Happy New Year!

Y'all, 2007 has been a blast and I hope that those few of you who have stopped by here regularly have enjoyed reading my humble offerings this year as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

We're closing up shop for the next two weeks while my lovely fianceƩ and myself enjoy a pre-wedding honeymoon in Italy. Check back in sometime roundabout the 16th of January for a complete report on Italian hijinks, more photos than you can shake a stick at and a resumption of your not-quite-daily Nerdiness.

Take it easy, y'all, and try not to trash the place while we're gone.

Twenny Twenny Twenny Four Hours to Go

There are now fewer than twenty-four hours left in the year 2007 (as I write this in the Pacific time zone).

This time tomorrow, it's going to be all champagne and people mumbling along to "Auld Lang Syne" (because, seriously, does anyone actually know the words to that thing anymore?) and fireworks.

Then, it's going to be hour-long waits for tables at Denny's for passable eggs and sausage and terrible coffee to kill the hangover and fill the awkward silences between people who barely remember what they did with each other after the party. That, and the Rose Parade.

The day after, it's going to be all, "This is the year I lose weight" and "This year, I'm resolving to quit smoking, and this time, I really mean it."

Then it's going to be LSU smoking the Buckeyes in the BCS Title Game.

And then, before you know it, it's going to be December 31, 2008, and you'll be wondering where another year went.


In this space last year at this time, you may recall that I made some resolutions. Let's take a look back and see how I did:

I resolve to watch old-school Star Trek reruns whenever possible.

Done, and with very little difficulty.

I resolve to give my D&D players something more interesting to do than fight yet another band of Orcs.

Not done. I had depressingly few opportunities for gaming this year.

I resolve not to bitch too much about Spider-Man 3, no matter how much it sucks.

It sucked about as much as I thought it would, which was some, and I feel I successfully kept my complaints to a minimum, especially compared to the "It's the worst movie ever!" hue and cry raised by the internet nerdosphere.

I resolve to catch up on reading the nerdy essentials I've been meaning to get around to for years, the Arthur C. Clarke, the Kim Stanley Robinson, the Robert Heinlein, and not spend all the time I could be doing that rereading "Watchmen" and old Batman comics.

Well, I don't think I read "Watchmen" cover-to-cover once this year...but I certainly didn't read any Clarke, Robinson or Heinlein cover-to-cover either.

I resolve to incorporate at least 15% more "Simpsons" references into my daily conversation.

Nope, don't think I managed it.

I resolve not to spend September and October getting needlessly excited about the Denver Broncos' Super Bowl chances, and instead skip directly to the inevitable jaded letdown that usually accompanies November and December.

I'd like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Boys in Predominantly Orange for sucking balls right out of the gate this season, making this one of the easiest resolutions ever to keep.

I resolve to get one o' them Wiis or XBoxes or PlayStations or whatever that the nerds are all excited about these days. Or not.

Nope. Maybe next year.

I resolve to wear more humorous t-shirts.*

Failure. I'm finding very few so-called "humorous" t-shirts to my liking these days, and I go more and more to plain, unadorned ones in a variety of hues.

I resolve to determine once and for all whether the Jedi Knights could beat the Green Lantern Corps in an all-out fight.

What a silly resolution! This one's like the age-old question about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop: the world may never know.

I resolve to get a new pair of Chuck Taylors and wear them until they are little more than a loosely connected string of shoe molecules.

Working on it. The ones I bought this year have leather uppers and are proving surprisingly resilient. I think I may wear through the soles before the uppers, which would be a first.

I resolve to be prolific in the creation of webcomics, hilarious cartoons for YouTube distribution, snarky blog entries, and other such things associated with the modern, well-connected nerd.

Webcomics? Sadly, no. Snarky blog entries? Well, you be the judge.

I resolve to see at least one embarrassingly, horrifyingly nerdy movie in a theater this summer, whatever this year's equivalent of Alien vs. Predator might be. If there's more than one to see, so much the better.

Well, I never did make it to Live Free or Die Hard, and I had no idea when I wrote this that this year's equivalent of Alien vs. Predator would, in fact, be Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. But, sadly, I'm leaving the country for two weeks and I suspect that AvP:R will be long gone from theaters by the time I get back.

I resolve to spend many, many hours playing complex boardgames with rulebooks longer than an average Victor Hugo novel.


I resolve to build a functioning trebuchet at my friend's cabin this summer.

Sigh...maybe next summer.

I resolve to learn the ancient art of Tae Kwan Leap. Boot to the head!

Well, you know what they say: Tae Kwan Leap is not a path to a door, but a road leading neverending unto the horizon. To a true student, a year is as a day.

I resolve, in short, to be the kind of nerd that makes other nerds proud to be nerds.

I can only hope that I have done this.

On the whole, I believe I've accomplished quite a lot, nerdistically speaking, in 2007, and things are looking bright for 2008.

Xmas Classics

Steve Martin's classic SNL "Christmas Wish" sketch:

The end of the all-time classic TV Christmas special:

And of course, an Old Classic must be followed up with a New Classic:

From the 2nd-place entry on the all-time classic TV Christmas special list:

And finally, a Festivus for the rest of us:

Whether you're all about the Jesus or, like me, a celebrator of American Secular Christmas, merry Christmas, everybody!

Yes, He Is

The lead of Yahoo!'s story on the father of Jamie Lynn Spears' babydaddy: "He's a 19-year-old pipe layer."

Sometimes, you just gotta let these things speak for themselves...

Don't Be Cruel

Greetings, one and all, from sunny and (relatively) warm California! Oaktown, represent, yo! Well, Emeryville, represent, yo, anyway. The flight was early as hell but blessedly uneventful.

Do you want to know what is my very favorite thing about flying? Is it the half a Coke and seven pretzels they grudgingly give you? Nope. The seats built for hobbits? Nope. The best thing about any airplane journey is the opportunity to peruse the SkyMall Catalog. Usually, the various SkyMall merchants average a pretty solid 90 out of 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. Hammacher Schlemer tells you about the results of rigorous testing of robotic vacuum cleaners at the "Hammacher Schlemer Institute," one of the most highly respected scientific institutions to be associated with sellers of absurd yuppie gadgetry. Frontgate offers you no fewer than seventeen different ways to store and conceal your garden hose. You can get your favorite NFL, MLB, NCAA or NASCAR logo on everything from wristwatches to bedroom slippers to billiard balls. Every retailer (save, perhaps the fine, highly motivational folks at Successories) offer you a high-tech bed for your dog and a fancy water-circulating drinking fountain for your cat.

But today, my friends, the current issue of SkyMall provided a solid-gold 100 out of 100 on the Unintentional Comedy Scale. The Sharper Image (who else?) is offering, as you can see in the above photo, the "Alive Elvis Animatronic Robot." The description in the catlog describes in exacting and creepy detail how you, the proud owner of this insane way for rich Baby Boomers to throw away their disposable income now that the kids are out of college, can "touch his soft hair and sideburns, stroke his skin, feel his 1968 leather jacket, look into his clear baby blues." So, yeah...the Sharper Image has produced some sort of fucked up Elvis fetish robot, apparently.

Yes, for the low, low price of $299.95 - No, it's now sale-priced at just $199.95, a bargain at twice the price! - you can have your own lifelike Elvis robot with a variety of control options. Press "Monologue" on your remote and RoboElvis will, "share moments from his life and times." Choose "Song" and he'll sing one of eight of his many hit songs. Choose "Sing Along," and you can sing along with "The King." And if there's any lingering doubt that this is a fucked up Elvis fetish robot, there's the fourth option, "Alive." If you choose "Alive" on your remote, "Elvis comes to life — checking you out and talking you up."

And because I know you've been wondering, the rumors are true, "you can plug in your iPod® or other audio source to enjoy your own music in sync with Elvis."

Whatever the fuck that means.

I'm Dreaming of a Wet Christmas

In about ten hours, we're departing for a rainy Christmas. We'll be in northern California, where it snows half an inch every fifteen years or so, but dumps bridge-destroying rains into the Russian River pretty much every year.

Last year, Mle wished for a white Christmas, and she got it in spades. Last year, a few days before the Big Day, we got absolutely dumped on. Two feet of snow in less than 24 hours. This year, I'm wishing for a dry Christmas. Let's hope I get my wish.

Honestly, I couldn't care less about the whole "white Christmas" thing. Some people - from the northeast and upper midwest, I suppose - say it doesn't feel like Christmas unless there's snow. To me, it makes no difference. People are usually surprised to learn that it almost never happens in Colorado. We don't usually start getting heavy snow until later in the season. When we have gotten snow before Christmas, it has often melted off by the time the day itself rolls around. And it almost never actually snows here on 25 December. Snow, no snow, makes no difference to me.

But rain? Rain on Christmas? What the hell?! That just ain't right, man.

I really don't think I'm going to get my wish. And I don't think that the Cat in the Hat is going to show up to liven up the day as I mope around Mle's mom's house, staring gloomily out the window. The World's Wiggliest Dog will be there, which will be good for a few laughs...but that dog needs to be fetched with, and rainy, wet weather will prevent anything more exciting than throwing the wet, slobbery ball ten feet down the hallway, over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again. If there's a few dryish hours, I'm absolutely taking that dog somewhere where she can do some real fetching.

Still, I don't mean to make it sound all bad, 'cuz it's sure not. Mle's family is great (if vastly a bit louder than my own) and I'm wicked excited about giving Mle her Xmas present. So that's pretty good.

Two Unrelated Things

First, Ken Jennings notes that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Elvis Costello (and the Attractions, too, I suppose) being banned for more than a decade from SNL because they decided to play a kickass song instead of a just-okay song:

Second, the nerdier elements of the internet are buzzing with near-orgasmic glee at the news that Peter Jackson and the suits at New Line have settled their lawsuits and feuds and such. The ultimate gist of this news is that Peter Jackson's name will be attached to the forthcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit.

To which I say, settle down, my nerdy brethren, settle down.

I am pleased, I suppose, and I hope that the movie is good. But all the "O frabjuous day, calloo callay" shit is pointless. PJ is not going to be directing it. His name is going to be on it, as "Executive Producer." This means his creative involvement is likely to be essentially nil.

Now, the assumption that only PJ could possibly direct a great (or even merely good) Hobbit movie has always baffled me. The Star Wars movie that is pretty much universally regarded as the best of the bunch is one of the ones that George Lucas didn't direct, after all. I've never understood all the "If Jackson doesn't direct it, I won't see it" bullshit that a certain kind of nerd has been spewing all over the internet for the last couple of years. Sam Raimi or Guillermo del Toro, two names rumored to be possible directors for The Hobbit, could both potentially do a fine job. I'm not bothered by the idea that Jackson won't be directing. I'm just not going to get a huge nerdboner over the news that his name is going to be on the thing. It's sort of akin to the cash-in novels that were released shortly after Isaac Asimov's death that said, in great big letters on the cover, "ISAAC ASIMOV'S ROBOTS PLAYING POKER," and then in teeny-tiny letters down at the bottom, "by Bob Smith," or the line of comics that was released in the mid-'90s with big names attached, titled things like "Neil Gaiman's 'Mr. Hero'," even though Gaiman didn't actually write a single issue.

The only major upside to this news is that it means it's likelier that some of the talent who might have stayed away out of loyalty to PJ will return. I'd like to see Ian McKellan, Hugo Weaving and most especially Andy Serkis reprise their Rings roles.

Oh, and, since I'm sure the casting people are reading this (I mean, why wouldn't they?), I'd just like to mention that Brian Blessed is Thorin Oakenshield. Think about it.

Because I Know a Good Idea When I See One

An Open Letter to the Doola! of 1995:

Dear Sir,

Listen, kid...it gets better. You know all those people who talk about how you need to appreciate where you are right now because high school is the best time in your life? Yeah, they're every bit as full of shit as you suspect they are. Perhaps even moreso. Trust me, it gets better.

Oh, not right away, to be sure. I'm not gonna lie to you, kid, you're going to spend most of your twenties figuring out what the hell to do with yourself. But you're going to figure it out. You're not going to be an Oscar-winning filmmaker (yet, anyway). But it's really okay. You're going to wind up doing something that you really love, and are really good at. The best part is that you're going to be doing it because it's what you want to do, not because it's what you think will finally make your parents approve of you or what anyone else expects or wants.

Another piece of good news: being a nerd is going to turn out not to be such a bad thing. As it happens, there are a number of great girls out there who actually like guys who are smart and funny and kind of odd. There's even one girl out there who is going to notice you pretty much directly because of all those hours you've spent watching "Monty Python's Flying Circus." Just remember that your two chief weapons are surprise, fear and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.

There's going to be at least two totally kick-ass "Spider-Man" movies, two totally kick-ass "X-Men" movies, and a dude from New Zealand is going to make "The Lord of the Rings" as an entire trilogy of movies and it's going to be the most totally kick-ass thing ever to cross the cinema screen.

Just...be patient. Things are going to work out pretty well. You're going to see the country and the world. You're going to hit 30 happy, healthy and less than a year away from getting married to someone amazing. There's some rough patches between now and then, but you're going to ride them out and come out wiser and stronger on the other side. You're going to laugh about all the things that seem like the worst things in the world now, first because you're going to realize how trivial they were, and second because you're going to have to deal with worse before it's all said and done. But getting through the tough times is going to be worth it. Trust me.

You + 12

P.S. The good news is that George Lucas is finally going to make Star Wars Episodes I, II and III. The bad news is that...well, I don't think I have the heart to tell you.

Aw, Fuck

Terry Pratchett, gentleman, scholar, and in the running for the coveted title of Funniest Author Alive, has announced that he has an early-onset form of Alzheimer's.

This just sucks.

Bad things happen to good people, and that's the way of the world, but this just ain't right.

Good Omens, which Pratchett co-wrote with the great Neil Gaiman, is way, way up near the top of any list of my favorite books, genre or otherwise. Not even the much-vaunted Hitchhiker's Guide made me laugh as much as Good Omens. The book opens with the Earth's horoscope based on Bishop James Ussher's famous and absurd down-to-the-minute calculation of the Earth's age (Earth's a Libra). It gets funnier from there, offering the theory that all cassettes left in the car for longer than a fortnight transform into Best of Queen (which means that Satan communicates with his servant Crowley in the voice of Freddy Mercury), presents us with the Other Four Horsemen Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse (including Greivous Bodily Harm, Really Cool People and Treading in Dogshit), and in a bit of characteristically British (but still funny to Americans) humor, explains the dubious origins of things like the M25 Motorway, Value Added Tax and Manchester.

Somehow, even though I've devoured pretty much everything else Gaiman has written, I never got around to reading any more Pratchett until recently. While visiting a bookstore, I mentioned this oversight to my soon-to-be mother-in-law, and she was slightly horrified. She decided to rectify this error on the spot and bought me a copy of Going Postal, one of Pratchett's Discworld novels. I rather liked it, and have since started reading more of his stuff. I'm in the midst of The Colour of Magic, which is his first foray into Discworld, and therefore a bit uneven, but still hilarious and entertaining.

We attended a book signing he did a couple of years ago (where he was the first to sign that battered copy of Good Omens; Gaiman added his signature a month or so later), and he was quite personable and funny and entertaining, just as you'd expect.

Anyway, I'm writing this like it's a eulogy, which it's not. Pratchett is facing his diagnosis with "a mild optimism," and is still certainly more than active and lucid enough to complete several more books.

Still, this sucks.

In Case You Haven't Seen It...

...here's "American Idol" contestant Kellie Pickler making Miss Teen South Carolina look like Einstein and Jessica Simpson look like Carl Sagan. Watch and weep for the future.

Well, not necessarily so much. The kid at least knows the answer right away and is instantly laughing in disbelief and rolling his eyes as the camera focuses on Miss Pickler's dull, empty, cow-like eyes.

I mean...

I mean...

I'm not saying that everyone ought to know their world capitols, but for FUCK'S SAKE! There's a fine line between "uneducated" and "ignorant," and an even finer one between "ignorant" and "stupid." The finest line of all is between "stupid" and "OH MY GOD, HOW DOES YOUR BRAIN GENERATE ENOUGH ENERGY TO KEEP YOU BREATHING?" Miss Pickler has erased all of these lines.

It's also worth noting that I'm a little amazed that, given the shared accent and region of origin, Jeff Foxworthy was able to resist busting into an impromptu "You might be a redneck..." routine on the spot. His restraint is admirable. Well, at least up until he starts making misogynistic jokes, instead, anyway.

The Social Event of the Season...L'cheyim!

Better than any Christmas party could possibly be is the annual Hanukkah shindig known as Bubbeh's Latkefest. Our very good friend and former neighbor Julie (aka Bubbeh) and some other Jewish friends put together a whole mess of latkes and a big pot of chicken soup, and engage in the grand Jewish ritual of saying, "Oy, it's another year that we didn't die! Let's eat!" Only a real shlemiel would miss it.

Now, Julie's mighty particular about her latkes and her soup, and doesn't like to let anyone else bring any food. Meshugeh, I know, such a martyr she is! Oy vey! Anyway, I offered to make and bring some challah...and she accepted! It was a mitzvah indeed to be the single, solitary guest at Bubbeh's Latkefest who was allowed to contribute to the meal.

Thus, I spent the afternoon on and off preparing a big mess of jewbread. Mind, I was listening to Handel's Messiah whilst I was doing it...but in my mind, I was singing "Havah nagila" in place of the "Hallelujah"s.

It is with the greatest of pleasure that I report that the two loaves I made were a tremendous hit, getting torn to shreds and ingested by 30 or so people over the course of the evening, along with Bubbeh's fabulous latkes and chicken soup. Oy, batampte, I tell you. Did you ever see such a spread? Moreover, did you ever see such a spread disappear so fast? A kishef macher in the kitchen that Julie is, as long as she can keep the kibbitzers out of the way...

A good time was had by all, though some of us got a little farshnoshket and are paying the price today.

Museums for Dummies

Listen, y'all, I know times are tough and many of you could use a good laugh.

That's why I'm offering you a link to writer John Scalzi's Flickr set on his trip to the Creation Museum. Take a look - it's funny and frightening and sad all at once. Two of my loyal readers may be more frightened and saddened than others, as this incredible Monument to Pseudoscientific Horseshit is in the same state as they are, less than a two-hour drive from Louisville, in Petersburg, Kentucky.

Anyway, take a look, have a larf.

Presented Without Comment

You can get some rather vague idea of what's going on here by reading this NY Times story.