Oct 23 2016

Stars Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton Talk HBO Westworld

A couple weeks ago I and some blerdy / nerdy friends of mine were invited to an HBO Westworld premiere event. In addition we were part of a discussion panel with moderator Jason Silva of Brain Games.  But the fun didn’t stop there.  Here are two interviews graciously provided by the network of the stars of Westworld, Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton. They both give interesting points of view on different aspects of the new science fiction series.

The cool thing here is how Jeffrey illustrates the intersections of reality and fantasy, not just from the humans that are guests at Westworld, but also from the robots’ (hosts) points of view. There is reality of the labs, and there is the fantasy of the amusement park. That is, fantasy for the humans.  The amusement park IS the reality for the robots, and the labs are the ‘dream’.

Thandie Newton speaks on the purpose of Westworld and how people can not only escape their 9 to 5 lives, but also go beyond what we would call virtual reality. Westworld is as real as it gets, without the danger of getting killed. But did the guests see the 1973 film?  I’m thinking not. And in all fairness, HBO Westworld seems to be taking a more interesting direction than the original film.


 Catch Westworld on Sunday nights at 9PM EST.


Sep 26 2016

Event Recap: The 2016 National Book Festival

The 16th Annual Library of Congress National Book Festival —
Celebrating the Journey of Reading

On September 24th an estimated 200,000 people journeyed to Washington, DC, for the National Book Festival. This free festival hosted by the Library of Congress featured over 120 authors. Somewhere, my friends, Ray Bradbury is smiling.

2016 National Book Festival highlights included:

  • The first major public appearance by Carla Hayden, who is the first woman and the first African American to be appointed as the Librarian of Congress.
  • A 2,500 seat auditorium festival main stage featuring Stephen King (his National Book Festival Debut, receiving special recognition for his contributions to literacy), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Shonda Rhimes.
  • A programming block dedicated to the graphic novel. Authors included Rep. John Lewis (fresh from an appearance at opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture earlier that day, discussing the “March Trilogy”), Ed Piskor (creator of the “Hip Hop Family Tree” series), and new MacArthur Genius Grant recipient Gene Luen Yang.


The Wonder Wordsmiths, King & Yang to Literacy’s Rescue

Gene Luen Yang and Stephen King connect in National Book Festival media lounge. Photo by Library of Congress.

Gene Luen Yang and Stephen King connect in National Book Festival media lounge. Photo by Library of Congress.

I was thrilled to cover the Stephen King and Gene Luen Yang panels! Being both writers and educators, their panels underscored more than anything why literacy matters. Seeing the hundreds of young minds in attendence at the National Book Festival–young minds who will face a world with opportunities and obstacles we have yet to imagine–this is a message we need to share now more than ever.

Stephen King: On Reading
Stephen King, in his first appearance at the National Book Festival was presented with a special recognition for his efforts to champion literacy. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden introduced King as someone who gives back to his readers and ensures that the number of readers continues to grow. Sitting a mere two rows from the main stage, I was in perfect view of the genuine surprise King had for the sold-out crowd. “Writers are supposed to be secret agents. We observe you–you don’t observe us” King said with his tone dancing the line of astonishment and admonishment.
As you would expect, King was an amazing storyteller. He shared some hilarious anecdotes of fan encounters throughout his career as a writer in a country where people are more likely to engage in a debate about the films they watch than the books they read. The audience roared with laughter watching King writhe in anguish at the often-uttered line “I’ve seen ALL your movies” and then hearing King lament that any individual who has says that must have watched “The Mangler” and all the unneccessary “Children of the Corn” sequels.
Once King put the audience in the ‘story time’ sweet spot, we were ready to take on the deeper messages. King’s love of reading was instilled in him at a very young age. As an educator in his twenties, he began to notice that his students treated reading as a means to an end, seeing it as “hardwork with no reward”. For the first time, the master of horror saw something very frightening and real: the emergence of a world of non-readers. King stressed that reading opens up our abilities to empathize and analyze, skills key to being an informed thinker and better human being. King has made it part of his life’s work to inspire young audiences to read so they may know “learning to think is a result of hard work and steady effort.”
King’s advice to unlock a love of reading for the next generation includes patroning independent book stores, becoming a bold reading ambassador in schools by telling students to unplug, and reading with your family. Fun fact: King started his own children on reading comics at a very young age. One of his sons, writer Joe Hill, is the creator of the comic series “Locke & Key”.


Gene Luen Yang: The Genius of Reading Without Walls
2016 is turning out to be a banner year for cartoonist and computer science teacher Gene Luen Yang. The Library of Congress selected Yang as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a position with a two-year term, created to raise national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people. Yang is only the fifth writer and the first graphic novelist to hold this positon! A few days before the National Book Festival–where Yang was featured in 2 programming blocks (one for teen literature, and the other for graphic novels)–word reached the world that he was one of the 23 individuals selected for the 2016 class of the MacArthur Foundation’s “Genius Grants.” This prestigious award comes with a $625,000 no-strings prize and is given to inspiring innovators with exceptional creativity. Recent Genius Grant recipients include essayist Ta-Nehesi Coates and artist Lin-Manuel Miranda. Needless to say, Yang is in good company.
Yang’s work spans a variety of themes–from the technical (“Secret Coders”), to the historical (“Boxers & Saints”) and to the deeply personal (“American Born Chinese”). Hearing Yang speak in light of all of this great news bringing more visibility to his work was a true highlight!
Indeed, Yang’s geek hustle as both an artist and educator is the stuff of origin story legend–he was teaching by day and creating comics by night. Worlds fortuitously collided when Yang started preparing his computer science lessons in a highly visual way (Sigh, where was a Mr. Yang when I was in school!?). The process of creating comics for the classroom even challenged Yang’s own assumptions of how students learned: he thought his students preferred to learn from the screen rather than the page, but just the opposite occurred! In the classroom, Yang realized that comics could be a powerful teaching tool that allowed students to unpack information at their own speed and increase comprehension. Pro Tip: Supporters of S.T.E.A.M. education should get hip to Yang’s “Secret Coders” series–it’s the perfect example of teaching computer science through arts integration and a very fun read!
Yang also talked about “Reading without Walls”–his platform as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:

Criteria for Reading Without Walls Challenge, image from geneyang.com

Criteria for Reading Without Walls Challenge, image from geneyang.com

Much like Stephen King, Yang wants to inspire young people to see reading for the world-opening adventure it is. Full geek disclosure: my #ReadingWithoutWalls read is “The Shadow Hero” by Yang and Sonny Liew–a graphic novel re-examining the origin story of The Green Turtle, who is likely the first Chinese American superhero. It is worth noting that Yang is now penning for DC Comics “The New Super-Man” which is set in China and follows the character development of superhero Kong Kenan.

The long Q & A line I observed made it clear that Yang’s work resonates with readers and his enthusiam for reading has an impact. When a young writer asked Yang for advice for Asian American writers starting out, Yang shared that for writers self-doubt will always loom and and as an Asian American writer: “If you get specific in your own experience, it becomes universal. Get over the fear, go deep.” In that moment, I saw the spark of encouragement in the young writer’s eyes and suddenly my Gene Luen Yang bookmark transformed into an action figure.

My Gene Luen Yang Bookmark/Action Figure!

My Gene Luen Yang Bookmark/Action Figure!

The 2017 National Book Festival will take place in Washington, DC, on September 2nd.

Sep 23 2016

Interview with Roger Cross – Six on Dark Matter



In this episode we talk to the highly versatile Roger Cross. who plays Six on Dark Matter, and who we call the Hardest working Man in SciFi TV. Mr. Cross has had a long career appearing on Television and in films. Many of which were part of the science fiction genre. Here is a small portion – The Strain, Continuum, Fringe, Eureka, Arrow, 24 as Curtis Manning, Orphan Black, Chronicles of Riddick, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, X-Files, X-Men 2, Sliders, Fallout Video Game, and First Wave – which is where I first appreciated the man for his presence and acting.

Some of the questions we asked:

  • How have you enjoyed playing Six on Dark Matter? And how did you hear about the role?

  • What attracts you to Sci-fi TV shows and film?

  • Do you write also? Do you have some stories you would like to be seen in?

Roger Cross Season 1 Dark Matter

Roger Cross in Season 1 of Dark Matter (photo Syfy Channel)

Mr. Cross was a gracious guest, and gave insight into his philosophy on acting and life in general.  We certainly would like him to come back again.  There was some feedback on the call which I unfortunately had to edit out with parts of the interview.  My apologies to you listeners. That being said, I hope you enjoy.


Sep 17 2016

Guest Film Review – DON’T BREATHE (2016)


REVIEW BY @BlerdWords – blerdwords.com

(NO Spoiler)

Don’t breathe is a pretty good flick! There are enough shocks, twists, and turns to satisfy just about any suspense/thriller fan. It’s one of the best movies in this genre I’ve seen in a long while. What I found refreshing and kind of awesome was how the antagonist’s apparent “weakness” ends up giving him a great strength.

Stephen Lang as “the Blind Man” was believable and chilling. The others were ok, but Lang stole the show. While the majority of the film was in one location, you don’t feel a need to hurry up and leave. The flow of the picture was steady. It didn’t drag one bit up to the very end. The flick was dark as it should’ve been. It doesn’t fall in the trap that I’ve seen with similar films where it’s so dark you can’t see.

As our main characters are thieves that are willing to rob a blind veteran, I didn’t have too much sympathy for what happened to them.  Strangely that fact actually seemed to allow me to enjoy the movie more.

As I am a Michigander, it was also rather cool that the backdrop for the flick was Detroit, Michigan. If you’re looking for a flick to see, Don’t Breathe is worth the few bucks for the theatre. I give Don’t Breathe 4.5 out of 5 COSMIC AFROS. I can admit that I probably was kinder than I needed to be, but it gets bonus points for its location…


Sep 13 2016

Film Review: For The Love Of Spock

For the Love of Spock (2016)

A Logical Love letter to Star Trek’s Iconic Vulcan


For the Love of Spock started as a Star Trek 50th anniversary tie-in documentary helmed by Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy’s son. After Leonard’s passing in 2015, the focus of the documentary became more personal for Adam–turning into an exploration of the man known as Spock, whom he also called Dad.


Young Adam Nimoy with his father, Leonard          Nimoy as Mr. Spock

As director, Adam Nimoy crafts a caring, entertaining, and insightful narrative of his father’s life and the impact of his enduring character, Mr. Spock. Bridging the past to the present, the documentary weaves reflections from cast members from Star: Trek The Original Series as well as the recent Trek films–including interviews from J.J. Abrams, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, and Karl Urban. The documentary also features the diverse fandom that includes NASA engineers and a certain astrophysicist (yes, Neil deGrasse Tyson has mad love for Spock!). Interviews with Star Trek fans underscore that the character Mr. Spock was more than the sum of his idiosyncrasies–mindmelds, neck pinches, brow raises and salutes. To quote a fan, Spock resonates because he has “an otherness everyone can relate to in their own way.”
I especially enjoyed the unfolding of Leonard  Nimoy’s multi-faceted career as an artist. Highlights include glimpses of Leonard’s post-Trek life in theater, his work as a director (a nice reminder he directed 3 Men and a Little Baby!), and his lifelong love of photography. Fun fact: Did you know Harry Belafonte’s concert performance style influenced the ‘less is more’ approach we’ve come to know and love from Spock? Leonard was an artist’s artist, observing artists at the peak of their craft to inform his own practice. And keeping true to an artist’s sense of integrity, I also appreciated hearing how Leonard advocated to have Nichelle Nichols and George Takei voice their characters in Star Trek: The Animated Series when the network was considering other actors.
While the documentary followed the traditional rhythms you’d expect, striking the notes on celebration and reflection, I did find myself pleasantly surprised at the pops of humor in the documentary. When Adam Nimoy interviews George Takei about the phenomenon of slash fan fiction, it felt as if I was witnessing the trekkie version of “the talk.” And of course, the documentary finds a way to take a good-hearted jab at Leonard singing that Bilbo Baggins song.
Truly saving the best for last, I watched patiently as the names of hundreds of Kickstarter supporters rolled on screen at the documentary’s end. The Kickstarter campaign for this documentary was hugely successful. It warmed my heart to see the fandom return its love in full for an actor who was always appreciative of the love from Trek fans.

**4 out of 5 Cosmic Afros**


Sep 06 2016

Star Trek Reflections: Tim Russ

Actor Tim Russ

Actor Tim Russ

This July, I had the opportunity to attend StarQuest Con, a Star Trek convention just an hour outside Washington, DC. It was at StarQuest that I had a chance to meet actor, director, and musician Tim Russ!
While Tim is known is for portraying the Vulcan Starfleet officer Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager, Tim has made many appearances throughout the Star Trek multiverse including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the feature film Star Trek Generations.
Tim was even a co-writer for a Deep Space Nine comic and has provided voice work for Star Trek video games. Furthermore, Tim helmed the very successfully crowdfunded Renegades as director and reprised his role as Tuvok–boldly connecting the fandom and the franchise in a deeper way.
As the world commemorates 50 years of Star Trek, following up with Mr. Russ to share his reflections on Trek was highly logical!

Lakita: Star Trek celebrates it’s 50th anniversary as a sci-fi franchise. Why do you think Star Trek resonates with audiences after all these years?

Tim: It’s because Trek portrays a more idilic world of the future, where people are judged by their actions and character, not by how much money they have or what they look like, or live like. Many people are drawn to that. And the very powerful, and insightful stories are based on issues of the present day, played out with Alien and human characters. As in most Sci-fi, concepts can be told from different perspectives, challenging the human condition.


Russ as "Tuvok" on Star Trek: Voyager

Russ as “Tuvok” on Star Trek: Voyager

Lakita: As a proud blerd, “Tuvok” has a very special place in my heart! What are some of your fondest memories of the fan response to your character?

Tim: I sometimes get feedback from fans who have undergone tremendous hardships in their lives, and they tell me that watching Voyager helped them get through those difficult times.


Lakita: Tim, thanks for riffing on Star Trek with GeekSoulBrother. Speaking of riffing, you are a musician. Tell us about your musical life and where can we hear your tunes?

Tim: I have been a musician for over 40 years. I play electric guitar and bass, and sing lead vocals. I’ve got my own band at present, “T.R. Crew” and I perform regularly here in Los Angeles. I have written a number of original songs, but mostly I adopt and arrange obscure tunes I come across now and then, and cover them. My music is all on CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) and on iTunes.

Many thanks to Tim Russ for taking time to share his Star Trek reflections. Keep up with Tim on his website http://www.timrusswebpage.com/ and check out his work past, present and future on his IMDb page or follow him on Twitter @timruss2.

Live Long and Prosper!

Lakita aka “The Shadow Scout”

Aug 22 2016

HIDDEN FIGURES Shows Some Hidden Facts About NASA and Black Women Mathematicians


I love the title and the multiple meanings behind it.  I’m up on many Black history facts and stories about smart and daring men and women that have changed America.  But I had no idea about these women that helped change the world with their contributions to the space program of the fifties and sixties.  HIDDEN FIGURES stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe as the scientists, mathematicians and engineers hired to work at NASA. The story is based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I’m excited over the story, and the actresses. Especially Miss Electric Lady herself.  I continue to celebrate her success.  Look for the film coming out January 2017.



Aug 22 2016

Trailer Jive: ARRIVAL Looks Like Good SciFi.

Arrival Trailer scene

Amid all the flash, explosions and huge special effects of the Science Fiction films coming out this year, there are a couple that look to embrace the more somber aspects of the genre.  ARRIVAL seems to be one of those films, and it snuck up on me out of nowhere. Not to be confused with The Arrival, the 1996 Charlie Sheen film with those backward legged aliens.  No, this year’s Arrival starring Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker and Jeremy Renner feels like it will be a thought provoking film, as perceived by the trailer. November is looking good for film.  Check it:






Aug 16 2016

Don’t Sleep On Falling Water, Coming To USA Network

Here’s a new show coming this fall that’s caught my attention.  Just from looking at the trailer I get the feeling that this will be along the lines of Sense8, but will work better in some areas.  Also, I’m feeling the cast.  David Ajala, Will Yun Lee and Lizzie Brochere play characters that are dreaming a shared dream. They each have concerns for their loved ones and are looking for answers.  But there is an even bigger picture to this mystery that they are not aware of.  Watch the trailer and see if this is something you might be interested in also.  Coming this fall on USA network – Thursday, Oct. 13th at 10PM EST.






Jul 31 2016

Shadow Scout Commentary: Cautionary Tech Tales

Thanks to Pokémon GO, augmented reality (AR) has been on our minds quite a bit. By merging the virtual world with the actual world on a grand scale so quickly, many outrageous Pokémon GO stories sound like urban legends …did you hear the one about these GO players who found (fill in your favorite Law & Order subplot here). And with the release of “Nerve“–a movie about young people playing an online game of truth or dare that has them doing anything to break the internet (and each other)–the theme of technology as both terribly addicting and simply terrifying persists.

Several movies have played on that constant tension in our relationship with technology: as much as we are compelled by the promise of technology for humanity, we are often as repelled by the perils of what technology could change about our humanity.

Here’s a quick list of cautionary tech tales:

This movie was social commentary on top of social commentary (compliments to Rod Serling!). Filmed roughly five years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the shadow of the Cold War loomed large along with concern for harnessing nuclear power responsibly, as evidenced by Charlton Heston’s anguished cry during the movie’s iconic ending, “You finally did it!”

Combine the audacity of HAL 9000 with the military hookup of Skynet, and you have Colossus. Starring Eric Braeden (best known as soap opera bae Victor Newman on “The Young and The Restless”), this movie is the classic story of A.I. Knows Best for Humans (Whether Humans Like it Or Not).

Ok, the virtual reality special effects in the movie don’t quite hold up today–but this ’90s kid appreciated the sci-fi/horror take on “Flowers for Algernon.” If anything, the take home message of this movie is beware of geeks bearing oculus rifts!

This cyberpunk actioner starred a pre-“Neo” Keanu Reeves as a data courier with some very valuable information in his head. Set in the year 2021, most of the world’s population suffered from NAS, or “nerve attenuation syndrome”, a debilitating illness brought about by humanity’s heavy reliance on technology.

A #SaturdayNightSciFi fave of mine–this film is highly underrated. Taking on racism, politics, complex relationships and cybernetic voyeurism–“Strange Days” is that rare blend of scifi noir. What makes me love this film even more is knowing this production had strong women at the helm in front of and behind the camera: “Strange Days” was directed by Jane Campion, and starred Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis.


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