Friday, August 31, 2007

Everyone loves surprises!

Premiere Magazine has a list of 20 best movie plot twists. Given some of their nominees -- seriously, "Eddie and the Cruisers?" -- I'm thinking they should have whittled it down to 10 or 15, but hey, it's still a fun read. Also, there are spoilers a-plenty so just glance quickly if you didn't already know the skinny on soylent green and Rosebud.

I'm sorry, Heroes, but I don't know if it's going to work out

You know how every teenage girl in a Lifetime Original Movie eventually has a breakdown and screams, "Why can't I be like everyone else?" Yeah, that's how I feel about "Heroes." I just can't seem to get excited about it despite the non-stop internet chatter and the perpetual advertising loop coming from NBC.

And this is where I need to make a terrible admission: I never even finished watching season one. There are ten episodes sitting on my DVR right now, glaring at me every time I skip over them to watch that new Feasting on Asphalt I missed. I'm starting to feel guilty about the whole thing. It just seems frankly un-American at this point not to like Heroes.

I started off enthusiastically enough with the show. It has a great premise. The acting was good. I loved Masi Oka and even liked Milo Ventimiglia despite all the objects I threw at the TV when he played Jess on Gilmore Girls. And there was Greg Grunberg, too -- hello Alias guy! So good cast, good story, good writing just didn't do it for me.

In a way, I compare Heroes to Lost with its off-the-wall premise and serial storytelling style, but somehow, I've always managed to stick with Lost, even in its darkest days. (Insert Brokeback Mountain "I can't quit you" joke here, just for pop culture old time's sake.) Everyone seemed to love the fact that Heroes continually fed answers and moved the plot along, but to me, it just felt too me, it just wasn't satisfying, leading me to the disturbing conclusion that I must be some sort of narrative masochist who keeps vowing to split up with the likes of Lindelof and Cuse every time they screw me over with a nonsensical plot twist...but I always go back and forgive them. Do you think they have special therapists for this?

I'm still going to give Heroes another try. I'm going to finish watching all of last year and see if it gets my nerd interest rolling. If I could only put down those damn Harry Potter books....

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Miss Universe?

So astronomers have discovered a gargantuan hole in the middle of the universe.

The hole is nearly a billion light-years across. It is not a black hole, which is a small sphere of densely packed matter. Rather, this one is mostly devoid of stars, gas and other normal matter, and it's also strangely empty of the mysterious "dark matter" that permeates the cosmos. Other space voids have been found before, but nothing on this scale.

Astronomers don't know why the hole is there.

"Not only has no one ever found a void this big, but we never even expected to find one this size," said researcher Lawrence Rudnick of the University of Minnesota.

And in a related story:

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Technical difficulties

Something has gone completely crazy with some of my RSS feeds. Being a technological idiot, I have no idea what the problem is. I've canceled my Feedburner account, so hopefully it'll stop folks from getting spammed. Unfortunately, I think that may also affect folks who get this site via a feed. I'll try to sort all this out and get things fixed again soon. I may have to earn some sort of computer degree first, but I'll get it sorted. My sincere apologies and thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Contemplating "Chuck"

For some reason, I've been feeling hopeful lately, like the way I used to feel as a kid before Christmas. I couldn't quite figure out what was provoking this sensation until last night when, bingo, it hit me like a rolled up copy of the TV Guide: there's a new television season approaching with actual scripted television shows, none of which are produced by VH1 or star Bret Michaels. Aside from the usual favorites like "30 Rock," "The Office" and "House" and those favorites that I have to wait until the next century to see like "Battlestar Galactica" and "Lost," I find myself intrigued by a couple of new shows including NBC's new action-comedy, "Chuck."

Now I figure this is either going to be a really fun, entertaining show that's going to my nerdy side a-twitter's going to completely blow. The show centers around a geeky young man named Chuck who works for fictionalized version of the Geek Squad, proffering computer assistance to the technically inept. One day he accidentally sees a top-secret government video that becomes lodged in his big nerdy brain and suddenly he's wanted by a whole bunch of bad guys. The series centers on his efforts to stay alive and learn how to be a crafty spy while never losing his gooey geek center.

Here's a preview:

I figure I've got to give the show a try, despite the fact that it's made by the former producer of "The O.C." For one thing, it focuses on one of our archetypal nerd brethren. I gotta lend my support to that. I also have to watch because "Chuck" co-stars Adam Baldwin. Whether he's playing an alien supersoldier in "The X-Files", wearing his little orange hat as Jayne in "Firefly" or testing my patience in a TV movie version of "Poseidon Adventure," I will watch Adam Baldwin because I'm pretty sure I sold my TV viewing soul to him a few years back and the bastard never lets anyone out of a contract. "Chuck" also wins my attention simply for the fact that it's being marketed as an action-comedy. And boy oh boy, do I like action comedies.

So I'll be tuning in to "Chuck," which debuts at 9 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 24. If it makes me laugh and if they blow stuff up, I'll tune in again. I'm easy that way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

DVD Review: 300

Despite the fact that work has been crushing me the last week or so, I did find two hours this past weekend to finally, finally see 300. I'd enjoyed Sin City, a film also born in Frank Miller's brain, but had been worried that 300 wouldn't live up to its pedigree. But you know what? This flick about 300 Spartan soldiers battling a Persian army one million men strong was ab-tastic! Sure, it was cheesy and sure, it had nothing to do with any kind of historical reality but geez, who cares when there's muscular men frolicking against blue screens full of Dali-esque scenery? And I'm not one for the carnage unless it's aliens and stuff ('cause let's face it, aliens totally deserve it) but even I had to admit that the bloodshed was visually brilliant enough to make Quentin Tarantino cry with envy.

But back to that historical reality disconnect for a moment. Usually I get all spazzy about inaccuracies. I blame it on the fact that I exuded a huge amount of nerdy effort on classical studies in college which is the employable equivalent of trying to get a degree in puppeteering -- it's completely useless and the only thing that makes you feel like you got your outrageous tuition's worth is to nitpick historical inaccuracies in movies about Greeks and Romans. But surprisingly, this movie didn't make me crazy. For example, there's a scene when the main character King Leonides of Sparta kills a huge wolf that looks like a cross between a stegosaurus and Kate Moss. I'm pretty sure that's historically -- and zoologically -- impossible, but the movie was so narratively and visually individual, beautifully creating its own reality, that it didn't bother me at all. Like Sin City, 300 is simply a comic book come to life.

Usually in a DVD review, I would talk about acting and the script but there's really no need. Both were fine. On the other hand, though, this is a movie you could watch with the sound off and still be just as satisfied. And I don't mean that as a criticism. I mean it more as a statement of how powerful its visual elements are. Then again, if you watch it with the sound off, you'll miss Gerard Butler (King Leonidas) shouting, "Tonight we dine in HELL!!!!" which I feel is destined to become the new, "Kaaaaahhhhnnnn!!!!"

So there you have it: I give 300 eight husky Spartans out of ten.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Baseball: nerdiest of the professional sports?

My nerves are on edge. I’m watching too much ESPN. Whole minutes of my day are spent thinking about Kenny Rogers’ left elbow, keeping my fingers crossed that it heals well and fast. The signs are clear: my Detroit Tigers are in the middle of a pennant race.

I’ve been a baseball fan since I was seven years old. It’s a sport that suits my nerdy tendencies well. First off, there are miles and miles of statistics to obsess over. How’s Ordonez’s O.B.P. looking? (It’s looking very nice, thank you.) What about Justin Verlander’s W.H.I.P? Will Grilli ever get his E.R.A. down? There’s enough acronyms there to choke a H.O.R.S.E (Hoofed Oat-eating Running Sassy Equine).

Then there’s the athleticism of some of the players. I’m not knocking any of them. A lot of baseball players are stellar, stellar athletes in tip-top shape. Just watch a diving catch by centerfielder Curtis Granderson or one of third baseman Brandon Inge’s rib-crushing dives into the stands and you’ll see some guys in peak physical condition. On the other hand, baseball is one of the few sports where the guy eating pork rinds and smoking a cigarette on the sofa might actually be right when he says, “I could do that.” Sure, he couldn’t do it for very long, but he could probably catch a ball and maybe bunt or something. The same can’t be said for hockey or football or basketball. So as a nerdy person with limited physical skill and dexterity, I’ve always looked on baseball players as one of my own.

You’ve also got the length of the season – it lasts eight months if you include spring training. Imagine if Battlestar Galactica actually ran for eight straight months and then ended with a super-huge seven-episode World Series of sci-fi bliss. How awesome would that be? Pretty awesome. And that’s what you get with baseball. You get plenty of time to obsess on all the intricate details of the game. You speculate and talk with other fans. You can’t wait for each new series and you can’t help but grow more and more attached to your favorite players as you follow their ups and downs. It’s just like following a favorite TV show except when you wear a baseball jersey no one makes fun of you and accuses you of living in your parents’ basement.

So there it is: the reason my blood pressure’s getting higher and my nerves are starting to fray. My Tigers are in the pennant race and the nerd in me won’t be satisfied ‘til they win it all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nerdy-type news -- now with hot squirrel tails!

As I nurse the nervous eye twitch that's blossomed thanks to an overly stressful work week, I give you the following nerdy-type tidbits that have caught my fancy recently:

* The New York Times had a short but interesting round table discussion among fans and critics over what made Harry Potter such a cultural phenomenon. Apparently it has nothing to do with the mystical allure of Alan Rickman, which I don't think is right at all. [NY Times]

* The BBC recently asked, "What's keeping women out of the labs?" Would "locks" be too obvious an answer? Actually, it's a very interesting story on the myths surrounding whether or not men are better than women at science. I've always secretly wished that genetics would explain away my inability to do percentages or figure out the spatial secrets to getting a sofa through a small, crooked doorway, but sadly, it turns out I might just be dumb. [BBC News]

* I thought for sure that National Geographic was going the "Squirrels Gone Wild" route with their coverage of "hot squirrel tails" but no, it's all on the scientific up and up. Apparently, researchers have discovered that certain squirrels can make their tails hot to ward off snakes. Yes, it's just like a superpower! If I don't see a Kevin Smith-produced movie about gigantic squirrels with fire-spewing tails in my local cineplex by next summer, I'm going to be very disappointed. [National Geographic]

* As if poor Abraham Lincoln didn't have enough on his mind what with being dead and having his face on America's least favorite coin, now he's got scientists pointing and laughing at him because his face was lopsided. This seems like such a weird "discovery" to me. Were they all just looking at his picture one day and Scientist A said, "Dude, he's kinda ugly," and Scientist B nodded thoughtfully. And then Scientist A, who obviously had just been watching an E! Entertainment docudrama on lopsided celebrity faces, turned to the other dude and said, "We should write a paper." And then the ghost of Abraham Lincoln gave them the finger and rained pennies down on their Priuses. I'm pretty sure that's how it happened. [Yahoo News]

* USA Today had an item today on video games as spectator sport, wondering if it was something that would grow in popularity in coming years. I say hell yes, since I enjoy watching my husband play Madden football much more than I enjoy watching the actual Detroit Lions play football. I think if you polled the actual Detroit Lions team, they would say the exact same thing...and then spontaneously lose to Green Bay. [USA Today]

* And finally, I didn't know this, but Kids in the Hall alumnus, News Radio icon and classy Bravo Celebrity Poker host and tippler Dave Foley has his own online show called "Cant Sleep With Dave Foley." Basically, Dave does free-form monologues, chats with celebrities online and presents a musical guest -- all from his bed. It's like if Hugh Hefner were Canadian. Here's episode one:

You can see all of the episodes at

Monday, August 13, 2007

Christopher Walken cooks a chicken

To paraphrase The Daily Show, here is your Monday morning moment of Zen: Christopher Walken cooking a chicken. There's nothing funny about it really, but I do find it soothing:

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shaking the nerdy girl blues

I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts the last day or so, which got me thinking: other women buy shoes and throw drinks at their boyfriends when they're feeling down, but what do us nerdy sorts do? When the blues hit, I always like to take a day for myself to help recover the swing in my sashay. Here’s how it works:

Call in sick. Choose a malady: Gout? Malaria? Rabies? Pick one, it’s your day to feel saucy.

Go back to sleep. Dream about pie.

Wake up. Eat pie.

Think about going to gym. Laugh and laugh. “Thanks, gym, for raising my spirits! I knew you’d come in handy some day!”

Get up. Take shower. Decide not to wash hair. It’s your way of stickin’ it to The Man. Yeah!

Watch comfort DVD: maybe one of those angsty season two X-Files episode when Scully went missing and Mulder was all by himself. Cry alongside forlorn Mulder. Hot, hot forlorn Mulder...

Smoke cigarette.

Finish episode.

Decide to go shopping. Go to bookstore. “I’m only going to buy one,” you tell yourself. Oh, silly you. Emerge 45-minutes later like a small, laden camel. Reassure yourself that books are good for you. They are not a compulsion.

Look at receipt. Realize they are a compulsion. Assuage guilt. Eat pie. Rinse. Repeat.

Go online to buy that lamp you’ve been wanting from IKEA. You deserve it. You’re feeling blue. But you’re going to be thrifty this time!

Worry new couch won’t fit in living room.

Oops, forgot the lamp.

Go to Blockbuster and rent chick flick.

Imagine shirtless wrestling match between Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Jude Law and Eric Bana.

Still thinkin’...

Still thinkin’...

Colin Firth wins!

Staring contest with cat. Cat blinks. Dance of victory proves to her once and for all the dominance of the human species. Later, she vomits in your shoe.

Call friends. Go to dinner. Have pie for dessert. Class it up with ice cream.

See “Transformers”

Still feeling blue. Wonder when you got so old that even flying robots couldn’t ease your existential angst.

Take Xanax.

Everything’s fine. Thanks, Pfizer!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The greatest American movie ever made in these here American United States of America

Sorry for the effusive patriotism there, but Independence Day, or ID4 as we fans call it, does that to me sometimes. It was on cable again this past weekend, as it is on any day when the Earth revolves around the sun, and I’d forgotten just how awesome this movie is. And I mean that almost without any sarcasm at all. This is one of those movies that people feel ashamed to enjoy, like Armageddon or Poseidon Adventure, but I think it’s time we stopped feeling bad about loving ID4. After all, if God hadn’t wanted us to love cheese, he wouldn’t have given us Wisconsin.

First of all, there’s a lot to legitimately love about this movie. In fact, there are nine things and they are:

1) Will Smith being Will Smith
2) Harry Connick Jr. flying a jet and talking with his smooth Louisiana accent
3) Randy Quaid saving the world (oops, spoiler)
4) Mary McDonnell dying gracefully so as not to have to act too much with
Bill Pullman and proving to me just how devastated I’ll be if they ever
kill her off of Battlestar Galactica
5) That jump to safety that the labrador retriever makes just as the tunnel explodes!
6) Brent Spiner as an Area 51 brainiac
7) Adam Baldwin as a dude in a uniform who’s basically anonymous but still cool because, hello, it’s Jayne!
8) Intentionally funny dialogue
9) Spectacular explosions and space battles

And there’s a lot to illegitimately love about this movie. I won’t make a list because basically that love, for me, is best summed up in the president’s rousing speech toward the end of the film, delivered in a slightly confused and understandably ashamed manner by Bill Pullman. I really can't do it justice describing it. You'll just have to watch it yourself:

Everything about that scene is so beautifully, awesomely overwrought and shitty – I don’t think I’ll ever love any other speech more. It’s so pure in its badness, like an ugly, ugly baby. And when it comes to movie magic, you can't ask for much more than that. Except maybe quality.

So the next time ID4 is on, feel free to crank it up, wave your flag, yell a few profanities at the aliens and let your neighbors know how much you love this movie. Because remember, there's nothing to be ashamed of anymore. (Even I don't really believe that....)

A.M. Update

* Every time I hear or see Seth Green, I think of the scene in Buffy when Oz tells Giles he thinks he should name the zombie cat "Patches." And then I laugh. I don't know why. That's just how it is. Anyway, if you'd like to listen to Seth Green and conjure up your own mental images, he did a nifty interview on NPR yesterday about Robot Chicken and various other projects, none of which, sadly, involve zombie cats named Patches. (And again I laugh.) [NPR]

* Speaking of interviews and speaking of people who know Seth Green, Joss Whedon did an interview this week with The Onion's AV Club in which he talks about a bunch of new projects including an Angel TV movie which led me to go, "Huh? What?" and then kind of jump up and down a little bit. I'm feeling like maybe I misunderstood though because it seems too good to be true. Let me know what you think. [The Onion AV Club]

* Speaking of people who don't know Seth Green, my husband is very excited over news of a World of Warcraft movie. I think he's secretly hoping that his blood elf Hoyt gets asked to participate, but I'm not sure that'll happen. I'm guessing though that there will be sword fights and lots of flying arrows, so it's all good. [Monsters and Critics]

* Speaking of things that have nothing to do with Seth Green at all, a new study came out yesterday saying that while we women prefer the muscled, tough, Rocky-esque gentlemen for our clubbing and concrete pouring needs, we prefer the gentler, less bulge-y gents for marriage and long-term co-habitation. I'm guessing the report was written by a lot of men who are gentler and less bulge-y and who maybe get picked on by the bigger, meaner sports fitness researchers down the hall. Just a guess. [Yahoo "News"]

* And finally, something that has only tangential relation to Seth Green and then only in terms of evolution, a monkey smuggled himself into LaGuardia Airport yesterday sitting quietly, smoking and reading In Flight magazine under some guy's hat. He was discovered when he asked for a moist towelette. Or something. All I know is, it's a cute monkey and I love the BBC caption for the article which states, "The monkey was said to have been well-behaved on the flight." Unlike some of those damn kids always kicking my chair, the reporter thought to himself, shaking his fist in unseen rage. [BBC News]

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Personal ads as bizarre, endearing art

We all know the British produce great literature. They go on and on about it all day long, bragging rudely about their Shakespeares and Byrons and Waughs et cetera, et cetera. So it shouldn't be any sort of surprise to learn that they do personal ads a whole lot better than their pen-wielding American counterparts too. For eight years now, the London Review of Books (LRB) has been publishing some of the most amusing, bizarre, frightening and all-around endearing personal ads ever to stir a lonely heart. David Rose, editor of the LRB personals, recently published a compendium of the most memorable missives titled They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books. The tiny tome is the perfect book to slip into your pocket some Sunday afternoon and read under a tree, laughing at (and with) some intensely creative and compulsively honest single folk.

I wrote a story about Rose and these personal ads a good six or seven years ago, so I'll admit I'm a bit biased about this book, but honestly, there's something sweetly charming about reading personal ads that are so carefully drawn. There's no "buxom woman, 22, seeks George Clooney look-alike..." nor any "tall, single man looking for hot love with gullible blonde, 18 to 23." That's all just so dull. Wouldn't you rather read an ad from a man "on the look-out for a contortionist who plays the trumpet," as the very first ad declared. After reading all these ads, I have a hard time understanding why most of these folks are single -- should people this creative really be going to Die Hard 4 by themselves? I think not.

Anyway, here are just a few of the gems you'll find within the pages of They Call Me Lola. Enjoy:

"I'd like to dedicate this advert to my mother (difficult cow, 65) who is responsible for me still being single at 36. Man. 36. single. Held at home by years of subtle emotional abuse and at least 19 fake heart attacks. Box no. 6207."

"Writing this advert has given the biggest sense of accomplishment I've felt since successfully ironing my trousers (14 June 1998). Man, 37. Box no 2473."

"Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite. Box no. 9612."

"I'm just a girl who can't say 'no' (or 'anaesthetist'). Lisping Rodgers and Hammerstein fan, female lecturer in politics (37) WLTM man to 40 for thome ethanted eveningth. Box no. 2498."

"Blah, blah, whatever. Indifferent woman. Go ahead and write. Box no. 3253. Like I care."

"God appeared to me in a dream last night and spoke your name in my ear. He gave me the winning lottery numbers, too, though, so you can understand where my priorities lay when I raced to grab a notebook and pen. Man, 37, living on hope and the next seven weeks' bonus balls seeks woman whose first name begins with S, or maybe F, and rhymes with chicken, and has a surname that's either a place in Shropshire or the title of a 1979 Earth, Wind and Fire track. Shicken Boogiewonderland, I know you'e reading this. Write now to box no. 5279."

I kinda want to marry them all. I'll just settle for giving you this link to an NPR story from last year.

A.M. Update

* Apparently, a gigantic Lego man washed up on the shores of a Dutch beach recently. Which, you know, would seem weird to me but not so much for the people who found him. They just set him up in front of the local beach bar. There's a photo here of the giant Lego man before he eats the small children gamboling about at his giant Lego feet. [ABC News Australia]

* I can't figure out how to connect Wi-Fi in my house but scientists are now apparently strapping computers with tracking devices onto the backs of sea turtles, creating a wireless sea turtle network. The turtles stopped swimming about three days later and now just play World of Warcraft while sea otters circle them and laugh. [Scientific American]

* Via Boing Boing, here's a cool website called Making Sense of Marcel Duchamp, one of the fathers of Dadaism. If you're a fan of Duchamp's absurdity and cheeky nature or have never seen his work at all, check it out. There are gorgeous depictions and fascinating explanations of his art, all laid out chronologically so you can see his stylistic progression. [Understanding Duchamp]

* Oh, and some guy hit a home run last night. Apparently, he's hit a bunch of them, maybe around 756. I accidentally saw this live last night and all I felt was sad when he kinda blew his own kid off at home plate. Also, they forced poor Hank Aaron to make a nice video of how great he felt about Bonds breaking his record. You could barely see Bud Selig poking him in the back with a stick the whole time he spoke. Anyway, now the folks at ESPN have to find something new to talk about. Maybe we can start tracking A-Rod now. I might actually root for him. [Yahoo News]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

It's just that kind of day.

(It would help if you could read the following post while imaging mellow, jangly piano music playing in the background. Thanks.)

I don’t know – maybe it’s the rain. Maybe it’s the melancholy or the fact that I’m thinking of having cheese for lunch. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m wearing synthetic fibers. Whatever the reason, today is the kind of day when I’m thinkin’ ‘bout Shatner.

I’m thinkin’ there’s a lot to love about this particular Canadian…and no, that’s not a fat joke. Those will come later. Be patient. I’m thinkin’ here’s a man who loves himself a lot and if he loves himself a lot, then who are we to question that wisdom? After all, William Shatner knows William Shatner better than anyone and maybe we should all settle down and not fight the Shatner love anymore. I’m cool with that.

And speaking of cool, I’m thinkin’ he’s pretty cool to pimp himself for Priceline, too. Because not only is he entertaining me with his kung fu moves every night on TV, he’s probably also getting a sweet deal on rooms and rental cars. It makes good career sense and best of all, it makes good financial sense. He’s a smart Canadian.

I’m thinkin’ no one else could have played Captain Kirk – and ultimately come to believe he was Captain Kirk – quite the way Shatner did. If you haven’t read his autobiography, you really should. Immediately. I’ll wait….

Are you done? Did you enjoy it? Was your favorite part the part where he believed he could fight some guy because he was pretty sure that he, William Shatner, had Kirk’s smooth moves and would win, just like Kirk? But then he didn’t because he’s not a fictional character and wasn’t carrying a stunt coordinator with him that day. Yeah, that was a good chapter.

I’m thinkin’, too, of the time he tried to humiliate a teenage Wil Wheaton which Wheaton describes beautifully here. I’m thinkin’ I don’t like Shatner so much when he does that but I do like laughing at the story, in which he tells the young, newly minted Star Trek:TNG cast member that “he would never let a child on the bridge of his ship.” Again with the reality not being such a good friend of The Shat Man.

And I’m thinkin’ that as much as I mock Shatner and point at his girdle when I watch Generations and shake my head at his singing (“Mr. Tambourine Maaaan!!!!”) and cry a little at his spoken word poetry and maybe laugh some more when he auctions off his kidney stones, the world really wouldn’t be as much fun without him. That’s not just the cheese and melancholy talking either....

A.M. Update

A few items of interest this morning:

* The BBC had one of those fascinating yet frightening "2001: A Space Odyssey-the machines will one day kill me and then laugh" stories about increasing the realism of video games and ongoing efforts to make not just the characters' physical appearances more human but also their reactions. So on the day that Yoshi leaps out from the TV screen, I'm going to be totally impressed with the realism for that split second before he maims and eats me. Cool. [BBC story]

* If your taste in beverages runs more James Bond-y than Budweiser, Salon Magazine has an interview with a blogger who's devoted himself to the finer things in the cocktail world. As someone who always grew up wanting to host parties where Carole Lombard and William Powell would come over (and rise from the dead) to have highballs with me, I was intrigued. [Salon]

* Speaking of worldly sophistication, Wired has a nifty little item on curating your action figures. Yes, just like a real museum only with less boring stuff and more caped Darth Vaders! [Wired How-To]

* And if you'd like to see the ultimate skinny girl celebrity, the bones of Lucy -- the oldest humanoid skeleton ever found -- are being taken on a tour of the United States. Ethiopia, the country which has possession of Lucy, is sending them on tour to raise money for national museums. It's not been a widely applauded move, given the obvious rarity of the skeletal remains and the fact that even 3 million year old hominid bones are not safe in the hands of Northwest baggage handlers. The tour starts at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.[BBC]

* Finally, speaking of travel, if you have 10 or so minutes to spare today and feel like registering at Delta, my good friend Stephen is trying to win a contest which he describes as "half-reality show and half-dream vacation." The receiver of the most votes for their video entry will get to keep participating in the contest. His video (The Awesome Brothers) is very funny, he's a good fellow and he was one of the masterminds behind the urban legend that convinced thousands of people that Louie Armstrong originally wrote and performed Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again." How can you not love that? Anyway, here are the instructions if you feel like exercising your voting rights:

1. Go to

2. Register. You don't need a frequent flyer number, but you get free miles if you have one.

3. Watch the videos. You have to watch them all, but you can just have them running in the background if you need to.

4. Vote for The Awesomest Brothers (that's them.) Stephen says thank you and so do I!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Next week I'm thinking of learning the Lindy Hop and getting a pet rock

Nothing like coming to a cultural phenomena a few years late! Yes, after years of not reading Harry Potter, I have finally succumbed and am only a few pages shy of finishing Chamber of Secrets. And I have concluded that the key to J.K. Rowling's success is that she coats each and every page with a fine, fine sheen of crack cocaine. There is no other way to explain just how goddamn addictive these books are.

So why am I so ridiculously late to the party? I tried reading the first Potter book when it originally came out but I just couldn't get into it. Which, I know, is totally blasphemous for a nerdy woman. But it's true. Maybe I just didn't have the right mindset. I used to be way snobby in my youth, reading the Times Literary Supplement each week and pretending I was obscurely European. Maybe I thought I was just too "smart" and "grown up" to read it. But let's face it, the far more likely reason was that I just got confused. It's such a big, sweeping mythology. I don't always do well with those big long novels with tons of characters -- that's why Tolstoy makes me cry. This Potter stuff can be daunting to newbies: what's a muggle? What's a Malfoy and why are there two of them? What's the difference between a Hagrid and a Hedwig? Yes, I was baffled by a world that was being consumed with clear-eyed ease and understanding by nine-year-olds. So much for my intellectual snobbery.

Over the years, though, I did see all the movies and while I was still confused, there were at least a whole series of pretty, colorful moving images to keep me interested. And ultimately, seeing the movies has helped me appreciate and understand the novels as I read them now. As I'm nearing the end of Chamber of Secrets, I can reference my movie going experience when needed and picture all the characters in my head -- ah, yes, Hagrid is Robby Coltrane, Malfoy is that Jason Isaacs guy who wooed Donna on The West Wing, Professor Lockhart is smarmy Kenneth Brannagh and so on. All the puzzle pieces have fallen into place for me and now I'm relishing these crack-covered pages as much as the next member of the nerdy literati.

I'm feeling a bit sad that I missed the initial hubbub, but in a way I'm grateful, too. Everyone who followed the phenomena from day one had to wait in agony to see if the movies were good, had to sit on the edge of their seat wondering if the next novel would be as good as the last, had to wonder and worry if such-and-such actor would embody a role the way they'd envisioned it. That's a lot of stress. Me, slacker that I am, can now just sit and cruise through these books knowing that there aren't any George Lucas-y/Jar-Jar Binks-y lapses in creative judgment, secure in knowing that the end of Harry's journey is just as exciting as those first opening pages. I still have those last movies to wait for, too, so there's at least some mystery left, just not enough to warrant any ulcers. And I think that's a good thing.

And speaking of cultural sloth, I'm totally looking forward to catching up on this Rubik's Cube craze I've heard so much about....

Friday, August 03, 2007

Movie Review: Waitress

I’m a woman who likes pies. I’m just going to lay that right out there for you. Toby is my favorite character on The West Wing because he likes pies. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because the pilgrims invented pie. The moon is my favorite astronomical body because – and only because – of the existence of The Moon Pie.

It’s no surprise then that I loved Waitress, a film about a woman, Jenna, with a talent for making spectacular pies. She has other narratively interesting characteristics as well: she hates her suffocating husband and plans to leave him just as soon as she wins a pie baking contest. Jenna, played by Keri Russell, also has just found out she’s pregnant and soon launches into an affair with her obstetrician (Nathan Fillion). Also, as the title suggests, she’s a waitress. She works in a diner alongside her two best friends, played by Cheryl Hines and Adrienne Shelly, the late actress who starred in many a Hal Hartley film and who wrote and directed “Waitress.” Rounding out the cast is Andy Griffith, who plays the faux curmudgeon who owns the place.

You can tell right from the start that Shelly was a disciple of Hartley, the indie film god who gave us Trust, Amateur and Simple Men. Her characters have that same studied quirkiness and affinity for flat, funny dialogue. With this film, though, I think she outdoes Hartley. Where his movies can sometime be too clever and come off emotionally hollow, Shelly builds her humor from the characters themselves so it all feels natural. These people are truly unusual, but believably so and that’s what makes them so completely endearing.

Keri Russell is wonderful as Jenna, a character who is so deeply, soul-crushingly unhappy but who still manages to be patient and caring, if not a little cranky, to nearly everyone else around her. Who knew Russell could be so good? After seeing her work in this movie, I hereby pledge to never make another Felicity joke again.

Shelly and Hines are very good, too, bouncing off each other like a small Greek chorus, chirping their dialogue in clipped Southern accents that belie their own sadnesses. Andy Griffith does a nice, quiet job with his character, an older man who dispenses advice to Jenna each morning in the diner. I will admit, when he leaves her a note addressed to “my only friend,” I got a little choked up.

And finally, here I am with the Nathan love. As many critics have said, why this man isn’t a bigger star is utterly baffling. I mean, Nathan’s character is two-timing his wife with a pregnant married woman and all you can think is, “he’s so sweet.” He brings pure goodness to a character who, in the wrong hands, could have been seen by the audience as being perched on a slippery moral slope yet he pulls it off without a hitch.

Also, in my head, I really, really need to stop thinking of the poor man as Captain Tightpants.

So here’s my recommendation for the weekend: go have some pie and if you can, go see Waitress. And then have some more pie. It’s what the pilgrims would have wanted.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Nerd Men of the Month: Pegg and Frost

It's a two-fer this month in the Nerd Man category. In celebration of the release of Hot Fuzz on DVD this week, we're giving the vaunted nerd girl seal of approval to English-types Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. At first, I thought about just naming Simon but then that seemed akin to naming just Laurel and not Hardy, Rumsfeld not Wolfowitz, Mary-Kate and not Ashley. Because, simply put, Pegg and Frost are great individually but they're even better together.

So why all the fuss about these fellows? Well, there about a thousand reasons for the love and they all boil down to this: they're fucking hilarious. Shaun of the Dead, the world's first and best zombie romantic comedy, is a masterwork of gentle parody, flat-out absurdity, genuine gory frights and -- strangely enough -- a true, heartfelt examination of what it means to be a hero to the people you love. Pegg co-wrote Shaun and also plays the lead with a gentle but determined average-guy demeanor. Sure, he's upset that zombies have risen from the dead and are eating people, but he's more upset that his girlfriend's left him and his stepfather's a control freak. Frost plays Pegg's irresponsible best friend whose idea of the perfect day is one spent in the local pub playing video games and doing impressions of the orangutan in Every Which Way But Loose. They're a perfect comic team: Pegg all squirrelly and nervous, Frost all laid back and "chill, dude."

The duo, along with Pegg's writing partner Edgar Wright, proved that Shaun wasn't just a fluke with Hot Fuzz. The film parodies all those Lethal Weapon/Hard Boiled/Bad Boys-style action flicks except they make it, you know, intentionally funny. Here's the preview so you can reminisce over its awesomeness or get your first taste:

Ahhh, that movie makes me very, very happy. As do Pegg and Frost. Plus, seriously, they're action figures. That's a thousand extra nerd points right there.

I've still got to check out the TV series they did together called Spaced, but for now Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz have given me all the zombie-loving, comedy-loving, goofball-loving ammunition necessary to decree this duo Nerd Men of the Month for August.

Like the Oprah book club but with polar bears

Did you know that The Washington Post has an online "Lost" book club? Well, neither did I until today. The point of the club is to ease the pain of not having new "Lost" episodes until January 2000-and-forever by reading books mentioned on the series or books that are influential to the series. They just finished their first selection, Watership Down, which Sawyer has been seen reading twice to date. Here's arecap of their first online discussion.