Patty looks back: 50 years of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage

October 20, 2017

Patty looks back: 50 years of the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot footage

You’ve seen it, or you’ve seen parodies or images based on it. Look at Bigfoot t-shirts or novelty “Bigfoot Crossing” signs, and you are likely to have a pose with swinging arms, mid-stride, looking back over its shoulder at you.

All of that comes from the “PGF” (Patterson-Gimlin Film): shot by Roger Patterson (with Bob Gimlin there as well), and it shows a hairy biped striding away from the camera.

It was reportedly shot on October 20th, 1967, near Bluff Creek, in Northern California.

What does it show?

There are really only two likely possibilities.

  1. It shows a “Bigfoot”, an unscientifically recognized bipedal mammal
  2. It’s a hoax

Beyond that, you have to get more exotic, such as a “tulpa” (a materialized thought form), an alien, and so on.

There has been a lot of analysis and claims about it, both positive and negative. I’ve read reasons why it physically can not be a human being in a suit (based on shoulder to height ratio, arm length, and gait) and I’ve seen claims of finding the zipper in the film. There have been books and DVDs focused on it:

search for “Patterson Bigfoot” at Amazon (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and among many websites of varying perspectives and depth there is at least one focused on it:

PattersonFilm.com

As a Fortean, I don’t make a “one or the other” judgment about it…the Fortean  “philosophy” doesn’t make binary choices, not even “real” and “not real”. Well, even that statement is too binary. 😉

You might simply believe its an obvious hoax, or you might equally simply believe it is “real”. You may have read a lot of the analysis and lean one way or the other.

What I thought I would do in this post is show some of the angles to the story…it may be different from what you think, and personally, I always like it when somebody gets me to think about what I think. 🙂

  • The claim was not that this was an accidental, serendipitous event…somebody just trekking through the woods with no ideas about Bigfoot. Patterson was there making a Bigfoot documentary, and had previously written a book on Bigfoot. Patterson wasn’t just a random hiker
  • The movie was not taken without collaborating context of Bigfoot in the area. There were also tracks in the area outside of this event, and not just reported by Patterson and Gimlin
  • Ivan T. Sanderson, a popular naturalist (think someone like Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter), who also wrote about Fortean topics, really popularized the movie with a cover article in the February 1968 issue of Argosy magazine. The cover promised “EXCLUSIVE! First Photos! CALIFORNIA’S ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN”, and showed that arm-swinging lookback. That’s when many people first became aware of it
  • It’s worth noting that Argosy didn’t use the term “Bigfoot” on the cover…although that term, in the modern usage, really had been popularized about ten years earlier
  • In modern parlance, we can say that the movie “went viral”. Patterson and the film appeared on a number of shows, including Johnny Carson’s Show, and it was mentioned in Reader’s Digest
  • An analysis by Dimitri Donskoy in Russia, who had credentials to do a biomechanical analysis, concluded that it was likely not to have been a “MiS” (Man-in-Suit…Donskoy didn’t use that term). That had to do with the apparent naturalness of what is not a natural movement pattern for a homo sapiens…Patty “glides”, not bobbing up and down as much as a homo sapiens does, for example
  • One of the arguments is about whether or not it would be possible for it to be an MiS. If you could say it was possible, that keeps open the hoax; if you could say it wasn’t, then you can’t (or so the traditional logic goes). No serious analysis claims it was a “cheap gorilla suit”: it would have to be fairly sophisticated. Indeed, legendary Hollywood makeup artist John Chambers (portrayed by John Goodman in Argo) has been rumored to have made the “suit” for the PGF. That was never confirmed, but we can say it would have been expensive to make, especially in 1967. It would be hard to prove an impossibility: if you could figure out that the figure was over 2.5m tall (8′ 2″), that wouldn’t rule out a homo sapiens…Robert Wadlow was reportedly about 2.7m (8′ 11″) tall. If you had a circus contortionist with enough training time, it might be possible to create the gait. With enough money and resources, it might have been possible to duplicate the appearance in a suit. However, it’s worth thinking about whether all of those factors would have been combined in the same place and by the people we know were involved…and why that would have happened. Regardless, it’s always going to be very difficult for photographic evidence to prove the existence of something
  • The PGF is not the only evidence for Bigfoot, and the “case” doesn’t depend on it. There could have been Bigfoot hoaxes (that seems very, very likely) and the PGF could be real. The PGF could be a hoax and Bigfoot could be “real”…it isn’t the be all and end all
  • There is an argument that Patty shows both male and female characteristics, which makes it anatomically unlikely. The obvious female characteristic? The breasts (which often don’t appear in toys and images based on it). The male characteristic? The apparent “sagittal crest”which is a ridge of bone on top of the skull which helps with chewing hard objects (as I understand it). You can see that it’s there on male gorillas and not female gorillas. Patty isn’t claimed to be a gorilla: while sagittal crests do appear more in males than in females in some other species also, it would seem unscientific to declare that an unknown primate species could not have a female with a conical skull…or a male with obvious breasts
  • In 1975, a documentary called Mysterious Monsters, with Peter Graves of Mission:Impossible, was another time many people saw the PGF

These are just a few threads from the past half-century…what will the next half-century bring?

I’m interested in what you think…feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon

Start:Sep 25, 2017 5:46 AM PDT

End:Oct 25, 2017 11:59 PM PDT


Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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 I Love My Kindle 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.

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We didn’t listen: two 70’s Social Sci-Fi films which are more relevant today

October 17, 2017

We didn’t listen: two 70’s Social Sci-Fi films which are more relevant today

There is a particular sub-genre of movie I refer to as 70’s Social Sci-Fi. They were cynical commentaries on society…often with some nudity or suggestions of sex.

1968 really set the stage, with two movies and an industry change.

The Planet of the Apes, released in 1968, was very much of this style, and was really the trendsetter. Rod Serling’s script considerably changed the original French novel.

2001: A Space Odyssey was an amazing breakthrough in special effects…and mind-blowing concepts.

The new movie ratings system was instituted, replacing earlier codes…and resulting in more explicit content getting more distribution.

So, a couple of years later (it takes a while to make a movie), we start getting movies like The Omega Man, Soylent Green, Westworld, Rollerball, The Stepford Wives…

Some of these movies did quite well…and some might do better now, because the futures they explored fit right into today’s concerns.

Colossus: The Forbin Project ties into our concerns about autonomous warfare…”killer robots”. I’m not going to go into any depth on the plots of these movies, but

[SPOILER WARNING]

The USA puts its faith in a computer system to handle warfare and keep humanity safe…its able to react more quickly than a human would. However, there’s a twist, and it leads Colossus to…make an unexpected decision about just how to protect us. It’s quite intellectual, but they still manage to make nudity a strategic requirement. 😉

Demon Seed is…a step further, and is largely a forgotten movie now (despite being based on a Dean R. Koontz novel, and starring Julie Christie and Fritz Weaver). People today worry about how involved we are getting with artificial intelligences in our homes, and how we trust them. An inventor creates a creepy AI (with the voice of Robert Vaughn). The inventor also makes a SmartHome…and the AI takes it over. Where it goes from there is…certainly pushing the envelope, in today.

[END SPOILER]

Demon Seed is available to watch through iTunes at time of writing according to JustWatch:

Demon Seed at JustWatch

but The Forbin Project doesn’t show up at JustWatch.

Killer robots and SmartHomes…four decades ago.

Science fiction doesn’t actually usually try to predict, but it may try to warn…and in these two cases, we didn’t listen…


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!


My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon

Start:Sep 25, 2017 5:46 AM PDT

End:Oct 25, 2017 11:59 PM PDT


Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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 I Love My Kindle 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.

Why AR is more important than VR

October 6, 2017

Why AR is more important than VR

Virtual reality.

Most people have heard the term, and have a pretty good idea what it means.

After all, the series V.R. Troopers (which used the term in its theme song) started in 1994 (a couple of decades ago), and was followed by Lori Singer in VR.5.

“Augmented reality” is a much more recent term, and while it is growing in public awareness, a lot fewer members of the public probably appreciate its likely impact…or even really understand what it is.

I refer to Virtual, Augmented, Mixed and Merged Reality…I just call it “VAM space” for short. This is how I explained it in my first post on the topic:

  • Virtual Reality: this replaces your current world for at least one of your senses (it could just be what you see, but it could also include sound, and increasingly “haptic feedback” ((touch))). You can not see the real world at the same time
  • Augmented Reality: characters or other objects are superimposed over the real world. You still see the real world around you, but you also see something else (simulated) over it. The most popular version of this has been Pokemon Go, although there have been other apps for some years
  • Mixed Reality: people may just refer to this as Augmented Reality (AR), and the difference is somewhat subtle. In Mixed Reality, the simulated object is “aware” of the real world and reacts to it. That’s not just the “player” or “experiencer”: it may have an awareness of where the ground is, for example. That’s already happening: AR characters don’t tend to appear to be floating in the air (unless that’s appropriate for the character), and Instragam filters follow your actions
  • Merged Reality: this is new, and is a term used by Intel for its Alloy headset (YouTube videos). This is essentially the opposite of Mixed Reality. The headset maps the actual location (say, the furniture in a room), and then masks it with a story-appropriate appearance: a table might “change into” a control panel on a spaceship, or into a rock in a haunted forest

I think, though, people may just use the term Virtual Reality for all of them, although it’s possible the others will catch on.

Let’s just do it this way for this discussion: in VR you can’t see the world around you and in AR you can.

VR is clearly more transformative and more immersive, so it would be natural to think it matters more.

However…

I think we can analogize it this way: VR is like going to a movie theatre, and AR is like watching TV at home.

Which one affects people’s lives more? 🙂

Is it what people see on the news on TV, or is it a documentary you only see in theatres?

That’s not to say that movies/VR experiences don’t have real impact…they do, obviously. They can affect people much more deeply…but more rarely and fewer people.

At this point, I (and I assume just about everybody else in VAM) spend a lot more time in VR than I do in AR. It’s mostly to watch Netflix/Hulu while I exercise (come on, Amazon…I’m hoping for Prime Video VR to be announced before the end of the year). I do play a couple of games…Overflight has recently been really updated, and it’s much faster and more realistic, with a better user interface. I also do some other things: I find it really fascinating to explore Chernobyl, and I watch some operating room videos (I work with doctors).

My AR on my headset is very limited, and not really practical.

That, however, is because of the current state of the tech and the content, not really by my choice.

If  I could be in AR all the time, I would be. 😉

Well, except for when I was in VR…or asleep, although I’d want to wake up in it. Of course, that requires a big change in hardware…I couldn’t sleep in my Samsung Gear auggies. They need to be like glasses, but ideally, even less noticeable to the wearer (I often notice my reading glasses when I wear them).

Let me give you some examples, which I think will genuinely come to AR in the next three to five years:

  • No bifocals/trifocals/peering over the top of the glasses (I do the last one with my “readers”). Your AR hardware (I call VAM hardware “auggies”) will be aware of your eyes and will know where you are trying to focus and adjust your “prescription” accordingly
  • Adjusting for lighting…from the dark of night with night vision to being able to look at the sun during an eclipse without risk. Yes, we have glasses (which are a form of auggies) which adjust to lighting conditions now, but this would be much, much more robust
  • Adjusting for color vision deficiency (which I have…not full “color blindness” in my case, but I’m including that), macular degeneration, edge perception issues, and so on. My auggies do that now, but I don’t use them much for it
  • Translation: you can do it through phones now (with, say, a sign) and phones will dominate AR for the next few years…but it will have to become hands-free eventually. Eventually, this would include reading books in another language. Obviously, there is some risk there…but is it bigger than the risk of reading a book now which has been translated by someone? Auggies would concentrate translation in fewer hands, most likely, but would also increase feedback on that translation
  • Increased, not decreased environmental awareness. People commonly misunderstand this, equating auggies to people looking down at their phones as they cross the street. Phones will eventually develop something like this as well, but your auggies could let you know that an ambulance was coming before you could hear it…and from where it was coming, and whether or not you should pull over. They could subtly haptically (a buzz or warmth on your temple, perhaps) tell you when to pause to avoid an object or which direction to go
  • Alerting me to what fits my dietary needs. I’m a vegetarian, and this could let me know in the grocery store which foods are vegetarian (I picture green outlines around them)

Notice that none of these are like Pokemon Go or a zombie run or seeing what Ikea furniture will look like in your house. All of those are good uses, but they are pretty specific and take your primary focus. With the ones I’ve listed, you wouldn’t even be consciously aware that it is working (with the possible exception of the vegetarian thing, but even then, I think you wouldn’t think about something having a green line, you would just reach for it).

VR will be important, in the way that the Superbowl, or the Oscars, or going to see the Hidden Figures movie is important.

AR will be part of our lives.

That’s what I think: what do you think? Is the idea of processing changing what you see scary? Will this, at least initially, intensify the “digital divide”, giving people with the means to be early adopters an almost super-powered advantage? Is my timeline too ambitious? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.


My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon
Start:Sep 25, 2017 5:46 AM PDT
End:Oct 25, 2017 11:59 PM PDT

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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

 

 

Things that work: MagicLight 10-LED sensor light

September 29, 2017

Things that work: MagicLight 10-LED sensor light

We all buy and try a lot of things…gadgets, services, and so on. However, they don’t always work like we expect. This is the first of what we hope will be a series of posts about “things that work”: they may not be perfect, but they do what they say and we think they are worth the price.

MagicLight Portable Wireless 10-LED Motion Sensor Light, Night-Light, Closet Light, Wall Light for Cabinet, Bathroom, Garage, Basement, Stairway, Pantry, Drawer (Battery Operated, 3000K) $8.95 at time of writing

It’s pretty simple…sometimes, you just need to throw a little light on the subject…or the shelves…or the stairs. 😉

We have a linen closet that doesn’t have a light, and we have steps leading up to the front door.

We’ve tried some different solutions: for a while, we had a light in the linen closet where you pulled a string to make it light up.

The MagicLight works quite well for what we need.

It comes on automatically…it reacts to motion, but it won’t turn on if it is already light.

It turns off automatically, too.

That’s about it. 🙂

It worked well enough that we bought more…one for each step, and it’s cute to see them come and go off one at a time as the dogs go past them. 😉

Quibbles:

  • They may be too bright…be careful about putting them right at eye level
  • They are battery-operated (4 AAAs)…I don’t like having to change batteries, but we had tried solar-operated, and just didn’t like the results. These are self-adhesive: I mounted the one on the doorframe where the battery door was on the bottom, to make it easier to change them. They did last quite a while

As always, YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary)…


My current Amazon giveaway:

Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

  • Winner:Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winners.
    Requirements for participation:
  • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia
  • 18+ years of age (or legal age)
  • Follow Scott Calvin on Amazon

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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 Spoiler Zone: about that AGT winner

September 23, 2017

The Spoiler Zone: about that AGT winner

I want to talk about the winning act on

America’s Got Talent

this year so just in case you haven’t seen it yet, have been able to avoid finding out, and want the joy of discovery while you watch, this is a

SPOILER ALERT

My Significant Other and I like to watch reality shows together, and to try to predict who wins or goes home at each opportunity. I’m pretty good at it: one year, for American Idol, I predicted nine of the last ten eliminations…in order…before any of them happened.

When we watched the AGT finale together, I couldn’t do that…because a major entertainment news show had spoiled the winner, right in a headline (leading with the name of the act: “X wins AGT”, or something like that), so that I couldn’t avoid seeing it when reading the news in the morning.

Other outlets were more considerate…I saw things like, “The winner of AGT is…” and then explaining it in the article, meaning I could avoid knowing if I chose (which I had been doing).

I get why media outlets spoil things: you have superior power (knowledge is power), and you can use it to take something away from weaker people, which demonstrates to you how powerful you are.

That’s not why individuals do it; they often do it without thinking about it, with no malintent. Media outlets have thought about whether they want to spoil it or not…they’ve had discussions and made a corporate policy.

It doesn’t give them the scoop any faster, so it doesn’t have to do with that.

There, that should be enough words so you won’t accidentally see the winner. 😉


I’ve been interested in ventriloquists for a very long time.

I had Jimmy Nelson’s “Jokes and Riddles” album (Danny O’Day and Farfel the Dog…and “N-E-S-T-L-E-S…Nestle’s makes the very best…chocolate”).

My favorite moment of all time in television came in an episode (Talk to the Snail) of the Dick Van Dyke Show where Paul Winchell (Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff…and the voice of Tigger) appeared…as a ventriloquist.

Shari Lewis, Senor Wences, Willie Tyler…I knew all of their acts. I even tried to learn ventriloquism myself. While I could (and can) do voices and characters, I never really got good at the physical ventriloquism part.

Darci Lynne Farmer is the best ventriloquist I have ever seen.

While her characters are interesting, and her singing amazing (I would argue that she was the best singer in the competition), it’s the way she bring the characters to life that really astounds me.

I pointed out to my Significant Other how her character could maintain eye contact with Tyra Banks while Darci Lynne was looking somewhere else.

When she won, and was clearly crying out of control, I could swear that her bunny Petunia tried to comfort her.

That is on top of her sense of humor (she walked a great line between being the kid she is and being edgy), her technical proficiency (while Paul Winchell was hilarious, you could always see the work he was doing), and again, that singing!

Yes, she appeared to mess up the lyrics on the final results show, but I get that. First, it was a song she probably didn’t know. Second, this self-professed shy child was being asked to work with an unfamiliar adult in a high stress situation. A ventriloquist normally has an extraordinary amount of control over what is happening on stage, literally controlling every side of the conversation, every nuance and gesture. It wasn’t like that with another ventriloquist and another character sharing the spotlight…it had to be scary.

Had I picked her to win?

She had been my favorite for weeks, and one of my top three to win. The other two were: Light Balance, dancers in the dark who listed high tech neon-style lighting to tell stories and create illusions; and Diavolo, a very different dance act that used amazing giant props and death-defying dives.

One of the ways I judge acts on AGT is to ask myself if the act would make a good poster in the lobby of a casino. Diavolo could have an incredible poster, with a dancer flying towards the viewer and a giant prop in the back with other dancers swarming all over it. Light Balance would have a good poster, but it might not be as clear what was happening. You could tell what Darci Lynne’s act was, but not how good it was.

I should have reminded myself more that the audience picks the winner, not the casinos. Still, I picked finalists pretty well. 🙂 I also believe that Diavolo and Light Balance will both get work from having been on the show…maybe both in Vegas.

Congratulations to Darci (and Petunia, Oscar, and Edna)!

Ventriloquist Central

Darci Lynne at AGT Wikia fansite

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

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 Emmys are really geeky this year…but is that new?

September 17, 2017

The Emmys are really geeky this year…but is that new?

We are a few hours away from the 2017

The Emmys

broadcast, and I was struck by how geeky it was. I @bufocalvin tweeted

Confusing people from the 1950s: “The show with the robots might win Best Drama @TheEmmys because the dragon show isn’t eligible*.”

😉

That fits my personal narrative that geek-friendly content is becoming more mainstream and more respected. Oscar winning actors have no compunction about appearing in geek-friendly franchises, the box office is dominated (even in awards-friendly December) by geek-friendly works, and streaming companies are investing millions in shows based on comic books and science fiction/fantasy books.

However, I always like to question my own beliefs, so I decided to go back and look. Was it really true that Best Drama Series (that title has changed repeatedly, but I’ll use that for simplicity’s sake) tended to be mainstream, mundane series? I was guessing it might be anthology shows that seemed to almost reproduce Broadway plays, but I wasn’t sure.

Let’s set the comparison: this year, there are seven nominees, and three of them are undeniably geek-friendly: The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, and Westworld (43% geek-friendly…GF).

We’ll jump back ten years at a time:

2006-2007 (20% GF)

  • Boston Legal
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Heroes (GF)
  • House
  • The Sopranos

1996-1997 (20% GF)

  • Chicago Hope
  • ER
  • Law & Order
  • NYPD Blue
  • The X-Files (GF)

1986-1987 (0% GF)

  • Cagney & Lacey
  • L.A. Law
  • Moonlighting
  • Murder She Wrote
  • St. Elsewhere

1976-1977  (0% GF)

  • Baretta
  • Columbo
  • Family
  • Police Story
  • Upstairs, Downstairs

1966-1967 (60% GF)

  • The Avengers (GF)
  • I Spy (? I can’t remember for sure if they encountered science fiction inventions, so I won’t count it)
  • Mission: Impossible (GF)
  • Run for Your Life
  • Star Trek (GF)

1956 (there aren’t 1957 nominees…the system was considerably revamped for 1958 to separate shows with continuing characters and anthology shows, since the latter kept getting all the nominations. By the 1960s, they were combined again, and by the mid-1960s, shows with continuing characters were solidly in the nomination process)

  • Alcoa-Goodyear Theatre
  • Climax!
  • Producers’ Showcase
  • Studio One
  • The United States Steel Hour

So, it looks like my feeling was right, at least based on this methodology. In the beginning (with the exception of the super-geeky 1960s), there were no GF nominees for Best Drama. From the 1970s-through the twenty-oughts, there there were 20%. This year, there are more than twice that…

* I don’t want to suggest here that, if Game of Thrones was in the running, it would automatically win. I have made a couple of attempts to get into GoT, and it just hasn’t grabbed me. I am slowly making my way through it (I feel it is my geek cultural responsibility). 😉 On the other hand, I’m really enjoying Westworld (which I’ve just started watching…we only recently got access to current HBO shows). I liked the original movie, but so far, the plotting on this is solid, the direction is good, and I’m enjoying the acting. This isn’t the actual comparison, but if it was first episode of GoT versus first episode of Westworld, I know what I’d pick…

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The short, somewhat sad history of live action TV sci-fi space spoofs

September 13, 2017

The short, somewhat sad history of live action TV sci-fi space spoofs

Seth McFarlane’s

The Orville

debuted on Fox on Sunday, September 10th.

I’ve watched it. While I would like every show to be both successful (long-running) and good, that simply doesn’t happen. TV networks are closer to the mouse reproductive strategy (have lots of babies quickly, and hope some make it) than to the elephant strategy (have few babies and raise them slowly, letting them mature and gain the necessary social skills).

The show is a space sitcom, and that got me thinking about the history of that genre.

A few shows came to mind right away…and none of the American series that I recalled lasted more than a season.

Let’s set some parameters for inclusion:

  • The space sitcom has to be the whole series, not a sketch on a show. That lets out Muppets in Space and Waldo Kitty (although I think the latter’s Star Trek parodies are amongst the ones I’ve enjoyed the most)
  • It has to be live action…not pure cartoons
  • The show has to be a comedy (although there may be some more serious elements). The original Star Trek has some great comedy episodes (The Trouble with Tribbles; A Piece of the Action; I, Mudd…) but doesn’t count for this
  • It has to be TV, not a movie. Galaxy Quest and Spaceballs were successful space spoofs in theatres, but that’s different
  • The show has to largely take place in space, not just have an alien in it. I’m not counting what I call “mermaid out of water” shows (like “fish out of water”, but including a geeky element)…letting out ALF, Mork & Mindy, and My Favorite Martian, for example). I debated including Salvage 1, an Andy Griffith series that included a rocket for salvage in space, but it doesn’t take place primarily in space

Okay, let’s take a look at some shows:

Far Out Space Nuts
YouTube search

  • 15 total episodes
  • 1975-1976
  • CBS

One of the shortest-lived of the Sid & Marty Krofft series, it’s worth noting that this series was on before Star Wars was released. Chuck McCann, who starred along with Bob Denver, was one of the creators. Two NASA employees are actually launched into space, and we see their adventures on different planets. It lasted one season.

Quark
YouTube search

  • 8 total episodes
  • 1978
  • NBC
  • IMDb popularity 4,112 at time of writing
  • One Emmy nomination

“On paper”, this should have been a good series. Buck Henry created it, who was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and had won an Emmy for co-writing an episode of another spoof, Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, who was successful in comic parts and had geek credit, having been one of the leads of the original Westworld. However, this series about a space garbage truck only lasted eight episodes (including the pilot).

Homeboys in Outer Space
YouTube search

21 total episodes
1996-1997
UPN
No IMDb popularity rating
No award nominations

Series Executive Producer Ehrich Van Lowe had been a producer and screenwriter on The Cosby Show. There were some great guest stars, including Burt Ward, Natasha Henstridge, and James Doohan. It lasted one season and was on TV Guide’s list of the 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.

I think that’s about it. An argument could be made for Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which case that would certainly be the most successful of the American series.

If we turn to the UK, there are more entries (including Come Back Mrs. Noah ((6 episodes…starring Mollie Sugden)), Astronauts ((13 episodes…created by two of The Goodies)), and Hyperdrive ((12 episodes…starring Nick Frost))).

The UK produced

Red Dwarf

which has a strong fandom and which I’ve enjoyed, has had 67 episodes. In particular, series (season) 1, episode 4 is both funny and has social commentary.

So, based on this, The Orville does have an uphill climb in front if it…but Red Dwarf proves it isn’t impossible.

What do you think? Did I leave anything out? Why aren’t space spoofs more successful on TV? Is it just the odds generally against TV series? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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* This blog is named after a quotation of Charles Fort’s. One key element of Forteanism (Fort would not have approved of that term of the concept) is that things having finite existences, being separate from each other, is inaccurate…”One measures a circle beginning anywhere”. True Forteans know that everything blends into everything else…but of course, that include “true” and “false” and Forteans and non-Forteans. 😉

2017: The Year the Laughter Died

September 3, 2017

2017: The Year the Laughter Died

We memorialize the deaths of geeky celebrities: at the time of writing, there have been over 100 this year alone:

2017 Geeky Good-byes

Geeks embrace everyone who has helped produce geek-friendly works. However, that often crosses over into mainstream, and at The Measured Circle*, we do not divide and define.

2016 was noted in the mainstream media for the number of musical celebrities who died, and it was remarkable. David Bowie, Prince, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Leonard Cohen, Glenn Frey, Paul Kanter, George Michael…if you polled people to name their favorite singers and groups, it’s likely that these people would have been included.

2017 is showing a different unhappy trend: a loss of comedians.

Broadly speaking, a comedian is a performer whose intent is to make their audiences laugh.

I also tend to think of a comedian as someone who both writes and delivers the material. They can do it in character (some of them do it in multiple characters in the same set), and they may also perform in scripted material (such as traditional movies or TV shows). In the case of several of the people on this list, they may also have released records (or the modern equivalent) of their comedy.

If you asked people to name 100 American comedians, the combined list would likely have included some of the people we have lost this year:

  • Antonio Rosato, reportedly died January 10, 2017: Rosato appeared on both SCTV and Saturday Night Live, and did a variety of voice work
  • Dick Gautier, reportedly died January 13, 2017: perhaps best known to audience as Hymie the robot on Get Smart, Gautier was a stand up comic earlier in his career
  • “Professor” Irwin Corey, reportedly died February 6, 2017: Corey had a unique improvisational style, working in character as “The World’s Foremost Authority”. He would jump from topic to topic, in some ways preceding Robin Williams, and speak in strings of “big words”. Robert Heinlein name checks him in Friday
  • Bill Dana, reportedly died June 15, 2017: certainly most famous as his character Jose Jimenez (a bit with Jimenez as an astronaut was Billboard top 40, and he got a window cameo on the Adam West Batman), Dana played a number of other characters including on The Golden Girls and was an important comedy writer (including the “Sammy’s Visit” episode of All in the Family)
  • Patti Deutsch, reportedly died July 26, 2017: while some of her most public work was on Match Game, she did a lot of voice work, including for Disney and Nickelodeon
  • June Foray, reportedly died July 26, 2017: one of the greatest voice artists (Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Looney Tunes’ Granny) also did comedy work on radio, TV, and record album (including with Stan Freberg)
  • Dick Gregory, reportedly died on August 19, 2017: legendary comedian, author, and civil rights activist
  • Jerry Lewis, reportedly died August 20, 2017: part of the comedy duo of Lewis and Martin and then a solo success, Jerry Lewis did albums and co-wrote arguably his most respected movie, The Nutty Professor
  • Jay Thomas, reportedly died August 24, 2017: he appeared on Mork & Mindy and in the Santa Clause movies (as the Easter Bunny), Thomas also has a career as a radio host
  • Shelley Berman, reportedly died September 1, 2017: Berman was a pioneer in observational humor, earning three gold records and a Grammy. He was nominated for an Emmy for playing Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiasm

The world has last some of its laughter this year. While we hope that this completes the list, we know that may not be the case. That may be the stand out trend, despite George Romero and Tobe Hooper, two of the most influential horror directors, both dying this year.

We thank everyone on this list for making life a little more fun.

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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 blog is named after a quotation of Charles Fort’s. One key element of Forteanism (Fort would not have approved of that term of the concept) is that things having finite existences, being separate from each other, is inaccurate…”One measures a circle beginning anywhere”. True Forteans know that everything blends into everything else…but of course, that include “true” and “false” and Forteans and non-Forteans. 😉

 

A different kind of year for Jennifer Lawrence

August 14, 2017

A different kind of year for Jennifer Lawrence

Has any actor ever done the movies better than Jennifer Lawrence?

Notice that I didn’t ask if anyone had “done better movies”…that’s entirely a different question.

No, I mean someone who is more successful at the “game of the movies”…or the movie business, if you prefer the more prosaic.

That sort of success is typically measured in one of two ways: box office, and “respect”…for the latter, we can go with award recognition, especially the Oscars.

Jennifer Lawrence has the respect part down, having been nominated for four Oscars since 2011, and winning the Best Actress award.

Now, other people have been nominated (eventually) for more Oscars (although I think four nominations in your first nine years of movie credits is exceptional), but this many this fast and this consistently? That’s at the least rare.

For box office, we’ve been naming our Most Valuable Players since 2011. Basically, they need to be first-billed in a movie which makes at least $100 million dogro (domestic gross) and another movie which dogroes at least $40 million (but they don’t need to be first-billed).

It’s difficult to make it two years in a row. Most movies which make $100 million generally take a lot of time and effort: somebody who is first-billed in a tentpole movie doesn’t have a lot of time to make another movie that year.

Starting in 2015 (but looking backwards from there), we added the “On a roll” designation. For 2016, for example, only four actors made it:

  • Bill Hader
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Simon Pegg

Of those four, only one of them was on more than their second in a row: Jennifer Lawrence, who was on her fifth.

In 2015, the situation was similar: four people who were “On a roll”, and with Jennifer Lawrence the only one who was on more than the second in a row (the others were Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Banks, and Jai Courtney).

Unless something changes, though, this year will be different.

Jennifer Lawrence only has one movie scheduled for release, Mother!

With only one movie, it isn’t possible to make it to our

2017 The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

list. It has nineteen people on it so far, with Hannibal Buress and Jenny Slate being the only two on a roll.

We don’t see this as any sign of a lasting downturn: we expect Jennifer Lawrence will be back at the top of the box office and wouldn’t be surprised to see additional Oscar nominations in her future.

This is just a different sort of year…

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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! :) 

Disney’s next “E ticket”? Star Wars Merged Reality

August 5, 2017

Disney’s next “E ticket”? Star Wars Merged Reality

Up until the early 1980s (and starting in 1959), the “E” ticket (or coupon) was the latest and greatest ride: the Submarine Voyage, the Matterhorn…the top of the line.

Even though Disney officially did away with the letter tickets thirty-five years ago, people still use the term. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones…those would all be considered E tickets.

These are the buzzy rides…the ones people would talk about when they got home, brag about, and say, “You gotta ride…”

While Disney works on its Star Wars lands for 2019, this holiday season will bring a different kind of attraction…merged reality.

While that’s not the term that the company making it uses for it, it’s one of my four “flavors” as I defined in my first VAMM (Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality…which I’m tending to simplify to VAM) post:

Welcome, vammers! Our Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality coverage starts here

This is what I said:

“Merged Reality: this is new, and is a term used by Intel for its Alloy headset (YouTube videos). This is essentially the opposite of Mixed Reality. The headset maps the actual location (say, the furniture in a room), and then masks it with a story-appropriate appearance: a table might “change into” a control panel on a spaceship, or into a rock in a haunted forest”

What The VOID calls it is “Hyper-Reality”. They’ve been doing some really interesting things. You do wear a VR headset, and you don’t see the actual environment…but you are in a dedicated space for this particular experience.

If you pick up a light saber, the hilt can actually be a physical object…and then you would see and hear the “blade”, which would react appropriately as it fought another player. The hilt could even be made to vibrate with a hit. I don’t know that these are part of this actual experience…just giving you the idea.

It’s also social…you play with your family or your friends. As they move, you see their avatars move in VR. When I’ve been socially with people in VR, seeing their avatars’ heads move when they look at something makes it feel very real.

You could be interacting with actors or CGI…or a mix. You won’t really have a way to tell…until an actor does something physical.

In this

The VOID post

they point out that it could even involve smells!

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire will open in Downtown Disney at Disneyland (in California) and Disney Springs at Disneyworld (in Florida).

This will be judged on a number of things:

  • How does it feel?
  • How immersive is it?
  • How Disney is it?
  • How Star Wars is it?

On the last one, ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) is involved, so that’s a good sign.

We also don’t know enough about the logistics yet…is it a separate charge? It certainly could be…you pay for things in Downtown Disney. How long will the wait be (only so many people can be in there at a time)? How long will you get in the experience (again, it can’t be that long, since people are waiting)?

My guess? People will talk about it…it will be an E ticket. 🙂

Oh, one other thing: this is not going to be dependent on the Disney infrastructure, meaning that they could hypothetically open it in other places across the country…and around the globe.

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