5 Favorite George Takei TV Guest Spots

On Friday, January 15, you may notice something a little extra special in your episode of Bubble Guppies. Not keeping up with the show lately? This could be one worth setting the DVR.

The episode, “Space Guppies,” will feature the legendary George Takei. He’s voicing the character Major Bummer, a villain who wants to destroy all of the music in the galaxy. Say it ain’t so, Sulu!

Yes, we all know Mr. Takei for his sci-fi adventures, but really, he seems to be everywhere lately. This is a good thing. If you haven’t been following his recent work in TV, film, radio, and theater, you should probably click over to his Facebook page right now and add yourself. (He’s hilarious, too. After all, over 9.3 million followers can’t be wrong!)

Over his 50+-year career, Takei has amassed a really impressive resume, which is bursting with some of my favorite TV shows. Here are five (sort of) specific episodes you may want to take a look at. Continue reading 5 Favorite George Takei TV Guest Spots

Here’s to the Old School: A Thank You

I’m pretty sure she didn’t consider herself a geek.

In fact, if I had used the term to describe her in her presence, I probably would have gotten The Glare. Maybe not. Maybe I would just have earned a smile.

Because it was true. My mother-in-law was a geek, in the best sense of the word, and I offer that up as a compliment. I just wish she could here me say it. We lost her recently, a loss we’re all still coming to grips with.

I called her a force of nature more than once, and it was true. Continue reading Here’s to the Old School: A Thank You

Geeky Ornaments to Knit and Crochet

The air cools; fall begins, and out come the sweaters! I love knitting and crocheting, but as a mother of three small children I don’t have the time for large projects like sweaters.

This year I thought I’d spend my autumn months knitting and crocheting some geeky holiday ornaments! Here is a list of both knitted and crocheted ornaments you can make. Keep them for yourself or gift a bit of geek to any nerd on your list! Some of these are actual ornaments and some are amigurumi that you can add a simple yarn loop or a hook to for hanging. Continue reading Geeky Ornaments to Knit and Crochet

GeekMom Secret Origins: Samantha Fisher’s Journey Started With The Doctor

I’ve been asked many times through the years how I became the big ole nerd that I am. It has been asked in many ways by many types of people and I choose to believe it is always asked out of jealousy of my awesomeness. I mean, how could anyone not want to be just like me, right? I usually laugh, make a joke, or will reply with my standard response of, “It just happened over time, there was no one thing or event.”

Over the last few days, as I prepared to join this wondrous team known as GeekMom, I’ve been actively thinking about this topic. No easy task for a busy gal with ADHD and a to-do list that would make a lesser person weep, but perhaps highly overdue. Why did I become a geek? Most people I know can attribute their geekiness to someone in their family who is also a geek. They picked up their love of this or their fascination with that by observing loved ones in their passionate undertakings. Alas, there is no one in my immediate family who has the same predilections as I.

How did this happen? I’m going to tell you my story. You tell me yours.  Continue reading GeekMom Secret Origins: Samantha Fisher’s Journey Started With The Doctor

Why I Don’t Throw a Vulcan Salute

I remember standing there, my eyes pressed closed, my face buried in my mother’s hip. As I got older I would instead look down and softly recite a prayer with everything in my heart, soul, and mind. Above me, around me, engulfing us all was the sound of the chazzan (cantor) and the priestly chorus.

By יעקב [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Priestly Blessing in a synagogue in Ofra. By יעקב [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Continue reading Why I Don’t Throw a Vulcan Salute

13 Awesomely Geeky Aprons

My Little Pony via MTCoffinz on Etsy.
My Little Pony Rainbow Dash apron via MTCoffinz on Etsy.

I love to cook, which means I have very few shirts that aren’t stained with sauces, oils, and other ingredients from my kitchen experiments.

A few years back, I went into this super-cute general store in New England and found a handmade apron for a mere $6. It was a no-brainer of a purchase, as well as one that has saved me from having to throw out half of my wardrobe.

Aprons are an essential kitchen tool, which come in a variety of patterns. While the $6 special is hard to come by, if you’re willing to pay a few extra bucks, there are a slew of them out there that allow you to extend your geeky fashion to the kitchen—or even the convention hall. Want to see what’s cooking in the world of geeky aprons? Check out the slideshow for 13 of my current favorites.

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Shopping List:

Red Alert! William Shatner’s ‘Chaos on the Bridge’ Now Streaming

© Vision Films
© Vision Films

If you’ve ever seen the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, you know that something is just a little bit off about them. Sure, the show was trying to find its footing, but there was also a lot happening behind the scenes of those first two seasons unbeknownst to the fans… Until now. William Shatner dives into the real-life drama and conflict behind the beginning of TNG with a new documentary, Chaos on the Bridge, available now on Vimeo.

The hour-long documentary focuses on interviews between Shatner and members of the Next Generation cast and staff. In addition to being the interviewer, William Shatner also is the writer and director of the film, so that may account for the emphasis on his reactions during interviews. Shatner seems amused throughout the documentary with tale after tale about the difficulty of getting the show off the ground.

© Vision Films
© Vision Films

Most of that difficulty is focused around the Great Bird of the Galaxy himself, Gene Roddenberry. If you thought that the visionary of the future led a spotless personal and professional life, you’ll be surprised to hear him described by those who worked with him. Opinions ranged widely, but almost every writer agreed that his core belief that there was no interpersonal conflict in his vision of the future made it incredibly difficult to write an interesting story. I’d never realized how little conflict between characters there was in those first two seasons, and this concept continues to fascinate me long after the credits of the documentary rolled.

It doesn’t seem like the documentary was made with the full blessing of Paramount, because there is a disappointing lack of behind the scenes footage, although the illustration style does a lot to highlight the accounts being shared by the writers and producers. It’s a documentary almost entirely comprised of interviews, and the most interesting stories for fans begin when the captain himself makes his appearance.

From the story of his audition to the tales of how seriously he took his role as a starship captain, Chaos on the Bridge answers the perennial fan question of what it was like to work with Patrick Stewart. If you’re a fan of Stewart, this documentary is absolutely worth an hour of your time. The story of his reaction to Good Morning America‘s set visit is worth the price of admission alone.

Chaos on the Bridge is practically required viewing for anyone who grew up believing in the utopian future of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It also gives you insight into the challenges of a television show trying to get off the ground, even one backed by the power of the name Star Trek.

The documentary is available now to rent or buy on Vimeo, and will debut on other digital streaming platforms on August 1. A DVD edition will also be released in September.

GeekMom received a promotional copy for review purposes.

‘Robots 3D’ Takes You on a Tour of the Latest Advancements in Humanoid Robotics

RoboThespian from Robots 3D
RoboThespian is the face of narrator Simon Pegg. Photo: Robots 3D

Robots 3D is an exciting new movie from National Geographic Studios coming to a big screen theater near you this summer. The movie is narrated by Simon Pegg of Star Trek and Shaun of the Dead fame and directed by Mike Slee who is also known for the acclaimed documentary Flight of the Butterflies. Together they take you on a tour of the latest in robot technology, and the results will blow your mind.

I have loved robots since I was four years old watching Lost in Space and the B9 robot back in the ’70s. I have several models and figurines of The Robot around my house and the complete DVD boxed set which I have watched with my kids. A Trip Through the Robot is my favorite episode. Apparently director Mike Slee also has a soft spot for robots, and his enthusiasm and passion shines through in Robots 3D.

I recently had a chance to watch Robots 3D with my family, and we were amazed at some of the advancements robots have made in the past few years. For example, our ability to model robots after ourselves has advanced to the point where you may wonder who the human is and who the robot is. Which is which?

Who is the real person? Photo: Robots 3D
Who is the real person? Photo: Robots 3D

But even if robots still look like your traditional science fiction robot, they are moving more and more like us each day. Take for example, the fluid motions of ASIMO from Honda which are nothing short of amazing and totally impressive. He has more flexibility than some of us jumping high and running at speeds up to 5mph.

ASIMO from Robots 3D
ASIMO Photo: Robots 3D

There are also robots that focus on doing specific tasks, and they do them very well. For example, Justin can catch a ball with a 90% accuracy rate.

Justin from Robots 3D
Justin Photo: Robots 3D

My personal favorite robot from Robots 3D is iCUBa robot designed to look and learn just like a human child. Adorable and fascinating in one little package!

iCUB from Robots 3D
iCUB. Photo: Robots 3D

Your family will marvel at the strides in technology and the capabilities of the latest robots as Robots 3D takes them around the world to the most advanced robotics research labs. Director Mike Slee says, “If you’re interested in humanoid robotics and your age is somewhere between seven and 107, then you’re going to be interested in this film.”

Look at this list of theaters to find where Robots 3D is playing near you, and watch the trailer to get a peek at all the wonderful robots you’ll get to meet in the movie.

You can also download and print a set of fun robot trading cards from the movie. Enjoy!

A free screening of Robots 3D was provided to GeekMom.

Beyond Spock: We Say Farewell to Leonard Nimoy

Image CC-BY-SA Gage Skidmore
Image CC-BY-SA Gage Skidmore

Even the non-geeks among us recognize Leonard Nimoy for the years he spent as Spock on the original Star Trek series. But he was so much more, as an actor, a director, an author, a musician, and more. His contributions will leave a long impression in the arts.

Nimoy was no stranger to TV or movies when he landed that memorable Vulcan role. He was on many of the memorable programs of the 50s and 60s to varying degrees, including Dragnet, Sea Hunt, The Twilight Zone, Bonanza, and The Outer Limits.

Then came Star Trek, three Emmy nominations, and a lifetime of being recognized as Spock, a character he played in multiple Star Trek TV shows and movies over the years.

Over those subsequent years, he played many roles while alternating between embracing the Spock character and the occasional desire for some distance. His two autobiographies, I Am Not Spock and I Am Spock discuss how that character affected his life and in many ways became a part of him.

But he was so much more than Spock, with a master’s degree in education and creating works as an artist of many stripes, working in photography, poetry, and music. He had his first photography exhibit in a gallery in 1973 and eventually published three books of photos, Shekhina (2002), The Full Body Project (2007), and Secret Selves (2010). He also had seven books of poetry published from 1973 to 2002.

He was also a philanthropist and activist in art, music, Holocaust remembrance, and other causes. In 2001, he and his wife donated $1 million to help create the 190-seat Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theater at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles based on their belief in the importance of astronomy education. In 2003, they established the Nimoy Foundation to support artists and fund their work.

So while many of us and you reading this will miss Mister Spock or perhaps Dr. Bell from Fringe, Leonard Nimoy will be deeply missed well beyond our geeky circles for his influence in so many areas.

But Nimoy also invented the Vulcan “live long and prosper” hand symbol, based on a Jewish blessing. Thus to say farewell, the GeekMoms send those wishes on to all of you. Live long and prosper, and carry on fulfilling your dreams and acting on your beliefs in the way that Nimoy did for his 83 years.

Image by Samantha Cook
Image by Samantha Cook
Image by Patricia Vollmer
Image by Patricia Vollmer
Image by
Image by Cathe Post
Image by
Image by Maryann Goldman
Image by
Image by Melanie Meadors
Image by Maryann Goldman
Image by Maryann Goldman
Image by Jackie Reeve.
Image by Jackie Reeve
Image by Natania Barron
Image by Natania Barron
nimoy tribute
Image by Lisa Tate
Image by Sarah Pinault


Odd Squad: Warehouse 13 For Kids

© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company

Pete Lattimer and Myka Bering best move over; they have been replaced by a younger crew.

Agent Olive and Agent Otto are the stars of Odd Squad, a Canadian/American show that debuted in Canada and on PBS Kids on November 26, 2014. My sons discovered it about a month ago. I have to say, kids, grandparents, and parents alike are all enjoying the escapades of this quasi-governmental agency.

© 2014 The Fred Rogers Company

Odd Squad is an agency run by children, who seemingly stop aging at age 10. They investigate strange or odd phenomenon, as the local branch in their town. It is unclear whether this is a localized oddity, such as Sunnydale’s hell mouth, or if such oddities are nationwide.

If you open your mouth and start barking instead of talking, Odd Squad can help. If a swirling vortex appears in the park, Odd Squad can help. If pizzas across town are being delivered with two pieces missing, Odd Squad can help.

Sometimes the storylines are well suited to a kids show, but most of the time they could be easily adapted to Warehouse 13, The X-Files, or Once Upon a Time without skipping a beat. There is some excellent writing at work here, and some very innovative, creative minds. Each episode starts with a quick fix case before moving into the main storyline.

The show frequently nods its head at mainstream shows that have come before it. The transport operator is always O’Malley, O’Hare, O’Brien, O’Donohue, or something of the like, in seeming reference to Chief O’Brien from Star Trek: The Next Generation. There is an episode featuring animals called Centigurps, who populate headquarters like Tribbles. The storage facility, in which they store artifacts, animals, or other oddities that need to be contained and collected, is remarkably reminiscent of Warehouse 13. It’s a lot of fun watching for allusions and references in these episodes. Things that my children will never pick up on, but that tickle me to no end.

Ms. O © 2014 The Fred Rogers Company

The show has great writing and a great atmosphere, but also a great lineup of main characters. This really sets Odd Squad apart from other kids’ shows. The two main characters are Agent Olive and Agent Otto. Olive is the veteran, while Otto is her rookie partner. They play off each other nicely, and bring out the best in each other. Olive is the more straight-face agent, while Otto serves well as a foil. Their strengths play off each other, and the cases are solved best when the pair are working together.

The head of the organization is Ms. O. Ms. O has been around since the 80s, and rules Odd Squad with a big stick and an even bigger voice, but always with a juice box in her hand. Ms. O is obviously a homage to the Judi Dench years of the James Bond franchise, and it is wonderfully played. Ms. O has the answers to the most obscure problems, and is always several steps ahead of her agents. She trusts them implicitly, but will not tolerate running in headquarters.

Agent Oscar is the squad’s resident scientist and inventor. He has a gadget for everything—and I do mean everything. Olive and Otto go to Oscar whenever they need technical help, and he is usually sent to the field by Ms. O to assess a situation that the other agents can’t handle, such as the Hydraclops or the vortex.

Dr. O © 2014 The Fred Rogers Company

The cast has a great gender and racial balance, and so far stays far away from playing up to stereotypes. In one scene, Olive, Otto, Oscar, and Dr. O are fighting off robots in the princess room. Olive and Dr. O send Otto and Oscar out of the room, and retreat to the door backwards while firing at the robots. Olive proclaims “I never liked princesses” and Dr. O concurs. It’s a really well played scene. Just when you think they are going to kowtow to some form of stereotype, the producers subvert it, make fun of it, or make it irrelevant.

Dr. O is Odd Squad‘s resident doctor. She is a very eccentric character with great problem solving skills. She frequently reminds the other agents, “I’m a Doctor,” and while usually I might chaff against a girl character reminding us of that, in no way does it come across as negating her value. It is a personality quirk and simply amplifies her eccentricity. Nothing in this show belongs to the boy characters and nothing to the girls, and it is a wonderful to see and to have modeled to my two sons.

Odd Squad uses math to investigate strange occurrences and to come up with solutions. This is the only part of the show that feels laborious to the adults watching. However, both of my kids count and add along with Olive and Otto, and it has really made a dent in my five-year-old’s indifference to math.

The show also teaches perseverance and teamwork. It frequently goes over the idea that it’s okay to go through several wrong solutions on your way to finding the right one, a big believer in trial and error. The episodes always start with a voice-over by Agent Olive: “My name is Agent Olive. This is my partner Agent Otto. This is ____.” The third thing shown on the screen is always something random, that never has anything to do with the storyline that follows. The best one so far has been “This is Emmy Noether.” It is wonderful to think of how many kids (and adults, ahem) then looked up Emmy Noether, whom Einstein described as the most important woman in mathematics. This show uses math, but it shows how everyone can use math and how important it is.

So far my favorite episode has been episode 21: “6:00 to 6:05.” In this episode, we learn the dangers of confusing 6:05 with 1:30. It features the dinosaur storage facility at Odd Squad headquarters, a time machine, and a girl’s passion for toy dinosaurs. Absolutely brilliant.

My son’s favorite episodes are anything involving a character called Delivery Doug, who delivers egg salad sandwiches in his egg mobile. It’s what’s for lunch in our house these days.

You can watch Odd Squad online at PSBSkids.org or PBS Kids during the week. Each episode is made up of two 11-minute adventures and the show is aimed at ages 5-8. We stream through our Roku channel.

The GeekMoms’ Christmas Trees and the Geeky Stories Behind Them

A collection of the GeekMoms' trees. Collage by Jules Sherred.
A collection of the GeekMoms’ trees. Collage by Jules Sherred.

The GeekMoms thought it would be fun to share our Christmas trees and the geeky stories behind them. We would also love it if, in the comments, you shared images of your Christmas trees—via a link to your photo(s)—and the stories behind them.

Without further ado, let the sharing begin!

GeekMom Andrea’s Christmas Tree

Photos and collage by Andrea Schwalm.
Photos and collage by Andrea Schwalm.

GeekMom Andrea had this to say about her tree:

I did the unthinkable this year and suggested that for the first time in our family’s history we buy a fake tree. Every year as December approaches my husband and I have moved around the furniture in our cozy living room until it looks like something closer to a garage sale than a celebration in order to fit a giant, live tree in our space. It makes no sense. Plus: I come from a long line of fake-tree people. Pink trees. Aluminum trees…

It was time to stop living the “real tree” lie. It was time for a narrow white tree. With fiber optics. I think our tree this year is fabulous. My dream is to decorate it in an Atomic Ranch style—lots of spaceships and sputnik stars and robots and optimism about the future.

GeekMom Ariane’s Christmas Tree

Photo by Ariane Coffin
Photo by Ariane Coffin

GeekMom Ariane had this to say about her tree:

Here’s my crazy tree. How my husband puts up with it, I’ll never know. Much like the rest of our house, it’s all about BRIGHT OBNOXIOUS COLORS! And Hello Kitty. And being that generation who never has actual prints of photos… I keep thinking, “This year will be the year I insert photos in all of the photo ornaments! I’ll put them in the tree to remember to do it!” Yeaaaaaah, no. It never gets done.

GeekMom Judy’s Christmas Tree

Individual images by Judy Berna. Collage by Jules Sherred.
Individual images by Judy Burna. Collage by Jules Sherred.

GeekMom Judy had this to say about her tree:

Every year we pay ten dollars for a permit that enables us to cut our tree from the National Forest here in Colorado. It helps the forest, by thinning out smaller trees, and it is a grand family adventure, no matter how old our ‘kids’ get. We hike through the woods and try to keep in mind that a tree that looks ‘normal sized’ in the forest is actually big enough to take up our whole living room. We get teased by family members who live in other states that we’ve become the Griswalds (from the Christmas Vacation movie) when we hike out into the woods, but we don’t mind. That’s what family memories are made of!

Geeky Jules’ Christmas Tree

Day and night. Photos and collage by Jules Sherred.
Day and night. Photos and collage by Jules Sherred.

Geeky Jules had this to say about his tree:

While my tree isn’t geeky, the fact that my OCD took 13 hours to decorate it kind of is. Plus, I’m still fiddling with little things here and there until my OCD is happy. But not only that, it’s a completely different concept than trees of past. This is the first year I haven’t used garland or tinsel, and decided to go with a very specific color scheme.

In response, GeekMom Ariane said on Twitter:

My response was:

OMG, this is so me!

Oh, how I laughed.

GeekMom Kay’s Christmas Tree

Kay's tree
Photo by Kay Moore

GeekMom Kay  had this to say about her tree:

We are themeless, no geekiness at all. My mom spent several decades collecting handmade ornaments, and I gave her one for Christmas each year. A few years ago, when we were in town, she retired from holiday entertaining and invited the extended family over to take turns selecting favorite ornaments. So now I have a bunch of old family favorites, including some that I made many many years ago as gifts for my mom.

I cherish a handful of handmade embroidered, needlepointed, knitted, etc., ornaments from our crafting family and friends. Our actual stockings are cross-stitched by my mom and me.

The other sort-of theme we have is to hang sturdy, survivable ornaments on the lower branches, where the cat’s mischief wreaks havoc.

We usually have a gold garland, but not loose tinsel. My husband likes loose tinsel but he usually is doing other things during the tree decorating. We often have bubble lites. I like best of all sparkly reflective ornaments, which conflicts with my textile sensibility.

Oh, I make mini stockings. I give one to my mom for each family member below her on the family tree, and I have a small, less custom, collection for decorating a mini tree.

GeekMom Lisa’s Christmas Tree

Individual photos by Lisa Tate. Collage by Jules Sherred.
Individual photos by Lisa Tate. Collage by Jules Sherred.

GeekMom Lisa had this to say about her tree:

Our main tree has always been just a collection of our loves, memories and travel, with several geeky highlights throughout—Batman, TARDIS, Disney, comic book, and video game inspired ornaments— but we felt the ultimate Star Wars vs. Star Trek geek war needs to mingle in a little “Peace on Earth… and Beyond” tree with several ornaments from both franchises. Last year, we also updated our wreath to have a Hobbit theme as a perfect welcome for friends and family. Our girls have created their own little “Ever After” tree with Disney Princess, fairies, Hello Kitty, and My Little Pony, as well as decorating their “Doctor” for the season.

GeekMom Maryann’s Christmas Tree

Individual photos by Maryann Goldman. Collage by Jules Sherred
Individual photos by Maryann Goldman. Collage by Jules Sherred

GeekMom Maryann had this to say about her tree:

In our house, it’s all about the collections. For years, the boy and I have been adding to our snowman, snowglobe, nutcracker, elf, and ornament collections. We make lots of trips to the local thrift stores looking for new treasures. It’s a real joy each year to unwrap long lost friends and arrange the collections for enjoyment. It’s not so much fun wrapping them up safe and sound until next year. I also pride myself on spending hours taking Christmas pictures of my tree, as well as local neighborhood displays. The geekier, the better.

GeekMom Natalie’s Christmas Tree

Individual photos by Natalie Zaman. Collage by Jules Sherred
Individual photos by Natalie Zeman. Collage by Jules Sherred

GeekMom Natalie had this to say about her tree:

We’ve had an artificial tree for about ten years, so I was very excited to get a real tree into the house again. Our ornaments are a hodgepodge of things we’ve collected over the years and things my children have made, and they all go up every year. The oldest is a little book, Saint Nicholas that
my mom had since before she was married—she’s 86, bless her—and the newest is a 3-D version of Edward Gorey’s “The Doubtful Guest”–I got him last week when I was on Cape Cod doing research–and I *finally* got to go to the Edward Gorey House. It was loads of fun and very special–his cousin gave us a tour of the place.

GeekMom Patricia’s Christmas Tree

he Vollmer family's new color-changing LED tree gracefully transitions between white lights and colored lights every 10 seconds. The neighbors get a kick out of it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
The Vollmer family’s new color-changing LED tree gracefully transitions between white lights and colored lights every 10 seconds. The neighbors get a kick out of it. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

GeekMom Patricia had this to say about her tree:

I love our family’s new Christmas tree. After a couple years of wishing, we finally made the splurge for an LED prelit tree that changes colors. The particular one we got changes the colors very gracefully, slowly transitioning between white lights and colored lights every 10 seconds. The decorations plan on our tree has evolved over the years into numerous geeky “zones”: Disney, trains, Penn State (our alma mater), Star Wars, Harry Potter, and other geekery (such as The Simpsons and Ghostbusters). Our 9- and 12-year-old sons have taken over most of the decorating duty, and they are very good about keeping to the zones. In addition to the zones, we have many traditional ornaments, such as souvenirs from our travels, commemorative ornaments, and kids’ homemade ornaments.

The different zones. Photo: Patricia Vollmer
The different zones. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

GeekMom Rebecca’s Christmas Tree

Individual photos by Rebecca Angel. Collage by Jules Sherred
Individual photos by Rebecca Angel. Collage by Jules Sherred

GeekMom Rebecca had this so say about her tree:

We do have regular decorations collected over the years, but I rarely put them up. I like to think up a theme of some sort, like origami or completely edible. This year it was knitted: so almost everything is a knitted thing of some sort. Our geekier side comes out in the other decorations. My son has three locations for extensive Lego Christmas displays, usually with some silly stuff happening with random figurines. I included a picture of Wolverine hanging a wreath.

GeekMom Sam’s Christmas Tree

Sam Collage 2
Individual photos by Samantha Cook. Collage by Jules Sherred

GeekMom Sam had this to say about her tree:

Our family has a pretty traditional looking tree with old fashioned glass ornaments. But every year we all pick a new ornament, and write the name and year with Sharpie on the bottom. It is a wonderful way to remember holidays and interests past. When you look closer, you can see our ornaments tend to be on the geeky side!

GeekMom Sarah’s Christmas Tree

Individual photos by Sarah Pinault. Collage by Jules Sherred
Individual photos by Sarah Pinault. Collage by Jules Sherred

GeekMom Sarah had this to say about her tree:

I love Christmas trees. I have far more ornaments than I could possibly put on one tree. Before we had kids, we would put one up in the kitchen that had just our Disney ornaments on it, then the main tree in the living room with as many of the others as I can possibly squeeze on. My favorite ornament is my Department of Homeland Security Ornament. I found it in Boston shortly after I became a US citizen. We have many, many Hallmark ornaments, as Ben’s maternal grandparents send everyone a new ornament from that collection each year.  Ben has 22 of his own, we have 12, and the boys have six and three respectively.

It’s a beautiful tradition that I plan on continuing with my own grandchildren, in about forty years time! We have a lot of Disney ornaments, because I am a Disney nut. But my favorite kind of ornaments are the traditional glass kind. There are only two on our tree this year, but I love to find traditional baubles in unusual colors, or to find unusual glass figurines. We have a glass robot and a hiking Santa that are simply beautiful and they are on the tree. With a five-year-old and almost three-year-old in the house, my other glass baubles are still in the box! Last year, I gave myself an early Christmas present and bought new lights. I love them with a fervor that is not normal.

GeekMom Sophie’s Christmas Tree

Photo by Sophie Brown
Photo by Sophie Brown

GeekMom Sophie had this to say about her tree:

Here’s ours. It’s a complete mishmash, too: stuff from when I was a kid; ornaments we’ve collected on trips; things Fin has made at school. I like my trees to be totally chaotic but also totally balanced. It takes me forever to decorate them to a level I can cope with!

We don’t have a theme, but there’s a lot of Disney stuff on there. There are several painted porcelain discs from WDW, two of the custom ones you can have personalised at Downtown Disney—one is our wedding, another for Fin’s first Christmas—some special baubles that commemorated the 35th anniversary. This year I’ve added a set of the singing busts from Haunted Mansion. It’s kind of funny because the busts are nestled up next to completely traditional things like robins, angels, and Santas.

I have tiny tree in my office that’s about one-foot high, including the pot. That has a pin badge of Castiel at the top of it! I kind of want to make a Cas costume for one of my old Ken dolls so it can go on top of the tree next year. Not sure what my husband would think of that!

Oh, and we have a Christmas pterodactyl in the living room! #sixseasonsandamovie

Please share images of your Christmas trees and the stories behind them. We’d love to see and read them!


Geek-twisting Holiday Songs

Image By Rebecca Angel

Oh, who wants the same old boring lyrics to our holiday favorites?  Altering words to existing songs is a playful, challenging, and creative endeavor. It’s the fan-fiction of music. Winter and Christmas tunes are so well-known, it’s a great place to start. Here are some people who have already done so with a geeky twist:

The Twelve Days of Future Christmas created by Bridge 8, goes through a list of current science topics that are on the verge of becoming reality! “12 drones delivering…”

(TUNE: “Oh Christmas Tree”)
Oh, number Pi. Oh, number Pi. Your digits are nonending,
Oh, number Pi. Oh, number Pi. No pattern are you sending.
Want more math Christmas songs? Go here!

Hee-hee. This is some crazy editing. Star Trek TNG in “Make it So!”

You better watch out; you better not sneeze.
You better not cough, ’cause you’ll spread a disease….Viruses are comin’ to town.
“Catch” all the lyrics here.

This one doesn’t change the lyrics so much as it is performed in a geeky way. All electronic devices band in “Feliz Navidad.”

Pirate Christmas Carols! This is from me. I’ve written a lot of these. Here is one you can listen to with lyrics. No Ale!No Ale! No Ale! No Ale! Six months at sea with no dark, stout or pale.

So what’s does your family geek out about? Make it a family game to rewrite lyrics to a familiar holiday tune. You’ll be singing it every year afterwards!

Here’s one I wrote about my favorite Avenger…

Loki Was A Gentlemen
(To the tune of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
Loki was a gentleman when he took all the power.
His smile was quite debonair as he told us to cower.
“Sweet lady, kneel before me now, no need to look so sour.
Many thanks, this encounter’s been a joy, been a joy.
Many thanks, this encounter’s been a joy.”

GeekMom: Comic Book Corner — My Little Pony, Astro City, and DC Comics

My Little Pony Halloween ComicFest 2014. Image IDW Publishing.

Happy Comic Release Day! Welcome to another installment of GeekMom Comic Book Corner, where we recap our adventures in comics for the week. This week, I enjoyed the Star Trek references in My Little Pony, Lisa flew high with Astro City, and Corrina has a few words with DC Comics and their current quality of work.

Dakster Sullivan — My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – Halloween ComicFest edition by Jeremy Whitley and Tony Fleecs

The comic book I was most excited to check out during Halloween ComicFest this past Saturday was My Little Pony. I’ve never been disappointed by any of the My Little Pony stories, and I was sure that this would be a joy to read.

I’m only on the third season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic right now, so the Cutie Mark Crusaders and especially Discord are still new characters for me to digest. Discord is played by Star Trek: Next Generation actor John de Lance, whose character on MLP is like a ponified (is that a word?) version of his character “Q” on Star Trek. As I was reading this issue, I could hear de Lance’s voice and see his mannerisms in the character.

When the Cutie Mark Crusaders run out of things to try for their cutie marks, Discord shows up to “help” them out. The story is full of bouncing back and forth between various activities, with a special “Trekkie” scene that made me laugh out loud.

It’s no surprise that at the end of the story, the Cutie Mark Crusaders still don’t have their cutie marks. I’d have to say that my favorite part was the warm fuzzies I got on the last couple of pages between the Crusaders and Discord.

It’s rare for me to find a free comic book that I would actually pay for to get in my collection. This one not only hits the mark, I can honestly say if I had not been able to get a copy, I would have searched high and low for one on eBay.

Curious to know what I’m pulling this week? Check out my pull list on Comixology.

Lisa Tate — Astro City #16 by Author Kurt Busiek, art by Brent Eric Anderson, and cover by Alex Ross (Vertigo)

Astro City #16 \ Image: Vertigo
Astro City #16. Image: Vertigo

The beauty of Astro City creative team of Busiek, Anderson, and Ross, is that they have been consistently together since the creation of the title. As a result, their familiarity has given them the opportunity to fine tune and explore more and more aspects of the Astro City universe. This has taken them to Markham High School in a nearby community, where a teenage super villain and hero have come to a shaky arrangement. The villainous genius Simon Says, who we learned was the product of bullying, sets a brief truce and asks an unusual favor of the kindhearted town hero, Starbright. When Starbright grants his wish, Simon betrays him in true super-villain form, later to discover the secret that makes him look deeper into his own personal prejudices.

What struck me about this story is that it began with an often-visited theme of bullying those who are different. I am by no means criticizing this, but it sheds a new light onto those who are often accused of being the bullies. Simon learns to accept who he really is only after realizing his own tendency to stereotype. It is a nice twist on the usual bullying scenario, while still sharing the message of loving who you are in Busiek’s well-crafted gift of storytelling.

Age Recommendation: Teen +

Corrina — A Gotham Resurgence in Quality?

I’ve jokingly referred to DC’s reboot of their entire comic line three years ago as the “anti-Corrina” reboot, because it has done basically the exact opposite of what I love to read in comics. All the terrific stories and familiar character interactions and even character growth were tossed aside. In their place was some weird amalgam of gory violence and cynical happenings. Not heroic, not interesting, and not for me, aside from a few outliers.

Harley Quinn Comic Con
Harley Quinn at Comic Con. Image via DC Comics.

But lately, things are changing. That was evident to me when I opened the last two packages of books that DC sent me to review. Last week, I enjoyed all but one title. This week, all the titles. Granted, I only get a sample, but those of you who read my reviews know how rare that it. Usually, I find a gem in a bunch. Now, I find a few shiny stones and a few gems.

batman eternal
Gordon gets arrested in Batman: Eternal. Image via DC Comics.

Leading this resurgence is Harley Quinn by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Chad Hardin, the most twisted and the most fun comic I’ve read in a long time. It’s also one of DC’s top-selling titles, which no one expected. For the regular Bat-books, the weekly title Batman: Eternal brings in all that wonderful Gotham history surrounding an over-riding mystery.  Gotham Academy continued the trend of innovation from the Bat-comics, with its Hogwarts-meets-Gotham approach and distinctive art and voice, along with the new direction for Batgirl. But I considered those outliers until last week, when I also received Catwoman #35 by Genevieve Valentine and Garry Brown and Arkham Manor #1 by Gerry Duggan and Shawn Crystal.

The new direction in Catwoman features her taking over Gotham’s crime families, in an effort to bring some order to a Gotham now falling apart due to the events in Batman: Eternal. I approached the idea with skepticism, but was won over in this issue by the portrait of a Selina, who does care about Gotham and the people in it, but because of who she is, takes a much different approach to helping them than the police or heroes like Batman. Selina is smart, resourceful, courageous, and ruthless—and it all works.

Arkham Manor’s premise is that Wayne Manor is taken over by the city as the new criminal asylum, since Arkham Asylum has been destroyed and the mentally ill patients are sleeping in tents in the city’s stadiums. A cool idea, especially as Bruce lets this happen, because these people do need a roof over their heads and a place where they can be helped. However, this being Gotham, something goes awry and people are murdered inside the new facility. Bruce steals the identity of a homeless man and gets admitted to Arkham Manor as a patient. The story promises not only a mystery, but a chance to flesh out the history of Wayne Manor and, thus, Bruce’s own history.

Grayson Futures End
Grayson: Futures End issue. Copyright DC Comics.

The one title in the Batman line that I’m not enjoying is Grayson, with its trippy Prisoner-like stories. I don’t understand the characterization of Dick Grayson, nor do I always follow the trippy logic. However, I give high points to the creative team for doing something different and original, even if it’s not to my taste.

I can only hope that this quality lasts, because DC does still have two weekly titles that seem obsessed with death and destruction and heroes being not-very-heroic, and that’s the apostrophe-less Futures End and Earth 2: Worlds End.

The first concerns a horrible future five years in the DC future and the second is about the events that led to this future. My fondest wish is that by the end of these titles, those bleak futures are swept away and the titles that result are a change in the overall tone of the line.

Looking for something else, readers? Check out this week’s listed books:

DC-Comics-Old.jpg marvel-logo1.jpg

100 Bullets Vol. 1 TP
Batman Eternal #30
DC Comics Zero Year HC
Earth 2 World’s End #4
Green Lantern Vol. 4 Dark Days TP
Green Lantern Vol. 5 Test Of Wills HC
Harley Quinn Annual #1
Justice League Dark Annual #2
Justice League United Annual #1
New 52 Futures End #26
Preacher Vol. 6 TP
Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman #3
Sinestro #6
Swamp Thing Annual #3
Vertigo Quarterly Yellow #1
Wonder Woman #35
All-New X-Men #33
Amazing Spider-Man #6
Axis Carnage #1 (Of 3) New Mini-Series
Axis Revolutions #1 (Of 4) New Mini-Series
Deadpool And Cable Omnibus HC
Deadpool Annual #2
Death Of Wolverine Deadpool And Captain America #1
Death Of Wolverine The Logan Legacy #3
Deathlok #1 New Series
Elektra #7
Fantastic Four #12
Guardians Of The Galaxy #20 GeekMom Recommended
Hawkeye Vs Deadpool #0
Howard The Duck Omnibus HC
Inhuman #7
Iron Man Epic Collection Vol. 1 The Golden Avenger TP
Marvel 75th Anniversary Celebration #1
Marvel Masterworks The Avengers Vol. 6 TP
Marvel Previews #135 (November 2014 For Products On-Sale January 2015)
Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man #31
Miracleman Vol. 2 The Red King Syndrome HC
Nova #22
Original Sin HC
Savage Wolverine Vol. 2 Hands On A Dead Body TP
Thanos A God Up There Listening #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Thunderbolts #32
Uncanny X-Men Iron Man Nova No End In Sight TP
Wolverine And The X-Men #11
Wolverine And X-Men Vol. 1 Tomorrow Never Learns TP
idw-logo.jpg Dark-Horse-Logo-2.jpg

Anne Rice’s Servant Of The Bones HC
Basil Wolverton’s Weird Worlds Artist’s Edition HC
Cartoon Network Super Secret Crisis War #5 (Of 6) Kid-Friendly
IDW Fall 2014 Kids Comics Sampler
Little Nemo Return To Slumberland #2 Kid-Friendly
Rot And Ruin #1 New Series
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye #34
Aliens Fire And Stone #2 (Of 4)
Baltimore The Wolf And The Apostle #1 (Of 2)
Blackout Vol. 1 Into The Dark TP
Blade Of The Immortal Vol. 30 Vigilance TP
Captain Midnight #16
Chronicles Of King Conan Vol. 9 The Blood Of The Serpent And Other Stories TP
Conan The Avenger #7
Deep Gravity #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
EC Archives Tales From The Crypt Vol. 5 HC
Goon Occasion Of Revenge #3 (Of 4)
Groo Vs Conan #4 (Of 4) Final Issue
Massive #28
Mike Norton’s Battlepug Vol. 3 Sit Stay Die HC GeekMom Recommended
Mind MGMT #27
Project Black Sky Secret Files TP
Sundowners #3 New Series
Vachss Underground HC

Acronym Key: HC = Hard Cover / TP = Trade Paperback

Eight Geeky Crochet and Knitting Patterns to Get Started On

Living in the southern U.S., it’s hard to get interested in balls of yarn during the heat of summer. But when fall kicks in, I always want to start crocheting or knitting. Here are patterns (many of them free!) for eight projects to kick start your cool-weather crafting:


Fingerless Iron Man gloves

Image by Louie’s Loops

Baby Groot

Image by Twinkie Chan

Ewok hood cowl

Image by Amber Flowers on Ravelry


Image by April Draven Designs

Bonus—your crochet projects will be even more fun if you’re doing them with a sonic screwdriver or light saber.


Baby Dalek dress

Image by Allison Bitter on Ravelry

One Ring Scarf

Image by Samako on Ravelry

Sherlock wallpaper pillow

Image by Andrea “Trooperschaf” on Ravelry

Bat’leth scarf

Image by Kimberly Gintar on Ravelry


First Day of School: Are You Spock or Troi?

First day drop-off feelings for parents. Photo: Melody Mooney/Spock and Troi via Wikipedia.

Today, I am sitting here in a Starbucks, surrounded by other coffee drinkers and Wi-Fi surfers. It seems impossible but true that it’s been over three years since I joined other adults in going out to be together alone.

Yesterday was the first day of preschool for my daughter. My husband and I stood prepared for this big day. We did all of the tours. We read her all of the right “going to preschool” books. We practiced walking with a backpack and saying goodbye. We met her teaching team the week before. We even did a dry run to her school to get the feel of traffic and parking. The emotional landscape was covered as well. I was prepared for tears or transitional meltdowns from her.

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical… But then they send me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical. Photo: Melody Mooney.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my own fallout while saying goodbye. Confused and disappointed, I did the tearful parental walk of shame back to my car. It shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did.

I have always been more of a Deanna Troi then a Mr. Spock when it came to emotions.

Curious about how others managed their first day, I did a Google search for why parents cry when dropping kids off. The first page of results were all articles on separation anxiety in children. I scrolled through more and finally found an article on the topic in TheDailyMail.com. It featured a back-to-school  survey by Fairy Non Bio, (a UK baby detergent brand). The questions for parents yielded some familiar sounding answers.

It was revealed that parents were five times more likely to cry than their children on the first day. The study also found that the pain of letting go has even provoked some to try for another baby. Half of the surveyed parents pined for their children’s company and a third missed the background noise.

Now, I won’t go that far, this being the first break in my SAHM constant care since 2011. Instead, I, like many moms, pine for the solitude to read and take a bathroom break uninterrupted. The findings also showed that many of the parents expressed that seeing their children dressed for school marked an end of an era. My reaction seemed to be falling to a normal area, but I wanted to dig deeper.

Still concerned that we were doing the right thing, the words to Supertramp’s “Logical” song rang in my head all day. My mind told me what Mr. Spock would say, but I was feeling Deanna more.

First day of kindergarten, first day of pooping alone again! Photo: Karen Alpert, BabySideburns.com.

Sharing from my own pre-parental life experience, I can recall another time when I felt this pain of letting go. As a stage actor, there is this lovely time right before a play opens; a bittersweet limbo that lies between creation and observation. It was always a perfect place for art to live. The gift we as performers were sharing was safe from criticism and judgement there in the Neverland.

The last three-and-a-half years of being a parent felt somewhat similar. The gift I was sharing now with the world was my daughter. Would she be welcomed, understood, and respected for all of her amazingness? Would she be accepted and embraced?  Was I being overprotective or greedy, wanting to keep her safely unschooled and keep her to myself?

I was over-thinking this. I mean, it was just the first day of preschool. My anticipation was probably no different from the thousands of parents posting backpack pictures on Facebook.

Looking just a bit more online,  I found a post by Karen Alpert on the hilarious Baby Sideburns Blog. Karen is a fellow mommy blogger and the author of I Heart my Little **sholes.

This amazingly funny picture of Karen and her own daughter brought my deeper musings into perspective. It provided the laugh I needed to get over myself.

Today is the second day of school. Already, it seems much less loaded. Somewhere between tears and laughter, I realized something important. I needed to give myself a bit of a break. I had practiced understanding when my daughter was feeling overwhelmed. I encouraged her to cry and to get out her feelings. If it was good advice for her, it was good advice for me and for you readers, too.

It is okay to feel these big milestones. Go easy on yourself. Get yourself an iced Earl Grey. Accept a Troi-like virtual hug and a Mr. Spock “live long a prosper” from this GeekMom.

5 Teapots to Make Tea Time Geek Time

Sherlock is also fascinated by five teapots. © BBC.

Geeks and tea go together like Picard and Earl Grey. Granted, it’s the height of summer and a hot drink might be the furthest thing from your mind, but you can start planning ahead now for cool autumn nights by checking out this list of phenomenally unique teapots. Some are blatantly nerdy and some are subtle references to your favorite shows, but all are must-haves for tea-sipping geeks.

© ThinkGeek


You can’t have a list of geeky teapots without having ThinkGeek’s well-crafted TARDIS pot at the top.

This officially licensed Doctor Who teapot, which comes in blue and chrome, is practically a must-have for any Whovian who needs a super-heated infusion of free-radicals and tannin, just the thing for healing the synapses. (ThinkGeek, $39.99)


United Kingdom Map Tea Pot

© Rockett St George

If you’re throwing a tea party and inviting Sherlock Holmes and Jim Moriarty, only one teapot will do. Sherlock fans with an eye for detail will spot Benedict Cumberbatch pouring a cup of tea in “The Reichenbach Fall” with this gorgeous bone china teapot with a hand-printed map of the United Kingdom.

And if you need the perfect brew to serve, don’t forget to stop by Adagio Teas for fandom-inspired tea blends. (Rockett St George, £72.00)


Doctor Who TARDIS and Dalek Design Teapots

© BBC America

If you’re looking for something a little more subtle than a TARDIS shaped teapot, this sleek porcelain design might be more up your alley.

The “Doctor Who Home Collection” teapots from BBC Worldwide also feature a Dalek, if you prefer to EXTERMINATE your tea. (Truffle Shuffle, £39.99)

Saenger Set
© Paramount

Captain Picard’s Tea Set 

© Saenger Porcelain

Peter Saenger’s tea sets fit together like puzzles, and look right at home in Captain Picard’s quarters on Star Trek: The Next Generation. (Anyone else daydream about having tea in Picard’s quarters? Just me? Anyway…)

The Design II porcelain teapot and cups fit snugly together to keep warm even in the cold vacuum of Federation space. Saenger’s sets are unique and wonderful conversation pieces themselves. (Saenger Porcelain, $275)


Nightmare Before Christmas Teapot

© Disney

If you’re sipping hot tea on a cool Halloween night while you wait for trick-or-treaters, there’s no better teapot to brew it in than this Nightmare Before Christmas-inspired teapot.

Featuring the colorful trio of Jack, Sally, and Zero, this teapot works just as well sitting on your counter for all to see as it does brewing tea. (Fun to Collect, $39.99)


Being British on the Fourth of July

Image: Wild Orchard Studios

Hello my name is Sarah, and I’m a British citizen.

For years I had mixed feelings about celebrating the Fourth of July with my American boyfriend/fiance/husband. Thinking it would be disrespectful of me, to both countries, to celebrate, I would go back and forth between abstaining and reveling. I would think “It’s not my holiday;” but then neither is Thanksgiving and I embraced that.

Yut the Fourth of July celebrates kicking my people out of America but, still, that was so long ago. Of course, as an American Studies major, I would try to look on it analytically: studying how “these people” and “their patriotism” were similar to the jingoistic British Empire, how their reactions to this day were anachronistic. Then, for a long time, I took it and myself far less seriously. I am gently ribbed by friends about being English, I poke back with a witty retort about unloading our Yankee burdens, it’s all in good fun. Much is mentioned of tea parties.

In September 2012, I became a dual citizen, and so this holiday became my holiday more concretely.

We spend the Fourth with family, playing outside, and cooking things on the grill. It is subdued, and like most holidays, it is generally celebrated as a time to come together with those we love. At this time of year we are also aware and thankful for the freedom to celebrate as we wish. For me then, as both a British and American citizen, the holiday is less about what happened all those years ago between England and America, and about freedom and the opportunities I am granted to live long, and prosper.

These days, I can also say that I do hold on more tightly to some semblance of patriotism. My patriotism has less to do with a flag and a day than it does with ideals that I think both countries hold to. I am reminded of these things by the patriotic imagery around me but I do not depend on the imagery for my patriotism.

The kind of patriotism I espouse is for human kind and the direction I hope we are heading. I am of the Star Trek: The Next Generation fan base and it is Roddenberry’s version of humanity that I aspire to, and that I believe my adopted country stands for;  justice, equality, a thirst for knowledge, freedom.

Happy Fourth of July, whatever country you claim kinship with.

Star Trek Boldly Goes On Tour

Star Trek Live
CBS Studios Inc. © 2013 Paramount Pictures Corporation

When J.J. Abrams relaunched the Star Trek franchise, composer Michael Giacchino added his musical talents to the mix with his scores for 2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness.

Starting in May, these films will be presented in high definition, with live orchestra accompaniment as part of the Star Trek: Live in Concert experience. The tour kicks off May 24 at KKL Concert Hall in Lucerne, Switzerland, home to the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The group presents around 45 concerts of symphonic music worldwide each year.

Some of the tour’s highlight performances include three nights with the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra and Chorus at London’s Royal Albert Hall from May 29 to May 31, and with the San Diego Symphony in July at Embarcadero Marina Park, coinciding with Comic-Con International.  The show will also be presented in conjunction with official 2014 Star Trek Convention events in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Cherry Hill, N.J.

Star Trek: Live in Concert is the latest of live music performances to put the “pop culture” into “pops concerts,” bringing the world of classical music to more generations.

This is a concept that appeals to me as well, as I learned when I took my then 3-year-old daughter to a young people’s concert comparing Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” to John Williams’ Darth Vader “Imperial March.” She politely, albeit impatiently, sat through the former piece, but when the orchestra started in on that familiar “Dum, dum, dum, dum dum, dum, dum dum dum,” she was hooked. I then realized the key to opening young minds to the orchestra: Sith Lords.

live tours
Science-fiction and fantasy-themed live music events have included Star Wars: In Concert, Video Games Live and the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular.

Since then, I have always been on the hunt to find similar ways to introduce my own kids and their friends to the beauty of orchestral music, especially when played live.

One of the more recent live orchestra performances with a science fiction or fantasy edge was Star Wars: In Concert. Hosted by Anthony Daniels, this show toured world wide for more than two years and included an extensive prop and costume exhibit at many venues. The live tours stopped in 2012, but fans can still catch clips of the show on YouTube and the event’s official website. A similar, Lord of the Rings In Concert event (not affiliated with Star Wars: In Concert) also toured around the same time.

In 2013, Doctor Who fans celebrated the series’ 50th anniversary with a one-time concert, Doctor Who Prom (short for promenade concert). Held at Royal Albert Hall in London, the show included the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the London Philharmonic performing the music of Murray Gold, who composed the score for the series since its 2005 return. The London event included special guests Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, among others, and was so well-received that the follow-up Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular concerts were held in January and February this year in Australia and New Zealand, complete with plenty of visuals, aliens, and monsters. There are no additional tours scheduled at this time, but fans can still enjoy highlights online.

Still touring is Video Games Live, which has been selling out venues worldwide since 2005 and is still making its way around the United States and beyond. This too is an immersive production with full orchestra, choir, and big screen visuals, as well as audience participation. This covers everything from the “old school” classics like Space Invaders and Tetris to today’s big sellers like Halo, Portal, BioShock, Medal of Honor, Zelda, Warcraft, and tons more. Find upcoming dates on via their official site, or find out about their latest studio album from our recent GeekMom post.

Star Trek: Live in Concert will host concerts in the United States and Europe this year, with a Canadian tour beginning in 2015. Tickets and tour schedule information can be found at StarTrekConcerts.com.

Win a Free Costume Up To $75 From Costume Super Center!

Image: CostumeSuperCenter.com
Image: CostumeSuperCenter.com

Con season is upon us, so it’s time to decide what you’re going to wear, cosplayers! Although some of you may spend countless hours crafting just the right costume, for those of us not so creative, the folks at CostumeSuperCenter.com have got you covered.

They’ve even created some fantastic guides, like this Guide to Star Trek Uniforms, and they have something for every Trekkie (or Trekker, your call) no matter which show or movie is your favorite. You can be a redshirt from The Next Generation, or maybe you’d rather be in command with this Star Trek movie gold shirt.

Image: CostumeSuperCenter.com
Image: CostumeSuperCenter.com

The choice is yours, and now you have the chance to win the costume of your choice up to $75 value from CostumeSuperCenter! Simply head on over to my TotalFanGirl to enter. Good luck!

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Lessons Learned and Miscellaneous Extra Touches

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

It’s been nearly nine months since we said our I wills and I’ve yet to write this final post in my geeky-queer wedding planning series. Between many international trips, Andrew moving to Canada, everyone becoming accustomed to extra people and two extra pets inhabiting a shared space, looking for a bigger house, moving into a bigger house, and more, it has been a very busy nine months. Plus, there are a couple of things in this post that are difficult for me to write.

But, now, the time has come to wrap up this series with lessons learned, and the miscellaneous things we did that were not mentioned in previous posts.

Lesson Learned

Lesson #1: Learn to let go.

Near the end of the planning, I had to learn to let go. I didn’t have to let go in terms of things I wanted. But, I did have to learn to let go over things of which I had no control. This was extremely difficult for me because when I’m stressed, my OCD symptoms become more difficult to control.

Lesson #2: Expect the unexpected.

People warned me that there are always guests who don’t show up, even if they RSVP’d as a yes. This was new information to me, as I had no input the first time I got married. But, as the majority of my guests were coming from out of town—half of whom were coming from out of country—I didn’t expect this to be a reality.

But, the unexpected still happened: a death in the family.

Andrew’s dad, former Rep. Bob Edgar, D-Pennsylvania, unexpectedly passed away a couple months before the wedding.

The death of Andrew’s dad meant that neither of his parents would be physically present at the wedding. Obviously, his mom was too upset to make the long journey from Virginia on her own. This was very difficult for all of us. We now had to figure out a new way to include his parents into the ceremony. More about that at the end.

Lesson #3: Be truly accepting of your non-traditional wedding and don’t worry about what others may think.

Right from the get go, we were very happy with the choices we had made in order to make our United Federation of Planets wedding a reality. However, we were a little shy about sharing it outside of our geeky circles.

What we ended up learning was that vendors and their staff were extremely excited after learning about the theme of our wedding. They all became extra-willing to make our day that much more special. Wait staff wanted to join in the costumes. The menu had themed items. Even the minister wore a costume. And, the night before, strangers eating dinner at The Quamichan Inn asked if it was okay just to drive by the wedding in order to see the costumes. They learned about the wedding because the wonderful staff couldn’t stop talking about it.

Everyone with whom we worked said they enjoyed our wedding more than the traditional affair because it broke the monotony.

So, if you’re worried about what others may think, stop. Especially as those who truly matter—your guests—will be joining in on the fun.

Lesson #4: Technology works great when it works, but when it fails, it really fails.

The above should be a “No, duh!” But, it should be something you keep in mind. Two critical parts of our wedding involved technology: our online guestbook and our in person guestbook (more details below). None of those logs saved properly because of a mixture of user error and technical error.

So, if you decide to do any of the technology-dependent things we that we did, you may later come to find that they did not succeed, despite multiple testing.

Lesson #5: Don’t purchase any crafting books two months before the wedding.

Two months before the wedding, I purchased Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting and The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! Both books contained so many wonderful ideas for party favors and decorations. Lo and behold! I wanted to make them all!

I made grandiose plans to craft all the things but ran out of time.

Do not make this mistake. Be sure to purchase any craft books that may coincide with your theme the moment you’ve decided on one.

Miscellaneous Extras

We did many extra things not previously mentioned. They are so numerous, that I cannot possibly list them all. But, I think the following are worth noting as they may help you plan your geeky and/or queer wedding.

1. Create a website.

Instead of having to keep track of paper RSVPs and relying on people to actually put them in the post, we created a website. The website was not only used for RSVP purposes, but it also contained crucial information about the location, the wedding day schedule, accommodation information for out of towners, local restaurants, and activities. That helped cut down on repeatedly answering the same inquiries.

The wedding as viewed by virtual guests. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.
The wedding as viewed by virtual guests. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.

2. Stream the wedding.

When people RSVP’d, they had the option to attend the wedding virtually. Many people couldn’t afford to travel to our wedding, yet it was still very important to us that they could still have a way to attend and participate. So, I installed Wowza media server on my server, and we created another website, complete with LCARS theme, for our virtual guests to watch the wedding and chat with each other, also with video capability.

If you do not have your own server, you can still stream your wedding via a number of media server hosts.

Dave and Patricia Vollmer in the chat room. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.

3. Create a digital guestbook.

Marrying a software developer is a great idea, for many reasons. One of those reasons is they can write software specific for your needs. Andrew wrote a LCARS-themed program that allowed people to make “Captain’s Logs,” instead of signing a traditional guestbook. We installed in on my Surface Pro tablet, so that it had a touch-interface, just like on-board a starship. We even included the sound of the Enterprise engines and the Enterprise computer’s voice saying, “Initializing,” on start-up, and “Transfer complete,” on saving.

After the ceremony was over, the people who attended virtually also made “Captain’s Logs” via the video chat.

Unfortunately, the external memory got knocked out of the Surface Pro and those logs didn’t save, and the virtual videos didn’t save to my server because of a typo I made in the save configuration file.

Party favors. Image via the @AandJWed Twitter account.

4. Create your own decorations and party favors.

For the ceremony, I made the “Make it so” banner found within the The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! book. For the party favors, I made everyone a Tribble, also found within the craft book. I also made everyone three Star Trek-themed cross-stitch patterns, found within Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting. Every guest also received a United Federation of Planets pin.

We didn’t have a wedding cake, but we still had cake toppers. Instead of the traditional groom and groom wedding cake topper, I purchased figurines of Mister Spock and Captain Kirk from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, to match our wedding attire.

You can see more pictures of the party favors, the “Make it so” banner, and the “cake toppers” in the Storify story below.

Kirk and Spock forever. Photo by Jules Sherred.

5. Create a special Twitter account and Storify your wedding.

In order to easily track tweets from the wedding, and to allow others to follow along whilst protecting everyone’s privacy, we created @AAndJWed. All of the guests who attended in person were given access to the account.

Because all of the tweets were made in one place, not only did it make for easy sharing and following, but it also made creating a Storify post that much easier.

And to think, some places charge $3000.00 in order to tweet and track your wedding.

6. Create a unique wedding invitation.

If you are artistically inclined, you probably can create some amazing cards for your day. After all, you cannot have normal invitation to commemorate your geeky-queer wedding. If you’re not, then spend a little extra money and commission someone to create the perfect cards for your wedding. We commissioned Matt Schubbe to create our cards, and I cannot recommend him enough.

7. Involving family members who cannot be there.

With Bob’s sudden death, we were put in a very sad place. For a few weeks, we couldn’t even think about the wedding. What we did know is that we wanted to dedicate part of the ceremony to Bob.

Bob had a huge impact on Andrew and on me. He spent his entire life teaching about inclusivity. So did Andrew’s mom, Merle. Without them, Andrew may not have grown into a person who could accept marrying a trans man. Without their acceptance of me as a transgender individual, I would not have been able to marry Andrew.

However, we had a bit of a problem. We knew we wanted to dedicate part of the ceremony to Bob but didn’t know how we wanted that to happen.

Thankfully, we had a little bit of help. Some years ago, Bob wrote a book titled Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. I had two copies. After Bob’s memorial service, I gave one of those copies to the minister who would be officiating the ceremony. I asked him to read it in order to get to know the man who was Bob Edgar and figure out a way to have Bob with us on that day.

The minister decided to read the following Franciscan benediction Bob included at the end of his book. Neither Andrew nor I knew this was going to happen, and it was all we could do to not burst into tears during the ceremony:

May God bless you with discomfort…
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your hearts.

May God bless you with anger…
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears…
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness…
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Followed by Bob’s own words:

And to that prayer, in whatever language we express it, in whatever tradition it is heard, let all us all say in a joyful and faithful and prophetic voice that weds prayer with works and hope with action: Amen.

That was the perfect way to end the wedding ceremony.

Chances are your missing family member did not write a book. If that person is recently deceased, maybe tell a story about them. If they couldn’t be there for other reasons, maybe they can write something to be read during the ceremony. Or maybe you will also be blessed with a wonderful officiant who figures out the perfect thing to say or read.

That pretty much sums it up. Our wedding is long over but not near forgotten. Guests continue to relay how much fun they had. Nine months later, and both Andrew and I are still trying to get over how much love was present that day. Guests are also trying to figure out some other good excuse to travel from far and wide for another really excellent party.

I’ll leave you with a few images via Storify. But first, don’t forget to read the rest of the series. They may help you come up with your own ideas to plan your geeky-queer wedding. The posts include my earlier GeekMom posts, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location, and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Gifts. You can download the first six posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

Remember: There are no rules. This is your day. You can make it whatever you want it to be!

GeekMom Video Playlist

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 10.13.41 PM
Image By The Slow Mo Guys.

Take a break, sit back, and enjoy some videos.
Crazy photoshopping, and a sky all aglow.
Liquids that don’t stick.
A kitten video pick.
Star Trek parody, and how imagination grows.

Let’s start with something gorgeous. This month, there was a slight chance I could have seen the northern lights with my own eyes in upstate New York. My family and I trekked out around midnight, drove out of the city and waited, watching the sky…nothing. Someday I will see them. For anyone who marvels at the night sky, the movement of clouds, the allure of northern lights, enjoy this:

Superhydrophobic Surface and Magnetic Liquid! Impress your friends with a new vocabulary science word. I’ve never heard of The Slow Mo Guys before this video. Cool stuff.

Many of you have probably seen the Dove video, where a nice-looking girl is made up and photoshopped to look like a fantasy model. Here is a musical artist singing her (very cool) song, while being photoshopped in real-time.

And this just cracked me up: A kitten trying to stalk an iguana’s tail. I don’t watch every kitten video. Really. This one is funny.

And what would this playlist be without a Star Trek musical parody? This one is to a song from Frozen.

Finally, I’ll end with some sweet animation. Did you ever wonder where imaginary friends came from?

How Voyager Got Me Through It All

voyager becca
Image By Rebecca Angel

The only time I stood up to my bullying stepfather was about Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show was on and I walked to the kitchen for ice cream. Returning, I went for the remote, but my stepfather took it first and changed the channel.

I told him that I was watching Star Trek. He replied something snarky like, “You snooze, you loose, kid.”

There were many ways this man held dominance over our lives, and being annoying about the TV was a small one. My usual response would have been to shrug and walk to my room to read a fantasy novel because I really hate fighting. But something snapped.

“I. WAS. WATCHING. STAR TREK!!!!” I screamed.

There was silence for a few seconds. My stepfather didn’t say a word, he just put the remote down and walked out of the room. I sobbed into my ice cream and watched the rest of my show alone.

Only a few short years later, I was a teen mother with a beautiful daughter. I had dropped out of college to take care of her, with my boyfriend going to school and working to take care of us. It being winter in Syracuse, New York, I was trapped in a tiny apartment with the baby. My (real) father came to visit and noticed we had no TV reception. With two different Star Trek series going on at the time, this was not acceptable. He started sending me video tapes with episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Oh, how they got me through it.

Although DSN is great, Voyager captured my heart like nothing else. I wanted to be a crew member under Captain Janeway! She would know I was strong, capable, and intelligent—words that our culture does not tag onto teen mothers. The Doctor made me laugh. Chakotay made me swoon. The plots made me think.

Once the warm weather set in, our little family moved to Albany so my (now) husband could attend graduate school. We had TV reception. No matter what was happening in his lab, my man knew that Wednesday nights were Voyager nights. His job was to keep the kid (soon to be kids) out of the living room while mommy watched her show. If there was mint-chip ice cream brought home that day, happiness would increase. And sometimes, sometimes, the children would go to bed easily and I might even get a foot rub while watching my intrepid crew in space. Sci-fi fan heaven.

Being a parent is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being a young woman in this culture is really hard. Voyager showed me week after week that using your brain, working as a team, and caring for the people around you were the way to solve all problems. While lost in space trying to get home, no one on that ship cared what each other’s pasts were. They were only concerned about everyone doing their job to the best of their ability. I took that to heart.

As a child my role model was Sara Crew who taught me to have self-respect no matter how people treat you.

As an adult, I needed a new role model, and I found her in Captain Janeway. Thank you to the creators, writers, directors, actors, and everyone else involved in Voyager. You got me through it all.

Merry Christmas To All GeekMoms and Their Families!

Christams with the Trek Captains,
Christams with the Trek Captains, card commissioned from artist Matt Schubbe for Geeky Jules
Image by Helene McLaughlin
R2D2 Ornament. Image by Helene McLaughlin

Even fandoms can co-exist on Christmas! Happy holidays to all and may this season be one of joy for everyone.

GeekMom Video Playlist

Parody Image by jamescovenant

2013 Recap!

YouTube has a unique rewind of all their top videos of the year: They asked popular channel stars to recreate scenes from those famous videos to a soundtrack of 2013. How many do you recognize?

If you need the explanations, you can watch the original videos here (I have to admit, I watched Miley Cyrus for the first time. I couldn’t make it through one of her videos because she was licking a metal bar and I was worried for her, “That’s not safe! You shouldn’t lick metal!”)

And then here’s a nerdy Harvard Medical School parody from one of those famous videos; this one is called, “What Does The Spleen Do?”

Random videos:

Why did I not hear of this sooner? The people who brought us “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” are at it again, this time with a modern blog version of Emma.

I run a history club, and we were talking about the role media plays in the government. One of my students shared this with us, wondering, “I want to know who are the guys in black hooded robes in a secret room writing all this?” It makes you wonder…

And holiday fun!

I’m sure you have been sent this link by a Star Trek geek in your life, but in case you haven’t yet, here is Christmas-time, Picard-love:

Here is a twisted take on Santa. It’s short, strange, and made me laugh:

And finally a beautiful wintertime song called “Identical Snowflakes” by Hem. A sweet story of two snowflakes “falling” in love. Be sure to check out the lyrics.

Fan Phenomena: A Book Series for More Than Just Fans

Fan Phenomena Series © Intellect
Fan Phenomena Series © Intellect

“If you build it they will come.”

This phrase, from the 80s classic film Field of Dreams, seems to sum up fandom rather neatly. No matter what is created, any new film, TV show, book series, or comic will almost certainly have a fandom attached to it, sometimes within hours of release. From the giant mega fandoms of millions like SuperWhoLock and the infamous Trekkies/Trekkers to small fandoms of sometimes just a few dozen individuals, for any creative endeavor the fandom is out there—you just have to know where to look.

The Fan Phenomena series by Intellect is designed as an introduction to fandom. Each book in the series looks at a specific show or film series in a collection of essays written and edited by fans with some expertise in a related field. The books are intended to be one step down from academic journals, steering clear of jargon to produce entertaining and informative guides to the “cultural and social aspects of these fascinating ‘universes.’”

These essays are more than just short blog posts; they are in depth discussions focusing on specific aspects of each fandom. As an aside, Intellect also publish the Journal of Fandom Studies for those interested in a more detailed and academic approach to the subject of fandom.

Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks © Intellect
Fan Phenomena: Twin Peaks © Intellect

I chose to look at two books from the selection already published: Star Trek and Twin Peaks.

My reasons for choosing these two fandoms was due to their wildly differing natures. One is a multi-million dollar brand with has a large corporation behind it, an on-going publicity machine, and international popularity in everything from box office success to a vast array of merchandise. The other is a small, cult fandom based on a short lived television show and a film that only attained cult popularity years after release; it has no huge corporation driving it forward nor will you find any action figures of its characters in Walmart.

Simply put, these two franchises mark opposite ends of the fandom spectrum, so I felt it would be interesting to see how a single book template would handle them.

Twin Peaks (editors Marisa C. Hayes and Franck Boulègue) collects ten essays and three short interviews with fans who have done something special with their love of the show. The subjects range from an analysis of the “Dream Logic” seen on the show to a look at the fashion choices of Audrey Horne and a discussion on the topography, both “real” and “indeterminate,” of the fictional town. The essays allow for a deeper exploration of the meanings behind Twin Peaks from feminism to violence and through to the true identity of Bob. Each essay brings a new idea to mind and encourages you to think on the subject and draw your own conclusions; it also made me desperately want to re-watch the entire show and Fire, Walk with Me.

Fan Phenomena: Star Trek © Intellect
Fan Phenomena: Star Trek © Intellect

Star Trek as a property is a very different beast from Twin Peaks with much less need for essays exploring the psychology and hidden meanings within it.

Instead the Star Trek collection (editor Bruce E. Drushel) focuses more on the fans themselves, looking at fan creations such as the Trek in the Park plays that took place annually in Portland and exploring those great leaps forward made possibly purely by fans including the reversal of the original series’ cancellation in the 1960s.

The 2009 reboot gets an essay to itself as it redefined the fandom immeasurably and the book covers a number of serious topics including the still relevant issues regarding Trek and the queer community as well as more light-hearted fare such as a look at parody, a hugely rich vein of material in the Trek-verse (“never give up, never surrender!”)

The Fan Phenomena series is a brilliant introduction to fandom for those wishing to become acquainted with new fictional worlds, for fans wanting to delve deeper into their own preferred universes, and for people interested in the mechanics, relationships, and issues found in different fandoms.

Each fandom is unique and so is each book, but the identical formats provide a link and allow you to dip in and out of the books quickly and easily. I hope to continue reading through the series which has recently announced a further set of upcoming titles due out in April 2014 including Sherlock Holmes, The Big Lebowski, The Hunger Games, and Supernatural to add to its already impressive library. If you have any interested in the cult of fandom then I cannot recommend these books highly enough to you.

GeekMom received these books for review purposes. 

Star Trek Book Club Coming Soon to an Internet Near You!

Generic Star Trek Book Club Badge
Book club badge commissioned from Matt Schubbe. This is not the special badge, mentioned in the post.

Very soon, I will be hosting a Star Trek book club over at United Federation of Planets, and you are invited!

Every other month, participants will read a Star Trek novel, chosen by participants, based on readers’ suggestions. Each week, during the months we are reading, discussions will be held on the United Federation of Planets’ discussion forums. These discussions will be led both by participants and by me.

But, reading and discussing Star Trek novels, with like-minded individuals, are not the only benefits of participating in the book club. I’ve commissioned some graphic goodies from Matt Schubbe, the ridiculously talented artist who illustrated my book, Five Little Zombies and Fred. The graphic goodies will be awards, of sorts, given out to participants of the Star Trek book club.

Not only will people receive a uniquely designed book club badge, as a reward for participating—each book will have a newly designed badge—but, you will also receive points on the United Federation of Planets website, based on your participation, and you will also receive ranks, based on points accumulated. The point and rank system isn’t meant to be a competition, but rather, act as a way to entice people into greater participation.

There is a schedule, of which you should be aware. The schedule will repeat, with one month dedicated to voting and acquiring the book, and the following month dedicated to reading and discussing the book. The following schedule is subject to change:

  • Now until November 30, 2013 – People who are planning to participate can enter their book suggestions into the Google Drive spreadsheet.
  • December 1 – 14, 2013 – A poll will be posted on the United Federation of Planets website, consisting of those suggestions. Participants vote.
  • December 15, 2013 – January’s book will be announced.
  • December 15 – December 31, 2013 – People will purchase, or borrow from their local library, a copy of the selected book. They can begin reading if they choose.
  • December 31, 2013 – Discussion and reading schedule will be posted on the United Federations of Planets website, both as a post and in the discussion forums.
  • January  2014 – Weekly discussions about the book on the United Federation of Planets discussion forums.
  • January 15, 2014 – Time to start inputting suggestions for March’s book.

To ensure you don’t miss out on any book club related announcements, I suggest you subscribe to the United Federation of Planets’ RSS feed.

If there is a book you’d like to read during the month of January, don’t forget to enter it in the Google Drive spreadsheet below. On December 1, 2013, remember to head on over to United Federation of Planets to vote.

I am very much looking forward to reading and discussing Star Trek with you!

Live Long and Prosper.

They Were In What? Seventeen Actors Whose Other Roles You Forgot

Binge-watching older shows and digging up movies on Netflix inevitably leads to the same question. Who is that guy? Sometimes they’re easy—The Outsiders might as well be re-released as “Everybody Before They Were Famous.” But more often than not, I’m left running for IMDB. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • What’s Channing Tatum not in lately? (Speaking of which, you should absolutely see This Is The End.) Back in 2000, before stripping, Jump Street, or G.I. Joe, he was in Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” video. I don’t blame you if you didn’t watch it in 2000 and don’t want to watch it now. I took that bullet and grabbed a screenshot of his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role for you. No, it won’t be any clearer if you go watch it yourself. Here he is:

    Screenshot from 2013-07-16 21:01:09
    Screencap, “She Bangs” video
  • Oh, sequels. Why quit when you’re still making money, right? Or when you can give us one of Jack Black’s first roles, which he had in The Neverending Story III as leader of The Nasties:
  • This one will win you the bonus round at trivia night someday. Mary Badham, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, also stars in the final episode of the original Twilight Zone.
  • We all know about Luke Perry and Pee-Wee Herman being in the 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. But that’s not all. A spry Ben Affleck was a basketball player (#10 if you go looking for him). Ricki Lake was in there too, and Seth Green was a vampire (not a werewolf!) in a scene that got cut.
  • I have fond memories of Ryan Reynolds’ days on Two Guys and a Girl, long before he was… well, Ryan Reynolds. But even before that, when the Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show was piloted as a TV movie, he was there as cute high school boy Seth with some very Zack-Morris hair. Lucky Melissa Joan Hart!
  • While we’re in the 90s, think back to 1995’s A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. Do you remember Master Kane? Or should I say, “Kane, Master Kane,” since that was Daniel Craig? And of course, there was also Kate Winslet as Princess Sarah, two years before Titanic.
  • Remember Corky, the brother with Down syndrome on Life Goes On? Chris Burke, who played him, was one of the zombies in the “Thriller” video.
  • Rick Springfield—you know, as in, “I wish that I had Jessie’s girl”?—was also a soap star, playing Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital in the early 80s and periodically thereafter. But what younger geeks might not know is that he played Zac in Saga of a Star World, which became the original 1978 Battlestar Galactica.
  • Before he was snotty Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones, Jack Gleeson was rescued by Batman in Batman Begins:
  • Dennis Christopher is one of those Guys You Keep Seeing, so I won’t even suggest which it is you recognize him from. Most recently he was Calvin Candie’s lawyer Leonide Moguy in Django Unchained. His list also includes Cyrus Vail in Angel, one Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, one of Enterprise, and Eddie in It.
  • Speaking of It—another one of those movies that has quite a cast, especially in retrospect—I never could stop seeing Clark’s mom on Smallville as anything but Beverly from It. Seth Green played the younger version of Harry Anderson’s character. Sneezy/Mr. Clark from Once Upon a Time (Gabe Khouth) was in it, and he was voices in Dragonball Z, InuYasha the Movie, and He-Man and Masters of the Universe. Olivia Hussey, whom you recall not from It, but as Juliet from that 1968 Romeo and Juliet you watched in high school, is also the voice of Talia Al Ghul in Batman Beyond.
  • Marc Vann, whom you may know as Conrad Ecklie from CSI, started his career with a few episodes of Early Edition in 1996. On Angel, he was the surgeon who resurrected Illyria, and on Lost, the doctor on the supply freighter owned by Charles Widmore. More recently we saw him in two episodes of Torchwood: Miracle Day.
  • Sophie Aldred, known to geeks as Ace, companion to Sylvester McCoy as the seventh Doctor, was also the voice of Muck in the American version of Bob the Builder for a while. She told the Derby Telegraph in 2010 that this British children’s show was re-recorded for the US market to have a more familiar accent and to change words like “football” to “soccer.” “I don’t say ‘let’s get mucky,'” she gave as a more humorous example. “I say ‘let’s get muddy’ because apparently ‘mucky’ has connotations over there.”

Finally, a bonus, non-human “played two roles”: In Super Mario, the clouds and the bushes are identical, but one’s white and one’s green.

An Interview with Faran Tahir

Photo: Anderson Group PR, used with permission
Photo: Anderson Group PR, used with permission

Faran Tahir is everywhere lately. Filming has just begun for the final season of Warehouse 13, where he plays highest-ranking Regent Adwin Kosan. Next month he plays President Patel opposite Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in the summer sci-fi epic Elysium, Neil Blomkamp’s first film since the surprising District 9. 

And this fall he’ll be teaming up with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone to break out of a high-security prison in Escape Plan. It’s the first time Schwarzenegger and Stallone have been onscreen together for an entire movie, and Tahir is right in the middle of it all.

Combine that with his roles in Star Trek (as Captain Robau), Iron Man (as Raza), and endless TV appearances in everything from Alias to Supernatural, and the Harvard-trained, Pakistani-American actor has built an amazing career in the action and science fiction genres.

But Tahir is also full of surprises. He has an indie film coming out—Tornabout two families who lose their teenage sons in a mall bombing and grieve together until realizing one of the boys is the prime suspect. He’s an advocate for the representation of Muslims in film and television. He even has a recurring role on Dallas

So when Tahir spoke with me about his upcoming projects, finding a niche in science fiction, and getting his kids out of the house by eight o’clock for track practice, it was a very interesting conversation.

GeekMom (Jackie Reeve): What did you do today?
Faran Tahir: What did I do? You’re GeekMom, so I will tell you that I was a GeekDad this morning. I got my kids up. They’re both cross country runners, so I had to get them out the door at eight o’clock—which they were not very happy about since it’s summer. But nonetheless, that’s what we do as parents. Make your kids squirm, and get some comfort out of it… no, no.

Other than that just kind of boring stuff. I did get to go for a run, which was kind of nice. So here we are.

GM: What can you tell me about Elysium and your role as Minister Patel?
FT: Not a darn thing, I have complete amnesia. No, Elysium… well, I, first of all, think that Neil Blomkamp is really an amazing director and writer. If you remember District 9, the great thing about his work is he takes a hot button issue and then he just moves it slightly in the fictional zone. But not so much that you get detached from it. And then you can examine the issue a little better that way. And I think he’s done the same thing with Elysium.

The storyline of Elysium is that there is a space station, called Elysium, where all good things happen—cancer gets cured, it’s never over 75 degrees. You know, everything good (laughs). But all the grunge work for Elysium happens on Earth. Of course, naturally, the inhabitants of Earth want to get up to Elysium because things are so much better there. But they’re not let in.

So if you take that issue, it deals with elitism on one level. It also deals with immigration, and you pretty much have the same dynamic as a developed country and a developing country. For example, you can take the U.S. and Mexico, right?

But the great thing about the movie and the way he presents it is that it doesn’t matter which side you are on or what argument you subscribe to, you get to see the points in both arguments. I think that’s smart writing, it’s a smart way of dealing with issues. So that’s basically what the movie is about.

I play the president of Elysium, so my character is someone who, because he’s a political figure, is very nuanced. He wants to deal with these issues with some level of sensitivity and also wants to make sure that he still has a good base on both sides—the space station and on Earth. His counterpart is his Defense Secretary, played by Jodie Foster, who has a whole other way of dealing with these issues. So it’s that kind of a dynamic between the two of those characters.

What I liked—you know, people always ask me is he a good guy or a bad guy, and I didn’t approach it that way. And I think the script also didn’t want it to be that way. I think the idea is that these are people who have their own point of view. Let the audience decide whether they’re good guys or bad guys. For some, they will be neither. They’ll be just people dealing with their issues.

Photo: Anderson Group PR, used with permission
Photo: Anderson Group PR, used with permission

GM: Did you have most of your scenes with Jodie Foster?
FT: Yep, most of mine were with her because we were up in Elysium.

GM: What was that like?
FT: Absolutely great, could not be better. She is tremendously talented. I don’t even have to say that, we all know that. But she’s also been in the business for so long that there is an ease and a spirit of giving to her, which is contagious. And being in a scene with her, you know that you are in good hands because a lot of acting is trust. And to know that somebody has got your back is an amazing feeling.

And also, it raises you to do better because you’re dealing with somebody who’s bringing a lot to the table. She’s coming with a full palette, she has all the colors right in front of her. It helps you become a better performer, in a way.

GM: You’re also in Escape Plan later this year. How was that experience?
FT: Again, a great experience. I’ve been very blessed, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some wonderful actors, some wonderful icons. Escape Plan is Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Those two are action hero icons. There aren’t any bigger blockbuster action heroes than those two guys. And for them, this is the first time that they are in a movie together from A to Z. They’ve had The Expendables, they’ve had little interactions, but nothing substantial. So that was great.

It was also great to see these two guys. You go into student mode for a bit because when you’re not working and you’re just watching them, you know that they understand that genre so well that you should learn from it. To them, they know that dance, they know the steps, they know how to move in it. On that level it was great.

The movie itself I think is, again, a smart movie. It deals with this impenetrable prison where people are put having very little to do with guilt or innocence. It’s a prison run by some very shady characters, and it’s kind of underground. The story is that the three of us plan an escape from the prison.

So it’s very testosterone filled, a lot of men butting heads. All of that is a lot of fun.

But I think the storyline has a lot of layers in it. So does Elysium, it’s why I like these two movies. They have enough layers that people can go in and just take them for what they want. If someone wants to watch Escape Plan for all the action, they can watch it for that. But there are other layers to it if you’re looking for those—they are there, you won’t come back empty-handed. It depends on how deep you want to dig. Keeping in mind that we’re all serving a certain genre, a certain kind of a movie experience, and that’s the same with Elysium.

GM: You’ve built a real niche for yourself in the world of science fiction. How did that happen?
FT: By accident. Kind of, but kind of not. My background is in theatre. And sometimes I think science fiction, for some reason, has become a good niche for me because it has theatricality to it.

The stakes are so high when you’re dealing with science fiction—civilizations might come to an end. Everything is really high in its energy, and if you come from a theatre background, if you’ve done some Shakespeare, some Greek tragedies and all of that, it does have that same parallel, in a way.

It also has the same parallel of creating a make-believe world, in a way. In theatre you might turn on a light and all of a sudden it’s day and you’re standing in the middle of a storm, and of course it isn’t. Same thing with science fiction. When you’re shooting you could be standing in front of a green screen, and there’s nothing there. But you have to transport yourself, and you have to make sure that the audience has also come on that ride with you. So I think there is some connection there. I’ve always liked science fiction, it excites me. It’s been good.

Photo © Paramount Pictures 2009
Captain Robau, Star Trek. Photo © Paramount Pictures 2009

GM: Do you have any favorite science fiction films or TV shows?
FT: Before I’d done Star Trek, I was a Star Trek fan. I thought—even when the first series came out—that it was way ahead of its time. It made people think . In all of the fun, there was a great message underneath all of it.

I love movies like Blade Runner, stuff like that. It’s always been something that I go back to all the time. That’s the kind of science fiction I like, a thinking person’s science fiction. Not just aliens and blowing stuff up. I mean, that’s fine, but there’s more to science fiction than just that.

GM: We have some really big Warehouse 13 fans at GeekMom.
FT: Ah!

GM: What can you reveal about the final season? It just started filming, right?
FT: Yes. You know, I hesitate to reveal anything because, you know, this is the final season. Warehouse 13 is a great premise, and it’s a great, great, great cast and crew to work with. All I will say is that although we are shooting fewer episodes, I really think that people will not be disappointed with the direction that we’re going in. But I will leave it at that. As much as I want to say more, I am leaving it at that! I hate it when people give me the ending of a movie or a book or whatever, I am not going to be that guy (laughs).

GM: I’ve read that you’ve been a big advocate on your projects for the way Muslims are represented. I read a story about Iron Man, and you talking to the director about Tony Stark’s experience in Afghanistan not needing to be related to religion. How do you feel about the way Hollywood represents Muslims—and also South Asian populations—as a working actor?
FT: That’s an interesting question. It’s not like an agenda for me, but I think one has to be careful. And I have done this on the other side also; when I’ve traveled in the Middle East, and I’ve heard people say stuff that just isn’t true about the U.S. or Americans, I do try and engage them in a conversation.

I think it’s our responsibility as humans of this world to make sure that you set the record straight. I try to do it on both sides as much as I can.

As far as Muslims in Hollywood—look, the way I look at it is that there are good and bad people in every country, in every religion. Yes, there are times when you have a story that is based on something that can cast a negative light on a Muslim character. I understand that. Are there bad Muslim guys? Yes. Are there good Muslim guys? Yes. I just think that we have to look at the context of the story and see if we are now, deliberately or by accident, pushing an agenda or pushing an image which doesn’t need to be there.

For example, in Iron Man we don’t need to bring in religion. There are other ways to still make these guys effectively bad. And my conversation with them was, you know what, I think it would be more interesting if it was less about religion and more about them being soldiers of fortune, mercenaries, people who are power hungry.

A lot of terrorism has to do with all of that. It has less to do with the actual faith and more to do with people manipulating others to get control over them. Or terrorize them.

So my way of looking at it is, let’s engage people in the conversation and try not to set a combative tone, but a tone that actually invites people to have that conversation rather than just prove your own point.

Yes, there has been, in the past, a lot of negative portrayals of Muslims and South Asians. But I think things are also changing. I think there are more and more characters that are layered being presented in movies and television.

Which is great, because I think we do need to do that. And I’m hoping we can do more of that, we can find a balance so it’s not about every time you see a Muslim guy he’s a bad guy.

And partly I think it also has to do with the fact that even Hollywood is realizing that our market is much more global now than it used to be. We used to focus on domestic box office, but that’s not the case anymore. There’s a huge global market.

So I think things are shifting, and it’s a welcome change. I’m hoping that we can find that balance where “Muslim” and “evil” are not synonyms anymore. And if I can help in that conversation I’m going to try my best because I live here, I’m part of this culture, I have kids and family here. So I need to make sure that we do find that balance on both sides and be fair to both.

Yeah, there are times when I have to play a bad guy who is Muslim. Yes, I will play it as long as it serves and has some legitimacy in the story and it’s not being pushed on it as an agenda.

Iron Man's Raza, © Disney
Iron Man‘s Raza © Disney / Marvel

GM: As an actor, what’s the best piece of advice you were given or the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your years in the industry?
FT: That not all work is good work (laughs). So be honest with yourself.

As you said, I found a niche for myself in science fiction which is great, but if I was to just keep on exploring that and not show other sides of my talent or my acting I think I’d be shooting myself in the foot. So sometimes you have to take that risk.

I have these two movies—Elysium and Escape Plan—coming out, but I also have a couple of indies coming out which are completely different.

I have an emotional drama about two families—one South Asian American, and one Caucasian American—losing their teenage sons in a mall explosion. It deals with the collision of families when they’re hit with tragedy and can’t be partners in grief.

It also deals with the investigation of how this explosion happened and where they’re pointing the fingers. And I play the father of one of the victims. It’s a whole other kind of storyline.

And then I have a supernatural thriller called Jinn coming out.

So my point is, the biggest challenge is to keep showing different sides of you so you’re not pigeonholed as one thing or the other. You don’t just want to keep playing bad guys, you don’t just want to keep playing good guys, you don’t just want to keep doing science fiction. You want to change it up whenever you can. It’s good for you, it’s good for the audiences, and it’s good for everybody to see that there’s more you have to offer as an actor.

GM: What do you do when you’re not working?
FT: Well, I have kids, so of course they keep me busy. I’m an avid runner, a cyclist, I read a lot. I write a little bit.

I’m venturing slowly into creating my own work that I can produce. It doesn’t even have to be stuff that I act in, but stories that are closer to my heart or that speak to me on some level. And try to see if I can also venture into the outside of it a little bit and keep a balance between my acting and producing and directing, all of that.

GM: So you basically just love stories.
FT: I really do, I really do. I love storytelling. It’s been part of me and part of my family for a very long time, so I think this is what we do.

5 Geeky Beverages Inspired by Your Favorite Shows

Sherlock Holmes © BBC

When a show or movie reaches out and grabs its fans, they can be inspired to create amazing things. Geek fandom is known for crafting exquisite costumes, food, jewelry, and more, all for the love of a show. I recently discovered some geek-inspired beverages—officially licensed and not—that are perfect for grabbing a cup and settling in to re-watch your favorite episodes.

Sherlock Tea from Adagio Teas

Adagio Teas makes a wide variety of blends based on many different tastes and fandoms. At Adagio you’ll find tea blends inspired by movies like Harry Potter and the rebooted Star Trek, and shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and True Blood, all packaged in tins with striking fan art.

Moriartea by Adagio Teas © Adagio Teas

The Sherlock-inspired teas caught my eye immediately. Some of the most memorable scenes in BBC’s Sherlock happen when a character has a cuppa in his hand. There are 31 blends created by Cara McGee, so fans of both the show and the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will find something to suit their tastes. Fans who dream about a particular relationship on the BBC show will even find something that’s just their cup of tea.

I’m dying to try the MORIARTEA, described as a “spicy chai backed by more ginger. Guaranteed to burn the heart out of you. Because that’s what people BREW.”

TARDIS Mug © ThinkGeek / BBC

Doctor Who Tea from Adagio Teas

Cara McGee of Adagio also created twelve tea blends inspired by Doctor Who. One of Adagio’s highest ranked fandom blends is the TARDIS tea, which sounds absolutely lovely: “Ethereal earl grey and enchanting black berry with notes of vanilla.”

You’ll also find blends created with the ninth, tenth, and eleventh Doctors in mind, and brews imbued with the essences of Captain Jack Harkness and companions Amy Pond, Rose Tyler, and Martha Jones. Cara McGee seems to be a true Whovian. Her ode to River Song in the form of a tea blend says simply for its delightful description, “I could describe this tea, but that would be spoilers.”

And if you find yourself in need of a good cup of a tea—I hear it’s just the thing for heating the synapses—you can pick up a TARDIS mug from ThinkGeek to complete the experience.

Take the Black Stout © Ommegang / HBO

Game of Thrones Beer from Brewery Ommegang

If you’re looking for something a little stronger than tea, look no further than the officially licensed Game of Thrones beer crafted by Brewery Ommegang.

The brewmasters kicked off their beer series with a blonde ale that embodies the Lannisters. “Iron Throne is certainly fair in color and soft in appearance, yet it still possesses a complexity and bite to be on guard for,” said brewmaster Phil Leinhart on the ale’s official web site.

The Iron Throne Ale sold out quickly, but luckily the brewery promises that their next beer in the series will be available in larger quantities to satisfy the throngs of Game of Thrones fans. The Black Stout, inspired by the Night’s Watch, is a brew described by Ommegang’s Mike McManus as “a hearty and robust beer to fortify those heroically standing watch at the Wall. Like their lives, the beer is dark, complex and bold.”

Star Trek Wines from Vinport

Vinport is offering several wines based on fan-favorite episodes of the original Star Trek series. Produced by the Viansa Winery in Sonoma, California, these red wines are a limited edition that are currently on pre-sale.

Star Trek Wines © Vinport / CBS

The labels, created by artist Juan Ortiz, use a minimalist look to capture “The Trouble With Tribbles,” “Mirror Mirror,” and “The City on the Edge of Forever.”

Downton Abbey Wine from Wines That Rock

If you prefer a wine inspired by the past rather than the future, you’ll be happy to hear that a licensed Downton Abbey wine is coming soon from Wines That Rock. Although little is known about the wine, Wines That Rock assures fans that the Bordeaux clarets and whites will be authentic, thanks to a team-up with a vineyard with “over 130 years of experience in creating the world’s best wines so these are wines the Crawley family would have been proud to serve at Downton.”

The wine should be released in time for the premiere of the fourth season of the show on PBS.

Father’s Day Gift Guide 2013

Father and Son \ Image: Redboy Kliq
Father and Son \ Image: Redboy Kliq

Welcome to this years Father’s Day Gift Guide. Geeky dads can be a lot of fun to shop for, so lets get the ball rolling on our picks this year.

IMAX tickets to see the Man of Steel – IMAX is a really cool viewing experience and the only way my husband and son will be seeing The Man of Steel on June 14th. $17 and up

CafePress Star Trek Merchandise – For the dad who loves Star Trek (and the child on a budget), CafePress has some great ideas. With everything from the original series to Next GenerationVoyager, and Deep Space 9, there is something for every Star Trek dad. $3.99 and up

Continue reading Father’s Day Gift Guide 2013