Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Blair Witch Project 15 Years Later: Scary, or Scary Bad?

by Sara N.

Did you get your wits scared out of you 15 years ago this week? If you're a person of a certain age who generally enjoys reading this blog, chances are good that you did. For lo, it was July 30, 1999, that The Blair Witch Project went into wide release.

Think back on those days, friends. 1999 was a simpler time. More innocent. It was a time when a guerrilla marketing campaign waged on this new-fangled "world wide web" could convince hoards of people that the movie they were about to watch actually did take place, and that this footage had, in fact, been found abandoned in an old cabin in the woods. Those missing posters? Those were the real deal, man.

Where was our cynicism 15 years ago? Where was our hard-earned patina of nonchalance and world-weariness? Not yet finely honed by the slings and arrows of the Internet, apparently. We didn't know how much grammatically unsound homophobia and racism we'd be subjected to over the next decade and a half in comment sections and message boards.

Anyway, The Blair Witch Project was at the vanguard of a number of cinematic innovations (or it has a lot of answer for, depending on where you fall on the admiration scale): Found footage. Shaky cam. Improvised dialogue. Unknown actors of questionable talents.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

You Better Werk, Cover Geek!

by Megan S.

All photos by Nicole Nguyen and Kelly Schwarze

Oh, how I wish I could have gone to Comic-Con this past weekend in San Diego, California.  Not only did the Orphan Black and Sleepy Hollow panels sound amazing, there was also an awesome haute couture cosplay fashion show hosted by Her Universe, Hot Topic, and Nerdist.  Some of the outfits are AMAZING.  Just look at the old school wolverine little black dress above.  Aren't the shoes a perfect match for the comic version of his costume?

The cutting edge* X-Men piece wasn't the only fun piece from the show.  I've included five more of my favorites from the below.  Which do you like the most?
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Friday, July 25, 2014

My Conflicted Nerd Crush: Seth MacFarlane

by Sara N.

We here at Stellar Four like to periodically bring you the celebrity nerds we're crushing on at a given moment. As I was reminiscing yesterday about that time I told the world how much I love Weird Al Yankovic, I realized that it's been far too long since our last nerd crush post. (For the record: Stephen Colbert, December 2012.)

So today, let me tell you about a nerd crush that has me feeling extremely conflicted: Seth MacFarlane.

I didn't want to like Seth MacFarlane. I don't enjoy most of the entertainment he produces. I hated his Oscars hosting gig and his gross song about actresses' boobs. I am decidedly not a fan of The Family Guy. I find his accents to be hammy and insufferable and his humor to be stupidly juvenile.

But dammit, Seth has recently made it impossible for me to hate him.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: Magic Breaks

The Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews is one of my favorites. The first post I wrote over on The Book Pile was a love letter to this series. The action, characters, humor, worldbuilding and overall sense of hope keep me coming back. It's a series I've re-read when life decided to sucker punch me. MAGIC BREAKS releases next Tuesday and I'm happy to say that it was a thrilling ride. Today I have a review and also a couple of drinks in my other post to celebrate the latest adventures of Kate and her merry band.

Kate makes the leap to hardcover in her 7th outing. Longtime fans of the series know that the original plan was to have Kate's story complete in 7 books. Given the popularity of the series, that number has been extended to 9 with a second Jim and Dali novella (see here for the official list). I can say, though that the character arc begun in book 1 does come to a conclusion in book 7.

Note: I'm going to try to remain as non-spoilery as possible, but this is a book 7, if you are new to the series, stop reading now and catch up!

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Mind Your Elders

MAGIC BREAKS, the latest Kate Daniels book by Ilona Andrews is out July 29 and includes the appearance of a character I've been waiting to see since book 1. You can read my review here.

Note: Slight spoilers if you are new to Kate.

In book 7 Kate finally comes face to face with her father, Roland. A powerful being, he is ruthless yet magnetic. He might destroy you, but chances are most will willingly flock to that destruction. In honor of his appearance, it's time for Mind Your Elders, two drinks featuring my current favorite liqueur, Elderflower. This liqueur is smooth, flowery without an overbearing perfume. For me, those smooth liqueurs are a bit more dangerous. A shot of whiskey leaves my throat on fire, while a shot of Elderflower is velvety goodness. Much like Roland, intense, infinitely attractive, yet can pack a wallop in big doses, like when his mighty horde is coming to claim your city.

Today here's a refreshing Cucumber Mint Elder-Gin Fizz and a Cherry-Lime Elder-Gin Fizz. I've found the pairing of Elderflower and Gin to go very well together. Both of these are my current go to drinks for these hot summer days.

I'm using my favorite "Iocane Powder" glassware from ThinkGeek. Considering Kate's favorite book is THE PRINCESS BRIDE, it seemed appropriate.

Here's what you'll need for the Cucumber Mint Elder-Gin Fizz:

Cucumber-mint infused water, half a lime, sparkling water/club soda, elderflower liqueur, gin, optional ice
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Half-Way Point! A 52 Book Challenge Check-In!

It's hotter than Mount Doom out there, so now is a perfect time to stay in the AC with a good book! It's week 30 of the 52 book challenge! We're a little over the half-way point for the year and you should have at least 30 books read to be on pace to get to 52! So how are you doing?

I'm ahead of pace with 38 books (whoo!) which is good because I've become completely bogged down with Patrick Rothfuss' epic fantasy The Name of the Wind. It started out so slowly and now it's become exciting! Still, it's over 700 pages so I'll be stuck following Kvothe for a while. Patrick Rothfuss, you are trying to kill me.

Sadly, I also finished my epic Harry Potter re-read. Since January 1st I have been reading one chapter a night and on July 18th, after 199 days and 4,184 pages, it came to an end. I am bereft. I got SO into them. I miss them so much. For the past seven months I’ve had those books and characters as my nightly companions. It was incredibly hard to get to the end. Despite how sad I am that it’s over, I feel so happy that I did that re-read. Those books are an absolute joy and they brought up a lot of happy memories and really good, warm feelings.

Of course, since I finished the series, I’ve been going Harry Potter crazy. Boredly typing “Harry Potter” into etsy was a giant, giant mistake. I also got all eight movies in a blu-ray boxset and I plan to watch them in one glorious weekend marathon soon. 

My battered old copy of Neverwhere
My next nightly chapter re-read will be my favorite, Neil Gaiman. I am currently four chapters in to Neverwhere and after that will be Stardust and American Gods. That should get me to October, where I re-read Roger Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October. I’m not sure what I’ll read in November, but December is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Christmas tale, Hogfather.

So give us an update! How many books have you read this year? Are you on pace to beat the 52 Book Challenge? What are you reading now? Let us know in the comments! There are only 22 weeks left!
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Monday, July 21, 2014

Geek Stitch

by Megan S.

I just love it when crafty people get their nerd on and these geeky needlepoints are no exception.  These are a few of my favorites and you're in luck if you love them too.  They're available for purchase on Etsy!
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Help! What Are the Best Depictions of Media in Dystopian Fiction?

by Sara N.

Your assistance is needed, oh wise readers. I'm teaching an honors college course this fall on the depictions of mass media in dystopian fiction, and I want to be sure I have the best possible examples to share and discuss with my students. Can anyone suggest things I should add to the list I've already got? I'm specifically looking for instances when the mass media (newspapers, television, advertising, etc.) are used to manipulate or misinform the characters.

Here's what I've got so far (and please note that my definition of "dystopia" is pretty loose and includes totalitarian governments, complete social collapse, corporate control, and alien overlords):

1984 (book and movie): We've always been at war with Eastasia.

They Live!: Obey. Consume. Marry and reproduce.

Doctor Who — "The Long Game": Aliens manipulating human news.

WALL-E: Humans on the space ship are absorbed by consumerism.

The Hunger Games (books and movies): Any time there's a TV on, basically.

World War Z (book): The chapter describing media coverage of the fake vaccine.

Jericho — "Black Jack": A trading hub has posted hand-written news that's the new form of mass media.

Starship Troopers (movie): Service leads to citizenship = pure propaganda news.

Things I haven't checked out yet but seem promising, or that I have watched or read but can't remember specifics about mass media: Brave New World, Ready Player One, Jennifer Government, Dollhouse, Dead Set, Watchmen, Blade Runner, Book of Eli, Brazil, Children of Men, Dark Knight Rises (graphic novel), Idiocracy, Fahrenheit 451, Dark Angel, Equilibrium, The Postman, Minority Report, Robocop (either version).

So help me out, friends. Do any of the above properties feature abuse of the mass media? And what's not on my list that should be?

I'll be pairing these fictional offerings with real-world examples, such as members of Congress editing Wikipediathe Bush administration asking for global warming reports to be changed, and everything about North Korea. So can you help me teach the best darn media in dystopian fiction class that I can?

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Halloween in July

from Evil Supply Co
I don't know who came up with the whole "Christmas in July" concept, but I do know that they are categorically, emphatically, and all things -ally wrong. Winter is cold, snow, biting winds and general miserableness when you have to venture outside. Don't even get me started on Christmas with its shopping and endless familial expectations.

When it was 106 the other day, I wasn't wishing for yuletide carols. Oh no, I wanted Halloween.

It's the best freaking time of the year. The time of sweater weather, the trees are changing into their fall best, candy, sweaters, chill air that doesn't yet bite, fun costumes, and sweaters (so important I had to name them 3 times).

So, instead of hoping Old Man Winter stops by to ease those hot summer days, how about saving a spot for Jack Skellington?

Here are a few other goodies to create that cool Fall feeling.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Paul F. Tompkins Is A Modern Day Folk Hero

Paul F. Tompkins is a jack of all trades. He's a comedian, voice actor, podcast character and extremely snappy dresser. He's also had it up to HERE with guys being idiots about women's rights. He is, in one word, awesome.

If you don't think you know Paul F. Tompkins, you would be incorrect. He's one of those actors who does everything and seems to somehow be in everything. He's Frank Doyle on the Beyond Belief segment on the Thrilling Adventure Hour podcast. He's done voices for Bob's Burgers and Regular Show. He's a frequent performer on @Midnight and Comedy Bang Bang. He does stand up, he does podcasts, he even has a show on up and coming TV network Fusion called No, You Shut Up! As far as I'm concerned, he is a national treasure.

He looks like a dandy, acts like a badass. That was never more true than this past weekend when Thompkins went toe to toe on Twitter against a troll who had issues with the idea of the Bechdel test. A woman lamented that not even Planet of the Apes can pass the test (not even the female apes talk to each other!) and some bottom feeder from the darker holes of Twitter demanded to know why anyone should care. Paul F. Tompkins stuck his impressive mustache into the conversation and gold was created.
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