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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.


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