Monday, March 31, 2008

Let's Go Tigers!

Today, I'm doffing my girl nerd cap, putting on my Detroit Tigers cap and getting ready to root, root, root for my home team. Baseball is the only sport I truly care about, and this year, my Tigers are looking better than ever...and I am giddy as a school girl who just got a pony. A pony with rockets on it! This year is a bit more special than most, too, because it's my first foray into fantasy baseball. So now my tendency toward stat whore-dom will finally pay off -- I hope.

So, here's hoping your teams do great this year -- as long as they don't interfere with my Tigers' World Series, of course. Just kidding. Now go home, pop open those Cracker Jacks and enjoy!

News of the Day -- Monday, March 31

+ Not to be outdone by the Kitties-For-Hire from Friday, The New York Times reports that New Yorkers are now renting dogs. These rent-a-pet things are great and all, but I'll give 50 bucks to the first company that can rent me a life, a successful career and a ten pound weight loss with a boast of self-confidence thrown in as an introductory gift. Anybody?

+ The New York Times also had a great essay yesterday on how books affect our dating lives. Can't bear to be with a man who's down on Jane Austen or has never heard of Jules Verne? We are not alone, my friends.

+ And finally, Popular Mechanics has this fascinating look at the 10 Most Prophetic Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made. Basically, it's all the movies where future predictions came true. I panicked when I saw "Soylent Green" on the list but thankfully, it wasn't on there for the whole cannibalism thing. Phew. I'm already reluctant to eat McNuggets. I couldn't bear to worry about that stuff.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Tabbies for hire

An important news flash for kitty-philes everywhere. From Park Bench contributor Meghann Williams:

I'’m generally known as none-too-fond of animals or nature. I quite like fish as pets, until their tanks get stinky. My parents have some cats and 2 out of 3 of them are nice - I just hate the smell of cat food and litter boxes. My boyfriend’'s brother has a fantastic dog named Charlie (for Stephen Colbert'’s fictional TV wife Charlene --nerd points!) and I love to visit with her. Overall, I like pets that are not mine, whom I do not have to clean up after nor ever have to feed medicine. There is literally nothing worse that trying to get a cat to swallow a pill.

But underneath my gruff exterior, I truly love to cuddle with doggies and kitties. (Fish, in this instance, won’'t work out too well.) Much like Elmyra, I get within 20 feet of a kitten or puppy, and I just want to hug them and kiss them and love them forever. But then reason kicks in and I envision myself ten years down the line with a surly cat running my house, always explaining to friends why I have to leave the bar early to go walk the dog before he pees on the floor. I just want to pet some cute kitties without having to clean up their poop or feed them gross wet food. Won'’t someone hear my plea?

Of course Japan will hear my plea! You know, Japan: makers of the Capsule Hotel. Japan, being a brilliant country, has introduced cat cafes. For just $8 an hour, you can play with cats that aren't your own! Places like Calico, the original cat café, sell cushions with cute cat designs on them, cat stickers, jewelry (no doubt with cats on them), and food and drink. You can hang out on the floor and play with the cats, or attempt my all time favorite thing -- sit quietly with a cup of tea and a kitty on your lap. Seriously, click the link above. You will be hit with an onslaught of cute, as well as an overwhelming jealousy of the people of Tokyo.

Unless you hate cats. In that case, consider Calico and its ilk your nemesis.

News of the Day -- Friday, March 28

+ Tahmoh Penikott, also known as Helo "I have pec-tastic abs" Agathon on "Battlestar Galactica," has been cast in Joss Whedon's new series, "Dollhouse." The nerd worlds have indeed collided, as this item's contributor Scrap Irony wrote in her e-mail. It's like the sci-fi equivalent of putting peanut butter with chocolate -- two great tastes that taste great together! Also, there are abs and pecs!

+ Looks like Thomas Edison was quite the little pokey pony with this whole "inventing" thing. A newly unearthed document purports to be the first-ever recording of a human voice, made in 1860, a full 17 years before Mr. Smarty Pants supposedly invented the phonograph. How can a document be a recording? Apparently, they used science or something to translate squiggly lines into sound. Or magic. One of those two.

+ In sad news, Herb Peterson has died. Who was Herb Peterson, you ask? Only the inventor of the Egg McMuffin, the single most delicious food item ever created until its greatness was usurped by the McGriddle WHICH COMPLETELY BLOWS MY MIND with its blood sugar-raising, coma-inducing awesomeness. Somewhere, God is thanking Mr. Peterson for making obesity just a little bit more delicious.

+ And finally, yesterday I promised a link to the first official X-Files 2 preview. Well, this was the best I could find. Hey, at least with this version you can pretend like you're actually in the auditorium with Chris Carter. He's probably stealing your popcorn, though, just FYI...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Regret, thy name is Menudo

Like soulless Wall Street brokers, despotic politicians or Brett Michael’s bandana, fandoms can seduce you with good looks, fast times and the promise of a retirement funded purely through action figures. Sometimes, though, as good as those looks are and as fun as those fast times can be, we end up regretting our fandoms, wondering what could have driven us to pay 30 bucks for a signed “Charmed” script off eBay or stand in line for hours at a convention just to shake the moist hand of Gil “Buck Rogers” Gerard. At the time, though, those actions don’t seem crazy. It’s only in retrospect that we perhaps come to regret what we’ve done and vow never to speak of it again.

Unless of course you’ve got a nerdy blog.

I’ve made some poor choices in my lifetime. I wish I could chalk them all up to youthful indiscretions, but that would be disingenuous. Plus, I don’t think when I was watching “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” as a junior in college I could still be counted as “youthful.” If only...

Yes, poke around in the dark recesses of my fangirl past and you’ll find several Menudo cassette tapes -- in both Spanish and English. I was in middle school and, quite possibly, the only suburban white girl in metro Detroit with a passion for the world’s first boy band. (Slightly cross-eyed Roy was my favorite. Dumb as a post but he looked good in glitter.) Although I was alone in my fan-ness, the upside was that I could stock up on Menudo action figures at a shockingly discounted 90 percent off at the local Meijers. The dollar ninety-seven investment hardly seemed worth it, though, when I realized their pants were glued on. I was kind of a weird kid.

Go back even further and we can mock me for a serious love of “Buck Rogers,” although even as a nine-year-old I sensed that a man with thinning hair and a poor relationship with spandex unitards was perhaps not “all that,” as the kids of the future would say. I believe my passion for “Buck Rogers” simply filled the void created by “Star Wars.” Movies only came out every three or four years. “Buck Rogers” came on every week and there were talking robots and space ships...and um, shoddy graphics and...a bird man...never mind.

Then there was The Monkees. I wasn’t around for the original incarnation, but boy, did I get Monkee fever when they made a comeback in the late 80s. Looking back, I try to justify my fervor as a simple appreciation of The Monkees' special brand of cultural satire, but really, I think I just liked Peter Tork. I blew hundreds of bucks of allowance money on concert tickets, magazines (including an issue of “16” that had the best line ever from a washed-up musician, courtesy of Mr. Tork, who said, “I used to be a heroin addict but now I’m just an alcoholic”) and pins. I probably could have bought myself a car or, you know, popularity but I squandered it on ill-conceived memorabilia. I was blinded by the fandom. Naughty fandom!

Which is my long way of saying, do you have any fandom demons in your closet? Things you regret, be it ownership of the entire boxed set of “Xena” or a childhood spent in “Spiderman” underoos? Think of this as Fan AA. We’re all friends here...

News of the Day -- Thursday, March 27

+ A panel discussion on The X-Files took place yesterday at the Paley Fest. SciFi Wire has a recap. There's the promise of even more details at the Futon Critic's recap as well. Best of all, the first full-length preview for the new film was shown! I'm trying to find a good quality version of it and will post it up later today. Can I get a "woo" and "hoo" from the audience, please?

+ An interesting article on the shocking notion that male nerds can be in shape and hot. Still no word from the press on whether us nerdy ladies are towing the aesthetic line. Weenies.

+ Mark your calendars! This Thursday, April 3 is National Cheese Weasel Day! I don't even really care what the holiday is about. With that name alone, it has vaulted to the top of my "best holiday ever" list. Take that, Santa -- and, p.s., thanks a lot for never bringing me that Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

News of the Day -- Wednesday, March 26

+ If you love the Fish-Slapping Dance as much as I do -- and who doesn't? -- then check out this Monty Python quiz from Mental Floss. If it asks you your favorite color, just go with your first instinct. Trust me.

+ No Wednesday is complete without the quiet contemplation of evil robots. Luckily, we have a list of naughty robots right here.

+ The New York Times has an interesting report on rodents being taught to use rakes to grab food. I think it would be more productive to teach them to use rakes to do lawns, but whatever. I love this line in the story -- "This is first time rodents have been trained to wield tools...." Doesn't that sound like the prologue to an apocalypse in which the cute little critters learn to wield cheese-propelled chainsaws, eat through your slippers and wreak havoc on all of humanity? No? Okay, it's just me then.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A few thoughts on "I Am Legend"

While work continues to beat me about the head, the always fabulous Ms. C has stepped in to offer a few thoughts on "I Am Legend," recently released on DVD. Beware, it does contain spoilers for the uninitiated.

I recently watched "I Am Legend" and I have to say that the movie does an excellent job of entertaining. You got your action, your pathos, your scary monsters, and the wild improbability of someone in the future living completely unaware of Bob Marley. Now, THAT'S a sci-fi fantasy!

For those who haven’t seen it, "I Am Legend" stars Will Smith as the last man on Earth – or the last guy in Manhattan (same thing) -- walking tall and manly though a post-apocalyptic world that naturally appeals to those of us Cold War babies who were taught that we always need to be prepared, like Boy Scouts with canned goods. Post-apocalyptic movies are useful and important in that they teach us how we'd manage the end of the world as we know it. In this case, Will Smith survives it with fast cars, a well-stocked laboratory, videos of the “Today” show and a bad case of the lonelies with no one to talk to but a dog and Paris Hilton (I was just told that wasn't her; it was a store mannequin. Apologies.)

"I Am Legend," however, commits three sins in my book: (OH, SPOILER ALERT) it kills the hero, it offs the lovable mutt, and has crazed zombies or zombie-like creatures. The movie has a bittersweet ending with the death of Mr. Legend, and I was still crying over the dog till the end. Worse though – much worse – is that ever since I watched the movie, I've had nightmares of those violent monsters breaking into my house, vaulting upstairs, and attacking me. In my dreams, sometimes I have only my fists and wits to defend myself, other times I have Will Smith's serum to inject in them before they chew me to pieces, and other times it’s just me and a rolled-up “TV Guide.” Which sucks.

I am terrified of zombies. I know the fad of "loving zombies" is on its way out, and for that, I'm glad. Zombies are not a joke. Werewolves and vampires can be scary, but both seem to retain an aura of hirsute and fangy romanticism, no matter how violent or disgustingly portrayed. Not so with zombies. Even when they are accompanied by jokes and lightheartedness as in the incomparable "Shaun of the Dead," zombies remain frightening beyond the pale. At 3 a.m., when I'm jolted awake, I do not fear vampires or werewolves. I fear burglars. And thanks to "I Am Legend," I now fear zombie burglars.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


For those of you celebrating Easter today and getting buzzed on loads and loads of sugar, enjoy this Peeps Show photo gallery from "The Washington Post."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Gene Simmons' thighs should, perhaps, remain concealed

I was just flipping through VH1 and stumbled upon this 1998 KISS concert. I just don't know what to say except that maybe there are some things middle aged men shouldn't do. Like run sprints or date teenagers or cinch their tummies ineffectively with Spandex and, uh, be in KISS. Check out this excerpt for evidence...and keep watching until the 1 minute 19 second mark when Gene Simmons gives a saucy smile to the camera, the kind of smile that says, "Kid, I can't believe I'm still making money at this either." God bless 'em.

News of the Day -- Friday, March 21

+ Tons of reports coming in this morning on last night's Paley Fest panel discussion with the cast of "Buffy." This one from "The Futon Critic" seemed the most comprehensive. From everything I've read, I think someone may need to decaffeinate Nicholas Brendon. I'm just sayin'...

+ How's this for a Magic Kingdom of Comedy? Tina Fey has just been cast in Ricky Gervais' directorial debut "This Side of Truth." As if that weren't enough to make me wag my tail in glee, the film also stars Christopher Guest, Jeffrey Tambor AND John Hodgman. My insides have turned to bliss.

+ If you haven't seen it yet, check out this parody of "Juno" penned by "Daily Show" scribe Rob Kutner, starring J.K. Simmons and directed by my friend Stephen Levinson:

And if you're suddenly thinking to yourself, wow, Liz's friends do some fine comedy work, you should check out Cap'n Wacky's Boatload of Fun humor site, which updates every Friday, and The City Desk, an ingenious site chronicling a slightly messed-up fictional city. Think "Hudsucker Proxy" meets Garrison Keillor meets the deadest of deadpan.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

When good nerds go bad…and end up ruling deserted islands and pwning John Locke like a handpuppet

My name is Liz L. and I heart Benjamin Linus. I feel like I should be in a 12-step program when I admit that, but it’s true and the “Lost” fan in me can’t fight it any longer. The ferrety little man who is (apparently) the true puppetmaster of that “Lost” island has become an irresistible character on this creatively-rejuvenated show. Last week’s Ben-free episode reminded me of how much he adds to “Lost”’s humor, mystery and all-around squirreliness. Without Ben pulling the strings, the tension just doesn’t seem as taut.

Best of all, Ben has become a well-rounded character in the months since he first appeared, claiming to be Henry Gale, survivor of an ill-fated ballooning accident. We know he is a man who loves his “daughter,” whom he took from island woman Rousseau and whose boyfriend he keeps trying to kill. Oops. And we know he is afraid of only one thing: the ghostly Jacob. And we know he knows how to control people with indisputable ease, becoming the type of passive-aggressive titan to which I can only aspire.

Actor Michael Emerson deserves an Emmy for bringing Ben to life and giving him the nuances that make a character truly unforgettable. Like a hunted animal, his large eyes are constantly moving, taking in every detail of his surroundings. He sinks into himself, making his small frame seem even smaller. And yet when he smiles that menacing smile, you have no doubt that he is a powerful man in control.

But what I love best about Emerson’s performance is the sick humor he gives Ben. Two episodes ago, when the depth of Ben’s “affection” for fellow Other, Juliet, was finally revealed, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or be horrified. When she comes to his door for what she thinks is a dinner party only to find that it’s a date, he literally bounces up to her like a chipmunk claiming the biggest macadamia nut in the jar. Then later in the same episode, he takes Juliet to see the body of her former lover, a man whose death Ben contrived. Emerson evoked the perfect mixture of regret, shame and a ballsy “he had it coming, I hope you’ll love me anyway” arrogance.

Yeah, there’s definitely something wrong with me, but “Lost” just wouldn’t be “Lost” without Ben, a hero so rat-like he should be hatching evil plans from a Habitrail. Who wouldn’t want to see that?

News of the Day -- Thursday, March 20

+ Japan has appointed a new cartoon ambassador to share the awesomeness of anime with the world. (No, really, that's his job.) I don't know how long he'll hold the position though. Check out the photo -- he can't keep his paws off that guy's naughty region. The countdown to a shameful resignation has begun...

+ The green light has been given for the long-anticipated "Battlestar Galactica" prequel series, "Caprica," which will replace BSG when the series ends its fourth and last season. (Thanks to Scrap Irony for the tip.) And don't forget to check out the BSG cast reading -- in costume and everything -- the Top Ten list on Letterman last night.

+ The Idaho school system has launched a new program adding chess to the curriculum for elementary school students throughout the state. Administrators and faculty feel that the game helps young people with problem solving and socialization -- until the one stereotypical angry prodigy gets enraged, flips the table and impales a guy with his knight. Actually, that would probably make it even more popular....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Simon Cowell, I like your pecs

Sometimes I feel downright un-American. Sure, I pay my taxes and I vote. I celebrate the fourth of July and I support our troops. I rarely pretend I’m Canadian when I’m overseas. But the thing is, I don’t like "American Idol." I never have and I doubt I ever will. And given that the entire country seems to watch and love this show, my lack of affection for it is making me feel, well, like a non-citizen, a reality TV “commie,” if you will.

I’ve tried to watch this show many, many times. I enjoy looking at Simon Cowell’s pecs but that’s about it. It’s not that I don’t like competition shows either. I sat on the couch and watched “Dancing with the Stars” the other night. And I got completely sucked into that “Next Great American Band” show. (Woo, Clark Brothers!) But "American Idol?" It leaves me colder than an overturned Ben and Jerry’s truck stuck in a Nor’Dakotan snowbank.

I used to get a mild kick out of watching all the nutjobs and no-talents in the first few episodes, but the shine quickly wore off that penny as the whole “look at all these crazies” thing became so obviously staged.

I have even less interest in the good singers. Is it the songs they cover...or rather, the things they do to the songs they cover? I flipped by the other night and grew a little slack-jawed over what was happening to the entire Beatles catalog. Some of the singers did a nice job, but even that wasn’t enough to keep my attention so I went back to watching Tim Gunn dress the newly svelte people on “The Biggest Loser.”

I’ve narrowed down my non-Idol love to three possible causes. One, I don’t enjoy just plain, old singing. This is entirely possible since even the National Anthem makes me antsy and I want to change the channel...even when I’m standing there at the actual game. Two, I’m missing the “American Idol” chromosome and therefore am genetically unable to derive pleasure from it. I probably should be given some sort of government dispensation for this, but that seems unlikely. Or three, it’s all Ryan Seacrest’s fault.

I’m betting it’s Number Three. He looks shifty.

So tell me, do you like “American Idol?”

News of the Day -- Wednesday, March 19

+ Oh man, I can't even begin to express how excited I am about this news: Joss Whedon has written and is directing a short musical for the web starring Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris. Joss describes it as "the story of a low-rent super-villain, the hero who keeps beating him up, and the cute girl from the laundromat he's too shy to talk to." Color me enthused. Overly enthused, in fact. It's kind of scary.

+ Did you see this cool duck billed dinosaur that still has its skin and tissue? I'm looking forward to seeing the dino, named Dakota, fully unearthed. If it turns out to have a tramp stamp over its tail, we'll know its last days were spent getting drunk and hanging out at the mall. And if it has the remains of a Slushie in its stomach, we'll know it was a pretty crappy mall.

+ In sad news, legendary sci-fi author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke passed away at the age of 90 yesterday. I have no joke for this.

+ Ever wondered how a falling gecko rights itself to land on its feet? Me either, but the BBC has an interesting article on how geckos use their tails to acrobatically save themselves during falls. Watch the video through to the end for the super slo-mo money shot, if you will. Also, if you listen carefully, you can hear the gecko shouting in a quaint British accent, "I hope those exploitive Geico bastards cover my ass on this ooooooonnnneeee...."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

News of the Day -- Tuesday, March 18, 2008

+ Battlestar Galactica fans, set your DVRs or start drinking Red Bull now: ten members of the BSG cast will be reading the Top Ten list on Late Night With David Letterman this Wednesday, March 19. The scheduled cast members include Edward James Olmost ("pornstache!"), Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff and Jamie Bamber. Woot. I need some President Roslin to tide me over until April 4.

+ The grossest part of playing catch with a dog? The slobber. I knew if I waited long enough, some enterprising individual would solve my problem. It's finally happened: the automated ball tosser. I find this video of the dachshund "test subject" both endearing and mesmerizing in a Samuel Beckett/Sisyphean way. That probably means there's something wrong with me. [via Gizmodo/Boing Boing]

+ Did you see the flying saucer home that was up for auction in Chattanooga? I would love to own a house where, if aliens ever do invade, they'll look down and go, "What the fuck?" and suddenly check their Garmin to make sure they didn't make a wrong turn. The thing even has a retractable staircase!

+ And finally, Dee Dee "they made C.J. out of me" Myers, former White House press secretary for President Clinton, has a new book out called "Why Women Should Rule the World." (Um, because we can't do any worse??) You can read an excerpt from it here on the NPR "All Things Considered" site. It makes me want to go out and rule someone. Look out, cat.

Monday, March 17, 2008

I can bring home the bacon, not so sure about frying it up in the pan.

Back in my youth, there used to be a lot of concern about giving kids false hope. “Don’t tell little Susie she can win the soap box derby. It’ll just give her false hope” or “Don’t tell little Timmy ‘Phantom Menace’ won’t suck. It’ll just give him false hope.” That kind of thing. As a jaded, bitter adult woman, I lost my capacity for false hope – or any kind of hope, really – a long time ago except in one key area: the thought that I might be able to cook like the people on Food Network.

I have prepared, in total, probably four meals in my life that didn’t have instructions written on the back of a box or include serving advice like “cut a one-inch hole in plastic cover.” But still I hold out hope that one day I can cook like that slightly creepy Nigella Lawson woman whose show sort of makes me feel like I’m watching late night Cinemax. Or that nice Paula Deen who makes me regret almost every joke I’ve ever made about the South and who makes me want to coat my arteries with butter because, in her hands, butter looks so delicious it absolutely must be good for you. I’d like to be able to barbecue with Bobby Flay, too, except I don’t know how to light a grill and am afraid if I try, it’ll turn into some terrible Evel Knievel stunt gone wrong. And that’s just lighting the grill. We haven’t even gotten to matters of spice and dry rub.

These are the kinds of things I worry about when I approach the kitchen. Yet I know I need to overcome these fears because one, I’m afraid the pizza delivery man has become too familiar, waving and blowing kisses as he drives away from our house each night and two, because eating like a college student at the age of 30-something will kill me just as surely as Paula Deen’s butter-coated arteries and three, because as a modern day woman there shouldn’t be anything I can’t conquer – especially, let’s face it, if Rachael Ray can do it.

I just have to get past the false hope of awesomeness that the Food Network has foisted on me. I’ll never cook as well as the people on TV because it’s not my full-time job. I don’t have a state-of-the-art kitchen. I have a small crappy kitchen. I don’t have thousands of dollars in pots and pans. I have bowls with Star Trek characters on them and a skillet that looks like cowboys cooked beans in it. I don’t have the training either. To me, ramikins are Pokemon characters. Who knew? But I think it’s okay not to be a Top Chef (sorry, different network) just as long as I try. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like people die from food poisoning, right?

P.S. If you see a fireball over my house, you’ll know I never mastered barbecue.

News of the Day -- Monday, March 17

+ Do you miss Jack Bauer as much as I do -- which is to say "somewhat," "not as much as I miss Tony and his soul patch" or "who?" Then check out NPR's look at "24"'s angriest, scowliest operative.

+ It's Monday, so why not be mildly impressed and disgusted at the same time? Here's Cracked's "Eight Least Impressive Guiness World Records." I like the guy with the longest ear hair. He's like a goat.

+ And in honor of St. Patrick's Day (*hic*), here's The Muppets' Beaker, Animal and the Swedish Chef singing "Danny Boy":

Happy Boozing It Up Day!

Friday, March 14, 2008

An honest day's work for an honest day's pay

Sometimes I think working for a fictional business might be easier than working for the real thing. As with any decision, though, there are pros and cons with taking a new job. For example:

Working at “Cheers”
PRO: Everybody knows my name
CON: What if I’m in hiding?

Working as a CSI
PRO: Working with corpses means no need for office chit-chat
CON: Dead people might eat my brains. Which would suck.

Working on 30 Rock’s “The Girlie Show”
PRO: Liz Lemon and I do each other’s hair and talk about boys
CON: Tracy Jordan likes me so much he takes me out behind the middle school and gets me pregnant.

Working for “The Daily Planet”
PRO: Superman and I are like *this*
CON: Superman’s an attention whore and makes me clap every time he unjams the copier

Working at “Pushing Daisie”’s The Pie Hole
PRO: Have you seen Ned?
CON: Have you seen me walk right into Ned – and die?

Working in the Bartlet White House
PRO: Helping the American people
CON: Between Toby, Josh and Sam, I become the impeachment-inducing intern. God bless America!

Working in “ER”
PRO: Saving sick and injured people
CON: The job never, ever, ever gets cancelled, not even with John Stamos.

Working on “NewsRadio”
PRO: Bill McNeal!
CON: Can’t stop picturing Dave in a dress.

Working at Dunder-Mifflin
PRO: Bears, beets and Battlestar Galactica
CON: One day, Toby WILL snap…

Working for “Boston Legal”’s Crane, Pool and Schmidt
PRO: Fulfill my dream of telling an attorney, “No, sir, YOU are out of order!”
CON: Shouting “Kaaaaaaahhhhnnn!!!!” every time I see Denny Crane

News of the Day -- Friday, March 14

+ Happy Pi Day everyone! There's a terrific article at BBC News outlining the history of pi and a lot of fascinating facts about its various applications. For example, did you know that "In ancient Greece, the great mathematician Archimedes worked tirelessly to discover the ratio, uncovering only a few digits of accuracy. When he tried to stop a Roman soldier from blundering over his work by shouting "do not touch my circles" he was unceremoniously murdered." That, right there, is probably why the ancients never invented computers. Bad soldier!

+ A tidbit on Billy Crystal's chance to play in the Yankees-Pirates pre-season game yesterday. I know some folks think it's stupid, but come on, comedians never get to play sports. I'm putting this one in the nerd win column.

+ As you've probably heard, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows" is going to be split into two films with one being released in Nov. 2010 and the other to follow in May 2011. Director David Yates says this is because the book is too important to leave anything out for the movies. Really? Really? Gee, that would have been a nice philosophy with "Order of the Phoenix." Yates, I'm still shaking my fist at thee.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Other Things Ashton Kutcher Doesn’t Know About Nerdy Women. Yet.

Not that I'm still hostile about "Beauty and the Geek"'s lame-ass exercise in turning supposedly hot girls into supposedly nerdy women...oh, who am I kidding? Of course, I'm still hostile. So here's a little passive-aggressive list of things Ashton should know about real nerdy women:

* We smell like cookies and sunshine.

* We can control other women’s minds. And right now, Demi Moore is over-starching your laundry like a crazy woman.

* We can fly but don’t like to show off.

* Those superdelegates you hear so much about? All nerdy women, including Howard Dean.

* We’re f***ing Matt Damon.

* And Ben Affleck!

* We brought down Elliot Spitzer with a $2,000 an hour game of Scrabble. Sucker.

* We can has your cheezburger…any time we want.

* Our looks won’t fade by the time we can vote.

* We always thought Topher Grace was the cute one.

News of the Day -- March 12, 2008

+ Congratulations to Scrap Irony, winner of The Park Bench's first ever giveaway! Scrap chose the number 79 which was closest without going over to the husband's number of 81, which sadly did not relate to anything nerdy. Please e-mail me, Scrap, at editors at theparkbenchonline dot com and I'll get the Appleseed DVD in the mail for you. Thank you to everyone who played along. Hopefully I'll have more stuff to give away in the future.

+ And now on to the news of the day. Yahoo ran a disconcerting and insulting (I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!) photo essay yesterday in which the girls of "Beauty and the Geek" were transformed into "nerds." Which was kind of equivalent to putting glasses on a sheepdog and calling him Einstein, but whatever.

+ Who says the quiet girls can't have fun...and by fun, I mean engage in self-destructive behavior just like Britney? It came out yesterday that Dawn Wells, Mary Ann from "Gilligan's Island," got caught for pot possession in late February. She was sentenced to five days in jail, fined $410.50 and placed on probation after pleading guilty to one count of reckless driving. Dawn Wells is now the owner of my favorite celebrity mug shot ever:

She's so cheerful! Ten bucks the booking officer asked her to make him a coconut cream pie...

+ An all-star cast has been revealed for Dreamworks' upcoming animated feature, "Monsters vs. Aliens," which will be the first film produced in Ultimate 3-D technology. The cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Laurie, Will Arnett, Seth Rogan, Rainn Wilson, Stephen Colbert, Kiefer Sutherland ("Dammit, there's no time! Hand me my man-purse!") and Paul Rudd. Too bad it's going to be animated. I'd love to see Paul Rudd in Ultimate 3-D. Le rowrrrr.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

News of the Day -- Tuesday, March 11

+ First off, a contest. Yes, a contest with a free somethin'-somethin' to give away to one of you fine people. I have a DVD of "Appleseed: Ex Machina", a pretty swell-looking anime flick produced by John Woo. It's FREE TO YOU! YES, YOU! All you have to do is pick a number between one and 100 and post it in the comments. Whoever comes closest (without going over) to the number my husband was thinking of at 10:40 last night while throwing a ball to the cat WINS! (The cat has been disqualified from this competition because she already guessed the number. She's pretty magical.) Happy guessing!

+ Speaking of cool looking animated stuff, I saw this review last night of the new "Aliens: Colonial Marines" game for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, coming out later this year. Now, personally, I like to shoot at aliens in video games. I'll have you know I beat Area 51 at the local Star movie theatre a few summers back....Anyway, this looks pretty nifty. Sadly, io9 already made all the Bill Paxton "we're gonna die, man" jokes I was going to make. Booo.

+ Did you hear the Vatican has updated its no-no list to now include genetic experiments, pollution and mind-damaging drugs, thereby ruining the spreak break of every non-recycling PhD biology candidate and his madcap pharmacist-in-training sidekick? Thanks a lot, Vatican.

+ Looking for a nice clean apparently legal site where you can watch movies and full episodes of TV shows? Fancast, which is a Comcast product from what their friendly press release tells me, has tons and tons of TV options for those days when you're the only one in the office and you'll cry sad, sad tears if you have play one more game of spider solitaire. It's got an "eclectic" (or bizarre, if you will) selection of shows, but if you wanted to find "WKRP in Cincinnati," "Battlestar Galactica," "Andy Barker, PI" and "The A-Team" all in one place, then voila, this site has it all. Personally, I might watch a few episodes of "WKRP" later tonight to feed my nostalgia craving. Sometimes a woman just misses Doctor Johnny Fever.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A year? Why, it seems like Day 364 was just yesterday...

Today (well, yesterday technically) is the one-year anniversary of The Park Bench. I've been wracking my brains trying to think of something spectacular to do in celebration -- fireworks, pony rides, naughty pictures of nerdy men -- but I realized that really what I wanted to do was say thank you to everyone who has read this blog, written for this blog and supported it over the last year. I've enjoyed all your comments, all your contributions and all your great ideas, and most of all, it's been wonderful to discover how many other nerdy women (and men) are out there. I feel like I've walked into a great party filled with fabulous people in festive hats. And nothing says "party" like festive hats!

It's been a great year, and I'm looking forward to more fun with all of you.*

* Especially the folks who find this blog by Googling "Tina Fey's boobs." I always feel bad about how disappointed you must be. But then I kinda laugh. Sorry.

News of the Day -- Monday, March 10

+ Finally, a sensible use of stiletto shoes. Women in Amsterdam competed in a high-heeled foot race recently. When the winner was asked what she would spend her prize money on, she said, "Not high heels."

P.S. The look on the face of the woman in second place? Yeah, that's the look I get just walking from the car into the office in those shoes.

+ A wonderfully curious video by Teller of the magic duo Penn & Teller, recounting his days as the last survivor of a Las Vegas zombie attack. It's a terrific little piece, especially if you've always wondered what Teller sounds like. If the magic thing doesn't work out, he can always get a job as a noir narrator.

+ Want to increase your vocabulary and help feed the world, too? Then check out this great little time-waster called Free Rice, which tests your word knowledge while helping buy rice for the world's hungry. The site is free and fun.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Nerd Man of the Month: John Krasinski

He’s tall. He’s lanky. He’s got hair that has “insouciant” written all over it – which sounds weird but you know what I mean. Yes, he’s John Krasinski, The Park Bench’s Nerd Man of the Month honoree for March. With a flurry of last minute voting, our man John crushed poor Adam Baldwin and left Shatner in the dirt. It was a victory worthy of the man who has come to embody every woman’s dream of The Perfect Office Boyfriend. Plus, he’s worn leather hats with George Clooney. I can think of no finer character reference.

On “The Office,” Krasinski – or as I like to call him, “The Tall Drink of Water Who Slakes Our Thursday Night Thirsts" (TTDOWWSOTNT, for short) – earned our love as Jim Halpert, the man who pined for and eventually won the heart of Jenna Fischer’s Pam Beesley. And given that Pam has more than a hint of the nerd about her, well, that office romance has been a Post-It waving, dancing on the desk-style victory for geeky women everywhere.

When Krasinski’s name was first put on the ballot for Nerd Man of the Month honors, some suggested that perhaps he was too traditionally handsome, too – dare I say it? – sexy to lead the nerd-man charge. If one digs deep enough, though, you’ll find more than enough nerd cred in his CV. For one thing, he’s an Ivy League graduate and holds a degree in playwriting...with honors. I’m betting his dorm shelves were filled with more Mamet than Miller Lite. And he’s written and directed a film adaptation of David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men, which IMDB tells me is due out this year. Honestly, people deserve medals just for finishing Wallace's books let alone adapting them, so we know for sure TTDOWWSOTNT’s pants are of the smarty variety. And if one thing is certain – we nerdy women love the brainiacs. So much so, we forgive them for making movies with Mandy Moore.

For all the sweet gentle humor he brings to “The Office,” for being tall and floppy haired, for his spot-on Dwight Schrute impressions and for being a very smart dude, The Park Bench is pleased to name John Krasinski as its March Nerd Man of the Month.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Nerd Man bulletin

There's only a few more hours left to vote for March's Nerd Man of the Month. Right now, it's a dead heat between John Krasinski and Adam Baldwin. So if you have a preference, don't forget to cast your ballot!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Maybe we should just hug it out? Nah....

You know the drill. Your relationship with a significant other just ended. You find yourself lying on the couch, an empty bag of Oreos clutched in both hands and Love Story paused on the DVD. If only someone understood your pain. If only someone shared your agony. If only a short blond woman would record a series of multi-platinum songs chronicling soul-crushing break-ups and the general misery of love so you could experience some much needed vicarious relief.

You may be on your own with those first two “if onlys” but Stevie Nicks has got your back on the last one, offering up 35 years worth of truly great kiss-off music, perfect for easing even the toughest break-up. How effective are her songs? Let’s just say she’s the one Johnny Cash would have turned to if he ever needed his romantic frown turned upside down.

Both as a solo artist and with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks has penned some of the finest “I hate you, I love you, no, wait, I’m pretty sure I hate you again” music this side of Puccini. For anyone who has been dumped, her songs offer a vituperative cure for rejection. You know Stevie will get revenge on the man who done her wrong… and your psyche is going to be geeked about riding shotgun.

Take, for example, “Silver Springs,” a song Nicks originally wrote for Fleetwood Mac’s mega-platinum Rumours, an album recorded during Nicks’ break-up with long-time boyfriend and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. The song was left off the album, but Nicks successfully resurrected it as part of Fleetwood Mac’s live reunion album, The Dance, in 1997. Whether you watch the video or simply listen to the song, Nicks’ energy and rage are palpable as she sings – or rather hurls — the lyrics at Buckingham: “Time cast a spell on you but you won’t forget me / I know I could have loved you but you would not let me/ I’ll follow you down ‘til the sound of my voice will haunt you / you’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you...”

And with those words, she vocally nails Buckingham to the stage like a floor board. Thinking about your own ex and shaking your fist in shared anger during this number is worth four or five therapy sessions. At least.

As “Silver Springs” shows, Nicks has a true talent for crafting wonderful “I’m glad you’re gone, jackass, and boy, are you going to miss me” lyrics that are a restorative elixir for any crushed heart. In the Fleetwood Mac hit “Dreams,” she sings: “You say you want your freedom/ well who am I to keep you down/ iIt’s only right that you should/ play the way you feel it/ but listen carefully to the sound/ of your loneliness/ like a heartbeat…drives you mad/ in the stillness of remembering what you had/ and what you lost…/ and what you had…/ and what you lost…”

See, right there? That’s a gut-punch that’s going to stick. Who wouldn’t be tempted to pull a reverse Lloyd Dobbler, grab a boom box and stand outside in the rain playing that number for an errant ex or two?

It’s not like Nicks grew bitter over time either. Throughout her career, she has exuded a careful romanticism, one that is always, always tempered with the knowledge that love can go bad at any time. On her 1973 album with Buckingham, entitled Buckingham Nicks, the duo offered up this lyric from their song “Frozen Love”: “Life gave me you; the change was made/ and there’s no beginning over/ you are not happy, but what is love?/ hate gave you me for a lover...”

Yes, it’s one of those, “I guess we’re stuck with each other even if we’re miserable” love songs you hear so much at Valentine’s Day. I don’t know for certain whether it was Buckingham or Nicks who wrote that lyric, but it sounds an awful lot like Stevie. And as a fan, I hope it is hers because it shows that hint of darkness that has made her an enduring, one-of-a-kind performer. And you’ll never find lyrics like those on a Hallmark card – further evidence that there’s no better Pied Piper for pragmatists and broken-hearted romantics than our own Miss Stevie Nicks.

News of the Day -- Wednesday, March 5

+ Rumor has it that Steven Spielberg might launch a social networking site for paranormal/UFO buffs. Sign me up!

+ Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away yesterday. I never played D&D, but I did like that TV movie years ago starring Tom Hanks as a college kid who went crazy from playing it too much. And I liked the dice, too.

+ Entertainment Weekly has a new reader's list out on the 30 most dateable TV characters. While I applaud some choices -- like Liz Lemon from "30 Rock," Ned from "Pushing Daisies" and Josh, Jed and Sam from "The West Wing," I have to question some of the others. "24"'s Jack Bauer would just shout at you while carrying his man purse. "Lost"'s Jack would spend the whole date checking his cell phone to see if Kate had called. And "CSI"'s Gil Grissom? Well, that robot man just plain creeps me out.

+ For anime fans, "Appleseed Ex Machina" comes out on DVD on March 11. It's the sequel to 2003's "Appleseed," which I thought was a movie based on that pioneer guy who went around planting trees, but apparently, it's based on the best-selling manga of the same name by Masamune Shirow and produced by John Woo. Here's a preview:

+ And finally, this may be the most messed up and funny thing I've seen in ages. Did I mention it's messed up? Yes, it's wigs for cats. I don't know why. Honest to God, I don't know why, but there it is.

My cat's going to have the best birthday EVER!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Falling down is a sign of corporate respect

Right about now, I’m probably having lunch with some former business associates. Within the first ten minutes, I likely will have a) spilled something on myself; b) spilled something on someone else; c) accidentally insulted someone or d) fallen down. Whatever the specifics, the point is that my social ineptitude will have been on full display, like Celine Dion’s Canadian-ness under a million Vegas spotlights.

For me, this is the chicken and the egg question all over again: is it my social ineptitude what makes me a nerd or is it my nerdiness that makes me socially inept? For the record, there are millions of nerdy people out there with fine social skills and the capacity for small talk. After all, Bill Gates wouldn’t be bathing in million dollar bills every night if he didn’t have the ability to schmooze and not fall down in public places.

There does, however, seem to be a fairly significant section of the nerd population suffering from the same debilitating shyness and soul-crushing insecurity that makes social interaction somewhat painful for me and my kind. It’s sometimes funny, too, but mostly for the people watching…and judging.

The workplace is where I feel I’ve done some of my finest self-humiliation. The office is my canvas. And my frequent lathers of shame? Those are my paints. With these tools, I have created some fine masterworks, including:

* Accidentally getting locked in an employer’s bathroom at the annual holiday party.
* Forgetting that on a hot day, wine is not soda and drinking myself into a stupor that ended with me falling headfirst into my employer’s bathtub.
* Choking on a fork during a business dinner.
* Misspeaking my own name when I introduced myself to a board member – and having to fake an entire new identity for the hour-long conversation that followed.

Knowing my limitations – for example, the fact that I can’t speak to anyone in authority without developing a twitch and/or talking complete and utter nonsense, sometimes in a made-up language – has helped make up for these inadequacies over the years. Like a blind person whose sense of smell gets better, I have tried to compensate by developing other talents such as good spelling, card tricks and masterful feats of strength.

All this is just to say that we are not alone in our social ineptitudes and missteps. To all those who may have accidentally insulted their bosses; traumatically walked around with their flies unzipped or blouses overly unbuttoned; starting humming in the middle of a board meeting; spontaneously cried on the way to the copier; or started discussing “Battlestar Galactica” with a whole mess of people who really didn’t care, take solace in the knowledge that there are millions of us falling on the big sword of social ass-backwardness each and every day. Which is good because there’s safety in numbers.

Also, if you can drag a Toyota with your teeth, you'll totally get promoted.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The saber-tooth tiger is too big!

The husband and I have been arguing about something stupid lately: Roland Emmerich’s new movie, “10,000 B.C.” Our point/counterpoint goes something like this: the movie looks totally, completely and ridiculously anachronistic and unrealistic to me. The husband argues that it shouldn’t matter because it’s just a movie. I continue to argue that it does matter, mostly because I think it’s funny to hear him argue about mastodons but also because it really does kind of piss me off.

First of all, I’m no kind of paleontologist or anthropologist. I don’t have extensive knowledge of prehistoric animals or early human culture. Still, though, there are things that seem glaringly wrong to me in the previews I’ve seen for “10,000 B.C.” including saber-tooth tigers the size of ambulances, gigantic palaces and structures that seem to bear striking resemblances to the Luxor in Vegas and organized armies fighting each other. A quick check of the internets tells me that 1) saber-tooth tigers stood about chest high to humans and weighed around 800 pounds max, meaning they were smaller than ambulance-sized breadboxes; 2) in 10,000 B.C., people were still living in caves and stone structures were just a glimmer in the eyes of the dudes who first built them in 9,000 B.C. None of the structures had flat-panneled TVs or 24-hour access to the poker lounge. And 3) humans were nomads. They weren’t organizing any Army vs. Navy football games, let alone attacking each other in well-organized masses of humanity. I may be wrong on some of this stuff, but I’m pretty sure Roland Emmerich is even more wrong.

Which leads me to the bigger question: should I really even bother being aggravated by this, regardless of how entertaining it is to fight with my husband? Getting upset by explosions in oxygen-less space or getting miffed that the guns used in “3:10 to Yuma” weren’t even invented at the time the movie was set is definitely a nerdy thing to do, so I embrace it heartily on that front. But the husband argues that if I’m going to get huffy about realism and anachronism in certain movies and TV shows, how can I disregard stuff like the fact that Spiderman can’t really crawl up the sides of buildings with super-sticky spidey fingers and Mr. Ed can’t actually talk (blasphemy!) and Hello, Kitty isn’t really stealing as many souls as I think she is. Where should I draw the line?

I guess “10,000 B.C.” bothers me because I feel a movie with an actual date in the title should try to be at least a little bit true to that time period, unless of course it’s a caveman movie starring Ringo Starr. (The fact that there are any movies starring Ringo Starr is enough of a brain tickler that I’m not really going to fight it.) But if I’m watching a movie about Abraham Lincoln, I don’t want to see him getting to Ford’s Theater on a Segway. On the other hand, if I’m watching a movie where James Spader leads a bunch of a people through a magical gate and they find themselves in a pseudo-Egypt where people shoot each other with lasers, I’m going to be cool with it because I just watched some dude walk through a magical gate. To me, the key is that it’s all about context.

Either that or I worry about really, really stupid stuff.

News of the Day -- Monday, March 3

You know why whales are cool? Because they can do this:

That's a photo snapped by a couple out kayaking who accidentally stumbled onto a pod of humpback whales. Their photos at The Mail are gorgeous and really capture the mammoth size of these beautiful creatures...who may or may not have been trying to kill them for getting too close to their young but that's neither here nor there.

+ Looking for a little existentially depressing humor? Then check out Garfield Minus Garfield, a series of Garfield cartoons minus, well, Garfield. Jon seems very, very lonely -- after all, what is mankind without its feline?

+ And finally, wow, if you're a tardy book reader, don't fuck with Wisconsin. (Do I smell a new license plate slogan?) A woman was recently arrested for unpaid library fines and spent six days in prison for it. And no, she was not allowed a selection from the mobile book cart.