Archive for April, 2010

“You in the Lexus! Pull over and show me your nanny’s I-9!”

April 30, 2010

“You in the Lexus! Pull over and show me your nanny’s I-9!”

There’s been a lot of news coverage recently about a new immigration law in Arizona that requires police officers who have a reasonable suspicion that someone is an in the country illegally to ask for identification.

Well, the outspoken Crepaudia had something to say about it, and here it is:

“Everybody knows that if employers didn’t hire illegal aliens, we wouldn’t have this problem.  Clearly, the police in Arizona should pull over anybody who looks like they might employ an illegal…you know, people with gardens, swimming pools, nannies, guys who run construction companies…and ask them for an I-9 for their employees.  If they can’t produce any, they should be arrested!”

Personally, I think that the Arizona law is unlikely to be upheld.  Something that would help them is if they simply required everyone to carry proof of the right to be in the country, and that should be checked consistently at every police stop.  You know where your certified copy of your birth certificate is, right?  😉

If it isn’t across the board, or if there aren’t specific guidelines published for suspicious appearance/behavior, I don’t see how it will hold up.

That’s just my thoughts on it, though.

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

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Police: “That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness now seems beyond doubt”

April 29, 2010

Police: “That there is some strange creature in Loch Ness now seems beyond doubt”

The National Archives of Scotland has recently put a

letter from 1938 (pdf)

on the web.

In it, Chief Constable William Fraser says

That there is some strange fish  creature in Loch Ness seems now beyond doubt, but that the Police have any power to protect it is very doubtful.”

This is an internal statement on official letterhead.  It’s a police officer, in a letter to a superior, saying that there is “some strange creature” in Loch Ness.

Alright, buddy, wipe that smirk off your face.  😉

I didn’t link to one of the mainstream articles on the release because, holy moly, they can be so prejudiced and don’t seem to feel like they need to do real journalism on anything paranormal.

For example, one article has this line

“Though the sightings proved to be a hoaxes…”

This is from a major wire service…including the grammatical error.  The sightings were proved to be hoaxes?  Not mistakes?  Not genuine?  All deliberate attempts to deceive?

I’m never quite sure all journalists understand what the word “prove” means. 

 The Loch Ness monster had a great example of this in the 1990s.  A claim was made that the famous “Surgeon’s photograph” (arguably, the picture that defined the popular concept of how the monster’s appearance) had been a hoax.  That was big news across the world…except that the claim wasn’t examined very closely.  First, it was simply hearsay: people saying that someone else said it.

Secondly, the story just didn’t cover the facts (in my opinion, and that of some others).  The basic story was a model attached to a toy submarine, a quick picture feet from the shore, and then stomping the model.

Well, that might explain the famous image…but the famous image is cropped.  It doesn’t show the whole picture.  The whole picture doesn’t look like it is near the shore.

Okay, you say, that’s just a matter of perspective.

Yes…but there were two pictures.  In the second, the head and neck are at a different angle.  Sure, that could be accomplished by using a second head and neck, or re-bending the first one. 

But it doesn’t match the story.

People love to publish that something was a hoax.  It’s a good way to laugh at the “suckers” who believed it before.  “See, ya dope…I told ya it was fake.”  That’s fun…but it isn’t science…or even journalism. 

The claim of the hoax should reasonably be submitted to the same tests as the original claim. 

If you want to read more of the NAS material, you can go

here

By the way, it’s worth noting that official “orders of protection” have been issued in other cases.  In particular, there is a Skamania County (Washington) ordinance protecting Bigfoot.

You can read that (and other information on cryptid protection) in this nice

Cryptomundo post (and comments)

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

Round up #2: seal of “a-roof-full”

April 27, 2010

Round up #2: seal of “a-roof-full”

Seal of “a-roof-full”

A Los Angeles man found a live baby seal on a second floor roof.  While all sorts of animals have been reported to fall out of the sky (especially fish and frogs), but in this case, there do appear to be stairs.  Oh, the article called it a seal…but it has visual external ears, which should make it a sea lion.  This might have been just a fish (eater) story, but there is a

video

Oh, and I love a good animal name: they called this one “Fiddler”….get it, Zero?

Legend of the Sought

Legend of the Seeker, based on Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series, will finish with this season.  It was an attempt by ABC to get into the syndication business.  It had a good pedigree (in addition to Goodkind), being brought to you in part by Sam Raimi (Hercules and Xena). 

I watched several episodes of it and while I didn’t mind missing one, I did enjoy it.

Bruce Spence (who will forever by the Gyro Captain from The Road Warrior for me) plays a wizard in the series.

New episodes are still being broadcast: Tivo link, and you can see older episodes on Hulu.  It’s also available instantly through Netflix, which means you can watch it through your Wii with a free disc, through your Roku, and/or on your PC.

Keep your ISIS on the prize

Speaking of streaming Netflix, the first season of Archer is now available!  This is an edgy show, so consider yourself warned…but I do think it is one of the funniest shows I’ve seen in a while (cartoon or otherwise).

Houston, we have a UFO

Texas has a history of space objects, of course, and the famous Marfa lights.  You can watch this

home video

of…something…over the Medical Center last weekend.  Suggested explanation by the “expert”?  Space junk…

“Makeusrichius!”

Oh, Harry Potter…you do make people money!  J.K. Rowling is worth 1.1 billion dollars, according to the Sunday Times annual “rich list”.  She tops the authors list, reportedly.  However, that’s not at all: Daniel Radcliffe (who plays Harry in the movies) is worth 89 million, Emma Watson (Hermione) is worth 47 million, and Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley) is worth 42 million.  So, when people say that J.K. Rowling should allow her books to be in e-book form because it would make her money…um, I don’t think more money is high on her list of concerns right now.  😉

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

The Week Ahead: April 26 – May 2 2010

April 26, 2010

The Week Ahead: April 26 – May 2 2010

For more information on upcoming (and historical) movies, TV shows, books, conventions, paranormal happenings, and pretty much anything that interests me, see the ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline.

Monday, April 26

On TV, Cartoon Network brings you new eps of Johnny Test, Adventure Time, and Flapjack.  You also get new eps of Chuck, House, and 24. 

Tuesday, April 27

On TV, music fans can see a new episode of Glee and  the last half-dozen compete on American Idol.  For a different kind of conflict, you can see (a simulated) Attila the Hun take on (a simulated) Alexander the Great.   You also get a new ep of V, and the BBC America season finale of Survivors. 

Tuesday is book release day, and you get: Black Blade Blues by J. A. Pitts (bringing Norse gods into the current world); the fourth book in Lori Handeland’s Phoenix Chronicles, Chaos Bites  (Kindle edition); and Dexter: Investigating Cutting Edge TV (if you haven’t seen Dexter, I recommend it…start at the beginning)

Tuesday’s videogames include: Record of Agarest War  (“the really naughty limited edition”); PixelJunk Monsters (available for under ten dollars); NIER (which sounds really quite dark); The Whispered World (a rated E for Everyone PC game); and Vampire Saga MBX, a teen-rated vampire game…hey, teen vampires…there’s an idea!  😉

Wednesday, April 28

On TV, it’s Rebel Monkeys night on Nat Geo (two new eps).  You also get new eps of Mythbusters and Ghost Hunters.  Premiering tonight is the new Sam Neill/Steven Weber series, Happy Town.  For a different kind of happy town, you get Sunset Daze, a reality show with senior citizens. 

Thursday, April 29

On TV, there are new eps of Flash Forward, Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, The Mentalist, and CSI.  Fringe is doing a musical episode…yes, that’s right.  It’s part of “Fox Rocks” week, but they are making it make sense, sort of. 

Friday, April 30

On TV, the Cartoon Network brings you Ben 10 and its new sibling show, Generator X.  Zod returns on Smallville, and you get a new Ghost Whisperer and Medium.  It’s a one-hour season finale of Star Wars: the Clone Wars, as well as new eps of Stargate Universe, Most Haunted, and a new to Syfy ep of Merlin.  Iron Man 2 costars Robert Downey, Jr., and Gwyneth Paltrow appear on BBC America’s Friday Night with Jonathan Ross. 

Busy weekend for conventions!  The National Halloween, Horror, Haunted House and Hearse convention is in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.  That might seem weird to you to have it this soon, but you have to plan Halloween things far in advance.  My first real job was at a place that sold Halloween masks…and we had to order them in March.  Those cool Don Post latex masks took a long time to make.  That’s why stores always ran out of some popular item.  I remember the year everybody wanted a Miss Piggy mask.  There are other conventions in Virginia Beach, St. Louis, Bonn (Germany), a mystery convention in Arlingon, anime in Nashville, Indianapolis, Eau Claire, a special GLBT sci fi and gaming convention in “Outlanta” (Atlanta), Romulus (Michigan), and Tampa.  Whew!  For more information, I recommend Fanboy’s Convention List.

At the movies, Hollywood is still pulling itself up by its “re-boot-straps” with A Nightmare on Elm Street.  Jackie Earl Haley walks in Robert Englund’s gloves (wait, that’s not right…which one is the hand-standing serial killer?). 😉   For those of you who prefer paws to claws, you can see Furry Vengeance, with Brendan Fraser versus CGI-enhanced woodland critters.  In limited release is The Human Centipede.  This one is a limited release with a probably deliberately limited appeal.  I don’t want to spoil anything…although I suspect this one may spoil a few dinners.  😉

Why would a book about rules get released on a Tuesday?  😉  Access Controlled  from MIT is about Power, Rights, and Rule in Cyberspace.

Saturday, May 1

On TV, you get a new ep of Legend of the Seeker.  New to BBC America is Matt Smith’s first Dalek episode, Victory of the Daleks, on Doctor Who. 

Sunday, May 2

On TV, there’s a new episode of The Simpsons.   You get a Discovery Channel special on Black Holes, and two hours of Stephen Hawking’s Into the Universe.  Soap star Ricky Paul Goldin is the “true believer” and Jeff Gurtman is the skeptic as they drive across the US debating the unexplained in Seeing vs. Believing

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

Any toon goes

April 23, 2010

Any toon goes

“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking
But now, God knows,
Anything goes

Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose
Anything goes”

–Cole Porter, Anything Goes (1934)

Pop culture standards change, and that’s often a good thing.  For example, relationships shown on TV are much more diverse than they used to be.  Interracial couple, gay couple, lesbian couples…they all appear now.  Some people may not like that, of course, but it allows programs to more accurately portray what happens in America.

Those standard changers may come from some surprising places.  The first interracial kiss on TV was on…Star Trek.   Science fiction and fantasy have always been a safer place to show controversial ideas.  That’s not just because it is seen as unreal, in my opinion…it’s also because it is not seen or credited as influential by the mainstream.  The kind of person who would object to female empowerment might not have been likely to read The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton (in 1871).

Today, this is especially true in cartoon series on TV.

Cartoons?

Yep.

I’m going to increase the hits on this blog today just by using the phrase, “cartoon nudity”.  😉 

Now, there have certainly been American cartoons with adult content before (not to mention Japanese “hentai”).  Fritz the Cat, in 1972, was an X-rated movie.  Heavy Metal (1981), had cartoon humans involved in sexual situations.

However, I’d say one difference  there is that there were live-action movies that had already been there and back in the movie theatres.

On US basic cable, cartoons go where live action shows don’t.

Archer, which I think is a truly funny show (and is between seasons right now), has had cartoon nudity.  One character is a masochist.  They’ve talked about the “gushiest”…well, I’ll leave it there for now.  They use the “s word”.

While you do probably pay a monthly fee for your basic cable package, if you get Nickelodeon for the kids, you may be getting FX as well.  It’s not like you’ll get a separate listing on the cable bill if your children watch it, like you would with an x-rated movie.

Ugly Americans has recently gone quite a bit further. 

SPOILER ALERT:   In an episode called “Treegasm”, which centered on public “sex” between “treetures” (tree creatures), the male reproductive organ of one of the main human characters, got some significant nude camera time.  Now, it wasn’t attached to him at the time (he’s a zombie), but it was alive…and, um, drinking from a straw.  END SPOILER

If that had happened on a live  show, it would have been all over the media the next day. 

Adult language, adult themes, and yes, cartoon nudity…do cartoons get a pass?  Yes, cartoons have been criticized before…famously, when Ralph (Fritz the Cat) Bakshi had a new Mighty Mouse cartoon series, he was accused of showing the world’s mightiest rodent using drugs.  I haven’t seen much in the culture wars about the new “cartoonudity”…maybe they are too busy, or maybe…any toon goes.

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

Have a Wii? Get the free Netflix disc

April 22, 2010

Have a Wii? Get the free Netflix disc

Owning stuff is so Twentieth Century.

Music on CDs?  You might as well have wax cylinders, ya dinosaur!  😉

Books on paper?   Pshaw!

Movies and TV on DVD?  Not when you can stream a huge selection.

I’m kidding, of course…sort of.  I’m a person with ten thousand paperbooks in my home…but I’ve stopped buying them (I’m a Kindle guy).  The concept of collecting shelves and shelves of something is just not that much a part of the New Millenials’ lives.  Oh, they have thousands of songs on their iPods, and they even paid for some of them (again, kidding), but they don’t have them on individual physical media.  They are stored for them somewhere else.

I was predicting years ago that we’d be able to watch pretty much whatever we wanted on TV.  I pictured a model where you could watch shows with commercials for free, and you’d pay by piece for others.

I was wrong on the latter…partially.  You can go to your On Demand and pay $1.99 to watch a movie.  You can go to iTunes and pay ninety-nine cents  for a TV show.

But the other model is “all you can eat”.  That’s the streaming Netflix model.  You pay a set amount a month, and then “consume” whatever you want.

I know this is popular: I write about e-books in my other blog, I Love My Kindle.  One of the frequently asked questions is why Amazon (or some other e-book provider) doesn’t offer a similar program: pay X amount a month, read all you want.

There are some things like that out there (BookSwim for paperbooks, PressDisplay for digital periodicals). 

Netflix has one of the best deals.  For $8.99 a month, you can watch all the movies and TV you want.  Oh, if you do it the old-fashioned way, you can only have one DVD at a time…but that’s still a lot.  Let’s say you get a DVD on the first of the month, and watch it that day and send it back in the pre-paid envelope.  The turnaround time is really quick: you’ll probably have another one on the third.  Figure you could watch about ten DVDs a month if you really turn them and churn them.

However, you can also watch streaming.  No waiting for that silly old mail.  You want to watch ten movies in a day?  No problem.   Time for a Buffy marathon?  Done!  Watch until you’re undead!  😉

For college age kids, a lot of them are fine watching these on a computer.  Some of them don’t even own TVs any more.

Some people like watching on a bigger screen, though.  That’s especially good if it’s a community event…like singing along with Dr. Horrible.

Hooking up your computer to your TV is an option, but that’s never really caught on.  I have a cable to connect my laptop to my computer, and I could do it wirelessly, but there’s just something about that.

I use a Roku to watch the streaming Netflix on my TV.  I really like that…it’s a little set-top box, it connects to the internet wirelessly…snap to use, really.

However, that does mean you have another box.

Enter the Wii Netflix disc.  If you already have a Wii hooked up, you can get a free disc from Netflix.  When you put that disc into your internet connected Wii, you can watch the streaming video through your Wii.

I got one to test it out…after all, it doesn’t cost anything for the disc.  🙂  It works pretty well…in one specific area, it’s actually better than the Roku.  What’s that?  You can choose shows right through the Wii…you get categories, recommendations (“similar to”).  With the Roku, I add them through my computer to my Instant Queue first.

That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage.  With the Roku, you get parental control.  The parents might have the password for the Netflix account, and the kids don’t.  The parents can add all the things they want to be available for the kids (a hundred or more, if you want), then the kids pick through the Roku from that list.

With the Wii disc, the kids aren’t limited like that.

 The other disadvantage is that you have to put the disc in every time you want to watch.  The Roku is just another TV input, like your DVD player.  So, if you do the Wii Fit, you’ll have to put the Wii Netflix disc back into the Wii to watch a movie or TV show.

As to selection, it is really very good.  You probably won’t see recent movies, maybe the last year of so.  Outside of that, you’ll see a lot.  I usually figure that they give some time for the DVDs to sell before they release it.  Some things are available right away, and sometimes it’s for a short time.  They also add things right away.

For example, I’ve been watching The Dick Van Dyke show from the first episode.  However, I’ve also watched Dead Snow (a recent Norwegian zombie movie).  You can watch the original Star Trek series and/or Firefly.  You can watch the recent comedy Step Brothers and/or the Marx Brothers in A Night in Casablanca.

After we got the Roku, we canceled our premium cable channels.  We still have some “extended cable”, but no HBO/Showtime/Starz.  That paid for the Roku quite quickly. 

One little tip setting it up.  When you get your disc, log into Netflix and activate it from there.  When I followed the instructions on the screen, it didn’t know who I was, and wanted to give me a free trial.

To get the disc, log into Netflix and search for Wii.  You’ll see a link that will take you to the right section to get it.

If you don’t have a Wii, I’d consider the Roku

So, let’s see…streaming Netflix, Pandora, Zipcars…hmmm, I wonder when we’ll get digital food?  😉

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

It’s the New Who Review…

April 19, 2010

It’s the New Who Review…

“…coming right at you.”

Now, there’s a melding of cultures!  I don’t know if you folks in England even got to see the New Zoo Revue…I gotta tell you, there are quite a few people who think the show might have benefitted from a Dalek or two, if you know what I mean.

But I digress.  🙂

I recently watched The Eleventh Hour, the first full episode with Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor Who.  For those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who is a very long running television show in England.  The main character is a Time Lord, a time-traveling alien who has a fondness for human beings.

Since the show was first broadcast in 1963, eleven actors have played the doctor (not counting movies and such).  In a clever plot component, the Doctor actually regenerates.  In other words, the fact that he is now played by a different actor is not only acknowledged, it is celebrated. 

How do you get eleven actors to play the same character the same way?

You don’t.  That’s part of the fun.  When the Doctor regenerates, he not only looks different, he is different.  Each of the Doctors has a distinctive personality, although they all draw from the same past. 

That means that fans can have their favorites…and they certainly all don’t work equally well for everybody.  Like many Americans, my first Doctor was Tom Baker, who was a bit reminiscent of Harpo Marx in appearance, although he did an awful lot of talking.  😉  He was particularly known for wearing a long, multi-coloured scarf…a trademark well-known enough that someone wearing a long scarf like that might be called “Whovian”, even today (don’t be surprised if you are asked if you eat “jelly babies”).

The show was revived after a fairly lengthy hiatus (almost a decade) in 2005.  We are now on our third Doctor since that restart.  The first one, Christopher Eccleston, was only on for a short while.  Some found his portrayal a bit dark.  The Doctor has had a sad history (his race has been wiped out), but he is generally optimistic, even whimsical. 

David Tennant, the tenth doctor, was generally considered a grand success.  Goofy, but able to be serious when the occasion demands, he walked that delicate line of the tragic genius clown, who can find even his own misfortunes cosmically amusing…but never stops caring.

So, it was with great anticipation that American audiences watched The Eleventh Hour, the first full-episode appearance of Matt Smith as the new Doctor.

I have to say, equally important to the new Doctor is a shift in showrunners.  Russell T Davies is generally thought of as the force behind the success of the new set of shows.  He is a screenwriter and producer, and spearheaded the revival of the Doctor, as well as the spin-offs Torchwood (one of my favorite shows) and The Sarah Jane Adventures. 

The show is now in the hands of Stephen Moffatt.  He had written some somewhat darker episodes of the new Who, including The Girl in the Fireplace (which features organ theft).

I did enjoy the Eleventh Hour, and as you probably all know, I’m very careful about spoilers.  I liked Matt Smith…although he is a bit angrier as the Doctor than I might like, he was certainly in an unusually frustrating situation.  He also seemed to have more of a problem adapting to his new body than we’ve seen.

The episode had some truly silly slapsticky stuff, some really creepy elements that could give kids nightmares, and a tiny dash of adult themes.

I’m going to get a little more specific here, but nothing that would spoil the plot.  🙂

I found the episode a little over-directed by Adam Smith (late of Little Dorrit and Skins).  By that I mean that there is an awful lot of camera work.  The camera rarely stands still, tracking in on people, changing focus, shifting angles, and so on.  He also uses as many sound effects as a Three Stooges short.  It’s not a real negative, but I did keep noticing it.  He does get nice performances out of the actors, and that’s important.

I like Matt Smith, and I do think he can develop nicely.  At this point, the Doctor seems a bit like a five-year old, but that may be because he is still “cooking”, as he says. 

The tone of the episode was all over the place, but I expect that will settle down.

We are introduced to a number of characters, but the Doctor typically travels with one companion (sometimes more than one).  The companions are an essential part of the show, although they have less permanence than the Doctor himself.

This Doctor’s relationship with the other characters is spot on…he looks to encourage them, but clearly doesn’t mind saying things that they won’t follow. 

They did have some nice nods to the show’s history, without overly relying on it.  Thanks to the TARDIS Index File wiki, I found out that Mr. Henderson was Arthur Cox (Cully in the 1968 Doctor Who adventure, The Dominators).  I was sure he was a cameo, but I wasn’t quite sure who.  🙂

Overall, I am looking forward to the next episode…we’ll see how it develops from here.

“That’s just the beginning…there’s loads more.”
–The Doctor

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

The Week Ahead: April 19 – April 25 2010

April 18, 2010

The Week Ahead: April 19 – April 25 2010

For more information on upcoming (and historical) movies, TV shows, books, conventions, paranormal happenings, and pretty much anything that interests me, see the ever-growing Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline.

Monday, April 19

On TV, Cartoon Network brings you new eps of Johnny Test, Adventure Time, and Flapjack.  There’s a new House, a Castle (hm, do we sense a theme here?), and a 24. 

Tuesday, April 20

On TV, you get a special episode of The Deadliest Warrior (which pits historical fighters against each other) opposite the Glee Madonna audience.  What were they thinking?  Aren’t those exactly the same audiences?  😉  A new episode of Lost dares to go against both.  There’s also a new to BBC America episode of Survivors and a new V.

Tuesday’s videogames include: Monster Hunter Tri, which among other things lets you save your character to your Wiimote…making it easy to take it to a friend’s house; Thinksmart, a brain-training program; Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper; Dementium II, an M-rated game that looks like it might appeal to fans of Shutter Island; Left Behind: Tribulation Forces…to quote the gamebox, “THE FIRST GAME IN WHICH WORSHIP IS MORE POWERFUL THAN GUNS!” (although I’m guessing there still might be a few of the latter); and Beat City, which seems like a non-violent rhythm game.

In books, we see: a new Wicked Lovely book from Melissa Marr (Radiant Shadows hardback, Radiant Shadows Kindle edition); Free, by Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) is released in paper;  and Amusement Machines by Lynn F. Pearson (Edwardian arcade games, among others).

We also see the publication of The Unknown Regions by Rodney Thompson, a supplement to the Star Wars role-playing game.  No, no, not a videogame…an actual paper role-playing game. 

Wednesday, April 21

On TV, it’s Idol Gives Back, the once a season episode where the show does charity, and you are welcome to contribute.  It’s a Shat attack as William Shatner’s new documentary series, Weird or What? debuts on the Discovery Channel.  You get a new Ghost Hunters episode, and Destination Truth goes to Easter Island and looks for the moa (not both at once).  The moa is an interesting case: a giant bird that definitely existed fairly recently and is believed to now be extinct.  How sure can we be that a species has been completely wiped out?  There are also new eps of South Park and Ugly Americans.

Thurdsay, April 22

On TV, there are new eps of Flash Forward, Vampire Diaries, Fringe, The Mentalist, and Supernatural. 

Friday, April 23

On TV you get new eps of Ben 10 and Smallville, and the new Cartoon Network series, Generator Rex.  You also get new eps of Star Wars: the Clone Wars, Stargate Universe, Most Haunted, and a new to Syfy ep of Merlin. 

Conestoga 14 kicks off in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Guests include: S. M. Stirling; Star Wars novelist Aaron Allston; and Glen Cook.

Saturday, April 24

On TV, it’s a new ep of Legend of the Seeker, a new to BBC America ep of Doctor Who (with the new doctor), and a Syfy movie that pits Jewel Staite against Mothman.   In the morning, you can see  a new Pokemon

Sunday, April 25

On TV, we welcome Stephen Hawking’s new series, Into the Universe (with an episode called Aliens).  You also get a new Simpsons and a new American Dad.  One of my favorite awards shows is on tonight: the TV Land Awards.  This is as kitschy as it gets, but it’s a lot of fun to see the casts of shows get together, and people pay tribute to their characters in ways you won’t see elsewhere.  This time, we’ll see Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks together, the Glee cast will get an award, and Blondie will perform.  Oh, and for the reunion that will make you say, “Oh yeah, I remember that”?  Bosom Buddies stars Tom Hanks and Peter Scolari. 

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

My take on The Aquatic Ape

April 17, 2010

My take on The Aquatic Ape

The Aquatic Ape
By Elaine Morgan
Type: book

You and I are seriously weird primates.  There’s that great opening in Desmond Morris’ classic book, The Naked Ape, where he looks at a human versus a whole range of other primates (apes, monkeys, lemurs…that sort of thing).  Obviously, one of the biggest things that would stand out is that you can see our skin.  People think of us as hairless, but we actually have a lot of hair…it’s just different hair.

Moving around a room, the bipedalism would be pretty obvious.

Watching a bit more, speech and tool use might stand out (although, if you didn’t understand the language, that might not be as clear…driving around in a car would probably be noticeable). 

That’s all the big picture stuff.  Get into more detail, and we’re even stranger.

You know how, when you got a zoo, you might see a fat-looking orangutan?  The poor guy has a giant gut, like he’s pregnant with a ten-year old kid.  You know what you don’t see?  Thunder thighs. 

Apes (and monkeys other non-human primates) pretty much don’t get fat arms and legs, because they don’t have a substantial layer of fat under the skin, like we do.

You know who does?

Marine mammals.

That might get you looking at humans and marine mammals.  After all, some of those are pretty hairless looking (dolphins, whales, manatees).  If you dig more, you’d see a few more similarities.

One of the obvious things?  We swim.  Oh, pretty much every vertebrate can swim some what (although apes generally hate the idea).  Thee are a couple of primates that don’t mind getting in the water, and the proboscis monkey can get out there in the water.

But we can really swim.  Underwater.  Turning, diving…playing Marco Polo.  Heck, have you seen synchronized swimming in the Olympics?  😉

You know what else?  We like it.  People even like just soaking in a bubble bath.

Take a squirrel monkey and stick it in a bath…you’ll be lucky if you have ten working fingers left.

For primates…that’s just weird.

It’s not just behavioral.  Our noses are physically different in a way that helps us swim…same thing with the larynx.  We have a “diving reflex” that slows our hearts in the water so we need less oxygen. 

So, we have some similarities with aquatic mammals and some dissimilarities with primates.

The aquatic ape hypothesis suggests that, at a particular point in human evolution, we spent significant time in the water.  That doesn’t mean we were hanging out with Ariel and Aquaman…just going out in the water after shellfish and such.

Put that way, it doesn’t sound so strange…lots of human societies depend on the water, even spent a lot of time in it.  Take a look at a suburban neighborhood on Google Earth.  You’ll see a lot of swimming pools.  On the Planet of the Apes?  Probably not so much.  😉

Elaine Morgan, a Welsh writer, popularized the idea with her 1982 book, The Aquatic Ape.  She’s not a paleoanthropolgist, but she put together a nice examination of the idea.  She takes it a lot further, using the AAH to suggest explanations for why we cry, why we talk, even why we have face-to-face sex. 

That may be one reason why the book hasn’t gotten widespread acceptance.  It may try to explain too much.

That’s the problem with a lot of “fringe” ideas.  If you can poke a whole in part of it, you ignore the whole thing.  If you can show that one set of Bigfoot prints are fake, you reject them all.  If one guy thought a weather balloon was a UFO, all UFOs are weather balloons.

Those rejections aren’t very scientific.

The book took on so many factors, that it was relatively vulnerable to finding alternative explanations for at least one of them.

I think one of the best arguments in favor of the hypothesis is that…it makes sense to people.  🙂   Not everything that makes sense to people is right, of course…in fact, it’s often not. 

When you read the book, though, I think most average people immediately think it works, generally.  Maybe that’s the skill of the author, though.  One thing she does is provide the “savannah hypothesis” explanation for the issues…that’s the one you probably know.   It’s a selective presentation, though.  Are there any other savannah animals that have their skin showing?  No, not really…except arguably rhinos and elephants (who may not be really savannah animals, I guess).  Giraffes and zebras have pretty short hair…so I suppose you could argue that short and our “coats” are similar.  Any other bipedal savannites?  No, but some antelope-types do stand up to look around, and so do meerkats, of course. 

I get a little sense that if any one of the broad possibilities for marine mammals match up that agree with the AAH, that gets presented, and everything on the savannah side has to match before it shows up.  It’s not that cut and dried, and it’s great that she presents that hypothesis as well. 

The other one that gets presented just intuitively feels silly to me…the neoteny hypothesis.  That one says that we are like fetal apes…only, we aren’t, mostly.

Is the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis right?

No way to know, yet.  There was an appropriate period when more of the land was under water in the right area.  You can find alternative explanations if you take the features one at a time.  Overall, though, it seems like a simple possible explanation for a lot of weird human features.

I don’t see any particular reason to reject it out of hand, and it’s a fun idea that might eventually get more evidence one way or the other.

What do you think?  Feel free to let me know. 

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

My take on MRQE

April 15, 2010

My take on MRQE

MRQE
Type: website
Founder: Stewart Clamen

“Seen any good movies lately?”

Part of the fun of movies is talking about them afterwards.  Oh, I’m very careful about spoilers…I’ll walk out of the room if people start discussing a movie I haven’t seen yet (and plan to see).

But I do like reading reviews of movies I’ve seen.  🙂

One of my favorite sites on the web is the Movie Review Query Engine (they’d like you to pronounce it “marquee’).  I’ve been using it for many years, and it is a virtual Methuselah…it started in 1993.  😉

The basic set up is simple…you put in a movie, and read reviews about it.  One thing that is nice is that it isn’t just the usual suspects.  Date Night, for example, has 108 articles right now.  97 reviews, and 11 news articles.  There is also a category for blogs (none listed) and Tweets.  They don’t give a count on tweets…you click on it and read them.

So, you say you don’t want to read 97 reviews?  You can see a graph of user ratings, a graph of critic’s ratings, an MRQE rating.  You can sort the ratings, see the trailer…even find a place to Watchit! (as they say it).  If the movie is still in the theatres, that means tickets.  But if not, it means DVDs…even streaming.

That last part is important, because it shows that they do older movies…yes, even much older movies.  I love that part!  You want to see reviews of the 1939 Wizard of Oz?  You can see them…even the original review from Variety!  There are close to 80,000 titles, getting towards 800,000 articles.

That’s just the beginning!  There are Box Office Results, Coming Soon, On DVD, What’s on TV, Year in Review, Film Festivals…they have lists like 20 Best Time Travel Movies (to honor Hot Tub Time Machine).  Number 1?  Back to the Future.

There are even news links from Variety and from the Wrap.

Bottom line…this is a movie lover’s dream.  From classic to current, MRQE has it all. 

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


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