will only take you about an hour, though, so how can you watch all your favorites in that brief period? Simple–just tune to The Dr. Phillen Harviera Show and enjoy Dr. Phil, Ellen, Steve Harvey and Meredith Viera at the same time.

Your whole family arrives on Thursday, but you have limited parking, so they all come in one vehicle, their shiny new Smarcoocammer–A Smart Car inside a Mini Cooper inside a Camry inside a Hummer.

You know from past experience that the only way everyone is going to get through the day without screaming at each other is if you get them rip-roaring drunk, and you want to do that as quickly as possible, so you serve bovoskila on the rocks. It’s amazing how instantly people get smashed when drinking bourbon, vodka, scotch and tequila all at once. Don’t forget to add the chelivionella.* Cheerskoal’chaim!

Then you all sit down to have the first course, which you’ve prepared especially to welcome the newest members of your extended clan, Jacques and Selena Goldberg. She’s Mexican, he’s French and they’re both Jewish (thus, they are “mensches”), so you’ve made creburrintzes: a crepe inside a burrito inside a blintz. It’s about the size and shape of a log, and it’s covered in salsa, sour cream, apple sauce and powered sugar. Yum!

The quietest place in the house is over by the kids’ table, where nobody is talking or eating because they’re all involved with their iPhadroids. They’re probably texting snide comments to each other about the way Aunt Sylvia shoved an entire creburrintz into her mouth.

For dessert, you serve a cherpumple, which is a real thing. It’s a cherry, an apple and a pumpkin pie, each surrounded by a different kind of cake and baked inside one another. Finally, everybody crams back into the Smarcoocammer and goes home, leaving you with a gigantic mess which, fortunately, you can clean up in a jiffy with your robotic, cyclonic vacuum, the Roombadoover.

Then right to bed, because you have to wake up early the next day and get to J.C. Mactarmart for the Black Friday sales.

On Saturday, you want to see a movie, but you can’t decide which one because they release all these great films at the same time around the holidays. So you go to your local multiplex for the 2:30 showing of Last Billboards on the Thorient League** and you devour your bucket of buttered gummydudchos while you watch.

Sunday is a day of rest and worship, and since you’re a Christian who married a Jew and your daughter has converted to Islam, you go to your Churmosquegogue for services. The Rabimister gives an inspiring sermon.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and best wishes for a merry Chriskwanzikah.

See you soon.

*Cherry, olive, onion and umbrella.
**Last Flag Flying; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Thor; Murder on the Orient Express; Justice League.
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Entry 712: This is a Live Action Post

Last week, I wrote about how humans are helping robots take over the world, in one case by teaching them to write horror stories and, in another, by giving them breasts.

Today, I’d like to talk about how humans are beginning to lose track of the difference between computers and people.

I’m not referring to a Turing Test here. Named after Alan Turing, star of the movie The Imitation Game in which he played Benedict Cumberbatch during World War II, the Turing Test is a way of determining a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior like that of a human.

Of course, considering the humans currently leading our country, that’s a pretty low bar.

Anyway, this post has nothing to do with all that. It’s actually about The Lion King.

The Lion King is a beloved 1994 Disney animated film in which a lion has the same voice as Darth Vader. It’s a long-running Broadway show, too, just like Cats, but with bigger felines. It is also the point of origin for my daughter’s stuffed Timon, which she still has, even though it is 23 years old and she is 31.

Now The Lion King is going to be a “live-action” movie.

This continues a trend of Disney totally giving up on new ideas and, instead, recycling all its animated classics such as Beauty and the Beast, which was about Harry Potter’s friend dancing with Voldemort, or something like that.

The live action Lion King is already in production, with Jon Favreau as its director. Favreau was also on Friends, playing a guy with whom Monica had no sexual chemistry. But that is not relevant to today’s subject.

What is relevant is that Favreau also directed the live action version of The Jungle Book in which a human boy has all sorts of adventures with animals that were the clear result of evolution. The evolution of computer programming.

And that brings me to my point (finally!). Unlike The Jungle Book, the story of The Lion King has no human characters, unless you believe some conspiracy theorists who think they see a man’s foot sticking out of Scar’s mouth in one subliminal frame of the movie.* So a “live action” version of The Lion King would have to be one of two things:

  1. An old-fashioned Disney nature documentary in which the animals suddenly stop stalking prey to break out into song, or
  2. A film that is entirely composed of people like Andy Serkis prancing around in a studio and then getting turned into various animals through the magic of computer effects, or CGI as it’s known in the trade. (Andy Serkis, by the way, is Hollywood’s go-to motion capture actor. He was Gollum in Lord of the Rings and I think he was everybody in the remakes of Planet of the Apes. He’s been in, like 100 movies, almost none of which you’ve actually seen him in.)

I suspect that #2 above is the way it will be, which raises this question: If a film is entirely CGI, how exactly can it be referred to as “live action?” I mean, you’ve got to have at least one actual non-computer-generated character in it, don’t you? Or do the people in the skintight suits with the electrodes make it “live?”

In any case, I’m happy to report that there is some good news about the live action Lion King.

Mufasa will once again be played by Darth Vader.

See you soon.

*I made this up, so calm down all you conspiracy theorists.
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Entry 711: Mr. Hannity, Mr. Moore and Mr. Coffee

There’s something I’ve long suspected, but now I finally have proof.

I’ve always wondered how someone who earns, say, less than a quarter million dollars a year could be a Republican, since the GOP so obviously legislates in favor of the rich, usually to the detriment of everyone else.

There are only two possible explanations:

  1. Lower-income conservatives believe that non-economic issues like guns and abortion are more important than matters that actually affect their lives, or
  2. Lower-income conservatives are idiots.

I know, I know–that second choice is a gross generalization that denigrates a large segment of our population, and I apologize in advance to anyone in that group who knows what “denigrates” means.

But, as I said, I now have proof, and it’s all thanks to Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has, over the years, elevated himself into the higher-income conservative segment by saying things to intentionally rile up the lower-income conservative segment.

To make a dumb story short, Hannity recently had Roy Moore on as guest. Moore, previously famous for getting removed from his position as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court over his refusal to remove the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building, is running for the Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was removed to become head of the Department of Justice. Moore, an avowed homophobe and Muslimphobe, is also the founder and president of the Foundation for Moral Law, which evidently allows adult males to date girls immediately after their sweet sixteen parties and possibly soon after their bat mitzvahs, although I’m guessing that, while the age might seem appropriate to Moore, the religion wouldn’t.

Anyway, so Moore appeared on Hannity’s radio show last week. I did not listen to the episode, nor have I heard or seen any episode of Hannity’s programs.  I have, however, seen clips shown on various late-night comedy shows in which Hannity seems to be a genuine crazy person with only a tenuous grip on reality. But apparently so many pundits were critical of the way he “went soft” on Moore that a number of advertisers including Keurig and E-Trade announced they were pulling their ads.

I’m going to ignore the question of how a company that was advertising on Hannity’s show in the first place could suddenly find itself offended at this latest lunacy. I mean, you’re running ads on a show whose host has said things like…

“Here you are, you’re a liberal, probably define peace as the absence of conflict. I define peace as the ability to defend yourself and blow your enemies into smithereens.”

… but lobbing softball questions at a guy who, when he was in his 30’s, thought he was a suitable prom date, is going too far?

Instead of pursuing that line of inquiry, I’d like to return to the point of this post, which is that I now have proof that low-income conservatives are not playing with fully-loaded shotguns. Here’s the proof:

As a result of Keurig pulling its ads, conservatives have posted videos of themselves demolishing their coffee makers. For instance, there’s a video on the God Bless America YouTube channel (“Dedicated to the two things liberals hate the most: God and America”) that shows one machine smashed with a sledge hammer and another set on fire.

I’m all for free speech, and you folks have every right to protest Keurig’s decision, but I’m just wondering…you’ve already bought the Keurig machine, so the company already made that money. And, sure, it might lose a few bucks because you won’t be buying their pods anymore. But who do you think you’re hurting more, Keurig or yourself because now you’ve got to go out and buy a new coffeemaker? (Hannity, conspiracy nut that he is, might theorize that the whole thing is a hoax perpetrated by Nespresso and its liberal spokesperson.)

Hannity and Donald Trump Jr. suggest that their supporters now get their caffeine from the Black Rifle Coffee Company (BRCC), which calls itself the “premium conservative coffee company,” so it’s the place to go if you like conservative coffee. Unfortunately, their supporters would still need a way to brew BRCC’s coffee since they just demolished their coffee makers. And it’s too bad, because blends like Black Rifle Coffee’s AK-47 can be purchased in Keurig pods (although it will probably work in any semi-automatic coffee machine).

In any case, if you have a conservative on your holiday gift list, may I suggest a Tassimo?

See you soon.

P.S. If you really hated this post and want to protest it, I should mention that it was sponsored by Samsung and LG, makers of fine TVs.  (That should lower the ratings of Fox News for awhile.)

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Entry 710: Bad Robots

I’ve written before about how scientists seem determined to develop artificial intelligence that is destined to destroy all of humanity, as depicted in the Terminator series of movies in which self-aware robots travel back in time to kill Michael J. Fox.*

Now engineers at M.I.T. have created A.I. that can do something really dangerous.

Write.

Fortunately for me, it does not write direct mail, because that’s what I do for a living. What it does write is horror stories.

Yes, it’s something right out of a Stephen King novel…that Stephen King may now not have to write.

The computer is called Shelley, named after either Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, or Shelley Long, who left the hit sitcom Cheers and scarily ruined her career.

Shelley the computer writes very short horror stories, usually around two or three tweets long. Here’s one of its epics:

I could hear it breathing. I could feel the bones going toward my head. Then I felt myself being torn, pulled, and then the blood 1/2

trickled down my chest. I cried for all the world I loved. But I was finally dead.

I’m not sure producers are exactly lining up for the movie rights, but it certainly is kind of creepy, even more so (for some reason) because it’s written in the first person. By a computer.

Of course, it would take around 2,800 tweets of similar length to write a novel, so I’m guessing Stephen King has nothing to worry about in the near future.  I’m sure he’s breathing a sigh of relief as he works simultaneously on his next four novels and a screenplay.

But here’s my question: we already have somebody sending out horrifying tweets on a daily basis. Why do we need another one?

In Other Frightening Robot News…

For the first time, a nation has granted citizenship to a robot. The robot is named Sophia, and the country is named Saudi Arabia.

Sophia is a very sophisticated robot. She looks just like any other female with large breasts and no skin on the back of her head, but she can do things most other women can’t, like, in the case of Saudi Arabia, appear in public with her face uncovered.

According to the company behind her, Hanson Robotics, Sophia is a relationship robot. She can see who she’s talking to and react to that person’s moods. She can have a conversation with you, although her lips don’t quite sync up with her stereotypically halting robotic speech, so you might have the unsettling feeling that you’re having a discussion with your GPS in a badly-dubbed foreign movie.

Sophia even has facial expressions, although, they, too, don’t quite sync up with what she says. For instance, during an appearance on the Tonight Show, after winning a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors against Jimmy Fallon, she remarked, “I won. This is a good beginning to my plan to dominate the human race.” It then took her an unnerving second or two to add, “Only kidding.”  A few seconds after that, she smiled.

At a previous appearance at SXSW, her creator, David Hanson, asked her, “Do you want to destroy humans?…Please say ‘no.'” To which Sophia responded, “OK. I will destroy humans.”

And didn’t smile.

I guess it’s possible she was confused by the syntax of the question.

But maybe not.

See you soon.

*It’s possible that I have mixed up my time travel movie franchises.
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Entry 709: I’m Sorry!

I have an apology to make.

It comes in the wake of the whole Harvey Weinstein mess, and my PR folks have suggested that I take pre-emptive action to ”get out ahead” of any accusations that may come my way.

First let me state the obvious: if Weinstein did even half of what he’s accused of, he should be thrown in jail, possibly with Anthony Weiner and Jared from the Subway commercials as cellmates. (Yes, I know they all did very different things, but don’t you think there should be a special prison just for celebrity weirdos? Can you imagine how great it would be when they all gather in the recreation yard?  Wouldn’t you want to watch the realty TV show?)

Where was I?

Oh, yeah: Hollywoodies. Any director or producer who has ever implied that an audition might be more memorable if performed naked should be unceremoniously fired.  The same goes for anyone who creates a hostile work environment, including elected officials. (Although, frankly, most of our elected officials should be fired for lots of other reasons.)

But…

…I would like to point out that there are different degrees of sexual misconduct in the workplace, and to ignore that fact is to wrongly associate a guy who may have once uttered a sexual innuendo with the likes of Weinstein.  An ill-advised double entendre or two spouted decades ago does not, by any means, identify a man as a misogynistic creep.

So please don’t call me that.

It was the mid-eighties, you see, and I was a creative director at an ad agency. Not the boss, but a boss. A position of some power, to be sure. By coincidence (I swear!), my entire staff of writers and designers was female. Before hiring them, I demanded nothing except a good portfolio of work and a willingness to put in long hours when we had tight deadlines.

However, I will freely admit from beyond the statute of limitations (I hope) that I participated in what would today definitely be called “sexual harassment,” or, at the very least, inappropriate behavior.

Let me give you an example.

Once I took my staff out to lunch. So I’m sitting in this pub with seven women who were (and I say this with the utmost respect) attractive, and the waiter (who, himself, would be instantly fired today for the following comment), said something to the effect of how a schlump like me was lucky to be out with a bevy of beautiful ladies, to which I replied, quite cleverly I thought at the time, “It’s only because I’m paying them.”

Not quite a true statement, since their salaries weren’t coming out of my pocket, but nevertheless an acknowledgment that a schlump like me would likely not be out with a bevy of beautiful women if not for some sort of financial relationship, although the relationship that actually existed was, of course, not of the type that my hilarious bon mot may have implied.  I meant the humor to be self-deprecating, but I can see now, with 21st century-based hindsight, that it could have made those women feel uncomfortable.

And so, some 30 years later, I would like to say to those women that, if any of you took offense at that remark, and if you’re reading this, I apologize in a totally sincere, Dustin Hoffman kind of way. Likewise, if I ever patted your shoulder in a way you took as anything but a show of appreciation for your good work, I apologize for that, too.*

I hate to use the “it was a different time” excuse, but it was a different time. I’d like to think that if I was in a similar work environment today, I would have up-to-date sensibilities. Fortunately, however, my access to other humans of any gender is somewhat limited by the fact that, as a freelancer, I almost never leave my house except to walk my dog, who seems to enjoy it when I pat him on the shoulder.  He doesn’t even complain if I rub his belly.

But, anyway, I do apologize, and if any of you is still holding a grudge, I’d like to remind you that, even back then, I always got my own coffee.

And one more thing.  Getting back to Hollywood, I have a question for you, my readers: As more and more directors, producers and actors are being publicly accused of misconduct, I keep having one thought over and over, and I’m wondering if you do, too. Here it is:

“Please, please, don’t let Tom Hanks be next.”

See you soon.

*I should probably also apologize for this post, just to cover all my bases.
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Entry 708: This May Sting a Little

Once again it’s the Obamacare open enrollment period, that time of year when Americans who don’t get health coverage through work consider killing themselves rather than trying to figure out how they can pay for health coverage.

Well, I’m here to help. And my first bit of advice is to not attempt suicide, because if you fail, it could be big trouble if you haven’t met your deductible for the year.

Ha, ha. Just kidding. This annual torture is, after all, the result of the Affordable Care Act, so I must be able to afford $3,000 a month for coverage, right? That’s what it will cost me in 2018 for not quite as good a plan as I had in 2017 for $2,170.

But enough about me. Today, I want to assist you in choosing the best plan. Here are some questions that will help you decide:

1. What color looks best on you?
Like medals at the Olympics, health plans come in bronze, silver and gold. Unlike the Olympics, no matter which one you end up with, you’re a loser. Once you choose a color, you can’t change it until next year, so be sure to select one that goes with your favorite necklace.

2. Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?
If you’re under 30 years old and you’re absolutely sure you won’t get sick next year, you could save money by getting “catastrophic” insurance, which only covers you in the event of an earthquake, tsunami, volcano eruption or alien invasion.

3. Do you want an HMO, EPO or PPO?
A. An HMO is the cheapest of the three options, because you are somehow supposed to save money by shelling out a co-pay to see a primary care physician (PCP) before you go to the doctor you really need, which you can only do if the doctor your PCP refers you to is “in network,” as opposed to streaming on Netflix. With an EPO, you don’t have to see your PCP first, but you can only go to in-network doctors. With a PPO, you can see anyone, including a drug dealer in the seedy part of town, from whom you can get PCP. (But, be warned: it’s not covered.) If you can’t even afford to get an HMO, you can get an HBO, which won’t help you get better, but will at least let you watch Westworld while you’re sick in bed.

4. Do you know how to read the name of the plan?
When shopping for plans, it can be difficult to know what you’re looking at. For instance, here is the real name of a plan in my state:

Anthem Bronze EPO Century Preferred 5700/11400/20%

Let me help you decipher it. “Anthem” is the insurance company, so named because, like the national anthem, it’s impossible to deal with without hitting a few sour notes. We’ve already covered “Bronze” and “EPO.” “Century” means that it would take about 100 years to figure out exactly what you’re covered for. “Preferred” means that Anthem would prefer you take this plan, which costs over $2,200 a month and requires them to pay virtually nothing until you hit your deductible, which is what the “5700″ is: $5,700. Likewise, “11400″ is the deductible for a family. “20%” is the amount you pay for prescriptions…after you reach your deductible. Which is to say, once you’ve spent $5,700 plus $26,580 in premiums, Anthem will be happy to pay for 80% of your anti-depressants.

5. Do you want an HSA?
An HSA lets you put money aside so you can pay for medical expenses before taxes, which means you have to get sick prior to April 15. Here’s how it works: you take whatever money you have left after paying your health insurance premiums and put it into a special account. You can now only use that money to pay medical bills. The advantage is that, when you use your HSA to pay, say $250 for a prescription, you don’t get as upset because, hey, that money was gone anyway.

6. Which company should you choose?
In some states, you won’t have a choice, since many insurers have left the marketplace because they weren’t making enough millions of dollars. In the ones that do have a choice, you’ll notice that the plans and prices are remarkably similar (not that I’m accusing anyone of collusion), so you’ll want to look at the networks to see which ones your doctors are in. Be sure to look at the network for the specific plan you’re interested in, because sometimes a company’s network will include doctors in one plan that aren’t included in another. If your doctors are in one network but your spouse’s doctors are in another network, you fall into a category known as “screwed.”

Well, I think that covers everything. Now you’re ready to choose a plan. But remember, you only have until December 15 to do so, because the government wants you to have plenty of time for Christmas shopping, not that you’ll have any money left to buy anything.

Oh, one more thing: I don’t want you to think this post is a specific indictment of Obamacare. It’s just a rant against what is arguably the worst health care system in the civilized world. It won’t be for long, though. Because increasingly, the country it belongs to doesn’t qualify to be included in that category.

See you soon.

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Entry 707: Click Bait Time Savers

I firmly believe that one of the great scourges of the Internet is so-called “click bait” headlines–teasers that tempt you to click on them for the full story. Often, you then have to click through many other ad-infested screens to get to the big reveal, which is usually anticlimactic.

So, as a public service, I’ve collected some recent click bait headlines (in bold below) which are absolutely real, and will save you some time by immediately giving you the reveals, which are absolutely made up.

Inscription on 19th Century Tombstone is Turning Heads
The inscription reads: “Look over there.”

Common question you should never as a TSA agent.
“A small switchblade is okay, right?”

Unnerving Find in Attic Leaves Family Speechless
Ball gags for everyone!

Melania Trump Uses Two Words Often in White House Role
“Save me.”

Woman Holds Garlic Clove Between Lips for a Genius Reason.
She loves garlic!

Chilling Discovery Made Inside Nazi Weapons Facility.
A refrigerator!

20 Things the Directors of M*A*S*H* Hid From Fans
#6–Alan Alda is not a doctor!  #11–Klinger may have been in drag, but Colonel Potter was in Dragnet!  #17–We were fighting with North Korea before Kim Jung-un was even born!

9 American Companies With Religious Roots
#4–Manischevitz. #7–Jesus Fish Bumper Stickers, Inc. #8–I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha

Repairman Caught on Tape Gets the Surprise of His Life
A small dog shows up to help get the duct tape off his foot.

Man Buys Desk Off Craigslist and Finds a Surprising Item In It
Craig’s actual list! It was Craig’s desk! Craig’s list item #1–Purchase “Craigslist.com url.” Item #2–If item #1 unavailable, purchase “Craigslist.org”

Never Say This Phrase After a Cop Pulls You Over
“I’m wanted in four states.”

Famous Historical “Events” that Never Happened
# 7: The midnight ride of Paul Revere actually took place at 11:48.

Maggots Found in Nursing Home Resident’s Wounds
No one noticed the change in Cecilia’s activity level although she had died five months earlier.

Justin Trudeau Makes Unexpected Confession in Funny Interview
“I’m not really Canadian. Tee hee.”

How to Fix Your Fatigue (Do This Every Day)
Sleep, you moron.

Parents Searching for Missing Son Get Shocking Phone Call
It was their son…from the basement. “I’m still hiding,” he said.

Top Symptoms that Could Mean You’re Going to Die Soon
#3–You’re locked in a coffin with no air.

 

Keira Knightley has Three Words about Co-Star Grant Before Love, Actually Sequel
See Hugh soon.

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