Wednesday, April 30, 2008

News of the Day -- Wednesday, April 30

+ AOL did a ranking of their top 50 TV comedies of all time. I guess I agree with most of them, although I would like to have a little love for "The Addams Family," "The Monkees" and Jack Benny's half-hour show, which still has the power to make me weep with laughter.

+ Also pilfered from USA Today's Pop Candy blog, this item about J.D. Salinger putting on his cranky pants over "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I bet Holden Caulfield would have liked it.

+ My friend Ms. C sent me this item on an R2D2 mechanics manual t-shirt and I think I love it:

Did anyone, by the way, see that terrible "Star Wars"-themed "Deal or No Deal" earlier this week? Wow. It just made me sad. I think it made special guest Carrie Fisher sad, too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Casting off the burdensome yoke of iceberg lettuce

It seems crazy to me that certain types of foods are considered masculine and others are considered feminine. You’d think that two decades after those “real men don’t eat quiche” shenanigans took place, we’d be over it. But the other day, I was reading an article on “Gossip Girl” in New York Magazine – I feel I should issue a denial over reading that article, but honestly, it just happened and I don’t know why – and it mentioned that one of the female stars of the show was mocked for eating a meal more manly than her date’s. And I thought, “Seriously? Someone really took the time to think about that.” And then I realized I was thinking about that, too, but my thinking about that seemed more post-modern than the reporter’s thinking about that so I think I’m okay. Phew.

Anyway, it seems to me there are more than enough stereotypes that separate men and women already without having to bring food into the mix: Men like sports, women like shopping. Men like to hunt, women like to gather. Men like fast cars, women like to roll cars and set them on fire after championship know, all the usual stuff. So why do we have to draw a gender line between meat and salads?

A few months ago, I went to a business lunch at a nice restaurant. There were several other women at the table. All of them ordered salads. Looking over at the next table, I saw a man tucking into a nice little steak. I sighed and ordered a salad because I knew, from experience, that ordering a t-bone or rack of ribs or anything that required a bib would have earned me looks of disdain and/or horror from my compatriots. Yes, I got peer pressured into leaves. And I hate leaves. I’m convinced that the utter blandness of most leafy greens is what makes koalas look so sad…even if they are high. The only thing that makes salads tasty is the stuff you put on them, which proceeds to make them fattening, which kind of ruins the point. It’s a vicious low-fat vinaigrette circle.

Now I’m not saying that roughage isn’t an important part of any diet. (I bet you didn’t think you’d be reading about roughage on this blog today, did you?) And I’m not saying it’s bad to eat healthy. In fact, it’s good to eat healthy. But just because I’m a woman, I don’t think I should have to pass up eating as many barbecue-slathered spare ribs as I can possibly cram into my delicate lady stomach every now and then. The fear of becoming morbidly obese and having my heart explode should stop me from doing that, of course, but not the fear of breaking societal norms.

Of course, I suppose we could solve this whole thing if someone would invent barbecued salads.

News of the Day -- Tuesday, April 29

+ Whatever you are doing, stop doing it and start heading toward your nearest Ben and Jerry's. Yes, today is Free Cone Day. Hence, today is better than Christmas. Here's a list of participating stores. Go now, my friends! Run like the wind!

+ Or if you'd like to just lose your appetite completely, check out this story of the gigantic, King Kong-like giant squid that researchers have been feverishly examining since it was pulled from Jules Verne-ish depths. They will be conducting their research while wearing lobster bibs and holding slices of lemon, FYI.

+ Grand Theft Auto IV came out last night. I know because my husband suspiciously left the house at about 15 minutes to midnight and later, as I fell asleep, I could hear the distinct sounds of explosions and impressive blasts of profanity coming from downstairs. Here's a glowing review of the game from Entertainment Weekly. In related news, Mario Kart also came out. It looks pretty and Yoshi drives a car. That's enough for me.

+ Oops and I almost forgot to mention...if you'd like to become a fan of The Park Bench, we're finally on Facebook. The page is still rudimentary -- much like my web skills -- but I'll be adding to it later on.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Comprehension is for suckers.

After watching “Lost” last night, I’ve been mulling over the question of comprehension. How important is it, really, for me to understand what the hell is going on in a show or movie? Does it lessen my enjoyment of the thing or does it just liven things up by forcing me to continually turn to my husband and ask, “What the hell just happened?”

Those “what the hell” moments have been happening to me a lot lately with both “Lost” and “Battlestar Galactica.” I should point out that I never miss an episode of either show and am geek enough to frequent the Television Without Pity boards and eavesdrop on all the conspiracy theories. So it’s not like I’m not doing the homework. I just don’t always get it. Like physics or the appeal of radishes.

Perhaps I shouldn’t worry about it. There have been plenty of things in the past that I enjoyed without fully understanding what was going on. Adolescence, for one. I don’t get James Joyce but I like reading his work because the cadence of the language and indecipherable imagery appeal to me on a sensory level. I like Dadaism but maybe that’s just because I know it’s supposed to confuse me. I’ll watch a Wes Anderson film any day of the week even when I’m not quite sure what I’m meant to get out of it. Of course, I’m not sure Wes is either.

But I feel like I should have a better grip on TV. Isn’t television supposed to be the 20th century’s non-denominational opiate of the masses? I thought so, but these days I feel as though my opiate has come in a child-proof bottle that I’ll never, ever get open, let alone get all that packing cotton out of. At the same time – to extend the shoddy metaphor – I’m equally sure the kid down the street has opened the bottle with ease and is nodding his head in thoughtful agreement to everything on the screen. I feel more and more as though everyone is getting it but me.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I don’t need to understand everything right away. I like to be challenged. I like to have to work to decipher a story. I’m just worried that my brain has reached saturation point. I know it’s bad when I’m watching “Lost” and can’t remember Ben’s daughter’s name and can’t remember the other hot time-traveling dude (Desmond! How could I forget you and your well-groomed scruffiness?). It’s bad, too, when I have to do math to figure out if something is a fast-forward or a flash-back. (“Okay, Ben’s trip to the Middle East is set in 2005. ‘Lost’ has been on for four season? Which means the plane crashed in 2004. Carry the one, subtract the two, find the square root of something…okay, it’s a flash-forward!”) How do the writers keep all this straight?

And don’t even ask me to figure out “Battlestar.” How did Baltar’s transformation into Hugh Hefner turn him into Jesus? Is it the hair? And the cylons make my brain hurt. There’s Sixes and Eights and Fours and some are working together and some aren’t and some are Dean Stockwell and some are making out with Dean Stockwell. And oh, did I mention a bunch of them look alike?

The thing is, these shows are all so well done that I trust this is an issue with me and not with the story telling. And I trust that eventually, all will be revealed and I’ll finally be able to go, “Ahhh, so that’s the answer. I knew it all along.” (Yes, I will lie when that moment comes.) In the meantime, I’m just going to accept that full comprehension is not important and embrace the belief that it’s all going to make sense someday. Otherwise, I’m going to start thinking that watching 100+ hours of confusing TV might have been a mistake.

News of the Day -- Friday, April 25

+ Ricky Gervais has a great blog documenting his experiences making "This Side of Truth," his directorial debut. It's a very funny read and includes bonus shots of him goofing off with Rob Lowe and Tina Fey.

+ Good news for Hellboy fans and small men with hairy feet -- Guillermo del Toro will be directing both parts of the upcoming Hobbit movie adaptation. I'm throwing down my bet right now that there will be at least one creature with eyes on its hands. I'm just sayin'.

+ One great set of follicles is set to replace another in 2009 when Jimmy Fallon takes over as host of Late Night when Conan O'Brien takes the reins of The Tonight Show from Jay Leno who, come to think of it, has very good hair as well. Conspiracy? Probably. I'm looking at you, Herbal Essence.

+ Finally, I can get my Toby Ziegler Mii turned into a cute little doll...just like I've dreamed. No really, this guy makes customized Wii sculptures for $79.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Times Literary Supplement, you are like catnip for my brain.

Sometimes I like to get a little autodidactic* with myself. I know, I know, you're thinking, "What if she goes blind?" (Not to worry. I wear glasses.) But yes, the truth is that sometimes I like to "get my learning on," as the kids say. Without a nearby university or handy college professor to teach me, though, it can be difficult. So when I get in the self-educating mood, I turn to The Times Literary Supplement, the best smarty-pants publication ever created that doesn't require you to have a PhD just to subscribe.

If you've never read The Times Literary Supplement, it's a British publication that reviews both popular and academic books. Unlike The New York Times Review of Books, though, TLS critics give you scads and scads of background on the subject covered in whatever book they're reviewing. For example, this past weekend, I read a review of two academic books that looked at clothing in 18th century Europe. Within this article, I learned about class structure, about Marie Antoinette's fashions (the real kind, not the Sophia Coppola kind), about how the upper and middle classes copied their styles from farmers and peasants. Dear God, I even learned about cloth. And you know what? It was fascinating. Each article is like a mini-history lesson with a big picture and small type. Half the time, I have no idea what I'm reading and am completely confused, but nearly every article still yields an undeniable intellectual buzz, a rush of learner's adrenaline that just makes me want to read more.

The TLS has been around since 1902 and its past contributors have included Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot and Henry James. Even Martin Amis took time out from being caustic and inventing new compound adjectives to work on its editorial staff early in his career. How's that for book nerd credibility?

So if you like good reading that occasionally requires the use of a big dictionary and sometimes makes your cranium jitter with confusion, give The TLS a test drive. Honestly, it's like taking master's degree classes but without having to listen to flannel-clad TAs. And there are rarely any pop quizzes although they publish some kind of cryptic puzzle that I swear is like cracking the Enigma code. Never, ever use a pen.

Check out The TLS. Your brain will thank you.

* Isn't this a great word? It has the dual benefit of sounding both racy AND confusing, like "brontosaurus," which sounds like a Dutch porn name.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

News of the Day -- Wednesday, April 23

+ Stephen Hawking discussed the possibility of life on other planets on Monday at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of NASA. Apparently, it was also a roast: "Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare," he said, quickly adding, "Some would say it has yet to occur on earth." Ha, that Hawking.

+ For those of you with BBC America, April's Nerd Man of the Month David Tennant is going to be on the new episode of "Top Gear" this coming Monday at 8 p.m. He'll be driving fast cars (okay, crappy economy cars at moderate speeds) and everything! By the way, everyone who told me to watch Doctor Who was absolutely right. I tuned in this past Friday and really enjoyed it. I can understand the Tennant love completely now!

+ Did you know that at least 22 graphic novels are being turned into films as we speak! (Or type.) I guess Hollywood ran out of comic book characters. On a related note, the doodle I drew of a dancing rabbit in a top hat from this morning's meeting is being turned into a 17 hour miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and starring Vincent D'Onofrio as the "rabbit who can't keep his jazz hands to himself."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

If Nerds Ruled the World

+ The pen literally becomes mightier than the sword. Fencers everywhere are armed with Bics.

+ “Jedi Knight” deemed an acceptable religious affiliation. Ewoks still shunned.

+ Festivus would be a federal holiday. In addition to social security cards and small hats, babies are issued stripper poles at birth.

+ Stats for an ideal woman change from 36-24-36 to 780 verbal/780 math.

+ Al Gore would have been our 43rd president because we never would have voted for the cheerleading frat boy.

+ Golf clubs, footballs, bats and other sports accoutrements are replaced with a universal Wii-mote. Also, deleting opponents becomes completely legal.

+ Scrabulous would NEVER be blocked by work security filters.

+ "Wall Street Journal" sketches are all drawn by H.R. Giger. Ben Bernancke becomes even more terrifying.

+ Comic books would be acceptable as a standard form of currency. "Archie" comics, however, soon become like the penny and are used only to buy gumballs and accessorize loafers.

+ No one ever laughs if you come to work hung over from last night’s Book Group.

+ British and/or Austrailian accents become standard issue on all humans. Harry Knowles suddenly becomes hot.

+ Bill Paxton and Bill Pullman are grafted together to create one incredibly awesome mediocre human being.

+ “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader” becomes “Are You Smarter Than a Tenth Grader Taking AP Classes?”

+ Cars come with a “Damage on/off” toggle. Driving becomes a lot more fun.

+ George Clooney is still hot.

+ The word "Juicy" on sweatpants is replaced with "If you can read this, you are too close." Obviously, the print would be very small.

+ Resumes will include high scores. Those who completed “BioShock” will be given upper management positions.

+ People NOT wearing glasses are mocked mercilessly and made to cry.

+ “American Idol” will be replaced with “American Astrophysicist.” Simon Cowell is still a bastard and totally plays favorites.

+ "Make It So" replaces "Git 'Er Done," a phrase never uttered again except in alcohol-fueled lexiconic accidents. Even then, dude, just don't do it.

- with contributions from Ms. C

Monday, April 21, 2008

News of the Day -- Monday, April 21

+ Pop Candy has a cool write-up on a new book called Secret Lives of Great Authors. The write-up includes an exclusive excerpt on everyone's favorite reclusive authorial whack-job (and I say that with great love) J.D. Salinger.

+ You know how we Earth-dwelling people are rather sloppy, what with the overflowing landfills and plastic bottle filled oceans? Well, hey, Treehugger's got an article on space junk, along with some disturbing images:

+ GamesRadar tallied up a list of their top 15 video games with the best stories. I feel sad that they didn't include the passionate, agonizing love story of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man and their unfortunate dalliance with Pong, but that's just me.

+ I'm all about the lists today. Did you see Discovery Channel's list of the top ten science hoaxes? Once I took some cleansing breathes over the "there's no such thing as global warming" arguments in the comments, I found it quite fascinating.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Towel, meet naked woman. I'd like you to be friends.

As a lapsed Catholic and socially maladjusted introvert, I have a healthy sense of shame. And never have I wanted to share that shame as much as when I'm in my health club locker room. Why, you ask? Because people need to put some goddamn clothes on.

Well, it's a locker room, you say, of course there are going to be naked women. And you're right. People are showering, they're changing clothes. That's totally normal and natural and I have no problem with it. But then there are the other people. You know the ones I mean. The ones who insist on not wearing clothes or a towel when they absolutely could be. I think it's weird and kinda rude...and I'm also pretty sure it's scarring me for life. My retinas are infuriated.

I'm particularly bitter because of a middle aged woman who sat naked in front of my locker last night and refused to move. I walked into the room, innocently whistling a jaunty tune as I approached the locker only to look up and stop dead in my tracks because, holy cow, there was a middle aged naked woman in front of my locker! So I stopped, turned to the nearby scale and busied myself with a weigh-in, thinking I'd give her time to put a towel on or even three well-placed wash clothes. I wasn't picky at that point. But no, half a minute later, I turned around and she was still naked as the day she was born, digging like a gargantuan pale gopher through her gym bag. And then she walked toward the scale - toward me -- to weigh herself. I darted around her like a clothed bunny, extricated my stuff from the locker and bolted, never to erase the jiggly translucent nightmare I had just witnessed.

Is this another woman etiquette thing I missed because asthma (or "Geek Lung," as I call it) kept me out of gym as a teenager? Is this just something we women do? Is it perfectly acceptable to be naked in a room full of strangers and engage in the following activities: bending over to put on your shoes (you're naked and wearing shoes???), blow drying your hair, telling a really long joke, applying make-up, sitting in front of your locker reading a magazine or breaking up with your boyfriend on your cell phone? All while naked? While I'm in the room?

Honestly, I would never inflict myself on unwitting strangers like that. I have modesty. Sure, it's mixed with probably a pathological sense of shame, but wouldn't the world be a better place -- at least aesthetically -- if some folks had just a bit more of that themselves? Like maybe Britney would've gone to Shame School and learned how to get out of a car? Or that woman last night would've known not to leave damp butt cheek prints on the bench in front of my locker?

C'mon America, let's not feel so good about our bodies! Let's cover up a little! Trust me, it's warmer and as the fully-dressed Wilford Brimley used to say, "It's the right thing to do." At least for me. And that's really all that matters.

News of the Day -- Friday, April 18

+ When I saw the EW headline "Titans Talk" I was hoping it was a Ray Harryhausen-style sequel to "Clash of the Titans." Imagine my disappointment when it only turned out to be an awesome interview with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas about Indiana Jones, special effects technology and much more. Still no blanket apology for ewoks, though.

+ Don't forget to watch John Oliver's stand-up special, "Terrifying Times," this Sunday on Comedy Central. Here's a little teaser:

He's funny and pretty.

+ Sci-Fi will be running tonight's new BSG episode, "The Ties That Bind," eight times today on their website starting at 9 a.m. EST (aka NOW!). This apparently might be the last time they do these preview showings, which means my Friday lunch hours are going to suck all over again.

+ Also, did you know that Angel's Amy Acker has been cast in a recurring role on Joss Whedon's new Dollhouse series? How'd I miss that one?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News of the Day -- Thursday, April 17

+ Stan Lee is launching a new superhero franchise called "Legion of Five." It'll start out as a series of animated films but games, merchandising and new sets of Underoos will follow shortly.

+ The title of the new X-Files movie has been announced. It's going to be "Fox Mulder and Shia LeBouef's Kingdom of the Crystal Skull." Just kidding. It's "The X-Files: I Want To Believe." Meh. I don't care either way. I'll just call it "Mulder and Scully: Ten Feet Tall," which is what I called the last one too because it's totally descriptive and true.

+ If you like to hear authors talk about their work when it's not at a cocktail party and they're not being patronizing, then check out, which features hour-long round table talks with top authors. Actually, I enjoy listening to writers blather on even when there's wine and cheese involved, so this could be a really great site.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nerd Man of the Month: David Tennant

The women of The Park Bench have spoken and by a margin of nearly two to one, Doctor Who’s David Tennant has been voted April’s Nerd Man of the Month. And the best part? He’s just as much of a nerd as the rest of us, judging by his proclamation at the age of three that he wanted to be an actor so he could play Doctor Who when he grew up. I’m betting he has his own action figure – still boxed and everything, that big lovable nerd.

Aside from that exquisite dorkiness, there’s much more to love about this tall, dark and handsome Scotsman. For example, he’s a tall, dark and handsome Scotsman. I have spied pictures of him in a kilt and can attest to the fact that he is in possession of two thrillingly provocative knees.

As the tenth Doctor Who, he brings a broody goodness, quiet humor and a certain level of tamped-down and manly squirreliness to the role. This would probably be a good time to admit that my assessment is based on watching a number of YouTube clips and bits from the BBC website – I have not, I am ashamed to admit, watched much Doctor Who, despite the best efforts of numerous friends. I feel, though, that my Wikipedia-ing, YouTube-ing and general gazing upon the visage of Mr. Tennant has been enough to convert me, and I pledge to give the good Doctor a try. Besides, the man’s been voted the most popular Doctor Who by BBC viewers AND he’s got doe eyes. How can I say no to that?

Tennant also earned his nerd street cred with his role as Barty Crouch Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And this summer, he’ll star in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “Hamlet” alongside Patrick Stewart, who finished second in our Nerd Man poll. No doubt that disappointing finish will create all sorts of awkward tension backstage with much slamming of dressing room doors and Patrick crying, “I wore a unitard for two seasons. That nerd man honor should have been mine!” and so on. It should be a glorious production and is just another reason why England will always be better than America, what with your sexy actors, universal health care and preponderance of Shetland ponies.

For being the subject of an actual one-woman show entitled, “Not Stalking David Tennant,” for being tall, dark and handsome, for being a nerd and just a genuinely nice guy, The Park Bench is pleased to name David Tennant its April Nerd Man of the Month.

News of the Day -- Wednesday, April 16

+ I never thought I'd say this but to hell with chihuahuas. There's a new adorable pet in town and it can cover 8 miles a night on a hamster wheel. It's called a pygmy hedgehog and it may well be the cutest thing ever. So much so that there are year-long waiting lists to buy them in England. I'm ready to get in line right now.

+ Inspired by the pygmy hedgehog and his eight miles a night, I fully intend on buying the Wii Fit and balance board when it comes out on May 19. If, that is, I can come up with the 90 bucks it's going to cost. Yup, Wii announced pricing for this much-anticipated new game that will actually be fun and thigh-defining all at once. It may be pricy but it's still cheaper than a gym membership.

+ Have you seen the poster yet for Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, the upcoming internet musical by Joss Whedon starring Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris? Well, here it is:

Stay up to date on all the latest Dr. Horrible news at the official fan site.

+ And finally, Park Bench reader Nightfall submitted this link yesterday -- a series of Eddie Izzard sketches recreated in Lego figures. Sound weird? It is and it's funny. Check it out:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

News of the Day -- Tuesday, April 15

+ Entertainment Weekly has a terrific article on Tina Fey in their latest issue. She claims her four greatest acting talent are: "Eye-rolling; the ability to eat food on camera in real time; I think I'm a decent straight man. Do I have a fourth move? Um, unpleasant dancing."

+ Newsweek has a review of MTV's 12,000th new reality show, "The Paper," which follows the staff of a high school newspaper -- hence, I guess, the title. Apparently, all the nerdy young journalists are mean, which I think is great. As the reviewer writes, "These aren't the gorgeous people who will be pumping your gas in 20 years. They are the nerds who will be shredding your résumé." That totally makes me want to watch this show even though I'm about 70 years too old for the demographic.

+ A brief recap of the legal battle between J.K. Rowling and the Michigan dude who penned the Potter lexicon. Ten bucks he asks for an autograph before the trial's over. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this whole thing -- it seems a bit David and Goliath to me, of course, but on the other hand, where do you draw the line on copyright protection? I need Dumbledore to sort this out for me.

Monday, April 14, 2008

B-52s and pie, making America great

There are two things in this world that can put a smile on my face no matter what. The first, which I’ve mentioned frequently and in sometimes graphic detail, is pie. The second is The B-52s. The B-52s have an irrationally curative power over me. For example, if I were ever lost in the wilderness and forced to chew my own leg off, I’m pretty sure that would depress me. On the other hand, if The B-52s were playing in the ambulance after I was rescued and on my way to the hospital, I’m equally sure I’d be smiling, tapping my toes (what was left of them) and designing the Bedazzle pattern for my new peg leg.

This past weekend, I got the new B-52s album, “Funplex,” and it reminded me all over again why I love this band. For one thing, they’re great just in theory. Consider this – the B-52s are what would happen if Shirley McClaine, Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon, John Waters, Yoko Ono, The Sex Pistols and Paul Lynne all got together and spawned. Someone needs to write their dissertation on that bizarre amalgam, stat.

The B-52s are also ridiculously fun. What other band could write great songs about lobsters, little dogs named Quiche Lorraine and aliens – all with a great beat that’s easy to dance to, even for curmudgeons like me who can’t dance. (Or won’t dance, really.)

“Funplex” incorporates the best of what makes The B-52s great. If you’re not like me and you do enjoy dancing, this is a can’t miss party album. And if you just like hearing weird lyrics, well, they’ve got you covered here, too. And if you just want a bunch of 50-somethings telling you it’s okay to be irresponsible sometimes and just have fun, well than they’ve really got you covered here. In fact, the overriding message of “Funplex” seems to boil down to two things: dancing and making out. I will admit that the latter thing was creeping me out just a wee bit, the same way I think a person would be creeped out hearing their grandparents talk about some great key party they went to back in ’47. On the one hand, you’d think, “Wow, I had no idea my grandparents were so hip back in the day.” On the other hand, as you’re dialing your therapist, you’d think, “Sweet Jesus, my grandparents went to a key party.” That’s kind of what it’s like listening to some of the lyrics on “Funplex.”

Overall, though, the album is terrific fun. Kate, Cindy, Fred and Keith still have the stuff – as weird, crazy, glittery and energetically mood-enhancing as it’s always been.

News of the Day -- Monday, April 14

+ Need a little something to help ease you into the new work week? Check out this collection of the 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time, from Nerve and IFC.

+ Did you hear the news? There'll be extra "Lost"-y goodness for this season's finale. Yup, apparently, it's going to be a three hour finale -- played out over two nights, shown over two weeks, which is the depressing part. But hey, let's get back to the positive, a bonus hour of "Lost." I'm almost as giddy as when they offed Ana Lucia...and that was some serious giddiness.

+ Just in time for the new movie in May comes these cute Indiana Jones action figures. I wonder if Harrison Ford has a room devoted to all of his action figures and if so, are they still in the box? Just curious. Thanks to Ms. C for the Indy tip.

+ ETA: Holy cow, the David Tennant fans came out strong for the good doctor, despite a fine showing for Patrick "the top of my head is sexy" Stewart. Expect a nerd man coronation soon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

My friends all live in a box. Is that weird?

Remember when you were little and at the end of the summer, all your friends would come back from camp and you were so elated to see them? Remember how that was pretty much the best day of the year? That’s how I feel right now about the return of “30 Rock” and “The Office” tonight because – yes, I will admit it – good television is my friend and it has been away for far too long. And it didn’t write to me even once despite promises and friendship bracelet exchanges before it got on the bus. What a bunch of jerks.

This must be how sports fans feel about the Superbowl or the NCAA Tournaments. It’s a great sense of anticipation – you don’t know yet if the game is going to suck, but you know that at the very least, you’re going to see all your favorite players. And maybe win a grand in the office pool. Which is totally something we should start for regular TV shows. (“What’s the over-under on how many times Michael says, ‘That’s what she said.’”)

Are you all as geeked as I am? Can “MILF Island” possibly be as funny as it is in my head? Will I still want to be Liz Lemon when I grow up? Will Alec Baldwin’s voice still be sultry? Will it be as tantalizingly difficult to watch Michael Scott humiliate himself as it’s always been? Will Toby ever get Pam? Will I ever grow up enough not to care this much about television?

The answer to that last one is no. Everything else? Totally up in the air. And really, that’s the fun of it.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Ghost Hunters" -- it's the reason we put plastic on the couch

Usually when I write about a TV show, I like to be fairly knowledgeable about it and make sure I've seen at least a few full episodes before I start yapping on about it -- unless it's Sex and the City, which I just harshly judged with no rationale at all. Anyway, I'd like to talk a bit about Sci-Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters. And I'd be glad to speak knowledgeably about it except, you know, it scares the goddamn bejeezus out of me EVERY SINGLE TIME I WATCH IT!

For those of you who haven't seen it, "Ghost Hunters" follows a team of amateur paranormal investigators who go to purportedly haunted locations and see if they can spot a specter. Millions of normal rational people watch this show every week. But this is usually how my viewing of "Ghost Hunters" goes. We'll do it like a little story:

It's a dark and stormy night. Liz sits down with her ice cream sandwich ready to be entertained by the magic of television. She flips through the channels and stumbles on "Ghost Hunters." Which she starts watching. Like an idiot. She figures it can't possibly scare her as much as it did last time. Her husband walks past and says, "Don't watch that. You're going to get scared." Liz scoffs, telling him he doesn't know what he's talking about...and 20 minutes later, is too scared to walk into the kitchen which is connected to the basement which her imagination now tells her is, in all likelihood, connected to one of three things: the Amityville House, a nest full of zombies or Hell.

Yes, "Ghost Hunters" does bad things to me even though I'm completely convinced it's all fake and silly...except for the parts where they hear voices and see scary shapes and say stuff like, "Dude, did you just feel something brush past?" And then I wet myself.

I am highly susceptible to ghost stories. I've known a lot of people who have seen weird stuff. And I've seen weird stuff. And I've watched movies where people get eaten by weird stuff so as much as I like to try being rational and, you know, an adult, I can't always muster the backbone. Which is why I have a complete and total love-hate relationship with a show like "Ghost Hunters" that manipulates my every fear yet awakens the "Ghostbusters" nerd in me by talking pseudo-science and using gizmos and gadgets to evaluate paranormal experiences. (Somewhere Scully is scoffing.) And for the most part, the show debunks a lot of scary house nonsense -- but other times, they don't.

Did I mention that's when I wet myself?

Obviously, the solution here is just for me to woman-up and realize that I can't handle this show. But I know I won't. I know there's going to be another one of those evenings where I get stupid and think, "No TV show's going to scare me. I'm an adult. I can handle this completely." And wow, am I ever gonna be wrong.

News of the Day -- Tuesday, April 8

+ To get everyone ready for this week's return of "30 Rock" -- can I get a hallelujah? -- here's an interview with Jack McBrayer aka Kenneth the Page from yesterday's New York Times.

+ Time Magazine released their list of the Top 25 Blogs In the Entire World!. I'm assuming The Park Bench just barely got nipped off the list somewhere around #26 1/2.

+ A science-y sort of article explaining why even thinking about a good laugh can make you feel better. That must be why I feel better every time I think about Elizabeth Hasselback forming a "thought."

+ This story is sad because of what happened to the insectivore in question, but it's also undeniably absurd what with the whole "assault with hedgehog" angle. My favorite part of the article? "It's unclear whether alcohol was involved." Seriously? The guy threw a small mammal at someone. He better have been drunk.

Monday, April 07, 2008

News of the Day -- Monday, March 7

+ This post, entitled "Trends of Doom: Blogging Will Make You Fat, Or Skinny, and KILL YOU," cracked me up...and made me a little nervous. Luckily, I'm not nearly as industrious as those crazy bastards at Gizmodo. I get fat the old fashioned way -- by climbing into a closet, surrounding myself with Twinkies and eating my way to freedom.

+ A group of third and fourth graders in Maine are trying not to complain for 21 days straight, using handy purple wrist-bands to remind themselves to internalize their frustrations and never, ever let them out. This seems really unfair and has prompted me to complain twice as much as usual on their behalf. I'm all about the children.

+ Buffy and Angel fans will enjoy this article about zombies and a very odd city council meeting. All I know is, I wish I'd thought of this...and actually had the guts to do it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Is this the show with the Klingons?

Liveblogging the season premiere of Battlestar Galactica:

I'm comfortably seated and ready to go. Show me spaceships!

Frak still sounds like a weird card game to me.

Starbuck's been to Earth and I picture a whole mess of Taco Bell wrappers and empty Pringles jars in her cockpit. Isn't that what everyone eats on a roadtrip?

Tigh seems tense what with the "shooting my best friend" hallucinations

Man, how the hell do they afford the special effects on this show??

Did Anders just get voodoo'd by the Big Red Eye of Mr. Cylon? It's like in the movies when the innocent guy is seduced by the vixen with just one look...except for Anders it's a flying toaster.

Wouldn't it be great if Cylons really did make toast? And maybe jam?

Really, honestly, seriously -- how stupid do you have to be to envision Gaius as a deity? He's wearing an orange blanket for cryin' out loud! It's so...tacky.

10:16 it cold in here or did that saucy dead little minx Starbuck just walk in?

How awkward -- my shrine to Baltar has blinking Christmas tree lights too. Damn.

Oh Gaius...."I feel empty when I pray to the gods." Wocka wocka....

Wow, the newbie cylons are all turning on Kara. That is so not nice. Glass houses, people, glass houses!!!! It's a religious reference -- go ask Gaius when he's done boffing his acolyte.

I don't think I'd want a naked Gaius healing my kid. I don't even want to ask where his stethoscope is. Ewww.

Ooh, the Five are close, Six says. Maybe they're the ones who have been doing her hair and makeup while she's been in lock up.

Come on, Adama. Listen to Kara -- she knows where Earth is. I like that she gives directions the way I do: "I know the Dairy Queen is up ahead somewhere. No, I don't know where exactly but I think it might be up past that tree. I sense the ice cream, just keep going!"

Iron Man. Heh, I can't tell you how tickled I am by the idea of Robert Downey Jr. as a superhero. My brain just so resists the idea yet I can't turn away....

"We're staying on course and following the president's lead...BECAUSE SHE'S MY GIRLFRIEND." Oh, Bill. Dude, you're whipped like butter.

*rubbing my eyes* What's Gaius doing? His clothes are on and he's looking earnest. Holy shit, I think he's getting a conscience. I'm sure it'll pass. Right?

Oh thank God, the beard is gone.

Oh thank God, he's getting his ass kicked. I can't help it -- I love Gaius but he needs to get his ass kicked from time to time.

The secret lives of women on WE, eh? Yeah, my secret life involves buying kitty litter and not getting enough sleep. Where's my TV show?

Wow, Gaius saved the kid. And we thought his ego was big before. It's going to suck sitting next to him at parties.

Um, Anders, ixnay on the Cylon-talk with Kara.

Anders: "C'mon, Kara, we gotta find you a rack." Heh, boob joke.

Kara, do not touch the president!

I am very mad at Kara right now. That is no way to treat my straight-girl crush. Plus, just FYI, Bill's gonna kill her.

Okay, that was pretty good. I enjoyed it. I don't know if it lived up to 11 months worth of expectations, but it sure moved the story along and it was nice to see all my imaginary friends back. Welcome back robots and self-involved humans, I've missed you.

News of the Day -- Friday, April 4

+ Salon kinda, sorta liked "Leatherheads," which opened today. I'm a sucker for any movie set in the 1920s -- hell, it could be about dog catchers and I'd be marveling at how much more sophisticated dog catching was in the 1920s what with the hats and the Cole Porter. Plus this movie stars George Clooney and John Krasinski. Enough said, I believe.

+ Vroom, vroom. Mario Kart Wii comes out on April 26. And if you want to buy a couch, a large pizza and 400 frozen fish sticks when you pick up your copy, you can check out the Sam's Club midnight launch in the wee early morning hours of that day. I plan on waiting until the sun rises to pick up my copy, but that's mostly because I'm old. And already well-stocked on fish sticks.

+ The new preview for "Hellboy 2" is out. It looks like director Guillermo Del Toro may have spilled a little "Labrynth" into the mix, not that I'm complaining.

+ And don't forget, tonight at 10 p.m. is the season 4 premiere of "Battlestar Galactica." If you're interested, I'll be liveblogging the event (although I know most everyone will already have watched it online by then). Mostly, it'll consist of me going, "What? Who? Huh? Mary McDonnell ruuuuulezz...."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Nominations for Nerd Man of the Month

To hell with the presidential election, we've got important stuff to attend to! Yup, it's Nerd Man of the Month time again and it's time to make your nominations. Who would you like to see as April's Nerd Man of the Month? (Or "Mr. Springtime Buttercup Pants," as I'm thinking of calling him.)

Nominate the gentleman (or gentlemen) of your choice, and we'll put the top contenders up for vote early next week.

I'll kick things off with my nomination for The Daily Show's John Oliver. Who's next?

News of the Day -- Thursday, April 3

+ Nerdy kids are so cool. A Michigan fifth grader found a mistake in Smithsonian display recently. Smithsonian officials have corrected the error and in a fit of anger, have vowed never to let "smarty pants know-it-alls" into the museum ever again.

+ Treehugger alert: heat from a data center in Switzerland will be used to warm a nearby swimming pool -- not, apparently, by throwing the computers into the water. Which is why I'm not a scientist, I guess.

+ NBC has announced their fall line-up, really really early. On tap?An Office spin-off , of all things. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. I'm hoping it's about Bob Vance Refrigeration. Also Anthony Stewart Head will star in "Merlin", and hopefully be dressed like this:

+ Aww, Patrick Stewart defended Star Trek fans, proving yet again why he will always be my favorite starship captain. (And no, I don't think he's really a starship captain...I just wish it, kinda sometimes maybe.)

+ This is a really interesting blog post on the work habits of some of history's greatest thinkers and creators. I have nothing cynical to say about it, and am now convinced I need to take reflective walks in the afternoon. If I can climb out my office window unnoticed, I think I could actually manage this.

+ And finally, after finding out how many of you are reformed Blockheads, I'd be remiss if I didn't post this, the first NKOTB publicity photo in 15 years, a prelude apparently to a reunion tour. Guess the rumor that it was a false rumor was false. (Huh?)

They're like the coolest group of stockbrokers ever! I say that with love, digging as I do, vintage Wahlberg.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Superman's going to be so jealous

Having superpowers such as the ability to fly and shoot lasers out of your eyes is all well and good when there are dastardly villains afoot, but what about combating the every day nonsense that gets us down? Wouldn’t it be nice to have superpowers to fight that kind of stuff? Powers, perhaps, such as these:

* The “I Can Eat a Gallon of Mashed Potatoes Because I Have the Metabolism of a Phen-Phened Hamster” Power

* The “Always Picking the Right Line No Matter How Unlikely It Looks That It’s Going to Move Faster Than That Other Line Over There” Power

* The “Can He Really Be As Nice As He Seems or Am I Just Going To End Up Being Disappointed and Burning His Television Like Last Time” Detector

* The “Why Do I Have To Dress Myself in the Morning When There Are Other People Who Could Do It For Me” Power

* The “That Preview Looks Good But I’m Not Quite Sure If It’s Worth $9 To See Plus It Has Ryan Phillippe and I Get His Hair Mixed Up With Justin Timberlake’s Hair” Decision Making Power

* The “Oh My God, I Can’t Believe Those Words Are Coming Out of My Mouth, Do You Think He’ll Believe Me When I Say I Thought His Name Was Dick, I Don’t Think He Will, Crap I’d Give Anything To Take That Back and Not Get Fired” Power

* The “Now I Don’t Have To Rip The Palms of My Hands To Shreds Just To Open a Jar of Pickles Which Are Scrumptious” Superhuman Strength Power

* The “I Can’t Believe I Just Agreed To Move In With a Guy Who Smells Like a Collie” Do-Over Power

* The “I Can Bake Muffins In My Sleep – Literally” Power of Confectionary Magic

* The “When I Watch People on TV and Think, ‘I Could Totally Do That!’ It Turns Out Now I Actually Can So Suck On That One Brain Surgeons and Astronauts” Power

News of the Day -- Wednesday, April 2

+ Check out these adorable little hand-knit Star Wars dolls made and designed by the good people of Geek Central Station. They're so cool -- there's even a little Admiral Ackbar sitting pretty there on the left.

+ Oh my God, I'm a huge dorky nerd and even I think this is stupid: Congress hosted a hearing on...and in...Second Life. Here's Senator Ed Markey's avatar:

No wait, this is his avatar:

Sorry, sometimes three-dimensionality is hard to detect with congressmen.

+ Apparently, a woman's been arrested for stalking John Cusack. I almost didn't want to read the article because I knew I'd be disappointed if she hadn't -- at least once -- held a boombox over her head playing "In Your Eyes" in his front yard before the squad cars hauled her away. Imagine my surprise then when I spied something even better with this line: "...Cusack accused Leatherman of throwing over his fence a bag containing love letters, rocks and screwdrivers." WTF? I thought it was creepy when my cat brought me dead mice as a love offering, but rocks and screwdrivers? That's really weird. Maybe the woman's a Dadaist?