Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Holy Shit, It's That Guy! (The Hobbit Edition)

We're gonna do another one of these things, because it's fun and it's my blog and I'll cry if I want to. But I don't want to cry. I want to point out relatively obscure actors in high profile roles that you probably missed. Speaking of which, I missed one last time. Tywin Lannister, as it turns out, also makes a great movie-within-a-movie villain. Here he is being ridiculously evil in Last Action Hero:
Tywin Lannister in Last Action Hero
That glass eye doubles as a bomb. If that doesn't make you want to watch this masterpiece, you are dead inside.

Like last time, I'm going to ignore the bigger, more obvious ones. Yes, Martin Freeman was Arthur Dent, Ian McKellen was Magneto, Benedict Cumberbatch is a Benedict Sexybitch. Obviously.
Benedict Cumberbatch
I really am straight, I just call 'em like I see 'em

But what about humble Radagast the Hippie Brown?
Seen here making a mockery of his character

Did you notice that he's a freaking Time Lord?
Seventh Doctor
I'm not saying all the Istari are Time Lords, I'm just saying Gandalf kind of regenerated

How about this handsome fellow? Does he look familiar?
Azog the Defiler
And no, believe it or not, it's not your mom.

What if you saw him with no prosthetics and no you could when he played Marc Antony on Xena: Warrior Princess?
Marc Azogtany
He's not the only Xena alum in the cast. See if you can find the others!

Finally, one of my personal favorites. This guy, who sparked a bizarre sub-fandom when he first appeared in The Fellowship of the Ring:
His official name is "Lindir," which is Elvish for "Singer." none other than Bret McKenzie, the musician responsible for the rebooted Muppet Movie soundtrack. He's also one half of Flight of the Conchords, New Zealand's third most popular folk parody duo.
Flight of the Conchords
He's on the left. The other half is in the middle.

Holy shit, right? 

Let me know if I missed any good ones.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Holy Shit, the Confederate Flag!

Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

See that flag up there? Everybody knows what that flag is, right? Yeah. And everybody is wrong.

There are basically two camps where the Stars and Bars are concerned, and neither of them get it quite right. There's a third camp, of course, that is the correct one. It's full of historians and obnoxious pedants with blogs.
Not that I'm naming names or anything

The first and more heinously incorrect camp is the one that says "It's heritage, not hate." They may well believe it, just as they (often, not always) believe that the civil war was fought over states' rights and not slavery.

Trouble is, the Southern states were only interested in states' rights as far as the states were supporting the institution of slavery. If it was a straight "limit the federal government" thing, the South would not have been so eager to pass the Fugitive Slave Act, which forbade Free States from granting free passage to escaped slaves.
Fugitive Slave Act
Also, it was total bullshit.

Don't get me wrong. The North didn't go to war to free the slaves. The North wanted to ensure that future states admitted to the Union were Free States, which had a lot more to do with congressional representation than any moral crusade. Ultimately, the Civil War was about whether States were legally allowed to leave the Union.

And the answer was, "Not according to my friend Richard Gatling over here."
Gatling Gun
He has 200 friends per minute agreeing with him, too.

The other camp maintains that the flag at the top of this page is the flag of the Confederacy, a nation that came into existence, according to its founding members, so that the institution of slavery could continue. They get part of it right. But it's not the flag of the Confederacy. The flag at the top of this page is the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. There were three flags of the Confederate States of America, and they are below:
Flags of the Confederacy

The fact that we remember one region's battle standard as the flag is indicative of one of the reasons the Union won the Civil War. We'd already tried a Confederacy under the Articles of Confederation. It turns out, having a strong, centralized government is good for encouraging you to fight a war with the whole country in mind rather than just one region.

Since the Army of Northern Virginia was Robert E. Lee's army, it tends to get all the attention. Thus, we have everyone thinking their battle standard was the flag of the whole short-lived country. As for the flag representing a rebellion based on the right to treat people as property...well, yeah. It pretty much is that. But only in part of one of the states. So that's something, I guess.

Holy shit.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holy Shit, Reston Virus!

Reston, VA

Our story begins as many unhappy stories begin: in an animal testing facility in 1989. This particular facility is located in Reston, Virginia, which is within the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. A group of Crab-eating Macaques decided to take their own way out and, rather than suffering at the hands of horrific drug testing...uh, suffered at the hands of a horrific hemorrhagic fever.

It was rough, and many monkeys died. Too many. It was starting to get suspicious. While locking down the source of the disease, a researcher from USAMRIID, who had been dispatched to investigate the infection, noticed a new filovirus in some of the samples he observed. Being somewhat knowledgeable in microscopic terrors, the shape of the new virus scared the ever-loving piss out of our friend the researcher. Because it looked like this:
Reston virus
That doesn't look too scary...

Which kind of looks like this:

Yeah, but it's just a couple of lines...

Which is fucking Ebola.

As of this writing, Ebola is kind of a big deal. There's an outbreak underway in parts of Africa that has many of the more paranoid among us donning their brown pants. Imagine how brown their pants would be if they saw the above under a microscope in a lab where almost 200 people had potentially been exposed to it.

The lab was locked down, and everyone who had been in contact with the Macaques was immediately tested for the new virus. These are people who had been out in the general public after handling infected monkeys. The general public of Washington, D.C. As it turns out, six of them were definitely infected.
Fallout 3 Washington Monument
I guess that's it, then. Pack it in, America. We had a good run.

By the time this was discovered, the monkeys were dying at a rate of about one or two per day. One third of the lab's population died by the end. Apply that to Washington D.C. and you've got yourself a recipe for disaster - albeit one that would rid us of a number of unpleasant politicians. But by a stroke of unimaginable luck, whatever mutations the virus had undergone between plain old Ebola and Reston Ebola rendered it almost completely harmless to humans. When this was determined, the quarantine was broken.

Before you feel too much better, know this: evolution happens over many, may generations, but viruses live out many generations in a short period of time. Reston virus has already evolved in the time between when it was discovered and today. It can now transmit from pigs to humans. All it would take is a small variation for it to suddenly become as deadly as any other strain of Ebola.

And as far as we know, there are people in America -- people even in our nation's capital -- who already carry it.
That kid from Jurassic Park
So try to show a little respect.

Holy shit.