On Opinions

I’m not particularly interested in having another discussion about the Duck Dynasty thing, but I do want to talk about one of the broader themes that has emerged in the aftermath.

This is a complete list of things an opinion CANNOT be: “wrong.”

This is an incomplete list of things an opinion CAN be: harmful; obtuse; myopic; rooted in fallacy or fundamental ignorance of the facts; deserving of criticism; invalid.

An opinion is “never wrong” only in the sense that somebody else can’t prove or disprove whether you believe it. For example, if I say “I believe that all duck hunters are stupid assholes,” somebody else CANNOT say “No, you don’t.” That’s a big win for me, the guy who hates all duck hunters. I’ve successfully had an opinion! And nobody can take that sweet, sweet success away from me!

However, this opinion I have that all duck hunters are stupid assholes… well, it has a few flaws. And sadly, even though I’ve gone through all the effort of formulating this opinion, even though I have the right to express this opinion, and even though I think it’s a real neat opinion to have, other people MAY choose to point out aforementioned flaws.

These people may choose to point out that some duck hunters are demonstrably not stupid assholes. Maybe one of these people has an uncle who went to MIT and helps the homeless and hunts ducks. I can still believe that all duck hunters are stupid assholes, but now my opinion is contrary to empirical evidence.

These people may cite academic peer-reviewed studies that show that actually, only 87% of all duck hunters are stupid assholes. I can STILL believe that all duck hunters are stupid assholes, but now my opinion is contrary to statistically-supported fact.

These people may point out that my belief is derived from a book called Duck Hunters Are All Stupid Assholes, which I consider to be the infallible word of God because it says so in the foreword. I can EVEN NOW believe that all duck hunters are stupid assholes, but now my opinion is rooted in circular logic.

These people may assert that my pejorative classification of all duck hunters is dehumanizing to people who just want to live their life and hunt ducks and not bother anyone else. They may say that calling them stupid assholes who are sinful by nature and deserve to go to hell is incendiary rhetoric that, even if not a direct call to violence, fosters an environment that produces violent hate crimes against duck hunters and suicides by duck hunters who can’t deal with being hated any longer. These people may even say that it’s pretty weird that I hate duck hunters at least in part because I feel like they’re obsessed with cloacas. SOMEHOW EVEN DESPITE ALL THIS I can CONTINUE to INSIST ON BELIEVING that all duck hunters are stupid assholes, but now, guess what? I’M the stupid asshole.

And if my employer doesn’t want to be associated with a stupid asshole, they have the right to fire me, despite my TOTALLY NOT-WRONG OPINION about what the first amendment says.

So, yeah, everybody is allowed to have and express opinions. But the reality is, not all opinions are created equal. Some opinions are complete and total bullshit.

I don’t know about you guys but I think Kanye’s new music video is pretty weird!!!

I don’t know about you guys but I think Kanye’s new music video is pretty weird!!!

ADORABLE MOMENTS IN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY

alexhasa:

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This week, President Obama clinched his second term by dorking out over some kid’s marshmallow cannon at a White House science fair. Though his presidency has been somewhat rocky so far, Obama has followed through on at least one thing — his promise to do adorable shit all the time….

If you were wondering what your favorite stock photo of all time was: it’s this one.

If you were wondering what your favorite stock photo of all time was: it’s this one.

How am I supposed to promote my website now?!?? THANKS A LOT ZUCKERBERG 

How am I supposed to promote my website now?!?? THANKS A LOT ZUCKERBERG 

UPDATED: TOP TEN BEST MOMENTS IN STAR WARS HISTORY! (NOW WITH MORE SPORTS!)

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By now, everybody’s heard the news that Disney bought LucasFilm and they’re gonna make Episode VII and everything precious is being destroyed and waaah waaah waaaaaah. And while nerds have been pooping in their courdoroys about how this will ruin Star Wars forever, they’re forgetting one thing: there’s nothing to ruin, because Star Wars has always sucked!

SORRY, NERDS. DEAL WITH IT.

The original films were filled with boring, utterly cliched storylines, atrocious dialogue, and sub-B-movie acting. Sure, the special effects were OK for their time, but they mostly involved cramming dwarves into shiny robot costumes and forcing them to make beep-boop noises until they collapsed from heat stroke.

It seems painfully clear to me that the only reason Star Wars isn’t just another long-forgotten piece of pop-cultural junk at the bottom of a rotting pile of equally bad sci-fi is the fact that George Lucas is, above all else, a marketing genius. Specifically, he pioneered the art of marketing directly to dumb, easily impressed children, who don’t care how bad a movie is so long as their mommy buys them a cool toy that looks kind of like a thing from that movie. 

But look, I’m not a negative person, and so this post is not about how terrible Star Wars is. Instead, as it is my nature to see the good in all things, even insufferable, childish dreck like Star Wars, I’ve decided to put together a top 10 list of the best moments in Star Wars history. If you disagree with any of these entries, feel free to let me know on Twitter .

And the TOP TEN BEST MOMENTS IN STAR WARS HISTORY ARE:

10. The sports bar in Episode II (PREVIOUSLY: N/A)

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Originally this slot was empty, because I couldn’t actually come up with ten good moments. (SORRY NERDS.) But then I was alerted to this AWESOME scene from Episode II where Anakin and Obi Canoli go to a space-bar to creep on some space-babes. And what makes this scene so awesome? One word: SPORTS. Two more words: SPACE-SPORTS. As we all know, sports are SO MUCH BETTER than space-fights, because sports are cool and fun and space-fights are dumb and lame. So by the transitive property, space-sports are cool and fun while only being KIND OF dumb and lame (due to being in space).  

Podracing (which is DEFINITELY on this list, SPOILER ALERT!) added the thrills and chills of sport to a previously thrill-less and chill-less Star Wars universe. But I had no idea that this universe also included old-timey robot football and turtle-horse racewaddling, both of which look way more exciting than the actual story. Sadly, we only get a glimpse of these fascinating displays of intergalactic athleticism before having more boring stuff about clone embargoes, or the federation’s proposed tariff on imported moon cheese, or whatever the fuck crammed down our throats. If only George Lucas had noticed these specks of cinematic gold glittering at the bottom of a babbling brook of bullshit, we might have gotten a much better movie.

(Quick side note: Those robots are playing football on a checkerboard-style football field, which were used circa 1900. However, the robo-quarterback appears to be attempting a forward pass, and FORWARD PASSES WERE NOT LEGAL UNTIL 1906! Bet you nerds were too busy being pedantic and analyzing meaningless details to notice THAT!) 

9. Luke and Leia’s infamous incest smooch

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Alright, now that’s what I’m talking about! When Luke and Leia kissed in whichever movie that happened in, fans thought it was just an innocent, if steamy, romantic moment. But then it was revealed that Dark Vader was Luke and Leia’s dad, and that scene retroactively became TOTALLY GROSS! Hahaha, you KISSED YOUR SISTER, YOU WEIRDO! Unfortunately, I don’t think they ever actually addressed how messed up that moment was. Would have been great to see a scene where Luke and Leia awkwardly convince each other that they were kinda drunk, and anyway it was just a joke, and I guess Dad’s pretty evil huh, and ha ha, heh heh, um. 

8. Podracing!

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Episode I finally introduced what the Star Wars franchise had always been missing: SPORTS! I guess George Lucas must have realized that the worst sports movie is still ten times more compelling than the best space-fights movie. What’s better is that podracing is actually pretty cool: it’s high speed, high stakes (slaves winning their freedom; humans winning the right to escape Tattoo Planet and eventually become the very embodiment of evil; etc.), and high FUN! Between the spectacular crashes and the funny announcers, podracing was a true stroke of genius.

7. Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s Phantom Menace segment


Obviously, this is a legendary piece of comedy. But Triumph’s brilliant jokes are not all that make this clip one of the best moments in Star Wars history. Rather, it’s the look of hope and excitement clinging desperately to the unwashed face of every nerd in that depressingly long line. Oh, that sad, naive, perfect look. These nerds were so genuinely eager to finally see a new installment of their beloved laser-sword show, and so totally unaware of the crushing disappointment they’d be experiencing mere hours later. They thought they were about to see a piece of classic cinema, when what they ended up seeing was… JUST A SLIGHTLY MORE BORING STAR WARS MOVIE!!! NOOOOOOO!

6. Every time Jar Jar Binks is on screen 

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Seriously, Jar Jar gets a bad rap. He was supposed to be comic relief, nothing more, and he filled that role perfectly. He talked funny, he tripped over things, and he was constantly yelping in pain. What more do you want? It’s not like the first three Star Wars films had any real substance that was suddenly subverted by introducing a floppy-eared clown-lizard into the canon. I could see people getting upset if they put Jar Jar in the sequel to a good sci-fi movie like Inception or something, but the original Star Wars movies were mostly about furry monkey-bears shooting at big dumb robots with futuristic BB guns. If nothing else, the existence of Jar Jar Binks at least shows that George Lucas is aware of the total ridiculousness of his life’s work. 

5. Spaceballs

Nowadays, Star Wars parodies are just as irritating as the movies themselves, because they’re always “made by fans” who are “lovingly poking fun” at the “[big pile of shit]” that is the Star Wars franchise. Have an idea for an unfunny YouTube video? Make it a Star Wars parody! That should guarantee at least a couple thousand views. That’s because Star Wars fans will watch anything that says “Star Wars” on it, no matter how stupid it is. In fact, Star Wars fans love watching stupid shit, because they are Star Wars fans and watching stupid shit is their nature. 

But before stuff like Star Wars gangster raps sadly became popular, Mel Brooks came out with Spaceballs, a scathing send-up of the trash that was invading movie theaters at the time. Spaceballs is a much better film than Star Wars could ever hope to be, mostly because it has more penis jokes, and John Candy dressed like a dog. ENOUGH SAID.

4. When Anakin wins his first podrace in Episode I

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Look, I get it, Jake Jakerson was a really bad actor. He was wooden, unnatural, and generally hard to watch. But wait, who else does that describe? Hmm, maybe EVERY OTHER ACTOR IN EVERY OTHER STAR WARS MOVIE? (Other than Billy Dee Williams, I guess.) So instead of tearing the kid down, why not give him credit for being part of one of the few emotionally affecting moments of the entire series? In the podracing world, Anakin was like Tim Tebow, only with slightly less potential for evil. As a human, he had almost none of the natural skills necessary for podracing. But despite his numerous disadvantages, Anakin used the power of perseverance to navigate the treacherous TaTu City racetrack in his homemade podracer and snag a victory. By capitalizing on the natural drama and intrigue of sports, George Lucas was able to actually tell a memorable story. Too bad he couldn’t do that in any of the other films.

3. The “I’m Han Solo” dance

Han Solo isn’t as cool as nerds think he is. I mean, to them he seems cool because he wears a vest and kisses girls and stuff, but really he’s just kind of a jerk. This video, however, is REALLY cool! It takes a popular song and changes the lyrics to be about Star Wars, and then Han Solo dances to it, in a cool way! I like this, because it’s cool. Nerds think this kind of thing ruins Han Solo and makes him look not cool, but they’re wrong. It’s really cool. 

2. The final Darth Maul battle from Episode I

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Most of the glowstick battles in Star Wars are lame. Wow, they’re jumping around and making whooshy noises and shit. BIG DEAL. But I’ll admit, the final Darth Maul battle is pretty cool. It’s well-choreographed, and Darth Maul has spikes coming out of his head, and he uses a double-ended glowstick which is impressive.

In 5th grade my friends and I wrote a cute little skit inspired by this scene for a project where we had to use words from our spelling unit. We fought with yard sticks and did this trick where we’d make it look like we were using the Force to pull the yardsticks away from each other. Our teacher did not care for the skit. She said it was because throwing yardsticks around a classroom is unsafe, but now I realize that, as an adult, she knew how stupid Star Wars was. But this battle is not that stupid, I guess.

1. The time I beat every course in that Podracing game for N64

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The Podracing game for N64 is by far the only actually-good Star Wars thing in existence. It really captured the toughness, intensity, and excitement of podracing. I mean, I felt like I was right there in the cockpit, trying to slip through canyons and avoid other podracers while speeding as fast as I could toward the finish line. I remember saving up to buy better parts in the shop, and wanting to strangle that asshole Sebulba every time he said his own damn name as he passed me. There were some really difficult courses in that game, and it took some time, but when I finally beat the last one, I felt a euphoria that none of the actual films have ever managed to evoke. As such, it’s safe to say that the podracing game for N64 is the only true creative achievement in Star Wars history.

If Disney knows what they’re doing, they’ll produce nothing but podracing video games and Cannonball Run-style podracing comedies for decades to come. Please, Disney. As Yoda once said: “Make it so.” 

HOT TIPS FOR NEW PET OWNERS!

Here we are in the dog days of summer, and what better DAY to get a new DOG than a SUMMER DAY, DOGG! In fact, it’s a great time to get any ol’ kind of pet: cats, birds, even fish! If you’ve recently welcomed a little furball into your home, I’ve got a few hot tips to help you help your pet help you feel like something loves you!

  • Dogs LOVE to chew on bones, but they’re expensive and the average canine can gnaw ‘em down to a nub pretty quickly. To save money, try digging up a skeleton from your local cemetery. Or for even more value, dig up the skeleton of the late, great NBA star Manute Bol!
  • Cats are very solitary creatures. So if your cat says it’s going out for cigarettes and disappears for a few days before showing up at your doorstep, sobbing about how much it loves you, don’t worry. This is normal cat behavior!
  • SAFETY TIP: If you have a puppy, be wary of children driving around in unmarked vans. The children will try to lure your puppy with the promise of free strangers.
  • If you’re planning on committing any violent crimes around your new pet, get a goldfish. They have short memories and a VERY STRICT policy against snitchin’.
  • Parrots are great pets, and their talent for mimicry make them quite the entertaining companions. However, be careful: if you make a parrot repeat a paradox, its head will explode.
  • And finally, if you’re hoping to brag to your pet about having opposable thumbs, don’t get a monkey. They also have opposable thumbs, and they will NOT be impressed.

Alex Nichols is a writer and zoologist who has contributed to the "Shouts & Murmurs" section of National Geographic. 

The REAL Chicago: Cherubs Cafe

Welcome to The Real Chicago, an ongoing feature in which I make you forget everything you thought you knew about Chicago.

Chicago first rose to prominence as a working city. It still is a working city, of course, but it’s a different kind of work. Slaughterhouses have been replaced with Etsy stores. Rickets has been replaced with severe writer’s block. And people don’t clock in for a 16-hour shift at the ol’ cog factory anymore; they hunker down in a coffee shop for 16 hours to write a comedy web series. Indeed, the cafe has become the stockyard of 21st century Chicago. 

Most people opt for a nice, quiet chain like Starbucks or, for the more rustic crowd, Caribou. But true productivity can only come at an authentic local joint. And I’m lucky to have one such joint in my neighborhood.

I went to Cherubs Cafe every day for a week last summer, when my Internet was out. I’m not sure what I was expecting from a place called Cherubs, but it is truly startling just how many pictures and statues of child angels litter the cafe’s cozy interior. Startling and more than a little creepy. Naked little chubby-cheeked babies gaze at you from all directions, turning away only to writhe in the weird roly-poly way cherubs do. Their stares are piercing; it’s truly hard to tune them out.

The only thing that may distract you from the fact that you’re basically surrounded by dead children is the breathtaking tackiness of the rest of the décor. It’s a chaotic mishmash of secondhand couches, clashing colors, and awkwardly built wooden chairs  that are somehow too tall and too short at the same time. I mean, for a place so (distractingly) consistent on theme, everything else is shockingly scatter-shot. It looks as though HGTV gave a bunch of super-religious aunts their own interior design show, but the aunts used all the show’s budget on alcohol and ended up just drunkenly buying whatever was available at the Salvation Army, cramming it all into one room right before simultaneously passing out.

The place is an aesthetic nightmare, sure, but it’s more like one of those surreal, almost pleasant nightmares that you don’t realize was scary until you wake up. “Wait, I think I just dreamt about being slowly tortured to death by a bunch of naked baby angels. Why wasn’t I panicking?” You know, one of those.

A slightly outdated photo I stole from Yelp.

The woman who runs the store is, perhaps not surprisingly, exceedingly nice, and her (I presume) daughter who usually runs the register is friendly as well. And the food is pretty decent, although I’ve rarely had more than a plain bagel and a root beer. One time I ordered a plain, untoasted bagel. The daughter said she’d bring the bagel out to me, so I went over to one of the vaguely uncomfortable couches to plug my laptop in and get to work. Half an hour later, I realized I didn’t have my bagel yet. I wasn’t really hungry; purchasing the bagel was just a formality, a little token of my appreciation for the free WiFi and terrifying hospitality. So I wasn’t exactly upset, but it was strange that a plain, untoasted bagel took so long, especially considering how empty the place was. Maybe they slice their bagels with a dull knife, or the power of prayer.

Before you go to Cherubs to work or study, you need to ask yourself one thing: can I concentrate if there’s incredibly loud dance music playing the whole time? If the answer is no, then sadly, you may need to set up camp elsewhere. Cherubs eschews the traditional coffeehouse soundtrack in favor of pounding basslines, soaring synths, and melodies that make you want to get up on your feet and dance, dance, DANCE! When you’re not dancing,  however, such music can cause distraction, headaches, and fairly difficult Skype chats. Thankfully, there is some variety in the selection; the dance music is broken up by a mix of generic techno, salsa, and one-hit-wonders from the ’90s that I would call eclectic if it weren’t so clearly random. You’ve got to get your bursts of productivity in when ”Bitter Sweet Symphony” comes on, or else you might end up with half of a comedy web series and nothing to show for it.

If you stand on the corner of Chicago and State, just north of the Loop, you can look to the east and see a Starbucks not much more than a block away, and then look to the south and see another Starbucks lingering at about the same distance. Those places may be professionally designed, play only Norah Jones’ softer tracks, and get your order to you within 30 minutes. But they’ll never have the off-kilter charm of Cherubs Cafe. That’s the REAL Chicago. 

More EXCLUSIVE coverage of the REAL Chicago coming next week!

The REAL Chicago: Rock Hard Gym

Welcome to The Real Chicago, a new feature in which I reveal the other Chicago to be a fraud.

I moved to Chicago (also known as “The City of Cogs”) about nine months ago. Since then, I’ve been gestating in the city’s warm, moist womb, feeding on hot dogs and cheap Mexican food from its hearty placenta. Needless to say, I spent much of that time in the fetal position. But now, I’ve emerged fully-formed, covered in greasy afterbirth, finally ready to call Chicago my city.

As a newly certified Chicagoan, I can tell you that there’s way more to this humble town than the Shiny Bean and the shitty Cubs and the Willis Tower (which has always been called the Willis Tower, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). The REAL Chicago is hidden away in the city’s diverse and unique neighborhoods, where hard-working families come together to build strong communities and recent college graduates come together to start improv groups.

I live in one such neighborhood, and this week, I’ll be sharing some of the quirky little joints that make it so special. First up: Rock Hard Gym.

Rock Hard Gym is, in fact, an active fitness center and not a murder cave as I had initially thought. (Though I suppose the two are not mutually exclusive.) The building’s exterior, composed mostly of stapled-together wood scraps, is decidedly unkempt: The windows are boarded up and caged in. The sign’s single coat of white paint is severely chipped. The front door is slowly being consumed by rust. I genuinely can’t tell if this is all the result of neglect or a concerted effort to keep away potential members who aren’t hardcore enough to deal with numerous building code violations. Either way, I’m too scared to ask for a brochure.

Those who are hardcore enough to enter the grisly confines of Rock Hard Gym are rarely seen. But sometimes, when the weather is nice, they prop the door open, and you can get a glimpse of the action. If you were worried that the dilapidated storefront was hiding a clean, world-class, state-of-the-art facility, you can breathe a sigh of relief: the interior is every bit as run-down as you dreamed. It’s really not so much a gym as a pile of exercise equipment spread out over a (presumably) sticky concrete floor. And it has all the charm of an abandoned storage unit, with only slightly more space. If you’re looking for a smoothie bar, massage parlor, or Jazzercise class, this is not the place for you. In fact, if you’re looking for fresh towels or proper ventilation, the odds are probably not in your favor there, either.

From what I can tell, the gym’s clientele is primarily made up of bronze, musclebound men in sweat-stained tank tops. They occasionally stand in small groups on the sidewalk, smoking cigarettes in absolute silence while clearly avoiding eye contact with one another. Their tans are especially impressive considering how much time they spend in a completely windowless building. Also, since these guys are clearly paragons of health and fitness, I can only assume that they smoke not out of habit but as an advanced lung exercise. Sadly, I was unable to obtain an interview with one of the gym’s members, because they are terrifying.

In a city littered with Xsport Fitnesses and fancy athletic clubs, Rock Hard Gym is a breath of fresh air for those who don’t like actual fresh air. It’s home to the broadest of broad shoulders, made broader everyday by hard work, thousands of reps, and probably nothing else. These guys don’t care if you think their gym looks like an oversized outhouse. They only care about getting rock hard. That’s the REAL Chicago.

Stay tuned for more about the REAL Chicago in the next few days!

ADORABLE MOMENTS IN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORY

This week, President Obama clinched his second term by dorking out over some kid’s marshmallow cannon at a White House science fair.  Though his presidency has been somewhat rocky so far, Obama has followed through on at least one thing — his promise to do adorable shit all the time. Here are some other memorable examples of presidential warm-and-fuzzies.  

1796: A young child innocently mentions to an aging George Washington that his wooden teeth look peculiar. Rather than getting offended, President Washington takes the comment in stride and quips, “If you think my teeth look bad, you should check out my syphilitic dick!” 

1831: President Andrew Jackson sponsors the country’s first-ever “Fun Run.” (This event is now more commonly referred to as the “Trail of Tears.”)

1902: While on one of his many famed “man hunts,” President Theodore Roosevelt spares the life of a child whose desperate pleas for mercy, as Roosevelt would later put it, “made me feel bad about hunting human beings for sport.” As a token of his apology, Roosevelt gives the child the stuffed body of a bear cub he had slaughtered in a previous hunt. This, of course, is how Teddy bears got their name. 

1912: While eating a piece of birthday cake in the bathtub (as was his custom), President William Howard Taft gets frosting, like, all over his mustache.

1933: During a tour of the nation’s hospitals, President Franklin D. Roosevelt tries to comfort a sick child by telling her that he, too, has polio. However, this gesture of kindness and solidarity is misinterpreted as truth, and word spreads that the president has come down with the disease. Rather than go through the trouble of correcting everybody, Roosevelt pretends to have polio for the remainder of his presidency until 1945, when he dies of polio.

1967: President Lyndon Johnson goes an entire day without killing any kids.