Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty

I love nerds.  Or geeks, or people who are just passionate about something (usually these types can tend toward the nerd realm), and that’s okay, cause I know I’m a nerd.  I owned the Star Trek: The Next Generation BRIDGE PLAYSET in middle school and actively PLAYED WITH IT AND TOOK PICTURES OF THE ACTION FIGURES at their tactical stations.  Which is TOTALLY something I can see (most of) the cast of CBS’s adorably hilarious The Big Bang Theory doing any day of the week.

Theory is one of my favorite comedies, which astounds me because it is so completely different from all the “cool” sitcoms of late.  Modern Family, The Office, Parks & Rec, Community, the relatively new Raising Hope – they are “single-cam”, have no laugh tracks, and feel vastly different from shows I grew up with.  Like an old dog who refuses to learn a new trick, CBS will not  acquiesce to this trend, but it just doesn’t affect them – they dominate the ratings.

The Big Bang Theory works because even though it’s an old-fashioned comedy, the subject matter is timely (being a geek has never been more in-fashion), and the characters have been given the chance to evolve and have progressing storylines, while still remaining true to who they are:  A bunch of harmless, lovable nerds.  The marvelous cast has such fantastic chemistry, and the show is so, so consistently funny, it all adds up to charm and appeal, which Theory has in spades.

I look so forward to spending a half hour each week with these guys, I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have been jealous of  Kaley Cuoco’s Penny (who is ADORABLE, and relatable, and who you just root for, constantly), for getting to eat take-out with them every night.  Jim Parsons’s portrayal of the socially awkward and fiercely stuck in his ways Sheldon Cooper is unparalleled – I don’t think there has ever been a more hardcore geek.  I was thrilled to see him win a Golden Globe (and how darling was it to see Cuoco jump up and down to hand him his award).  Johnny Galecki’s Leonard Hofstadter is the “safe” one – he’s so nice, and smart, and adorable, you just want to play some Wii with him.  Howard Wolowitz and Raj Koonthrappali (Simon Helberg and Kunal Nayyar), are each extreme versions of guys you probably know or have known – the geek who lives with his mom, the geek who is terrified to speak in front of females – they’re all pretty nuts, but they never fail to be endearing.

I think the writers deserve a lot of credit for giving the guys their advancing storylines, without it ever feeling forced or fake.  The completely asexual-seeming Sheldon now has a female friend (the AWESOME Mayim Bialik as the female version of Sheldon – Amy Farrah Fowler), but he’s still the same old Sheldon.  Leonard is dating Priya (boo, hiss) but did have a lovely relationship with Penny, and even though they’re no longer together, the chemistry remains.  Wolowitz might be getting married soon, Raj had a scandalous one-night stand, and with a couple of new ladies added to the mix (very successfully, I might add) Penny, Amy, and Bernadette have become the cutest little group of thrown-together besties around.

But the best part is the trickle down effect this show can have.  The inspiration for this post came from talking to one of my bestest-ever friends, who is NOT a nerd, and is not into anything even remotely nerdy, and she LOVES her some BBT, and was actually talking to me about the Leonard Nimoy episode and how much she loved it, and to hear her say the name “Leonard Nimoy,” (two words I never would have conceived could have come out of her mouth) was awesomesauce.  (By the way, that’s my favorite episode, and I think anything involving Penny + Sheldon = WIN.  See: Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty).  I cannot tell you how tickled I was that somebody who wouldn’t know Star Trek from Star Wars now knew who Leonard Nimoy was, and what his place in pop culture is.  BBT is educating the uninformed masses about nerd culture in a spoonful of sugar fashion, which I’ll take, as it means that maybe I can dig out the ‘ol bridge playset and actually have somebody else to enjoy it with.

~Annie

Killing Me Softly With His Song

I saw Bill Maher live the other night and, though I didn’t believe it was possible, I love him even more now.  He says the things I feel and try so hard to articulate but for which, I can’t ever find the right words.  Repeatedly throughout his stand-up, he pieced together the incoherent thoughts in my head with such razor sharp wit and biting sarcasm, I damn near came in my capris.

I admit I do not find him attractive, but his intelligence and poignant, scathing humor literally turn me on.  I watch his show weekly and find myself, over and over, shouting at the TV: “Finally!  Someone is saying what I’ve been thinking!”  He’s so damn clever, so quick, so sharp, so, so…so funny.  I regularly watch his show, Real Time With Bill Maher, on HBO and I admit his opening monologues often leave something to be desired.  Which made me mildly nervous that his stand up would be the same.  Or, like so many other comedians who recycle material, I feared it would consist mostly of the shtick I hear from him every Friday night.  Au contraire, mon ami, he rocked the muthaf**kin house.

The hour-and-a-half show was 80% politics, 15% religion, 5% relationships/sex and 100% hilarious.  If you’re a godless liberal who bases your opinions on facts (those things that are scientifically sound) like myself, check him out.  You’ll love him.  He basically tries to get people to use their brains.  You know, actually think about the world around you and how you fit into it.  Research issues from every perspective before forming a solid opinion about them, back up what you say with factual data, not fairy tales or blind ignorance.  Pull your goddamn head out of the sand and take a hard, clear look around.  And most of all, be honest.  I know Maher offends tons of people -conservatives, believers of any religion, Republicans, members of the Tea Party, the extremely wealthy who want to hoard their money, the bleeding hearts on the far left- but what I admire most about him is that he refuses to placate or pander to anyone.  He says exactly what he means.  Like it or not, at least you always know what he genuinely thinks.  While I don’t always agree with the things he says (though I usually do), I am always certain he’s not bullshitting me.

~Nikki

You’re Just A Step On the Boss Man’s Ladder

Horrible Bosses is a consistently funny, harebrained, and slightly frustrating comedy from a lot of people who have made a lot of things you probably like.  A lot.

A group of three friends, Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, all suffer the misery that most of us endure on a never-ending, constant basis (although, probably without the super bad drugs and homicide):  They despise the shit out of their bosses, who are each suffering from severe mental issues ranging from sociopathy, psychosis, nyphomania, and being a ginormous cokehead.  The buddies get the brilliant idea to exterminate all three of the crazy f***ers, and it’s to the writers’ credit that this is handled in an organic way, making it seem (almost) not that crazy.  Let’s just move past the fact that I find it “not that crazy”….

Needless to say, madcap, hair-brained lunacy ensues (this is the kind of movie where you want to pull your hair out over the stupid mistakes everyone is making – don’t leave your DNA at the crime scene, moron!  Don’t drop your f***ing cell phone!), but the plot had a few twists that actually surprised me.  The director, Seth Gordon, has a resume of some awesome stuff (NBC comedies Parks and Recreation, The Office), along with Four Christmases, which is the complete and total opposite of awesome, but also The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which is completely awesome.  So, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, and this falls somewhere in between those two realms.  It’s not crazy awesome, but isn’t crazy bad, either.

One of the main reasons this film works is because of the cast.  Each of our fearless heroes plays to their strengths, i.e. the same kind of character they usually play:  Bateman – the frazzled straight man, Sudeikis – the sarcastic man-child, and Day – Charlie from Sunny with better hygiene and a higher IQ.  But that’s fine, because these guys do these guys SO DAMN WELL.  As for the bosses – oh my, the bosses.  Jennifer Aniston gets to step outside of her usual comfort zone of being the bland lead in a romantic comedy bomb to become a batshit nympho.  She utters phrases that would have made Rachel Green weep with shame.  The always majorly badass Kevin Spacey really gets into this one, playing a COMPLETE dick/jerk/evil, evil asshole, who is quite open about making Bateman’s life a living hell.  Colin Farrell is the spoiled, entitled son of Sudeikis’s employer, who inherits his dad’s business but only wants to bang hookers, do tons of drugs, and fire everyone.  And I haven’t even mentioned Jamie Foxx’s “hitman” MotherF***er Jones.

This was no Bridesmaids, but it certainly holds its own in a landscape littered with scraps like Bad Teacher and Your Highness.  The sturdy writing and chemistry-rific cast make up for a slightly flimsy story, even if that’s part of Bosses’ charm.

Tired Of Not Being A Millionaire

Do you remember that scene in “Office Space” during which Peter asks his neighbor, Lawrence, what he would do if he had a million dollars?  The idea being that whatever you’d do if money weren’t the main motivator is what you’re ideally suited to do, or be.  (By the way, I love Lawrence’s response: “Two chicks at the same time, man.”  Classic.  Maybe that means he should be in porn?)  I’ve been thinking about this lately because things at my place of employment are somewhat unstable and, though I genuinely love the work I do – I am a science-nerd, after all – what I would do if I could magically pay my bills without having to punch a clock day in and day out, is write.  I would write story after story, blog post after blog post.  Novels, screenplays, short stories.  I would sit, fingers poised on the keyboard of my laptop, cup of coffee within reach, and see just what, exactly, I might have to say.

As I’m sure you’ve surmised, I already do this.  A bit.  I love to read and write the way athletes love to play, the way musicians love to jam.  It’s my hobby but also my passion, my love.  If I were a trust fund baby, this is how I would use my time.

It may seem like a frivolous way to spend one’s energy and I understand that logic, really.  It’s a small part of what led me to my career in science, the idea that writing isn’t relevant enough to be more than a hobby.  But the truth is, even though it isn’t vital in the way medicine is, for example, storytelling must be essential to the plight of man because it has existed in one form or another for nearly as long as man has existed.  The story as told in a film, in a book, in a song, a poem, was part of the oral tradition before the written language came to be and I suspect that when man came down out of the trees, part of his survival (maybe part of what drove him further along on the evolutionary trail) depended on the need to tell a story.  And his need to hear one.

It’s how we discover ourselves, the true nature of humankind.  It’s how we learn what we believe to be truth.  It’s how we make sense of life.

If I had a million dollars, I would tell a million stories.

~N.