The evolution of on-screen sci-tech nerds
Brian Dietzen (left) portrays Jimmy Palmer on "NCIS." Simon Pegg portrays Benji Dunn in "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol."
April 16th, 2012
01:43 PM ET

The evolution of on-screen sci-tech nerds

Almost every crime show has one: the nerd that the “muggles” need to help solve the mystery. Whether hackers or science nerds, they've become a key part of the story.

For years, one of the best-known tech nerds on television was the incredibly awkward yet lovable Marshall Flinkman (Kevin Weisman) on "Alias," the cult favorite ABC spy series. Flash-forward to today's former hacker, the almost-as-awkward Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness), who often steals scenes on "Criminal Minds," sometimes with boyfriend Kevin Lynch, played by Nicholas Brendon. And there's no forgetting "NCIS" forensic specialist Abby Sciuto (Pauley Perrette), who's not afraid to flaunt her goth style while working in the lab.

Here's a breakdown of on-screen geeks and how they're changing.

When Hollywood gets in the way of a perfectly good myth
April 13th, 2012
03:40 PM ET

When Hollywood gets in the way of a perfectly good myth

Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions nationwide on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.

Remember how the half-god Perseus flew on the winged horse Pegasus to save Andromeda from Hades’ Kraken, and then later battled the chimera, minotaur and titan Kronos? If your basis for Greek mythology is the 2010 “Clash of the Titans” remake and the new sequel “Wrath of the Titans,” that’s how you might remember the pursuits of Perseus. But that’s not how it happened.

Right, so technically none of it “happened,” but the Greek myths of titans, gods and men that have existed for more than three millennia are the stuff of ancient religion and part of our pop culture pantheon. Many myth geeks like me were exposed to the tales – which live at an intersection of history and storytelling – at an early age when we craved adventures about monsters, violence and valor (and were exposed to, incidentally, sex, betrayal and heinous acts).

Personally, I remember seeing the original 1981 version of “Clash of the Titans” with the Ray Harryhausen visual effects when I was about 4 years old. While not so much obsessed with Harry Hamlin as Perseus, I couldn’t get enough of the Medusa the Gorgon, the Kraken and Pegasus.

I even had a few of the action figures from Mattel’s very limited toy line that never took off. But more than the winged horse toy whose wings kept falling off, my prized post-“Clash” possession was a tattered 1957 copy of W.H.D. Rouse’s “Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece” that was kicking around my house for some reason.

Written in a spry tone I’d later associate with John Hurt in “The Storyteller,” Rouse’s book became a preferred storybook for me. Along with dinosaurs, animals and super heroes, I memorized and categorized the names of the major and minor players of myths. Although the stories themselves didn’t change as I grew older, the way they were told and interpreted did.

And then I saw the “Clash” remake in 2010. Though I tried to keep it in check, my nerd rage began to boil over. FULL POST

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Cuteness is served: Exploring Japan's maid culture
April 13th, 2012
02:21 PM ET

Cuteness is served: Exploring Japan's maid culture

In America, a woman dressed as a maid can mean one of two things: She's here to clean your house, or she's dressed in a costume. The latter is considered sexy, while the former is anything but.

In Japan, however, the maid costume is a symbol of something entirely different: It elicits an immediate reaction. The Japanese culture has so much love for maids, in fact, that an entire culture has developed around them. Rooted in Japan's love of cuteness, it's not at all uncommon to see women dressed as maids in the streets of Akihabara, handing out fliers to promote the shops there.

And of course, otaku have a special soft spot for maids.

There have been many stories in the American news about "maid cafes" (also known as "cosplay restaurants") in Japan, which originated there in the early 2000s. At the maid cafe, the staff is exclusively made up of young women who wear maid costumes and serve their clients. The menus often feature desserts with cute decor, and maids will visit your table to decorate your food with cute designs or draw hearts in your coffee foam before they deliver it. These have become increasingly popular in recent years, and they have popped up all over the world, even in America. Tokyo is so glutted with them that even "best of" maid cafe lists have been published.

The heart of the maid cafe experience is about an intimate, safe relationship, but a subdued one. For instance, the maids refer to their clients as "masters" or "mistresses" when they welcome them to the cafe. Depending on the location, services besides basic table service are available, such the chance to play video games with the maid or take a photograph with her and have her decorate it by hand for you. The latter normally costs an additional fee, as most maid cafes forbid photography inside, but these are allowed in special cases. FULL POST

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How spoiler culture (mostly) spared 'The Cabin in the Woods'
Fran Kranz, from left, Chris Hemsworth and Anna Hutchison star in "The Cabin in the Woods," which opens Friday.
April 12th, 2012
01:18 PM ET

How spoiler culture (mostly) spared 'The Cabin in the Woods'

When "Firefly" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" creator Joss Whedon introduced the film "The Cabin in the Woods" last month at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, he told the audience, "I hope you enjoy it, and then sorta keep it to yourself."

Whedon, the film's writer and producer, really meant it. He even recorded a video plea asking fans who saw the horror film not to give away any of the major plot points online.

It's no secret that the film, long awaited by Whedon fans, doesn't really take place in a cabin in the woods. The trailer points out that a group of college kids only think they're spending a weekend in what is actually a controlled environment. Beyond that, however, fans who have seen the movie already are expected to stay mum on what happens, to avoid ruining it for those who have yet to see the movie, which hits theaters Friday.

The spoiler culture, of course, has been around at least since the dawn of the Internet, and directors have long been asking audiences not to give away surprises, most famously since Alfred Hitchcock and "Psycho." But there now seems to be a renewed focus - especially with the advent of social media - on making sure that fans don't say too much.

"The Walking Dead" executive producer Glen Mazzara recently told reporters about a "security task force," led by producer Gale Ann Hurd, creator Robert Kirkman and "computer savvy" Scott Kimple. Their job is to make sure leaks about the show's many secrets don't appear online.

"AMC takes this stuff very seriously," Mazzara said. "And we try to see where leaks are coming from and if they're accurate or they're not and then trying to get stuff taken down and it's really like trying to sweep back the ocean."

Fran Kranz, who plays Marty in "The Cabin in the Woods," said he can understand some fans' desire to find out as much as they can about a film or TV series.

“I’m a big fan of horror films, and I want to know about all kinds of movies, and I totally get it," he told CNN. "I find when I meet a fan of Joss’, I’m just as excited about his work as they are. I’ll be first in line to see (Whedon's) ‘The Avengers.' "

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April 11th, 2012
06:28 PM ET

Stan Lee launches his own comic convention

LOS ANGELES (CNN) - Wherever superhero creator Stan Lee goes, a crowd of comic book fans seems to gather, but now Lee's making it official with his own comic convention.

"Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo Presented by POW! Entertainment" launches in Los Angeles in September and is expected to spread with shows around the world, according to Lee and his "partner in crime" Regina Carpinelli.

Carpinelli grew up as a big fan of Lee's many superhero characters, including Spider-Man and other Marvel Comics fixtures such as the X-Men, Thor and Iron Man.

Having Lee's name on the marquis and his POW! Entertainment helping with promotion is "making history," said Carpinelli, who compared the former Marvel Comics chief to Walt Disney, Einstein and Shakespeare. "What more can a convention want; this is magic we're making here."

"Despite my legendary shyness, I thought that would be a great idea," Lee said.

Grown men have been seen crying after shaking hands with Lee at comic book shows.

"I have that firm grip," Lee said. "I squeeze their hand so hard, what are they going to do?"


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