Saturday, January 29, 2011

Famed Doctors Lidström and Staal Separate Twins after Thirty Years

The Sedins: Daniel (left, or perhaps right) and Henrik (right, maybe. Or not)

On January 28, 2011, in a gripping procedure televised internationally, surgeons Eric Staal and Nicklas Lidstrom separated noted thirty-year-old Swedish twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin before a live studio audience.

Not the Sedins.
This separation might be a touch more remarkable and newsworthy if the Sedin twins were actually conjoined twins, and Eric Staal and Nick Lidstrom were real surgeons instead of just captains in charge of picking teams for the 58th National Hockey League All-Star Game. For hockey fans, however, it’s still notable not only because the Sedins have spent almost the entire last sixteen years as linemates (Daniel at left wing, Henrik at center), but also because, in their twenty-two years at various levels of organized hockey, the brothers have not once competed against one another.1

Also not the Sedins.

Drafted second and third overall in 1999 by the Vancouver Canucks, the Sedins were considered early in their careers to be moderate disappointments, given their high draft status and the complex series of hoops through which the Canucks’ general manager, Brian Burke, had to jump to obtain both players. In recent years, however, the Sedins have flourished—Daniel’s five best single-season goal, assist, and point totals have all occurred in the last five seasons, and Henrik has not only reached career-high point totals in three of the past four years but also is the NHL’s reigning scoring leader, having earned112 points (29 goals, 83 assists) in the 2009-2010 season. On top of that, the Vancouver Canucks have won the Northwest Division four of the past six seasons, and as of today, are a runaway favorite to win their third consecutive division title.

Definitely not the Sedins. Well, probably.
Credit for their success is often given to the fact that Henrik and Daniel are twins, and thus presumably possess some sort of mysterious psychic connection that allows them to know what to expect from one another on the ice. That folks in the media choose this angle is perhaps not surprising, and certainly good for a story, but it does tend to unfairly dismiss the positive effect on line chemistry that one gets from having played a thousand games and practiced ten or twenty thousand hours, day in and day out, with the same guy.

Now you’re just being ridiculous. Patty Lane and Cathy Lane were identical cousins, not sisters.

Regardless of whether the Sedins’ undeniable chemistry is the result of years of practice or just magical brain power, though, the whole hockey world is2 speculating wildly—if not particularly seriously—about what will happen when the two brothers hit the ice as opponents for the first time. Will Henrik be teamed with a shooter like Daniel, and will Daniel be given the center that closest resembles his brother’s playmaking style? Will they click with their newfound linemates, or reject them like transplanted organs? Will they wander helplessly around the ice like disoriented homing pigeons, unsure of how to react to a suddenly-unfamiliar world? Will the universe react to this mind-boggling and impossible development by opening a swirling vortex that obliterates the game?3

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, reached by phone only moments before trying on a pair of ice skates for the very first time, admitted that each and all of these scenarios are not only possible but extremely likely.

Given the NHL All-Star Game’s well-earned reputation as a good-natured exhibition game in which the players are more interested in enjoying themselves than injuring each other, we’re hoping the Sedins take this unique opportunity to ramp up the intensity by dropping gloves and beating the ever-loving shit out of one another.

We’re not holding our breath, though. We’ll be happy as long as they choose not to dance.

Yeah, that's them. You’ve watched it—you can't UNwatch it.

1. As far as we know.
2. As far as we know.
3. Here’s hoping the vortex starts with the NFL Pro Bowl first. If ever a game didn’t need to exist, it’s the Pro Bowl.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Regrets and Missed Opportunities

It’s almost certainly impossible to live an entire life without regrets. It’s debatable whether it’s brave and clear-sighted or foolish and obtuse even to try. And it probably goes without saying that those thousands of minutes spent writing silly, pointless commentary on the internet—instead of, say, reading a book, breathing fresh air, or engaging real flesh-and-blood humans in conversation—are such ripe sources for a flood of regrets that any single missed opportunity is hardly worth mentioning.

One or our most stinging regrets, however, is that we finished writing a zombie-themed post about Eddie Van Halen only days before being shown this picture of Al Davis, owner of the National Football League’s Oakland Raiders and soulless demon of a million children’s darkest dreams:

We don’t know where this image came from or whether it’s been manipulated in Photoshop, because we’re a little too freaked out by it to look very closely. But our job here is not to uncover the truth about creepy photos; our job is to make dumb jokes about sad people who look like the undead, and, frankly, we blew it by running with the Van Halen thing instead of waiting just a bit longer for Al Davis to lunge at us out of the shadows, grasping at our throats with his papery fingers. We think it’s true that “Regret is insight that comes a day too late”1—in this case, two days. 

1. Northrop Frye, influential literary critic and theorist who we’d never heard of before today, 1912–1991.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eddie Van Halen’s Body Celebrates Another Year of Roaming the Earth

“Im just a normal jerk who happens to make music. As long as
my brain and fingers work, I’m cool.” Sadly, zombies ate most of his

brain and fingers. 
The body of Eddie Van Halen, the flashy and innovative guitarist whose eponymous band dominated the American rock scene in the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, celebrated its fifty-sixth year of existence today by lurching through its hometown’s darkened, abandoned streets in search of human flesh.

Van Halen on turning fifty-six: “Brains? Braaaaaains.”

Van Halen’s body currently spends its days aimlessly wandering throughout Studio City, California, with a look of vacant sadness on its face—its stiffened fingers absently thudding against the wood of the fabled Frankenstrat guitar in a perverse sign of a lingering memory of its past existence—as it shambles past boarded-up houses, silent movie theaters, and shadowed Red Line entrances, occasionally bumping clumsily against handrails and tumbling violently down subway stairs only to land on its feet.

Don’t even pretend this isn’t scary.
The guitarist’s creative output slowed considerably after being bitten by the reanimated corpse of Mick Jagger in early 1999, and after several trying months of transition, exhibited dedication to its new lifestyle by devouring not only three lead singers but also original bassist Michael Anthony. On rare occasions it wanders far from home, partially regurgitating David Lee Roth to fulfill touring needs and thus revealing a shadowy semblance of human financial acumen.

Despite his death more than a decade ago, Van Halen is still considered to be more musically gifted than the Insane Clown Posse, a more interesting conversationalist than Courtney Love, and more likely to produce an essential new album than the Rolling Stones.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fake Pandas for Sale, part 2

The stunning revelation of the existence of the panda cow has excited not only our exclusive cadre of readers but also weird-cow enthusiasts worldwide, but the buzz surrounding this wet-eyed offense against God pales in comparison to the excitement generated by the mere mention of the impossible fever-dream that is the Hello Kitty Cow:
“Who gives a shit if a cow looks like a panda? It's still not cute. . . . I don’t care if a cow has Hello Kitty all over it, it’s still ugly and stupid.”
“I believe that a cow bedecked with Hello Kitty might with no exaggeration be termed the greatest gift yet bestowed upon humanity by a just and loving God.”

At least we thought it was an impossible fever-dream. It’s long been common knowledge that cows, in their futile and increasingly desperate efforts to avoid being turned into meat—yummy, yummy meat—have strained at the boundaries of cuteness ethics for decades, if not centuries.

Nice try, assholes. Just get
in the chute already.
Fortunately for human civilization, their overt attempts have been, for the most part, more pathetic than convincing. Shaggy moptop hair hasn’t been on the cutting edge of cuteness since late-1960s Liverpool; giant eyeballs can be used to crippling effect by puppies and babies, but on a cow they’re just special landing strips for especially huge flies; and their desperate Jenny McCarthy impressions haven’t been appealing since, well, ever, as far as we can tell.

We at Bowling in the Dark, however, have been been made aware that these pathetic, stumbling efforts—which might be somewhat endearing in their clumsiness, if cows didn’t insist on being so damned delicious—are merely a smokescreen, a crafty cover-up of insidious efforts currently underway.

Highly placed BITD operatives in the offices of U.S. Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA), chair of the House Committee on Teddy Bear and Hello Kitty Affairs, recovered the following classified photographs at great personal risk:

These efforts are obviously in the preliminary stages, and a genuinely effective Hello Kitty cow may still be many peaceful years away. Frankly, these cows appear to be just as tasty as several billion of their predecessors, they barely even register as “cute,” and remain as blindingly stupid as a whole sack full of much tinier, equally stupid cows.1

Also heartening is the fact that the American public, fickle though it may be, will never truly accept the juiced-up, cynically fake Hello Kitty cow the way it embraces the all-natural cuteness of the panda.2 These cows have a chance only to be come the Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds of cuteness—all jacked up and perhaps unstoppable, but fakers, disrespected and empty inside. The panda is Babe Ruth—all natural, all real, and 100% American.3 Also super-fat.

The cutest cow on Earth has nothing on you, fatpants.

1. Making these cows, if possible, very nearly as stupid as the metaphor we just used to describe them.
2. We cannot, in good conscience, verbally abuse cute animals without at least providing a link to Fuck You, Penguin, the now-defunct but groundbreaking blog whose shtick we’re shamelessly imitating (and not for the first time). If we have seen farther than others, it is because we have stood on the shoulders of Fuck You, Penguin.
3. Here we use a very broad definition of “100% American” that includes things that are actually 100% Chinese.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Rising Tide Lifts all Boats . . . and also BLOWS BILL O’REILLY’S MIND

On January 4, 2011, on his television show The O’Reilly Factor, commentator Bill O’Reilly provided yet more evidence that one can be very successful, especially in television, without actually using one’s head.

O’Reilly’s guest for the evening—or at least for a short segment of it—was David Silverman, the head of an atheist organization that had bought space on a billboard in Huntsville, Alabama, that both invited residents to a regional meeting of atheists and described all religions as scams.1 The latter part struck O’Reilly—and, to be fair, probably plenty of others in Huntsville, and a large percentage of however many people watch The O’Reilly Factor—as rude and offensive.

Whether it was indeed rude—and whether O’Reilly’s rather inhospitable treatment of his guest was any more appropriate—could be the subject of a long, energetic, and almost certainly fruitless debate that doesn’t particularly interest us at the moment. Suffice it to say that regardless of one’s point of view, the discussion between Silverman and O’Reilly probably managed to find a way to irritate or offend just about everybody watching, one way or another, without actually solving or illuminating a thing.

However, more important to us than O’Reilly’s interest in polite behavior—or at least his interest in witnessing it, if not actually participating in it himself—is the example he used, over the course of the conversation, as evidence that religions aren’t scams. After prefacing a statement earlier in the show by admitting “I know I’m not the smartest guy in town,” he then—in an apparent giddy rush to prove himself right—offers, as evidence of God’s existence, the fact that “[The] tide goes in, [and the] tide goes out.” According to O’Reilly, the tides are proof that God exists because “You can’t explain that.”

Bill O’Reilly’s argument, rephrased for convenience, is that because we can’t explain tides, God exists. According to his reasoning, then, being able to explain the tides would be evidence that God doesn’t exist. It’s actually somewhat fortunate for O’Reilly—not to mention very fortunate for God—that his logic is shit.

O’Reilly’s argument here is a sort of variation on the Argument from Ignorance—he’s essentially saying that if he can’t explain something, then it can’t be explained. While the flaw in this line of reasoning should be fairly obvious, please allow us to illuminate them anyway by using the same argumentative framework O’Reilly uses on the following statement:

“Yo-yo goes down, yo-yo comes back up. You can’t explain that.”

Here’s how the O’Reilly method operates here (and why it fails):
  1. I don’t know how a yo-yo works. (This part, I’m sorry to say, is true.)
  2. Therefore, nobody knows how a yo-yo works—not even those who dedicate their lives to studying, designing, and constructing yo-yos, assuming people like this still exist. (This statement does not logically follow from the previous statement, and is also demonstrably false.)
  3. Therefore, yo-yos are magic. (This also isn’t true, and it also does not follow from the above statements.)
    Ancient yo-yoing is apparently for real. Who knew?

    The only thing that an argument from ignorance really has a chance at proving is—sorry, Bill—the “ignorance” part.2 And indeed, tides are actually very well understood and have been for centuries; moreover, they can be easily explained to, and by, folks with little scientific expertise:

    To put it simply rather than thoroughly, tides are caused by the gravitational pull of Earth’s moon and, to a lesser degree, the Sun. (While the Sun is far more massive than the Moon, it’s also some sixteen to eighteen miles farther away, and thus its influence on tides is diminished to about half of the Moon’s.3)

    The sun and the Moon both affect the Earth’s tides; higher tides result when
    the two pull in the same direction. All objects life-sized and to scale.

    All matter is affected by gravity,4 and therefore everything on Earth—not just the oceans, but also dirt, pandas, tractors, pirates, and even Cream of Wheat—is influenced by the Moon’s gravitational pull. It’s been estimated, perhaps even measured, that the tidal pull of the Moon moves the ground beneath our feet by around a centimeter. However, as the oceans are mostly liquid,5 and thus much more malleable than solids (examples of solids: continental plates, tractors), it’s in the oceans that the tides are most noticeable; in certain places such as the Bay of Fundy, the difference between high and low tide can be as much as 55 feet.6 If the entire Earth moved to the same degree that the seas do, tides would be much harder to observe—but they’d still be going on.

    In order to affect the tides, an object must be extremely massive.

    So at the risk of patting ourselves a tad too hard on the back, we believe the above is a decent if very basic explanation of what causes the tides, and astute readers will note that the question of God’s existence7 is no more or less settled than it was two or three paragraphs earlier. We believe it’s perfectly clear that we haven’t offered any opinion whatsoever on the existence or non-existence of God, and simply hope that—whatever your opinion of God, organized religion, atheism, science, or The O’Reilly Factor—it’s clear to everyone that both God and religion are very fortunate that Bill O’Reilly is not their best or only defender.

    Please check back soon; in a future installment we hope to reveal the fiendish sorcery responsible for elevators.

    1. If you haven’t yet clicked on the link above and are wondering, this is not hyperbole on our part. The word used on the billboard was indeed “scams.”
    2. One has to wonder if O’Reilly is concerned about whether a high enough tide might tip Guam over.
    3. All figures made up on the spot.
    4. We’re pretty sure about this, although we have a hunch it gets disproved in at least one or two Star Trek episodes.
    5. The ice caps, being ice, are solid, but they don’t amount to much, especially lately. Cream of Wheat, on the other hand, somehow appears to be simultaneously liquid and solid—go ahead and try to explain that, atheists!
    6. We have no idea how big a distance this is, but we suspect it’s at least five or six times larger than a centimeter. 
    7. We are aware that for many of our readers (not to mention our billions of non-readers), God’s existence is not in question. To be fair, though, to plenty of other folks, God’s non-existence isn’t in question either. So we’re just going to leave it exactly as we wrote it in order to irritate everybody equally.

    The following is the relevant segment from The O’Reilly Factor. The host’s comments about the tide occur a little after 1:48.

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Warp Time from the Comfort of Your Own Home!

    Thanks to the relentless onward march of modern technology, you too can toy with time and the theory of relativity without the inconvenience and expense of having to approach the speed of light. Just sit down, relax, and follow these four easy steps:

    1. Put the Allman Brothers’ Band’s instrumental “Jessica” on your iPod or CD player. 
    2. Push “play.” 
    3. Fourteen to sixteen months later, as the song comes to an end, push “stop.” 
    4. Check your watch. Amazingly, only about seven and a half minutes will have passed! 

    Preliminary research has suggested that similar effects are produced by combining The Doors’s “The End” with the  consumption of near-poisonous quantities of Everclear. Sadly, in recent years these studies have stalled due to the difficulty of finding volunteers healthy enough to subject themselves to repeated exposure to The Doors.

    Sunday, January 9, 2011

    Fake Pandas for Sale

    In one of the most stunning advances in bizarro genetic engineering since 1997’s pot-bellied elephant, northern Colorado farmer Chris Jessen has bred a miniature cow that sorta looks like a panda.

    Our latest crime against nature. Possibly just a misdemeanor.

    This made news not only locally but also across the country (in the Washington Post and Orange County Register, among others) and as far away as London,1 which leads us to believe that either 2011 has (with this notable exception) started off in a spectacularly boring fashion, or that this weird little cow’s existence is far more momentous than one might suspect.

    The birth of Ben, the miniature panda cow, is not Chris Jessen’s first encounter with shrimpy animals. His “hobby farm” is depicted in various brief articles as a sort of haven for wee creatures—not only miniature cows and donkeys but also an animal described by different sources as either a miniature kangaroo or a wallaby, which is, as we understand it, similar to an oversized miniature kangaroo, only smaller.

    From what we’ve been able to learn from a casual stroll through the Internet, $0.75 to $1.00 per pound is not an unreasonable price if you’re looking to buy a fully-functional cow. Ben, however, may sell for as much as $30,000. This may seem like a lot, but it is certainly much, much cheaper than the trying to buy an actual panda, so one might consider this a bargain.

    For a mere thirty thousand dollars—barely enough to make a down payment on a home in many parts of the country—you can invest it in an animal that kinda resembles a totally different animal. But wait—there’s more! While most bargain-basement cows are bred to produce milk or be delicious, the panda cow is said to “not have much practical use”—beyond, presumably, standing around chewing and crapping all day with flies on its eyeballs.

    We’re not about to tell you how to spend your money—if Ben the Imposter Panda is the pet you’ve always been waiting for, knock yourself out. A delegation from China has already visited Jessen’s farm and was reportedly fascinated, so this weird little venture may well pay off. But unless Ben the Imposter Panda tastes exactly like real panda, or proves he can mimic adorably fat panda antics such as pantomiming kung fu or getting stuck in a tree, we’ll just keep saving up until we can afford the real thing, thank you very much.

    100% authentic panda. Accept no substitutes.

    1. Capital city of Guatemala, according to our Geography Department.

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Price on Freedom of Speech Raised to $500

    Countless bumper stickers across the country remind us that “Freedom Isn’t [or occasionally Ain’t] Free,” and 2004’s Team America: World Police took this one step further by calculating the price of freedom to be precisely $1.05. Apparently, though, the good folks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, have decided to up the ante considerably. On December 21, 2010, bus passenger and recent Milwaukee transplant Terry Duncan found out just how costly his freedoms were after he was fined five hundred dollars by an undercover police officer simply for speaking.1

    A few things worth mentioning here:
    • Duncan was not acting in a hostile or abusive manner to the driver or his fellow passengers.
    • Duncan was not threatening the president (or past presidents), which as we all know is a federal offense, even if the president in question, past or present, kinda sucks. Which he quite possibly does. Warren G. Harding, I’m looking at you.
    • Duncan was not shouting “fire” in a crowded theater, which is considered a no-no if the theater is not, in fact, on fire.
    What Terry Duncan did on that bus, simply put, was use naughty words. He wasn’t swearing at anybody, but rather was merely “engaged in a conversation when he let the expletives slip.” He said both “fuck” and “shit”2 conversationally—perhaps as little as once each3—and received not only a ticket but also a healthy ration of smirking disdain from fellow passengers who, as accomplished legal scholars, are well aware that their Constitutionally-protected right to not be offended trumps others’ rights to free speech.4

    We here at Bowling in the Dark tend to swear fairly often, but despite our personal flaws, we aren’t big fans of vulgarity. We’re saddened when we hear it from the mouths of children (except when it’s funny), and believe that excessive use of profanity is embarrassing and usually a sign of a limited vocabulary. But the unpleasant nature of naughty language doesn’t give us the right to control anybody’s language but our own.

    An official statement from the Milwaukee County sherriff’s department addressing the matter claims that “people should be able to ride the bus without feeling intimidated by someone’s language or behavior.” Bus passengers interviewed after the incident tended to agree:
    “You can’t swear. A lot of people don't like all the ‘f’ words and ‘s’ words around their kids, and there’s a lot of elderly people on the bus, and you have to respect your elders so, that’s what he gets.—bus passenger Ebony Jett6

    “I think he should have got [the ticket]. Kids be on the bus, families be on the bus. Nobody wants to hear that kind of language.”—bus passenger Jean Jones

    People should not get on the bus having to hear disruptive conversations. You can get a fine for that. It’s the law. You can’t do that.”—bus passenger Tiffany Coo

    In the interest of giving equal time to opinions actually worth having, though, let’s hear from somebody who actually fought for others’ liberties instead of trying to whittle away the ones he didn’t like:
    “If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”—George Washington
    We admit that General Washington didn’t specifically say “and that includes naughty words, too,” so it could be argued—albeit very stupidly—that he may actually have approved of stomping on certain folks’ rights when he didn’t like what he was hearing, despite having clearly stated the opposite. Fortunately, other smart folks have chimed in on the subject over the last 2,300 years:

    “Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself.”—author Salman Rushdie 
    “The basis of a democratic state is liberty.”Aristotle, 384 BC-322 BC

    “The First Amendment is often inconvenient. But that is besides the point. Inconvenience does not absolve the government of its obligation to tolerate speech.”—U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy
    Salman Rushdie, as you should well know, has more experience than most anybody at being persecuted simply for expressing himself; Aristotle, while perhaps better known for having married Jackie Kennedy, also dabbled in education, science, government, philosophy, politics, and ethics,7 and is known for knowing a thing or two; and it could be argued that a U.S. Supreme Court Justice with more than three decades of judicial experience has a better sense of what’s appropriate, legally and Constitutionally speaking, than the Milwaukee County Sherriff’s Department or a bunch of schmucks on a bus.

    But ignore all their qualifications if you like, and instead just boil down the comments from each group to their basics, and decide which attitude sums up what this country and its citizens’ attitudes on free expression should be. In fact, skip that first part; we’ve boiled it down for you:
    1. “You must be allowed to say what you want, even if I don’t like it.”
    2. “You can’t say what you want because I don’t like it.”
    Or, to illustrate it a touch more crudely,

    Figure 1.1: the two ends of the spectrum of opinions on freedom of speech. 

    Pick a side. 

    (Hint: the guy on the left is very unlikely to advocate killing the douchebag on the right.)

    1. We use the word speaking here for convenience; it’s a handy way to represent the much more cumbersome phrase exercising one’s once-Constitutionally-protected right to free speech.
    2. If you’re offended that we typed out the words “fuck” and “shit” instead of a more family-friendly “f___” or Beetle Bailey-style “@$#!” . . . well, frankly, it’s a little surprising that you allow yourself to have unmonitored access to the internet, but nevertheless we sincerely apologize for having troubled you with language that, admittedly, can occasionally or even often be inappropriate or offensive. You’d be well within your rights to ask us to tone it down, and it’s quite possible that we’d oblige—we may be jerks, but we don’t like looking like jerks. On the other hand, if you think you have or deserve the right to prevent us from using this kind of language, you can go fuck yourself.
    3. Duncan said he used “two words,” which could mean that he swore only twice or that he swore multiple times, but used only those two particular words—the articles we’ve found haven’t been particularly clear on this point.
    4. Here we’re trying to use irony,5 but it’s a slippery concept that we can usually recognize but can’t really define and rarely use properly. If we haven’t pulled it off correctly, and you’re not sure what we’re getting at, contact us privately and we’ll send you a copy of our extensive notes.
    5. Some might say that we’re not being ironic, we’re just being pricks. That’s probably fair.
    6. We here at Bowling in the Dark have no way of knowing whether this person’s name really is “Ebony Jett,” but we promise you that we weren’t the ones who made it up.
    7. No real footnote here, we’re just a bit giddy to see the words politics and ethics in the same sentence. It’s like spotting a unicorn.

    Saturday, January 1, 2011

    Words that Changed the World

    “Sverni svum, å lim yurpi berk yir diiskido. Yimmi sver, yåi bor skembe skir fjrni vir dihurgi. Yåi borsch nir fjurn dir di öön bork börk børk.”