What Do Aliens Think of the Zumba?

Let’s say that an alien has come to Earth on a research mission. He wants to know what Earthlings are like. So he gets a furnished apartment, he arrives in secret, and he let’s his home planet know he’s made it to Earth safe and sound.

He knows almost nothing about Earthlings, but he’s all ready to learn. So he turns on his TV and sees this:

What the hell would he think of humanity? What do you think his first report back to his planet would say?

[I chose Zumba for this post, but really any workout video/commercial could work just as well. Am I the only person fascinated by those things?]

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Missing Links – 4.22 – It’s Been Real Edition

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the thirteenth in a never-ending series. There was no Missing Links column last week because I was busy, dammit.

This will also be the last Missing Links column. I started Missing Links as a way to post more often, but it has been taking up all my time. From now on, if I see something that I think deserves mentioning, I’ll write a short post and link to it.

Winner! Pat Tillman’s brother was interviewed on Bill Maher and Dangerous Minds grabbed the video. No matter what your views on Bill Maher are, check out Tillman’s brother, Richard Tillman, who has no trouble speaking his mind, and who I believe he has every right to do. Also included is a link to their other post which has the videos for the true story behind Pat Tillman’s death and the Army’s attempt to cover it up.
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A Close Second: Does a church decorated with human skeletons sound like something from a horror story to you? Well, as they say, life imitates art because there are not one, but a couple of churches like this. Seriously creepy. Photos below and after the jump.
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Best in Show: Unsuck It, the site that translates business jargon phrases like “win-win,” “actionable,” and “reach out to” into what they really mean.
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And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… the Republican candidates for president in 2012, who, believe it or not, all raised taxes while in office. Just my two cents, but raising and lowering taxes isn’t the answer. The answer is what you do with taxes. Do you pad the pockets of the rich? Or do you help the poor and disadvantaged? Do you piss it away? Or do you monitor the payoff?

A bone chandelier from the Sedlac Ossuary, a.k.a. the Eighth Level of Hell (courtesy asw909/flickr)

I didn’t know about this study when it came out, but healthcare costs were the number one source of bankruptcy in 2009. Does anyone really think America doesn’t need healthcare reform?
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In honor of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the A.V. Club Philadelphia invented a drinking game with Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary that is sure to make you remember what all went down in those dark days – like, way better than those pesky books could ever do.
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Have you heard of the dispicable use of bear bile in traditional Chinese medicine? If you haven’t, here’s an article describing the horrifying business. The pracitice of extracting bile from living bears is worse than it sounds and worse than I can phrase here.
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The Anthology of Rap has been out for a couple of months now and is available on Amazon for under $25. The book is almost 900 pages of rap lyrics – no beats, just text. NPR sat down with a book reviewer to ask what he thought of the songs after he read the lyrics compared to after he heard the music. It’s very interesting and I want to pick up a copy, but there are too many errors in the transcriptions to warrant a purchase just yet. Waiting for the second edition…

A Language Link to Peeve You Off (Peeve? Does Anybody Say That?)

Johnson is peeved by people who insist that healthy can’t do double-duty. But guess what? It can and does. So do lots of other words, dummies.

Want another picture from the crazy bone churches? You got it, ace.

This is a goddam coat of arms made out of bones. Sweet dreams. (courtesy Irumiha/flickr)

The Missing Links – 4.8 – Hey! Ho! Let’s Go! Edition

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the eleventh in a never-ending series.

Winner! The Ramones, or the band that I have decided to listen listen to exclusively. For those of you not informed, The A.V. Club has a great introduction to the Ramones and their work. Gabba Gabba Hey.
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A Close Second: mental_floss has a really great article on Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On
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Best in Show: Maps of War has a really cool 90-second video showing the kingdoms that have ruled the Middle East. Really cool. Now I want to read a book on Middle Eastern history. Any suggestions?
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And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… Cheesus

Are you in favor of old white women governing what goes on in your balls? Or old white men governing what goes on in your vag? What does your invisible man in the sky tell you? Here’s what the FSM has to say.
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Speaking of God and stuff, I bet you’re wondering if the Bible says you can stone that gay couple that just moved in down the street. Not for being gay, you can’t. If you see them picking up wood on Saturday, on the other hand…
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The New York Times has an interesting article on the mathematics of ancient Babylonia. And, yes, the history of math is interesting.
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Have you seen my stapler?

Language Js

The Hot Word on the history of the letter J
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English in the twentieth century, according to the OED.

The Missing Links – 4.1 – April Fools’ Day Edition

This post was published yesterday, on Friday, just like all the other Missing Links posts. April Fools. Whah whah whah.

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the tenth in a never-ending series.

Winner! Historically Hardcore, a series of Smithsonian ads created by Jenny Burrows and Matt Kepler, highlights how much more hardcore historical figures were than modern day rockers and rappers. The ads were not sanctioned by the Smithsonian, however. See why after the jump.
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A Close Second: Women asking for equal pay is the same as children demanding candy and mentally handicapped people lashing out violently. So says Major Douche Bag Scott Admas, who created the comic Dilbert. Warning: Do not investigate beyond this link. It’s just going to piss you off more.
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Best in Show: Thankfully, when the world ends on May 21, 2011, I will be at a wedding reception for two dear friends (Ramino forever!). But here’s a few people that, shall we say, miscalculated the end of days.
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And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… Rick Santorum! Rick Santorum is still a piece of shit. And still worthy of his synonym.

One of the Historically Hardcore ads by Burrows and Kepler

Indi Cowie wants to be the best female soccer player and freestyler in the world. I think she’s well on her way to that end.
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Spam Recycling is a cool thing to do with your emails from that Nigerian prince.
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Love the Liberry is a great blog that offers insight into the bat shit crazy things that liberrians have to deal with everyday.
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A letter from Lois Lane to Warner Bros. In it, the real Lois Lane (the late Joanne Siegel, wife of Superman co-creator) describes the ways that WB CEO Jeffrey Bewkes and co. has tried to screw her and her family over. Truth, justice, and… fuck you.
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Willie Nelson has been offered the option of singing his way out of a marijuana charge. And there’s nothing I can do about it now.
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Introducing… Gmail Motion – the future of writing emails!

Political links that are sure to depress you

It seems almost pointless to do this, but here it is: the VP of Fox News admits to intentionally lying on air. I find it amazing that the lying part is not what surprises me. But then again, there’s a reason I don’t watch Fox News…

Language Links that couldn’t find their butts with both hands:

Here’s a few Texan sayings for you. One of my favorites: If I ordered a whole trainload of sons of bitches, and they only sent him, I’d accept the shipment.

Patriot’s vs People’s – Part III – Patriot’s Chapter 1

Patriot’s vs People’s is an analytical review of two books about American history that most would assume are politically opposed – Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen’s A Patriot’s Guide to the History of the United States and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. It started as an idea after I bought Zinn’s book and was given Schweikart and Allen’s by an uncle who so rightly explained his gift as a way for me to read “the other side of the story.” I decided to read them side by side, chapter by chapter, in order to compare and contrast the two works to each other. It didn’t go so well. This is Part III, here are Part I, Part II and Part IV.

There’s a New U.S. History Book in Town… Because the Old One Sucked

Patriot’s was written because Schweikart and Allen thought that People’s was insufficient, while People’s was written because Zinn thought older U.S. History books were insufficient. And the authors of those history books most likely thought the U.S. History books of their day were insufficient. And on and on…


But since People’s clearly states that it is not a complete history of America, it’s pretty much off the hook. It subverts the U.S. History book model by focusing on everything part of American history that has been either ignored or pushed under the rug.

Patriot’s, on the other hand, sets itself up for a monumental task – and potentially a monumental failure. So let’s look at how it falls short.

Since Patriot’s specifically called out People’s in its introduction, I’m actively watching for it to fall into the trap that People’s warns against. Its claims of being written specifically to right the wrongs perpetrated on Americans and American history by books such as People’s, has me scanning it extra-closely. Patriot’s should at least try to be better without committing the errors that People’s accuses other history books of, right? They should be able to beat People’s at its own game, right? Right?

I guess not. In making his case for People’s, Zinn accused historians of justifying atrocities by focusing on other matters. Specifically, Zinn called out the Columbus historian Samuel Eliot Morison for focusing too much on Columbus’s sailing skills and not enough on his, ahem, people skills. What do the authors of Patriot’sPatriot’s do? They quote Morison’s praise of Columbus.

But that’s OK. Allen and Schweikart probably weren’t expecting an audience that had aslo read People’s.

Let the Crazy Begin – Did Columbus Really Do “You Know What” to the Indians?

The concern that People’s raised is good to be adapted. A concern for misleading statements can go a long way. The problem with Patriot’s is it lays down such idiotic statements as this:

“[Columbus] did not, as is popularly believed, originate the idea that the earth is round. As early as 1480, for example, he read works proclaiming the sphericity of the planet. But knowing intellectually that the earth is round and demonstrating it physically are two different things.”

What the hell does that mean? What group of shitheads “popularly” believes Columbus originated the round-world idea? On second thought, I don’t want to know. But what’s this nonsense about knowing something intellectually and demonstrating it physically. I can hear the Apollo 11 astronauts right now as they went around the moon – “I knew it! Buzz, you asshole! I knew the moon wasn’t flat!”

Pictured, from left: The Moon is Round bet winner, Bookie, and bet Loser.

Patriot’s makes some other questionable statements, but they don’t amount to much more than ham-handed writing. In fact, while reading of Cortes’s military superiority of over the Aztecs, I couldn’t tell if Patriot’s was praising or condemning the Spaniards. I think this is a good thing and I hope Patriot’s keeps it up. While People’s has a narrow focus that could be praised for its goal, Patriot’s makes no small claims about it’s book. It’s trying to be the be all and end all of U.S. History books. It’s obviously going to make some mistakes on the way, but to write with an unbiased voice is impressive (especially since the beginning of Patriot’s was nothing but biased).

But then Patriot’s does something very strange. Right in the middle of the chapter, there’s an infoblock entitled “Did Columbus Kill Most of the Indians?” It comes out of nowhere and it includes nothing but misguided and misleading information. For example, here’s how the infoblock starts:

The five-hundred-year anniversary of Columbia’s discovery of was marked by unusual and strident controversy. Rising up to challenge the intrepid voyager’s courage and vision – as well as the establishment of European civilization in the New World – was a crescendo of damnation, which posited that the Genoese navigator was a mass murderer akin to Adolf Hitler. Even the establishment of European outposts was, according to the revisionist critique, a regrettable development. Although this division of interpretations no doubt confused and dampened many a Columbian festival in 1992, it also elicited a most intriguing historical debate: did the esteemed Admiral of the Ocean Sea kill almost all the Indians?

Besides “where the hell does this come from?” the next question is “what the hell is it doing here?” The authors go through five “reasons” that Columbus didn’t “kill most of the Indians, but the extreme carelessness of the authors to include this biased and misleading infoblock means one of two things. Either they don’t know that their arguments are misleading because they’re are idiots, or that they do know they are being misleading and they are just playing to the base because they’re assholes.

But let’s say it’s neither and that the arguments Patriot’s uses are valid. Since Patriot’s played the Hitler card first, would the same argumentative device would work for der Fuhrer? Let’s see. I’ll switch Columbus’s name for Hitler’s and “Jews” for “Indians” and leave you with the actual quote from Patriot’s.

Did Hitler kill most of the Jews?

1. First of all, estimating the number of Jews in Europe before Hitler’s arrival is very difficult. Some say there were as many as 8 million. [Actual quote: “Pre-Columbian native population numbers are much smaller than critics have maintained.” Remember, kids, you can’t kill what isn’t there.]

2. Jews were being slaughtered long before Hitler arrived. [Actual quote: “Native populations had epidemics long before Europeans arrived.” See that? The murder of thousands of Indians at the hands of invading Europeans is just another epidemic. This is where the authors of Patriot’s are being assholes. When germs kill millions of people, it’s called an epidemic. When people kill millions of people, it’s called genocide.]

3. There is little evidence available for estimating the numbers of Jews lost in warfare prior to Hitler. [Actual quote: “There is little evidence available for estimating the numbers of people lost in warfare prior to the Europeans.” So? What the hell does this have to do with anything? ]

4. Large areas of Germany and Central Europe were depopulated more than a hundred years before the arrival of Hitler. [Actual quote: “Large areas of Mexico and the Southwest were depopulated more than a hundred years before the arrival of Columbus.” Good thing Columbus didn’t land in Mexico or the Southwest. There would have been a lot less Indians for him to kill.]

5. European scholars have long appreciated the dynamic of small-state diplomacy, such as was involved in the Italian or German small states in the nineteenth century. What has been missing from the discussions about Jewish populations has been a recognition that in many ways the Jews resembled small states in Europe: they concerned themselves more with traditional enemies (other Jews) than with new ones (Nazis). [Actual quote: “European scholars have long appreciated the dynamic of small-state diplomacy, such as was involved in the Italian or German small states in the nineteenth century. What has been missing from the discussions about native populations has been a recognition that in many ways the tribes resembled small states in Europe: they concerned themselves more with traditional enemies (other tribes) than with new ones (whites).” That’s all fine and good, but that discussion about native populations resembling small states in Europe was missing from Columbus’ evaluation of them as well. Appreciating dynamics long after the fact doesn’t change the genocide brought on these native populations, dumbasses. Nice try.]

So you see, claims of the Hitler Holocaust are just silly. There is no way Hitler killed all the Jews. Sure, he’s responsible for killing millions of Jews, but he didn’t kill all of them. And don’t let any of those Marxist/leftist/communist/revisionist/elitist/whateverist historians tell you any different, ya hear?

The Best of the Rest

Surprisingly, the rest of the first chapter continues this flip-flop pattern between outlandish, American exceptionalist claims and even-headed, rational historical descriptions. It’s a little hard to take at times. Your senses will perk up to a sentence like, “English colonists found land so abundant that anyone could own it,” (“anyone” white, that is), when Patriot’s throws you a changeup with thoughtful sentences like, “New microbes transported by the Europeans generated a much higher level of infection than previously experienced by the Indians; then, in a vicious circle, warring Indian tribes spread the diseases among one another when they attacked enemy tribes and carried off infected prisoners.”

I could pick at other unsubstantiated and/or misleading claims in the first chapter – there’s plenty. I could praise the understanding and, yes, at times honest evaluations of history that Patriot’s makes. There are plenty of those too. But that’s not what I’m after with this series of articles. I’m trying to see which book offers a better view of U.S. History.

Unfortunately, Patriot’s isn’t very good at being a history book. It’s too basic so far. While none of the history in Patriot’s is news to me, I suppose it would be to someone who doesn’t know American history. The problem is, Patriot’s is 900 pages long. A competent scholar could write 900 pages on the arrival of Europeans in America and everyone from a business major to a history major would learn something. When Patriot’s covers the subject in 35 pages (and specifically omits the subject matter of People’s), don’t expect to learn much.

I’m really hoping that changes in the other chapters.

The Missing Links – March 26, 2011

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the ninth in a never-ending series.

Winner! Dan Savage, who is awesome. There’s no two ways around it. We got some serious Savage love going on this week at …And Read All Over. If you don’t already do it, check out his weekly article here. Also, Savage and his husband, Terry Miller, were interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air this week. Check it. Finally, Savage and Miller are the founders of the It Gets Better Project. If you don’t know, now you know. Dan Savage = Hero.
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A Close Second: From PCWorld comes 10 ways Linux is making life better. Windows 7 is great and all, but I’m really ready to ditch it. Now if I could just convince my wife that we need another computer…
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Best in Show: Yo, Philly Phans! We get a bad rap, but that’s ok. We know you’re all just trying to hide the times you acted like asses. Besides, at least we enough cajones to boo the likes of Sarah Palin and Snookie. Do something.
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And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… Michelle Bachmann. I know that’s sort of a cop out, so here’s Helen Staudinger, a 92-year-old woman who shot her neighbor when he refused to kiss her. Mug shot below.

Random Links

For New Yorkers and map nuts, this is pretty cool. It’s an interactive map that let’s you compare New York 1811 to New York 2011. Neato.
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I’ve never heard of this guy Charlie Booker, but I’m going to have to check him out. Seems like the British equivalent of a Daily Show, no? I’ll let you know if I find more awesome videos from him.
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The Office Space Bliss desktop background by Burt Gummer. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta.

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Introducing… the Fixers’ Collective, a Brooklyn-based organization that fixes things just for the joy of it.
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In the not too distant future, some democracies will be without religion – because that’s what the cool kids want. Maybe. Who cares? I would read this short article just for a gander at Jackie’s comment. I love crazy interwebs people. Props to K-Dogg for the Vonnegut reference.
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Finally, after years of wrangling, Florida lawmakers are ready to make it illegal to rape goats. Finally.

Links on Language:

Babel’s Dawn has an interesting post that interprets John Shea’s new paper, Homo sapiens Is as Homo sapiens Was, in terms of what it means for the origins of language.
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Google’s Book Settlement has been rejected. I can sympathize with both sides of the case here, but I really hope they figure out a way to solve this issue. E-books are the future. But didn’t we already know that?
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Anybody play Call of Duty? Apparently in all their “research,” they forgot to study whether or not the street signs in Pakistan are in Arabic (they’re not). Gamers jumped all over this pretty quickly. Here’s Kumail Nanjiani, who is from Karachi, talking about the whole mess.
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OMG in the OED.

The Missing Links – March 18, 2011

The Missing Links is just what it sounds like – a collection of links to interesting things I found on the interwebs this week. I hope you enjoy them. This is the eighth in a never-ending series.

Winner! The story behind the picture of the great Johnny Cash flipping the bird.
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A Close Second: Anthropologists have updated their views on how humans moved away from apes. See? I knew natural selection was a bunch of hooey. Never believe someone who marries their cousin.
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Best in Show: You may know about the Grandfather Paradox, where a person travels back in time and kills their grandfather, therefore negating their own existence, but have you heard of the Grandfather Paradox by Proxy? This is when a person merely tells someone in the past to kill their grandfather. What am I getting at here? A bunch of really cool theoretical physics involving the Large Hadron Collider.
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And this week’s Crazypants Award goes to… Minnesota Republicans, who have introduced legislation that would make it illegal for people on public assistance to have more than $20 cash in their pocket. What. The. Fuck. Here is House File 171 straight from the horse’s mouth.

Language Links

This is probably going to piss off my ancestors, but loyalty does not behoove those on the quest for knowledge. Here is an article claiming that the existence of “No Irish Need Apply” signs is a myth or, at least, a drastic exaggeration. Happy St. Patrick’s Day Hangover.
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Speaking o’ the Irish, here’s a short lesson on the history of spelling in Irish (Gaelic).
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The latest editions to the OED: Skype and coat.

This Week in Depressing/Infuriating News

Harper Collins has started enforcing restrictions on the e-books that it sells to libraries, claiming that the e-books are only allowed to be lent out 26 times before they expire and the library must buy the book again. This is only the most recent example of publishing companies shooting themselves in the foot by trying to resist change. Learn from the record companies, dummies.
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Another case of Apple being a bunch of douches. The hardware giant is being accused of deliberately slowing down apps that aren’t distributed through their app store.

Random Cool Links

Image Courtesy of PopSci

Transmissions, cooling systems, and power trains could be made obsolete by this shockwave generator, which was designed by Norbert Müller and colleagues at Michigan State University. I hope, hope, hope the car companies jump on this quicker than they jumped on the hybrid engine technology. Hope.
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Wanna know more about hydrogen fuel cells? You got it.
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This is what happens when you let a nine-month-old pick your March Madness bracket. Cute, but we all know that octopi are the real savants in sports tournaments.
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I assume you’re already filled out your basketball March Madness bracket, but what about your Worst Company in America bracket? Or your Muppet March Madness bracket? Mental_floss brings you 12 Non-Basketball March Madness Brackets.
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Also from mental_floss comes three strange California politicians. Tony Clifton lives! (Maybe.)

Have a great weekend!