Disney+: a deeper dive

October 15, 2019

Disney+: a deeper dive

I honestly find it hard to find a reason why anyone who already subscribes to a streaming video service wouldn’t subscribe to

Disney+

The price is right, the service is well designed (you can download the videos), but of course, it’s the content.

The Disney entertainment empire has the biggest names extant: Disney, Marvel, Pixar, Star Wars, National Geographic, a large chunk of Fox…

For a lot of people, signing up will be about those big flashy brands that Disney acquired: just to take Star Wars as an example, here’s the list of what will be available at launch (which includes both first trilogies & The Force Awakens)

StarWars.com on what will be available at launch

Another attraction will be original material, shows and movies produced specifically for Disney+, and again, there are a lot of those!

I also suspect many people will sign up for the first time for a streaming service because of this: I can certainly picture gift subscriptions being a thing this holiday season (hopefully, they’ll have an easy way set up to do that).

What I thought I’d do in the post is highlight some of the “long tail” (in this case, maybe a long mouse tail?): the backlist titles you might not have seen (or not seen for a long time). That’s what will probably keep me the busiest, even if I’ve seen everything I’ll list here.

Oh, and two things worth noting before I list:

First, I haven’t pre-subscribed yet, although I fully intend to subscribe. Why? While we watch Amazon Prime and Netflix, my Significant Other and I watch Hulu the most when we watch together. Disney is the driving owner of Hulu, and they are going to use it for R-rated material and such, in addition to what it does now.

We pay a bit extra to have the current shows be commercial free, which is so worth it! Disney hasn’t announced the bundle with Hulu (and hopefully, without ESPN…we just never watch that) at the no-add tier. It’s sounding like we might not know what that is until the launch date of November 12th.

The other thing is that at this point, Disney and Amazon haven’t worked out a deal for Disney+ to be on  the

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

I’m pretty confident they will: the advantages are too high for both of them. However, even if they don’t, I assume I’ll be able to mirror my phone to my TV, or perhaps use a browser on the Fire TV.

Okay, let’s take a look at some of the offerings (and more may yet be added) that might not be in the front of your mind, but are worth noting:

  • The Swiss Family Robinson (1960):: this is a live action adaptation of the novel and the cast includes James MacArthur, Tommy Kirk, and Kevin Corcoran. It’s a fun adventure: I’m guessing if most people know anything about it now, it’s because of the treehouse attraction at the Disney parks
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1947): here’s a benefit of the Fox acquisition! What a great movie about a department store Santa Claus who may be the real thing. Edmund Gwenn is Kris Kringle, but another real attraction is Natalie Wood…about nine years old at the time
  • The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952) features Peter Finch as the Sheriff
  • The Living Desert and other nature documentaries: while there has been some controversy about them, these are thrilling and intriguing films (which may have influenced later nature shows)
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959): another Fox film, this is the version I think of first…James Mason, Pat Boone, Arlene Dahl
  • 1961’s original The Absent-Minded Professor is just goofy fun, with good effects for the time
  • Also from 1961: Greyfriar’s Bobby, a dog story based on reality
  • That Darn Cat! (the 1965 original): that was a thing for Disney in the 1960s: live action comedies featuring animals
  • The Love Bug (1968) and the sequels…Herbie, one of the original self-driving cars!
  • The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969): when asked about Kurt Russell movies, the Medfield College (also the school for The Absent-Minded Professor and others) Dexter Riley comedies are still some of the first that come to mind for me
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975): one of the most solid of the 1970s Disney live-action movies, Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann are exceptional kids (a sequel and remake followed), and Eddie Albert, Ray Milland, and Donald Pleasance also appear
  • The Cat From Outer Space (1978): I’m not going to tell you it’s a great movie, but come on…a cat…from outer space!
  • Unidentified Flying Oddball (AKA A Spaceman in King Arthur’s Court) (1979): Jim Dale, Kenneth More, and Ron Moody are in this Mark Twain update
  • Think you’ve seen everything Marvel? Joan Van Ark’s Jessica Drew Spider-Woman TV series (1979) will be on Disney+ at launch
  • The Black Hole (1979) was Disney getting in on the Star Wars science fiction wave…it has its fandom
  • Return to Oz (1985): People will tell you that seeing this as a child scarred them for life, but hey, my Significant Other still can’t watch 1939’s The Wizard of Oz because of the flying monkeys…
  • The Black Cauldron (1985): Disney Feature Animation took a big bold step with this adaptation of the Lloyd Alexander Prydain books…and nearly broke its head falling down the stairs! Many firsts, including Disney’s 1st PG animated feature and the use of computer animation. It’s failure at the box office has made it one of Disney’s least seen animated features
  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986): Disney clearly doesn’t consider it an A feature (there’s no ride based on it, for example), but Vincent Price steals the show for some as an animated rat mastermind opposing a Sherlock Holmes analog (who is a mouse)

Well, I could do this for hours, but I have to wrap up this article at some point! I’ll just list some more, without summarizing them. This is only a small selection of the more than 600 titles which will be available…IO9 has put together a good list

  • Flight of the Navigator
  • Ducktales
  • Willow
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids
  • Turner & Hooch
  • The Rocketeer (this will be one of my first revisits)
  • Darkwing Duck
  • Newsies
  • X-Men: The Animated Series
  • Muppet movies
  • Hocus Pocus
  • Boy Meets World
  • Gargoyles
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Smart Guy
  • Meet the Deedles (Robert Englund & Dennis Hopper)
  • Mighty Joe Young
  • Inspector Gadget
  • Annie
  • Even Stevens
  • Kim Possible
  • That’s So Raven
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Flicka
  • Lab Rats
  • Gravity Falls
  • Elena of Avalor
  • More than one Freaky Friday movie

Whew! I hope the search interface and recommendation engines are up to the task!

Feel free to point out others that caught your eye in comments for me and my readers. Hope this helps you get the most out of Disney+!

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other organizations, begin your Amazon shopping from a link on their sites: Amazon.com (Smile.Amazon.com)

 

Halloween 2019 #1: some recommendations

October 2, 2019

Halloween 2019 #1: some recommendations

It’s October 1st! Halloween has always been an important holiday for me. I used to do makeup in the theatre (special effect makeup, I wasn’t particularly good at “glamour” looks), and my first job was working in a place that sold makeup and masks at Halloween.

I’ve started a new hashtag on Twitter…I’ll probably be the only to use it 😉 but it helps me find my tweets.

#Hallowtweetober

Tweets are necessarily short. Today, I’m going to use the same recommendations I did there, but put more context to them. I can’t commit to writing a post here every day in October, but I’ll try to do a longer one, maybe this weekend. There will be more content in this post than you could get through in a day, anyway.

Book #1

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I recently re-read this (listened to an audiobook with Tim Curry and Alan Cumming). Even having read it more than once before, it’s astonishingly good. There is a lot happening, but its not confusing. Stoker writes in several voices (a lot of the book is epistolary), and that works.

The best thing, though, is how he sets up the rules…and then pushes against them, not unlike L. Frank Baum in the Oz books after the first one.

I do think the ending is a bit anticlimactic (after everything that has been set up, that’s hard to avoid), but it’s definitely worth reading if you haven’t. I think it may be my favorite of the classic horror novels.

Listen #1 (these could be songs or Old Time Radio)

I Put a Spell on You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Hawkins was a tornado on stage, and this song is…unique. It’s been remade several times, and I may link to another one I like, but this one will certainly get you in that Halloween mood.

Watch #1 (movies or TV shows, mostly…maybe commercials)

The Addams Family

This is the original series, and one of my all-time favorites. They are a family who love each other, support their community, are kind to strangers…and yet, are weird. It’s so clever and sincere, and while Gomez and Morticia are my favorite couple, the other characters (especially Ted Cassidy as Lurch…and Thing) are also great fun.

Comic #1

Fantastic Fears

The Digital Comics Museum has four full issues and two partials (you can read them online…click Preview). This came out in 1953, and is a pretty typical anthology horror comic…although there isn’t a “host”, which there is sometimes with these.

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

On Star Trek Day 2019: some thoughts on the Prime Directive

September 8, 2019

On Star Trek Day 2019: some thoughts on the Prime Directive

September 8th is Star Trek Day…in 1966, the first episode was aired in the USA of the original series (ST:TOS). That was Man Trap…not really a typical episode, and not the first one filmed, but it marks when the public could first have seen the Enterprise and crew.

In honor of Star Trek Day, I’m running a poll on Twitter (I usually run at least one poll a day: #BufoPolls):

Twitter poll

People are picking an idea from ST:TOS. One of those is the Prime Directive, and that prompted quite an interesting discussion online about it.

Every Star Trek fan, certainly of the original series, is familiar with the Prime Directive. It gets referenced a few times, although we don’t see it, say, posted on the walls on the ship.

It’s basically this:

  • Federation vessels and crews can’t interfere with a developing civilization

The idea is usually credited to producer Gene L. Coon, and is believed to suggest positive development since the then current time, when the Vietnam War was seen as technologically superior countries fighting in countries which weren’t as advanced (again, technologically), and affecting their development.

It raises some serious ethical questions, and logistical ones.

I’m going to give you some of my interpretations of and thoughts about the Prime Directive. I’ll quote the show at least once, but I’m not claiming that what I say is canonical. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts.

Let’s pretend that you are a potential starship captain, learning about the Prime Directive at the Academy…let’s further imagine that they give you an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document:

Q. When do I have to worry about the Prime Directive?

A. When you are encountering a developing civilization. The Prime Directive does not apply when interacting with other members of your crew, or with other developed civilizations, such as the Vulcans, Klingons, or Tellarites. See document SFA094732, “List of Developed Civilizations”

Q. What is a developing civilization?

A. A civilization is a group of sentient beings which live according to an agreed set of rules. “Developing”, in this case, means that they have not yet developed interstellar flight. Anyone you encounter traveling through space using their own methodology can be considered to be part of a developed civilization

Q. What is considered interference?

A. Any action you take which changes the development of the civilization. This would include, but not be limited to, the sharing of advanced technology. Other examples might include changing the social structure, such as introducing an alternative political system

Q. What if using our advanced technology is the only way to defend ourselves or the ship?

A. The Prime Directive still applies. To quote starship captain James T. Kirk: ” A star captain’s most solemn oath is that he will give his life, even his entire crew, rather than violate the Prime Directive”*

Q. Does that mean we can’t ever defend ourselves?

A. No. The Prime Directive applies to civilizations, not individuals. If attacked by someone from a developing civilization, a member of Starfleet is justified in defending themselves with the least force necessary, provided that such defense would not alter the course of the development of the civilization. Any such action should be reported to the Starfleet member’s commanding officer for evaluation

Q. What if I have more questions?

A. Ask your commanding officer, or alternatively, consult with a Federation counsel

Again, that’s just my take on it, but that seems to work. Being attacked is not a reason to invalidate the Prime Directive. You can’t say, “That kid threw a rock at me: fire photon torpedoes!” For an interstellar traveling race, they are probably going to find you…after all, that’s part of the mission: to seek out new life and new civilizations.

Does the mission mean they should just find new civilizations and catalog them, rather than interacting? There are a lot of things in the series which suggest that’s not the case, including the amount of resources that the Federation puts into diplomacy.

Now, for another question: why does the Prime Directive exist?

Is it to keep the Federation and its opponents from exploiting the developing civilizations, which was the concern with the Vietnam War? Well, the Prime Directive appears to be part of Starfleet: not something to which the other space-faring civilizations are signatories.

I think it’s a point of humility, and a scientific understanding of how to get the best outcomes. It’s better to have a variety of options when approaching a problem, especially an unknown problem. If Starfleet considered that they were the best possible model, it would make sense for them to align other civilizations with theirs.

However, if one acknowledges that another society might turn out be better for the universe, then cutting off lines of development is counterproductive.

That’s honestly what I think the intent is. I think Starfleet is allowing for the possibility that a civilization would develop which is better than their own…if they are given the opportunity.

Obviously, you might have another opinion about that. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear it, either in replies to this post or on Twitter, where I am

https://twitter.com/bufocalvin (@bufocalvin)

Live long and prosper! \\//_

*This quote is from the Omega Glory, a season two episode written by Gene Roddenberry, and which examines the Prime Directive pretty thoroughly.

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

The ultimate fan gift? A custom video from a celebrity from Cameo

September 2, 2019

The ultimate fan gift? A custom video from a celebrity from Cameo

Do you have somebody in the family who seems to already have everything?

People say you should get them experiences, but here’s another possibility…

Cameo.com

You can have a celebrity record a custom video for you…a message you request!

Naturally, it has to be appropriate…

I only just recently heard about this, and it’s a fascinating site.

Celebrities can ask to be part of it. After they are verified, they set their own prices…and Cameo takes 25% (which seems reasonable…they process the payment and make the arrangements). A celebrity can also refer to another celebrity…and get five percent (it comes out of Cameo’s cut) for the first year.

Now, the obvious question: who is on it and how much does it cost?

The price ranges a lot: I saw prices close to $10 and ones that were hundreds of dollars. The celebrities were a pretty diverse: from current YouTubers to actors (I’d say going back the 1970s or so) to athletes. I didn’t see many authors: I think that may be an area for expansion.

There was a search and there were categories, but I think that part could be improved. I’d like to see an alphabetical listing of everybody, for one thing.

Here are some examples…the prices can change at any time (that’s up to the celeb), so don’t be surprised if it’s different when you look.

  • Wesley Snipes (Blade) $500
  • Linnea Quigley (The Return of the Living Dead) $100
  • John Kassir (Tales from the Crypt) $55
  • Brett Favre  (Green Bay Packers quarterback) $500
  • Bobby Hull (Chicago Black Hawks) $175
  • Brett “Hitman” Hart (wrestler) $150
  • Ruth Buzzi (Laugh-In) $150
  • Mindy Cohn (The Facts of Life) $50
  • Carson Kressley (Queer Eye for the Straight Guy) $65
  • Richard Karn (Home Improvement) $80
  • Gilbert Gottfried (comedian) $150
  • Garrett Wang (Star Trek: Voyager) $80
  • Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) $150
  • Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters) $135
  • Jennifer Love Hewitt (Ghost Whisperer) $150
  • Sophia the Pug $12
  • Lisa Loeb (singer) $175
  • George Lowe (Space Ghost) $50

Susan Bennett might be one of the best! She’s the voice of Siri…and hers is only $20!

I have to say, I totally get this. However, it is odd to browse the site: you can watch videos they’ve made for other people. I watched one of Ruth Buzzi’s: she probably mentioned five specific things for the recipient!

I checked one of the animals: a person spoke while Sophia the Pug did cute things…that would be worth $12.

It can also be done for charity.

While some of the prices aren’t cheap, I can see a family chipping in together. You do get to keep the video, and this might be a dream come true.

I’m probably being too effusive about something with which I’m unconnected…and that I’ve never tried. I just like the idea of it

I was alerted to this on Brad Server’s Twitter feed. He’s the youngest grandson of Curly of the 3 Stooges (he’s called Curly G), and does a good Curly…great for a fan for $20! I’m also not connected to him except through Twitter (@grandstooge).

This is Curly G’s Cameo site…thanks, for keeping the Stooges going!

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

Fans rage against proposed Wizard of Oz remake

August 25, 2019

Fans rage against proposed Wizard of Oz remake

A major studio wants to take Oz fans on another trip down the yellow brick road, but they’d just as soon stay in Kansas.

“I don’t know why Hollywood can’t come up with more original ideas! All they do is the same old thing, and they are never as good as the original,” said one irate member of the large and vocal Oz fan community.

The casting seems to be a particular concern.

“There was one obvious choice for Dorothy and they couldn’t get her. What, are they on the third choice? Pinkie something? And all the comedians! The Wizard, Glinda…and Mr. Gnong-gnong-gnong? Ridiculous!”

The production has been troubled. Injuries have been rampant, including a major actor’s hospitalization (and he was eventually replaced in the part). 14 writers and 5 directors have worked on the movie. It has reportedly run significantly over budget. Maybe the Wicked Witch has placed a curse on it…or perhaps its the collective thoughts of the vast Oz fandom.

We managed to find a producer of the movie who would speak on condition of anonymity.

“We just feel like new technology is giving us a new approach to the story. We’re really experimenting here, and I think it’s going to look nothing like the old version. If the fans will give it a chance, I think they’ll like it.”


Well, in case you haven’t guessed by now, I’ve been describing the version you probably think of as the Wizard of Oz: the 1939 musical version with Judy Garland. Various versions of Oz had appeared on screen before. This, though, was the first sound version, and it was going to take advantage of new color processes.

That color brought major changes: the Wicked Witch wasn’t green in the books, and Dorothy has silver slippers, not ruby ones.

The name “Pinkie” I used? Judy Garland had played “Pinkie” Wingate in Listen, Darling the previous year. There were a lot of comedians: they tried to get W.C. Fields for the Wizard, and Billie Burke was known for comedy before playing Glinda.

One of the fans’ biggest concerns was Bert Lahr, who was a well-known comedian…that gnong-gnong-gnong was basically his catchphrase. Oz fandom really was big, and the Cowardly Lion was supposed to be big, too…the mightiest of the beasts in Oz, and one of Ozma’s main bodyguards (even with the fear factor). Fans were afraid Bert Lahr would largely just do his schtick…New York accent and all, and that’s not far off.

The movie was not a blockbuster in 1939, although it was not a major loser. It only became the beloved American classic we know today after repeated television showings.

I wanted to write this after I saw reaction online to someone floating the idea of Wizard of Oz remake, and how just about every respondent thought it was a terrible idea. I’m sure many of them would have reacted to the idea of the 1939 movie the same way. 🙂

I generally like to find the good in things, and I wrote this back in 2010:

Hooray for remakes!

I need to update it and add in some more…and I think I may have been a bit harsh on some that I cited as reasons not to like remakes.

My main point, I suppose, is that there have been good remakes…and just rejecting the whole idea out of hand is easy, but if there weren’t ever any remakes, we wouldn’t have some real classics.

Feel free to tell me what you think by commenting on this post.

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

 

 

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!

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

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.

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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.

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* 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.

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* 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.

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


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