Friday, 29 October 2010

The Geeks on Geekiness

Our latest video aired exclusively on the Guardian this week, alongside Alice's post on the Guardian Science blog about the meaning of the term 'geek' and asking: What's the geekiest thing you've every done?

Our geeks answered the same questions during their photoshoots, and you can hear their answers in the vid.

Again, credit for this video goes to our fabulous videography team: Editor Greg Foot and cameramen Barry Gibb and Tom Ziessen.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Geek Party

Thursday the 21st October was the zenith of the geek social calendar. Not only was Stephen Hawking at the Royal Albert Hall and the winner of the Royal Society Prize for Science Books announced, but it was also the official launch of the Geek Calendar.

Although the calendar has been available for pre-order since August, Thursday was the day we pushed the green button and let all systems go. And go they did. We had a wonderful amount of press coverage. More on that in another post shortly, but I have to admit, I nearly burst with excitement when I saw the calendar on the front page of the Guardian website.

Thankfully we had a big launch party to celebrate at, hosted at the Free Word Centre, home to English PEN and Index on Censorship, two of the three organisations that run the Libel Reform campaign (the other is Sense About Science).

The dress code on our invitations said 'geek chic', which we'd put in as a kind of joke. But the geek community, being what it is, took the words to heart, and some outfits were remarkable. There were several Lois Lanes and many spectacular spectacles. One girl, Bekky Kennedy, a former Sense about Science intern, had blue fairy lights in her hair.

Spectacular hairpiece!

However, it was the Nature podcast crew who pulled out all the stops: Charlotte Stoddart turned up with a molecule as a hair clip and Geoff Marsh appeared to have tattoed "e = mc2" onto his knuckles, though I think it might have just been biro.....

Molecule hair piece

Geoff geeks it up

Several of our calendar geeks were there, mingling with a crowd of friends, supporters, press and competition winners. There was some amusement as each of the geeks came face to face with their larger-than-life likeness: each of the final calendar photographs had been blown up poster-size and plastered all over the walls as a photo exhibition.

Simon Singh

Lewis x 2

Imran Khan (the science one)

Later in the evening, Mike Harris from Index on Censorship interrupted proceedings to introduce me for my little thank you speech. I was very nervous about this, but luckily got a lot of laughs, mostly for my mocking of Drs January and April.

I then introduced Simon Singh, who explained that he wasn’t really in the calendar, the featured geek was his baby son. Hari Singh "couldn’t be at the party tonight", but had sent in a pre-recorded video message (via his mum) explaining, in smiles and gurgles, that he was very proud to be featured in such a well-produced calendar for an important cause. Sile Lane from Sense About Science then took to the stage to explain why libel reform remains important and something we need to follow through to the end.

You can hear all the speeches below. Thanks to the Pod Delusion crew for recording this:

Following that, it was time to let loose with some live music! The poptastic Spirit of Play, who provided the backing tune for our video trailer, made a special guest appearance, filling the room with such songs as 'Wave or Particle' and, of course, the song that’s become our theme tune, 'Geek of the Week'.

There were two highlights of the night: the arrival of Brian Cox and Gia Milinovich, straight from the Royal Society do. Looking fabulous (of course) they signed their poster print and hobnobbed with a slightly star-struck crowd. Watch this space for an auction of that and all our other geek-signed posters (all raising more funds for the Libel Reform campaign of course).

After the party, a very tired, but very, very happy, Team Geek Calendar retired to the pub, munching on the amazing cookies made especially for the launch party by Wendy of Quirky Cookies. Featuring agarose gels, double helices, labcoats, Higgs-Boson particles, and even our logo, they were the geekiest foodstuffs we’d ever seen, and truly the icing that topped off our cake.

geeky cookies

Thanks again to all who came to the party and helped us celebrate the launch of a truly geeky project. The work's not over yet though. Tell your friends (be it tweet, blog, Facebook, email or Second Life) about Geek Calendar and be sure to buy one for yourself and the other geeks in your life. All money goes to the Libel Reform campaign and the project will only truly be a success if we can raise more money, and awareness, to make libel reform happen.

More from the launch party:

Photoset on our Flickr account (credit to Benjamin Thompson for these):

Audio interviews from press on the night:

Mike Harris, from Index on Censorship, on the Pod Delusion

Gia Milinovich on the Pod Delusion

Audioboos from @documentally, talking geek with Brian Cox:


and with Jenny Rohn and Imran Khan from the Science is Vital campaign (which also had something to celebrate that week!)


Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pre-order prize draw winners

Way back in the summer, at the height of Geek Calendar production madness, we announced a prize draw to entice you to pre-order a calendar in August.

The draw was made a few weeks ago and we can now announce the lucky winners:
  • Lewis Dartnell signed book: Vanessa Stainthorp
  • Roger Highfield signed book: Sophie Freeland, Tom Chance, Werner, Tara Herman
  • Mark Henderson signed book: Anne Coleman
  • Alex Bellos signed book: Christine Sexton
  • Signed set of Simon Singh books: Katie Hanrott
  • Knitted Higgs Boson: Catherine Owen
  • Sydney Padua Babbage & Lovelace Libel Reform sketch: Amy Blencowe
  • Geek Calendar launch party tickets: Jenny Woods, Carmen Windsor, Richard Parmiter, Penny Vickers, Fiona Mcrobie
Congratulations to all!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Geek Calendar is here!


The Geek Calendar has arrived! After much hard work, we are pleased to finally unveil the finished product.

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but we'll elaborate on more specific parts of it in the coming weeks. If you haven't ordered yours yet, what are you waiting for? Buy here, and remember, all proceeds go toward the Libel Reform campaign.


Product shots:

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

TAM London

Team Geek Calendar were up at the crack of dawn last weekend to sell our hot-off-the-press calendar at the The Amazing Meeting London (TAM London).

TAM is a conference for critical thinkers that raises money for the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), founded by magician and skeptic James Randi (that’s the Amazing Randi to you and me). With speakers such as Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Susan Blackmore and Graham Linehan, we figured there would be quite a few geeks in the audience wanting to buy the calendar. We weren’t wrong.

This was the first time the calendar had been seen by the public, and we made our first sale at the painfully early hour of 8.15am. I manned the stall in my geek chic Geek Calendar tee-shirt and handed out button badges we had made especially for TAM and our official launch party.

Button badge

Our TAM London stall

It was great to meet people who had been following the progress of our nerdy little project on Twitter -- we even gave out some copies to people who had pre-ordered. For those of you who have pre-ordered and haven't received it yet, it is in the post and should arrive soon!

Taking turns to man the stand, and with help from our stall neighbours, The British Humanist Association and The Pod Delusion, Mun-Keat and I did manage to sneak away from playing shop to hear some of the conference talks.

Richard Dawkins presented a reading list to illustrate why evolution is the new Classics, and Cory Doctorow talked about copyright in a jacket that looked like a barcode. But the highlight was Geek Calendar’s Mr January, Adam Rutherford, and his hilarious account of attending the Alpha Course.

Adam Rutherford - TAM London 2010

Credit: Pewari Naan

Most of what he said was spot on, though he lost a few geek points by claiming the Lord of the Rings films are boring. Shame on him!

Besides Adam, many of our other geeks were also in attendance. Gia Milinovich, Evan Harris and Simon Singh all spoke at TAM, and all stopped by to say hi. Evan even signed a copy for one lucky geek. Also present in the audience were Jonathan Ross and family with Mrs Ross, Jane Goldman, purchasing one for the family wall.

Louise and Gia

Louise and Evan

Mun-Keat and Simon

Apart from selling our wares, we also did a few press interviews. Mun-Keat did a piece for the Righteous Indignation podcast and I was interviewed for JREF TV and the Naked Scientists podcast – keep your ears peeled in case I make the cut.

To pass the time in between sales, hilarity and the media, I also did a spot of knitting, and I’m very pleased to introduce you all to the Geek Calendar’s new mascot, Pete the Pterodactyl:

Comic artist Alan Moore concluded the conference talks... and he signed a calendar! We’ll be auctioning this off to raise even more money for Libel Reform soon.

Signed by Alan Moore!

If you haven’t yet, buy your copy now – in the words of TAM host, Professor Richard Wiseman:

"It’s a porn calendar for brainy people... it's even printed on glossy paper."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

The Geeks on Libel Reform

Although Geek Calendar is a celebration of nerdishness, it's main raison d'ĂȘtre is of course to raise money and awareness for charity: the UK Libel Reform campaign.

Why Libel Reform? We'll let our Geeks explain:

Credit to our video editor Greg Foot for editing and Barry Gibb and Tom Ziessen for filming.

You can find out more about the Libel Reform campaign, and sign the petition, at

All takings from Geek Calendar sales go to the Libel Reform campaign, so don't delay, order yours today!

Monday, 18 October 2010


A quick shout out for Things, Wellcome Collection's new, two-week only, exhibition in London.

The idea is that you bring something no bigger than your head that means something to you, however unusual, and donate it to the exhibition. By the time the exhibit is complete, it will feature dozens of objects of all shapes and sentiment, with a range of stories attached to them.

With Wellcome Collection playing host to three of our shoots, we felt we ought to give something back and couldn't resist donating one of our crafted props -- Kat Akingbade's 'Homeopathic Pill Bottle'.

homeopathic pills 'prop' containing paracetamol

The bottle is 26 December on the Calendar of Things ("A supposed hangover cure?," asked artist Keith Wilson, when I handed it over). You can view it's entry on the Things website or in the exhibition itself, which runs until this Friday (22 October).

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Final Shoot: Jonathan Ross

It's been a madcap ride, but after a summer of hard work our fifteenth and final shoot for Geek Calendar arrived, and boy was it a biggie: Jonathan Ross.

Jonathan Ross

'Wossy' is one of the UK's biggest stars (and not just on Twitter :P). He's worked in TV and radio for over 20 years and has a plethora of TV credits, notably his own Friday night chat show, BBC Radio show and taking over from Barry Norman as the presenter of the BBC's flagship Film programme.

But we love Jonathan, not for his fame, but for his geek credentials. His career has seen him front cult favourites such as The Incredibly Strange Film Show and Japanorama. And if that's not enough for you, he's appeared as himself in a Neil Gaiman short story and has just written his first comic book series, Turf. And let's not forget, he's married to the lady who wrote the screenplays for Stardust, Kick Ass and X-Men: First Class.

Jonathan is well-known as a huge cult film fan, comic book nerd, gamer and toy collector. So I couldn't help but envision a huge wall of alphabetically-organised comic books, wall-to-wall Marvel and DC comic art, the latest tech and collectibles coming out of your ears. As it turned out, my imagination came up sorely short.

If there were an MTV Cribs for geeks, Jonathan Ross's house would have to be first for a visit.

Wossy's 'office' is beyond nerd nirvana. For one thing, THE CEILING DISPLAYS SUPER MARIO SPRITES!!!

Another thing to geek out about is the chairs. They may look like something out of Blake's 7, but they're actually fully wired for surround sound, which is perfect for watching movies on the matching plasma screen or, as Jonathan says, getting your arse kicked by your son at Halo. (I have to say, surround sound chairs must give him quite the advantage over other online gamers. Beware Master Ross on XBox live!)


Jonathan gave us the tour of his favourite possessions, putting up with our (ok, my) exclamations of "OMG that's not an original [insert obscure character] figure from [insert Japanese anime]". That did, however, turn up a couple of facts:

1) He has a custom-made briefcase so he can carry his favourite figures around with him

Collectible case

2) He has possibly the coolest mother-in-law in the world: she knitted him an original Astro Boy figure (at the bottom in the pic below), complete with a voice recorded off a DVD!

Collectible shelf

We also got to meet the Ross pets: both real and artificial:

Mr Pickles!Aibo

Back to our subject, Jonathan was really up for hamming it up. He tried on several different costumes, including a winged hoodie and these awesome 'Icarus' trainers (taken out of their box and worn for the first time just for Geek Calendar!).


Icarus trainers

We also tried a few of him going commando (no, not like that) posing with an original Johnny Seven OMA gun (the Rolls Royce of toy guns, I'll have you know).

Locked and loaded

In the middle of this, our shoot was interrupted by a parcel delivery. Jonathan popped out and returned with a Fed Ex package. From another Jonathan. Jonathan Ive (a.k.a. the designer behind Apple's iconic product line of the last 13 years). Inside? The latest range of iPods announced by Steve Jobs just days before. All of them. OMGWTF?!

During the shoot Jonathan told us tales of life behind the camera (including the exaggerated rumours about his BBC contract and how disappointing it is when people take your jokes the wrong way). We talked tech gadgets (he has SO many retro games consoles and cameras), his wife's prowess at World of Warcraft, and how Twitter is simultaneously a wonderful communication tool, but also making it a little too easy for people to snipe at each other.

We heard about the projects on his horizon, including a travel show taking in the Trans-Siberian Express on the way to Hong Kong, and more comic books -- with one an awesome-sounding series on old-age superheroes (think Mr Fantastic with his bits sagging :P).

We also recorded a great video interview, several bits of which have made it into our series of videos (the first of which you can see here).

Jonathan was really accommodating and a fantastic host. We really can't thank him enough for taking part and having us round to geek out all afternoon (though I'm sure he enjoyed it as much as we did!). Thanks also to the lovely Gia Milinovich for helping us arrange the shoot.

Here are some further pictures of the Ross office. As always, there are more behind-the-scenes shots on our Flickr page.


Setting Aibo to go

Twenty geeks, fifteen shoots. Mission complete (at least this part of it).

Geek out.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Geeks on film

Greg Foot, Geek Calendar's video editor, introduces the first of our special videos -- our trailer!

When we came up with the mad idea that is Geek Calendar we had a whole bundle of bonkers ideas. One of them was to make a video to whet your whistle about the final shots and show how much fun the whole thing was to put together!

When you get your grubby mitts on your very own Geek Calendar and flick through those glossy snaps you’ll see that lots of thought went into the choice of location and shot and, as you’d expect with the likes of Jonathan Ross involved, every shoot was a right laugh!

The marvellous Barry J Gibb and Tom Ziessen very kindly picked up their cameras and tagged along to whatever shoots we could fit into our geekily crammed diaries. And for those we couldn't make, organiser Mun-Keat had his Flip Video camera on him at all times (as geeks do), pointing it in the right direction enough times to give us some great shots.

Finally, you can’t have a trailer without a cracking tune, and we got a very appropriate one thanks to our friends at Geek Pop, the purveyors of fine nerd music. They had loads of great suggestions, but we eventually settled on the aptly-named Geek Of The Week by Sprit of Play.

My only qualm was that the original track was more chilled than we needed (it’s a great acoustic track – check it out). I was after something upbeat, preferably with some 8-bit goodness in there (cheers to Adam Rutherford and the Nature video crew for inspiring us). Luckily, I met the Spirit Of Play guys at the Green Man music festival and asked if they would do us a special version of the song. They jumped at the idea and the Geek of the Week (Geek Calendar remix) was born! You can grab the track over on Geek Pop's very kind blog post.

Getting our own customised remix was the icing on the cake for us, and we hope you guys like the trailer. Keep your eyes peeled: we’ve got two more videos coming soon featuring more from our geeks!

Greg Foot