Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Who loves Halo and has a talent for messing with sculpture? MIT! MIT!

I love you, MIT pranksters because you do cool stuff like this:

The Harvard pranksters are totally jealous they didn't think of it first. Losers.

More nerdy news nuggets

* Want to learn weird things about famous authors? This Mental Floss article at has some interesting tidbits. Who knew Edgar Allen Poe was crazy? Oh wait....

* A select group of nerdy gentlemen at a Washington university are auctioning themselves off for money and a chance to hang out with sorority girls. This may be one of the seven signs of an impending apocalypse. There've been so many lately, though, it's hard to keep track.

* Do you have a blank space on your living room wall, a barren bit between the Buffy musical poster and that way cool IKEA bookshelf you just bought? Well, have no fear. You can fill that decorative void with your very own copy of the Magna Carta, one of which is going up for auction. Nothing like having the seeds of democracy hanging on your wall. If Dick Cheney ever comes over, you'll have an awesome conversation piece.

* In completely unrelated news, Nana Visitor of crinkle-nosed "Deep Space Nine" fame is going to be a guest star on "Battlestar Galactica," says the Chicago Tribune TV columnist. The item's a bit spoilery, but it's just nice to know that BSG will be back...eventually...someday...before eternity sets in....

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Nerdy news bits

* I totally missed this, but there was a nifty article on Tina Fey and "30 Rock" in Sunday's New York Times. I guess I should spend more time reading and less time making pancakes on Sundays. I'm missing a lot of good stuff!

* Speaking of good reading, another previously unknown novel by Irene Nemirovsky, the tragically-fated author of Suite Francaise, is arriving on American book shelves soon. This article includes an excerpt. I thought Suite Francaise was wonderful, so I'm very much looking forward to this.

* Also, apparently there was some sort of video game released last night. Something like Holo or Helo.....

Hello, Chuck, I think I like you...

As with anything in life, low expectations are the key to happiness. Early on, I’d been looking forward to NBC’s “Chuck” because it seemed like a clever concept, and I’ll watch anything about nerds. (It’s in the nerd solidarity contract.) But recently, my anticipation had lessened because of the endless advertising and because I figured anything I could download for free off the internet couldn’t be that great. (Unless it’s pictures of kittens with funny sayings.) So last night, I tuned into “Chuck” with relatively low expectations, just hoping it would keep me mildly entertained. And that’s really not that big of a request, given that bits of string, colorful paper clips, flashlights and “Family Guy” have all managed to do the trick at one time or another.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised when “Chuck” not only met but exceeded my expectations. I really enjoyed the show. In case you missed it and the million and one commercials touting it, the premise involves a nerdy Best Buy-style worker drone who accidentally sees a whole bunch of government secrets that are now lodged in his brain. Various government agencies fight over him, including a pretty blonde spy on whom Chuck quickly develops a crush and Adam Baldwin on whom I quickly redevelop a crush. The premise lends itself to a lot of possibilities and the writing is solid, although the spy stuff feels like it’s written by people who don’t know anything about spy stuff but are hoping folks won’t notice. I’m okay with that because really, plot matters very little to me in a TV show. Just give me entertaining characters – and bits of string. Just kidding. The lead actor, Zachary Levi, who I’m just going to call Zach because I feel like we have that kind of bond, is appealing and funny and kind of reminds me of that guy from “Ed” – three things that will earn you raves in my book. I also enjoyed Chuck’s sidekick, Morgan, played by Joshua Gomez, and the ongoing joke of Chuck’s sister’s boyfriend who is known as Captain Awesome because he is A) awesome and B) he says awesome all the time. He was probably on-screen a total of 45 seconds, and I giggled every time.

And more than anything, it’s really nice to see Adam Baldwin on network television again. Not to spoil anything, but the thought of him in the Nerd Herd just cracks me up.

“Chuck” has earned my early devotion, and I’ll be tuning in several more times. I’m just keeping my expectations low. I’ve been burned with new TV show love before….

Monday, September 24, 2007

We are what we watch

This article from yesterday's New York Times contends that "we are what we watch," and chronicles how increasingly, our TV viewing choices are becoming indicators of our personalities. It's an interesting concept and one to which I certainly subscribe. Although I still don't know what it says about me that I watch "The Pick-Up Artist." Whatever it is, it's probably not good.

Twenty years of Star Trek-y goodness

When I was in college, my friends and I would gather each week to watch new episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." In order to be let into my friend's apartment, he required us to announce loudly into the speaker on the building's front door that we would "like to be beamed directly into the warp core." Keep in mind that this front door was on a busy street and that speaking those words meant that every single person passing by could hear you and, yes, judge you. I tell this story because the humiliation that I underwent each Sunday night just to get into that apartment and watch ST:TNG with my friends convinced me that I must be one hell of a fan. And a big nerd. And maybe a masochist, not that any of those things are mutually exclusive. This is all to say, I really loved "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

The show is celebrating its 20th anniversary this week, and I can't help but feel nostalgic. Looking back, there were so many things I loved about the show, including the fact that it was nothing like the original Star Trek which, let's face it, was filled with enough cheese to choke a rat. Here are a few other reasons why I loved ST:TNG:

1) Good stories. Sure, there were a lot of crappy stories, mostly involving Worf, but there was an awful lot of good stuff, too. The Borg were brilliant creations that became chilling and worthy adversaries. And the show was never afraid to tell quiet stories either -- "Legacy," in which Picard lives a whole life inside his head, and "Darmok," in which Picard and an alien learn to speak to one another -- paved the way for the kind of mature storytelling that characterizes today's elite sci-fi shows like "Battlestar Galactica."

2) Very little Roddenberry. Producers Rick Berman and Michael Piller seemed to pretty much ignore Gene Roddenberry -- and for that I say thank you. No offense to Roddenberry. He was a visionary and without him, Star Trek would never have existed. But honestly, he didn't always have the best storytelling instincts: hey, let's have a world with no conflict! Hey, let's have a female character with three breasts! Hey, let's invent Ferengi! The less Roddenberry had to do with TNG, the better it got.

3) Patrick Stewart.
He had that voice, that accent, and that shiny, sexy bald head. He made bad actors (that's you, Gates McFadden) look decent and good actors (hi, Brent Spiner) look even better. The show would have been nothing without him.

4) Data.Who would have thought that ripping off Pinocchio would be such a good move? Data was, hands down, one of the finest characters ever created in the Star Trek universe. Sure, he was a refinement of Spock, and sure, they tried to copy him in every other Star Trek show to follow, but Data was a prime example of how good Star Trek could be when it focused on characters with strong, compelling internal conflicts. Plus, Data could crack a joke and he had that cute cat.

5) Strong relationships.I should clarify right away and say that I don't mean romantic relationships because, dear God, watching Star Trek deal with romance was like watching 14 year old boys deal with romance...except the 14 year old boys would have done it better. But the show excelled at friendships, whether between Data and Geordie or the faux father-son thing going on with Picard and Wes. The characters always worked best when they bounced off each other, with each interaction strengthening their appeal. They made you believe these folks all cared about each other.

6) An excellent final episode.Where so many other shows have failed, TNG managed to create a compelling, affectionate and satisfying final episode. It referenced its first episode. It brought back old nemeses (I missed you, Q). It wrapped up long-running questions. And it remembered why we all watched the show in the first place: the characters...and also to see stuff blowing up. They threw plenty of that in at the end, too.

7) Good movies.
TNG spawned some pretty darn good movies. And I'm going to say it right here: I liked "Generations." It was no "First Contact," but damn it, it had Shatner riding a horse and wearing a girdle while Stewart just kinda watched, appalled You can't tell me that's not great cinema. Plus, Malcolm Macdowell -- who doesn't love that angry little pug?

8) Pretty good special effects for a TV show.For a syndicated sci-fi show, The Next Generation blew shit up pretty spectacularly. From Borg cubes to Enterprises to Styrofoam cities, they knew how to explode stuff without eliciting any laughter. Twenty years later, I'm still impressed.

9) A detailed fictional universe. The writers and producers of TNG created such a detailed universe, their made-up science even made sense. Maybe it's because they knew the show was being watched by obsessive-compulsive fans making flow charts, but whatever the reason, you've got to credit them for making the unbelievable seem real. So real, in fact, that I'm fairly sure I still remember how a warp core works. Something about dilithium crystals....

10) It spawned some other decent shows and kept the Star Trek franchise alive and well for another 20 years. The Next Generation deserves its own spot of honor in the TV pantheon, but it also deserves a pat on the proverbial back for keeping the Star Trek ball rolling for another couple decades. I enjoyed "Deep Space Nine" (for a while at least) and I watched "Voyager" until the (very) bitter end. I gave up on "Enterprise" after realizing I didn't actually like Scott Bakula, but whatever my opinion of the later shows were, they still kept the Star Trek machine alive and well, creating new generations of sci-fi nerds. And now, finally, it's given J.J. Abrams something to do so he doesn't have to go back to "Lost" and try to figure out what the hell is going on over there what with the polar bears and the dead Hobbit.

In short, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" gave us a hell of a lot of good stuff. It was worth getting beamed into the warp core every week just to watch it.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Ubiquity of Chuck

So, there's a new NBC show called "Chuck." There's a new movie called "Good Luck Chuck." There was a movie out this past summer that I ignored with all my might called "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." One of the female leads in the new Barry Sonnenfeld series, "Pushing Daisies," is named Chuck. Mike White did that "Chuck and Buck" movie.

What the hell does it all mean, and why is everyone named Chuck?

Is this like in middle school when every girl I knew was named Tiffany? Did everyone just realize the word rhymes with a lot of other words? Like buck and duck and Huck, and uh, other stuff. Is it the one-syllable thing that's selling it? Is it a conspiracy hatched by Chuck Schumer? Chuck Palahniuk? Chuck Berry? All of the above?

How will we tell them all apart? What's going to happen to those of us NOT named Chuck? Will we face a new wave of "upchuck and die" jokes? If so, will it be possible to have my ears a doctor not named Chuck? And really, how much would could a woodchuck chuck if it really applied itself?

Should I just not worry about it?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Here be dragons...ridden by Barbara Walters!

I really enjoyed watching this clip of the new "View" co-host grappling with the age-old question of whether or not the Earth is flat. Yup, the question that seemed pretty firmly answered when we took all those pictures from space.

It's nice when the un-nerdy women make us look even smarter than we are, isn't it?

Pegg or Azaria -- Is there even a question here?

"Run, Fat Boy, Run" is a new movie coming out this October with one of the most unusual and I guess intriguing production rosters I've read in ages: written by Michael Ian Black and Simon Pegg, starring Simon Pegg and Hank Azaria and directed by David Schwimmer. Check out the preview and let me know what you think. I can't decide if it'll be one of those sweet, small movies I'll enjoy or if it's going to be one of those sweet, small movies in which I end up being shockingly disappointed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Nerd Men of the Month: Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart

Watching a particular pair of Emmy presenters the other night gave me a big ol' case of nerd love which is why, after counting the ballots in my head and in the heads of many other nerdy women without them even knowing it, I am thrilled to name Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart as The Park Bench's September Nerd Men of the Month.

Colbert gets the nod not only for his perfect, Cary Grant-like hair -- an achievement in and of itself -- but also because he's created an on-screen persona that is as perfectly crafted as anything Jack Benny or Will Rogers ever did. Pompous, dismissive and always hilarious, the Stephen Colbert of "The Colbert Report" is the perfect antidote to all of the equally ridiculous characters populating today's cable news channels. In an era that seems to have forgotten what real discourse is, it seems highly rational to fight lunacy with lunacy. He also wins the vote because of his brilliant White House Correspondent's Dinner performance a couple years back, being so subtly satiric it hurt...and made you worried he was either going to get audited into eternity or shivved in the parking lot by Margaret Spellings. He's nerdy enough to wield a lightsaber against George Lucas and even makes up his own words, like "truthiness," which pretty much sums up American politics these days. And finally, he gets the glittering, glamorous and yes, imaginary trophy because he has managed to mock the ubiquity of Lance Armstrong-inspired wrist bands with his great "WristStrong" creation while still raising money for returning U.S. troops, proving you can mock and be a nice guy all at the same time.

And we give the other half of this esteemed prize to Jon Stewart because without him there likely would be no "Daily Show," no Stephen Colbert (yes, Jon Stewart is like Colbert's TV womb), no Steve Carell, and most importantly, no "Big Daddy." No, wait, actually Adam Sandler probably still would've made that one without him -- damn it. We give this to Jon Stewart because he and his team present a show that's far more informative than most actual cable news programs, and because he's made politics interesting for millions of young Americans who now know when to be skeptical. He earns the big honor, too, because he and Colbert are two comedians who managed to get the mainstream press to treat them like real reporters and look like idiots in the process. Yes, that means you, Fox News. Besides, who doesn't love a guy who picks a fight with Tucker Carlson? I know I can't resist.

So thank you, Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart, for making us laugh when sometimes we just want to cry.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"I will suck the venom out, but this is the last time!"

I could watch this over and over again...which I guess is what American Express wants. Does liking this commercial mean I'm bowing to The Man?? Now I'm worried...

Contests galore: Run your own TV network and defeat two elderly people, all at the same time

Television Without Pity has launched a new contest that's like fantasy football for TV nerds. Called TV Big Shot, it gives you the chance to choose a fantasy TV schedule. Whoever's shows do best throughout the upcoming season will win $100,000. Monthly prizes like video iPods also will be given out. I'm excited about this because I already handicap TV seasons in my head, mostly so that I can mock shows produced by or starring people I don't like. I'm looking at you Geico cavemen. Go here to learn more.

Second, you may recall a post from a few weeks ago in which I asked you to vote for my good friend Stephen Levinson who was taking part in a Delta Airlines contest. Thanks in part to your votes, Stephen and his brother have made it to the finals where they're facing off against an elderly couple who have already traveled many miles in their lifetime and therefore do not deserve to win. (Just kidding, but they don't.) There's only one more day of voting left, so if you would like to watch their cool video on Dubai and cast your ballot, they might pull off a victory. And that would be a good thing because Stephen recently got engaged, and it would mean a free honeymoon for him and the future Mrs. Stephen. Here's how you can help:

- Go to
- Register or log in (if you already have a password and forgot it, just re-register).
- Watch the 2 short videos.
- Vote for The Awesomest Brothers (you get 250 skymiles for voting).

Sex Pistols reunite for live show; Sid Vicious still dead

Yes, Green Day the Sex Pistols are reuniting yet again, this time in celebration of the 30th anniversary of their legendary album, "Never Mind the Bollocks." I will admit that I'm a big fan of the Sex Pistols not only because I think they accidentally changed rock music forever but also because I think John Lydon is hilarious. Oh, and also because I love "Sid and Nancy," which features one of my all-time favorite lines: "What about the farewell drugs??!" This leads me to suggest that the Sex Pistols make this event worth my while and hire Gary Oldman to play Sid Vicious for the duration of the show, which my punk rock watch tells me should last 27 minutes before some form of faux rioting breaks out and/or until Johnny Rotten propels a bodily fluid onto a nearby police officer. Oh nostalgia, you make me smile.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Gervais would have wanted it this way

In case you missed it, here's the clip of Colbert, Stewart and Carell that I mentioned earlier from last night's Emmy Awards.

Wait, a show I like actually won?

Wow, was that the worst Emmy broadcast you've ever seen or what? I mean, I knew it would be bad what with Ryan Seacrest on hand and no Simon to beat him down with his chesticular awesomeness, but who knew it would just be a weird, uneven, unfunny, draggy train wreck?

First, I'll list a few good things because as my grandmother always said, if you can't say something nice about an overinflated, self-congratulatory Hollywood awards show, don't say anything. So here are some highlights:

* The Park Bench's TV mascot "30 Rock" won for best comedy, which was unexpectedly great. Considering the entire broadcast was a "Sopranos" love-fest, I was half-expecting it to take that award too but no, cooler heads prevailed and Tina Fey's masterwork was duly rewarded.

* Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert deciding to give Ricky Gervais' Emmy to Steve Carell was brilliant as was his over-the-top reaction. Ricky would have been proud.

* It was cute the way Sally Field tried to go all 1970s and talk about issues in her acceptance speech. Also, it was cute the way the trigger-happy censors got freaked out and cut her off when I believe she started to say something about this "goddamn war." Oh Sally, people don't want to think about sad things when there are gowns to be admired and skeletally-thin women to be emulated.

* I liked the way presenters just abandoned pretenses and began bitching about how the stage was set up. Who ever designed that should be forced to watch "The Sopranos" musical number over and over and over again.

On the down side:
* Um, Ryan Seacrest. Why? WHY?

* Felicity Huffman's skeletor cleavage right there in the front row. Her clavicle nearly poked my eye out.

* This was followed in the after-event wrap-ups with some doofus on Yahoo telling the world that television audiences think that America Ferrerra is beautiful despite, you know, having had a sandwich at some point in her life.

* "The Sopranos" love-fest. Seriously, does David Chase have connections? Were they going to whack Kiefer Sutherland if Fox didn't snuggle with the mobsters? I mean, I know it's a good show, but really. I was waiting for Chase to come out from backstage zipping his pants and smoking a cigarette.

* And finally, I don't know who Katherine Heigl is because I don't watch "Grey's Anatomy," but she seemed like a really sweet girl what with the complaining about her mispronounced name and the "Shit!" when she won. It's nice to know that etiquette school is being taught in Navy shipyards these days.

Thus ends the rant.

It's nice to be blogging with you again, by the way! I was off on vacation last week, and I have come back refreshed and ready to exude nerdiness all over the place. You have been warned.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

A nerd and damn proud of it!

Some highly official methodology to determine your nerdiness...or just some dude asking random questions. Either way, kinda entertaining plus it revealed a secret truth I've always know: I'm royalty! I assume this means I can take Prince Harry out for a corn dog or something, right? says I'm a Cool Nerd Queen.  What are you?  Click here!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Something else to do while driving

According to Yahoo News, a new company called uClick has created comic books that you can read on your cell phone. In its first year, the GoComics service has attracted around 55,000 folks. It actually sounds pretty cool. And it arrives just in time -- I was getting bored just texting, listening to music, watching Battlestar Galactica, surfing the internet and locating myself via GPS on my phone. Almost as boring as the days when you had to amuse yourself by gripping an Egg McMuffin in one hand and a coffee in the other while steering with your knees. You can't tell me the human race isn't evolving...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Would you take dating advice from a man in goggles?

Despite my recent vow never to watch anything on VH1 ever again after seeing Bret Michaels' train-wreck reality show, "Rock of Love," I have to admit I've been setting the DVR to record a hilariously lame yet mildly tenderhearted show called "The Pick-Up Artist" every Monday night. The premise revolves around eight socially awkward guys of a nerdy nature trying to learn how to successfully pursue women. Their teacher? A dude named Mystery who looks like a cross between a 19th-century pimp and Snoopy's Red Baron. It's almost sexy in a bewildering and, yes, ultimately troubling way. Mostly, though, it's just inadvertantly funny. Check it out:

I should probably be offended by the idea that we women can be entranced through simple formulas and hints and how-to's -- the sociological equivalent of waving shiny objects in front of our eyes -- but you know what? I'm not. (I'm more offended by the women in "Rock of Love," who should be forced to turn in their X chromosomes and leave the clubhouse immediately.) "The Pick-Up Artist" is actually kind of sweet. Most of the eight guys in training are the kind of lovable, awkward underdogs we all liked to hang out with in high school so I find it pretty easy to root for them.

Also, the show never really mocks. It would have been easy to make one of those "let's laugh at the nerds" shows, but Mystery and his wingmen -- yes, honestly, he has wingmen -- are respectful to the contestants. They encourage them and it's nice to watch a show where "cool" guys are being good to other not-so-cool guys in a relatively sincere way.

But the best part of the show is its utter ridiculousness. Mystery not only wears fluffy hats and goggles and occasionally places a fake red-lipped kiss on his throat, he also wears a cape and likes to feed the guys inane pick-up lines that, sadly, actually seem to work and are yet another sign of America's impending cultural doom.

And be forewarned, there are loads of slightly creepy aspects to the show, like trying to train a 45-year-old man how to pick up women by having him troll nightclubs filled with 20-year-olds. Also, the idea of kinda, maybe hiring women to make out with the guys, which had me worried that maybe the top prize would be a social disease, although I think I heard VH1 was saving that premise for next season. The show will star Bret Michaels.

But if you've got an hour to spare on a show that's less socially egregious than "Rock of Love" and if you're really just too lazy to get up off the couch and vacuum or something, then give "The Pick-Up Artist" a try.

Here's hoping my ringing endorsement turns up in some classy VH1 promos!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Surrendering to that damn Potter kid

The next time I watch Ray Milland in "Lost Weekend," I’m going to look really closely and see if he’s got Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix tucked under his arm because that’s the dirty little tome that caused my own recent lost weekend. Yes, I sat down at page 207 on Sunday afternoon and closed the book last night around midnight, 650 pages blinder than I was before. Worst of all was trying to explain to my husband why I was sniffling and trying not to sound too pathetic while mumbling things like “But Sirius...” and “Dumbledore cared too much to tell him...” and “Poor Professor McGonagall....” To his credit, he just looked at me, with my bloodshot eyes and pathetic face, sighed, and handed me the next volume.

So, yes, I’ve been sucked into the Harry Potter cult. After years of resistance, which I've written about before, I am five volumes in and am now ready for the membership card and secret handshake. I now know all about Muggles and Weasleys and Deatheaters and Cornelius Fudge and hippogriffs. I know, too, that I don’t really like Harry too much, but I think that’s a good thing. It means J.K. Rowling’s done a good job of creating a well-rounded character. Ron is my man and I like Hermione as well, who’s as smart as I always wanted to be growing up. And I love Sirius and Dumbledore and McGonagall and all the rest of the kind-hearted authority figures.

More importantly, I can finally appreciate what a detailed world Rowling managed to create and can read in awe as she manages to string so many things together over the course of so many pages. Sure, there are a few missteps here and there, and while the prose is strong, it’s nothing to write home about. It’s Rowling’s way of propelling the story forward and imbuing the most fantastical elements with humanity that really make this series special. I love the way it makes me laugh out loud or gasp at unexpected moments or the way it makes me hang in there, thinking just a few more pages, when I’m sure my eyes are going to start bleeding from the strain any moment.

I feel lucky, too, that I’m reading these books now when the series is complete. I don’t think my frail nerves could handle waiting two years to find out what happens after the close of each novel. As it is, all I have to do is polish up my glasses, look pathetically at my husband and wait for him to hand me the next two volumes. Which I guess technically makes him my enabler. I'm okay with that.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Why do they all have G.I. Joe's torso?

Found over at Pop Candy, a list of the top 100 action figures from the last ten years, courtesy of Toyfare online magazine. I never knew there was such a thing as a 12-inch Indiana Jones with removable socks. What the hell else have I been missing? And who else's socks could I have been removing?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Who wants to build an army of robotic cats? I do! I do!

Sega has made a robotic cat. I've watched the commercial about ten times now and it's still equally hilarious and creepy. My favorite part is where the child pulls its tail and it meows in a really bitchy way -- just like my real cat!