Monday, August 31, 2009

Monday Odds & Ends: Marvel & Disney sittin' in a tree, MacGyver, Gaiman, pen-free writing and one humiliated canine

+ Uh oh, Wolverine's gonna have to cut those muttonchops: Disney's buying Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion and a lifetime supply of free Magic Mountain rides.

+ Did you know that this week marks the 40th anniversary of the Internet? Yes indeed -- 40 years ago, people actually had to talk to each other and take three hour lunches to goof off at work. How far we've come!

+ From Lifehacker, 10 Tricks MacGyver Would Be Proud Of. Personally, I like the "how to dry out a doused cell phone." I could've used that one a few dozen times in my life.

+ Neil Gaiman talks about the resurgance of vampires in pop culture and why it kind of sucks. (Ha ha, get it? Get it?)

+ Scientists have found a way to track the eletrical impulses that produce handwriting...which means in the future, you won't need a pen or pencil to write. Does this mean I won't be able to go to the office supply store anymore and fondle the writing instruments? Because if so, I'm having none of that. Go away, science!

+ Have you guys ever seen the Cadaeic Cadenza? It's a short story in which the number of letters in each word equals the first 3,834 digits of pi. Here's a wiki write-up on it for more details. Very cool idea -- and thanks to Park Bench reader Laura for the tip!

+ And finally, via Topless Robot, here's a picture of a dog dressed as the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Personally, I love the Bud Light-fueled nacelles...and the look of horror on the poor dog's face.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends: The Blob (sorta), V, goats and the actual Big Bang

+ So, uh, Rob Zombie wants to remake "The Blob" but without so much of know...blob-iness. Personally, I hope he uses balloon animals instead. Improperly inflated, those things can be terrifying.

+ Well now, this is a little worrisome: production on ABC's remake of "V" has shut down for two weeks for some creative fine-tuning. The execs say the shut-down won't delay the show's Nov. 3 debut.

+ Check out this great video explanation of The Big Bang. It's really simple but visually quite effective and also, yes, mind-blowing. Kinda puts things in perspective...

+ I really, really want to see this movie and will cry small, sad tears if it turns out not to be as good as its trailer. It's called "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and it stars George Clooney and Ewan McGregor and it's about the U.S. military training soldiers to use their minds to fight...or, as Clooney's character calls it, training them to become Jedi. It already gets three stars from me just for having the word "goat" in the title:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: Summer Glau, Chuck, 2012 and Lost

+ Okay, it's official -- I'm definitely going to have to start watching "Dollhouse" again. It's been confirmed that the former Terminator herself Summer Glau is joining the cast as a new recurring character. And so's "Angel" alumnus Alexis Denisof who'll play a U.S. Senator. Yep, I'm doing a happy dance.

+ In other casting news, Brandon Routh, also know as that last Superman guy with the manly, knowing eyebrows, will be joining "Chuck" for a multi-episode arc when the show returns in March 2010.

+ Hey, is your day going too well? Need a little something to bring you down? Then check out this new Japanese trailer for Roland Emmerich's "2012." Honestly, this guy does death and destruction so well, I have to wonder what his dreams are like? All fluffy bunnies and rainbows? Anyway, it's a cool trailer...and we get to see Chiwetel Ejiofor. That makes the end of the world a little better, doesn't it?

+ You've got to see this gorgeous artistic rendering of time travel in film and television. It's such a cool idea and the end result is really fascinating. Thanks to Austen for the link!

+ And finally, I love this new series of "Lost" tie-in posters. In honor of the show's final season, 16 artists who are also fans of the show were commissioned to do special character posters. They're available for purchase and only 300 are being produced. I love the Hitchcock-ian style of this Locke one:

ETA: Here's a different link that shows the other "Lost" poster released so far. Looks like they'll add additional images as they're released.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: The Guild, Arkham Asylum and Tolstoy as your Intro to Lit professor

+ Don't forget, if you're an Xbox Live Gold Member, you could be watching episode one of "The Guild"'s new season...and telling the rest of us all about it. It'll become available to Xbox Silver members next week. In the meantime, to tide us over, here's a season 3 preview...with Wil Wheaton!

<a href="" target="_new" title="The Guild Season 3 - Trailer">Video: The Guild Season 3 - Trailer</a>

+ Some dude named Gary over at Entertainment Weekly chimes in on all the hubbub over the new "Batman: Arkham Asylum" game. He likes it but he's not sure how much he likes it. Boys, I swear...

+ Speaking of games, MSNBC offers this article in which gamers fight back against a recent study claiming that says most players are overweight and depressed. This follows hot on the heels of that other recent study revealing how a lot of studies are based on huge, lazy generalities that serve no purpose other than to piss people off.

+ Saw this mentioned in The New Yorker: would literary giants make good college professors? Times Higher Education published their very funny analysis of fictional job interviews with such literary legends as Tolstoy, Kafka and Rimbaud, who was deemed "not suited to a university environment except as an expellable member of a fraternity - if one would take him."

+ In other high-brow news, did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger keeps his Conan the Barbarian sword in his office? The one where he's all governor-y and stuff? See? That empty chair is where a foe once sat.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Meet my dear, dead friend Mr. Pepys

Hands off, ladies, he's mine.

Back in the days when I used to work in an office, I had office friends who I'd lunch with and gossip with in the halls. These days, I have a man named Samuel Pepys. He's been dead for 300 years but he's still got a hell of a lot to say about the daily office grind. I'm thinking of asking him to the company picnic, which will be held in my backyard later this afternoon.

Yes, I've been reading The Diary of Samuel Pepys (pronounced "peeps" like the delicious sugary candies). Many of you, I'm sure, are well-versed in the world of Mr. Pepys but I've only just embarked on his collection of diaries, which cover a rather raucous 10-year period (1660 to 1670) of British history. A lifelong civil servant, Pepys wrote daily about his interactions with members of parliament, leaders in the Navy and many, many other dignitaries including King Charles II. Now, let's be perfectly honest here -- I don't know who 99 percent of the people are in Pepys diary. To me, it's like reading a Tolstoy novel; I need a wall chart just to keep track of the characters. But what's truly awesome about these diaries is the fact that 350 years ago, office drones were bitching about the exact same things as they are today -- so-and-so totally blew off our meeting, so-and-so never does his work and always leaves me to pick up the slack and the always popular, is my boss mad at me? The only difference I can determine is that government offices were a lot more mellow about people going to the pub at 10 a.m. and forcing some errand boy to chase around London to find them for meetings.

In other ways, reading Pepys is like having my own Restoration-era Tamagotchi pet -- when I'm not reading him, I worry what's going on in his life. Did he get enough mutton? Is he going to make up with his wife? Is his dad feeling better? Will the roads be slippery on the way home from the office tonight? What if he can't get a carriage ride? And will he ever stop putting his hands up strange women's dresses? (Yes, did I mention he's a serial philanderer? Bet your Tamagotchi never did that.)

The diaries go on for hundreds and hundreds of pages, covering 95 percent mundanities and 5 percent incredible things like the Great Fire of 1666, a nasty round of plague and the restoration of a monarchy. Pepys is such an adept diarist that you truly feel you're there, in the mix and on the move with history. There is no lens through which he's viewing that history, however, so you truly are watching it unfold as it happens and it's a marvel to realize how unaware people are of what exactly they're experiencing. To read a passage where Pepys offhandedly remarks on seeing a new production of "Macbeth," which was less than 50 years old at the time, and finding him completely non-plussed by the whole thing is genuinely exciting to a really weird way. I mean, today we think "Shakespeare!" but back then, Pepys is just like "Pfft, Shakespeare, I've seen better." I guess you have to be a pretty big book nerd to get excited about something as anti-climactic as that but...well...I'm a pretty big book nerd.

I know I'll never finish these diaries, but what a treat it's been to dive into the past with such an able guide as Samuel Pepys. And yes, if he were alive today, I'd hang out at the water cooler with him any time. If he could manage to keep his hands to himself...

Tuesday Odds & Ends: "Pirates," Duchovny, Bateman and "Arcadia"

+ Did we already know that Disney planned on making a fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie or was it just assumed? My brain is too foggy to keep track. Anyway, surprise! It looks like Disney's making a fourth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie and it's going to make all our steampunk dreams come true, incorporating a bit of sci-fi and Captain Nemo into the plot.

+ Remember how we were all "X-Files"-y yesterday? Well, let's keep that party going, shall we, with an A.V. Club interview with David Duchovny himself in which he talks about some of his past roles.

+ Jason Bateman talks about his role in the upcoming Simon Pegg/Nick Frost alien road movie, "Paul" and manages to spoil a pretty bad joke.

+ Here's a pretty fascinating story on what it takes to be a composer for film and television. Sadly, it takes more than just being able to whistle a jaunty tune, which totally eliminates me for the job. My parachute is not that color. :(

+ Did you know that the son of playwright Tom Stoppard is appearing right now in one of his father's plays? No, I don't really care that much either. What I do care about, though, is that there's a revival of Stoppard's "Arcadia" in London's West End right now and I didn't know about it. Trust me, if you live anywhere near there and have never seen "Arcadia," go now and see it. Like tonight. It is a thrilling, funny, miraculous play about mathematics and love and the passage of time. I saw it in London in 1994 and when it was over, just sat there with the words "that's the greatest play I've ever seen" pulsating through my little over-matched brain. And even if you don't live near enough to see it, go grab a copy of the play at your local bookstore -- I'd suggest paying for it of course, but I'm not the boss of you. Enjoy!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Six Things Chris Carter Would Have To Do to Make Me Give "X-Files 3" a Chance

As you may have heard, some rumors surfaced this weekend about a possible third "X-Files" movie. Now before I start my rant, you should know that I am a HUGE X-Files fan. It was my passion all through college and well into adulthood, something to which my former co-workers and fellow members of the "Let's Talk X-Files on Our Lunch Hour" club can attest. I truly believe that "The X-Files" changed television for the better and that without it, shows such as "Lost" would never exist.

But over the years, my trust in series creator Chris Carter has waned. He still owes me a hug and a pony for that two-hour series finale that may just as well have been a clip show for all the resolution it provided. And I still get a rage-induced ringing in my ears when I think of the most recent "X-Files" movie, "I Want to Believe." Yeah, I wanted to believe, too, Chris -- I wanted to believe the movie wouldn't be crap and I wouldn't feel like you'd just run into the movie theater and stolen $9.50 out of my hand, you weenie!

Still, though, like Charlie Brown and his damn football, the idea of a third "X-Files" movie makes me happy. But a few important things need to happen before I'll believe it'll be good. To wit:

1. Hire a professional screenwriter who will spend more than 10 days writing the script. -- I remember when the first "X-Files" movie came out, Carter boasted that it had only taken him 10 days to write the script. And then for this most recent movie, he used a script that had been lying around unused for a few years. Please, for the love of all things holy, take time and write a good script. It's important. It's what those in the travel business might call "a road map." It helps you get from point A to point B without running over two-headed dogs and transsexual Frankensteins on the way. Why not bring James Wong and Glen Morgan back? They wrote some of the all-time classic "X-Files" episodes and all they're doing now is making "Final Destination" movies over and over again. Give 'em a call, buy 'em a beer, give 'em a pencil!

2. In fact, why not hire a whole slew of professionals? -- Sometimes, it pays to hire a professional. Like if I need to remove my appendix, I'm probably not going to do it myself. I'll hire someone who's read about it thoroughly online. Same with Chris. The first "X-Files" movie was half-way decent because he got a real, live director to put the thing together. That avoids things like the chase scene in "I Want to Believe" which was so pedestrian I actually checked my watch and started praying for it to end. I've never done that in a "Bourne" movie, which I've heard are directed by directors. Crazy.

3. Lay off the religious symbolism. -- Chris Carter cannot do religious symbolism without putting giant hams in both fists and making every high school freshman embarrassed at its obviousness. We know Scully's Catholic. We know Mulder loves a good stigmata. We know you like to give your pervy yet redemptive priests names like Joseph Crissman but just stop it already! We get it: religious imagery, belief versus reason, religious fervor versus monomaniacal fervor. In fact, let's just not give this next movie any attempted depth at all. Just make it fun -- we'll all be better off and you won't make the Baby Jesus cry.

4. While we're at it, let's stay away from "The X-Files" mythology. -- I'm nearly 100 percent certain that not even Carter knew what the hell was going on at the end of "The X-Files." And I absolutely forgive him for that. When you're trying to keep a show going and the network wants you to stretch it out over nine long seasons, there's going to be some missteps along the way. But now that the show's over, can we just forget about it and pretend all that craziness ever happened? Please?

5. Make it scary but make it funny, too. -- It goes without saying that "The X-Files" could be truly frightening when it wanted to be. I still hesitate before reaching under my bed, wondering if legless, armless Mrs. Peacock is lurking under there. The best episodes, though, always injected a dose of humor into the mix as well. Every Darin Morgan episode, for example, managed to balance some real thrills with some real laughs. And there's no denying that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson shine when they have a range of emotions to play -- who wants to see Gillian moping and weeping for two hours when we could be watching her crack wise about Mexican goat-suckers? Not me.

6. On a related note, give Duchovny and Anderson something to do. -- Duchovny and Anderson were the only redeeming part of "I Want to Believe." They're both good actors and they're even better when you give them something interesting to do. Play up that teamwork, don't split them up for half the movie. They're one of the great duos in contemporary fiction, up there with Holmes and Watson, Batman and Robin, Wooster and Jeeves, Steed and Peel. Audiences like to see them work as a team. Let 'em be awesome together!

Thus endeth my rant.

What do you guys think? Are you keen on another "X-Files" movie? What would you like to see done differently, if anything?

Ding, ding, we have a winner!

We've got a winner in our "9" Twitter giveaway: congratulations to @ktb38, whose name was randomly selected from lots and lots of entrants just a few short minutes ago. And in order to ensure an impartial selection process, my Giles action figure did the honors. I've included a photo of the big moment below. Please imagine some sort of musical flourish in the background.

Thank you to everyone who participated! I appreciated all of the smiley faces. :)

Monday Odds & Ends: animated "Doctor Who," Buffy and Colbert, "Supernatural" & Little Red Riding Hood

+ The BBC released its first look at the new Doctor Who animated special, "Dreamland," set to air this fall. Voiced by David Tennant, the special takes the Doctor to Roswell, New Mexico, home of the famous (infamous?) flying saucer crash/hoax of the late 1940s. I haven't seen the other "Who" animated special but I'm liking the illustration work for this one:

+ Looking forward to the new season of "Supernatural?" Here's a new preview to tide you over:

+ Speaking of apocalypses, here's something I never thought I'd see: a Stephen Colbert/"Buffy" crossover. Now I haven't been keeping up with Dark Horse's Season 8 "Buffy" comics but apparently recent developments have Harmony landing her own reality show and going on "The Colbert Report" to pimp it. This scenario tickles me to no end. Here's a panel from the comic:

+ Details emerged this weekend on the new "World of Warcraft: Cataclysm" expansion. Among the newsy bits, there's gonna be goblins and werewolves now. The expansion is set for release in 2010.

+ We're going back to the classics at least: Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is looking to revamp "Little Red Riding Hood," putting -- and I'm not making this up -- a teenage love triangle at the center of the story. It looks like "Twilight" director Catherine Hardwicke will be directing this bad boy as well. It's totally going to put a downer on the prom, though, when grandma gets eaten. Sorry, spoilers.

+ Now this sounds like it could actually be a cool movie: a film adaptation of the "Bioshock" game, which scares the bejeezus out of me just watching my husband play it. Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who directed "28 Weeks Later," which, coincidentally also scared the bejeezus out of me, will head this one up too.

+ Check back in later today to find out who won the nifty "9" prize. And thanks to everyone who entered -- it was great to see so much interest!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Win a prize from Shane Acker's upcoming "9" flick!

Oh man, I hope no one stuffs me with a book and tries to give me away.

Would you like to win a prize? More specifically, would you like to win a very cool special-edition "9" movie book from Focus Features? I'm hoping that's a yes because we have one to give away.

The book comes in a very cool burlap bag and includes behind-the-scenes art, an extensive collection of stills from the movie, commentary from director Shane Acker and producers Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov and a DVD of the original short film that inspired the full-length feature, which will hit theaters on September 9. Only 999 of these prize packages were produced so you'll want to get your hands on one of these babies.

To enter the contest, just sign in to Twitter, follow @TheParkBench and tweet "@TheParkBench Gimme that "9" book, you stingy blogger!" I'll choose a winner at random on Monday morning. Bonus points if you include a smiley face after that "stingy blogger" comment -- I like to feel loved. :)

Friday Odds & Ends: statistical zombies, Zachary Quinto, Kids in the Hall and TV time traveling

+ I was totally remiss in not posting this yesterday: scientists have been analyzing the possibility of human survival in the (gory) face of a zombie attack. So no worries, people are on the job! Thanks to Park Bench reader Gayle for sending the link.

+ "Heroes" star Zachary Quinto has joined efforts to preserve video arcades, which are closing their doors at a rapid pace throughout the country.

+ And here's one less thing I'll have to watch: ABC is developing "The Time Traveler's Wife" as a TV series, produced by "Friends" creator Marta Kauffman. I'm sorry, I shouldn't judge. It could be good. Maybe. Possibly.

+ I'd mentioned this a while back but now there's an air date. The Kids in the Hall are reuniting for an eight-part series on the CBC. It's a comic murder mystery, all of the guys are back and it's set to air in January. Personally, I can't wait.

+ Have you heard about the rash of "put"-pocketing in London? A broadband provider called TalkTalk has hired former pick-pockets to surreptitiously put money into people's wallets -- anywhere from five to 20 pound notes. The goal is to give away 100,000 pounds, starting in London and then branching out into other parts of the country.

+ And finally, would you like a chance to win a PS3 Slim? Well, today's your chance. EA and the Destructoid web site are giving one away to promote the October release of the Brutal Legend game, which features the voices of Jack Black and Ozzy Osbourne, among others, and revolves around a roadie who gets transported to a fantasy metal world where he uses his guitar to battle bad guys. To enter, just go to Twitter, follow @dinomas and use the #brutal legend hashtag to take part in the online festivities.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: "Avatar" trailer, "Yellow Submarine," "District 9" and Rick Springfield's impending defeat at the hands of Nathan Fillion

+ The Internet has gone crazy in the last hour or so over the release of James Cameron's "Avatar" trailer. In order to embed it here, I would have had to mess with a bit of code and that wouldn't be right with something that looks as beautiful as it does. So, because I love you, I'm suggesting you go here to see it or to the Apple site where you can see it in HD if you can load it, which I couldn't but you probably have better karma points than me, so I'm sure it'll be fine. Either way, though, you've got to see this thing because it's very, very pretty.

+ Let's file this under things that make me crazy, shall we? Director Robert Zemeckis (of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "Back to the Future" fame) will apparently be doing a 3-D remake of The Beatles' classic "Yellow Submarine." Why? Because people can't leave well enough alone! Seriously, the day they announce the "Gone with the Wind" remake starring Lindsey Lohan and Ryan Reynolds is the day I start mainlining Xanax directly into my bloodstream.

+ Io9 has their list of 5 Things You Didn't Know About "District 9" which is pretty interesting. Item #6, by the way? Instead of sunblock, all of the aliens were coated in a light butter sauce and equipped with a side of cheesy biscuits. True story.

+ I may be the only person in the world who likes this show, but I'm still happy to report that SyFy's "Warehouse 13" has been renewed for a second 13-episode season. And I don't only watch it because I think Eddie McClintock is funny in an endearingly juvenile way. There's usually some sort of plot, too...and gadgets...and somethin'....Okay, fine, I watch it because I find Eddie McClintock funny in an endearingly juvenile way.

+ Hey all you British people, don't forget there's a "Doctor Who" special on BBC 3 tonight at 8 p.m. Called "Doctor Who - Greatest Moments," it includes interviews with cast and crew and highlights, well, some of the Doctor's greatest moments. I hope they include David Tennant's season 2 hair as a greatest moment. I think I have it listed at #3 in my diary, right after the invention of oxygen and the cut of Han Solo's pants in "Star Wars."

+ Speaking of space cowboys in tight pants -- and let's face it, when aren't we? -- if you have a moment, why not vote for Nathan Fillion as Mr. Twitter over at the Twitter Wall site? Based on his frequent tweets on the subject, Mr. Fillion seems to have an irrational fear of losing to Rick Springfield. And as a fan of both sci-fi and Canadians, I don't think we can let that happen to the man.

+ And finally, the next time you're in Minneapolis, be sure to stop in and check out Donny Dirk's Zombie Den and then tell me all about it. Why? Because not only does this bar have alcohol, which is GREAT, they're also totally prepared for the zombie apocalypse and have armed themselves with a glass-encased chain saw. I'll give them an extra ten points if they carry Twiglets and once starred in "Spaced."

+ ETA: I almost forgot this item! The sci-fi universes are mingling again: "Star Trek: The Next Generation" alumnus Jonathan Frakes is directing an upcoming episode of "Dollhouse," according to the show's costumer. She has photographic proof! Thanks to Park Bench reader Adam for the tip!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Nerd Men of the Month: The MythBusters

For the geeks and nerds of the world, it's flat out impossible not to love "MythBusters." It's got everything: explosions, science experiments, on-screen math equations, explosions, lightning, hosts getting drunk for the sake of science and oh, did I mention, really cool explosions. But even more importantly, it's got five great personalities -- Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, Tory Belleci, Grant Imahara and Kari Byron (who, yes, is a girl but we're going to make her an honorary nerd man anyway) -- bringing all that cool science and know-how to life.

"MythBusters" is one of those shows that's just insanely addictive. I've lost countless weekend afternoons to one of the Discovery Channel's many "MythBusters" marathons. Why? Because some things are far more important than cleaning the yard or feeding your family, like finding out whether or not a vertical leap at the last second in a freefalling elevator will save your life or whether a V-shaped snowplow can really cut a car in two. That's honestly the kind of weird stuff I think about all day, and it is endlessly awesome to know that there are actual qualified people out there proving it right or wrong. Now if they could somehow do an experiment where they shoot a CEO and a mid-level manager out of a canon to see who'd travel farther, I'd appreciate it as I used to spend many a late-afternoon meeting pondering that question.

The science on this show is just as addictive as the cool things that go boom. It's fascinating to watch the trial and error that goes into each experiment as well as all the math, chemistry, biology and other sciences some of us wish we'd paid more attention to in school. This show is so good, in fact, it makes me wish I'd taken physics and that's not an easy thing for an English major to admit.

Beyond the basic premise and awesome execution, though, the thing that makes this show so much fun to watch are the MythBusters themselves. Hyneman and Savage are perfect foils for each other with Hyneman as the taciturn, methodic one (or "the James May" in "Top Gear" terms) and Savage as the exuberant, intuitive-leap guy. And then there's the trio of Belleci, Imahara and Byron who are just flat-out fun to watch. Seeing the three of them do wonderfully crazy things like waterskiing behind a cruise ship or dropping cars from an airplane is a vicarious thrill. Each and every cast member on this show makes learning look fun -- and let's face it, there's not nearly enough of that on TV these days.

So for being smart, entertaining and for showing that science in all its guises can be a blast -- sometimes quite literally -- The Park Bench is pleased to name the MythBusters team as its Nerd Men (and Woman) of the Month.

Wednesday Odds & Ends: James Marsters, Rifftrax, the other cats musical and gratuitious squirrel imagery

+ Don't you love it when great fandoms collide? Everyone's favorite ex-bleach blond vampire is coming to SyFy's "Caprica." Yes, James Marsters will be joining the BSG prequel for at least three episodes playing a terrorist named Barnabus Greeley. Now if only we could get John Barrowman on there, we'd have a nerd trifecta.

+ In other vampire casting news, there are nebulous rumors afloat that Robert Downey Jr. might play the vampire Lestat in a film based on an unspecified Anne Rice novel. I don't think we could get any more vague about this if we tried.

+ Don't forget -- tomorrow night Rifftrax will be going live in theaters nationwide with their mighty mockery of Ed Wood's classic "Plan 9 From Outerspace." Jonathan Coulton will be a special guest. You can purchase tickets here and read an interview with Rifftrax guys Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett here.

+ Did you know that there's a musical based on the "I Can Has Cheezburger" site? It's called, um, "I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicalLOL" and is being performed at various times through August 28 as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. I can't help but think this is kind of awesome. And it's been getting backhandedly good reviews!

+ Here's an artist who knows how to put his Legos to good use: cartoonist Mark Anderson is building spaceships in the shape of alphabet letters using Legos. Check out the letter B:

+ Interested in getting the background story on the now famous "squirrel in the vacation" photo image? Gizmodo has video of the couple's Today show interview. (The link is, of course, just an excuse to post the photo. Have I mentioned I love squirrels?)

+ And finally, if you're looking for some good online reading material, check out my friend Ian's new blog "TV Lowdown." He's got the scoop on a lot of great TV news and he's an all-around nice guy, so there's two reasons to stop by and visit.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra for Xbox

Like any woman, when I have a rough day, I like to sit down on the couch and blow things up. I find it much more relaxing than going out and buying shoes and it's far less destructive to my cardiovascular system than eating an entire box of Entenman's donuts, which is my other first-choice stress reducer. So after a lousy day yesterday, imagine my joy when the nice people at EA delivered a review copy of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" game to my door. I tore the cover off that thing like a teenage girl who's just gotten hold of the drawstring on Robert Pattinson's pants -- which is to say, quickly.

Now those of you who've been reading this blog for a while know that my gaming skills are just south of atrocious. I do most of my gaming by watching my husband and letting him work the controls while I sit there and look longingly at the scary monsters I wish I could demolish. Games like "Call of Duty" or "Bioshock" are just too complicated for me -- I get confused with the controls and usually end up getting gunned down before I can even figure out how to turn my character's head. It frustrates me to no end because I really, really like to button-mash and shoot things.

Which is kinda why I love the "G.I. Joe" game. I could actually play it! It's an old-school point-and-shoot without any big, flashy bells and whistles. I don't need to move three frickin' knobs and buttons just to get my guy to find his target. It totally reminds me of playing my old Nintendo "Empire Strikes Back" game -- it's easy, the goals are achieveable and I can actually do enough to get some sense of accomplishment. Obviously, it looks a lot better than an old-school Nintendo game because it's 2009 and all, but you get what I'm saying. I liked the fact, too, that the story was really straightforward -- go rescue people and oh, while you're at it, shoot this stuff -- and I didn't have to expend a lot of mental energy on doing what needed to be done to move things along.
Look at me, I'm blowing things up!

It's fun to play cooperatively as well. The husband and I had a blast running around 'splodin' things with our enormous G.I. Joe guns. Ooh, and I got to drive a truck and shoot missiles. Also, the game brings the funny, perhaps not intentionally but still. I'm pretty sure it's the real Dennis Quaid doing a little voice acting there, but his tone was hilariously reminiscent of someone sitting at his kitchen table, flipping through the Financial Times while absentmindedly shouting, "That's an order!" into the microphone beside his Chardonney. Also, making the characters do summersaults is never not funny. I know it makes me about four years old to admit this, but we couldn't stop laughing while chasing each other around in the snow, doing flips and pretending we were small Russian gymnists shootin' bad guys. Seriously, someone should make a TV show about crime fighting, summersaulting gymnists because we would totally watch it...and apparently buy the video game.

Also, I like the fact that this game isn't gory. There are games my husband plays where I actually have to cover my eyes and wait until the entrails have stopped ricocheting off the fourth-wall. Whatever violence is in "G.I. Joe" is cartoon violence, which I guess means that this game is perfect for kids and squeemish 30-something women named Liz.

A lot of people may not like this game for the very reasons that I enjoyed it. They might say it's too easy, the story's too simple, it lacks challenge, but I don't think every game has to be flashy and fancy and groundbreaking to be worthwhile. Sometimes, old-school fun is the best kind of fun because, admit it, there's nothing better than being able to drink a glass of wine (or five) and still be able to push a bunch of buttons and watch things go ka-boom. After a very long, lousy day, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" was a hell of a lot of fun.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: avatar dating, two-wheelin' werewolves, UFOs and "Warehouse 13"

+ Have I mentioned lately how much I love all things to do with "The Guild?" Well, I do and their new "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" video is no exception. Check it out below and then, if you'd like to support future seasons of the show, go purchase and download the video and song from iTunes or other fine online retailers.

+ And in case your day has been lacking in shirtless guys who turn into werewolves, here's a new trailer from "New Moon." It offers a shocking lack of Robert Pattinson but did I mention there were werewolves? Oh and lots of dirt bikes. It's a thing...

+ Check out the great packaging for the "Lost" season 5 DVD collection, which is due out on December 8. I love how the DVDs come in the old-school floppy disk envelopes and the Geronimo Jackson CD is shaped like an old single, like the kind you used to get in magazines. Not that I'm old enough to remember any of this AT ALL.

+ This guy from Cinema Blend has some interesting suggestions on what the inevitable "District 9" sequel should do and not do. Spoilers ahoy if you haven't seen the movie yet.

+ One of my favorite actors, Roger Rees aka Lord John Marbury from "The West Wing" will be guest starring on "Warehouse 13" for three episodes starting tonight. He plays an old friend of Artie. Does anyone else remember Rees as the title character in "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" stage play, which I believe ran something like 8 or 9 hours long? I remember seeing that on PBS as a child and being completely dazzled.

+ The British government has released detailed documentation tracking reports of UFO sightings in the UK. Oddly enough, sightings peaked during the heydays of "The X-Files," "Independence Day" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Go here if you'd like to dig through the files yourselves, Agents Mulder and Scully.

District 9: A terrific movie...that made me really hungry for shellfish

"District 9" isn't one of those movies where you jump out of your seat cheering at the end, sated and content after a rousing, slam-bang cinematic climax. Instead, it's one of those movies where you sit there quietly with the realization that you've just seen a very, very good film that you probably won't want to see again. And I don't necessarily mean that as a bad thing.

First, a quick recap of "District 9"'s basic plot in case you haven't heard about it yet. Shot in a documentary style, the film looks at what happens when an alien spaceship breaks down in the skies over Johannesburg, South Africa and a million lobster-like aliens (derisively called "prawns" by the humans) end up displaced and under guard for two decades in a detention area known as District 9. When the government decides to move them to a new location outside the city, it's up to a paper-pusher named Wikus to facilitate the process. And that's when things start to get all Kafka on him.

First off, let me just say thank you to producer Peter Jackson and director/writer Neill Blomkamp for having the guts to make an absolutely original film. It's not a sequel. It's not based on a comic book. It didn't start off as a 1970s TV show. It's an original idea executed beautifully. For that reason alone, "District 9" is a welcome breath of fresh air. And yes, I just used a cliche to applaud originality.

The movie is fast-paced and gory and relentlessly grim, but also surprisingly funny and heartfelt. At its core, "District 9" a buddy picture but it's also about family, relationships, greed, violence and mankind's horrifying ability to dehumanize living creatures -- including other humans -- whenever it's convenient. It's a testament to the talents of Blomkamp that he's able to balance out so many themes and ideas without getting heavy-handed about any of them. If anything, he seemed to go a bit too easy on some themes, like apartheid, which serves as an allegorical backdrop to the story without much reflection.

The bulk of the acting duties in "District 9" are carried by one man, newcomer Sharlto Copley who plays Wikus. The audience's first glimpse of Wikus is as a buttoned-up, tense man ready to take on a huge new responsibility. You can tell that Wikus is a company man, who follows the law and believes himself to be just a good guy who loves his wife. But once he gets to District 9, we realize he's also a jerk, a man who looks down on the aliens as lower life forms and disregards their sentience and pain as much as the next guy. But then karma bites him bad and that's when Wikus begins his transformation and Copley's talents kick into high gear. It's painful watching what Wikus goes through and Coply does an incredible job balancing that pain with Wikus' fear, cowardice and yes, stupidity. It's a terrific, three-dimensional portrayal of someone thrust into an unimaginable position.

And did I mention there's explosions? This movie packs a ton of action into its under-two-hour running time. It's not a movie for the faint of heart -- there's a hell of a lot of gore, both alien and human. But it's not Bruckheimer-style crash and burn action, which is to say, it's not just there to shake the fanboys out of their seats. It all serves the story and that in itself is refreshing.

Which takes me back to my original point -- "District 9" is an outstanding movie but it's also a tough movie to watch. I can honestly say I have no desire to see it again, but at the same time, I'm very glad I saw it the first time. It's an exciting, riveting, aggressive, hard film and that's an incredible achievement in these times of cookie-cutter cinema. "District 9" is well worth the price of admission. Don't miss it.

Just trust me, you're going to want to eat lobster afterward...and you're going to feel guilty about it.

Now tell me what you thought of the film....

Monday Odds & Ends: Spider-Man, Doctor Who cakes, Caprica and neglected words

+ First up, we got yer "Spider-Man" news: the Spider-Man musical that was supposed to debut in February 2010 may possibly be in trouble due to cash flow problems. The production's score is written by U2's Bono and The Edge, who you'd think could pony up some cash but whatever. And speaking of "Spider-Man" and writing, not only is "Spider-Man 4" set to begin production next year, but Columbia Pictures has also announced a writer for "Spider-Man 5 & 6." That's a lot of "Spider-Man." I'm just sayin'...

+ In news completely unrelated to guys who shoot webs out of their hands and swing from building to building, comedian Patton Oswalt has joined the cast of "Caprica" in a recurring role as a popular Caprican talk show host. I know, right? It helps to take a few seconds to let it sink in. It also helps to curl into a fetal position and rock back and forth while whispering, "I trust Jane Espenson. I trust Jane Espenson."

+ Just in time for lunch, check out these "Doctor Who" cakes. They are deliciously awesome, and I want them all!

+ And if you'd like to goof off for a few minutes at lunch today, then check out this great website called "Save the Words." Run by the Oxford University Press, it asks people to adopt rarely used words in order to keep them in our vocabularies. It's a funny site and there are some great, obscure words there. Enjoy! (And thanks to Park Bench reader Minerva for the link.)

+ What else has the tanked economy killed besides my dream of owning a team of superhero goats who fight crime? Apparently, it's killed chick-lit, too. I know it's selfish, but I'm still more upset about the goats.

+ NBC will be adapting the comic book series, "Midnight, Mass" as a TV show. The story revolves around a "a sophisticated, sexy, globe-trotting husband-and-wife team who solve mysteries and crimes of the supernatural." You know what would help them solve those mysteries? Goats.

+ And finally, looking for a little "Stargate" music to brighten your day? What if that music was played by the Mountain View High School Spartan Marching Band performing at the Lodi Grape Bowl Classic? Exactly -- ten different kinds of awesome. Thanks to Park Bench reader and Mountain View alumna Kiri for sharing this!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: new "Battlestar," "Avatar," AMC meets zombies and 3-D Hamlet

+ Rumors are flying fast and furious (that was a shout-out for all you Vin Diesel fans!) this morning about Bryan Singer developing a feature film version of "Battlestar Galactica" for Universal, based not on the Ron Moore-David Eick series but on Singer's own re-envisioning of the series, which got shelved in 2001. What do you think about this idea?

+ This Monday, free tickets will be distributed for a special 16-minute preview of James Cameron's upcoming 3-D flick, "Avatar." Word on the street is that this will be much of the same footage that was screened at Comic-Con but with some new bits added and also with the added benefit of not being shot with someone's iPhone from 1,000 yards away and then posted on YouTube. To vie for tickets, go to the Avatar website at

+ From the network that brought you "Mad Men" comes...zombies! Yeppers, AMC has bought the rights to turn Robert Kirkman's comic book series, "The Walking Dead" into a TV series produced, written and directed by Frank Darabont, who gave us "The Green Mile" and "The Shawshank Redemption." (Sadly, he also gave us "Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors". Oops.) Given that its AMC and Darabont, this is something I'm looking forward to.

+ Check out this great article by a physicist looking at time travel and how it stacks up in films and television. Specifically, he gives "The Time Traveler's Wife" pretty good marks on realism. It's a fascinating read...although I'm saddened to discover that the whole "infinite number of alternate universes" thing may be a big fake out. I've always enjoyed imagining an alternate universe where I'm a gazillionaire and my pool boys all look like Daniel Craig. Thanks for ruining my day, science!

+ Want to look at pictures of pretty people? Sure you do! Entertainment Weekly gives us their gallery of "12 High IQ TV/Movie Hunks" -- some of the captions are kind of insulting, like "this guy's way too handsome to play a smart dude" but really, who's looking at the captions when there's pictures of Jeremy Davies to be had? There's a gallery of smart chickie characters as well. You know what's nice about swimming in the shallow end of the pop culture pool? You totally don't need water wings.

+ And finally, I file this one under the "we made him, we can do whatever we want with him" section of British hilarity. A UK-based theater company called Shakespeare 4 Kidz -- which is wrong on so many levels right there -- is planning to do six 3-D musical versions of Shakespeare plays, starting with "Hamlet," as well as a televised "American Idol"-style show to choose the leads for "Romeo and Juliet." (As someone who watched every episode of "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria" on BBC America last month, I will quietly refrain from comment on that.) What I don't understand does a theater company produce a 3-D play? I mean, aren't live human beings generally considered 3-D? Will they be launching Yorick's skull into the audience for maximum effect or what? If so, AWESOME!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: sea lions, indoor whale watching, messed up planets and "Stargate"

+ First off, because today is one of those days where my head may 'splode from migraine, I offer you this adorable video of a baby sea lion learning how to swim. Because nothing heals like a clumsy sea mammal! (Via @lynncorrine's tweet)

+ Check out this series of gorgeous concept drawings for the International Ideas Competition for the Bering Strait Project, which asked architects to submit ideas for structures that would connect Alaska and Russia through the Bering Strait. One firm showcased underwater living areas which would protect wildlife while offering stunning views of whales and other sea creatures. In the immortal words of Liz Lemon, "I want to go to there!"

+ And while we're on the topic of science-y stuff, did you hear about the newly discovered planet that orbits its sun backwards? Rumor has it the other planets in its system also do the hokey-pokey and turn themselves about. (Headache humor...sorry!)

+ Speaking of utter weirdness, Nintendo may one day release a Horseback Riding Saddle for the Wii that would simulate the experience of riding that pony I've always wanted. I wonder what happens if you put it on an actual horse -- would the virtual and real world experiences cancel each other out? Is this how black holes are formed?

+ Apparently, there may be new "Stargate SG-1" and "Stargate Atlantis" direct-to-DVD films in the works. Scripts have been written, says the producer, but they're waiting for a greenlight to begin production.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Yoshi, you magnificent bastard!

Last night, I realized a potentially unsettling truth about myself, something that perhaps a woman of my age and relative maturity should not admit in mixed company but here it is: I love Yoshi. Yes, I'm referring to the bouncy green dinosaur with the weird little shoes who lets a small Italian man subjugate him and occasionally force him to leap off of tall objects due to said little man's ineptitude and general malfeasance. Decades after our Nintendo-based affair should have ended, I still heart Yoshi. If I had a locker, his photo would be in it and if I still had that Trapper Keeper, one might just find the words "Mrs. Liz Yoshi" etched into its cover. And I'm not ashamed! (Okay, I'm definitely ashamed, but we're all friends here, right?)

In my defense, though, just look at the little guy. Those big innocent eyes, those chipmunk cheeks, the rakish way he wears the ridges on his back, the way his tiny T.rex arms just kind of hang there for no reason, like his hands are wet and he doesn't have a towel. I ask you, what's not to love?

It was this past weekend when my husband fixed our Wii that I finally realized my passion for the Yosh still burned hot. We sat down to play Mario Party -- yes, we're adults and we enjoy our pursuit of coins and shiny stars -- and as always, I selected Yoshi as my character. Suddenly, I was transported back in time (not literally -- Wiis are impressive, but not that impressive) to my youth when I spent hours and hours playing Super Mario and watching Yoshi work his little dinosaur ass off to save that ungrateful plumber level after level after level. There was Yoshi, eating apples with that unsettlingly long tongue of his, smooshing shells with his big clod-hopper feet and gulping down bees WITH NO THOUGHT FOR HIS OWN SAFETY! This was a fictional video game character worth loving -- he was like a little prince, trapped in a really, really weird costume. With clown shoes on.

The thing I love most about Yoshi is his enthusiasm. Grab a star for him in Mario Party and he is -- quite literally -- climbing through the air and doing backflips, making those pre-pubescent girls on the U.S. Olympic team weep with jealous rage. Yoshi defies gravity and he defies us not to adore him.

I fear I may love Yoshi too much, though, because I find myself unwilling to put him in risky situations. Which really kind of throws a wrench in the whole "playing a children's games" thing. Is it safe for him to drive the little scooter when he obviously has no hands to grip the steering wheel? I don't know. Is it safe for him to stand face to face with Donkey Kong when Mr. Kong so obviously has serious rage issues? I don't know. Can Yoshi really trust Waluigi when they have to team up to avoid a lava flow? I don't know, but it worries me. Actually, what worries me more is that I'm worried about it in the first place but that's really between me and my pharmacist.

Worst of all, I feel like I let Yoshi down everytime I lose with him. I get my ass kicked nine games out of ten with Mario Party (did I mention it's a kids game?) and everytime, Yoshi just sits down on the ground and looks distraught. He even cries big cartoon tears! Sure, sometimes I want to tell him to man up and grow a pair -- of what, I don't know. Hands maybe? -- and not be such a sore loser but then I just look at those little cheeks and kick myself for not coming through on the poor creature's behalf. In fact, I think that motivates me even more. I know for certain that victory is all the better when our team of human and dinosaur wins out. Certainly that accounted for the bizarre victory dance I did around the living room last night, waving my Wiimote around and yelling, "Who's the best little green dinosaur in the world? You are, you are!" while pointing at the TV. You had to be there -- it was weird. My cat had to phone her therapist.

But enough about me. Are there any video game characters you adore? (Let me hear it for the chocobos!)

Tuesday Odds & Ends: G.I. Joe, Flash Forward, historical inaccuracies, space taxis and Mythbusters

+ Say you don't want to go see "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" but you DO want to see Alan Tudyk wearing a false beard and crying over "The Wonder Years." Then check out this ode to G.I. Joe called, oddly enough, "The Ballad of G.I. Joe" about what all your favorite Joe characters do on their off time. Hee.

+ As someone who's still fuming about the gigantor sabre tooth tigers in "10,000 B.C.," I enjoyed this list of the 10 most historically inaccurate movies. Read a book, Roland Emmerich! (I only criticize out of love -- Roland has made some of my favorite cheesy movies of all time, bless his little heart.)

+ Want to learn more about ABC's new fall series, "Flash Forward," where every person in the world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds (isn't that how we choose our "Idol" winners?) and has a singular vision of the future? Sure you do! Check out this interview with "Flash Forward"'s producer David Goyer.

+ Here's something I didn't know -- seven of the nine writers behind "Mad Men" are women, including "Buffy" alumna Marti Noxon. The Wall Street Journal has a great article on how they put their pen to 1060s chauvenism and general ass-hattery.

+ Have you been secretly developing a commercial passenger transportation service to space and wondering what to do with it? Well, NASA would like to hear from you. I suggest charging for every quarter mile but that's just me.

+ "Family Guy" has more "Star Wars" spoofs planned, says Seth McFarlane, adding, perhaps menacingly depending on your feelings about Freudianism, "Certainly the big worm coming out of the asteroid (in 'Empire Strikes Back') is a big comedy moment for us." Oh dear.

+ And finally, run, don't walk to your local newstand where this month's issue of Popular Mechanics features "Mythbusters" on the cover and includes their guide to gonzo engineering.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Monday Odds & Ends: Where the Wild Things Are, Halo, Olmos, embroidery and polymaths

+ What better way to start the week than with a new "Where the Wild Things Are" preview? I'll admit, I was tepid on this film when I first heard about it, but everything I've seen so far makes it look...well...enchanting and that's not a word I use everyday:

+ Speaking of enchanting (there, I've gone and used the word again), check out this great sampling of Whedon-inspired stitchery -- is that a word? My favorite is the "It's curtains for you, Dr. Horrible" piece...with the little curtains attached.

+ In movie news, it looks like Steven Spielberg may be taking over the "Halo" movie and everyone's favorite crazy space admiral, Edward James Olmos, will be joining the cast of "The Green Hornet." Oh, and sadly, McG is going to make a "Terminator 5." I would be more likely to see it if he was going to make a "Terminator 9 to 5 The Musical" but that's probably not in the cards.

+ Looking for a few summer book recommendations? May I suggest reading Felicia Day's hilarious recaps of what she's been reading these last few weeks? They include romance and zombies and hot bisexual druids. No, really.

+ Want to see a preview for Matt Smith (aka "Doctor Who" Eleven)'s new flick? It's about a woman who clones her dead boyfriend...and then has to wait for him to grow up. Awkward!

+ Here's a rather touching account of one woman's pen pal friendship with director John Hughes, who sounds like he was a very kind, patient and gracious man.

+ And finally, new research shows that kids who develop imaginary playworlds when they're young are more likely to display broad creativity when they get older. Congratulations, WoW creators, odds are, you're polymaths!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: sci-fi authors, Dune, Robot Chicken and sexy statisticians

+ Good God, I leave the internet for a few hours this morning and then all of a sudden, Twitter goes boom! I hear it's up and running again, although I still can't load it. I feel oddly bereft without my celebrity bon mots today. (I just started following Justin Timberlake yesterday. That's like getting a fabulous new car that sings like sweet angels and looks good in jaunty hats and then not being able to drive it. Or something.)

+ I love "writers at work" stories. Here's a nifty photo essay on sci-fi authors and where they write. It makes me feel good to know that successful people are messy and likely don't know where their staplers are either.

+ Speaking of sci-fi author's Frank Herbert's work is getting name-checked on the Saturn moon of Titan. An icy, sandy plain is being named after a planet in "Dune." Rumor has it that the next plain they find in a horrible costume and bright orange hair that overacts terribly yet can write some pretty good reggae-inspired pop tunes will be named after Sting's performance in "Dune" the movie.

+ If you live on the East Coast, there's still a few days left to catch the Adult Swim "Robot Chicken on Wheels" tour which involves Seth Green motoring around the country and stopping to roller skate with people. Actually, there's probably a lot more to it than that...but let's face it, roller skating with Seth Green would be reason enough to see it anyway, right?

+ Woo hoo, people who like the maths! You guys got a big high-five from The New York Times yesterday with their article on how statistics is the new hot field. A Google exec is even quoted as saying, "the sexy job of the next ten years will be statisticians." Yeah, take that, supermodels -- statisticians even get to eat bread sometimes.

+ PBS' "Great Performances" will air David Tennant's "Hamlet" in 2010. In related news, you can't actually die from licking the television, right?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: Star Wars comedians, P.T. Barnum and the endless shelf-life of Smallville

+ Sorry for the late post, but I've been trying to recover after the soul-crushing announcement that Paula Abdul is leaving "Idol." This is almost as devastating as finding out that those two people with the half-dozen kids on that show I don't watch broke up.

+ Honestly, I think I've had this particular anxiety dream -- a comedian bombs at Jabba the Hut's place. I kind of love it:

+ Here's a fascinating story about how Netflix ships its movies. I'd always just assumed it was done through magic but the reality's just as cool.

+ The CW is now saying that "Smallville" and "Supernatural" may live on past this coming season. I recall reading a story on how the makers of "Supernatural" didn't want it to go on past a certain point so I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. As for "Smallville," holy cow, how long can that thing last? It's like a lingering cough that's lasted 20 years.

+ It's being reported that Hugh Jackman will star in an original movie musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. I am excited about this one, because someone is apparently making an original movie and two, I love the circus!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Alien prequel, geek week and "Lost" university

+ There's good news and bad news for the upcoming "Alien" prequel. It'll be directed by Ridley Scott so it has a good chance of at least looking pretty but it won't feature Sigourney Weaver, which is completely not shocking in any way. Also, Steven Spielberg has announced he will remake this prequel in 25 years' time just for the hell of it.

+ Did you know that it's Global Geek Week? Well, it is and there's a contest and everything.

+ Have you heard about "Lost" University? It's being described as a "captivating immersive bonus experience" included in the Blu-Ray release of "Lost" season 5. You'll be able to join "Lost" cast members, producers and "a panel of esteemed experts" as they delve into different facets of the show. Beginning Sept. 22, viewers can register at

+ And finally, am I crazy or is there a bit of a resemblance between young David Tennant...

...and Hermey the elf?

A little peroxide, a pointy hat, a felt-covered reindeer by his's quite close.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Does this Tweet make me look fat? Social media and insecurity

I've come to the conclusion -- based on 20 minutes of intense navel gazing and some market research that involved eating a cupcake and almost asking someone a question -- that social media has a great capacity to make insecure people feel even more insecure.

Now, I don't know about you but there are a lot of things that make me insecure. Being alive, for example. Wet sneezes when being introduced to royalty, for another. And on the surface, social media such as Facebook and Twitter should help alleviate those insecurities for the very simple fact that I can interact with people without actually having to see them or be in their presence. Also, I have the ability to review and revise every word I type, unlike the whole talking thing where every goddamn word I speak just shoots out of my mouth like a giant, ill-advised Pez.

The downside to social media is that it actually quantifies your popularity. When I was in middle school, quantifying my popularity just meant being told by prepubescent mean girls which of their friends hated me that week. Sure, there were usually charts involved and a monthly slide presentation, but more often than not, I could just let the derision go, like water off a duck's back. Sometimes I strapped an actual duck to my back to facilitate the process. (Not true, PETA. Don't sue me.)

But nowadays, every time I log onto Facebook, I can see how many friends I have. And for the most part, I'm happy because it's a nice healthy number and it likely means I won't have to hire professional mourners when I pass on -- an important savings in today's troubled economy. On the downside, I can see when I lose a friend and IT DRIVES ME CRAZY. It happened last month and I spent three hours sitting on the couch wondering if I should turn my obsessive-compulsive disorder to "ON" and comb through my friends list to determine who the missing traitor friend was. And after solving that question, I spent another few hours wondering what I could have done to drive this person away. Were they jealous of my FARKLE score? Did I denigrate their farm? Did I not reciprocate a super poke? And it's not even that I'm that upset on a personal level -- obviously, if I don't know who's missing, we weren't braiding each other's hair and trading Keith Olbermann fan fiction links every day -- I just can't stand not knowing.

Twitter can be even worse because of the dreaded spambots. Was I devastated to learn that Foxxy6969 was not really my friend but only there for cheap and tawdry marketing purposes? Yes, I was. I'd never had a friend with two x's in their name before and I was looking forward to some in-depth 140 character discussions of tyopography. But no, she was not even a real person!

One particularly terrible afternoon, I lost 20 Twitter followers...and ended up sifting through all of my tweets trying to figure out which of them could have triggered the mass exodus. That was no help at all -- they ALL could have driven people away. (My pledge to you: no more drunk Twittering. It's my new standard of excellence.) There's simply no way of knowing why a Twitter follower comes or goes. The only rational way of coping with the loss is to turn to the tried-and-true philophy of WWSD: What Would Sockington Do? How does the most popular cat on Twitter handle rejection? He probably just vomits spitefully and goes to sleep in the sun, right? And if it's good enough for him...

So what about you? Does social media stoke your insecurities...or is it, um, just me?

Monday Odds & Ends: Barrowman, Hogan, Mozart, Spielberg and Tom Arnold

+ Well, here's an interesting rumor: John Barrowman will be joining ABC's "Desperate Housewives" when it returns this fall. No details on how, when, where or why but I've decided their casting director has great taste: first Nathan Fillion and now this.

+ And in other casting news, Joss Whedon's efforts to reunite the entire cast of "Battlestar Galactica" on "Dollhouse" seem to be going smoothly. In addition to Tahmoh Penikott and the recent announcement of a Jamie Bamber guest spot, we'll now be getting Saul Tigh himself -- Michael Hogan -- in the second episode of the new "Dollhouse" season. I'm going to have to start watching again.

+ If you're like me and still weeping bitter tears at missing the Doctor Who Comic-Con panel, you can see it all here at the David Tennant site. I love the fact that producer Julie Gardner has to shoot her own DVD extra footage.

+ We were talking about these great pieces on Twitter earlier but in case you didn't see it, here's a list of the 10 Geekiest Pieces of Furniture. I desperately want this Han Solo in carbonite desk.

+ Putting on our high-brow hats for a moment, two recently unearthed Mozart piano pieces debuted this past weekend. The pieces, which were likely created by Mozart when he was 7 or 8 and then transcribed by his father, were played on Mozart's own fortepiano before an audience of reporters and groupies.

+ Are you a fan of short story god Raymond Carver? Then you might want to stay away from this article in the Times Literary Supplement which discusses the evolution of Carver's stories and suggests (convincingly) that editor Gordon Lish was responsible for much of the minimalist magic in Carver's works. It's a fascinating article but it's a little like finding out Santa didn't invent the whole sled and reindeer thing. I hate literary scholarship.

+ And plummeting to the other end of the cultural scale, Tom Arnold (yes, that Tom Arnold) claims that he and director James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger will be reuniting for another movie when Arnold's term as governor ends. There's speculation is might be a sequel to the 90's blockbuster "True Lies," which is a movie I hate with the passion of a thousand furious suns. But that's just me.

+ In other sad and curious news, Steven Spielberg is going to be doing a remake of the 1950 Jimmy Stewart classic, "Harvey." I'm a little concerned to see what role CGI plays in a movie about an invisible six-foot-tall rabbit.