Special note: Amazon discontinuing blog publishing August 19 2019 (this blog will continue)

August 14, 2019

Special note: Amazon discontinuing blog publishing August 19 2019 (this blog will continue)

On August 19th, 2019, Amazon will discontinue blog publishing through the Kindle store. If you are subscribed to this blog through them for your Kindle, you will not receive more posts on that device after that date.

If you read this any other way, including on the web (that might be on your phone, a tablet, or a computer), it should be unaffected.

For more information:

my post on my I Love My Kindle blog

Thank you for enjoying The Measured Circle!

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

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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Easily remove objects from photos with my favorite new app, Touch/Retouch

July 28, 2019

Easily remove objects from photos with my favorite new app, Touch/Retouch

I take a lot of pictures of our dogs…they even have their own free Flipboard magazine:

Butterscotch Chaos and Friends

I usually upload a picture a day, which I take with my Galaxy S10.

Phone camera tech is amazing nowadays! The autofocus is much faster than it was even two years ago. Most often, the pictures look great.

On the weekends, some of the pictures I take are at a dog park in our area…we’re fortunate enough to live within driving distance of one of the best dog parks in the world.

However, my issue had been that sometimes, other people (or dogs) are in the pictures. You develop little social groups, or “packs” as our dogs might call them. 😉 Our dogs are also very friendly, and will walk right up to strangers to be petted.

I’m not comfortable putting identifiable people on the internet without their permission.

So, I looked for a way or an app which might be able to remove those other people.

After reading up, I decided to buy (yes, pay for)

ADVA Soft TouchRetouch

I paid $2.99 for it…and it has far exceeded my expectations!

First, a little level setting.

Part of what I do for a living, a big part, is training people on software. I’ve been doing that for a long time. However, that has never been photo editing software. I’ve done some things with images in PowerPoint and such, and I used to edit Super 8mm film, but it’s all been pretty simple.

So, I can understand well how to use the app, but I don’t have any special photo editing experience.

With very little learning curve, I’ve often been able to remove objects from my photographs…and in under a minute.

Here’s an example of that:

If you take a look, I didn’t only remove the pen: I cleaned smudges off of the white cable in the back, and did some other minor retouching.

Now, it doesn’t always work that well. If there’s a complicated background behind the subject, it sometimes can’t figure out what it should use to fill in the gap.

There are, though, more tools than just the object remover. With that one, I just run my finger over what I want removed, then tell it to “Go”.

There is also an eraser…if my “smudge” gets on to something I don’t want removed, I can erase that part of the smudge first.

Undoing is also easy if I don’t like the result.

What about those other tools?

  • Quick Repair: Quick Brush: this one removes things without me tapping Go first. It can work well, but it doesn’t give you the chance to use that eraser
  • Quick Repair: Blemish Remover: it takes off spots and such. It really is a retouching tool
  • Line Removal: this one is terrific! You trace along a line…let’s say the cord for a device. You don’t have to be careful: it detects it, and then it can remove the whole thing
  • Clone Stamp: this one is tricky, and I’m not always happy with the result, although sometimes it is exactly what I need. You put a reference marker over something in the image, and then as you draw with your finger, it copies it. The issues I have with it are primarily: it’s too easy to move off where you intend (your reference location moves with your cloning finger), so something else comes into the cloned area…as a suggested improvement, I would love to be able to anchor the reference spot so it didn’t move; the image appears to be very flat, all the same, whereas when TouchRetouch removes an object, the image replacement is nicely textured

Here’s another example: again, I did this in under a minute for this article.

Of course, I mentioned sharing, and that’s important. Fortunately, TouchRetouch has good sharing options!

I don’t have to save the image first, or at all. What choices you have will vary based on what’s on your phone, but everything I want is there.

Everybody should have the choice to “Save as Copy” or “Modify Original”…I often save it as a copy.

You can choose format (JPEG, PNG, TIFF), size, and JPEG Quality.

I can send it to social media, save it directly to Flipboard, tweet it, and so on.

In terms of sources, I do wish it would show me my albums within my apps, or give me search, but I can get to my phone’s gallery, Amazon Photos, Google Photos, Downloads, OneDrive, Google Drive…that’s robust.

Bottom line? Well worth the $2.99! When it works right away, which is most of the time, it’s like magic. If it needs some human intervention, it’s still reasonably easy.

Do you have any TouchRetouch tips you’d like to share? Is there another photo editing app you feel is a must have? Would you just simply never pay for an app? 🙂 Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

What, me publish? Mad Magazine to cease publication

July 4, 2019

What, me publish? Mad Magazine to cease publication

According to this

CBS news story

and many other sources, the venerable illustrated humor magazine, Mad (originally Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad), is scheduled to stop publishing new material (old material may be reprinted with new covers).

It was highly influential , bringing broad parodies (at first, of other comics), but eventually covering a wide range of topics.

I read it regularly. I would do that both with the magazine (where you could do a special tri-fold of the back cover which would create a new picture and text) and in paperback books

I particularly remember a satire of Tarzan (where he faces the “tsuris”…a Yiddish word, which was the case with a lot of Mad’s jokes), and a Star Trek parody. In the latter, as I recall, they use the “transputter” a joke on the “transporter” and their body parts get misaligned. As I remember, when Kirk is asked how he is doing, he says, “I have the strangest feeling my face wants to sit down.”

It has continued to exist since 1952, eventually inspiring a TV series.

There were many regular features, from Spy vs. Spy to Dave Berg’s “The Lighter Side of…” to Don Martin’s work.

More than one celebrity has indicated that they really felt like they had arrived when they were parodied in the magazine.

I want to thank everyone who worked on Mad, especially in its heyday! I got a lot of pleasure out of its clever writing and inspired visuals.

What about you? What are your Mad Magazine memories? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* 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.

My weird movie theatre memories

June 29, 2019

My weird movie theatre memories

I’ve spent a lot of time in movie theatres.

If we count drive-ins (and they were called Drive-In Theatres), I think that probably goes back to seeing Dr. No with my parents. I have to assume that was in 1963 or so. I only have a flash memory of that…I was quite young, as you can imagine.

I’ve also seen many movies at cons (fan conventions), and of course, thousands on TV. My current favorite way to watch movies is in VR (Virtual Reality). I use a Samsung Gear. There are times the picture could be sharper, but I’m seeing a theatre size screen, have good sound through my earpods, and as I do my floor exercises, the screen follows me when I turn my head (at least on Netflix, it does). I usually have a few things going on at once (I have a Charles Band movie with Christopher Lee on TV in the room as I write this), but the VR experience really has me focus more. It’s definitely best when there are subtitles.

I took a film analysis class in high school, and I actually ran and programmed a movie series for a community center.

For this post, I’m just going to count situations where the public could gather to watch.

Let’s start out with some marathons.

There were five films in the original Planet of the Apes series. I was a big fan (although I don’t like the second movie much).

In 1974, 20th Century Fox had “Go Ape” marathons…you could watch all five movies in a row in a regular theatre.

Well, even though I’d seen them all individually in theatres, I wasn’t going to miss that!

I didn’t just go. I watched in an ape suit.

I had a Don Post PotA chimp mask. Don Post masks were great (my first real job was working in a place which sold them, The House of Humor). It did actually allow for some facial flexibility, and while it was hot for all those hours, it wasn’t intolerable (there was an opening in the back of the “throat”, as I recall, enabling you to breath through the mouth). I had a sort of vinyl olive rainsuit. I paired that with gloves and boots. I really wished I had boots with thumbs in them, as they did in the movie series, but no such luck.

Another time I spent more than eight hours in a row in a theatre was a “Golden Turkeys” film festival…I think it was in Berkeley. It was going to run over night, and my friends and I went in pjs and brought a blanket, or sleeping bag, I don’t remember which.

One of the features was The Creeping Terror, which I recently rewatched on Amazon Prime Video (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*). It’s a super low budget monster movie made in the Tahoe area. They either lost or couldn’t use the dialog track, so much of the movie is narrated (“Bobby told the sheriff…”). The monster looks like a decaying carpet, and you can absolutely tell that a person is walking inside it. The way I had heard the story was that the director or producer was a con artist on probation or who had previously served time. People were paying to be in the movie, and he hadn’t intended to actually complete and release it…somewhat like the plot of The Producers. The judge/probation officer heard about it, called him in, and said, “If you don’t make this movie, you are going back to jail.” I don’t know that that’s actually true…it’s just my recollection of the rumors, and if it isn’t true, my apologies to the people involved that lots of us thought that was the case.

The movie that actually drove people out of the place was The Terror of Tiny Town. It’s a musical Western, with a large cast of little people. This came out shortly before The Wizard of Oz, and many of the actors were in both. The tone varies wildly between being a comedy and being serious…and for some reason, there’s a penguin in a barbershop, as I recall. People went out while it was on to get food.

That festival had a pretty full house, but I had quite a different experience one time when a friend and I went to go see a double feature. It was The Mafu Cage, a psychological horror movie starring Carol Kane and Lee Grant. Kane keeps a man in a cage and treats him as though he is a non-human ape. Hm, Robot Monster, which stars a man in a gorilla suit with a space helmet on his head (they couldn’t afford to make the robot costume they had intended, from what I heard, so they modified George Barrows’ ape suit) was part of the Golden Turkeys festival…is there an ape theme here?

The second feature was, I think, called The Arctic Fox. It was a Japanese nature documentary, narrated by “Grandfather Tree”, or something like that. I love animals, but I remember this being very slow.

By the time it finished, my friend and I were the only ones left in the multiplex theatre…and my friend was asleep.

When it ended, the film just flapped in the projector; it was clearly unattended. When I woke my friend up and we went to leave, it was clear why. The projectionist was standing by the exit, arms crossed across his chest. He looked at me pointedly and said, “That’s the first time I’ve had to run that film all the way through!”

Those are a few of my most memorable movie-going experiences. There have been many:

  • I remember watching Saul Bass’ Phase IV ant movie…in the first row (I don’t recommend that…oh, the movie is fine, but my neck was sore after staring up like that for the whole film)
  • I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show where they took a 70mm print and enlarged it to fill a 150 degree screen. That was a thing at one point…it was supposed to cover all of your peripheral vision range, so you couldn’t see anything except the screen. I remember the corners being fuzzy, but that was quite a show!
  • I think the longest line I was ever in was, for reasons which I’ve never known, for the The World’s Greatest Athlete with Jan-Michael Vincent…I had to stand in line through several showings to see this Disney sort of Tarzan comedy
  • I also waited in line for a few showing to see Jaws when it was first released. I could hear audience reaction from inside the theatre sometimes…so I actually had a sense of when one of the jump scares was coming, and anticipated it a bit

How about you? Have you had a strange time in a movie theatre? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

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

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

* 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

The Lost Saucer: Sid & Marty Krofft’s slapstick Black Mirror for Kids?

June 15, 2019

The Lost Saucer: Sid & Marty Krofft’s slapstick Black Mirror for Kids?

Sid & Marty Krofft had some of the weirdest shows on television in the late 1960s and 1970s. They usually featured people in full body suit costumes, and were a big part of many childhoods.

Asked to name their shows, most nostalgic adults would mention

  • H.R. Pufnstuf
  • Land of the Lost
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Lidsville

but there were many others: The Bugaloos; The Banana Splits; Electra Woman and Dyna Girl…

Low down on the list might be two shows that ran opposite each other (on ABC and CBS) for one season starting in 1975: Far Out Space Nuts, and The Lost Saucer.

There were some similarities: they both starred a pair of well-known comedians, had a funny animal character, and featured out of control travel to other societies.

Far Out Space Nuts had Bob Denver (Gilligan’s Island) and Chuck McCann as lost in space NASA employees, and Honk, an alien. It was a pretty typical comedy.

The Lost Saucer had Jim Nabors and Ruth Buzzi as time traveling androids, and the dorse, a bioengineered animal with a “dog’s body” (although it didn’t look much like a dog) with a horse’s head.

In the first episode, they invite a young boy and his babysitter onboard their flying saucer. They panic when the saucer is spotted, take off…and the time travel mechanism malfunctions, leaving them unable to control when they go. The rest of the series has “Fi” and “Fum” trying to return Jerry and Alice to 1975.

I recently mixed up the two shows, suggesting that Jim Nabors had been on Far Out Space Nuts. That type of error genuinely is unusual for me (although Twitter is a different sort of almost real time beast). I figured I owed it to the show to watch what episodes I could. I found some on YouTube:

YouTube search for The Lost Saucer

I also read up on the series.

Here’s the thing…

Yes, it’s slapstick. Yes, there is a laugh track. Yes, it has corny dialog. Yes, guest stars tended towards the comedic, including Billy Barty, Richard Deacon, Jane Dulo, Joe E. Ross, and Marvin Kaplan.

However, the themes are quite dystopic, and could fit right in with the current anthology series, Black Mirror.

  • 894X2RY713, I Love You: everyone is known by a number, and Jerry and Alice are arrested for showing their faces in public. Their judge is a computer
  • My Fair Robot: a robot who is too clumsy is threatened with being recycled
  • Polka Dot Years: this is about racism (against people who don’t have polka dots)
  • In the Laughing Years, chemicals are used to keep people laughing. They don’t affect the androids…who are arrested (there is a lot of legal jeopardy on this show) for not smiling

I wasn’t able to see Fat Is Beautiful yet, but in this episode, people have become reliant on their conveniences and gotten fat. It is illegal to exercise or to be in shape. I wanted to compare this to WALL-E, since there seem to be some parallels (I’m not saying that WALL-E is at all based on it, but those sorts of parallel creative evolution things happen. A male and female android in a future where humans are out of shape…).

So, is The Lost Saucer like Black Mirror…with a laugh track? What do you think? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Rewatch: Eerie, Indiana

June 5, 2019

Rewatch: Eerie, Indiana

I recently rewatched (and honestly, probably watched for the first time some episodes) Eerie, Indiana on Amazon Prime Video.

As can happen with shows with cult followings, I enjoyed it more this time around. One of the hallmarks of cult movies and TV shows is that they tend to have a lot of detail, and often with in-jokes and callbacks. Eerie has all of that.

The basic situation is that a young boy (Marshall Teller, sometimes called “Mars”) moves from New Jersey to Indiana, and encounters (and tracks…and may battle) a variety of weird things. Elvis Presley (who had died in 1977, but was rumored to have faked his death) lives in the town, as does Bigfoot. The show begins with a great episode, and the first are basically stand-alones.

As the show progresses, though, there becomes more of a throughline, more mythology. That can sometimes be a problem for shows, but it works here.

The main characters (Omri Katz as Mars, Justin Shenkarow as his friend and Eerie native, Simon Holmes. Marshall’s mother, father, and older sister are also constants) are well cast.

Part of what made the show really enjoyable for me was the geeky roster of guest stars. John Astin joins the series late in the run for several episodes, with perhaps his best work outside of The Addams Family. Gregory Itzin is the town’s mayor. Tobey Maguire and Nikki Cox have “before they were stars” turns. Rene Auberjonois (as a character called “The Donald”), Ray Walston, Dick Miller, and Matt Frewer all guest.

I do love the writing. There is a common misconception that if a show has children as main characters, it’s made for kids. That’s not the case here, although kids can certainly enjoy some episodes on some levels. There is, though, genuine peril and people do die. A lot of the references wouldn’t make sense to kids.

Those references are fun, and nowadays, would give Google a workout for some viewers. One that caught my eye: a Twin Peaks line (mentioning the Log Lady). Given that the shows’ debuts are only a year apart, that shows you how topical it is.

There is also a fair amount of social commentary.

SPOILER ALERT

What is now shown as the last episode (the original 19th episode wasn’t shown in the first run), is brilliant if they knew the show was ending. Marshall finds out that he is on a TV show…everyone starts calling him Omri, and his house is just a set. The other actors, for the most part, play heightened versions of themselves, and are aware that they are on a show. The very mysterious Dash X character wants to take over as star of the show…by getting the Marshall character killed off! Even though I have the spoiler alert, I’ll just say that the ending is perfect if they knew (or strongly suspected) the show was over.

END SPOILER ALERT

When the show was re-run on Fox Kids’ in 1997, it gained a new life. This resulted in a spin-off…which I’ve started to watch now:

Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension

It has a direct connection…Marshall and Simon do a sort of hand-off in the first episode.

Bottom line: Eerie, Indiana is a clever, geek-friendly series that benefits from binging.

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

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Write in my world: the planet Aphotic

May 12, 2019

Write in my world: the planet Aphotic

“You seem nervous…first space trip?”

“No, I’ve been to a lot of planets. It’s my first trip to .”

“You’ll be fine…they are very friendly.”

“I’m sighted.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!”

link to my tweet


That was my response to the daily writing prompt from

firdaus parvez @fairdausp

It was part of a series of prompts for “very short stories” (#vss). What happens is that a single word is given each day as a way to inspire people to write a single tweet incorporating it.

I think it’s fun! It doesn’t take me much time (I’ve always been a fast writer), and I like the challenge of making it fit into 280 characters. I do have a tendency to verbosity, and I’ve always enjoyed having rules (I used to manage a gamestore, and games are all about the rules).

I’ve written quite a few of these now, since I was first tuned into the prompts by

Jeffary Joseph at @JeffaryWrites

You can see them here:

Twitter: from:bufocalvin #vss365

A few times, when doing these, I’ve felt like they had the potential to become longer pieces…and this is one of them.

However, I don’t really have the time right now to do it.

Jeffary also suggested the idea behind this post.

He kindly invited me to write a piece from a prompt he had done. He has a group of writers who respond to his prompts:

Gold Star Stories @GSStories

While I thought my 1-pager came out pretty well, I ended up withdrawing it. The group was much more intense than I had anticipated. I didn’t feel like I could commit the time and creative energy necessary to fairly keep up with what they were doing. I typically spend hours a day on my writing, in addition to a full-time “day job”. I have to be pretty selective about any new things I add. It’s fine if it’s casual and I can just write when and how much I want, but that wasn’t this case.

I like the concept behind my tweet, and would like to see it explored more. I thought it would be fun to see if anybody else wants to do it.

The first thing I want to establish is the rights: I always want to get that specifically stated, to get that out of the way.

If you choose to submit something, I will have the right to publish it without compensation to you. You will retain all other rights: you also can publish it elsewhere, and (perhaps) get compensation for it there. That’s about it: I’d like you to link to me and/or The Measured Circle, but I’m not going to require that.

I may not publish everything that’s submitted, and if it has profanity, I will probably mask that: I don’t use profanity in my blogs (or, actually, in real life either). For example, I might use “f@@king” when you spelled it out.

I also might communicate with you if I want to make or suggest some changes. Those likely wouldn’t be substantial, but could be along the lines of proofreading (much more likely than copy editing).

Here’s the set up for the world:

Earthlings commonly travel in space and contact other intelligent species.

One such planet is called Aphotic by Earthers. It earned that name because, to Earth humans, it appeared to be without light…in darkness.

In actuality, there is light: it’s just outside the relatively narrow bandwidths humans can see.

That could easily be remedied with technology, but the Aphotics (the native intelligent species) don’t believe electricity should be harnessed. They treat it as though it is a being, and don’t like to see it exploited. It’s possible non-electric tech could solve it, but they also believe that if a human can’t see in their world, that is a divine decision and shouldn’t be changed.

How does humanity deal with them?

Earthers who are blind are able to navigate well on Aphotic, and they are the traders and cultural ambassadors who go there.

In fact, a sighted person on Aphotic would be at a significant disadvantage and are pitied.

The protagonist in the tweet (the “nervous” one) is a minor government official. They’ve been sent to Aphotic to pick up a human prisoner…someone who the Aphotics say has violated the technology ban.

Why doesn’t the local Earth representative on Aphotic take custody?

That’s who they’ve accused…the current representative.

Why would a sighted person be chosen to go?

The Aphotics have a thing about names, which Earthers have never really understood. If someone from Earth is to go to Aphotic, the locals have a list of potential names read out loud do them. They reject many of them, due to some unpleasantness with the name they perceive.

Our protagonist was the only available person who had an acceptable name.

I’m interested to see (so to speak) what would happen. I’m looking for the perspective of vision being a weakness, as it is in H.G. Wells’ short story

The Country of the Blind

Another thing that intrigues me: why did the representative break the technology ban…or why did the Aphotics lie about it?

What else is happening on Aphotic?

Again, to be clear: I could publish your submission in this blog (or in collections or other writing) without financial compensation to you. I simply make very little from this blog, and really write it for fun and creative exercise (and sometimes, to help other people). You, though, could publish it yourself (and charge for it) or license it to someone else for them to publish, without you compensating me (although I would like a credit), or requiring prior agreement from me.

I don’t know if I’ll get any submissions. 🙂 I can’t tell you how many people will read it if I publish it here…it’s probably not very many (although I value them all). I’ll mention it in my most popular blog

I Love My Kindle

Still, if this sparks something in you, I’d love to see it! Perhaps someday I’ll write something more about Aphotic myself…

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

All aboard our The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project (AKA Enwoven)! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

Why don’t American horror movies make more money internationally?

May 6, 2019

Why don’t American horror movies make more money internationally?

At The Measured Circle, we track the box office regularly. Here’s is our list for 2019:

2019 The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies at IMDb

Movies have to make $40 million in domestic gross (I say “dogro”) to get on the list…there are 19 movies on there at time of writing.

No surprise that the top two movies, in terms of the amount of profit (we calculate profit based on the reported budget vs. dogro) are Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. However, combine their two budgets, and it’s over half a billion dollars.

The third movie, Us, is in one of the genres with the best return on investment. That’s when you look at the percentage of profit, rather than the gross amount of profit. Us is Double Golden (on a reported budget of $20 million)…here is our scale on those awards:

  • Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
  • Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
  • Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum” (God’s Not Dead prompted the creation of this new award)
  • Dogro less than 50% of production budget= “Underperformer”

Captain Marvel has gotten to the “Money” level (which is a considerable accomplishment for a movie with an over $100m budget), and Avengers: Endgame will get there.

Every year, there are horror movies with small budgets that have a great ROI. They tend to be a flash in the pan…having a great opening weekend, then maybe riding for a week or two more, but that’s the bulk of it.

Recently, I’ve been looking more at the international box office impact. In July of 2017, we added the “Road Winner” award, for movies which make at least two-thirds of their box office with what Box Office Mojo (which is where I get these numbers) calls international.

Success overseas is definitely part of the Marvel story. Endgame’s dogro percentage is only 28.3% (this is all based on the updating I did earlier today), and Captain Marvel is 37.6%.

Four of the 19 movies on the list are Road Winners. More than half of the movies have a dogro percentage under 50%…they make more money internationally than domestically.

Two genres tend not to make much of their money internationally: comedy and horror.

Comedy makes sense to me intuitively. It is often very language-based, making translation or even dubbing a complex proposition. Puns, in particular, are going to be difficult.

The author Scott Calvin (who is my sibling)

Scott Calvin’s Amazon Author Central page (at AmazonSmile*)

suggested (when I posed the question about horror movies on Twitter) that it could be culturally based. What is scary in one culture might not be scary in another, perhaps due to familiarity with the subject. A car, for example, might be scarier in a society that doesn’t use them regularly (that’s my example, not Scott’s) than it would be for one where they are constantly present.

I’m not sure that’s it, though. Horror movies often take something very familiar and tweak it a bit. There are several American horror movies with cars/trucks as the “monsters” (Christine, The Car, Duel…).

I would also think that a slasher is scary in any culture.

Interestingly, I would say that foreign horror movies have done reasonably well in the USA, my guess would be as well as other genres. In the past decade or two, Japanese horror movies have done quite well here. There is a whole “school” of Italian horror movies called “giallo”. The British studio Hammer has made a definite impression here.

It occurred to me that maybe a movie like Us just isn’t released internationally, but that’s not the case. When I checked, it was released in more than 50 countries, and not dissimilar to Avengers: Endgame.

Humor and horror do have a lot in common. I’ve actually taught people about the use of humor, and I find the best way to understand it is that laughter is a signal that there is apparent danger (it can be social danger), but no real danger.

That’s very tricky even within the same general culture. People make jokes about their own group (using a stereotype, for instance), and it can be seen as funny within that group (because it is clearly seen as not really representing a danger). If someone from outside the group made the same joke to the same group, it might be seen as offensive.

That is similar to what Scott had said, although I think it may be have less to do with familiarity with the threat source than with the language subtlety around it (which would be like humor)…the threat might be imperceptible to someone without a thorough grasp of idiom and shared culture.

I’m just guessing, though. 😉

I still think it’s possible that there is some strategic decision made, perhaps not to spend much on promotion…but that might be based on past experience with low box office returns.

Any ideas? Why do you think American horror movies don’t make much of their money internationally? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

In honor of Tim Curry’s 19 April birthday: a Tim Ten

April 19, 2019

In honor of Tim Curry’s 19 April birthday: a Tim Ten

Tim Curry is one of my favorite actors: I suspect I was one of the few people who saw the Tom Arnold version McHale’s Navy in the theatre first run…and that was to see Tim. I also had the privilege of seeing him perform live in Me and My Girl.

What I thought I’d do this year is pick ten performances…that’s not to say these are necessarily my favorites, and I am deliberately picking some which may be more obscure (but I’ll include some of his better known ones as well).

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Darkness in Legend

This 1985 Ridley Scott fantasy certainly has had some confusion, with different versions and even two entirely different scores. No one, though, has been confused about Tim Curry’s delicious performance as the villain Darkness, who appears as a traditional devil (with big bull-like horns). Truly evil…

2. Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein Through the Eyes of the Monster

In a PC computer puzzle game (think something like Myst), the player is the revived Frankenstein’s monster, and in first person, you are exploring the castle…but it is surprisingly emotional, and Tim’s performance as Dr. Frankenstein will chill you to your resurrected bones

3. Billy Flynn on Criminal Minds

It always surprises me how Criminal Minds attracts such a mainstream audience. It depicts the depths of depravity, and in this 2010 2-parter, Tim Curry plays one of the most memorable of those “unsubs”

4. Gaal in Earth 2

This space colonization series was super-hyped and won an Emmy for Special Effects. However, I genuinely believed that Curry deserved an Emmy nomination. Gaal was subtle and mysterious, and was one of biggest arguments for a never-achieved second season…poppet

5. Hosting Saturday Night Live

With musical guest (and fellow Rocky Horror Picture Show alum) Meat Loaf, Tim had great fun! Joe Piscopo brought his Frank Sinatra on to Tim’s Mick Jagger’s special. They trade off singing each other’s songs. Curry also sings a British music hall song, bringing the traditional winking delivery to a song about…zuchinnis?

6. Nigel Thornberry on The Wild Thornberrys

If SNL didn’t convince you that it isn’t always scary with Tim, Nigel Thornberry’s exuberance should do the trick! With close to 100 appearances (90 in the main series, and special and movies), this is probably the part that Tim Curry has played the most on film (and videotape).

7. Dr.Seward on the Dracula audiobook

When I saw that Tim Curry and Alan Cumming were two of the voices on an audiobook of Dracula (a remarkably complex novel which I know well), my mind didn’t immediately go to Tim Curry playing one of the least eccentric parts: Dr. Seward, who runs the asylum where the Count’s helper Renfield is a patient. I suspect that was a conscious choice…it may be the most difficult role to make interesting, but Curry manages it

8. Harley Dune in Wolf Girl

Certainly not his best-known show, this TV movie also features Shawn Ashmore, Grace Jones, and Lesley Anne Warren. The story takes place in a traveling show…and Curry is the proprietor

9. Farley Claymore in The Shadow

Alec Baldwin knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. While not the biggest part in the movie (he’s basically a henchman), Tim Curry has a scene where he goes absolutely nuts when faced with the Shadow’s legendary abilities

10. The Criminologist in The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

In 2016, more than forty years after RHPS was released, Fox did a “live” version with Laverne Cox as Franky. In what is one of the bravest, strongest things I’ve ever seen, Tim Curry portrays the Criminologist. Why so brave? Not only were people going to be thinking about how he was in his immortal starring role (he’s the hero–that’s right, the hero!!) so many decades earlier (arguably, he could have been nominated for an Oscar), this performance was four years after a debilitating stroke. It’s clear that nothing came easy for him for this performance, that even removing his glasses was a challenge. Very people would be willing to put themselves out there like that

There’s your Tim Ten! That’s just a very small portion of this amazing performer’s work. Franky, Pennywise in It, Wadsworth in Clue, Darth Sidious and Chancellor Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Robert Graves in The Shout…I could go on and on. I also listened to his music most of the day; he can really move me, but also give me energy; his music is unique and diverse. When asked to describe his singing style, I remember him saying, “Loud.” That really fits him…it’s not self-effacing, but self-aware, Sunshine.

Those are ten from me: feel free to add more by commenting on this post.

Happy birthday, Tim! Thank you for all you’ve given to me and the world!

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

If superheroes can be super-strong, why don’t people want them to be super-noble?

April 8, 2019

If superheroes can be super-strong, why don’t people want them to be super-noble?

When the great debate came between DC and Marvel in the Silver Age (roughly 1956 to 1970), I knew which side I was on.

I preferred DC.

That didn’t mean I didn’t read some Marvel comics, I did. However, the divide seemed pretty clear.

The DC heroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman…) weren’t like most people you knew. They didn’t behave like them. They didn’t even live in the same cities. Superman didn’t live in New York, he lived in Metropolis. Batman lived in Gotham City, not…right, New York. 😉 Those are two fictionalized versions of the same city. Hawkman, Hawkgirl, and the Doom Patrol live in Midway City, not Chicago.

We didn’t hear about their dating problems, they generally don’t need the money they earned, and they don’t get parking tickets or acne.

Over at Marvel, though, they lived in the real world. Peter Parker (Spider-Man) lived in straight up New York. He had the same problems as you. The same went for the rest of the Marvel characters (for the most part).

The Marvel “true believers” (fans) liked that their characters were realistic.

I liked that mine weren’t.

So, some of you are probably thinking that the Marvel characters weren’t realistic at all: magic users, mutants…being bitten by a radioactive spider likely would just hurt for a bit and then the spider would die. You wouldn’t suddenly have some mythical spider-sense.

The way Marvel characters reacted to these fantastic circumstances, though, seemed more “normal”. They got mad, they got frustrated, they were full of doubts, they acted out…they got it wrong a lot, just like your typical human.

Superman always tried to be good.

In the past decade or so, those “super-noble” heroes have pretty much disappeared from the screen.

All of our heroes seem to be, to a lesser or greater degree, “anti-heroes”. That appears to be what the vast majority of people want. DC has gotten especially dark…for me, DC and Marvel have swapped tones.

I get how it’s easier to relate to characters that are more like you.

However…

People don’t mind that characters have super-strength or super-speed. It’s fun to imagine having those powers.

I don’t see a big difference between that and having fun imagining being super-noble. My fictional heroes (especially Doc Savage, Mr. Spock, and Kwai Chang Caine ((the last from Kung Fu))) all have very strong moral codes. They have elements of their personalities, ways that they behave, that I would like to emulate. Not everything about them, of course, but certain things.

I genuinely believe that I am a better person because I’ve striven to be more like Doc Savage.

I guess that’s why I liked Adam West’s Batman, but wasn’t a big fan of the comic book Batman. Comic book Batman was often driven by what felt like vengeance to me. “Bad people” deserved to be punished, personally, in a way different from the law.

I also wasn’t a big fan of Christian Bale’s Batman. I said I wouldn’t want a ten-year old kid to see The Dark Knight because I didn’t want them to be frightened of Batman for the rest of their lives.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m fine with the existence of torture, muddled morality, heroes. I’m a fan of Elric (who I think would make an excellent streaming TV series), and all of my heroes doubt themselves (they just don’t doubt what is right and wrong).

I simply think there is still room in our cultural landscape for heroes who are exemplars of compassion and self-less motivation.

Have a different opinion? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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Bufo’s Alexa Skills

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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