Don't ever, for any reason, do anything to anyone, for any reason…

Let me start off by stating my love for Will Ferrell.  His comedic timing is nothing short of brilliant.  His ability to create nonsensical and awkward characters is better than anyone around today.  He single handedly saved Saturday Night Live after the departure of Carvey, Myers, Sanders, Farley, Spade, and Hartman.  After he left, they should’ve just shut the lights off.  There’s nothing he can’t do.

That being said, here’s something he can’t do:  He can’t replace Michael Scott.  Michael’s politically incorrect leadership skill always left us yearning for more.  That’s what she said.

Michael Scott warning us about the realities of prison life.

My wife and I have seen every episode of The Office (which has been on since 2005).  It is actually the only show we watch on NBC.  The uncomfortable, embarrassing, and often self-inflicted situations that Michael gets into can’t be replicated.

Ferrell shouldn’t feel bad about that.  Sir Lawrence Olivier couldn’t even fill this acting gap.  Steve Carell just has something that we need every Thursday night.  That’s what she said.  His charm made you feel sorry for him instead of getting angry at him for his inappropriate antics and pure stupidity.  I know that Ferrell is only a temporary player for the Dunder Mifflin team, but the absence of the coach feels like Notre Dame Football without Lou Holtz.

This isn’t the first show to make a major change.  Some of these replacements have worked, some haven’t. 

Three’s Company did the replacement thing several times.  When the Ropers left the series, they brought in funnyman Don Knotts, with his colorful ascots and polyester Hawaiian print shirts, to keep the tennants in line.  That change worked alright, but there was no fitting the hole when Chrissy Snow left.  That’s what she said. The chemistry was gone.

Holly: The vixen who stole our man.

When Cheers lost Diane, they kept the series going with the new boss, Rebecca, whom it would’ve been a pleasure to work under.  That’s what she said.  Woody, with his simple-minded behavior, also provided a suitable tend to Coach’s bar. 

With M*A*S*H, the number of seasons alone made it impossible not to venture into the replacement field.  You had Trapper replaced by B.J., Blake replaced by Potter, and Burns replaced by Winchester.  The chemistry was always good, but always felt different with each departing cast member.

The feeling on The Office, though, is completely different.  The essence of the series is Michael Scott.  The rest of the cast only worked to prop him up.  The series without Michael will be like reading an American History book with no mention of Abe Lincoln, who Michael Scott would’ve told you, was our founding father.

Duane Maddy

Look! Up in the sky! It's…a foreigner?

The Greatest American Hero had ‘America’ right in the middle of his name.   Captain America chose it as his surname.  The title of quintessential patriarch of patriotism, however, falls squarely on the shoulders of Clark Kent’s alter ego.

Superman helps President Kennedy get kids to exercise.

For over 60 years, the Man of Steel has been the personification of Americana within his fictitious fast-paced city of Metropolis. He was truly a beacon of truth, justice, and the American way.  He has been as American as apple pie, McDonalds, and Hulk Hogan…but even Hulk Hogan shed his glorious good guy image to fall into the jurisdiction of indecency and malice.

Now we find out that Superman is renouncing his United States citizenship (albeit an adoptive birthright) in the upcoming issue of Action Comics #900, written by David S. Goyer with art by Miguel Sepulveda.

Superman realizes, during a peacekeeping mission in Iran, that the people of that nation view his actions as an American interference in their domestic affairs.  They refuse his efforts, and Superman begins to see his nationalism as an imposition rather than an allegiance to a shining city on a hill.

DC Comics is good at making a statement with their writing, and this isn’t the first time they’ve used controversy to create concern.  Keep in mind, Superman died a couple of decades ago, only to return.  Bruce Wayne died recently, and Batman comic books are still hitting the shelf every month.  Actually, about the only comic book not to lose a character to the darkness of the grave is Archie.

panel from Action Comics #600

Superman’s departure from his roots couldn’t come at a worse time in our nation’s history.  Not since the Civil War has our nation been so divided, angry, and torn.  This is not the time for Superman to become a globalist.  This is probably what the teens from Liverpool felt when they had to let go of the Beatles.

I have a bad feeling that this is going to be a failed attempt at attention for DC Comics.  I am hoping it’s only a temporary lapse in judgement for the man from Krypton.  I mean, we all make mistakes.  Maybe it’s not a mistake, though.

I have a feeling that this can all be traced back to our national nightmare of electing Lex Luthor as president, or perhaps our nation just isn’t the land of opportunity it once was.  Perhaps we’re just not worth saving.

Duane Maddy

Coffee tanker truck trolley

Well, everybody here seems to be sleepy, maybe even headache-y, definitely craving a caffeine jolt.

So, it’s time to publicly reveal an idea I’ve long advocated. If you want to steal my idea, go for it. That’s what it’s there for. Make a bajillion dollars. Just make sure I benefit somehow.

In other words, please make sure I’m on the regular route for the COFFEE TANKER TRUCK TROLLEY.

I’ll pause for a second here.

I know your jaw has dropped.

I know you’re saying, “What a great idea!”

Artist's rendering

All right, so here’s how it would work. It would be a tanker truck filled with coffee. And it would drive around downtown so you wouldn’t have to take off walking to get your $5 talls or grandes or whatever and probably burn your hand through those inadequate heat sleeves anyway.

So the coffee tanker truck trolley would signal its route somehow, probably like how an ice cream truck does — through music. Except it would have to be cafe music, like maybe some Norah Jones or Coldplay. Well, you’d stand out on the corner with your little mug in your hand, and the coffee tanker truck trolley driver would get out and use the nozzle to pump some coffee for you.

I know, I know — intravenous might be in some ways more direct, but I think we’d need a whole level of insurance for that and possibly an on-trolley nurse.

I’m really full of great ideas.

iPhone tracking, part two

Continuing my post from yesterday, I want to show you guys something cool.

Here in Newspaper Land, we love a good story but we love it even more if it comes with “art.” My iPhone tracking story came with a golden opportunity for “good art.”

Along with news of the iPhone’s tracking features came an application called iPhoneTracker, which plots your phone’s GPS data on a map and marks your locations with multicolored dots.

I don’t have an iPhone (yet) but many of my co-workers do. Daily Mail cop reporter Ashley Craig volunteered to be our guinea pig. After she synced her phone to her shiny MacBook, we downloaded iPhoneTracker and launched to program. Within seconds we had a map of her recent travels to North Carolina, where she attended a friends wedding. Click the image to see a larger version.

One more thing. I find it amusing that Apple is being accused of Big Brother-ish activities when their first major television commercial was this:

I’m waiting for a video where someone slings a sledgehammer at an iPhone, but I don’t think it will have the same dramatic effect.

Flipping for Lidsville

Did you ever have a fleeting memory a some figment of popular culture from when you were a child? That happened to me today. I was thinking about magic hats, as I often do, and I vaguely remembered a weird show from THE GREATEST DECADE OF ALL TIME, the 1970s, about a boy who actually fell into a magic hat to a strange, scary world from which he could never seem to escape.

Through the magic of Google, I figured out what I was talking about. I think my keywords were “boy,” “magic hat” and “TV.” And  up popped “Lidsville.”

That would seem like a terrific name for a hat store. Instead, it was the freakiest show mankind has ever known. I quote here from those deadpan jokesters at Wikipedia: “The word ‘lid’ is slang for a hat or cap (as in ‘flip your lid’), but ‘lid’ is also early-1970s slang for an ounce of marijuana.”

Ha-ha! We have a great idea for a kids show! And we can sell LOTS of lunch boxes!

Like my hazy memory, the premise is that a boy goes to a magician’s performance, is intrigued, sneaks backstage and checks out the magician’s black hat. The hat grows to an enormous size and the boy climbs up to its brim to peer inside. And he falls in. To another world. Where almost everyone is wearing a theme park costume. And he can’t escape.

Naturally, this sprang from The World of Sid and Marty Krofft.

And, naturally, the boy in the show was played by Butch Patrick, best known as Eddie Munster.

The villain of the show was named Horatio J. Hoodoo, voiced by Charles Nelson Reilly. As a valuable aside, “Horatio J. Hoodoo” would be a great name for a family dog. For that matter, so would “Charles Nelson Reilly.”

The DVD collection of the 1971-73 series came out a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, poor Mark, the kid who falls into the hat, doesn’t return home in the end. But there’s still a chance! (Kinda.) Earlier this year, there was a report that Dreamworks is considering a remake of Lidsville.

I couldn’t make this up if I tried. Unless I had an ounce or two of lid. (* See my humiliating terminology error — and resulting loss of street cred — in the comments below. Also, discuss: if you don’t have street cred, can you lose it?)

Anyhow, check out the opening for “Lidsville.” And prepare to freak:

Always feel like…somebody's watching me

Have an iPhone in your pocket? An iPad on your desk? According to stories floating around the interwebs last week, you’re being watched. Apple’s super-popular devices are logging your every GPS coordinate, giving Big Brother an ongoing log of your travels.

Except, not really.

Christopher Vance, a mobile forensics specialist working with the West Virginia State Police, thinks the hype surrounding the devices’ “tracking abilities” is overblown. And I think he’s probably right, him being a mobile forensics specialist and all.

Go read my story about the issue in today’s Charleston Daily Mail, but here’s a brief rundown for the purposes of this post: Vance thinks the GPS coordinates are stored to make it easier for your phone to reconnect with cell towers and Wi-Fi networks you’ve previously used. If the phone needs GPS info, it pulls it from this secret log instead of re-gathering the information.

Also, another main point: you need direct access to an iPhone or the computer where it was most recently synced before you can retrieve any tracking information. Vance says he’s seen no evidence that your phone or iPad are transmitting your whereabouts to Apple Headquarters or anywhere else.

Vance also said the data is almost useless for forensic purposes — it can place someone in a city, even in an area of a city, but not on a particular street corner at a specific time.

Wi-Fi networks are a little more helpful (if the police see I’m on Taylor Books’ network at the same time some witnesses see me stuffing merchandise from the store’s fine magazine selection into my backpack, I might be screwed) but there’s no guarantee Joe Criminal will stop his exploits to switch over to wireless.

NPR’s All Tech Considered blog posted an interesting analysis of the tracking information. Be sure to check out the map about halfway down. The blogger is sitting at NPR headquarters but his phone is recording him at locations blocks away.

If you’re still worried, me and my fellow Motorola RAZR users are always willing to welcome you back to the flip-phone fold.

Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff

This weekend’s premiere of Season 6 of Doctor Who seems as good a time — get it, time? — as any to discuss the question that’s been on all our minds: What is the best mode of time travel?

The options are:

TARDIS. This is the Doctor’s preference. It stands for Time and Relative Dimension(s) in Space, and it appears as an old-fashioned police call box. One of its quirks is that it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. Advantages: Travels in time AND space. Disadvantages: Can get kind of persnickety. Seems to have some short circuits. Police call boxes don’t actually blend in anywhere, so the camouflage aspect seems somewhat ineffective.

DeLorean. This is Marty McFly’s sweet ride in “Back to the Future.” The invention of Doc Brown, the vehicle’s time displacement is powered by nuclear fission. Upside: So awesome. Downside: Requires plutonium. Might anger Libyan terrorists. Might shut down at inopportune moment, requiring a rendezvous at just the moment lightning strikes the Clock Tower.

Legion Time Bubble. The method preferred by Superman’s 30th Century pals, the Legion of Superheroes. The Time Bubble can carry a small group of people anywhere in time and space. Upside: Dude! It’s a bubble! Downside: Must be prepared to cope with Brainiac 5’s smug attitude when he fixes the darn thing.

Phone booth. Bill and Ted use this device during their excellent adventures through time. Upside: Can help you gather personages from history to help you pass your final history exam. Downside: Dude. It’s a phone booth. These days, you’d need a time machine just to find one.

Cosmic treadmill. This is a device used by the Flash to travel through time (or, often, to other dimensions). Upside: Great exercise! Downside: Requires moving at super-speed.

The ol’ use a Klingon vessel to slingshot around the sun trick. If you’re the Star Trek crew, you’ll wind up in 1980s San Francisco. Upside: Save the whales. Downside: Spock in hippie attire. Or is that actually an upside?

Blink really hard. This is how Hiro Nakamura got from era to era during the TV show “Heroes.” Upside: Doesn’t require fancy technology. Downside: Much of the time you really have no idea where you’re going to wind up.

— I nearly forgot one of my faves — donkey wheel! This is how Benjamin Linus and the gang from “Lost” could harness the heart of the island to manipulate space and time. Upside: Who woulda thunk? A donkey wheel! Downside: Well, if you forget about locking it in place, you’ll veer wildly, uncontrollably through the decades, resulting in confusion, nosebleeds and eventually, you know… cerebral hemorrhages.

What say you? What would be your method for traveling back in time to punch Hitler, save the whales or ace a history test?

The god of thunder is not just eye candy

Well, it’s happened again. When is the rest of the non-geek world going to realize that there really are fan girls who appreciate comic books, geeky TV shows and movies and are not necessarily just going to oogle the man candy on the screen?

While I am a geek girl, I do however, love painting on the latest shade of OPI nail polish and watching hair tutorials on YouTube. Plain and simple, I like looking cute. There’s no rule that says you can’t have manicured nails while searching through comic bins.

This is the reason that I skim Cosmopolitan every month for the latest in beauty news. While thumbing through the May 2011 issue in the What‘s Sexy Right Now section, I found this little diddy:

Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Anthony Hopkins as Odin in Asgard.

“Onscreen Sex Gods: In Thor, hottie Chris Hemsworth plays the god of thunder, forced to…who cares! All we know is that we want him to come to bed wearing that armor.”

Really, Cosmo? Really?

I know for a number of women going to the see this movie with their comic-loving significant other, this assumption may hold true.

I’m not opposed to having a good looking superhero. I certainly don’t want to see someone like Jack Black in spandex fighting the forces of evil, but that’s not the reason I will go see Thor.

For the record Cosmo, Thor’s father, Odin, sends him to Earth in the body of disabled medical student, Donald Blake, to teach him a lesson in humility. He is then stripped of his Mjöllnir (hammer) and his memories. Odin later reconnects with Thor and he defends the planet.
 This misconception of geek girls hearkens by to the notorious LA Times piece in 2009, “Girls guide to Comic Con.” That gem contained the following nuggets:
  • Women will be rushing the stage, offering to do star Jake Gyllenhaal’s laundry on those washboard abs that he acquired for the film, since he spends much of it fighting, shirtless or both.
  • Edward and Jacob appear shirtless in “New Moon” so be sure to arrive a week or two early.
  • Alice in Wonderland” alone would be a draw for many girls, but add in the fact that quirky hotness Johnny Depp, right, is set to play the Mad Hatter, and you could have a mad (crazy) crowd of women seeking a glimpse of him on stage.

I’ll be the first to admit Mr. Depp’s hotness, but he’s also an excellent actor who chooses challenging roles. It’s so frustrating that the media still assumes girls only want to see a movie or show because the leading man starts disrobing.

I’m thankful for my fellow fan girls hitting back at these stereotypes. One of my favorites is Team Unicorn’s “Geek and Gamer Girls.” It’s set to the tune of Katy Perry’s “California Girls.” The video also features cameos by Marvel legend Stan Lee and the geektastic Seth Green.

The other Elvis — king of nerd rockers

Allow me to make a bold statement: Elvis Costello is the biggest nerd ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If Elvis Presley is the king of rock and roll, Elvis Costello is the king of the nerd rockers.

Exhibit A: Before he hit it big with his 1977 album, “My Aim is True,” he did data entry at a lipstick factory and worked as a computer operator for a bank. He promptly quit those gigs once the rock star thing started to take off.

Exhibit B: His lyrics are clever, cutting and catchy. Even if he gets a little wordy sometimes, he still pulls it off. Wordsmithery = nerdy.

Exhibit C: His glasses. They worked for Buddy Holly but, if you ask me, we have Elvis to thank for all the hipsters wearing “military birth control” eyewear. You know that wasn’t Costello’s intention, though. He just can’t see.

Exhibit D: C’mon, man. This speaks for itself:

One more.

Skynet is now self-aware

Enjoy your Wednesday everybody…it may be your last. Skynet, the artificial intelligence system built for U.S. armed forces, became self-aware last night. And it promptly started Tweeting!

If we’re to believe the short-lived Fox series “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” tomorrow will be Judgement Day.  Quick, somebody direct message the Governator