Friday, May 30, 2008

News of the Day -- Friday, May 30

+ Rumor has it that Neil Gaiman will be writing an episode of Doctor Who pretty soon.

+ Were you as blown away by "Lost" last night as I was? I thought so. (Creepy Claire scared the bejeezus out of me.) Bask in that "Lost" afterglow goodness with this terrific essay from The New York Times on the strengths and yes, weaknesses of the show. I love this line: "It is possible that, in the end, “Lost” will turn out to be nothing more than an elaborately analogized exegesis on the horrors of modern travel." Heh.

+ Elizabeth Berkley has joined the cast of "Donnie Darko 2." She'll play "a speed freak-turned-Jesus freak obsessed with cleansing the world of sin and infatuated with her dreamy pastor." No, really. Stop laughing. Whoever thought doing a sequel to "Donnie Darko" was a good idea, well, allow me to send them a reproving look and waggle my finger at them. Naughty!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Hey look, Angel's solving crimes again!

The good thing about being a totally lazy person is that it leaves me with a lot of time to watch TV series that I was too stupid to watch and enjoy when they first came out. The husband and I have recently fallen under the spell of two very different shows: "How I Met Your Mother" and "Bones." I'll save my love of Neil Patrick Harris for later because right now I want to talk about how nerdiliciously fun and creepy "Bones" is.

I'm not a big fan of procedural shows like "CSI" and "CSI: Miami" and "CSI: Mount Vernon" or whatever other iterations are out there, but to me, "Bones" has something a little different to offer, especially for those of us who like to see our fellow brainy chicks shine. It's even better when those chickies are based on actual people.

I like the fact that "Bones" is about smart people doing smart things and using their squishy frontal lobes to parse problems that would make the rest of us mortals just scratch our heads and shrug. In this aspect, it's like "West Wing" but in a morgue and with less walking through corridors.

I also like Emily Deschanel's portrayal of Bones. She's amusingly spacy in that way you imagine Einstein would have been, getting up from his kitchenette and stuffing a jelly donut in his pocket because he's distracted by big ideas. I like that the character is a social maladjust who really only functions within the set framework she has created for herself. Deschanel pulls this off without making Brennan seem creepy or off-putting. She's all Spock-ish in her cool rationalism but Deschanel does well at hinting that more lies beneath the surface.

Seeing David Boreanaz in this series has been hugely fun, too, although early on I kept thinking, "How come Angel can walk in the daylight? And what's up with him smiling? And wow, he's still using the same amount of hair gel!" I was never a fan of Boreanaz on "Buffy," but I grew to love him in "Angel" and it's great to see that he's still got loads of charisma to spare. The husband and I are still in the first season of "Bones" but I can tell just from episode to episode how Boreanez's performance is improving. It's great to watch and his chemistry with Deschanel makes him seem even dreamier. (Here's a random question for "Bones" watchers: what's up with Booth sometimes wearing high-top sneakers and sometimes not? I'm intrigued.)

People have been telling me for ages to check out this show and I tried several times to get into it, but it never clicked until the DVDs came home to roost. I'm enjoying it thoroughly...and I'm learning valuable lessons in the process. Among them: never watch "Bones" while eating dinner; David Boreanaz's forehead will never cease to enthrall me; my husband is always right about TV shows; Adam Baldwin eventually appears in every single one of my favorite shows; and oh yes, I don't ever want to be a crime scene investigator. Valuable life lessons indeed.

News of the Day -- Thursday, May 29

+ An awesome new "screensaver" from Paul Rudd at Funny or Die. Not safe for work, but boy, would gazing at Paul Rudd while he looks pretty and talks crazy make the work day easier. Thanks to Jen for sending the link.

+ I've waited all my life for a headline like this: Monkeys Control a Mechanical Robot Arm With Their Brains. Monkeys, robots, telekinesis (not really, but close): Rod Serling is so pissed that he's dead right now.

+ I totally want one of these: a dining table with "Pong" embedded in the table top.

+ Ah, when great fandoms collide: Rainn Wilson will have a role as a college professor in the new "Transformers 2" movie.

+ Because at heart I'm kind of a passive-aggressive bitch, I feel compelled to report on the "Sex and the City" premiere, which went poorly enough for me to smile and feel a tiny song in my soul.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

News of the Day -- Wednesday, May 28

+ In preparation for tomorrow night's two-hour season finale, here's an interview with "Lost"'s Michael Emerson. Shockingly, he reveals nothing! But it's still an interesting read.

+ Check out the trailer for Robert Downey Jr.'s new movie, "Tropic Thunder." It's the naughty trailer so you'll have to vouch for being over 17 before viewing it. I'm not quite sure what I think of this movie, but I'll admit I'm curious. Thanks to Jessica for submitting the link!

+ It was announced today that David Byrne and Lorne Michaels are the recipients of lifetime achievement awards from The Webbys. I totally get giving one to David Byrne because he's magical like a unicorn. But it just seems weird to honor Lorne Michaels for realizing that viral videos might be a way to resurrect ratings for a 30 year old late night comedy show. That just seems like good marketing sense. Stephen Colbert is also being honored, which is great because he's like the magical internet unicorn that all the other magical internet unicorns look up to.

I don't know what my deal is with unicorns today.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Who wouldn't want to wear a giant bird head?

We all have dreams. Some of them involve Orlando Bloom as our pool boy. Others might involve winning a million dollars...and hiring Orlando Bloom as our pool boy. For many years, I’ve had a dream, the flames of which were fanned this weekend when the husband and I went to a Toledo Mud Hens minor league baseball game. My dream is this: someday, I would like to be a team mascot.

I should clarify: I don’t actually want a team to make me, Liz, their mascot as they would, say, a bulldog or small goat. No, I’d like to be the person to put on the mascot costume and shoot t-shirts into the stands, race other humans dressed as hot dogs or presidents around the ballpark and stand on the opposing team’s dugout doing “YMCA” with my enormous misshapen mascot hands.

This has been a latent dream of mine for many years, but I fell in love with the idea all over again when I saw the Mud Hens’ TWO – yes, TWO – mascots at work this past Saturday. Their prime mascot, Muddy, is a Mud Hen with a jersey and hat on. He seems like the responsible one. His girlfriend – or at least I’m assuming there’s some sort of relationship going on, what with the way their hollow, lifeless papier mache-headed eyes stared at each other across the diamond – is called Muddona and she wears a jersey, hat and a cheerleader outfit. She is the party animal. Like if these two were the B-52s, Muddy would be a reticent Fred Schneider and Muddona would totally be Kate Pierson except with feathers instead of a beehive hairdo.

Here’s why being a mascot would be awesome, especially for an introvert: if you make sure never to reveal your secret identity, you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want. Seriously. As a plain old normal human being, I wouldn’t be caught dead doing the Chicken Dance. If I’m dressed as Muddonna, well, I’m compelled to do so by the laws of mascot nature. Also, I would delight children by the thousands and, best of all, be able to chase and/or mercilessly tease drunken loudmouth adults all in the name of good fun. Say I grab the hat of some lout and throw it onto the field between innings while NOT wearing the costume. I get instantly arrested, right? Wearing a mascot costume, I am a hero to everyone in that section and hundreds of people go home that night, smiling and reminding each other, “Wasn’t it great when that ginormous chicken humiliated that guy?” And they’d all nod and sigh in quiet reflection and awe. Wearing that costume is like being a superhero but without actually having to risk your life and save anyone, especially someone you might not like. Wolf Blitzer, for example.

The only downside of being a mascot that I can think of is that the suits probably smell really bad. That seems like a small price to pay, though, for outrageous personal freedom and the chance to dress as a giant chicken and lead your team to victory. In fact, if I had kids, I think they’d be pretty proud. Or embarrassed. Either way, it’s a win-win.

News of the Day -- Monday, May 27

+ Via Pop Candy, this online chat with Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro details some of their plans for the upcoming Hobbit movie.

+ If you enjoyed Cinematic Titanic, rejoice because there is more on the way. Three new episodes have been shot with the first scheduled for release on DVD and via download in mid-June. New shows will follow every six weeks. And if you want to see the crew live, they'll be playing the LA Film Festival on June 21, riffing to Roger Corman's "The Wasp Woman," which I'm assuming is about a suburban housewife and her difficulties getting a poolside reservation at the club. I could be wrong...

+ A remake of Ed Wood's "Plan 9 From Outer Space" is being planned. Director John Johnson (if that is his real name) intends to remake it as a serious, scary sci-fi movie, creating a "film that Wood would have enjoyed, or perhaps even made himself, if not bound by the technological limitations placed on filmmakers 50 years ago." Really, I don't think Ed's problems with "Plan 9" were "technological limitations." I think the paper plate flying saucers were the least of his worries in that one. Sigh.

+ I'm a girl ergo my innate attraction to "cuteness" is not something I can control, which is why I'm sharing this even though it is not at all nerdy -- not unless one of the creatures involved grows up to get a PhD or star on "30 Rock." Without further ado, I give you gratuitous video of baby beavers. Be prepared, they are adorable:

Friday, May 23, 2008

News of the Day -- Friday, May 23

+ For those of us who get lost on the way to the refrigerator, I tip my hat to the winner of this week's national Geography Bee, a kid I would definitely trust with the navigation on a summer road trip.

+ Who says charts and graphs can't be funny? Probably anyone who's been to a board meeting. This site proves me wrong. Thanks to Park Bench reader Kathe for sharing.

+ An Indiana Jones-inspired sartorial warning on fedoras and other genre wear, from Wired. So some of us like to dress like Hello, Kitty from time to time...what's so wrong with that?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In defense of sci-fi

This essay from i09 yesterday on the perception that women don’t like science fiction got me thinking...which is never a good thing. I agree wholeheartedly with the author that a significant number of women like science fiction and are passionate about it as a genre. So my question to the nay-saying pundits is not “Why shouldn’t I like sci-fi,” it’s “Why the hell wouldn’t I like sci-fi?”

Seriously, think what the world would be like without science fiction. Without it, we never would have:

...gone to the moon or built a space station or created the space shuttle. Without years of sci-fi novels and books behind us, how would we ever have been able to recruit astronauts? Seriously, which question makes the recruiter’s life easier. This one? “Would you like to spend years learning difficult principles in aeronautics, math and physics, then get shot into space at a million miles an hour while strapped to thousands of pounds of explosive fuel with no guarantee that you’ll ever return from the icy expanse of emptiness above us – oh and by the way, you’ll have to piddle inside your space suit?” Or this one: “Remember Tom Hanks in ‘Apollo 13?’ You could totally do that.” Second question wins, hands down.

...experienced the single greatest movie shot of all time: the Imperial Cruiser flying low over our heads in “Star Wars.” If you’ve ever seen “Star Wars” in the theater with that glorious sound blasting in your ears from all directions, the bass tones nearly making your seat vibrate, as you sit back, slack-jawed and watch that thing seemingly pass over head for second after second after second…well then you know what I’m talking about and you know the world would suck without it.

...invented special effects. From the earliest films like George Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” in 1902, science fiction and special effects have gone hand in hand. How would we have had the technology to fake the moon landing without first making films like “2001: A Space Odyssey?” Think of how far animation has come. Or CGI – would we even have CGI if George Lucas and Industrial Light and Magic hadn’t given us a taste of glorious space battles could be in the “Star Wars” trilogy?

...had hot guys in tight pants shooting pistols...who weren’t cowboys. Now I think this is something every red-blooded American woman can get behind. Imagine a genre-less world without “Firefly”’s Captain Reynolds, without “Star Trek”’s Patrick Stewart, without “Doctor Who”’s David Tenant, without “Star Wars”’s Harrison Ford, without William Frickin’ Shatner, for God’s sake! It’d be like a world without Christmas and puppies. A world without cupcakes even! It would have been bad. Very bad.

...had any collectibles. What would childhood have been like without action figures to collect and trade or strap to small rockets and shoot into the neighbors’ gutters? It would have sucked. My girlish childhood was spent mixing genres – could Princess Leia live inside my Lincoln Log Cabin constructions? Sure? Could my 16-inch Chewbacca rip the arms off my neighbor’s Barbie? More than once, that’s for sure. Could my Captain Deering make brownies in an Easy Bake Oven? With the proper supervision she could. That's how cool those toys were.

All kidding aside, though, science fiction appeals to both men and women because it is all about possibilities. Would people have invented iPhones without first seeing tricorders? Or three-dimensional fax machines without first dreaming of transporters? Science fiction is all about where we could go as a people. Why tether our dreams to reality, to this planet when there are so many other places our imaginations could take us? The mundane, the Earth-bound and the “real” drags us down enough each day. Give me some good, old sci-fi to ease the pain anytime.

Plus, dudes, there are space ships!

News of the Day -- Wednesday, May 21

+ There's a new official "Dollhouse" Facebook page, complete with video and message boards where you can chat with other fans and submit your guess on how long it takes before FOX tampers with a good thing. (My "Firely" bitterness rears its ugly head again.) Thanks NancyRoo for the link!

+ And the winner of "The X-Files: I Want To Believe" movie poster is...Wendy. All of the haikus were terrific, but hers did make me LOL, as the kids say. Here it is in its entirety:

pretty scully hair
fluke man in my toilet, eww
on no! mulder shot :(

Art, I say, art! Wendy, please e-mail me at editors at theparkbenchonline dot com to claim your prize.

+ It's a slow nerdy news day, so I'll leave you with this tale of the parrot who got lost but was able to tell authorities his name and address, even remembering to refer to himself as "Mr. Yosuke Nakamura." He then sipped his brandy and settled back in his high-back leather chair before declaring, "One day, you all will kneel before me." It was a weird situation....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

News of the Day -- Tuesday, May 20

+ A very good opinion piece at i09 about women and the perception that we don't like science fiction. God, all I watch is science fiction. I was going to say, "what's wrong with me?" Instead, I'm going to say, "what the hell's wrong with everyone else that they DON'T watch science fiction." There's spaceships for cryin' out loud!

+ Apparently, one cast member of "Lost" knows how the show will end. Intriguing...

+ has details on the upcoming Transformers sequel. Sadly, after seeing "Ironman," the only flying robots I can think of have Robert Downey Jr. at the helm.

+ I'll be announcing The X-Files movie poster winner tomorrow, so there's still time to sneak in a haiku or two if you'd like to get in on the action.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Nerd Man of the Month: Robert Downey, Jr.

The votes have been counted and this month's Nerd Man honors go to Robert Downey Jr. At first blush, you might think, "Robert Downey Jr? He's no kind of nerd man." Ah, but let me put forth a few salient points here: first, he's currently starring as a computer/engineering brainiac who likes to build giant robots and fly around in them in "Ironman" (cue Black Sabbath music); two, he dated Sarah Jessica Parker closer to her "Square Pegs" years than her "Sex and the City" years and three, well, who cares about three -- have you seen this picture?

Yes, he's such a badass, he can blow torch his own thigh...and not even flinch.

Seriously, though, Downey earns the honors this month for making "Ironman" such an enjoyable treat for fans and non-fans alike of the original comic book. He does what few other actors ever do in summer action flicks -- he actually acts. Aside from a questionable choice in facial hair man-scaping, Downey is flawless in this movie, giving Tony Stark a wonderful mix of humor, sarcasm, intensity, sexiness and intelligence.

I've been a fan of Downey and his extraordinary eyelashes from the moment I first saw him in a "Saturday Night Live" skit 20 years ago playing a supermodel trapped on a deserted island clutching a stuffed tiger. You had to be there, but trust me, it was good. He's a wonderful actor who always brings something different to each of his roles -- in fact, if you've never seen him in "Chaplin," rent it this weekend. He doesn't fly but he does do a fine British accent which, for an American, may be even harder than the flying thing.

For putting the snark back into sexy and for making a summer movie shine, The Park Bench is pleased to award May's Nerd Man of the Month honors to Robert Downey Jr. Let the salivating begin...

News of the Day -- Monday, May 18

+ From Park Bench reader Kristin, we have a recap of a preview of Joss Whedon's new Fox series, "Dollhouse." Given that the clip has been pulled down from every site, it's been posted on, Kristin was kind enough to share a blow-by-blow account of what she saw:

My attempt to share the wealth...

Voiceover from woman:
The world is a very simple place at first. And as we grow up it grows around us, a dense thicket of complication and disappointment. I know you’ve heard colorful rumors about what an active is: robots, zombie, slaves. They are, of course, quite the opposite. An active is the truest soul among us.

Text on screen:
In a city of millions / Many Souls Get Lost / But there is a place / That wipes away / The regret / The pain / The memories / But everything has a price / They will be anyone you want / They will do anything you need.

Joss Whedon invites you to a world / Not far from our own / You can wipe away a memory / But can you wipe away a soul? / DOLLHOUSE

The clip is filled with images of actives jumping from planes, falling in love/dancing crazy, climbing mountains, being assassins, and living in the dollhouse facility.

The clip carries the implications of the probable illegality of what’s going on in the dollhouse. The two men who work in the dollhouse that aren’t actives seem to question whether the actives really did volunteer for the positions.

Separately, Tahmoh Penikett is seen investigating the idea of the dollhouse, but is told by his superior that it’s a myth and to drop it.

The dollhouse facility seems kind of like a dormitory for the actives. It looks like a swanky spa with medical type side rooms and beds reminiscent of the goo-filled Cylon resurrection chambers from BSG.

Questions of identity? Memories? Souls? Zombies? Yup, sounds like a Joss Whedon production to me. Can't wait!

+ Check out this very funny video by Jonathan Katz, Stephen Levinson and Joel Moss Levinson. It involves a bashful God and a kinda pissy Abraham. If all of the Bible were like this, I'd have made it through the scary chapters:

+ I picked up an X-Files 2 promotional movie poster at Detroit's Motor City Comic Con on Friday and am giving it away to whoever writes the best X-Files-themed haiku today and posts it in the comments.

Friday, May 16, 2008

I love these crazy kids and their robots

I know I'm getting dangerously close to Dwight Schrute "bears, beets and Battlestar Galactica" territory with yet another post about my favorite Cylon-filled show, but I can't help myself. I promise to lay off it after this, but right now, this show is blowing my mind to such a degree I have to take a few minutes to talk about it, especially in light of recent reviews such as this one in Salon asserting that so far this has been a muddled season. Needless to say, I heartily disagree.

Here's what I'm lovin' so far about the BSG (and there are spoilers ahoy for season 4):

1) The Ick-Filled Cult of Baltar It's been a helluva ride watching Gaius Baltar transition from the human who helped destroy most of mankind (yet still weirdly served as the series' comic relief) into the president of a Cylon puppet regime and now into a smarmy cult leader who may, accidentally, transform a polytheistic humanity into a monotheistic humanity -- all while bagging nubile young brunettes and trying not to get his throat cut again. It's fascinating to watch this portrayal of what makes people believe what they believe. It elicits all sorts of questions -- what makes someone give up one set of beliefs for another? What makes one religion fall while another flourishes? How desperate do people have to be to believe the guy from Bridget Jones' Diary? And perhaps most importantly, do we really have to see James Callis naked quite so often? (You'll no doubt remember those last two questions from Sunday school.)

2) Morality This has been a great season for watching questions of morality played out by the series' resident bad guys, the Cylons. The thing is, are they really the bad guys? Sure, they annihilated the human race but the humans were the ones who started the fight. Sure, they turned New Caprica into a police state and poked Saul Tigh in the eye really hard, but the thing is, they thought they were helping. (Well, not with the Saul thing.) The Cylons in this new incarnation of BSG have always been like wayward children, never knowing their own strength, never understanding the power they wield or the capacity they truly have for destruction. They just want god -- their god, humanity's god? -- to love them. Also, they apparently all want to make out with Baltar -- perhaps the worst crime of all. Watching the Cylons splinter and fracture, watching them decimate each other and fall to their own flaws...well, I just can't turn away. It's a 16th century morality play with blondes in tight red dresses. Who doesn't love that on a Friday night?

3) The Dylan Four What happens when you wake up one morning and discover you're not who you thought you were? Worse yet, you discover you're a machine and you have no idea where the owner's manual is. At the end of last season, four Cylon-hating humans -- Galactica XO Saul Tigh, the president's aide Tory, lovable jock Anders and beefy Canadian Chief Tyrol -- all discovered they were Cylons, which is kind of like Karl Rove discovering he voted for Al Gore...and liked it. So far, each has reacted to the news in wonderfully different ways: Saul has sought forgiveness and a weird brand of atonement from a Cylon prisoner; Tory has embraced her inner "perfect" robot with gleeful abandon; Anders can't stop wondering if this is gonna be a deal breaker with his ex-wife Starbuck, what with her penchant for killing robots and all, and Chief, well, he's shaved all his hair off and can't stop staring menacingly at his half-cylon son. With build-ups like this, the eventual payoff is going to be big. Really big. Like I'm finally going to have to break down and buy that plasma TV just to hold all of it.

4) Civil liberties. This season, BSG's writers have been killing me hard with my favorite character, the increasingly Lady Macbeth-ish President Laura Roslin. First, her cancer returns and now she just doesn't care so much about laws...or civil liberties...or anything really that stands in the way of her mission to protect the fleet. But again, this is what BSG does so well. Despite the hew and cry from the masses, Roslin believes she's simply trying to eliminate the dangers her people will face after she is dead and gone. In short, she's just trying to find them a home. How can you blame her for that? You can't but you can blame her actions. That's what makes it hard to watch and that's what makes it great to watch.

5) The relationship between Roslin and Adama. Some have complained that the growing relationship between Roslin and Adama is simply filler and has nothing to do with the rest of the show. I disagree. This show has always been, on some level, about death and how we cope with it. Now, the writers are cramming that lesson at us hard by showing the slow demise of one of the series' strongest characters. While most shows would gloss over the difficult parts of Roslin's illness -- she'd get sick, look pale, cough a few times and either get better or expire bloodlessly -- BSG shows us Roslin's fear, her anger, her irrationality and the general shitty unfairness of life. To bookend that with her relationship to Adama, a man who absolutely cannot tolerate loss but who is now being forced to endure it slowly and painfully, well, now you've got a damn powerful storyline. I'm going to hate it when they finally kill off Roslin (speculation, not spoiler), but at the same time, I know I'll be tipping my hat and thinking "job well done." And then quite possibly, I'll cry myself to sleep.

BSG does that kind of stuff to you. This show is all about conflict -- good versus evil, love versus hate, faith versus fear, life versus death -- and it inevitably comes to rest in the moral gray area, the spot that never truly provides answers, just more questions. It's a conversation so good you never want it to end. Which is why I'll miss this show so much when it does. For now, I'm content just to savor every last morsel.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

News of the Day -- Thursday, May 15

+ Sweet fancy Moses, I'd like one of these:

It's a personal size jet. Yes, it's just like a jet pack but it makes you look like a flying squirrel which is about a billion times more awesome than anything ever.

+ Io9 has tons of details on J.J. Abrams new upcoming TV series, "Fringe," which is about an FBI agent who investigates weird stuff but is named neither Fox nor Mulder. Despite that, it still sounds pretty interesting. Hell, after "Alias" and "Lost," I'll watch anything J.J. offers. Unless it stars an Olson twin. I have standards. (They are low.)

+ E.T. and Mork have been on the edge of their religious seats for years now on this question, but the Pope has finally given the theological thumbs up to aliens, decreeing that it's A-OK to believe in life on other planets. This gives Alf hope that he'll one day receive absolution for that guy he knifed at the Macy's white sale a few years back. He goes INSANE around 300-thread sheets.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

You had me at knock-knock....

Forget bulging pecs and fast cars. Never mind those college basketball stats and varsity letters. Nerdy women dig funny men. It's just a fact of life.

Yup, if you're like me (and I know I am*), no characteristic is more important than a sense of humor in a gentleman friend. Half the reason I fell in love with my husband was because he could perfectly recreate a Kids In the Hall sketch involving food stuck to the side of his face. And six years into our marriage, all fights are forgiven when he impersonates the cat and talks in a funny voice about how she likes to get high. (She doesn't really get high. She's Mormon.)

I was thinking about all this when sifting through the Nerd Man of the Month nominees and noted how many of the nominees and winners are guys who ply the comedy trade: Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, Eddie Izzard, Joss Whedon, John Hodgman, Stephen Fry, Simon Pegg...basically, everyone. Why? Because funny guys are smart guys and they can make us laugh. And as everyone knows, laughing, like sneezing, always feels good.

If I ever have a daughter and she asks for my advice on dating before she heads off to college (every mother I know is laughing at that one right now), I'm going to tell her, "Estelle, look for the funny guys." (Yes, I'm going to name her Estelle so I can pretend from the moment of her birth that she's at least 45 years older than me, and I'm still the youngest woman in the house. It's messed up, I know.) I'll tell her to stay away from the frat parties and the Rocks for Jocks classes and find some guys to make her laugh. "Why?" Estelle will ask in her old lady voice. (I'll have been giving her stogies since Pre-K.) I'll tell her it's because funny guys are nice guys, and they'll keep you entertained. And perhaps best of all? They're likely self-effacing enough not to be snooty.

What does this post have to do with anything? Well, one, it shows that if you want to be Nerd Man of the Month, you better have some good jokes lined up, preferably ones that involve how to stop elephants from charging. And two, it's just a friendly reminder that those funny guys who sit in the back of class -- or these days, in the back of those mind-numbing marketing meetings -- are probably the cream of the crop. And if they ever slip you a clown shoe with their number on it, you should consider giving 'em a call.

* That is one of my all-time favorite Mystery Science Theater jokes.

News of the Day -- Wednesday, May 14

+ I love this story so much that if I were a chihuahua and it were a leg...well...there'd be contact, let's just say that. Here's the headline: "'Darth Vader' spared jail in Jedi church attack."

+ Patrick Stewart earned a Tony Award nomination for "Macbeth." He was heard to weep softly, "What's the good of a Tony Award when I've lost Nerd Man honors yet again?" And then he cried and cried.

+ Speaking of starship captains, I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am about the upcoming release of William Shatner's second autobiography, Up Till Now. I'm even more excited after reading this ridiculous blurb on how much Shatner hated bedding Star Trek fans because they liked to pretend they were making out with Captain Kirk. Of course you'd pretend you were making out with Captain Kirk. Between Kirk and Shatner, Kirk's the one wearing the girdle and making the velour look fiiiiine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Doctor Who? Oh yes, I know him.

I have seen the blue phone box, and it is good. Yes, “Doctor Who” has won me over. After years of people nudging me to give the show a chance and me, well, not, I finally gave it a try following David Tennant’s Nerd Man win last month. Lo and behold, the Converse-wearing Time Lord has reeled me in, and I feel ready to stamp the word “fan” on my delicate, dorky forehead.

I had shied away from Doctor Who for so long because A) the show’s been on for approximately 117 years and I felt like it was too much to catch up on; B) I had the 1970s-era “Doctor Who” with its gaudy, brightly lit sets and football-scarf wearing Doctor etched in my mind and thought it looked cheesy and C) I wasn’t sure if I could welcome another show into my already crowded, TV-addled brain. I’m happy to report I have leaped over all those hurdles. The reason? Well, let me just warn you. It’s a shallow one:

David Tennant is pretty adorable.

I know. I’m not only stating the obvious, I’m drawing pictures of it and calling it Susie. (I’ve no idea what that means.) Everybody and their mother seems to know about this Tennant thing, and I’m very likely the last one to jump on a very huge bandwagon. I feel I should get credit though for realizing the error of my ways and publicly acknowledging my pop culture crime. Even if I’m tardy,* I still made it to the party. (A rhyme!)

Beyond the aesthetics, I’ve enjoyed the vibe of the show. I know nothing of the backstory, but the show is written well enough for me to dip my toes in without feeling overwhelmed. All I really need to know is that the hot Scottish dude in the long coat travels through time bringing chickies with him and solving problems. Easy enough. I like, too, that the show has a very good dose of humor. Tennant does a nice job of being arrogant, wry and whiny all at the same time without ever losing his charm. And I like that there’s still just the right whiff of subtle cheesiness about the whole thing, what with the slightly rubbery aliens. And although I don’t know the characters well enough to be too invested yet, I get the sense that there’s a strong emotional depth at play. It’s a complete package and it reminds me in a way of “The Avengers,” a show that could be goofy, ridiculous, action-packed and enormously touching in unexpected and welcomed ways.

Now that The Sci-Fi Channel has paired “Battlestar Galactica” and “Doctor Who” together on Friday nights,** I’m in it for the long haul and am looking forward to getting to know the good doctor even more. Even if I am 116 years behind schedule....

* Speaking of “tardy,” the word “Tardis” still makes me think of tartar sauce. Will that ever go away?

** Yes, I stay in and watch sci-fi on Friday nights. I would say it’s a result of getting older but let’s face it, I stayed in and watched sci-fi when I was in college and supposed to be cool, too. Did I mention I’m a big nerd?

News of the Day -- Tuesday, May 13

+ Have you heard about PMOG, the Passively Multiplayer Online Game? It's an add-on application for Firefox that lets you turn your everyday experiences online into a long-play game. Color me intrigued...

+ Two things stick in my head from high school Latin class: being traumatized by the poetry of Catullus (if you've read him, you know what I'm talking about) and being mesmerized by my classmate Mike's stellar pen-spinning skills. Apparently, pen spinning is a big cult phenomena in Europe and Asia and is growing in popularity in the US, according to Geek Monthly. As evidence, check out for the inside scoop on the hoi polloi of pen spinners, like this guy for example:

+ New Yorker editor David Remnick offers this list of 100 Essential Jazz Albums, which I thought was pretty helpful for those who like jazz but are intimidated by the breadth and depth of the genre. Meaning "I know I like Jelly Roll Morton and Bessie Smith, but who the hell are the rest of these people?" Or something like that.

Monday, May 12, 2008

News of the Day -- Monday, May 12

+ The official preview for "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" has been released. Check it out below while I take a few moments to wipe the drool from my chin:

+ Did you hear that PBS' "The Electric Company" is coming back? On the one hand, yay for the return of a show about reading that was one-part entertaining and two-parts scary Tom Wolfe-acid trip for me as a kid. On the other hand, the PBS exec described the new version this way: "It’s the old one mixed with ‘High School Musical’ and a Dr Pepper commercial." Dr. Pepper?? Really? Um, okay.

+ NPR previewed a great new book on "great political comebacks, putdowns and ripostes," proving yet again that the British have the best sense of humor. The book, called "I'll Be Sober in the Morning," is edited by Chris Lamb and includes great little nuggets of political backbiting like this one about Winston Churchill:

Winston Churchill had been drinking heavily at a party when he bumped into Bessie Braddock, a Socialist Member of Parliament.

"Mr. Churchill, you are drunk," Braddock said harshly.

Churchill paused and said, "And Bessie, you are ugly. You are very ugly. I'll be sober in the morning."

Nicely done, Winston, nicely done. Thanks to Dr. Gambit for submitting this item.

Friday, May 09, 2008

And the nominees are...totally up to you.

It's a random Friday in the middle of the month and you know what that means: nerdy man time. Let me know who you'd like to see nominated as Mr. May. You know the drill: he's got to have strong nerd credibility, loads of charm...and, well, beyond that, pretty much anything goes. So add your nominees in the comments and we'll start voting on Monday.

For a list of past winners, check out our Pantheon of Nerdy Men in the sidebar below.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

News of the Day -- Thursday, May 8

+ Advertising is getting out of hand! Did you hear about the guy who can make clouds in the shape of corporate logos? Yup, Disney's going to have a giant, cloud mouse floating over Disneyland soon. And now, some real estate mogul in L.A. plans to recreate those video ads on the sides of skyscrapers from "Blade Runner." Yup, now residents of LA high-rises can live INSIDE a kitty litter billboard. Talk about dreams come true...

+ The one recurring item on my Christmas list every year since I was, well, born, has been a pony. I have always, always wanted a pony. And yet...not even I would get this: the Ridemaster Pro Horse Riding Simulator. I wasn't able to import the video directly but trust me, click on the above link and watch it. It's like a David Lynch movie.

+ New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently hosting a nifty sounding exhibit called "Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy," which looks at "how the superhero serves as the ultimate metaphor for fashion and its ability to empower and transform the human body." Nifty, indeed.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Review: Eddie Izzard's "Stripped"

Park Bench correspondent Meghann checks in with a fabulous report on Eddie Izzard new live show:

All my comedy fangirl dreams came true last night: I saw Eddie Izzard live and in person. And I am here to tell you folks, he is a stone cold fox.

I have never been shy about proclaiming my love and lust for Eddie Izzard – he’s hilarious, intelligent, and sexy. In this latest show, Stripped, Eddie proclaimed he’s going to talk about “everything.” He started with Wikipedia (since they have information about everything) and we go through the beginnings of the world, meandering off into tangents about hunters vs. gatherers (Eddie proclaims he would be a hunter), how giraffes could possibly hide, why the guy who plays “Flight of the Bumblebee” perfectly can’t get laid because he plays tuba, and of course, how there were millions of ducks after the Noah’s ark thing because ducks wouldn’t drown in the flood. Oh yeah, and he also talked about how there is no God. At length.

I was struck by the breadth of knowledge Eddie Izzard has about history, opera, world politics, religion, and the scope of the sounds he’s capable of making. I think this is the real genius of his work: it is at once absurd and smart like whoa. At one point, he impersonated an appendix- you know, the thing in your body. The strange thing about watching the show last night was that I totally enjoyed myself and had a great time but I couldn’t tell you any of the jokes or the punchlines. I could pretty much perform Glorious and Dress To Kill for you word-for-word, but that’s because I watched those videos a million and a half times back when I was single and needed company when I was falling asleep.

This show was a gift to my best friend for her birthday, so she and I and her sister and my boyfriend were all there at the Academy of Music last night...with just about every other theatre person in Philadelphia. We kept running into people we know and work with and honestly, I shouldn’t be surprised. Let’s distill the facts:

* Comedy
* Heavily quotable material
* Transvestite

OBVIOUSLY theatre people love Eddie Izzard.

Because people will ask, Eddie wore jeans, a black t-shirt, and black tails with red satin lining. Someone in the audience shouted “Where’s your stilettos!?” about 1/3 through the show, to which our hero replied “Fuck off, Nazi.” (Our audience was a bit shouty at times, which was lame.) Eddie sort of collected himself and did an explanation about being a transvestite and how it’s been kind of a double-edged sword for him in the States because he started stand up in the states wearing mens’ clothing, not sure he would get gigs in a dress. Then people started questioning if he really WAS a transvestite since he didn’t cross dress, so he started wearing dresses. THEN the reviewers started saying, “He looks like a mess.” So, he just wears what he feels like now. And then I fell in love with him all over again.

Long story short, I highly recommend seeing Eddie Izzard live if you get the chance. He’s off-the-cuff, bizarre and can handle a large room. He might even compliment your sneeze if you let one rip.

News of the Day -- Wednesday, May 7

+ Great news for fans of former Nerd Man of the Month honorees Simon Pegg and Nick Frost -- their acclaimed British TV series, "Spaced," is finally coming to DVD in the U.S. on July 22. Woo and hoo! (Thanks to tgrfan 23 for the tip!)

+ A full slate of Marvel films has been announced, starting with the Iron Man sequel on April 30, 2010. Other flicks to come focus on Thor, Captain America and The Avengers (sadly, not the one with Emma Peel and John Steed).

+ As you've probably heard, Stephen Colbert has won the "Webby Person of the Year" award for his brilliant manipulation of the Internet to do everything from push a presidential bid to getting his fans to earn him the title "greatest living American" in Google searches. I love that man.

+ Wow, how cool is this? The good people at Legoland in Windsor, England have built a 100-foot-tall Lego tower in celebration of the building blocks' 50th anniversary. This new tower tops the previous record of 96 feet, built last year in Toronto.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Back in my day, we had to watch TV in the snow, uphill and without shoes.

Most of you are probably too young to remember this, but there once was a time when TV shows were watched on specific nights at specific times. We call this B.D.V.R. or Before D.V.Rs. The advent of the DVR has been wonderful, allowing me to stockpile entire seasons of shows and have lost weekends eating waffles and watching 22 hours of “Top Chef.” It also has allowed me to compensate for distractions, complete incomprehension or those “he did not just say that, did he” moments that I get so much when I watch the news. All of those issues are solved with a quick press of the rewind button. In fact, rewinding live television is so awe-tastically-awesome, I find myself wanting to use it in other areas of my life, from listening to the radio to winning key arguments in spousal debates.

As with any invention, though, there are losses that accompany the advances. The worst, for me, is the loss of the Morning After TV Show Dissection and Recap. Back in the day, TV wasn’t as flexible. Sure, there were VCRs but it took actual effort to set a timer, find a blank top, making sure it wasn’t your Menudo All-Star Video and finally record the program. Not the easy “eh, I guess I’ll record that” way that we all have with our DVRs these days. Which meant that most people watched their favorite TV shows when they actually aired. Which meant the next day everyone in the dorm or office was talking about the same thing. Which was actually fun.

Back in the day, my office mates and I used to get together for lunch the day after X-Files aired just so we could go over what we’d seen the night before. We didn’t spend the whole hour talking about the show, but it was a great excuse to get together and catch up on each other’s lives…and talk about how hot David Duchovny was. Nowadays, you can excitedly ask someone, “Did you see ‘Lost’ last night?” and they’ll tell you no, they DVRed it and intend to watch it tomorrow or next weekend or are saving it up for their own lost weekend. (Of “Lost!” See what I did there?)

TV shows used to build camaraderie. Sure, there are message boards now where we can get fanatical en masse, but everything is so structured. You’ve got to worry about spoilers. You have to make sure you’re in the right thread. You worry if some insane Belgian is going to flame you. (Dear Belgians, I have a deep affection for you and your chocolates. Your nationality was chosen at random…and also because Belgian is a funny word.) Anyway, it’s just not the same as freewheelin’ geeky ladies getting together to talk sci-fi over a few cups of soup. Or booze. I do not judge.

I don’t regret the arrival of DVRs or online content or the dismantling of the TV seasons. All of those things have given flexibility to busy individuals and families. At the same time, though, I can’t help but lament the loss of fun, of excitement and friendship that went hand in hand in the days when we were all glued to the same screens at the same time.

News of the Day -- Tuesday, May 6

+ Mechanical squirrels have arrived...and soon they will be using graduate students as their own personal meat puppets. Until then, they're just marking time helping scientists research squirrel social behavior. Is it wrong that I totally want a mechanical squirrel? I would name him Jeeves, and he would wear a little hat.

+ I'm an idiot which is probably why this appealed to me so much: "Five Cats That Look Like Wilford Brimley."

+ Also via Pop Candy, an interview with J.J. Abrams about the upcoming "Star Trek" movie.

Friday, May 02, 2008

One woman, two word games...and a world torn apart.

Remember in elementary school when little Timmy Rosenblatt* was the light of your life? The way he ate graham crackers, the way he cried during dodgeball, the way he waxed Socratic on the meaning of “Sesame Street,” all made him irresistible to you. Until little Jimmy Hosenfeffer** came on the scene and you were suddenly swept up in his flip-collared Izod t-shirt, the confident way he rode the tire swing, the way he made you feel like a lady every time he held your place in the juice line? I have learned, though, that old loves can be replaced by new loves. Scrabulous, I’m sorry, but I’ve met a new game. His name is Scramble and like the Tonka-truck filled sandbox at recess, he rocks my world.

My passion for the Scrabulous has been well-documented... by me. I’ve been happy with the game. Sure, I get my ass handed to me by every single person I play against (you know who you are), but I think I’ve been getting better and the game continues to be a challenge. Plus, honestly – and this is quite sad – I have rarely been as thrilled as I am when I hit a bingo. Crushing someone’s soul with a 78 point word is just, well, let’s just say I imagine it’s how the first chimpanzee felt when he got shot into space, looked out the rocketship window and flipped the bird to all his earth-bound brethren. Oh yes, that is how good it feels.

So you’ll understand my na├»ve belief that nothing could supplant my Scrabulous passion. I thought we would be together forever, eating graham crackers on the playground and talking about Big Bird. But then Scramble came along. For those unfamiliar with the game, it’s basically Facebook’s answer to Boggle – you’re given a board of jumbled letters and have roughly three minutes to ferret out as many words as possible. My first attempts with Scramble were tentative. “Surely this can’t be as good as Scrabulous,” I mused.

Oh but it was. In fact, it was oh so much better. You know why? Because I can win. Hallelujah, praise the Lord of Online Amusements, I can actually win. Even better, though, I can’t always win which means that the game challenges me and fires my sad little neurons in ways that I’m assuming are beneficial. (Or not. Who cares? I’m winning!) It has increased my vocabulary, especially my knowledge of three letter words. (I shine with the three letter words). But I’m still failing with the longer words. It’s difficult – in a fun way – to tie 8 separate letters together into one coherent, not-made-up English word. For a vocabulary whore like me –- a sick woman who actually used to enjoy vocab quizzes -- the whole thing is bliss, bliss and more bliss with rainbow sprinkles and unicorns on top.

I’ll still stay friends with Scrabulous. The game’s been good to me and there is no better thrill than those all-too-infrequent bingos. But I don’t know if I’ll ever “like like” Scrabulous again now that my heart belongs to that bewitching young character known as Scramble.

* Name made up out of thin air to protect the innocent.
** Name even more made up than the first one!

News of the Day -- Friday, May 2

+ Okay, this has nothing to do with nerdiness, but it still cracked me up and I have to share. A man in Texas tried to cash a personal check...for $360 billion dollars. "(The man) said his girlfriend's mother gave him the check to start a record business." And buy a small country presumably.

+ I've been derilect in my Captain Tightpants reportage. Nathan Fillion has signed on to a new ABC pilot called "Castle." He'll play "a mystery novelist who consults with the NYPD on difficult cases," writes Zap2It.

+ And don't forget, tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day. Check out the link to find participating stores...and maybe bring a U-Haul.

+ Speaking of great literature, Vladimir Nabokov's last manuscript -- an unfinished novel called The Original of Laura -- will finally be published, against his dying wishes. Vladimir's son Dmitri says the author was working on the novel until nearly the last few moments before he died, and only wanted the manuscript destroyed because he hadn't been able to complete it. I'm glad this is being published. More Nabokov can only make the world a better place.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I wish I'd thought of "Aztec Rex" first...

In the world of TV movies, there can be only one king. And I’m sorry Lifetime Channel but your overuse of Meredith Baxter Birney has lost you the crown. I submit that the Sci-Fi Channel deserves the throne because, really, how many other networks would have the temerity to actually produce the gloriously wonderful crap they do?

I realized this a few weeks ago when I woke up early Sunday morning and lost an entire 90-minutes to a Sci-Fi Original. Yes, while other people were at the Farmers Market or ensuring eternal life by going to church, I watched a movie about gigantic rubber mosquitos trying to eat a band of misfit humans. The best part was when one of the actors was supposed to be fending off a mosquito with a chain saw but had to keep NOT hitting it for fear, I presume, of wrecking the one rubber model on which they’d blown their entire budget.

The titles of these movies are the best. “Kraken: Tentacles of the Deep” and “Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy” are just two that bear mentioning. Even better than the titles, though, are the taglines. No doubt if you watched any Sci-Fi a few weeks ago, you’ll recall their promos for “Warbirds,” the “film” about World War II pilots fighting…wait, for it…pterodactyls. The tag line, I believe, was something along the lines of, “They knew they’re voyage was historic. They just didn’t know…it was prehistoric.” Brilliant! I love it.

And don’t even get me started on the synopses. Hemingway himself would have wept for a chance to write these. “Aztecs and Conquistadors must unite to battles a T-Rex in Mexico,” is how “Aztec Rex” is described. Awesome. “Heatstroke” is even better. With a title like that, guess what the movie is about? Yup, you’re right – it’s about “a model and a soldier fighting aliens that are causing global warming.” Yeah, the title’s practically a spoiler for the whole plot!

I have seriously great affection for these made-for-TV productions. Cheese is so much fun. Embracing the cheese and just exuberantly promoting swarming pterodactyls, rubber mosquitos and models fighting aliens over global warming is so wonderfully ballsy you can’t help but feel love for the little network that could. Go ahead, Sci-Fi Channel, keep making ridiculous movies ‘cause I’ll sure as heck keep watching.

News of the Day -- May 1

+ A motorized unicycle. Clowns everywhere rejoice -- at 100 miles per hour!

+ Star Trek tricorders are a few steps closer to reality with a new medical scanner that will fit with cell phones and allow doctors in areas without access to advanced medical equipment to check on everything from "detecting tumors to monitoring fetuses," says Yahoo News. You know, all these "Star Trek" style advances are great and all, but I'm not going to be satisfied until I can wake up at five minutes to 8 and use my transporter to get to staff meeting by 8:03. Or until I get my own Data to fight Borg for me.

+ Just in time for the Ironman film debut this Friday, a new contest that lets you live the life of Tony Stark. The grand prize includes first class air transportation to Los Angeles, three nights' stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $1,000 spending spree on Rodeo Drive and dinner and spa treatments. Also you get to play Diane Arbus' hirsute man friend. No wait, that's the "Live the Life of Robert Downey, Jr." contest. Totally different. Anyway, below is a preview outlining the contest.

Become Tony Stark for a Weekend!