Monthly Archives: May 2013

Proof of Insanity

In case you needed proof that I’m insane, here’s a map of my flights over the next 50 or so days:

Leg 1 has already occurred (I’m currently in hot-and-muggy Orlando, FL). Leg 2 and 3 will happen about 6 hours apart from each other, this upcoming Sunday.

Flights 3-9 are New Zealand and Australia, which I’ve dubbed “a trip to Middle Earth”. Flights 10-12 are Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, also known as “two Doctor Who fangirls invade Cardiff”, and 13-14 are, of course, San Diego Comic Con.

Miles already traveled: 983
Total miles to be traveled: 33,933

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Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

A review of the new Star Trek film, featuring excellent character interactions, beautiful images, and… not a whole lot else of any worth. Of course, spoilers lie within.

My first reaction is that Into Darkness is basically just a Michael Bay movie with more lens flare. It’s a movie about things exploding, spaceships zooming around, down-and-dirty fist fights, and, yes, more explosions. The plot moved hard and fast, with barely a second to catch your breath and process what had just happened.

But that implies that it wasn’t an enjoyable movie. I did enjoy it, more than I expected to. I’d seen a lot of negative reviews, and a lot of upset fan reactions, before seeing it myself. And I can see why people are upset; the whitewashing of Khan, the sexism.

But despite that, it was fun. I like explosions. I like action movies. But I was hoping for more from Star Trek; after all, the television series gave us the first interracial kiss on TV, showed us men wearing mini-skirts, and generally pushed the boundaries of social and gender norms of the time.

Anyways, I’ll start with the things that I did like:

1. The scenery. This was a visually stunning movie. From the red forests of Nibiru to the gorgeous uniforms, everything about this movie made me believe that a lot of time and effort were put into the details. The elegant blue warp trails, the futuristic London and San Francisco cityscapes, and the uplifting scene with the Enterprise rising above the clouds… I didn’t want to blink for fear of missing another beautiful image!

2. The character interactions. Oh, where to start on this! Kirk and Spock were fantastic together, each one balancing the other. They’re not enemies anymore, but they’re still not friends at the beginning of this movie. It takes the events of Into Darkenss to bring them both together as true friends, instead of just comrades.

And Spock and Uhura were one of my favorite moments of the movie: Uhura, who is so emotional, against Spock, who is so desperate to hold his emotions in. The scene where Uhura is desperate to know if Spock has made it alive from Nibiru, and then her transition from terror to relief to upset seemed so very real to me; Spock must be a very frustrating man to love! The scene in the elevator between Uhura and Kirk was hilarious, though!

I wish there had been more development between Kirk and Carol Marcus. Turning Carol into a weapons specialist was strange (she was originally a biologist, if I recall correctly), but I didn’t get any sense of chemistry between them. Which would be okay, except I honestly believe that the directors were trying to imply that there was relationship potential there… but all I picked up was a creepy leering Kirk and a not-at-all-interested Carol.

Is now a good time to mention the completely unsubtle underwear scene? At least Damon Lindelof recognizes that it wasn’t cool.

But what didn’t I like?

I won’t go into the decision to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan. I like Cumberbatch; I’m a big Sherlock fan, and I think he’s a great actor. I disagree with the decision to cast a white man as an Indian character. But plenty of other people have already discussed this far more eloquently than I can.

I disliked the pacing. The movie moved too fast; too much was going on. It made the movie feel rushed, and I didn’t feel satisfied because I didn’t get time to process and absorb.

And I actually really disliked the scene with Kirk and Spock at the end, a reversal from Wrath of Khan.

I liked the sentiment behind it; I liked that Kirk and Spock had evolved to the point where Spock would genuinely be sad to see Kirk die. But I thought the scene itself was hokey. It was a rip-off. For a series that’s all about rebooting the original into something new, it wasn’t very unique. And I seriously doubt that a single member of the audience thought Kirk was actually going to die, so it was hard to feel sad!

My rating: B-

It was a fun movie. It wasn’t a good movie, but I enjoyed it. Two hours of explosions is rarely a bad way to spend my afternoon, although I think Star Trek should be a little bit more than mindless entertainment.

Last but not least, this Spoiler FAQ from io9 is hilarious. A bit harsh, but completely valid in a lot of their points about the ridiculous plot decisions in the movie.

[all photos belong to Paramount.]

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Dallas Comic Con

I’m currently in between trips (California and Orlando), and have found myself in Dallas, TX for five days. My intention for this layover was to see my family, do a ton of laundry, and maybe catch the new Star Trek movie. Instead, I discovered only a day before my flight that this weekend happened to be Dallas Comic Con at the Irving Convention Center!

Not only was it going to be a great event with some of my favorite actors (Richard Dean Anderson! Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin from Firefly! John Noble and Jasika Nicole from Fringe!), but it was only 15 minutes from my parents’ house. And so, this past Sunday, I found myself forking over $30 for a neon yellow wristband, and joining the queue* to go to DCC.

(* the DCC manager came out to apologize for the long line at one point. I could only laugh; I waited a whole hour in line, which any SDCC attendee will tell you is nothing!)

The first thing I learned was that Nathan Fillion had canceled his appearance for health reasons. Huge disappointment! But there was still a lot to see at the convention, including a few panels that caught my eye.

I wandered the floor of the Expo Hall and found some awesome cosplayers:

And then headed into the panel room for my first panel, which was Star Trek: TNG featuring Levar Burton, Brent Spiner, and Gates McFadden.

They told great stories about how they came to audition for the roles (and how Brent Spiner almost walked out of the auditions because he’d prepared to read for Data, but was then asked not to!) and how their feelings about the show changed throughout the series. Some of the fan questions were kind of weird, though; I think I’ve been spoiled by San Diego Comic Con, where they screen all of the questions that are asked in each panel!

After the TNG panel was Adam Baldwin. While Nathan Fillion was at home with a bad eye infection, he did call Adam partway through the panel to describe on speaker phone, in detail, how nasty his eye was. (“Do you remember the time you left gummy worms all over my truck and they melted in the heat?” Nathan asked. Adam laughed at the memory. “Yeah, I remember.” “THAT’S WHAT MY EYE LOOKS LIKE RIGHT NOW!”)

Adam also talked about his new show that comes out next summer, called “The Last Ship” (on TNT), and about other projects that he’d done in the past. Someone asked him about doing stunt work, which got us a great story about his stunt double on Firefly. And at the end of the panel, he led the room in the Ballad of Serenity (when the show was on the air, he and his family used to sing it at the start of each episode together… awww!).

I’m kinda glad that Nathan wasn’t there, because it was great to have a panel with just Adam on it. And as much as I love Nathan Fillion, he does tend to steal the show!

After the Adam Baldwin panel, I found a trio of Browncoats wearing their Jayne hats, and had to snap a picture:

(If the words “Browncoats” and “Jayne hats” mean nothing to you, you are probably reading the wrong blog.)

And then the last panel of the day that I wanted to go to was the Stargate panel with Richard Dean Anderson and Tony Amendola. I hadn’t seen RDA since San Diego CC several years ago, but I remembered him as being a hilarious panelist, and wasn’t disappointed in that.

Unfortunately, the fans in this panel were pretty terrible… some questions were asked in very poor taste, which made the audience uncomfortable and clearly upset the panelists, although they tried to laugh it off. I wish fans would think before they ask inappropriate questions!!

RDA really dominated, which I think is to be expected; he doesn’t usually make con appearances, and he was the star of Stargate: SG-1 for several years, as well as being best-known for MacGyver.

Still, I think the bad fan questions spoiled this panel for me, and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

The con was starting to wind down, and I decided to walk around a bit before heading home. I got to meet the very lovely Jasika Nicole (Astrid from Fringe), and also found some great cosplayers:

A brilliant Daenerys Targaryen; this cosplayer put her costume together in only a couple of hours after seeing the previous week’s episode!

A DC heroes-versus-villains cosplay group

So ends my unexpected day of Geekery at the Dallas Comic Con! Apologies for the poor picture quality; I used a camera that I don’t prefer to use, and the result is… bleh. Two more days until the next trip!

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Visiting Google

Yesterday I got to visit the Google campus to have lunch with my good friend Pablo. I’ve spent the last few weeks in Palo Alto, CA (one town over from Mountain View, where Google is headquartered), staying with Pablo and his awesome family. Pablo and I actually met at the South Pole, when we both worked there in the Summer 2010-2011 season, but he’s back in the Bay Area and is kind enough to offer me his guest room whenever I pass through.

A couple of friends asked me what the campus was like after I visited Google for the first time last year, so I figured I’d snap a few pictures during this visit.

It was a gorgeous day, so we ate outside and caught up for a bit. I figured I should snap a photo of Pablo, as payback for all the times he’s caught me on camera for his own blog! (Pst, go check it out, it’s over here!)

Google has dozens of cafes scattered across the campus, and each has its own character (like Yoshka’s, named after an employee’s dog). We ate at the aptly-named Big Table, although there was another cafe just across the lawn.

The decision was made to walk for a bit after lunch, since it was so warm, and I got to wander over to my favorite Google employee… Stan the T-Rex!

When I saw Stan last year, the hoard of angry flamingos had been attempting to attack him… I guess he got hungry since then?

We ducked into a building to check out the surround-view Google Earth machine, which is an insane amount of fun. You can guide yourself around the globe, zoom in and out, and see cities and buildings as though they’re actually right in front of you! It’s easy to lose hours in this thing…

Google gets a rep as a magical place where everyone is super nerdy and super smart— a rep that’s totally well-deserved! I got to meet a couple of Pablo’s co-workers and learn more about some of the cool projects that are being worked on, like Google.org (which “develops technologies to help address global challenges”, among other things); I also saw a couple of people explaining the new Google Goggles (which are pretty cool).

After walking for a bit longer and petting some of the cutest dogs ever (Google is extremely dog-friendly!), it was time to head off. I borrowed one of the brightly-colored bikes and rode back to my car in style!

And that was lunchtime at Google!

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Five things I’m currently in love with

Like the title says, here are five things that I’m currently obsessing over:

1. The art of Patrick Connan (http://barbarianfactory.blogspot.com/)

Connan is a French illustrator and designer based in Paris who reimagines popular movies as gorgeous minimalist posters. I found his work after someone linked me to his Lord of the Rings trilogy works, inspired by chess pieces (above), but everything on his blog is worth checking out!

2. Nimona, a comic by Noelle Stevenson (http://gingerhaze.com/nimona/)

This is probably one of the best web comics I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading… and apparently others agree: It won Slate Magazine’s 2012 Cartoonist Studio Prize for Best Web Comic of the Year! It follows the adventures of supervillain Ballister Blackheart and his shape-shifting sidekick Nimona as they attempt to prove that the good guys aren’t as good as everyone thinks. Updates every Tuesday and Thursday.

3. This Middle Earth-inspired dress:

Found on this Flickr stream from DragonCon 2012, it was designed and created by user cressiebeth (scroll down to the comments). Stunning work and an amazing attention to detail!

4. Demobaza (http://www.clothing.demobaza.com/)

This is a fashion design team from Bulgaria, I believe, and their clothing is best described as “futuristic” or “post-apocalyptic”. I find some of their designs to be a little too strange for my tastes, but I love their concept art! I truly hope this is what everyone is wearing after the end of the world!

5. Hannibal, the TV show

When I first heard about this show, I was completely uninterested. I’ve seen Silence of the Lambs and Red Dragon, and didn’t really want to watch a show about a guy eating people. But then I realized that it’s created by Bryan Fuller (who also did Pushing Daisies and Dead Like Me) and stars Hugh Dancy, with Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal. So I gave it a try, and now I’m addicted! I’d describe this show as both “gorgeous” and “creepy”, although certainly not for the faint-of-heart. And you should probably reconsider eating that hamburger while watching…

 

[Photo credit, in order: Patrick Connan; Noelle Stevenson; Matt and Kristy; Demo and Tono of Demobaza; NBC]

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Review: Iron Man 3

Here there be spoilers.

The San Francisco Chronicle describes Iron Man 3 as “[a] not-bad installment” in the Marvel universe. Compared to Iron Man 2, it’s a cinematic masterpiece. On it’s own, it’s an attempt to humanize the great Tony Stark; a decent attempt, but not entirely successful in my opinion.

But honestly, I just like the explosions and the cool suit effects.

What bothered me most about this movie* was the sub-plot of Tony’s PTSD after the events of The Avengers. The writers took the time to ensure that we, the audience, were well aware of how messed up Stark was after flying through that wormhole; he has anxiety attacks, nightmares, and the mere words “New York City” are enough to send his heart rate skyrocketing. A great way to show that Stark isn’t perfect, that there’s more to him than being a genius, billionaire, playboy, and philanthropist.

[* Rather, what actually bothered me most about this movie was the complete disregard for comic book canon, but that’s a rant for another day.]

Except there was no resolution. Tony talks about his problems with Pepper. He talks about his problems with Harley. (And can I just take a moment to dish some love on Ty Simpkins, who did a kick-ass job and held his own against Robert Downey, Jr?) But the point is that while he talks and talks, there’s never any healing shown. Stark saves the girl (well, the girl saves him, in one of my favorite moments of the movie), he makes a symbolic move to destroy his suits, and that’s it. The end.

[That said, the scene at the end of the credits seemed to be a humorous attempt of showing Stark getting some therapy, although Banner is most certainly “not that kind of doctor”.]

In terms of characterization, this movie just really didn’t do it for me. Stark was both witty and tortured, but never much more than a two dimensional character, and there wasn’t enough focus on Pepper for my liking. I may have been asking for too much, wanting a movie that balanced action with character development!

What did do it for me? Don Cheadle and Gwyneth Paltrow, both of whom needed more screen time to show off their total badass-ness. Jarvis, once again voiced by Paul Bettany, being the most perfect and witty A.I. ever. The final battle scene, where forty-two Iron Man suits went to battle against an army of glowing, thermonuclear soldiers. The Yinsen cameo. The opening music, which cracked me up and confused my 16 year old friend. Pepper Potts in the Iron Man suit.

Conclusion: I enjoyed the movie. Ignoring the inadequate character development, and the disregard of Extremis and Mandarin canon, it wasn’t a bad film. The action was good, the humor and witty one-liners were fantastic, and the effects rocked. On the production side, the directing was great, the acting was superb, and the plot was intriguing. I think I would have preferred to see a different story told here, but I’m content with the story I got.

My rating: A-

[all photos belong to Marvel, and were found via (in order) zap2it.com, mashable.com, and zap2it.com]

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What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II

I went ahead and changed the name of my blog; apparently “Geek & Sundry” is a phrase used by others, and I didn’t want to be associated with them. So now I am the Nomadic Geek, which I think is much more fitting.

 Me, sunburned. Hanauma Bay, Hawaii. March 2013.

I decided to start this blog because of a conversation with some friends on Facebook. I’d made a post about an upcoming trip to New Zealand, where I’ll get to visit one of the Lord of the Rings-slash-The Hobbit sets, and a friend mentioned that he was interested to read about my adventures. That’s right, adventures, plural. Because after a two week trip across the Pacific to visit Middle Earth, I’ll be jetting off to Wales to visit the home of Doctor Who and Torchwood, before heading back to the United States for San Diego Comic Con.

Three geek Meccas, in under three months.

But those who know me would say that this isn’t unusual; I rarely stay in one place for too long, and I have a bad habit of getting an idea into my head and then actually following through with it… sometimes with surprising results! In 2010, that idea-following took me to Antarctica, where I proceded to spend much of the next two years at either the South Pole or McMurdo Station on the Antarctic coast.

Sunset at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. October 2012.

Flinders St. Station, Melbourne, Australia. February 2013.

The first trip is less than three weeks away, but I’ll blog assorted geekiness until then. Next up, review of Iron Man 3!

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May the fourth be with you!

May the Fourth, aka May 4, 2013, aka Star Wars Day, aka Free Comic Book Day. Probably not a bad choice of a day to start a new blog called Geek & Misc the Nomadic Geek.

My friend Rue once told me that I was the geekiest person she knows. I’m not ashamed to admit that I was incredibly proud to receive that title. I like comic books and video games and science fiction and robots. I make an annual pilgrimage to the San Diego Comic Convention. I have very strong opinions about fictional characters. I am, in no uncertain terms, a geek.

Thus, a blog. About geek things.

And on that note, let’s talk about Free Comic Book Day.

The first Saturday of May is an international event celebrating local comic book stores. As the name of the event may suggest, comic stores around the world hand out a fantastic selection of free comics (made especially for FCBD) to anyone interested. There are parties, costume contests, sales on regular stock… it’s like Christmas for Geeks.

Last year, I introduced a group of friends to FCBD. They were (understandably) skeptical of what I was describing. They just give you free comic books? they asked. Are you sure this is a real event? It might sound too good to be true, but it’s not! To quote from the FCBD website, “publishers apply to provide comic books at cost to retailers, who in turn give them away for free”. Simple as that!

But the best part of FCBD is getting out and supporting your local comic book store. The last two years, I’ve visited Lee’s Comics in Mountain View, CA.

 Standing in line to get our free comics

 The haul: freebies, plus a couple of regular stock items that I’ve been wanting for a while

I was too distracted by the crowds and the comics to take more pictures, so I’ll direct you to a blog post from last year’s FCBD, written by my friend Pablo.

(And a very happy May the Fourth to you! But don’t party too hard on Cinco de Mayo, or this Monday may be Revenge of the Sixth…)

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