The new year is a time for taking stock of what we've learned from the past while making hopeful plans for the future. Unfortunately, those things don't always go together. Sometimes, despite our most fervent prayers, we've seen enough to know that certain things simply won't change. Here are five things you can still be sure you'll see in 2013.
Including more columns by me. Tough break, guys. I have compromising photos of the O'Briens.
I was recently in a debate with a friend of mine about Ke$ha. My thoughts on Ke$ha are basically that she is a no-talent skank who can't sing, rap, write, or even rise to the level of being do-able. A complete zero. His position was that she is a millionaire and successful, so, therefore, she must be smart. My friend may be many things, but "right" is not one of them. In the court of Gladstone, the verdict was returned unanimously: She is a successful no-talent skank who does nothing for me sexually.
"Y" is for "Yikes!"
You can be a huge success and not be smart, just as you can be an incredibly gifted failure. For every Ke$ha, there are a thousand girls blowing their wood shop teacher for a passing grade so they can cut class and go home and work on their atrocious rhymes about getting high behind the Dairy Queen. Fortune will smile on one of them, who will go on to make millions. The others will get their GED (maybe) and earn extra cash blowing dudes behind the Dairy Queen. That's just probability. It doesn't mean that they're all geniuses, or that only the brightest reached the top. It is a sickness of our culture that we automatically attribute other talents to people with money. Some of it is earned, and some people step in shit and then scrape that shit off their shoe and sell it for profit. In any event, if reality television is any indication, we're going to keep on attributing all sorts of talents to the momentarily successful this coming year.
Before the Internet, you would only meet these people at bars and parties -- y'know, the places where people told jokes. For the kids -- jokes are things that people used to tell. You would use your voice to tell a short story with an unexpected ending that produced laughter. That last part was called the punchline. There were no GIFs, memes, or other shortcuts to humor.
"OK, picture like a cat with like writing around it, and its grammar is bad and it's talking about eating cheeseburgers."
But even though technology has changed the ways we share comedy, joke-steppers have remained. In fact, they're more prevalent than ever, because things like Facebook and Twitter carry our bits to larger audiences than the office Christmas party.
Last month, before the Mayan apocalypse, I posted the following joke on my Twitter:
It became one of my biggest tweets (mostly because I was lucky enough to have the lovely Patton Oswalt retweet it), and that exposure brought forth a bunch of replies. Too many people asked, "What's the line?" If they had to ask that question, I'm not sure what they thought the joke was. Understanding the reference to the old "The world ends tomorrow, baby" pickup line was the whole point.
The reason I'm sure joke-steppers will remain part of 2013 is because it can happen to anyone -- even insufferably arrogant comedic geniuses like me. Sometimes our brains just don't work. I stepped on one of Blaine Capatch's jokes recently (you should also follow Blaine on Twitter) and have been shivering with uncontrolled douche chills for the last month since. Thank goodness it was offline and no one will ever know. Until I write about it. Hmm. Well, I had it coming.
Last month, over 20 children and teachers in Connecticut suffered a tragedy at the hands of unspeakable gun violence. I have nothing intelligent to say about these horrific events. It's the kind of thing I have a hard time looking directly at. A darkness I always know exists that robs me of sympathy for other "tragedies" like pop stars meeting their end as the result of self-inflicted wounds. It makes me quiet. It makes me cry.
I wish that were true for everyone -- or at least for Mike Huckabee. On the same day as the shooting, the former pastor and Arkansas governor and present-day Fox News host had this to say:
"We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?"
Words like this are a far more damning statement for the future of humanity than the horrific sins of one crazed gunman. Everything about this statement is wrong, and so many good Christians would never dream of uttering such hurtful, nonsensical things. Using this tragedy to prove a religious point is unforgivable, but I will give Mike credit for one thing: He made me want to convert to Christianity so I can believe in a hell where he'll spend eternity.
Also Easter eggs seem fun.
Aside from getting into the quagmire of the separation of church and state (and the constitutional scholars I'll ignore in the comments who will claim that no such protection exists in either our Constitution or the interpretive Supreme Court jurisprudence), it's just jaw-droppingly wrong. A belief that state-sponsored prayer to a higher power would make people bulletproof. I wonder what Mike thinks about those six devout Sihks who were gunned down in a Wisconsin temple while at prayer last August? Of course, I don't really wonder, because I'm pretty sure Mike thinks that those people got what was coming to them for praying to the wrong god. Presumably, it's only the one true god, Jesus Christ, who can save young children from evil. That's probably why no sins and atrocities have ever been committed against small children while in Catholic schools.
My point is not to beat up on Christianity, or any religion, but to shake my head in disgust at anyone who uses atrocities to push their religious agenda. It is a perversion of everything good about religion. Just like when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson blamed 9/11 on gays, abortionists, and feminists. It is a perversion, just like how those 9/11 terrorists corrupted Islam for their own evil agenda. It is a fanaticism that makes all the good-hearted people of faith look foolish for calling themselves members of the same club. It is the arrogance of believing in one true path to salvation, and it's not going anywhere in 2013.
Somehow, over the last few years, the word "hater" has become an insult. That makes no sense to me. It's not like "rapist" or "murderer." There are plenty of times when hate makes sense. You can hate poverty, corruption, racism, war, Simon Cowell. There are all sorts of things that morality demands that we hate. You can't insult someone by divorcing hate from the subject of the hate. Don't believe me? Try this then: Call someone a "lover." Is that a good thing? What if they love pedophilia, kitten rape, cancer, and Simon Cowell? See what I mean? The mere act of loving or hating doesn't make someone good or bad. It's what it's applied to.
Pictured above: Hater.
So, no, you can't shut down a negative opinion just because it's hateful. Is it irrational? Is it based on ignorance? Is it not supported by fact? Then sure, shut that hater down for all of those reasons, but not just because he's "hating." Of course, that's a lot of work that people won't do, so 2013 will still have plenty of Justin Bieber fans making the informed argument, "Uh, shut up, hater."
Hey, guess what? Remember a few months ago when I wrote an article explaining that despite the topic barely being covered by the media, we live in a country where the government can now lock you up indefinitely with no legal counsel and no right to an attorney based on some poorly defined "suspicion" of abetting terrorism? No? Here, please read it now. It's true: President Obama paid some lip service to the constitutionality of such a bill and then signed it, fighting any provisions that would in any way limit the power of the executive office. Neat trick, huh?
"For my next trick, I'll shrink the First Amendment to about this size while still being praised by hippies."
Katherine Forrest, United States District Court judge for the Southern District of New York, issued an order enjoining enforcement of the NDAA (before having her order stayed by a higher judicial panel), because this bill did indeed go further in expanding executive power than previous bills. Furthermore, the bill defined abetting terrorism so poorly that the journalists petitioning its constitutionality had a valid belief that their mere journalistic actions could qualify as assisting terrorists. Indeed, in court, the government attorneys could not allay that concern and were unable to provide specifics as to what actions would trigger indefinite imprisonment.
"Wait, we're asking for the power to completely suspend due process, and you have the nerve to ask us for specifics?"
Not to fear, my more liberal friends claimed. Don't you get it? Obama is just trying to get re-elected. Republicans will paint him as soft on terrorism if he doesn't sign it. Some offered, duh, he's just setting it up nice and sweet for the Supreme Court to rule it unconstitutional. Somehow, even though the Obama administration folded (or waffled?) like a cheap suit over the First Amendment issues on the so-called Ground Zero mosque, my liberal friends assured me that no black man who didn't seem to hate women or gays could ever abide anything as wildly unconstitutional as the NDAA. None of those arguments made sense to me. Mostly because they were totally wrong.
The Obama administration has taken no action to amend the NDAA for 2013 -- oh, except for threatening to veto any bill that altered the executive authority he had under the 2012 bill. There was the Feinstein/Lee amendment, created to clarify that the NDAA could not remove an American citizen's right to due process, but you know what? That amendment was removed without explanation and replaced with language that makes no one's rights clear. Last month, the bill passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin.
So come 2013, we will have the NDAA again. None of the abuses to our due process have been remedied. And do you know the worst part? No one cares. You can find testimonials on YouTube, like this one from David Seaman, but the subject is ignored by mainstream media, and most people still don't believe that a "liberal" like Obama could sign such a bill. All my liberal friends were correctly up in arms when Bush pursued such wrong-headed measures, but it seems like as long as you're not pushing church-based legislation (like banning abortion and gay rights), a whole bunch of liberals don't seem motivated to keep watch over our Constitution. The apologists will come forth in the comments, and before they explain why our president's hands were tied on this one, I hope they read the first NDAA column and the court decision linked above. Their arguments, which were overly optimistic and flimsy, are even more tenuous now. It's not that I want to be right. I just want to remove some of the calming rationalizations that enable the present liberal apathy, because this apathy means that 2013 and beyond will see no shortage of abuses to our basic freedoms.
A new season of HATE BY NUMBERS is almost here. Also, be sure to follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.
There are gaps in the fictional universe that multiply from one film to the next.
Most people have a pretty basic idea of what it's like to be a parent.
Given everything we know, there's cause to be worried about these movies.
There's no shortage of downright absurd conspiracy theories out there.