Thursday, July 31, 2008

Looking back at the one year anniversary of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows"

All about the Harry and the Potter from guest blogger Meghann. Enjoy!

We recently passed the one year anniversary of the release of HP and the Deathly Hallows and I thought it might be fun to look back at my predictions on the eve of the release and see how those worked out for me. (please note: some strong language in that post) Nerd glasses on, everyone. Oh and if you are one of the five people who have not yet read Book 7 a few times yet, major spoiler alert.

Prediction 1: Hogwarts will re-open.
Outcome: CORRECT! Somehow Hogwarts was a question mark back in the early days of 2007.

Prediction 2: Snape will die.
Outcome: CORRECT! Man, I was smart last year. What I didn’t see coming was what a sympathic antihero Snape would become (more on that below). He was always one of my favorite characters, but with his role in Book 7, he clinched the number two slot right behind Sirius.

Prediction 3: Ron will die.
Outcome: INCORRECT! Thank God! I mean, Ron went away for a large swath of time in the middle of the book (the dreaded “tent” sequence) but thankfully, he didn’t die.

Prediction 4: That wedding is going to be a bloodbath.
Outcome: INCORRECT! Luckily, the guests were warned in enough time to scatter. And thus starts our adventure with the trio.

Prediction 5: Neville will kick some Bellatrix ass.
Outcome: INCORRECT! I mean, Neville was awesome and totally kicked Nagini’s ass as well as showed the Carrows who was boss, but Bellatrix got to have a battle royale with none other than Mrs. Weasley. And it was awesome!

Prediction 6: Snape will sacrifice himself in some way so that Harry can defeat Voldy.
Outcome: CORRECT! I mean, he didn’t go all that willingly, but he went and at the last moment gave Harry the final piece of information he needed to get rid of Voldemort for now and for always. Oh, and he melted our cold, cold hearts in the process.

Prediction 7: Nagini will put up a fight.
Outcome: HALF AND HALF! Nagini definitely put up a fight in the old lady house scene (gross) but in the final moment of her life, there was no fight. Harry told Neville to kill the snake and that’s exactly what Neville did, and with pizzazz!

Prediction 8: The house elves will be important.
Outcome: CORRECT! And how! For all of my hatred of Dobby, he truly saved the day by taking that silver knife to the chest and gave us one of the most upsetting and touching moments of the series, when Harry digs his grave.

Prediction 9: Lily Potter worked in the Love room in the Dept. of Mysteries.
Outcome: WHO KNOWS!? I was hoping we would learn a bit more about Lily, but alas.

Prediction 10: The last Horcrux is something we've never seen.
Outcome: INCORRECT! As many guessed, it was Harry. Well, technically he was the last. I guess if you are going with the planned Horcruxes, the diadem is the last one but we actually did see that before – in Book 6 when Harry hides his Advanced Potions book in the Room of Requirement. They had better make sure that is in the movie or I am going to be very angry.

Prediction 11: In the end, Harry will wake up in bed with Suzanne Pleshette.
Outcome: INCORRECT! Sadly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ten Reasons You Should Be Watching Project Runway

I've never seen Project Runway and have always felt I was missing something. Guest blogger Meghann gives us the lowdown on just what that something is -- ten somethings actually!

Ten Reasons You Should Be Watching Project Runway

10. The guest judges.
The producers of Project Runway have always invited designers of note (Vera Wang, Donna Karan, the boys from Heatherette), fashion-conscious celebs (Posh Spice, Sarah Jessica Parker, and OMG Iman!), a random smattering of heads of brands (Banana Republic, Barbie, Levi) and random atheletes like Sasha Cohen to help the judges decide who is in and who is out. This season’s guest judges are not to be missed because, honey, RuPaul is in the house. What has she been doing since 1997?

9. Heidi’s outfits.

Heidi Klum, our luminecent host/executive producer/supermodel, is usually the most fabulous thing in the room. But who can guess what kind of bizarre outfit she’ll be styled in each week? Some say that Heidi’s outfit during the model elimination is a clue to what the challenge will be, but I don’t see it. What I do see is Heidi wearing some of the most bizarre clothing in the world but no one on this fashion show seems to bat an eye. This week, for example, she wore a lace bustier and black miniskirt. Why? Because she’s Heidi Klum and she hasn’t had pizza in 10 years.

8. The villains.

Project Runway’s great villains have all had one thing in common: they are terribly annoying but end up doing things to make you sort of like them. Wendy Pepper of Season 1? The worst makeup this side of the Estee Lauder free makeover. But she had a cute daughter. (I’m reaching here…Wendy was really annoying and didn’t have a lot of redeption.) Santino Rice of Season 2? What a self-important jerk! But he does hilarious impressions of Tim Gunn! Jeffrey Sebellia of Season 3? Rude! Mean! And has a weird neck tatoo! Ah, but that neck tattoo is the name of his absolutely adorable little baby boy. Season 4 brought us Christian Sirriano, the designer I personally loved to hate until I decided I loved to love him. What can I say? He’s fierce.

7. Nina Garcia, Editor At Large for Elle Magazine.
One of our esteemed judges, Nina’s face says it all during the runway shows. This is a woman incapable of hiding her orgasmic delight over a perfectly made garment, nor her utter disgust and contempt for any designer who would waste her time with unfinished trash. There is no question why one of the unspoken rules in the workroom is “Don’t Bore Nina!” Also, this woman has fabulous hair.

6. The fashion disasters.
You see it coming from a mile away. You hear Tim Gunn tell the designer to “edit,” or to “think hard about what you’re trying to say” and you know they are going to do nothing of the sort. They keep adding feathers. They make a hat. They instruct their model to throw candy when they hit the runway. And then it’s your moment to shout at the tv just how disgusting that garment is! It’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen! It should be Auf’d!

5. The lingo.
You have to watch Project Runway so that you know the proper time to say “Make It Work.” You must master the utterly German way Heidi dismisses the fasion disasters with her cold “You are out. Auf wiedersehen.” You need to know what Tim Gunn means when he sternly encourages designers to “Go go go.”

4. Michael Kors one-liners.
“You're a mess just standing there.” “Scarlett O'Hara ripped drapes down and made a couture dress...this, she ripped the sheets off the bed and ran out the door." “She looks like a paper brioche.” “Next thing you know, it's big button earrings and you're on 'The Facts of Life.'” “She looks like Barefoot Appalachain Lil' Abner Barbie.” The list goes on…

3. Project Rungay.
One of the greatest blogs ever to be devoted to a television show, Project Rungay is the baby of Tom and Lorenzo. They have good taste, they have all the good gossip, and best of all, they are hilarious. You need to watch the episodes to get the jokes, so start watching the episodes already! Then go here and enjoy.

2. The Silver Fox Tim Gunn.
The single greatest mentor to ever grace a reality competition show, Tim Gunn is the Jiminy Cricket all artists wish they had. He’s got the resume to back up his opinions, and he doesn’t get a vote in the show so he’s a completely neutral eye, coming into the workroom to make sure the designers do their best work possible. Tim’s favorite bon mot is “I can’t want you to succeed more than you do,” and true to his word, if the designers seem determined to fail, he lets them.

1. The fashion triumphs.
The real reason Project Runway is such a delight is because each week, amid the egos and the catch phrases and the annoying contestants, there is always at least one outfit that is truly amazing. Whether it’s a dress woven out of corn husks, a punky couture gown made out of a brash yellow plaid, or an absolutely perfect blouse inspired by an orchid, each week someone reminds you that this is a show about how ordinary people can create beauty and intrigue sometimes out of little more than a couple of pairs of jeans and some garden supplies.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The books, they watch me!

From Tuesday's awesome guest blogger Ms. C:

Hey Bookaphiles, does this sound familiar? There's a book on your nightstand, one in your purse, and several strewn about the house (in the kitchen, den, or bathroom) waiting to be picked up and read. Is there a book in your bed? C'mon, it's alright to admit it. I know you try not to do that but sometimes you roll over in the night and your knee hits something pointy and you realize, "Damn, I think that's the James Patterson."

I bet you also pepper in nonfiction with fiction and difficult, meaty books with cotton candy ones. This way, you get a challenge and/or a break, and though you run the very real risk of mentally putting Neville Longbottom in Northanger Abbey, it's worth it in order to match every reading mood with just the right volume.

I bet you've also encountered this happy accident:

And you’d be forgiven for quoting "Ghostbusters" with, "You're right. No human being would stack books this way."

Already, these books, piled high or hidden in nooks and crannies throughout our day-to-day, insist politely but doggedly that we read them. As Liz told me, they "sort of become this living thing after a while, like a pet you feel guilty for not taking care of." Does widdle Dostoyevsky want a treat? Hmmm? Atsa good boy!

That stack there is my daunting task, including all the histories, travel guides, novels, and art books borrowed from friends, the library, or bought with intentions to read. Piled up like that, they seem more like an impatient St. Bernard with a full bladder than a sleepy Jack Russell looking to nuzzle. But like that beloved pet, these books' whining and pawing of the furniture, reminding me of my obligation and responsibility to read them, is forgiven once the book and I are both nestled into a cozy reading chair. Now the challenge is just to find another bookmark!

Monday, July 28, 2008

The learning never gets old

From today's guest blogger Ms. C:

Ever since I saw Amelie, my lifelong wish to listen to a French man talk to me slowly (that accent has a lazy, sexy charm that beats even Matthew McConaughey's drawl) was transformed into a dreamy desire to speak French myself and to see Amelie’s Paris. A globetrotting friend has afforded me the opportunity to finally travel to Montmartre for a couple days this Fall. I've dusted off the French language CDs I bought years ago and I've finally made it past Disc 1. And do you know what I've discovered?

I love learning.

Love it. In learning, I’m discovering the thrill of school all over again. Even though the CDs instruct me not to take notes, I do it anyway! I’ve always enjoyed school and lived for that moment when the teacher said, “Yes, that’s right.” When I get a French phrase or word right listening to my language CDs, I must admit to some genuine fist pumping.

After graduating college, I still underlined sentences in books I read and wrote in the margins to the point where I can't loan anything out these days without checking it first for embarrassing or revealing notations. I walked down the aisles of office supply stores, delighting in the tummy thrill I felt at being near shiny paper clips! Post-it notes shaped like fish! Or folders in all the colors of the rainbow!

Those toys of the student impart more than just nostalgia. They signal the aura of school and education and the learning that revitalizes our senses, wakes up our brains, and changes our perspectives. Learning forces us to pay more attention and in doing so, start seeing the things we were taking for granted and embrace their charms again. There are few things more beautiful than the pleasure of mastering a new concept, broadening one’s mind, or putting pages together with a new, shiny, silver paper clip. Wouldn’t life itself be so much better if we were all rewarded with gold stars and A-pluses whenever we did things right? In fact, if I master French, I want a professor to knock on my door in front of all my neighbors and ex-boyfriends and mean childhood enemies and award me a perfect 4.0. Because it’s never too late to learn and more importantly, it’s never too late to look smarter than everyone else.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Quick notes...

First, I'm going to be away from my computer for a while this week but I'm leaving you in the capable hands of some guest bloggers who are stellar. Enjoy!!

Second, I saw The X-Files movie on Friday and here are some quick thoughts:

What I liked - everything Mulder and Scully. All of those scenes were golden, like watching the show again. Duchovny and Anderson were terrific and they did a great job of portraying Mulder and Scully as they would be six years after the series ended. I loved them. I also liked Billy Connolly, who really has never, ever been bad in anything. Not even "Head of the Class." Oh and Callum Keith Rennie was way cool, too, except in my head, he was still Leoben the Naughty Cylon and I had issues with that but that's just me. Oh and Elosha from BSG was in it, too. Hello Vancouver casting agents!

What I liked a lot less - pretty much everything else. Oh man, Chris Carter, what the hell? The main storyline just blew. The pacing was off, the suspense was absent. Even the chase scene had me checking my watch and wondering when Mulder and Scully would be back on screen again. How can you mess up a chase scene? And the religious overtones. There were characters named Christman and Christian. Just give me a bludgeon at the door, Chris, and don't even bother with character names like that. Jeez.

Basically, if you go into this movie with lowered expectations, you'll be fine. I'd still see it again just because I love my two imaginary FBI friends so much. But beyond that, it was pretty much a grade C thriller.

FYI - watch for Chris Carter pulling a Hitchcock like cameo about 2/3 of the way into the movie. Also, if you haven't already heard, stay through the end of the credits for some bonus footage that's kind of cheesy but still fun to watch.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nerd Girls, science-style

I feel like I've been derelict in my nerdy woman duties: I had no idea there was a group called Nerd Girls at Tufts University until Park Bench reader Trey sent over this article from Newsweek, chronicling not only this group but the rise of women who - gasp! - like science and are smart! I'm rather dubious of the fact that there's apparently going to be a documentary on them and am downright dismayed that the article makes the idea of smart, science-oriented women seems like a miraculous discovery on par with the Missing Link, but I like the idea that these women are working toward getting more young girls and adult women to show off their brains and embrace their smarts.

Something seems a bit sad and wonky about a paragraph like this, too:
Which may be one reason that many of these tech-friendly women are working their pumps so hard. They're trying to break down stereotypes by being as proud of their sexuality as they are of their geekiness. "Just because I get dressed up Saturday night, that doesn't mean I won't do better [than a guy] on a test on Monday," says Nerd Girl Sanchez. Turning geek into chic isn't always easy. It took Google's Spertus, who is 39, years before she could proclaim herself girl and geek in the same breath. But it happened when she won the award for "Sexiest Geek Alive," a now annual pageant that began in 2000 as a spoof of People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive." Spertus beat out the men in her competition, and at her crowning, she paraded onstage in a corset made out of a circuit board and a high-slit skirt with a slide rule strapped to her leg. Still, some women worry that being too sexy could hurt them. At the San Francisco Girl Geek Dinner earlier this year, Leah Culver, 25, the developer of Pownce, a microblogging platform, described the extra efforts she's made to convince potential employers that despite being attractive, she's actually, like, competent. "I used to carry around a copy of my computer-science degree in my purse," she said. The ideal, of course, is having gender be a nonissue, and for a few, it is. "I consider myself a normal girl who happens to like math and science," Sanchez says.

It took Google's Spertus, who is 39, years before she could proclaim herself girl and geek in the same breath. Huh? What? So she had to prove herself hot before she could claim to be a girl? This is just so sad on so many levels.

This makes me even sadder, although the liberal arts side of me is cruelly thinking, wow, glad I didn't go into engineering (Which, yes, is at odds with my righteous indignity, but what can I say? I'm complicated.):

Forty years ago women made up just 3 percent of science and engineering jobs; now they make up about 20 percent. That sounds promising, until you consider that women earn 56 percent of the degrees in those fields. A recent Center for Work-Life Policy study found that 52 percent of women leave those jobs, with 63 percent saying they experienced workplace harassment and more than half believing they needed to "act like a man" in order to succeed. In the past, women dealt with that reality in two ways: some buried their femininity, while others simply gave up their techie interests to appear more feminine. "For most of my life I hid my passion for all things scientific and tried to focus on pursuits that were 'allowable'," says Cathy Malmrose, a Berkeley, Calif., mom who, at 38, is now the CEO of a computer manufacturer. "Instead of getting to play on my brother's TRS80 [computer] and study the sciences, I went into elementary education."

Why hide her passion for science? I just don't get this. I do think that the fact that the Nerd Girls are pushing the coolness of being a geek on young girls is a good thing because, based on my own experiences, sometimes the worst critics of nerdiness are other women. Yeah, guys can be cruel when you're young but I know that the worst ribbing I got growing up was from other girls who looked at me like I was the only three-eyed fish in the pond. So maybe, as sad as all these statistics and personal tales of nerd horror are, the rise of groups like this and the fact that it's in Newsweek, is a sign of good things to come.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caprica, Darth Vader and Teri Garr...together again! Just kidding.

+ Have you seen the trailer for "Caprica," the Battlestar Galactica prequel? It looks quite, quite tasty. Plus, Eric Stoltz!

+ Check out these photos from the Vader Project where a number of artists have created their own versions of Darth Vader's helmet as part of Celebration Japan. A few favorites:

+ If you have a few minutes to spare at lunch today, please, please read this great Onion A/V Club interview with Teri Garr. I hadn't even realized that she'd had an aneurysm and is now recovering. Anyway, she talks about all her movies and she just comes off as a really sweet riot of a woman. You've got to check it out.

Monday, July 21, 2008

"I Want to Believe" this movie will be good.

For X-Philes, this week is like the week before Christmas if, you know, Christmas came once every ten years. Yes, this Friday, July 25 marks the debut of the new X-Files movie, "I Want to Believe." And I, like millions of other File fanatics, am counting down the minutes and hoping I don't get eaten by a bear before I get to see the damn thing.

Unlike Christmas, though, I'm looking forward to Friday with just a wee bit of trepidation. Why, you ask? Because I've been a Phile pretty much from Day 1 and I know what can happen when I go into an X-Files experience expecting too much: It can suck. Really bad. Harder than el chupacabra, everyone's favorite Mexican goat sucker (and a word I just really enjoy saying at every opportunity).

El chupacabra.

Awesome word.

Anywhoo, like any self-respecting, battle-worn Phile, I've been preparing myself and I'm ready to deem the movie a success if the following minimum criteria are met:

1) Mulder looks hot and cracks wise.
2) Scully spends less than 75 percent of the movie crying or having to yell at Mulder and basically be his mom. If she spends just 74 percent of the movie doing this, I will be happy.
3) Skinner uses the phrase "butt in a sling." (Or "ass" as this is PG-13 and all.)
4) Xzibit pimps somebody's ride. (Please God, let this happen.)
5) Amanda Peet irritates me just a little bit instead of a lot. I'm still trying to forget "Studio 60."
6) Billy Connelly rocks even half as much as he does in pretty much everything he's ever been in. (Hello, "Mrs. Brown," I love you.)
7) Cigarette Smoking Man does not appear because he already died SEVEN QUADRILLION TIMES on the show. I'm half expecting just to see his mummified hand smoking a Morley's and looking evil on someone's bookshelf.
8) Someone asks Mulder what he's looking for and he says, "The truth." Dude, I think we all know that by now. Just once I'd like for him to say, "My car keys."
9) The plot at least makes enough sense for me to pretend that it makes sense to other people. Like, "Oh, you didn't get that? I'd explain it to you but I'm, uh, late for a meeting. Yeah...." Just make it possible for me to skate by, Chris Carter, that's all I'm asking.
10) Mulder and Scully make out at least once. That's why we're all going anyway, right? We're going for the smoochies! And the psychopathic monsters, of course. But mostly the smoochies.

How easy is that? Piece of cake, right? I hope so because if it sucks I'm only going to see it five times instead of the 10 I was planning on. Yeah, I'm pretty hard core that way with my entertainment.

Let's face it though, I'll still be buying the DVD. Why? Because I've been Chris Carter's bitch since 1992 and once you're in the club, it's really, really hard to return the jacket.

You know what the jacket should have on it? An el chupacabra.

Awesome word.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Emmy Awards, Duchovny and more, oh my.

+ So, those Emmy nominations I’ve heard so much about came out this morning. While I was shocked to see that "The Sopranos" was not given some sort of posthumous TV show honor just out of habit, there weren’t too many surprises.

Nominations I was glad about...Neil Patrick Harris earning Nerd Man honors and an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor all in one week! I know, right? How crazy is that? And let’s give a Barney-style high-five to Carrie Fisher for snagging a guest actor nod for her hilarious turn as Liz Lemon’s completely fucked up role model and hero on “30 Rock.” And speaking of “30 Rock,” how cool is it that they earned the most nominations of any show this year? So cool that I’m renewing Liz Lemon's contract as my own completely fucked up and fictional role model for another 12 months.

Nice to see 12 nominations worth of love for “Pushing Daisies,” too. Lee Pace and Kristin Chenowith totally deserve it as does any show about pie and retired synchronized swimmers. “Mad Men”’s 16 nominations means I’m going to have to actually make time to watch it now. Oh, and woo hoo for “Flight of the Conchords.”

Also, I hope that if Michael Emerson wins for “Lost,” he just gets up on stage and silently gives that creepy stare. And then everyone in the audience starts to cry. Trust me, it would make a great clip on “Access Hollywood.”

Things I wasn’t so happy about...Tony Shalhoub again? Really? Would you like a little more time to think about this, Emmy voters? Can you see me furrowing my brow and wagging my finger at you? Just cut it out already. Don’t make him the new James Gandolfini.

Same with “House” getting a best drama nod. Now, I love “House.” It’s a good show, but it wasn’t at its best last year. There are plenty of other dramas that deserved that spot more. Say, “The Wire” or perhaps a certain show about murderous robots and Edward James Olmos’ ability to glare compellingly?

Yes, I’m talking about “Battlestar Galactica.” WTF, Emmy voters, just give the show some love already, okay? Sure, sure, it got a best writing nomination for the episode “Six of One” and the usual assortment of technical awards, but that’s it? No acting awards? I’m sensing some bias here – it’s because 90 percent of the cast is Canadian or British, isn’t it? It’s an ugly prejudice against extended vowel pronunciation. Totally unfair.

But enough about me. What did you think?

+ In other news, if you haven't been reading David Duchovny's blog promoting the new "I Want to Believe" movie, you've got to check it out. It's pretty damn funny.

+ And don't forget that Act II of Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog is up. It's just as good as Act I and Nathan does more flexing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Nerd Man of the Month: The Legendary Neil Patrick Harris

All I can say is, thank God that Neil Patrick Harris finally participated in a Joss Whedon project so we can officially stamp "nerd" all over him. (And yes, I'm picturing that stamping right now.) Sure, NPH qualified for nerdiness by playing pre-teen doctor Doogie Howser all those years ago, but the Whedon stamp really seals it. You know, like how the Chiquita sticker makes a banana taste that much more banana-y? Simply put, "Dr. Horrible" gives us the perfect excuse to bow down before Barney himself and name this tasty muffin of masculinity our Nerd Man of the Month.

Has any former child actor had a better career renaissance than Neil Patrick Harris? And was there ever anything better to spur that renaissance than his appearance as himself in "Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle?" From the moment we saw him sniffing cocaine off a naked chick and getting fresh with that Toyota Corolla upholstery, well, America (and I) were smitten. Which surely says something awful about my psyche, but let's not dwell on that, shall we?

And now NPH's stolen our hearts all over again -- sans cocaine and stripper because, c'mon, we've all grown up a little, haven't we? -- with his portrayal of Barney on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother." He suits up every week, says horrible things, scores with scores of ladies whose names he'll never remember and damn if he isn't adorable every step of the way. Every second he's on the screen, he demands our attention. I feel sorry for all the other actors on that show because seriously, at one time or another, they've all been in his shadow. Even Alyson Hannigan, which is blasphemy for a Buffy fan and will no doubt earn me a place in "Buffy" hell. (A place where they just keep showing Season 7 over and over again and we never, ever see Giles.)

Seriously, Neil Patrick Harris is, well, legendary as Barney. Just check out these clips, including his delivery below of a joke that will go down in my book as one of the top ten sitcom moments of all time. So simple, so pure. It is magic, especially if, like me, you kinda hate milk:

And who can forget Barney on The Price Is Right, meeting his "father" Bob Barker for the first time:

And now with his turn as the forlorn Dr. Horrible, a guy just trying to get by and be as bad as he can be, Neil has earned an even bigger place in our hearts. He can sing. He can be dastardly. He can be romantic. And he can go toe-to-toe with the finest thing to come out of Canada since that nice, round bacon: Nathan Fillion. That's saying something. In fact, it's saying he's awesome.

Plus, let's face it, Neil Patrick Harris is just hands-down hot. Even my husband thinks so. And, as a couple, we're totally okay with that. At least until one of us gets his phone number...

And so, without further ado, The Park Bench is pleased to name Neil Patrick Harris as July's Nerd Man of the Month.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chess and boxing? Two great tastes that taste great together

There are times when I love this world. Discovering that there is such a "sport" as chess-boxing makes me love it even more. How awesome is a sport that was invented in a comic book and involves competitors alternating three-minute rounds of boxing and four-minute rounds of speed chess with time in between to get their gloves off and towel off. "The winner," says Time magazine, "is determined by knockout, checkmate or referee decision." Kafka would love this...

I say screw "Fight Club." Someone needs to make a movie about this RIGHT NOW!

I love you Joss Whedon and all that you stand for

I have seen Act I of "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and it is like looking into the Joss Whedon-y face of a god named Joss Whedon, which is to say, it is magical. It is unicorns on fluffy puppy-shaped clouds filled with leprechauns and Harry Potter's soul-kind of magical. It is "Once More With Feeling" but with Neil Frickin' Patrick Harris and Nathan Frickin' Fillion singing and flexing and wearing rubber boots. And singing. Did I mention the singing? You have to go watch it now. I don't care what you're doing. If you're delivering a baby right now, it doesn't matter. Put the baby down and go watch this video. It's not like the baby has a keen understanding of time anyway. If you're putting out a fire, just give it a rest. It's not like it's going to go away if you just take five minutes and watch. In fact, it'll probably be bigger and more destructive -- and thus, easier to find -- by the time you're done with Act I. Just go. Now.

Click here and watch. I'll wait.

Okay, did you watch it? It was awesome, wasn't it? Didn't I tell you it was awesome? Did you like his moist friend? How about when Captain Hammer told Dr. Horrible "It's curtains for you. Lacy, wafty curtains." Or the fact that the league is run by Bad Horse? And there's a line about his hooves?

I want to make out with Joss Whedon's brain right now. I have no idea how that would work. Physiologically, it seems suspect. And morally, I'm pretty sure it's wrong, what with both our brains being married. But sometimes a nerdy girl just can't help her feelings. Especially when Neil Patrick Harris just sang about laundry.

I have to go watch it again. And again. Maybe once more after that....

ETA: To expand on the Whedon love even more, check out this great interview with him on Gawker.

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Hellboy II: Ron Perlman's Pecs Are HUGE"

So yesterday, the husband and I went to see “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” which I’ve decided to retitle, “Holy Cow, Hellboy’s Starring in 'Pan’s Labyrinth II: New and Improved with Kittens!'” Sure, that title’s going to make the marketing a bit difficult what with squeezing so many words onto the poster and all, but I feel it’s a fairly accurate representation of the film.

There is some gorgeous imagery in “Hellboy II,” which is something you’d expect from a Guillermo del Toro film. The mythical environs and creatures he creates are stunning and unforgettable, but as my husband said so succinctly, “When’s that dude going to make some new monsters?” When you’ve seen one baddie with eyes stuck to weird portions of its anatomy, you’ve seen them all.

Not that I mind directors incorporating their trademark look into a film. Barry Sonnenfeld does it and Tim Burton certainly does it. With Burton’s films, however, the imagery and story nearly always mesh. With “Hellboy,” it was as if two layers of two different films were laid on top of one another and run together. It seems disjointed and detracts, in a way, from the story it’s trying to tell.

And what is that story exactly? Hellboy and his girlfriend Liz are going through some relationship problems. Their pal Abe Sapien falls in love with a nymph-like creature whose brother is bent on finding the pieces to a crown that will enable him to resurrect the indestructable Golden Army and destroy humankind once and for all. Oh and Jeffrey Tambor cracks a lot of jokes, which is always a welcome thing.

The deeper storyline revolves around whether or not humankind deserves to be the guardians of this world when we can’t appreciate the beauty and truth that is around us. We trample nature and put creatures we don’t understand away in dark places. When Hellboy is asked to choose between destroying a magical minion of the bad guy or saving the humans – all of whom are pretty ungrateful – he has a bit of an existential crisis and with good reason. It’s hard to help people who hate you for how you look. Which is why I never help cheerleaders when they fell down.

The best part of any Hellboy movie is the out-of-leftfield jokes and wonderful visual humor that make you stop, laugh and go, “Did I just hear that right?” And Ron Perlman as Hellboy makes those jokes ten times more endearing, playing the crime-fighting demon as a spoiled man-child who just wants attention and never quite knows how to ask for it in the right way. Despite acting under pounds of latex, Perlman manages to make his character a fine romantic hero and you can understand what Hellboy’s flame-throwing girlfriend Liz sees in him.

The rest of the Hellboy cast is endearing, too. Selma Blair plays Liz with a world-weary detachment, a coolness that balances nicely with her characters ability to, you know, set things on fire. (Raise your hand if you want to see a flame-off between Blair’s Liz and Drew Barrymore in “Firestarter.” Imagine the S’mores!) Doug Jones gives a nice performance as Abe Sapian, although I’ll admit to missing David Hyde Pierce from the original film. And holy cow, Seth McFarlane is about as far away from “Family Guy” as can be with his voicing of Johann Krauss, the disembodied spirit that comes in to lead Hellboy and his crew.

All in all, “Hellboy II” was a lot of fun. Pretty to look at, lots of laughs, some great action scenes and a couple sniffle-worthy sad bits. I’m just not sure it’s something I’d want to see again.

Which leads me to believe I’ve also just described a date with a Kardeshian....

And the nominees are...totally up to you.

It's that time again! Let me know who you'd like to see take this month's Nerd Man honors. And remember, men have killed for this honor (not really) because of its enormous cash value (that's kind of a lie) and ability to sway an entire career (that's totally untrue) so please weigh your nominations carefully. (You can just throw out any name you want, really.)

And speaking of dreamy boys, don't forget that Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible debuts this week with Part I going up on his site tomorrow, Part II on the 17th and Part III on the 19th. Nathan Fillion and Neil Patrick Harris together in one place? It's too much for this girl to handle....

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

As if we didn't know Mother Nature is a sick, sick woman...

This is for Emily, who earlier today was saddened at the paucity of fainting goat posts on The Park Bench. Enjoy!

And while we're making fun of neurologically challenged animals, here's a BONUS video of Rusty, the narcoleptic dachshund!

To convention or not to convention, that is the question

There comes a time in every sci-fi fan’s life when they have to make the hard choice: do I go to the convention or not?

It doesn’t matter what convention, really. There’s always going to be some sort of carefully staged gathering poised to take advantage of a sci-fi fan’s deep, desperate love for shows with the word “star” or “Buffy” somewhere in the title. I was thinking about this last night when I discovered that something called Jump Con is coming to Detroit and the featured guests will be Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell.

I’m not sure if you know this about me, but I really like “Battlestar Galactica.”

So my first reaction was, “Awesome! Sign me up.” And my second reaction was, “Oh man, every time I go to one of these, I just come home feeling sad.”

Now, I need to clarify that I’m not talking about mega-conventions like Comic Con where you get to see previews of great new movies, comic books or TV shows. And I’m not talking about gatherings like Origins where people are interacting with each other and having a good time previewing new games and competing. I think that stuff’s fun.

But I’ve been to a few other types and, well, that word “sad” just keeps coming up. In college I went to a “Star Trek” convention with some friends on a lark, just to see what it was all about. While it was great scoring a copy of Brent Spiner’s surprisingly entertaining singing debut and checking out the merchandise booths, there was also an undeniably large amount of brightly-colored velour and middle-aged men with their mothers.

A few years after that, I dragged the husband to an X-Files convention. On the awesome side, there was Charles Nelson Reilly in slippers telling the most wonderfully ridiculous stories, and William B. Davis being Canadian and regaling us with tales of his water skiing prowess. You have to admit – you don’t see those two things every day. On the downside, there was Doug Hutchison trying to pick up college girls by telling them, “I played Tooms, you know.” And by the end of the day, I kind of felt like I was in some weird X-Files celebrity zoo.

That feeling was heightened earlier this year when I exercised my nerd duty and went to the Motor City Comic Con. Again, on the plus side, I saw a lot of great new artists and discovered some new authors that truly intrigued me. On the “wow, this is sad” side, I saw Mickey Dolenz (who I loved as a child), Erik Estrada and Lou Ferrigno sitting in little booths – not unlike at a petting zoo – waiting for people to come up and pay for their autographs. And I felt bad because I thought that Erik Estrada training to be a police officer in rural Indiana for a lousy reality TV show was as crappy as a career could get – until I saw him sitting in a booth in suburban Detroit with me walking by not willing to pay $10 to tell him how "ChiPs" made me afraid of motorcycle cops as a kid.

So maybe it’s the celebrity side of these conventions that bothers me. It’s the paying to meet people and have awkward 30-second conversations with them that just makes me feel weird, like I’m engaging in a high-end, rapid-fire act of fully-clothed prostitution. And please don’t think I’m being snobby and saying, “I’d never get an autograph that way” because trust me, I have. Mickey Dolenz and I had quite the awkward mini-conversation back at 1987’s Autorama car show and I’ve got autographs from Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn to prove I didn’t leave that “Star Trek” convention empty-handed. And don’t even get me started on book signings: I’ve collected the signatures and disdain of many of America’s greatest writers. Mostly, I think I make these situations bad on my own. I’m notoriously terrible at human conversation in general. Put a celebrity in front of me and I become exponentially more socially retarded. Nine times out of ten, there’s a good chance I’ll fall down. In fact, let me describe for you what me meeting Mary McDonnell at a convention might look like: I would likely attempt an ill-advised joke about not being gay just because I think she’s awesome. And she would look at me like, “What the fuck?” And then, like a fainting goat, I would fall down.

I’m sure millions of people have a great time at these conventions. And I’m sure the actors who take part in them have a blast, too. It’s got to be great knowing so many people enjoy your work. But you know at some point, there’s going to be awkwardness and weirdness. At some point, someone’s going to stand up and ask Olmos to read their BSG/Punky Brewster crossover fan fic and everyone in the room is going to die from the collective shame. And everyone who bought a ticket will feel tainted by association.

So, with the prostitution vibe, my own social awkwardness and the guarantee that roughly 20 percent of the other attendees will be really weird and lacking the requisite shame to keep it to themselves, I’ve just soured on the experience.

Who are we kidding though? You know and I know I'll probably end up going to the damn thing anway. God knows, there's nothing else to do in Detroit. So if you hear about a woman falling down in front of Mary McDonnell, just pray for my shame-filled soul.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Married woman seeks 325 pages of prose for discreet weekend dalliances

This may be admitting to a psychosis, but I tend to relate to books as if they were people. When a book is good for the first 275 pages and then completely falls apart at the end, I feel as though it has betrayed me. “You made me think you were a modern American classic!” is pretty much akin to finding out my date with the PhD from Stanford had only driven through Stanford and actually it wasn’t even Stanford. It was Stamford. Yes, the one in Connecticut.

And when a book is good, I want to be its BFF beyond forever. “Les Miserables” and I could grow old together, rocking on the front porch of some stately old home, swapping stories and talking about how awesome Jean Valjean is.

This is why I wish there was a dating service for books. I get cold feet trying to find something new to read. Walking into a bookstore is like walking into a party alone when really, I’d just rather be sitting on the couch with people I already know. I’m comfortable at home with my Dorothy Parkers and my Fitgeralds and Carvers. The trouble is though, what with being dead and all, they’re not producing much new work. I’m forced to find new meat. But what if I pick up a book and what I thought was clever prose actually turns out to be painfully pretentious prose – the literary equivalent of giving me the clap on page 278? What if I buy something with a shiny cover and find out it’s dumb as a brick? What if I pick up “Midnight’s Children” and get stuck talking to Salmon Rushdie all night? (If he gets cheese in his beard, do I tell him?)

I wish I could just sign up for a service and tell a computer what my likes and dislikes are: I’m a Capricorn with a passion for spare ribs, Anne Tyler and epic poetry. Post-modern fiction need not apply. And then the computer coughs up a reading list for me, guaranteed to please or my money back.

Once you pick up a book, there is an implied commitment, just like when a guy takes you out to dinner and you order a $20 entrĂ©e, there’s the implication you’ll at least stay through the $10 dessert and then ask to be taken home because you feel gassy. I don’t want to make that kind of commitment with just any book. I want something that’s going to hold my attention past the colorful cover, past the first few pages and the first few character introductions. I’m in dire need of a book that’s going to put my heart to racing at least a few times and make me want to scribble things like “Liz + One Hundred Years of Solitude 4 EVER” on my notebooks.

And yet, I have no idea how to make that choice. In the past, I was a mass shopper – just grab a bunch of books and hope for the best. I was, in short, a brazen book whore. But now I just don’t find the same satisfaction in doing that. I want to cut to the chase and find a good book on my first go-around. I don’t have time to dilly dally or fuss with inferior products. This cougar ain’t getting’ any younger.

So, until the day someone invents a literary dating service, I’m afraid I’ll just be spending a lot of time browsing, hoping against hope I can find at least one book that thrills me enough to not only give it my real name but also call it back in the morning.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth of July everyone! In honor of this day, I give you Bill Pullman's stirring speech from "Independence Day"...and just remember, if the aliens ever take over Earth and Bill Pullman leads us to victory on a holiday weekend, then "the fourth of July will no longer be just an American holiday." And we'll all owe our lives to Randy Quaid.

Cracks me up every time.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

News of the Mid-Morning - July 3

+ Recession. Wildfires. A decade-long campaign for president. Of all the terrible things facing America these days, this bit of news seems worst of all: we're going to have to wait another few weeks for the Brangelina twins. How much more must our nation endure??

+ Remember how all I ever talk about is "Battlestar Galactica?" (I know, it's terrible. Just imagine what it's like to live with me.) Anyway, just for fun, let's replace that mania with "Dr. Horrible" for a while and check out the official debut of Captain Hammer, Dr. Horrible's nemesisisisis, in this new Dark Horse comic.

+ Can I just tell you how much I love the random photos that Google News runs with its teasers? This, for example:

The court case will apparently be judged by the feline cast of "Pirates of Penzance."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

News of the Day -- Wednesday, July 2

+ Yesterday was just one of those days, you know? In case you had one of those days, too, let's all watch the Dr. Horrible teaser and make it better, shall we?

Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.

+ Science-types are talking about the possibility of an invisibility cloak. You know what I would do if I had an invisibility cloak? I would spend a whole day just giving people the finger. Dogs and little children, too. I don't know why, it just seems like a reasonable thing to do.

+ Did you hear that Nelson Mandela was taken off the United States' terrorism watch list yesterday? Happy Birthday, Nelson! At first, we were going to get you a gift certificate to Bed, Bath and Beyond but this seemed so much more personal. On a related note, King George III rose from the dead yesterday, got in his time machine and took George Washington off The Naughty Colonial List. Sigh.

+ And did you know that yesterday was the 100th anniversary of the S.O.S. signal, marking the 100th anniversary of me of confusing it with scouring pads?

+ And finally, Galactica Sitrep reports that Jane "Everything I Write Turns to Magical Television Gold" Espenson will write the first of the three proposed Battlestar Galactica TV movies. Word is that Edward James Olmos will direct. And there was much rejoicing...