When I was 12, I began my second year at senior school in England. This was the “big” school and I had spent much of the first year in relative obscurity. With a few friends, but no one especially close, it wasn’t proving to be a stellar experience. Then a stellar sci-fi show injected new hope into my school social standing. While getting ready for gym one day, I heard a familiar song being sung by a fellow classmate. “It’s cold outside, there’s no kind of atmosphere…” and as I finished the theme song’s refrain, I became fast friends with someone who would give me a confidence I had never known, and introduce me to many more people. I credit the BBC sci-fi comedy Red Dwarfwith some of my most memorable friendships, and for my remaining years far outstripping my first in terms of camaraderie and fun.
Red Dwarf is an irreverent comedy set aboard a deep space mining ship. It follows the adventures of Dave Lister, the last man alive after an explosion on the ship kills everyone else. When he is awakened from deep freeze, three million years later, he finds that his only companions are a hologram of his bunk mate, Arnold Rimmer; the ship’s computer, Holly; an Android, Kryten; and a creature that evolved from his cat, named Cat. The show began with a low budget but a huge amount of humor and bizarre goings on. The later seasons did not agree with me so much, and I’m not usually one for re-hashing old ideas, but the thought of this show being re-booted, now that gets my original geek going.
What makes this even more exciting is that everyone is on board. Two seasons are anticipated and the original cast—Craig Charles, Chris Barrie, Robert Llewellyn, and Danny John-Jules—have all signed up. The new series are also being written by the show’s creator, Doug Naylor. This has all the makings of a smegging fantastic comeback! If you are looking for some obscure British comedy to watch, you can catch Red Dwarf on Hulu.
Not that I’m a Disney fan, but my teen son showed me these, and they are a great way to procrastinate for geek moms and dads! (WARNING: The language is NOT for young kids…)
Disney Princess rap battles! There are a few of these, but this one features Sarah Michelle Gellar & Whitney Avalon as Cinderella and Belle. “Cindy’s dreaming she’s important; well, someone should wake her. This gold-diggin’ trophy wife is the royal baby-maker. Fear the nerdy, wordy princess…”
Honest Trailers take clips (or full trailers) of your favorite movies and do voice overs that are…well, a little too honest. “Meet Ariel: a half-naked fifteen year old, who’s a confirmed hoarder.”
Remember back in the early days of YouTube when there were lots of youngins putting out their videos each week? Where are they now? Most faded away either because they ran out of ideas, got tired of it, went to college, got a job, etc., etc. But NigaHiga (Ryan Higa) has been making consistently funny videos since 2006. Here’s one with a Disney theme. The Lion King one made me snort (even though I did see it coming…).
I hope I helped you take away valuable work time to laugh today.
In my house, there is a year-long… shall we say, “disagreement” between my son and I. He is a ninja fan, and I am most certainly pro-pirate. Both of us share a love of Christmas, so naturally our inclinations come into our decorating and festivities. Or maybe not “naturally”–but mashing two unrelated things together does make us giggle.
Now obviously pirates would be more fun at Christmas time than ninjas. Carousing! Singing! Hot Buttered Rum!
But Santa is most certainly a ninja as “Ask A Ninja” explains. Probably one of the best lines about Santa’s suit I have ever heard: “The red comes from the blood of children who have woken up in the middle of the night…”
What about decorations and gifts? This pirate stocking really puts me in the spirit:
In the wake of Downton Abbey many people are feeling a lack of the mother tongue in their life. A dowager deficiency. A countess conundrum. I like to call it PDSD – Post Downton Stress Disorder.
As a Brit myself, I suffer less than most. I have relatives I can call for a smattering of Hugh Bonneville language, and a Great Aunt who could easily pass for a modern day Dowager, the wonderful aspects that is. In a pinch, the friend of a friend is the personal assistant to the current residents of Highclere Castle so I can live vicariously through that distant and somewhat random connection.
For those of you with the misfortune to speak the language of the colonies, here are a few things that I imported from England and inserted into my American life, somewhat. They might come from the village more than the big house, but they might just help with the Downton Blues.
1. Proper tea bags. We’re not talking Lipton, I’m not even talking Twinings here. Your standard British household will more than likely have a box of PG Tips, Tetley, or Typhoo, or their equivalent store brand. All of these are readily available on Amazon. Tea should be taken hot and internally at least once every two hours.
2. A bacon sandwich. For a proper bacon sandwich, you will need the thickest, most un-American Bacon you can find, and some nice white bread. And no, I do not think Canadian Bacon is a decent substitution. For the pièce de résistance, you need to invest in a bottle of “Brown Sauce.” Much like Twinkies, this condiment will survive the harshest nuclear disaster, and should be used liberally with bacon.
3. Start your day with a nice bubble bath instead of a shower. In my entire childhood, I knew only one person with a shower in their house. Everyone else had big bath tubs. So if you want to stew in some Britishness, a bath is your best bet. But make sure you use appropriate bubbles, and don’t just pour your shower gel under the tap/faucet.
4. NPR might be the closest thing over here to the British Broadcasting Corporation, but with the availability of Internet Radio, I would suggest the following British Radio programs not to be missed:
Ken Bruce Tracks of my Years on Radio 2. Each week a different artist recalls ten songs that have meant the most to them. Recent guests include crime writer Ian Rankin, Bruno Mars, and Rick Astley. Ken’s entire show is great, but you have to be up rather early.
5. Several words should be inserted into your daily vocabulary. These include, but are not limited to “rather,” “quite,” “queue,” and “lovely jubbly.”
6. When eating a sandwich, be it an Italian or a Meatball sub, you should always spread butter liberally on both pieces of bread before adding the fixings. An old trick to stop the juices of the contents leaking into the bread. Note, the aforementioned “Brown Sauce” is only for use on sandwiches involving Bacon.
7. Walk somewhere. This is not appropriate for the northern states, but a daily jaunt is an inevitable part of life across the pond. Walk to the corner shop (gas station), the post office (if you can find one), or the bookie (casino) if you can. And always take an umbrella; it will rain.
8. Have a pancake breakfast, but your pancakes should resemble crepes and not be fluffy. They certainly should not include buttermilk, and should come nowhere near maple syrup. A teaspoon of sugar and a decent quirt of lemon juice is sufficient topping for a British pancake.
9. A duvet on your bed is a must. The kind you stuff inside a duvet cover, not the kind that is pre-printed with something pretty. No matter the weather, there must be something with weight and fluffy thickness on your bed. Multiple blankets will not do, standard American comforters will not do. Something with a 9.5 tog is recommended. I have found that the standard British duvet most closely resembles an American mattress pad.
10. Use public transportation. Okay, this one I haven’t translated to my American life because I live in Maine, and public transportation is virtually non-existent. But dagnabit if you can’t get anywhere in England by virtue of rail or bus. It was one of the joys of my youth to get a day pass with friends and go “bus hopping,” an activity that would terrify most modern parents!
Also don’t forget to cook your steaks badly, neglect to clean your teeth, and keep a picture of the queen on your nightstand, ahem.
If these aren’t quite your cup of tea, try checking out some other classics of British television, that you might not have been exposed to before:
Porridge. Starring the late and great Ronnie Barker, Porridge is a half hour comedy about the prisoners of HM Slade Prison. It aired between 1974 and 1977.
Open All Hours. Another Ronnie Barker classic; you can’t go wrong with Ronnie Barker. A half hour comedy about the exploits of a penny pinching grocer from Yorkshire.
You Rang M’Lord. This could probably be described as the Three Stooges of the Downton Abbey world. A lot of slapstick and raunchy humor in this one.
Carry On... The Carry On movies were a hugely popular franchise in Britain during my childhood and for decades prior. Again, the raunchy humor rules, but several of the movies give you a decent look at Britain in the seventies. Think Mel Brooks with a British accent.
Black Books. The eccentric life of a cranky bookstore owner and those close to him, in proximity that is; he’s far too cranky for friends. If you like Simon Pegg, you will love this show. He’s in it once, it’s not his show, but you will love it.
The House of Eliot. From the creators of Upstairs Downstairs. Two sisters, left penniless by their father, attempt to find independence and self-employment in the 1920s.
To The Manor Born. The original Mary and Matthew, watch as Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton and Richard De Vere butt heads and then… no spoilers here.
Imagine a community where you could get the low-down on every guy in town—what they are really like to date?
That’s The Cute Girl Network in the fictional town of Brookport in a new graphic novel published by First Second. The two writers MK Reed and G. Means, and artist Joe Flood, collaborated on the project. The story revolves around a newcomer to Brookport: a skater-chick named Jane, who falls for sweet, but hapless Jack. She is pulled into The Cute Girl Network, with horrible stories of Jack. Will she trust her instincts? Or her new girlfriends? The graphic novel comes out November 12th.
I had the opportunity to interview the creators, and I love their answers! Check it out:
GeekMom: Three collaborators on a graphic novel. How did that come about? How did the process work throughout the project?
MK: We did it through the magic of the internet. Greg and I wrote the script over Google Docs, which allowed us to both contribute parts & do rewrites of each other’s sections and have it all up-to-date in one file while working from opposite sides of the country. Joe came along after First Second had picked it up, and thumbnailed the book, sent it to us for feedback, and then turned in the finished art a year later.
Greg: MK and Joe have been good friends for years. They take road trips together and he sleeps on her couch sometimes. I was always hoping to team them up on a project, luckily the stars aligned for this one.
Joe: I was nervous about having two writers at first, I assumed that would translate into twice as many notes, two pairs of eyes scrutinizing every line I draw. But it turns out Greg and MK complement each other, they have a wonderful Yin and Yang thing going. I guess that would make me the poorly drawn dragon wrapped around it when it’s tattooed on the back of some dude’s neck.
GeekMom: I have to admit, as soon as the “Vampyr Moon” conversation began, I rolled my eyes thinking it would be yet another bash-fest about Twilight. But the conversation in the book was more real than I expected—with fair viewpoints. Although I’m not a fan of the Twilight series myself, I find the extreme negativity associated with it very distasteful. So thank you for that. Thoughts on it? The excerpt at the end was hilarious. Who decided to put that in? How fun was that to write?
MK: The Twihards take a lot of BS for their love, but it’s certainly not significantly more ridiculous than the rest of comic, sci-fi, & fantasy fandoms. That said, I completely disagree with its messages (as I understand them without having read the books*), but that’s what made it so fun to parody.
*Our book designer Colleen first told me about this ridiculous vampire romance series in maybe 2006 or 2007, and I listened to the first twenty minutes of the audiobook before I found Bella to be UNBEARABLE.
Greg: The “Vampyr Boyfriend” excerpt at the end was MK’s idea. She’s great at that stuff. Check out her fake fantasy novel in her previous book AMERICUS for proof. We’ve got to get her do a full prose novel one of these days.
GeekMom: I see Joe lives in Brooklyn. Was that the template for the fantastic wide shots of the city in the book? I love the details.
Joe: I’m glad you enjoyed them. Hopefully I got most of the details right because I was drawing from memory. Shortly after being signed onto the book I moved to Atlanta, because my wife was going to grad school there. I was very homesick for 13 months I was working on the art, desperately trying to remember the home I had recently left. The city of Brookport is an amalgamation of Brooklyn and Portland, MK and Greg’s homes respectively. Having visited Portland, OR once briefly, I based most of the city scapes on Brooklyn. I had lived there for most of my adult life. (Grew up in NJ, lived a few years in Manhattan before settling in Brooklyn.) I’m happy to report that I’m back in the NY area, living in the suburbs. The prospect of ever moving back to Brooklyn, remains to be seen.
GeekMom: “Look, those network girls all seemed perfectly nice…but if we were in first grade together, I’d be shoving them in the mud and they’d be calling me a poop face.” This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. Jane is helping out with a project about little girls on the playground, but she doesn’t like them. She also doesn’t have a lot in common with most of the women her age, either, yet she is able to live with them. What are you trying to say about how girls interact vs how women interact?
MK: Adults are a bit better at trying to find some common ground, and can disagree without being enemies for life. Sometimes.
GeekMom: The “cute girl network” is painted as just a gossipy bunch of bitter women. Do you think there could be a positive form of the “network”?
MK: There’s totally a different book to be written where Harriet is a bad-ass who saves unsuspecting women from jerks left and right, and if we did a sequel that’s probably what we’d aim to write.
GeekMom: In Jane and Jack’s relationship, she is the motivated one for career plans, and Jack is in the supportive role. Do you think this is becoming more common in real life?
MK: It’s definitely become more socially acceptable.
Greg: I think Jack would make a great stay-at-home dad someday.
Joe: I aspire to be a stay-at-home dad.
GeekMom: Jack’s two roommates are great characters. How did you come up with them and their house dynamic?
Greg: Gil and Rose are based on two friends from my old day job. When we worked together, there was always lots of joking and bickering but when I needed their help, they’d swoop in and save the day. In real life, they liked to give me dating advice too. Some good, some not so good.
GeekMom: I would put this book in the 16+ category, mostly for the casual sex. Greg, as a librarian, how would you file your own book?
Greg: Yeah, 16+ sounds good. At my library, we have juvenile, YA, and adult graphic novel sections. I’d put The Cute Girl Network in adult. Though, I think as a teenager, I would have loved this book. I was always curious about how people in their 20s lived once they were free of school and parents. I probably would have romanticized Jack’s minimum wage job and windowless apartment.
Thanks so much for giving us some insight into The Cute Girl Network!
My husband and I just came home from the movies where we chose to watch Tony Stark ask J.A.R.V.I.S to “drop a needle” instead of watching the Star Trek crew go all dark and broody. However, all was not lost! When I checked Facebook, a friend had linked to Star Trek: The Middle School Musical, which filled my Star Trek void just fine.
The Star Trek: The Middle School Musical video is from the Rhett & Link channel on YouTube. They have other musicals and many videos focusing on the comedy of the geek culture. The channel is worth checking out.
Recently, I had the opportunity to have an e-mail dialog with the musical duo. We discussed their musical roots and how they balance a hectic tour schedule with family life:
GeekMom: Were you band nerds and/or choir geeks before Da Vinci’s Notebook?
Storm: DEFINITELY. Throughout high school and college I was in show choirs, chorales, madrigal groups, plays and musicals, and above all else a cappella. I never seriously played an instrument, though, until we started up as Paul and Storm.
Paul: Same here, though I was more a band geek than choir geek (but I did both). Always enjoyed singing harmony, and tried unsuccessfully to start a barbershop quartet in junior high school.
GM: Did you ever think you would become the geek icons you are now? Is this where you thought you would be? Do you even consider yourselves to be geeks?
S: Not even in my most spice-induced dreams did I imagine there’d ever be something called a “geek icon”, so I’d have to say “no”. But I always did have a vague sense that I’d be doing something fun and creative like we are right now, and since I’m most certainly a geek (60% geek, 30% nerd, 5% dork, 5% other), our current situation feels right.
GM: You are married? Are your spouses geeks as well?
S: Yep, happily married. My wife is a geek of the bookworm variety, but mostly she’s just really, really smart.
P: My wife, while very smart (way smarter than I, certainly), is no geek. My older daughter is, though, and proudly so. She’s plowing her way through all the seasons of Futurama as we speak.
GM: How do you balance home life with your touring and W00tstock schedules?
S: We try not to be on the road for long stretches, which helps, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Mostly we go out for extended weekends, and we also make sure to block out “sacred time” in the schedule for important family occasions.
P: It helps that, when we’re home, we’re home 24/7, especially in my case, what with two kids in school and such. It’s an odd schedule sometimes, but our families are quite used to it now.
GM: Would you ever consider writing a children’s album?
S: It would be a lot of fun, and I think about it a lot. Kids have always been attracted to our music–lots of harmony and melody, etc.–but it can put you in a tough spot when you’re an act that does a fair amount of “blue” material. Even as it is we have people bring their kids to our “adult” shows, which can be awkward. TMBG handles it really well. When they come to town they’ll often have both a kid’s show and an adult show, and they’re careful about making clear which is which.
GM: What would your Paul and Storm cover band name be?
S: Storm and Paul. Doy!
GM: You have become icons of the geek music scene. Who are your icons?
S: A lot of them are musical, like the Beatles, Weird Al Yankovic, and TMBG. But I also carry around in my head folks like Monty Python, the Muppets, Fonzie, and Douglas Adams.
P: Not to mention authors (Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, to name two); and not to get maudlin, but I count Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage as well: two guys who have been very successful being exactly who they are and doing exactly what they love.
I have high hopes of there someday being a children’s album. If there is, I will be the first to buy it for my kids. Until then, I will leave you with my most recent Paul and Storm favorite (in hopes that it will be on the Rock Band network soon): Frogger! The Frogger Musical…