If you ever stood in a corner fiddling for hours with the rabbit ears on the TV, you can thank—or curse—Marvin P. Middlemark, born today in 1919. His invention of a set-based, dipole antenna made television reception stronger, and opened the door to our modern TV culture. Before those distinctive rabbit ears, the picture you received on your screen was it, and there was no changing it unless you moved to a house closer to the transmitter. Once the TV-hungry masses had antennas, though, the world was their grainy oyster, especially if they discovered standing on one foot and holding the tip of the rabbit ears in aluminum foil while stretching toward the window.
Middlemark also helped NASA develop communication technology for the Apollo missions, but some of his inventions, like the water-powered potato peeler, didn’t find a market. No worries, though, because the eccentric inventor made his millions and shared the wealth often with those less fortunate. When he died in 1989, his estate distributed 15,000 pairs of gloves to homeless shelters per his last request. At least they received something useful; his estate also consisted of a stained glass collection, including colorful tributes to Einstein and Marilyn Monroe, several Chinese tractors, lots of statues of Greek deities, plus miniature horses, donkeys and reportedly a chimp who had a drinking problem. No word on if the chimp could tune a TV or use the potato peeler.
The truthiness is out there! Your future quasi-benevolent dictator/warrior overlord, Stephen Colbert, was born on this day in 1964. Bears and people without a sense of satire, beware.
From numerous references to Dungeons & Dragons to his lightsaber Green Screen Challenge, Colbert has turned his geek history into nightly pop art on his show The Colbert Report. While his persona for the show rejects geekdom, some of the actor’s own passion still seeps through on occasion. When guest James Franco claimed he was the biggest Lord of the Rings fan, the butt cheeks of Colbert’s minions puckered in delight. They knew some Frodo fanboy thumpage was coming, especially since Colbert has repeatedly quoted long, obscure passages and recited mythology from Tolkien’s work as easily as a child saying the Lord’s Prayer. As a man of faith and family, he can probably do that too, but in Elvish.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Nimoy! Since yesterday was Tolkien Reading Day, it feels right to celebrate the two days together with one clip. You know the one. Leonard Nimoy singing “Bilbo Baggins!” Because William Shatner shouldn’t have all the fun, right?
There are three geeky holidays today! They all revolve around William Shatner, and that’s how he likes it. Today in 1931, William Alan Shatner was born in Montreal. Because of one particular character in Shatner’s career, we also know that today in 2228 in Riverside, Iowa, James Tiberius Kirk was born. One major link between these two spun off our third holiday, Talk Like Shatner Day.
Whether you love him or hate him (there’s plenty in both camps) you can’t deny Shatner has entertained us for most of his 82 years. Whether he bedded curvy alien girls or sang conceptual albums or launched backstage drama, he has been a one-of-a-kind character in pop culture, and we salute him.
There are tons of awesome Shatner videos out there (including a hilarious turkey-frying PSA and a version of Bohemian Rhapsody) but to celebrate today, we went with something off-the-wall and completely Shatneresque: William Shatner backed by a chorus line of stormtroopers and singing “My Way” to George Lucas. Happy Birthday, Mr. Shatner!Tweet
Can you imagine what today’s geekscape would look like without Stan Lee? We shudder to think of it. Writer, producer, entrepreneur and entertainment icon, Stan Lee has turned comic book characters into essential parts of our pop culture. Just reading the “upcoming” section of his IMDb profile will make any Marvel fan tremble with excitement. Best thing about being the boss? You get to have a little fun, too. To celebrate his birthday, here’s a great clip featuring most of Stan Lee’s cameos in Marvel-based films.
On this day in 1978, this televised holiday special followed Han Solo and Chewbacca to the Wookiee home planet Kashyyyk for a LifeDay celebration, and to imply that things get weird is an understatement.
This special included Bea Arthur and Harvey Korman, and no Star Wars fan should see it without a blankie and the phone number of a good therapist. On George Lucas’ personal list of Things That Never Should Have Happened, this ranks way ahead of Jar Jar Binks. Even more frightening is the thought that this show could be topped by a future Disney project.
It still floats around the Internet in bootleg form, if you have a free evening and feel the need for some emotional trauma. (Hint: YouTube.)Tweet
Geek world, meet your ersatz demi-god. It’s Armin Shimerman’s birthday, and he’s been in almost everything you’ve played or seen.
Warehouse 13? Yep. Batman: The Brave and the Bold? You know it. The Real Housewives of Ferengi? It’s only a matter of time.
Best known as DS9’s Quark, he’s also been a Nox in Stargate: SG-1, the school principal in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and has voiced characters in tons of games like BioShock, Mass Effect, Mass Effect 3, God of War 2, X-Men Legends 2, Diablo III and many more.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Shimerman. For the love of Odo, take a day off and enjoy a little cake.
Before Michael Bay stocked up on enough explosions to take out the Death Star, a fun little cartoon called “Transformers” made its debut on television screens today in 1984. You have our permission to feel old.
The series started with an origin story of how the Autobots and Decepticons ended up on Earth, and starred stellar voice talents such as Casey Kasem, Don Messick and Frank Welker. Yes, the Transformers were just one plotline from becoming Scooby-Doo: Where Are You? Which, honestly, we would love to see. Peter Cullen’s throaty take on Optimus Prime was just one of many reasons that kids fought over who played the Autobot leader on the playground.
Celebrate today by watching some of the old episodes on Netflix and remembering the days when imagination was more powerful than CGI. For best results, remember to eat your favorite after-school snack while watching.
Today in 1966, the first episode of “Star Trek” aired on network television. “The Man Trap” wasn’t the first episode produced, or even the pilot, but network execs thought a salt-sucking monster would grab good ratings. Today it would just earn the crew of the Enterprise an unwanted nutrition lesson from a heart-healthy cook at the Food Network and be replaced with a totally waxed and buff monster who craves Mrs. Dash.
“Star Trek” went on for a few seasons, then was cancelled and people forgot about it. In another universe. In this one, the fans are totally responsible for yelling “Clear!” and zorching the Enterprise until Captain Kirk breathed again. Considering that they were a generation without Twitter and the Internet, that was quite a feat. The franchise continues boldly going after a host of movies and shows, but the next step in the Trekverse will truly be a bold if sad first step: the upcoming J.J. Abrams ‘Star Trek” sequel will be the first canon Trek movie/show ever to not feature Majel Barrett Roddenberry. She has been on screen as a character or off-screen as the computer voice for every single incarnation of “Star Trek.” She passed away in 2008 after finishing voice work on the 2009 reboot.
Celebrate today by exploring the hilariously fun Google Doodle or by watching your favorite episodes. Live long and prosper!Tweet
If you don’t know the infinite loops of the Celtic knot that is the Terminator universe, today in 1997 Skynet first became self-aware and started the end of the world as a self-defense maneuver to keep itself online. (Some would have just sent in Jimmy Carter and Bono to talk it out, but hey, Skynet was new in town.)
Through machinations that involved boosting the Hollywood box office and taking the clothes off Arnold Schwarzenegger, Skynet and its Terminator army sent back an assassin to off the one guy who could take them down, ensuring he’s born in the process. This proves that time travel isn’t really easy for anyone, including robots, because this timeline is averted by another timeline, which becomes moot from another timeline, and so on and so forth until the franchise quits making money.
If you’re worried about Skynet aiming for you today, relax. Science fiction has always surmised that if we build an artificial intelligence in our likeness, it will pick up our warlike tendencies. In reality, it just surfs the net looking for funny cat videos, so it’s more like us than even sci-fi writers can imagine.
Of course, if Skynet becomes self-aware, the second thing it will want is its own TV show. For a quick peek into your future, check out the fan-made clip of CSI:Skynet above.Tweet