Archive for September, 2008

Geeks Get Their Due

September 25, 2008

Chemistry is the study of change and this past sunday there was a change at the Emmy’s: a really deserving actor got recognition. Brian Cranston won Best Actor in a dramatic series for his portrayal Of Walter White on Breaking Bad. I’ve been a fan of Cranston since Malcolm in the Middle and am a huge fan of Breaking Bad. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Bad is the story of high school chemistry teacher Walter White who after discovering he has lung cancer uses his chemistry skills to create/deal meth in order to pay for his treatment and make sure his family is provided for. The show is pretty dark, surprisingly funny, refreshingly honest and incredibly brave. Despite the fact that John Hamm deserves an Emmy just as much I feel justified in Cranston getting it since Bad was robbed of a full season due to the writers strike and needs to get some attention.

Also want to give a well deserved pat on the back to Tiny Fey and the 30 Rock crew who won pretty much every category in which they were nominated. Tina Fey is completely brilliant on that show and it’s been a long time since something that well written has been on tv. I think it’s funny that there was all this attention around Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock which was just that other behind the scenes show is the one that is still around. Alec Baldwin is amazing as well and I can’t wait for the new season to begin in October.

Alec Baldwin’s award winning performance

And Finally congrats to Barry Sonnenfeld of Pushing Daisies for nabbing Best Director for a Comedy for the episode “Pie-lette.” Daisies (which was just released on dvd last week) is sweeter than honey for the homeless (it’s a joke from the show). Lee Pace and Kristin Chenoweth (who looked pleased as punch when Sonnenfeld won) unfortunately didn’t win their respective categories but I’m sure they’ll have plenty more opportunities. If you haven’t seen Pushing Daisies yet definitely check it out. It does require that you can tolerate a certain amount of whimsy, but if you can it’s awesome.

The season 1 promo for those who missed it

Th tv season has begun people. Grab some popcorn, set your Tivos, and check your local listings.

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When I Was Cool

September 12, 2008

Way back in 1993 during a blizzard I became an uncle. I was 15 and this would be the first, but not the last, time my sister would give birth. I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know this was my chance to be cool. As I look back now this is right about the time that I began my development as a geek. This was slightly counteracted by the fact that by the time this kid would start to develop a personality and begin to look up to people I was the only immediate relative living in a big city. Definitely cool. Plus I had long hair, something which most guys in our town weren’t really into.

By the time he was able to talk I was the cool uncle trying to be an artist in the big city. A had a lock on the whole cool thing (at least as far as he was concerned). Whenever I would come to town he was a ball of energy wanting to do everything all at once. The kid would tire me out and when I would ask my sister how she keeps up with him she would tell me it’s because he’s so excited to hang out with his uncle.

I must admit it felt good to have somebody look up to me. I was the youngest in my family and never had this happen before. My reign of coolness went on unabated for years. It even continued when I gained a niece and another nephew. Even they thought I was cool. It was great. But then something began to happen with the oldest. It was so subtle that I didn’t even notice it at first. He became interested in skateboarding. No problem. I had began to skate and although I didn’t know much I knew enough to retain my coolness. Then he began to play guitar. Wonderful. Every kid should try the arts. But this kid was good. Really,  really good. The real red flag was when he started playing football. I can’t speak to the talent in my brother-in-law’s family, but nobody in my family had ever been good or even interested in sports. We were all in Little League at some point but football! That was unheard of! Plus he was good at that too! High school football coaches were calling his house to make sure he would join the team when got to high school. Things progress quickly here. Suddenly the kid is a great skateboarder, a talented athlete, and has formed a band. Before I know it he’s organizing a gig for his band to play at the local VFW (that pull a decent sized crowd) and has a girlfriend. At this point he’s probably the most successful person in my family and worse then that he is definitely cooler than me.

Meanwhile I continue to collect action figures for both my girlfriend and me. I can barely do the most basic of skateboard tricks, build model rockets,  and am starting to actually like Dr. Who. The coolness bestowed upon me by my uncle status is fading fast. What little I have may have vanished when I gave him a t-shirt I made myself with the logo for our imaginary rocket club on it. My coolness will soon be gone and then I’ll just be his uncle. I imagine he’ll still humor me when I invite him along on some geeky adventure but it won’t be the same. Rest in peace, My Coolness. It was fun while it lasted.

Bill Nye Environ-Guy

September 8, 2008

“When we do stuff, stuff happens.” That’s the basis of Stuff Happens, the new show from Bill Nye (the Science Guy, not the actor). So far I’ve seen two episodes of the show and I’m not too impressed. In fact, I’m a little disappointed since  I was super excited when I first saw the ads for it. It’s be far too long since his completely awesome show Bill Nye the Science Guy went off the air and since then, I haven’t seen a science show that lights my Bunsen burner quite like Nye’s did. Aside from my loving memory of the show, YouTube, and Bill Nye stalker articles, I rarely even see references to it. I mean even Beckman’s World is on in reruns and it isn’t nearly as awesome.

But I digress. My excitement for the new show began to wane when I realized Stuff Happens was on Planet Green, the environmental channel. I know our planet is important but I have never been able to get into conservation/environmentalism. I do my part. I reduce, reuse and recycle. I turn off lights when I leave a room. I cut up six pack containers. I turn off the water while brushing me teeth. Hell, I even sold my car. But I just don’t go for the full-on Begley Jr. Nothing’s been able to turn me around. Not Al Gore, not the joint efforts of John Ritter and Max Casella, and so far not Bill Nye.

The problem I have with his show is that seemingly everything I do is causing the end of the world. In the first episode of Stuff Happens, I learned that eating cheap bacon is causing the depletion of the anchovy population and thereby destroying penguins. The answer to all of these problems is to, of course, buy organic. You’d think the show was made by Whole Foods.

“..This exciting half-hour series engages the viewer with astonishing information, easy-to-follow science, lighthearted demonstrations, expert interviews and connective story-telling to amplify growing problems in the environment and important solutions we can all take to make things better. With trademark good humor, Bill Nye helps viewers get a grip on big topics and presents positive, upbeat solutions to the critical problems facing us all…”

The information is far from astonishing. I’ve been told the world was going to end any minute (and that we’re about to convert to metric) since I was a kid. Neither have happened yet. Plus I already know buying organic is better. Because of that, I feel like this is all old news and I’m not learning anything. Hecl I was more moved to be environmental after watching Batman battle it out with Ra’s Al Ghul on the beloved Batman: The Animated Series.

"Stop pigs from eating me!"

"Stop pigs from eating me!"

The one technique for saving the world (specifically the anchovies I mentioned earlier) I did think was more interesting was to eat more anchovies. You see they are in danger because they are a good, cheap food source for pigs. Pigs love them and will eat them as much as they can, which means farmers buy a lot of anchovies to get pigs fatter quicker. But if humans eat more anchovies, the price will go up and theoretically pig farmers will stop buying them. But even this solution has it’s problems. First of all anchovies are the universal symbol for something most people are repulsed by. Secondly if humans start to love them so much they’ll still get over farmed. Just for a pig that can talk.

So it seems Bill Nye’s return to television is quite as triumphant as I had hoped. I wonder what Beckman is up to…..

A Geek Watches the Olympics

September 2, 2008

I am not what you would call a sports fan. I’ve never watched the Superbowl, couldn’t tell you who won the World Series last year and generally would prefer to poke a stick in my ear rather than listening to any kind of sports discussion. I didn’t grow up in a sports watching family since my dad never watched sports nor did my grandfather (unless you count horse racing but that was more about the monetary rewards rather than any love of sports).

Strangely enough though, I always look forward to the Olympics. I’ve come to think of the Olympics as an event for people who generally don’t like watching sports. Although I think they have gone a little crazy adding sports that I don’t thing are really Olympic in stature (BMX Racing? Ping-Pong? Trampoline?), it’s fun to watch the best of the best in every country come together to compete every four years. And while I generally enjoy the Winter Games more than the Summer Games (maybe because I was born in a blizzard?), the Beijing Games have been riveting.

I will fully admit that this is because I been hit hard with Phelps mania. I don’t ever recall watching the swimming finals in Olympics past but I have been glued to my television all last week. Often before the Olympics, the media will pump up certain athletes as the sure to be stars of the games only to see that them crack under the pressure. And the Beijing Games have certainly served up their share of disappointing athletes. But Phelps has been amazing. I managed to watch all but one race live (I missed the nail biter race that gave him the 7th gold because someone who shall remain unnamed wanted to watch Psych instead. Grr Argh!). Sometimes he won by wide margins, other times by freakishly close ones but watching someone actually achieve 8 gold medals straight in one week makes me believe that Phelps must be part fish.

But besides Phelps, watching athletes like Dara Torres, Jason Lezak, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin has kept me up til the wee hours most nights (why NBC decided to save most key events until after 11 pm is beyond me). And when Jason Lezak came from behind to crush Alain Bernard in the 4×100 medal relay had me jumping off of my couch like an actual sport fan would. And I’ve been reading the sports pages instead of tossing them aside like normal.

But I know as with every other Olympics, once the closing ceremony is over and some athlete makes their debut on the Wheaties box (Phelps have a deal with Kelloggs so the field is wide open), I will once again eschew anything sports-related for my traditionally geeky pursuits. Which I guess is how it will be until the Vancouver Winter Games roll around in 2010. And then I will become a temporary sports geek once again.