Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Odds and ends

I have not joined the circus nor left the planet in search of a moderately sized blue box that's bigger on the inside. Real world work has gone completely nutty, forcing the nerdy goodness of my life temporarily to one side. I even missed the Oscars! Anyway, I'm swooping in with a few quick updates:

+ As a fan of doughy guys, I am thrilled beyond reckoning that Andy Richter will resume his sidekick duties with Conan O'Brien when his Tonight Show stint begins. I've missed you, Andy. Now if only you'd wear that coat with the puppies in it every night, I'd be in a perpetual state of bliss.

+ Speaking of welcomed additions, did you hear that Michael Cera has finally signed on for the "Arrested Development" movie? Can I get a "woo" and a "hoo"? Of course, he's probably too old to do any more good jokes of him sitting on Jason Bateman's lap learning to drive...a memory that still reduces me to giggles.

+ I thought this was pretty interesting: 10 Video Games That Should Be Considered Modern Art. I agree wholeheartedly with most all the choices but especially with the Fallout series. I love watching my husband play that game. The graphics are incredible, the art direction amazing and really, any video game that includes Cole Porter in its soundtrack is brilliant in my book.

+ And finally, check out these nifty images from Agatha Christie's recently renovated home in Devon, England. It's now open to the public.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Bamber and Agyeman, fightin' crime and lawyering it up

The Law and Orders continue to spawn and this time they're taking the British sci-fi people with them. Check out this preview of Law & Order: UK starring Battlestar's Jamie Bamber and Doctor Who's Freema Agyeman.

Rumor has it Law and Order: UK likely will air in the U.S. at some point. The show is already better than the original for one simple reason: judges in wigs! Awesome.

Nerd Man of the Month: Stephen Fry

It was a close race but Stephen Fry edged out Greg Grunberg and the men of Top Gear to seize the coveted title of The Park Bench's Nerd Man of the Month. The King of Twitter earns this prestigious (hey, stop laughing) prize for several reasons:

* He's very, very funny. And he's been that way for a very long time. Twenty years ago, I was a big nerdy Fry and Laurie fan and still giggle with foolish pleasure at their absurd and brilliant sketches even when they make me think, "Oh God, that's horrible," as in the case of the sketch below.

* He played Jeeves. And no respectable literary nerd has anything but the deepest love and affection for Jeeves and all who have embodied him.

* He knows his gadgets. The man knows more about gadgets and the gadgets that run the gadgets and the people who make the gadgets that run the other gadgets than almost any other normal human being. Certainly more than any other normal human being who's ever played Jeeves.

* He can break entire websites with one mighty Tweet from his Twitterific quiver. Seriously, the man has roughly 7 million followers and manages to entertain each and every one of us pretty much all day long. He's jovial, informative, kindly, appropriately cranky at times and just damn well entertaining.

* He's on "Bones." And we lady geeks love the "Bones" with the science and the Boreanaz.

* He's a novelist. Stephen Fry is a wonderful writer. His first novel, The Liar, has held a cherished place on my book shelf for years. He's written three more since then in between all the other spiffy stuff he's done including traveling to all 50 U.S. states for the BBC.

I could go on and on so let's just summarize here and declare Stephen Fry to be a stellar individual more than worthy of our humble Nerd Man honors. Plus he's very tall and signs his tweets with little x's. Seriously, what's not to love?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Speaking of nerdy men...

...I believe we're in need of some Nerd Man of the Month nominations. Please let me know your preference for the gentleman upon whom this month's honor should be bestowed. For handy reference, here's a list of past winners:

Jim Parsons
Neil Gaiman
Bruce Campbell
Adam Baldwin
Neil Patrick Harris
Patrick Stewart
Robert Downey Jr.
David Tennant
John Krasinski
Conan O'Brien
Alton Brown
Michael Cera
Nathan Fillion
Flight of the Conchords
Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost
James Gunn
Wil Wheaton
Jonathan Coulton
John Hodgman
Joss Whedon

Nominate away! Actually, I'll throw in the first suggestion: the men of Top Gear -- James May, Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson.

Joss, Neil and Time Magazine -- together at last, four years ago!

Courtesy of today's Nerd World column at Time Magazine, here's an interview from 2005 with Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon. It's a great read with them both talking about totally different projects but also discussing what it's like to be nerd icons. A sample:

TIME: I almost miss the stigma that used to attach to these things. Now everybody's into Tolkien. And I feel a little like, hey, I've been into that stuff my whole life. And in fact, you used to beat me up for it.

JW: I miss a little of that element, the danger of, oh, I'm holding this science fiction magazine that's got this great cover. There a little bit of something just on the edge that I'm doing this. That's pretty much gone. Although when I walk into a restaurant with a stack of comic books, I still do get stared at a little bit.

NG: I always loved, most of all with doing comics, the fact that I knew I was in the gutter. I kind of miss that, even these days, whenever people come up and inform me, oh, you do graphic novels. No. I wrote comic books, for heaven's sake. They're creepy and I was down in the gutter and you despised me. 'No, no, we love you! We want to give you awards! You write graphic novels!' We like it here in the gutter!

JW: We've been co-opted by the man.

Oddly enough, neither of them talk about a future where they'll both be Nerd Men of the Month.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What normal woman doesn't have a favorite ex-president?

I can see your SOUL! And the top of your head because I am tall.

Whenever I doubt the depth of my nerdiness, I simply look at my bookshelves and office walls, filled with biographies of Abraham Lincoln, the collected letters of Lincoln and photos of Lincoln, and then I think about how the five dollar bill is my favorite item of currency simply because Abraham Lincoln is imprinted on the front of it and I am reminded of one simple fact: I don't think normal women care this much about dead politicians. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I'm a day late for President's Day and a few days late for Lincoln's bicentennial but I couldn't resist taking this opportunity to proclaim my deep and abiding love for America's 16th president, the tall fellow recently named America's best president by a team of experts, aka, guys who read far dustier books than I do.

I've always been fascinated with Lincoln, ever since I read one of those children's biographies of him when I was tiny. It was filled with all those apocryphal tales of rail splitting and walking miles to return a penny and learning to read by candlelight, and all those wonderful tales that give you faith in grown-ups when you're small.

And when I got older and continued to read about him, even though those early stories fell by the wayside, the man still did not disappoint me. Of course he had his flaws but still, when he was faced with the biggest challenge this country had faced since the Revolution, he rose to the occasion and became Herculean in his steadfast desire to keep the country whole. And he did it all without losing his soul or his humanity.

Maybe that's what I admire most about him: he rose to the occasion when lesser men -- like so many of his generals -- crumbled. And he made those people around him better.

I also like the fact that Lincoln was a quirky fellow who had a sense of humor and liked to tell awful jokes. I like the fact that he would open the White House doors to visitors and answer letters from children. I like that he loved his family, even his crazy wife. And my God, I love the fact that the man could write. If you've never had the opportunity to read Lincoln's collected letters, do it. And then ponder the fact that this almost completely self-educated man managed to keep a nation together with his words. It's extraordinary.

It's nice to have a hero that doesn't disappoint you. That's how I feel about Abe. That's why I go to the Lincoln Memorial every single time I'm in DC. That's why I scamper to see his hat and his pocketwatch every time I go to The Henry Ford here in Michigan. It does my heart good to remember that there are, from time to time, leaders who are truly worthy of being followed.

And every year when President's Day rolls around, I'm also reminded why I'm happy being a nerdy woman: I'm truly ok with knowing far more about Abraham Lincoln than I do about Lindsey Lohan or Katie Holmes. He's certainly far more worthy of my attention...and he's the only one of the three to ever be played by Sam Waterston. That's an achievement in and of itself!

Happy late birthday, Abe. You'll always be my favorite. If there's a Twitter in heaven, I'm totally following you.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite historical figure?

Monday, February 16, 2009

"Dollhouse" renders me ambivalent but hopeful...

So did you think of "Dollhouse?" As my headline suggests, I felt a bit "meh" about the first episode but there was enough going on to pencil it onto my calendar for this Friday. It seems most people had the ambivalence thing going on with this episode. At first, I thought it was just me; I have a long history of taking forever to get into Whedon's shows and then I feel truly, madly and deeply in love with them. It took me three tries watching "Buffy" before it clicked with me. Same with "Angel." I'm ashamed to admit it was even worse with "Firefly." I stopped watching it after the first episode and don't even remember now how I climbed back on board that wagon train. So it didn't surprise me that "Dollhouse" didn't grab me from minute one.

I'm thoroughly intrigued by the mysterious aspects of the show -- who runs the Dollhouse, why it was created, why Echo's memories seem to be bleeding through, how Helo the FBI Dude fits into all this, and most of all, who crazy naked guy was at the end of the episode. All of those elements pulled me in and I think it's those bits that will make me come back to the show.

The procedural element of the episode was pretty dull though and didn't grab me at all. I'm hoping that part of the show will liven up down the road and will intertwine better with the overarching aspects of the "Dollhouse" main story.

The one thing I didn't enjoy very much was all the posturing monologues, the dialogue that seemed to be trying so hard to say something Very Important Indeed. I hope Whedon lightens the touch a bit. I've always thought he was most effective when he used humor to undercut the darker elements of his story and/or shock the hell out of his audience, e.g., "I am a leaf on the wind" and then evisceration.

My one sticking point with "Dollhouse" and the single thing that might break the deal for me is Eliza Dushku. I just don't like her. I mean, I don't dislike her but watching her act, for me, is like staring at a blank wall. It's not a bad wall but it's flat and two dimensional. Her characters always seem cold and distant to me and I used to think it was just those characters, but the more things I've seen her in, I'm starting to think it might be her. I found more intrigue in the 15 seconds that Amy Acker was on screen than I did the entire time Dushku was and that's including her climactic emotional scenes. (Kind of makes me wish Acker had been cast as the lead actually.)

But from everything I've read, the series does indeed pick up from this initial episode. I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays, it looks like we have a few visits from BSG's Mark Sheppard coming up, so there's something to look forward to. In fact, if Joss can just keep employing former Buffy/Angel/Firefly/Battlestar Galactica actors for the rest of the season, I'll be more than happy...and will pledge to work harder to love the Dushku.

What did you think?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Odds and Ends

+ Ever wonder where Muppet characters come from? (Besides Muppet storks.) Wonder no more!

+ If you need a little Tennant ogling to help you through your Friday (and who doesn't?), there are new photos from the upcoming Easter special up at the BBC site.

+ Thanks to Sleepy Mama for submitting this item on this miraculous new Swedish invention: an invisible treehouse. It's so invisible that the photo of it I tried to download wouldn't work so you'll have to click the link to see it. It's worth it. The thing's very cool -- except for birds who I imagine will have a very difficult time with this thing.

+ Speaking of science-y stuff, check out this cool article on the distances that migratory songbirds cover each season. Some fly upwards of 300 miles per day. Gives new credence to the old "boy, are my arms tired" jokes. Also, it's pretty damn cute that they put little backpacks on them. Aww...

+ Hey, don't forget: Dollhouse premieres tonight at 9 on FOX. And Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is back as a tasty appetizer at 8.

+ And while we're on the subject of Eliza Dushku, she apparently wants to play Black Widow to Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man in the upcoming sequel.

+ Thanks to Crone51 for this link of Richard Hatch defending Tom Zarek after the craziness of last week's BSG episode. Very interesting stuff.

+ And last but not least, have you heard the rumor that Neil Patrick Harris might be cast as The Flash? For Neil, I would happily ignore my comic book movie ennui and climb right on board.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The lightning makes pretty music!

Sure, tesla coils are cool when they just shoot lightening. They are about a million times cooler when they play the Imperial March. To wit:

The music was performed by ArcAttack, "creators of the original 'Singing Tesla Coils.'" The coils apparently "produce an electrical arc similar to a continuous lightning bolt which put out a crisply distorted square wave sound reminiscent of the early days of synthesizers." But enough with the crazy science talk. Let's hear 'em do the "Doctor Who" theme. Wooo-weee-ooooohhhhh....

Monday, February 09, 2009

Our angst goes to eleven.

"So, want to go catch a movie later? Oh wait, sorry."

With only six new episodes left before the show heads off into the ether, I have to ask: what do you think about "Battlestar Galactica" so far this season? Be forewarned: spoilers ahead for those who haven't seen everything up to last Friday's episode, "Blood on the Scales."

I thought about being all coy with my assessment of the show, but I'm about ready to burst with wanting to talk about the damn thing, so I'll just come right out and say it: I think it's been brilliant and if this is the way the rest of the season finishes out, I'm fully on board with this show should go down as one of the best programs in TV history.

And here's why in two short words: moral ambiguity.

I'm one of those kooky people who likes my characters cast in shades of gray rather than black and white, good and bad. It's what I found fascinating about "The Sopranos." I hated everything Tony Soprano ever did but still, I couldn't help but like the guy on some level. I feel the same way about Oprah and Martha Stewart but that's neither here nor there.

This season, BSG is heaping on a big ol' helping of ambiguity and I've happily positioned myself at the head of the trough. Nearly every character is messing up somehow and unlike many other shows, those mistakes have consequences -- big ugly sticky consequences. Nothing illustrates this better than the recent two-parter, "The Oath" and "Blood on the Scales." After having his illusions shattered by Gaius Baltar on New Caprica, after having his leg shot off by a Cylon, after watching his best friend die by her own hand and after having a seriously trippy experience aboard a drifting Raptor, poor Felix Gaeta finally gets mad as hell and just won't take it anymore. He joins with professional rabble-rouser and part-time dink Tom Zarek to lead a coup against Admiral Adama and President Roslin to prevent the continuation of the human/Cylon alliance.

Needless to say, things go terribly, terribly wrong. And here's the brilliant part: as much as I found myself hating what Gaeta did, I sympathized with him. Admiral Adama has gone soft and been making very questionable decisions like leaving a Cylon as his second in command and pushing for the installation of Cylon technology in all the fleet's ships. President Roslin, the other half of the sorta, kinda Macbeth-ian pair, has given up and let the fleet drift. No one's in charge and the only thing steering the remains of the human race is entropy.

So there I am at the end of "Blood on the Scales," watching poor Felix pay the ultimate price for his actions and all I feel is anger at Adama for giving him a punishment he actually deserves. Yes, I'm mad at Adama for doing the right thing and I feel sympathy for Felix for doing the wrong thing. That's about as morally ambiguous as it gets -- and to me, that's masterful writing.

Somehow this entropy, this idea of humanity adrift and in danger, seems far scarier to me than the Cylon threat ever did. Maybe it's because, as BSG always has, it mirrors so well what's going on in our society today. There's fear over the recession, fear of a dangerous world, fear of global warming and fear of tomorrow. We want to believe we can solve our problems, but this show posits the idea that we're all just human and maybe that's not enough. Talk about terrifying. I admire a show with the balls to go this dark and even though it makes me want to take a Xanax before each episode, I'm willing to follow it right to the bitter end. Because somehow I have to believe it'll all be alright. Humanity is nothing if not optimistic, right?

Besides, you've gotta love a show that injures so many people with writing utensils and then refers to the victims as "pen pals." I'd hate to see what they could do with paper cuts.

Shakespeare does Facebook

I found this over on Boing Boing and it's brilliant: "Wm. Shakespeare's Five and Twenty Random Things About Me" done in Old English. This cracked me up. Here are a few sample items:

  • I haue been Knowne to cry at Bear-baiting.
  • I am not uery ticklish. I am Not. So prithee, do not euen try. Waste. Of. Time.
  • I cannot keep Lice, and know not why.
  • Sometimes I thinke plays are all Talke, Talke Talke, and wish for a cart-chase scene. I tried one in The Merry Wives, but it looked like Shitte, so I cut it. The men playing the horses were so Pissed at me.
  • I once threw vp on a man's head, from a high Windowe. I was so fvcking Sicke that Daye.
If I were ever going to get a really big tattoo, I'm pretty sure it would be this list. I love it, and wish deeply that I had written it.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Torchwood's shiny new "Children of Earth" trailer

Have you seen the new "Torchwood" trailer? No? Then look no further because it's right here:

Judging by the odd look of concentration on his face, is anyone else afraid to ask what Captain Jack's doing around the 34 second mark? C'mon, Jack, the world's ending again. There'll be time for that later!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"Mr. Darcy, stop nibbling on my, really."

Sure, some commenters over at IO9 seemed rather appalled by this idea, but I gotta say, I think Seth Grahame-Smith's new book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" sounds hilariously fantastic. Yes, it's just what it sounds like: a new version of "Pride and Prejudice"...with the ravenous undead. Here's the synopsis:

As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead.

Check out the cover:

I love how the cover font is pure Penguin. Beautiful. If you want to pick up your own copy, it's available from Quirk Books.

So what other literary works do you think would benefit from a little zombie-fying?

Certainly I think the U.S. Constitution would be a bit more of a nail-biter...

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Other Things That Enrage Christian Bale

"Grrr, I'm angry!"

  • Nipple chafing
  • Disrespectful unicorns
  • Having to do all his own breathing
  • Soft cheeses
  • Any living creature that moves within his line of sight EVER including but not limited to Baby Jesus
  • The way the sun is sometimes all the way on the other side of the planet and unable to shine on him
  • Wiping his bottom with a soft yet unwilling argyle rabbit each morning
  • How his secret identity – Captain Bulging Asshat – has been blown
  • The fact that he’s actually taking a Terminator movie seriously
  • The fact that he’s actually taking a Terminator movie directed by McG seriously
  • The adorable nature of kittens, those unprofessional little fucks
Any I've missed?

Monday, February 02, 2009

Thanks Super Bowl for whetting our summer movie appetite

Further evidence that nerds are ruling the world these days -- our movies were all over the Super Bowl last night. You can check out the new "Star Trek" preview which features Kirk being his usual bad-boy self and also the first shots of Dr. McCoy that have me thinking he looks like Nathan Fillion.

We also got to see a sneak peak of the new "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" movie which, let's face it, looks pretty much like the old "Transformers" movie and that's fine by me. Actually things look even more 'splody, if that's even possible, and there seems to be a giant robot dog. Sweet!

And last but not least, we got a peak at the upcoming "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra," which I'm including because it features Christopher Eccleston going all Scottish and action figure-y. Niiice.