Conan O’Brien goes off to buy Greenland

If there is an unofficial good will ambassador for the US, it may well be late night talk show host and comedian Conan O’Brien. On an occasional series on his show called Conan Without Borders that can be seen on Netflix, he has gone to places that have been demonized by the US over a long period (such as Cuba) as well as those that have been brutally exploited by the US and more recently insulted by Donald Trump (like Haiti and Mexico) and in his interactions with the people and his description of the country shows Americans how mistaken these views are and that we would be a lot better off having good relations with the people of those nations.
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Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019)

I have long been a fan of comedian Zach Galifianakis’s online sketch show Between Two Ferns where he passive-aggressively, and sometimes outright insultingly, interviews celebrity guests. Here is one sketch where he interviews Ben Stiller.

It appears that they have made a film version of it that will be released on Netflix on September 20.

It is often the case that sketch comedy does not translate well into the long form version, so we’ll have to see how this turns out.

But here’s the trailer.

The Brexit endgame begins

The UK parliament has passed the third reading of the bill to ban a no-deal Brexit by a margin of 327-299 and it now goes to the House of Lords for approval before it can be signed into law by the Queen. In response to this second major defeat in the two days he has been in parliament as prime minister, Boris Johnson has called for a new general election to be held on October 15. But under a law that was adopted during David Cameron’s period as prime minister, parliament needs to vote by a two-thirds majority to be dissolved before its scheduled five-year term ends, which means that Johnson needs opposition support for the move. The rules also say that at least 25 days must pass between dissolution and the election. But Johnson’s motion for dissolution only garnered 298 votes, well short of the 434 needed, thus handing him his third consecutive defeat.
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The dark side of cruises

People seem to like going on cruises since it is apparently a rapidly growing business, despite some recent horror stories of norovirus outbreaks on the boats. From what I can tell from the advertisements, these things are a floating combination of hotels and amusement parks. But in the latest episode of his show Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj says that underneath all the gaiety and laughter, the business model of these companies is based on ruthless exploitation of labor, dumping of waste into the environment, and a massive amount of greenhouse gas emissions, combined with careful avoidance of any responsibility for anything that might go wrong on board, including sexual assault.

Given my slightly introverted nature, I think I would not find cruises enjoyable. Being constantly surrounded by large numbers of people who are determined to have a good time 24/7 and get the maximum benefit from the limited time on board would wear me out pretty quickly. I would likely retreat to my cabin for long periods of time, which would defeat the purpose of going on a cruise.

Hasan Minhaj on the opioid drug crisis

It is hard to be funny when you are talking about the massive destruction that is being caused by the indiscriminate use of pain-killing drugs, and Minhaj’s episode of Patriot Act on this topic is only sporadically funny. It seemed like he felt obliged to throw in some jokes since his is technically a comedy show, but his heart was not really in it, especially since he has known people who succumbed to early deaths due to these highly potent drugs like fentanyl, where even a tiny amount can kill you and many users are not even aware that the drugs they are taking contain fentanyl mixed in.
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Really good deep fake of Tom Cruise

Actor Bill Hader is known for his impressions of famous people, a skill he used to good effect when he used to be a cast member of Saturday Night Live. In a recent TV interview he recounted meetings with Tom Cruise and Seth Rogan and did impressions of them. Someone took that video and whenever Hader did an impression, did a deep fake to make him actually look like the person he was impersonating.

The transitions are so smooth as to be uncanny. It is really well done and also deeply disturbing at the potential to dupe people.

What Brexit meant in practice was never clear

Faux journalist Jonathan Pie points out that in the 2016 Brexit referendum, while the choice between Remain and Leave seemed straightforward enough, in practice only one position, the Remain one, was well-defined because that kept the status quo. What Leave meant was never quite thought through and this led to Leave voters being able to project onto it all their frustrations with the status quo and with Europe, resulting in the current mess where there is a real possibility of a breakup of the UK, something that I doubt few Leave voters seriously wanted.