Archive for September, 2012

Herbert Lom reported dead

September 28, 2012

Herbert Lom reported dead

Is there such a thing as a rugged aristocrat?

That’s how Herbert Lom often struck me in the movies. Yes, it seemed like he was “born better” than you, educated, civilized…but there apparently lurked a barely sublimated beastliness, a primitive rage that was kept in check by a sneering veneer.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Lom was a powerful and reliable presence in geeky roles. I think first, perhaps, of his role in Ray Harryhausen’s Mysterious Island, but certainly, the Hammer Terence Fisher version of Phantom of the Opera is not far behind.

I would guess that Lom is most associated with the role of Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies, which showed a comedic skill not always apparent in his other parts.

Geek credits include:

  • Project M7 (a secret airplane that can break the sound barrier)
  • I Aim at the Stars (biography of Werner von Braun…Lom plays Anton Reger)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (playing the phantom)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Journey to the Far Side of the Sun (written by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson…but it’s not marionettes: also stars Roy Thinnes)
  • Mark of the Devil (Lom is a witch hunter…and Udo Keir is learning the trade)
  • Count Dracula (Lom is Van Helsing, Christopher Lee is a mustachioed Dracula…this is not from Hammer, but Jess Franco)
  • Dorian Gray
  • Asylum (Lom joins Peter Cushing, Barry Morse, and Britt Ekland in this Robert Bloch anthology from Amicus)
  • Dark Places (also starring Christopher Lee and Joan Collins)
  • …And Now the Screaming Starts! (Peter Cushing)
  • The Dead Zone (David Cronenberg directs, Christopher Walken stars, based on Stephen King)
  • King Solomon’s Mines (Richard Chamberlain, Sharon Stone)
  • Going Bananas (a talking chimpanzee comedy with Dom DeLuise and Jimmie Walker)
  • Whoops Apocalypse

That’s only a slice of Herbert Lom’s more than six decade career. He often played Europeans in angsty dramas, and played Napoleon more than once.

Good-bye, Herbert Lom…the world is less striking without you.

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

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A robot with common sense…what could go wrong?

September 22, 2012

A robot with common sense…what could go wrong?

Does this sound like a movie to you?

Inventor: “Thank you for coming to see me…or should I say us…today.”

Reporter: “Well, you told me you had a scoop for me, Professor: what’s up?”

Inventor: “You’re familiar with the use of robots in industry, right?”

Reporter: “Yeah, sure. Those big clunky guys they use on assembly lines.”

Inventor: “Yes, yes, precisely. Well, I want to show you my latest invention. It’s a brand new type of robot…I call him ‘Baxter’.”

Reporter: “Um…is he looking at me?”

Inventor: “In a manner of speaking. He is aware of where you are, thanks to his human presence detection system. It uses sonar, and has a 360 degree sweep.”

Reporter: “But he has eyes.”

Inventor: “Oh, yes…those are a form of feedback: we put those on the screen so you can get a sense of what Baxter is thinking.”

Reporter: “The eyes are the windows of the soul, huh, Professor? Say…does Baxter have a soul?”

Inventor: “Well, I’m afraid that’s not really my area of expertise…I don’t even know if reporters have souls.”

Reporter: “Ha, ha. Okay, Professor, what does this, um…Baxter do?”

Inventor: “Anything you want him to do.”

Reporter: “What do you mean? He can be programmed for different tasks?”

Inventor: “Baxter doesn’t have to be programmed…you can just how him how to do something, and he learns it.”

Reporter: “Oh, come on…next you’ll be telling me flying saucers are real.”

Inventor: “No, no, I mean it. What did you bring with you today?”

Reporter: “Let’s see…I’ve got my notepad, and my camera. I couldn’t get the Chief to assign a photog to this deal.”

Inventor: “Let’s work with the camera, shall we? Put it on the table. Now, I want you to show Baxter how to take a picture.”

Reporter: “Do I just show him, or–“

Inventor: “Actually, if you’ll just move his hands and arms through the motions, he’ll learn how it’s done.”

Reporter: “You mean I should touch him? Isn’t there supposed to be a safety cage or something?”

Inventor: “I assure you, Baxter is perfectly harmless. With his three complementary safety systems, he couldn’t possibly hurt anyone. “

Reporter: “That sounds like famous last words.”

Inventor: “I assure you, it’s all quite scientific.”

Reporter: “In that case, let’s get to it. Okay, Baxter, kid…let’s make a picture bug out of you.”

That might sound like something you’d watch on Archive.org, Baxter is real…and so are all the terms and features I used in the above scene.

I was telling somebody about this robot (you can read about it here):

http://www.rethinkrobotics.com/

and they wanted to know if Baxter could clean your house.

Well, the biggest limitation at this point is that Baxter can’t move around by itself, although (unlike most industrial robots) it can be rolled around easily. I think you might be able to teach Baxter to put the dishes away, though. 😉

At a relatively low cost of $22,000, I think we may start seeing Baxter in places for the entertainment value. How about as a fast food cook? At that price, it wouldn’t take long for Baxter to be cheaper than a human…and no worker’s comp claims.

Seriously, if this robot performs as advertised, it could really change things…and it might not have a positive impact on the employment rate in some fields. Although, of course, it would take more than one person to make a Baxter to replace one worker…unless that Baxter is made by other Baxters. 😉

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

40th anniversary Dungeons & Dragons documentary needs help

September 12, 2012

40th anniversary Dungeons & Dragons documentary needs help

2014 will mark the 40th anniversary of D&D, first published in 1974.

The gaming system has had a significant cultural impact. Yes, it’s been a definer used by anti-geeks (saying someone played D&D has been a way to marginalize them), but so many of the videogames, movies, TV shows, and books now embraced by the mainstream have been inspired by a low tech game of dice and paperbooks.

It has amused me that someone being a “playa” would not be seen as stemming from the stereotypical gaming “nerd”, but I’m sure that’s the origin. You are a player or you are an NPC (“Non Player Character”)…I think being a “playa” came from people in serious political situations (especially intelligence operations) being “players” and others being unaware that there even is a game.

We are losing people who were famous in the 1970s, and though it may not seem so long ago to some of you, to others, it’s history. If you were in high school in the 1970s, remember that they are as long ago now as the 1930s were then.

Doing a documentary on D&D, especially when you are talking about developers, not just players, is only going to become more difficult. Gary Gygax is already gone…

A group is working on a documentary now, and is raising funds for it through a

Kickstarter campaign

There are four days left for them to reach a reasonable goal of $150,00…as I write this, they are close to $125,000.

They have levels that start as low as $5.

This is an easy way to help preserve the history of D&D.

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

Geeky TV: The New Season Fall 2012

September 11, 2012

Geeky TV: The New Season Fall 2012

Despite the way that new television debuts have now become year long, September is still the “new season” for the television networks. It’s when big name shows return, and new geeky shows boldly go where so many one season wonders have gone before. 😉

Let’s take a look at this season…

New Shows

Arrow Wednesdays 9:00 PM on the CW

Debuts: October 10

http://www.cwtv.com/shows/arrow

Seen as the successor to Smallville, this is another DC comics hero given a reimagining. When you say “Green Arrow” to me, I always think first of the Green Arrow/Green Lantern rediscovering the meaning of life by road tripping arc…but I’m guessing GL won’t show up here. 😉

Beauty & the Beast Thursdays at 9:00 PM on the CW

Debuts: October 11

http://www.cwtv.com/shows/beauty-and-the-beast

More Ron Perlman/Linda Hamilton than Disney, I think this one has a real possibility to find an audience. Kristin Kreuk (Lana Lang on Smallville) returns to the CW, and I think the dynamics of the show will appeal…I think many people may find it better than they expect, and that’s a good thing.

Elementary Thursdays at 10:00 PM on CBS

Debuts: September 27

http://www.cbs.com/shows/elementary/

A contemporary version of Holmes (I wrote a parody one of those myself, a while back (http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2009/11/03/doctor-watsons-blog-a-kindle-abandoned-chapter-1/), with the big promoted twist being that Watson is played by a woman. The creator has said something about how he thought that would irritate Holmes, but Holmes is irritated by life. Does it change the dynamic? We’ll see…certainly, in pop culture, a woman putting up with (and admiring, for that matter) an irritating jerk has a different resonance than a man doing so.

Hot Set Tuesdays at 10:00 PM on Syfy

Debuts: Tuesday, September 17

http://www.syfy.com/hotset

Competition reality show for production designers…sort of a companion piece to Face Off.

Last Resort Thursdays 8:00 PM on ABC

Debuts: September 27

http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/last-resort

While one could argue the geekiness of this, I think it will appeal to quite a few geeks…at least the premise. In a sense, it’s like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (with a rogue submarine crew), but I believe everything is supposed to be contemporary technology.

The Neighbors Wednesdays at 8:30 PM on ABC

Debuts: September 26

http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/the-neighbors

From My Favorite Martian to Mork and Mindy to the Coneheads to 3rd Rock from the Sun…aliens, they’re just like us. 😉 No matter how good this is, I have a tough time seeing it making it to a second season, but I would love to be wrong on that.

Revolution Mondays at 10:00 PM on NBC

Debuts: Monday, September 17

http://www.nbc.com/revolution/

Quite possibly the highest profile of the new geeky shows, it has solid geek cred. Eric Kripke (Supernatural) created it, J.J. Abrams (Lost) is an Executive Producer, Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed the pilot, and the cast includes Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V), Tracy Spiridakos (Being Human). It’s a post-apocalyptic series, after technology fails.

666 Park Avenue Sundays at 10:00 PM on ABC

Debuts: September 30

http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/666-park-avenue

While this clearly a supernatural show, I’m not quite clear…is it a Fantasy Island/The Love Boat anthology/guest star series? Is it a supernatural soap (a…um…soapernatural show)?

Returning Shows

Alphas Mondays at 8:00 PM on Syfy

http://www.syfy.com/alphas

Season: 2

Returned: July 23

Team of super-powered people, who don’t get along all that well…and there is a deep conspiracy.

Bones Mondays at 8:00 PM on Fox

http://www.fox.com/bones/

Season: 8

Returns: Monday, September 16

Castle Mondays 10:01 PM on ABC

http://beta.abc.go.com/shows/castle

Season: 5

Returns: September 24

Doctor Who Saturdays at 9:00 PM on BBC America

http://www.bbcamerica.com/doctor-who/

Series (season): 7 (of the new version)

Returns: September 1

The seventh series (season) of the regenerated classic already started up on BBC America on September 1st, but geeks will count on it as it carries on. I thought last season’s The Girl Who Waited was great television, regardless of genre, and though we can always expect change in the Whoniverse, that bodes well for this season.

Ghost Adventures Fridays at 9:00 PM on The Travel Channel

Season: 7

Returns: Friday, September 14

Reality series in its seventh season…team of three takes on hauntings.

Ghost Hunters Wednesdays 9:00 PM on Syfy

Season: 7

Returns: September 5

http://www.syfy.com/ghosthunters/

Reality show that really led the way for paranormal reality shows.

Haven Fridays 10:00 PM on Syfy

Season: 3

Returns: September 21

http://www.syfy.com/haven/

Based on Stephen King’s The Colorado Kid, it’s about a strange town…

Long Island Medium Sundays 9:00 PM on TLC

Season: 3

Returns: Sunday, September 9

Reality show with Theresa Caputo, a medium

Paranormal Witness Wednesdays 10:00 PM on Syfy

Season: 2

Returned: August 8

http://www.syfy.com/paranormalwitness/

Recreating reported events

Robot Chicken Sundays 11:59 AM on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim

Season: 6

Returned: September 9

http://robotchicken.com/

Those are some of the highlights. I’m not including shows where the season is pretty much done by the first week of October, and I may add more shows (especially non-prime time shows).  It’s also likely dates will change. Check

The Measured Circle current events calendar

for daily listings, including movies, books, games, and conventions.

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

“I don’t know why I should worry about…”

September 5, 2012

“I don’t why I should worry about humanity. Humanity’s never done anything for me.”
–Dr. Helen Jackson (played by Laura Bowman)
Son of Ingagi
screenplay by Spencer Williams
based on Williams’ story, House of Horror

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.

Michael Clarke Duncan reported dead

September 4, 2012

Michael Clarke Duncan reported dead

Michael Clarke Duncan could easily have been typecast.

Just like his Oscar-nominated (and Saturn-winning) portrayal of John Coffey in the Stephen King adaptation, The Green Mile, Duncan did not let others define him.

Since his first appearance on screen in 1995, Duncan found success both in geek works and the mainstream, and on screen and as a voice artist.

Geek credits include:

  • Weird Science (TV series): Cardinal Carnage
  • Armageddon (as Bear)
  • Breakfast of Champions (Bruce Willis starred in this Vonnegut adaptation)
  • Star Trek: Klingon Academy (video game…Duncan voiced a Klingon)
  • Cats & Dogs
  • Planet of the Apes (Duncan played Attar in this Tim Burton update with Mark Wahlberg)
  • The Scorpion King (Balthazar)
  • Daredevil (Duncan was the Kingpin…he would also voice the character on Spider-Man)
  • George of the Jungle 2 (mean lion)
  • Brother Bear (Tug in this Disney animated movie…he’d repeat the role in the sequel)
  • Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time (he played Wade’s future self)
  • D.E.B.S. (schoolgirl spies)
  • George and the Dragon (James Purefoy, Piper Perabo)
  • Static Shock
  • Pursued (reunited with Estella Warren)
  • Crash Nebula
  • Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone (video game)
  • Racing Stripes
  • Teen Titans
  • Sin City (as Manute)
  • The Golden Blaze
  • Dinotopia: Quest for the Ruby Sunstone
  • The Island
  • Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (as the stork)
  • The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (two appearances as Commander Baker)
  • The Land Before Time XI
  • The Suffering: Ties That Bind (video game)
  • Minoriteam (his “Balactus” destroyed the home world of a main character in this Adult Swim parody)
  • Air Buddies (yes, in the Air Bud series)
  • The Last Mimzy
  • Loonatics Unleashed (Massive)
  • Slipstream
  • Family Guy (including voicing Fozzie Bear)
  • God of War II (video game)
  • Kung Fu Panda (Commander Vachir)
  • Chuck (Colt)
  • The Slammin’ Salmon
  • Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Balrog)
  • Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (returning as Sam)
  • The Sibling
  • Bones and the spin-off, The Finder
  • Green Lantern (voiced Kilowog)
  • Legend of Kung Fu Rabbit
  • Annoying Orange (the Marshmallow King)

Good-bye, Michael Clarke Duncan…the world is a little less easy-going without you.

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

My take on…Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America

September 3, 2012

My take on…Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America

Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America
by Scott Francis
published by How
original publication: 2007
size: 3420KB (256 pages)
categories: encyclopedias; mythology and folklore; unexplained mysteries
lending: enabled
simultaneous device licenses: six
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: yes
text-to-speech: yes
real page numbers: yes
x-ray: no

“…my wife and I decided to take a leisurely drive around scenic Lake Leelanau … it was our vacation after all. We found a few interesting things: a swampy looking outlet of the lake near where the original sightings were described, a bowl of delicious white fish chowder at a local restaurant known as the Bluebird, a crazy looking old silo decorated as the tower of Rapunzel, and a very suspicious looking log. Did we ever find the monster? Well … that’s not really the point of Monster Spotting. It’s really about enjoying the search.”
–Scott Francis

Books about reports of unknown animals can go a lot of different ways. They can be scientific, skeptical, paranormal, personal investigations…being particularly interested in cryptozoology, I’ve enjoyed all the different approaches.

Monster Spotter’s Guide to North America is largely what is called a “seed catalog”. There are standardized questions (Characteristics, Size, Habitat, Appetite, and Precautions), and then a brief narrative and, typically, a cartoon-like illustration.

The book is divided into areas of the USA, and does cover Mexico and Canada.

The “creatures” include both ones that might possibly have a zoological explanation, and folklore animals, like the wampus cat. Each entry is categorized as

  • Sasquatch and Hairy Monsters
  • Flying Monsters
  • Ocean, Lake and River Monsters
  • Folklore Monsters
  • UFO-Related Monsters
  • Reptilian Humanoids
  • Phantom Animals

While there is some humor in the book, the entries don’t really contain narratives…you won’t feel like you are experiencing one person’s report in it. That gives it somewhat of a sense of sameness throughout…I didn’t find it especially engaging.

The seed catalog part did have a lot of entries…I can see how this would be fun for someone getting into the subject (like a child) to find out about reports near them or where they are going.

Unfortunately, the format of the standardized questions didn’t reproduce well on my Kindle Fire.  There was a lot of empty space in each of the cells of what was a small, single column table.

Interestingly, it was in the back of the book that it moved away from simple listings. There were two “case studies” which made it more personal (the author isn’t just an armchair enthusiast), and a nice little monster time line.

Don’t expect to find a lot of analysis or hypothesizing…this isn’t like reading Ivan Sanderson or Loren Coleman.

I think this sums up the attitude of the book pretty well:

“Of course, you can be scientific about it and wait for absolute, undeniable proof. But isn’t it more fun to believe in something? Do you really want to question the existence of the Santa Claus of the monster world? Bigfoot is real.”
–Scott Francis

That’s not to say that Francis is an advocate…it’s just that for the fun hobby of “monster spotting”, it doesn’t really matter if it’s an objective reality or not.

At $9.99, this is relatively expensive as a Kindle book, but I was able to read it as part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

I would say that the book would be a good one for a curious ten-year old. It was reasonably accurate, and not poorly proofread. It’s light, and the topic is intriguing. My life was changed by The Maybe Monsters by Gardner Soule, and I can see how this could have a similar effect. For people who are serious about the subject, it’s just going to be seen as too surface.

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

We’re a game!

September 1, 2012

We’re a game!

This surprised me, but it’s fun. 🙂

On IMDb (the Internet Movie Database), which is one of my favorite sites (it’s a reliable movie/TV reference site owned by Amazon), you can create lists.

I decided to turn our 2012 The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs into a list on IMDb.

One thing that’s cool is that the list will show up on the pages of all of the actors who appear on it.

Well, I was updating it, and saw that there was a link where you could play the list as a game!

http://www.imdb.com/games/guess/list:l9lJGXpo6Ag

You can play it in an easier or harder version, but I found even the “easy” one pretty tough. They give you some trivia about the actor, and then you guess who it is. You’ll see a number of points…it’s counting down while you think. Guess sooner, get more points.

Hope you have fun! 🙂

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


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