Thursday, December 27, 2007

My "Z"s never end up on the triple letter box

Please forgive me for the painfully obvious word play I'm about to cough up right here: Scrabulous, my friends, is quite simply fabulous. (Yeah, Emily Dickenson, top that one!)

For those who have not been indoctrinated into the Scrabulous way of life, let me explain this wondrous creation. It's, um, basically Scrabble that you can play online with your Facebook friends. Yup. That's it. Big deal, you say, I can play Scrabble with my real life friends, sitting in a comfy chair while sipping sherry by the fire.

That's all well and good but for those of us without friends or fireplaces, Scrabulous kicks word-game ass. And here's why -- it lets you interact with people without actually having to come up with anything to say. For a socially inept individual like myself, this is manna from shy-person heaven. There's only so many times you can ask an old schoolmate what they do for a living before they start to suspect your short-term memory or your sanity. By clicking that little "Start a new game" link on Scrabulous, though, and inviting that old friend to play, you've now made a connection. There's even a little chat box so you and your friend (or friends) can trash talk about your respective inabilities to maximize the letter "Q" or create a convincing verb out of 7 "U"s. It's a dignified method of social connection -- and a great way to build your vocabulary. What more could you ask for?*

*To actually win a game, but that's a conversation for another day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Wishing you all the best...

Here's hoping you're all recovering well from your Festivus celebrations. I just wanted to wish everyone a very merry Christmas, a happy post-Hanukkah, a festive Kwanzaa and for the athiests, an awesome Monday and Tuesday. And a heartfelt thank you to everyone who read The Park Bench this past year. It is truly appreciated.

I'll be posting a bit later in the week, but for now, I'll leave you with your choice of two holiday videos: first, a hopefully baked Carrie Fisher singing a song from the infamous Star Wars Holiday special while Harrison Ford looks on in agony and second, one of my personal holiday favorites, MST3K's A Patrick Swayze Christmas. (Unless you're a masochist -- which is a perfectly acceptable life choice -- then I'd go with Swayze. It's always safer with Swayze!) Happy holidays everyone!

Star Wars:

MST 3K's A Patrick Swayze Christmas:

Friday, December 21, 2007

News of the Day

+ Former Park Bench Nerd Men of the Month Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will be returning to the airwaves on Jan. 7, following other late night hosts like Letterman, Leno and Conan. I have no idea what they're going to do without their writers -- read the real news? I've got my Wolf Blitzer action figure for that. Apparently, Stewart and Colbert aren't quite sure what they're going to do either, judging by the joint statement they released on Thursday: "We would like to return to work with our writers. If we cannot, we would like to express our ambivalence, but without our writers we are unable to express something as nuanced as ambivalence."

+ Wow, I totally call bullshit on this news story from the BBC citing recent research that says "men are naturally more comedic than women because of the male hormone testosterone." My penchant for comfortable shoes already makes me feel manish enough, and now I've got this hanging over my head?

+ And finally, manishly funny Tina Fey has been named one of the most influential women of 2007 by MSN. Yeah, suck on that, science. Why don't you go play with your glow in the dark cats while we turn our backs on evolution to spite you?

+ The Judd Apatow backlash has begun! Of course, this backlash is a guffaw-worthy backlash because Apatow conjured it himself. And yes, it's pretty much just an ad for "Walk Hard," but it's worth it just to see Paul Rudd and Justin Long playing Rock Band. (Not safe for work.)

+ The Aaron Sorkin/Mike Nichols/Tom Hanks flick, "Charlie Wilson's War" opens today. My love for Sorkin took a slight tumble after "Studio 60" but I'm prepared to love him all over if this movie lives up to my unreasonable expectations. I'm thinking it has to be good, though, considering this preview features music from both Scissor Sisters and Jimi Hendrix.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Goodbye, 2007. Don't let the space-time continuum hit your ass on the way out.

It seems these days everyone's doing their look back at the top whatsits and whosits of 2007. Just to be contrary, I decided to jump ahead in my time machine and compile a brief list of things I'm most looking forward to in 2008:

The return of "Lost"
Seriously, I don't care if we only get eight episodes of "Lost" next year, previews like this one have been whetting my appetite like crazy for the return of everyone's favorite incomprehensible, maddening and jaw-dropping island adventure. I mean, we're going to have to get at least a few answers, right? Like why did Future Jack give up on personal grooming, despite having what I assume is better access to Gillette products? Is the hobbit really dead? Why is Jacob played by Norman Bates' mother -- and is he/she really a ghost? Who gets off the island? Who gets left behind to groom the polar bear? All I know is, January 31 can't come fast enough.

So many good movies, so many chances they could suck
Jaded as I am, I know at least 50 percent of the movies I'm jonesing to see in 2008 are probably going to blow, but I still can't help being excited. First off, we've got "Cloverfield" giving us explosions galore on January 18. The monsters look like Gamera and J.J. Abrams is attempting to fuck with my head -- two things that always make me happy. Then on April 4, we get a tasty helping of John Krasinski, George Clooney and old-time football in "Leatherheads," a perfect way to satisfy the pretty boy quota. The big boys come out to play with "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" on May 22 -- hello Grandpa Harrison, you'll always be hot to me...even if it's getting kind of creepy. Then on July 25, Mulder and Scully return to fill my retinas with joy in the X-Files sequel. And there's another six or seven goodies after that, including the new Harry Potter movie, another James Bond flick with that Daniel Craig fellow who actually looks like a bad-ass, even when he's sipping a cocktail. It should be a good movie-going year. I estimate gaining another 7,000 pounds in Sno-cap consumption alone.

Cinematic Titanic, I'm prepared to love you...
You should know this about me: as a young impressionable wanna-be writer, "Mystery Science Theater 3000" blew my mind on a continual and herniatingly funny basis. Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl, Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff and the rest of the gang are comedy heroes. I still think back on things like "Manos: The Hands of Fate" (aka "Hands: The Hands of Fate") with equal measures of wonderment and horror. So you can imagine my glee at the reunion of these fine folks with their new project Cinematic Titanic, described as a "new movie riffing system." Honestly, I'm kind of stupid so I'm not even 100 percent sure what that means, but I do know that I want it, it's coming soon and I'm ready to laugh. A lot. Seriously, I'm doing extensive ab work just to prepare.

The Ron Paul/Mike Gravel Cage Match
Moderated by Wolf Blitzer, the Closet Libertarian and the Alaskan Contrarian, slathered in bear grease, beat each other senseless. Okay, the odds are pretty long on this one happening, but a girl who's sick of politics can dream, can't she?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wait, it's got cars and it's funny?

For me, cars can best be described as four wheels and a big yawn. Unless they were built in the ‘30s and are pretty to look at, they just don’t hold my interest. There’s too many letters and numbers and mechanics involved – “it’s a Mark 12PDQ and it’s got a V-8 with 400 cylinders and a Belgian hamster fan belt.” My brain just doesn’t get it.

What my brain does get – and in fact, likes very much – is BBC America’s “Top Gear,” a show ostensibly about cars but much more about three British guys doing ridiculous things at unsafe speeds. For example, there was the episode where they painted “NASCAR sucks,” “I hate country and western” and “Hillary For President” on the sides of their cars and tried to drive through Alabama. I emphasize the word “tried” because, in true American fashion, a whole bunch of rednecks proceeded to chase them from a gas station and try to kill them. Welcome to the USA, British people! Then there was the time one of the hosts, Jeremy Clarkson, designed his own interior for a Mercedes. He wanted it to be homey, ergo he put in stone floors, plastered over the doors, added a wood burning stove – complete with chimney out the trunk – and replaced the seats with cozy dinner table chairs…that were not nailed down. For finishing touches, he added a book case, miniature globe and tea service. You can best imagine the test drive by picturing a doll house strapped to a turbo charged engine and driven be two adult men who should know better but thankfully, just ignore common sense. Oh, and then there was the time they played soccer with subcompacts:

There are some boring bits to get through each week – like when they talk about cars – but those moments are mitigated by the camaraderie and sly senses of humor of hosts Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond, who you might recognize from another BBC show, “Brainiac. There are celebrity test drives, too, where they let everyone from Gordon Ramsey to Ewan McGregor drive crappy little autos around a track as fast as they can, pitting their best times against each other. They also feature interesting little items on new technologies for cars, explaining these gadgets in easy-to-understand terms that actual make them look interesting and desirable. I learned loads from watching their piece comparing the homing systems of carrier pigeons to the navigational innards of a GPS system.

So even if you’re not too wild about cars, don’t be afraid to take “Top Gear” out for a spin. (See what I did there?) The show underscores one of life’s most important lessons: funny British guys really can make anything fascinating.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why, David Yates? Why?

(Warning: Serious whining ahead. Also, spoilers for folks who haven’t read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix or seen the movie.)

You know that feeling you get when Christmas morning comes and you look under the tree and the cat has vomited on the new cashmere sweater you’d been wanting for months? Yeah, that’s kind of the feeling I got after watching "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

I never got a chance to see this latest Harry Potter installment in the theaters, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting its release on DVD. Order of the Phoenix is hands-down my favorite of the Potter books. It had heart and depth and angst and a generous helping of Sirius, which makes me happy indeed. In fact, this was the only one of the books to actually make me cry – I got quite weepy and perhaps inappropriately angry at Sirius’ demise. (I just kept thinking, “But...but...that means no more Gary Oldman.”)

So you can imagine how excited I was to find how this installment had turned out on the big screen. Which leads me to one simple question: David Yates, what the hell did you do to my book? And yes, I’m choosing to blame him rather than screenwriter Michael Goldberg although I’d probably give Goldberg a glare or two as well if we met on the street. The thing is, I understand having to cut giant chunks out of an 850+ page book in order to fit it into a 2 1/2 hour movie. That’s fine. But good God, throw in a transitional scene every now and then. Without transitional scenes, there’s no opportunity to create an emotional build-up. You know, something that would actually make the end battle between Dumbledore, Voldemort and Harry matter.

A few expositional scenes would have been nice, too. As a viewer, I was too busy wondering what the hell was going on – and I’d read the damn book! -- to get invested in the characters. And my poor husband, who hasn’t read Order yet, spent most of the movie asking me what just happened – he didn’t even realize Sirius died. He just thought he got sucked into the mirror thingy (technical jargon) and disappeared. Now that’s bad – when you lose a main character, it’s supposed to mean something and, um, the audience is supposed to know it happened.

I’m completely willing to trade in all the arty camera angles and washed-out color palettes and set designs stolen from The Trial in exchange for some decent pacing, smooth transitions and quiet moments of character development. Is that too much to ask?

The thing that really blows here is that the last two movies before this one were so good. The whole series was really on a roll and now there’s this great big Phoenix-sized lump in the road and, well, it makes me sad. And to know that Yates is doing The Half-Blood Prince makes me even sadder. Like the cat just vomited on two sweaters.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's art! Kinda...

If I ever lost my mind, bought a van and decided to paint something on the side of it, it would be this:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nine Out of Ten Cougars Agree: Michael Cera Makes a Fine Nerd Man of the Month

On behalf of all women over the age of 25, I would like to start by saying, "Please God, forgive us for finding Michael Cera adorable. It's entirely your fault for giving him doe eyes. Amen."

And now, with that out of the way and with the merest hint of moral trepidation still resonating in our consciences, the old ladies of The Park Bench are pleased to name Michael Cera -- totally of legal age -- our December Nerd Man of the Month.

So, besides the doe eyes, what earns Cera this prestigious honor, coveted by so many and attained by so few? Well, for one thing, the kid's hilarious. His turn as George Michael Bluth in "Arrested Development" should go down in TV history as one of the funniest deadpan portrayals of teenage awkwardness ever captured on film. George Michael was the heart of that show, a good kid saddled with the most messed up family this side of a Meredith Baxter Birney Lifetime movie. Whatever happened to George Michael -- whether it was his hilariously unfortunate crush on his cousin or the forced bonding with his dad -- you just felt wonderfully sorry for the kid. In any other actor's hands, George Michael could have turned into a miserable little bastard. In Cera's capable hands, George Michael became the most sympathetic character on the show, enduring every unfortunate turn with that sad resigned smile, waiting to see what fresh hell awaited him next.

On the big screen, Cera has made his mark with two terrific performances in "Superbad" and "Juno." Tall and gangly, seemingly uncertain where to put those long arms and legs of his, Cera is the perfect nerd everyman. He's shy but self confident, willing to bend to keep the peace but not above showing those little flares of anger that give a character three dimensions. Watch those two movies one after the other and you'll marvel at the distinctive shades Cera gives each role. I'm telling you right now: the kid's going to win an Academy Award one day. Then again, I never saw the Fresh Prince and Marky Mark nominations coming last year, so what the hell do I know about the Oscars?

Cera wins nerd man honors, too, for the fact that he's a creative force unto himself. Just check out the online TV series he does with Clark Duke, and you'll find a guy still in his teens who can write subtle comedy with the ease and finesse of someone twice his age. Need some persuading? Watch his "Impossible Is the Opposite of Possible" self-help video:

And finally, he's Canadian and you know how much we nerds love the Canadians.

Review: Sweeney Todd

Hey, are you in the mood for a really, really dark, semi-depressing musical gorefest starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter's cleavage? Then Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" is for you.

I just got back from a preview showing of the new flick and here are some important salient facts I learned and which I will consequently share with you:

1) This is a good movie. It pulls you in from the moment Johnny Depp with his white-streaked hair and raccoon eyes first appears on screen. There's a quiet little hiccup when he first starts singing and you're suddenly reminded, "Oh yeah, this is a musical." But almost immediately, this story of a barber driven mad by the loss of his wife and child and the horrifying acts he commits in the name of revenge will have you pinned to your seat.

2) Johnny Depp can sing. This really shouldn't be a shock because by now we all should just accept the fact that Johnny can do anything including but not limited to: flying, performing a flawless Heimlich Maneuver, building a computer from string and Scotch tape, and knitting.

3) This is a ridiculously gory movie. In fact, if Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino had a love child, it would be Tim Burton directing this movie. I'm not good with gore so I watched a good portion of it with my hands over my eyes, but as grisly as some of the images are, they're not entirely gratuitous. This is a Gothic, over-the-top Broadway spectacular -- this level of violence and the broadness with which it's portrayed seems necessary.

4) I say this as a completely heterosexual woman: Helena Bonham Carter's bosom is extraordinary.

5) I'm still not overly fond of Stephen Sondheim's work, and I feel quite guilty about it. I'm not saying the music isn't good. It's actually terrific music. My quibble is with his lyrics and I apologize in advance for this analogy: like Alanis Morisette, Sondheim is prone to cramming as many words as humanly possible into as small a musical phrase as possible. And while the lyrics are always endlessly witty and smart, the total effect just sounds a bit awkward to me.

6) For all you Buffy fans out there, Anthony Stewart Head makes one of those "blink and you'll miss him" cameos toward the beginning of the film. Thankfully, Giles does not get offed. I don't think I could have handled that one.

In short, this is a very dark and violent movie. At the same time, though, it's enthralling and genuinely different from anything else I've seen this year. And ultimately, it's worth the price of admission just to see and hear Johnny Depp create another unforgettable character. The dude's so good I'm surprised he has enough time to knit.

Three photos

Photos of the new Knight Rider car from the upcoming TV movie remake have been revealed. To me, it just looks like...well...a car, but hey, I'm a girl so what do I know?

And here we've got Heath Ledger in full costume as The Joker from the upcoming Christopher Nolan-directed Dark Knight movie. I kind of think he looks like Shakes the Clown in that scene when he made out with Florence Henderson, but hey, I'm a girl so what do I know?

Best of all, the first photos from the new X-Files movie have surfaced. Here's David Duchovny running like the sexy Fox Mulder he is. There's some chick named Amanda Peet next to him but that's not really important. Hello Fox, how I've missed you....

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review: Juno

Last night I went to a special screening of the new film, "Juno," which included a Q&A session with screenwriter Diablo Cody and was kind of like getting the DVD extras before the DVD actually comes out -- which is to say, it was great.

"Juno" is the first screenplay written by Cody, who started out blogging about her life as a stripper. She eventually wrote a book about her experiences and soon after that was invited to write the script that became "Juno."

Seeing this movie, you would not know this is the work of a first-time screenwriter except for the fact that the work has the integrity of a newcomer. This is a very funny and ultimately very touching film about Juno, a 16 year old girl who gets pregnant, as her stepmother says, for the true and mundane reason that sometimes "kids get bored and they have intercourse," and decides to give the baby up for adoption to a seemingly perfect couple played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. The emotional core of the film, Cody claimed, comes from director Jason Reitman. "I don't like message movies," Cody said. "I don't like movies where anything touching or moving happens. I like 'Anchorman' so that should tell you something."

I think she's selling herself way short there. The complexity of these characters and the situations they're in cannot help but generate emotion, from Garner's character who's desperate to be a mother to Bateman's character who's kind of a creep (sorta, maybe) to Juno who tries to be tough but who wants everything to be right so badly that it hurts to the father of the baby, played by Michael Cera, who just seems confused but good-hearted about the whole thing. This is a complicated movie with heart and charm and great jokes including my favorite, a description of the Roosevelts -- "not Ted," Juno says, "but Franklin, the hot one with polio."

The acting is uniformly outstanding. Ellen Page, who you may remember from a disturbingly inverted Red Riding Hood tale called "Hard Candy," plays Juno as a girl who is blisteringly smart about everything except how the world really works. Allison Janney as Juno's stepmother steals every scene she's in and I'm begging the powers that be to give her that Oscar nomination right now. Jennifer Garner is wonderful, too, as a woman who wants a baby so badly she becomes blind to everything else around her. And Michael Cera puts in another fine performance as a good kid in a tough situation. Jason Bateman does a fascinating turn, too, as a guy not yet ready to grow up. Despite the things he does, Bateman plays his character in such a way that you just can't hate him. As Cody said, "I want (him) to be happy, too, even though he's creepy."

As an aside, it was great to see "Arrested Development" co-stars Cera and Bateman in a movie together even though they never share the screen. As an "Arrested Development" fan herself, Cody said, "If I had known they were going to be in the film together, I would have written nine scenes with them together and totally fucked up the movie." It might actually have been worth it.

If you have a chance to see this film, do it. Now. Please.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I expect the Vienna Boys Choir will be singing this one next year

From the fine comedy makers of Supermasterpiece comes this insightful video weighing the merits of Christmas versus Hanukkah. Personally, I'm a Hanukkah fan -- it's eight days long, for cryin' out loud, that's some fine holiday longevity. Plus, potato pancakes. Mmmm....

P.S. If you watch this at work, you might want to slip on some headphones. There are naughty bits. Enjoy!

50 Nerdy Things to Do Before You Die...

Part wish list, part to-do list, part flight of fancy...but 100 percent nerd.

50. Have a fashionista compliment you on your outfit.

49. Get married on a replica of the starship Enterprise at the "Star Trek: Experience" in Las Vegas.

48. Be bold and take your action figures out of the box, value be damned!

47. Visit the grave of pioneering comic book artist Jack Kirby.

46. Live James Joyces' Ulysses by attending the Bloomsday Festival in Dublin. (Reading Ulysses first -- or at least buying the Cliff's Notes -- might be good here, too.)

45. See all of Shakespeares' histories performed. Yes, even the crap ones. (Helloooooo, King John!)

44. Visit the yet-to-be-made Harry Potter theme park.

43. Visit the yet-to-be-made Harry Potter theme park and try not to cry tears of girly joy.

42. Defeat King Koopa. Just once, damn it!

41. Have martinis and make witty comments at the Algonquin Hotel in New York, preferably at a round table.

40. See at least one game at all existing Major League Baseball ballparks.

39. Make a tour of Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles. After that, make a tour of The Big Lebowski’s Los Angeles.

38. Draw a map of a nonexistent or fictional place.

37. Visit DC Comics’ office.

36. Check out the computer labs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, future birthplace of HAL-9000.

35. Go to the Superman Festival in Metropolis, IL.

34. Have dinner with Adam West (Batman), Burt Ward (Robin) and Linda Carter (Wonder Woman). Denigrate Gil Gerard.

33. Visit the respective castles that inspired Frankenstein and Dracula.

32. Match or out-do Eugene Andreev's record-setting freefall from an altitude of 83,523 ft (25,457 m).

31. Build your own lightsaber.

30. Visit Riverside, Iowa, future birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk.

29. Watch the sunset from inside the "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" dinosaur.

28. Convince Harold Bloom that Tolkien's Ring trilogy belongs in the canon just as much as that stuffy old Faerie Queene. Plus, hello, hobbits!

27. Go to an underground sing-along screening of the Buffy Musical. (When Buffy is outlawed, only outlaws will sing-along to Buffy.)

26. See the butter cow at the Iowa State Fair.

25. Spend an entire weekend watching Miyazaki films. Subsequently achieve outstanding bliss.

24. Witness a live space shuttle launch. Extra points if you're piloting it.

23. Create an elaborate, unnecessarily detailed wiki about a fictional universe or series of stories.

22. Smuggle your soul into a futuristic robot. One thousand years from now, mock the suckers who fell for cryogenics.

21. Kill a zombie.

20. Kick Eric Clapton's ass in "Guitar Hero."

19. Become an editor and get paid to correct other people's grammar errors.

18. Make a pilgrimage to the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum in Key West, Florida, and pet his six-toed cats.

17. Learn advanced Klingon.

16. "Accidentally" get locked in a bookstore for seven or eight days.

15. Watch 24 hours of "24" without falling asleep or hallucinating about Tony's soul patch. Seriously. It can't be done.

14. Understand a Tom Stoppard play on the first viewing.

13. Visit the International Space Station and go for a spacewalk.

12. Join the 501st Stormtrooper Brigade.

11. Memorize enough digits of pi to be impressive but not weird.

10. Be part of the first Wii Sport Olympic team. Be satisfied in the knowledge that your groin pulls will only ever be virtual.

9. Make out with Joss Whedon or J.K. Rowling. Extra points if you achieve a two-fer.

8. Gain at least one bionic limb or superpower

7. Feel again like you felt the first time you saw "Star Wars."

6. Correct Alex Trebek on the pronunciation of something French. Consequently hold him when he cries.

5. Figure out what the hell "Lost" is about. [This item also works for "The Prisoner," "Twin Peaks," "Cloverfield," and the popularity of Oprah.]

4. Solve a New York Times crossword puzzle...with your eyes closed. Just kidding. Doing one in pen with no mistakes in under 10 minutes is good, too.

3. Defeat those brainiac kids in the Scripps Spelling Bee Contest.

2. Get something published in The New Yorker. Have David Remnick call and ask where you've been all his life.

1. Live to see the day when smart and witty wins out over hot and shallow every single day of the week.

Contributors: Leonard Pierce, Meghann Williams, Annie, Scott, Kevin Church, One Pink Shoe, Ms. C

Thursday, December 06, 2007

News of the Day

+ If you've ever wondered what R2D2 would sound like reciting the works of Shakespeare, now's your chance to find out, thanks to this R2D2 translator. (Spoiler alert: R2D2 reciting Shakespeare sounds a lot R2D2 reciting anything...but with a British accent. Totally classy.) [Found via Kristallin at Livejournal's We Love Geeks.]

+ From Wired, this is my favorite news story of the year:

Boy Survives Moose Attack Thanks To World Of Warcraft
By Earnest Cavalli
Hans Jørgen Olsen, a 12-year-old Norwegian boy, recently survived a moose attack by feigning death, "just like you learn at level 30 in World of Warcraft."

In WoW, "feign death" is a skill acquired by hunters at level 30 that allows them to take a page from the possum playbook, collapse to the ground, and convince their enemies -- who lose all ingrained animosity in the process -- that they've died.

According to Norwegian site Nettavisen , Hans and his sister apparently enraged one of the local moose (mooses? meese?) during a walk in the forest near their home. After shouting at the gigantic creature to ward it away from his sister, Olsen dropped to the ground, and presumably his lifebar plummeted to zero.

Moose have never been known as the wisest creature in the forest, and the boy's show of necrosis seems to have worked, as both he and his sister survived intact.

It's easy to decry video games as a menace to society but in a world where MMOs save adorable, tow-headed Norwegian children from a deadly moose, can they really be that bad?

+ This dude's created 56 geek posters showcasing all the different geek species. Sadly, he depict mostly guys -- except for the Scrapbrook Geek, which somehow seems slightly insulting. It's a pretty cool selection. I'm definitely this type, but with a better figure:

+ And finally, here's my moment of Zen: Puss N'Boots playing with a dangly ball on his stocking cap, courtesy of the "Shrek the Halls" Christmas special. Watch until the end for his last remark, which pretty much sums up my entire life:

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Kellie Pickler offers us nerdy women a renewed sense of intellectual superiority...just in time for Christmas!

I know everyone in the entire world has probably already seen this, but I find myself unable to refrain from laughing at a blonde woman named Pickler...especially when she's not quite sure if France is, you know, a country.

When a fifth-grader and Jeff Foxworthy both look at you like you're a fucking idiot, well, that's just sad.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

News of the Day

+ If you do just one thing you do for yourself today, please let it be this: watching a video of two-legged robots - including a kick-ass penguin - fighting each other. They do their own versions of the whole "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" dance, and I think I love them.

+ Did you hear they found a dinosaur fossil with skin? (No Bea Arthur jokes.) Here's what the dermally-enhanced critter looks like:

I think it looks like a tire track, which may explain why I'm not one of those paleontologists. Also, I would call everything we dug up "Barney." That's another reason.

+ I always knew recycling could be more exciting than just pulling wet Delmonte labels off of cans. Look at what this creative cat-loving, computer-gutting person made out of an old monitor and a feline:

+ For days, I was seeing these bright red eyes staring out at me from the TV every time I watched a show on Fox. Naturally, I assumed some sort of alien spirit was hunting me down and simply re-adjusted my tin foil hat. Now, though, I find it was just an advertisement for the new series, "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," which I mentally pooh-poohed until I found out it stars Summer Glau from "Firefly." And look, she's joined Cirque Du Soleil:

Is it weird that I think her legs are telling me they're "this many" days old?

+ And finally, and perhaps most important of all, The Spice Girls have reunited... The Village People. Welcome back, 1978!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Take that, Noam Chomsky!

Mental Floss magazine has a wonderfully funny and informative article on the top ten smartest primates in history. If you love monkeys -- and who doesn't? -- you've got to check it out, if only to learn good cocktail party fodder such as this:

"(Noam) Chomsky derided trainers for attempting to teach sign language to primates and insisted that only the human mind is capable of grasping the complexities of language syntax.

Naturally, zoologists around the world became eager to prove him wrong. Enter Neam Chimpsky ("Nim" for short), the chimpanzee designed to be a stiff middle finger to the doubtful Chomsky. In the mid-1970s, trainers did everything they could to teach American Sign Language to Nim, but the chimp only mastered 125 signs.

Apparently, his lingual development was sabotaged by his own one-track mind. His most advanced utterance was, 'Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you.'"

Sometimes you just gotta have an orange.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Review: Razor

"Battlestar Galactica" is a very smart TV show. Sometimes, though, it might be too smart. The new TV movie, "Battlestar Galactica: Razor," which debuted last night on the Sci-Fi Channel, suffers from this defect: it's too dense and too crafty for its own good.

Which is not to say there's not a lot to like in this two-hour film, which provides a welcome return to the BSG world after so many months away. The movie tells three stories: what happened on the Battlestar Pegasus from the moments after the Cylons annihilated the Colonies to the days leading up to their rendezvous with Battlestar Galactica; what happened on Pegasus after Admiral Cain was killed and Lee Adama took command; and a brief episode revealing what Admiral Bill Adama learned about the evolution of the Cylons during the first Cylon war. The film flits back and forth in time, tying the stories together thematically rather than chronologically. In my opinion, there is simply too much going on here. The stage feels enormously crowded, taking away from the strongest storyline: that belonging to Cain and the moral, ethical and existential struggle faced by the Pegasus crew after the massacre of the human race. I know why they balanced it with the later storyline -- to remind us of the different moral choices that leaders are sometimes forced to make -- but as glad as I was to see familiar faces (hello, Starbuck!), I couldn't help but feel it slowed the story down.

Maybe I'm just biased because of my belief that Michelle Forbes (Admiral Cain) is one of the most under-appreciated actresses out there. Sure, she always plays a hard-ass, but she always paints those portraits in subtle shades. Cain is one of her finest roles, allowing her to make us feel equal measures of empathy and horror at her bloodthirsty actions, from killing civilians to gunning down her second in command to creating a monster in her image in the form of young Kendra Shaw, the character through whom the Pegasus story is told. Somehow you can understand why Shaw admires Cain -- even to the point where she commits a horrible act in her name -- but you can understand, too, the guilt that eats her alive from that day forward.

Did I mention that this is a dark movie? Not too shocking when it comes to BSG. This really, though, is a dark tale, full of ruminations on the aftershocks that even the smallest decisions can create. How do people in the throes of war know who to trust? What happens when people they love betray them? Is it okay to ever let their guard down? Who is expendable and who isn't -- and more importantly, whose decision is that to make? These are big, dramatic issues worthy of all the dark lighting and poundy music that signify the best BSG episodes.

Which is why my cage got rattled every time Lee Adama stood around frowning on my TV screen. That's not "a very special 'Battlestar Galactica' episode." I can get that in pretty much every episode of "Battlestar Galactica." Show me something new. Or at least tie it all together better.

But again, that's pretty much my only complaint. The acting, especially that of Forbes and Stephanie Jacobsen as Kendra, was uniformly fine. And it was nice to see Starbuck back, all sassy and reckless. It was nice to see Mary McDonnell, too, although her lines were nearly all expository and her appearances pretty much felt like those mega-star cameos in all the old "Airport" movies. You barely have time to say, "Oh, hey, there's so-and-so" before they're whisked off to coach.

What "Razor" did accomplish well was whetting my appetite for more "Battlestar." There's an intriguing revelation toward the end that primes the pumps nicely for Season 4. By the end of the movie, the nerd voices in my head were very nearly screaming, "I need my fix NOW!!!" We did the arty, hyper-intelligent movie of the week. Let's get back to the nitty gritty. Let's talk Cylons and Final Fives and sickly presidents and messiah Baltars.

Is that too much to ask?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Oh, roller derby, we missed you.

If I could roller skate and weren't afraid of getting elbowed in the face by an occasionally aggressive stay-at-home mom or a homicidal school teacher, I would absolutely join a roller derby team. The New York Times ran a great article on the Gotham Girls Roller Derby and the rebirth of this once-popular sport.

"Roller derby, which seemed to have a short final flare of life on cable television back in the 1970s, has been reborn atop the skates of amateur women across the country. They have formed leagues, broken bones, drunk beer and won tens of thousands of raucous, loyal fans. The New York teams, which started in 2003 with a handful of women skating under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, include teachers, stage managers, accountants, a lion keeper, corporate lawyers and an antiques dealer, as well as the one known astronomer. Their ages range from 23 to 42."

I love -- love! -- that there's a lion keeper in the group. The story captivated me not only because it sounds just plain cool but also -- and perhaps more importantly -- because participants get to have their own roller derby nom de plumes, including Lil’ Miss Stuffit, Surly Temple, Beatrix Slaughter, Lemony Kickit, Brigitte Barhot, Auntie Christ and my personal favorite, Beyonslay -- "accent over the 'a,'" says the owner of the alias. Fabulous!

In lieu of actually joining a roller derby team, I may just come up with my own alias and wear it on the back of a t-shirt. Maybe Hermione Rager? (In)Sane Austen? I'll have to work on it. In the meantime, I'll just wonder what it's like to skate like the wind alongside Beatrix Slaughter. I'm betting it's pretty damn cool...especially the part where we cold-cock Farmer McGregor on the back turn.

Photo from

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's one of the things I'm thankful for: portly 1920s humorists with perfectly trimmed mustaches and the sort of appetite for alcohol that eventually made their livers explode. It's a niche, I know. So if the turkey's not doing it for you today, try Robert Benchley and his theatrical short, "How to Sleep." Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I knew that Garfield pencil would come in handy one day...

Want to help your favorite writers get back to work on writing your favorite movies and TV shows? Have a bunch of (unsharpened) pencils you don't need? Want to send a message to the media moguls about how we're all going to cry if they don't let the writers go back and finish "Lost?" Then check out this website where you can join with other WGA supporters and help inundate media moguls' offices with pencils as part of one, big ol' symbolic message. (Hey, it worked for "Jericho.") Check out this video with SNL's Wil Forte (and featuring the hard work of a couple of my friends) -- it'll explain everything.

Things for which to be thankful

That we didn't live 390 million years ago and have to find one of these babies hiding under our beach ball.

This ancient sea scorpion was eight feet long. He would have been the Shaquille O'Neal of the Prehistoric Sea Scorpion Basketball League (TM). And he totally would have eaten the Kobe Bryant of the Prehistoric Sea Scorpion Basketball League, thus ruining their playoff dreams....

Morning update

+ Another new preview for "Cloverfield," the movie directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Drew Goddard that has everyone going crazy over its mysterious nature, has surfaced. And yes, people have already examined it closely in slo-mo, looking for clues on what kind of scary monster is wrecking havoc. Personally, as some other "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fans have said, I'm hoping it's Casual Friday Gamera:

+ If you have a gajillion American dollars and would like to get the perfect gift for the nerd who has everything, might I suggest this in-home theater set-up? I would like Patrick Stewart to be my cupholder -- and that's totally not a euphemism.

+ You know how parents never let their kids smoke crack anymore? Yeah, now they're not going to let their kids watch "Sesame Street" either. Bunch of wet blankets. As Virginia Heffernan wrote in her New York Times blog, The Medium, on Sunday:

"The earliest episodes of “Sesame Street” are available on digital video...According to an earnest warning on Volumes 1 and 2, “Sesame Street: Old School” is adults-only: 'These early ‘Sesame Street’ episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may not suit the needs of today’s preschool child.'”

If you watch this video preview on the "Sesame Street" site, you can kinda tell why. In a related story, Winnie the Pooh has been shown to inspire gluttony and an attraction to swine in toddlers:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nerd Man of the Month: Nathan Fillion

This past week, People Magazine -- also known as The Big Book of Pictures -- named Matt Damon its annual Sexiest Man Alive. Far more important, however, was the ranking on page 144 wherein they included Nathan Fillion in their "Domestic Bliss" section, which was nestled between their Men in Sexy Places section and their Sexy and Shirtless section, neither of which I looked through seven or eight times.

There are two significant facts you should know about Nathan's inclusion in the "Domestic Bliss" section. One, he gave the best quote in the whole magazine: "There are black widow spiders in my backyard, coyotes walking down the streets, killer bees, rattlesnakes -- there's so much around L.A. that'll kill you!" And second, his glamor shot was one of the worst Photoshopped images I've ever seen. Don't the editors of People Magazine know the cardinal rule? You don't Photoshop Nathan Fillion's face. In fact, I'm fairly certain that was one of the original Ten Commandments: When thine Canadian Nathan Fillion appears unto you, thou shalt not ruin his prettiness with thine Erase tool.* Right?

In order to defray the sadness of the poorly Photoshopped Nathan, The Park Bench is naming him its November Nerd Man of the Month. We have bestowed this honor upon him for other significant reasons as well including the fact that:

He can fly a space ship. How cool is that?

Okay, he might not actually know how to fly a space ship, but I bet he knows people who can.

Also, he's a terrific, under-appreciated actor who shines in anything he does, from his days as Captain Mal in "Firefly" to his appearances in "Lost" and "Buffy" to his role as a sweet, confused and sympathetic ob/gyn in "Waitress" to his role as a sweet, confused and sympathetic ob/gyn in "Desperate Housewives" (I'm sensing a pattern here) to his hilarious yet heroic turn (he battled a deranged deer!!) as Bill Pardy in "SLiTHER."

And most important of all, the man's damn funny. Just check out his three faces of soap opera acting:

For all this and yes, for his ability to wear tight pants, we bestow our shallow Park Bench love on Nathan Fillion and welcome him to the Nerd Man pantheon.

*The rule was amended years later to read: Thou shalt not Photoshop Nathan Fillion unless it's to make it look like he was your date at the senior prom. As the Pope said at the time, "That's just common sense."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A trivial compulsion

I think I discovered a new disease. I’m quite excited about it, and I hope one day to have an enormous wing of a research hospital named after me in recognition of my astounding contribution to the world of medicine.

My disease is called Trivia Tourette’s. Its main symptom? An inability to keep my mouth shut within 50 feet of a trivia question. Lesser symptoms include an unsavory attraction to Alex Trebek, a compulsion to hoard and memorize Trivial Pursuit cards and a willingness to learn dull facts on the off-chance that someday, somewhere, they may end up being the answer to a question no one else knows. I have suffered from this illness for roughly 20 years, ever since I elbowed a kid in the face during Latin class Jeopardy for shouting out, “Quis est Ovid?” before I could, that little show-off.

My Trivia Tourette’s got worse in college where I whiled away hours at the local sports bar playing computerized trivia matches against the other drunken patrons. Strung out on Bloomin’ Onions and Long Island Iced Teas, my friends* and I crushed the competition with our extensive knowledge of Donna Summer songs, Thomas Pynchon novels and words starting with the letter “K.” In my mind, I justified this behavior as the only way to beat down the frat boys and sorority girls who were always cutting in line in front of me at Urban Outfitters. Yes, this was my way of getting back at The Man. Using the mightiness of a midwestern liberal arts education, I smited them roundly each and every night!

And, yeah, they totally didn’t notice at all.

My illness subsided after college only to flare up years later when Regis Philbin and his shiny monochromatic shirts convinced me that I could win one million American dollars just by answering 16 relatively easy trivia questions. Sixteen! I may as well have backed my armored truck up to the stage door right then and there – they were obviously begging to give this stuff away to me.

And thus began my fevered – some would say “shockingly psychotic” -- attempts to become a contestant on Who Wants To Be a Millionare. I answered all the hotline questions. I applied online. I even forced my husband to drive five hours to a contestant search in Chicago where I aced two – yes, two! – question and answer sessions. In the end, they rejected me. Why? Well, one, in my interview I think I may have said something about how I thought unicorns were awesome. (The interviewer totally didn’t get sarcasm.) And two, when faced with a camera and a roomful of people, I become a deer in the proverbial headlights, albeit a deer with extensive knowledge of Eastern European monarchies and the Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch oeuvre.

After that last Millionaire humiliation, I sought to cure myself of the Trivia Tourette’s, avoiding Trivial Pursuit games (okay, actually my husband just won’t play with me anymore) and shunning Jeopardy. Last night, though, it all came flooding back to me as I allowed myself one full half-hour of Alex Trebek and his overpronunciation of foreign words. Answers were flying out of me like pea soup out of Linda Blair. Sure, most of the answers were wrong because it was the tournament of champions and sweet fancy Moses, do they know some seriously ridiculous stuff. When the show ended and I didn’t immediately jump online to submit my application, I knew that perhaps, finally, I might actually be cured.

At least until they launch Who Wants To Be a Millionaire 2.

* It seemed really important for me to note there that I actually did have friends in college. FYI. Just so you know…

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

"Pushing Daisies," you have won my heart.

I'm no TV floozy. I don't just give my heart to any old TV show, flashing its big stars and high-cost production values at me. No, I need to be wooed. I need to feel a connection. And I need to be taken out to dinner by it at least three times.

"Pushing Daisies" has earned me love. It took me a few weeks. I was unsure at first, but now smitten-ness is now most definitely confirmed. (Just in time for the writer's strike!) I've been catching up recently via the old DVR, and I've decided the whole show is just plain charming. It's sweet and charming and so persistently unusual that I can't help but giggle with glee. I'm a sucker for anything and everything Barry Sonnenfeld does. I love the way his films look. I love the way they take creepiness and make it slightly adorable (see: all Addams Family movies). His work just tickles me.

The cast is wonderful, too. As Ned the Piemaker, who can bring the dead back to life for a minute at a time, Lee Pace is perfect. Tall and slim nerdily handsome(!), Pace plays his character with a mixture of aloofness, moral confusion, wide-eyed innocence and just a hint of meanness -- all the ingredients necessary for a character who can both give and take life with a single touch. British actress Anna Friel is charming, too, as "Chuck," Ned's childhood sweetheart whom he brought back to life but can never touch again without returning her to corpse-dom. (FYI, Anna Friel dates David Thewlis, Lupin in the "Harry Potter" movies. I did not know this!) Kristin Chenowith, who I loved as Annabeth on "The West Wing," makes me smile as Olive Snook, an employee of Ned's pie shop, whose unrequited love for him drives her crazy -- and into spontaneous song on one or two occasions.

Most of all, though, I love Chi McBride as Emerson Cod (boy, do I wish I'd thought of these wonderful names)! Cod is Ned's informal business partner -- a private eye who uses Ned to bring the deceased back to life to reveal who killed them so that Cod can collect reward money. McBride is deadpan awesomeness. Funny and disdainful. I want to hug him. And the episode where he got caught half-in and half-out of a window "just like Winnie the Pooh" cracked me up. I heart him deeply.

If you haven't already checked out "Pushing Daisies," or if, like me, you were a bit unsure at the beginning, please give it a try. It'll make you feel warm and happy and transport you to another world where sweetness always prevails.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Morning morsels...

+ Handy with Photoshop? Want to impress Stephen King...with Photoshop? Well, now's your chance with a cool contest from the UK publishers of King's new novel, Duma Key. Entrants are invited to design a poster announcing the publication of the new novel. The King himself (the Stephen kind, not the Elvis kind) will select the winner. And what does that winner get? According to Ain't It Cool News, you'll get a limited printed proof of your work and an advance copy of the book with your name printed on the cover.

+ Speaking of artistic talent, Nintendo launched the Check Mii Out Channel on the Wii Network this past Sunday. You can check out other people's Mii creations. That's the "meh" part. The kinda cool part is that they're also hosting a series of contests inviting people to create Miis that most resemble celebrities or historical figures or that fit any other crazy parameters they devise. As someone who tried creating her own "West Wing" Toby Mii to play tennis with the day we got our system, I'm geeked.

+ Ever wondered what Saturn sounds like? Okay, probably not. But if you're feeling cosmically curious, check out NASA's recordings from the Cassini-Huygen space probe's trip through the Saturnian system. [I felt totally smart typing that, by the way, even if I have no idea what any of it means.] This recording from "a 2005 flyby of Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons" is especially weird and may make you reach for your tinfoil hat.

Appreciating James Gunn: It's not just a job. It's an adventure!

From time to time, we'll be doing Q&As with folks who have interesting jobs or hobbies -- things we all may have wanted to try but never have. Linda Webster, head honcho-ette at the James Gunn Appreciation Society, was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Park Bench on what it's like to run a fan site. JGAS, as it's known on the streets, is devoted to the work and general coolness of Gunn, writer/director of "SLiTHER," neophyte demolition derby fanatic and our August Nerd Man of the Month. Here's what Linda had to say:

What's the best part of running JGAS?

There is so much! The friends I have made, the professional relationship I have with James, the skills I have learned, and the opportunities to do things I would never have dreamed of doing! It’s been a blast! I have so much fun thinking of new ideas or making things happen that even I doubted were possible, like JGAS sponsoring Stan McDonalds’ demolition derby car, for instance. I am sure when James threw that line into his blog, “In fact, the JGAS and I may need to sponsor a car,” he didn’t actually think it was possible – but I did. And not only did we get his “dream” guy, we fucking won that derby! Sorry, can I say “fucking” on this site? [Absolutely! In fact, we encourage it. -- Ed.]

What's the most difficult part of running a fan site? How much time do you put into it?

The most difficult part of running the site is balancing it between my home and family. I’m lucky in the regard that I don’t have to work and my kids are both in school (my oldest is in college and my youngest is in elementary school) so I have many hours to spend on the site each day, but I also have to remember that I have a responsibility to my family which includes all the stuff I don’t want to do like cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. The other difficult part is that sometimes it feels like it’s another life and my “real life” friends don’t really understand what it is I do or why I do it – and why I am not getting paid for it. I can’t tell you how many raised eyebrows I’ve encountered when asked, “So what do you do?”

How would you describe James' fan base? What do you think inspires such devotion?

James’ fan base is very diverse because he appeals to a lot of people. First of all, he is very smart, so he appeals to the intellectuals, and then he loves comics and toys, so he appeals to the geeks. [Hey, that's us! - Ed.] Then he is the “horror guy” so he appeals to that crowd. Not to mention his crossover fans from his relationships with Nathan Fillion (from “Firefly” and “Serenity”) and Jenna Fischer (from “The Office”). And I would be remiss if I also didn’t state that he’s a good looking guy and let’s face it, smart is sexy so he’s got that appeal as well – just look at all the comments on his MySpace page! He also has a professional following of budding screenwriters and filmmakers who respect the hell out of him and the fact that he makes so much time for his fans and lets you into his life where most celebs are hesitant to cross that line or feel they are too far above fans to relate to them on a personal level. He’s just one of us.

What is it about James Gunn and his work that appeals to you?

For me, personally, I enjoy how fearless he is, whether it’s in his writing or his acting or his directing. He knows what he wants to convey and he’ll fight to get the end-product even if it means making some people uncomfortable or maybe garnering disapproval. He has a real joy for his craft and it shows.

What are some of the weirdest, funniest or most memorable experiences you've had with regard to JGAS?

Weirdest? I suppose it feels kind of weird to me when I’ll hear something about JGAS or a reference to the site, and it reminds me that it’s out there for anybody to see and not just a bunch of files on my computer. It was also weird showing the site to my mom for the first time because there is a lot of explicit language (which is evident by our intro page) and I don’t think she completely understood or approved.

Funniest would have to be some of the stuff that people post on the message board. That place can get pretty crazy. We have the best time!

Most memorable would have to be the demolition derby, hands down! We were literally in the pit area in the middle of the mud and the cars and the noise and it was AWESOME! My favorite moments were the first time I saw the car - James seemed just as excited as I was, and we were grinning like a couple of idiots at the sheer coolness of this bad-ass black car with our logo on it! Watching the race from the pit and the jubilation we all shared when Mac’s car won are up there as well. It was quite a day!

What does James think about JGAS?

I hope he loves it as much as I do. From day one of the [original JGAS] MySpace group he’s been right on board, cheering me along. He’s been extremely supportive and generous with his time. He’s told me time and time again that he is 100 percent behind me and whatever I want to do and he’s proven it by promoting the site in his blogs and interviews, donating prizes for contests, participating in (and hosting) chats in the chat room and posting daily and answering JGAS members’ questions in the Q & A section of our message board. So essentially, he appreciates us as much as we appreciate him. James said it best in a recent interview, “We’re all about appreciation at the James Gunn Appreciation Society”

What are your future plans for JGAS and the site?

I definitely want to keep it running as long as possible. Members are giving me new ideas every day and as long as people are interested and James continues his support, I can see it going for a long time. As for immediate plans, I am gathering prizes and information for our first fundraising raffle and auction. We’ll have lots of fun things to bid on, autographed DVDs, posters, t-shirts, etc. You should check it out!

In March of 2008, we are partnering with the production team behind “CUT! 2008”, a weekend-long film festival being held March 29-30th 2008 at the New Beverly Cinema (Quentin Tarantino’s favorite theater to premiere his films) in Los Angeles, California. James will be appearing with other horror greats including Mick Garris and Tom Savini for the horror panel, and we will also be presenting James in a “SLiTHER” panel (with yet-to-be announced special guests) to talk about the experience of making “SLiTHER” as well as a screening of the film. There will also be an auction and raffle where a portion of the proceeds will benefit Rover Rescue. VIP and Early Bird tickets are available at, and there is a “goldish ticket” hidden somewhere on It will bring you to a page where you can get tickets at a discount.

If you'd like to join JGAS, visit Tell 'em The Park Bench sent you!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The X-Files Complete DVD Set -- Too Big For My Christmas Stocking?

In my fanatical compulsion to own the entire nerd media canon, I have become something of a completist. Which means that I bought all seven seasons of "The West Wing" on DVD even though, well, the last two seasons weren't so great. And I bought all seven seasons of Buffy even though, well, the last two seasons weren't so great. And, in case the Vegas odds makers are reading this, I'll confess right here and now that I'll likely figure out a way to sell enough plasma to buy this behemoth:

It's "The X-Files" in its entirety -- all nine seasons plus the "Fight the Future" movie plus nine hours of commentary and extras -- all in one neatly boxed DVD set, complete with a giant scary eye on the side of it. It clocks in at $329.98, which is roughly 36 bucks a season -- pretty much a bargain, especially since Fox was selling seasons one through nine for roughly $80 to $90 each up until a couple years ago. (Which is why I never did buy them originally.)

So why would I cough up more than 300 bucks for 61 DVDs of X-Files goodness, especially when the last two seasons maybe weren't so great? Well, for one thing, because it means 201 hours of looking at this:

But more importantly, it'll be fun to go back and watch this series evolve from a little-known cult show about a fanatic who believed in aliens and his straight-laced partner who did not into a show that became a cultural phenomenon that didn't quite know what to do with itself at the end. Even though, in my opinion, the mythology shows wore out their welcome somewhere around season four, there were so many bright, brilliant moments in "The X-Files'" run that none of that really mattered.

And here's why: because it was the first show since "The Twilight Zone" to take its intention to scare the bejeezus out of its viewers seriously. We had episodes like "Squeeze" and "Tooms" about a killer who awoke every few decades to eat human livers. We had "Irresistible" about a serial killing fetishist -- an episode I'm not too ashamed to admit had me sleeping with the lights on for a night or two. That was before I lost a few more nights' sleep with "Home," with its inbred killers and their limbless mom.

At the same time, though, this show could make you laugh -- with circus freaks in "Humbug," babies with tails in "Small Potatoes," a single-minded prognosticator in "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," Charles Nelson Reilly in "Jose Chung's from Outer Space," and Luke Wilson's buck teeth meeting "Rashomon" in "Bad Blood." In the end, "The X-Files" tried myriad things -- and miraculously succeeded nine times out of ten. Not a bad ratio at all.

Okay, I've got to go hold a bake sale or something. I've got $329.98 to earn.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Those eyes, those droopy round eyes!

There are certain places in these United States that, if God suddenly yelled "psyche" and decided to throw an unexpected apocalypse, could stand in pretty well for an Earth-bound hell. You've got your Los Angeles and your New Jersey. You've got Graceland. Those are kind of no-brainers. Maybe Dollywood. Definitely Gary, Indiana. But after seeing what I saw today, I think those all pale in comparison to a little place in Carthage, Missouri called -- wait for it -- The Precious Moments Park and Chapel. It looks like this:

Yeah, exactly. That's a picture of the chapel, where people can get married and begin their servitude to the dark side of...well...taste. Here's what the Precious Moments website has to say about it:

Inspired by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in Rome, Precious Moments artist and creator, Samuel J. Butcher, designed and constructed the Precious Moments Chapel as his way of sharing the joy of his faith with the world, and it has become his crowning work.

Yes, the similarities are striking:

You know, the Precious Moments one is actually better because A) fewer confusing colors; B) no nudity to make our eyes burn with naughtiness; C) they're three dimensional, perfect for mantels and curio cabinets and D) Michelangelo never made nothing for my curio cabinet, the big dead loser.

The Precious Moments Park and Chapel was featured several years ago on Cash Peters' Bad Taste Tour on the Savvy Traveler website. He interviewed the Park's PR person about the chapel. The exchange is as follows:

Lynn: "Well, it's not necessarily a church."

Cash: "It looks like one."

Lynn: "Correct. But there's not a cross, although Jesus is portrayed in one of the murals."

Cash: "As a Precious Moment?"

Lynn: "No. He is a real person."

Cash: "You know what you need here?"

Lynn: "What?"

Cash: "A Jurassic Park ride. The dinosaurs could have droopy eyes."

Lynn: "Well..."

Cash: "Just a thought. It's a money-spinner."

Lynn: "This is not a theme park."

Of course, if there were dinosaurs at the apocalypse, Darwin would be proven right. How awkward would that be! Either way, I'm sure there'd be a figurine to commemorate it.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday's NEW basket of awesomeness!

+ For those who know that Elvis is alive and well and living in the body of Bruce Campbell, there's sad news that the Elvis Is Alive Museum in Wright City, Missouri, is closing down. It's owner, Mr. Beeny, is auctioning off the 400-square-foot museum's contents on eBay. Here's my favorite part of the article:

Much more valuable, Mr. Beeny said, are results of a DNA test that he claims proves that the man buried at Graceland is not Elvis Presley.

“That’s the biggie,” said Mr. Beeny, who has written two books, “Elvis’ DNA Proves He’s Alive!” and “DNA Proves That Elvis Is Alive!” “That’s what really put this place on the map.”

I love that he's basically written the same book twice. If you'd like to bid on Mr. Beeny's wacky emporium, head to eBay immediately. The auction ends tonight.
+ In other news vital to elementary schools and frat parties, two boys have invented wedgie-proof underwear. Now if only someone would invent a way to not get crammed into lockers by older, mean girls, that would be awesome. Not that anything like that ever happened to me. Nope, never.

+ This week, NPR launched their new NPR Music site, with which I am now deeply and passionately in love. You'll find all sorts of interesting interviews, stories, and links to public radio stations streaming everything from classical and folk to pop and jazz. Trust me, it'll make your work day much, much easier to take. (Although Wagner before a staff meeting is not recommended. Valkyries and team building just don't mesh.)

+ Slate Magazine has an interesting essay by a fellow who finally had a chance to play "Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels." Who the hell knew there were lost levels of Super Mario Bros.? Probably a lot of people actually, but it all seemed very mysterious and J. Edgar Hoover-ish to me when I read it.

+ And finally, New York Magazine's Vulture section offers weekly reviews and previews of new graphic novels. I was going through some of their back issues, and discovered a very sweet one called "Robot Dreams" by Sara Varon. It's about the friendship between a dog and the robot he builds. How lovely a premise is that?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday's basket of awesomeness

With the news that the X-Files movie is now scheduled for release on July 25, 2008, I didn't think my nerd basket of awesomeness could get any fuller, until these announcements arrived:

+ If you loved Mystery Science Theater 3000, then you were probably wetting yourself with glee right along with me upon hearing news that MST3K creator Joel Hodgson was bringing members of his posse of excellence back together for a new project called Cinematic Titanic.

Here's what he had to say on the Cinematic Titanic site:

"I’ve decided, in collaboration with the other bold souls who “started it all,” to do a new project that is strong enough for our diehard audience, and also gentle and easy to swallow for those that are new to movie riffing. Wait for it….wait for Cinematic Titanic!

It’s going to be powered by the original cast of MST3K! Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein and yours truly, along with some friends who came along later to make the show great: the beloved Frank Conniff and the scathingly brilliant Mary Jo Pehl."

I'm so excited for this project, I can barely function. My little comedy-loving heart is dancing around right now, much like that terrifying baby in "Ally McBeal" but cooler and more fully-clothed.

And in other awesomely awe-tastic news....

+ Joss Whedon is returning to television! No, not with the reality show I always hoped he'd have where the audience gets to watch Joss sit around and be brilliant while eating cereal and deciding which unironed shirt to wear. No, he's returning to television with a new series called "Dollhouse" which he will be writing and producing. It stars Eliza Dushku, who is also serving as co-producer. The show, according to Variety, "follows a top-secret world of people programmed with different personalities, abilities and memories depending on their mission."

Joss says the series came out of a lunch meeting between him and Dushku, whose name, by the way, I really enjoy saying. Duuushku, Dushkuuuu... Anyway, here's what Joss says:

"It was a mistake!" Whedon said. "I sat down with her to talk about her options, and acted all sage, saying things backwards like Yoda and laying out what I thought she should do. But in the course of doing it, I accidentally made one up. I told it to her, and she said, 'That's exactly what I want to do.'"

The show has been given a seven-episode order by Fox, who promptly guaranteed to bury it on Friday nights, not advertise it and then run the episodes in the wrong order. Not that I'm still bitter about "Firefly" or anything.

+ And finally, if the Hollywood writer's strike hits and we're all left TV-less, don't forget you can create your own entertainment, just like they did in the old days: by writing an entire novel in one month. Yup, November is National Novel Writing Month. So pull out your Moleskin notebook and start scribbling. You've got 30 days to produce a masterpiece, starting...NOW!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What We've Learned From the Horror Classics

Aliens: Guys, just leave the planet ALONE! See also: every other sci-fi space horror movie ever made.

Halloween: Trick or treating is safe; babysitting is not. In fact, at four bucks an hour, it's murder!

Texas Chainsaw Massacre: “Don't mess with Texas” is NOT just a suggestion.

Hostel: Room rates that cheap? There’s always a catch.

Friday the 13th: When it comes to a choice between playing a competitive board game or sleeping with Kevin Bacon, always choose the board game. Top prize for the winner? Not being eviscerated.

The Shining: Six weeks with Shelley Duvall will DRIVE YOU INSANE!

Psycho: The fastidious always get whacked a.k.a you don’t have to shower EVERY day, lady. It's bad for your roots.

The Amityville Horror: No matter what the asking price, a house with bleeding walls is NOT a bargain. Unless it's in a really cute neighborhood.

Dawn of the Dead: When you see a zombie lumbering at you at .002 miles per hour, DON’T stand around and wait for it. It’s not coming at you for a tickle.

The Thing: When traveling to the Antarctic always bring the following items -- sweaters, hot cocoa, one or two huskies, a good pair of boots, and oh yes, your own personal airplane to escape in when murderous parasites take over your colleagues. Also, marshmallows for the hot cocoa.

By Ms. C and Liz

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tuesday Odds and Ends

+ Looking for a last-minute Halloween escape? Check out's list of Thirteen of the World's Creepiest Places. I'd never thought of Easter Island before but after thinking about it, I guess it would be rather scary...especially when you heard the whir of the spaceships coming back to collect their lawn art! And swamps like the one pictured? Well, the scariness factor just goes unsaid.

+ Official word has come down that The X-Files 2 movie will start filming on December 10. Chris Carter is directing and it's being shot in Vancouver, which made my little X-phile heart twitter nostalgically. I always loved the Vancouver era the best.

+ Rupert Grint, aka Harry Potter's Ron Weasley, could show Lindsey Lohan and Britney Spears a thing or two about blowing their hard-earned cash on things other than, you know, blow. According to Park Bench reader Annie's blog, Grint got creative with his earnings, buying one of these:

On Ain't It Cool News, he was quoted as saying he wanted to continue acting, but “if it doesn’t work out I still have the ice cream van, I suppose.” I love that kid.

+ And finally, The Park Bench reached 25,000 visitors last night. Reader #25,000 was a poor confused person from Kitchener, Ontario, looking for a way to make risotto who instead found a treatise on angry Gordon Ramsey. I hope he or she enjoyed their .4 seconds on the site! In all seriousness, thank you to everyone who reads this crazy thing. I appreciate it.

+ And finally, finally, what's everyone going to be for Halloween? Please share.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dating and the Single Girl Nerd: First Dates

From contributor Ms. C:

One thing our lovely already-coupled friends like is to remind us of is how great it's going to be to have that "first kiss" again. In the hunt for that "first kiss" we have to do things like go on dates, or, even before that, meet someone. All of a sudden, this got so complicated!

Fret not, there are several ways in which to meet a nerdy fellow. There's online dating like, a dating website for geeks where nerdy women get the choice of their personal cup of Earl Grey. Do you take your geek with "Star Wars," Ren Faire or Manga? Eschewing online tete-a-tetes, you could meet guys at bookstores, coffee shops, or costume parties and woo them with your uncanny imitation of Patrick Stewart or your extensive knowledge of all the James Bond movies. You could also try the old-fashioned way of dating: macking on your friends. There's also the workplace, but I don't recommend this one. You need at least one place you can still go without worrying about how you look, right?

Don't be discouraged if you go an entire year without racking up "50 First Dates" like Drew Barrymore. As the brainier version of those with Nerve, we Girl Nerds tend to wait a little longer till we're met with quality. For the average Single Girl Nerd, a year of looking for that "first kiss" will tend to yield about 5 First Dates which will likely include:

+ The blind date with the "sweet, sensitive guy who also rides a hog" whom your married friends think you'll like. Blind dates should always be accepted with a hearty YES. They have the advantage of no expectations and no ties should one need to run, fast and far.

+ The sneak-double-date with that recently-single friend in the Styx-inspired band. You'll have a nice dinner with friends and then see a Simon Pegg movie, all the while never letting your date suspect he's actually ON a date. You are that good, you sly Single Girl Nerd.

+ The party date. Though not strictly a traditional date situation, this counts. Be sure to try all your "lines" (don't forget to pack the Superman joke, the Anais Nin mention, and the "Reaper" quotation!) on tall, skinny guys wearing glasses.

+ The cooking date. Cook something simple -- and easy on the garlic and onions -- for that adorable web-designer with the comics collection. It won't hurt either to pour healthy glasses of wine while trying to make your way into a gent's heart through his stomach.

+ The Grown-Up Date. You will put on a skirt and heels! He will take you to an upscale restaurant that requires reservations and he'll order for you! There will be no cheese-fries, "hanging out," or catching a cup of coffee while paying Dutch. This will set a new bar for dating and you deserve it!

With these, and hopefully more, you'll be ready to start trying for Second Dates. Not even Drew got that far!