Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015)

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Today’s Agents of SHIELD party post has been rescheduled, because I can’t post a party today.  About twenty minutes ago, I received confirmation that Leonard Nimoy had passed away.  I would never call myself a Trekkie- it’s not my favorite franchise, though I do enjoy it.  However, Mr. Nimoy’s death has affected me, more than I assumed it would.

In early 2014, Mr. Nimoy offered to adopt us all as his honorary grandchildren.  Like the lost children so many of us are, we eagerly agreed, adopting him as well.  Maybe that’s why we, as the nerd community, are taking this so hard.  Losing an actor is not difficult.  Losing a man, even if we did not know him well, who was kind and generous to his fans and his friends- that’s much harder.

I dislike saying rest in peace, because I find it trite and peculiar.  I have no other words but thanks for Mister Nimoy.  Thank you for your kindness, your warmth, and your love.

That is where you truly prosper.

 

How to: End a Sitcom Gracefully: Parks and Recreation Edition

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Friends, Parks and Recreation ended last night.  This warm, hilarious show about small government and public servants who actually serve went out not with a bang- but with a sweet, nostalgic fizz not unlike The Colbert Report’s excellent finale last December.

The year, I remind you, is 2017.  On Leslie Knope’s last day of work in the titular department, a man comes in to request a swingset be fixed.  That’s it.  Nothing life changing.  As she exchanges heartfelt words with each member of the main cast, the camera freezes on each gesture and tells us what became of Tom, Donna, Jean Ralphio, Andy and April, Garry/Jerry, Ron, and of course, Ben and Leslie.  I might have liked to see more of what became of Ann and Chris, but what we did see was wonderful.  The small story about one broken swing exists solely as a plot device for the clip-show style of the rest of the episode, but seldom does that device work so well as it did last night.

The endings for the characters never denied who they were, and rewarded their virtues without making them pay too dearly for their flaws.  Garry’s ending, even with a misspelled tombstone, was heartwarming.  A dear, optimistic man dying on his hundredth birthday, surrounded by the people he loved, who clearly loved him dearly.  Tom’s resourceful nature and neverending tenacity are rewarded, even when fate deals him a bad hand.  April and Andy grow up without maturing, as baby Jack’s incredibly long full name implies.  Everyone evolves but never changes.

Parks and Recreation was wry, but never cynical.  In a world of Breaking Bads and Game of Thrones, a world where even in comedies like The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men rely on insulting and undermining each other, Parks dared to be kind.  It dared to be gentle and sweet and believe that people could really be good to each other.  Instead of finding the humor in nastiness, it found the humor in love and devotion.  We laughed with them, not at them- except maybe for Garry.

By the time Leslie Knope said her last line: “I’m ready,” I was, too.  I loved Parks and Recreation, and I’m happy it got to go out on its own terms.  NBC didn’t do the show justice cramming all of its episodes into a few weeks, but I’m grateful we got this last season to say farewell.  For me, two words started the waterworks:  “Ann’s here.”  The sheer joy and emotion in Poehler’s voice sold the moment, and I was happy to see all of these wonderful people together in one place one last time, too.
How I Met Your Mother writers, take note: This is how a sitcom finale is done.  Realistic, cathartic, and respectful of the characters, their world, and the fans.  I leave you with one of the most basic moments of Parks and Recreation, celebrating unity and mini horses.

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Pretty Nerdy Party: Agent Carter

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Next week, we lose the Marvel limited run series Agent Carter for an entire year!  So let’s see her out in style with a true 1940s-themed party, like one post-war Peggy might have attended herself.  We’re going to fudge the timeline a little bit, because 1950s food, frankly, is not that appealing.  You don’t want to eat aspic, do you?

Food Notes:

  • Rationing was in full force around the time Captain America takes place, and some authentic 40s food does the trick nicely.
  • Additionally, cheese and butter were rationed, so this is the perfect menu to give your body a break from all of those Valentine’s Day treats. (Don’t worry, delightfully unhealthy food will be back next Friday)

 

Appetizers:

  • Bread is the staff of life, and its lack of rationed ingredients make it a great choice for your pre-meal fare.
  •  Victory gardens were very popular, so this would be the time for your veggie tray.
  • I won’t tell if the ranch dressing isn’t authentic, but peanut butter is probably more period-appropriate.

 

Dinner:

  • Hamburgers, Meat Loaf, and meatballs were popular in the 1940s, when beef was much less expensive than chicken.
  • Hot dogs were similarly popular, even though they were at that point called frankfurters.  This also creates a nice underlying theme of Americana, proving Steve is (at that time) gone, but certainly not forgotten

 

Dessert:

  • Go ahead and bake a cake from a box.  Convenience food was just being introduced owing to the rationing of sugar, butter, and eggs.  If someone gives you any guff, tell them you’re being authentic.
  • Frost it red, white, and blue, and serve with ice cream for Peggy’s frozen boyfriend.

 

Drinks:

  • “At the River Club in New York, as the bartender told me, the six most popular mixed drinks are: bacardi cocktails, daiquiris, dry martinis, manhattans, old-fashioned cocktails and whisky sours. Usually, and for even a fairly large party, dry martinis, with whiskey and soda highballs, sherry, iced fruit juice and milk for the many who are on diets but who like going to parties just the same, offer something for every taste.”—Entertaining is Fun! How to be a popular hostess/Dorothy Draper [Doubleday, Doran & Company:New York] 1941 (p. 67-70)
  • The above quote was super interesting.  The links are from me.

 

Decor:

  • Bowls of M&Ms and Tootsie Rolls can be placed strategically around the room for pre-meal snacking, since both were introduced as a way to heat proof chocolate for Allied soliders!
  • Propaganda posters like this one could be a nice touch.

Woman Crush Wednesday: Six Ladies of SNL that Inspire

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Welcome to the queendom.

 

SNL40 aired on Sunday night, and I was personally reminded of why I do what I do.  Women have had a tough road in comedy- John Belushi famously sabotaged sketches by female writers, claiming women weren’t funny.  Obviously, we are, and I wanted to take this week’s Wednesday column (One-Shot Wednesday will run next week, I swear) to honor six of the women that have blazed the trails for all of us.  This is not a comprehensive list of every woman who is SNL legend, but these are six women whose example we all follow or hope to follow as females, comedians/comediennes, and smart girls.

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Jane Curtin- “It used to be I was the only pretty blonde reading the fake news- now there’s a whole network of them!”  The second anchor ever for Weekend Update and the first woman, Jane’s deadpan delivery and ability to play straight against living cartoon characters Chevy Chase, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd made her an invaluable member of the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players.  Curtin is still with us, and is sassy to this very day.

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Gilda Radner- Where Jane Curtin played straight, Gilda Radner was broad.  The first player cast, Radner was honored on SNL40 by Emma Stone’s impression of her Roseanne Rosannadanna character, though I personally favor her as nerdy Lisa Loopner.  Like Jane Curtin, Radner abstained from the drugs than ran rampant throughout the original cast.  Unfortunately, we lost Radner far too soon to ovarian cancer in 1989. However, as long as Barbara Walters (Baba Wawa) lives, Gilda does, too.

I love everything in this picture.

I love everything in this picture.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Simply put, Fey is iconic.  She made smart girls cool and mean girls funny.  Amy Poehler went on to create one of the warmest, funniest television shows of recent times.  Fey was the first woman to be named head writer for SNL, and Poehler is the first woman to be nominated for an Emmy for acting in SNL.  Their tenure hosting Weekend Update is widely considered to be among the best runs the segment has ever known.  Bitch will always be the new black, and bitches get stuff done.  Poehler’s Hillary Clinton and Fey’s Sarah Palin were at odds, incredibly funny, and spot-on.  I considered listing them separately, but they belong together. Never before has the power of female friendship been so palpable, honest, and inspiring in comedy, where women tend to be pitted against one another.

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Cheri Oteri- What do you call the woman who can hold her own with Will Ferrell on the regular, playing instantly recognizable cheerleaders or idiotic talk-show hosts?  Well, you call her Cheri Oteri.  She didn’t blaze trails like Curtin, Radner, Fey, or Poehler, but she held her own with the boys, able to be just as funny and cartoonish as Ferrell.  Unfortunately, Oteri was not able to feature in SNL40, as she was unable to confirm her attendance until the last minute.  There was no time to rehearse for her.  We just can’t “simmer down now” when it comes to talking about this madly talented woman.

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Maya Rudolph- Kristen Wiig might be more popular, but I had to choose Rudolph for our last spot.  Rudolph is a chameleon, imitating countless celebrities during her tenure on the show.  Her sleepy, sloshed Donnatella Versace and gutsy, uncanny Beyonce earned her place in our hearts and in the show’s history.  Rudolph might not have as many legendary characters, but there was certainly room for the gifted impressionist here.

 

There are many, many more women in SNL history, and I can’t wait to see what Vanessa Bayer, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, Sasheer Zamata, and Cecily Strong will offer as their legacy- keep being legendary, ladies.

Pretty Nerdy Party: The Princess Bride

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Twoooo love.

I know last week, we threw a little Valentine’s Day shindig, but let’s keep the love going and throw a pretty nerdy party for everyone’s favorite kissing book: The Princess Bride.   Some cocktails, some fun themed food, and a good movie: what else could you ask for on Galentine’s Day?

 

Drinks:

  • Buy some Kraken (Or comparable black rum) for the Dread Pirate Roberts and mix it with whatever you have on hand.
  • The Double Honey is sweet, beautiful, and golden, like our Buttercup- but with a little punch from the tequila to make it strong enough to stand up to Humperdinck.
  • The French Peach is also a good Buttercup cocktail if you’re not into honey or lavender.
  • Brandy for Inigo, obviously.’
  • Iocane powder is tasteless and dissolves instantly, but labeled powdered drink mixes could be a nice offering for guests hoping for something a little less alcoholic.

Appetizers:

  • Buy a few eel rolls at your local sushi place for the Screaming Eels
  • Serve chips and your favorite accompaniment in a deep bowl, with a sign marking it: THE DIPS OF INSANITY
  • Peanuts and Peanut butter, for Fezzik’s infamous line.
  • Meat skewers for some freshly stabbed Rodents of Unusual Size (but only if you think they exist)

Food:

  • When the Alamo Drafthouse did this, they actually made an MLT.  Mutton is a little expensive and hard to come by, but if you can pull this off, go for it.
  • Serve chicken fries in groups of six for Count Rugen’s six fingers
  • Serve cornish hens, so everyone can feel like Fezzik eating miniature food!
  • Chicken noodle soup for poor sick Fred Savage.

 

Dessert:

  • Chocolates or chocolate cake pops, whether homemade or store-bought, can be made into serviceable resurrection pills
  • Pixie Sticks for makeshift iocane powder

 

Dress:

  • All in black, obviously.  And wear a mask- they’re terribly comfortable, and everyone will be wearing them in the future

Who on Earth is Dazzler

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A promininent member of the upcoming A-Force, Dazzler is scorned by many and loved by few.  Fortunately, I love Dazzler, so you guys have to listen to me talk about her.

Real Name: Alison Blaire

First Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #130 (February 1980)

Affiliations: Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, X-Men, Avengers, West Coast Avengers,

Notable Non-Comic Appearances:

  • Dazzler is almost definitely best known for appearing in the X-Men arcade game in 1992.
  • Time Magazine called her one of Marvel’s 10 oddest characters
  • Dazzler appeared in the Dark Pheonix arc of the 1990s X-Men cartoon

Powers:  Alison is a walking, talking party.  Sound conversion to energy beams, light projection, strobe lights, lasers, energy manipulation, and immunity to light and sound.  She’s the hero you want DJing your wedding.

Pre-Superhero Bio: Raised by a father intolerant of her creative dreams, Alison wanted to become a singer.  She pursues this after her graduation, using her powers to make herself into a star.  Eventually, her “technological secret” was out, and both the X-Men and the Hellfire club pursued her.  As a result, several of her performances were destroyed by everyone from Doctor Doom to the Incredible Hulk.  She turned down both numerous times before eventually joining the X-Men once her cover was blown and her career was ruined.

Notable Series and Plotlines:

  • X-Men: Battle Of The Atom (Dazzler is the first mutant president.  Awesome until she is promptly assassinated.  At her inauguration.)
  • Marvel Zombies vs. The Army of Darkness (Dazzler helps Ash before being destroyed by Ultron.)
  • Dazzler (1981-5)

Family Ties: Alison Blaire was raised by non-mutant folk, and in her early arcs tended to date non-mutant folk.  Her half-sister, Lois, was also a mutant, and the pair went on the lam after Lois accidentally murdered a homeless man.  Notable relationships include Warren Worthington III (Angel) and Longshot.  Close friends include Jubilee, and former bodyguards inexplicably include Deadpool.

Commentary: Often coveted and pursued, Dazzler was actually depicted as extremely powerful subduing Rogue, Mystique, and Destiny all at once.  Dazzler is a commentary on the dangers of fame, and what happens when a person becomes a public figure or even a brand.  The constant exploitation of Dazzler is tragic, and her backstory includes lots and lots of blackmail.  Starting over is also a constant theme for Alison, and her death is faked at least twice.

Dazzler rose to fame right at the end of the disco era, and sort of became a punchline when her comic eventually failed.

Dazzler as she is perhaps best remembered.

Dazzler as she is perhaps best remembered.

Nerdy Jersey: Red Bank

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New Jersey: we have a stadium, but no sports team.  We have a lame reality show or three, and not a lot of respect.  What else do we have?    An awful lot of nerd credibility.  +2 Comedy’s Noah and I went on a little field trip over the weekend to Red Bank, NJ, home of Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash and Yestercades.

Jay and Silent Bob’s Secret Stash is owned by Kevin Smith and operated by the stars of the AMC show Comic Book Men.  To our surprise, one of the leads of Comic Book Men was actually there, working the register.  Michael was very nice, as it turns out.

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The real star, however, is the Stash itself.  If you’re a fan of Kevin Smith, you should probably make a pilgrimage.  While the store carries graphic novels and single issues, it has a more impressive collection of collectibles, many of which are signed by Smith himself.  In display cases throughout the store are pieces of memorabilia from the films, from Mooby uniforms to good ol’ Buddy Christ himself. I picked up the 2014 Ms. Marvel, while Noah grabbed the third Matt Fraction Hawkeye collection.  Support comic book stores, guys.

 

Then we went to the Wonderland that is Yestercades.  Packed on an unseasonably comfortable February Saturday, the walls are lined with the cabinets every 80s and 90s kid dreams about.  Pinball?  Of course.  Pac-Man?  Galaga?  Donkey Kong?  Bubble Bobble?  Gang’s all here.  There are also current and past generation consoles along the walls to play various multiplayer games.  Various iterations of Super Smash Bros. seemed to be the most popular.

Sweet X-Files Pinball Machine

Sweet X-Files Pinball Machine

This was my favorite cabinet- a classic Fix-It Felix cabinet.  Disney World didn’t even have one of these.  I was delighted to find this one!

20150207_163913_LLSAll in all, there’s a lot for a nerd to do in Red Bank, especially with Valentine’s Day coming up,  Have fun!

Pretty Nerdy Party Planning: Valentine’s Day

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Happy Valentine’s Day, nerds! Whether single or attached, a great way to spend a holiday is with friends. Why not go out for your special date another day, and throw a kickass party you won’t need reservations for? Fandom is full of romance- why not celebrate your super-powered love this year?

Drinks:

  • Champagne is classic.
  • Red Peach Martinis for Mario and Peach- Make this peach martini recipe than either add a little bit of grenadine or red food coloring to make the perfect union for video game royalty
  • For Valentine’s Day, a romantic chocolate stout is ideal.
  • Complete Cocktails has a great cocktail called Mad Love. For bonus points, freeze some dark grape juice or water with purple food coloring to achieve that Harley Quinn harlequin look.

 

Food: Italian food can be relatively inexpensive and is usually a crowd pleaser. Plus, as it turns out, many of our favorite couples use it in pivotal scenes in their relationship.

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Music:

Last year, we printed a mix cd entry. The track list is as follows:

  • “Ode to a Geek,” Lorraine Cink
  • “Housewares Employee,” Evil Dead the Musical
  • “Under Your Spell,” Once More, With Feeling (The Buffy Musical Episode)
  • “Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes,” Kirby Krackle
  • “Womanizer,” Venetian Princess
  • “She Blinded Me with Science,” Thomas Dolby
  • “My Freeze Ray,” Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  • “Aquaman’s Lament,” Mark Aaron James
  • “Skullcrusher Mountain,” Jonathan Coulton
  • “Yuri the Only One For Me,” The LeetStreet Boys
  • “Gonna Make You Happy Tonight,” Tripod
  • “Hot Toxic Love,” The Toxic Avenger Musical
  • “Geeks in Love,” Lemon Demon

Dress:

  • If you’re attached, dress as your favorite couple. Wednesday’s article has some pretty good ideas!
  • If you’re not attached, cosplay anyway- maybe another guest will show up in a complimenting costume!

Desserts:

 

Breaking: Marvel and DC make major announcements

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Today, both Marvel and DC made huge announcements regarding the future of women in comics.

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Marvel: Marvel is introducing the A-Force, an all-female Avengers team.  Included appear to be She-Hulk, Wasp, Medusa, Phoenix, Elektra, Storm, Rogue, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Dazzler(!) and many many more.  The spacy lady is Singularity, a new hero being introduced in A-Force

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DC: DC is killing off the New 52, which had vastly varying degrees of reception.  They’re also adding some new female-driven titles, including Harley Quinn and Power Girl,  Black Canary, and Starfire.  Black Canary is singing, all right, in the stylized promotional art.  Star’s dreadful New 52 incarnation doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.  She looks fairly vapid.  Am I the only one who’d like to see the Starfire the Teen Titans cartoons gave us: kind and fair, but far from stupid.

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Cosplay Wednesday: Couples Cosplay

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This was the only couples cosplay picture I own the rights to, but we made a cute R2-D2 and Luke Skywalker all the same.

 

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and you know what that means: love is in the air.  And the couple that cosplays together stays together.  So what do you do when it’s time to show the world your super-powered love?

What you need to ask yourself:

  • How much work are we willing to do?
  • If the above answer is “not much,” how much money are we willing to spend?
  • Am I okay with one of us switching genders?
  • What do we both love enough to devote time/ money to being?

 

Admittedly, most of these pairings are guy/guy or guy/girl- next month, we’re going to talk about pairs and groups for ladies only.  Keep on the lookout!

Difficulty Level: Easy

Captain Hammer and Dr. Horrible

  • For the Captain, all you need are a Captain Hammer T-shirt and the right gloves.
  • For Dr. Horrible, a red or white chef’s coat, white or black wellies, and white or black scrub pants are perfect.  The goggles are readily available on Etsy and Ebay

Wash and Zoe, Firefly

  • For Wash, all you need is a good Hawaiian shirt and khaki cargo pants.
  • For Zoe, a long sleeved shirt, long pants, and leather vest and holster can all be found pretty easily online.

Fred and Daphne/ Shaggy and Velma, Scooby-Doo

  • For basic, solid color items, check stores like Target and Wal-Mart, which tend to stock the basics pretty cheaply.  Thick glasses are a must for Velma

The Venture Brothers

  • If you can put together a Fred costume, you can put together a Hank Venture costume.
  • Bonus points if you just wear an ill-fitting Batman costume for Hank

Doctors and Companions, Doctor Who

  • Incredibly easy to do with street clothes and accessories from any Hot Topic.

Daryl/Carol, Rick/Lori, Glenn/Maggie, The Walking Dead

  • Distressed street clothes and a lot of dirt makeup can go a long way.
  • Bonus if you can get Daryl’s crossbow involved without breaking convention rules
  • Which couple you go as depends on who you naturally look like and what you’re willing to do with makeup and facial hair

Peter Pan and Wendy

  • Peter wears a lot of green.  Don’t get too hung up on the tights- green skinny jeans can totally work for the character
  • Wendy wears a simple nightdress in most incarnations, often blue.

 

Difficulty Level: Medium

Mermaid Ariel and Prince Eric:

  • Eric’s relatively plain outfit makes him the exception to the rule.
  • Ariel’s current popularity surge makes her mermaid outfit pretty easy to cobble together out of purple bathing suit tops and green leggings.  If you choose human Ariel, all bets are off- her costumes can be tricky, especially her poofy wedding dress

Mario and Peach

  • For Mario, a red shirt, overalls, and fake mustache are available pretty easily.  Add in a red hat and you’re good to go. 
  • For Princess Peach, you can either buy the Halloween costume version, or put it together yourself using a wrap skirt and a pink dress.  Buy a cute crown, and you’re ready to be in another castle.

Wonder Woman and Superman

  • Kids, you’re going to need to go store-bought on this one.  They’re labeled “medium” because, simply, the costumes are easy to find.  Same goes for Harley Quinn and the Joker, as well as Batman and Robin or Batman and Catwoman

Han Solo and Princess Leia

  • We’ve all seen the jokes about the tall boots, flowy white shirts, and black vests being standard issue for girls during the fall and winter- put them to work!
  • Princess Leia wears white during A New Hope, and the dress can vary from slinky to flowy, based on your comfort level.

Kirk/ Spock/ Uhura/ Bones, in any combination you deem appropriate

  • Starfleet outfits, again, are easy to come by online for relatively inexpensively

Green Arrow and Black Canary

  • Green Arrow is pretty easy to pull off with a dark green hoodie (cut the sleeves off neatly!) and a tactical vest.  Wear the hood up, don a mask, and grab a prop bow.
  • Canary is a little bit more difficult, and she’s the reason this couple falls into “medium.”  You may need to check out web sites such as Corset Story and Frederick’s of Hollywood to find the appropriate bodysuit, since the leather look is essential.  Fishnets and boots can be bought pretty much anywhere you go.

 

Difficulty Level: Expert

For all of these, you’re either going to need some serious skills or some major coin.

Any Disney Princess and Disney Prince (see exception in MEDIUM)

  • Many of the princess costumes are available on Ebay or Etsy, but be wary and make sure to be honest with yourself while measuring.
  • For some of the smaller ladies, you might be able to wiggle into the Disney Store’s costumes.

Nightwing and Batgirl

  • Batgirl is easily store-bought, but Nightwing is much more of a challenge to find.

Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask

Link and Zelda

  • Link is easy to put together on the surface, but has a LOT of iconic accessories.
  • Zelda is just plain hard.  Her dresses are beautiful and complex, not to mention the ears, hair, and accessories!

Are you limited to these?  Absolutely not!  This is by no means a comprehensive list.  I’ve seen couples go as almost any combination, from Kermit and Piggy to Jon Snow and Ygritte.