Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends: Chuck, Mr. Fox, A Serious Man and awesome mitts

+ Good morning and happy Friday to us all! First up, Sci-Fi Wire has a conversation with "Chuck" executive producer Chris Fedak on what to expect for next season. I didn't get a chance to watch much "Chuck" last season but this interview makes me want to tune in all over again.

+ Check out this photo gallery of celebs shot at this year's Comic-Con. Prettiness abounds...but with a shocking lack of BBC America stars. I am sad.

+ I hadn't even heard of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" until yesterday but now I really, really want to see it. Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, it's directed by Wes Anderson and stars the voices of Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray. And did I mention it's stop-motion animation? Here's the preview.

+ Oh and hallelujah, there's another Coen brothers movie on the horizon. It's called "A Serious Man" and the A.V. Club has the preview, which is something of a work of art in its own right.

+ And finally, wouldn't baking be even better with these beauties to keep the third-degree burns away? Yes, Pac-Man Oven Mitts. They are deliciously awesome. (See what I did there?)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Being Human: yet another reason to watch BBC America

The concept for "Being Human," the British TV series in which a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire set up housekeeping together (much like "Three's Company" but with more biting and less Don Knotts) doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Instead, it just leaves you waiting for the punch line. But as jaded TV viewers, the joke's on us because the show is actually damn good.

In fact, "Being Human" is very, very good. And just to make sure, I watched it again and can verify that I was neither high nor crazy when forming that initial opinion. The series, which debuted on BBC America this past Saturday after already airing in full in the UK, does a wonderful job mixing horror and humor and building deep and believable relationships between its main characters. The lead actors -- Russell Tovey as George the werewolf, Lenora Crichlow as Annie the ghost and Aidan Turner as Mitchell the vampire -- are all genuinely appealing.The writing, too, is clever, sometimes zigging when you think it's going to zag. To be sure, there's more than a few tired vampire cliches -- Mitchell hates himself for his vampiric bloodlust and does his best to keep the body count low...or at least good-looking. But just when you think, oh no, I've seen this story a million times, you have George desperately looking for a place to wolf out when his normal hiding place has been rendered useless. We see him dash off into the forest, with Mitchell telling him it's too dangerous, he might hurt someone. Well, let's just say, it's George who gets his eyes opened on that one. And then we've got Annie, an adorably insecure woman who's death has left her wandering the rooms of her old apartment, pining for the fiance she left behind. But she's not all maudlin doom and gloom; she's genuinely excited when the pizza delivery boy can actually see her! Baby steps toward human contact.

Created by Toby Whithouse, who's penned episodes of both "Doctor Who" and "Torchwood," plays his allegorical story beautifully -- people who are psychologically damaged but driven to preserve their humanity as best they can. As JusticeRobin reported from the "Being Human" panel at Comic-Con, the idea behind the show is really that of an agoraphobic (the trapped ghost), a recovering sex addict (the rapacious vampire) and a man with anger issues (the werewolf who cannot contain his rage when the moon goes full). Looking at the concept that way gives the show an added depth and the actors something bigger to chew on. You feel sorry for these people who want to be good and who try so hard...all while cracking some pretty good jokes.

I hope the rest of the series is as good as its first episode because I'm already invested in these characters and their situations. Plus, let's face it, the eye candy is really quite nice -- Russell Tovey has such a sweet, kind face, you almost forgive his character for wanting to rip people limb from limb three days a month and Aidan Turner kept surprising me with his ability to go from brooding sexy dude to affable dude who seems almost apologetic for looking as good as he does. And seriously, Lenora Crichlow makes me want to be Annie's best friend even if she does have a compulsive tea making habit.

If you're looking for a fun, engaging summer series, "Being Human" is it. And even if you don't like it, you can spend the hour thinking up a good "a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost walk into a bar" joke.

Thursday Odds & Ends: Heroes, Twilight, 2012 and WoW therapists

+ There's a new 3 1/2 minute preview for the upcoming series of "Heroes," subtitled "Road to Redemption." It looks like this:

+ Say you're having a perfectly good day and you have nothing to worry about. Well, the new @AsteroidWatch at Twitter can fix that for you. Follow @AsteroidWatch and they'll let you know anytime a large heavenly body is careening toward Earth. (That is not a fat joke.) I assume their site will be sponsored by Xanax.

+ Uh oh, there's been a casting shake-up on the new "Twilight" movie with the role of Victoria. Rachelle Lefevre got the glittery boot and has been replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard.

+ Aint It Cool has an interview with "Independence Day" producer Roland Emmerich about his new film, "2012," a small, quiet, character-driven film about the intricacies of the Mayan calendar. And when I say "small" and "quiet," I of course mean "it will make your ears bleed." I saw the preview before "Harry Potter" the other night and seriously, it has the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier crashing into The White House during a tsunami. I'm serious. And yes, I will be seeing it.

+ Beware, the next time you play "World of Warcraft" and that elf next to you "just wants to talk," chances are he could be a therapist. A London psychiatrist has proposed getting therapists to work with gaming addicts from within their virtual worlds. You know what's going to happen, right? The therapists are going to get addicted and then it'll be just like "Stargate" with everyone following everyone else in all willy-nilly. It should be pretty awesome. The article includes this helpful depiction of a "WoW" character photoshopped onto a couch with a very tall therapist pointing at him and judging.

+ IO9 has a review of the first episode of the new series, "V" and they seem to like it, which is shocking because, well, since when did IO9 ever like anything?

+ And finally, here's an interview with Eric Bana about his role in the new Judd Apatow movie, "Funny People." Much as I love Eric Bana (I still cry when Hector gets dragged around the walls of Troy by that bastard Achilles in "Troy")(and yes, I own "Troy" because there's nothing wrong with a woman of a certain age owning DVDs of men in leather sandles and breastplates)(right?), this will likely be the only one of his movies I see this year. I can only handle about 15 seconds of "The Time Traveler's Wife" preview before I want to vomit. And on that note, happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: District 9, Dollhouse, Lost and the Bamber

Apologies for the lack of "Odds & Ends" yesterday. Things went crazy schedule-wise and the next thing I knew, the day was gone. Don't you hate lost Tuesdays?

+ The reviews are coming in for the Peter Jackson-produced "District 9," the film about aliens on Earth. So far, the critics seem to like it.

+ As part of their efforts to tide us over until new episodes of "Lost" return, ABC is airing a five-part web series called "Mysteries of the Universe: The Dharma Initiative." It's supposed to be part of an "In Search Of..."-like series from the '80s and a new webisode will be posted each month. The first episode is available here.

+ Another former "Battlestar Galactica" cast member will be joining Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse." Jamie Bamber, aka Apollo aka the guy with the towel and the abs, will appear in the season 2 premiere, hopefully wrestling in oil with Tahmoh Penikott...but that's just me.

+ Speaking of "Dollhouse," Sci-Fi Wire offers up this exclusive behind-the-scenes clip featuring Joss and cast talking about what skills they would have if they could get their own Dollhouse-style imprint.

+ "The Guild" star Felicia Day has joined forces with Dark Horse Publishers, makers of the "Buffy" season 8 comics, for an initial three-issue "Guild" comic, all written by Day. Don't forget "The Guild" season 3 debuts on Aug. 25.

+ Did you know that there's a little something called "Harry Potter: The Exhibition" currently on display at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry? I had no idea! Park Bench reader Minerva recently attended the exhibition and says it was awesome. The show includes real costumes and props from the movies, replicas of creatures like dementors and hippogrifs and you can even practice shooting a quaffle through some hoops. It sounds like a lot of fun. Thanks, Minerva, for letting us know!

+ And once you've hit Chicago, don't forget you can actually go on "The Office Fan Tours" in Scranton, Pennsylvania. No, seriously, you can. Road trip, anyone?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Comic-Con: Day Four Recap

Our intrepid reporter Robin survived all four days of Comic-Con. Here's her day four recap, featuring lots of Who-vian goodness. Please join me in thanking Robin for all her hard work covering this event for us. She eased the pain for those of us who had to armchair it from home!

First off, thanks to everyone who left encouraging comments or RTed me on Twitter! Being my particular flavor of nerd I do worry that I'm running off at the mouth and nobody else in the room is particularly interested, so I really appreciate the feedback :)

Yesterday morning. Well, we got home around 11:30 the night before, and set our alarms for 5am. Except I accidentally set mine for Mon-Fri, and our host shut hers down and went back to sleep. We eventually rose from the grave around 6:15 and were out the door by 7 (we had meant to leave by 6, but... yeah.) Still, we got good parking and scurried off to get in the Ballroom 20 line yet again, not wanting to take any chances that we might miss out on Doctor Who! We were in line by 8:15, and while there were plenty of people ahead of us, there was no doubt we'd get decent seats, which was a nice feeling after days of wondering if we'd be able to see things. Also a nice feeling? Recovering my camera at Lost & Found!

So, the panel. First of all, David Tennant is every bit as skinny as he looks on Doctor Who, possibly skinnier. Second, they immediately addressed the rampant rumor that they were going to announce a Doctor Who movie; they are not. However, Julie Gardner says, the strength of and response to the rumor has made them think it might not be a bad idea!

They showed a teaser reel for the last 10th Doctor specials, which included glimpses of Donna and her grandfather, the Ood, and, somehow, the Master! Who knows how that works, but it took up all our dinner conversation trying to figure out where he might have come from.

There was a lot of discussion of the finale and the new doctor, mostly because there was the distinct feeling that the fans need some reassuring. They told us the finale is quite the tear-jerker, but that we should have faith that after a few episodes, we'll all be full-fledged Doctor Eleven fans.

Other tidbits. A man from the Guinness book of world records arrived to award Doctor Who a plaque for being the most successful show ever on TV. David Tennant loves Firefly and Serenity but his brown coat isn't an homage; he just really wanted to wear a long coat.

They ended the panel with a clip from "Water of Mars,"which looks pretty creepy. It also ended with a scene of the Doctor saying "I don't hear anyone knocking!" followed by four loud knocks on the metal door. One of my party pointed out that the Doctor was told in "Planet of the Dead" by the psychic that "your song is ending... he will knock four times" so we're very curious now!

Uninterested in American Dad, we then hit the show floor one last time, miraculously just in time to score a Doctor Who swag bag at the BBC booth! I'd been trying all week to get one! After sleeping through my alarm, getting pulled over and interrogated to make sure I'm actually who my badge says, and being yelled at to roll up my pants cuffs before getting on the escalator, I figure recovering my camera and getting a Who bag more than made up for all of it!

After wandering the floor a bit more, looking for end-of-show sales and giveaways, and deciding we were pretty much Comic-Con-ned out, we headed back up to Ballroom 20 to snag seats for the afternoon panels including Torchwood. We sat through short panels for a few indie movies, during which I promptly fell asleep, folded over in my chair (a fun way to make up, lemme tell you. Sal says Alien Trespass looks like could be pretty good. It's an attempt to recreate a 50's-style sci-fi). The BBC is clever, and realized they had our undivided attention prior to the Torchwood panel, so they took that opportunity to push a new show called Being Human about a vampire, werewolf and ghost living in Bristol (a drama, though, not a sitcom or anything). The director explained that the original concept for the show had been about humans: a recovering sex addict, a man dealing with anger issues, and an agoraphobic, but the idea didn't take off until they realized it could be translated into a more supernatural context. Interesting enough that I'll certainly give it a try. Also the young actors were adorably excited to be there-- one even asked us to do a "Mexican Wave" (British for The Wave) so he could film it, and was very excited when we immediately complied.

What can be said about the Torchwood panel? Granted, I'm not the most eloquent person, and as a scientist my communication skills often leave much to be desired, but how does one adequately describe John Barrowman? Every inch a showman, a larger-than-life personality (he actually throws his head back to laugh, which I find endearing), happiest in front of an adoring crowd, and incapable of avoiding saying anything dirty even when he tries.

I will avoid spoilers here, as I actually haven't seen all of Children of Earth yet. However, I will say that probably 50% of the panel was spent talking about Ianto (at the first mention of the name, Barrowman ducked under the table) and at least 50% of shouts from the audience were Ianto-supportive (the other 50% were mostly "we love you!" and "you're hot!"). Another 10-15% of the panel was spent worrying that people won't like Captain Jack anymore after the events of Children of Earth, though the crowd noise convinced them that things might be okay after all.

Like the Doctor Who panel in the morning, this one ended too soon, but John Barrowman seemed just as reluctant to end it as we were. He stood on his chair to wave goodbye. But we had the Buffy sing-a-long to look forward to, so that softened the blow a little. Not only that, but we were able to move up to the front section of seats with a great view of the screen.

Having been energized by caffeine and Barrowman, we were very excited to finally participate in an event like this. We missed all the previous ones (when they were playing around the country), and then the network got all snooty and decided nobody should have them. Volunteers passed out commemorative buttons, prop parking tickets (with fines for things like "Parking on the 'Welcome to Sunnydale' Sign"), and little rubber monster finger puppets appropriate for "grr, argh"ing. I hadn't watched the episode in a long time, but it was the one that got me into Buffy when I was in college so all sorts of warm fuzzies there. And it's so much fun to sing! We didn't have actors performing the parts onstage like Rocky Horror or the original OMWF shows, but it was still hugely entertaining. Boy, can Anthony Stewart Head sing!

It was a really lovely way to end the con for me, on -- literally-- a high note. Even though I'm sad it's over, I am exhausted and have a giant pile of swag to sort through in an effort to get everything onto the airplane with me. Not to mention several pages of quotes to write up and a memory card full of pictures to sort and upload. Thanks to our wonderful blogmistress, and to all of you for letting me share this experience -- I'm neurotic enough that I always need to feel like I'm doing something constructive, and being able to act as correspondent fit the bill and then some!

P.S. Pre-registration is already open for next year. Just, you know, for your information.

Comic-Con: Day Three Recap

(Due to some technical difficulties, we fell a day behind on Robin's awesome Comic-Con reports but here's Day Three...a fabulous day for Mythbusters fans and more!)

Okay, I'm not as young as I used to be. This crazy kid stuff is finally catching up with me (wow, two whole days later!) The feet are starting to give out, the back is not tolerating folding chairs well, and I nearly fell asleep during the Green Lantern panel. But I soldier on for YOU! Also for maybe possibly getting pictures of interesting celebrities. And because Doctor Who isn't until tomorrow.

It's lucky there wasn't anything to rush into a line for this morning, since we were not moving rapidly. One of our wonderful hosts, who only had a one-day pass for yesterday, offered to drop us off to save the hassle of parking and walking. The Hall H line was once again insane, though it's unclear if that's for the first panel of the day (Lost) or for the later big-ticket ones (Iron Man 2 followed by Kevin Smith). Either way, we weren't going anywhere near it.

The first major score was that we finally tracked down people handing out the GIANT Mythbusters bags (because I need almost-life-sized Adam and Jamie following me around). Mostly it was for (husband) Sal, who is a mechanical engineer and I figure he can carry tools around in it or robots or something. Also it took some of the load off our backpack and allowed it to be split between us.

The morning was spent fairly leisurely, strolling around the exhibit hall, taking pictures of interesting costumes (today was the steampunk meetup so there were lots of good ones there, even a set of steampunk ghostbusters, which blew the needle off the fandom meter) and random celebrities. There was also the little game Adam Savage of Mythbuster fame started-- he said he was on the show floor somewhere, but in costume with a full head mask, and dared people to try to find him and take a picture with him. We thought we had him, but sadly no. He wasn't found until 5PM by one clever and/or lucky fan. It was a fun chase though, even if a lot of people in full body/face costumes got stalked a bit.

We stopped by to see an impromptu performance by MC Frontlot at the Penny Arcade booth. It certainly amused me to see him rapping into a megaphone, with his drummer tapping away on a little electronic drum kit. Later, on the webcomic theme, we went to visit Jorge Cham of Piled Higher and Deeper fame. He taught a couple of Sal's classes at Caltech, and Sal eventually TAed for him, AND Sal joined the same lab in which Jorge did his PhD work.

With nothing really in particular to do, we headed up to one of the smaller rooms where we caught the end of a panel on cartoon voice-overs, which was interesting enough that we wished we had seen the whole thing. After that was the panel for Green Lantern: Blackest Night which is this biggish crossover event they're just starting up (I have to say ish because it doesn't come anywhere close to the scale of DC's other recent endeavors). Sal's got a soft spot for Green Lantern and I was a little intrigued by the way they're dealing with a whole spectrum of Lantern colors, so I was thinking of picking it up. Sadly, the panel was a bit of a non-panel. Almost all questions were answered with "we can't answer that, you'll just have to keep reading," which I'm told is DC's favorite answer to everything. In fairness, they were pretty detailed questions about nuances I didn't know anything about, so I wouldn't have gained any information if they had given straight answers, but never mind that. I just felt it necessary to detail this one because it was one of only two actual comic panels we went to at, you know, Comic Con.

We made a half-hearted attempt to see if there was any room at the Iron Man panel, but between that and the Kevin Smith panel following it, there was no way we were getting in. So we wandered a bit more, and found an impromptu Doctor Who costume party -- there was a whole pack of various Doctors, along with a few companions and a couple of Masters as well. The pair dressed as the Doctor and Rose from Idiot's Lantern were amazing-- her dress was spot-on and he looked exactly like David Tennant. In fact, we were careful to make sure he wasn't in fact Tennant, since really the best possible way to hide at Comic Con would probably be to dress up as your own character! I got several pictures, but...well, I'll get to that.

Not wanting to get shut out of yet another evening's entertainment, we moved into the hall where the Mythbusters would, eventually, be. This of course involved a) NOT getting in line for the showing of Children of Earth and Planet of the Dead, and b) sitting through the two panels prior to the Mythbusters. The first was the pilot episode of a show called Human Target, which was actually semi-interesting (Tricia Helfer was on it, though she's not a regular, and it involved a fancy train, so I watched.) The second... well... the second was for The Vampire Diaries. And as far as I can tell, this show is a stale Twilight ripoff, except no sparkling, and the lead vampire looks like David Boreanaz instead of Cedric Diggory. Plus, because of the bad planning, most of the people in the hall were there for the Mythbusters -- we were not what you'd call a friendly audience. Fortunately, nobody was rude during Q&A, but there were lots of snide comments in our section.

Having survived that, it was time for the Awesome. The Mythbusters were great, though it was mostly their interaction with each other and the audience that made it so special, rather than any particular information. So await the quotes update, and my apologies for the cop-out. The best news was that there will be an entire episode next season on duct tape myths. Also, the rocket sled will make a return, but for slicing instead of flattening this time, which makes me a tad giddy since the first rocket sled episode was so awesome. Further, there may be a third rocket car episode at some point, since the makers of rocket car II's exploding-on-launch rockets donated two more for another attempt. So good news all around. Also, Kari Byron had her baby last week, after 42 hours of labor.

I should probably note what we missed by choosing Mythbusters over Torchwood/Doctor Who. Now, in fairness, it was listed as airings of the episodes and I knew I could see them on BBC America when I get home, and Sal's an engineer, and it seemed like the right thing to do. On several occasions we heard screams and cheers from that room, separated from ours by a thinnish partition, but we assumed it was just standard "someone we like just came on screen" cheering. No. Russel T. Davies, John Barrowman AND David Tennant showed up. And, well... let's go to the video...

Finally, we watched a bit of the famous Masquerade, which is not so much a party as it is a costume show where entrants put on little skits or dances to show off their handiwork. It apparently requires many hours of waiting in line to get in, so I figured it must be a big deal, but they broadcast it to a few other rooms as well to make it easy for us to see it. Some of the costumes were quite impressive, others less flashy, some focussed on the performance (like a performance "Freeze Ray" from Dr. Horrible as it would be on Broadway). Some other highlights were She-Ra and cohorts performing "Womanizer" by Britney Spears in order to teach Skeletor a lesson, a skit that involved costumes from many cultures first dancing as "It's a Small World" and then to "Thriller," and a skit introduced as "Rainbow Brit and the Color Kids" that ended up being the Joker, Riddler and Poison Ivy taking over the show. And we were only there for the first 45 minutes or so of a 2+ hour show. I'd certainly watch again, but I don't think I'd wait in line for many hours to see it live.

And, oh yeah, sometime between "Vampire Diaries" and Mythbusters, I managed to leave my camera somewhere. See, when one panel ends there's a window of about two minutes where the people who only cared about that panel leave and people camping out for the next panel can claim them. I guess we moved too fast and had too much junk to carry and it got left behind. Boo.

Postscript, since I'm only just now, Sunday night, catching up: this turned out alright, we visited Lost & Found this morning and there it was! Apparently between the good will of fellow nerds and the fact that it's ANCIENT nobody thought to run off with it! So hopefully I'll have a picasa album set up in the nearish future as well as a quote post :)

Monday Odds & Ends: Stargate Universe, Batman, Tron and Legos

+ Sci Fi Wire has a recap of the "Iron Man 2" panel at Comic-Con complete with a description of the new trailer the producers debuted there. Sounds like this movie is on track to live up to the original.

+ The official "Tron Legacy" trailer has been released as well, looking all sleek and futuristic.

+ Also at Comic-Con, Gary Oldman apparently spilled the beans that there will be another "Batman" movie in our collective futures...although the movie exec sitting next to him seemed to express surprise at his announcement. So basically, this all comes down to whether or not you trust Gary Oldman. (Of course you do -- he's Sirius Black!)

+ Posters for the upcoming Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard "comedy-thrilled-horror-romance" film "Cabin in the Woods" debuted over the weekend...and are just as snarky as one would expect.

+ IO9 has a preview of the upcoming "Stargate: Universe" series, which is set to debut on SyFy in October.

+ It's just trailer heaven here today! Here's an extended look at "The Waters of Mars" Doctor Who special coming up later this year. Looks pretty creepy.

+ And finally, "Top Gear" co-host and former Nerd Man of the Month James May plans on building an entire real-size house out of LEGO bricks. The site of his house? The Denbies Wine Estate in the appropriately named town of Dorking. (I love this.) If you live anywhere near there, May is looking for volunteers to help him on August 1 put together the more than 3 million pieces that were delivered to the site this past Friday. Just click here and look for the e-mail link.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Comic-Con: Day Two Recap

Quick note from Robin: I either had no wifi signal or no battery most of the day, so I have lots of paper notes. However, most of them are quotes, so I may do a quote compilation at the end of the con to avoid posting all the funny things people said here. Also: general warning that I'm highly pro-Whedon, so if I get fangirly feel free to ignore me!

Funny/random anecdote of the day: Seeing a woman dressed as Starbuck holding a Frappachino from Starbucks. (Okay, *I* thought it was hilarious, but I'm weird).

Up at 6, which actually wasn't as bad as it could have been-- compared to the people who went to one of the MANY parties hosted last night by various corporate entities that have a stake in the Comic-Con clientele.

I don't know if it has to do with the sheer number of people trying to access it, but my wireless signal was more or less nonexistent all day. So very little live-tweeting, which really would have been nice. And then I got signal during Joss's panel just in time for my battery to run out. Boo hiss.

We made it downtown at a decent hour. I'm sorry, I should be more specific. In this context "decent" means "the timing was decent for actually getting a parking spot within walking radius of the convention center," not "a reasonable hour at which humans should be awake." The Hall H line was NOTHING compared to yesterday; apparently Warner Brothers doesn't have the pull of Robert Pattison. We were shepherded into a long queue for our home-away-from-home, Ballroom 20. This being San Diego it was actually sort of lovely to sit outside for a bit reading Pride and Predjudice and Zombies.

Anyway, we were eventually herded into Ballroom 20, where seat selection was crucial-- after all, we knew we were going to be there for a while. Again, since they don't clear out rooms between panels, it's pretty important to get into a room early. Today we got lucky that almost all of the panels had at least something we were interested in. As soon as we got seats, I snagged a bathroom pass (seriously, they actually have a hall-pass system, it's the only way to get back in if you need to exit for any reason during a panel) and ran down to the exhibit floor where it was nothing but bad news: the line for the giant Doctor Who bags at the BBC booth was around the whole sector, AND the Big Bang Theory cast signing overlapped with Dollhouse. We wanted to get our college quantum physics textbook signed by everyone, but sadly it was not to be.

First panel: Stargate Universe. To hear the head guys talk about it, it's both totally a new and different show (for people who have not watched either SG1 or Atlantis) and very similar to the old one (for people who liked it). Funny, that. I may have to give it a try though, it looks at least entertaining. Sort of Voyager-esque, take that how you will, involving a bunch of people getting stranded on one side of a stargate and having to "reinvent the wheel" as the tagline goes.

Second panel: BSG/Caprica. Woo! Ron and Dave, with Jane Espenson, who was wearing a Caprica shirt, Esai Morales, who plays Joseph Adama on Caprica, and Edward James Olmos (buy the Blu-Ray!). Apparently Ron Moore was both in the high school marching band AND the quarterback. Aside from the cultural disparity, Sal pointed out that halftime must have been difficult for him. Olmos (seriously, buy BSG on blu-ray) was just great the whole time (not quite as manic as I've seen him (if you haven't seen the video of him getting the whole UN panel chanting "so say we all!" you must go do so now). He talked about his revelation that if you watch Blade Runner immediately after the BSG finale, they fit perfectly, since he's in both and they're ideologically similar. Espenson talked about how hard it was to make The Plan since it had to be entirely consistent with what we already know-- it took SEVEN MONTHS to edit. Olmos added that watching The Plan "you will freak out. This will keep you busy for the next three years. Don't forget to buy the blu-ray!" They brought out Grace Park partway through, which was very cool. They got Esai Morales to do his EJO voice, which he did, then turned to Olmos and grabbed his head, shouting "aw, my baby!" Ron Moore actually uses the word "frak" in conversation, which rules. Finally, the moderator gave all the panelists one last sentence. Olmos's? "Blu-ray." In that way that only he can say it. Caprica will start airing January 22, 2010.

Third Panel: the Big Bang Theory. This panel was just a lot of fun. Johnny Galecki-- well, I'd say he "cleans up good" except he was all scruffy in that trendy way. I was disappointed that nobody asked anything about the science on the show. It seems it's really hard to get in line fast enough to get to ask your question, but I was hoping to get a Caltech name-check in (go beavers!), and I really did want to hear about who writes all the technobabble, given that so far it's been accurate enough so as to not piss off any of my scientist friends. But barring that, it was a hilarious show-- Jim Parsons talked about how the "rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock" speech was much harder to do than any of his long science-y spiels -- apparently his 9 or 10 tries are all on the DVD.

Fourth panel: 24. I don't watch the show, but everyone else in the world does. I have no idea if there was any new or interesting information. But Katee Sackhoff was there, so I'm satisfied. She dressed up all girly, which she always seems to do-- dunno if Starbuck was just really out of character for her or if she's trying to not get constantly cast as Starbuck. She did make several comments about how she hopes she gets to perpetrate some violence on the show at some point, but she hasn't yet (those quotes will show up if/when I do a compilation). They talked a bit about next season, how the theme is "peace" which is kind of a new thing for them. The threat involves an attack on a UN conference headed by the Presidents of Iran and the US.

Fifth panel: Bones. Sadly, David Boreanaz (or, as the teenagers next to me called him, Angel) couldn't be there as his wife is 34 months pregnant and he doesn't want to be over two hours away when she goes into labor. He did send a long, ramble-y apology video though, mostly making fun of Hart Hanson, the show creator who WAS present. But as a fan, I thought Emily Deschanel and Hanson carried it just fine (some friends I was with who have never seen it were bored since they only came for Boreanaz, so I'm probably biased). Most of the panel seemed to be spent justifying last season's finale -- a good portion of the audience was unthrilled with it (there was a bit of a bait-and-switch about whether the two leads would end up together). Hanson asked how many people thought Booth and Brennan should get together, there was much cheering, to which I muttered "go watch the last season of Moonlighting and get back to me." However, he then asked who thought they should not, and there was probably an equal amount of cheering, so maybe there's hope after all. Deschanel did her "dancing phalanges" move, which is priceless, and they discussed how she was actually forced into singing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" in one episode, since it was in the only pre-writer's-strike version of the script, so they literally could not change it. Speaking of which, Cyndi Lauper was very excited about that episode and ended up doing a guest spot in the next season as Angela's psychic.

Sixth/seventh panel: JOSS. First thing's first: we got to see the fabled thirteenth episode of Dollhouse season 1, that was originally meant to air between the last two episodes because Joss is cruel and likes to draw out tension like that, but fortunately cooler heads prevailed. Though I think it would have been bad to air it then, I do think it was a VERY good episode with an AMAZINGLY GOOD child actor (Adair Tischler, who you might remember as Molly from Heroes). I don't think I could say anything about the episode without spoiling, though I will say it is not crucial to season 1, but it takes place beyond the continuity we knew about. It'll be on the DVD, but it was cool to get to see it now.

Most of the rest of the panel was Joss being hilarious, which is much better expressed as a list of quotes. I'll just detail a few key awesome things, though. First of all, if you didn't know Joss has a habit of having recreational Shakespeare readings at his house with all our favorite Jossverse actors. How much would I pay to be in on just one?! Anyway, he said that's how he was inspired to cast Alan Tudyk, since though Tudyk plays goofy so well, he did such a job with the part of Julius Caesar in Antony and Cleopatra that Joss realized he'd be great for the part. The Shakespeare theme was also continued, with an English teacher asking if the planet names Ariel and Miranda mean anything in Serenity and Joss admitting that no, they just sound cool. "I named a character Illyria," he said, "I'm the laziest man alive." This Shakespeare geek was pleased.

We were promised Alexis Densiof sightings in season 2, and possibly "a little Glau" as well. And though no dates or actual information are available, there is a musical from the Dr. Horrible writers in the vague future sometime. Also, for horror fans, Joss's Cabin in the Woods trailer is now live. I'm a huge movie wimp so I probably will not get involved in that.

Finally, we attempted to get into the RiffTrax Live presentation, but like last night's ill-fated sing-a-long, it was not meant to be. The room was too small, not enough people vacated the room from the previous panel and the line was closed off in front of's proven very difficult to get into our desired panels at Comic-Con without getting in line crazy early.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nerd vs. Geek: Can't We All Just Get Along?

One of my favorite blogs, Wired's Geek Dad, recently ran an item on the differences between "geek" and "nerd," which got my blood boiling just a bit by the time I got to the last paragraph, which read:

So the chief difference between geeks and nerds is social aptitude: geeks have it, nerds don’t. Geeks can, and very often do, fall in love with and marry non-geeks. Nerds, if they find love, it’s nearly always with another nerd. There’s a reason why this blog isn’t called “NerdDad,” and that’s the chief reason. Speaking only for myself, I was a bit of a nerd when I was a kid, but I got better. Now I’m a geek, and proud of it!

What's up with picking on the nerds? Especially when it's coming from a geek? We're neighbors on the Venn diagram; we practically pass sugar to one another over the fence yet here they are perpetuating the "nerd as social leper" stereotype. Here's a thought: maybe nerds aren't social lepers. Maybe we're just selective in our friendships. Maybe that whole sitting alone in the corner with a book thing is really just us saying, "Dude, I don't like you."

And you know what? Even if some of us are shy and get awkward, who the hell cares? That doesn't stop us from having friends or dating "normal" people. Hell, my husband's about as un-nerdy as they come, and we still talk to each other JUST LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE DO.

Beyond the stereotype, I would argue that today whatever lines existed between the terms "geek" and "nerd" are blurring rapidly. Check out TIME Magazine's Nerd World blog and then check out Wired's Geek Dad blog and you'll see they're covering a lot of the same things. Do a quick Google search of sites catering to geeks and nerds and you'll see the same thing: a hybridization of the two social sets. Some geek blogs write solely about computer technology and so do some nerd blogs. If none of us down here in the geek/nerd trenches can distinguish the true etymological difference, then is there really any difference at all? Or is it just some semantic folderol that we toss at each other when we want to feel better about the fact that we can recite "Star Wars: A New Hope" from memory and with improvised special effects. Whatever divisions there once were in the common American lexicon are dissipating and thankfully, so is much of the social stigma associated with both terms.

Still, personally, I'm fine calling myself a nerd. In fact, I debated long and hard on which term to use before starting this blog but in the end, "nerd" won out. Why? Because the term "nerd" infers intelligence, and you know what? I like being smart. Especially for a woman, I think it's important to embrace and flaunt your intelligence. In my mind, being a nerd is about more than pop culture references and liking sci-fi, it's also about intellectual curiosity and a single-minded fascination with the subjects that stir your particular cup of coffee. Nerds have a passion for whatever they like, whether its crafts or astronomy or literature or comics. Ask me something about Roman literature, and I'll happily wax poetic about Catullus or Virgil until you leave the room. That's my OCD nerd self and I'm really OK with it.

So there it is. Go ahead and call me a nerd -- just know I'm taking it as a compliment.

Besides, we shouldn't be fighting one another during Comic-Con, also known as Nerd/Geek Christmas. Even the Episcopalians and Presbyterians put aside their gaping differences during the holidays.

Comic-Con: Day One Recap

So it seems arriving at 8:30 for a 10am opening is far FAR too late. We had to park several blocks away and walk, though it was pretty easy to get our bearings by following the costumed people.

The friend I'm staying with had a coworker who had arrived at 1:45am to get in the Twilight line, and she estimated there were somewhere between 500 and 800 people ahead of her, depending on how many of them were saving seats. Yikes. We walked a bit farther back to see if we could find the back of the line -- see, the Twilight panel wasn't until 1:45, but if you wanted to see anything before it in that room, you had to be in the same line. Failing to even find the back of the line we gave up on seeing the morning's Disney 3D panel and headed back to the exhibit floor to wander a bit. It was even more crowded and disorienting than last night, and the people in costumes tend to cause huge traffic jams as large crowds gather to take pictures. We failed, by 10 or 15 people, to get one of the giant Doctor Who bags BBC America was giving out, but we were able to see Julie Benz (from a distance-- she was signing at the Dexter booth which had a GIANT line, but it was still nice to point and say, "Look! it's Darla!" And, thanks to a strategic text message from my much-more-experienced friend, we got our tickets to the Dr. Horrible signing event on Saturday (the whole Whedon clan will be there). So, yay, we get Joss Whedon's autograph! Also, great, now we can worry for 48 hours about whether we'll sound like asses in front of Joss Whedon. I HATE that about being a nerd.

I'm having trouble identifying a lot of the costumes I'm seeing, probably because I'm not into Manga or most anime. Hold on, there's a flexing Superman across the hall. He is ROCKING those tights. Maybe I shouldn't try to write these updates from the floor. There is a group (all of whom are in very good shape, damn them) of DCers (Supergirl, Batgirl, Batman and Green Arrow) that are quite good, and the scattered members of the 501st legion (Star Wars Stormtrooper group) is always fun to see. Saw an adorable couple with their baby in a stroller, all dressed in steam punk regalia. I rather enjoyed spotting Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable later in the evening. And LOTS of Dr. Horribles and Captain Hammers (not to mention Groupies)-- a good portion of whom didn't even get a spot in the sing-a-long (more on that later).

Another custom of which I was not aware: the "free hugs" sign. Seems to this Ohioan-raised, non-touch-y microbiologist a good way to transmit disease, but they seem to enjoy themselves so who am I to tell them otherwise? There's a lot of that though, the "well, that's not my particular cup of tea, but have at it yourself" vibe. Oh, and one good parody I saw was a guy dressed as Nacho Libre with a sign that said "Free Pile Drives to the Face."

Afternoon was mostly panels. In order to claim seats for the "Women Power Icons" panel, we arrived early to the previous one, for "Quantum Quest," an animated 3D movie that uses data and images from the Cassini mission. It has crazy star power (no pun intended, seriously), though only a few actors were present (Robert Picardo [of "Star Trek: Voyager"], notably). They joked that since they got Chris Pine, William Shatner, James Earl Jones and Hayden Christensen (who actually slightly got booed) they managed to have two Kirks and two Vaders. Anyway it does look pretty, and I do like science, so we'll have to wait and see how that goes.

The Women Icons panel was pretty cool, though honestly they should have just had Sigourney Weaver by herself. No offense to Eliza Dushku, Zoe Saldana, or Elizabeth Mitchell but come on, Sigourney Weaver. She mentioned that MTV recently ranked Ripley the second biggest badass, after Clint Eastwood, but, as she says, "I think she could take him." To much applause.

I caught the spotlight panel with Gail Simone, which was cool for me, and one of the few actual comic-related things we've done so far. I love her writing-- she's done a lot, but her current big project is Wonder Woman which RULES. Sadly, comic fanperson questions are much more uncomfortable -- lots of continuity minutiae and iffy social skills.

Next was the "putting the science in science fiction" panel, which I thoroughly enjoyed. ["Caprica" producter] Jane Espenson, as well as writers and science advisors from Eureka and Fringe were there discussing how you fit science into stories without sacrificing either.

Right after that (actually a little before it ended) we scurried off to the line for the Dr. Horrible sing-a-long. For some inexplicable reason, even though last year they ended up using THREE rooms, they put it in one of the smaller ballrooms this year, while something about superhero kung-fu smackdown got the bigger one (and we just checked, it's not full at all). So we missed the cut by FAR. I pulled out my laptop, which conveniently had the DVD in it, and held it up over the dispersing crowd. A few people gathered around and we tried to salvage our evening, but without sound (even with closed captions) it just wasn't going to happen.

Trying to save the day

So, on the bright side, I have time to write this update. On the less-bright side, I can hear all the people inside singing and laughing and having fun. Boo. Note to self: get to the Buffy sing-a-long three days early. I'd better close up though, some people might leave before the showing of Commentary! the Musical so we *might* get in.

Postscript: we did get in. :) And Zach, Maurissa and Jed were there at the end to thank us and assure us that more is coming! Yay!

Thanks for the report, Robin!

Friday Odds & Ends: Cabin in the Woods, aliens & TV, "Star Wars" music and "Avatar"

First of all, let me just take this opportunity to say, wow, "Torchwood"...who knew you had it in you? After watching Part Four last night, I was thoroughly floored. Well done, Russell.

+ The official website for Joss Whedon's upcoming "Cabin in the Woods" movie (featuring Bradley Whitford) is up and running and you can sign up for alerts as production progresses.

+ Check out this great graphic showing how far TV signals from Earth have traveled out into the galaxy. The people of Iota Horologii should feel lucky to know they'll be receiving The Jack Benny Show sometime in the next decade!

+ Lucasfilm has announced touring performances of "Star Wars" music featuring a full orchestra, a choir and the always awesome John Williams conducting. It'll be accompanied by an exhibition of "Star Wars" memorabilia and kicks off on October 1.

+ Here's an interesting interview with Elizabeth Mitchell of "Lost" and soon-to-be "V" fame, talking about her characters and giving hints on the upcoming series.

+ Director James Cameron also got chatty at Comic-Con yesterday, talking about his new 3-D epic, "Avatar" as well as some of his philosophy on sci-fi films.

Today's Comic-Con update from Park Bench reporter Robin is coming soon...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Odds & Ends: "Lost" props, "Atlas Shrugged" and "Alice"

Sorry, running a bit late this morning, following a very weird X-Files dream I had which was, perhaps unsurprisingly, much better than the last movie. I think it featured a talking ferret but I'm a bit hazy on the whole thing now. Anyway, onwards and upwards:

+ A la SyFy and Battlestar Galactica, ABC will be auctioning off props from "Lost" with a special preview of the items taking place at Comic-Con this week. Among the items available for bid: Hurley's lottery ticket and Kate's toy airplane.

+ Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" might be getting the mini-series treatment soon as a kick-off for a new premium cable channel called Epix, which will be a partnership between Lionsgate Films and MGM. Charlize Theron is being talked about for the lead.

+ The preview for Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" leaked yesterday but Mashable still has a grainy version of it on their site. The pretty, high-res one should surface again sometime this afternoon. It's pretty looking, as expected, and yes, Johnny Depp kind of creeps me the hell out as the Mad Hatter...which I think is what they were going for.

+ Don't forget, "Battlestar Galactica" season 4.5 comes to DVD and Blu-Ray this coming Tuesday and includes three extended episodes and gobs of other goodies.

+ The Ask Ausiello column in Entertainment Weekly has some vague comments from Russell T. Davies suggesting that "Torchwood" will return in the future. There are spoilers ahoy for just about every show under the sun in that column so beware while perusing. Speaking of "Torchwood," Park Bench reader Jen was kind enough to send me an e-mail warning not to go on the Doctor Who Wiki until you've seen all of "Children of Earth." There are apparently some major spoilers lurking there.

+ And finally, io9's posted this video of all 120 times David Tennant says "sorry" in Doctor Who. It also works as a fascinating chronology of Tennant's amazingly active hair, meaning yes, it's just as much fun watching it at work with the sound off. Enjoy!

Comic-Con: A preview night recap

Our intrepid reporter Robin is on the ground in San Diego and has sent in a report from last night's preview night festivities. I am jealous already....

First, a brief introduction to calibrate your geek meter. I've been reading The Park Bench for a longish while but due to generalized internet shyness I'm a habitual lurker. I'm a science nerd (professionally) and a literature geek (amateur), a semi-gamer, and avid aficionado of the finer elements of geek cinema and TV.

I am, however, a first-time Comic-Con attendee, so I honestly didn't know what to expect. And having just gotten back from preview night, I'm not sure I could adequately sum it up for five-hours-ago me.

Imagine Las Vegas, but with TV networks, comic publishers, and geek supply stores instead of the various sizes of casinos. Video game kiosks instead of slot machines, racks of dice instead of bars, and the show girls are dressed as Heroes cheerleaders. Now cram all of that nerdvana-Vegas into one room. Okay, it's a GIANT room, but it's all sharing the same air.

And then add people. A SEA of them. But I do admit to a certain feeling of being among "my people" unlike the "Stranger in a Strange Land" feeling I get in actual Las Vegas. Since it's only preview night we only saw a few costumes -- the kid from Kingdom Hearts, Rufio from Hook (yeah, didn't expect to see that one), and a girl-- I kid you not -- dressed as a TARDIS. I didn't figure out what she was until it was too late to ask for a picture, unfortunately, but I hope to be more on the ball the rest of the week.

As for personal experiences, my husband Sal and I were very excited to achieve one of our major Con goals within 10 minutes of entering the building. After a brief stop at the California Browncoats booth (at which Sal purchased a t-shirt with two dinosaurs that says, "Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!"), we got the guys from Penny Arcade to sign my Dungeon Master's Guide. Yes, that probably pegged the geek meter, but we only just started playing -- none of my group had played before I heard the podcast Penny Arcade posted of them playing the then-new D&D 4th edition. Gabe even drew his character Jim Darkmagic (of the New Hampshire Darkmagics) on the front page. So I was pleased with myself. We even got to chat a bit, and I didn't say anything stupid to the semi-famous people I think are awesome, so big score there.

Most of the rest of the evening was spent standing in what we assumed were lines, and were in fact lines about 75% of the time. Free STUFF was everywhere, as well as way too much awesome non-free stuff. The bigger booths were things like DC and Marvel, Warner Brothers, Nickelodeon, that sort of thing, but there were tons of smaller booths for independent comic shops and various geek-related hobbies (two separate booths selling corsets, not sure how to react to that). Basically, if you're reading this, there was something for you there. And the free stuff ranged from giant bags in which to carry your other free stuff to single issues of various comics, promotional materials (got a lovely Doctor Who postcard from BBC America), and just generally useful things (like a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies poster). And for some reason wind-up chattering teeth from Warner Brothers. (I *think* it's a promotion for their Arkham Asylum game but really who doesn't need chattering teeth?)

Only a few Famous Person sightings -- the whole cast of The Guild was signing at their booth, so a brief glimpse of Felicia Day and her cohorts. The panel presentations start tomorrow so I imagine there'll be a few more familiar faces hanging about.

More reports to come as the week progresses. Thank you, Robin!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wednesday Odds & Ends: 9, Sam Raimi, Mad illustrators and one really huge telescope

+ There's a new extended clip of "9" out now and it looks like this:

+ Wow, how did I not know there's going to be a World of Warcraft movie? (Did you like how I started that sentence with WoW? Verbal homage!) Apparently, Sam Raimi is now slated to direct this World of Warcraft movie which makes me happy because A) I like Sam Raimi and B) I like Bruce Campbell and you know he's going to want to strap on some armor for this one, right? (via @game_aholic on Twitter)

+ AfterElton is doing Facebook-style recaps of "Torchwood: Children of Earth." Speaking of which, how awesome has "Torchwood" been so far this week? Why couldn't the show have been this awesome from the beginning?

+ Beautiful weather, gorgeous beaches, sightings of bare-chested Sawyer....As if the world needed another reason to visit Hawaii, it was announced earlier this week that the world's largest telescope will be built there. The telescope's mirror will be 100 feet in diameter and will allow scientists to see 13 billion light years away. Sadly, the scientists will now have to listen to years of "just got lei-ed" jokes from everyone who visits them.

+ Sci-Fi Wire has a review of a new book called "The Art of Harvey Kurtzman," which chronicles the work of the cartoonist and long-time Mad Magazine illustrator. It looks to be a wonderful collection. And I've always had a soft spot for Mad Magazine, the staff of which was kind enough to give me a tour of their offices and let me grab handfulls of back issues out of their storage closet when I was eight years old. I love them for it still.

+ USA Today has an article up that's half about "Iron Man 2" and half about Comic-Con. Don't ask me why but it has this picture of an intense Robert Downey Jr. in a motorcycle racing suit so who am I to quibble?

+ Speaking of Comic-Con, The Park Bench is thrilled to have a correspondent on the ground and in the mix there this year. Park Bench reader Robin has volunteered to send in reports and give us the latest wherever and whenever possible. The plan is to have some Twitter updates as well as some daily wrap-ups. Fingers crossed the Wi-Fi works! And a huge thank you in advance to Robin!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Twilight Zone, evil geeks, Julia Child and guinea pigs

+ Did you hear that Leonardo DiCaprio's production company is looking to do a film remake of "The Twilight Zone?" They've selected a writer named Rand Ravich, who wrote the tres-bizarre Johnny Depp flick "The Astronaut's Wife," to pen the script.

+ Wired's Geek Dad blog has their list of the Top 10 Evil Geeks in the Movies. Was I the only one rooting FOR Gary Oldman's character in "Lost in Space?"

+ Some new clips of the upcoming "Julie and Julia" have come out, and I have to say, I'm really looking forward to this movie. It just looks...well...charming and that's a word that hasn't been used too much this summer with movies.

+ The Topless Robot site had a hilarious sharing of nerd wishes yesterday. Some of them really cracked me up, like this one from a reader called Arsenal:

That's simple
a pony
with a lightsaber on it's head
that could fly
and had a Megan Fox love ray built into it's eyes
and had soft orange fur
that looked like the paint job to the General Lee.
also it was a robot
that dispensed soft served ice cream from it's nose.

+ The New York Times has a great op-ed column on the reissue and what I would consider a scandalous revamping of Ernest Hemingway's "A Moveable Feast." Apparently, one of Hemingway's grandsons has re-worked the piece to make it more sympathetic to his grandfather, which is nice, but in a way that excises chunks and relegates others to an index, which is not nice.

+ And in completely unrelated news, here's a video of four guinea pigs eating watermelon:

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ten Questions to Infuriate an Astronomer

To celebrate today's 40th anniversary of the Moon landing, I thought it might be fun to try and infuriate an astronomer by asking the most insultingly dumb space-related questions possible. The only thing I didn't plan on? Finding an astronomer who not only can take it but dishes it right back. The results, as they say, are intriguing.

Let's see if we were able to break his spirit even a little bit, shall we?

(Please be aware: Question #10 contains spoilers for the end of Battlestar Galactica.)

1. I’m a Gemini. Can you tell if I’ll be lucky in love this month?

Great to know that you're a Gemini. Whether you'll be lucky in love this month has more to do more with how low your standards are and less to do with when you were born. However, if you were born in the 1950's and matured sexually in the 1960's, I gather your chances for love back then would have been greater.

2. Why don’t the aliens get more credit for building the pyramids?

Credit is a hard thing to come by. The hope is that President Obama's "Yes We Can" approach to the economy will cause credit to flow. And who knows, perhaps then the aliens will get their due...after they pay for health care that is.

3. Speaking of aliens, have you ever been to Area 51 and if so, do they have a cafeteria and if so, what’s the food like?

I have been to Area 9 and 3/4. Hogwarts was nice.

4. To me, the Moon looks like a sort of light cheddar but I’ve heard others refer to it as a brie. What flavor do scientists think it’s made of?

I believe the consensus is that the Moon is made of gouda.

5. Warp drive technology: what’s the big hold-up?

Budget cuts. Our warp engineers are now working at the Sunglass Hut.

6. How much money did the government save by faking the Moon landing rather than actually going there?

I believe the savings from the Moon Landing were just barely enough to fund the Watergate break ins.

7. Why do observatories always close when it rains? That doesn’t seem fair at all.

I refuse to answer this question on the grounds that it might incriminate me.

8. You know that alien face on Mars? Do you think the alien monsters who made it really captured its good side?

Are you referring to Gondar? Gondar was the artist that NASA arranged to sculpt the face on Mars. Though Gondar hails from Omicron Persei 8, it is my opinion that the sculpture faithfully resembles the subject. In this case, Gondar was sculpting a dune.

9. If an asteroid ever comes close enough to the Earth to threaten our existence, will Bruce Willis – or a movie star like him – have enough time to get into space and blow it up?

Bruce Willis can do anything.

10. What the hell happened with Starbuck?

Don't get me started. My blood boils when I think of all the time and energy I invested in that show. Angels? Really? Angels? Ronald D. Moore should have his pens and pencils taken away and his fingers broken for that ending. It's damn near criminal. I'd be surprised if charges weren't being drawn up at The Hague.

THE RESULTS: Confuse him with an astrologer, insinuate his Moon landing was fake, promote the idea of a cheesy celestial body and the only thing that angers the astronomer is "Battlestar Galactica." Go figure. I wonder what it'll take to enrage a physicist?

A very special thank you to astronomer and all-around good guy Michael Narlock for taking part in this absurdity.
Listen to Mike every Friday night on "Event Horizon", an online radio show on Or check out his work at

Monday Odds & Ends: Who-vian outfits, periodic tables and cupcakes

+ It's a big day for "Doctor Who" fans: the first photos of Doctor Eleven in his new costume have surfaced. I'm just giving the link in case anyone considers it a spoiler. Count me in as liking the new look. What do you think?

+ Don't forget, "Torchwood: Children of Earth" debuts on BBC America tonight. Here's an interview with John Barrowman to tide you over.

+ Although I don't think there's been any word on when the final "Battlestar Galactica" offering, "The Plan" will air on SyFy, Universal has announced a release date for "The Plan" DVD...and it's going to be Oct. 27.

+ RiffTrax, one of the two Mystery Science Theater 3000 spin-offs, will be tackling the classic Ed Wood opus, "Plan 9 from Outer Space" on August 20 during a national cross-country screening at local theaters...much like what Ira Glass did with "This American Life" recently but probably with more jokes about cheese.

+ Have you seen this Periodic Table of Awesome? Anything that includes penguins and bacon on one beautifully illustrated chart is art to me.

+ Speaking of art, someone in Minnesota baked a 150-pound cupcake with 15 pounds of fudge filling and 60 pounds of yellow icing. And yes, it's been certified by Guiness as a world record cupcake. And yes again, it's on display at the Mall of America. Anyone else wish they'd been baked inside and could currently be eating their way out of it? Just me? Okay then.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends: Hobbit rumors, Eve Myles and contact lenses for animals

+ Casting rumors are floating around for "The Hobbit" with James McAvoy, Daniel Radcliffe and David Tennant all mentioned for the role of Bilbo Baggins. I'm about to utter a nerd blaspheme here but I kind of hate the idea of Tennant as Baggins. It's not that I don't think he'd be great, it's just that I...well...I don't like "The Hobbit." There, I've said it! I can't help it. I've never liked that book. Anyway, word is that the casting might be announced at Comic-Con.

+ Did you see this article about Harry Potter fans forming their own version of Dumbledore's Army to raise money and just generally do good things in support of some very worthy causes. Thanks to Minerva for submitting the link!

+ Here's a nifty new interview with Joss Whedon on "Dr. Horrible"'s Emmy nomination and various and sundry other things.

+ Speaking of interviews, here's a fairly extensive and kinda funny chat with Eve Myles, talking about Torchwood, Captain Jack and where she keeps her vases.

+ And finally, how cool is this? A German firm is making custom contact lenses for animals.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Emmy Awards: good news and bad news

For about five minutes this morning, I was really excited because I confused the Emmy Awards with the Oscar Awards and thought that the Emmy's were the ones that were doing 10 categories for best what-nots this year. For a brief moment, I thought, "Surely this means 'Battlestar Galactica' will get a best drama nomination now that there are 10 slots!" But then reality set in and I realized that no, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences had to keep their snooty pants on and ignore BSG so it could give yet another nod to a somnalent season of "House" which pretty much blew last year. (Sorry, Hugh Laurie, you know I still love you.)

Perusing this year's Emmy nominations, there were several bright spots on the landscape though. For example, "30 Rock" earned 22 nominations which means Alpha Girl Nerd Tina Fey should have a chance to make several more semi-surreal acceptance speeches this fall...which is awesome. And perhaps even more awesome, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" earned a nod in the Outstanding Special Class Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs category, which I think is a category they just made up so they could nominate "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" for something. Better yet, I just heard a rumor on Twitter that perhaps members of the "Dr. Horrible" cast might perform a number on the Emmy show itself. Let the prayers of the nerdy be heard!

Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory" earned a nomination for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series, a category which also inexplicably includes Charlie Sheen AGAIN. He -- and let's face it, Tony Shalhoub -- have to be sleeping with somebody important and doing a very good job of it to be getting these nominations year after year. Honestly. On a brighter note, Jemaine Clement got nominated for playing some guy named Jemaine Clement on "Flight of the Conchords" which means Bret McKenzie may well be crying himself to sleep somewhere right now. That makes me sad.

In other news, "Robot Chicken" got an Emmy high-five for its "Star Wars: Episode II." Stop-motion animators, you are mighty and you are loved. That guy who did "Clash of the Titans" would be totally proud.

Speaking of mightiness, the bad-ass cinematographers of "The Deadliest Catch" got nominated, too, in a category I think should be called the "Holy shit, there's a 40-foot wave coming at me what can I possibly hold on to besides the detachable limb of an angry crab oh my God I'm not getting paid nearly enough to do this" category. Maybe they could shorten it into some sort of acronym.

What did you think of this year's nominations? Any that made you particularly happy or were egregiously disappointing?

Thursday Odds & Ends: Radcliffe, Iron Man 2, Sense and Sensibility...sorta

+ More "Harry Potter" goodness: TIME Magazine has 10 Questions for Daniel Radcliffe and don't forget, tonight on ABC at 8 p.m., there's a documentary on a year in the life of J.K. Rowling. And IGN has compiled their list of the Top 25 Harry Potter Characters.

+ Topless Robot has some spoilery but cool pics of Gwyneth Paltrow and Scarlett Johannson in "Iron Man 2." I really hope this movie lives up to my (very) high expectations of it.

+ This was making the rounds on Twitter yesterday but if you haven't seen it, hold onto your sailor hats. First there was "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" and now there's -- perhaps inevitably -- "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters." Jane Austen must be spinning like a carnival ride in her grave right now...

+ The trailer for Drew Barrymore's upcoming roller derby flick, "Whip It" is out now. I kinda want to see this. Anyone else?

+ And finally, I was thrilled to be a guest on this week's "Wasted Words" podcast, where the entire panel drinks heavily and then talks about a topic -- in this case, how a man named Shek broke his arm and received better care at his local bar than at the hospital. We're pretty much at the forefront of the national health care discussion on this one, like The McLaughlin Group but with LESS drinking.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nerd Apocalypse Survival Kit

While all the run-of-the-mill survivalists out there are stockpiling soup cans and ammo, shouldn’t we nerdy types be preparing our own provisions? Aside from the food and water essentials, here are a few items I’d suggest putting aside in case the aliens land or the sun starts bleeding unicorns anytime soon:

Dice – Perfect for a quick game of D&D or a cavalier method of deciding who lives and who dies.

Shaun of the Dead DVD – Likely to be more of a “how to” than a “zombie rom-com” at this point.

Your inflatable David Boreanaz doll – Now I’m not saying you have one of these but if you did, it might make sense to pack it in case, you know, it floods or something and you have to ride it to safety. NO JUDGING!

A copy of Strunk and White – Being survivors of an apocalypse doesn’t mean we care less about adverb use. We are not animals…unless you’ve been bitten by a werewolf in which case, sorry.

Martin Sheen – Rebuilding society is TOTALLY our opportunity to put Bartlet in charge. Plus the dude survived “Apocalypse Now.” Prepared? I think so.

Lightsaber -- Some dinky flashlight from Costco or a giant beam of Jedi-fueled brilliance that makes cool noises in the dark? Exactly.

“Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” soundtrack – I always picture the end of the world as a prolonged camping trip but with fewer marshmallows and more existential despair. And what would perk up the worst camping trip of all? Holding hands around the dying embers of civilization and belting out a rousing chorus of “Bad Horse.”

The cast of Bravo's "NYC Prep" – Nine times out of ten with these apocalypses, there’s gonna be human sacrifice. I’m just sayin’…

Lassie – We know she’s a hero when Timmy gets trapped in a well. How will she perform when Timmy gets trapped in the 9th circle of Hell? My prediction? Woof-tastically.

Your Comic-Con ticket – When the banking system goes offline, all we’ll have left is barter. I know it’ll be hard to part with – do I buy a bag of life-sustaining rice or go see what’s left of the “Torchwood” panel? Sometimes the apocalypse is about tough choices.

The cast of “Mythbusters” – When the zombie hordes come running at you and you have to blow up that propane tank to stop them, do you want some guy who lights sparklers once a year rigging your explosives or do you want the experts? You’re gonna want the experts. Plus, they always tell good jokes before the shrapnel flies!

T-shirt with sarcastic saying – EVERYONE’S going to be a sarcastic bastard when the world ends. Save yourself the effort of wordy quips – you’ll need to preserve your energy for escaping those packs of wild dogs -- and just put your nihilistic world view on a t-shirt. Cute and functional!

A spatula – Would you really want to stumble upon a box of Bisquick and not be prepared?

Anything I've missed? Please add it in the comments.

Wednesday Odds & Ends: Apollo 11, Strunk and White-reading monkeys, Futurama and Bridget Jones

+ This is very cool. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has created a website that allows visitors to relive the flight of Apollo 11 and the Moon landing. Called We Choose the Moon, you can follow the mission from pre-launch to blast-off to the actual Moon landing on Monday. Quite nifty.

+ Speaking of nifty, did you know that today is the 210th anniversary of the Rosetta Stone discovery? I've always loved the Rosetta Stone. It was the first thing I scampered off to see when I visited the British Museum. I gawked at it for about 20 minutes. Nerd. Thanks to David Manly for the tip.

+ I'm not shocked by this at all: monkeys can recognize poor grammar. It's probably why they don't read my blog.

+ One of this girl nerd's favorite guilty pleasures will be returning to the big screen soon: yes, there's another Bridget Jones movie in the works. More Hugh Grant and Colin Firth, please, thank you.

+ Ooh, even more good news on the "Futurama" front. Not only will it be returning to our small screens, now you can get "Futurama" toys!

+ And finally, apropos of nothing except the fact that I watched a lot of YouTube videos yesterday, here's a funny Comic Relieft skit involving British comedienne and Doctor Who alumna Catherine Tate and James Bond himself, Daniel Craig. It cracked me up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Odds & Ends: Potter, The Cell and mind-controlling kitties

+ It's getting down to zero hour for the release of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." So far, the reviews are looking good. How many of you are seeing the midnight show tonight?

+ Stephen King's "The Cell" is being turned into a four-hour TV mini-series, penned by a fellow named John Harrison who wrote the "Dune" mini-series for SyFy.

+ Speaking of horror, you should see the pants I'm wearing! Ha, ha...sorry. What I meant to say was, speaking of horror, CBS' "Harper's Island" will not be renewed for next season. I stopped watching that mid-way through for some reason. Did it end well?

+ TV Guide has an interview with Titus Welliver (owner of the world's coolest name) about his role as "Lost"'s Man in Black. (via Televisionary)

+ Have you heard the great debate about whether or not "Battlestar Galactica"'s finale was the worst ending ever? Here's what IO9 has to say about it and here's the original essay. The man has obviously never seen the ending of "The X-Files" if he thinks BSG was so bad. I have to admit, I'm flummoxed on how much hate has surfaced for that ending. Yes, the Starbuck thing was frustrating and yes, the whole Times Square thing at the end was lame but other than that, I loved it. I think I might be in the minority on that though.

+ And finally, science has proven what we've known all along: our cats control us. I always thought it was through telepathy and the fact that they steal pieces of my soul while I sleep, but turns out, it's just high-frequency meows.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nerd Man of the Month: Alan Rickman

It came down to a Battle of the Alans this month but Alan Rickman and his dulcet tones came out on top. With "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" opening this Wednesday, now seemed like the perfect time to tip our pointy hats to Rickman and his portrayal of the morally ambiguous but always riveting Severus Snape.

What's not to love about Alan Rickman? He makes villainy scandalously attractive, something that was apparant from the moment he first appeared on screen as the baddie in "Die Hard." A couple years later, he quite literally stole every single scene in which he appeared as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the high-camp classic "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." I must have watched that movie 20 times and fast-forwarded through every Kevin Costner scene just to get to another Alan Rickman scene. Yes, I wanted the Sheriff of Nottingham to win, dammit. And then there's Snape. Oh Snape, I know you do bad things but your emo-nature just makes me want to cuddle you like a small, angry kitten with a terrible, terrible dye job. It's truly a testament to Rickman's talents that Snape is one of the few "Potter" characters to feel more three-dimensional on screen than on the page.

And Rickman's not all about the villainy either. The guy can be pretty damn funny. Check him out as one of the has-been actors turned hero in "Galaxy Quest" or as the voice of sad, depressed Marvin the robot in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" or in one of my favorite Rickman roles, the burned-out cranky neutered angel Metatron in Kevin Smith's profanely hilarious "Dogma."

How about romance? Oh, Rickman can do that too. In fact, when I feel like my day is too sunny and I need to sit in a corner and cry for a good 45-minutes or so, I watch one of his earliest films, an uplifting little number called "Truly, Madly, Deeply" in which Rickman plays a cellist who dies but returns as a ghostly apparition to be with the woman he loves. This film is actually a comedy until it rips your heart out and stomps all over it at the end. It is, thankfully, the anti-"Ghost." And then, for the Jane Austen geeks among us, there is "Sense and Sensibility" which stars Rickman as the mysterious and heroic Colonel Brandon. Did I mention there's a scene where he carries a fevered Kate Winslet through a grassy meadow in a rain storm? Yes. Indeed. Where's my fan? I'm feeling a bit flustered just thinking about it.

Musical theater nerd needs? He's got those covered too, having gone toe-to-toe with Johnny Depp as the menacing yet tuneful Judge Turpin in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd." Again, one of those instances where you think, all villains played by Alan Rickman should be given a free pass at redemption. Let him live 'til the credits!

And finally, as if we needed any more reasons to honor the man, there's that voice. I defy anyone not to melt just a little upon hearing the smooth, buttery goodness of that voice. It's so good even "Family Guy" expended a few jokes on it:

So, for giving us an unforgettable Severus Snape, for giving us mysterious heroes, for being deliciously silly when called upon and for having a voice that makes songbirds just give up and die, The Park Bench is pleased to name Alan Rickman as July's Nerd Man of the Month.

Monday Odds & Ends: Green Lantern, re-edited Star Wars and Hong Kong Phooey

+ For those who may have missed the news this weekend, Ryan Reynolds will play the Green Lantern in the upcoming film, scheduled to begin shooting in January. While not my ideal choice -- which sadly tapped into my emerging cougar tendencies and was named Justin Timberlake -- I think Reynolds will do a fine job with the role.

+ This could either be really impressive or really scary or a fun-filled combination of the two: a site called "Star Wars Uncut" has divided "Star Wars: A New Hope" into 15-second clips and asked people to recreate those moments, which will then be edited back together into one, long mind-trippy homage to the original. Check out the article at IO9 for a couple sample clips. It's the second, Jawa-themed one that has me worried.

+ My friend and I were talking this weekend about how we'd like to invent a board game. This would not be it. Yes, from the makers of "Twilight" the book and "Twilight" the movie comes "Twilight" the board game which I'm hard-pressed to believe even the most avid fan would give valuable and hard-to-find American dollars to possess. Then again, this is coming from someone who owns the "Buffy" board game but that one is totally good, I swear! No judging!

+ Remember how you were worried that someone might forget to make a live-action/animated film version of the 1970s cartoon "Hong Kong Phooey." Well, worry no longer. Some writer dude from "Family Guy" is going to resurrect the robed mutt...and sucker someone into buying a ticket when they wake up drunk on some Saturday morning and think, "Man, you know what I need? A dose of dogs doing kung fu." And voila, a ticket is sold, a dream is fullfilled!

+ Did you know that swearing is good for you? At least in terms of pain relief. So the next time you drop a hammer on your foot and launch into a pyrotechnical parade of profanity, take comfort in the knowledge that it's your brain's way of easing the pain. Scientists proved it and everything!

+ And finally, thank you everyone for your excellent Nerd Man of the Month nominations. I've never before witnessed a battle of the Alans, so that was very cool, and I agreed whole-heartedly with the awesomeness of everyone's submissions. This month's winner will be announced later this afternoon so be sure to check back in. Thanks again!