Tuesday, March 31, 2009
+ Did you know that Sea Monkeys are amped-up sex maniacs? Or that Play-Doh was originally designed to get coal dust off walls? Mental Floss has a cool run-down of How Ten Classic Toys Were Invented.
+ An intriguing blog called Curious Expeditions has a wonderful post called Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries. In a complete clash of pop culture references, I can't help but quote Liz Lemon and say, "I want to go to there," when I see the Bibliotheque Nationale de France in Paris:
+ Did you know that Lucy Lawless is reteaming with "Xena" creators Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert for a new, as Variety calls it, "fantasy-fighting series" called "Spartacus: Blood and Sand." It's set to debut on Starz in January 2010. I'm guessing Ted Raimi will get clubbed by uncouth marauders by episode two.
+ And finally, very sad news: Andy Hallett, best known as the otherwordly green lounge singer Lorne on "Angel," has passed away at the age of 33 from heart failure.
Monday, March 30, 2009
My first issue makes me feel very sad to even mention...but I think it rests at the heart of my problem with the show... and it's this: John Barrowman doesn't seem charismatic enough to build a whole show around. Now this pains me because I love Barrowman as Captain Jack and he's very, very pretty to look at but where he worked really well as a sidekick, he seems just a wee bit lacking in the leading man department. Again, I'm only six episodes into the series so perhaps Barrowman improves but for now, he's something of a drag.
My second issue is with the writing which seems to seesaw between taut paranormal thrillers and episodes like "The Cyberwoman." In fact, true story, the other night my husband came into the room and asked what I was watching and I had to tell him, "A robot woman...being, uh, pecked to death by a pterodactyl. Why do you ask?" See, a show where alien orgasms make people explode should be adult enough that I don't have to tell my husband I just saw a robot woman being pecked to death by a pterodactyl...unless that's the euphemism I chose to use for explosive alien sex. What I'm saying is, I need a little narrative consistency. And fewer flying dinosaurs.
Other than those two issues, though, for the most part I enjoy the show. There have been some genuinely nerve-fraying moments, and so far, I really like the characters of Gwen Cooper and Owen Harper. And the premise is intriguing and has loads of possibility. Also, it's really making me want to go to Cardiff which is perhaps the scariest thing of all.
I'll be hanging on with "Torchwood," though, as the general consensus seems to be that it improves with age. Plus, I hear James Marsters will be on in season two. If I can't hang on for Spike, then frankly, I don't deserve to call myself a nerdy girl.
+ Can video games improve your eyesight? Apparently so, if you suffer from difficulties with contrast sensitivity. Which is a great excuse to use the next time you want to shoot zombies while your spouse wants to watch some sort of game with tall men shoving some sort of spherical object into a net. Thanks, Science!
+ Really not much to say about this except COOL! It's a Snow White MacBook Cover:
Thursday, March 26, 2009
+ Set your DVRs now, just to be on the safe side: the "Family Guy" parody of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" will air this Sunday at 9 o'clock on FOX. The whole TNG cast participated and word from the Wheaton is that it's hilarious.
+ This new OnLive thingamabobber sounds cool. Who wouldn't want on-demand, streaming games? Just think, "Kung Fu Panda" at our fingertips!
+ Have you seen this blog? Called Fuck You, Penguin, it's a blog that "tells cute animals what's what." Pictures of cute animals, snarky crankypants-ness -- I kind of love it.
+ IO9 has the trailer for "Where the Wild Things Are." It looks very creepy but in a good way. I think. Maybe. Actually, those things creeped me out when they were two-dimensional on a page so I might have to take a Xanax before seeing them on screen.
+ And finally, because I'm guessing we could all use a little something to perk up our Thursday, here's a video of Franz Ferdinand AND David Tennant from this year's Red Nose Day festivities. David magically appears around the 3 minute mark. Enjoy...
Saturday, March 21, 2009
That first hour last night was extraordinary. I didn't think anything could beat the action and excitement of "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales" from earlier this season, but the attack on The Colony and the rescue of Hera almost managed to put those incredible episodes to shame. Yet for all the amazing space porn -- asteroids and gun batteries and old school centurions versus new school centurions!! -- it managed to pause every few minutes for some wonderful character moments. The exchange between Laura Roslin and Doc Cottle, when she thanks him for giving her extra time to live and, yes, love, was just beautiful. Then later, Baltar finds his courage and in the process allows Caprica Six to be proud of him -- "the only thing missing" -- as she put it. It was a perfect prelude to what followed in the second hour. And the "solving" of the mystery of the opera house really pulled me in -- I loved it. Oh, and how could I forget? Tory finally got her own at the hands of Tyrol. Talk about satisfying.
Now, the second hour is where things seemed to slide off the track for a lot of people but I have to say, I enjoyed it even more than the first hour. There's just no one perfect way that this show could have ended -- there just isn't -- but this solution did everything it needed to do: it provided hope, it gave our characters a place to build new lives and it solved the Earth question. And the resolutions for each character was believable and satisfying to me. I love the idea of Tyrol going off to be a hermit in Scotland. The fact that the Agathons all survived! The moment where Baltar tells Six that he "knows something about farming," totally made me tear up -- a moment of humanity emerge from Baltar. And Kara disappearing into thin air? I loved it. The idea of her as an angel has been at the forefront since she returned from the dead. It wasn't a shock, and I liked the fact that this revelation was made during such a sweet moment with Lee.
I've been avoiding mention of the Roslin and Adama moments because I will admit openly that her death -- although I've been expecting it for what seems like years now -- had me crying for the last 20 minutes of the episode. As much as I wanted her to live, it was absolutely the right choice for her to die after getting to this new Earth, the Earth she wanted so desperately to lead her people to the first time. The farewell with Lee and Kara -- that small wave from the Raptor cockpit -- was heartbreaking. And I liked that Adama was true to his word -- he couldn't live without Laura -- so he went off by himself to build that cabin they both wanted. Sniff.
As for the epilogue, well, okay, it wasn't the greatest thing in the world but it provided a fine denouement to the fast-paced, heartbreaking yet hopeful story that preceded it. I didn't really like the Ron Moore cameo because it took me out of the story and the robots were slightly silly but it didn't ruin anything for me.
Overall, I thought this was a perfect ending for a series that has always taken chances, often succeeding but sometimes not. I woke up today feeling kind of sad that it's all over but wow, what a journey.
What did you think?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
+ Did you see this article in the Wall Street Journal about how Scrabble players are pissed because they think certain letters are overvalued? Let's just say it'll be a cold day in hell before I give up my "qi"s and "za"s.
+ "The Big Bang Theory" got renewed for two more seasons. Inexplicably, "Two and a Half Men" got renewed for three more seasons as well. I have no words for that...
+ Here's a great write-up of what went on at the BSG/UN event yesterday. Sounds intriguing, although I am becoming slightly convinced that EJO may be just a little bit crazy (but in a good way!). Read the comments for some amusing outrage at the fact that this event took place at all.
+ Two words: flying car! It only costs $194,000 and needs 1700 feet of runway to take off. I can only hope the idiot who rides up and down my street on his mini-motorcycle never strikes it rich and buys one.
2. Individual actors playing multiple characters...and managing to make each one unique. Natalie, you were the best Six of all! *sniff*
3. Michael Hogan's Amazing Magical Orb of Acting aka The Eyeball Not Known as Patches
4. The show made Dirk Benedict angry. Hahahaha, Starbuck's a girl!
5. Baltar: a character equal parts sinister, aggravating, repulsive and hilariously awesome.
6. The show's hottest romantic couple was comprised of two actors over the age of 50...and its Cylon power couple was comprised of two Canadians. Talk about breaking down barriers.
7. The FX people blowed things up all awesome-like, making it the prettiest space porn this side of Industrial Light and Magic.
8. Apollo and his towel. Let us reflect:
9. They made up a word and people started using the frakkin' thing.
10. They killed off Cally!
11. Secondary characters mattered...and actually stuck around. Or didn't -- sorry, Duck! Buh-bye, Kat!
12. The writers took chances. Hell, they devoted a whole episode to a guy carrying a dead cat around in a bag. Not necessarily a good thing, but hey, A for effort.
13. The tough women on the show were portrayed as actual women, not booby-wearing girl dudes.
14. Shiny Cylon Centurions = pretty AND menacing.
15. No one wore velour. Or a cape.
16. Three words: John Hodgman cameo.
17. Two more words: Doc Cottle!
18. Good characters who did bad things: Laura and her stolen election, Gaeta and his mutiny, Adama and his alcoholism, Saul and his suicide attacks
19. Bad characters who did good things: Six rescuing Hera, Baltar saving Cally, Zarek saving Laura. BSG eats yer moral ambiguity for lunch!
20. The fact that the world has now gotten to hear James Callis say that God and/or Colin Firth loves us "just the way we are" TWICE this century. Thank you, RDM, for giving us the Bridget Jones' Diary/Battlestar Galactica crossover moment we thought we'd never see!
21. It was a show I never had to apologize for watching. Unless, of course, "The Woman King" was on.
22. Its actors blew me away week after week after week -- I'm looking at you, Mary McDonnell, Aaron Douglas and Katee Sackhoff. Okay, and Edward James Olmos but Adama needs to stop crying like a little girl every week. Seriously.
23. Boxey 2.0 got sent to an intergalactic farm for unnecessary TV children.
24. Its creators loved the show as much as its fans, and those creators always treated those fans with respect. And gave us podcasts!
25. Most important of all, "Battlestar Galactica" made us contemplate big ideas: good versus evil, right versus wrong, us versus them. It challenged its viewers and made us think. That's a beautiful thing.
Wait, did I mention Apollo and his towel? I better post the picture again just in case:
So what about you? What are you going to miss most when BSG goes off the air tomorrow night?
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
+ Speaking of great world leaders, Stephen Colbert interviewed Neil Gaiman on Monday. Colbert, bless him, is clearly a fanboy:
+ Another former Nerd Man of the Month Jonathan Coulton has a saucy new song up on his site. It's called Blue Sunny Day and it's about a sad vampire.
+ And as a nice little bookend on yesterday's post about the new SyFy Channel, here's io9's list of "25 Other Names the Sci-Fi Channel Could Rebrand With." Some of my favorites:
* We're Worried That You're Still In Your Mom's Basement Because That's Not Really The Demographic We're Looking For Channel
* Would It Kill You To Wear A Button-Down Shirt Once In Awhile Channel
* The Look, Just Fuck Off Geeks, We Don't Want Your Kind Round Here Network
* The Ladies, It's Okay, Don't Let The Robots Scare You Off Channel
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
+ So, well, hmmm...a live-action Star Wars TV show taking place between Episode Three (aka the least horrific of the utterly horrific prequels) and Episode Four (the one that made us think George Lucas could sustain a brilliant idea). I refuse to have any sort of anticipatory feeling about this.
+ Speaking of dudes I don't want to be disappointed in...Joss Whedon swears to all that is holy and right that "Dollhouse" is going to get good with this week's episode and will stay good ever after. I didn't watch last week's episode but because Joss gave me Giles and Jayne, I will tune in again. Except by "tune in," I mean "DVR it and watch it later because at 9 o'clock this Friday, I'll be crying my way through the last episode of BSG."
+ Weird festivals from around the world...I'm totally planning my next vacation around the Gloucester Cheese-Rolling Festival. Although I'd have a hard time trying to avoid gigantic wheels of cheese when deep down, I love cheese more than anything except pie.
+ Even better than cheese? A MacGyver movie is in the works!! The bad news? It's being produced by the offspring of Dino De Laurentis.
“The name Sci Fi has been associated with geeks and dysfunctional, antisocial boys in their basements with video games and stuff like that, as opposed to the general public and the female audience in particular,” said TV historian Tim Brooks, who helped launch Sci Fi Channel when he worked at USA Network.
Mr. Brooks said that when people who say they don’t like science fiction enjoy a film like “Star Wars,” they don’t think it’s science fiction; they think it’s a good movie. “We spent a lot of time in the ’90s trying to distance the network from science fiction, which is largely why it’s called Sci Fi,” Mr. Brooks said. “It’s somewhat cooler and better than the name ‘Science Fiction.’ But even the name Sci Fi is limiting.”
Wow, talk about a lack of respect for your audience. Added the Sci Fi/SyFy president:
“What we love about this is we hopefully get the best of both worlds,” Mr. Howe said. “We’ll get the heritage and the track record of success, and we’ll build off of that to build a broader, more open and accessible and relatable and human-friendly brand.”
It's the "more...human-friendly brand" that really makes it art. Wow, dudes, seriously, I hope you enjoy the rating downturn when "Battlestar" goes off the air. I've really never seen a crappier roll-out of a new brand. Hey, let's insult our current viewers while changing our name and doing nothing substantial to attract the new audience to replace the ones we've just mocked. I'm pretty sure this is how those Google people got rich.
What do you think of the change?
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Try it out for yourself!
Usually, I try to confine my nerd love to one man at a time because I'm old-fashioned that way, but the men of "Top Gear" force me to throw that caution to the wind and name all three of the hosts of the BBC's insanely popular TV auto magazine as March's Nerd Men of the Month. Save for Richard Hammond who looks like an adorable pocket-sized David Tennant, the "Top Gear" men are perhaps not traditionally handsome but all you have to do is spend half a second listening to them insult one another, mock Alfa-Romeos, call BMW drivers "cocks" and just generally make mischief and you'll be entranced.
These guys can make anything interesting -- I care nothing about cars but "Top Gear" is the highlight of my TV viewing week. Why? Because it's literate, compelling, funny and utterly, utterly ridiculous. Watching these guys launch a rocket-propelled Mini-Cooper off a ski jump, turn a Toyota pick-up truck into a vessel sea-worthy enough to cross the English Channel...barely and race tractor trailers through brick walls is wildly entertaining. I would listen to these three do a show on atrophy and molting and sit there with a huge grin on my face for the whole thing.
And each presenter is entertaining and endearing in his own right. As one Park Bench reader said last month, James May is like that delightfully weird college professor you have that secret crush on. He's thoughtful, methodic, semi-plodding and the perfect foil for Jeremy Clarkson, the trouble-making, rabble-rousing, "I can't believe he said that" leader of the pack. A journalist, Clarkson hosted the first iteration of "Top Gear" in the 1990s and possesses an array of put-downs and so-subtle yet so-biting insults that must make Simon Cowell weep in envy each and every night. And Richard Hammond, who is mercilessly tormented week in and week out for his slightly small stature, is the mischievous every-man counterpoint to his cohorts. All three men are incredibly fun to watch, no matter if they're bleeding brake lines or flipping a bendy bus. They almost make me want to learn how to drive a manual...and that's not a euphemism. Okay, maybe a little bit of a euphemism.
I feel guilty for not including The Stig, the anonymous, disguised driver who tests all the fastest "Top Gear" cars, in the Nerd Man honors but I felt I needed to disqualify him because he's anonymous and disguised. The Stig could be Ryan Seacrest for all we know -- and The Park Bench couldn't live with itself if Seacrest accidentally became a Nerd Man.
So all hail the men of "Top Gear." Long may they wave...and drive really fast, say ridiculous things, insult one another, get celebrities to race crappy cars and just be generally awesome.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Or at least the props are real. Says Gizmodo:
Marc Oakland was helping to clean a pond in Beulieu, Hampshire, UK, when he stumbled upon the head of Dr. Who's enemy, the Dalek. Apparently, there was some filming done for the show in the 80s in the area, and the head was left behind. Either that or this Dalek got turned around somewhere and died a slow, undignified death at the bottom of a marsh.
I never find anything except canoes and duck porn when I dredge my small bodies of water. :(
Thanks to Park Bench reader Jen for sending this in!
+ Did you hear the rumor on who the new companion will be for Matt Smith when he takes over for David Tennant on Doctor Who next year? Hannah Murray from "Skins." The article's photo makes her look even younger than Smith but everyone I know who's seen "Skins" says she's a terrific actress, so that's good news.
+ Via Entertainment Weekly, this blog got its hands on the 125-page transcript of the discussions Spielberg and Lucas had when creating "Raiders of the Lost Ark." If you're a fan of the movie -- and who isn't? -- there's some really fascinating stuff in there.
+ Audrey Niffengger, author of "The Time Traveler's Wife," just got $5 million for her new novel, about two twins who inherit an apartment near a cemetery.
+ Did anyone get to see "Castle" last night? It's tempting me on my DVR right now but I won't have a chance to watch it until tonight. What did you guys think?
Saturday, March 07, 2009
What I got was a poorly paced tableau that droned on and on with no satisfying resolution or conclusion. Everything was so flat -- the characters, the storyline, everything. I think half the problem was the faithfulness with which Zack Snyder and crew adhered to the story: what works as a multi-part storyline in a graphic novel does not work as a movie. There was nothing to carry the viewer along with the story -- no urgency or emotional undercurrent to keep the action moving. Consequently, the resolution, such as it was, had no resonance.
It didn't help that the pacing was utterly somnolent. I was pulled in from time to time -- during Rorshach's prison stint, the scenes with The Comedian -- but just when I thought the story was finally picking up, it would drop me again two scenes later. And what was up with Dr. Manhattan? Fascinating in the graphic novel, his character was completely devoid of power here.
Watching this film convinced me that everyone who said "The Watchmen" could not and should not be made into a movie were right. What's brilliant social commentary on the page comes out as ham-fisted on the screen, and dialogue that works with two-dimensional characters seems disjointed and trite coming from the mouths of the actors.
I wish I'd enjoyed it more. I swear, I really wanted to like it. Maybe I'll give it another chance when it comes out on DVD but I'll probably have to have a few drinks first. All I can say is, I was very disappointed tonight.
* What happened? Two middle aged burn-outs engaged in serious, gratuitous making out WITH THEIR YOUNG TEENAGE SON SITTING NEXT TO THEM!! And their daughter and her friend sitting in the row in front. Now this wasn't just a little kissing here and there, this was a face-licking, hands-in-mysterious-places acid-washed denim nightmare. That boy is going to need some serious, serious therapy later. Actually, my husband and I might need some too. The horror, the horror...
Friday, March 06, 2009
"My season started in February," says Martin Lacey, owner of the Great British Circus, "and I've got comedy acrobats stranded in the Ukraine, and Mongolian horse riders who were refused their visas in Ulan Batur." The holes in his lineup have forced Lacey to draft last-minute substitutes. "Our Mexican clown is stuck in Mexico, so we've got a trapeze artist pretending to be a stooge just to get everybody out of trouble," he says. "It's a mess."
So, for any British Park Bench readers who are adept at juggling flaming chainsaws, taming lions or wearing big floppy shoes and squeezing into small cars, your country needs you -- now more than ever.
Hee. I love that story so much.
Thursday, March 05, 2009
+ Have you seen these "creatively" edited versions of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes? Very funny and I think they have the perhaps unintentional effect of making Jonathan Frakes a better actor, so win-win on that one!
+ Speaking of "Next Generation," I'm really looking forward to the cast reunion on "Family Guy" coming up on March 29. New details on the episode were released today:
Wil Wheaton talks a bit about it on his blog here.
In the episode titled “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven,” the "Next Gen" crew (Patrick Stewart, Levar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Denise Crosby, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes) will provide guest voices as the Griffin family heads to the annual Quahog “Trek” convention.
"Stewie blows a fuse when he doesn’t get a chance to ask his favorite ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ cast members any questions," reads the logline. "He devises a plan, builds a transporter and beams the entire cast to his bedroom so they can spend a fun-filled day together in Quahog.
+ Did you hear that a giant asteroid almost annihilated the planet on Monday (of course it was a Monday)? Yeah, I can't decide whether I should feel good about this (hey, we survived!) or bad about this (holy shit, it could have hit before I saw the end of BSG!).
+ Speaking of annihilation, Oklahoma chose a song about how everyone dies as their official state rock song. Yup, Oklahoma got cool and emo by choosing The Flaming Lips' "Do You Realize?" Now they should build a giant pink robot and put it next to the Oklahoma sign so all the musical theater fans who stop and take pictures in front of it will be thoroughly confused...and hopefully a little bit scared.
+ This has been kind of a depressing post. Let's turn this ship around, think happy thoughts and look at Jamie Bamber's contribution to animal rights:
I officially forgive PETA for trying to get the world to call fish "sea kittens."
+ The debut date for the upcoming Spider-Man musical, with music by U2, was announced last week. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark will hit the stage in February 2010. Half of me thinks this is intriguing (the half that likes U2) while the other half of me just kind of wishes comic books would go away so people could produce original stories again...but that's just me being cranky.
Monday, March 02, 2009
Perhaps nothing symbolized the schism between me and the other little girls growing up more than the Barbie doll, which turns 50 this week. When I look back on my childhood, I realize that the moment I turned my nose up at the plasticine chick was the moment I went from regular girl to nerd girl. While my neighbor Jenny coveted her collection of each and every Barbie iteration -- Princess Barbie, Beach Barbie, Cheerleader Barbie, Dyspeptic Barbie, Third-Nipple Barbie, the list goes on -- I simply coveted the times her brother and I would sneak into her Pepto-Bismal pink room, steal a Barbie, decapitate it and replace the head with a Jawa noggin or a Hammerhead cranium (a terrible waste of Star Wars action figures in retrospect), litter the doll's limbs outside her bedroom door and then watch her cry.
I also enjoyed lighting the Barbies on fire, strapping them to the back of the neighborhood alley cat and having a rodeo, and dragging them behind my Big Wheel until they disintegrated. Now, I don't know if I did this because I enjoyed the "attagirls" I got from her brother (whom I harbored a deep and abiding crush on, mostly because he was the only boy in the neighborhood with a rock polisher) or because I genuinely hated the dolls (or Jenny). Either way, though, the desecration of the Barbie became a well-honed hobby of mine from the ages of 6 to 9. And if I'm perfectly honest, I still look back on that destructive time with just a wee bit of pride -- the doll did look pretty hilarious with a hammerhead stacked on her inhumanly thin shoulders.
This is not to say I disliked all dolls. I was a fan of the Cabbage Patch -- I liked their heft and homely faces. And I loved stuffed animals which I would dress in little clothes the same way the Barbie lunatics dressed their little anorexic annies. I'm not sure why I hated Barbie so much. Probably because she always seemed so snootie. She was a tiny, plastic version of those girls I was always afraid of at school, the ones whose clothes matched and who never spilled juice on themselves at snack time or accidentally vomited after spinning too long on the tire swing. I kind of hated them...and so I set their dolls on fire. (Actually, I was afraid of matches, so it was my friend Matt who did the lighting. I just stood by with the bucket of water because nerdy girls are nothing if not safety conscious, even at a young, destructive age. Stop, drop and roll, that's our mantra!)
So happy birthday, Barbie! I'm sorry I enjoyed watching you melt in an apocalypse of flames on the neighbor's driveway, and I hope you have another wonderful 50 years of creating unattainable and inhumane physical expectations for small, impressionable little girls all over the world! I look forward to eating cake and then immediately purging it in your honor. Rock on.
What did you think of Barbie growing up?
The 37-year-old Dr Who actor and the entire cast of the RSC production are preparing to make a film version of the play in June to record for posterity his portrayal, which was described by some as the greatest Hamlet of his generation.
Speaking at a lunch held at the Haymarket Hotel, Oliver Ford Davies, 69, who was nominated for his portrayal of Polonius, tells me: "We are intending to film it over two or three weeks in June. It won't be a full feature film as there isn't time but it will certainly be more than just the filming of the stage. It will be fantastic to work together again."
Tennant unfortunately only managed 11 performances at the Novello Theatre, after already appearing for a run in Stratford-upon-Avon, when he suffered from a prolapsed disc, obliging his understudy Edward Bennett, 29, to fill in on 21 occasions.Please don't let this turns into one of those, "we're only releasing it in the UK because America is too illiterate to buy more than three copies of this" endeavors. I swear, we can read and like our iambic pentameter just fine!