I admit the sheer amount of wailing had me concerned. And I couldn't at that instant remember how the producers had talked me into this abandoned hotel in the middle of the night.
What no one really knew until that moment: One twenty-femtosecond burst from my plasma generator would strip the vapor cowl off any roaming spirit that tried to manifest. They thought being undead was bad, wait till they catch the hot breath of Science.
No pussyfooting around recording lots of backwards audio. This was my new show, Wraith Breakers.
Slate has an editorial by Farhad Manjoo, featuring the idiocy of people who write crank letters to NPR ("We Listen to NPR Precisely To Avoid This Sort of Stupidity"). Yes, I know some of my readers probably sympathize with the letter writers, plaintive plaints to keep their highbrow high.
But lo, there at the end of the dyspeptic quote-mine, we find this:
"You can't mention sports without someone saying, 'Why are you covering sports—it's just a bunch of Neanderthals, it's just a bunch of fascists!' " says NPR sports correspondent (and Slate sports podcast "Hang Up and Listen" panelist) Mike Pesca.
Imagine! I ask you: What kind of quisling would stack Neandertals and fascists in the same breath?
Today, it was Senator John Kerry:
And in what might have might been the most bizarre exchange of the two-hour gathering, Kerry apologized to one woman who claimed he had called her a Neanderthal for not believing in global warming.
Hmmm.... I think we can forgive the Neandertals for being skeptical about global warming.
From The Onion:
'Wait, That Can't Be Right,' Scientists Say
Oh, goodness I was rolling when I read this. It's pitch-perfect satire of paleoanthropology's stuffed shirts.
"There may be some slight inconsistencies in a few of our results, but I assure you these bone samples and behavioral analyses are all, well…look, I'm not going to stand here and tell you they're not a little ridiculous-looking," said Regina Hubbard-Price, associate director of the American Anthropological Association. "Obviously, with hindsight, yes, it's somewhat odd that our theory presupposes complex hunter-gatherer societies composed of large, 250-pound bipedal goat-men. But a lot of thought went into this, I swear."
Could. Not. Stop. Laughing.
I can't bear to watch it again, and I don't see why I should tolerate anyone else having to watch it. But I can't sit quietly while physicist Michio Kaku tells us how human evolution has stopped.
I'm telling you, don't go watch it. DON'T DO IT!
Oh, heck, how did that get there?
Don't press play, whatever you do. I'm warning you.
Kaku wants to tell you all about how life in the forest used to make us run fast, but now we don't have to do that anymore. He says that life on isolated island continents, like Australia, would rapidly accelerate our evolution. But today jet planes will spread your genes across the world, so our evolution has stopped.
Or, no, it's not all our evolution that's stopped -- Kaku says that's still going on because our molecules can change. No, it's gross evolution that has stopped. You know, like making our brains twice as big -- that would be gross.
What about genetic engineering, you ask? Well, Kaku says that changing genes is very painful. And we can't make pigs with wings, so why would we bother? No, many decades from now, humans will look pretty much the way they do now.
Well, you can't say I didn't warn you. That's today's "Big Think" for you -- timely news you can use. But no flying pigs.
Why do they have to bring poor Neandertals into it?
The eyebrow-raising slap came in response to [former senator Rick] Santorum's recent comments that Palin was likely skipping an annual gathering of conservatives in Washington this weekend because of other "business opportunities" and her mothering responsibilities.
"I will not call him the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal," Palin continued. "I'll let his wife call him that instead."
Oh, well, this is so easy a caveman could do it.
Before anyone asks: Yes, I'm aware of the Academy's unfortunate misspelling.
UPDATE (2011-01-25): On the subject of John Hawkes, I just love this quote from John Hawkes the novelist:
"The writer should always serve as his own angleworm —and the sharper the barb with which he fishes himself out of blackness, the better."
Cracked.com features "8 Famous Fictional Archaeologists Who Suck At Their Job".
OK, yes, this is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, what with Lara Croft, Brendan Fraser and the like. The list is so packed that they don't even find space for Allan Quatermain. Or maybe Alan Moore has successfully rehabilitated Quatermain's geek cred.
Anyway, the whole list is a hoot. Here's a snippet from the inevitable Indiana Jones entry:
We have lots of gold, Indy! We have people and machines whose entire job is to make holes in mountains until gold comes out, and you're collapsing a priceless trove of ancient machinery to recover something we could dig up in 10 minutes. Most archaeologists consider themselves lucky to find all the shards of the same destroyed vase, because they'll be able to put it back together in only a few months. That pressure-plate-triggered arrow-launcher? That was worth more than the gold. That shouldn't be that difficult for Indy, an archeologist, to comprehend. Yet he destroys ruins so intact they're actively trying to protect themselves from him. In other words, they weren't ruins until he arrived.
I think that real archaeology has a shortage of suitable MacGuffins. Of course, those silly "power stones" in Temple of Doom set the bar pretty low...
OK, at ScienceOnline2011 I did a little bit of talking about Neandertals represented in art. So this entry in the NAD files truly pains me.
You see, Britney Spears Watcher picked up that story from last year about how digit ratios predict that Neandertals were oversexed.
Neanderthals may be lampooned as slack-jawed low-brows who could just about wield a heavy club on a good day, but in one important respect they outperformed us: in the number of sex partners.
Well, yes, it is a delicious irony for a blog devoted to Britney Spears to refer to anyone as a "slack-jawed low-brow" with too many sex partners. But that's not what had me concerned. No, it was the accompanying picture:
Dude! They didn't even give him a Ken Bump.
I mean, really -- I know that Britney Spears fans are always looking for quality family-friendly material, but this is just rude. Plus, I think it's sort of obviously one of those times like when they put Oprah's head on Ann-Margret's body.
UPDATE (2011-01-20): Gretchen says it's a Neandertal merkin.
And that, my friends, is Google gold.