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November 18, 2013 at 11:59am

Nerd Alert!: Potty-mouthed sock puppets, Katniss, video games and Doctor Who

Christian Carvajal playfully warns that "Avenue Q" is rated "WTF," so don't bring the kids - or the prudish - and expect "Sesame Street."

Exterminate! This is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.


It's been 10 years since Avenue Q, the racy Sesame Street parody for adults, garnered a raft of awards on Broadway, including the Tony for Best Musical. It uses hand puppets to represent 20-something New Yorkers dealing with the ennui of post-collegiate life. My friends, you are not precious daisies, and the landlord demands his rent no matter how hard you try at your failing artisanal muffin shop. Ain't existence crappy? Perhaps you can relate. So if song titles like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist," "The Internet Is for Porn," and "What Do You Do with a B.A. in English?" sound intriguing, rest assured they brighten the mood of a deeply funny show. I caught it at the Balagan in Seattle. Now you can see it even closer to home, for less than the cost of a grande Frappuccino. So here's another Avenue Q song title you'll find useful: "There Is Life Outside Your Apartment." Take a date, a really cool date who'll enjoy the song "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Makin' Love)." Catchy!

AVENUE Q, 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Pierce College, Fort Steilacoom Theater, 9401 Farwest Dr. SW, Lakewood, $3, 253.964.6710

As we've come to expect from middle installments of genre trilogies post-Empire, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire goes dark. Katniss Everdeen finds herself on a victory tour of Panem with the boy she bent the rules to save at the end of the first book. The Emperor - er, President Snow, rather - announces he'll mix things up for the 75th Annual Hunger Games by making it an all-star tournament of previous winners, including our gutsy heroine and her ostensible boyfriend. This time, the battleground's a circular jungle; and, thanks to the worldwide box office success of the first film, its cinematic visualization has a workable budget and convincing CG effects. I always felt the books lost the element of surprise as they went along, but I suspect the movie series will peak with Catching Fire. On the other hand, I thought Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Almost Human would be awesome, so feel free to doubt my clairvoyance. (Oh, and by the way, Disney's animated Frozen and an action film starring Jason Statham, Homefront, open Wednesday the 27th. Talk about fun for the whole family.)

Trouble, is there's a good chance you'll be too busy to hit up a theater, any theater, this weekend, because either because you'll be bloodshot-eyeballs-deep in your week-old PlayStation 4 or standing in line for an Xbox One. Microsoft's cutting-edge console integrates a Kinect 2 motion sensor, Skype client, voice and gesture commands, cloud computing, and lightning-fast eight-core processor in a sleek, black Imperial torture droid, streeting Friday with 22 optional games including Call of Duty: Ghosts and Madden NFL 25. The real excitement, however, will coalesce around next year's release of a 343 Industries Halo sequel. Xbox One will set you back just shy of $500, PlayStation 4 about $400. Alternatively, I checked eBay, and the Atari 2600's running about $24. Adventure, anyone?


Does it seem strange to anyone but me that Doctor Who premiered the night after President Kennedy was murdered? It seems a bit cavalier, right? Do missing frames of the Zapruder film reveal a British police box on the grassy knoll? Is it true the Comedian's whereabouts that afternoon have never been established? The History Channel may never know. What we do know is the BBC and BBC America have orchestrated a weekend-long celebration of all things Whovian. Expect a TV movie recounting the origin of the whimsical series, An Adventure in Space and Time, Friday the 22nd. Then, on Saturday, a special episode, "The Day of the Doctor," will be simulcast all over the world - including cinematic showings in 3-D. The plot jumbles a crisis in Elizabethan England, Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, a monster in the National Gallery, David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, a battle in space and John Hurt. Best of all, it's written by show runner Steven Moffat, the mastermind behind the BBC's riveting Sherlock. Pop some popcorn and watch it with the kids. Shape new little geeks. Allons-y!

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may you never cross streams by confusing your hydrospanner with your sonic screwdriver. Isn't that right, K-9?

See Also

Judging by the Trailer

November 12, 2013 at 10:21am

Nerd Alert! - Drunken Telegraph, Dungeons & Dragons, Cheech and Chong ...

Richard "Cheech" Marin and Tommy Chong are friends again - and they will their brand of stoner comedy to the Emerald Queen Casino Saturday, Nov. 16.

In researching material for this column, I often find myself questioning just what it means to be a nerd in this day and age. What was once a moniker of derision has morphed into a proud self-identifier - an indication that one's overenthusiastic obsession with cultural ephemera is something to be nurtured and celebrated, not scoffed at. It seems as though anything can be considered nerdy now, even things that were once perceived as jocky (fantasy football, anyone?).

It comes as quite a relief, then, to be able to report on three forthcoming events that plant their feet firmly in the comfortable nerd-space of old.


Over the years, live and public storytelling has re-announced itself as an art form. Beginning with the revival of the oral tradition in the form of the one-man show, the likes of Spalding Gray and Stephen Tobolowsky once more popularized storytelling as a fascinating bit of theater - whether taking the form of hilarious anecdotes or moving tales of woe. Podcasts like The Moth and Risk! carried storytelling further into the public square.

Drunken Telegraph (taking its name from a Rudyard Kipling quote about Tacoma) is a local storytelling live show. Each show has a central theme featuring various Tacomans telling different stories on that theme, with the final act being a storytelling slam from members of the audience. This installment - hosted by the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts as part of their "Free For All" series - is entitled "Clash of the Titans," and will focus on the battles faced by the evening's storytellers.

BROADWAY CENTER STUDIO III, 7:30 p.m., 915 Broadway, Tacoma, free with registration at broadwaycenter.org, 253.591.5890


My first time playing Dungeons & Dragons was as a 10-year-old, with my brother and our friends, and with my dad presiding as Dungeon Master. I was always drawn to the world-building and imaginative nature of the game. You could literally be anything you wanted to be and do anything you wanted to do (provided the dice rolled in your favor).

We were frequently regaled with stories from my dad - an old D&D pro from the '70s - about his early exploits in the game, which included finding a group of Smurfs and pissing on them (Smurfs melt when exposed to urine, it turns out). At one point, a portal through space and time was opened, revealing to the D&D warriors an alternate universe where several nerdy dudes sat around a table rolling dice. The archer fired an arrow at the Dungeon Master, and the game ended.

Tap into your D&D-loving nerdy side with a Dungeons & Dragons meetup at the Tacoma Main Public Library. Your Dungeon Master will be provided for you, I'm told, but you must bring your own pencils, paper and dice.

TACOMA PUBLIC LIBRARY MAIN BRANCH, 1-3 p.m., 1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma, free participation, 253.292.2001


Having spent the afternoon slaking your thirst for dragon blood, spend the evening doing the other thing that my dad spent the '70s doing: laughing at Cheech and Chong.

People who've only seen the films of Cheech and Chong haven't gotten the full picture of what these guys are all about. Yes, their humor is largely druggy, but the characters they played in films only showed one aspect of them. As comedians, Cheech and Chong were surprisingly incisive and clever, weaving through absurdist bits and satirical commentary.

Sure, they've gotten up in years, but Cheech and Chong have retained the anarchic glee that established them as two of the best stand-ups of the '70s.

EMERALD QUEEN CASINO, 8 p.m., 2024 E. 29th St., Tacoma, $45-$100+, 253.594.7777

LINK: Previous Nerd Alert! warnings

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Word, Games, Comedy, Tacoma,

November 4, 2013 at 11:38am

Nerd Alert!: "Thor - The Dark World," BurlyCon, black holes and theater overload

Video game technology and Einstein's work on relativity merge Nov. 8 in the Pierce College Science Dome.

Giving thanks to Odin the All-Father, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

The rumor mill this week is abuzz with putatively inside scoops about the upcoming Star Wars sequels. Screenwriter Michael Arndt moved on to other projects, leaving room for Lawrence Kasdan - the veteran scribe who penned The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark. So yeah, total nostalgia boner. Also, with auteur J. J. Abrams busy in a galaxy far, far away, Paramount's on the hunt for a Star Trek 3 director - and the lead candidate might be Joe Cornish, the guy who made the incredibly awesome Attack the Block. Haven't seen that? Look it up. And you're welcome.


This is the first of two overstuffed autumn weekends for area theater enthusiasts; the second starts after Thanksgiving. Thursday marks the opening of American Roulette, a Theater Artists Olympia/Animal Fire coproduction that uses emotional monologues to tell the story of a school shooting. Friday brings Driving Miss Daisy from Dukesbay Productions, starring Syra Beth Puett as the titular passenger and Malcolm West as the implied driver. Then there's Lakewood Productions' impassioned take on Pride and Prejudice; I'm hearing good things. And don't forget The Weir, a round of spooky Irish ghost stories at Tacoma Little Theatre. Not for nothin', folks, but have you thought about staggering these out?


In the trailer for Thor: The Dark World, Anthony Hopkins's Odin warns of a malevolent darkness. He's referring to the Dark Elves, an army of angry nihilists in the service of somebody called Malekith the Accursed. If that intro strikes you as, well, loopy, Thor and his family of Norwegian demigods may not be your cup of comic-book tea. The plot gets even weirder from there. But after its U.K. release Oct. 30, the sequel managed a Rotten Tomatoes approval rating in the mid-80s, so folks are apparently still rolling with the Shirtless Wonder. Also, it'll be nice to give my wife some pectoral eye candy of her own this week after subjecting her to three "sexpositional" seasons of Game of Thrones. That Chris Hemsworth fellow must live in the gym - and hey, better him than me.

Speaking of pectorals, our stage-struttin' sisters will be in Seattle this weekend for BurlyCon, a four-day celebration by and for burlesque dancers. The event features more than a hundred classes, with topics from costuming to makeup to something called "Google-Fu." You're damn right there are a prom, and a pajama-clad movie screening to boot. So yeah, if you're a member of any of our dazzling local troupes, it's a safe bet your wig and tassels are already packed and ready to roll.

BURLYCON 2013, Nov. 7-10, DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Seattle Airport, 18740 International Blvd., Seattle, $275-$375, 206.246.8600

Or, if you'd rather just think about inconsequential matters like the birth and death of the cosmos, consider checking out a one-hour presentation at the Pierce College Science Dome. It's our very own plane'arium, people! That show culminates in a high-tech documentary about black holes, narrated by none other than Liam "Qui-Gon" Neeson (not in person, I'm sorry to report). Take a handful of stellar masses, squish 'em into a couple of cubic yards, and buddy, you have yourself a good old-fashioned collapsar. Now feel free to make a cheeseball live-action movie about it, with trash-can-shaped robots that talk like Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickman. Hey, y'know what? I'm dating myself. Moving on.

BLACK HOLES: THE OTHER SIDE OF INFINITY, 7 p.m., Pierce College Science Dome, 9401 Farwest Dr. SW, Lakewood, $3, 253.246.8600

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may your fellow astrophysicists look like Kat Dennings and Natalie Portman.

Good luck with that.

AMERICAN ROULETTE, 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, through Nov. 24, Capital Playhouse, 612 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, $12, 360.296.5714

DRIVING MISS DAISY, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 23, Dukesbay Theater, 508 Sixth Ave. #10, Tacoma, $15, 253.267.0869

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 1, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $19-$25, 253.588.0042

THE WEIR, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 17, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, $12, 253.272.2281

LINK: Nerd Alert! archives

October 29, 2013 at 10:00am

Nerd Alert!: National Novel Writing Month and Jet City Comic Show in Tacoma

Jet City Comic Show is a brand comic book and pop culture convention held in Tacoma Nov. 2. Photo courtesy of Facebook


In my four years working for the Weekly Volcano, I'd say I've averaged roughly 1,000 written words per week, which adds up to 4,000 a month. Not too bad. But, in the month of November, a few hundred thousand people will be putting me to shame as they each churn out at least 50,000 words as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Beginning Nov. 1, participants in NaNoWriMo will have 30 days to start and complete their novel. Once they've finished, they will turn them in to nanowrimo.org for verification and receive a certification of their accomplishment in return.

Why do something like this? I dunno. Personally, the very idea of it sends homework anxiety shivers down my spine. But, if you've had this idea in the back of your head that would make for a good short novel, but you've never had the gumption to just go ahead and do it already, NaNoWriMo is the perfect excuse to take a month and force yourself to make some art. There's nothing like having a deadline to wring all that creative juice out of your head - warts and all.

To commemorate the beginning of National Novel Writing Month, King's Books will be holding a "Write In" - a sort of meet-up and support group for NaNoWriMo participants to get together and vent and plan the rest of their novel-writing flurry. Creativity doesn't grow in a vacuum, so it doesn't hurt to meet other people who are working for the same goal.

NATIONAL NOVEL WRITING MONTH MEET-UP, 3-7 p.m., King's Books, 218 St. Helens Ave, Tacoma, no cover, 253.272.8801


Jet City Comic Show's (JCCS) origin story finds it rising up to humbly take its place as Tacoma's premier comic book convention, amid a wasteland of out-of-town events. JCCS fills a void in Tacoma, creating a place for disenfranchised Tacoma nerds to gather in safety, free to browse every rare reissue and alternate timeline experiment and up-and-coming graphic novel auteur. The amount of talent and creative freedom on display at a comic book convention such as Jet City Comic Show is staggering, and well worth the time for even the casual comic enthusiast.

Of most interest to serious comic fans is the programming on tap for JCCS, including an intriguing talk from GeekGirlCon's Jennifer K. Stuller on the mythology of women in comics, and a Q&A featuring Neal Stephenson and Mark Teppo of the epic Foreworld Saga.

Mainly, though, this is an opportunity to take in all of the brilliant work on offer and to add more items to your no doubt exhaustive collection - or to make the first entry into your inevitably expansive library. Either way, Jet City Comic Show is a great way to meet new artists, with like-minded people, and get your geek on in fully regal costume. Any way you wish to nerd.

JET CITY COMIC SHOW, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, 1500 Broadway, Tacoma, $8, jetcitycomicshow.com

ALERT!: The official Jet City Comic show Drink-N-Draw returns on the night before the show at the Harmon Brewery & Eatery in Tacoma

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Books, Word, Tacoma, Community,

October 21, 2013 at 11:41am

Nerd Alert!: "War of the Worlds," They Might Be Giants, "Potted Potter" and more ...

Things are bound to get a little Harry Oct. 29-Nov. 3 at the Rialto Theater in Tacoma. Photo courtesy of Facebook

Listen to us, the children of the night. What music we make! This is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

I've been a fan of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game (though not his far-right politics) since I was in high school. So why am I so dubious about the movie, which opens Nov. 1? Is it because Harrison Ford has been on Ambien since 1990, or because Ender's trailer boasts the best visual effects of 2006? Let's hope director Gavin Hood displays the mastery he brought to ... uh ... X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Uh-oh.


This may seem a tad self-serving, but OM effing G, I'm so geeked out about my weekend plans! Why? Because I'm one of the actors in Lakewood Playhouse's live, radio-style revival of Orson Welles's The War of the Worlds! Not only will we be performing the 1938 radio drama live before your ears to commemorate its - and the Playhouse's - 75th anniversary, but you'll also get sound effects created to order. That's not even the best part! No, we'll also be paying tribute to a certain expat Kryptonian Boy Scout for his silver birthday, plus a horror short called "The Giggler." You can hear me as a deranged German and Gott knows what else by the time our triple feature is through. (I was this close to playing Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen!) It's a fun night out, but beware: you only have two nights to catch it. And stay away from that crater in Grovers Mill! There's something not at all right about that place.

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25 and Saturday, Oct. 26, Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $20-$25, 253.588.0042


The only down side to being in War of the Worlds is I'm missing this year's Night of the Living Tribute Bands, which is a sobbing shame because They Might Be Giants, you guys! We're talkin' Triangle Man hates "Particle Man." Get old with "Ana Ng." "I Palindrome I," you son of a bitch! If that doesn't put a little "Birdhouse in Your Soul," then I don't know what ... other than to note that the Beasties, Iron Butterfly, the Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Specials will all be on the line-up as well. So yeah, it's pretty much pop-rock paradise for Gen X-ers.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING TRIBUTE BANDS, 8:30 p.m., Capitol Theater, 206 5th Ave. SE, Olympia, $8-$10, 360.754.6670


If you're the age of our typical reader, then you grew up with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. They and their fellow Gryffindors at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry have become part of the Muggle world mythology; still, that doesn't mean we can't have a few laughs at their expense. Comedians Daniel Clarkson and Jeff Turner send up all seven Potter novels and stage a live match of Quidditch in only 70 hysterical minutes in Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience.  We're talking 300 characters, many female, with a variety of accents from Beauxbatons in France to the highlands of Scotland. Oh, and what the hell, let's throw in a fire-breathing dragon - live on stage. The show opens on a Tuesday, so you have literally nothing better to do that night.

POTTED POTTER: THE UNAUTHORIZED HARRY EXPERIENCE, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 29-Saturday, Nov. 2, also 9:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1 and 3 p.m. Nov. 2-3, Rialto Theater, 310 S. Ninth St., Tacoma, $38-$59, 253.591.2013

Thursday, Oct. 31 is All Hallow's Eve, so check out the Rutledge Corn Maze in Tumwater (302 93rd Ave. SE), the high-tech Hell's Gateway in Tacoma (202 Fawcett Ave.), Lacey's My Morbid Mind haunted mansion (4548 Marvin Rd. SE) and Halloween Hellmouth in Lakewood (8415 Lawndale Ave. SW). Or you could just build and activate a Speak & Spell radio with your pet alien.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may your enemy's gate always be down.

October 16, 2013 at 11:15am

Future Things Are Coming: Comedian Ian Harris

Ian Harris is on a promotional tour for his first hour-long television special, "Ian Harris: Critical & Thinking," which airs in Jan 2014.

Shockingly, the Weekly Volcano's Nerd Alert column didn't mention the upcoming CFI Skeptics Summit conference. Seriously? The event crams critical thinkers, humanists and skeptics into one of Hotel Murano's conference rooms to debate and collaborate. Not even Bill Nye's appearance nudged a mention.

Also overlooked in this week's nerd column is the Tacoma appearance of comedian Ian Harris.

Harris has undoubtedly been invited to attend the CFI Skeptics Summit for his ability to "skewer commonly held beliefs, taking aim at such topics as Religion, Ghosts, The Paranormal, Comforting Notions, Astrology, Pop-Mysticism, Alternative Medicine, Racism and Apocalyptic Claims," as his hype reads.

But Harris's humor isn't just for nerds, it's a bit punk rock, edgy and irreverent - a cocktail of comedy just right for the Grit City Comedy Club, where he will bust out jokes such as, "I saw a book in the bookstore the other day called Christianity for Dummies and I thought, ‘Oh the irony.'"

Harris is on a promotional tour for his first hour-long television special, Ian Harris: Critical & Thinking, which airs in Jan 2014. The special is already being called "the most original and brilliant comedy special in years," according to those who hype specials.

As part of his tour, Harris will be performing for three nights in Tacoma - as part of the CSICON (CFI Skeptic's Summit) Thursday, Oct 24 and then at Grit City Comedy Friday and Saturday.

I guess the Nerd Alert boys can redeem themselves in next week's column.

IAN HARRIS, 8:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26, Grit City Comedy Club, 100 S, Ninth St., Tacoma, $15, 253.961.4262

October 15, 2013 at 11:00am

Nerd Alert!: Not-so-sexy vampires and Halloween mayhem

Rev. Colin is armed with vampire flicks Sunday night at the Acme Grub Cage.


The Tacoma Cult Movie Club has been raging on for several years at the Acme Grub Cage. It's a home for misfit lovers of films, good and bad alike. Rev. Colin organizes the event, and it brings around curious drunkards to take in cinematic question marks. These are films that range in genre from b-movie prison erotica to stop-motion creature features to apocalyptic excursions into the mouths of madness.

Of course, the quality of films is bound to vary, but the binding element is always this sense of wild-eyed enthusiasm of "Fuck, let's go make a movie!" Whether or not these movies end up being what they were intended is just lost in the addled wonder of creating.

It's October, so there can be no avoiding the necessity to take in some shitty horror movies. Tacoma Cult Movie Club is naturally the first place to turn when it comes to plumbing the extraordinary depths of forgotten horror relics. This Sunday, the theme of the evening will be "vampires." It doesn't really need to be reiterated how much the culture has devalued vampires as a terrifying commodity. They're a trope that's been reduced to abs with teeth, with a good deal of moping mixed in between.

Rev. Colin will not deliver the shabby vampires of new. Although he can't reveal what films will be screened, he did have a statement to make: "As if Sunday nights don't suck enough, the Tacoma Cult Movie Club will be showing vampire films Sunday night. There are so many good-bad options that I am still figuring out the best route to achieve total viewing euphoria for those who love movies that suck."

On a personal note, please do yourself a favor for Halloween and watch either the simultaneously hilarious and moving Nosferatu meta-biopic Shadow of the Vampire or Werner Herzog's gorgeous Nosferatu the Vampyre.

TACOMA CULT MOVIE CLUB, 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 20, Acme Grub Cage, 1310 Tacoma Ave S., Tacoma, no cover, 253.272.1892]


Speaking of Halloween, TheWrap.com reports that of a reunion between Step Brothers duo John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell in a movie called Devil's Night, the release date of which is still uncertain. Naturally, the film is said to take place on Oct. 30, the titular "Devil's Night," where all true mayhem and absurdity run amok before the amateurs come out on the 31st.

Anyone who saw Step Brothers can attest that Reilly and Ferrell have a certain obnoxious chemistry together - Reilly, finally pushing to the fore that hint of comedy that always lurked underneath his performances in movies like Boogie Nights, and Ferrell, persisting in being the goddamn oaf that refuses to do another movie like the great Stranger Than Fiction.

Early descriptions of the plot describe Devil's Night as a movie about two childhood friends who grow apart and then, 15 years later, "put their differences aside and reunite to save their neighborhood from utter destruction," which sounds uncomfortably similar to the recent Edgar Wright joint, The World's End.

Needless to say, there's likely to be a whole lot more improvisational grab-assing between Reilly and Ferrell than there was with Nick Frost and Simon Pegg. I'll leave that to you whether that's a plus or a minus.

LINK: Past Nerd Alert columns

Filed under: Nerd Alert!, Screens, Tacoma,

October 7, 2013 at 1:31pm

Nerd Alert!: Gravity, Star Wars Reads Day, Zero Charisma and Paint the Mall Pink

"Zero Charisma" is an ode to nerds from every realm.

Houston in the blind, this is Nerd Alert, the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

As I write this, my head is still reeling from Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity - though that may be residual motion sickness. The more I reflect on it, the more I believe it's a true thinking man's sci-fi flick, conveying volumes of astrophysics with deceptive ease and slipping inside Sandra Bullock's helmet for unobtrusive first-person storytelling. I urge you to see it in IMAX 3-D, if only the LieMAX at Lacey's Regal cineplex. Finally, an action movie that doesn't reduce matters of galactic import to fistfights or devolve into "we have a situation"-level clichés. Kudos to Bullock, and to Framestore's ingenious zero-gravity FX.


If you've a geek of a certain age, it's highly likely that a chunk of your formative period was spent sitting around tables, rolling multicolored dice and battling imaginary troglodytes. Some of us may, in fact, still dabble in Gygax-style fictional worlds. These folks'll find much to enjoy, even cogitate upon, in the cinematic comedy Zero Charisma, opening Friday. It stars Sam Eidson as Scott, a dungeon master who finds his life upended when a popular hipster invades his circle of gamer friends. JoBlo's Movie Emporium referred to Zero Charisma as "Taxi Driver for fanboys." It played well to festival audiences, who probably spent a few hours around the D&D table themselves back in the day ... perhaps even yesterday. Far be it from us to pass judgment! Mighty Pelor the sun god would never forgive us.


Technically, Oct. 5 was Star Wars Reads Day, a celebration of youth lit highlighting the "Expanded Universe" of books and comics set in that galaxy far, far away. The Puyallup Public Library may be a tad late to the game, but they're chiming in hardcore with "astromech builder" and history buff Cole Horton. He's capping off a series of events by revealing how George Lucas's science-fantasy universe was influenced by the pop culture of his youth. It's a great way to introduce younglings and Padawan learners to the Light Side of both reading and 20th-century history. (And while we're on the topic of Star Wars tomes, check out J. W. Rinzler's massively comprehensive The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, which hit bookshelves Oct. 1.)

FROM GOLDEN AGE TO A GALAXY FAR WAY: A STAR WARS READS DAY EVENT, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Puyallup Public Library, 324 S. Meridian, Puyallup, no cover, 253.841.5454


On a serious note, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and if there's one thing geeks of all genders, political stripes, and orientations can agree on, it's that breasts are the tits. Breast cancer currently affects one out of every eight women. That is simply unacceptable! Please give generously to protect these beautiful national resources. You could, for example, visit the Macy's corner of Tacoma Mall this Saturday the 12th, for a "Paint the Mall Pink" celebration that includes $1,000 worth of awesome giveaways. Coincidentally, the Gritty City Sirens perform their Spooktacular Soiree that same night at 502 Downtown. Check out other worthy events at KomenPugetSound.org.

Until next week, may the Force be with you, may the odds be ever in your favor, and may next weekend be sunny and bright for Seattle's epically distaff GeekGirlCon.

October 1, 2013 at 10:25am

Nerd Alert: A Toast to Frank Herbert and "Breaking Bad" Mega Happy Ending


In recent times, Frank Herbert has been getting a lot of attention in Tacoma for being the most accomplished local boy who nobody knows is from Tacoma. There's a movement afoot to get the Dune writer his own Tacoma park, which has once again shone the spotlight on Herbert. Tuesday, Tacoma's well-received new cocktail lounge Hilltop Kitchen will celebrate the science fiction author's birthday by creating six craft cocktails based on Herbert's work.

A joint production of Hilltop Kitchen, Post Defiance, Erik Hanberg (the man who has been pushing for Herbert's park) and King's Books, the event dubbed "Cocktails Through a Stillsuit: A Toast to Frank Herbert" will feature cocktails with names such as Duncan Idaho, Golden Path, and Orange Catholic. If any of those names ring a bell in your nerdy ears, it might behoove you to get a drink through a stillsuit. There will also be copies of Herbert's works available, in case all those names are meaningless to you. May as well pick up a copy of Dune and get caught up.


As I write this, it's been twenty-four hours since one of the greatest television shows of all time ended its triumphant run of unrivaled quality after five seasons. I speak, of course, of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

Seriously, though, if you want to avoid spoilers about the finale of Breaking Bad - like, how CRAZY was it that Jesse was an alien the whole time? - now's the time to stop reading. Or, if you're one of those people who seems to take some sick pride in having never seen an episode of Breaking Bad, but still like to read recaps so you can keep track of this cultural phenomenon and make little snide remarks to your friends, I will NEVER understand you, and I would love for you stop reading, as well.

Is there any other way it could have gone? Jesse's free. Walt's money is going to an unwilling Flynn. Hank will have the opportunity to get a proper burial. Todd's dead as a doornail (he was also a Groucho Marx fan, if his ringtone is to be believed. Walt died like Jesse James. He will always be Heisenberg - a larger-than-life master criminal, a man who never made one false move.

It was a brilliant finale, a finale that strived unabashedly to please the fans. Not to bring anyone down, but you know that road that Jesse speeds away on to certain freedom? Is that same road that the cops sped in on?

You don't think ... Nah. Let's stick with the Mega Happy Ending.

Note: Pinkman died on the way back to his home planet.

LINK: Nerd Alert columns

September 23, 2013 at 11:13am

Nerd Alert!: Get your geek on Sept. 26-Oct. 2 in Tacoma

Overnight delivery: Double Shot drops 'em like they're hot.

Vive la geekerie toujours, mes amis! Nerd Alert is the Weekly Volcano's recurring events calendar devoted to all things nerdy. I myself am a Star Wars fan, mathlete, and spelling bee champion of long standing, so trust me: I grok whereof I speak.

As you read this, my wife and I are vacationing in the City of Lights, guzzling vin ordinaire and pretending we understand a single word anyone is saying. We'll return by this weekend, but too stuffed with macarons and stinky unpasteurized cheese to do much more than launder our Tour d'Eiffel T-shirts and clear the DVR. It falls upon you, my fellow Yanks, to uphold the honor of Uncle Sam in our absence by acting like ugly Americans and scarfing freedom fries.


My favorite sitcom, Parks and Recreation, recommences Thursday night, which allows me to enjoy he-man Ron Swanson and not-so-he-man Tom Haverford as Yahweh intended: without a damn laugh track. Not so The Big Bang Theory, which also returns tonight, its bleachers at Warner Bros. Burbank crammed with appreciative tourists. SNL launches season 39 this weekend, hosted by Tina Fey for the fourth time since her putative escape in 2006. (The musical guest is some indie Canadian outfit called Arcade something-or-other.) The Amazing Race and a rash of cartoon shows are back on Sunday; for you Showtime subscribers, so is Homeland. After all, none of you law-abiding citizens downloaded the new episode from BitTorrent when it leaked a month ago, riiight?


If you've been in the cast or crew of a play, you know it takes weeks of rehearsal, not to mention the months it took some writer to craft the bloody thing. Now squeeze that process into one exhausting day. That's the challenge behind the Double Shot Festival, which offers annual programs of short plays written, memorized, rehearsed, and performed within a single 24-hour period. I've agreed to brave the rigors of jetlag and lukewarm McCafé to direct one, so I hope you'll swing by to say hi and check out the result. If I respond in idiotic Franglish or act otherwise deranged, back away slowly while humming the Marseillaise.


Filed under: Screens, Nerd Alert!, Tacoma, Theater,

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