Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘geek’ Category

Sterling Renaissance Festival

In fashion, geek, historical, photo op, recommended, renaissance, smile-inducing, syracuse, theater on July 27, 2010 at 12:50 pm

When I was eight years old, my mother took me to the Sterling Renaissance Festival (or Faire) for the first time. The Faire recreates the town of Warwick in the county of Warwickshire, England, in 1585, celebrating a visit from Queen Elizabeth I. The food, the shops, and especially the performers captured my young imagination, and have drawn me back year after year. This summer, I traveled upstate to celebrate the Pirate Invasion, one of Sterling’s theme weekends. Many things have changed since that first visit, but at its core, the Faire still retains its wonderfully magical appeal.

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The Sterling Renaissance Festival runs Saturdays and Sundays in Sterling, New York, rain or shine, until August 15.



Jell-O Mold Competition

In brooklyn, dessert, event, exhibit, food, funny, geek, science, smile-inducing, treasure trove on July 2, 2010 at 1:12 pm

To properly celebrate America’s birthday, certain foods are required. The most inscrutable of these culinary staples is Jell-O, an old-timer from the 1950s. Omnipresent yet ignored on many a picnic table, Jell-O manifests itself in various questionable yet patriotic shades, and is packed with similarly questionable fruits. Has the once-proud dessert been sequestered to this sad fate forever?

Never fear! The brave folks in Brooklyn will not let the gelatinous dessert go wobbly into that good night. Recently, down a small, forgettable Park Slope side street, several score amateur Jell-O enthusiasts gathered in the Gowanus Studio Space for the Jell-O Mold Competition, to showcase their imaginative gelatin creations and vie for prizes.

First, there were the obvious edible creations. Along with the predictable shiny apple pie  and red velvet cake, artists assembled Jell-O sushi with chopsticks, slid oysters melting on the half-shell, and carved up a delicious trio of multi-flavored fruit wedges molded into the hulls of peeled grapefruits. For the more culinarily adventurous folk, beef- and pork-flavored Jell-O were carved into taxidermy on wooden plaques. (The flavor was dead on, but the consistency was uncannily, unpleasantly reminiscent of jellied gristle.)

Food wasn’t the only source of inspiration. Piles of translucent, horse-pill-sized pharmaceuticals abounded, as did giant LEGOs, floral plates, and lithographs of the Brooklyn Bridge. A vibrantly blue and silver model of the Brooklyn sewage plant drew laughs, while Jell-O-cum-explosives, complete with a video presentation of said explosions, failed to inspire. The entries showed a huge variance in quality, from the impressive cloth-draped and olive-bedecked display shrine for Bloody Mary Jell-O (molded in the shape of the Virgin herself), to wimpy Styrofoam lunch trays supporting globs of what may have been octopi Vikings, but may also have been last year’s meatloaf, grown sentient and resentful with time. My favorite eats included fruity Jell-O Superballs dispensed from a quarter machine, and an impressive full-sized Tiffany lamp, supported by a sugar paste structure and lit with real bulbs. The most inventive creation, edible drinking cups made with vegan-friendly agar agar, could be filled with your drink of choice and then munched on as well, for a multi-faceted imbibing experience.

While the crowd waited for the judges to review the entries, five or six kinds of free Jell-O shots were on hand. The mixologists were enthusiastically inventive, if a bit heavy-handed with their herbs; tough sprigs of rosemary and acerbic strips of orange rind overpowered two of the jiggling shooters. Still, most of the drinks were popular and disappeared quickly: the delightfully zingy Hair of the Naval; Hot Sh*t (its real name), a dark pudding laced with cinnamon and topped with cream; Summer Salad, a gelatinous vodka watermelon; and the non-alcoholic yet pungent Kir Royale.

If this event was any indication, Jell-O will certainly live to fight another day.

Saving The World, One Click At A Time

In food, geek, pets, website, website wednesday on June 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm

You mean well, you really do, but let’s face it: Mother Teresa you’re not. Thankfully, each of this week’s sites is a fool-proof way to do good worldwide from the safety of your mancave bedroom.


Learn a vocab word, donate ten grains of rice to the World Food Program.


Locate a city on a world map; the more accurate you are, the more cups of water the site donates to the needy.


Ace a dog-themed trivia question, donate ten kibble pieces to animal shelters.


Like Freekibble, but for cats. (Because cats deserve their own category, okay?)

The Hunger Site

The most improbable venture of the ones listed here, this site donated cups of food when you just click a button. Made possible by the myriad sponsor links you’re exposed to in the process of clicking.

The Rainforest Site

Like The Hunger Site, but for the coolest ecosystem ever.

The Animal Rescue Site

You get the idea.

You Got A Right: A Gospel Tribute to the Supreme Court

In blog, dc, funny, geek, politics on May 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I have had the honor of guest writing for the blog of my dear friend Scott Austin. Blog! The Musical takes that age-old truism to heart: everything is better as a musical. I drew inspiration for my new musical comedy from the battle over Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, heating up now in Washington. Here’s a first look at my submission!

You Got A Right: A Gospel Tribute to the Supreme Court

Act I

It is 2009, and Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has hired only one clerk for the Court’s term. The clerk is studious and ambitious, and dreams of becoming a Supreme Court Justice herself one day. On the clerk’s first day of work, she approaches Stevens at his desk and asks him why he has chosen so little help this year. He confides that he will leave the Court this term. He laments his departure after many years of service, but reaffirms that he’s made the correct decision (“Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen”). The clerk protests that the liberal wing of the Court will have no leader without Stevens, but he will not be moved.

That night, the clerk tosses and turns in bed. Unable to understand Stevens’ decision, she questions her own ambitions to join the Court. The spirit of Justice Sonia Sotomayor visits her, to warn her of the challenges to come for liberals on the Court, but also to remind her not to give up on her dream of becoming a Justice just yet. Sotomayor offers to show the clerk the real Supreme Court, to remind her to follow her passion. Together, they sing “Rock-A My Court,” as they fly into the air and travel to the Supreme Court’s inner chamber. The spirits of Chief Justice John Roberts and the other seven justices greet them at the bench and introduce themselves (“This Little Court of Mine”). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg steps forward and, together with Sotomayor, appeal to the clerk to become the third woman on the bench (“Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child”). While the idea of female camaraderie is certainly appealing, the whole Court agrees that the powerful, fence-sitting Justice Anthony Kennedy controls tough split decisions on the Court (“He’s Got The Whole Court In His Hands”). The clerk is lured away from Sotomayor by the soulful descant solos of Justices Stephen Breyer and Samuel Alito, and by Kennedy’s promises of influence and fame. Sotomayor protests, but is powerless to stop her. The curtain closes as the clerk walks into the open arms of Kennedy, who hurries her away.

Act II

The second act opens with Justice Clarence Thomas’s silent interpretive dance in the empty court room (“I Shall Not Be Moved”). The clerk enters with Kennedy and Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative leader on the Court. She listens as Scalia counsels her that there “Ain’t No Statute High Enough” to stop the Court’s conservative wing. To drive his point home, Scalia conjures sad scenes of justices past, first of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at her husband’s deathbed, and then of Justice David Souter sitting alone in a cottage in the backwoods of New Hampshire, singing to his woodland friends (“Run, O’Connor, Run / Go Tell It On The Mountain”). Horrified at the way former justices have fallen, the clerk is about to give up her dream when Sotomayor reappears. She is furious at the seductive reasoning of the court’s right wing and tears the clerk away, reminding her that “There Is A Balm In Washington,” and that she must not give up hope. With the conservatives gone, the liberal justices join together in a candlelight vigil to appeal, quietly but forcefully, to the power of the White House in the upcoming Senate confirmation hearings for Stevens’s replacement (“Obama, Row The Court Ashore”).

Suddenly, the conservative justices reenter, sporting gang colors. They are incensed, and challenge the liberal justices to a dance-off. An all-out battle begins (“Roe v. Wade In The Water”), with the justices showing off their break dancing and beat boxing skills in a hip-hop remix of the classic gospel number. The liberals’ skills are strong, but without the street-savvy stylings of Stevens, they aren’t strong enough, and the conservatives gain the upper hand. The clerk is knocked to the ground by Scalia’s airchair pose, and wakes in her own bed. It was all a dream! Imbued with the drive to aid the fight for justice and the will to serve her country, she marches out to face a new day (“How Great Thou Art (Ode to the Supreme Court)”).

For more parodies like this one, check out The Capitol Steps.

LED Lightsaber Battle

In event, geek, movie, nyc, recommended, science on May 30, 2010 at 11:46 pm

At 9 pm on a recent, innocuous Saturday night, Chrystie Park was overtaken by several hundred warriors. Some donned Halloween-style costumes and makeup; some sported long black cloaks and heavy goth gear; but most wore street clothes. One important difference set these young people apart from the masses: their gleeful faces were lit with the ethereal glow of their lightsabers, illuminating the park with electric blues, reds and purples. This, my friends, was the one and only LED Lightsaber Battle of New York City.

The battle was organized by the interactive art group Newmindspace, but on-the-ground organization was nigh on impossible, turning the park into a joyously raucous free-for-all. Individual fighters (usually strangers) engaged one another in combat, fighting, dying and bonding afterward in the space of minutes. New York Jedi, the city’s preeminent Jedi group, conducted skill demonstrations for onlookers (like this guy, but with self-control). The park’s heightened energy level surged and ebbed as onlookers drew to the sounds and sights of the epic, amicable fray.

Just as dance-offs beget break dancing circles, this mêlée begat a dueling circle. Several fighters distinguished themselves as they strutted and struggled in expert hand-to-hand combat: one young man who spun two lightsabers above his head and around his body with practiced skill; another in a Utilikilt who won the approval of the crowd immediately with his Braveheart-esque genre-crossing appeal. One confrontation devolved in hilarity as each opponent lost a leg, then an arm, and so on (and kept fighting!) till one was laid out dead on the ground. The clashes continued apace until a hoard of Jedi charged the dueling circle, roaring with lightsabers held aloft, moshing a hundred strong at the evening’s height.

Whether you are a dedicated Star Wars die-hard with your hand-made PVC lightsaber mounted on your bedroom wall, or a newbie who likes the idea of releasing your inner Jedi for an evening, I highly recommend rallying your friends to join next year’s Lightsaber Battle. Whether you plan to be a participant or a spectator, may the Force be with all of you.