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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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! :) 

Geeky Good-byes 2017 #4: 100 geek-related celebrity deaths in 2017

July 30, 2017

Geeky Good-byes 2017 #4: 100 geek-related celebrity deaths in 2017

The Measured Circle regularly covers the reported deaths of celebrities with geek-friendly credits.

Every one of them matters. One of the hallmarks of geeks is our inclusiveness: we recognize actors, directors, authors, and more who have connections with fictional works about things that are outside of consensus reality, as well as scientists, technologists, and others.

While we will unfortunately undoubtedly add additional celebrities to our

2017 Geeky Good-byes

we have just done the 100th listing for 2017.

We hope that some people take a few minutes to look at that list, to see the people who have contributed in ways large and small to our culture. Some of them have gotten mainstream coverage; others haven’t. In some cases, I’m able to do a full post (as I did in Adam West has reportedly died). I wish I could write posts for every single one of them, but that’s not possible. In this post, I will make comments on some people I haven’t address outside the listing yet.

I was particularly moved by the passing of June Foray, the legendary voice artist. With a career which lasted more than 70 years, it can’t be said that this was a surprise. However, the range and subtlety of her performances still astounds me. From Granny to Rocket J. Squirrel to Natasha Fatale to Talky Tina, Disney to Jay Ward to Warner Brothers, just her performances alone would be enough. However, behind the scenes, she advocated to get animation the respect that it deserves. That includes being influential in the creation of the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and founding the International Animated Film Society and the Annie Awards. In interviews, she always seemed genuinely nice. I recommend this one Beyond the Marquee interview.

While the mainstream tends to focus on actors, I was pleased to see Marty Sklar get coverage. I love theme parks (I had an idea for one, but I now think it might make a better virtual reality experience), and Disneyland wouldn’t be what it is without Imagineer Marty Sklar. Geeks can appreciate the combination of engineering and artistry, as well as being appreciated by the popular face of the organization.

Many people just think of George A. Romero and his first feature Night of the Living Dead, as just shocking gore, but that’s not the case at all. George Romero and John A. Russo’s script is really sophisticated and why the movie is so disturbing. I particularly enjoyed Martin, definitely one of his lesser-known works…which is really about the writing. It was also clear that he supported the community of amateur and up and coming filmmakers.

We thank them and all geeky creators for giving us a way to experience something which has never existed.

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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! :) 

What do Wonder Woman, King Kong, and Star Wars have in common? Us!

July 28, 2017

What do Wonder Woman, King Kong, and Star Wars have in common? Us!

I think it’s pretty clear I’m not a sellout: if I were, I wouldn’t spend so much time working on things that I enjoy, but almost nobody else sees. 🙂

Case in point…

I love working on timelines at

The History Project

The site has gotten some significant press, and some big names (both corporate and individual) have gotten involved with it.

Our main timeline,

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

continues to grow. It debuted about a year and a half ago, and I’m proud of it. You can watch public domain movies, TV shows, read books and comic books, and listen to Old Time Radio shows through links.

I’m getting close to 1,000 views…almost nothing on the internet, I know, but it’s still significant to me.

I’ve launched three other timelines (and have more in development):

That’s right…eight views for the most popular movie of the year. 😉

Now, admittedly, these are all growing, and they aren’t as robust as TMCGTT.

I do think there are some interesting things already, with more to come.

You can also add to it!

That’s how these timelines may eventually take off, when other people start filling them in.

You can also comment on things…I’d love to see that on TMCGTT especially!

They are really labors of love, and I don’t spend much time on them, but it’s a great thing when I want a break (yep, I usually take a break by creating).

If you get a chance, check them out…I’d appreciate any feedback.

You can let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

Oh, I did write a post recently on my ILMK (I Love My Kindle blog) which readers of this blog might enjoy as well:

What books should a robot read to learn morality?

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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! :) 

AFD News: Disney finds its Mickey Mouse for live action Steamboat Willie: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

July 17, 2017

AFD News: Disney finds its Mickey Mouse for live action Steamboat Willie: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Note: this is a work of humor. Disney has not announced a live action reboot of the first released (1928) Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie

July 17, 2017 (AFD News)

At Disney’s D23 fan expo over the weekend, the dominant pop culture company had news about their Marvel, Star Wars, and Disney properties. They saved the first for last, surprising the enthusiastic crowd when Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson took the stage to introduce the first teaser trailer for Disney’s live action reboot of the first released Mickey Mouse cartoon, Steamboat Willie.

This would continue the collaboration between the two entertainment giants, following Moana and The Jungle Cruise.

Johnson was joined on stage by other cast members: Johnson’s Fast & Furious co-star Michelle Rodriguez as Minnie Mouse, Lewis Black as Pete, Jim Parsons, Paul Reubens, and Sean Hayes as Huey, Dewey, and Louie, Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor, and Rihanna as April, May, and June, Kevin Hart as a parrot, and Neil DeGrasse Tyson as Robert Fulton. While not appearing on stage, Andy Serkis, Kate McKinnon, and Neil Patrick Harris will each play multiple undisclosed roles.

Directors Matt and Ross Duffler (Stranger Things) explained that the seven-minute cartoon will be expanded in part by increasing the passenger carrying element of the original, which explains the presence of Donald and Daisy Duck’s nephews and nieces. “That opens up a lot more possibilities for characters from the shorts to appear, but we can’t talk about that,” said the brothers. While the teaser did not reveal much more, sharp-eyed audience members noted that the steamboat was named “Disney Fantasy”, which is the name of one of Disney’s cruise ships.

The one scene in the clip, while clearly preliminary footage, showed Rodriguez in an update of the famous “panty hook scene”, in which a crane lifted up Minnie’s skirt and tucked into her underwear to lift her on to the boat. In an amusing update, Rodriguez (wearing pants) grabs the crane to swing on to the ship, despite the presence of a gang-plank.

When asked about his interpretation of the character, Johnson responded, “Mickey’s the man! The mouse is a total bad@ss.”

The movie will begin filming when Johnson completes his current commitments, and is scheduled for release to coincide with the movie’s 100th anniversary in 2028.

As a reminder, this is just a joke…not that I wouldn’t be there opening weekend! Or, you know, in virtual reality…

 

 

 

Microsoft’s new free app, Seeing AI, is a life-changing accessibility tool…and a lot of fun!

July 14, 2017

Microsoft’s new free app, Seeing AI, is a life-changing accessibility tool…and a lot of fun!

It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun with an app!

That may seem odd, since this is ostensibly designed to help those with visual challenges.

It will do that. I know a couple of people it will help.

Let me link to it first (it’s only currently available for iOS…iPhones, iPads, iPod touch):

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-ai-talking-camera-for-the-blind/id999062298?mt=8

What it does is recognize things: people, text, dogs, a kitchen, a computer…it’s gotten all of those right for me.

It doesn’t just tell you that it’s a person…it guesses at age and gender, and will tell you hair color, if the person has glasses or a beard, and so on.

It also, and this will be very useful for people with autism, will attempt to interpret the person’s expression (happy, neutral, angry…).

Now, it’s important for me to say that it didn’t ever get the age exactly right, although it was often close. A person I know well wasn’t pleased when it interpreted them as significantly older than was true. 😉

I tried it both with photos on a computer screen, and with real life objects, and it was generally pretty good. We had fun when it interpreted a knit blanket as a close-up of a sandwich, but that was not typical.

It can also read text out loud, and that worked for me, too! There was a computer program which wasn’t accessible to the screen reader on the computer…but Seeing AI could read it. It will take some practice for how I hold it, but even initially, it did read what I needed.

I think you’ll have fun playing around with it!

A few tips:

  • The “scene” interpreter, which it says is in beta, is how it interprets objects (like dogs, toys, computers…)
  • Go to the Settings menu (three lines) to use face recognition…you can teach it to recognize specific people. That will be useful for someone I know who has “face blindness”: they can’t recognize celebrities or even family members in pictures by their faces
  • When I was trying to work with it reading off the computer, it worked much better when I went into settings and had it turn off “Manage lighting”…that meant the flash didn’t come on. When the flash was on, there was too much glare for it to recognize things

Okay,

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

Gauntlet thrown! 😉

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The Geeky Nineties

July 10, 2017

The Geeky Nineties

Sunday (July 9th) at 9:00, CNN will debut

The Nineties

the latest in the Tom Hanks/Gary Goetzman/Mark Herzog pop culture decade documentaries.

I’ve been writing about the decades from the geek perspective…and the 1990s had its share of iconic entries.

Overall, the decade felt like the mainstreaming of geek culture had become mature. The transformation had really begun in the 1970s with The Exorcist, Jaws, and Star Wars. It was still a surprise to see them do so well in the 1980s, but by the 1990s, not having geek-friendly movies dominating the box office would have been a surprise. The respect they had garnered became apparent, with the talents and tools of geek-friendly works moving into mainstream works (James Cameron directed the special-effects laden Titanic, and Robert Zemeckis also using the new technology in Forrest Gump).

However, the momentum was moving out of the movie theatres and on to the videogame systems…

Movies

  • Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (that’s not a moon…it’s the box office! There was a lot of controversy with this movie, even with the concept of a prequel ((not to mention the execution and characters)), but it changed the game)
  • The Disney Renaissance began in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, but really dominated in the 1990s: Beauty and the Beast (nominated for Best Picture), Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan all happened during the 1990s. Disney partnered with Pixar (which they would later purchase) in issuing the ground-breaking computer animated movie Toy Story (and the sequel, Toy Story 2, was in the top ten grossing movies for the decade). Also, 101 Dalmatians with Glenn Close presaged the life action remakes we are seeing now
  • So much Star Trek!  The Star Trek Next Gen crew had First Contact; Star Trek: Generations (Kirk and Picard); Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Steven Spielberg directed the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, and for many people, brought dinosaurs back from the cinematic dead (echoing the plot)…and Jeff Goldblum ruled the geek screen scene!
  • Speaking of Jeff Goldblum, Independence Day came out in 1996…with another geek star, Will Smith, showing that Goldblum didn’t rule alone! Roland Emmerich directed  blew up  a lot of landmarks. Emmerich also directed Moon 44, Universal Soldier, Stargate, and Godzilla in the 1990s)
  • M. Night Shyamalan burst on to the scene directing and writing The Sixth Sense, which got six Oscar nominations and everyone talking
  • Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were the Men in Black, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and based on Lowell Cunningham’s comic (which radically departed from the concept of Men-in-Black in ufology…you can read my coverage of that here)
  • Yes, that was Jack Nicholson in Wolf
  • For some people, Ghost is still the most romantic movie, but it is also solidly geek-friendly. It also won two Oscars, including one for Whoopi Goldberg
  • Oh, behave! We met Austin Powers…and befitting a time traveler, had a second date with The Spy Who Shagged Me
  • Seven years after the original, the Terminator was back in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Michael Bay directed Meat Loaf music videos before directing Armageddon (which had competition from Deep Impact)
  • This seems familiar…Groundhog Day
  • Drew Barrymore starred, and Rocky Horror’s Richard O’Brien had a small part in Ever After
  • Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney all starred in Batman movies (following Keaton’s first turn in 1989)
  • “Never give up, never surrender!” Galaxy Quest
  • Tom Cruise did decide to accept the Mission:Impossible give to him by Brian De Palma
  • Geek-friendly can be funny, as was the case with Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar and The Mask (and the latter introduced us to Cameron Diaz)
  • We took the red pill in 1999 and entered The Matrix
  • John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were the stars, but a lot of interest was in the director of Face/Off, John Woo
  • Houston, we have a problem…but not with Ron Howard’s Apollo 13
  • Alrighty, then! Jim Carrey was Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in two movies (but not in the animated series)
  • Bond, James Bond was Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough,
  • The Blair Witch Project created the “found footage” genre, and was incredibly profitable
  • Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs, was
  • Michael Jordan was in the animation/live action hybrid, Space Jam
  • Anaconda tried to put the squeeze on J-Lo
  • Luc Besson brought us his vision of The Fifth Element
  • There were three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies (following the animated TV series), and two TV series
  • Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia were Mortician and Gomez in The Addams Family
  • Some other movies: A Bug’s Life; The Mummy; The Santa Claus; Dr. Dolittle; The Green Mile; The Flintstones; The Nutty Professor; The Truman Show; Hook (“Bangarang!”); Total Recall; Wild Wild West (the song was popular, but the movie was a misfire with many fans); Interview with the Vampire (Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, based on Anne Rice); George of the Jungle (Brendan Fraser…and John Cleese as the voice of Ape); Phenomenon (John Travolta); Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty and Madonna); Scream (Wes Craven); The Prince of Egypt; Tim Burton, who was a major factor in 1990s, directed Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in Sleepy Holllow; Carl Sagan’s book Contact was given the big screen treatment (and treated as “serious” science fiction movie); The Rugrats Movie; Casper; Jumanji; Matthew Broderick starred in another cartoon to live action adaptation; Michael (John Travolta as a down to Earth angel); Flubber; The Haunting; Antz; Waterworld; Back to the World Part III (1990); Pokemon: The First Movie; The X Files; Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Gary Oldman); The Nightmare Before Christmas; Deep Blue Sea; Mortal Kombat (Christopher Lambert); Blade (Wesley Snipes); Lost in Space (Jonathan Harris didn’t cameo…he said they offered him a bit part, and he had never done a bit part in his life and wasn’t about to start); Beavis & Butt-Head Do America; Flatliners; Misery; The Devil’s Advocate; Fantasia 2000 (which came out in 1999); Natasha Henstridge starred in Species; name ten Meryl Streep movies: was Death Becomes Her one of them?; Bicentennial Man; Demolition Man; Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys; Edward Scissorhands; Forever Young; Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection; What Dreams May Come; Halloween H20: 20 Years Later; Spawn; Starship Troopers; Small Soldiers; Arachnophobia; Dragonheart; The Crow; Mighty Joe Young; Angels in the Outfield (Christopher Lloyd); Stigmata; The Rocketeer; Practical Magic; RoboCop 2; Meet Joe Black; Timecop; The Jungle Book (Jason Scott Lee); Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990); House on Haunted Hill; Encino Man; Pleasantville; The Faculty; Hocus Pocus; Urban Legend; Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie; Mars Attacks!; Sphere; My Favorite Martian; Junior; A Goofy Movie; Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

TV

TV saw a few important geeky high points. We made our first trip into the Whedonverse…yes, the Buffy movie was in the 1990s, and there was Toy Story, but it was really with the Buffy TV series that we were there. While it wasn’t the first time that we’d had female led geeky TV series, Buffy and Xena brought straight up fighters (although there was much more to them than that). Xena was part of Sam Raimi’s shows, having spun off from Hercules. The X-Files was groundbreaking, but it’s really worth noting how animated series got quirkier and in some ways, more grown up. That was in part due to the fracturing delivery landscape, with Nickelodeon rising. Batman: The Animated Series was a milestone, and we would particularly cite Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Tick animated series.

  • Family Guy
  • South Park
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager
  • Stargate SG-1
  • The X-Files
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  • Charmed
  • Futurama
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
  • Babylon 5
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess
  • The Flash
  • Pokemon
  • Spaced
  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
  • Lexx
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Roswell
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Spider-Man (1994 animated series)
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun
  • Farscape
  • Goosebumps
  • Dinosaurs
  • Rugrats
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  • Sliders
  • X-Men (1992 animated series)
  • Highlander
  • Passions
  • The Outer Limits (1995 series)
  • Batman Beyond, The New Batman Adventures
  • Hey Arnold!
  • Touched by an Angel
  • Barney & Friends
  • The Pretender
  • Sailor Moon
  • Animaniacs
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
  • The Lost World
  • Arthur
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • Relic Hunter
  • Blue’s Clues
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Millenium
  • Gargoyles
  • Dexter’s Library
  • Early Edition
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog
  • The Magic School Bus
  • Superman
  • Rocko’s Modern Life
  • The Odyssey
  • Teletubbies
  • The Wild Thornberrys
  • The Ren  & Stimpy Show
  • Digimon
  • The Worst Witch
  • Young Hercules
  • The Wiggles
  • SeaQuest 2032
  • Weird Science
  • Spawn
  • Beast Wars: Transformers
  • The Tribe
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
  • Swamp Thing
  • The Tick (the animated series)
  • Bob the Builder
  • ReBoot
  • Trigun
  • Earth: Final Conflict
  • BeastMaster (1999 series)
  • Pinky and the Brain
  • CatDog
  • Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
  • So Weird
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
  • Gullah, Gullah Island
  • Detective Conan
  • Jumanji (animated series)
  • Space: Above and Beyond
  • Bear in the Big Blue House
  • Darkwing Duck (“Let’s get dangerous!”)
  • The Sentinel
  • Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles
  • Aladdin (animated series)
  • Forever Knight
  • Get Smart (1995 series)
  • Seven Days
  • Ocean Girl
  • Talespin
  • The Tommyknockers
  • V.R. Troopers
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast
  • Duckman
  • Beakman’s World
  • Harry and the Hendersons
  • Bill Nye, the Science Guy
  • Caillou
  • Eerie, Indiana
  • VeggieTales
  • The New Addams Family (1998 series)
  • Wishbone
  • Timon & Pumbaa (series)
  • Big Wolf on Campus
  • Big Bad Beetleborgs
  • Celebrity Deathmatch
  • Bobby’s World
  • Dark Shadows (1991 Ben Cross series)
  • Happy Tree Friends
  • The Hunger
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
  • Crusade
  • NightMan
  • First Wave
  • Men in Black: The Series
  • The Adventures of Sinbad
  • Poltergeist: The Legacy
  • The Angry Beavers
  • Spider-Man Unlimited
  • The Little Mermaid (series)
  • Get a Life
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
  • Animorphs
  • Earth 2
  • Back to the Future (animated series)
  • The Mask (animated series)
  • Cow and Chicken
  • Freakazoid!
  • The Crow: Stairway to Heaven
  • Svengoolie
  • The Land of the Lost
  • Robocop (TV series)
  • Team Knight Rider
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (TV series)
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (TV series)
  • Kindred: The Embraced
  • Archie’s Weird Mysteries
  • Goof Troop
  • Now and Again
  • Space Precinct
  • Highlander: The Raven
  • Zooboomafoo
  • The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest
  • The Incredible Hulk (animated series)
  • Tarzan (Wolf Larson)
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple

Books

Harry Potter: drop the mic! Just kidding, there were a lot of geeky books of note. I listed

90 books of the 1990s

in my I Love My Kindle blog, but those include non-geeky titles, too. I’d particularly note:

  • Jurassic Park and the sequel by Michael Crichton
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  • Man After Man by Dougal Dixon
  • I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
  • The Golden Compass (AKA Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman (first of His Dark Materials)
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (kicked off a successful book series, which was later adapted for TV)
  • Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (the first of the Pendergast series)
  • The Children of Men by P.D. James
  • Blindness by Josè Saramago
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (first in the series)
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Star Wars books by Kevin J. Anderson (Champions of the Force, Dark Apprentice, Jedi Search, Darksaber); many other people were writing Star Wars novels, too
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  • Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear
  • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1st of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books)
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time #1)
  • Wizard’s First Rule (Sword of Truth #1) by Terry Goodkind
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (start of the Mars trilogy)
  • The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter

Of course, the Animorphs series (starting in 1996) had a big impact on younger readers.

Videogames

There was significant innovation in home videogames in the 1990s; arguably the biggest innovations since then (Virtual and Augmented Reality) are just really happening now. That’s not to say that there wasn’t innovation in the intervening period (there was), but the groundwork was laid for most of what followed.

The videogame consoles debuting included the Nintendo 64, the Game Boy, the Playstation, the Sega Saturn, and the Dreamcast. CDs began to replace cartridges, haptic feedback became a thing, and of course, online gaming took off (the term MMORPG ((Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game)) was coined).

Some notable games:

  • Street Fighter II
  • Virtua Fighter (arcade)
  • Tekken
  • Dead or Alive
  • Doom
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • Goldeneye
  • Quake
  • Half-Life
  • Wing Commander
  • Super Mario World
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Gran Turismo
  • Ultima Online
  • EverQuest
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid
  • Alone in the Dark
  • Resident Evil
  • Silent Hill
  • Baldur’s Gate
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Oddworld
  • Battletoads
  • Pokemon
  • Diablo
  • Duke Nukem
  • Earthworm Jim
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • Fallout
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Monkey Island
  • Rayman
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon
  • Spyro
  • Super Smash Brothers
  • Tomb Raider
  • Warcraft

Toys (edited to add)

Tech toys were big, but so were simpler, low-tech items. Collectibles were big, perhaps spurred in part by the rise of eBay in 1995 and other innovative ways to convert pop culture to cash.

  • Beanie Babies (geeky? Yes, there was a unicorn, for one thing)
  • Furby
  • Sky Dancers
  • Tamagotchi
  • Tickle Me Elmo
  • Magic: The Gathering

I’m going to stop there for now (after all, this is over 2,000 words) because I want to get it out before the first episode is broadcast. I haven’t covered comics (and that’s not because the 1990s have…a reputation for not being the best comics decade), Bufo’s Weird World, science…but what I’ve done so far should show you that the 1990s were geeky!

Feel free to suggest some of your own geek-friendly items for the 1990s by commenting on this post.

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! :) 

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