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January 27, 2014 at 11:05am

Nerd Alert!: Anthony Ray and Sunday's Quidditch World Cup

Photo courtesy of Facebook.com/sirmixalot

Dialing 1-900-MIX-ALOT, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

SATURDAY, FEB. 1

"Oh, my God, Becky. Look at her butt. It is so big." Don't even act like you don't know what comes next, playa. You know that like me, you've high-tailed it for the dance floor to extol the virtues of an itty-bitty waist and a round thing in your face. You, too, have begged for a piece of that bubble. So fellas (yeah?), can I get a "hell, yeah" for Seattle's own Anthony Ray, better known as Sir Mix-a-Lot? One-hit wonder he may be, but I'm reminded of a story I heard about Chuck Berry. A critic once scoffed that Berry essentially wrote the same song over and over. "Yes," his colleague replied, "but we all know that song." Anyway, the Mack Daddy's throwin' a gig in town this weekend, and even white boys got to shout. ...

SIR MIX-A-LOT, 8 p.m. Saturday, Jazzbones, 2803 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $15, 253.396.9169

SUNDAY, FEB. 2

My friends and fellow geeks, I never thought it would come to this, but the unthinkable has happened. We must now deal with an alternate reality, aka the craziest timeline. In other words, it's time we wrapped our heads around sportsball. Civic pride in our beloved Pacific Northwest demands no less. (It's like when we all gave in and ate quinoa.) In those rare moments when you departed World of Warcraft for the Mart of Pizza Pockets, you may have noticed people walking around in eye-catching raiments of navy and green. Such folk are allied with House Seahawk. The raptors of Seattle have emerged from the NFC playoffs victorious, and now must defeat the orange-clad steeds of Mount Doom (OK, the High Plains of Denver, Colo.) in a loud form of ground-based Quidditch World Cup. Perhaps you've seen something about this on Reddit?

Anyway, the last (and only) time the Seahawks made it to the big game was eight years ago, when they lost to the Steelers, 21-10. If you've somehow managed to miss Seahawk fever all season, please understand there's a reason Seattle's fans are so heavily invested. The team boasts the NFL's best defense, as reflected in a heart-stopping interception by cornerback Richard Sherman ([no, not the same Richard Sherman who wrote "It's a Small World (After All)" - we've been over this and over this) that crushed the hopes of San Francisco two weeks ago. The problem here is the Seahawk offense, which, while certainly capable, is nowhere near the best in the business. Ergo, their opponents tended to load points on early in each game, losing ground only in the second half when Seattle's punishing defense wore them down. Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos wield the highest-scoring offense in NFL history, an air-and-ground assault commanded by veteran (37-year-old) quarterback Peyton Manning.

Look for much wailing and gnashing of teeth as the Broncos strike hard and strike fast. Think of this as the grim Hoth battle of our epic saga. The outcome will still be very much in doubt at halftime. Sports mages prophesy this game could be decided by as little as a single point, and those of us who screamed through the NFC championship's final moments can all too easily believe it. That game was tighter than the E Street Band.

If the Seahawks win, expect Seattle to explode into confetti, Gorp, and shards of IPA bottles. This is, after all, the city that lost its collective mind over an international trade meeting. It's the Naboo of America. If, however, as the bookies would have it, the Broncos eke out a victory, expect thousands of fair-weather fans like myself to crawl back into our holes and leave you in peace again till autumn.

But seriously, though ... wouldn't it be amazing if we won? At football? A SPORT?! The mind reels.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII, 3:30 p.m. Sunday, FOX TV and a jock bar near you

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and DON'T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT ME! I'm the best nerdist in the game! When you try me with a writer like McKinney, that's the result YOU GONNA GET! L.O.B.!

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Music, Tacoma, Sports,

January 21, 2014 at 12:13pm

Nerd Alert: Three awesomely nerdy things to do this week in Tacoma

Mr. "Too Soon?"

JAN. 23-25: GILBERT GOTTFRIED AT THE TACOMA COMEDY CLUB

Even before Gilbert Gottfried's Comedy Central roast appearances became the stuff of legend, he was always a comedian with a uniquely skewed point of view. He combined an acerbic manner with a clearly very deep affection for the structure and melody of a well-crafted joke. As evidenced in his early days doing half-hours for HBO briefly joining the cast of Saturday Night Live in those doomed '80s years, Gottfried had a talent for taking even rote gags like impressions and putting a deliberate spin on them.

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January 13, 2014 at 11:12am

Nerd Alert!: Jack Ryan is back, Elvis tribute, "Sherlock" and more ...

"Sherlock": Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson. Photograph: Robert Viglasky/BBC/Hartswood Films

When you have eliminated the impossible, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

FRIDAY, JAN. 17

Which movie character has been portrayed by actors who also played Lamont Cranston, Dr. Richard Kimble, Matt Murdock and Jack Frost? If you said CIA Deputy Director John Patrick Ryan, Sr., Ph.D., CPA, USMC (Ret.), KCVO (Hon), give yourself a hearty pat on the back. Of course, before Ryan was all those things, he was junior analyst Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit; his latest movie opens this week. Chris Pine joins a club whose officers emeritus are Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford and Ben Affleck. His latest installment is a reboot from an original screenplay by the guy who wrote, of all things, The Wings of the Dove. Ryan's sent to Moscow to match wits with Viktor Cherevin, a baddie played by the film's director, Kenneth Branagh. Ordinarily, when a film gets pushed back from Christmas to January, that's a bad sign, but this episode may surprise us. That's because Paramount moved Shadow Recruit to clear a slot for its own Oscar contender, The Wolf of Wall Street. Also, Branagh directed the surprisingly effective Thor, so he knows from both acting and action. Opening Friday as well (but not as good): two Ryan-fodder thrillers, Devil's Due and Reasonable Doubt.

I, on the other hand, must delay catching up with Agent Ryan, as I'll be at Tacoma Musical Playhouse for its premiere of Shout! The Mod Musical, a celebration of female musical artists of the 1960s. The show's song list includes such classics as "Downtown," "Son of a Preacher Man," and "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," so I bet I won't mind the wait.

SHOUT! THE MOD MUSICAL, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Feb. 9, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $20-$29, 253.565.6867

SATURDAY, JAN. 18

As Mia Wallace once opined, "Beatles people can like Elvis, and Elvis people can like the Beatles, but nobody likes them both equally." Well, I'm a Beatles guy, but far from immune to the allure of a soulful rendition of "Suspicious Minds." And that's where Robert Washington, Elvis impersonator extraordinaire, hip-swivels into the picture. This Saturday, the Capitol Theater presents Washington's tribute to the King of Rock and Roll. Don your gold-lamé jumpsuit, enjoy a documentary called Almost Elvis and then "Surrender" to a hunka, hunka "Burning Love." Incidentally, in a stirring tribute to color-blind casting, Mr. Washington - who does a pitch-perfect Elvis - is African-American, yet won the first Elvis World Championships down in peckerwood Memphis. Thank you ... thank you very much.

ELVIS BIRTHDAY BASH, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia, $15, 360.705.1658

SUNDAY, JAN. 19

If you're a regular reader of this column, you know my respect for Doctor Who showrunner and head writer Steven Moffat knows no bounds. He's an absolute genius. His sitcom Coupling is legendary in the UK (though its U.S. incarnation fared poorly), and his Adventures of Tintin script for Steven Spielberg was admirably faithful to its source material. You can establish the quality of any Doctor Who episode by noting how proximate Moffat was to its script. For me, however, Moffat's crowning glory is Sherlock, the BBC's modern-day update of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's irascible detective. Each season (or "series" in British TV jargon) includes three movie-length episodes, all loosely based on classic Conan Doyle adventures. If you've never watched the show, I implore you to seek out all six previous episodes while adding Series 3, commencing Sunday with "The Empty Hearse," to your DVR. (In "The Adventure of the Empty House," Conan Doyle explained how Sherlock survived a seemingly fatal encounter with Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls.) Oh, my friends and fellow Sherlockians, the game is once more afoot!

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may I draw your attention to the curious incident of the dog in the night-time?

January 6, 2014 at 10:58am

Nerd Alert! Comedian Matt Braunger in Tacoma and the return of NBC's "Community"

No word yet if Matt Braunger is bringing his tigers to the Tacoma Comedy Club Thursday-Saturday.

JAN. 9-11: MATT BRAUNGER AT THE TACOMA COMEDY CLUB

One of the pleasures and pains of being nerdy about pop culture is that you will inevitably watch as certain people and things you love grow in popularity and visibility. Frequently, and unfortunately, the nerd will respond by then boycotting what he or she once loved ("I was there in the beginning, before they were a total sellout!" the nerd will yell, like John Lithgow telling Harry that he doesn't love him any more).

Personally, I'm always happy to see success come to things of which I'm a fan. Matt Braunger is a comedian I've been following for a while. With a boisterous and animated style reminiscent of Brian Regan, Braunger has been receiving a lot of attention for the past couple years, culminating in the release of his 2012 Comedy Central special, Shovel Fighter.

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December 30, 2013 at 10:57am

Nerd Alert!: The finest nerdy projects of 2013

Sharlto Copley (District 9) stars in trippy sci-fi mystery "Europa Report" about a crew of international astronauts sent on a private mission to Jupiter’s fourth moon.

Besties, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

Welcome to the first week of January, aka the annual geek doldrums. Good movies came out at the end of December to qualify for Oscar nominations, leaving only a sad Paranormal Activity sequel debuting this week. With the nerd-neutral exception of Downton Abbey, TV season premieres don't begin till later this month. There are no geek events planned locally this week. There isn't even a new play opening (though I will be at the debut of Lakewood Playhouse's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Friday). I thought about filling this void by compiling a Best of 2013 list, but the truth is I haven't caught up on all last year had to offer. Instead, please allow me to rattle off the finest genre projects I have been able to take in over the last 12 months. That'll at least give you some quality entertainment to binge on through this cold winter hiatus.

No one ever accused Doctor Who of excessive consistency in tone, but when it's on its A game (usually meaning showrunner Steven Moffat, who also runs the excellent Sherlock, wrote the episode) it's as entertaining as anything on TV. I thoroughly enjoyed a cuddly telefilm about the origins of the series, An Adventure in Space and Time, and the massive episode it introduced, "The Day of the Doctor." All this was to set up the departure of 11th Doctor Matt Smith, in Christmas Day's poignant ep "The Time of the Doctor." Here's the good news: the BBC's rerunning the lot of it on New Year's Eve.

I can't pretend to be a fan of modern horror, thanks to its overreliance on shock effects and sadism. (Seven Saws plus two branded video games in a decade? No, thanks.) The Conjuring was a rare and welcome exception, however, thanks to great performances from Vera Farmiga and Lili Taylor, plus a goosebumpy script by the Hayes brothers of Portland, Ore. It's available now on Netflix, including Netflix Streaming, and I dare you to watch it with the lights off.

Though it probably slipped under your radar, the "found-footage" sci-fi film Europa Report gets impressive mileage from a mere seven-digit budget. An international team of scientists is en route to an ecologically promising Jovian moon when its ship loses communication with the earth. What happens next will remind you less of Prometheus and more of 2010: The Year We Make Contact. The action and settings feel unusually plausible, and it's a fun change of pace from less cerebral efforts. (Oh, Pacific Rim ... where should I even begin?) Europa Report is also available on Netflix Streaming.

While Gravity fudges near-terrestrial orbital mechanics for maximum impact, it also boasts a fine performance by Sandra Bullock, plus what I think we can all agree are the most dazzling visual effects of the year, maybe ever. Sadly, Alfonso Cuarón's epic two-hander vacated Tacoma and Olympia cineplexes, but it arrives on Blu-ray, including a 3-D edition, Feb. 25, flush with what I expect will be a raft of Oscar noms.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is, however, in area theaters. If you passed on it because you found its predecessor lacking in the thrills department, now's a good time to reconsider. Every conceivable aspect of this installment is better, thanks in large part to a change of director. It has visceral excitement, better effects, richer acting and a promising setup for Mockingjay, Parts 1 and 2. Between this and American Hustle, that lovely young Jennifer Lawrence is having quite an annus mirabilis.

I'm working my way slowly through critics' top 10 lists of 2013 novels, having just finished Meg Wolitzer's expansive The Interestings, but few include the book I found most un-put-down-able: Lexicon, by Australia's Max Barry. It's about an underground society in which so-called "poets" wield linguistic "persuasion" tricks to manipulate the masses, for crusades both kind and abominable. It's a riveting thriller with a cerebral, satirical pulse, my favorite since Ready Player One.

If you have Xfinity On Demand, you can binge-watch all 10 first-season episodes of the BBC's Orphan Black for free, and you totally should. It's amazingly good, y'all, especially the manifold performance of Tatiana Maslany. That she didn't receive an Emmy nomination casts that entire nominating process into serious doubt. Here's the setup: A young British woman named Sarah (Maslany) spots another woman, Beth (also Maslany), in a tube station, just before Beth leaps to her death in front of a train. Sarah then swaps identities with Beth to get herself and her daughter out of a jam. That's how she meets Katja (uh, Maslany) and Alison (holy crap, Maslany again), plus three more vivid characters - all played by, yep, Maslany. Defiance be damned, Orphan Black was far and away the smartest sci-fi telly of 2013.

That said, I sure enjoyed me some Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Season 5. Memories of embarrassing prequels faded thanks to killer episodes like "Point of No Return," culminating in a series-finale arc in which a young Padawan is wrongfully accused of mass murder. It's true Clone Wars was all over the tonal map, perhaps by necessity, but it sure made my DVR fun on Saturday mornings. All five seasons are available on DVD or Blu-ray, harder to find on legal streaming services.

The summer movie season was bracketed by two apocalyptic comedies, This Is the End and The World's End. Both were hysterically funny. Both are available on something called HitBliss Streaming, or for disc rental on Netflix. Neither, I promise you, is G-rated, but only the former includes Jonah Hill getting menaced by a priapic demon. So yeah. Good luck wiping that image from your brain.

This was an unexpectedly strong season of The Walking Dead, especially episode 3.8, "Made to Suffer." Oh! And I gather there was some sort of wedding on Game of Thrones? I don't subscribe to HBO, so my wife and I are eagerly awaiting the Blu-rays Feb. 18. Don't you dare spoil anything for us! Nothing warms our hearts more than a glorious wedding. Felicitations and mazel tov, you beautiful Stark kids!

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and vartix velkor mannik wissick, may you send me a stack of Regal gift cards courtesy of the Volcano head office.

See Also

Judging by the Trailer

December 24, 2013 at 9:10am

Nerd Alert!: Jockiest of all holidays and The Bobs

The Bobs sing a cappella with an attitude. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Over the course of his trilogy of books filled with fake trivia (The Areas of My Expertise, More Information Than You Require, and That Is All), John Hodgman posited a theory that the world is made up of jock culture and nerd culture, and that everything more or less fell within those boundaries. If this is true, then it must be said that New Year's Eve is the jockiest of all holidays, and therefore difficult on which to base a nerd column.

Longtime readers may be aware of my general disdain for New Year's Eve, but I've only recently begun to think of it as a jock holiday. This is to say, New Year's Eve is essentially a sparklier St. Patrick's Day. It is a night given over to amateurish drinking and buffoonery, couched in some faux-melancholy hogwash about the shedding of the old year and the birth of a new one. Is it any wonder that most New Year's resolutions tend toward the athletic (running marathons, losing weight, quitting smoking or drinking [get off my back!], etc.)?

Do celebrate your jockiest of holidays. But, as you do, raise a glass for the nerdiest of holidays: Groundhog Day.

Saturday, Dec. 28: The Bobs 2013 Holiday Concert

If you're seeking something profoundly nerdy to enjoy over the holidays, you may now cease your seeking! The Bobs have spent 30 years as the blessed pinnacle of nerd-dom. Combining a capella, comedy music, and pop cultural and historical references, the Bobs cover all four quadrants of nerd culture. Their press release describes them as "a musical equivalent of a Gary Larsen drawing," which I know just made several nerds' hearts flutter.

The Bobs' most recent release is called Biographies and, just like the name suggests, it features songs about historical figures both real and not quite real. Their Andy Kaufman ode ("Andy Always Dreamed of Wrestling") is silly and heartfelt in equal measure. Elsewhere, "Clarence Birdseye Flash Frozen Fish" is half commercial/half exploration of why flash freezing makes fish taste so darn good. It's eccentric writing that calls to mind They Might Be Giants and the Dead Milkmen, with harmonies and inventive vocals to make them stand out from the rabble. Their holiday show is not one to miss.

THE BOBS HOLIDAY CONCERT, 8 p.m., Morso Wine Bar, 9014 Peacock Hill Ave, Gig Harbor, $25, 253.530.3463

See Also

Judging by the Trailer

December 16, 2013 at 10:04am

Nerd Alert!: Pants Party, pachyrhinosaurs, hidden Keanu, Canadian punks and more ...

Baxter, is that you? Baxter! Bark twice if you’re in the South Sound.

O Smaug the Stupendous, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

Remember how a few weeks ago, the geek schedule was so bare we had to break in with a gift guide? There was literally nothing of interest going on that we hadn't already told you about. That's because entertainment conglomerates prefer to bunch all their genre properties around the same three holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Christmas. Ergo, a whole passel of Oscar hopefuls cluster around Christmas. That's true in spades this year, as if you weren't already trying to catch up on 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Ender's Game, Frozen, Gravity, Her (Dec. 18), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Saving Mr. Banks and Thor: The Dark World, each still in theaters, and each worth your time. In fact, as you read this, you're probably waiting in line for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Good news? That movie's even longer than the line to get in.

FRIDAY, DEC. 20

News team ... assemble! That's right, Wednesday brings the long-anticipated return of San Diego's conquering hero, Ron Burgundy, along with Veronica Corningstone, Brian Fantana, Champ Kind, Brick "I love lamp" Tamland, and a raft of supporting cameos. How much do I love the first Anchorman? Let's just say I wear Sex Panther on special occasions, milady. It stings the nostrils! So I'll be first in line for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, and it's a sign of the unshakability of my marriage that my co-anchor Amanda will be there by my side - despite the fact that there's no empirical evidence any woman has ever laughed at Anchorman. I don't know how that works. I'll be honest: I don't think anyone knows. Whammy!

If your significant other isn't as amenable to comic greatness as mine is, you could send him/her and the kids to Walking with Dinosaurs - which is basically Disney's Dinosaur from 2000 all over again, except this time the CGI's a little better and the dinos are pachyrhinosaurs instead of iguanodons. (So yeah, if you had "pachyrhinosaurus" in your office poll, a winner is you.) Two big strikes against natural history here: the reptiles in this film can talk, and they probably won't eat a lawyer off a toilet. Come on, Disney, it's not like you don't have corporate lawyers to spare!

MONDAY, DEC. 23

Between all these movie-watching excursions, be sure to catch the free community sing-along of Handel's Messiah. It's incredibly moving and a highlight of Oly's holiday season. "For unto us a Child is bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-orn!" I think there are actually about 17 more O's. 7 p.m., Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia, free to sing (scores $10), 360.352.1438

WEDNESDAY, DEC. 25

Ho ho ho, it looks like Santa brought you a crouching tiger, hidden Keanu. Christmas Day brings that festive gumdrop, 47 Ronin, in which our Hawaiian-Canadian hero (born in Beirut) and, I'm guessing, 46 sans-shogun samurai square off against Asiatic monsters and the memory of countless superior wu xia films. It's based on what's been called the "national legend" of Japan, Shi-ju-shichi-shi, so at least it has that going for it ... well, that, and Keanu "Wyld Stallyns" Reeves. So yeah, have fun with that, Japan. (To be fair, I said the same thing about The Matrix, which turned out to be awesome. Good thing they never made unwatchable sequels to that, am I right?!)

James Thurber fans, represent! The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, also released Christmas Day, is actor-director Ben Stiller's reimagining of the classic Thurber tale about an ordinary schnook who daydreams of greatness. It features Sean Penn, Kristen Wiig, and - tell me this doesn't foretell comedy magnificence - Patton Oswalt as an eHarmony customer service rep. I love the trailers, but at time of writing RottenTomatoes.com has Mitty at a cringe-inducing 38 percent. Ouch. Bah, humbug.

The Wolf of Wall Street is Martin Scorsese's black-comic biopic of stock market manipulator Jordan Belfort. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matthew McConaughey and the rack of fake teeth crammed into the mouth of Jonah Hill. For what it's worth, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone says it's the third-best movie of 2013, behind Gravity and that movie about slavery you couldn't coax yourself into seeing. Shame on you! And me.

Finally, August: Osage County is a star-studded adaptation of Tracy Letts's riveting play, and some Canadian punk's tagging cities around the world in Justin Bieber's Believe. Note the apostrophe-S in the title, friends. He owns that word now. It's true. Just by typing it, I owe him 30 bucks.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you go back to your home on Whore Island. You're a real hooker. I'm gonna slap you in public.

December 10, 2013 at 9:47am

Nerd Alert: End of the Year List-ish

Even if the theories don't persuade you, "Room 237" fascinates.

Regretfully, I spent much of this year cocooned in solitude; too poor and depressed to do much beyond learn the names of the most praised cultural items of 2013. As such, it makes it quite difficult to put together a proper year-end "Best Of" list, as I am normally wont to do. Instead of making a token attempt at assembling a list, I'll just give you a miniscule sampling of things that both came out this year and that I saw and enjoyed. This Venn diagram is pocket-sized.

Movies

Coincidentally, the two films that I was most intrigued by this year are hardline nerd-bait. These films are the most fascinating and infuriating releases I saw this year, and neither one of them give a damn about whether or not you can follow along - for two very different reasons.

Room 237 is ostensibly a documentary about Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, told from the point of view of a handful of unseen talking heads. Each of these unseen narrators has a different completely bonkers theory about what's really going on in Kubrick's classic horror. Some make a certain amount of sense (Kubrick was a bored genius who put in subliminal sexual messages just to fuck with people), and some are hysterical batshit (The Shining was Kubrick's allegory for the faked moon landing/the Trail of Tears/World War II). Regardless of whether you believe any of these theories, which you won't, Room 237 is a brilliant essay on a brilliant film - and you'll be just itching to go back and revisit Kubrick's masterwork.

Upstream Color is only the second film from Shane Carruth - released almost a decade after his mind-expanding and impenetrable debut, Primer - and I couldn't spoil it for you if my life depended on it. Something about mind control, I think? Just like Primer, Upstream Color begs to be watched with friends and argued about for the rest of the night. It's the hardest of sci-fi's, and visually stunning to boot.

Podcasts

Podcasts are my only friends, and I will tell you about some of my favorites this year.

Harmontown: Hosted by the volatile and whip-smart creator of Community, Dan Harmon, Harmontown is a live, weekly "town hall meeting" hosted by Harmon and his longtime friend, Jeff Davis (Whose Line is it Anyway?). Besides stream-of-consciousness rants about dicks and existential discussions on the ins-and-outs of escaping Earth and building a colony on the moon, Harmontown is ultimately an examination on the difficulty of being a professional creative person while simultaneously being a functioning member of society. Add to that a hilarious, never-ending campaign of Dungeons & Dragons, which ends every episode, and it's a can't-miss.

Stop Podcasting Yourself: Featuring two comedians (Dave Shumka and Graham Clark) up in Vancouver, B.C., just shooting the shit with a weekly guest, Stop Podcasting Yourself is the classic formula for the chat show podcast. What keeps me hooked is the pure, ineffable amiability of the two hosts. SPY is the show that most consistently makes me smile, which epitomizes the greatest thing about podcasts: it's like visiting your best, funniest friends once a week.

Welcome to Night Vale: For those that want a bit more in their podcasts than just some guys sitting around talking, Welcome to Night Vale does a fine job of utilizing the weirdly uncommon format of the radio play. Punchy articles about Welcome to Night Vale like to describe it as A Prairie Home Companion meets H.P. Lovecraft, and that certainly does fit. However, for people that came of age in the '90s, I think a more apt comparison is to the surreal world-building of the Sideways Stories from Wayside School book series. Every dryly hilarious, claustrophobic news report about the mysterious desert town of Night Vale adds absurdly specific levels to the town's growing mythology. With less than 40 episodes at less than half an hour each, this is one you can catch up on in no time.

See Also

Judging by the Trailers

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Podcast,

December 3, 2013 at 10:57am

Nerd Alert! - South Sound Geek Gift Guide

Nerdy Stuffs hosts DROIDS FOR TOTS 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. Donate a new toy to its Toys for Tots donation drive.

Chag urim sameach!This is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

Some weeks there's just not that much going on. Trapped between Cyber Monday and the end-of-the-year movie rush, this is one of those weeks. However, it is a stellar time for holiday shopping. Yes, now's the time to find that special, nerdy something for the geek in your life, especially if that geek is you. I called some of my favorite area merchants to solicit ideas on what might fill that empty space beneath your Millennium Falcon and Autobot Christmas tree ornaments.

Dorky's Arcade

First off, how ‘bout some Dorky Dollars? You know, for all those classic arcade games! (Dibs on vector-graphics Star Wars!) Meanwhile, get ready for Cosplay Day, the evening of Dec. 15. 4 p.m. to midnight Monday, 11 a.m. to midnight Tuesday through Saturday, 754 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.627.4156

Nerdy Stuffs

I'm also a big fan of Nerdy Stuffs, Tacoma's genre collectibles shop. In fact, you should totally consider taking the kids in this Saturday between 11 and 3, when the store will accept Toys for Tots while offering free photos with Jawas and the 501st Legion of Imperial stormtroopers. Co-owner Jesus Areyano suggests the gift of gaming this holiday season: "Ascension is a pretty big card game, with a two-player edition for $10. It's stocking-stuffer-size." For $20, "Munchkin is a solid gift. There are so many versions, including a ‘Holiday Surprise' edition." For those with a bit more money to spend, Areyano raves about "the DC ‘New 52' figures ... they're these cool statues that run about $40. There's one for each character from the Justice League." Even Zan and Jayna? 1-9 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 1-10 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday, 12223 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.537.1782

Sucher And Sons Star Wars Shop

It's a bit of a haul, but believe me, there's no better outpost for Rebel-scum gift shopping than Sucher and Sons Star Wars Shop in Aberdeen. I spoke to Don Sucher, owner, operator and superfan. "There's over a thousand action figures in the package for under $10," he says, plus a variety of ship toys in the $20 neighborhood. But if you really want to drop a joy bomb on somebody's Christmas, check out Sucher's car-sized display model of the Millennium Falcon. It's incredibly rare and would set you back a mere $2,500. That's a pittance for the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. ... I know, that doesn't make any sense. It's still smarter than giant robots that turn into cars and have fistfights. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, 413 E. Wishkah St., Aberdeen, 360.970.7080

Danger Room

Finally, I called Casey Bruce, co-owner of my favorite comics shop, Danger Room in Oly. For mainstream readers, he recommends comic series tied to other media projects: "You know, The Walking Dead, or Thor, The Avengers," he says. "We have all the book collections. They run about $15, $20 each." I asked him about games, of which the store carries dozens. "One of our top sellers, and one I've played and enjoyed, is called Robo Rally. It's made by the same people who made Magic: the Gathering." That game costs $50. For the true comics fan, however, Bruce suggests "Infinite Kung Fu, a graphic novel in the spirit of a '70s kung fu movie. The art's really nice, plus there's zombies and stuff." Win-win! 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 1-6 p.m. Sunday, 201 4th Ave. W, Olympia, 360.705.3050

The truth is you can walk into any of these places, point in any direction, and basically just buy the first thing that catches your eye. I accept any or all such gifts; please feel free to drop them by the Volcano office in Lakewood. Also, my wife Amanda has her eye on Edgar Wright's "Cornetto trilogy" on Blu-ray, for which she would thank you kindly.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may Santa Claus conquer the Martians.

See Also

Judging by the Movie Trailers

November 25, 2013 at 12:28pm

Nerd Alert!: Awesome trivia night, "Grease" is your word, Santa vs. Martians

Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, best known for the groundbreaking Mystery Science Theater 3000, riff on the ridiculous family classic "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" live.

EVERY WEDNESDAY: TRIVIA NIGHT AT MECONI'S

Wednesdays, Rev. Colin hosts the best trivia in town at Meconi's Pub & Eatery. Best known as a legendary local karaoke host and curator for the Tacoma Cult Movie Club, Rev. Colin is a fount of knowledge, and his trivia nights are as challenging as they are wonderfully absurd. Even if the night didn't offer cash prizes for the top three competing teams, it would be worth it for the spirited gameplay and the left-field questions.

The key to a great pub quiz is to combine general knowledge questions with intuitive questions and ridiculously difficult ones. Rev. Colin has mastered this mix and emerged with a trivia night that is as infuriating as it is addictive. On several occasions he has threatened to bring back a particularly unpopular category in which he gargles a tune and asks you to name it. Pray that you don't find yourself at Meconi's when that happens.

TRIVIA NIGHT, 8 p.m., Wednesday, Meconi's Pub & Eatery, 709 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, no cover, 253.383.3388

SATURDAY, NOV 30: SING-A-LONG-A GREASE

There once was a dark period (commonly referred to as the 1990s) where movie musicals were relegated to the outskirts of Hollywood, banished from bringing smiles to the faces of nerdy film-lovers everywhere. Gone were the days of brightly colored bubblegum confections such as Grease. Finally, Moulin Rouge and Chicago came along to help repopularize movie musicals, and Glee sealed the deal.

"Wait a second, turns out we love musicals!" exclaimed a fickle and easily influenced movie-going public.

As a movie, Grease has always been a breezy and charmingly empty-headed thing. It's like a big, goofy dog that wants nothing more than to run and circles, chase cars and slobber all over your face. As such, it's particularly suited to the phenomenon known as a sing-a-long. Come in costume, sing along to "Sandy," and experience what could quite possibly be the most wholesome act ever committed by man - which only gets more wholesome with the 68th Annual Holiday Tree Lighting, which immediately follows the film. It's enough to give you cavities.

SING-A-LONG-A GREASE, 3 p.m., tree lighting follows, Pantages Theater, $18-$26, 901 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.591.5890

THURSDAY, DEC. 5: RIFFTRAX LIVE: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS

There's a whole generation of comedy nerds who were raised on the rapid-fire joke machines of The Simpsons, Monty Python and - for those of use who woke up early on Saturdays - Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Partially responsible for creating an entire genre of laughing at bad movies, the guys of MST3K explored film's dusty basement and emerged with an absurdly high quality of jokes per minute. Though MST3K eventually went off the air, Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett continued their quest to make fun of C-movies with projects like Cinematic Titanic and, most recently, RiffTrax.

In celebration of the holidays, RiffTrax will beam into theaters around the country to eviscerate one of the mothers of shabby movies: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. This '60s film is a classic of bad movie aficionados everywhere, and it lands firmly in the wheelhouse of the RiffTrax fellas.

RIFFTRAX LIVE: SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS, 8 p.m., Century Olympia, Westfield Capital, 625 Black Lake Blvd. SW, Olympia, $12.50, 360.943.0769

See Also

Judging By The Trailer

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Games, Tacoma, Screens, Olympia,

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