Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Two thumbs up from this nerd for "Star Trek: The Exhibition"

This summer has done a lot to re-spark my passion for "Star Trek." First, there was the movie, which I still think about from time to time, allowing myself to go slack-jawed and wondrous at just how damn good it was. And then there was my visit to the Detroit Science Center for "Star Trek: The Exhibition" which had me walking through its corridors feeling like a kid again, remembering just how much I've always loved the Star Trek universe.

The exhibition offers a healthy dose of props and costumes from all of the "Star Trek" series, from the original through "Enterprise" as well as 11 of the movies. Although many of the props are recreations, it's fascinating to get an up-close look at just how intricate the detail was on things like the original communicators which even includes small, movable frequency dials. It's also a thrill to see the costumes -- and I totally mean this next part as a compliment -- to see how simply made they were. Everything just looks sort of cobbled together and ordinary which to me signals just how well the stories and characters worked to pull us into these stories and never, ever notice the simplicity of what was around them. Also, good lighting probably helped.

Another cool part of the exhibition are all of the set recreations. I will readily admit that my "Next Generation" fan girl heart leaped when I saw Captain Picard's quarters, fully furnished with all sorts of Trekkie knickknacks including his flute from "The Inner Light" episode. There are also recreations of the "ST:TNG" transporter room and the Guardian of Forever from the "ST:TOS" episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever." And perhaps second coolest of all (I'm sorry, Picard's quarters rank first for me) is a recreation of the bridge from the original series.

One of the cool things about being able to walk through this reproduction is seeing, again, how much detail went into all the faux computer monitors and read-out displays. There are sensors representing pretty much every aspect of warp speed and all the other technologies created on the show, and again, I'll admit to giggling like a school girl when I saw displays talking about dilithium and all that other good stuff that actually started to make sense to me the longer I watched the show. I seriously think I could have aced fake "Star Trek" science in college.

Speaking of science, this exhibition is great because it slips a lot of real world science into the mix, talking about early space flight, about how warp drive probably couldn't ever happen, about how no one would ever have time to duck out of the way of phaser fire because phaser technology was predicated on faster-than-light thingamabobbers. (I actually failed real world science.) It's a wonderful way to connect the excitement of the "Star Trek" universe to the real possibilities inherent in the world around us. Just think, would we have cell phones these days if there weren't legions of smart people watching "Star Trek" and dreaming of flip-top hand-held communicators as kids?

Oh, and the models -- I almost forgot to mention the models. The exhibition includes a slew of replicas and models of "Star Trek" ships including many that were used in actual filming. To see a Borg cube up close and to be able to examine different versions of the Enterprise was fascinating. These model builders make anyone's Saturday afternoon dalliances with pre-packaged airplanes and dizzying amount of glue seem shameful. These are truly impressive works.

So if you're in the Detroit area any time between now and September 7, be sure to stop by the Detroit Science Center and check out this show"Star Trek: The Exhibition" for yourself. It's a fabulous trip down memory lane but at the same time, it stirs that optimism about better days ahead...both for "Star Trek" and the world. Also, while you're at the Detroit Science Center, you can catch the "Star Trek" movie on IMAX. Life doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Jeff Goldblum, zombie haikus and lonelyheart fireflies

+ Need a bit of "Torchwood" before the debut of "Children of Earth?" BBC Radio 4 is running three "Torchwood" audio plays starting tomorrow night (July 1). For American fans, BBC Radio 4 streams live online. Yay for technology!

+ A treat for English majors! Topless Robot held a Zombie Haiku contest and the winners are shambling into our hearts at this very moment! My two favorites:

Zombies all want brainz
Don' taste so gud akchully
Can haz cheezburger?
- MerlinTWizard

When they eat us all,
What is left for them to do?
Zombies versus Bears!
- Brazzlefrazz

+ Have you seen this? Jeff Goldblum eulogizing himself on "The Colbert Report." Ah, the mighty power of Twitter.

+ The New York Times has a fascinating article on the mating life of fireflies. No, seriously. It's actually a bit sad -- they live underground as larvae for two years, then come out for two weeks to fly around, flashing their little lights and mating and then, boom, that's it. Wait, should I have spoiler tagged that?

+ I wish I'd seen this one sooner -- "Battlestar Galactica" music composer Bear McCreary has announced a contest to design his new Battlestar Galactica Orchestra website. The deadline, unfortunately, is midnight tomorrow night with the winner announced this Friday.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Monday Odds & Ends: "Lost," "Paul," and small fluffy animals

+ In "Lost" news, it's apparently been confirmed that the show's sixth and last season will be 18 hours long including a two-hour season premiere and a two-hour finale. Eighteen hours seems kind of short to me but I'd rather they do that than pad anything.

+ I'm so looking forward to "Paul," the new film from former Nerd Men of the Month Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It's about two British geeks who drive across the U.S. to Comic-Con...and run into some, er, alien issues along the way. They've released some behind the scenes videos including the one below with them and Kristin Wiig learning to drive an RV:



+ Speaking of potentially very entertaining flicks, here's a preview for Ricky Gervais' "The Invention of Lying" about a man who, quite literally, invents lying. The cast includes Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Rob Lowe and Tina Fey.



+ Did you know it's been 411 years since the invention of the toothbrush? Neither did I until Wired gave me the skinny. Here's a fascinating run-down of oral hygiene. No, really, it's pretty interesting and sort of makes you want to floss immediately.

+ Geek Girl Diva has an entertaining male response to our "How To Meet and Woo a Nerdy Girl" from last week.

+ Liquid water found on one of Saturn's moons? Sure looks that way. The evidence? Water wings and half a bikini found at the country club. Nah, just kidding, it involves salt and science. Thanks to Angela for sharing this.

+ And finally, here's a heavy dose of cute to get your morning started. Baby lynxes -- that's all I'm saying.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Origins Game Fair -- always a winner

Yesterday, the husband and I actually left the house and headed south for the fine city of Columbus, Ohio where we attended the Origins Game Fair. After getting lost in the depths of the Ohio hinterland for what seemed like days -- the corn mazes appear to be growing nicely though, just FYI -- we finally made it to the convention center. We made a beeline for the exhibition hall where there were dozens upon dozens of awesome board and card games on display. We ended up going home with a game called "Dominion: Intrigue" which looks complicated in all the right ways. Also, I ended up going home with a t-shirt that reads: "Tardis Express: When It Absolutely Has to Be There Before You Sent It." I love it so much I may name it and set up a college fund for it.

"Origins" is a huge amount of fun for game enthusiasts or those who just enjoy a good round of Parcheesi every once in a while. Why? Because no matter what your interest, the breadth of games is so vast that there is guaranteed to be something you'll want to try or take home. The exhibitors, too, are terrific with demonstrations, sitting down with people to help them learn and get a flavor for a game before making their purchase. Also, it's a great place to find new games and support the very smart, very creative people who have developed their own games, independent of any large company. There's a real entrepreneurial spirit among the game creators and it's wonderful to see.

Also, "Origins" is the perfect place to join in on some mega-scale gaming with entire halls dedicated to massively complex games that I won't even begin to pretend I understand. All I know is, I saw a giant board set up to look like a World War II battle but with a menacing Stay-Puft Marshmallow man ready to teach the Nazis a few lessons -- all I could think was, who wouldn't want to get in on this game?

"Origins," too, is a great place for families -- mostly because it's guaranteed to completely exhaust your kids. That's a good thing for sleep-deprived parents, right? In fact, I realized that short of a really disreputable casino, "Origins" was the only place where I would have seen a father telling his young daughter, "We never, ever throw the dice at people!" There's also plenty of chances for kids to do faux battle with each other and some safe rubber swords. And best of all, the chance to do battle with virtual mech robots in the lobby.

"Origins" is still going on this afternoon so if you're anywhere near the Columbus area, head on out there NOW. You won't regret it.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who wants to be a "Real Housewife of New Jersey?" Dear God, not me.

This past weekend, I lost a good six hours of my life to a Bravo marathon of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey." I came in part way through so I had no idea what the back stories were or who the women were but I figured you don't really have to know the players' names to enjoy "Meerkat Manor" either so I forged ahead.

Like all good Bravo confections, this one is equal parts mesmerizing and horrifying. In the past, I've envied wealthy trophy wives -- like when I'd dream of buying a Gutenberg Bible and building a special room to house it in and hiring a special butler to wear white gloves and turn the pages for me, not that I ever have elaborate wealth fantasies, ever -- but now I've realized what a horror fest it would be to actually live like these ladies.

For one thing, the word "friend" doesn't necessarily mean what I think it means. From what I saw, the word "friend" actually translates in nouveau riche New Jersey circles into "shrewish crazy woman with whom I go shopping and occasionally wear animal print pleather." Seriously, these ladies are crazy! There was name calling and table throwing and evil eyes everywhere! It's like watching a less sympathetic "Sopranos."

Also, these ladies are hardcore in the beauty regimens. In one episode, Danielle, who's the ostracized member of the herd who would be left behind should she ever break a leg, threw a spa night party for her "friends." Important party planning tip: nothing livens up a social gathering like botulism. It's true! The best part was when the wives tried to peer pressure one of their friends into injecting Botox and then made fun of her when she wouldn't do it. It was totally like middle school except with bigger hair. I sympathize, though -- friends who won't shoot poison into their faces are total buzz kills. Funny aside: when Danielle had her plastic surgeon inject her lip and then she lost feeling in it, she totally looked like Mr. Ed trying to get peanut butter out of his teeth. Pure awesome.

I realized, too, that I could never be a housewife of New Jersey because I would probably have to be friends with Teresa and Teresa pronounces "boobies" as "bubbies." The poor girl was a bit flat-chested at the beginning of the series so she decided to go get a "bubby" implant which totally made me picture small Eastern European grandmothers trying to escape Teresa's A cups. Even worse, Teresa brought her friends with her to the plastic surgeon's office where they giggled at her flat-chestedness, debated the pros and cons of saline versus silicone -- and no, the fact that one might give you cancer if it bursts was never mentioned. They then proceeded to pass her future boobs around the room in the wonderfully horrified presence of the surgeon, who kinda looked like he was going to cry. Here's the clip. Watch for Teresa's insight on why it's better to have a hot doctor touch your bubbies than an ugly doctor.



Damn you, Bravo, for making this wreck of a show so addictive. I had to watch two episodes of "Kathy Griffin's Life on the D List" just to clean my TV palate. That can't be good.

Friday Odds & Ends: Tennant, Amelia, Havel and Holmes...the world's finest law firm

+ First off, welcome to all the new readers this morning. I'm absolutely tickled pink (which has given me a rare healthy glow) that you guys are enjoying the "How to Woo" list. I hope you'll take a few moments to check the place out and kick the proverbial tires. It's great to have you here!

+ Mo Ryan at the Chicago Tribune did a wonderful interview with David Tennant in conjunction with tomorrow night's BBC America debut of "The Next Doctor," the first of Tennant's last five specials. No, I'm not crying...there's just some dust in the air this morning...really, it's nothing...

+ The new trailer is out for "Amelia," the upcoming flick about Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank. I'm not a big Swank fan but I've been looking forward to this movie for a while now -- and not just because it also stars Ewan McGregor and Christopher Eccleston. Okay, a little bit because of that. Anyway, here's the trailer:



+ What a show-off! Vaclav Havel is showing again that he can do just about anything. (Except summersaults. I've heard the man is terrible with his tumbling.) The former playwright and president of the Czech Republic is set to make his directorial debut with a new movie called "Pic," described as "an absurdist look at the life of an ex-politician."

+ And in other Eastern European intellectual news, Jeri Ryan, formerly of "Star Trek: Voyager" will be joining the cast of TNT's "Leverage" playing a con woman. The best part about this item is that the only comments under the story were one, someone typing "no" in all caps for half the page and two, someone advertising "the first and largest cougar mingle site." Okay, then!

+ Den of Geek is showcasing new character posters for "Sherlock Holmes." Shall we perhaps begin our Friday morning with a gazing-upon of Robert Downey Jr.? I think so.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: Dark Shadows, Noah Wyle, and Seuss meets Picard

+ Johnny Depp has confirmed he'll be starring in a big-screen adaptation of the classically campy 1970s vampire soap opera "Dark Shadows." Shockingly, the project will be directed by Tim Burton.

+ The A.V. Club has an interesting discussion of the pros and cons of the Academy Awards now putting forth 10 best picture nominees rather than the traditional five. I'm hoping this means that mall cop movie will finally get the recognition it deserves.

+ There's really no suitable preface to this. It's simply called "If Dr. Seuss Wrote For Star Trek: The Next Generation." Very funny. Thanks to Luscious Pandora for linking to this on Twitter!

+ Noah Wyle of "ER" and the TNT "Librarian" movies will be taking on the starring role in Steven Spielberg's new TNT alien-invasion series. Cool!

+ And finally, nerdy wedding cake toppers. Some of these are really awesomely creative. Personally, I'm partial to the King Kong one and to the Stargate one.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How to Meet and Woo a Nerdy Girl

Recently, I’ve noticed a lot of folks coming to The Park Bench after Googling “how do I meet a nerdy girl?” Hopefully, this is not the manifestation of some creepy new human trafficking trend but instead is the result of more people wanting to find and date the nerdy woman of their dreams. With that in mind, I offer the following tips:

Tip #1: Know where to look.

The number one thing to know about nerdy girls -- they're probably not going to be doing body shots at the local sports bar on a Friday night. If they're out partying, it's over a micro-brewed pale ale in the quiet corner of their local hole-in-the-wall watering hole. Other good places to spot nerdy women: libraries, bookstores, used bookstores, any other place with books you can think of, comic book stores, knitting stores, craft stores, sitting in the park...reading a book, the local cat fanciers convention, at a midnight showing of "Alien" or in their living rooms, watching "Firefly" again.

Tip #2: It helps to look like this guy:

On the other hand, it helps to look like this guy too:

You're pretty much good either way.

Tip #3: Read lots of books.

Here’s the brutal truth: the nerd girl of your dreams is a brainiac. She’s going to know a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff. You’re going to need to study up -- none of that sitting at the coffee shop with an unread copy of “The Waste Land” in your hand, trying to impress the shallow ladies. Your nerd girl will check to make sure that the spine on the book is cracked and cracked good. She likely also will ask you to compare “The Waste Land” to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” If you have to resort to Cliff's Notes, do it surreptitiously. It’s like getting a butt implant – the nerd girls will know you’re faking it.

Tip #4: Don’t slack off on your video game skills.

One of the prime perks of dating a nerdy woman is that she will not yell at you for playing video games rather than, say, going shoe shopping with her. In fact, she likely will sit down next to you and pick up a controller. Here’s the thing though: she’s probably good at whatever game you’re playing so you better be good at it too. Whether it’s Mario Kart or Tiger Woods Golf or the bloody carnage of Grand Theft Auto, she will show no mercy. Practice, practice, practice!

Tip #5: Listen to NPR.

Nerd girls like to stay up to date on their current events…and they like to do it with the dulcet, sometimes somnolent tones of NPR broadcasters. Beware, though, of the onset of NPR depression which stems from listening to so much news and sad stories about flooding in Nova Scotia or the inequities facing migrant workers that you become convinced the world is doomed and there’s no use leaving your house in the morning. This will put a damper on your dating. However, this prevalent disease also will give you an out if you've had to slack off on your NPR duties – just say, “I had to take an NPR break. Sometimes it makes me sad.” This serves two purposes: it gets you off the hook AND it makes you look sensitive. Bonus!

Tip #6: Be interesting.

Whereas a lot of ladies want you to be rich, nerdy women just want you to be interesting. Do you have a comic book collection that spans decades and rests in a vault somewhere untouched by human hands? That’s kinda cool. Are you learning how to do animation so you can one day post the adventures of a hobo cat online? That’s kinda cool too. Maybe you build houses for the poor on weekends or spend an afternoon teaching creative writing to high school kids? Awesome and more awesome. It doesn't matter what you do, just do it well.

Tip #7: Know your pop culture references.

Know the complete works of the Nerd Holy Trinity: Joss Whedon, J.J. Abrams and Peter Jackson. Know that Nathan Fillion will always be on your girl’s “freebie” list. When she goes to church and thanks God that Robert Downey Jr. survived the 1980s so he could play Iron Man, say “Amen” right alongside her. And for the love of all that is sacred and holy, do not EVER get “Star Wars” and “Star Trek” confused: one has Wookiees, one has Shatner, it’s not that hard.

Tip #8: Compliment her by saying, “You remind me so much of Liz Lemon.”

This is truly the highest form of flattery for just about any nerdy woman. Liz Lemon is our patron saint. Her inability to wear high heels, keep food off her face or refrain from making penis jokes while holding a tower made of Legos in her hands makes us reflect fondly on our own quirks. We love her…and you should too.

Tip #9: Embrace her collectibles.

That is not a euphemism for something pervy. It’s just a fact. When you walk into her apartment for the first time and notice a glass cabinet filled with a miniature TARDIS, a sombrero-wearing Giles, a 17-inch Han Solo and a two-foot long replica of the Enterprise NCC-1701-D, do not say, “What the hell is all this stuff?” Instead say, “What the hell? Why don’t you have MORE of this stuff? And may I mail order something for you?”

Tip #10: Be willing to go to conventions.

It’s just a thing we do. Relax and embrace it…and know that nine times out of ten, you’ll catch a glimpse of some nubile young woman dressed as a Princess Leia slave girl. It’s what the universe does to reward patience of our significant others.

Tip #11: Know what to do in a zombie attack.

We've been practicing for this one for a long time. We don't want to have to leave you behind.

Well, that about covers it. Congratulations on taking your first steps on the road to nerd girl nirvana. Know that you have selected the finest kind of woman possible. Way to go, champ!

P.S. Park Bench readers, have I missed any important tips? Please add 'em in the comments.

Wednesday Odds & Ends: Avatar, Ponyo and James May on the Moon

+ Director James Cameron unveiled 24-minutes of his upcoming 3-D flick "Avatar" at the Amsterdam Cinema Expo yesterday. By all accounts, the film looks amazing and might well be the first to make proper use of new 3-D technologies. A full account of the screening is available at the link above.

+ Former co-Nerd Man of the Month James May has made two specials for the BBC in connection with the 40th anniversary of the Moon landing. At least in space, it doesn't matter if you drive slow.

+ Animation icon Hayao Miyazaki has a new film called "Ponyo" coming out on August 14. Sadly, it's been dubbed by American actors. On the plus side, one of those actors is Tina Fey. Here's the preview, which sadly has a lame commercial in front of it:



+ Speaking of movies, Aaron Sorkin's film about the founding of Facebook is moving along and now there are reports that David Fincher might direct it...which I hope means the movie ends in a panic room inside a fight club while Brad Pitt ages backwards. Fingers crossed!

+ Is anyone else excited about Sci-Fi's new "Warehouse 13" show? It starts July 7 and I've allowed myself to have high hopes for it. It seems like a bit of an "X-Files" rip-off which I'm actually okay with because it also seems like it might be funny. Here's a preview:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nerd Man of the Month: Ira Glass

I am thinking gigantic thoughts right now.

There are some people who make you feel smarter just by association. That's why the thousands of people who listen each week to Ira Glass hosting "This American Life" often immediately run off and do "The New York Times" crossword puzzle blindfolded or find a Mensa member to shame in a story problem showdown. Besides boosting our intellectual self-esteem, Glass also exudes likability by being exactly like every smart boy best friend we ever had in high school, the ones who would stay home with us on Saturday nights watching reruns of "The Prisoner" or stand in line with us every time another movie with robots or aliens or preferably both opened.

Glass created "This American Life" in 1995 and has hosted it ever since, including its new-ish incarnation as a TV series on Showtime. For those who have never heard it, "This American Life" is a slice of storytelling bliss. Centered on a different theme each week, the hour-long show features spellbinding true and fictional tales that never, ever fail to grab your attention from beginning to end. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes they're odd, sometimes they're sad but they are always of extraordinary quality.

And just imagine, without Glass, the world might have been deprived of David Sedaris. Is that a world we want want to live in? I think not.

Aside from his fine geeky radio voice and the fact that he can rock a pair of spectacles like nobody's business - a trademark of fine nerds everywhere -- Glass is certifiably brainy, having earned a degree in semiotics (yes, I had to look the word up) from Brown University, which is one of those schools with the ivy all over it. Further nerd cred is earned with the fact that he has worked in public radio for 30 years, which is the human equivalent of going to college 400 times. Over the years, he worked as a reporter and host on all the public radio giants including "All Things Considered," "Morning Edition" and "Talk of the Nation."

If you've not seen or heard Glass yourself, here's a taste of his endearingly amiable and laid-back style as he talks with David Letterman about wives, chickens and angry public radio fans:



So, for being a likeable brainiac who enriches our lives with unforgettable stories each and every week and also on Showtime when we can sneak free cable from our neighbors, The Park Bench is pleased to name Ira Glass as its June Nerd Man of the Month.

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Bryan Fuller, Twitter circa 1935 and weak vampires

+ Who knew? Apparently, "Heroes" is still on the air but is now shy one sort of important producer guy by the name of Bryan Fuller. Yep, he has vamoosed. Can't say as I blame him.

+ From Boing Boing, this is kind of cool -- from 1935, "Robot Messenger Displays Person-to-Person Notes in Public." The site is calling it "Twitter in 1935" but to me, if it's missing Stephen Fry, it's no kind of Twitter.

+ This dude over at IO9 is trying to stoke the flames of nerd controversy by suggesting that "It's Buffy's Fault That Vampires Are Weak Now." I disagree with his contention and instead, think "Buffy" gave the vampire genre more depth and three-dimensionality. Sure, everyone kind of hated Spike by the end, but surely Whedon resurrected a wonderful metaphor for the dark side of humanity. And, let's face it, also gave vampires awesome hair. What do you think?

+ If you are anywhere near Columbus, Ohio over the next four days, be sure to put the 2009 Origins Game Fair on your itinerary. The fair runs from June 24 through 28 and features hundreds of game vendors offering up the very latest in non-video game entertainment. It also offers tons of opportunity to play popular favorites as well as test out new and unreleased games. The husband and I went last year and had an absolutely great time and brought home three awesome games, including "Last Night on Earth," a game to which we are incredibly addicted. Best of all, Origins is run by Park Bench reader Trey and she's awesome, so if you can, go on out and support the show.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Odds & Ends: Infinite Jest, Alice in Wonderland and Ray Bradbury

+ If you've wanted to read David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Jest" but found it too intimidating, a new group is willing to lend a hand. The Infinite Summer website is launching a group read of the 1,000-plus-page novel starting this week. They've broken it down into manageable bits -- 75 pages a week plus endnotes from now through September -- and are offering helpful tips and insights into the work. I'm definitely going to give this a try. Anyone want to join me?

+ Promotional photos from Tim Burton's upcoming remake of "Alice in Wonderland" have been released. The production looks lovely, which should come as no surprise.

+ Did you hear about Tony Hawk skateboarding through the halls of The White House? He did it...and posted blurry proof of it to his Twitpic account.

+ HBO has a new comedy coming out called "Bored to Death," starring Jason Schwartzman as a "Brooklyn-based writer who moonlights as a detective." The preview is here. Which, as someone pointed out, makes it a lot like "Castle" but with less Nathan Fillion...which actually makes it a lot like "Murder, She Wrote" but with even less Angela Lansbury.

+ Mary McDonnell and her awesome hair make their debut with a new recurring role on "The Closer," starting tonight at 9 p.m. on TNT.

+ Ray Bradbury already secured his legend status decades ago with "Fahrenheit 451," but now he's doing even more great things, trying to save a library in Ventury County, Calif. The New York Times has a wonderful story on Bradbury's passion for libraries -- I had no idea he wrote "Fahrenheit" on a pay typewriter in basement of the University of California, Los Angeles library -- and also, oddly enough, his passion for Bo Derek.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

John Hodgman on Obama's nerd credentials

This is priceless. John Hodgman spoke at last night's Radio and TV Correspondents' Dinner. With Obama in attendance, Hodgman examined the credentials of the man sometimes known as our first nerd president. Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Breaking news: otters are cute

We interrupt this Friday evening to bring you six videos of incredibly adorable otters doing incredibly adorable things like paint and play piano (yes, piano with little otter paws) and go wingnut crazy with a washing machine. Thanks to Kevin Church, who apparently spent more time watching videos and posting links online today than I did. Here's a sampling:

Repost: Who's Your Good Daddy? Best Fictional Fathers

In honor of Father's Day this Sunday, here's a repost of an '07 Park Bench entry chronicling awesome fictional dads. What good ones am I missing? Let me know in the comments.

RUPERT GILES / Buffy the Vampire Slayer
You've got to admit it, Rupert Giles is one kick-ass awesome father figure. He suffered traumatic head injury for Buffy at least 400 times, lost his job because he loved his Buffy too much, made out with Buffy's mom when no one else would, made up (not out) with Buffy's boyfriend even after the dude tortured him and killed his girlfriend and finally, showed up just in the nick of time to wear a dead sexy black coat and save the world at the end of Season 6.

JEAN VALJEAN / Les Miserables
You loved him in the musical. You loved him in the 1,200 page unabridged French novel with the inexplicable 150-page mid-section devoted to the history of French nuns. In many ways, Jean Valjean was too good for that whiny Cosette girl. He rescued her from those nasty Thenardiers, he adopted her and protected her through childhood, he carried her sappy, dying boyfriend on his back through the sewers of Paris and was willing to die alone just to protect her from his true identity as an escaped prisoner. Plus, if you believe those Broadway folks, he had a lovely tenor voice. She didn't deserve him.

JACK BRISTOW / Alias
Wouldn't you love to have seen the parent/teacher conferences for Sydney Bristow? "What do you mean my daughter's cursive is illegible?" Jack shouts, grabbing the language arts teacher by the throat and using lasers to cut his ankles off. Sure, being daddy's little Alias girl was tough what with the mistaken matricide and the brainwashing and the lies and the global conspiracies, but no one can say Jack didn't care: the dude blew himself up for her! And on a side note, Victor Garber has the sexiest ears of all time. I'm very, very serious.

GOMEZ ADDAMS / The Addams Family
Gomez wins the prize for least judgmental dad of all time. Pugsley and Wednesday could blow stuff up, torment their babysitters, and (in the movie) cause anarchy and chaos at summer camp and all Gomez ever did was love them. You gotta admire that.

ATTICUS FINCH / To Kill a Mockingbird
It would be impossible to deny Atticus Finch a place on this list -- the guy's got a heck of a resume. The American Film Institute named his character the #1 Greatest Hero of American Film and he was named the 7th Greatest Character in Fiction by some literary bigwigs in 2002. Courageous, moral and honest, he's a brilliant ideal both as a father and as a man.

CLIFF HUXTABLE / The Cosby Show
Cliff Huxtable wins substantial points first, for being funny and second, for making bold sweater patterns work and third, for always having all those cool jazz musicians over for dinner. Hello, Louis Armstrong, would you like some pudding?

JED BARTLET / The West Wing
He may have had his flaws as a father to his own children, but who wouldn't want President Josiah Bartlet as the father of our country? Kind, caring, intelligent with just a pinch of bull-headedness, Jed almost always did the right thing and when he didn't, he went through enough moral self-flagellations to make up for it. And when Josh's father died and he offered to fly home with him even though he'd just won the presidential nomination? Tell me you didn't cry just a little.

GEORGE BAILEY / It's a Wonderful Life
Man oh man, he tried to keep that savings and loan open. He went deaf to save his brother from drowning, he sacrificed his dreams to keep the family business going, he worked night and day to see his fellow townspeople through the darkest days of the Depression. He even kept Zuzu's petals. George Bailey's so good it hurts.

BENJAMIN SISKO
/ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
He had a voice that could make me nap, but he was always a good, upright guy, fightin' the aliens and loving his son. He even taught young Jake to love baseball -- five hundred years into the future! Plus, he served as a good example by not killing that little Bajoran woman which would have been the first thing on my space captain to-do list.

JACK BAUER / 24
Remember when you were young and you would boast to your friends that your dad could kick their dad's ass? Yeah, Kim Bauer has us all beat. Talk about the tough guy protector. No matter how many times I've wished Kim would get eaten by a cougar, somehow Jack always manages to come to the rescue, nuclear bombs be damned. Sure, he cut Kim's boyfriend's hand off and inflicted enough psychological damage that she ended up dating C. Thomas Howell (Ponyboy!) but seriously, Jack and that man-purse of his completely rock.

Special thanks to The Park Bench readers who shared their favorites.

Friday Odds & Ends: "Half-Blood Prince," "Lost" and Betty White (again)

+ New "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" posters have surfaced. Love triangles and angst abound! Also, Ron looks like he walked in from a day's shoot on the set of "The Tudors." To see more posters, click the link above.

+ I posted this on Twitter earlier today but it's worth reposting for anyone who might have missed it: What if "Lost" were a sitcom from the Nineties?" Hee.

British author Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy) has a new novel coming out this fall called Juliet, Naked. It's about an English singer/songwriter who gets involved via e-mail with a woman in rural Pennsylvania. Release date is Sept. 29. As a huge Hornby fan, I can't wait.

+ Researchers at the University of Colorado have released a study claiming definitive proof that there was once "a deep, ancient lake" on Mars. Proof of a little shack where a weird guy named Ned sold nightcrawlers has not yet surfaced.

+ And finally because I love her, here's an interview with Betty White. She is tres awesome.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

In Which I Officially Become a Crazy Cat Lady

Yeah, you know how nerds are cool now? I won't get to enjoy that because I've crossed into the dark side: I've become a crazy cat lady.

Let me just start by saying I love cats. I've always loved cats and always had them as pets growing up. I'll even confess to occasionally dressing up my cats in little hats and sweaters as a child. Never, though, did I imagine I would become one of those people: the crazy cat ladies that everyone sort of feels sorry for but secretly believes might have human remains stored in their basement. Yeah, you know the ones I'm talking about.

It happened when I had to take my cat -- let's call her Cruella, to protect the innocent -- in for a check-up. She'd been the perpetrator in a horrifying incident the day before that involved the words "green," "projectile" and "diarrhea" that I won't go into in great detail but suffice is to say, there was a lot disinfectant and angry words thrown around that day.

So I take my cat to the vet and that's when it happened. I -- a 30-something childless woman -- referred to my cat as "my baby" to the receptionist when checking Cruella in at the front desk. I then went on to describe her illness using the words "tummykins" and "poo." During Cruella's rather undignified moments with a rectal thermometer, I patted her head and told her, "It's okay sweetie, mommy will get you treaties when we're done." And by "treaties," I did not mean binding legal agreements with foreign countries, I meant little chicken-shaped nummies -- yes, I used the word "nummies;" my condition is an illness, okay? -- that she sucks down like a Great White tucking into a buffet of seals. Oh but wait, it got even better -- while describing to the vet how Cruella gets car sick, I confessed my fear that the cat would be angry with me because usually when I take her in the car, "It's for a trip to Grandma and Grandpa's House and YOU LOVE GOING TO GRANDMA AND GRANDPA'S HOUSE DON'T YOU SWEETIE BEAR CUDDLE BOO MUFFIN NUM-NUM OH MY GOD WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME??!!"

And then my brain slid out my ear and fell to the floor where we all saluted it and said goodbye.

The visit to the vet ended with me agreeing to a $400 preventative surgery and exhibiting excitement at the fact that when it was over, my cat would be provided with a sweater.

I have become a crazy cat lady. I now fear for my sanity yet can't stop thinking about what color the cat sweater might be. I've decided, really, to just give up at this point, pack up the roller brush and just go out in public, fur-covered, with Cruella in that Baby Bjorn snuggly I've always considered buying and cutting a tail hole in. I may take her to Target in a stroller and feed her popcorn at the food counter just like all the other crazy mothers do with their children. Because, honestly, if I've gotten to the point of using the words "sweetie bear cuddle boo muffin num-num" as an adult female human, why bother fighting it? From here, it's a short step toward buying Precious Moments ornaments and wearing un-ironic holiday sweaters.

I'm doomed.

Thursday Odds & Ends: Shatner, Coulton, Flashforward and Dumbledore

So sorry for the late nature of this morning's post. Let's chalk it up to the hours I spent crying myself to sleep last night after finding out that David Tennant would be at this year's Comic-Con...and I would not. Anyway, loads of stuff to talk about this morning:

+ Speaking of Tennant and the good Doctor, this new "Torchwood" trailer for "Children of Earth" name-checks the Time Lord pretty heavily. This is actually the best trailer I've seen for the upcoming special. I'm really looking forward to it now:



+ Here's an interview with Jonathan Coulton where he talks about technology, music and the web in a way that's actually pretty fascinating.

+ Gawker for some reason seems shocked that William Shatner acted crazy on "The Tonight Show" last night. I saw it live -- because for some terrible reason I've developed a sixth sense alerting me whenever Shatner's on TV -- and didn't think it was any weirder or more bizarre than other weird, bizarre Shatner shenanigans. I'd have been more shocked if he hadn't suggested the enormity of his penis or given Conan the finger. What do you think?


Justify Full
+ Ain't It Cool has some tasty tidbits on ABC's new sci-fi show, "Flashforward." All I know is, the show stars John Cho and Joseph Fiennes and that's good enough for me.

+ Poor Dumbledore gets taken to task in this pretty funny examination of the wizard's professional skills, courtesy of Cracked.

+ Here's a 12-minute preview of Ron Moore's mostly-dead pilot, "Virtuosity," which will air pretty much as a two-hour TV movie on Fox on Friday, June 26. It's about people on a multi-year mission to save Earth...and who spend a lot of time with a virtual reality program to kill time. I will admit, I got pretty bored after the first minute or so...even though there was a British guy talking. What's wrong with me??


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"Caprica" versus "BSG": whose pilot reigns supreme?

Beware: spoilers ahead if you haven't seen "Caprica."

After an enormous brain lapse in which I completely forgot that "Caprica" was out on DVD, I finally watched it the other day and was mightily impressed. It got me thinking about the "BSG" pilot miniseries and ever since, I've been trying to decide which one was better.

It's a difficult call given that we have the entirety of "BSG" to look back on and see how all the pieces of the pilot fit with the plots and characters that eventually evolved from it. The fact, though, that "Caprica" is a sequel of sorts also provides a contextual backdrop that I think permits a comparison or two.

The major difference between the two ventures is, obviously, the action quota. Save for one really big explosion, there's no action in "Caprica." Its main focus is thematic, examining familial ties, morality and really, really poor judgement. There's a lot of that in the "BSG" pilot as well but the character-driven stories didn't really become the show's bread and butter until later in the first season.

The two pilots are similar, though, in their willingness to put potentially unlikeable characters at the forefront. Bill Adama was already an arrogant but admired prick at the beginning of "BSG," Baltar's apocalypse-inducing weasel-ness was already on display and well, then you have Caprica Six offing babies. There weren't really a lot of rah-rah awesome characters to hang your fandom on in that opening episode. The same is certainly true of "Caprica," which focuses on a bitchy but brilliant teen and her father, a defense contractor who really likes himself an awful lot. And then there's Joseph Adama, Bill's father, who's apparently hooked up with the Tauron mafia. There's a chilly mother and a creepy headmistress and oh hey, there'sCigarette-Smoking Man from "The X-Files" who I refuse to believe is ever dead unless I see a signed confession from Krycek.

The two pilots differ, too, on the cheese factor. As much as I love the "BSG" pilot -- and I do, I really, really do -- there is just a hint of cheese here and there, nestled in an otherwise perfect amalgam of drama, space 'splosions and character study. In fact, the whole "so say we all" thing at the end kind of makes me want to crawl under the sofa. I love you, BSG, but if I'd seen another golf clap with swelling music scene, we may have had to break up. The "Caprica" cheese factor is fairly low except, sweet fancy Moses, what the hell was up with those nightclub scenes? Did the producers read over their script and think, "Man, this is a lot of exposition. You know what would really liven it up? Naked lesbian nightclub sex and human sacrifice!" Dudes, seriously, why? There was no purpose to those scenes other than to show that Caprica has naughty people and apparently, their version of "The Sims" is really, really messed up.

The thing that I like most about both pilots, though, is the questions they ask about humanity and religion and family. "Caprica" really pulled me in with its question of what happens when technology reaches a point where anything can happen? Will we, as humans, have the strength or the willingness to hold ourselves back? Or will we, as Daniel Graystone does, do what we want because we want it without a thought toward the consequences? Is it okay to create a Frankenstein's monster version of your daughter -- or Joseph Adama's daughter -- because you want them back and the desire to play god is too strong to ignore? Hubris always has consequences, and this time it's going to be angry enslaved robots.

Before seeing "Caprica," I would have been hard-pressed to believe that any sequel or prequel to "BSG" would have pulled me in as much as the mini-series itself did but I was wrong. To me, "Caprica" was every bit as strong as the best of "Battlestar." In fact, as I was watching it, I couldn't help but think to myself, "This is the way 'Dollhouse' should have affected me when I first saw it. This is how intense that show should have been." Of course, "Caprica" doesn't have the millstone of Eliza Dushku around its neck so it's not a fair comparison.

Overall, "Caprica" and the "Battlestar" pilot finish in a dead-heat for me. I love them both, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the "Caprica" story plays out...even if we all already know how it ends.

Wednesday Odds & Ends: Transformers, new Indiana Jones and GIMPS

+ FOX announced its fall schedule this week. Thursday will apparently be the night I don't leave the house as "Bones" and "Fringe" will be back-to-back those days with "Dollhouse" following at 9 p.m. on Fridays. "Bones" and "Fringe" return on Sept. 17 with "Dollhouse" debuting the next night.

+ "Variety" has its review up on "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen." The general gist is this: it's pretty much the same as the first one except 'splod-ier. Sounds good to me!

+ Another new "Indiana Jones" movie on the horizon? Yes, says Shia LaBeouf. The good news? Apparently Spielberg came up with the story this time.

+ Guess what? Another comic book series is being turned into a film. The upside to this one is that it's "Deadworld" and it's about zombies. There can never be enough movies about zombies, especially sentient ones. The film will be written by the "Watchmen" screenwriter David Hayter. Hopefully, it will be less bad than "Watchmen." (Sorry, I just didn't like that movie.)

+ Wow, I know nothing about math but this item on the discovery of a new Mersenne prime number is fascinating. What's even better? The people who look for these numbers are part of a group called GIMPS. No, really. It stands for "Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search." Awesome.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

An interview with Chameleon Circuit, the founders of Time Lord Rock

Love music? Love "Doctor Who?" Wish there was a way you could enjoy them both at the same time? Well, thanks to a band called Chameleon Circuit, now you can. In 2008, Alex Day coined the term Time Lord Rock or "trock" and a new genre of music dedicated to the adventures of the good Doctor was born. Alex and fellow trocker Charlie McDonnell joined up with Chris Beattie and Liam Dryden later that year to form Chameleon Circuit. Their first CD was released earlier this month.

Alex and Charlie were kind enough to do an e-mail interview with The Park Bench, sharing their thoughts on trock, Doctor Who and what it's like to have great fans:

For those who don’t know, could you explain what “trock” is and where the idea came from?

Alex: Trock stands for Time Lord Rock and it's what we call our music. We want lots of other bands to start up and do their own thing so we figured we should have an easy name for it, and we borrowed the idea from wizard rock, a community who sing about Harry Potter.

How did Chameleon Circuit come about?

Alex: Chameleon Circuit started in late July (2008) and was just me at first. I started writing a song called Goodbye Russell T which I never actually finished, but it got me excited about the possibilities. The first song I finished was An Awful Lot Of Running and by that point I'd recruited the other guys in the band both for their love of the show and their lovely songwriting stylings. :)

What is it about Doctor Who that inspired you to start writing songs about it?

Charlie: Alex was the one with the idea; really I have no idea why he decided that a sci-fi show would be a good thing to write music about. I know it's something that I'd never be able to think up, but once he told me about it, I was hooked on the idea, and the prospect of writing music with such a great friend was what really got me interested at the start. Now though, the fans inspire me to write the Who-music.

Alex:
I think it has the right kind of fan base. The fandom really loves the show. Even someone who treasures the classic series will say that a lot of the old episodes sucked, but they still love them. I figured even if our music wasn't the best, we could still be appreciated for what we were doing.

What’s your favorite Who episode?

Alex: Mine is Midnight, because I love how vulnerable the Doctor is. He always champions humans and sticks up for them so he feels totally comfortable with them in that episode, but then they just turn on him and I love that.

Charlie: My favourite is Blink, which is the episode that I used for the first ever Trock song that I wrote. I love how simple, yet effective the whole thing is, and obviously I adore how much it freaks me out... every single time I watch it.

How would you describe Chameleon Circuit’s sound?

Alex: We wrote all the songs on acoustic guitar and ukulele, but once it was recorded it ended up sounding pretty electronic. We have one song called Type 40 which sounds like an 80's throwback with cheesy synths and digital voice effects, because it's written from the point of the view of the TARDIS and we wanted it to sound like the song of a machine. Most of the songs are guitar-based but even they have little beeps and boops thrown in. I feel like a lot of the show's life and character is carried in those little sounds.

How does a Chameleon Circuit song come together?

Alex: I use Wikipedia a lot for references and show quotes when I'm writing lyrics. Each of us are responsible for the songs we've written, so on the CD I sing and play all instruments on the songs I wrote, and we all wrote two or three songs each. When one of us has a song we'll record a quick demo and email it to the others, and aside from changing a line or two, we all usually love what we all write.

What’s your favorite track on the new CD?

Alex: Exterminate, Regenerate is probably among my favourite songs of all time, and I can say that without arrogance because I didn't write it! It's really lively but has a lovely breakdown in the middle, it's about one of the core themes of the show (the battle between Davros and the Doctor), and I just think it's great.

Charlie: Obviously I don't want to pick one of my own songs here (though I'm very proud of Exterminate, Regenerate) but I'd probably say Gallifreyan History 101. I love how much fun that song is to sing along to. Either that or Type 40.

It looks like you’ve got quite a fervent fan base and you’re racking up the four-star ratings over at iTunes. What are your fans like, and what’s it been like to get such an enthusiastic response to your music?

Alex: I saw a video on YouTube of a girl opening the CD on-camera; she started flicking through our lyrics booklet, stopped, and read our thank-you section for a good few seconds in silence before remembering she was filming. Stopping to read our thank-you section!? That's all a band could hope for! One of the things we hear the most about the music, actually, is from people who don't like Doctor Who or have never seen it but still love the album. That means a lot because then we know we're writing good songs generally, not just good songs for people who like this random British cult TV show.

Charlie: I've received a message saying that the thank you section of the booklet has brought them almost to tears. And I watched a video of an amazing guy who drew an incredible picture of the four of us, who said he loved how, even though what we were doing was risky and might not receive any praise at all, we did it anyway, we were passionate about it, and we ended up with something great as a result. Really, I couldn't ask for better fans - guys who really get the music and understand why we made it.

Has anyone involved with Who contacted you about your music?

Alex: Charlie and I did an interview for Benjamin Cook, who writes for Doctor Who Magazine, and that's gonna be printed in the next issue coming out at the end of June. That's the most official contact we've had, except when the BBC's YouTube channel favourited our video about Trock. That was the biggest indications we've had so far that they're not gonna sue us to hell, which is comforting.

What does the future hold for Chameleon Circuit?

Alex: I really don't know - at the moment we're riding the wave of euphoria following album release, and we're gonna play a show at the end of August, then after that ... who knows :D

And finally, in your expert opinion, who wins in a no-holds-barred drunken pub brawl – Eccleston, Tennant or Smith? Chair-throwing would be permitted.

Charlie: (It depends on if we're talking) about the actors, or the actual doctors. Because the doctors wouldn't want to fight each other, seeing as they're the same person and all that [Good point! -- Ed.] but I reckon Eccleston would win in the fight, purely because he's a tough Northerner.

Alex:
Hahahaha. Legend question. I don't feel I can really comment on Matt Smith yet, but he and Tennant are too slim and pretty to put up a fight. Eccleston has his mean "I lost the Time War" anger and his big leather jacket -- he'll take 'em down. As a point of interest, my girlfriend disagrees - she thinks Tennant will be able to act goofy and dart around Eccleston and stuff. I can see that. He could pull out a water pistol and paint a tunnel on the wall like Road Runner. But since chair throwing's permitted I'm going with Eccleston.

If you'd like to learn more about Chameleon Circuit, hear samples of their songs or purchase their new CD, click here or visit their MySpace page. The guys also encourage you to buy the actual CD which they promise has terrific packaging as well extras not available in the download.

Tuesday Odds and Ends: Primeval, Harry Potter and Han Solo P.I.

+ Sad news for lovers of attractive British people and rampaging dinosaurs: "Primeval" has been canceled after three seasons. Of course, BBC America operates about seven years in the past so I'm sure we'll still be enjoying plenty of "new" episodes here for a while.

+ Have you seen the pretty new behind-the-scenes photos from "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince?" I09 won't let me pilfer them so you'll actually have to click the link and head out into the great Internet wilderness to see them for yourself.

+ Speaking of "Harry," someone's crying plagiarism against J.K. Rowling, saying she lifted large portions of "Goblet of Fire" from a little number called "The Adventures of Willy the Wizard - No 1 Livid Land" including the wizard competition scenes and other bits. If J.K. did lift anything, one would hope it would be from a more promising source than something titled "Willy the Wizard."

+ The A.V. Club has its review of "Ghostbusters: The Video Game." Their verdict? A grudging "not bad." Which is kind of what I expected.

+ Wired's Gadget Lab blog has an interesting item on something called Open Source Embroidery, a movement that looks at the connections between open source software design and the way crafters such as knitters, embroiderers and quilters work.

+ Thanks to Michelle for sending in this Han Solo/"Magnum P.I." mash-up. Check out the link to see the original version, but I'm posting the side by side version because I think it makes the experience even better.



+ And finally, have you got any nominees for Nerd Man of the Month? If so, please add 'em to the comments. There's a new and actually updated list of past winners to the left for easy reference.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Waving the nerd flag high for "The Guild"

If you’re not already a fan of “The Guild,” the web series about a bunch of online gamers penned by and starring Felicia Day of “Dr. Horrible” and “Buffy” fame, then please stop whatever you’re doing and watch it right now. In fact, much like the proverbial drug dealer/Mary Kay saleswoman offering the first one free, I’m pasting in episode one below. It’s only five minutes long. That’s less time than it takes to think about Robert Downey Jr., so why not take a moment, watch it and then we’ll chat:



Okay, now wasn’t that just a tiny taste of geek heaven? And honestly, it was like looking in the mirror except it’s a mirror that actually makes me way hotter and younger and also friends with Joss Whedon.

For anyone who spends too much time on the internet, whether gaming or on message boards or a combination of the two, “The Guild” totally hits home but in a way that makes you feel in on the joke rather than the butt of it. It’s an affectionate take on the utter weirdness of what living parallel on- and off-line lives is like yet it also takes into account that sense of community that can be so welcoming…until, of course, a guy screen-named Zaboo shows up on your door step.

I love these characters, especially Amy Okuda’s Tinkerballa who is like half the friends I had and was afraid of (in a good way!) in high school. And Robin Thorsen’s Clara is awesome as the game-addicted stay-at-home mom – “nursing makes me stupid” -- who would make Supernanny weep…right before being carted off by social workers. Just wait until you see the episode where Tinkerballa babysits. And Felicia Day’s Cyd Sherman is wonderful, too, with just the right amount of neuroses to make her charming, like if Pam Beasley and every character Michael Cera ever played had a love child.

The jokes are first-rate as well. I loved Cyd’s response to her therapist asking if she’d ever met her gaming friends face to face: “I hear them. It’s good enough for the blind.” And I nearly choked with glee a few episodes later when Day joke-checked “Ghostbusters” with the classic “Listen, do you smell something?” line. I’m a fan-girl slave to any show that not only has stellar characters but seeds its dialogue with so many wonderfully quirky lines, like Zaboo’s later revelation that he’s a “Hin-Jew.”

I’m completely smitten with “The Guild,” but after allowing myself to tear through season one like a trophy wife through a Neiman-Marcus shoe sale, I’ve decided to save season two for another time. Like maybe tomorrow morning. Or tonight. Maybe later this afternoon.

No, I’m not addicted. Not. At. All. Not a tiny bit.

Maybe a little. And I’m okay with that.

To see more of "The Guild," check out the website at watchtheguild.com.

MONDAY ODDS & ENDS: MERLIN, WARP DRIVES AND BETTY WHITE

+ Sci-fi and horror icon Christopher Lee has been knighted by England's Queen, meaning now whenever you run into him and get freaked out just by his presence, you have to scream "Sir" as you flee.

+ Well, this is kind of a bummer: apparently, if a warp drive engine was ever actually created, it would have the capacity to suck Earth and probably the spacecraft itself into a black hole. Meaning no refunds on the flight. Damn.

+ In happier news, the "Battlestar Galactica" complete series will be released on July 28 in Blu-ray and DVD and the packaging itself looks amazing. It even comes with a Cylon to take over your home and intimidate your neighbors. Check it out:


+ "Merlin" makes its way to NBC this coming Sunday, June 21. Word on the street is that it's rather cheesy but it has Anthony Stewart Head with a little crown and flowing robes so you'll hear no complaints from me. Here's a sneak peak:



+ Apropos of nothing, here is Betty White playing beer pong with Jimmy Fallon:



+ And finally, what do you think of this? Nintendo reportedly will start including a "help" feature on future Wii games such as the upcoming New Super Mario Brothers. The feature will allow players to pause the game and let the system take over, solving the rough parts and then letting the players opt back in when they think they can take over again. Given that Wii is such a family-friendly system, I think it makes sense. I know there would have been a lot less Yoshi carnage in my house if I'd had access to this feature. Poor Yoshi. May his adorable little saddled soul rest in peace...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

NEW YORK TIMES WEDDING ANNOUNCEMENTS GONE HORRIBLY HILARIOUS

Going through this morning's New York Times, I suddenly remembered this wonderful NPR interview with Rob Baedeker, one of the authors of "Weddings of the Times," a parody of all of the somber and oh-so-staid wedding announcements published each Sunday in our nation's newspaper of record. Baedeker wrote the parodies along with other members of his comedy ensemble Kasper Hauser. One of my very favoritess:
Catherine Doyle and Alfred Park

Catherine Doyle married Alfred Park on Sunday evening at the Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton.

The bride, 26, graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown. The groom, 34, graduated summa cum laude from Brown. The bride's father, Eugene Doyle, graduated egregia cum laude from the University of Washington and his mother, Kate Doyle, graduated double platinum cum laude from Wayne State.

Her grandfather graduated the harder they cum laude from Texas A&M. Her uncle graduated cumma cumma cumma cumma cumma chameleon laude from the University of Colorado.

The bride's brother, Lewis Doyle, graduated pre-cum laude from the University of Stockholm.

The groom's father, Bruce, graduated cumfortably numb laude from Cal State Fullerton. The best man graduated cumpire strikes back laude from the College of Outer Space. The best man's grandfather graduated viagra cum laude from Hofstra.
If you have the time, be sure to listen to the full interview. Baedeker's reading of the announcements is wonderfully smooth and ridiculously funny.

Friday, June 12, 2009

RAG DOLLS AND ROBOTS AND "9"

Remember how I was complaining the other day about the lack of original movies? The upcoming Tim Burton-produced animated feature "9" is helping renew some of my faith in film making humanity.

Directed by Shane Acker from his short film of the same name, the movie is set in a post-apocalyptic alternate reality and focuses on a group of rag dolls (zipper fronts and all) who battle machines for the preservation of civilization. It's seems kind of like a traumatizing cross between "Wall*E" and "Terminator" but with 100 percent less Christian Bale. Here's the latest trailer from Trailer Addict:



The marketing folks are having fun with it as well. They've got a Facebook page set up from the point of view of the scientist, which is a nice way to roll out plot and backstory tidbits leading up to the film's release on Sept. 9. Check it out if you have a moment or two.

Friday Odds and Ends: Futurama, geek pick-up lines, ununbium and Hammer pants

+ "Futurama" has been reborn! I look forward to many more episodes of talking heads in jars and awkward alien cyclops jokes. And there was much rejoicing!

+ Have you seen the teaser for BSG's "The Plan" yet? Nothing too illuminating but it's always nice to hear Edward James Olmos go all deep-voiced and somber again:



+ Asylum.com has this list of "Top 10 Geek Pick-Up Lines on Twitter Explained." While many of the lines themselves are wonderfully groan-inducing, the earnest explanations sort of cracked me up even more. I tried to use my favorite, "Baby, I love you so much that if Joss Whedon were writing our romance one of us would be dead by now" on my husband yesterday but he seemed non-plussed...and slightly frightened.

+ Time to add another tile to that ginormous periodic table hanging in your study: the Germans have added Ununbium aka superheavy chemical element 112 to the roster. It's 277 times heavier than hydrogen, making it officially the heaviest element on the table. It's self-conscious about that, so the other elements have formed a pact never to mention its chemical obesity to its face. Ununbium also enjoys Victorian poetry, rain on a Sunday afternoon and the sweet musical stylings of Natalie Cole. Side note: couldn't you just say the word "ununbium" all day long? I love it!

+ Need a little joy in your Friday? Via Pop Candy, this clip of a flash mob showing up in a trendy LA story wearing Hammer pants totally made my day. Love the older guy in the blue head band:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Xbox Live steals hours of human life with "1 vs. 100"

Remember that game show, "1 vs. 100" that was on for a while? It tried gamely to ride on the coattails of the genius that was "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" but sort of failed what with no one watching and it kind of getting canceled. In case you don't recall, the premise was basically some guy or girl would answer questions at the same time as a mob of 100 other people did. If the individual outlasted the mob, they'd win a new car or a make-out session with Bob Barker or some such thing. The show was kind of a waste of time.

But do you know what's not AT ALL a waste of time? Spending hours and hours playing the Xbox Live version of the very same game show. XBox's version of "1 vs. 100" has been beta testing for a couple weeks now and has consumed hours and hours of my unemployed time. It is pure bliss.

Why so blissful? Because it's like playing trivia at the bar except that the drinks being spilled on you are your own and the booming bass line making your ears bleed is your own special '70s disco mix that you only play in the privacy of your own home because of the shame. Also, there are no sticky controllers, ridiculous bar tabs or a drunk guy (screen name: Big Guns) who wants to fight you because you beat him on a "Knight Rider" question.

Playing "1 vs. 100" on Xbox Live also can be a huge ego booster given that you're mostly playing against 15 year olds who don't pay attention in school. So when questions about "Sunset Boulevard" come on the screen, you can almost hear their collective cries of intellectual pain as you quietly and confidently select "Norma Desmond" as your first and final answer.

The cool thing is, though, it's not a total walk in the park. The questions get progressively harder and cover a wide range of topics and there are actually some pretty tough competitors on there. You can flex a good deal of trivia muscle over the course of an evening, with each round offering 37 questions over a 30 minute span.

Also, if you're feeling extra brilliant, you can submit questions for inclusion in the game. I'm guessing that's why I spot typos from time to time, but overall, the question quality is pretty high. Much like the guy playing the game last night who did not seem to know what color the Grinch was. Or where America was. Or Earth, for that matter. It was sad.

There's no cost to play "1 vs. 100," which means you have to sit through commercials three or four times a round, but mostly they've just been showing the "Transformers 2" trailer so it's not too much of a burden. This week, as beta testing continues, you can rack up entries to try and be a player when the real game launches later this month. When that starts, prizes will be awarded to contestants...and who doesn't love prizes?

Mostly, though, the geek in me just loves answering questions and trying to feel smarter than thousands of other Xbox Live gamers. If you have an XBox account and haven't tried this game yet, I heartily encourage you to give it a go. It's even better if you have a significant other next to you to handle the controller while you eat cookies.

Odds and Ends: Tim Burton, Iron Man 2, Blueberry Garden and orbital chaos

+ How cool is this? Tim Burton will have an exhibition of his work displayed at New York's Museum of Modern Art -- or MOMA, as the kids call it -- starting this November and running through April 2010. More than 700 paintings, puppets, drawings and storyboards will be on display. No word yet on whether Helena Bonham-Carter will co-star.

+ SyFy (hahaha, sorry, I still laugh when I type that) has announced a new "Alice in Wonderland" remake starring a veritable who's who of TV geekdom including Colm Meaney as The King of Hearts, Tim Curry as the Dodo, Matt Frewer (who I will heart forever for "Max Headroom") as the White Knight, Andrew Lee Potts from "Primeval" as the Hatter and Alessandro Juliani of "BSG" as the 9 of Clubs, which means he totally won't get any airtime until he goes crazy and takes over the ship from a furious Admiral Adama. Now wouldn't that make an awesome mini-series? "Alice" will air in December.

+ Mickey Rourke who, let's face it, looks creepy enough without costume and make-up, got to try on his "Mad Max"-esque villain gear for "Iron Man 2" recently. Director Jon Favreau also gives some details on Rourke's character. Here's what Rourke looks like, all leathery and evil...and also with his costume on.

+ I saw this indie video game touted on Livejournal yesterday. It's called "Blueberry Garden" and even if you never play it, you have to watch this video preview. It's quite lovely. And Suicide Girls has a great write-up on it and other indie games.



+ And in case your day is going too well, you can always start thinking about orbital chaos, a force that may cause the Earth and Venus to smash into each other and split like watermelons. It's okay though because Yahoo says the chances of this are small -- only one in 2500, which is actually a hell of a lot better than the lottery odds I play every week -- and it won't happen for 3.5 billion years, when I assume a time-traveling Doctor will be on hand to save us. No worries!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dear Movie Industry: Try something original, won't you?

There was a time when going to the movies was the highlight of my week. There was always something I wanted to see; in fact, it seemed like I never had enough time to see everything before it vanished and was replaced with some other promising movie I wanted to see.

Nowadays? Yeah, I don't have that problem. And here's a small sampling of reasons why:

"Winona Confirms 'Heathers' Sequel"

"Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson in talks for 'A-Team'"

"Live Action Jetsons Movie Takes Flight Next Year"


Add to this list the likes of "Land of the Lost," "Transformers 2," "Iron Man 2," "Ghostbusters 3," "Predators," a remake of "Clash of the Titans,""Beverly Hills Cop 4" and the list goes on ad nauseum.

Excuse me a second while I settle into my front-porch rocking chair and yell at the kids to get off the lawn because yes, I'm going to get cranky and old for a few minutes here:

Dear Hollywood: Please make an original movie, you fucking idiots. And stop playing in the sprinklers -- that water's not free!

There, that feels better.

It's not like I don't want to see some of those movies -- "Iron Man 2" for instance will have me with my nose firmly pressed against the front doors of the theater, my "I Heart Robert Downey's Abs" t-shirt firmly in place. It's just that it would be really, really nice to see an original thought exhibited on screen every once in a while. (Okay, and I want to see "The A-Team" get made just to see how long it takes for Dirk Benedict to start calling Bradley Cooper a girl and whining over not getting to play his old part again. "Boo hoo -- George Peppard's cigar was always bigger than mine and Mr. T got the pretty jewelry and I got nothing!" )

Original ideas work, Hollywood, I swear! Just look at "Up!" See how Pixar comes up with original ideas and turns them into original movies that garner large audiences and critical acclaim. Kind of cool, isn't it? So stop digging through the comic book boxes, turn off TV Land, stop remaking "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3" and start getting creative.

Imagine what the world would be like if the 1970s had been as creatively dead as the 2000s. "Star Wars" would have just been a remake of "Lost in Space" with stop-motion robots instead of a guy in a silver Tireman outfit. "The Godfather" would have just been a 17 hour version of "Public Enemy" but with Pacino chewing the scenery instead of James Cagney. And "Clash of the Titans?" Well, that still would have been shitty.

During the last Great Depression, Hollywood was nice enough to entertain us with quality. They gave us the screwball comedy. They gave us love stories and musicals. Their aim was to take America's minds off their empty bank accounts and growing breadlines. They earned every dime they took in by providing a quality product, one that inspired generations of filmmakers. Why can't the same thing happen today? If Hollywood's so good at copying the past, surely they can lift from those storied pages as well, right?