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Wednesday, 31 May 2006 00:00

Recommended diversions

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Mental Floss

For those who love collecting trivia in bite-sized tidbits, look no further than Mental Floss magazine, the sugar-coated candy that’s spinach for your noggin. (OK, too many metaphors, but this publication inspires such tangents.)

Where else will you find a survival guide for the witness protection program, instructions on how to swallow a sword, a brief history of computer hackers, a 50-cent tour through Morocco’s history, and an interview with lit pundit Oscar Wilde. Each issue (6 per year) makes you realize just how much amazing trivia humans are capable of consuming.

Star Wars fans

I have a good friend who could have lived a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The Force is strong with him. He’s building his own Jedi lightsaber. I don’t mean a plastic, duct-taped gadget with make-believe laser lights. I mean a top-of-the-line, silvery tool with rubber grips and the works — enough to warrant the nerdiest of Star Wars fans to reply in their best Lord Vader impersonation, “I see you have constructed a new lightsaber.” I once put myself among the throng of worldwide Star Wars junkies, eager to own the latest action figure or fanzine. But since the final Skywalker episode concluded last year, I’ve been far surpassed by the likes of amateur filmmakers who now create Web sites and downloadable fan films that entertain with dazzling special effects, serious scripts and lightsaber duels that would make George Lucas think twice about doing another blockbuster. Among the best short fan films are “I.M.P.S.” and “Troops,” lampoons on a day in the life of imperial stormtroopers, those robotic drones that carried out the evil will of the Emperor. “Troops” is filmed like “Cops,” complete with the “Bad Boys” song in the credits and a stormtrooper narrating a daily job investigating domestic disturbances on Tatooine where Jawas deal in stolen droids. Long live the dedicated fans, keepers of the Star Wars saga.

“Boston Legal”

Well written, superbly acted and zany enough for those who love watching lawyers behaving badly, “Boston Legal” is one of the best shows on TV right now. Propelled by an all-star ensemble that includes William Shattner as the flashy Denny Crane as well as wickedly wise attorneys Candice Bergen and James Spader, the plot revolves around the basic courtroom comedy/drama viewers have grown to love from creator David E. Kelley. (Kelley served as executive producer for “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” “Picket Fences” and “L.A. Law.”) But unlike its predecessors, “Boston Legal” makes no apologies for attorneys who fire guns in the courtroom, welcome sexual harassment, and trade insults with the honesty and flair we all wish we could use if we had such wit. There’s just enough sensitive material to keep the show from getting too campy, and the court cases offer a serious look at timely topics such as teen drug use, capital punishment, gay marriage and gun rights. Check out Denny and gang on Tuesday nights.

— By Michael Beadle

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