Saturday, July 25, 2009

My (boring, tl;dr, and disorganized) thoughts on Torchwood: Children of Earth

If you are somehow the last living Torchwood fan who hasn't watched Children of Earth, there will be spoilers here. Also, what is your excuse? It's been on BBC America by now, and there's also the internet, and just... go watch it. Now. There may also be spoilers up to current Doctor Who, depending on how I'm feeling. I'm evil like that.

I watched Torchwood: Children of Earth with my uncle (as one does) roughly two weeks ago, and I'm just now getting my thoughts together enough to write about it. I realize how that sounds. It's television. I should not be so affected by it that it takes me two weeks to get my wits about me enough to post some blathering on a silly blog.

But you know what? Children of Earth really was that good, and that sad, and that infuriating (in some respects). Perhaps part of what made it so good was that I wasn't really expecting it to be that good. Before Children of Earth, Torchwood was a silly, frankly not that great sci-fi show I watched out of my loyalty to Doctor Who, and my deep and abiding love of Captain Jack. The shame. The shame. (More on that later.) But Children of Earth was riveting, excellent drama.

I'm not going to go on and on about why I thought it was excellent television (which I did). Instead, I'd like to talk about 1) Season 4 and why I don't think there will be one, 2) Ianto dying, and 3) Captain Jack. Why? Because it's my (and Anna's, mainly Anna's, she's much better about posting than I've been lately, I'm sorry children, I will try to do better) blog, and no one can stop me. (Well, really, Anna could stop me quite easily. Perhaps you could band together with her for a mutiny if you really wanted.)

So, stop one. I don't think that there is going to be another season of Torchwood. Of course, since I said that, someone more on top of gossip than I am will leap forth into the comments and tell me it's going to happen. I'm aware that there is (supposedly) a fourth season written, but I'm not anticipating it happening. I think Children of Earth is a good place for Torchwood to stop, for many reasons. For starters, it is always a good idea to go out on top, and CoE is undoubtedly Torchwood's pinnacle. Torchwood is also not a show that was meant to run forever. Unlike Doctor Who (which can theoretically run forever as you can change out the main actor infinitely) or indeed most other shows (where the show can continue for some time as the actors age), Torchwood is not meant to run past a few seasons. It's a show where the main character supposedly doesn't age (except when/if he becomes the Face of Boe. Plot holes yay!). Unfortunately, actors do age, and at some point it would have to go off the air. Also, with only two people left (and one of them floating off in space somewhere), who's going to run Torchwood? I think that the remaining characters could occasionally show up in episodes of Doctor Who. I'm actually really hoping that we can see a discussion between the Doctor and any of the remaining characters in Torchwood about the events of CoE in the next season, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

So, onto the next one. Ianto. Because I have no willpower whatsoever, and people were tweeting things like "OMG, DAY FOUR OF COE, SOOOOO SAD", I had to go looking for spoilers, so I went into Day Four knowing Ianto was going to die. And you know what? It still made me cry, and I was still really upset by it. But it wasn't until much later that I started thinking to myself that it was actually a bit nonsensical that Ianto had died. I mean, it didn't HAVE to be him, really, in my sad little brain at least. Some people have said that it would have been implausible that nobody would have died during the series, and Ianto was convenient. While this is true, when has Torchwood ever been bound by plausibility? It also pissed me off a bit that what's-his-face scientist man (forgive me, it's been two whole weeks, alright?) survived because he put on a hazmat suit, but Jack and Ianto would, for inexplicable reasons, show up to confront an alien force that lives on toxic gas and was threatening the earth with a deadly virus bearing only guns. I mean, really? Ianto always struck me as the kind of guy who would say "You know what, Jack? I think we should procure gas masks" in that kind of situation. Alas, I am not RTD and thus have no say in the matter. One last thought on Ianto's death: I (and a lot of other people) felt disappointed at Ianto's death not just because he was a character I really liked, but because of my perhaps foolish hope that Torchwood would be an exception to the rule that gay couples are not (in most mainstream film and television) allowed to have happy endings. In CoE, the remaining main characters were couples: Jack and Ianto, Gwen and Rhys. Within the show, Gwen has (to me at least) always represented normalcy. Jack is an ex-time agent with serious issues, Ianto hides his cyberwoman girlfriend in the basement, Owen dies and gets resurrected and then dies again, Tosh isn't allowed to love anyone without them turning out to be an evil alien or being taken away from her, but Gwen is Normal. She has a nice, bumbling fiancee, a life and friends outside of Torchwood, and in early episodes is the "human" presence in the organization. As such, it stands to reason that if someone in CoE had to die, it certainly wouldn't be Gwen or Rhys. Why kill half of a straight couple when there's a perfectly good gay couple wandering about? Yes, I'm being sarcastic and bitter and lots of other unpleasant adjectives, but even if it wasn't intentional, Ianto's death felt like just another unhappy ending for a gay couple. Blah.

I will now try to cast off my gloom to trouble you with one last observation, this one regarding Captain Jack. One of the myriad of things that I read people talking about repeatedly after CoE aired was anger over Jack being "turned into" an amoral, unsympathetic character. To these people, I say: have we been watching the same show? While CoE's portrayal of Jack is perhaps a bit more harsh than that of previous seasons, Jack has (in my opinion) never been a squeaky-clean, unproblematic character. He's a womanizing (and... maninizing? Is there a word for that in English? If you know of one you should inform me of it, it would be quite useful) ex-con man who has lived through wars, killed people, watched people die, and is incapable of dying himself (which is bound to make you a bit messed up). He's not exactly a choirboy. Of course some of his actions in CoE (I'm thinking specifically of, well, sacrificing his own grandson) are deeply upsetting, but I think it's a bit disingenuous to claim to be shocked that he would do something you might consider ethically questionable.

Okay, I lied in that last paragraph. I have one more thing to burden you with. I know it belongs in the "blah blah blah fourth series" paragraph, but I wanted to end with it. I've heard a lot of people saying that even if there is a fourth season, they won't watch, because RTD is an asshole (which he totally is, I'm not disputing that. If you don't think he is, I raise my eyebrow at you and encourage you to read this.) I think this is a ridiculous justification. If you don't want to watch Torchwood next season, don't. Don't watch it because you didn't like the writing, or because you can't be bothered now that Ianto is dead. Not watching/listening/consuming something because you don't like the person who produced it might seem like a reasonable idea initially, but in honesty if we all lived that way we'd probably spend our leisure time staring at blank walls. Is RTD an asshole? Yes. But if there's another season of Torchwood, I will be plunked on the couch watching it faithfully, probably cursing him the whole time. It's the way of the masochistic geek.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The psychological stages of knitting...

For the beginning knitter, just starting into your first project can be an exciting thing. To conceive of an idea in your head and bring it to fruition with your very own hands is nothing short of fantastic. You might expect that you will zoom right through it. However, the experienced knitter will tell you that it's just not so. Knitting, though a simple repetitious process, is a very complicated psychological process with various stages of its own. Learn to navigate these phases, and you too can become an expert knitter.

PROJECT KNIT: What to expect.

PHASE 1: Excitement! (From 0% completion to 20% completion)
In this phase, the hopeful knitter will gather yarn, choose patterns and projects, needle gauges, etc. After carefully planning out the new project (or not... some knitters do tend to fly by the wing...) the knitting begins. The knitter is excited to see the beginning of the project forming on the needles... bold and subtle combination of colors, brilliant execution of simple or complicated patterns, and the appearance of tangible evidence of intangible thought. In this phase particularly, imagination plays a great part in the formation of the project. ("Oh boy! Just finished another row! What's it gonna look like when I'm done with the next one?") The knitter often sees the finished product firmly in his/her mind.

PHASE 2: Satisfaction. (From 21% completion to 30% completion)
In this phase, the knitter looks back on the progress from the previous phase and is satisfied at the difference in how much of the project has been completed. The difference between just having started and being fairly underway into the project is quite tangible here. This phase is the most short-lived of the phases, and often one of the most dangerous, as this is where the majority of mistakes are made.

PHASE 3: Doldrums. (From 31% completion to 65% completion)
This is where the majority of knitters get stuck. The longest of the phases, this phase is often when most knitters begin planning their next projects. Experts speculate that the lack of imagination in this phase contribute to a lack of enthusiasm that often leads to long periods of lax behavior. In this phase, the addition of another row, or several rows, hardly seems to make a difference in progress toward completion of the project, often resulting in discouragement. ("Holy crap, I just added sixty rows and it doesn't look any different!") In this phase, knitters often begin excessive staring at their skeins or balls of yarn in a vain attempt to discern reduction in size, indicating forward progress on the project. If a knitter can get past this stage, he/she has it made.

PHASE 4: Tenacity. (From 66% completion to 80% completion)
This phase is where the most determined knitters will grit their teeth, tell themselves to "Just Do It" and knit their fingers to the bone to just get it over with so they can move on to the next project. Frequent yarn checks are also a characteristic of this phase, but by this phase, yarn checks have begun to inspire confidence in a finished product by virtue of their diminished size.

PHASE 5: Scrutiny. (From 81% completion to 100% completion)
In this phase, the knitter has begun to realize that the project is nearly finished, and imagination enters into the equation once more, as does motivation. One more thing is introduced in this phase that is generally not seen in the project until this time. Careful scrutiny of the project ensues during this phase, in which the knitter searches for major errors in the nearly finished product, and checks and double-checks his/her every move in order to ensure that no debilitating errors will be made in the final stages of the product. Oftentimes, knitters who skip the scrutiny may end up making catastrophic errors in the end stages, resulting in a completely worthless project that is oftentimes torn up, and re-wound into balls to put away for another frustrating day.

PHASE 6: Post-completion
After completion of the project, knitters have one of several options. Many of these options correlate directly with the quality of the finished product. Knitters give quality products to friends, family, or keep them. Products of extremely high quality are photographed and posted on Internet knitting blogs, since many knitting junkies tend to be blog junkies as well. Less quality products are often kept for the knitter, tossed in a dustbin, or given to friends or family the knitter doesn't much care for.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Successful preparation for and navigation of these psychological phases can give the aspiring knitter a good idea of what to expect. Knit on!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The miracle of mixing again...

I have this weird fantasy sometimes that I'm like some kind of TV or radio talk show host... Something like America's Funniest Home Videos, or some lame show like that. Only, it wouldn't be lame, it would be awesome.
Anyway... I love Youtube. It's like nerd crack. So anyway, I have this fantasy about sharing some of my favorite vids on Youtube with hundreds of people over my imaginary TV show. And the introduction would go like this. (Assuming Alex and I co-host.)

Anna: So... how exactly does one take a lame-ass movie and turn it into nerd crack?
Alex: Uhhh...
Anna: Make it into an action-packed techno flick, of course!

Without further ado, I introduce to you the top five movie/TV show remixes circulating the internet. (Disclaimer: We make no allegations as to the lame-assness of these movies or TV shows.)

Okay, so I suck at the whole 'embedding' thing. Alex will have to fix that later. But the point is that there's almost nothing better to tickle my funny-bone than watching whatshisface's face on the wiggling fat guy, or the bear suit, still with its pissed off expressions. The video-game part is pretty off the hizzle, too. If indeed a nerd is permitted to use words like "hizzle."

They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard
First off - original music = sheer genius. Secondly... Okay. I don't know if there is a secondly. But you've got to admit, it's pretty damned catchy.

Get in the back of the van!
Okay, so considering that this only has seven words, I was laughing my ass off. That's the problem with these... They're so pointless that it makes them hilarious.

But Why is the Rum Gone?
One of the most (in my opinion) overrated movies of all time! And this is its crowning achievement... Once again, original music. So cool. (Not to say that I didn't like the movie... just that it's overrated... ) Also, I'm incredibly amused at the clandestine appearances from other movie characters. (The Terminator?! How cool is that?!)

Benny Hill vs. Eminem vs. Dr. Who
I realize Alex showed you this on the last post. But I feel it is so incredibly awesome that I've got to let it reappear as the number one techno remix. Even if it's not technically techno. Nerd crack, meth and ecstasy. And... other cool drugs. (Disclaimer: I am technically not promoting drugs by that statement. Drugs are bad, kids...)
P.S.: Am I the only one who's a bit frightened by an alien running around in a banana hammock?

And now back to my crazed TV show host fantasy...

Anna: And that's what happens when good movies go bad.
Alex: And vice versa of course.
Anna: Of course, this is just a small sampling of the fricking awesome nerd crack that's out there, kids. So go to Youtube and look around.
Alex: And beware of that Shakira "Hips Don't Lie" spoof... Ouch. Brain hurt.
Anna: And extra kudos to the first person to make a "Hot Fuzz" video.
Alex: And that's all for today!
Anna: Now get thee forth and partake of infomercials pertaining mostly to the "snuggie," the "shamwow," and Billy May's excellent vocal bullying!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Guest Post: Fortune Cookies

Written by Joshua Thomas
Originally published Feb. 15

So I had a fortune cookie tonight with my Chinese and I'm getting a little sick of them.
First off it teaches you how to say some stupid word in Chinese (mine taught me eggplant!), gives you six lucky numbers, and then, worst of all, gives you a shit fortune.

"The most beautiful adventures are not those we go to seek."

"Hey Josh, what are you doing?"
"Not looking for an adventure, and it's still not fucking here!"

So I propose a new type of fortune cookie. One that you'll have to be daring to try. My fortune cookies will skip the lucky numbers, because who reads those anyway. But contrary to today's fortunes, mine would always be correct. Because we'd fucking make sure of it. To do this, all of my fortune cookies would be laced with drugs. For instance, one of the fortunes would say "you're going to throw up." On the reverse side, you would then find the "how to say ipecac in Chinese" portion. Other drugs I'm thinking of using include: LSD, cocaine, amphetamines, flunitrazepam (roofie), ecstacy, and other party favors.

No longer will lame faux prophecy be blasphemed from the innards of cookies. Finally, real prophecy will be read and lived.

Disclaimer: Guest posts to the Nerdy Virgin Brigade are published with permission from the authors. Posters must not be assumed to be nerds or virgins until proven otherwise. The Nerdy Virgin Brigade takes no responsibility for the nerdiness or virginity of guest posters.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day: a guide to surviving while NVB

Valentine's Day is upon us again. Or, as Anna and I like to think of it, Single's Awareness Day. Or, as I like to think of it, Hey, At Least The Next Day Lots of Chocolate Is Half Off Day. Either way, if you're a bitter NVB hag like me, I've compiled a list of dos (sp?!) and don'ts for surviving the big day. 

DO find someone else to hang out with sometime during the day. Being alone just makes you paranoid and bitter. (Ask me how I know!)

DON'T make that someone else to hang out with someone who used to be your significant other or who you wish was your significant other. That's just awkward.

DO eat some frickin' chocolate. Unless dietary restrictions prevent you. 

DON'T drink or otherwise chemically alter yourself into a stupor. It makes things worse, and you might do something stupid.

DO do something you enjoy. Especially if it's horribly geeky. For example, I will be watching Doctor Who all day and then reading Harry Potter until I fall asleep. I may throw in a Stephen Fry podcast. Heck yes.

DON'T give into anyone who tries to make you feel bad for not having a significant other. Same for anyone who tries to pity you. Not that I'd know, but significant others sound lame. I have a feeling they'd object to my talking about yarn all the time and making jokes about Daleks. 

Armed with these suggestions, I hope you have an excellent Day That Shall Not Be Named. See you on the flipside.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Throwdown: Social networking sites vie for users' affections

(By Anna Cole: Originally published in the University Journal, January 26, 2009.)

Like any self-respecting Internet addict, I spend a ridiculous amount of time surfing those delightful places that are fondly known as "social networking sites" - namely, Facebook and MySpace.

As the first trend on social Web sites, MySpace has the advantage of experience. It enjoyed its overwhelming fame long before Facebook entered the scene.

However, fresh ideas bring fresh faces, and Facebook, in its relatively short heyday, has far surpassed MySpace's value as a cyber social gathering.

While MySpace does have its uses, they seem primarily centered on blogging and self-expression. Great if you want to document your life, not as useful if you're trying to keep up with someone else's - which is what socialization is all about.

MySpace's flashy layouts, bulletins and page comments simply aren't as conducive to an active social site. Having to search through one's friends just to find an update on how he or she is doing or who said what to whom is far too much effort.

Facebook's neatly centralized social center puts all the updates in one place, so all I have to do is scroll down to see that Mike is eating some chocolate chip cookies and that Jane commented on Max's photos. Not specific friends - although you can specify some if you like - but just friends. All together like friends should be.

Comments and wall-writing are a few more aspects of the social scene that Facebook has perfected to outperform MySpace, specifically in the areas of status comments and wall-to-wall function.

MySpace has friend statuses, of course, but no area for public comment on them, and I love that I can comment on statuses with Facebook.

For instance, my cousin and I (nerds that we are) love to have lyric and quote wars on our statuses. If she posts a song lyric as her status, the challenge is for me to complete the lyrics in the comments without looking it up.

Besides the obvious advantages of social interaction, photos and statuses - as if we needed more - Facebook also provides variety from everyday boring life by means of pirate talk.

It's easy to get tired of plain old English. One might get tired of "writing on the wall," and might instead get the urge to "scrawl on the plank." You can visit your Bottle o' Messages instead of your Inbox.

The wall-to-wall function for posting is also excellent. MySpace comments are all well and dandy, but I'm oftentimes rather hampered by the format, simply because all it shows is the comment box. I'm fairly scatter-brained at times and don't always remember what I wrote before. So when Pinky-Girl25 leaves me a comment that says, "That's so funny! I think so too," I don't want to have to scroll all the way down her page to figure out what I said that she agrees with.

Wall-to-wall is the antidote to this problem. I can click "wall-to-wall" and see our entire conversation to find out that Pinky-Girl25 also thinks that mustard would be an excellent topping on chocolate ice cream.

There are other excellent recommendations for Facebook as well. Advertisements, the ever-present plague, can be tailored to fit one's interests more closely. If I'm tired of weight-loss advertisements (which I most certainly am) I can mark the ads as "misleading," "uninteresting," or "offensive," depending on my level of dislike for the ad.

MySpace ads, mostly sporting obviously doctored weight-loss and beauty photos, are there to stay. Need a girlfriend? A boyfriend? Perhaps both? MySpace knows just where you can get them, and they've all got a crush on you. It gets annoying after a while.

Finally, even MySpace recognizes Facebook's superiority in the Internet world. Not that they say it in so many words, of course. I did notice, however, that every single innovation that made Facebook unique and desirable has been shamelessly copied by MySpace.

Applications - those cute little quizzes that tell you which of the Jonas Brothers you should marry, or show how many countries you've been to, or let you keep a cute little virtual pet - showed up on MySpace long after Facebook had begun using them.

The "People You May Know" function that analyzes friends that people may have in common also appeared on MySpace within the last few months. I notice far less accuracy in the matches on MySpace than on Facebook.

While Facebook analyzed not only my friends, but my college and area networks to cross-reference and find possible matches, MySpace matches seemed to consist of suggestions based on one or two other friends. While Facebook found friends of mine from as far back as elementary school, MySpace found people I'd never heard of in New York and Jamaica.

I could cite hundreds of other examples why Facebook is better than MySpace, but I suspect I've rambled long enough.

Suffice to say, Facebook's advantages are overwhelming. You can poke me if you think I'm wrong, but beware, I might just poke you back.

Anna Cole is the University Journal Opinion Editor. She can be reached at

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Blogs: Savers of Sanity

One thing that many nerds seem to have in common – nerds with internet access anyway (and how exactly does one become a nerd without internet access?) – is blogging. Most nerds that I know (including myself) have blogs – numerous blogs. If they don’t have blogs, they follow blogs – numerous blogs.

Obviously, this is an excellent trait if you’re running a blog and need followers. Make nerd friends and get a gathering. Networking, chit-chatting, and general blog-related merriment will ensue, creating a good time for all. While this is an excellent form of entertainment, some may wonder why it must take place over the internet.

It is my theory that should one take all the nerds that follow a blog, put them all in the same room, and leave them there to mingle, chit-chat and network like they would on the internet, there would not be enough dark, quiet corners to go around. Somehow, the internet provides security in conversation that simply isn’t present in a face-to-face encounter. Say what you may about a nerd’s social skills, but really – think about it.

Normal people would be severely threatened by the congregating and communicating of socially adept nerds – because not only would we solve world hunger, world peace and nearly any other crisis, but we would inevitably institute fashion trends, quirks and character oddities into society that normal people just couldn’t pull off. Could you imagine what would happen if awkwardness in daily conversation became the “in-thing?” Eddie Izzard’s infamous “Oy! Sue! I’ve got legs! Do you like bread?” would become the norm in societal communications, and normal people couldn’t handle it. Their natural smoothness of tongue would rebel, their cool sense of style would crumble, and they would snap.

Hence, the fact that we nerds communicate via a faceless, nameless blog format, is really a device to preserve the sanity of those poor normal people. It’s all about helping those less fortunate (or intelligent), right? Obviously, even nerds have personal connections with people, so a blog won’t always do it. However, never fear, for we have discovered a medium for just such issues.

Instant message! The text program of the gods is here to save the day. And we nerds are constantly utilizing its amazing functions (did you know you can play chess on some programs?!). Even to the point that two people can IM each other from sitting next to each other. It is my theory that eventually, the need for social skills can be completely eliminated – if only everyone had IM, shopped online and had a good blog as a medium for expressing opinions and sharing news.

Blog on!