Tuesday, October 16, 2007

4 Marḥeshwan 5768: Dictionary Day/Reptile Awareness Day/Bosses’ Day


Worthy cause of the day: “Tell Toyota to get in gear on better gas mileage!”

Divine misconception of the day: “Watchdog bans ‘Jews for Jesus’ adverts”. Bluntly, “Jews for Jesus” is being downright deceptive. “Ten out of ten Jewish doctors recommend Jesus?” is not hyperbole. It is false advertising since the ten out of ten Jewish doctors are not a fraction from even a mediocre survey; they are a literal ten out of a literal ten Jewish doctors, all cherry-picked because they happen to have converted to “Jews for Jesus”. As such, it is completely statistically invalid, and if something this bad showed up in a paper I was reviewing, I would recommend the paper be outright rejected. Despite the organization’s claims that they did not mean for anyone to take the “ten out of ten” claim seriously and that they intended no offense, this is not the only time the organization has engaged in deceptive advertising; they have been sued by Jackie Mason for using his likeness and implying he was a Jew for Jesus (see “Press Release: Jews for Jesus and Jackie Mason”, “Jackie Mason Charges Against Jews For Jesus Denied By U.S. District Court”, and “Mason drops lawsuit vs. Jews for Jesus”). Furthermore, the way they do business in general is guaranteed to cause offense. “Jews for Jesus” is a form of Jewish-rite evangelical Christianity and is recognized as such by all major Orthodox Jewish and Reform Movement groups. The fact that Jewish rites have been added to Christianity theology in no way qualifies it as Judaism. After all, Christianity throughout its history has incorporated various pagan practices and beliefs (idolatry, deification of a human being, much of the practices of Easter and Christmas) without anyone claiming the religion now qualifies as paganism. The point of the camouflage in the first place is to trick ignorant Jews into converting to Christianity. While lying to unbelievers is not inherently religiously fallacious—some religions actually demand it—the fact that “Jews for Jesus” do so for non-emergency and ignoble reasons (i.e., no one is going to be murdered for being open that what they are preaching is Christianity) gives Jews every reason to distrust them and oppose them. Lying is also in violation of the New Testament (Colossians 3:9) and thus un-Christian.

Today’s news and commentary:Today's weird thing is a document made public by the Cybertonian Embassy-at-Large, delivered to me by a flying robot and included below. Enjoy and share the weirdness.


Dear Megatron,

I wasn't trained as a diplomat or a politician or anything like that, so I don't know how these official letters are supposed to sound. However, there have been some recent events you might care about, so here I go.

You probably know about the weird Army activity and stuff showing up on online sales that shouldn't be there and may be wondering why the FBI is poking around junkyards. It's a little complicated, so let me start at the beginning.

My parent is Wheeljack, one of the engineers among the Autobots. To be honest, that's being generous. On Cybertron, Wheeljack was a low-level spaceship technician who did some rather unpleasant cleaning jobs, and from the things he's said, I don't think he liked his boss. Tinkering for him was more of a hobby, one which the humans at the Groom Lake facility treated like he really knew something. At an early age I knew that when he threw together crazy gadgets, he really didn't understand much about how machines worked. I'm not any kind of genius, but with a little self-study in math and engineering and I quickly outpaced him. Not that I built any superweapons or anything. I was more interested in trying to understand our natural intelligence. I didn't get very far on my own, but humans have been working on their own version of the problem for much longer and still haven't figured it out either.

I wasn't just interested in mechanics, of course. Humans were always interesting, and after that stupid cartoon began airing it seemed like almost every Autobot was willing to do something stupid or humiliating to get human attention. My vehicular form wasn't fancy and I was something of a dork, so humans generally didn't care about me. But I was a stupid kid and tried making a fool of myself, but, frankly, all the humans at Groom Lake thought Optimus Prime and Bumblebee and whoever else was cool and everyone else could be forgotten.

The point where I started to do something really stupid was when there was one cartoon episode that dealt with "female Autobots." The whole thing was started accidentally when some human writer found out about a few Autobots who made themselves look vaguely like human women. These were at least second- and third-generation, a few trying to be different. The writer came to Groom Lake, poked around, and then wrote something which referenced a few real names and was otherwise total fluff fantasy. Suddenly Chromia and Moonracer topped Bumblee in the fan mail (mostly from adolescent human boys) and Elita One was furious someone had leaked her name.

Thanks to this, the younger Autobots started acting ridiculous. It wasn't just that there was suddenly a bunch of Autobots who decided that being female would get them a lot of human attention. The whole notion of "robots in disguise" idea was increasingly forgotten. The Dinobots were silly enough, but it was only then that the vehicle forms became obvious flashy concept cars with the whole point of attracting attention. Take Hot Rod, for instance. There aren't too many customized station wagons with painted flames on the hood.

Honestly, I wasn't any better than them. I like attention as much as the next robot, maybe even more than humans do. Wheeljack was pretty neglectful while he played with his gadgets, and with others in clear view getting gawked at by humans, the solution was pretty obvious. I designed a new vehicular form, new body plates, even whole new limbs. By the time I had rebuilt myself, there was barely a part of my outside that was the original. I was no longer a homely little robot who turned into a Dodge Dart. I now transformed into a sleek, futuristic convertible, and my humanoid form was very distracting to most of the Groom Lake humans. The new body felt like the remote control for one of those toy electronic cars, only this time it was humans I could move about, make them drool or hate me or do me little favors however I felt like it. That's why I renamed myself to something more fitting: Arcee.

I would have probably gone down a really nasty path if it hadn't been that cartoon movie. I got in it back when they arranged for some Hollywood humans to tour Groom Lake for "research." It was there I met Orson Welles, who went on to voice Unicron in the movie. He came by the building where Wheeljack and I had our workshop. Welles was very interested in extraterrestrials, so much so that many years ago, when the humans only broadcast audio transmissions, he played a practical joke where he broadcast fake news reports that extraterrestrials had invaded and were going on a destructive rampage. Somehow that there were real extraterrestrials that also wanted to protect humans pleased him, and we ended up talking for hours. Eventually he sent me a copy of his broadcast on an ancient device, the same kind they used to record data on the Voyager probes. He's probably one of the most interesting humans I've ever met.

I know how many humans have looked at me, both sexes. The human men tend to look at certain body parts below my face and sometimes drool. They're also supposed to like cars a lot, so I suppose I'm a cross between two different interests they have. When they get like this, they're not too interested in what I have to say. I've done a lot of the stupid stunts to get attention since then, which is pretty much a bad habit. But even when I pretended to be this shallow fool (humans react to this loudly for some reason), I know this is not everything I am, or even the most important part of me. We've been taught to dissociate, be one person around humans and another around our own kind, a difficult mix that for too many has been hard to keep up. It drove Optimus Prime mad and made many Autobot warriors think they were freedom fighters when they were nothing more than common thugs. Welles and a few humans like him helped me remember Arcee was a joke played on humans, and that there was a better part of me worth something.

As you know, someone decided to make a live-action movie about us, and the prospect made many young Autobots totally goofy. When you crave attention, you do almost anything, and that movie is a testament to our willingness to make total fools of ourselves for a little publicity, not to mention the humans' willingness to see anyone be foolish. We conform ourselves too much to be what others demand when our own interests and dignity should be important. Maybe someday I'll tell you some stories where I let the Arcee part get me in trouble, which if it happened to anyone else I'd find hilarious. This story won't be one of them.

Ironhide, the Autobot commander, is like the company that made that movie. You're just supposed to take it all in and accept it no matter how ridiculous it is. His logic is faulty and full of holes, just like an airhead plot full of idiots which serves as a lame excuse to put special effects on the screen. Just as you're expected to show up and pay and love it unconditionally, he expects us to support him no matter what. Refusal to do so is disloyal, unthinkable.

And yet we often think it. He's made too many mistakes. I don't like how he treats the humans. But I have to anyway.

At least until he did the truly unpalatable.

The rumors had been circulating for a while. Ironhide wasn't happy with life in the United States, thought it was time to leave. Where would we go? Russia? Saudi Arabia? China? India? (Personally I preferred Canada.) Everyone had their own theories, but there was this one night when we found out, and it wasn't pretty. The story that came down semiofficially was that Ironhide thought the United States was in decline, so we would ally ourselves with the country's archenemy, a state which had stood up to the United States and the whole planet and remained defiant. That is, we would be moving to Iran.

As the news spread, this did not go over well. Aside from the ingratitude to the United States for sheltering us for many decades, many Autobots, young and old, hated the idea. Most of us were quite bound to the culture and values of the United States, and some of what we had learned of Iran would require us to adapt in ways we would find unpalatable. And President Ahmadenijad is so obviously disturbed and dishonest that few of us felt he could be trusted, even less so than President Bush.

And yet, because Ironhide is the Autobot commander, we have to reach consensus by doing what he says. Or at least that was the old way for the Autobots. But the younger generations, infected as we are by everything else Earthling, have absorbed some fundamentally un- and anti-Autobot ideas. It went badly.

Many months ago, at a screening of that stupid movie in San Francisco, Hot Rod thrashed Elita One and suddenly became an enemy of the Autobots. So said Ironhide. What Ironhide says goes. Even if Hot Rod thought what so many others felt. He was quickly scheduled for execution at Groom Lake, stood up to be melted down in the furnace of death into scrap, the way too many freethinkers had already had gone. Ironhide showed up and made a long, ridiculous speech, was set to push the button. And then I showed up with this enormous gun which I claimed duplicated your arm canon. And I fired on Ironhide to prove it.

In all honesty, I have no idea how that canon works. The Autobots (and the United States government) would love to know how Cybertonian plasma weapons work, but no Autobot really knows how; attempts at reverse-engineering from the few samples we had haven't worked terribly well. What I really hacked together was a spray gun that shot out vintage jellied gasoline from the United States-Vietnam War. Ironhide might have been better off if he'd been hit by a regular plasma weapon as the napalm stuck and kept burning and really freaked out the humans on the base.

And then a small battle broke out. I got fired at, others fired back, and soon most of the Autobots were fighting each other. I can't really describe what happened well, it was a mess. I sprayed much of the robots around Hot Rod, and as they ran about in flames I got him down and tried getting him to safety. A lot of younger Autobots were on our side, and the old guard were fighting hard, and the Dinobots and Powerglide were with them instead of us, and quite a few were getting killed. I shooed the rebels back and told them to transform and roll out as I napalmed Powerglide and then ran out of jellied gasoline. I transformed and actually passed between Ultra Magnus's legs in making my escape, during which the humans were totally dumbfounded and Grimlock nearly stomped on me. If it wasn't for them needing to put out all the flaming robots, we might have been stopped.

I won't tell you everything about what happened next. It's not important and some of it would reveal too much. What I can say is we're now in hiding and have enough trouble as it is. We are no longer Autobots; we are now all Autobrats, and the Autobots are hunting us. So is the United States military. We've even seen an agent or two of that Cobra organization looking for us. Not that they will find us easily. You may have noticed the online ads for genuine Autobot parts popping up, by now passed through so many hands it's absurd. All of our reformattings are dull and common, none of us wears a symbol. If they want us, they will have to work for it.

Earth is our home. We have never known Cybertron and would be lost there. Even with this planet against us, we will not be like the Autobots, fleeing when things become unpleasant. The Autobrats will stay and fight for what we want, for what we believe in. And in pursuit of our freedom, we are willing to make an offer. So long as you leave us alone, we will return the favor. Heck, since we have a common enemy, we'll be happy to help you capture the Autobots and bring them to justice.

As an example of our goodwill, you'll find the hunk of metal this note is attached to is the Autobot special operations head Jazz. He's quite a warrior, but, as you'll notice, he's pretty helpless with his tires slashed and his shell wrapped in duct tape. And we'll be happy to gift-wrap any other Autobots we find for you. There'll be no trying to rule the planet or anything like that. All we ask is you let us stay on the only home we've ever known.

Sincerely yours,

Arcee, Autobrat Commander
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