GEEK MADNESS: Bombadil Region, Round 1

Voting is closed for Do’Urden Region, Round 1—results are posted on the main Geek Madness page.

But the Battle for Secretary of Geek Affairs rages on and voting for Round 1 of the Bombadil Region is now open, and will close on Sunday, Dec. 28th at 6 pm EST, at which point the next round (Jor-El Region, Round 1) will begin.

Read about all the matchups and go vote, after the break. Spread the word!

Bombadil Region Round 1
click for larger image


John Hodgman John Hodgman vs. Ben Stein Mr Peabody

John Hodgman: Author (The Areas of My Expertise; More Information Than You Require); actor/TV personality (“PC” in long-running Apple Computer Mac ads; “The Daily Show“).
Bookish, likable manner and quirky, tweedy humor have made him a major breakout minor celebrity, crossing over beyond geek circles; near-ubiquity in 2007 and 2008 could lead to “Dude, you’re getting a Dell”-style backlash.

Ben Stein: Actor (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off); television personality (“Win Ben Stein’s Money“); political & economic commentator; former speechwriter for Nixon administration.
Notes: Uses dry, professorial style to great comedic affect; brilliant concept of competing in his own game show was well-executed, and displayed serious chutzpah; advocacy of intelligent design theory may have harmed his credibility among greater geek community.

[poll id=31]


Spock Spock vs. Vint Cerf Vint Cerf

Spock: Half-human, half-Vulcan character from Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe.
First introduced as Science Officer/First Officer under Capt. James T. Kirk on the USS Enterprise.
Logical outlook meshes well with Obama’s “no drama” style; vetting will determine if tenure will overlap with his Pon farr.

Vint Cerf: Computer scientist; technology futurist; co-author of TCP/IP; one of several people widely credited as “Father of the Internet.”
Notes: Though there are many alleged “Fathers of the Internet,” Cerf can rightfully claim passing on many of its traits; has continued to promote its evolution, and is currently a VP and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

[poll id=32]


They Might Be GiantsThey Might Be Giants vs. Ponder Stibbons Ponder Stibbons

They Might Be Giants: Grammy Award-winning alt-pop duo John Flansburgh and John Linnell.
Notes: Extremely popular in geek circles for their catchy, melodic, humorous and intelligent music; frequent collaborators on TV, movie, literature and other projects (geek and non-geek); probably most widely known for “The Boss of Me”, theme song to Fox Television’s “Malcolm in the Middle“. Recent Dunkin’ Donuts commercial work may provoke cries from hardcore fans of “selling out.”

Ponder Stibbons: Wizard from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.
Expert in a wide range of fields that could be described as scientific. Often compared to Harry Potter, but appeared in literature seven years before J.K. Rowling’s better-known character.

[poll id=33]


Ze FrankZe Frank vs. Tom Lehrer Tom Lehrer

Ze Frank Online creative juggernaut widely known for his 365-day video blog the show with ze frank.
Pioneering use of online and other creative tools demonstrates a mindset that is well suited to establishing and defining a new cabinet position.

Tom Lehrer: Songwriter/satirist, best known for humorous songs written for TV’s “That Was the Week That Was” and “The Electric Company“; taught political science and mathematics at MIT and UC Santa Cruz.
Notes: Pronounced influence on many other subsequent parodists/satirists, including “Weird Al” Yankovic; unafraid of tackling controversial topics; had the conviction to stop writing and performing once he felt like he had nothing new left to say; can turn a tub into a tube.

[poll id=34]


Alton BrownAlton Brown vs. Encyclopedia Brown Encyclopedia Brown

Alton Brown: Food Network celebrity chef (“Good Eats“; “Feasting On Asphalt“; “Iron Chef America“).
Notes: Workaholic, detail-oriented personality; noted for his creative and entertaining science-oriented approach to food and cooking; also a cinematographer and pilot; abhors single-use kitchen gadgets.

Encyclopedia Brown: Boy detective in Donald J. Sobol series of children’s mystery books.
Notes: Recognized by his fictional peers for his intelligence and cleverness; a positive role model who encourages children to use their brains to solve problems.

[poll id=35]


Gabe and Tycho Gabe & Tycho (Penny Arcade) vs. Sarah Vowell Sarah Vowell

Gabe & Tycho: Webcomic alter egos of Penny Arcade writers/creators Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik
Notes: Multiple weekly strips are a touchstone of gaming and gamer culture. Characters also help promote the PAX gaming festival and Child’s Play charitable effort.

Sarah Vowell: Author (Radio On; The Wordy Shipmates); and NPR personality (This American Life); voice of “Violet” in Pixar’s The Incredibles.
Notes: Favored guest on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien“; has intellectual and geeky but polarizing love/hate persona.

[poll id=36]


Weird Al “Weird Al” Yankovic vs. Weezer Weezer

“Weird Al” Yankovic: Musician, parodist; released 17 albums (7 platinum and 4 gold) since 1983; writer/director/star, UHF.
Notes: Rose to fame in the early 80’s as a favorite of The Dr. Demento Show; has exhibited greater longevity than most artists he’s parodied; has directed many of his own music videos, as well as for Ben Folds and The Presidents of the United States of America (among others); “White & Nerdy” YouTube music video has accumulated over 41 million hits; once had a bitchin’ mustache.

Weezer: Alternative rock band especially popular in geek circles.
Notes: Mix of musicianship, geek-quirky songwriting sensibilities, and internet savvy help preserve their place on playlists around the world. Best known for song “Undone – The Sweater Song” and song & video for “Buddy Holly.” Recent song “Pork and Beans” spawned an internet meme.

[poll id=37]


Bill Gates Bill Gates vs. Douglas Adams Douglas Adams

Bill Gates: Co-founder, Microsoft; number one on Forbes list of “The World’s Richest People” from 1995-2007; went “part-time” in 2006 to concentrate on his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Notes: Led company to become a cornerstone of the current worldwide IT reality; also known for his short film Man Hit in the Face with a Pie; virtual exit from Microsoft shortly before release of Vista operating system supports the theory that Gates is the World’s Smartest Man.

Douglas Adams Author best known for his The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.
Notes: Tremendous champion of technology; wrote several “Doctor Who” episodes; appeared briefly in two episodes of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus“; 42.

[poll id=38]


  1. Posted December 21, 2008 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    1) Stein – I do like Hodgeman, don’t get me wrong, but I’m gotta go Ben Stein for three reasons: Bueller, Bueller, Bueller. The man’s also a financial genius. The intelligent design thing throws me, him being a member of the tribe, it surprises me is all. I do like Hodgman, but I hate Macs more.

    2) Cerf, even though he’s a liar. I say liar, because we all know it was actually Al Gore who invented the Internets. Also, and this may cause my excommunication from the nerdness, but I never watched, or remotely got into, Star Trek. Sorry, that’s just how it is. Nerds > Geeks. Represent.

    3) I went with They Might Be Giants, even though they are suspect. Are they giants or aren’t they? They might also be astronauts, or cowboys, or lawyers… we can’t be sure. On the other hand, they did Flood. That wins.

    4) I went Ze Frank. No particular reason as I don’t follow either of the two. What I have heard from Ze Farnk I’ve liked a lot.

    5) Encyclopedia Brown all the way. Granted, I do love the Food Network, but only Rachel Ray, really. Plus I think using your brain to solve problems is something Obama/Biden and their team will need A LOT of help with, so he can bring it.

    6) Gabe and Tycho – I really like PAX and such, and really dislike NPR, so this one wasn’t too hard.

    7) Are you kidding? Of course Weird Al! He’s got a song about being nerdy! And he’s pretty nerdy anyway, so even if he didn’t have the song he’d be my pick. No offense to Weezer. I am going to be dreading They Might be Giants vs. Weird Al in a future round, I bet.

    8) Yeah I think I really hate Bill Gates, Microsoft, and both of their philosophies regarding software, hardware, and freedom. Their tireless work against freedom and pro-controlling the user is not something I would EVER vote for. That being said, that isn’t the only reason I voted Douglas Adams. The very fact that 6 x 9 = 42 as a joke, is amazing. Then someone figured out it was correct if you think about it in base 13. Adams then replied something like “Who writes jokes in base-13?” So, yeah, I love Adams, I hate Gates. Easy vote there.

  2. Geoffrey Sperl
    Posted December 21, 2008 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, sorry, Stein loses on the Nixon association and the intelligent design thing. He turned his geek cred in at the door on that one. Plus it’s Hodgman. Maybe he can make a greeting card out of the experience, or convince Obama to get a hook for a hand.

    Cerf. Sorry, but Spock hasn’t been born yet.

    TMBG is a no-brainer.

    Ze is much the same.

    Gabe and Tycho are definitely more geeky than Sarah, but she’s cuter. Alas, Gabe and Tycho know what a Null is, so the vote goes to them.

    Gotta go Weird Al for the simple fact that Weezer can be extraordinarily inconsistent.

    And, even though he is dead, Adams. Always Douglas Adams. My money’s on him or Hodgman.

  3. Jade
    Posted December 21, 2008 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Man, I loves me some Ben Stein, but putting him against Hodgman isn’t fair.
    Also, I would love to see TMBG rise to the ranks of secretary of geek affairs, you have no idea.

  4. Colton David
    Posted December 21, 2008 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Bill Gates VS Douglas Adams was a tough one.

  5. Jack F
    Posted December 21, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink

    Been way too long since I thought about Tom Lehrer. Think I’ll go Poisoning Pigeons in the Park.

  6. Posted December 22, 2008 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    I first heard of Ben Stein in the context of intelligent design, so an easy no for him.

    Spock vs. Vint I’m still thinking about.

    In the next one I voted for Ponder, even though I haven’t read many Discworld novels. I’ve tried to like TMBG, but they sing terribly, their lyrics are quirky without being clever, and my favourite songs of theirs are covers (Why Does the Sun Shine, Istanbul, and also JoCo+P&S’s cover of Birdhouse In Your Soul.) Maybe I still haven’t found their good recordings, I got a live album which included most of the songs people recommended to me.

    And then of course Tom Lehrer, who can vote against Tom Lehrer? Ze Frank is just a n00b in comparison.

    Never heard of Alton Brown but I have a hard time believing a chef could be secretary of geek affairs, even if he does molecular cuisine, so I voted for Encyclopedia.

    I don’t really know the next two. I read some Penny Arcade comics when I randomly ended up with a Penny Arcade T-shirt, but didn’t really get into them. I love Pixar films. But there’s nothing strong enough to give either of them the vote.

    I wasn’t even aware that Weezer had any geek cred, so I voted Weird Al in that one.

    And then, naturally, Douglas Adams. This is the guy who said (in ‘Last Chance to See…’) that he’d rather spend all day programming his computer to do something which would otherwise take him a good ten seconds to do by hand. A true geek. Plus, he did some programming in HyperCard, which I love (although both Adams and HyperCard are dead now) and he didn’t found Microsoft.

  7. Jonathan
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 7:14 am | Permalink

    Angelastic: Alton Brown isn’t just a cook. He explains the scientific principles behind the cooking process. So when he grills a hamburger, he doesn’t just tell you what seasoning to add or how long to cook it on each side. He actually explains the physical and chemical processes involved in cooking. It’s pretty cool stuff, and very geeky.

    And to everyone voting for the Penny Arcade duo: Don’t make it a no brainer. Sarah V. is plenty geeky. Her essays are fantastic. I voted for her without hesitation.

    The toughest one for me on this round was Bill Gates vs. Douglas Adams. Gates is a bonafide geek. Unlike Jobs, he’s a real computer nerd. But at the same time, Adams reveled in being a geek. He was a brilliant, insightful and hilarious man. In the end, I had to go with Adams, but it was the toughest choice for me in the tournament so far.

    By the way, if the only thing you know Adams from is his Hitchhiker series, I recommend you grab a copy of “Last Chance to See.” It’s a book about animals that are in danger of going extinct. It’s funny, sad, charming and (despite itself) incredibly optimistic. Stephen Fry is working on a documentary that follows the same spirit and has the same title. Well worth the effort of tracking down a copy.

  8. Andy
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Vote Hodgman for Geek Secretary! The only competitor with TOTAL WORLD KNOWLEDGE!

    There were some really tough calls in this bracket. I spent a really long time with Gabe & Tycho vs. Sarah Vowell. Ended up with Gabe and Tycho mainly because of proven capacity for great ideas. (See PAX and Child’s Play.)

    Also, Alton Brown FTW!

  9. Daniel
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I regret that I didn’t vote for Ponder Stibbons, but TMBG are teh awesome, and they actually exist on the Discworld as the band “We’re Certainly Dwarves” because Terry Pratchett is a fan.

    I wish there were a Ponder Stibbons / Harry Potter match-up. I’d maintain that Stibbons is the geekier wizard (and thus more capable of being secretary of geek affairs) because his magic borders more on science and technology (albeit the science and technology of the Discworld). Plus he built Hex the “computer”.

    ++?????++ Out of Cheese Error. Redo From Start.

  10. Posted December 22, 2008 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    @Andy I feel Hodgman and Obama would clash. Hodgman claims in his book that there are 51 states. Obama however believes there are 58 states, and the Alaska and Hawaii are one state. Still not knowing how many states there are still beats not knowing the difference between a country and a candidate.

  11. Posted December 22, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

    and a continent* sorry.

  12. Posted December 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for putting Alton Brown on the list. Not only does he show us that cooking is certainly a geek thing, he makes all the science so interesting to learn. I love that Hodgman, Adams, and “Weird Al” are all on the list, but my all-time fave is definitely Alton. I loves me some Food Network, and he’s one of the best chefs to watch on there!

  13. Posted December 22, 2008 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Roman V: Hodgman will do just fine when he realises that Obama was using base 8.4. Maybe nobody makes jokes in base 13, but some people apparently make political comments in base 8.4. Whether he believes there are 50 or 51 states depends on whether Alaska and Hawaii are one state or two; I’m putting that one down to a possible off-by-one error, which anyone could make. Though I’m wondering whether somebody who does maths in base 8.4 even needs a separate secretary of geek affairs.

    I voted for Hodgman anyway… I’d like to go there some day.

  14. DistinctlyBenign
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    The fact that Ponder Stibbons only has 17% of the vote makes me sad.

  15. Posted December 22, 2008 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    (@Roman: That Palin story turned out to be a hoax.)

  16. Peter
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    I just noticed that in the Lobot region, Seth MacFarlane was on twice. (Clearly, this is two times too many.) I move that he be replaced by either Seth Green, Einstein with a Flamethrower, or both.

  17. Mike From Woodstock
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    1. Had to go with Hodgman. I like Ben Stein, but Hodgman’s just got the look.
    2. Spock isn’t a geek, and he isn’t geeky. He’s a Vulcan, which is like, anti-geek. Spock would say geeks are illogical, thus undermining the administration. Vint Cerf is a geek.
    3. I had to go with Ponder Stibbons. The man BUILT the first computer on the DiscWorld.
    4. I had to go with Ze Frank, although I’m not terribly familiar with either one.
    5. Encyclopedia Brown. Geek in training.
    6.Gabe and Tycho. I like the name Tycho- it’s one of my screen names, but that’s not why I chose it. Sarah Vowell just doesn’t have as good of credentials. I don’t really know either one, though, so I just went with my gut.
    7. Weird Al. Although neither one is particularly geeky, I had to go with my favorite performer, and that’s Weird Al.
    8. Wow. This was a barn burner, here. I had no idea who to pick, and I eventually went with Douglas Adams, if only because his Innacurately Named HitchHiker’s Trilogy is just filled with goofy geeky love for all things science fiction. And, as someone else pointed out, Last Chance To See IS a phenomenal book. I suggest everyone scrounge up a copy and read it.

    -Mike Cuellar
    -Self-Demoting Other Half-Minion
    -Order of the Inner Sanctum Guard

  18. Paul and Storm
    Posted December 22, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Nice catch, Peter…brackets as intended are now on the site. Fine suggestions both, but the gears of fate were already in motion. Or something.

  19. Posted December 22, 2008 at 9:05 pm | Permalink

    1. The Hodge takes my vote. An advocate of alternative operating systems (not the one I’d choose, but still), able to conjure brilliantly bizarre stories out of whole cloth and hoboes, and simply the epitome of subtlety in his writing. He brings it all as a representative of geekdom. Stein, while also subtle and full of dry wit, loses much with his support of Intelligent Design, a direct opposite of geeky beliefs.

    2. Spock does not strike me as quite so much “geeky” as just plain “encyclopedic”, with an unerring computational mind thrown in. I mean, seriously, Kirk, McCoy, and Scotty came up with the creative answers, and each would be a better representative. Cerf, though? He invented (and still maintains) much of what geeks use to this day. He’s my vote here.

    3. While Ponder is a bit of a geek-inserted-in-a-fantasy-setting character, he doesn’t quite do it as the President’s right-hand geek for me, even though he should be getting double points for being a geek AND a fantasy character. If he also crossed over into sci-fi, that’d be a triple word score, but alas. They who are known to some simply as “They”, however, have the look, the web savvy, the music, and the curiously deep lyrics that geeks everywhere listen to.

    4. This one was a tough call for me. A classic legend in Leher, or a modern, though maybe not as well-known, legend in Ze? I had to side with potential on this one and picked Ze.

    5. Encyclopedia Brown, to me, falls into the same trap Mr. Spock does: He’s brainy, yes, but he really lacks the imagination and creativity of a geek. Alton has the brains AND the imagination, and if his programming language is kitchencraft, so be it, he’s the geek of the two.

    6. Another tough one. I eventually went with Vowell, though, because while Tycho and Gabe represent the “popular” state of geekdom (mainly video gaming), Sarah seems to have a much keener grasp on the obscure end of things. Plus, she’s a fan of TMBG and appeared in their documentary, Gigantic, so that does score a few extra points with me. Side note: When I voted, I honestly expected this one to be a sheer one-sided slaughter, but the fact that Vowell is holding her own against the PA team is downright incredible.

    27. Al simply IS geek. The voice, the humor, the musical subjects, the goofiness, everything. It’s going to be hard to top him. Weezer has some geek in them, but it just doesn’t compare to Al.

    8. I still maintain Bill Gates is a marketer, not a programmer, and thus he, by default, fails to get my vote. But even at that, Douglas Adams doesn’t just walk away from this with a default vote; he definitely earns it with the Hitchhiker series, as well as everything else he’s contributed to before his passing, and, in fact, everything he’ll continue influencing well past his life.

  20. Posted December 22, 2008 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    And there’s a good amount of geeky bands in the brackets, but no Aquabats? I mean, they’re a goofy geeky superhero ska band*! How can you go wrong with THAT? Apart from losing to either Weird Al or TMBG, of course. 🙂

    *: Okay, I suppose with the loss of their brass section they’re more of a surf rock band nowadays. But still, a goofy geeky superhero surf rock band!

  21. mtgordon
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    6 was the only truly tough call for me. I ended up going with Gabe and Tycho because they seem to be stronger geek advocates.

  22. Ned
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    1. Being really smart doesn’t necessarily equate to being a geek. Stein hasn’t shown me that he applies his intellect to geek activities, therefore, I choose you, Hodgman-chu.

    2. I went with Cerf primarily for his involvement with Google. I think that the kinds of things that Google has done with creating healthy office environments for geeks is something that with wider application would benefit geeks across the country (and other workers as well).

    3. One of the guys in TMBG wrote some original tuba music for a play I was in at college. Plus I have most of Flood memorized. No contest.

    4. Seriously Funny – a book about comedians of the early 50’s and 60’s that transformed comedy from Vaudeville and Catskills jokes to the observational and personal humor of today – introduced me to Tom Lehrer. Great book, really funny and thought provoking. Could be a great jester on the cabinet to make sure the Kings stay humble.

    5. The Battle of the Browns was my most difficult choice so far. What finally decided it for me was the realization that Alton Brown has made me care about how molecules behave during the cooking process, whereas Encyclopedia Brown just knows that a hard boiled egg will spin longer than an uncooked egg.

    6. I like my Penny Arcade shirt. A lot.

    7. Weezer? Seriously?

    8. Douglas Adams invented the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. FTW.


  23. Michael Wiczer
    Posted December 23, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I’m terribly angst-ridden about the Ze Frank v. Tom Lehrer matchup. I really like both of them. Haven’t voted on that one yet. If someone can present a good argument for one or the other in these comments, that’s how I’ll vote.

    My other votes:
    1. Hodgman, 2. Cerf, 3. TMBG, 4. ??, 5. Alton, 6. G&T, 7. Yankovic, 8. Adams

    -Michael Wiczer

    -Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich for Sec. of Geek Affairs 2012

  24. Jack F
    Posted December 24, 2008 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Please vote for Ben Stein. Can’t put my finger on why, but I just don’t like Hodgman. (Well, maybe I can put my finger on it. He’s too pompous.)

  25. Posted December 26, 2008 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    @Jack F: The pompous is just part of the caricature of himself that he plays. Actual John Hodgman is really quite sweet and gracious.

  26. nate
    Posted December 27, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Ok thought I needed to weigh in on the financial side, 24) Stein is one of the most pompous people i have ever seen in an actual intellectual conversation, with hodgman it’s at least shtick, and to other comments about him being a financial genius, watch him blindly argue against the author of black swan predicting the collapse of a hedge fund before it happened.

    Stein is smart, and has an amazing ability to absorb information, he’s also uncreative and close minded and simply applies information (impressively well no doubt). I would call him a financial expert not a financial genius.

  27. Jack F
    Posted December 27, 2008 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    Nate and Colleenky make good points: yes, Stein is also pompous. But for what it’s worth, Hodgman’s pompous (pompousity?) strikes me as not just shtick. (See This Week In Tech #174 with Coulton and Hodgman for examples.)

    Maybe Stein is truly pompous while Hodgman just acts like it. Hodgman definitely has his good points (hanging out with Coulton, Lots of Hobo names, and great Mac commercials), but I have to go against the pro-Hodgman tide and stick with my “I just don’t like Hodgman” stance.

  28. Posted January 6, 2009 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    @Jack (who may never read this): While it’s far too late for this to be of any practical use, here is a quote from someone with more personal knowledge of Hodgman than some girl who’s been treated graciously by him the couple of times she’s met him (me).

    “Even though he’s a lovely person, when he’s on stage or in print he can flip on this switch and turn into a slightly hostile, insecure, boastful dunderhead,” noted his friend Sarah Vowell, the author and radio commentator, in an e-mail. “As hostile, insecure, boastful dunderheads more or less run the world these days, it’s cathartic to see such figures skewered…. The character he often plays is that of a pompous windbag.”

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