October 31, 2013

Nerd News: Costumed characters, Dead Man's Bones, X-Men trailer and more

Vol. 4, Issue 39

Hellooooo nurse nerds! I’m back in the Nerd News saddle today, but I do want to say a huge thank you to TGG for taking over for me the past couple of weeks. (Definitely expect a bonus come next paycheck, Wes.)

There’s been a lot going on in the world of popular culture over the past week, so let’s get started, shall we? (And although I didn’t theme this issue, there are a few Halloween-centric links within!)

In TV news:

Here’s a promo for the new Neil deGrasse Tyson-helmed Cosmos series:


(via)

Tumblr user nathanthenerd has created a slew of great Doctor Who-inspired minimalist art. (Thanks, Rebecca!)

(via)

October 30, 2013

Guest post | Halloween History: Part 2 with Rachel of Things I've Seen And Heard


I'd like to ask you all to again welcome Rachel of Things I've Seen and Heard, who brings us the second half of Halloween history as today's guest post. (You can read the first half here.) Thanks so much for doing this, Rachel!

Alright, so now we've got the origins down. Let's fast forward to World War I and the 20th Century.

Up to this point, All Hallows Eve was pretty mellow, really just an autumn festival, with cider and pumpkins, and MAYBE friends sitting around a fire telling ghost stories, but nothing too extravagant. But during the hard times of WWI, to keep people's spirits up, people started neighborhood and community parties, just to have something fun to look forward to while their boys were away.

Later, during the Great Depression, it turned into a holiday for vandalization, because what else were poor hungry children going to do? There are stories as bad as setting buildings on fire and putting soap on the tracks so train cars would derail. This is another reason mischief is associated with Halloween.


It was getting really bad, so some people decided to come up with a diversion for kids so that, ya know, they wouldn't break their windows and tee-pee their house (yes, this is where that comes from ...). In Anoka, Minnesota, they decided to have the FIRST real Halloween parade, inviting kids to dress up in fun costumes and walk through the streets of town—and it worked! Anoka still puts it on every year and they consider themselves the Halloween Capitol.

Other people decided to throw community parties for children with candies and treats and decorations and costumes, which ALSO worked, keeping the children off the streets and from vandalizing their houses. This idea caught on ALL OVER the country! This was the beginning of Trick or Treat—yep only as old as the 30s, 40s and 50s—crazy!

And better yet, it worked! Not to say people don't still do dumb stuff, as anyone who's been through high school knows kids still tee-pee and egg houses on Devil's Night, the night before Halloween.


So we've pretty much established all the basis of the Halloween we know and love today, but can't leave out the extrememly important elements of TV, MOVIES AND POP CULTURE!

Although there were spooky references in movies here and there, it wasn't until 1966 when It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown premiered on television reaching every home in America—this was when Halloween became an American standard and really becasme a tradition everyone wanted to enjoy. Thanks Charles Schulz!


Fast forward about ten years, and we have John Carpenter's infamous Halloween. This was the first Halloween themed movie, and it was also the breathrough from B-movies into legit horror genre. It was also the start of companies making masks of scary horrific beings, specifically Mike Myers, followed by Freddy Kruger and Jason, etc.


This was also the change-over of Halloween being just a kids tradition to an all-ages tradition! At the start in the 30s, 40s and 50s, it was purely a children's holiday, but now all those children were adults and still wanted to celebrate. To this day, Halloween is now enjoyed by ALL ages! (except high schoolers, because they are obvioulsy way too cool to do something silly like Halloween ...)

IN CONCLUSION
As you can see, there is a long intricate history involving many traditions from all over the world and I wouldn't have it any other way!

And once again, if you have any questions about the history of Halloween, please leave them in the comments.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN Y'ALL!

October 29, 2013

Guest post | Halloween History: Part 1 with Rachel of Things I've Seen And Heard


Continuing with the week's Halloween theme, I'd like to ask you all to welcome the comic genius that is Rachel of Things I've Seen and Heard, who brings us today's guest post. Thanks so much for doing this, Rachel!

GREETINGS to all and Happy Harvest! My name is Rachel Foss, and today I am going to take you on a field trip through the History of Halloween!

One of the first things you should know is that the Halloween we know is VERY new, like ... there's a really good chance your grandparents didn't do any of the stuff we do, like trick or treating. Like most holidays, a lot of different cultures and traditions were combined into one, so let's start at the beginning and break it down a bit.


FIRST OFF:

SAMHAIN (Prounounced "Sow-Ehn," celtic for "November")
The Celtics of ancient Great Britain/Ireland believed there were two seasons of the year: The Light Half and The Dark Half. The Dark Half started on roughly November 1 and was the entrance into a scary dark cold winter, which, if you didn't do very well during harvest that year, could potentially mean that you would starve to death. Because it was a very important transitional night between lightness and darkness, the Celtics believed souls of those who recently died could walk the on earth for just that night. To appease these spirits, they had a great Harvest Festival, lighting a giant bonfire and leaving offerings outside their doors so that the spirits wouldn't enter their homes and possibly take them back to the world of the dead. They're are still groups in Ireland that celebrate Samhain to this day.

*SIDENOTE* The association of bats and owls with halloween are attributed to this festival. If you light a giagantic bonfire, it's going to attract bugs, which is going to attract bats, which will attract owls—all of these nightly creatures hovering over their light became a part of the tradition.


PAMONA
On the other side of Europe in Rome, there was a similar harvest festival honoring the goddess Pamona, keeper of fruits and gardens. During this celebration, which was far less bleak than the Celtics', the Romans left offering of apples and nuts to the godess, thanking her for the wonderful harvest that year. This festival is also where we get the fall past-time "bobbing for apples," which was a common game during this night.


SO, of course like so many other of today's traditions, when Rome invaded the Celtic lands, the two harvest festivals merged, and when Christianity came into the mix, missionaries needed a way to connect with Pagans to turn them to their Christ. So on November 1, they invented All Saint's Day, or All Hollow's Day (hollow means Saint), which honored the Saints that had died. The night before was All Hallow's Eve and the day after was All Soul's Day, which honored anyone who died in the last year, keeping with the Celtic Samhain tradition. They all melded together and we now celebrate All Hollow's Eve aka Halloween.

WITCHES (From Celtic, "Wiccan," meaning "Wise One")


Oooh, I look really good in this hat ...

Anyway ...

The Christians of the time were accusing some women of being "witches," dark creatures who had sold their souls to Satan for special powers—and where did this come from? Well, as usual, it came from a lack of understanding and discomfort, seeing strong independent women do things like ... using natural remedies to heal people, similar to what a homeopath would use today. This is also why we associate witches with brooms and cauldrons, because back in the day, a woman's place was in the kitchen, and she would have knowledge of making homemade natural remedies to help her family and village, and would be in her house with a standard kitchen cauldron that ANYONE would have, and a hearth broom to sweep the fireplace.


BLACK CATS
Poor black cats get such a bad rap for NO other reason than that they are black and tend to be nocturnal, so they were associated with the night, and darkness, and therefore evil! And for some reason it was thought that they were a witches demonic spirit animal. Good grief guys ...


DAY OF THE DEAD (Or Dio de los Muertos)
On the other side of the world, we had a South American/Mexican festival known as Day of the Dead, which ALSO celebrated ancestors that had died in the last year. As you may know, this festival is celebrated with skeletens and skulls, usually decorated with lots of vibrant colors and designs, which were OFTEN built and decorated out of and with cakes and candies! If you've ever thought we got Halloween skeletons from this festival, you were right!

THE VERY FIRST TRICK OR TREAT
They say that the first trick or treat comes from before the 16th century when beggars going door to door would promise prayers for special raisin cakes. People believed that someone who died who may not have been good enough to make it into heaven could be saved by lots of prayer. A little cake is a small price to pay for saving a loved one from the fires of hell ...


GUY FAWKES
Guy Fawkes was this bloke in England during the reformation at the turn of the 17th century. He did not like that House of Lords were all protestant, so he tried to blow it up, but was caught before anything happened. It may sound a little boring, but every year in England they celebrate this day with costumes, masks and a effigy of Guy Fawkes, that is tradition for children to burn. It's pretty much the first time children and costumes come into play around this time of year.


SO now let's move over to us here in America ...

All of our immigrants from Europe brought their traditions and beliefs with them, including harvest festivals and belief in stupid things like awesome ladies being witches (see the Salem Witch Trials), and one of the best traditions we got came in the 19th century from the newly immigrated Irish ...


THE JACK-O-LANTERN
Pumpkins are literally my favorite part of fall, October and Halloween AND also has one of my favorite stories along with it. Back in Ireland, there was a legend of a mischievous farmer named Jack, who tricked the Devil into agreeing that he could NEVER take Jack's soul. So when Jack eventually died as an old man, he was too sinful to reach Heaven, but was banned from Hell and was doomed to walk in darkness for all eternity. The Devil took a sort of mocking pity on him and gave him an everlasting ember from Hell to light his way, so Jack carved out a large turnip (his favorite food) and put the ember inside as a lantern, and was from then on known as Jack of the Lantern (Jack O' Lantern), wandering around in the darkness causing mischief forever more.

So when a large population of Irish immigrated to America, they kept their tradition of carving turnips and putting candles inside around All Hollows Eve, but found that these new bigger American pumpkins worked much better, and basically other people just thought it was a cool idea and started copying them.

If you have any questions about what we've covered today, feel free to leave them in the comments! I'll be checking back to answer.

Tune in tomorrow for more history of Halloween starting with World War I!

October 28, 2013

Guest post | Craft a Halloween movie marathon with Tish of sugar + razor blades


Although I'm officially back from vacation, I had a couple of friends submit guest posts that I thought would be perfect to start off this week. So, I'd like to ask you all to welcome the always-inventive Tish of sugar + razor blades, who brings us today's guest post. Thanks so much for doing this, Tish!

I'm all about movies (and telly). I'll put one on to suit my mood, or to change my mood. And when it comes to holidays? Get out of the way, because I'm running to my computer to make my Halloween/Christmas/New Year's/Valentine's/Summertime playlist to make sure I am in the holiday spirit all season long.

So, when September (or even earlier) comes around, you better believe I am already thinking about what to do for Halloween (and my birthday, which is also Oct. 31st!) including the movies (and telly) I will watch in October to get into Halloween mode.

Everyone has their own style of Halloween they like to celebrate, so for your viewing convenience, I have collected all the Halloween movies I love into several different categories, so that you might choose the movie marathon that suits you. Perhaps you just want some PG family fun, or maybe you're a massive Carrie fan. I've got you covered.

And if you feel that I've neglected to include some essential Halloween viewing, let me know in the comments! I'm always looking for more movies!

Have a Happy Halloween/Tish's Birthday!


For the Kiddies:

Hocus Pocus
If the gif sets popping up in my Tumblr feed over the past few weeks are anything to go by, I'm not the only one who genuinely looks forward to watching Hocus Pocus every October. If you watch no other Halloween movie this month, you must watch Hocus Pocus.

Ernest Scared Stupid
When I watched this movie last October, I had only vague memories of slimy troll eggs growing on a tree, gruesome troll creatures, and a crazy old lady. I was pleased to find Ernest just as stupid and hilarious as I thought I remembered him. Warning: This may be a kids movie, but I still find the trolls genuinely scary and creepy. But maybe you're tougher than I am ...

Double Double Toil and Trouble
For every occasion; there's a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie.

The Worst Witch
File this one under So Bad, It's Good. If you're a fan of terrible 80s special effects and Tim Curry being a creep (because he is a creep in literally every role), then you will love this movie. If, like me, you can't handle real horror movies, the cringing you do watching this atrocity might be scary enough for you.

Ruby Gloom
While it isn't a movie, it is one of my favorite shows and something I watch every October. Ruby Gloom is very Addams Family-like. It's a cartoon about a group of odd friends living together in a big creepy mansion. Like the Addams, they enjoy the gloomy, creepy stuff that everyone else dislikes. Except these guys are really cheerful and adorable.


Halloweentown
(Halloweentown, Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge, Halloweentown High, Return to Halloweentown)

I'm making up for a Disney-channel-less childhood these days, basking in Disney Channel Original movies like these. These movies would have been perfect for me as a kid. Like Marnie, I felt that "No one here really appreciates my taste in weird stuff." Being a Halloween baby, I've always felt an affinity for anything Halloween-related, as if I have some ownership over it, so it pains me greatly to know these movies were being made without my knowledge until recently. I mean, Halloweentown?! Obviously, my true home. Although, if I had grown up knowing there was a Halloweentown out there, I might have resented my parents for keeping me from it because, despite what they say, I was obviously born there.


The Addams Family
(The Addams Family, Addams Family Values, The New Addams Family)

Let me just get this off my chest: We all agree that Anjelica Huston as Morticia and Christina Ricci as Wednesday are casting perfection. But, Christopher Lloyd as Fester? So wrong. I find him annoying and spazzy. Other than that—I love The Addams Family! And if just two movies isn't enough, have an Addams-filled October by watching The New Addams Family. All the freaky fun of the Addams in little 22-minute nuggets. Maybe because it's a show I grew up watching, but I really love the cast of this Addams family. Although, the show is much more go-for-the-laugh than the more dramatic movies. But, please, do not be fooled by that other Addams Family movie: The Addams Family Reunion. Oh, no, no no. Bad idea.


Ginger Snaps
(Ginger Snaps, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning)

I know that Ginger Snaps has become somewhat of a cult classic, but because it's a Canadian movie, I'm not sure if it's as well-known in America as it is here. So, if you are unlucky enough to be non-Canadian, it's time you were introduced to this beauty. This is as close as I can get to a real horror movie. It's a little scary, but mostly gory. Aside from the creepy Halloween vibes, it's also a great story of sisters, and their difficult relationship. I admit I have yet to see the 2nd and 3rd installments, but I look forward to continuing the sisters' journey.


Carrie
(Carrie (1976), Carrie (2002), Carrie (2013))

Yet another Carrie remake comes out this month. So, if you're a Carrie fan, you may want to make it a marathon by watching the original and the made-for-TV version before heading out to see the newest rendition. Talk about a blood bath.


Scream
(Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3, Scream 4)

I was never interested in the Scream movies before because I thought they were horror movies. But when I caught part of the second, and then the first, on TV last year, I realized they were closer to a parody of a horror movie than an actually scary movie. So, this year, I'm going to watch them all (completely, and in order) because they are actually pretty silly.

Which movies do you watch to get you into the Halloween mood? Let me know in the comments!

P.S.—Tish has a new webseries, The Unicorn Hunt, that starts Wednesday!



Be sure to check it out at www.youtube.com/theunicornhunt.

October 25, 2013

Fictional Fancy: Matthew Casey


Today's Fictional Fancy is brought to us by Kristin, a mother of two from New England who enjoys gardening, writing, taking pictures and cooking. You can get to know her more via her Twitter @InstaMommy.

After House ended on Fox in 2012, I hated the idea that I wouldn’t get my weekly fill of my favorite Aussie: Jesse Spencer, who played Dr. David Chase. Fortunately, he quickly landed on another hit show, Chicago Fire.


Just like in House, Jesse's character on Chicago Fire—Matthew Casey—is far more complex than you might first think. He has an on-again off-again relationship with Hallie Thomas, which sets him into a tailspin when she dies in a suspicious fire. To add to the complexity, there is a lot of tension between him and paramedic Gabriella Dawson, but they can never seem to get their relationship timing right. (When Matthew gets back together with Hallie, Gabriella is dreaming of a relationship with him. And when Gabriella starts up with probationary firefighter Peter Mills, Matthew had broken up with Hallie. After Gabriella and Peter break up and she tries to make another go at Matthew, he is falling into a deep depression after Hallie’s death.)

As I am sure you can imagine, there are plenty of great characters in Chicago Fire, and their lives weave together in a way that can only be described as a very tight-knit family. After all the cliffhangers at the end of last year, I am certainly looking forward to the fall season!

What is amazing to me is how well Jesse Spencer can lose his Australian accent when he plays Matthew. He must have asked some advice from Dr. House himself, Hugh Laurie, who had to drop his British accent for the show. Although I will admit, I do miss hearing Jesse's accent after seeing him every week on House for almost a decade. He was always one of my favorite characters on the show.


I think my friends got the hint as to how much I liked Jesse Spencer by how much I talked about the shows he was in. So as a gag gift for my birthday, my friends made me an iPhone case from Shutterfly with a picture of him on it. I will probably never take it off.


So as Chicago Fire heats up for another season, I will certainly be watching!

If you're interested in sharing a Fictional Fancy of your own, email me!

October 24, 2013

Nerd News: The Day of the Doctor, Thor 2 battles, horror movie posters and more

Vol. 4, Issue 38

Hello, again. TGG here helping out one more time on Nerd News while the Chief is getting back into the swing of things. I'm still new at scouring the Internet for the best bits (honestly I get all my nerdy news from this blog) so if I've missed anything or you have something to add post it in the comments. Thanks for letting me sit in!

In movie news:

Here are a few trailers:

The Grand Budapest Hotel

(via)

Frozen

(via)

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire


(via)

Thor: The Dark World


(via)

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

(via)

October 23, 2013

Dear Mister ...

You are my best friend, my knight in shining armor, my rock and my favorite funny face.

I love you ...


And always will!

Happy third anniversary, Colt!



P.S.—If you're a hopeless romantic like I am, and enjoy reading a good love story, you can read about our story here.

October 22, 2013

Guest post | An updated urban legend from Wes, a.k.a. The Gentleman Gamer


I'd like to ask you all to welcome Wes (a.k.a TGG), gaming news extraordinaire, who brings us today's guest post. Thanks so much for doing this, Wes!

It was a calm, autumn night, and Paige was sitting alone on the couch in her living room. Her parents were gone for the evening, and with no younger siblings to babysit, Paige had the house to herself. Where most teenage girls might invite their friends over to watch movies or talk about boys or make cookies or whatever teenage girls do, Paige didn’t feel the need to do any of those things. Why go through the inconvenience of seeing people when they were already pretty much hanging out all the time through their phones anyway? Not to mention the fact that most of her best friends Paige only knew online. No, Paige would much rather sit in her comfortable house alone in the quiet and be digitally social.

She was all settled in with some snacks and her bottle of Starbucks brand Mocha Frappucino (there was a Starbucks a mile from her house, but that would require a trip out and the bottles were almost just as good) and Netflix was all queued up for a serious Supernatural marathon. Her phone was next to her on the couch for ease of access in case she needed to quickly tweet something about Dean’s adorable dimples or Sam’s flowing hair (which she undoubtedly would). In her lap was a pile of yellow and orange yarn with a half-knit Jayne hat sitting on top that she was determined to finish now that it was finally hat weather. She pressed play and picked up her needles.

Paige was already through the first episode in her personal best-of-Supernatural marathon (episode 615: “The French Mistake”) and was ready to start the second (episode 509: “The Real Ghostbusters”) when her phone lit up. It was a tweet, which wasn’t unusual—she’d sent and received about 20 over the last 45 minutes—but this one was from someone she didn’t know.



“Oh, gross,” she said and immediately blocked the account. She put the phone down and turned back to the TV, but before the episode had even finished buffering her phone lit up again.


Paige’s first instinct was to block this new account which was clearly the same person, but watching Sam and Dean take on the forces of evil always got her blood up and she was feeling a bit confrontational.


She stared at the screen for a minute or two, but when no response came, she put her phone down and turned back to the episode. The boys were just getting to the hotel—she loved the look on Dean’s face when he saw all of those Impalas—when suddenly her phone lit up again.


Paige could feel goosebumps on her arms and her blood ran cold as her heart sped up. She looked around the room and began to regret leaving it so dark even though she thought it fit the mood of the show at the time. After a minute of wondering if she should call someone, she checked her Facebook and realized she had left the Netflix sharing feature on. Those tweets were probably just one of her friends playing a joke on her after they saw what she was watching. She relaxed some, but she still couldn’t totally shake the creepy feeling so she got up to turn on a light. When she sat back down she decided to take the high road and ignore the tweets. She thought she might know who it was and not responding would probably drive them up the wall, which was revenge enough, so Paige sat back down and went back to knitting and watching the Winchesters put spirits to rest.

Paige had made it a point to avoid using her phone after the last tweet so she had almost forgotten about it by the time she started episode three of her marathon (episode 418: “The Monster at the End of This Book”), but just as she was getting into the episode her screen lit up again.


Paige read the tweet and then looked around nervously. She was still sure it was a friend playing a trick, but she couldn’t help but feel like someone was watching. Her phone buzzed in her hand and it surprised her so much she nearly dropped it.


That was too far for her. Paige’s fear had started to turn to anger and she hammered out a reply.


She waited only a few seconds for the message to go through before blocking the account and practically throwing her phone down onto the couch.

The screen lit up almost immediately.


Paige looked at it in disbelief. She was positive she had blocked that account.


Paige felt a new surge of horror at the message, but it was the thing at the bottom of the tweet that held her eyes. In the location section of the message were GPS coordinates. She quickly copied them into her Google Maps app and was frozen with fear when it showed her exactly what she had been afraid of. He was tweeting from inside the house.

She pushed her fear aside with a large helping of adrenaline and slowly stood up from the couch, ready to bolt in a second. She would have already been gone, but she wasn’t sure where he was, so she stayed where she was and began to dial the police.

"911, what’s your emergency?"

"Yes, hello," She was trembling and her voice was shaky. "My name is Paige Roberts. I live at 308 Black Creek Lane. and I think there’s someone in my house."

"OK, are you in the house now?"

"Yes."

"Alright, I need you to stay on the line and get out as quickly and safely—" The voice cut out and it took Paige a second to realize what had happened. She looked at her phone and her heart dropped when she saw her usually full signal had been reduced to nothing. She frantically dialed 911 again, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t get through. Something was blocking the signal. She immediately thought to send out a message over the Internet when she noticed the Wi-Fi was down as well. She was completely cut off and needed to get out now.

She reached down and grabbed the closest thing to a weapon she could find—one of the size 10.5 bamboo double pointed needles she had been working on her Jayne hat with—and gripped it tightly in her right hand. She reasoned if this person was still in the house she only had to make it to the front door and she might be OK. Paige took a deep breath counted to three and then ran. She was out of the room, past the kitchen and almost to the door when she heard a noise behind her. She turned as she hit the door just in time to see a black shape flying down at her from the top of the stairs. Something bright flashed past her head as she ducked and she heard a thunk as a knife stuck deep into the wood of her front door.

Instinct took over and all she knew was she had to make it out of the house any way that she could. Paige swung hard at the figure that was still struggling to free the knife and her knitting needle stuck deep in something before snapping off in her hand. She hardly had time to feel surprised as the figure screamed and fell backward clutching at the area she imagined to be its neck. Paige wrenched open the door and ran out into the crisp night air where she was met with police sirens screaming toward her down the street. Everything after was a blur.

Later someone told her the man who had attacked her had done this to three other girls and none of them had gotten away. They had been chasing him for almost a year with no luck and she had been very brave and also very lucky. She was just happy to be alive, but also pretty proud of herself for not buckling under the stress. They told her they would be calling on her to testify and she said that would be fine. She was ready to put him away for life.

A few weeks went by and life had finally started to settle back down when she received a package in the mail. It was a new pack of knitting needles just like the one she had used that night. The note in the package read, "To replace what you broke," with no signature at the bottom. She didn’t recognize the handwriting but she assumed it was from one of her knitting friends who understood the pain of a broken needle. She was still holding the package when her phone rang.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Paige. This is Detective Jones."

"Oh, hi, Detective. How are you?"

"I’m fine Paige. Listen, I don’t want to alarm you, but I’m calling to let you know that the man that attacked you has gone missing." Paige felt the blood drain from her face. "Now, we have no reason to believe you’re in danger, but as a precaution …" She hardly heard anything else he said as she lowered the phone from her ear. She looked again at the knitting needles in her hand and that’s when she saw the notification flashing, "One new tweet," on her phone's screen.