Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

A small break from nerdery to bring you a little thought on Christmas:

Christmas is my favorite holiday.  It always has been, as far back as I can remember.  Why?

Well, I love the trappings.  I love the lights, the trees, Santa Claus, egg nog, Christmas specials, food, etc.  But what I really love is that Christmas- to me- is a celebration of the best qualities of humanity.

Love.  Generosity.  Selflessness.

Hallowe'en was once about honoring the dead, and now it's a chance to have some fun with costumes.  Thanksgiving is about tradition, and being...thankful.  Christmas is nominally about the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  It's really a much older holiday that comes out of Germanic, Celtic, and Roman traditions that honors the solstice (the days are getting longer, y'all!  Zeus must have liked that kid goat I sacrificed) that Christian missionaries adopted in an attempt to win converts in the early part of the Middle Ages.  Jesus was probably born in March, April, or May.  Regardless.

Whether you see Christmas as a Christian holiday, a Solstice celebration, or a holiday that has become largely secular, I think we can all agree that love, generosity, family and selflessness are still at it's core.

Christmas is what we aspire to be all year round.  Christmas is about being a better human.  It's about the elevation of humanity. To often throughout the year we probably think only about ourselves- Christmas is a chance to be better than that.  Christmas dares us to be better (Ha ha!  I snuck in a Star Trek reference).

Monday, December 20, 2010

Yet Another Podcast

I got a chance to sit in on Arnie Niekamp's Stupid Nerd Podcast again.  If you're so inclined, download and listen to me talk about Muppets, Jason Chin talk about Life Day, and Pad Connelly talk about singing at Epcot Center.

Check it out under "A Very Nerdy Christmas"

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Three Great Muppet Christmas Movies/Specials and One Awful One

Christmas is coming.  Do you know what that means?  Christmas specials.  Lots, and lots of Christmas specials.

I love the old standards.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown. How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  It's a Wonderful Life (which is not just a great Christmas movie, but a great movie overall)- all classics.  All great.

But do you know what I really, really love at Christmas time?

The Muppets.  Jim Henson and his followers have made some of my absolute, most favorite Christmas specials ever.  For your viewing pleasure, here are three great ones.

3.  John Denver and the Muppets: a Christmas Together

Combine the earnestness of John Denver with the fun of the Muppets, and then add just a little Christmas to get a great, classic Christmas special.

2.  A Muppet Christmas Carol

Probably my favorite re-telling of "A Christmas Carol."  Gonzo as Dickens is particularly inspired.

1.  A Muppet Family Christmas

My absolute favorite Christmas special anywhere, ever can't be seen on TV (thanks copyright issues!), unfortunately.  But it is on youtube!  Thanks Internet!  Muppets, Sesame Street Muppets, Fraggles- all in one place at one time.  The Swedish Chef tries to cook Big Bird.  Amazing.

And now the awful one.

A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

Just terrible.  A few years ago, after buying the rights to the Muppets, Disney made a bunch of terrible Muppet TV movies.  This is one of two awful Christmas specials they made (the other was called Letters to Santa) as bad as the other Muppet Christmases are great.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Gifts for Your Geek Guy

Yesterday, Chelsea gave the guys some ideas for gifts for their significant others.  Today, I will offer your geek ladies some gift ideas for your geek guys as Christmas comes to all of the good boys and girls living in the Alpha quadrant.


An ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD t-shirt. know.  The Hypnotoad is the greatest, and he deserves to have his glory made known through apparel.


Astonishing X-Men Vol. 1, Gifted is the first part of Joss Whedon's (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, director of the forthcoming Avengers movie, and overall nerd demi-god) run on X-Men, which is both an excellent read, and a great stroll down memory lane for nerds who grew up on X-Men comics.  Cyclops, Wolverine, Beast, Shadowcat, Emma Frost?  Probably my favorite X-Men line up ever.  Gift it!


Gandalf fighting a Balrog  Got some extra moneys lying around?  What better way to tell your significant other that you'd go to Moria and back for him then with this beautiful diorama of Gandalf fighting a Balrog?


Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" You know what's awesome?  Science.  You know who's incredibly awesome at science?  That's right, Stephen Hawking.  And you know what awesome book he wrote about science?  "A Brief History of Time".


The Alinea Cookbook  Grant Achatz is probably the best or second best chef in the United States, and you know what?  His food is wicked nerdy.  Why?  Well, I know chefs hate to use the term molecular gastronomy when describing their food, but Achatz is an MG wunderkind- meaning he uses all kinds of crazy science in his cooking.  Give your guy the gift of Alinea, and eat like a nerd queen.


Talking Dr. Who Tardis Cookie Jar Everyone needs a good novelty cookie jar.  Why not one that tells your friends "Not only am I a nerd, but I'm the type of nerd who loves Dr. Who?"


Super Mario Galaxy 2 Far and away the best video game I played in 2010, Mario Galaxy 2 takes everything you love about the first Super Mario Galaxy, and turns it up to 11.  Plus, if you loved "Super Mario World" on the SNES as a kid, Yoshi's back!


The Venture Brothers Season 1 on DVD Do you find that the older you get, the less funny Family Guy gets? Cause I know I do.  Looking for a smarter, nerdier animated comedy TV Show?  Haven't seen the Venture Brothers yet?  Well this is the place to start.  Get your guy the geekiest, funniest animated show on TV and watch him laugh and laugh.


The First Law Trilogy Does your fella like wizards and barbarians?  Does he also like Tarantino-esque vulgarity and violence?  Then The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie is for him.  Fantasy at it's grittiest, and also one of the funniest fantasy series I've ever read


Ice, Eddard Stark's sword It's probably pretty obvious that Chelsea and I really, really like "A Song of Ice and Fire", but did you know you can buy a replica of Ice, Ned Stark's Valyrian Steel greatsword?  Well you can, and it's probably the most awesome thing I've ever seen in my life.  As an added bonus, if your guy needs to fight Lannisters, or execute prisoners, he will have something to do those things with.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Holiday Gifts For Your Nerd Girl

  1. Fables graphic novels
    Fables is an epic comic series featuring your favorite fairy tale characters in settings you've never seen them in before ranging from inner city noir, to sprawling war epic.  One of the best comics on the market today.  Get your lady geek the first Fables graphic novel ("Legends in Exile") and she'll probably go out and buy the rest as soon as she's done.
  2. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog Soundtrack or DVD
    I, for one, love Felicia Day. I kind of wish I was her. Nathan Fillion is dreamy and NPH is fantastic.  She'll absolutely love you for it.
  3. Wonder Woman Mug
    I have one of these and absolutely love it. Plus, if you get this for her, she'll know that you think she's "As lovely as Aphrodite" and "As wise as Athena"!
  4. Harry Potter Merchandise
    Specifically, a wand. And if you're romantic, it might be a nice touch to get her Hermione's wand and get Ron's wand for yourself, or Ginny & Harry's!
  5. Steampunk Jewelry
    Steampunk is all the rage right now and Etsy has some pretty amazing, pretty reasonably priced steampunkery, especially jewelry.
  6. Personalized Muppet!
    Sean got me one (Chelsea Blue) for my birthday 2 years ago, and I think she's awesome.
  7. Firefly DVD
    Joss Whedon's short lived science fiction western series. The cast is pretty damn fantastic and true to Whedon form, there's a lot of love and passion that went into it. Again, Nathan Fillion is dreamy. And you get an episode filled with Christina Hendricks!
  8. Star Wars Bathing Suit
    Now, I'll be honest and say that this might be more for you than her. But they're pretty damn awesome! Now if only this model was less skinny and a little more believably nerdy:
  9. Merlotte's T-Shirt!
    True Blood is awesome and add this to a pair of black shorts, apron and some sneaks and she's Sookie for next halloween!
  10. Doozers!
    She can snuggle up with these fellows or, if she's really cool, she'll put them on her desk at work!

Things That Need to Go Away for a Little While: Vampires

I always loved vampires when I was a little kid.  I had this book about vampires that described all of their traits (sleep in coffins, suck blood, hate garlic, etc.), and in the 6th grade, I read Bram Stoker's "Dracula" in it's entirety.  Vampires are cool- they're powerful and kind of dangerous.  Plus they're walking, talking sex metaphors, so there's that too.

So, it's not like I was surprised when the popularity of vampires kind of exploded over the course of the last few years.  "True Blood", "Buffy" and the God-awful "Twilight" series seem to be everywhere.  It seems like you can't turn on the TV without seeing somebody sucking someone else's blood nowadays.  Book store shelves are FULL of urban fantasy books, and even comic book conventions seem to be swarming with vamp fans.

The thing is, I think we've reached the point of absolute saturation.  I think there's officially too much vampire stuff out there.  It's gotten to the point where every vampire book, movie, TV show feels basically the same- dangerous centuries old male vampire seduces a hesitant female human, and in between, wacky vampire hi-jinks ensue. 

Other over used vampire media tropes:

* The more down to earth werewolf romantic rival
* The vampire stating that he is "not like the vampires in stories" and then explaining how he doesn't turn into a bat, or sparkles or whatever.  You know what?  I kind of miss vampires turning into bats and clouds of mist.
* Even though he has to kill other people to stay alive, the vampire has a heart of gold which puts him in direct opposition to vampire authorities.
* The female protagonist refusing to be turned into a vampire, even though it would clearly be wicked awesome to turn into a vampire.
* Usually, if a female vampire shows up, she's really unpleasant.  Male vampires- bloodsuckers with hearts of gold.  Female vampires- soulless jerks.
* At some point, the male vampire really struggles with his vampire nature, and almost, but doesn't quite give into it.
* Vampires are not scary, but beautiful or handsome.

There's a million of these.  My main point is that there's too much vampire media, and what's out there is repetitive, and unoriginal.  So here's my proposal- put it on the shelf.  Let's stop writing vampire books, vampire movies, and vampire TV shows for a few years (let's say 5).  Put a moratorium on the whole vampire thing.  Then, after that time is up, take vampires off the shelf and start over by telling some really unique, new vampire stories.

Just as a side note, my favorite, totally unique portrayal of vampires comes from China Mieville's second Bas-Lag novel "The Scar".  In "The Scar", we learn that vampires in Bas-Lag mostly live in a vast necropolis.  The Necropolis has a rigid caste system with lich's at the top, and vamps at the bottom.  The vampires live in slums, and everyday, have to go into the city to beg the humans who live there (who are higher up on the caste system than vampires) for a little blood so that they can live.  The main vampire character in "The Scar" is the Brucolac, who fled the necropolis and lives on the floating city of Armada where he is the de facto leader of the vampires who live there.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Winter is Coming to HBO in April!

HBO just announced that its new show, Game of Thrones will debut in April 2011!  Squeeeeeeeeeeee! As you can probably tell from previous posts, we here at Frakking Shiny are super pumped about this show that is based on the George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I totally suggest you get to reading now. It's some of the best we've ever read.

And here is a 10 minute featurette along with 10 reasons why you should be totally excited for this too!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter is Coming (Redux)

If you're a fan of the books, this will probably give you goosebumps.

Some random thoughts:

  • Boromir looks perfect as Ned Stark
  • Jaime Lannister's armor is badass
  • Is that an egg?!?!?!?
  • Benjen Stark!
  • "Fear is for the long night..." chills.  Just, chills.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chelsea and Sean: 2007 to 2010

This is just random.  I was looking through facebook Hallowe'en picks of Chelsea and myself from 2007, when she dressed as Tinkerbell, and I dressed up if I served on the Enterprise D, to 2010 when Chelsea dressed as Lara Croft and I dressed as Indiana Jones.

Here's 2007:

Both of us again:

And now in 2010:

Chelsea (and actually Mel Franke is in both this and the previous "Chelsea" pic as well):


You'll notice a couple of things from these pictures:

1.  We both appear to have gone through a second puberty.
2.  NERDS!

That is all.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dale Levitski is the Gladiator of Top Chef

As a big ol' food nerd, I love me some Top Chef.  So, I was THRILLED that after seven seasons, Bravo decided to do a Top Chef All Stars featuring some of the best contestants from seasons 1-7.

I looked at the list of contestants, and was excited to see some of my favorite contestants coming back, including Richard Blais, Dale Talde, and Jennifer Caroll.

One of the other returning chef's is fan favorite and season 3 runner up, Dale Levitski.  Now, I've never loved Dale the way other people love Dale, but I understand the appeal.  In season 3, Dale auditioned because he had reached a low point in his career.  He had lost faith in himself as a chef, and used Top Chef as a means to get back his culinary mojo, and he did, and you saw it all on screen.  He went from sucking up the joint in the early part of the season, to getting some swagger and just killing it in the latter half and almost winning the whole shebang.  And he's so likable.  The guy wears his emotions on his sleeve in a good way.  Oh, and he cooks food that looks like a high end version of something your mom might make, which is definitely appealing.

And I love food like that, so I should love the guy.  And he's a local Chicago guy.  Hell, when I used to live at the corner of Roscoe and Halsted, I used to see Dale wandering around at least once a week, and he was super nice to the people whom he saw along his way.

But in terms of Top Chef, he just wasn't my cup of tea.  I thought he was a great, likable underdog, but I prefer badasses on Top Chef.  I like Richard Blais.  I like the Voltaggios.  I like really confident, creative chefs.  Plus, it was tough for me to get a bead on Dale.  Sometimes he just totally knocks it out of the park, and other times he's the worst chef in the world.

He's the Gladiator of Top Chef.

Gladiator, for all of you comic book Muggles, is an alien superhero from the Marvel Universe.  He's basically just as powerful as Superman, but only if he believes in himself.  That's right, Gladiator has confidence based super powers.  If Gladiator thinks he's the strongest, fastest, baddest motherhugger in the universe, he is.  But the second he doubts himself? Anybody can take him down.

Dale's the same way.  As long as he believes in himself, he belongs in the same category as Hung, Stephanie, and the Brothers Voltaggio, but the second he doubts himself?  Forget it.  Pack your knives and go home.

Also, as an interesting aside, Gladiator and Dale have the same haircut.