George Lucas is a Genius

Crossposted from Movies Schmovies

Ever since The Phantom Menace, people have been complaining about how George Lucas ruined the Star Wars series through a series of stupid plot points and plodding movies. After all, he took two of the most badass, fan-beloved characters in the series…


…and turned them into annoying, whiny bitches:

Not only that, but it introduced annoying characters like Jar-Jar Binks and then proceeded to make them central to the mythos (go ahead, try to forget about him. Try to explain the backstory of the Empire, the driving force behind the trilogy that you actually like, without noting that Jar-Jar Binks cast the deciding vote to making Palpatine Emperor). It’s really almost surprising that we weren’t treated to a shot of young Han and Lando whining at each other over a game of space-marbles or something.

But while watching bits of Attack of the Clones on Spike today, I think Jon and I stumbled onto the truth. This wasn’t George Lucas being some dumbass hack who can’t write dialogue or a coherent plot, who thinks that political discussion between two unlikable one-dimensional characters belongs in the middle of the second film of a trilogy.

No, this was George Lucas, the genius who has had to deal with legions of Star Wars fans for the last thirty years. George Lucas, the man who couldn’t escape from under the shadow of this fucking trilogy if he tried–and if he did, he’d still end up under the shadow of the Indiana Jones films.

So this is George Lucas’s letter to the fans: Hey, you know those badass characters? Those mysterious and awesome people that you’ve been pestering me about for decades? Well, it turns out that they’re whiny fucking bitches…Just. Like. You.

And man, after falling right out of Star Wars fandom, I can totally sympathize with that. Lucas knows that his fans want to identify with the characters, and so he’s thrown them the biggest bone ever: now you can identify directly with Boba Fett and Darth Vader–the fans’ favorite characters!–who have become whiny, obnoxious little shits that ruin the whole goddamn experience. It’s…it’s kind of brilliant in its spitefulness.

So good on you, George.

My name is Matt Foley and I am a motivational speaker!

I used to live in this county. I moved before I could vote.

You know, maybe Howard Dean should have screamed more.

Now, I guess I just have to content myself with living in a state with one jailed governor and another awaiting a retrial who’s trying to recoup his court fees by doing autographs at comic conventions.

Meme Debunking #3: Wash your damn hands!

This may come as a surprise to the non-penised among you, but there’s a meme among penis-possessors regarding the necessity of washing one’s hands after urinating. I’ve encountered it since junior high, but it’s probably best expressed here:


The boiled-down logic goes something like this: if I wash my penis in the morning, don’t pee on my hands, and don’t touch anything but my already-cleaned penis in the bathroom, then why should I have to wash my hands afterward? That would just expose me to the further germs on the faucet handle and soap dispenser. More scientifically-savvy non-washers might also note that urine is sterile, and so even a little dribble on your fingers might just cause you to smell a little bad.

The reasoning seems valid, and I think that’s a lot of why people are compelled to accept this argument. I also assume that some people don’t want to wash their hands for whatever reason, and this is a convenient way to support that preexisting position. Frankly, I wash my hands so often that the CDC considers me a key factor in the development of resistant bacterial strains, so I don’t get the appeal.

Here’s where I see the problem: next time you meet someone who doesn’t wash and offers this excuse, ask them if they’d say the same thing about their hair, or their feet, or their armpit. “I washed my feet and armpits in the shower this morning, and ever since then, they’ve been enclosed in clean clothes. Why should I wash my hands after touching my feet and/or armpits?” Ask them if they’d be okay with their waiter or cook using that logic when changing before a shift. I haven’t done the polling, but I suspect they’d probably be a little uneasy with that prospect.

And that’s because we spend a lot more time thinking about and dealing with the normal functions of sock-and-shoe-clad feet and clothed armpits: namely, sweating. The armpits are a crevice containing a rich network of sweat glands and, unless you’re a swimmer or otherwise depilated, a bunch of hair. Feet tend to be less hairy where it counts, but have similar crevices between toes, have an abundance of sweat glands as well, and tend to often be contained in tight-fitting cotton coverings. Sweaty crevices are pretty much the Garden of Eden for bacteria growth, and hair and tight cloth have the added effect of holding sweat close to the skin and keeping those dark creases consistently moist. Which is why we apply antiperspirant to our armpits and hate it when our socks get wet. I know that the feeling of sweat-pruned feet is among the most disgusting things I experience in the course of normal living.

And yet, some people are quite willing to consider the penis to be pure and pristine after a long day of the same activities that cause sweaty armpits and toe jam. I hate to break it to you, folks, but the crotch has all the downsides of both feet and armpits when it comes to sweat and bacterial content, as anyone familiar with the term “ball soup” can attest. The male crotch is a mess of creases and crevices, far moreso than the armpit, has a whole bunch of hair, and has the same kind of sweat glands as the armpits. Plus, it’s generally contained beneath at least two layers of fabric, one of which is generally at least a little snug, either way providing a means for sweat to stay in the general vicinity for extended periods of time. The result is a bacterial rain forest, rich in a variety of species.

I can’t speak to whether or not the swampy crotch is cleaner or dirtier than the door handle or faucets, or even whether or not it’s cleaner than your hands. Those questions would require experimental studies that I haven’t looked for or tried to carry out. I can’t even say that crotchal region bacteria are more or less harmful than other bathroom-based microbes (although as a general principle, “harmless” or “helpful” bacteria often stop being harmless when introduced into a foreign environment, like the E. coli in your gut or the Staphylococcus on your skin). What I can say is that the argument presented in the comic and elsewhere, that your dick stays clean and pristine from the time you leave the shower to the time you unzip your fly, is prima facie absurd, and contradicted by the bacteriological evidence of the groin as a microbial Amazon.

Or, in other words, wash your damn hands!

Dear Skeptical Community,

I’ll keep this open letter brief, unlike most of my posts. Just three quick things, said entirely generally and not directed at anyone in particular, except, you know, the people I’m obliquely talking about.

  1. It’s all well and good to talk about being reflective and critically examining our beliefs and practices to determine whether or not they’re right and well-supported and rational. But it’s just empty words if you don’t follow through with it. As skeptics, we ought to be willing almost to the point of eagerness to be criticized, to be proven wrong with evidence, and to admit our mistakes, change, and move on. You can talk about the value of critical self-examination, but it’s worthless if you don’t actually do it.
  2. To the Don’t Be a Dick crowd: from what I’ve seen of the vast majority of you, we have a very strong disconnect regarding what it means to be a dick. I get it, Phil didn’t clarify, and so you were forced to read into his comments whatever you think is dickish behavior, and assume he was calling out the same kind of things you would in that position. Me, I think that Rorschach Test quality of his speech qualifies it for the recycling bin, but your mileage may vary. The one thing I’d caution, though: when avoiding being a dick, try not to be a douche.

    See, you have dicks, right? Dicks are pointy and kind of simple and not really much to look at. Dicks are often hard and unyielding, and they have a tendency to pop up at the most inopportune moments, and sometimes they overstay their welcome. Dicks sometimes go where they’re not wanted, and they often make a big mess. Some people really like dicks, and some people don’t, and that’s fine. Dicks are an acquired taste.

    But then you have douches. Douches go in most of the same places as dicks, but they tend to look very different. Douches are sleek and clean; they’re more flexible than dicks, and they’re a lot easier to handle. Douches smell better than dicks, and they say they just want to make everything better, to clean things up with their refreshing, summery demeanor. The problem with douches, though, is that they really aren’t adding anything. In fact, they’re generally pretty unnecessary. They thrive in large part because they’ve convinced a lot of people that they need douches, because everything has just gotten so dirty recently–mostly because of those awful dicks. Douches might look and smell nice, but ultimately they’re just cold, artificial plastic, and outside of their limited realm of actual necessity, they subsist on feelings of self-loathing and dirtiness that they’ve helped cultivate.

    In more specific terms, I don’t see how false politisse, passive-aggression, holier-than-thou moralizing, and hegemonic “ur doin it wrong” edicts are any less negative than the name-calling, screaming, and whatever else gets attached to the “dick” label. Whether or not you call them retarded, passive-aggressive bullshit like criticizing people in general terms and making veiled insults is at least as dickish as calling them out to their face and being forthright with your beef. Don keeps reminding me of this quote from “Hamlet”: “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.” It’s true, and the veneer of polite discourse and moral high ground doesn’t turn passive-aggressive attacks into non-dick behavior.

    By the way, if you read between the lines there, you might have noticed that this “open letter” to a general-but-specific set of people falls under that description as well. So yes, this time, I’m intentionally being a dick. At least I’ll own up to it.

  3. Finally, I think this is the only reasonable response to the “Don’t Be” crowd–hereafter referred to as the DBs. It’s really amazing how apt this is:

Sincerely,
Tom

God dammit, CFI

I was going to write a post about the CFI’s indescribably stupid statement on the Park51 building in New York, and I still might, but Orac did it for me. Go read it.

I will repeat this exchange that I had with Don, which sums up my current feelings on the subject (not to step on Don’s “Me & Tom” series or anything):

Me: At this point, I think they ought to put a minaret on the goddamn Freedom Tower. And on it, carve “I disapprove of what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it.”

Don: With a picture of that guy from Futurama whose body parts were all artificial.

Yes. Absolutely.
Another victim of the maleocentric maleocracy.

Everybody Draw Muhammad Day!

Some Muslims–certainly not all of them–have made a stink now and again about depictions of their prophet Muhammad in the media. And by “stink” I mean “violent protests and death threats.” Some have caved to the pressure and fear, which seems like it sets a bad precedent. No group of people have the right to force everyone else to live by their religion’s arbitrary rules; no Hindu has the right to force me not to eat a hamburger, no Jehovah’s Witness has the right to force me not to get a blood transfusion, no Jain has the right to force me not to step on ants, and no Christian has the right to force me not to make “graven images, or any likenesses of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” And that’s true no matter how many threats of force those people might make.

So it was suggested that everyone draw Muhammad today, to make a statement about free speech, to stand against the thugs who would try to bully others into following their religious tenets, and to remind all religious believers that no belief is above or beyond criticism or ridicule.

To that end, I give you my crude drawing:

Shut up woman, get on my buraq!
If you’re not familiar, it’s based on this song (NSFW) which is better at the link, but here’s the YouTube version.


I even wrote a partial song parody:

Look at my ass, my donkey’s amazing!
Come ride with me, you’ll get seventy raisins.
Buraq is his name, he flies just like a plane,
He could take you to Spain, or he might fly us to Heaven!

Now, if only I could get a Muhammad action figure. He’d go really well with Jesus. Maybe they could rock out.

Auld Auld Auld Auld Auld Auld Auld Auld Lang Syne

So, clear your calendars. Um, your Mayan Long Count Calendars, that is. Don’t make any plans for December 21, 2012, because you’re all coming over to my residence for the world’s best New B’ak’tun’s Eve party ever!

I know it’s early, but with something like this, it’s good to have a plan. After all, something like this only comes around once every 394 1/4 years. Some of the details are still up in the air, of course, like the location and the amount of people I can fit there, but we’ll hammer those out as they become clearer. I still have to run this by the wife-to-be, of course–we’ll be celebrating our two-year wedding anniversary just a couple of days before, and there’s the various Winter holidays the week after, but I think that Friday night would be a fantastic time for a big new b’ak’tun bash. Here’s the invitation so far:

Who: You! Plus one or so.
What: Ringing in B’ak’tun 13.0.0.0.0!
Where: To be determined
When: December 21, 2012, 8-ish
Why: To eat, drink, and be merry!
How: BYOB, snacks and some drinks will be provided. Movies and video games likely (Rock Band 3?), pizza and root beer floats even likelier. 100% chance of fun! Slight possibility of armageddon (dogs & cats living together, etc.).

Please RSVP by December 7th, 2012.

We’ll get together, watch the big stone slab drop (fun fact: Dick Clark was there at the last new b’ak’tun!), toss some streamers, make some noise, and generally have a great time. I expect to see you all there, and I’ll make sure to keep you posted as details change.