Isaac Asimov and WVU

The WVU Libraries system has collected more than 600 of Isaac Asimov’s works and related memorabilia, including many first and signed editions in the rare book collection.

Who says nerds have to be people.

Nerds can be universities!

Well, now WVU is getting props — as the cool people say, or used to say… whatever — in the April/May 2011 edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine.

In the spotlight is a speech by James Gunn, the author of  Isaac Asimov: The Foundations of Science Fiction, at WVU’s Festival of Ideas.

In the preface to the article “Celebrating Isaac,” Gunn notes his visit to Morgantown as well as WVU Chief of Staff Jay Cole and “his marvelous assistant Molly Simis” who “came up with the happy idea of featuring a talk about Isaac, in large part because the library’s special collections have what probably is the largest collection of Asimov materials after that held by Boston University.”

Check out more from WVU

A magical trip through Harry's wizarding world

I’ll just put it out there. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan. But, as was evidenced during a recent trip to Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure, so are thousands of other Muggles. For those of you unfamiliar with Harry Potter, that’s unmagical people.

My husband very kindly indulged my obsession to make the excursion to the newly opened Wizarding World of Harry Potter during our Orlando vacation. I researched the park thoroughly before we went and got a game plan in place.

Now, I’m not usually an early morning person, but for my favorite boy wizard, I made an exception. I hit the floor at 6:30 a.m. We arrived at the gate at 8:40 and were pleasantly surprised they were letting guest in ahead of the 9 a.m. opening. I suspect this has a great deal to do with Harry. We followed the mass exodus of humanity making their way past the colorful lands of Marvel Superheroes, Dr. Seuss and the mystical Lost Continent. We were all on a mission…a mission for magic. Continue reading

Adolescence and alternate universes

Pacey Witter

Forgive me, Joshua Jackson, for I thought you were Pacey Witter.

And for that reason, I did not give your current show, Fringe, a fair chance.

I judged you for Dawson’s Creek, and I am sorry.

On that show, you were Dawson’s pal, Pacey, and also his rival. You both pined for the affections of a girl named Joey. You all lived in a fictionalized version of Wilmington, N.C., and in Season 1, you made waves in your school because of your success with the English teacher, if you know what I’m sayin’.

It was on the WB network, and long ago — a distant dream. Your show begat One Tree Hill, which begat Gossip Girl, which begat … not me anywhere near that demographic.

Believe it or not, Dawson’s Creek is now kind of a grandpa of teen melodramas. And, my friend, teen melodramas do not age gracefully.

So a couple of years ago, when I saw you were going to be on a new show called Fringe, not interested was I.

Peter Bishop

Then I started reading here and there about how good Fringe is.

I decided to tune in.

On that show, you are Peter Bishop.Your sidekick is your father, Walter Bishop, a scientist. Walter’s rival for your attentions is also Walter Bishop — one from a parallel universe and the one who is actually your father. And you pine for Olivia, a federal agent with issues — like the fact that, currently, she’s been possessed by another, deceased scientist formerly played by Leonard Nimoy and thus talks like Spock, which is truly not sexy at all. You love her still.

It all sounds more complicated than a Dawson-Joey-Jen-Pacey love quadrangle, yet somehow it’s not.

Somehow it’s awesome.

After a lot of hand-wringing, your show just got picked up for next season on Fox even though it’s got a “death time slot” on Friday nights (tonight!) And I’m a little worried about your character because he seems to have some sort of date with destiny in the form of a big piece of heavy machinery that might or might not have the power to rip apart entire worlds — not unlike Pacey’s ill-advised relationship with that English teacher all those years ago.

Anyway, I just wanted to drop you a line to say I’m sorry.

I judged you by a teen drama. Your career — and your life — haven’t been stuck in amber like the citizens of an unstable Fringe universe.

Nerds or geeks? Does it matter?

The tagline for this “nerd” blog is “Embrace your inner geek.” Nerd and geek. Many people, including the bloggers here at the Daily Mail, use the terms interchangeably.  Other people get very upset when you do that.

Both “nerd” and “geek” started off as derogatory titles. Over the years, “geek” has somehow broken free and become a point of pride. Geeks are aficionados. They’re experts. They’re the people that invented Twitter, the Kindle and Angry Birds.

Nerds didn’t hire the same PR people. To many, being a “nerd” means getting shoved into lockers. Nerds are the bespectacled, acne-ridden social outcasts that go to prom with their mothers. They’re Screech from Saved By the Bell and Jacob ben Israel from Glee. Creepy, with weird hair.

But we know that’s not true…most of the time. Sure, some nerds have trouble matching their clothes. Some can’t hold a conversation without dropping a Battlestar Galactica reference. But that’s the great thing about the geek/nerd community. We welcome all kinds.

Everybody needs to be passionate about something. I’m a longtime music nerd, with dozens of records, hundreds of CDs and thousands of MP3s in my library. My wife is an agriculture nerd — she’s raised 10 chickens from birth and is about to plant a garden much too large for our two-person family.

I feel sorry for those who haven’t found something to get nerdy about.  Join with us and help liberate the word “nerd.” Because life’s too short to be cool.

"Mr. Worf, fire ….. the flashlights?!?!"

(Disclaimer: I’m a HUGE Star Trek nerd! So, just prepare yourself…)

Every so often, something comes along that really challenges some of your basic assumptions of life.

We’ve all been through them — be it realizing that there’s no Santa Claus, or Easter Bunny, or Cap’n Crunch (though I hear his cereal is staying around).

Well, Dr. Michio Kaku kind of did that to the Star Trek fan in me today when he posted something on his blog that I kind of knew, but never really accepted: We can’t “Fire the Photon Torpedoes.”

Yes, the celebrity theoretical physicist and sci-fi aficionado took to task one of the primary defense mechanisms of any Federation starship — the photon torpedo.

Kaku’s thesis (which you should watch the first part of the video on his blog) was basically this: a photon is a particle of light, and particles of light covered in a hard plastic shell are not a weapon.

By his logic, the effect of a photon torpedo detonation would be the equivalent of turning on a flashlight — meaning the worst damage your opponent could possibly suffer would be a pesky sunburn.

(I find it hard to believe the Federation would be able to defend itself against the Klingons using something that could be remedied with a heavy course of Aloe Vera cream…. This is probably another reason why Star Wars opted to use “proton torpedoes” to fight off the Empire.)

But I don’t really feel that Starfleet’s weaponry problems end there.

In addition to Kaku’s “photon” complaint, I also take issue with the later introduction of a more potent weapon: the quantum torpedo. It’s another instance of using words that sound cool, but don’t really make sense.

After watching Star Trek: First Contact, I wondered to myself (because I have this kind of time), “What exactly is a quantum torpedo?” Best I could figure, it’s a torpedo that utilizes the theories of quantum mechanics to create a wormhole through space-time through which Chuck Norris travels and roundhouse kicks the target, causing great destruction.

While that weapon would be an effective deterrent against the Borg, I doubt the writers were really watching Walker, Texas Ranger at the time.

So, now we’ve basically gutted the two main tenets of Starfleet’s defenses. How now can the Federation fight off an alien attack? Continue reading

The King's Speech — and Ke$ha

It’s not cool to make fun of someone with a stutter.

But when did it become cool for singers to stammer?

Take Ke$ha. Please.

We’re dancing like we’re dum dum-dum dum-dum-dumb
Our bodies go num num-num num-num-numb
We’ll be forever youn youn-youn youn-youn-young
You know we’re superstars, we are who we are!

So, it’s hard hard hard to ar-ar-argue.

Then there’s Lady Gaga, whose very name is a stammer.

I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me
Papa, paparazzi
Baby, there’s no other superstar, you know that I’ll be
Your papa, paparazzi

Her hit “Poker Face” (seriously) starts this way:

Mum mum mum mah
Mum mum mum mah

From there it’s a cool song, but there’s definitely a lot of turbulence:

Can’t read my
Can’t read my
No he can’t read my poker face
(she’s got to love nobody)

P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face
(Mum mum mum mah)
P-p-p-poker face, p-p-poker face
(Mum mum mum mah)

If I ever get a tattoo, it’s going to say mum mum mum mah.

And how about Usher? Dj got us fallin’ in love again. And Dj also got us jumpy.

Keep downing drinks like there’s no tomorrow
There’s just right now, now, now, now, now, now, now

Gonna set the roof on fire
Gonna burn this mother fo down, down, down, down, down, down

Listening to these songs in the car makes me very nerv, nerv, nervous.

I’m afraid I’ll drive, drive, drive off the road, road, road.

Is this new? Or am I forgetting about classic rock that uses repetition to great effect?

Someone from m-m-my g-g-g-generation?


The Who?

Rediscover your inner geek for free

There’s something significant about your first comic book.  It’s like your first kiss, your first love, or your first gray hair.  My first comic book was an early issue of Amazing Spider-Man from Marvel Comics.  I read it, marveled at the artwork, and wondered how the writer thought up those fantastic stories.

The advertisers promised spectacular results if I would buy stamps from around the world, or sell Grit Newspapers.  Another amazing ad was the X-ray glasses that promised I could see through clothes and even my own skin.  My favorite, though, was the Hostess Pudding Pie advertisements because they used characters from the comics I was reading.  Superman or Batman would stop the Joker or Lex Luthor from stealing Hostess pies from some kid, or a helpless little community.

Those advertisements have been replaced in comic books today by ads for shoe companies and video games.  The newsprint paper that once yellowed over time has been replaced by glossy, high quality stationery.  The four-color, cartoonish artwork of the 1970s and 1980s has been replaced with amazing shading and Photoshop enhancements that look livelier than many photographs.

It’s amazing how far removed we are from the days of my first comic book, but I still enjoy reading my favorite titles every week.  I spend hundreds of dollars each year keeping up with Green Lantern and Green Arrow.   I follow the storylines with amazement at how the characters have changed with the times.

Children should read, and they should read books that allow them to explore their imaginations.  It’s a great escape from reality.  There is no better tool for that idea than through comic books.  The first Saturday in May every year is “Free Comic Book Day”.  This is a great time to find your local comic book retailer and help your child discover what most of us discovered as children.

Here’s a great resource for more information:

Duane Maddy: Geek

'Me and Lee' and me

Bionic buddiesI was just reading about a few TV shows in development for next fall when I — and I don’t want to overemphasize this — came across THE GREATEST CONCEPT EVER!!!!

It’s called “Me and Lee,” and it’s on SyFy. Here’s the description (I’m not making this up):

Me and Lee is about a down on his luck 20-something who goes in for back surgery, but the procedure doesn’t go well. Enter Lee Majors, who claims he has the perfect solution. He entices the young man into his ultra high-tech lab and makes him bionic. Majors becomes the unlikeliest of mentors helping the young man get his life back together. Jenji Kohan, the executive producer and creator of Weeds, serves as the executive producer of Me and Lee along with the writer Matthew Salzberg, Allan Loeb and Steven Pearl. Produced by Lionsgate.

Say what? Lee Majors has an ultra high-tech lab?

Someone must have been on weeds to think this up.

Words can’t describe.

But ‘beyond awesome’ comes pretty close.

If you grew up as I did, in the greatest decade of all time, the 1970s, anything with the words “bionic” or “Six Million Dollar” makes your heart race, even as your body goes into a strange slo-mo that — wait, wait, here’s the genius… — is actually meant to evoke super-speed.

Of course, I’ve been disappointed before. The remake of “The Bionic Woman” a couple of years ago made me pretty excited for … one episode.

It stunk.

I’m not sure “Me and Lee” is gonna be much better. As I understand it, it’s a half-hour comedy. Not too sure about that.

Any TV producer who wants to make me really happy would bring back the greatest bionic character of all time, Bionic Bigfoot, who appeared in five episodes of “The Six Million Dollar Man.”

A “Bionic Bigfoot” series has hit written all over it. Rawr!

A fangirl's guide to convention survival

At this very moment, my husband and I are packing for our first vacation of the year. Now, to many families, this means packing the umbrella and cooler for a leisurely lounge on the beach.

While I enjoy the occasional short trip to the shore, I get bored within an hour of laying on the sand. To me, it just becomes hot and annoying.

No, to the Maddys, vacation means sifting through overflowing bins of Silver and Bronze age comic books, hard-to-find collectible toys and attending panels discussing the virtues of Green Lantern and Spider-Man. It’s the joy of going to a comic book convention. It’s the one place where the geeks and nerds of the world can show love for superheroes, science fiction and anime without feeling ridicule. We’ve made several good friends through conventions simply because it’s so easy to connect with other geeks. You know that almost all geeks have an affinity for either Star Wars or Star Trek, so those are always the perfect ice breaker. You’re bound to have at least some things in common with other attendees.

For the past two years, we’ve had the opportunity to travel to the San Diego International Comic Con (SDCC). It’s the Mecca, the Holy Grail for all self-respecting geeks. However, after being nearly trampled in the autograph line for the Big Bang Theory last year, we decided to try our hand on the east coast for Mega-Con in Orlando this weekend. (We’re also including a visit to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.)

We haven’t been to this convention before, so I’m not sure what to expect. I know it won’t have the A-list star power of San Diego, but it should be a fun, less hectic way to get our geek fix this year. One of the main draws for us is the chance to meet William Shatner–yes, Captain James Tiberius Kirk himself!

As I’m loading up our suitcase, I thought it would be fun to compile a survival list for anyone considering a trip to a convention. Even if you choose to attend a smaller, local convention, such the Pittsburgh Comic Con or Mid Ohio Con, these tips will help you along the way.

  1. I cannot stress this enough–wear your most comfortable shoes!! You’ll be walking and waiting in line a lot! Most of your time is spent standing in line or browsing merchandise aisles, you don’t want your only support to be a thin layer of rubber.
  2. Bring plenty of water and snacks with you. You don’t want to be a slave to the overpriced, unsavory, limited offerings at conventions. Bring nutritious options such as string cheese, trail mix and fruit to help sustain you as you’re searching for bargains or sitting through panels. You don’t want your stomach growling in front of Johnny Depp or Jessica Alba.
  3. Bring an appropriate bag/materials for all of your convention needs. This will be your “home base” for the convention. Make sure you pack an iPod/something to read while you’re waiting in line. At most conventions, freebies or “swag” are abundant and it’s easy to pick up an entire backpack of buttons, posters and pens. If posters are something that you care deeply about, you may want to invest in a portable tube to prevent wrinkles. (FYI: If you choose to wear a backpack however, make sure you know how much extra space you now occupy and don’t injure other attendees.)
  4. Consider investing in a portable bench or chair. Buying a lightweight seat will be a God-send in situations where you’re confronted with pulling up a square of gum-littered, dirty concrete.
  5. Bring hand santizer and take your vitamins! Speaking from an experience with the “Comic Con crud,” you want to protect yourself as much as possible. Being in such close proximity with your fellow geeks makes it very likely you will bring home something other than souvenirs.
  6. This may be a no-brainer, but please wear deodorant. Just do it.
  7. Have a plan of action before you arrive. Know what you want to see and buy and always have a backup plan. And make a convention budget. It’s easy to overspend when confronted with beautiful, expensive sculptures of Lion-O and Han Solo encased in carbonite. Also, bring plenty of cash, many vendors do not take credit cards.
  8. Make sure your camera battery is charged and you have extra memory cards. Have your camera easily accessible because you never know who you will see. For instance, we were walking past a hotel in San Diego and saw Rob Lowe standing outside the entrance. You don’t want to miss these moments by discovering your camera is dead.
  9. Bring a Sharpie and autograph booklet and keep them together. You don’t want to make a celebrity wait for you to dig a pen out of your backpack.
  10. When meeting celebrities, be respectful. They don’t want to hear how you want to marry them or hear you quote their movies. They’ve heard it all before. Tell them you like their work, ask for a quick photo or autograph and move on. Usually, they’re more than happy to pose or sign something, just don’t take up too much of their time. And don’t hug them or grab them when they make it clear they’re uncomfortable.

I’m sure there are many things I could add, but those are my basics. Happy convention season everyone!!

Saturday slumber stirs stimulating supposition

 Lurching out of bed on a Saturday at eight in the morning, I gripped a pillow in my right hand and glasses in my left.  I was ten years old and it was the spring of 1985. This was the one day of the week I didn’t need an alarm clock to rouse me from my slumber.  Saturday morning cartoons were calling to me with their theme songs.

I knew if I didn’t get to the color television set first, my sister would lock it on NBC while watching The Snorks.  This would leave me watching The Superfriends in black and white on a much smaller television. 

My imagination was activated, much like a Wonder Twin power, after a week of homework and the school bullying that only a geek could know.  My creativity was spurred by the exhibit of toys that would act out the scenes from the Saturday morning cartoons like The Mighty Orbots and Dragons’ Lair.

Looking forward to Saturday mornings throughout that decade gave me a great escape from an otherwise tedious world.  I could catch up with Superman and Batman on television and then go to my local comic book shop to read their further adventures.  This wasn’t dissimilar to the previous decade, or the decade before.  We all knew of this Saturday morning ritual, and retained its pleasures.

Who would have guessed that the creative juice of the network Saturday morning lineup would be replaced with infomercials in a matter of a decade?  While Hollywood looks to comic books and science fiction more now than ever; network television has neglected its duties to provide an entire generation of children with quality space battles and invisible planes.  Their minds are now molded by a culture of unimpressive data and imagery that will surely lead to less visualization, and eventually a 3-D Smurf movie.  That may be the last nail in the coffin.

Let us hope, for the sake of creative artistry, that a suitable monarch rises from the ash heap of television to replace the infomercial psychobabble before this generation starts buying Ginsu Knives and commemorative coins.

Duane Maddy: Geek