Thursday, October 30, 2008

Getting to know The Doctor

Pull to open, indeed.

Remember how "Doctor Who"'s David Tennant was our Nerd Man a few months ago and I said that I kind of liked the show but didn't really know that much about it? And then later I saw a few more episodes but still didn't know much about it? Well, I decided finally to do something about that gap in my pop culture knowledge and started renting what I believe is Season 2 of the new "Doctor Who" from Netflix. (Season one's the one with Christopher Eccleston, right?) I figured I'd start with Doctor #10 because, well, just look at that hair! (Yes, I am deeply and oxymoronically shallow.) I'm about seven episodes in so far and I gotta say, I'm enjoying the hell out of it.

I figured it would be funny and it certainly fills my need for goofy sci-fi monsters and ridiculous plots. What I didn't realize was quite how exciting it would be or how emotional. I have to admit, I got completely choked up in the episode where Ten is reunited with his past companion Sarah Jane (and Anthony Stewart Head eats children -- that wasn't the teary part) who tries to explain to The Doctor what it was like to get left behind. Okay, I knew zero, nothing and nada about what had gone on in past episodes, but wow, it was sniffle city when poor Sarah told him no other man had matched up to him. And seriously, her robot dog got to me, too. And then realizing that the Doctor's current companion, poor Rose, would one day go through the Companion Ditching, too. Ugh. This must be what "normal" women feel like when they watch "Sex and the City." Except for the robotic dog part.

Oh, and the two-parter with the Cybermen! Seems lame on paper: mad scientists puts human brains in robotic army to take over world. Oookay, but damn, it was exciting! Poor Rose and her parallel universe family. At least they named the dog after her.

The real draw, though, is Tennant. He's so frenetic, careening from one emotion to another. So charming and effusive one minute and then truly scary the next. He gives the Doctor more than enough edge to keep him from going cartoony. And I like the fact that the Doctor is not always a nice guy. He can be cold and deeply arrogant. But flawed heroes are the best heroes, right? All I know is, when the Doctor yells, it's six parts scary and four parts sexy...and that's pretty much reason enough to watch the show right there.

I'm not quite sure how I'm going to feel watching a new Doctor when the time comes. And that conceit of a new doctor every few years ties in with the one thing about the show I don't actually like. It's the same thing that always bothered me about "Star Trek" actually and that's the fact that the show is restricted by its format. I know just by watching the ten or so episodes I've seen that the relationship between Rose and the Doctor will likely never be resolved in a satisfying way because the Doctor is always meant to change and the Companion is always meant to change. Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but I can see where the writers hold back on what could be very powerful scenes or character developments because of the impermanence of these individuals. It's kind of a drag, but certainly not enough of a drag to get me to stop watching.

This post was meant as my act of contrition to any and all people who told me I'd grow to love this show. You were right! And yes, you don't even have to say it: I'll be trying "Torchwood" too.

ETA: It's now official that Tennant will be leaving after this coming season of "Who." Was it something I said??

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Nerd Man: Anthony Stewart Head

Nostalgia made me do it. I admit right here and now that the selection of Anthony Stewart Head as October’s much-delayed Nerd Man of the Month was at least in part* the result of listening to the “Once More With Feeling” soundtrack and remembering just how wonderful Head was as Giles on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” And that voice! No one can deny the magnetic quality of that voice. Le rowr.

A true journeyman actor, Head seems to pop up everywhere and often when you least expect it. After starting off in those God-awful coffee commercials years ago, he ended up on the sci-fi series VR-5. Then later, there was Buffy, which deserves a paragraph of its own. We had the BBC’s “Manchild” series, which I adored. He sang his transvestite heart out in the London revival of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” He popped up in “Sweeney Todd.” He rocked in “Doctor Who.” (And what a loss that he didn’t get the part of the Eighth Doctor. He’d have been perfect.) He looked wonderfully confused and stern in “Little Britain.” He’s going to be in the BBC’s “Merlin” series as King Arthur’s father, and he’s got a very disturbing and gory musical film coming out called “Repo! The Genetic Opera.” The man’s even got his own CD, “Music For Elevators.”

As terrific as Head is in all those parts, it's his role as Giles that truly cements his nerd man status. Sarah Michelle Gellar may have been the star of “Buffy” and James Marsters and David Boreanez its heart throbs, but Head was the anchor. A show about teenagers and the pain of growing up needed a strong parent figure and Head’s Giles was always up to the challenge. He was caring and funny and charmingly self-involved – his mid-life crisis after his “kids” went away to college was particularly great. Most of all, Giles was smart and may well have been the first character in the history of television to make research sexy. The true value of Head became clear after he left the show in season 6 when, in my opinion, “Buffy” lost so much of its heart.

Besides the acting skills and genre credentials, by all accounts Head just seems like a nice guy. And we nerdy chicks dig the nice guys. Plus, aesthetically speaking, just look at that photo. What’s not to love?

So, for being a stellar actor, for filling our genre needs, for having a voice that makes us purr, for making Giles awesome and for being a generally swell fellow, The Park Bench is pleased to name Anthony Stewart Head as its October Nerd Man of the Month.

* Agent57 was also kind enough to suggest Head during my plea for nominees last week. Thanks, Agent57!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hello kitty, turn your brights off!

I know I've blogged about this before, but seriously, the idea of glow in the dark cats just never gets old. Mr. Green Genes -- as his cruel science overlords dubbed him -- is a cloned feline with phosphorescent skin who fights crime. Okay, no, he just has phosphorescent skin but surely the ability to glow in the dark should make him eligible for some sort of hirsute superhero brigade, right?

Here's a video of Mr. Green Genes. In case you can't see his thought bubble, it says, "Fuuuuck...where is that light coming from? Let it be Lauer. Let it be Lauer."

Scientists claim they're doing this to cure diseases and save endangered species. Personally, I think these cats are being bred to sell to college kids who'll drape scarves over them and smoke dope in their mellow glow. Yay science! We'll just solve global warming tomorrow.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Promo for Buffy, the animated series

How the heck did I miss this? It's a short, 3-minute promo for what would have been "Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Animated Series." I can't believe this project got nixed. It would have been great, judging from this snippet.

Cinematic! And kinda far away!

There are some who would say that driving 1,362 miles in one weekend to watch a poorly dubbed movie about a family of 19th-century Mexican vampires is not a good use of one's time. To which I would say, "But it was a live stage version of Cinematic Titanic!" Then you -- chastised but just a little bit wiser -- would heartily agree with me that yes, that was quite possibly the finest use of a weekend imaginable. And in a final act of reconciliation, we would hug and eat s'mores.

All of which is my long way of saying The Husband and I drove to Minneapolis this weekend to see Trace Beaulieu, Frank Conniff, Joel Hodgson, Mary Jo Pehl and J. Elvis Weinstein -- the original cast of "Mystery Science Theater" -- perform an incredible live version of their Cinematic Titanic project. (And after the show, a hooker hit on my husband. Bonus!)

For those of you who worshiped at the "MST" altar as I did, the idea of seeing this cast once again rip into a truly crappy movie is the equivalent of what Amy Winehouse must feel when she romps with chocolate bears made of heroin and puppies who bark cocaine. In short, it was awesome from beginning to end.

The show took place at Minneapolis' very pretty State Theater and the movie in question was called "Blood of the Vampires." The plot, near as I could figure, revolved around a family in 19th century Mexico whose mother was a vampire. They kept her in a not-very-locked coffin in the basement while the father lounged around aaaalllmost dying every day except for the times when he felt better and went downstairs to whip his wife. Why? I don't know. Oh, and then (spoiler alert!) the son got married and vamped his wife and then the daughter was going to get married but something happened to her beau, which was sad because he was kind of like a hot Filipino Wayne Newton. And then some other stuff happened. The End.

None of which is even remotely important because you don't go see Cinematic Titanic for the bad movie. You go see it for the awesome comedy. As much as I liked "The Oozing Skull," which was the first CT offering I saw on DVD, this was ten times better. The joke-to-laugh ratio hovered somewhere around the 100 percent mark, and I laughed through the entire thing, from giggle to guffaw. And it was exactly the style of comedy I fell in love with these guys for in the first place: smart, esoteric, wonderfully ridiculous and brilliantly head-scratchy. God love 'em, they even did a "stop, drop and roll" joke when a vamp went up in flames. The warm-up act, Todd Carlin, rocked too, perfectly setting the stage for the evening to come.

It was great seeing how much fun the cast seemed to have, laughing at jokes, turning around to look at the audience. The whole show was relaxed yet polished, seemingly spontaneous but so well-timed and written. Many years ago, I saw an MST stage show and seeing Cinematic Titanic reminded me of just how well this format works live. The laughter is contagious, and damn if it doesn't just make you feel, well, happy at the end of the night.

If you only do one thing of consequence in your should probably involve getting a job or helping poor people. But if you do TWO things of consequence, one of them absolutely has to be seeing this show live and in person. They're playing in St. Louis this weekend and Chicago from Dec. 18 through the 20th. The full schedule with ticket info is here. If you live within 681 miles of either of those locations, BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW AND GO.

The cast also does a meet-and-greet after the show so be sure to bring a boob* or maybe some DVDs for signing. Also, for those of you keeping score at home, my social awkardness during the signing was somewhere around a 5.5 (out of what? I don't know). I did, however, refrain from blurting out, "If there is a heaven, let it be filled with you singing 'Joey the Lemur'" while standing in front of Joel, so pat-on-the-back-time for me!

So, to summarize: Cinematic Titanic? Brilliant enough to drive through Wisconsin for. Twice.**

* Just kidding. Bret Michaels isn't on this leg of the tour.

** Speaking of Wisconsin, what the hell is this? We saw a million billboards for it and call me old fashioned, but the words "exploratory" and "family fun" just shouldn't go together.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Odds and Ends

  • I'm still coming down from my "30 Rock" high last night. If you're like me and can't get enough Tina Fey, here's a pretty interesting profile of her from today's USA Today. And how great was it to see Will Farrell and Fey together on the SNL special last night?
  • The Muppets are going noir! The Jim Henson Co., has picked up a spec script that revolves around more adult versions of Muppets caught in a murder mystery. I'm intrigued.

  • And finally, well, I'm ashamed to admit this but I realized it's almost the end of October and I haven't come up with a Nerd Man of the Month! I've got one or two ideas, but would love to hear your suggestions. Let me know who should earn the honor this month.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New "30 Rock" up on Hulu

Run, do not walk, to Hulu right now and watch the season premiere of "30 Rock,". It's up a week early and it's like a gift that Santa and Jesus would go in on together if they really, really liked you. I do not care if you are guiding in a jumbo jet with nothing but really bright candles at this very moment or are performing double brain surgery. Nothing is more important than watching this episode. It is hilarious. Gone are the memories of last season's so-so outings. This is everything that is good and great about "30 Rock." I don't want to spoil the plot for you or anything about it. I will simply say, there is nothing not to love about Alec Baldwin uttering the words, "She touched me in my swim suit area."

I missed you, Liz Lemon, and all your crazy friends.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things Universal Pictures Would Need to Do to Get Me To Care Even a Little Bit About "The Incredible Hulk"

Of all the comic book characters that I don't care about, The Incredible Hulk sits right at the top of the list. I didn't like the Bill Bixby TV series when I was a kid. I didn't like the Ang Lee version except for the bits where Eric Bana was looking pouty. I never read the comic books and while I haven't seen the latest version with Edward Norton and Liv Tyler, the idea of watching it is right up there on my pleasure scale alongside watching the entire 2008 presidential election all over again...which is to say it is so low, it is actually nestled in the molten core of the planet.

There are, though, a few things Universal Pictures could do to get me to watch the movie. They could:

1) Replace The Incredible Hulk with Ironman, write an entire new plot involving Ironman and actually name the movie "Here's More Ironman, Liz."
2) Make him erase all post-season one memories of "Heroes."
3) Have Hulk hold up hilarious LOLcat photos and snuggle with kittens.
4) Have Hulk torn limb from limb by Hellboy.
5) Or a T.rex.
6) Or Madonna.
7) Have Hulk vertically spoon Kate Winslett on the prow of a ship and yell something about being king of the world...and then get torn limb from limb by Hellboy, who happens to be vacationing.
8) Find a way for Hulk to fix global warming, world hunger, the financial crisis and that weird sound my car makes.
9) Wrestle a shark.
10) Prove the existence of the Easter Bunny and ease at least one of my childhood traumas.
11) Engage Kermit the Frog in a heartwarming debate on the difficulties inherent in being green. And then they kiss. HAWT!
12) Feed me tasty McGriddle sandwiches over the entire length of the movie.
13) Decapitate Jar Jar Binks in a lightsaber battle that quickly devolves into a Quentin Tarantino-directed bloodbath of epic proportions.
14) Perform a hilarious yet touching rendition of "Rocketman" with William Shatner and Family Guy's Stewie.
15) They could also try writing a compelling character and putting him in a meaningful story with genuine appeal that doesn't revolve around the yawn-inducing idea of, "Wow, that guy gets really big when he's angry" but that's just crazy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

David Sedaris, live and in a great distance

As much as I love reading, I think I love hearing stories read out loud even more. In college, I used to go to at least one or two author readings a week. Hearing writers read their stories was, at times, a transcendent experience. That’s something I remembered late last week when I had the opportunity to hear David Sedaris read in Ann Arbor. (Thanks for the ticket, Mary and Rob!) Ostensibly, Sedaris was there to read from his latest collection, “When You Are Engulfed In Flames,” but the minute he took the podium, he announced, “I’m not reading from that book. I’m incredibly sick of it.” Which proved to be a boon for the audience because it meant Sedaris instead read three unpublished essays and a series of excerpts from his diary, which he has kept for decades and from which he gleans the nuts and bolts of his stories. The event was held in a huge auditorium and Sedaris was just a tiny speck in the distance but still, that transcendent feeling was present.

If you’re a Sedaris fan, you’ll know that he’s been moving imperceptibly toward more serious essays, growing a little more reflective on life and its circumstances while still throwing in more than a few choice punchlines. He started off with a story about two trainrides he took years apart during which he met two very different men. The story was a wonderful meditation on the idea of love at first sight, on those flashes of attraction that take place once or twice in a lifetime but leave a lasting mark. It was a beautiful story and I’ll admit, I got a little choked up toward the end. He also read a piece about undecided voters that you can find here in the latest issue of The New Yorker. His last number was an absolutely uproarious story about being on a book tour and the horrifying awkwardness of pushing a shopping cart filled with nothing but condoms and strawberries with his brother-in-law at a Costco.

I was thrilled to see that Sedaris is taking on the Mandy Patinkin-style of stage show, which means basically that he’s thrown convention out the window and just decided to do weird stuff. (Mandy Patinkin’s concerts used to include moments when you could “come on stage and present me with gifts” and “come on stage and touch me.” They were pretty damn funny.) Anyway, Sedaris gives away gifts, he claims, to high school students who attend his readings because “they could be home getting drunk but instead they’ve come to see a middle aged man read out loud.” He also likes to take informal polls while signing books and thoroughly enjoys getting asked outrageous questions. One woman, he said, asked her to name her donkey. He blurted out, “Stephanie!” and then proceeded to spend the rest of the evening worrying he’d decided too quickly. Sedaris says he enjoys these minute-long meetings with his fans because, the older he’s gotten, he’s realized that one-minute is pretty much the ideal amount of time to spend with people. I can respect that.

If you have a chance to see Sedaris, you have to promise me you'll go. It's a great night out, it will remind you of how wonderful live readings can actually be and, if you have a donkey in need of naming, well, David's your man.

Monday, October 20, 2008

In space, no one can hear you scream like a child when the video game gets too scary

"Dude, he's right behind you."

Much of this past weekend was lost playing "Dead Space." And by "playing" I of course mean sitting on the couch next to The Husband while he plays because I suck at video games and usually end up spending a good 15 minutes walking my character into a wall while monsters rip his legs off. So mostly I helped this weekend by shouting things like, "Shoot it! Shoot it!"

"Dead Space" involves a dude in a cool looking space suit searching through a space station that was the site of lots and lots of carnage. A few humans survived but for the most part, the area is filled with murderous monsters that are either the result of genetic experiments or alien involvement. It's the dude's job to find out what happened and also see if he can find his it's kind of like Super Mario except the princess might have been turned into a space zombie and Yoshi was likely eaten by a critter with really long arms and six-foot long claws for hands. Also, no magic mushrooms...yet.

I pretty much love this game. It's like working your way through an interactive movie. The graphics are great and the storyline is extraordinarily suspenseful. And holy cow, watching this thing with the lights off is a severe test of the human nervous system. Mostly, this has to do with the sound effects. You can hear creatures skittering around in the air ducts, somewhere above or just over your avatar's shoulders. You hear them but you can't tell when or from where they're going to leap out at you. The music is terrific, too, rising and falling and helping to build the suspense. There were more than a few times this weekend when The Husband and I both jumped out of our seats and yelped as big scary creatures attacked from out of nowhere, made all the more scary by the ominous notes fluttering just under the auditory radar.

The game play is good too. I've played watched some games where the objectives are just non-sensical and don't seem to push the plot forward. Everything is very fluid here and using logic to solve problems actually pays off by moving the story. The shootin' and the fightin' are way cool with things actually disintegrating when you shoot at them instead of getting frustratingly elusive.

I should mention that the carnage in this game is really heavy duty: decapitations, spewing organs, enough blood to make Dracula hold up his bat hands and say, "Enough vith ze gore."

But it's such a cool game. If you're looking for something moody and perfect for the Halloween season, you have to check out "Dead Space." And if you're a sissy like me, you might want to have someone else work the controls so you can close your eyes at the really scary bits.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Odds and Ends

  • Photos from the new Star Trek movie. The bridge looks so sex-ay! More photos here.
  • This video has likely been around for a while but it was new to me...and in the words of Barney, "It. Is. Awesome." How I Met Your Mother's Jason Segal and god-like love muffin Neil Patrick Harris doing the Jean Valjean/Inspector Javert confrontation song from "Les Miserables." Gold. Pure gold.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monsters ahoy!

I have not been abducted by aliens or turned into Soylent Green. This is just the time of year at work when I get overwhelmed and spend most of the day huddled under my desk weeping softly. If I had been abducted by aliens, though, it would be been the perfect segue into today’s riveting subject matter:

In honor of Halloween, which scary monster would you most like to be…if, you know, you were forced to enlist in the scary monster corps?

I’ve been thinking about this deeply between bouts of insomnia and binge drinking the last few days, and I’ve come to a few conclusions.

On the surface of it, being a ghost seems like a good bet because a) you can walk through walls b) wearing a sheet means the elimination of fashion dilemmas c) you’re in good company with the likes of Casper and d) you have a pretty good chance of being on “Ghost Hunters.” But I don’t know, ghosts just seem so commonplace. The whole thing’s a bit of a yawner.

So maybe a vampire? There’s good mojo with the whole “Buffy”/”Angel” mythos. Who wouldn’t want to be a member of Spike’s club? And there’s history what with Dracula although being associated with a guy named Vlad the Impaler kind of puts a damper on new friendships. Also, blood sans vodka, ice and a stalk of celery seems like a pretty disgusting beverage.

Wolfwoman perhaps? I’d never get any baying or howling done with all that shaving and waxing.

Frankenstein monster? Detachable parts seem dangerous. Also, a square head would NOT flatter my body shape.

Which leads me to zombie. I’d definitely get a lot of walking done with all the shambling about and wreaking of havoc. On the other hand, cardio’s probably not so important with the undead. Also, I’d worry about mad cow disease with the all-brain diet. Still, though, you can’t deny that the market is hot for zombies. There’s books, movies, voodoo, Rob Zombie – the list goes on. Plus, the inarticulate groaning means never having to worry about mispronouncing a word I’ve only ever read on the page. Buh-bye awkward linguistic embarrassment, hello “aaarghgrrrr brains.”

My final verdict? Zombie all the way.

What kind of monster would you be?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Odds and Ends

  • And if you need more Nathan -- and let's face it, who doesn't? -- here's a preview of his upcoming ABC series, "Castle." Here's hoping it doesn't get canceled before it airs. C'mon, network television, give Nathan a chance to be awesomely Canadian on something other than DVD:

  • Mark your calendars now: Oct. 26 is World Zombie Day. Go here to check and see if your city is hosting a Zombie Walk for charity. Also food drives...hopefully not with brains and such. Ew. I mean, aaaarrrrgghhhh.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

All hail the teachers!

If there’s anything the Nerdy Set appreciates, it’s a good education. This past Sunday was World Teacher Day, and it got me thinking about how truly life-changing teachers can be. Let’s face it, as people who liked school, we probably also had a lot of teachers we admired. I know I did. From kindergarten through college, I was lucky enough to have far more great teachers than not-so-great teachers. And a number of them truly did change my future.

There was my fifth grade teacher who just looked at me with dismay the day I showed up to school with a novelization of “9 to 5” in my hands. (Don’t ask - I was a strange child.) She called me up to the front of the class during study hall and handed me a different book, saying, “What you read actually matters. Don’t read crap.” She may have used a different word than “crap” but that’s how I remember it. To this day, every time I’m in a bookstore, I hear her words. They simultaneously make me laugh and force me to steer clear of the chick-lit section as if it were on fire.

This teacher used to press us to try new things, too. I don’t know how many other fifth graders were learning Chinese just for the hell of it in the early 80s but we were. I used to wonder why we were bothering with a language we’d never be able to master and would likely soon forget, but years later, I thought, “Yeah, but why not?” It was my first venture into learning something just for the joy of discovery.

In high school, I had two pedagogical heroes. The first was my creative writing teacher who introduced me to contemporary literature after years of thinking that writers all wrote like Dickens or James – scads and scads of clauses, hundred page descriptions of biscuits. He opened my eyes, introducing our class to Raymond Carver, Tobias Wolff, Flannery O’Connor and others. He taught us how to pull apart a story, examine it in all its disjointed glory and figure out how to put together our own narratives. He encouraged us and never made us feel like we were just high school kids making up stories. In his class, we were all serious writers doing serious work – he gave us dignity and in turn, that gave us drive.

My other hero was my Latin teacher. A true eccentric, this guy used to climb onto his desk and yell at us in Greek whenever we misbehaved…until we reminded him this was a Latin class. He made us laugh and incorporated every trick in the book to get us to learn. Believe it or not, playing Jeopardy with categories like “How Your Classmate Tiffany Relates To Rome” actually helped me understand the difference between accusative and ablative. (I just like to say the word “ablative.”) And I’ll never forget the day he got into a truly Dada-esque argument with a student over the correct pronunciation of the word “urbs,” which ended with both of them shouting it at each other as loud as they could until our chain-smoking teacher’s diminished lung capacity forced him to raise the white flag. For all the hijinks, he took learning seriously and he took us seriously. You never doubted for a second that this man cared about what he was teaching you and more importantly, cared about you as a person…even when you had pizzas sent to his class and shouted “urbs” at him. What more could any student ask?

Who were some of your favorite teachers? Let’s give them all a little recognition even if it’s just a shout-out in the blogosphere. Beats that tired ol’ apple on the desk thing...

Odds and

  • Okay, enough about books: the announcement came out yesterday that "Battlestar Galactica" Season 4.0 DVDs will be released on January 6 because really, it seems silly to try to put them out before Christmas. Don't want Santa snatching them all up now, do we? Also, did I mention that Mary McDonnell is going to be appearing on "Gray's Anatomy" for five episodes, which will start airing in know, two months before her other show returns? My girl crush is being seriously tested by this as I deeply, deeply dislike "Gray's." Why couldn't she be on "House?"

Monday, October 06, 2008

Odds and Ends

Friday, October 03, 2008

Crazy chicks! No, seriously, they were crazy.

If you've read The Park Bench for a while, you know about my probably unhealthy fascination with absurd personalities, the crazier the better. A friend recently introduced me to six extraordinarily bizarre women and in turn, I thought I'd share them with you. Collectively, they're known as The Mitford Sisters. Daughters of England's Lord and Lady Redesdale, the sisters grew up isolated in the Cotswalds and came of age in an era populated by the wealthy young men and women Evelyn Waugh dubbed "bright young things." Lots of partying, lots of money, lots of shallowness, not a lot of brain power. Individually, the sisters were known as Debo, Diana, Jessica, Unity, Nancy and Pamela. If you've ever read "The American Way of Death," you'll recognize Jessica's name. Apparently, she was one of the less crazy sisters. FYI, "less crazy" is a completely subjective phrase here.

First off, I'm totally a neophyte in the Mitford world. I've just picked up a few choice nuggets about the sisters, but those nuggets have deepened my belief that in-breeding among the upper classes was not an entirely bad thing because a) it stopped them from bothering the normal people and b) it resulted in sisters nicknamed Hen, Decca, Cord, Honks and Bobo. It also resulted in women who made up their own linguistic shorthand and wrote thank you notes like these:

“Thank you SO much for the HEVERN eveninger" -- referring to a heavenly evening bag -- "I even forgive you being a fascist.”

Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I had to write THAT in a thank-you card!

The Mitford family was lousy with fascists, from mommy and daddy on down. One of the sisters rebelled by becoming a Communist which did NOT make her popular with the rest of gals. (And you think your Christmases are complicated!) To wit, here's a quote from a New York Times Book Review article talking about two of the sisters' devotion to Hitler:

Unity and Diana wrote gushing letters about Hitler that offer appalling insight into what some civilized people thought at the time. “Poor sweet F├╝hrer, he’s having such a dreadful time,” Unity wrote to Nancy in 1934, trying to dissuade her from publishing “Wigs on the Green,” her novel satirizing Unity’s fanaticism. She signed off as she always did in those days, with utter sincerity, “Heil Hitler! Love Bobo.”

Truly, that is one of the most disturbing yet darkly hilarious things I have ever read. In fact, as I told my friend, if it weren't for the fact that Hitler was the embodiment of evil, the phrase "Heil Hitler! Love Bobo" would make an awesome band name.

Unity actually stalked Adolf until he became her friend -- sort of like Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton. And then, according to The NY Times, Unity went and "shot herself in the head when England declared war on Germany." (She survived.) That doesn't make her a very supportive friend, does it, just instantly assuming that England would beat Germany? How did she explain that to Adolf? "Well, I just assumed you'd lose so I shot myself in a show of solidarity." That God she wasn't a Cubs fan.

I bring up these nutty sisters because I'm fascinated by real life stories that prove the adage "truth is stranger than fiction" and also because I'm fascinated by people's ability to delude themselves on such a grand scale. "Heil Hitler, Love Bobo" evokes such utter disdain and disgust but at the same time, what can you do but shrug and wonder, "How does someone that stupid even learn to breathe?" And then you have to point and laugh and wonder what life was like inside that mental bubble of hers.

Truly, the world is a curious place.

Odds and Ends for Friday

  • Have you heard about the Ig Nobels? These awards honor "weird" science (as opposed to "fringe" science which honors Joshua Jackson for being hot). Among the studies tapped this year: researchers who investigated the claim that Coca-Cola works as a contraceptive, a psychologist who discovered that food that sounds better tends to taste better and a pair of archeologists who determined that armidillos can change the course of history.
  • Even though I just pledged not to get into politics, the debate last night got me thinking and now I have to ask: how do you guys feel about the pronunciation of "nuclear?" Does hearing it pronounced "nu-cu-ler" drive you as absolutely batshit insane as it does me? If there is a hell, I'm convinced it will be filled with Joe Don Baker movies and a steady stream of people dropping non-existent "u"s into the middle of words.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Colbert makes Gotham City his bitch...without even mussing his hair!

Stephen Colbert kicks ass in every pop culture realm. Check out the cover of his upcoming special issue of The Amazing Spider-Man:

I love it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

It's the Z that makes them Zexy.

Am I a huge perv for thinking this looks disturbingly erotic? Like I just stumbled on a horrible, horrible sub-genre of romance novels where half the readers are furries and the other half are the people the furries are afraid of?

If this were a novel, I imagine the back cover copy says something like this:

Tristian and Isabel find passion in the verdant fields of Elysium while Jessica and Rex watch Jesus dangle string from heaven.

Just me? I'm guessing it's just me.