Thursday, September 1, 2011

September Announcements (Geektastic 2.0)

This is the last time I will be updating on Blogger.  The blog will be available as an archive of my previous posts and all new posts will appear on  For information about subscribing to the new Geektastic (and some BIG news!), click here!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Judgmental Overreactor Seeks Same (Geektastic 2.0)

My thoughts on the Alyssa Bereznak/Jon Finkel debacle.

I Heart: The Three-Legged Kitty Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

I think all cat owners can relate to these glasses.

I’m pretty fond of this snazzy fish-shaped cat food station!  (Love the green!)

We have the CatIt water fountain and it’s awesome.  I highly recommend it for cat owners!

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Darby Goes to the Doctor (Geektastic 2.0)

On Friday morning, we woke up bright and early and packed Darby in her pink carrier.  She wasn’t happy about being in the car and she let us know – loudly and repeatedly.  (Seriously, you would have thought we were burning her with red hot pokers!)  At 7:30 on the dot, we stood outside a mobile home in front of a church, filled out paperwork, and handed her over to a guy wearing scrubs and toe shoes.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Geek of the Week: Edgar Wright (Geektastic 2.0)

Director Edgar Wright is best known for directing the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as well as the film adaptation of Scott Pilgrim.  He began making films in the 80s and 90s, using a Super-8 camera.  Wright was a film buff since childhood and he was particularly fond of horror films – his favorite being the John Landis classic An American Werewolf in Paris.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It Came From FearNet ... Devour (Geektastic 2.0)

Devour (2005)
Rated R for violence

Directed by David Winkler

Starring: Jensen Ackles
Shannyn Sossamon
Dominique Swain
William Sadler

Jake Gray (Ackles) heads to class on his 21st birthday after having several disturbing nightmares.  He’s had a pretty hard life.  His mother was paralyzed in a car accident and his father is a relapsed alcoholic.  Currently, he’s putting himself through school working in a strip mall computer repair shop and has a complete jerk of a boss.  When his friends Conrad and Dakota (Swain) introduce him to a weird live role-playing game, The Pathway, as an escape, Jake is intrigued.  Once someone begins playing The Pathway, they are called on their cell phone and given instructions.  Jake is fired because his boss wants to replace him with his fresh-from-jail pot-dealing nephew and he is only too happy to obey the voice on the other end of the line suggesting he gets even.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I Heart: The Screeching Violins Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

Celebrate being a horror movie lover (and really freak people out) by decorating your bathroom with this Psycho-inspired shower curtain and bath mat.

Make your Bates Motel shower experience complete with the Blood Bath Shower Gel.  It’s cherry-scented!

An excellent supercut of Hitchcock films.  How many can you name?

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Horror . . . The Horror! (Geektastic 2.0)

I’m frequently asked why I enjoy watching horror movies.  It’s a polarizing genre and it often gets a bad name from critics.  As with any fringe genre, however, horror fans are a dedicated bunch.

My parents (particularly my dad) were strict.  I wasn’t allowed to watch Rated R movies until I was 17 and, being a good kid, I I avoided disappointing my parents, but I was still fascinated by horror movies.  My mom was a horror and true crime fan and when my dad was overseas, she often rented scary movies.  Since I wasn’t allowed to watch them with her, I would beg her to explain the plots to me.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Geek of the Week: Guillermo del Toro (Geektastic 2.0)

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has been making movies since he was eight years old, using action figures doused with ketchup to mimic blood.  He was indoctrinated into the horror genre early on and cites the 1964 “Outer Limits” episode “The Mutant” as his first brush with true terror.  Fascinated with movie makeup and special effects, del Toro attended Dick Smith’s prestigious advanced makeup course.  He began working in films as a special effects makeup artist and formed his own SFX company, Necropia.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Genuine Article (Geektastic 2.0)

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a trend setter. If you are into fashion, that’s awesome. If you love discovering new bands – great. The problem arises when your whole life becomes about being cool or when you actively dislike something simply because it’s popular.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I Heart: The Weird, Wild Stuff Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

What is it about this knitting octopus?  Is it the top hat?  Is it his wide anime-style blue eyes?  Whatever it is, he’s adorable and nonsensical, all at the same time.

It’s official – Japan has everything, including cat cafés where childless and petless people can enjoy the company of feline friends! [tweeted by Indy]

I want to buy these purely so I can run outside and scream, “It’s people!  Soylent Green is people!

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Back to School (Geektastic 2.0)

Some kids have already been back in the classroom for awhile, but today marks the day when kids in my adopted hometown – Bellevue, NE – head back to school.  That also means that my mom is hard at work, teaching 1st graders.  Thank you to all the wonderful teachers who work so diligently to make sure we grow up to be intelligent, capable human beings!

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Geeks of the Week: The RiffTrax Guys (Geektastic 2.0)

It’s weird for me to think of Michael J. Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy as “The RiffTrax Guys”, because I grew up with them as fixtures of my Saturday morning television routine on “Mystery Science Theater 3000″.  By the time I was a regular viewer, the show had moved to SciFi and was hosted by Mike Nelson, with Corbett (“Brain Guy” and Crow T. Robot) and Kevin Murphy (Professor Bobo and Tom Servo) pulling double duty as live action characters and voices of Nelson’s bot companions.  Once the show ended in 1999, the guys went their separate ways, reuniting in 2007 to form The Film Crew, a straight-to-DVD series in which Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy provided mocking commentaries for B-movies.  They put out four films before moving on to create RiffTrax.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Uncrafty: Duct Tape Rose Pens (Geektastic 2.0)

I am not crafty.  (Out of all my mom’s traits, how did I NOT inherit this one?)  I’ve tried various endeavors – failed cross-stitch pieces, an unfinished scrapbook with a few lonely wedding pictures, and a cake decorating class that I barely eeked through.  Ironically, my longest job was working at a craft store.  I was officially the least crafty person there when I could barely manage to put together the foam projects that were intended for children.  I did, however, learn to make duct tape rose pens.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Heart: The Space Stuff Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

“Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane is producing a sequel to Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” for Fox.  The series will be hosted by Hayden Planetarium director Neil deGrasse Tyson and is scheduled to premiere in 2013.

Fans of Sagan’s original series will love this “Star Stuff” T-shirt!

If you can’t wait until 2013, check out Dr. Tyson’s weekly radio show, StarTalk Radio, on Sundays at 6 PM Eastern.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Catch a Falling Star (Geektastic 2.0)

Meteor showers occur frequently throughout the year, but the upcoming Perseids are one of the most consistent.  (They routinely produce close to 60 meteors per hour at their peak.)

The Perseid meteor shower is associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet.  The name derives from the radiant of origin, which lies in the constellation Perseus.  This year, the shower will be most active on August 12th and 13th in the early morning hours.  Because the peak falls during a full moon, it is important to view the shower in a rural area to minimize light pollution.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Geek of the Week: Professor Brian Cox (Geektastic 2.0)

Before Professor Brian Cox was an award-winning physicist and host of Science Channel’s “Wonders of the Universe”, he played keyboards for a British pop band called D:Ream.  While furthering his music career, Cox received several degrees in physics and began work on his PhD.

Read more here, on the new Geektastic!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Top Five: Essential MST3K Episodes (Geektastic 2.0)

With the latest RiffTrax LIVE coming up on August 17th, I thought I’d get those who still haven’t embraced “Mystery Science Theater 3000″ up to speed.  Here are the Top Five episodes everyone should watch:

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

This Means War (Geektastic 2.0)

I know we are all God’s creatures, but I’m having an issue with one in particular.
I like to think I have a clean kitchen. I hate dirty dishes enough to keep my sink clear, and I wipe down my counters daily – sometimes, multiple times in a day. I’m confused, then, when I see a line of ants crossing my floor . . . or more disturbingly, my counter.
Last summer, I’d occasionally encounter a small grouping of ants huddled around an errant crumb that went unnoticed on the floor. This year, however, the ants have migrated to milling around the counter, even with no food in sight.  That’s right, they’re taunting me.

Read more here at the new Geektastic!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Indoorsy (Geektastic 2.0)

Like Jim Gaffigan’s wife, I come from a family of campers.  They cover a wide spectrum, from the handful of relatives (including my dad) who would be happy to head out with a backpack, poop in a hole, and sleep out under the stars to those in the majority who enjoy sleeping in tents and are fine with using outhouses.  There is also a small section that prefer to stay in cabins, but still enjoy outdoor activities.  Then there’s me.  My idea of a good time is reading or watching movies in an air-conditioned facility, preferably with a cold drink close by.  The most enthusiasm I can muster for the outdoors involves looking at the stars.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

I Heart: The Bigger Boat Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

It's Shark Week, people!  Enjoy:

I guess opposites really do attract.
Use these fin salt and pepper shakers to season your next feeding frenzy.
Your baby needs this bathrobe.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Announcements (Geektastic 2.0)

Can you believe the new Geektastic! has been up for a month already?  If you’re a regular visitor, you’ve probably noticed a lot of changes.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Geek of the Week: Bill Amend (Geektastic 2.0)

Bill Amend is the hilarious cartoonist behind the long-running comic FoxTrot.  He started drawing cartoons at the age of nine, and drew cartoons for his high school and college newspapers.  Amend attended Amherst College and graduated with a degree in physics. 

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It Came From Netflix: Snow White: A Tale of Terror (Geektastic 2.0)

Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
Directed by Michael Cohn

Monica Keena
Sigourney Weaver
Sam Neil
Gil Bellows

Friederick (Neil) and Lilliana Hoffman are traveling home for the birth of their first child when their carriage is attacked by ferocious wolves.  Lilliana is mortally wounded in the resulting crash and begs her husband to deliver the child so that it might live.  This is how their daughter, Lilli is born.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Tab Unplugged (Geektastic 2.0)

As you read this, I’m in Marble, CO hanging out with my extended family.  I’m also nowhere near my computer.

For a pop culture junkie, unplugging is a big deal.  I spend much of my day watching TV and movies, as well as using the Internet for entertainment and as a research tool.  Most of my communications are done via email or Facebook.  I’m sad to say I can’t remember the last time I went a whole day without watching at least some TV or spending time on my computer.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Misfit Planet (Geektastic 2.0)

I have a tendency to root for the underdog.  That’s probably why I always liked Pluto. As the final planet discovered, it never really fit in with the other guys. It’s significantly smaller than the other planets, it has an odd elliptical orbit, and its innermost moon, Charon, is larger than any other planet’s moon in relative size to its host.

As it turns out, all of things that make Pluto quirky and unique also contributed to its demotion from a full-fledged planet to a lowly “dwarf planet”. I never understood why Pluto was booted out of planetary status, and honestly, I never looked into it – probably because I was secretly hoping that scientists would come to their senses and reinstate the little (non) planet that could.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I Heart: The Exploding With Cuteness Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

Nerd monkey!
This is about the cutest thing ever.
One of my favorite websites, Entertainment Earth, is taking pre-orders for Funko’s newest plushes, Itchy & Scratchy.  (They are part of the Simpsons line scheduled to be sold in November.)
Even I want to play with these Mad Scientist Blocks, and I’m an adult! (Or so I’m told.)
Trekkies will love these awesome Star Trek Potato Heads

See more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Geek of the Week: Gary A. Weston (Geektastic 2.0)

This week, I profiled a local artist who makes amazing sci-fi art sculptures out of household objects.  If you are a classic sci-fi fan, you should definitely check this out!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Tragic Demise of Borders and My Kind of Nostalgia (Geektastic 2.0)

Read my take on Borders closing their last 400 stores.

Nickelodeon brings back classic '90s television!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I Heart: The Neckbite Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

In honor of my friend J.D.'s birthday, a list of vampire-related goodies here!

Monday, July 18, 2011

One Haircut . . . Forever! (Geektastic 2.0)

Go here for awww-inducing pictures from my childhood.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Geek of the Week: Brian May (Geektastic 2.0)

Queen is one of my favorite bands, and while I love Freddie Mercury, my absolute favorite member of the band is Brian May, arguably one of the best guitarists in the history of rock and roll (listen to the guitar solos on “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “We Will Rock You” if you don’t believe me).  All of the guys in Queen are brilliant, but May is something really special.

Read the rest here at the new Geektastic!

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Devil in Pigtails (Geektastic 2.0)

Christine Penmark’s life suddenly changes from sweet to sour when one of her daughter’s classmates accidentally drowns at a school picnic.  Her daughter, Rhoda, is unmoved by the tragedy and many people, including Christine, begin to suspect that Rhoda may have had something to do with the boy’s death.  Christine must face her past to discover her daughter’s true nature.

Read more here at the new Geektastic!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Penguin (Geektastic 2.0)

When it comes to Linux, I am a newbie.  We got a computer relatively late in the game, and I was raised on Windows.  Like a lot of people, Windows (and by association, Microsoft) is ingrained in my brain.  That made switching over to a new operating system (OS) very difficult.

Read the rest here on the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Heart: The Things That Look Like Other Things Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

♥ This “Twilight Zone”/Star Wars mashup: ♥ J Salvador’s “Super Emo” artwork – the illustrator takes well-known pop culture icons and transforms them into adorable Emo kids. ♥ For the extremely precise chef, ThinkGeek’s new OCD cutting board...
View the list here (with links), at the new Geektastic!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why I Can't Quit the Oxford Comma (Geektastic 2.0)

It’s safe to say that I’m a Type A personality.  I like neatness and order.  I’m not a big fan of surprises.  I like to know what’s coming.  That’s probably why I felt so blindsided by the reported demise of the Oxford comma.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Torrid Love Affair With Dr Pepper (Geektastic 2.0)

Dr Pepper and I go way back.  It’s the subject of my longest standing obsession. Ask my friends and family to name five things about me, and my Dr Pepper habit will almost surely be one of them.

Read the rest here at the new Geektastic!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Birthday Redux (Geektastic 2.0)

This year was my “Golden Birthday”.  I didn’t even realize it until someone wished me a happy one and I had to look it up.  For those who, like me, don’t know, your Golden Birthday is the year you turn the same age as your birthday date.  (ie.  I turned 28 on June 28th.)  It’s also referred to as the “Lucky Birthday”, and it definitely was for me.  Actually, because of all my generous loved ones, it was more like a birth week-and-a-half.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Heart: The Brains & Gears Edition (Geektastic 2.0)

Get the list here, at the new Geektastic!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Top Five: Twilight Zone (Geektastic 2.0)

Welcome to the special Fourth of July edition of Top Five.  I sense you may be bored of the traditional Independence Day rituals.  Maybe you realize that stuffing your face with charred hamburgers and setting off colorful explosions can never satisfy you the way watching Sci-Fi Channel's "Twilight Zone" Marathon can.  (Because nothing says "liberty and justice for all" like 48 straight hours of one of the best shows in the history of television.)  If that's the case, I'm here to help.  I have a list of some must-see episodes . . . and those it's okay to skip out on to snag yet another beer-infused bratwurst.

Read more here, at the new Geektastic!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Geek of The Week (Geektastic 2.0)

Read the post here, at the new Geektastic!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Top Five Shows (Geektastic 2.0)

Summer TV often evokes images of endless reruns and sub-par programming.  This summer actually looks promising for viewers, with several exciting new shows and some returning favorites.  Here is my Top Five list of shows I'll be watching this summer:

Read the rest here, at the new Geektastic!

Friday, July 1, 2011

First Post (Geektastic 2.0)

Welcome to Geektastic 2.0!  Other than the move, there are a few minor changes being implemented, mostly dealing with the blog’s schedule.  You can read more information here.  Also, we’re still in transition visually – this time next month, we’ll have a brand new (and permanent!) look.

Read the rest here, at the new Geektastic!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Heart: The "It's My Birthday and I'll Watch Movies If I Want To" Edition

3D Drive-In Knee Highs - These make me want to start collecting socks.

This amazing iPhone cover - I don't have an iPhone, but if I did, I would definitely get this cover for it.  It's a movie-lover's dream!

Kevin Murphy's A Year at the Movies - 365 movie reviews from the hilarious Kevin Murphy (voice of Tom Servo from "MST3K")

This Jaws-inspired greeting card from Etsy shop, RichieDesign.

The Film Club - Canadian television personality David Gilmour's memoir about allowing his teenage son to drop out of high school and watch three movies a week.  Part film analysis, part parenting experiment, the book details the highs and lows of their unique father-son relationship.

These awesome brightly colored movie ending bookends!  (The "Fin" and "The End" are my favorites.)

I love journals and this VHS style notebook is right up my alley!

Pulp and Fiction pillows for Tarantino fans.

The Shaun of the Dead action figure (he talks!) I received as an early birthday gift from my very generous friends!

Shaun (in box)
Shaun (out of box)
Speaking of birthday gifts, my awesome mom gave me this amazing Joan Jett Barbie!

I love this SO much!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Summer Reading List

New Books

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery and Alison Anderson
Written by French novelist and professor of philosophy Muriel Barbery, the book centers on Renee Michel, a concierge for an upscale apartment building.  Michel is brilliant, but keeps his intelligence secret until it is discovered by the precocious, emotionally unstable daughter of a tenant, Paloma Josse.

Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg
Uber-geek Simon Pegg's memoir about a British fanboy who grew up to live the dream.

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai
Rebellious librarian Lucy Hull begins by helping a young patron sneak books past his strict parents and ends up in a madcap caper to help him escape from their stranglehold.  As she helps Ian Drake strike out on his own, she must confront her own troubled past.

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
At the tender age of nine, Rose Edelstein discovers she can taste the emotions of the person who prepared her food.  Through this strange, unexpected power she learns her family's deepest, darkest secrets.

The Mystery of Lewis Carroll by Jenny Woolf
A biography of the author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass (real name: Charles Dodgson) that promises to dispel the many strange rumors and myths that surround the eccentric writer.

The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God, & Other Stories by Etgar Keret
A book of unusual short stories, including "Kneller's Happy Campers", the source material for the independent film Wristcutters: A Love Story.


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
The classic story of tortured scholar Humbert Humbert's infatuation with his landlady's underage daughter, Lolita.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffery Eugenides

The strange tale of the demise of the Lisbon girls, as told by the neighborhood boys reflecting on their past in adulthood. 

What are you reading this summer?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Geek of the Week: Sarah

This week's Geek is Sarah, who had the best cake EVER for her 6th birthday.   


My Little Darth [found here]
My favorite part of this cake is the Death Star symbol on the pony's flank. 
The best part?  Sarah has Darth incorporated on all her cakes!  Click the link to view her 4th and 5th birthday cakes (featuring the Sith Lord). 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

As You Wish

Peter Falk
On Thursday, June 23rd, veteran character actor Peter Falk died in his home, surrounded by his family.  Falk was best known for his faux-bumbling, secretly brilliant detective Columbo, and his role as The Grandfather in the beloved romantic comedy The Princess Bride.

Falk was born in 1927.  At the age of three, he had a malignant tumor in his right eye and had to have the eye removed.  He would wear a glass eye for the rest of his life.  After being rejected by the army, he enlisted in the Merchant Marines and fought in WWII.  He went to college on the GI bill and obtained his master's degree in public administration.  In the early 50s, Falk quit his job as an efficiency expert to act full time.  He appeared on Broadway and in several small roles, before appearing in Murder, Inc., his breakthrough performance for which he earned an Oscar nomination.  He followed this with a supporting role in Frank Capra's Pocketful of Miracles and another Oscar nomination.  He continued working (predominately in television) until his last "Columbo" film in 2003.  Falk is survived by his two daughters and his wife, Shera.

Peter Falk has a special place in my heart because I loved The Princess Bride and I watched reruns of "Columbo" with my dad.  He will be missed by millions of fans, especially the kids of the 80s and 90s who wished he was their grandpa. 

If you would like to honor Mr. Falk's memory, you can make a donation in his name to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My 2011 Summer Essentials

1.  Lots of books - My favorite thing to do in the summer months is head down to the gorgeous nearby park and read outdoors.  I like to read a mix of summery classics and lighter reads.  (I'll be posting my summer reading list later this week!)

2.  Sunscreen - I'm extra white and I burn at the drop of a hat, so sunscreen is a MUST.  I like to carry around a travel tube for easy reapplication.

3.  Scented lotion - Heat amplifies fragrance and can make perfumes overbearing.  Scented lotion is an excellent less potent option.  My favorite is Bath & Body Works' Lemon Vanilla (part of the "Summer Vanillas" collection).

4.  Dr Pepper Lip Smacker - This is a year-round must, but absolutely vital in the summer and winter months.

5.  Water bottle - Colorado is extremely dry, so hydrating is necessary when spending any time outside. 

6.  Jean skirt - I'm not a fan of shorts, so this skirt is my go-to for when the heat gets unbearable.

7.  iPod - My iPod gets a workout during the summer, between trips to the park and exercising!

8.  Nook - I do most of my traveling in the summer, and I bring my Nook along to take multiple books without occupying more space.

9.  Flip flops - I always buy a cheap pair of flip flops at the beginning of the season for errands and trips to the pool.

10.  Limeade (not pictured) - I love the cold, tart sweetness of limeade in the summer.  We buy it by the gallon from the grocery store, but I also love Sonic's cherry limeade as a special summer treat.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Exciting News . . .

After working on a special project for a couple of weeks, I am finally able to make my big announcement:

Geektastic is moving to Wordpress!

I've really enjoyed using Blogger, but after much back and forth, I've decided to self-host my blog (using the Wordpress plugin).  I will begin posting at the new location on July 1st.  To make the transition smoother, I will continue posting updates here (with links to Geektastic 2.0) until September 1st.

I have a very good friend currently working on a design overhaul, so it's still rough around the edges, but feel free to take a sneak peak at!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Three Years

Happy Anniversary to my Sweet Babboo!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top Five . . . Songs That Always Make Me Think of My Dad

My dad has a very eclectic taste in music (Read: everything from The Who to Enya).  Because we spent most summers trekking back and forth from Omaha, NE to Denver (one of the most boring rides in the world), we needed something to keep us sane.  Since it was pre-portable DVD players and it was my job to keep my dad company, I got to experience his extensive musical taste and it definitely influenced part of my own.

In honor of Father's Day, I give you the Top Five songs that always make me think of my dad:

5.  "Vincent (Starry Starry Night)" by Don McLean

"Starry Night" was my favorite painting as a kid.  I had a huge poster of it in my room and I was always fascinated by the one-eared Vincent Van Gogh.  My dad was the person that introduced me to this song and he remains the only person I know who is familiar with Don McLean songs other than "American Pie".

4.  "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" by Meat Loaf, featuring Karla DeVito

Dad thinks this song is hilarious and should be played at every wedding ever.  I have distinct memories of him cranking it while we ran errands on the weekend.

3.  Any song from Queen's "Night at the Opera" or "The Game"

We wore these tapes out on road trips.  Travel tip:  Any road trip can be made infinitely better by rolling down the windows, blasting Queen, and singing at the top of your voice.

2.  "Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel)" by Billy Joel

We danced to this song at my wedding.  I picked it because my dad's childhood nickname for me was "Angel" and he's a big Billy Joel fan.  (I also enjoy Billy Joel - I spent an entire summer in our basement listening to The Stranger over and over on our ancient record player.)

1. "Nostradamus" by Al Stewart

I associate this song completely with my father.  It was another tape we listened to on our road trips and it always got us talking about what the song meant, and by extension, about history.  I occasionally catch it on the radio and I always smile because it makes me think of my dad.

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

Dad reading to me (my favorite picture of us)
Getting ready for the Father-Daughter dance

Walking down the aisle at my wedding.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Heart: The Curiouser and Curiouser Edition

In honor of Alice: Madness Returns being released today, I give you:

Official game merchandise from EA, particularly this Vorpal Blade T-shirt.

The exquisite Jun Planning Alice dolls.  They come in three variations - Little Dal, Little Pullip, and Lunatic Alice.

Phoebe in Wonderland - a lovely independent film about a bright but troubled girl who seeks refuge in her school's production of Alice in Wonderland.  Patricia Clarkson is fabulous as the eccentric drama teacher Mrs. Dodger and Elle Fanning makes a perfect Phoebe.

This gorgeous pocket watch necklace from Plasticland.

I've been eying this pill box, complete with original John Tenniel drawings, for awhile.

From the recent live action/CGI film, the glass "Eat Me" cake box - a gorgeous addition for any collector.

These wall hooks are perfect for an Alice-themed room.

Disney Couture creates beautiful jewelry with Disney film themes.  My favorite is the Drink Me necklace.

The Disney store also has some gorgeous Alice merch, including this snowglobe, this Alice themed tea press, and this beautiful new Precious Moments figurine (I have the original.)

This cloth-covered edition of the original text.

Funko's small plush Alice characters, including Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, and the White Rabbit.

This amazing Tokyo restaurant that I would DIE to go to!

An enamel charm with the Cheshire Cat's most famous line.

This book (combining my love of Alice and zombies), which I am holding in my hot little hands right this second.  (Thanks, Quinn!)

If you're an Alice fan, an American McGee fan, or just love gorgeous, cinematic, fantasy-driven third person shooter games, go buy Alice: Madness Returns today!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Geek of the Week: James McAvoy

James McAvoy [found here]
Securing the role of Charles Xavier in the newest X-Men film, X-Men: First Class was a dream come true for James McAvoy, who watched the cartoons as a young boy.  McAvoy is also a devoted fan of the Lord of the Rings novels and loves science fiction.  In an interview with The Independent, he said, "[I have] a humongous all-encompassing passion for sci-fi: films, books, art, memorabilia - I'm a proper addict.  It dates from when I read The Lord of the Rings at ll, and after that I read Frank Herbert's Dune chronicles and watched things like 'Star Trek'."  His genre loyalty often influences his choice of roles - he appeared as Leto Atredies II in the Sci-Fi Channel film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Children of Dune and Mr. Tumnus in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  He also has expressed interest in being a part of one of the J. J. Abrams-helmed Star Trek sequels and was, at one time, rumored to be playing the lead role of Bilbo Baggins for the 2012 adaptation of The Hobbit, which was supported by Elijah Wood (Frodo).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Saturday Review: X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class (2011)

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

James McAvoy
Michael Fassbender
Jennifer Lawrence
January Jones

Movies based on comic books can be hit or miss, and with an established rabid fanbase, there's always a danger when adapting a beloved series like The X-Men.  After seeing several trailers for the newest X-Men incarnation, I was pretty sure it was going to be good, and I was not disappointed.

X-Men: First Class reveals the back stories for several of the core X-Men characters, including Magneto, Professor X, Mystique, and Emma Frost (the White Queen).  Eric Lensherr (Magneto) is separated from his parents as they arrive at a Polish concentration camp.  As he reaches for them, the iron gates bend and twist.  His power is discovered by Dr. Schmidt (Kevin Bacon), who tortures him in an effort to harness the power.  Charles Xavier, the future Professor X, discovers Raven Darkholme (Mystique), stealing food from his fridge and takes her in.

Twenty years later, Lensherr (Fassbender) is on a revenge mission to find and kill the elusive Dr. Schmidt.  Xavier (McAvoy) is a newly appointed professor, traveling with Raven (Lawrence) posing as his sister.  In Las Vegas, CIA operative Moira McTaggart is staking out the Hellfire Club and witnesses clear evidence of genetic human mutation.  She seeks out Professor Xavier, an expert on mutation, and he begins working for the CIA, using a thought amplifying machine to find other mutants.  He and McTaggart discover Sebastian Shaw and his team are a threat to national security.  They join up with Lensherr and create a team of mutants to fight Shaw and his accomplices.  As their presence among regular humans becomes more obvious, the people they are protecting become a larger threat as well.

This flick is stylish and smart, with gorgeous period costuming and plenty of inside references for devoted X-Men fans.  The casting was excellent, and Fassbender and McAvoy are pitch perfect in their prospective roles.  I'm usually not fond of January Jones, but she was definitely the right choice to play Emma Frost and any doubts of Jennifer Lawrence's suitability for Mystique were blown away by a cameo by Rebecca Romijn (the original film version of Mystique).  Although the film has grossed the least at the box office of all the previous X-Men movies, I think it is the best so far and I am eager to see the second and third films in this series.

I think X-Men fans will enjoy this film, and it is an excellent starting point for those who are unfamiliar with the series.  The special effects are very well-done and there are several humorous moments that provide levity in between some very serious scenes.  It's definitely worth seeing in theaters, especially for comic fans.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Heart: The Father's Day Gift Guide Edition

 Father's Day (June 19th) is quickly approaching, but there's still time to get your dad a cool gift.  Here are my picks for awesome Father's Day gifts:

$20 and under:

Official Geek Dad bumper stickers - The dad in your life can advertise his geekiness to his fellow motorists with these hilarious bumper stickers.

Binary Dad T-shirt - If your dad is a computer guy, he'll appreciate this T-shirt with "Dad" written in binary on a blue background.

The Geek Dad's Guide to Weekend Fun and Geek Dad's Geeky Projects for Dads and Kids - These helpful guides can stave off boredom and encourage quality time together.

Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics - Barnes & Noble offers beautiful hardback editions of classic literature for $20 each.  For dads, I recommend the Sherlock Holmes collection, the Jules Verne collection, and the Ray Bradbury collection.

$50 and under:

Batman Money Clip - A mini folding batarang with a magnetized grip to keep Dad's cash (and your allowance) safe from super villains.

Star Trek Cufflinks - Beautiful silver plated cufflinks for Dad's geeky formal wear.

Night Sky Monopoly Edition - A space-themed Monopoly game that will both educate and entertain the whole family.

Case of Bawls - The gamer's energy drink of choice, it comes in 4 flavors: regular, cherry, sugar-free, and root beer.

$100 and under:

Neverlate Executive Alarm Clock - The perfect alarm clock for busy dads.  It has up to 42 alarm settings and is completely customizable.  There are 20 available radio presets and an MP3 player input.

Darth Vader Cookie Jar - The best part of the Dark Side?  They have cookies.

Stainless Steel Wallet - Made from tightly woven stainless steel fibers, this wallet is both durable and comfortable.  Perfect for the dad who is hard on wallets.

Razor Naga: MMO Gaming Mouse - An ergonomic mouse with 17 MMO-optimized buttons.  A must for hardcore gamers.

Last Minute Ideas:

If you're down to the wire and don't have time to have something shipped, consider these:
  • For comic book fans:  Anything from his "pull file" at your local comic book shop
  • Subscriptions to his favorite magazines
  • Gift cards to frequently shopped stores (including webstores)
  • Gift card to a favorite restaurant
  • Gift of the month clubs (wine, beer, coffee, etc.)
  • A paid year subscription to online games, Netflix, or Xbox Live

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Geek(s) of the Week: Megan & Keith

Two very awesome people, Megan and Keith, are getting married on Saturday, June 11th.  I hope they have a wonderful time on their special day and a lifetime of happiness!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And I'm Off!

I've been busy getting ready to send Kris off to Vegas for his future brother-in-law's bachelor party weekend.  He leaves Thursday, but I won't get a chance to rest because I'm leaving later that afternoon to spend a day with my dad and then I'm off again - headed to Nebraska to see my mom for a week.  I'm taking the week off from blogging, but I'll be back to my regular schedule on Sunday, June 5th.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I Heart: The Frozen in Carbonite Edition

The CDC acknowledges the inevitability of the zombie apocalypse. (Or it's a fun marketing ploy - either way, it's awesome.)  It attracted so much attention that the site still hasn't recovered.  ThinkGeek has provided a supplement, complete with a supply list.

Artist Rahzzah's mashup of X-Men and the Muppets, entitled "X-Muppets".

ThinkGeek's new superhero tees for women.  I'm a big fan of the hockey stripes and the 3/4 sleeves.  Choose from Batman, Green Lantern (my fav), Superman, and The Flash.

This adorable short/potential Meetup ad from Eric B. Shanks.  (Robots need friends, too!)

Han in carbonite ice trays - I love a good silicone ice tray (I have Space Invaders, brains, and Pi shaped trays, and I'm planning to get the robot tray very soon.), so I was super excited to see these amazing ice trays coming soon to the Star Wars Shop.

Adorable bookworm cake toppers - This handmade cake topper couple shows the bride and groom's love of books.

Don't worry about coming up with the best proposal ever, because this guy's already got it covered. (Bonus: Taking the time to get popcorn on the way.  I would totally do that.):

Meghan Draws Weird - Meghan Murphy's Tumblr blog of pencil sketches.  She takes requests from followers - my favorite is this sketch of the "IT Crowd" guys and gal).  Be sure to check out her hilarious cartoon site Kawaii Not as well.

Wizards & Warriors Camp - A summer camp in Burlington, MA for 7-12 year old fantasy fans.  Similar to LARP play, the camp also introduces kids to history, literature, chemistry, biology, environmental sciences, and archeology - all taught in the context of the fantasy world of Sidleterra.  Professional actors interact with the campers to enhance the ongoing story.  (Who else wishes they were 12 right about now?)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Geek of the Week: Grant Imahara

Grant Imahara (found here)
Grant Imahara is best known for his work on the "Mythbusters" team, but he is also a talented robotics engineer with a super cool resume.  After graduating from the University of Southern California, he worked for Industrial Light and Magic for nine years.  His work can be seen in several films, including the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the Matrix sequels.  He has also competed on Battlebots (with his bot Deadblow) and created Craig Ferguson's robot sidekick Geoff Peterson for "The Late Late Show".

Follow Imahara on Twitter (@grantimahara) and catch him on "Mythbusters" - Wednesdays at 9:00 PM (Eastern) on Discovery Channel.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Danger of Remakes

Filmmakers who decide to make remakes seem to do so at their peril.  They walk a very fine line - too close to the source material and they are deemed derivative; if they stray too far, they risk the ire of the original's fans.  Here are some common problems:

Some Movies Shouldn't be Remade
Some films are so iconic and rooted in our culture that it would be a crime to remake them.  (Can you imagine Citizen Kane or The Godfather being remade?)  Occasionally, the subject matter makes the film almost impossible to recreate (Freaks).

There are also films that are so unique that they can't be replicated. An excellent example of this is Wes Craven's first film, The Last House on the Left.  Based on a Swedish ballad (which also spawned the Ingmar Bergman film The Virgin Spring), made in 1972, and shot in a grainy, realistic fashion, the movie was Craven's commentary on the Vietnam war.  It is a raw and incredibly violent film and it culls a visceral reaction from the viewer.  Rob Zombie, a horror flick director and gorehound, said, "It feels like you're watching a snuff film."  Clearly, it's not a movie for people who get grossed out easily, but according to the filmmakers, the gore had a purpose.  This was not the case with the 2009 remake.  Although Craven produced the new version, it had neither the sucker punch effect of the original, nor the gritty, realistic feel.  It was just another slick, big budget slasher flick with a story line that vaguely resembled the original film.  The biggest mistake:  Remaking the film in the first place.  The Last House on the Left is a seminal horror film and it's virtually impossible to recapture the essence of the original movie.  The filmmakers would have been better off creating a completely new storyline and just making a standard horror flick.

Some Remakes are Just Bad

The best example of this is Frank Oz's disastrous version of The Stepford Wives.  The original film, made in 1975 and adapted from Ira Levin's short novel of the same name, has become a sci-fi classic.  Oz intended to make an updated version of the film to appeal to modern audiences, and by his own admission, got carried away by the big budget and star-studded cast.  Several changes were made throughout production and the story was transformed from a subtle domestic sci-fi thriller to an overly stylized farce with ridiculous gaping plot holes.  The biggest mistake:  Producers disliked the 1975 film's original dystopic ending, despite it being chiefly responsible for the flick's creepy atmosphere and lasting effect on audiences.  As a result, the 2004 version's muddled happy ending made Oz's film all the more laughable.

Few Remakes Add Anything Substantial to the Story

Even when remakes are decently made, they very rarely add anything of value to the pre-existing story.  This is especially true of shot-for-shot remakes, which I have never understood.  Do we really need to see Psycho done exactly like Hitchcock did it, but in color and with Anne Heche and Vince Vaughn? (The answer is "No".)  

Take A Nightmare On Elm Street, for example.  I thought Jackie Earle Haley did a good job as Freddy, but there wasn't anything that made the film stand out from the original version.  In fact, all the remake made me want to do was go back and watch the original.  The filmmakers of the 2010 version told the media they wanted to make a "darker" version of the franchise.  The biggest mistake:  They focused more on Freddy's back story as a child molester to give him a clearer motive for killing the teenagers, which to me, seems unnecessary, given that Freddy Krueger is a dream figure.  I'd argue that the film didn't need to be remade in the first place, but their best opportunity for making the newer version stand out wasn't motive, it was bigger and better kills.

Everyone Has a Different Opinion

Movie watching is, at its core, subjective.  Films are intended to evoke an emotional reaction and it can be difficult to be objective about something you connect with.  This usually translates into an overwhelming preference for the original film.  

On the other hand, just because the original is a classic, it doesn't necessarily mean that everyone likes it better.  I'll use myself as an example in this instance.  I would venture to say that most people, particularly in my age range, prefer Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) to the more recent Tim Burton revamp Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (2005).  Not me.  Other than the bizarre Willy Wonka back story, I like Burton's version better.  

You're probably thinking, "Isn't Charlie & the Chocolate Factory the epitome of the slick, big-budget remakes you were just complaining about?"  It absolutely is, but my preference isn't based on an objective opinion; it's rooted in my feeling about the book both films were based on.  Roald Dahl was one of my favorite authors as a kid, so my first exposure to the story was his book and, when I was younger, I was very adamant that film adaptations of books should be exactly like the source material.  While I liked Gene Wilder's performance as Willy Wonka, I wasn't a big fan of the movie itself because it wasn't enough like the book.  

In contrast, watching Charlie & the Chocolate Factory as an adult brought back vivid memories of reading the book in the back seat of the car as my parents ran errands and laughing at the hilariously twisted Oompa Loompa songs.  I was ecstatic that I could pick out lines of dialogue and song in the film that came directly from the text, despite not having read the book for over fifteen years.

The more recent version does have its problem.  Burton's directing and visual style tend to overshadow his actual films; the viewer is keenly aware that it is a "Tim Burton Film" while watching one of his movies (especially his more recent films).  The Willy Wonka in the 2005 version, while funny, is a creation of Burton and Depp and hardly resembles Dahl's character.  (Wilder's performance is actually closer.)  None of that matters to me, though.  The core of the film and the way it makes me feel is closer to Dahl's book than the 1971 version, and therefore, I like it better.  Objectivity often takes a back seat when emotions are involved.

Good Remakes are the Exception, Not the Rule

Two of my favorite sci-fi films are remakes - Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) and The Thing (1982).  Invasion of the Body Snatchers was based on the 1956 movie of the same name, and has been remade twice since - once in 1993 as Body Snatchers, and again in 2007 as The Invasion (starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig).  The 1978 version was very well received after its release and remains the most popular of the Invasion films.  The Thing was a remake of The Thing From Another World (1951), which was adapted from John W. Campbell, Jr.'s novella "Who Goes There?"  During it's initial release, The Thing was not a success, but has become known as a sci-fi classic and has achieved cult status.  A prequel, also called The Thing, was made in 2010 and is scheduled to be released in October 2011, after its April 2011 release date was pushed back for reshoots (not a good sign).

These two films are both excellent examples of good remakes.  I am not a film expert by any means, but here are my ideas on what can make a quality remake:

1.  The film is well-cast.
As we've learned from Frank Oz, you can stuff all the big-name actors you want in your movie, if they're not right for the parts, it's going to suck.  Both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing have excellent casts and each cast member is extremely effective in his or her role.

2.  The film has something that sets it apart from the original.
W. D. Richter's screenplay for Invasion of the Body Snatchers used the source material to create an allegory for the social construct of the "Me Generation" that was so prevalent during the early 70s.  He added another layer to the original story that made it especially relevant to the time in which it was released.  With The Thing, it was Rob Bottin's amazing special effects that made the remake stand out from the original.  (The Norris Thing has become an iconic image in sci-fi cinema.)

3.  The filmmakers have their own clear, unique vision.
While I think it's important to acknowledge the source material, it's equally important to set your film apart from it's predecessor.  There's no point in remaking a film if it's just going to be a rehash of the original.  

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is both paranoia-inducing and disturbingly realistic.  Little things in the film let you know that things are getting steadily worse and one of the most effective is the subtle substitution of mechanical noises for natural ones as the invasion progresses.  This, and the decision to go with a dystopic ending (rather than the original's more optimistic one) makes this film remain effective.

Taking the setting of The Thing back to the uber-isolated Antarctica of the original novella was a brilliant move and John Carpenter's directing style is tailor-made for the kind of suspense building needed to make this story come alive.  Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro says of Carpenter's work on The Thing, "The way Carpenter shoots it is so smart . . . he's extremely spare with his camera.  He just makes it almost a mathematical type of montage, where you're feeling relatively secure and then, BAM!"

Remakes will continue to be made, to varying degrees of success.  They seem to have become more prevalent in recent years, probably because the popularity of the original films ensures an audience and that means more money and less risk for producers.

One upcoming remake that looks like it could be promising (despite having many of Hollywood's remake cliches) is Craig Gillespie's Fright Night, starring Anton Yelchin, Toni Colette, David Tennant (of "Doctor Who" fame), and Colin Farrell.  The original Fright Night was made in 1985 and is a well-loved horror-comedy classic. 

What do you think of remakes?  What are some of your favorites?  Which ones do you not enjoy?