Friday, February 29, 2008

News of the Day -- Friday, Feb. 29

+ Yahoo is reporting that a sea turtle will be getting an all-new artificial flipper. He'll also be getting a GPS system, a voice-activated MP3 player, an all-new leather interior and a chance to serve as the pace car in a future NASCAR race.

+ This nifty time-waster allows you to set 10 musical notes (or use a pre-set scale) and then using those notes as integers from 1 to 10, generate a melody based on Pi -- out to 10,000 places. If I wrote a song based on Pi, you know what I would call it?


You know what it would be about?


+ Everyone get ready and start practicing your sentence diagramming. National Grammar Day is coming up this Tuesday, March 4. So if anyone in the office gives you a hard time for correcting their grammar, just say, "Piss off, grammar illiterate. This is my day to shine." And then maybe shove them and dangle a participle as you walk by just to show 'em who's boss.

Thank you to Park Bench reader Scrap Irony for sending in that item.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

20 Questions For Women Who Aren't Us

Why do you wear flip flops in the winter and Ugg boots in the summer?

How does it not faze you to reveal so much cleavage you could be confused with two zeppelins racing for the ground? Don't the leers of the homeless make you the least bit uncomfortable?

Is it really that important to be the first one in line/on the bus/at the cash register?

Is that conversation you're having on your cell phone REALLY important enough to share with everyone?

Why does he stay with someone so mean? No really, I need tips.

What is it with you and Oprah?

How do you not choke on your gum when you pay $150 for a pair of jeans?

And why do you wear high heels with those jeans? It makes no kind of sense unless you're simultenously farming and clubbing. Are you farming and clubbing?

How do you manage to look friendly and judgmental all at the same time?

Have you been able to sleep on your stomach since the implants?

Why do you drive a 12-passenger Yukon when the only people in the car are you, your kid and your lap dog? I try to flip you off but you’re too high up to see me. This is what it’s like when little people get mad at Shaq.

How come when you put blush on it looks good but when I do it, I look like the 87-year-old cross-dressing prostitute that all the other 87-year-old cross-dressing prostitutes make fun of?

Has "Cosmopolitan" Magazine really ever really “helped you hold on to your man?” I think fake pregnancies are more effective but whatever...

Do I have to scrap book?

What’s up with lying to fellow women and making childbirth sound so great? Childbirth means the following items will rocket out of your body: a placenta, blood, a human being, more blood and something called a mucus plug. If gold bullion shot out of my body, I could see being excited.

This is a two-part question: has a stiff wind ever blown you over? If given a sandwich, would you eat it?

Why do you wave your hands in front of your face when you cry? Are you trying to keep the mascara dry or are you doing LOLCat jazz hands? I hope it’s the latter because everyone loves LOLCats.

Do cheerleaders ever turn on each other? You know, like prison snitches?

Why do you let Bret Michaels touch you?

You seriously don't like "Star Wars?" Seriously?

-- Liz and Ms. C. Our claws are now comfortably retracted.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

News of the Day -- Late Edition Because Blogger Ate the Early Edition

+ Trekkies rejoice! There's a very cool new Star Trek exhibition getting ready to tour the country in 2008. Visitors will see props, costumes, experience simulations and get a chance to sit in the captain's chair on not one, but TWO bridges. Sadly, no word on whether we'll get to sit on the laps of any captains, although I'm calling dibs on Picard right here and now. The exhibition is currently in Long Beach, CA, so if you're out there, check it out and let us know what you think.

+ Although Miss Piggy was noticeably absent from the red carpet, the annual Jim Henson Awards were recently awarded to four companies and individuals who are carrying on the Muppet master's spirit of creativity. Honorees included My Billionaire Boyfriend (TM) Richard Branson, writer Neil Gaiman and the website The best part of the award? The trophy:

Way cooler than an Oscar!

+ This item's kind of a good news/bad news thing. The bad news? There's a fairly good chance humanity's going to fuck up the planet pretty bad -- yup, even worse than we already have. The good news? Whoever -- or whatever -- is left behind is going to have a fabulous seed collection. Yes, the doors opened recently on the cheerfully named Doomsday Seed Vault, which will serve as a repository to preserve and protect millions of seeds and crops in the event they get destroyed by climate change, war or natural disaster. I've been thinking of cataloging my Hostess Fruit Pie collection too but that one'll pretty much just benefit me. Sorry, humanity!

+ And finally, NASA is planning to crash two rockets into the Moon's surface to see if they can find hidden water ice. Ten bucks says they've got Gary Busey signed on to drive those bad boys. I'm guessing Busey will be unsuccessful in recruiting Jennifer Garner or Ryan Seacrest as co-pilot.

Special thanks to Trey for submitting the Henson award and Doomsday seed vault items.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Open Letter to Stephen King

Dear Stephen:

Being an intellectual snob means I’ve missed out on a lot of good stuff in life. Tailgate parties, for example. Keg parties. Mary Kay parties. Lots of parties. I also missed out on “Melrose Place,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” “Dawson’s Creek,” “Felicity,” the first four seasons of “Friends” and, well, every single thing you've ever written. I thought I was too smart to go to those parties, watch those shows or read your books. For that last thing, I am truly sorry.

(I’m not at all sorry for missing those parties or “Dawson’s Creek,” though. The size of James Vanderbeek’s jaw makes me uncomfortable, like I’m watching chin porn. Also, you meet weird people at parties. I know because I’ve seen those “Real World” documentaries and episodes of “Quarterlife.”)

Until recently, I didn’t realize what I was missing by foregoing your work. I thought, “What does it matter? I’ve seen ‘Carrie.’ I’ve seen ‘The Shining’ and ‘Cujo’ and ‘The Stand.’” I figured I was well-versed in the King, uh, 'verse...or at least well-versed enough to fake it. I’m lazy that way.

But then you started writing for “Entertainment Weekly,” a magazine for which I have an indecent amount of love. Each Monday, the mailman finds me with my nose pressed to our glass door, a slight sheen of anticipation glistening on my lips – like if Cujo had been a supermodel. To complete the analogy, if I had a tail, I would wag it. That’s how much I love EW.

At first, I dismissed your column, thinking it’s probably just about zombies and axe-wielding hoteliers. And then I remembered I was a nerd and thought, “Hey! His column’s probably about zombies and axe-wielding hoteliers!” But it wasn’t. It was something even better. It was the work of a pop culture fan who loves music and movies and books just as much as I do and who writes about each of those subjects with a passion and gentle humor that is inspiring and, yes, addictive.

My husband, a King fan for years, saw his opening and recently handed me a copy of your novella, “The Long Walk.” It was riveting. I found myself in the kitchen washing the dishes with one hand, turning pages with the other and sometimes getting completely confused, requiring the judicious use of a hair dryer and Febreezing the not always pleasant odor of wet paper. While reading “The Long Walk,” the part of me that likes to feel smart and show off told my husband, “King must have been inspired by the Bataan death march.” He nodded, which I mentally translated as “yes, dear, I know you think you're smart, just be quiet.” And then I turned back to my reading because beyond historical allusions, "The Long Walk" is just a damn good story.

So now, I will no longer fight it. I will read your books. From this day forward, I’m giving up literary snobbery. Sure, I’ll still buy more trade paperbacks than mass markets. And may God strike me down if I ever willingly read a novelization of “Halo.” But I feel it’s time to open my literary horizons and embrace the idea that liking something a lot of other people like is not necessarily a bad thing, unless it’s NASCAR. Or “Deal or No Deal.” Or thongs on portly folk.

Witness me casting off the oppressive yoke of Harold Bloom and "The Times Literary Supplement" because, let’s face it, I don’t understand half the stuff I read in that publication anyway. It’s just a really good beard for the coffee shop literati. And Harold Bloom? Any man that inflicts a non-CGI “Beowulf” on me deserves not my admiration but my scorn. And maybe a pantsing.

Starting next week, I’m raiding my husband’s stash of King novels and diving in with gusto. I’ll likely be scared completely out of my mind and rendered sleepless and/or twitchy through July, but it’ll be worth it. Because I like you, Stephen. I like the way you think. I like the way you write a story, and I like the way you make the back page of EW, my pop culture crack addiction, shine.

I am, however, asking one small favor. Could you, for the love of all things holy, please stop writing for like ten minutes? I mean seriously, cut it out. Put the pen down. Play a few rounds of spider solitaire. Maybe take up knitting? Because, truly, some of us have some serious catching up to do and you’re not making it any easier.

Keep writing the columns though. I’ll be wanting your opinion on "Ironman."



News of the Day

+ Ever wanted to have an electronic gadget inserted under your skin so it can do slightly magical things? Who hasn't? Well, now if you want a subdermal gadget that shows videos, makes phone calls and, oh okay, actually does important things like monitor pacemakers and check blood sugar for diabetics, science has just the thing for you. It looks like this and it's powered by blood flow, which is one-part icky and one-part really, really cool.

Thank you to Trey for sending that one in.

+ Another one of those "shocking" studies came out suggesting that high school students may not be as smart as all those cute fifth graders who hang out with Jeff Foxworthy. Only forty-three percent of them knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900. (Wait, there was a civil war???) The article includes a link to sample questions so you can check out your own historical and literary knowledge.

+ Researchers in Italy have proven that fish can count up to four. Um, yay? Sure, they're feeling cool about it now, but let's see how they do on that high school literary test.*

* They'd probably do quite well. Which means they're smart which means I'm going to feel bad about eating them now. Damn it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

David and Gillian and Chris, Oh My! An X-Files report from WonderCon

This past weekend, it was an X-Files frenzy at WonderCon. Cast members David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were on hand along with series creator Chris Carter and long-time X-Files writer/producer Frank Spotnitz to talk about the upcoming movie. Park Bench reader and fellow X-phile Jenn S. agreed to be our (much cooler) Katie Couric and serve as The Park Bench's Chief X-Files Correspondent. She shares her account of the day with us below. Enjoy!

Ah, WonderCon. At 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, some friends and I walked the few blocks from our hotel on Mission Street in San Francisco down to the Moscone Center to take our place in line for the day's panels. Admittedly, we expected a few other people to be there since we'd been stalking other groups of X-Files fans online and knew their plan, so we weren't very surprised to see clusters of people lined up in front of the door, clutching Starbucks cups and talking excitedly about David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, the second movie, the show, and pretty much everything else XF. Everyone was giddy and impatient and couldn't wait for the day to begin, even though we knew we had a long wait ahead of us. After being pushed through several lines and crowded into a small waiting area, the doors to Hall A opened, and the HUNDREDS of Philes that had amassed tried to walk-not-run (security threatened to remove anyone who ran in the hall) to the best seats in the house.

I was one of the lucky ones. My friends and I grabbed the second row, right in the center, with a perfect view of the stage and only about 15 feet from it. It was ridiculously cold in the hall (even with a long sleeve shirt and a heavy track jacket on, I was shivering), but the atmosphere was great, and it filled up in no time.

While a lot of people were only there for the XF panel, I also was happy to see the other ones. Stephen Strait and Camilla Belle came to talk about the upcoming film "10,000 B.C."; there was a preview of Pixar's "Wall-E," Disney's "Prince Caspian," and the next installment in the Narnia series; and best of all, Anne Hathaway and Steve Carrell did a panel on "Get Smart" which was hilarious and a lot of fun.

Finally, it was time for the XF panel. The crowd screamed as one of the event organizers placed the name labels on the panel table one by one, and then finally, out came Frank Spotnitz, Chris Carter, Gillian Anderson, and David Duchovny. The crowd went WILD -- the panel looked shocked to see so many people there and so happy to see them. Chris Carter spoke first and told everyone to "Take a look at this" while the lights were cut, and in the pitch black hall, a rough-cut trailer was put on the big screens. I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone got chills, and we all shrieked our excitement the first time Scully and Mulder appeared in the footage.

The panel itself was great. David and Gillian seemed thrilled to be there, and also really comfortable with one another. They spent a lot of time, while Frank or Chris were talking, just joking and laughing with one another on the side. Chris Carter says that XFII will "scare the pants off you" and also "let you see Mulder & Scully together in a whole new way". Gillian admitted that she had a rough few days back on the set and that she struggled with allowing herself to be Scully again after so much time trying to do anything but Scully. David said that his scenes with Gillian are the hardest because he wants them to be the most perfect and they carry the most weight. Chris Carter was asked whether he plans to make any more XF movies after this, to which answered, "Right away!" That got a pretty big cheer.

Everyone was in great spirits, and it was obvious how happy they all were to be working together again after so much time away. I think that feeling was palpable, and the audience picked up on it and fed energy right back to them. David made fun of Gillian for how much she loves the episode "Bad Blood"-- "She mentions it all the time. Every day it's like, 'Bad Blood, Bad Blood, Bad Blood!' or 'Hey, do you remember this from 'Bad Blood'?" Gillian giggled and explained that she just thought it was a really fun episode with a great script and that she liked how they got to play one another's versions of themselves.

The panel went by way too quickly, and at the end, David came back to say that people had been asking him if there was still an audience for the film, and how grateful and glad he was to see us all there. "I believed you were out there. I knew you were," he said. And the crowd went wild.

News of the Day

+ Not too shabby an Oscars ceremony last night. For me, highlights included an always funny Jon Stewart as host, the fact that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova's "Falling Slowly" from "Once" beat out all those aggravating "Enchanted" numbers for best song -- and that Marketa got to come back out and finish her acceptance speech and best of all, the fact that former stripper and former blogger Diablo Cody took home an Oscar for best original screenplay for "Juno"...and then totally lost it on exiting the stage. I'm a sucker for seeing people genuinely happy at the Oscars. Speaking of which, do the Coen brothers get excited for anything? More importantly, what did you think of the big show?

+ If you do only one thing for yourself today, you have to watch this commercial from this past Saturday's SNL with Tina Fey. Ever wondered what it would be like to have your period only once a year? Thanks to a fictional pharmaceutical, SNL will show you:

Friday, February 22, 2008

News of the Day -- Feb. 22, 2008

+ Scientists from the University of Tokyo are making paper airplanes fit for space flight...and re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere. Mine will barely make it across the room. I'm very jealous. Thank you to Park Bench reader Trey for submitting this item.

+ This is kind of sad in an awkwardly funny way. Apparently, 14 members of the cast and crew of CBS' recently resurrected "Jericho" showed up at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention to screen a new episode, answer questions and generally thank fans for all their support. The, uh, sad part is that hardly anyone showed up, and there was apparently just a weird silence in the room. During that silence, Skeet Ulrich continued to look like a poor man's Johnny Depp. [Via Fark]

+ Ah, even in fictional outer space, size does indeed matter. This cool website gives the comparative scales of scores of different famous sci-fi ships including Firefly's Serenity and the Death Star, and now you can finally see which space ships are the manliest. [Via io9]

+ And don't forget, tomorrow night nerdy woman queen bee Tina Fey will be hosting "Saturday Night Live" for the first time ever. Hopefully this will help ease the pain as we wait patiently for a new "30 Rock."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

News of the Day -- Feb. 21, 2008

+ A very cool website featuring armor for cats and mice designed and constructed by artist Jeff DeBoer. I like this jousting outfit for cats the best:

+ And for all my fellow West Wing fans out there, an interesting article about how Bartlet successor Matt Santos was modeled on Barack Obama and the uncanny similarities that stemmed from it.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Live blogging the lunar eclipse

8:54 PM -- Holy cow! In the middle of making scrambled eggs, I remember there's a lunar eclipse going on outside.

8:57 PM -- Finish making eggs but am momentarily distracted by end of Colbert Report. He has great hair.

9:01 PM -- Okay, the moon's looking kind of fucked up right now. It's like I'm in a movie theater and someone with a gigantic Earth sized head is sitting in front of me, blocking my view of the moon. If it blurts out the eclipse's surprise ending, I'm going to be totally pissed.

9:03 PM -- The eggs were scrumptious. I think it's the tabasco sauce that does it.

9:04 PM -- I'd say about 20 percent of the moon is dark now. It looks like one of those faulty, broken buttons you get on a discount sweater. (I'm sure NASA will be stealing that description for their text books.)

9:06 PM -- Now it looks like cheeeeese! Well, half-eaten cheese. The stuff left over with the cracked Ritz at the end of a party. But still, it's cheeeeeese!

9:09 PM -- You know, if you stare at the moon's surface long enough, you start to see shapes in its craters and shadows. So far, I've spotted a giant bear paw print, a crown and Charles Nelson Reilly. Now I know where game show panelists go when they die.

9:13 PM -- Now it looks like half a Nilla wafer. I think I'm still hungry.

9:15 PM -- I think it would be cool if I saw the government blow up the satellite while the lunar eclipse was going on. It would be like a gigantic picture-in-picture kind of thing. In HD. The government needs a better event planner.

9:19 PM -- This thing is moving kind of slow. Doesn't the moon know we're the MTV generation and have no attention span? I'm going to be mature and hang tough (New Kids!) with this though.

9:24 PM -- E!'s 25 Most Sensational Hollywood Meltdowns is on!!

9:29 PM -- It's more than half gone now. I've been thinking: what happens to a werewolf during a total lunar eclipse. I mean technically, it's a full moon out there, but now it's covered up but then it'll be uncovered again later. Would the werewolf half-change and then change back, like how you put a sweater on in the morning but you get too hot by noon so you take it off but you're still all covered in fur and eating people? Wait, I'm totally messing this up.

9:35 PM -- Now it's starting to look like this but without Bruce and Cybill:

Word's just come in that ABC is belatedly suing God for copyright infringement. God's like, "Dudes, try it and I give you a tail."

9:40 PM -- Goddammit, I just got spoilers!

9:45 PM -- It looks like a French tip manicure. (I'm sure I just got the manicure terminology wrong. I'm okay with that.)

9:55 PM -- Now it's kind of brownish-red, like a psychedelic hippie multi-vitamin. I hate it when spoilers are true!

9:58 PM -- Holy shit, the moon's gone!!!


Moon photo from

Loving the man in the pork-pie hat

There are certain things in life that everyone should experience. Like love or seeing the Grand Canyon or never having to watch Elizabeth Berkley act again. I’d like to add another one to the list and posit that the world would be a better place if we could all experience at least one Buster Keaton movie.

For those who don’t know, this is Buster Keaton and a small pony. Keaton is the taller one.

In the 1910s and 1920s, there were three silent film comedians who ruled the roost: Harold Lloyd, some nobody named Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. The masses loved Harold Lloyd and then forgot him. The masses and the critics loved Charlie Chaplin and remembered him -- I think mostly because it seemed weird that Hitler would copy his mustache. Some of the masses, some of the critics and all the finest morose people loved Buster Keaton, and today he’s remembered by pretty much those exact same groups.

Buster Keaton made unusual comedy which combined his gifts for physical grace and athleticism, a willingness to work on a grand scale including – I swear to God – blowing up a bridge and an entire steam locomotive for the sake of one good gag, and an ability to make an audience laugh or break their heart with equal ease. He always played the underdog, something that fit his small stature and deadpan countenance, but he played the underdog with bite. His characters would put up with only so much before they fought back – sometimes with exploding locomotives.

Because Keaton and his writers made much of their film's stories up as they went along, Keaton's movies have a free-wheeling joy and absurdity, never constrained by much of anything. His movies span a wide spectrum of subject matter, from “The General” where he plays an incompetent recruit who ends up saving the day to “Go West” where he plays a cowboy in love with his cow. (Okay, and a woman, but mostly he loves the cow. Her name is Brown Eyes, and she is pretty cute. Like a chunkier Sarah Jessica Parker.)

Whatever the subject matter, viewers can always rely on action and incredible stunts, the likes of which should put Bruckheimer to shame, especially considering this was nearly a century before CGI. With Keaton’s films you can laugh and then gasp as you watch him let a house fall around him, stand nearly horizontal in a tornado, grab on to a speeding car like a real-life cartoon character, hang upside down from a waterfall and jump from a moving train. With that last stunt, he actually broke his neck – but got up and finished the scene and then went another three months without realizing what he’d done. I’m telling you, the guy was tough.

So if you’re looking for a rarefied comedy experience, check out Buster. In fact, if you have 20 minutes or so right now, here are links to part one, part two and part three of his two-reel classic, “Cops.” It might well be your first experience in loving the man with the pork-pie hat.

News of the Day -- Feb. 20, 2008

First of all, many thanks to the folks who realized that I'd lost my temporal mind yesterday and labeled "News of the Day" with a January date instead of a February date. No doubt Freud would have attributed this to a latent desire to return to the month at a time.

Now, with our feet firmly planted in "today," let's check out some news:

+ Gigantic sea creatures are apparently swarming the icy depths of the Antarctic waters...and they're beautiful. I'm betting 50 bucks they're aliens sent to Earth in search of really large ice chunks for some monster-size dacquiris. The umbrellas they're making to garnish the glass are going to blow our minds.

+ Alyson Hannigan is the latest alumna to join the upcoming PaleyFest Buffy reunion on March 20 in LA. It should be a fantastic event with Joss Whedon and pretty much the entire cast including Sarah Michelle Gellar, Seth Green, Nicholas Brendan, James "I Am Dorian Grey" Marsters, Eliza Dushku, Amber Benson and Charisma Carpenter on hand, to name just a few. Actually, I named a bunch of them. It might just have been easier to say, "Everyone except Anthony Stewart Head and David Boreanaz will be there." I hear it's going to be more of a shindig and less of a hootenanny than originally anticipated.

+ Last night, Yahoo News ran a feature on former Nerd Man of the Month and all-around charming fellow Jonathan Coulton and how he quit his day job to become a rock star. The story is basically framed around the idea of "how could this wacky person quit a job to pursue a lifelong dream?"

Which leads me to a question for you: what did you want to be when you grew up and would you ever quit your day job to try for it now? Share in the comments section. I'll add my answer later today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

News of the Day -- Feb. 19, 2008

+ Castro resigned and Musharraf was defeated in Pakistan but all that pales in comparison to the really big news: the new cast of "Dancing With the Stars" has been announced. We've got Priscilla Presley, Kristi Yamaguchi, Shannon Elizabeth, Steve Guttenberg and...uh...Adam Carolla, which reminds me that the term "star" is nebulous at best. (Get it, nebulous? Thank you, I'll be here all week. Enjoy the veal!) As it stands right now, I'll be rooting for Penn Jillette because he's a smart ass and Marlee Matlin because I have a secret girl crush on her from "The West Wing" days.

+ HD DVDs are no more, which is nice because now that means there's only one new technology I can't afford.

+ And finally, don't forget there will be a full lunar eclipse tomorrow night, confusing werewolves everywhere. It'll start around 8:45 EST and will be the last full lunar eclipse until 2010.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pranks and shenanigans

It's not even April 1, and there are at least two brilliant pranks circulating around the internets today. First off, in celebration of the arrival of baseball's spring training, check out this great prank played on Phillies player Kyle Kendrick, who got duped by basically his entire team into believing he'd been traded to a Japanese team...because of course Major League Baseball does those popular international trades all the time. D'oh. Here's the video:

The second joke of genius comes from friend RJ White over at The City Desk who has managed to enrage legions of Ron Paul fans by using a fictional city to diss the congressman...while simultaneously amusing Wonkette readers. Be sure to read the comments on the actual City Desk story. They made me giggle.

News of the Day - Monday, Feb 18

+ You know how we're all sure James Lipton is going to run out of real actors to interview on Inside the Actor's Studio soon, and we're fairly certain he'll have to resort to puppets? Well, NPR beat him to it. Check out this great interview with Cookie Monster that includes Lipton's fancy French question list. You'll never guess what Cookie Monster's favorite curse word is.

+ It's been out a few days now, but if you haven't seen the new trailer for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, you've got to check it out. I'm very excited for this movie -- and surprisingly, Harrison Ford seems mildly excited to be on screen, too. Who knew?

+ And finally, here's an interesting article on how some Michigan libraries are now renting video games and hosting Guitar Hero competitions to get kids in the door. Sure, they're still not reading, but at least they know where the library actually is now, so that's a start.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The perfect Valentine's Day gift

It’s difficult figuring out the perfect gift for your loved one on Valentine’s Day. Imagine how hard it is for fictional characters – they hardly ever get to the store! In fact, let’s imagine a little harder and guess what some fictional couples would (and should) get each other for the big day.

Battlestar Galactica
Six gets Baltar a handful of tranquilizers and a Jesus complex. He gets her a sweater and a sandwich. She doesn’t know what to do with either one.

Roslyn gets Adama a can of Nair should he ever grow the porn ‘stash again. He gets her a heart-shaped airlock and a prisoner. Awww…

Cupid helps Jack understand the difference between an inside voice and an outside voice. Jack shouts “Why? Am I too loud?” and then gives Cupid a man-purse which Cupid “accidentally” loses six months later. “Dudes don’t carry purses,” explained the diaper-clad cherubim.

The Simpsons
Marge gets Homer a donut. For Marge, Homer gets himself two donuts and a snuggle from Harry Plopper.

Jack gives Kate his heart. Kate gives Jack a clue. “Thanks,” he says, “I’ve always wanted one of these!”

The X-Files
Scully gives Mulder a lifetime subscription to Cinemax. Mulder lets her be right about something...but only once.

Star Wars
For Leia, Han erases all memories of the Star Wars Christmas special. Leia gets Han a hyperdrive that never breaks down...if you know what I mean. Sadly, they have to go to the emergency room when Han’s trip into hyperspace lasts longer than four hours.

Superman makes the Earth rotate backwards to save Lois’ life, forgetting that he totally gets her that EVERY year. Lois gets mad and refuses to give Superman the new high-collared, bedazzled cape that makes him look like Elvis.

Star Trek
Captain Kirk gives himself a mirror. He is never sad again. Unable to tear himself away from the sight, he does, however, starve to death.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nerd Man of the Month: Conan O'Brien

Nothing says sexy nerd like a tall, pasty Harvard grad named after a Schwarzenegger barbarian. Which is why we’ve selected Conan O’Brien as our February Nerd Man of the Month.

Not only is the "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" host wickedly funny, he also boasts some seriously strong nerd credentials. Wikipedia, our modern day Delphic oracle, tells me Conan was not only editor of his high school newspaper, he was also valedictorian. He went on to Harvard where he made funny with the Harvard Lampoon and even graduated magna cum laude. And he was a congressional intern which means he wore a skinny tie and no doubt lost his innocence to a lonely Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Best of all, the guy also wrote for The Simpsons. Writing for a cultural icon like The Simpsons earns automatic entry into the Nerd Man Pantheon, which I’ve also taken to calling the Nerd Man Pantherdome because it sounds like a place where sophisticates could sit back on a comfortable sofa, drink Cosmos and watch lab-coated male strippers debate red versus green kryptonite.

But back to Conan. He’s a talent juggernaut, having turned a struggling late night talk show into a cool-ly ridiculous must-see, thereby inflicting horrific insomnia on seekers of good comedy everywhere. And let’s not forget that if it weren’t for Conan, millions of us would never have found our plush human love toy, Andy Richter, Late Night’s former sidekick whom I adore with a passion usually reserved for puppies and candy-coated sunshine.

Recently, Conan endeared himself to millions more fans with his awesomely absurd feud with Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The three men fighting – quite literally – over who “made” Mike Huckabee is pure comedy gold. Check it out for yourself:

And if that’s not enough, check out the outtakes:

For being funny and bringing honor to America's gingers and for singing “Hunka, hunka burning love” not ten feet away from me one evening many, many years ago, The Park Bench is pleased to honor Conan O’Brien with its Nerd Man of the Month Award. We hope the success doesn’t go to his tall, barbarian head.

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Juno" stirs the pot.

Last week, Entertainment Weekly, also known as the Magical Conduit Through Which Pictures of Johnny Depp Enter My Home, published a story on the vast and unexpected popularity of the movie, “Juno.” The story included the following paragraph:

“After years of being served mostly bland good girls and ciphers — from Molly Ringwald in the '80s to Alicia Silverstone in the '90s to Lindsay Lohan in the '00s — teenage girls are clearly starving for a female antihero, as are their mothers, fathers, older sisters, and even some of their brothers. In Juno, the story of a pint-size badass who also happens to be a romantic idealist, Hollywood has finally delivered. "It's a teenage female lead we've never seen before,'' says (star Ellen) Page. "She dresses like she wants, says what she wants, and doesn't apologize for it....Girls haven't had that sort of character before. We don't have our Catcher in the Rye." In what may be the ultimate sign of success, there's even a cranky backlash bubbling up, much of it from adults who question whether teenage girls are really all that clever.

This can’t be true, I thought. There must be some smart, funny, independent female role models in the movies somewhere. Right? And then I sat and thought about it. And thought about it some more. And then I had a cookie and thought about whether I should have milk with it. (I decided no. It’s a lactose thing.) And then I went back to thinking about the “Juno” thing. And you know what? I really couldn’t think of a comparable character, someone who lit up the cinemaplex simply by walking to the beat of her own indie drummer.

Tons of smart rebels popped into my head from television. There was Buffy and Willow. There was “Veronica Mars,” and Rory on “Gilmore Girls” and maybe Claire Bennet from “Heroes,” although she loses a little luster in the sparkling wit department. And even if there isn’t a hoard of teenage characters, there’s still been a sizable group of adult women portrayed as smart, funny and independent-minded on shows as diverse as “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Firefly” and “30 Rock.” In short, there seems to be a relative haven for smart, badass women on TV.

But why so few brilliant, snarky female teens in the movies? Could it be as terrible as the last line of that paragraph suggests: adults…question whether teenage girls are really all that clever. That line makes me enormously sad especially when I consider how my friends and I spent so much of our youth trying to be hyperliterate, attempting to drop bon mots with the verbal alacrity of Noel Coward...if, you know, he’d been more of a teenage girl.

The conspiracy-minded part of me – the part that knows The Purina Man is keeping the basset hounds down at Westminster – believes that maybe Hollywood has denied us independent minded teenage girls for the simple fact that if we let young girls know it’s okay to think for themselves they won’t buy the jeans or the Hannah Montana CDs or the breast implants we want them to buy. They might realize the dangerous truth that real self-worth comes from thinking for yourself. Put too many Junos in the flock, and these sheep might just wander.

And personally, thinking for myself as a woman and all, how brilliantly awesome would that be?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

In Defense of Glasses

The oft-inebriated poet Dorothy Parker once wrote, “Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses.” I find this hard to believe and am inclined to think that plenty of men were making passes at Dorothy but she missed them because, well, she was slushy with gin and vermouth. Had she been sober, she would have realized the magical power of eyeglasses and how they do not in fact detract from one’s appearance but rather add to it.

For too long, glasses have had their reputations (and lenses) besmirched by jealous people with 20/20 vision who only wish they could accessorize with the saucy flair of tortoise shell frames. Eye glasses deserve a little recognition, for they wield not only corrective powers, but the power to change one’s image, style and state of mind.

Let’s look at a few of the many, many good things about glasses:

1. They make us look smarter. I could be as dumb as a rock or one of those ladies on The View, but if I put on a pair of glasses, my perceived IQ shoots up at least 50 points. When they see my glasses, people know I’ve read enough books to inflict injury on my eye balls, so therefore, I must be really, really dedicated to learning and/or I must enjoy ophthamological masochism. And given that I just made up the phrase “ophthamological masochism,” I must be smart. Which, duh, of course I am. I’m wearing glasses.

2. Glasses give us authority. Got a tough situation on your hands? Is the Canadian army giving you guff? The answer, my friends, is simple. (And probably blowing in the wind. Sorry.) Tilt your head down, let your glasses descend your proboscis just a smidge and glare. The power of looking over your glasses at someone cannot be denied. Think about it – it works for grandparents, for congressmen, for schoolteachers and it worked for Ponch on ChiPs. (Sure, those were sunglasses, but same difference. Don’t believe me? I’m looking over my glasses at you…right now.)

3. Glasses can make fire. No ant ever burst into flames because of a contact lense, and no Survivor contestant ever lit kindling with 20/20 vision. There’s no question about it – if CBS ever drops you off on a deserted island with nothing but a camera crew and Jeff Probst or if a small, angry ant ever attacks you, glasses will save your life.

4. Superheroes wear glasses. Sure, Clark Kent takes off his glasses when he turns into Superman but that’s only because the frames keep slipping down his nose and he’s worried about looking like too much of a stud while fighting crime. It’s true. I read it somewhere…with my glasses.

5. Glasses just look good. Let’s face it. Glasses not only improve our vision, they make us look better, too. In fact, a nice pair of glasses can do more than a good haircut or even an entirely new body.* Check out the photographic evidence:

Okay, I was kidding on that last one. But seriously, let’s stop apologizing for our glasses. Let’s stop hiding them when we go out on dates or wax the dog.** Show your nerd power. Wear ‘em loud and wear ‘em proud. It’s what Harry Carey would have wanted.

* Not true.
** Not a euphemism.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We are nerdy women, hear us roar!

As our intrepid presidential candidates criss-cross the country in search of those all-important last-minute votes, I think it’s time they paid attention to a very important segment of society which has, to date, been woefully ignored. That’s right. I’m talking about the nerd vote.

Below is a list of demands a well-balanced platform of political ideals. I will now commence looking at my watch and tapping my toe haughtily until one of the candidates comes forward to meet those demands gracefully accept our offer of support.

* The inauguration speech must include the phrase “social awkwardness is the new sexy” at least seven times. Preferably, the phrase will be sung.

* Mary McDonnell will be named Secretary of Education...just in case.

* We all will be issued jet packs and robots.

* In her new role as Secretary of Awesome, Tina Fey will become best friends with all of us...and smite Paris Hilton in a nationally televised lightsaber duel.

* Wearing glasses not only will be deemed socially fabulous, those glasses will also be equipped with the ability to see into – and control – the human soul.

* On driver’s licenses, height and weight will be replaced with Scrabulous high scores.

* Tim Gunn will personally see to all our fashion and style needs. Also, he will promise not to mock what came before him.

* William Shatner will receive an Oscar…no questions asked.

* People who are smart will make more money than the people who just look good and aren’t egregiously stupid.

* “Lost” will remain jaw-droppingly brilliant under a new federal mandate.

* The Super Bowl will be permanently replaced by the Puppy Bowl and Paula Abdul will never, ever be allowed to sing during the Kitten Half-Time Show.

* Anyone who rocks on Rock Band or Guitar Hero will be deemed to rock in “real life.” Eric Clapton and the ghosts of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughen will act accordingly.

See? These demands lofty ideals shouldn’t be so hard to get behind. Let the political wooing begin…

Monday, February 04, 2008

Thank God for the Super Bowl or we'd never see any good ads

Most years, the Super Bowl is just the thing that happens in between all the dancing animal commercials or, at worst, it’s just a blatant rip-off of the greatest sporting event ever devised: The Puppy Bowl. This year, though, I actually enjoyed the game, especially watching the NFL’s equivalent of the 98-pound weakling, the New York Giants, kick sand in the face of the sun-tanned, muscle-bound New England Patriots. This nothing this nerd likes more than watching an underdog win. (Sorry, Patriots fans. It’s a Michigan thing. We all have angry inferiority complexes.)

Okay, there is actually one thing this nerd likes watching more than Tom Brady falling down: commercials with dancing animals! Here are my top five favorite commercials from last night:

5) The Sobe dancing lizards -- The message on this commercial was totally lost on me, leaving me more than a little concerned that drinking Sobe will turn me into a cold-blooded, Thriller-loving, animated zombie iguana. But on the other hand, how cool was that animation? I love stuff that gives little critters form and shape – you could see their little tummy muscles moving with the dance. It was great. Go lizards!

4) (Tie) Will Ferrell’s Bud Light/Semi-Pro commercial and the T-Mobile spot with Charles Barkley and Dwayne Wade – Sure, Ferrell’s was pretty much a rip-off of the great product endorsement spots from “Talladega Nights” (Snowblindness in cats!), but I still laughed. And Will kept most of his clothes on, too, so that was a big, big added bonus. And Barkley irritating Dwayne Wade by calling him over and over and over again made me chuckle. Also, a valuable lesson for the young people out there: begging to be in some retired ball player’s Fave Five always comes with a price. Just say no, kids. It’s what Nancy Reagan would have wanted.

3) The Justin Timberlake Pepsi commercial – Seriously, I’m a sad, sad cougar when it comes to Justin Timberlake. I’ll watch him do anything, even getting dragged through streets and lawns while getting sucked through a straw by a girl. Which…uh…seems weird now that I think about it. But hey, how ‘bout that CGI? And he looked cute when he stood up. Four stars from me!

2) Fed-Ex’s ginormous carrier pigeons – I would pay money to go see a movie where giant carrier pigeons took over New York City. In fact, I think this should be the plot of the Cloverfield sequel.

1) E-Trade’s baby trader – Boy, was that kid cute. The voice was perfect. All the schtick was perfect, like him hiring the clown with his newfound E-Trade money…and realizing how creepy that was. I loved the whole series of spots.

And, hands down, the absolute worst spot of the night was GoDaddy’s “we may or may not have a topless Danica Patrick on our homepage and just in case, you should go check it out” ad. On the one hand, I guess you’ve got to admire the blatant efficiency of the concept. On the other hand, are we still in middle school? I mean, I know that stuff used to work when you wanted to get the boys off the tire swing – “hey, look, a naked girl!” – but to think it works on adults at $2.7 million an ad is pretty depressing.

Let’s face it, though, they probably got a lot of hits.

Just like Tom Brady.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Park Bench book club reminder

I'm closing in on the final pages of A Room With a View this morning and just wanted to remind anyone who wanted to join the book club to please register at the Yahoo group. I'll be posting some starter questions for us tomorrow morning. Hope to see you there!

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Friday Round-Up

+ It's a snow day today which means plenty of time to contemplate how completely, awesomely great "Lost" was last night. I forget after watching so many hours of "Millionaire Matchmaker" and "American Gladiators" that television can be truly exceptional. (If you didn't see last night's "Lost," turn away now.) Last night's "Lost" premiere was everything I was hoping it would be: fast-paced, baffling, scary (Hurley and Jacob's cabin!! Locke's eye peering through the window! The scary dude visiting Hurley in the mental institution) and intriguing without sacrificing character and heart. Also, I heart Ben and all of his sarcastic asides.

And I hope anyone who played along with the "Lost" drinking game enjoyed pouring the keg over their heads and dancing in triumph when we saw Charlie...alive in the future! (Okay, so technically, he said he was dead, but that's just semantics in my book.)

+ Speaking of books, if you're interested in taking part in the first Park Bench Book Club discussion, please go here and sign up. I've posted an initial "get to know everyone" message, so please join in. I'll post a series of discussion topics on Monday morning just to get the ball rolling, but feel free to take about anything and everything related to "A Room With A View." And if you didn't have time to read the book, but watched the movie, hey, feel free to post about how Helena Bonham Carter's cleavage seems to have aged hardly a day! Or something...

+ In 1979, The Usborne Book of the Future was released, touting all of the miraculous technologies and innovations that will fill our world in the year 2000 and beyond. Via BoingBoing, the Pointless Museum has a full scan of this book, and it's fascinating to see not only the optimism but, well, how wrong a lot of it was. You can't fault 'em for hoping though. I sure wouldn't mind riding one of those solar powered bikes.

+ A movie version of "The Greatest American Hero?" Apparently so, says io9. The good news is that I loved that show as a kid. The bad news is that it's being directed by the same guy who did "The Mighty Ducks," so I'm assuming there'll be at least a few getting-hit-in-the-crotch jokes and at least one or more heartwarming moments, not necessarily in that order.

+ And finally, did you see that NASA is sending The Beatles' "Across the Universe" into space? Specifically, to the North Star. How cool is that? 431 years from now, all the teenagers on the North Star are going to be screaming for John, Paul and George. Sadly, Ringo will still be unpopular.