Touching the Art

I just became aware of a new web series from Ovation called “Touching the Art”. Thanks to Netflix I have watched a few series about art, but none have been as amusing as “Touching the Art” and that is thanks to host Casey Jane Ellison. Ellison is the star of the VFILES original web series “What the F*shion?” As an artist, her work has been commissioned by MOCA in Los Angeles and she has presented videos and animation at the New Museum, MoMA PS 1 and Museum of Art and Design. She is also a comedian and her blunt, comedic delivery of questions just rubs me the right way.

The episodes are just a little over 6 minutes but they pack A LOT in that little bit of time. First off, the two episodes I’ve seen have a spoken, unspoken, feminist message by having all female panels. So you have that, bam. Then in the first episode they discuss the nature of celebrity and its relationship with art, is art accessible and available to everyone, what the heck is art, and if you can believe it, they manage to cover more than that!

But don’t just take my word for it, check out episode one of “Touching the Art” right now!

Television and Film

A cool sounding PBS show was brought to my attention recently, it’s called “On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival”. It is currently in its fourth season and we all should be watching and here are 5 reasons why:

1. Support the Public Broadcasting System. They’re there for more than Sesame Street people!

2. The Austin Film Festival is bad ass. If they’re involved you know it’s a good time.

3. The third episode of the season features veteran screenwriters John August (X-Men First Class, Thor) and Ashley Miller (Big Fish, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory) deconstructing the 1979 film Alien’s pacing, tension, and craftsmanship.

4. In case that wasn’t enough, the fourth episode features House of Cards creator, Beau Willimon, who discusses writing for Netflix, working with David Fincher and delving into the psychology of narrative power struggles.

5. Do my endorsements mean anything to you?

Check with your local PBS stations to see if they carry “On Story”. However, if they don’t, there is no need to despair! You can watch episodes and clips at

Illy Presents a Liberatum Film

Those seeking creative inspiration should look no further, illy, the Trieste based Italian coffee company, is presenting Inspiring Creativity, a compilation of interviews captured on film by global multidisciplinary cultural organization Liberatum, which explores what creativity means and the catalysts that inspire it.

Featuring 21 artists and cultural figures from art, fashion, film, design, technology and music — Inspiring Creativity is an insider’s perspective on inspiration from the minds of well-known creative personalities including: Hans Zimmer, Inez and Vinoodh, James Franco, Joan Smalls, Johan Lindeberg, Jonas Mekas, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Karen Elson, Klaus Biesenbach, Lee Daniels, Lola Montes Schnabel, Marilyn Minter, Nico Muly, Mark Romanek, Tracey Emin, Moby, Paul Schrader, and Richard Saul Wurman.

Through the authentic interpretation and responses from these individuals, the overall project communicates what inspires creative thinking and behaviors for nurturing inspiration, while provoking thoughts on how culture, society, and technology continue to affect creativity.

You can view the 12 minute film right here:

Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue

Guess who is feeling fancy this February? This gal! And why? Because just like my heroes over at Go Fug Yourself, Vanity Fair sent me an advance image of the cover of Vanity Fair’s 20th anniversary Hollywood issue. Little did the classy folks at Vanity Fair realize how I was going to give my readers the short geek interpretation of their cover.

Let’s go to the cover, shall we?

Here it is!

We’ve got Chiwetel Ejiofor all the way to the left. Surely he’s there for his performance in “12 Years a Slave”, but I don’t care even the slightest about that. For us Browncoats he’s The Operative in the film “Serenity”. The next handsome gent with Julia Roberts in his lap is Idris Elba. I’ve got to assume he’s on the cover for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”. However all of us geeks are excited to see him because he starred in, say it together now, “Luther”! Also, hubba hubba! Thanks to “Dallas Buyer Club’s” 6 Oscar nominations Jared Leto is front and center on the cover, and women of a center age know Jared Leto better as Jordan Catalano from “My So-Called Life”. Your band 30 Seconds to Mars can release as many albums as you want, and you can star in as many movies that you can get cast in, but you will always be freakin’ Jordan Catalano to us.

Lastly, standing in the middle like the glorious beacon of awesome that she is, Lupita Nyong’o. I know this actress entirely from her dazzling beauty and amazing fashion sense. In terms of Hollywood, kudos may be in order to her stylist. This is seriously sad, but it wasn’t until I looked her up on that I learned she was in “12 Years a Slave”. Until about 5 minutes ago I only knew Lupita Nyong’o for being a woman who can do no wrong when it comes to dressing for the red carpet. I had no idea why she was walking those carpets. This isn’t traditional geek, but it touches on my fashion geekness. (Did I mention my love for Go Fug Yourself?)

But wait! I’ve got a little something more. Not only was Vanity Fair kind enough to share their cover image but they also sent along a video of some behind the scene footage of the photo shoot! Getting to watch world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz work is a special treat. I’ve been a fan of hers since high school!

Consider this an early Valentine’s gift from Vanity Fair to Magical Buffet readers!

Geek Month in Review: November 2013

by JB Sanders

On to Turkey Day!

Castle for Sale — Cheap!
At only $179,000, I mean cheap. Nestled in the Helderberg mountains of New York State, this little artistic ruin is a perfect get-away retreat.

Tiny Robots
Here’s a company making modular robot parts you fit together to create any robot you can imagine. And have a module for. Check out the video, it’s pretty cool.

Interactive 3D Interface
Behold another glimpse of the future — or a really odd off-shoot that never goes anywhere. Tough to say sometimes. Scientists at MIT’s Media Lab have developed a primitive interface for interacting with digital objects in 3D — not holograms, actual physical moving objects. Watch the video.

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Supertrain
New York to Montreal in 35 minutes? Yes, please.

Dr Who at 50
The show started 50 years ago, and is still going, making it the longest-running SciFi show on Earth television. Here’s a nice retrospective of the show, focusing on the TARDIS, from the BBC.

Real Photos, or Miniatures with Perspective?
Take some very cool model cars, add some fake terrain, and then get the perspective JUST right in front of some real buildings: what do you have? Some amazing photos.

Not the Most Ideal Writing Situation
Still, the data collected should be interesting. A Dutch writer is donning a cap full of electrodes every time he sits down to write his latest novel. Scientists plan on pouring over the data collected this way, and then doing the same thing to 50 readers as they peruse the novel. What will they find?

Thousand-Year-Old Forest Discovered Under Glacier
In Alaska, scientists have uncovered a forest that last saw the light a thousand years ago.

Full-Scale Millenium Falcon Built for Star Wars VII
What do you call that? It’s not a model — maybe a “replica”? Anyway, JJ Abrams had it built (so the rumor goes) for filming. It’s a 1:1 scale set.

Abandoned Sites Ready-Made for Your Villainous Lair
Yeah, ok, it’s another Cracked article, but it’s so, so much fun! Villainous HQs nearly ready for move-in. Just need to add that laser fence.

Amazon Brings the SciFi
Want that really cool new smart-phone? Don’t want to wait for it? Order it with Prime Air shipping, and watch the helicopter drone drop it off in 30 minutes. Think I’m talking about some futuristic science fiction world where electronics, books or any other smallish item can be delivered in the same time the pizza delivery ninjas can get you a hot pizza? Nope. Amazon is really actually working on delivery drones, and a promised 30 minute delivery time. Watch the video.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Geek Month in Review: October 2013

By JB Sanders

Fall is here.

Fun Victorian Phrases
For those linguistic geeks among us, here’s a review of a Victorian slang dictionary. It brings such fun phrases as “suitable for electioneering purposes” (referring to an egg that’s gone bad, for “the exercise of projecting them at antagonistic candidates”), or “bags o’ mystery”, referring to sausages.

20 Trivia Bits On the X-Files
So, to make some of us feel old, the TV show The X-Files premiered 20 years ago. In honor of that, some random trivia bits about the show and its creators.

Every First Edition of the James Bond Novels
Ian Fleming’s seminal novels all in one virtual place. In full color, with original covers. Pretty nifty.

Cube Robots
Ignore the stupid headline — while they are “self-assembling”, it’s only in that the cubes can be told to arrange themselves together in groups, not actually build new robo-cubes. Still, they’re pretty neat.

Fearsome Galloping Robot
When the robot wars come, this will have been your preview. Or at some point we’ll get mechanical, robotic horse-racing. Either way.

Printing a Satellite
Times were, you had to build those communications (or spy) satellites by hand, took years, and cost millions. Nowadays, we’re aiming to just print those suckers whole cloth.

Why the Number 1729 Matters — Futurama!
Apparently Futurama has mathematicians on their writing staff, and as you probably already know, the slip sly (and not so sly) math references into every episode.

For the full rundown on math in Futurama

What a Strange Place Memory Is
Read about the man who stopped being able to make new memories. He could recall his past, up to a point, but everything after that stopped happening for him. Tragic, but also one of the foundation rocks of our understanding of the brain and how memory works.

Remember the Game Myst?
Yeah, or Riven? The same creators are back and the screenshots are crazy. This time, they’re using kickstarted to fund the project, instead of finding a traditional publisher. Check it out.

Aliens in 2001: A Space Odyssey
Yup, we almost had actual, walking-around aliens in the movie, until Carl Sagan talked Kubrick and Clark out of it.

NASA’s Pumpkin-Carving Contest
Yup, rocket scientists carving pumpkins. You know this is gonna be good. Yes, there’s a video.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Geek Month in Review: July 2013

By JB Sanders

Scorching July…

Weird Things in Urban Environments
What weird things, I hear you ask? There’s the over 500 dogs living in the Moscow subway system, or the City Below Kansas City (businesses and storage, mostly) in the old limestone mines, or Thames Town, which is a completely artificial English town just outside Shanghai. Plenty of urban weird to go around. How about the town in Pennsylvania that has been on fire since 1962, and will probably keep burning for another 250 years? Or the abandoned island city of Gunkanjima? It looks a lot like that dream city from Inception, actually.

The Right Way to Rehabilitate a Quarry
Those folks in China sure know how to revitalize an abandoned quarry: build a nearly billion-dollar hotel/resort inside it. With a 100m waterfall visible from all the rooms. Extra bonus points: looks like a James Bond villain’s lair

That’s Not a Train Set, This is a Train Set
Ever wonder what the greatest model train setup in the world would look like? Think you’ve already seen it? Nope.

Sci-Fi Cooking
First episode of this YouTube series? Cooking Klingon Gagh and Blood Wine.

Robot Spider, Check
So this company has a robot spider for sale, or you can order the plans to print it from your handy 3D printer. It comes with an eye camera in the thorax. That’s not creepy at all, right?

Magnetic Levitation & Mobius Strip Tracks
Scientist shoots a video of not only a “train” floating along a track in the shape of a Mobius strip, but also explains everything. It’s Science-y!

Beer Labels in Motion
I don’t know if this is geeky or just plain weird. Some inventive person has taken clever microbrew beer labels and animated them. How long before we have active-display labels on products?

How to Be Invisible to Mosquitos
The answer: wear the special patch that exudes a chemical that confuses a mosquito’s CO2 sense. That’s how they find you, the CO2.

Details of the Siberian Princess’ Tattoos
See the designs of the Siberian Princess, preserved for several millennia in the permafrost.

New Star Control Game?
Some of you, those of you old enough to remember a computer game from 20+ years ago, may remember the ship-to-ship combat and strategy game Star Control. Well, someone acquired the rights to it and is looking to make a sequel.

Mid-Air Haptic Interface
So the folks at Disney Research (did you know that Disney had an R&D department?) are working on a haptic response interface that works by using puffs of air to provide feedback for systems that rely strictly on hand and body motions (like Microsoft’s Kinect).

Largest Virtual Space Battle Ever
You know it’s a New Geek World when giant space battles are reported on the BBC’s front news page. Eve Online held a 4000-player space battle between two of its largest factions for control of a few systems’ worth of resources. Which is pretty neat.

Beethoven on the Theremin
Here’s an orchestral arrangement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony done on 167 theremins and 1 piano.

That’s Not a Snow-blower!
This is a snow blower. Brought to you by Switzerland, the land that doesn’t do things by halves.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

The 90s Were Totally Sweet

When I was given the chance to review “The Totally Sweet ‘90s: From Clear Cola to Furby and Grunge to ‘Whatever,’ the Toys, Tastes, and Trends That Defined a Decade” I thought, sure the 90s were fun but do we really need a book devoted to them? I mean, it’s so recent. Then it hit me. The 90s were actually quite a while ago. You know, I graduated from high school in the mid-nineties. You know what else? I’m getting seriously old. What the hell universe?

Where was I? Oh yeah, “The Totally Sweet ‘90s”. Holy crap there was a lot of stuff that happened in the nineties and authors Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont manage to squeeze it all in to one book! Each entry includes a status to let you know what’s going on with it now and also a fun fact. But I know what you’re thinking, Rebecca, what’s in that fun little book that you’ll share?

Hmmmm, shall it be Pogs? Or perhaps “Clarissa Explains it All”? Maybe Zima? Possibly “The Adventures of Pete and Pete”? However, I’ve chosen perhaps my favorite thing……that’s right readers, “Pop Up Video”.

The 1990s were all about multitasking, and music videos were no exception. Why just veg out in front of an ordinary video when you could watch a video paired with “Beavis and Butt-Head” commentary or one adorned with “Pop Up Video’s” cartoony word bubbles?

The best pop-ups told you something hilarious like one on a Rick Astley video pointing out a dancer who never learned the steps, or confiding that the director and producer had a two-hour fight about whether Astley should roll up his sleeves. Awesomely, the writers of the pop-ups seemed to have the same bemused contempt for the music industry as the rest of us, never failing to point out where the producers cheaped out on a set or the singer was replaced with a stand in.

Watching “Pop Up Video” was like kicking back with your friend with your friend who worked as the third director’s assistant and letting him dish about the scene where Meat Loaf fell off his chair or snark that Dexys Midnight Runners fired their drummer midway through the shoot. The pop-ups were like musical footnotes, but footnotes that were more often entertaining than the real text.

Status: “Pop Up Video” popped off the air for a time in 2002 but was revived by VH1 in 2011.

Fun Fact: “Pop Up Brady” gave the pop up treatment to old “Brady Bunch” episodes. One pop-up on the famed Kings’ Island episode claims Robert Reed saved the cast’s life by spotting a poorly mounted camera that would have flown off a roller coaster and possibly killed the actors.

Pop Up Sugar Ray

With concise, but entertaining write ups, that include updates on where they are now and tidbits of trivia; “The Totally Sweet 90s” is a great party book. An amusing stroll down memory lane, reminding us of the good (“Clerks”), the bad (“Mighty Morphin Power Rangers), and the ugly (Gak).

Geek Month in Review: June 2013

By JB Sanders

Summer, summer, summer…

That’s Not a Train
When the US Army wants an overland train that doesn’t need tracks in 1950, they build this.

Clockwork Automaton from the 1500’s
It’s a clockwork monk, who prays, does his rosaries and kisses his bible.

Lost Egyptian City Uncovered
And not from the “sands of time”, either. It was a major port city near Alexandria and was submerged centuries ago during an earthquake. It’s now below water. They’ve discovered it 13 years ago, and have been steadily uncovering statues, shipwrecks, anchors and tablets. Plus some mummified cats — so you know it’s Egyptian! Spectacular photos and some raw underwater video included.

The Sun Still Hasn’t Set on the British Empire
No, really. There are enough British Overseas Territories that it’s still the case that the sun doesn’t set on British soil. Kind of makes you wonder if it was a colonial land grab, or the monarchy made some kind of sketchy deal with a Faerie Lord that they’d give up their throne if the sun ever set on their Empire, and then set about making sure it would never, ever happen.

Geekiest Location on Earth?
It’s immediately recognizable to just about everyone on Earth — well, ok, except those few who haven’t seen the Star Wars movies. See photos of the outdoor set used to film Star Wars (1976) as it looks today.

Original Series Star Trek, New Episodes (sort of)
So a bunch of people got together to fill a hole that’s been there in SF fandom for decades: the final two seasons of Star Trek’s “Five year mission”. They’re showing online, of course, because this is the 21st Century, but otherwise, it’s right out of the 1960’s — lighting, makeup, effects, story-line. Take a look.

Bomb Shelter Found in Backyard from 1961
Inside: perfectly preserved (mostly) examples of typical household products, and some really old issues of Analog magazine to while away the hours. Fun discovery to stumble across in your back yard, huh?

Boating in Lakes of Not-Water
What would it be like to paddle on a lake of mercury? Not as cool as you’d think, especially if you’re in an aluminum boat.
Best quote: “Liquid tungsten is so hot, if you dropped it into a lava flow, the lava would freeze the tungsten.”

The Voynich Manuscript — Again
Ah, the Voynich Manuscript — variously described as a hoax that won’t stop hoaxing, a masterpiece of alchemical knowledge (which no one can read) and a book of herbal remedies written by a madman (or woman). Well, some linguistic scientists have run a statistical analysis of the language in the book and concluded that although they haven’t yet deciphered it, the text appears to be a real language of some kind. The article also has some nice higher-res pictures of the book.

If the Sky Was More Interesting
It would also be a little more terrifying. An artist’s conception of what the sky would look like if various planets were as close to Earth as the moon is now.

Secret Societies, Airships and Coded Notebooks
This article has everything! So some artist found the notebooks of a man who died in 1923 in a junkshop in 1969, and realized that the detailed drawings and coded notes were — amazing! Was the guy crazy? A secret genius? A member of a secret society of airship designers? Or was he the earthly representative of a an alien entity?

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:

Wizard Hunters Needs You

Do you enjoy the original movies and television series on the SyFy network? Have you heard of the web series Wizard Hunters? If you haven’t checked it out, you’re missing out. Per their website:

Inspired by fantasy films like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, “Wizard Hunters: The Series” is a fantasy web series about Crystal, a young girl discovering that she plays a vital role in an extraordinary world she never knew existed. Set in our contemporary time, wizards, sorceresses, and vampires battle for control in a war that has been waging for centuries. “Good” and “Evil” find new definition and shades of ambiguity. As the series unfolds, several journeys of personal identity and love are discovered, lost, and avenged. It is an epic story told through high-action and special effects. “Wizard Hunters” is an intriguing ride for the whole family!

I was quite impressed by the level of special effects used. Wizard Hunters aren’t some guys who got together with a video camera to play at making a web series. This has some top notch special effects, a serious story line, great costuming, and some wonderful acting. I particularly enjoyed Bob Barr as Orion.

You can watch the first episode right here. It’s only five minutes and 21 seconds.

If you enjoyed what you saw, you should know TWO things. ONE, you can watch the rest of the series for free at TWO, they’re currently trying to raise money to do a second season because doing free to watch episodes that look that sweet don’t come cheap. You can check out their Kickstarter to see what rewards you get for donating some cash to the cause here.

Does American Dad Reflect America?

“But you told me we hate the gays,” Steve questions.

“That was, A, before I knew they came in Republican form, and, B, before they cut and styled my hair,” replies Stan.

Since the Supreme Court decided to do a big ol’ cannonball right into the gay marriage issue it does seem that everywhere I turn I see “gay”. My email is hitting borderline abuse proportions from the Human Right Campaign, NYCLU, and the ACLU. The online news sites that I read have obviously been keeping the coverage front and center, and of course the pundit shows I watch are following it closely and so in turn I am too. However when I flopped down on the sofa to veg out and told Netflix to go ahead and play the next episode of “American Dad” I couldn’t help but laugh to the universe when the episode “Lincoln Lover” started playing.

For those unfamiliar with the series or this episode, Stan (who is the “American Dad”) is not selected by his local chapter of the Conservative Republicans, to speak at the Republican National Convention. After watching a pretentious surrealist play about Abraham Lincoln, he decides to write and perform his own play about the first Republican president, to return to the original values of the Republican party. Stan’s play, a one-man show entitled “Lincoln Lover”, depicts a very close relationship between Lincoln and his most trusted guard, Captain David Derickson. The play becomes successful as many gay men come to watch, though Stan (who wrote the play based on Derickson’s notes) apparently does not notice the homosexual overtones of his play. The Log Cabin Republicans invite him to speak at the convention; however, it is not until during a Log Cabin Republican party that Stan realizes its members are gay. He is won over by an elaborate musical number and begins acting more like a stereotypical homosexual male. Further hijinks ensue. (A slightly modified and partial summary from Wikipedia. I don’t want to give the whole episode away if you haven’t seen it!)

What’s I find interesting about “Lincoln Lover” is that the character Stan, an egocentric idiot, learns something about homosexuality in this episode. (Don’t worry folks, it’s a good thing he learns!) The thing he learns has him accept homosexuality, and that carries throughout the series. Upon reflection I remembered that Stan doesn’t “learn” things. There is no evolution for the character, Stan even has said he doesn’t learn lessons. Apparently he does about homosexuality. There has been only one other episode I can think of where Stan has learned something and his character evolved, and that was “Surro-gate”. That episode deals with homosexual couples being allowed to raise children. Again, it’s a lesson learned that seems to stick. (Again, don’t worry, it’s good!)

I think it’s telling that a show that very much reflects ongoing culture has its most socially conservative character learn to accept homosexuals and eventually their right to exist as a family. Legalize marijuana? No. Wife get a job outside of the home? No. Go to church every Sunday? Yes. Homosexuals are people like anyone else? Yes.

If Stan Smith can learn that lesson, maybe there is still hope for our country to come together.

Oh shit. I temporarily forgot the Stan Smith was an animated character in a cartoon. We’re probably doomed.

FYI – “American Dad” is available for streaming on Netflix and you can view the older season on Hulu Plus. The episodes I talked about today were “Surro-Gate” Season 3, Episode 7 and “Lincoln Lover” Season 2, Episode 4.