Voice of Plucky Duck, Joe Alaskey, dead at 63

My childhood hero, Plucky Duck has fallen.

Joe Alaskey, who also voiced Grandpa from Rugrats and – to paraphrase the words of a line from the theme of the Plucky Duck Show – “Lots of others characters, but who cares who they are“. Plucky is all that matters and todays loss of his vocal provider is a day of mourning.

Plucky of course was a character born out of the magnificent show, Tiny Toon Adventures, which was the one and only valid product of the early 90s “younger version of familiar characters boom” after networks scrambled recycle their intellectual property and ride the Muppet Babies success wave. In Tin Toons, the characters weren’t younger versions of their counterparts (in this case, the WB lineup), but rather toons-in-training seeking to be the next crop of such characters. As far as I was concerned, however, the show was merely a vehicle to showcase Plucky: a green tank top wearing mallard who idolized Daffy Duck and likewise was constantly hatching schemes revolving around his greed and egotistical pursuit of personal glorification.

From the Tiny Toons opening theme:
Plucky Duck typing at typewriter: “The Scripts were rejected…”
Giant Plucky head popping out of typewriter: “Expect the unexpected!”
-Fkking brilliant….

Here is Alaskey announcing the Plucky Duck show (my favorite cartoon of all time) spinoff from Tiny Toons that only lasted a few episodes but was glorious (I still listen to the mp3 rip of the theme song fairly regularly) and explaining how he came up with Plucky’s voice. The deconstruction that he did a Daffy Duck inflection and switched the frontal lisp to be a lateral lisp is simple yet brilliant.

Here’s the original Tiny Toons theme (one of the best in the history of cartoons):

On the Tiny Toons Christmas Special I remember jumping out of my skin with excitement during the “It’s a Wonderful Life” parody in where Buster Bunny was shown an alternate reality where Plucky was the star of Tiny Toons. Buster (and presumably the audience) is supposed to be horrified by this but I was so excited and inspired that it could well be said that the real birth of Richardland was born at that very moment…

This spawned the pre-mentioned spinoff in where that gag was turned into an actual 13 episode show with this brilliant stupendous awesome opening:

It is with a heavy heart that I vow to carry on the Plucky legacy…

Uber is trying too hard with its weird new logo

Uber has changed their logo in an ongoing tweak of their their brand identity and while the latter makes sense, the logo thing is kindov weird. As it was just put to me by someone else commenting on the issue: It’s like Coca Cola changing the formula because “eh… it’s been awhile”.

Why would Uber change their thin and elegant “U” on a black background to a bloated backwards “C” with a square in the middle resting in a bunch of turquoise loops.

Joshua Topolsky points out: the old logo was “very bad but useful” while the new logo is “very bad and useless”.

Looking for actual answers on what this is about doesn’t come up with much:

“This updated design reflects where we’ve been, and where we’re headed. The Uber you know isn’t changing, our brand is just catching up to who we already were,” explains Uber, referring to the company’s expansion into logistics through its UberRush service.

The company will also move from having one brand to serve its global enterprise, to an individual look for each of its 65 countries, with tailored colors and patterns, illustrations, and photos, Uber told Wired. The idea is to create more flexibility in the brand.

And the complexity goes even deeper from there…

The worst part of it all? No Uber condoms… or anything “bedroom”-related (including boxers). Not associating a logo with sex is less silly of a policy than phrasing it by specifying just condoms – but even Disney makes underwear.

The lengths of the terms of logo usage show deeper insight into the aspects of perhaps trying too hard that the company is going to in this rebranding effort. Their terms stipulate that you can’t put the logo on anything that will be stepped on (no Uber floormats) put in the trash (no Uber cups), or eaten (no Uber cookies or cakes). That last one is the dopiest. No Uber cakes because cakes get sliced up (and that could damage their brand integrity or something) and cakes get eaten and Ubers new image can’t withstand the thought of it’s logo being turned into poo.

Dumb “If you’re cold, they’re cold” meme has dumb ripple effects on zoos

Awhile ago a meme began surfacing in different iterations using a completely  baseless emotional fallacy that claimed “If you’re cold, they’re cold” regarding cats and dogs in the snow. The premise is of course the lie that “cats and dogs are people too” and thus should be treated exactly the same as what would be humane or kind to a human being, instead of simply what is humane and kind for a cat or a dog.

I blame it for furthering pop-culture ignorance on how fur-laden animals generate and retain body heat in contradistinction to puny fleshy humans.

I’m connecting the dots from that mass distributed ignorance to the fear instilled in animal keepers now who are too afraid to post animals in snow without disclaimers that they are not abusing them by letting them freeze to death or otherwise causing them great suffering.

The Twitter account for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute wants to make extra super sure you know their animals are safe in snow. So much so that nearly every tweet from January 21st-23rd mentioned some kind of thinly masked disclaimer that the animals are not being horrifically neglected. 

Lizards wrestle in the street (VIDEO)

I have zero information on this other than they appear to be monitor lizards (update: found a video that labels them as such and replaced it below) and I’m going to take a wild stab in the dark and suggest that this didn’t take place in America (though you never really know… I’m lookin at you, Florida).

Research shows that hookah’s are smokey murder machines

I’ve always been wildly skeptical of hookahs only because my dopey Los Angeles friends who don’t appear to be making the most health conscious of choices frequent these hookah lounges so much so the patterns and associations to me connect it to being a poor risk/reward indulgence despite my not knowing anything about the actual science of how it even works.

Turns out hookahs are filthy nasty body killing death pipes or something.

Sounds over-stated, especially after my fair disclosure of my existing confirmation-bias, but how else am I supposed to read the findings that 1 hookah session has 25 times more tar than a cigarette?

There’s a common misconception that hookahs aren’t very dangerous. A recent Rutgers University study revealed that 24 percent of both smokers and nonsmokers under age 25 believe hookahs— shared pipes that allow users to inhale tobacco smoke that’s been passed through a water basin—are safer than cigarettes. But according to a new study from the journal Public Health Reports, this is an even bigger myth than thought.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that one hookah session produces 2.5 times more nicotine, 10 times more carbon monoxide, 25 times more tar, and 125 times more smoke than a single cigarette.

I didn’t even know how hookahs work but it sounds horrifying:

He says studies indicate that more oxygen being pulled through the Hookah bowl could be causing the release of more toxins.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in recent years, smoking Hookah is becoming more popular among young people, with more U.S. high school students saying they smoked Hookah than cigarettes within a 30 day window.

“It’s much more palatable, it’s easier,” says Dr. Primack, referring to Hookah’s appeal.

The process of smoking from a Hookah pipe starts with a hot coal, which is placed over tin foil that heats up dense and often flavored tobacco. The smoke then travels down a stem into a bowl, where it is pulled upwards through water and then through a hose to the consumer. Hookah pipes are also known as “Water Pipes.”

Repent, you hookah hooligans. Cut the habit and find a new way to socially enjoy something.


Disney issues curious promotional art for upcoming Star Wars Land

As if you haven’t heard: The Walt Disney Company is adding a Star Wars Land to Disneyland. They’re doing so by clearing out some super outdated “old west” style attractions that no one has given a crap about since 1969 and replacing them with the space-themed goodness that modern minds crave.

A long-overdue updating of a long since stagnant portion of significant land area of the Disneyland park + utilization of the Star Wars intellectual property recently acquired by the Walt Disney Corporation isn’t anything strange.

What’s odd is the promotional art for it… Who would have guessed that it would look anything like this?:

The promotional art Disney has released for Star Wars Land is curiouser and curiouser, lacking any of the Death Star or Corusant style metal-tech seen in Tomorowland (where the Star Wars themed ride Star Tours still resides) and going instead for organic earthy representations of tall treehouse style towers (the likes of which we’ve never seen in any Star Wars films) bordering open courtyards with aliens milling about.

A zoomed out version of the same location shows the area to be a city among cliffs with termite hive style spires protruding from a decidedly singularly themed location – again – with style and architecture not present in any of the mainstream Star Wars media.

With all the planning that goes into such a major and permanent design, it makes one wonder what the thinking was in creating this specific look. Disney Chairman Bob Iger said of the unveiling, “We are creating a jaw-dropping new world that represents our largest single themed land expansion ever. These new lands at Disneyland and Walt Disney World will transport guests to a whole new Star Wars planet, including an epic Star Wars adventure that puts you in the middle of a climactic battle between the First Order and the Resistance.”

Star Wars Land will appear to mostly manifest its 14-acre footprint in currently non-attraction utilized land on the theme park property and only replace Big Thunder Ranch, Big Thunder Ranch Barbecue, Big Thunder Ranch petting zoo and Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree. Since 10 out of 10 people reading that didn’t even know any of those things were things in Disneyland, I’d say it was the right choice, even though it’s interesting to see Disney pull a corporate version of the plot of Toy Story (Read: “Strange Things are Happenin” to Fronteirland).


The Starbucks Christmas Cups Controversy that Wasn’t

Mollie Hemingway recaps the chain of events by noting that on November 5, Raheem Kassam of Breitbart London wrote what she accurately describes as “a pretty tongue-in-cheek report on the new ‘This is really not a Christmas cup but sort of vaguely holiday-themed’ to-go cup from Starbucks” and points out its tongue-in-cheekness through the use of lines like “And behold, Starbucks did conceive and bear a red cup, and called his name blasphemy” and “Frankly, the only thing that can redeem them from this whitewashing of Christmas is to print Bible verses on their cups next year. Not that I’d buy their burnt coffee anyway. And certainly not while they keep spelling my name ‘Ragih’ (right) on their cups.”

I thought it was a totally fine piece that poked fun at the cup for being even more bland than normal, but I noticed that some of the more liberal Christians (names hidden to protect those of us who tweet impulsively) I follow were immediately aghast at this Breitbart piece, on the assumption it was meant to launch a serious War on Christmas battle.

And that is exactly what happened. When I first started seeing mention of this non-controversy, it was zero-percent from outraged Christians, who were no where to be found, and 100% from hippies mocking the “war on Christmas trope”.

In response to the people talking about the outrage, some people started trickling in joining the dialog with low-level notation of the removal of Christmas imagery being unfortunate. And that’s it. In fact – I’m one of those people: I didn’t notice and didn’t care and continue to not care, but while other people are talking about it, I’m going to add my 2 cents in that yes, it’s a lame move that the Christmas imagery was deleted from an international chains seasonal cuppery. That was the totality of the buzz on this issue until a Christian shock jock made a laughably stupid video in where he is seen transparently leveraging the semi-trending topic for his own gain while doing what essentially amounted to a commercial for Starbucks and his clownish self.

On November 5, Josh Feuerstein, an Arizona preacher, Facebook vertical video ranter, and Fred Durst-style backwards cap-wearer, basically a Christian version of Howard Stern, posted a 1-minute 18-second video about a red-hued mass-produced beverage receptible. You see, he went to Starbucks to get his morning cup of coffee and was handed a simple red cup. He immediately felt triggered by this holiday-colored but not holiday-decorated design, so he retreated to his safe space of portrait-oriented internet video and expressed this offense to the world.

And horrifically, the world listened. As of this writing Feuerstein’s video has 12,247,900 views, 153,895 likes, 447,838 shares, and 36,094 comments. Normally I don’t recommend reading comments on internet posts, but in this case it’s illuminating.

In the video, Feuerstein claims to have “tricked” Starbucks into putting Christmas on their cups by telling them his name was “Merry Christmas” so that when his beverage was ready, that would be the marker on the cup and then he encourages everyone watching to do the same (and to of course connect using a hashtag that promotes himself in this silly exercise).

Image credit

This stunt and the attention it got only raised the volume on the previous version of the sentiment on this non-topic: No one caring about the cups, but as long as it’s showing up everywhere as a headlined discussion allegedly going on, most people say that the design change was for the worse. That’s it. No protests or organized boycott sweeping the nation, or even any national commentators jumping on board claiming these coffee cups are an outrage of any kind. Yet there *have* been plenty headlines claiming that is the case, as opportunists have found themselves unable to pass at the prospect of making Christians looking like the perpetually outraged idiots we keep seeing from hippies in service to politically Leftist causes.

But while any real controversy fails to actually manifest, the “War on Christmas” of course re-appears as it does every year. As Mollie Hemingway reminds:

Every year we see battles over Christmas and whether it’s under siege. These battles usually take place in the public square or the market. Should town squares have Christmas trees? What about malls? Should they be renamed holiday trees? Unnamed “holy days” are less offensive than the specific holy day we all know we’re marking, right? Can government school students sing carols and not have their choir instructor sued into financial ruin? Or is it better to stick with such choral classics as “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel” and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” or whatever is less offensive than a Bach Christmas cantata?

Stories about the battles are easy to write. When the two sides are politically correct bullies and supposedly pious protesters who have nothing better to complain about, it’s easier still to simply root for casualties. But what if we didn’t just respond to shock jocks trolling for traffic and revenue-generating clicks and instead thought through the tension between commercialization and sacralization of holy days?

 In the meantime, this hoax of a story has been great PR for Starbucks.




Holly Holm won double by being a genuine Class Act

When did Ronda Rousey become the villain? I don’t follow any kind of televised sport and that includes the the “people beating each other up” sports of MMA and UFC [those two are different things, right?], but I know Rousey as a figure and I thought I liked her (as a character, representing an image, of course. Not as a person). Thought, that is, until this Holly Holm stuff flooded the news. At first I thought everyone was being a schadenfreude-y jerk by being all “OMGZ! Bish got BEAT LOL!” about a seemingly invincible figure making the ridicule-worthy error of revealing that they are human by losing their first competition. I hate that stuff. I don’t like watching these

However… Upon further research, I am disappointed at what Ronda did to her public image and while I remain apathetic about the sport or the people involved – merely as an observer of media personality types – I am glad Holly Holm won the match and now like her both as a media figure and [what I know of her as] a person.

I’m scoring the figures by their pre-game and post-game personas.
Video of the weigh-in announcement thing that happens after the fight is decided but before it actually is set to happen sums up the 2 personality types really perfectly. Holly Holm is calm, casual, humorous (saying how she’s just hanging out and having beers beforehand) and steady in sharp contrast to Ronda Rousey’s angry, aggressive, speech-making, overly serious attitude (rushing Holm with a raised fist and poorly trash talking her with no respect and eye-roll worthy machismo).

Rousey claimed that Holm’s respectful attitude was a phony act and that she would get pummeled for it. I see no basis for that whatsoever and thus felt an approving goodness at knowing the reverse happened. The hate gushing toward Holm seems completely unmerited and born out of pure desperation. I wish Ronda didn’t go that direction purely out of media-tactic, not to mention the morality of such a path.

Holm’s respect was consistent. As soon as the fight was called in her favor after her knockout kick to Ronda’s jaw, Holm didn’t drop any kind of veneer and start screaming at the unconscious Rousey yelling variations of “WHO’S THE CHAMP NOW BITCH??” and so on. Quite the opposite – she giddily pranced for a maximum of 2.1 seconds in a manner of “OMG OMG I’m so happy at what I just accomplished!” and then immediately walked over to Rousey to check her condition in a genuine gesture and then continued to be gracious, kind and upbeat throughout the cleanup, post-interviews and press meetings for the ensuing days.

Much respect to Holly Holm for all of this. Her demeanor was role-modely in sharp contrast to Ronda Rousey’s shamefully unmerited lack of sportsmanship.
As Lady Gaga put it:


Sorry Hippies: Welders do make more money than Philosophers

In the 4th debate for the Republican nomination to be the contender for President that faces off against the Democrat (see: “Hillary Clinton“) in the 2016 election, a question was posed about about whether the government should force employers to pay their least important and profitable employees a higher amount (instead of allowing the labor market to dictate pay based on the value and demand of the work a position holds). Amidst the candidates comments supporting freedom of choice over government meddling in the private decisions workers and businesses make for their own lives, Florida senator Marco Rubio cut to one of the causes of the question by noting the useless degrees many students choose to go into debt over more prudent vocational education.

“Here’s the best way to raise wages: Make America the best place in the world to start a business or expand an existing business, tax reform and regulatory reform, bring our debt under control, fully utilize our energy resources … repeal and replace ObamaCare, and make higher education faster and easier to access.”

He added:  “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.”

His closer of “You’re going to make people more expensive than a machine. We need more welders and less philosophers” was noted that proper grammar in such a context is “fewer philosophers”, not “less”. Others had more aggressive criticism of the comment in what seems to me to be merely a transparent attempt at finding something to attack more than anything resembling an actual legitimate point of contention.

While the points that people shouldn’t make themselves less valuable to employers than machines and that they should instead should go to school for an actual reason and not just to burn money and waste valuable years on completely non-beneficial titles for fields they don’t get employed in seems pretty unassailable – it was heavily assailed non-the-less. The reasons why are obvious, even though the point itself is an obvious one: aside from the academic industry not wanting dilution of its brand, there are a lot of people who have already wasted their time and money on useless degrees and want to feel better about that waste by continuing to laud them, not to mention opportunists who are merely looking for an excuse to take down Rubio’s rising star.

Evidently, Rubio was so sterling in his debate performance that this Welders vs Philosopher salary thing was the biggest trending story of the whole debate in articles and social media afterward.

The refrain in most of the reaction was in claiming that Rubio’s statement is wrong and that Philosophers actually make much more than welders.

Except they don’t, and here is how Rubio’s critics are making the false attack:

CNN notes that “Most critics cited the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which lists the median annual salary for welders at $37,420. For philosophy teachers, the wage is significantly higher: $63,630.” The obvious answer to this should be a resounding “so what?” as this means nothing.

A welding teacher is not necessarily a welder so why would anyone accept the bogus premise that a philosophy teacher is a philosopher? This is a fallacy of changing the goal posts since it is using imbalanced criteria to make a point. You either compare welding teachers to philosophy teachers (i.e: teachers compared to teachers) or you compare welders to philosophers (i.e: people gainfully employed doing the act of welding vs people who philosophize as their profession) but you can’t claim to un-make Rubio’s accurate point by keeping only half of his statement and changing the other half.

The other dubious debunking of Rubio’s claim rests on changing the context of his comment. The Washington Post headlined “Sorry Rubio. Philosophy majors actually make more than welders”. But why would Rubio a “sorry, but…” statement about yet another irrelevancy to his point? Again, the criticism requires changing the comments of the criticized, which in turn doesn’t go on to debunk a point but rather just goes into an irrelevant tangent that uses some of the same words in the original point.

Someone with a degree in Philosophy is just “someone with a degree in Philosophy”. You don’t become a lawyer by studying law in college – you become a lawyer by becoming a lawyer. Likewise, you don’t become a welder by studying welding – you study welding to become a welder.

Rubio didn’t say “those who study Philosophy” in his comparison, so what are his critics so afraid of that they can’t just respond to what he actually said? Probably because the context of his remarks make it clear that he was just using shorthand for “useless liberal arts major” in the context of minimum wage workers and as I noted earlier – that is impossible to argue against. But his critics couldn’t just let him go and make such an obvious and accurate point like that without appearing to counter it, so they engage in all this nonsense to obfuscate the truth.

But even playing the game of literalness these critics are using, the numbers and logic just don’t support the claims against the comment. To accurately fact check the legitimacy of Rubio’s point about “welders making more than philosophers”, one has to look at the number of people who studied philosophy and used that study to become employed as a philosopher vs those who learned welding and made a living from being a welder. Sorry, Philip Bump, who wrote that WashPo article, but what you study isn’t the same as what you do for a living. By Bumps metric, he’s conceivably including the hypothetical person who majors in philosophy in college and then went on to become a welder. But replace “welder” with anything and you’ve got the same non-point. A doctor, lawyer, scientist, politician, entrepreneur or other business professional might very well have majored in philosophy but they’re not “Philosophers” and it ain’t their philosophizing that earns them a higher salary than a welder.

The most bizarre criticism is from the people butthurt about an alleged attack on Philosophizing as a profession. You would think someone learned in the art of using logic and reason to understand reality would… do any of that… and then realize that making an obvious statement regarding advice about career trajectories is not an attack or statement that having a skill used in that career is useless.

I’m regarded as pretty self absorbed and I can’t imagine feeling similarly about such an obvious statement on the fields that apply to me. I’m an improvisational actor and would agree with a candidate saying we need more welders than improv performers. I also think improv should be taught in high schools, business schools, and elsewhere because of its inherent skill while at the same time telling everyone who will listen to absolutely not count on it as a career and instead learn an actual skill that actually builds things. Pretty simple to see the non-competition within those points, if you ask me, but others had trouble with Rubio’s comment as if he made some kind of condemnation on knowing anything about philosophy.

By using the intellectually dishonest metrics of “philosophy teachers” and “philosophy majors” to be synonymous with what a “philosopher” is, Rubio’s point is ignored, not fact-checked or even rebutted.

To revisit: Rubio’s point was about the responsibility of government and the individual. He said the responsibility of government is to make America the best place to start or grow business and that the responsibility of individuals is to train themselves for preparation in such a business climate by learning necessary skills for their career goals. He didn’t say anything against majoring in philosophy, one assumes (if they are to honestly appraise the argument he’s making) for a reason: such a major could very well fit into a larger career goal. His comment made an observation about preparation for success in the workplace and it was accurate: On average – welders earn more money than philosophers, so choose your education spending wisely and with a plan in mind.

There are a lot of welding jobs and there are very few philosopher jobs. There are essentially no philosophy jobs outside of entrepreneurially creating your own business or website, advice column, book, or becoming a thought leader that can command hefty speaking fees.

But even going off of the pre-mentioned fallacy about Philosophy teachers being “Philosophers” instead of what they actually are (“teachers”), the numbers don’t add up since the number of people who have risen to the title of tenured professors in philosophy is far smaller than the number of employed welders. Likewise, majoring in philosophy (or any other liberal art) that is not a requirement or aid to your intended profession is a waste, even if such major holders go on to make a good living outside of the field they majored in.

There is just no possible honest angle that makes Rubio’s comment incorrect.

Sorry Hippies, but the fact remains that most liberal arts majors made bad decisions with that choice and their inability to use those majors in the workforce illustrates it.

Non-Surprise: Your house cat really wants to kill you

Science shows what those of use not blinded by the allure of moving-stuffed-animals already knew:

The study is entitled “Personality Structure in the Domestic Cat (Felis silvestris catus), Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia), Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia), and African Lion (Panthera leo)” (PDF). Truly, I love these academic titles.

The researchers set out to discover whether there were any consistent similarities in personality between these disparate types of felines.

What they found was that each had three dominant personality types. The Scottish wildcat, for example, had at its core dominance, agreeableness and self-control. Which is not dissimilar to many of my Scottish friends.

How is this all not totally obvious and easily observable? –

In order to better understand cat personalities, cat experts rated a number of animals’ behaviors using the “Big-Five” human personality traits:

1- Openness to Experience
2- Conscientiousness
3- Extraversion/Introversion
4- Agreeableness
5- Neuroticism

According to the research, domestic house cats and African lions have similar personality structures. Both have strong characteristics related to dominance, impulsiveness and neuroticism.

If you have ever thought your cat was anxious, insecure, tense, suspicious, or aggressive toward you, you aren’t making it up. If they were bigger, your cats would probably consider killing you.

But the news isn’t all bad: just like lions, house cats are also playful, excitable and impulsively hilarious.