Archive for November, 2010

You think today is boring? Try April 11 1954

November 30, 2010

You think today is boring? Try April 11 1954

You know, I’ve always said it’s one of the biggest advantages of being a geek…a low threshold of amusement.  🙂

We’ll watch movies that even we think are bad…over and over again.  We’ll spend hours arguing about some irrelevant point of non-existent technology.  We honor somebody who had a walk-on role in a TV series…decades ago. 

And all the time, we’re really enjoying ourselves.  😉

So, I felt challenged when a

news story

reported that the

True Knowledge

search engine had declared April 11, 1954 the “most boring day ever”.

I figured, hey, they just don’t aren’t asking the right questions.

So, I started looking on the geeky side.

I looked for movies (1954 was a great movie year)…hm, nope. 

I checked TV shows…there was a crossover episode of Jack Benny with Burns and Allen.  I like Jack Benny and George Burns…but I can’t exactly call them exciting.

I checked birthdates, deathdates, UFO sightings.  I tried to check comic book releases.

Honestly, I didn’t find much.

I didn’t dig all that long, but still…that’s unusual.

This is clearly intended to promote the website, so I looked more into it.  It’s supposed to be able to answer trillions of questions.  It doesn’t give you links, it gives you the information, which is nice. 

However, it failed questions I asked it time and again.

“Norman Corwin Presents”?  No reference.

“Mothman”?  Just gave me a link.

“Herbie Popnecker”?  No answer.

Kindle?  No answer!

Is the information you do find accurate?

Um…I’d have to say no.

Tim Curry’s occupation is shown as a “film composer, opera singer”.   It only lists two albums for him.

It also has some very quirky ways of saying things.  A birthday is both that and the “Anniversary of Creation”.

What happens if it doesn’t answer your question?

It asks you to answer it!

That makes it very easy to manipulate, unless they have some sort of review process.

If you’ve been using the site, let me know what your experience has been.  If you’d like me to find interesting things about your birthdate, let me know.  🙂  If you were born April 11, 1954…tell us about exciting, world-changing things you’ve done.

It always surprised me what becomes a big story.  This one has a clever angle, and I commend the website on their promotional strategy.

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

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Irvin Kershner reported dead

November 29, 2010

Irvin Kershner reported dead

Irvin Kershner directed what many fans consider the best of the Star Wars movies, The Empire Strikes Back.

He directed Sean Connery as James Bond in Never Say Never Again, and took on another sci-fi sequel with Robocop 2.

“Kersh” was 87.

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

Leslie Nielsen reported dead

November 29, 2010

Leslie Nielsen reported dead

“Don’t call me Shirley.”

Leslie Nielsen has reportedly died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 84.

Now most associated with wacky comedies, like the Naked Gun movies and Airplane!, Nielsen had a serious leading role in the Shakespeare-inspired science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet.

In a career that spanned from 1950 through a scheduled release in 2011, Leslie Nielsen has always been genre friendly.  He appeared in several episodes each of the early anthology shows Lights Out and Tales of Tomorrow.  He appeared on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and was a regular on the soap opera Peyton Place.  He had a regular role on Dr. Kildare as well.

He worked steadily through the seventies, appearing on many iconic TV series. 

His career really got a boost when he appeared in the farcical movie Airplane!  He followed that with the short-lived but cult-loved series Police Squad.  That in turn became the Naked Gun movies. 

Over time, he has played so many roles (Dracula! Santa Claus!) and made so many people laugh that it is hard to sum up his career.  He’ll be missed, surely. 

“Yes, and don’t call me Shirley.”

Good-bye, Leslie…the world is a little less silly tonight…and that makes it a little sadder.

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

The Week Ahead: November 29 – December 5 2010

November 29, 2010

The Week Ahead: November 29 – December 5 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.

Movies

The Black Swan (limited release)

Starring Natalie Portman (and featuring Mila Kunis) and directed by Darren Aronofsky, this one will clearly be striking.  It should be Oscar-bait…but will it be widely popular?  I think it’s more of an arthouse type hit.  There will be people who think it is their favorite movie of all time, but I’d be surprised for it to get to 80 million…might make 40, though.

The Warrior’s Way

This may be a bigger movie than it looks.  I mean that in terms of production…yes, the star, Dong-gun Jung is not well-known in the US.  This is the first US credit for the director/writer Sngmoo Lee.  However, it also features Kate Bosworth and Geoffrey Rush.  IMDB estimates the budget at 45 mil, which is substantial.  No question, it’s a martial arts picture…a “warrior-assassin” refuses a mission and hides out in the “Ameerican badlands”.  Somehow, I don’t think it is going to feel like the David Carradine Kung Fu, though…I’m not thinking that much philosophy.  I don’t expect a big opening…seems like an odd week for it.  I’d see it ending up…around thirty to sixty US dogro (domestic gross).

New TV

  • Attack of the Show! (Holiday buyer’s guide) at 4:00 PM on G4 (Monday)
  • Chuck (guest stars include Linda Hamilton and Timothy Dalton in a Thanksgiving-themed episode) at 8:00 PM on NBC (Monday)
  • Cake Boss (3rd season finale) at 9:00 PM on TLC (Monday)
  • The Event (last new episode for a while) at 9:00 PM on NBC (Monday)
  • Lie to Me at 9:00 PM on Fox (Monday)
  • Glee (Sectionals) at 8:00 PM on Fox (Tuesday)
  • The Real Story of Christmas at 8:00 PM on the History Channel (Tuesday)
  • Christmas in Rockefeller Center at 8:00 PM on NBC (Tuesday)
  • No Ordinary Family at 9:00 PM on ABC (Tuesday)
  • Stargate Universe (last new episode for a while) at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Tuesday)
  • Tower Prep at 9:00 PM on Cartoon Network (Tuesday)
  • Freak Encounters (monster spider) at 10:00 PM on Animal Planet (Tuesday)
  • Freak Encounters (Jersey Devil) at 10:30 PM on Animal Planet (Tuesday)
  • Attack of the Show! (Holiday buyer’s guide) at 4:00 PM on G4 (Wednesday)
  • Transformers Prime at 6:30 PM on the Hub (Wednesday)
  • Human Target at 8:00 PM on Fox (Wednesday)
  • Survivor at 8:00 PM on CBS (Wednesday)
  • Ghost Hunters (featuring the Real Housewives of Atlanta) at 9:00 PM on Syfy (Wednesday)
  • The President’s Book of Secrets at 9:00 PM on History (Wednesday)
  • Hollywood Treasure at 10:00 PM on Syfy (Wednesday)
  • Psych at 10:00 PM on USA (Wednesday)
  • Hollywood Treasure at 10:30 PM on Syfy (Wednesday)
  • Attack of the Show! (Holiday buyer’s guide) at 4:00 PM on G4 (Thursday)
  • Transformers Prime at 6:30 PM on the Hub (Thursday)
  • Bones at 8:00 PM on Fox (Thursday)
  • The Santa Suit (Kevin Sorbo) at 8:00 PM on Hallmark (Thursday)
  • The Vampire Diaries at 8:00 PM on the CW (Thursday)
  • Ancient Aliens at 9:00 PM on the History Channel (Thursday)
  • Fringe at 9:00 PM on Fox (Thursday)
  • Nikita at 9:00 PM on the CW (Thursday)
  • Burn Notice at 10:00 PM on USA (Thursday)
  • Fact or Faked (the moon landing) at 10:00 PM on Syfy (Thursday)
  • Attack of the Show! at 4:00 PM on G4 (Friday)
  • G.I. Joe Renegades at 5:30 PM on the Hub (Friday)
  • Transformers Prime at 6:30 PM on the Hub (Friday)
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold (the Justice League International versus Darkseid)  at 7:00 PM on Cartoon Network (Friday)
  • Ben 10 at 7:30 PM on Cartoon Network (Friday)
  • Medium at 8:00 PM on CBS (Friday)
  • Smallville at 8:00 PM on the CW (Friday)
  • Ghost Adventures at 9:00 PM on the Travel Channel (Friday)
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars at 9:00 PM on Cartoon Network (Friday)
  • Supernatural at 9:00 PM on the CW (Friday)
  • The Haunted at 10:00 PM on Animal Planet (Friday)
  • Sanctuary at 10:00 PM on Syfy (Friday)
  • Celebrity Ghost Stories (Janine Turner, Taylor Hicks) at 9:00 PM on Bio (Saturday)
  • Farewell, Mr. Kringle at 9:00 PM on Hallmark  (Saturday)
  • The Amazing Race (Ninjas!) at 8:00 PM on CBS  (Sunday)
  • The Simpsons at 8:00 PM on Fox  (Sunday)
  • Dexter at 9:00 PM on Showtime  (Sunday)
  • American Dad at 9:30 PM on Fox  (Sunday)
  • The Walking Dead (1st season finale) at 10:00 PM on AMC (Sunday)

Cons

Cons are short for “conventions”, when people who rarely leave the house get together…just kidding, of course, they can be great fun.  For details, I recommend Fanboy’s Convention List.

  • http://www.steelcitycon.com/ Steel City Con, Monroeville, Pennsylvania (Lou Ferrigno, Richard Kiel, Priscilla Barnes)
  • http://www.wizardworld.com/home-atlanta.html Wizard World Atlanta (Linda Blair, Vivica A. Fox, Pam Grier, Ernie Hudson, the Iron Sheik, Richard Roundtree, Burt Ward & Adam West, John Wesley Shipp, Billy Dee Williams, Fred Williamson, Henry Winkler)

Videogames

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

Getting the best out of Cyber Monday

November 27, 2010

 Getting the best out of Cyber Monday

In this earlier post, I gave you tips for getting the best out of Black Friday.

Shopping online, of course, is very different from shopping in brick and mortar stores.

Well, hold up there…I do think it is becoming more similar in recent years.  People do shop on Black Friday in the stores in their pyjamas.  🙂  Since people have SmartPhones with shopping apps, they can also comparison shop in the physical stores.  They can scan a UPC, and be told that the item is fifty dollars cheaper .4 miles away.

Still, it’s not the same.

Cyber Monday is the Monday following Thanksgiving (in the United States)…and following Black Friday.  Originally (I believe in 2005), what was happening was that people were shopping at work (where they had faster internet connections).  Now, many people have just as fast or faster connections at home…and companies have gotten smarter about detecting and how to prevent shopping in the office.  I don’t think that’s necessarily wise on the part of the employers, but that’s for another post.

You can get some great bargains online…and be totally ripped off as well.  If you buy something from a local store, you can probably return it there…they don’t just disappear before you can get back to them.  Websites (and individual sellers) might do just that…or might be in another country and outside of your law enforcement jurisdiction.

Here are some tips:

1. Know your sites. 

Don’t count on a smaller site having a better deal than a well-known one.  Most sites will have an “About us” link of some kind.  You can check that to see how long they’ve been in business (at least sometimes).  Check http://www.wikipedia.org …if there is a listing and the article has been there for a while, that can be a good sign

2. Check the shipping costs.

This is really key…I often see great deals…and then the shipping and handling are more than the item!  You can get used books for a penny on Amazon…but you’ll usually pay $3.49 for shipping from these third parties.

3. Check the processing and shipping time. 

Some sites are getting the things you are buying from someone else, or making them to order.  If you are calculating days, that’s usually business days.  In the US, business days do not count Saturdays, Sundays, or holidays.  Also, the shipping time starts from when they ship it…not when you order it.  Maybe they can ship it in two business days…but it takes them two weeks before they start the shipping

4. Don’t hesitate. 

Online deals may only last seconds.  Know what price you want to pay, know that the store is okay…and go for it.  If there is a way to set up a quick checkout, do it.  Log into the site before you start shopping

5. Use comparison shopping sites. 

These let you put an item into their site, and they’ll compare the prices at different websites.  Many of them include the shipping (but you may have to enter your zipcode for them to figure that out).  They won’t have all the sites, but you’ll get a good idea.

I’ve used

http://www.pricegrabber.com/ 

for years.

I also have used

http://shopping.yahoo.com

6. Use coupon sites

This also really useful.  Many online sites have coupon codes that will give you an additional discount…or free shipping.  They may only be good above certain amounts on a purchase and/or only at a specific time, as well as on specific items.  You may have to enter the code at checkout.  Be careful about that.  If the coupon code doesn’t work, you are going to have some trouble dealing with it later.  Call the store if you have trouble…most reputable stores have a phone number listed on the site, but not all.  That’s another thing you can check ahead of time.  If you used your credit card, you may be able to go to your credit card company for help if you were defrauded.  You can usually search by store and sometimes by item.  The listing at the coupon site may not be up to date.

http://www.couponmountain.com

http://www.fatwallet.com/

7. Check return policies

Does your return period start from when you buy it?  If you buy it a month ahead of time, will it have expired before you give it?  That should be listed at the site

8. Is it a pre-order?  Do they guarantee the price?

That’s an issue…it’s hard to tell on a website, sometimes, that the product isn’t actually available yet.  Read the description.  If it is a pre-order, do they guarantee the price, or will you pay more if it goes up in-between?

9. Don’t ignore the people who always discount

If a place is cheap all year round, it may still be cheaper on Cyber Monday than a place with a special sale.  For example,

http://www.woot.com

has a special deal every day…yes, one special deal.  They will sell out

10. Check at odd times of the day

A lot of sales are only for an hour, and they are selling around the world.  Check before you go to bed and when you get up

There are a few tips for you.  🙂  Here is a basic strategy:

  1. Identify online websites you trust and want to use
  2. Get sizes and compatibilities from your giftees…what videogame system they use, for example
  3. Check the coupon sites.  Copy the codes (write them down or paste them into a document
  4. Check comparison sites for specific items
  5. Sign up at the sites where you shop…you may be sent exclusive coupons.  Check their Twitter feeds and Facebook site
  6. Check your sites for information on upcoming specials…some of them hype them ahead of time
  7. Log into a site and set up any speed buying options they have
  8. If you see your items at a price you want, get them right away

Consider how you will give the gift if it isn’t something physical…a picture of it in a card can be cool.

Be careful also with digital gifts (downloads, which can be e-books, songs, movies, and so on) because they may deliver immediately.  If you get it a week early, so might your recipient.

By the way, you may hear about

http://www.ruelala.com/

this year.  Someone else has to invite you to join, but it reportedly has really good deals.

Oh, and I haven’t mentioned auction sites, like http://www.ebay.com .  Honestly, I’m a little leery of those, although they are now a significant part of our economy.  My concern is stolen items…it does happen…you usually have some recourse, but it’s complicated to try to resolve it at the holidays. 

This is the official Cyber Monday site:

http://www.cybermonday.com/

How can there be an official site?  Shop.org made up the name.  🙂

Do you have any special sites you like, or tips?  Feel free to comment on this post.

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

My friendly Black Friday (really)

November 27, 2010

My friendly Black Friday (really)

It’s a family tradition that we go shopping on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).

In this earlier post, I gave you some tips for getting the best out of it.  I thought it was only fair that I check back with you on how it went with us today.

We set the alarms for 3:30, but both of us beat them by a few minutes.  The pets were quite confused to be fed that early…but willing to make the sacrifice.  😉

We got to our first store, JC Penney’s, at 4:00 (which was when it opened).  We picked up the annual snow globe/ornament.  That’s a family tradition, too..this is the only day of the year my offspring gets homesick.  😉

We shopped JCP and Macys.  Everything went fine at JCP…funny, good-natured, and efficient salesclerk.  Macys…well, I didn’t see it, but my offspring said one of the clerks was…um…not used to doing this.

Next was Target, and that’s where we had a lot of fun.  It happened to be that, just as we were going into the store, they were bringing in a couple of carts.  We got one…we are mainly in Target to buy toys for Toys for Tots.  We like to do that…on Black Friday, it gives you a chance to buy the mainstream toys that the kids who benefit from Toys for Tots might not get otherwise.

We checked out the line…it was very long.

So, we followed one of the pieces of advice I gave you: I got into line with the cart.  My Significant Other went off to the toy department.  Well, a young couple came up behind me…arms full of presents. 

I offered to let them use my cart.  We got to chatting…had a very nice time.  When my Significant Other (SO) came back, we just put our presents in the bottom of the cart.  My SO carried a package for another person, and we all had a lovely time.

We learned about the kids, and a trip to Disneyland, and the changing tastes of a ten-year old.

Target did a great job with the line, by the way.  We were really supported by a large staff…with ping pong paddles.  It was sort of like being waved around by the tarmac crew at the airport.  😉 

After that, we went home and unloaded.  I also had to inject the diabetic dog with insulin, and there’s a bit of time pressure with that.

We did try a new restaurant in town for breakfast…okay, that didn’t work out well.  🙂  The place was freezing, the food wasn’t good.  Our waiter was friendly and efficient.

Over to Kohl’s…which appeared to be handling the line poorly.  People were upset in it, and clearly waiting a long time.  The up escalator wasn’t working.  We decided it wasn’t worth getting anything there…the line looked like it would take an hour.

I did see a clerk do a very nice thing.  One shopper was clearly upset, speaking loudly to a relative on a cellphone.  The clerk came over, nothing accusatory, and just asked if there was anything that the clerk could do to help.  The clerk started helping the shopper rearrange purchases…that made everything better, even for the other shoppers.

We were back home easily by 9…in plenty of time for online bargains.  🙂

All in all, a pleasant day.

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

Ingrid Pitt reported dead

November 26, 2010

Ingrid Pitt reported dead

Ingrid Pitt, the star of Hammer’s Countess Dracula, has reportedly died at the age of 73.

Pitt played vampires several times, and became iconic of the new, sexier horror that Hammer was producing.  She appeared in two different Doctor Who arcs, and was featured in the original version of The Wicker Man.

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

“Had I been informed…”

November 25, 2010

“Had I been informed of the coming Apocalypse, I’d have stocked up.”
–Dale (played by Jeffrey DeMunn)
The Vatos episode of
The Walking Dead
screenplay by Robert Kirkman
based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

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

Flash! Netflix raises prices (and makes cheaper no-DVD plan)

November 24, 2010

Flash! Netflix raises prices (and makes cheaper no-DVD plan)

You know how Netflix has been this incredible deal at $8.99 a month for one DVD at a time…and all you can eat streaming video?

Well, it’s still one of the best deals, but now that plan is $9.99 a month.

I do like that one: while there are more and more great movies and TV shows available streaming, I do like to get some of the newer shows.  We don’t like to wait those extra months for the next season of Dexter, for example.  I also like some old movies that just aren’t that likely to show up on streaming in the near future.

However, if you are fine with streaming only (and I would consider that), Netflix is now offering a $7.99 plan.  So, if you’ve forgotten you can even get physical DVDs, this saves you a buck a month. 

Other plans (which allow more DVDs at a time) are also going up.  Basically, add a dollar a month per DVD you can have out at a time.  If you are on the five at a time deal, you’ll pay $5 a month more (from $29.99 to $34.99).

Why is this happening?

It’s a digital world, baby.  More TVs and movies are streamed from Netflix already than are seen on DVD.  They need to put the resources where they can best be used…getting us more streaming (although again, there is a lot of it now).

Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be a DVD player maker right now…

The details of the changes are in this

Netflix blog 

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

My double take on Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project

November 24, 2010

My double take on Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project

I’ve done a series of what are basically reviews in this blog, which I call “My take on…”  I don’t want to call them reviews, because it is more of my impression, than saying something is good or not.

In this case, I thought I’d call it a “double take”, because I am going to talk about and compare two movies…and I like the idea of a comic’s double take move.  🙂

I recently watched the original Paranormal Activity and the original of The Blair Witch Project.

Clearly, we probably would not have had PA if we hadn’t had BWP.  The similarities are obvious: they are both low-budget movies that are supposedly the witnesses own footage of something possible supenatural.

They were also both hugely profitable.  🙂

I have to say, I liked Paranormal Activity quite a bit more.  The key difference was in the acting.  The Blair Witch Project has performances that, in my opinion, seem quite histrionic.  Yes, there are people who are that stagey in real-life…but if that’s an acting choice, it seems unwise when you are trying to be credible to the audience.

On the other hand, I found Katie Featherston’s performance in PA quite convincing.  I didn’t think everybody pulled it off (there is a demonologist whose performance I had trouble accepting), but she was very naturalistic, very believable. 

That’s crucial here, but it’s not the only sophisticated thing about PA.  I liked the writing…in particular, director/screenwriter Oren Pell did a nice thing where time seems to be compressed…just because we are zooming through the digital video.

I try to avoid spoilers, so I don’t want to talk about the plots too much.  I will say I would have ended one of the movies on the order of a few seconds earlier.  That sounds subtle, but it changes the nature of the movie.  I won’t say which one, which should help avoid the spoiler effect.  🙂

I don’t want to minimize the importance of BWP…it really showed there was a market for what was effectively a “homegrown” movie.   They were also hampered by the technology…PA is a much more realistic-feeling movie, in part because many people actually have digital video cameras now: not that many people had access to the 16mm movie camera supposedly used in BWP.  What happened in PA made more sense…they were using the light on the camera to see what was happening.  In BWP, even though they tried to explain it as sort of compulsive to one character, it was hard to believe they would have kept filming the way they did in their situation.

So, what do you think?  Did you prefer BWP or PA? 

Feel free to leave me a comment.

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


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