Robin Williams has reportedly died

August 11, 2014

Robin Williams has reportedly died

We will update this later with more information but it is with great sadness that we report that Robin Williams has reportedly died.

Not only did he have many geek friendly roles himself, including Mork from Ork and the Genie from Aladdin, he promoted Jonathan Winters, one of the great absurdist comedians.

Update…

There was nobody like Robin Williams

Robin Williams, on the other hand, was like everybody…even you…at least for a few seconds.

That was part of the genius of Robin Williams…the ability to bounce from personality to personality, at lightning speed.

In fact, the improv artist was so fast that a sibling of mine accidentally played

Reality…What a Concept (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

on the wrong speed for a few minutes without realizing it.

Williams shot to fame with a guest spot on Happy Days as the alien, Mork from Ork. The wacky Mork was such a hit that Williams was given the series Mork & Mindy (and also played the character on Out of the Blue, and voiced a cartoon version).

Recognition as a serious actor would come later, with an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and three other lead nominations (Good Morning, Vietnam; Dead Poets Society; and The Fisher King), but we geeks can proudly count Robin Williams as one of our own.

I was also impressed with how he took steps to further the career of one of his idols, the equally unique Jonathan Winters.

Geek friendly roles include:

  • Popeye (in Robert Altman’s live action movie)
  • Faerie Tale Theatre (as the frog prince)
  • Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (as the King of the Moon)
  • Dead Again (directed and starring Kenneth Branagh)
  • Shakes the Clown (a Bobcat Goldthwait vehicle)
  • Hook (as Peter Pan, opposite Dustin Hoffman’s Captain Hook and Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell)
  • Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
  • Toys
  • Being Human
  • In Search of Dr. Seuss
  • Jumanji
  • Jack
  • Flubber
  • Bicentennial Man
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence
  • Insomnia
  • Robots
  • Happy Feet (and sequel)
  • Night at the Museum (playing Teddy Roosevelt…Williams would return to the role in sequels)
  • Wilfred

Post production work on Absolutely Anything, directed and co-written by Terry Jones, and starring Kate Beckinsale, Simon Pegg,  Joanna Lumley, Rob Riggle, Eddie Izzard, and the Monty Python (Gilliam, Cleese, Idle, Palin, and Jones) is in process.

Good-bye, Robin Williams…the world is less frenetic (and less creative) without you.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Shootin’ simians: are guns new to the Planet of the Apes?

July 31, 2014

Shootin’ simians: are guns new to the Planet of the Apes?

Note: this post is going to reveal things about the original five Planet of the Apes movies, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet seen them and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have seen them.

As a long-time Planet of the Apes fan, it’s been amusing to me to see media coverage of the newest movie, Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I’ve seen a number of articles suggesting that the author thinks it is an evolution (so to speak) from the original five movies. Not only in special effects, but, gosh, it has social relevance! Why, they are implying things about gun control and our modern world! How times have changed!

Times may have changed, but the movies have always been socially relevant…and in them, apes have always used guns.

In fact, I’d say the earlier movies are much more daring and blatantly obvious in their social criticism.

There are really three time periods in the first five movies.

The first two, Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, take place (and again, in case you missed the italics, SPOILER ALERT) about two thousand years in the future (and follow one right after the other). Status quo: apes rule and have an organized civilization. They speak, have a city, scientists, warriors…and  bureaucracy. Most of the humans appear to be hunter/gatherers, and do not speak. There is a remnant population of mutated humans underground who generally do not speak…but it is because they are telepathic. They are able to verbalize, but essentially find it distasteful.

The next two movies, Escape and Conquest, take place in relatively modern times for the audience (somewhat in the future, but not wildly so). Time does pass between the two movies, but they can be placed in the same context. Status quo: humans rule, and live in cities which resemble our modern cities. Apes do not speak, as a rule…unless they are time travelers from the future, or of that genetic line. They are servants to humans.

The fifth movie, Battle, takes place in-between those two timeframes, although the series makes the repeated point that there might be parallel time streams (they won’t necessarily end up where the first movie started). Status quo: both humans and apes speak, and they live together…but not in perfect harmony. Humans are in an inferior social position, and are actively distrusted by some apes. There is also a remnant human population in the ruins, at first unaware of the ape/human group.

 We encounter shootin’ simians in the very first movie, and it continues on through the fifth.

The

Internet Movie Firearms Database

which I ran across while researching this question, identifies the rifle wielded by the gorillas as a modified M1 Carbine. In this society, gorillas are typically warriors, chimpanzees are scientists and intellectuals, and orangutans are bureaucrats and represent religion (although they can also be scientists).

While the gorillas are the most skilled with firearms, Lucius, Zira’s rebellious teenaged (chimpanzee) nephew, is also capable.

When Taylor asks Cornelius if they have any weapons, the relatively pacifistic ape replies that they have the best (guns).

It would be hard to argue that this movie favors gun control, but featuring gun use by apes? Absolutely.

In Beneath, the apes not only have the rifles from the first movie, but at least one submachine gun and pistols.

An interesting point in terms of relevance for the series: youth anti-war protesters, carrying signs, are confronted by soldiers in the street. The Kent State shootings occurred on May 4th of 1970…Beneath the Planet of the Apes was released on May 26th of that year. Obviously, the producers were unaware that the Ohio National Guard would shoot youthful anti-war protesters when they were filming the scene, but it does show an awareness of and commentary on current happenings.

Escape is the one of the movies where the apes are the least violent: only Zira and Cornelius, who have time traveled back, are around, and neither one of them is in favor of the use of force (although not completely opposed). Cornelius does use a handgun.

In Conquest, Zira and Cornelius’ son has been raised by a human, and seems to have much more human sensibilities, having been deprived of chimpanzee culture. That includes the use of firearms, which he does quite dramatically. When they are plotting revolution, Caesar manipulates an order which a non-speaking ape is to carry out for its owner to include ammunition for a gun…you don’t need more bullets if you don’t intend to fire.

Finally, in Battle, there is a clear reference to gun control. The apes have an armory, but even the leader, Caesar, has to ask permission (and provide justification) for using them. Mandemus, an orangutan, is “the conscience of Caesar”, and judges requests.

At one point in the movie, there is one of the largest exchanges of gunfire I’ve ever seen in a movie. The apes (led by Caesar, who certainly is using a firearm) shoot it out with humans from the city. This scene seems to go on for some time, with more bullets flying than I’ve seen in any World War II movie.

So guns, and gun control are not new to the Planet of the Apes series, which tackled such topics as animal rights’ groups, abortion, women’s rights, youthful rebellion, and what we would now consider to be the religious right.

Since that’s the case, why do so many writers seem to think that it was all silly fun and games?

Perhaps they were influenced by watching the live action TV series or the animated series…they may not even remember that, but they were both less provocative than the first five movies.

While the Lawgiver may have said that apes shall never kill apes, he never said that apes shall never shoot guns…

For more information on the Planet of the Apes series, see

http://planetoftheapes.wikia.com/wiki/Planet_of_the_Apes_Wiki

At the time of writing, all five movies can also be seen as part of Amazon’s Prime movies, meaning that eligible Prime members can watch them at no additional cost.

Search for Planet of the Apes movies at Amazon (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Note: that search will have results which are not includes in Prime, incluing the Tim Burton/Mark Wahlberg version.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

James Garner reported dead

July 20, 2014

James Garner reported dead

James “Jim” Garner‘s characters were often laid back, non-conforming without being confrontational. If it wasn’t right, they didn’t do it…but “right” and “proper” weren’t the same things.

Certainly (and appropriately) best known for Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford, Garner’s career also includes more geek-friendly roles:

  • Space (1984 TV miniseries based on Michener’s fictionalized account of the American space program)
  • Fire in the Sky, based on the Travis Walton UFO abduction case…Garner’s Lt. Frank Watters is investigating the claims
  • Space Cowboys (directed by and co-starring Clint Eastwood)
  • Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire (as Commander Rourke)
  • God, the Devil, and Bob TV series (as the voice of God…Alan Cumming was the Devil)
  • The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration
  • Battle for Terra
  • Garner also voiced the pivotal character Shazam (who gave Captain Marvel powers) in DC Showcase: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam

Audiences had a special affection for Jim Garner: it seemed like it was never about his characters being better or smarter than everybody else…just more stubborn about sticking to the big principles.

Good-bye, Jim Garner: the world might be neater without you, but it isn’t better.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

My take on…Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

July 13, 2014

My take on…Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Hail, Caesar!

I’m a big time Planet of the Apes fan, as I explained in

My take on Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I even have a Planet of the Apes category on this blog.

In general, this latest movie was not a disappointment. Andy Serkis deserved (and got) top billing for the actor’s mocap (motion capture) performance as Caesar, the leader of the apes.

The effects are good (they clearly paid attention to hair moving…that’s a little thing, but it matters), even if the faces sometimes seem too brightly lit compared to the rest of the scene.

The script moved nicely, and had some clever twists to it.

It’s a big-time spectacle with an emotional center, which is just what you want in a summer blockbuster.

However…

It was perhaps the most sexist movie I’ve seen in years.

I’m careful not to spoil things, so I’m going to give you a mild

SPOILER ALERT

I’m not going to reveal any key plot points, but I am going to mention a few things.

This movie not only failed

The Bechdel Test

it’s one named (human) female character was relegated to the kind of nurturing support you might expect in a 1950s mainstream movie (1950s science fiction was more advanced than this in how women are treated).

First, a quick note on the Bechdel Test.

There are a lot of ways to say it (for more information, see the link above), but to pass the test, a movie (or TV episode, or book, or other work of fiction) has to have three elements:

  1. There must be two or more named female characters in it
  2. Two female characters must have a meaningful conversation and
  3. The conversation has to be about something other than a man

You might be surprised with how many works fail this test.

Even when people define it more loosely than I did on the second point (some people say any conversation counts, including: “Where’s the printer?” “Over there.”), it’s still a disappointingly small percentage.

In the case of DotPotA, Ellie (played by Keri Russell), seems particularly stereotyped.

What does the character do?

  • When an important male character is working hard on an issue, she observers that he needs to eat, and offers him soup…much as June Cleaver might have done with Ward
  • When there is a dangerous situation happening, she stays back…and sends a character off like a soldier going to battle
  • Yes, she is important to the plot because of her medical skills…I don’t recall it ever being said that she is a doctor. Being a nurse can be equally important, but it is a stereotypically female role (that has changed a great deal in the real world, but I would say that many people with a diminishing opinion of women would still see it as a female role)
  • Her “maternal nature” (that term isn’t used in the movie, I’m just defining the observed behavior) is important in relationships between the humans and the apes
  • Does she come up with any ideas that affect the course of things? Does she lead? I don’t really recall either of those happening

There are stronger female characters among the apes, although they still don’t lead.

The only other human females I recall seeing are in crowd scenes.

I was honestly surprised to see that one of the three credited screenwriters was apparently a woman (Amanda Silver), but that may be my own expectations getting in the way…I wouldn’t expect a woman to write a script like this, but of course, there’s no reason that couldn’t happen.

Hopefully, the already announced third movie in this series will do better in this area.

END SPOILER ALERT

The bottom line is that Andy Serkis’ performance is great (again) and Nick Thurston as Blue Eyes was another stand-out, the effects are good, the plot moves along…but the treatment (and lack of treatment) of female characters mars what would otherwise have been a very good movie. I can still recommend it, but with that reservation.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Emmy noms: another Orphan Blackout

July 11, 2014

Emmy noms: another Orphan Blackout

How many people do you have to be to get an Emmy nomination around here? ;)

The 66th annual Prime Time Emmy nominations were announced today…and a lot of people really thought they would recognize Tatiana Maslany for her performances (yes, plural) on Orphan Black…but once again, the clone stands alone.

In fact, the series didn’t get nominated at all…not for writing, directing, costumes, hair…nada.

Looking at the

full list of 2013-2014 Emmy nominations

it really isn’t very geek friendly, although there were acting noms for American Horror Story and Game of Thrones. In fact, Game of Thrones got nominated for…well, pretty much everything.

Some call-outs, before we get into the big listing:

  • The Cosmos reboot received 12 Emmy nominations in its first year: the original Cosmos got a total of 5 Emmy nominations (and won 3)
  • Respect! Nominated series include The Originals, Sleepy Hollow, The 100, and Children’s Hospital
  • Diana Rigg was nominated for the second year in a row as a guest on Game of Thrones. Rigg has won one Emmy before…and not for Mrs. Peel (although she was nominated for that role)
  • Mayim Bialik was nominated for the third year in a row for playing Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory (Fowler had not been nominated for Blossom)
  • Speaking of tBBT, Jim Parsons was nominated for the fifth time for playing Sheldon Cooper. Parsons has won as Cooper three times. The actor was also recognized this year for The Normal Heart
  • Steven Moffatt was nominated for a fourth time…all of them have been for writing Sherlock
  • Anna Nicole was nominated for prosthetic make-up…nothing on the CW or Syfy was
  • Nothing was nominated from MTV (couldn’t Teen Wolf have been nominated in the prosthetic make-up category) or Syfy

Here are geek-friendly nominations:

Outstanding Character Voice-Over Performance (an inherently geeky category)

  • Chris Diamantapolous as Mickey Mouse: Disney Mickey Mouse
  • Stephen Full as Stan: Dog with a Blog
  • Seth MacFarlane as Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin,
    Glenn Quagmire: Family Guy
  • Maurice LaMarche as Calculon and Morbo: Futurama
  • Seth Green as various characters: Robot Chicken DC Comics Special II: Villains in Paradise
  • Harry Shearer as Kent Brockman, Mr. Burns,
    Younger Burns, Smithers: The Simpsons

Outstanding Animated Program

  • Archer
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Futurama
  • South Park
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project

Outstanding Short-Format Animated
Program

  • Adventure Time: Be More
  • Disney Mickey Mouse: O Sole Minnie
  • Phineas and Ferb: Thanks But No
  • Thanks
  • Regular Show: The Last Laserdisc Player
  • Robot Chicken: Born Again Virgin Christmas
  • Special

Outstanding Art Direction For A Contemporary Or Fantasy Series
(Single-Camera)

  • Game Of Thrones: The Laws Of Gods And Men; The Mountain And The Viper
  • True Blood: At Last;  F**k The Pain Away; In The Evening

Outstanding Art Direction For A Period Series, Miniseries Or A Movie
(Single-Camera)

  • American Horror Story: Coven

Outstanding Art Direction For A Contemporary Program (Half-Hour
Or Less)

  • The Big Bang Theory: The Hofstadter Insufficiency; The Locomotive Manipulation; The Proton Transmogrification
  • Silicon Valley: Articles Of Incorporation; Signaling Risk; Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency

Outstanding Art Direction For Variety, Nonfiction, Reality or
Reality-Competition Program

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: Hiding In The Light • The Lost Worlds Of Planet Earth; Unafraid Of The Dark

Outstanding Casting for a Drama Series

  • Game of Thrones

Outstanding Casting For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

  • American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Cinematography For A Single-Camera Series

  • Game of Thrones: Two Swords; The Lion and the Rose

Outstanding Cinematography For A Miniseries Or Movie

  • Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Cinematography For Nonfiction Programming

  • Cosmos: Standing Up in the Milky Way

Outstanding Costumes for a Series

  • Game of Thrones: The Lion and the Rose
  • Once Upon a Time: A Curious Thing

Outstanding Costumes For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

  • American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series

  • Silicon Valley: Minimum Viable Product

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series
Game Of Thrones: The Watchers On The Wall

Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic
Special

  • American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Directing For Nonfiction Programming

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: Standing Up In The Milky Way

Outstanding Multi-Camera Picture Editing For A Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory: The Cooper Extraction

Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Miniseries Or A Movie

  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Picture Editing For Short-Form Segments And Variety
Specials

  • AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Mel Brooks

Outstanding Picture Editing For Nonfiction Programming

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: Standing Up In The Milky Way

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Single-Camera Series

  • Game Of Thrones: The Lion and the Rose
  • The Originals: Dance Back From The Grave

Outstanding Hairstyling For A Miniseries Or A Movie

  • American Horror Story: Coven

Outstanding Interactive Program

  • Game of Thrones Premiere – Facebook Live and Instagram

Outstanding Main Title Design

  • Black Sails
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • Silicon Valley

Outstanding Makeup For A Single-Camera Series (Non-Prosthetic)

  • Game of Thrones: Oathkeeper

Outstanding Makeup For A Miniseries Or A Movie (Non-Prosthetic)

  • American Horror Story: Coven

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup For A Series, Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

  • American Horror Story: Coven
  • Game Of Thrones: The Children

Outstanding Music Composition For A Series (Original Dramatic Score)

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: Standing Up In The Milky Way
  • Game Of Thrones: The Mountain and the Viper

Outstanding Music Composition For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special
(Original Dramatic Score)

  • American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics

  • A Christmas Carol

Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music

  • Black Sails
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • Sleepy Hollow

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy
Series

  • Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper: The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie

  • Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries Or A Movie

  • Jessica Lange as Fiona Goode: American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sarah Paulson as Cordelia Goode Foxx: American Horror Story: Coven

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

  • Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister: Game of Thrones

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A: Miniseries Or A Movie

  • Martin Freeman as John Watson: Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

  • Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler” The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

  • Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister: Game of Thrones

Outstanding Supporting Actress Miniseries Or A Movie

  • Frances Conroy as Myrtle Snow: American Horror Story: Coven
  • Kathy Bates as Madame Delphine LaLaurie: American Horror Story: Coven
  • Angela Bassett as Marie Laveau: American Horror Story: Coven
  • Ellen Burstyn as Olivia: Flowers In The Attic

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series

  • Bob Newhart as Arthur: The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series

  • Diana Rigg as Lady Olenna Tyrell: Game Of Thrones

Outstanding Comedy Series

  • The Big Bang Theory
  • Silicon Valley

Outstanding Drama Series

  • Game of Thrones

Outstanding Miniseries

  • American Horror Story: Coven

Outstanding Television Movie

  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Program

  • Childrens Hospital

Outstanding Short-Format Nonfiction Program

  • COSMOS: A National Geographic Deeper Dive

Outstanding Children’s Program

  • Dog with a Blog

Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Series

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey

Outstanding Informational Series Or Special

  • Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman

Outstanding Structured Reality Program

  • Mythbusters

Outstanding Sound Editing For A Series

  • Black Sails
  • Game of Thrones
  • The Walking Dead

Outstanding Sound Editing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special

  • American Horror Story: Coven: Fearful Pranks Ensue
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Sound Editing For Nonfiction Programming (Single Or
Multi-Camera)

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: Standing Up In The Milky Way

Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (One Hour)

  • Game Of Thrones: The Watchers On The Wall

Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Miniseries Or A Movie

  • American Horror Story: Coven: Fearful Pranks Ensue
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Comedy Or Drama Series (Half-Hour) And Animation

  • The Simpsons • Married To The Blob

Outstanding Sound Mixing For Nonfiction Programming

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey

Outstanding Special And Visual Effects

  • Almost Human: Pilot
  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey
  • Game Of Thrones: The Children
  • The 100: We Are Grounders, Part 2
  • Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: T.A.H.I.T.I.

Outstanding Special And Visual Effects In A Supporting Role

  • Black Sails: I.
  • Da Vinci’s Demons: The Sins of Daedalus
  • The Walking Dead: 30 Days Without An Accident

Outstanding Stunt Coordination For A Drama Series, Miniseries Or Movie

  • Game of Thrones
  • Grimm
  • Revolution
  • True Blood

Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A
Series

  • The Big Bang Theory

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series

  • Silicon Valley • Optimal Tip-To-Tip Efficiency

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

  • Game of Thrones: The Children

Outstanding Writing For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Dramatic Special

  • American Horror Story: Coven
  • Sherlock: His Last Vow

Outstanding Writing For Nonfiction Programming

  • COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey: Standing Up In The Milky Way

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Transformers got you in the mood for more robots?

July 3, 2014

Transformers got you in the mood for more robots?

Transformers: Age of Extinction

had the biggest opening of the year so far. We geeks always have to remind ourselves that some people haven’t already seen/read/played everything there is.

Think about it: there are kids where this will be their first ever encounter with robots.

We owe it to them, and to geekery, to point out some of the other robots in visual media.

First, a little bit of vocabulary (because that’s always fun, right?): ;)

Technically, and the way we usually use the term in this blog, a robot is an artificial something that performs work.

This is how we define it for our On the Robot Beat stories:

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

However, you probably don’t want to go from Transformers to, oh, an electric toothbrush.

For this post, we’ll use it to mean an inorganic artificially created life form.

That’s how many geeks use it. A clone is not a robot, even if it was created to do work, because it is organic.

Now, there are robots (in the above definition) designed to resemble human beings…sometimes, they do it so well that you wouldn’t know. Those are called androids, from the Greek meaning something like “man-like”.

An android is a robot, but a robot isn’t necessarily an android, in the same way that a cat is an animal, but an animal isn’t necessarily a cat.

Two other terms sometimes get thrown into this category are cyborg and bionic.

A cyborg (cybernetic organism) is a human being (or, I suppose, an animal) which has been made partly mechanical.

Bionic (bio ((life)) and “onic” from electronic) is an adjective. Something can be bionic (like a bionic arm), but there isn’t a being which is a “bionic” (although it wouldn’t surprise me if some story used it that way).

A cyborg might have a bionic leg.

As in many things in geekdom, this can get hard to pin down…we’re so imaginative! ;) For example, if a robot has an organic skin (and that happens with the T-800 series from Terminator…so they can better infiltrate human groups), does that make it a cyborg?

I would say no: the artificial has been augmented with the organic, rather than the other way around.

For this post, we’re going to stick with robots (including androids) although some organic enhancements might sneak in here.

That does leave out Doctor Who’s Cybermen and Daleks. Both of them may look like machines, but the former are clearly cyborgs and the latter are more like a human in a suit of armor (although it’s much more complex than that).

Here we go!

Robby the Robot
First appearance: 1956, Forbidden Planet

Robby was an amazing part of an incredible movie. This is what many of us think of when we think of a robot. Robby “lived” to serve humans, and was physically awkward. This mechanism spoke (and in nearly 200 languages, along with their dialects and sub-tongues) and was artificially intelligent. The character was so successful (including the suit) that Robby went on to appear in other movies and to guest star on TV shows.

Tik-Tok
First literary appearance: 1907, Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Featured in Return To Oz, 1985

The land of Oz in the original books is surprisingly technological, with gramophones, a wireless pocket telephone invented by the Wizard, and a robot.

There was actually more than one robot in the series, but Tik-Tok became a main character and an important person in the Land of Oz. Tik-Tok had to be wound up to operate, but was able to think, speak, and act.

The Robot (B9) from Lost in Space
First appearance: 1965

“Danger!” Will Robinson was a geeky kid in a pioneer space family. While he was arguably friends with Dr. Smith, his real friend was artificial: the robot. Like Robby the Robot, Lost in Space’s worker was designed by Robert Kinoshita. However, “Robot” (it was often used as a name) was a lot more “human” in emotional affect.

Rhoda (AF 709)
First appearance: 1964, My Living Doll

Certainly not as well known as some of the others on this list, Rhoda was an experimental robot in the shape of…well, Julie Newmar. This was what I call a “mermaid out of water” story…like a “fish out of water”, but with a fantasy/science fiction element (like Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, or My Favorite Martian). It’s a typical sitcom in some ways, but Newmar brought special elements to it…for example, Rhoda enters a beauty pageant, but Newmar takes it to the next level during the talent portion, by (actually) playing piano well. The series was sexy (for one thing, Rhoda was controlled in part by pushing buttons disguised as beauty marks) and funny. Rhoda’s perceptions of the world showed an interesting insight into how an artificial intelligence might view the world. Some clips are also available on YouTube (including the piano clip).

K-9 (Doctor Who)
First appearance: 1977, The Invisible Enemy (Doctor Who)

Not every biomorphic robot is shaped like a human being. Tom Baker’s 4th Doctor introduced us to this robot dog. Certainly, some might feel that K-9 is an upgrade from a biological dog: I mean, the laser weapon in the nose comes in handy, and although your dog may think she knows everything (and you cat knows he does), K-9 had a wealth of information. The character was popular enough to appear with other doctors, and in spin-off series. For another robot dog, see Woody Allen’s Sleeper, and for a dog-like robot, see Muffitt II, a robot “daggitt” from the original Battlestar Galactica series.

Maria
First appearance: 1927 (Metropolis)

This silent movie is remarkably solid science fiction, and clearly was greatly influential. [SPOILER ALERT] Maria is a decidedly female robot, and is turned into an android to take the place of a human in a plot of manipulation. [END SPOILER]

We could keep going…and going…and going…

Here’s are some more to consider (and this just the tip of the cybernetic iceberg):

  • Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
  • Number (Johnny) 5 (Short Circuit)
  • Huey, Dewey, and Louie (Silent Running)
  • Tobor the Great
  • Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still)
  • R2-D2 and C3PO (Star Wars)
  • Bubo (a robot owl from The Clash of the Titans)
  • The Scudders (Red Dwarf)
  • Bender (Futurama)
  • Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot and others (Mystery Science Theater 3000)
  • Yo-Yo (Holmes and Yo-Yo)
  • Hymie (Get Smart)
  • Marvin (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
  • Astro Boy
  • Dorian (Almost Human)
  • The Fembots (Austin Powers…and Dr. Goldfoot)
  • Vicki (Small Wonder)

That should get you started. :)

Feel free to suggest other robots by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

My free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more http://flip.it/ZtmYw

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Tech wars…1913 style

June 21, 2014

Tech wars…1913 style

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030214/1913-06-01/ed-1/seq-22/#date1=1836&index=3&rows=20&words=calculating+machin+machine&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=&date2=1922&proxtext=calculating+machine&y=0&x=0&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1

New-York tribune., June 01, 1913, Image 22

Image from the Library of Congress.

Comptometer

Try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Here’s what DC should do with all those superheroes

June 20, 2014

Here’s what DC should do with all those superheroes

I can’t be the only person getting a little concerned about all of the superheroes that they are putting into

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

At this point, were expecting:

  • Superman
  • Batman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Aquaman
  • Cyborg

Those actually show up as credited…there may be a lot of cameos and references as well (I’d love to see Ralph and Sue Dibny get a little shout-out…maybe just that somebody heard something from a Detective Dibny).

Remember, this is not the Justice League movie…that’s coming later.

I get that Marvel does this, and that’s a success it would make sense to want to emulate…but the Avengers wasn’t the first screen appearance of these versions of Iron Man or Thor. Audiences got to know them first, and then the studio brought them together.

I also understand that it’s very expensive to do a feature movie…especially a superhero one.

Still, DC has so many great quirky characters! There are many I’d like to see…and I’ll admit it, a comic like The Hawk and The Dove might not sustain a “tentpole” feature.

Tentpole…that’s what Hollywood calls a blockbuster that opens up the audience to seeing additional things.

What I’d like to suggest here, sticking to a circus metaphor, is “sideshow superheroes”.

These characters don’t need a whole movie: they need a ten-minute short, just like we had in the old days at the movies.

I do think these should be shown in the movie theatres. Marvel has been adding shorts to DVD releases, but that’s not really the same thing.

I’m looking for high concept characters that we can understand quickly. They should have some nostalgia value, but get people talking about them.

If they can expand to a feature later, sure, but don’t plan on that.

Don’t do an origin story: just jump us into the middle of the developed character…leave us wanting more. Make us buy the comics or tie-in novels to get it.

The effects don’t have to be top-notch: just good enough.

Here are some possibilities:

  • Metamorpho
  • Zatanna
  • The Creeper
  • Metal Men
  • Dial H for Hero

I know I’m heavy on the 1960s there, but you get the idea…all of those are high concept, and would be visual in a short piece.

It would be difficult for them to assign creative teams to all of these, so here’s my other idea.

Do it as a contest for amateurs.

Creators submit videos to DC. DC reviews them and makes pre-selections before they get posted to a website. The winner is selected through social media, and that short is shown alongside a tentpole in movie theatres. Other finalists are packaged together, but not shown on the big screen.

DC retains all rights to all of the videos.

I think this would be a great way for them to utilize their backlist, at relatively little expense, while retaining their intellectual property rights.

What do you think? What superheroes would you like to see get the “sideshow” treatment?

Try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

My new free Flipboard magazine, The Weird Old Days features vintage articles on ghosts, sea serpents, psychic phenomena, and more http://flip.it/ZtmYw

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

 

The Weird Old Days: my new Flipboard magazine

June 17, 2014

The Weird Old Days: my new Flipboard magazine

Has the world always been weird?

Well, yes, of course. :)

Over the decades, though, the way in which we look at those strange phenomena changes.

I had originally planned to do a book of old (public domain…no longer under copyright) newspaper stories, and provide context for the articles.

Then, the people at the

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

released an update which makes it easy to create your own “magazines” and to “flip” articles from the web into it.

In the same way that Twitter is really a different medium, this is something new.

If you already have the Flipboard app (and I read it every morning…it sort of holds the same place for me that a daily newspaper used to have), it’s easy to add a user-created Flipboard magazine. Getting the app is easy enough that, if you are interested in something, it’s a good way to get the information.

Here’s a place to get to The Weird Old Days:

 http://flip.it/ZtmYw

Why do a Flipboard magazine instead of a book?

After all, I don’t get any royalties from Flipboard: no direct compensation at all.

The main thing for me is the flexibility to keep adding to it.

With a book, you reach a point where you decide to publish it. You can certainly update it later, but that can be quite confusing for readers. People who buy it before the update don’t automatically get the new version (that’s true at the Kindle store, which is where I would have published it…and certainly true in brick-and-mortar stores ((I’m a former manager)) for paperbooks).

If you are going to update it every day (that’s been about right for The Weird Old Days, which has over 100 articles at time of writing, it’s pretty clunky to do a book.

I think it’s a fun way to go: for all of my Flipboard magazines, I have over 450 readers…that seems like a lot to me in a fairly short time.

It doesn’t cost anything, and you can unsubscribe easily at any time.

So, what is in The Weird Old Days?

I search through the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America collection of digitized newspapers (from 1836 through 1922). I certainly may use other resources at some point, but I feel confident in the copyright status of these.

As far as which search terms to use, well, that’s part of where you are getting my expertise.

For example, you can’t search for “UFOs” or “flying saucers”, since the terms weren’t in use back then (“flying saucers” came into the national vocabulary in 1947). There were, however, “airships” reported (especially in 1896 and 1909).

However, that doesn’t mean I’ll just include every airship story…because there were airships at the time. Even in 1896, before the Wright brothers, there were lighter-than-airships.

Another thing that complicates matters is that newspapers ran a lot of fiction back then. Especially following War of the Worlds (first serialized in 1897), there were quite a few tales of martians and airships…and while I assume the readers commonly knew they were intended as fiction, they were rarely labeled clearly as such. My guess is that people knew by the position in the newspaper, or by the name of a feature (which might include rotating stories).

“Lake monster” has gotten me many results…but “Loch Ness monster” yields nothing, despite common claims for history going back centuries. Those stories will be there in different places, but the term “Loch Ness monster” really becomes popular with the 1933 sightings.

The “Abominable Snowman” term does work (dating from 1921).

Many of the terms for “psychic phenomena” were around…so I can search for telekinesis or telepathy and get results.

Of course, they also did stories about things way before their time…Nostradamus, for example.

It particularly interests me when there were things which were popular then, and not so much covered now. Giant human skeletons in the USA, for example.

Oh, and one thing that amused me! I tried searching for “vampire”, thinking I might get some reports of existing ones, and there were many articles. However, those articles were mostly about the Theda Bara type of “vampire” (a…forward, or let’s call it “romantically assertive”, female).

Update: I forgot to mention that I know you may have some trouble reading an article on your device, due to the way they are formatted by the Library of Congress. They have an option on the page to display it as a PDF (you’ll see a link), so if you have a decent PDF reader, that can be a good way to go.

This is going to be fun to explore! I’ve already found some interesting pieces…

New! Try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Gilligan’s Drone

June 7, 2014

Gilligan’s Drone

“Sooner than you think” is a series of posts on The Measured Circle where we find that things we think are modern have actually been around a bit longer than that…

While you may not think of Gilligan’s Island as a geeky TV series, there were certainly elements of fantasy and sometimes science fiction in it.

In

Gilligan’s Living Doll (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

a second season episode by Bob Stevens (originally broadcast on February 10, 1966), a robot is accidentally dropped on the island.

The castaways try to use it to get off the island (of course).

What you might find surprising is how we are told the robot got on the island in the first place:

“…and the drone plane which accidentally ejected the robot XR-1000 landed at Vanderburg Air Field. Since the airplane was operated by remote control, the officials have no way of knowing where the robot was ejected.”

That’s right: in 1966, a fictional aerial craft with no humans aboard was referred to as a drone.

Sooner than you think…

New! Try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 350 other followers

%d bloggers like this: