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 www.gothamgirlsrollerderby.com.

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 www.cut2008.net, and there is a “goldish ticket” hidden somewhere on JGAS.org. It will bring you to a page where you can get tickets at a discount.

If you'd like to join JGAS, visit www.jgas.org. 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 it...meet 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!