Cabin in the Woods

So, did y’all go see Cabin in the Woods this weekend?

Cabin in the Woods is a movie that just opened and if you haven’t gone to see it yet YOU HAVE TO! It is the best movie I’ve seen so far this year. It was written by Joss Whedon, and directed by Drew Goddard and Joss.

I’ve actually already seen it twice. It was one of the movies we saw last December at the 24 hour Butt-Numb-A-Thon in Austin, TX. It was the favorite movie of the weekend for most people, and even if we wanted to talk about it we couldn’t. We weren’t even allowed to tweet the title of the movie. Then I saw it again on March 28th when there was a special preview screening here in Minneapolis with Drew Goddard doing a Q&A afterwards. There aren’t a lot of movies that you can say are just as good or better the second time you watch them, but this is one of them!

It is a horror movie, but it’s not just blood & gore. You will laugh a lot. One of the stars is Chris Hemsworth, who filmed this before his breakout role as Thor. And that is all I’m going to tell you.

Seriously. The less you know of the twists before going into this movie the more you’ll like it.

So, if you didn’t go see it this weekend, make sure you put it on your to do list!

Stuff I Love: Minnesota Zoo

Stuff I Love: My favorite products, music, movies, geek obsessions and more. I think these things are awesome and you should too!

The Minnesota Zoo

Here in Minnesota we have what some longtime residents still refer to as “The New Zoo.” It’s not so new any more – it opened in 1978 – but it is a lot newer than the other Twin Cities Zoo (Como Zoo, which opened in 1897).

One of the things I love so much about the Minnesota Zoo is one of the things that visitors often complain about. The outdoor exhibits are large & natural, and the animals have plenty of room to move around. I take a lot of photos of the animals at the zoo and I hate it when there’s no way to get an image that doesn’t have a fence or enclosure in it. Even though I’m obviously not taking my pictures of tigers out in the wild, I want them to at least look as natural as possible.

For a while, due to lack of funding and interest, the zoo had very little change. Then, in 2000, they hired Lee Ehmke away from New York’s Bronx Zoo to be the new director.  Under Mr. Ehmke’s leadership the Minnesota Zoo has gone from being a good zoo to being a great world-class zoo. He’s gotten old exhibits such as the Minnesota Trail spruced up and rebuilt as well as bringing in entirely new exhibits with new animals such as the new Penguin exhibit and the Russia’s Grizzly Coast exhibit.

I’ve been a member of the MNZoo for over a decade now and I am consistently impressed by each new exhibit they build. They always hold member’s nights for the new stuff so that Zoo members can get the first look at it. Another awesome feature they’ve added to member’s previews in just the last few years is an 18+ preview night. Zoos are great for kids, and kids love them. But, if you don’t have kids and aren’t at the zoo with kids it is sooooo nice to be viewing the exhibits with only adults. My membership is just an individual adult one so I take advantage of the quieter preview.

I have taken hundreds if not thousands of pictures at the Minnesota Zoo. Here are just a few of them:

Tigers

Amur Tigers, October 2005

Leopard

Amur Leopard, September 2008

Mexican Grey Wolf

Mexican Grey Wolf, December 2005

Red Panda

Red Panda, February 2007

Flamingo

Flamingo, February 2007

Lemur

Ring-Tailed Lemur, February 2007

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf, March 2008

Yes, I have standards

It’s a well known fact to my friends and fans that I love traveling and that I am a celebrity whore. I get to travel more than Sharon because I fit in carry-on luggage and she doesn’t! I also love getting to meet new people, especially celebrities, and get my picture taken with them.

When Sharon & Rick went to Chicago for a long weekend they bought tickets to see The Blue Man Group, and they brought me with them. The show was really good and I was super psyched to see that some of the Blue Men came out to the lobby afterwards. They didn’t talk much, but they did pose for pictures.

Blue Moose Group?

I’ve been to Las Vegas several times and it’s always fun. One time when we went Sharon & Rick were finally able to go see the Penn & Teller show at the Rio. Guess who snuck in with them?! After the show we were able to meet & have our pictures taken with both Penn & Teller.

These photos of me are kind of rare, because they’ve got Sharon in them too. She usually doesn’t like having her picture taken.

Sharon, me, and the charming Mr. Teller

Me, the amazing Penn Jillette, and Sharon

I must have made an impression on Penn, because when Sharon’s friend Melissa took me to Vegas for The Amaz!ng Meeting he got a little fresh when we posed for the picture.

How you doin'?

These are the kinds of celebrities I love meeting. They are friendly, honest, sincere, and care about their fans. Penn is a competitor on this season’s Celebrity Apprentice which, I admit, me & Sharon haven’t watched at all. Not even Penn is enough to draw us into the world of Donald Trump.

Today, this column by Mr. Jillette was posted on http://www.huffingtonpost.com/.

Vissa D’arte Even on The Celebrity Apprentice

I first saw The Who on TV. I was watching with my parents, and when Pete, Roger, and Keith started smashing their instruments, my family was appalled. We were just barely middle class. My dad was a jail guard and we lived in a nice neat little house that my parents had built with their own hands. I loved music and I had a newspaper route, and I mowed lawns. I was taking drum lessons using a practice pad, and all my money was being saved to buy a used drum set so I could join a rock and roll band. At my rate of earning, it would take me decades to afford Keith Moon’s drum set and I didn’t understand its destruction on TV. How could Keith do that? How could he have such little respect for music, for the TV show he was fortunate enough to be on, and for me and my family?

 

My parents didn’t like the music or the act, but they still tried to console me. These rich rock stars just didn’t understand what money meant to us common folk. Then in a flash everything changed. I started to cry. Right then something happened and I understood The Who. I understood that passion and art could be more important than money. I went from sad and disgusted to exuberant. It was the first time I had ever understood real beauty. I loved The Who. I loved rock and roll. I loved life. It was at that moment I became an artist.

I use Teller’s broad definition of art — “Whatever we do after the chores are done.” There’s one show business and Bach, Dylan, Ron Jeremy, and the guy at the mall in the Santa suit are all in it. By that definition The Celebrity Apprentice is art, and, for my sins, I am on it.

I’ve done a lot of TV, but one of my proudest moments in my career was shown this week on The Celebrity Apprentice. I didn’t watch it, but I was in it. I don’t know how it was edited, but I was there and it was beautiful. The Celebrity Apprentice is all about watching people argue and lie while they covet money and success. Those are the artistic ideas. Donald Trump scowls and passes judgment and we all suck up and rat out to win more time on TV and get money for our charities. The theme song is the O’Jay’s “For the Love of Money,” used as awkwardly as “Born in the USA” at a political rally. It’s not the most likely show to have something beautiful happen, but the Blue Man Group can make beautiful anywhere.

Some of the “tasks” on the show are measured by money, so if you bring in a rich famous person to buy a sandwich for 10 grand, you have a better chance of winning. I’ve have been a fan and friends with Blue Man Group, since we were all working in NYC. They make my heart soar. They make me proud to work in the arts. They are the best of us. They’ve also got some money, so I called them, told them I was doing this TV show and did they want to donate some money to charity? They said yes before finding out what charity or how much I wanted because Blue Man Group is like that. They do charity all the time. They really deeply care about people and they do a lot for many charities. They are the best of us.

BMG asked if I wanted them to show up and do something. Oh yes, please. After weeks of sitting on “boardroom” sets pretending to do business, I really wanted something beautiful.

“Can you deliver the money in a fun way?” I asked them.

That was the problem. In the Blue Man world, money doesn’t exist. For then Blue Man money means nothing. The values that they’ve established in their art don’t include avarice. The Blue Men donate tons of money out of the blue make-up, but in it, well, they’re not above money, but they’re beside it. It doesn’t exist. They asked me to give them some time to think of something beautiful. A couple days later they sent me a video of them filling a balloon with tens of thousands of dollars in tens and blowing it up with a leaf blower. It was beautiful and it delivered money, without the Blue Men having to respect it. It was so beautiful.

I really wanted to save their appearance and money for “my task” and my charity (Opportunity Village for people with intellectual disabilities, a charity that BMG helps a lot), but I was on Dee Snyder’s team and he asked me to help with more money on his watch. I ran the idea by all our team members, the production company, and NBC. Everyone signed off. Blue Man Group would march up, with a loud parade and giant puppets and they would blow up a balloon full of money with leaf blowers and fill the air with 10-dollar bills that the Blue Man wouldn’t care about. Whatever our team could gather out of the wind, we would have to score for out team. Teller would join BMG and add 30 grand of his own money, not blown around, but handed politely to our cashier, American Idol, Clay Aiken. Clay takes The Celebrity Apprentice very seriously and plays the game for all it’s worth.

We were outside selling our bullshit little jive guide books (the sandwich of this week). I gave the signal, and from blocks away, we could hear the parade. BMG with their giant drums, and confetti canons were changing traffic patterns in NYC. They arrived at the park where we were set up to sell our guidebooks. My business partner for my entire adult life, Teller, was in the parade, firing streamers into the air and dancing. Teller had the eyes of Keith Moon in the Who. I had been sequestered on The Celebrity Apprentice with all the complaining, backstabbing, and phony heart to heart talks, and down the street came joy. Pure joy. Honest human joy personified by Teller and Blue Man Group. I started to cry.

They got to our stand, they exploded the balloon full of money, and suddenly the air over the park in NYC was filled with money. Blue Man Group stayed in character and just enjoyed blowing the money around. Their joy was more important than the money or us winning our game. They were there for art and to help the cause, in that order. We all scrambled to pick up as much money as we could. Paul Sr., and Lou Ferrigno held people back, while Dee, Arsenio, Clay, and I tried to grab all we could. Everyone was ready for the money to explode, but, somehow Clay was surprised and disgusted by the chaos. I was still crying with joy and Clay was crying with pure hate and anger towards me and my blue buddies.

Some of the camera people, the producers, the sound people, and crew ran up after the Blue Men had gone and said they had never been prouder of anything they worked on. Some of them were crying with me with joy. They had remembered why they had gotten into the arts. We had been just a few feet from The Who, while they smashed their instruments for America. They proved that art meant more than money. I’m pretty proud of “Penn & Teller,” we’ve done some pretty groovy stuff, but I was exploding with pride at the beauty of my friends, Blue Man Group.

When we had the first break from the cameras, Clay was gathering evidence to take me down for this in the boardroom. He was angry and detailing the humiliation and the injuries he endured in all the beautiful chaos. When I asked him if he needed medical attention, making sure the cameras weren’t on, he screamed, “I need you to shut the fuck up!” It was so easy to shut the fuck up right then. Teller and Blue Man Group work without words and they had said more than I could ever say in defense of art. I drifted away in the NBC van, to my childhood and the moment with The Who when I understood that I needed my life to mean more than “Money, Money, Money, Money.”

The “boardroom” didn’t matter. Clay low-balled how much money we were able to gather, but I didn’t argue. Clay said that the Blue Man Group’s money that Clay wanted to go to our TV charity had ended up going to some homeless people. Trump joined him, disgusted by the idea that some of the Blue Man Group’s money might have gone to people who needed it instead of the people Donald Trump would get credit for giving it to who needed it. Trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money is like trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money. The “contest” was revealed to be very close (in terms of money, beauty wasn’t discussed) and Donald Trump tried to make me say that I regretted what the Blue Man Group had done. Clay tried to get me to say that I should have gotten the Blue Man Group to be more responsible, and by that he meant, give us more money so he could win his game.

It was this episode where Donald Trump understood that he didn’t understand me, and feeling misunderstood by Donald Trump and Clay Aiken is it’s own kind of joy.

I thought about some family at home in a small town watching the Blue Man Group on The Celebrity Apprentice like I watched The Who. I thought about many children being disgusted by all that money being “wasted” on the homeless. And I thought about maybe one child, all of a sudden understanding what art can mean and crying with joy.

As The Who sang, “why don’t you all just f-f-f-fade away. Don’t try to d-d-d-dig what we all say.”

Vissa d’arte.

 

I am very proud to have posed for pictures with a Blue Man, Penn Jillette, and Mr. Teller. I’m very glad Sharon and Rick felt these artists were worth the cost of the ticket. I’m also very glad that I’ve never had to pose for a picture with Clay Aiken. I’ll take Penn’s tongue up my butt over that annoying little schmuck any day!

Two wonderful evenings at the Varsity Theater

I got to spend the last two evenings at one of my favorite entertainment venues in Minneapolis, the gorgeous Varsity Theater.

Thursday night was John Hodgman’s Minneapolis show. His opening act on this tour is the delightful Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy of MST3K and Rifftrax fame. A few of the show highlights: Bill & Kevin singing a song about sparkly vampires. Bill & Kevin singing the Love Theme from Game of Thrones. A pretty sweet film on patriotism starring Bob Crane, with riffing by Bill & Kevin. Hodgman doing George RR Martin cosplay when he joins Bill & Kevin to riff a bizarre short film about safety & alien abduction. Hodgman’s subjects covered on stage included naked parties, sperm whale sperm, Doug Henning, Ragnarok and other such absurdities.

When no one was on stage, I was busy behind the merchandise table.  The Other Sharon’s (Birdchick’s) husband Bill and I had received comp admission in exchange for pledging servitude to a Deranged Millionaire for the evening.

John Hodgman's merchandise table.

Getting into the show at no charge would have been payment enough for me, but the Hodgman is a benevolent master. Shortly after intermission he sent the theater manager, Shayna, back to us with drink tickets and a menu and a meal voucher.

After the show Mr. Hodgman settled into a comfortable leather chair in front of the merch table to greet his fans, sign for them and  pose for photos..

The Deranged Millionaire relaxing in comfort as he signs for fans.

All in all, it was a very nice way to spend an evening. Mr. Hodgman was charming and thanked us many times for helping out. He even hugged me when I said goodnight.

Friday night was Nerdist night! Rick & I had tickets to go to both the shows. A full night of Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray, and Matt Mira! The evening started when I left work. I drove to the Light Rail Station and picked up Rick, who had just flown in from Boston after  being gone all week. He was hungry, and Chris Hardwick had tweeted that he was going to do a pre-show Tweetup at Burrito Loco at 6pm so we just headed there. Traffic delayed Chris and while Rick & I were busy Enjoying Our Burritos who walked past our table but Doug Benson! I’d known he was in town to do shows at Acme but hadn’t paid much attention. I tweeted about it:

About 20 minutes later I got a Direct Message on Twitter from Doug!

Chris and Matt Mira eventually showed up at Burrito Loco and when Chris saw me he recognized me and smiled and said hi. When their group was sitting I went and introduced myself to Matt and gave him a little gift I’d printed up at work: two photos of Space Shuttle Atlantis. I’d gone to the 5-14-10 launch of Atlantis (STS-132) as a part of the official NASA Tweetup, and Matt was at the 7-21-11 launch of Atlantis (STS-135) Tweetup. One of the pictures I gave him was from a close-up I shot of her on the launch pad the evening before launch right after the RSS retraction. The other one was from the actual launch. He seemed to genuinely appreciate them and gave me a hug.

After finishing eating Chris had gone upstairs to join Doug, and left Matt sitting at the table by himself. Rick & I went over and joined him and had a very pleasant time chatting for a while. Matt confirmed my suspicion that Doug was there at Burrito Loco because he was the surprise guest for the 8:00 show, but said the surprise guest for the 11:00 show would be someone different.

Rick and I left Burrito Loco and got into the line for the Varsity. It was crazy long! They normally have one line for will call and one for people who already have tickets. We lucked out and got there right as they decided that ticketed people could also join the will call line. Woot! The other line was already around the block so we were quite happy with where we ended up. As the Varsity staff was going down the line to check IDs & apply wrist bands the theater manager Shayna recognized me and said hi. Once the line started moving we got in pretty quick and got decent seats near the front. Romeo and Shaya eventually made it there and joined us. When I ran back to the bar to get a drink it was the same bartender who had been working the Hodgman show the previous night. When I asked if the leftover drink tickets I still had were good he said yes.

The show started with all three guys doing stand-up sets, and they were all super funny. We were super impressed with Matt’s set and would never have guessed that he’s such a newbie to doing stand-up. The dude’s seriously funny. After the stand-up they did their usual podcast chatter, brought out Doug Benson, and then did live Quemments. If the evening had ended there it would have been awesome. But it wasn’t done! There was a second show that we had tickets for. Between the two shows Rick ran home to take care of Rex and drop off his suitcase. I was going to be responsible for making sure I got seats for the two of us and our friend Tom.

This is where I got to reap even more additional benefits from my previous night’s servitude to the Hodgman. I asked the bartender if he thought it would be possible for me to just stay in the theater out of the way rather than going out & getting in line just to come back in again. He said to go ask Shayna. She rocks! She didn’t even hesitate & said “yeah, you’re one of us. Go show Katie at the door your ticket and get a wrist band. Tell her Shayna says it’s ok.” Hooray! No standing in line for me! I sat in the lobby reading Twitter while the Nerdist crew posed for pictures and signed stuff. About half of the line had been moved up into the balcony so that they could get the doors open for the second show. As they finished the last of the line downstairs and were headed upstairs to continue I stopped Doug, introduced myself, and got the required picture of him with Moose. Then, right before the doors opened I headed up and grabbed a seat in the second row right on the aisle.

I'm pretty sure Moose got a contact high while posing for this picture with Doug Benson.

Rick & Tom found me and we settled in for another several hours of laughs. Matt & Jonah both had some stuff in their stand-up that was repeated from the first act, but for the most part they brought new stuff because there were a fair number of us attending both shows. Someone saw the surprise guest for the second show slipping backstage & put it on Twitter, so it wasn’t a surprise for some of us. Without that I never would have guessed though. It was Tim Meadows, of Saturday Night Live fame. Tim was in town to be the guest at Minnesota Public Radio’s Wits show that night. It wasn’t planned for him to do Nerdist but fate put him on the same plane to Minneapolis as Chris and Chris asked if he could come do the show. The timing worked so that after Wits he could come do the second Nerdist show! He couldn’t stay for the whole thing since he’d been up at 3:30am in LA that day and was just exhausted so we didn’t meet him afterwards.

Tom left right after the show, but Rick & I hopped in the meet & greet line. I got a hug from Chris and I told him we were going to take up twice as much of their time because we hadn’t gotten in line after the first show. He laughed and said sure. I got to gush a little to him about how much I really liked his Nerdist Way book and how I was trying to apply it to my life. One of the things his book has you do is make what Chris calls a “Character Tome.” I’ve got one started and I had Chris sign the front where I’d sketched the Nerdist Logo. I also had him write some inspiration for me:

Just. Fucking. Do It.

After that I had Chris sign the picture of him with Moose from his last time in town. Rick & I then had our picture taken with the whole crew:

Doug Benson, Matt Mira, Jonah Ray, Sharon, Chris Hardwick, and Rick.

(Yes, Rick is Tebowing. No, I’m not sure why.)

And one last picture before we headed out for the night. I had to get one with the three NASA Tweetup alums together, Matt, me, and Moose.

Matt Mira, Moose & Sharon

I had so much fun both nights. Thank you to John Hodgman for letting me work for you  and thank you to the Varsity Theater staff for making a couple great nights into a couple fucking amazing nights and thank you to the entire Nerdist crew for coming to Minneapolis and doing two phenomenal shows!

A week full of awesome

Well, Rick left me this week. He’s out in Boston for work & won’t be back until Friday. I could sit around the house missing him, but where’s the fun in that?

Tomorrow night (Wednesday) I’ll be going to a sneak preview of The Cabin In The Woods. It’s a horror movie written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, and directed by Drew Goddard. Rick & I already saw this movie last December in Austin at Butt-Numb-A-Thon and it is AWESOME! Even better, the sneak preview tomorrow will have Drew Goddard & one of the actresses there for a Q&A afterwards.

I was just going to hang out at home on Thursday, but I got a Twitter message from a friend today asking me if I was going to the John Hodgman show at the Varsity Theater because the Hodgman was looking for experienced merch volunteers. So now I’ll be going to that tomorrow. Comp ticket in exchange for work that’s fun? Heck yeah!

Sharon, Moose & the Hodgman at the November 2011 WITS show

And Friday. Rick will be home Friday afternoon and that night we will be attending both of The Nerdist Podcast Live shows at the Varsity. I absolutely adore Chris Hardwick & it will be fun to get to meet Matt & Jonah too. No word yet on who his guests will be, and if there will be different guests for the two shows or the same guest for both. But it will be awesome.

Moose & Nerdist at Chris' May 2011 show

Oh the Humanity!

Now that I have lured y’all in with a picture of my adorable kitty, it’s time to see how many of you I can chase off by revealing how freaking twisted my sense of humor can be.

There is an amazing game called Cards Against Humanity that I discovered last summer. They keep printing more copies and putting them up for sale on Amazon and they keep selling out. Their expansion set was sold out in only 3 hours last time it was available. Have you ever played Apples to Apples? CAH is kind of the same except completely R-rated.

One player plays a black question card, and all the other players pick the best white answer card from their hand. The player who played the black card then picks the winning card.

Some of the black cards: _______________? There’s an app for that. Why can’t I sleep at night? I drink to forget _______________. In the new Disney Channel Original Movie, Hannah Montana struggles with ____________ for the first time.

These questions could be relatively harmless if the answers weren’t horribly awesomely twisted: Steven Hawking talking dirty. An erection that lasts longer than four hours. Roofies. Nazis.

If you want the game and can’t wait until a new printing is in stock, the CAH folks also provide it on their website as a downloadable print at home PDF.

We played at a friend’s house last night. This was one of my favorite combos.