Archive for November, 2012

Bigfoot DNA reportedly sequenced

November 26, 2012

Bigfoot DNA reportedly sequenced

In this

press release

a group at DNA Diagnostics, Inc., reportedly led by Dr. Melba S. Ketchum, reports having sequenced “20 whole mitochondrial nuclear genomes” from reported Bigfoot samples.

Astonishingly, they say that the information is being peer-reviewed, and that it shows that the hair that was analyzed comes from a human/hominin hybrid species.

The press release says:

Genetically, the Sasquatch are a human hybrid with unambiguously modern human maternal ancestry. Government at all levels must recognize them as an indigenous people and immediately protect their human and Constitutional rights against those who would see in their physical and cultural differences a ‘license’ to hunt, trap, or kill them.”

Needless to say, this is an extraordinary claim.

It will be interesting to see what develops with this story going forward. I would guess it won’t be too long until we get opinions about what is being presented.

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

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Larry Hagman reported dead

November 24, 2012

Larry Hagman reported dead

Even without Dallas, Larry Hagman would be a significant pop culture figure, especially for geeks.

Of course, there is I Dream of Jeannie. Some wanted to dismiss it as a Bewitched clone, but it wasn’t that. For one thing, Tony was a lot more interesting character than Darrin. It wasn’t just because he was an astronaut/test pilot rather than working in an advertising agency (who would want to watch a TV series about people who work in an ad agency? 😉 Oh yeah, Mad Men).

Tony was funnier, and thanks to Hagman’s performance, often the one you wanted to watch (despite Jeannie’s harem outfit). Bewitched was clearly about Samantha and her family, and Darrin was largely the straight man. I Dream of Jeannie was arguably more about Tony, and Roger, and Dr. Bellows, although that’s not to minimize the great work of Barbara Eden.

That’s only one accomplishment, though.

I certainly think of Larry Hagman’s subtle, emotional anchor work in the Cold War movie, Fail-Safe. Hagman’s interpreter (of Russian) gives us the real human feel for what is happening, opposite Henry Fonda’s sweeping political decisions as the President in a crisis.

He also appeared on Night Gallery, and reunited with Barbara Eden for the creepy TV movie, A Howling in the Woods.

Another TV movie brought us the “Return of the World’s Greatest Detective” when he played a modernized “Sherman Holmes” (actually, a character who delusionally thinks he is Sherlock).

He had a small part in the Christopher Reeve Superman in 1978.

Like many others, he voiced a character on The Simpsons.

He also directed and appeared in Beware! The Blob.

Hagman was a character, on screen and off.

Good-bye, Larry Hagman: the world is a little less sly without you.

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

On the Robot Beat #3: replacing dolphins, Robot Combat League is a reality (show)

November 22, 2012

On the Robot Beat #3: replacing dolphins, Robot Combat League is a reality (show)

robot is something created by humans (directly or indirectly) that performs tasks (autonomously or not) done by humans (or, more broadly, by other animals…a robot dog, for example, would perform work done by living dogs, including providing companionship). 

The word may conjure up an image of a mechanical man, perhaps clunky and made of metal. The way we use the term at The Measured Circle, it would include software performing human tasks, and non-anthropomorphic devices like an answering machine or a calculator.

On the Robot Beat presents news about our creations that are, even in small ways, replacing us.

Roboxing becomes reality

We geeks know about fighting robots. Whether they were the non-humanoid style of Battlebots, the giant fictional mecha and Mechagodzilla, or Richard Matheson’s human boxer replacements (most recently on screen in Real Steel).

Now, they are going to be a reality.

On February 26, 2013, Syfy will debut a show with humanoid robots that will duke it out in a ring, controlled by shadow boxing robojockeys.

Yes, this is real…a reality show competition with a $100,000 prize. You can see some pictures and read the story here:

Entertainment Weekly article

The robots are all built by robot expert Mark Setrakian”s team. They’ll have different abilities, and look quite different from each other. The competition will be for the robojockeys, not the builders.

I have to say, I am so there on this! I’m going to try and keep my expectations low on the execution of it, but it should be fun to watch…and may give Syfy a hit (so the speak).

Navy to replace minesweeping dolphins with robots

Years ago, we heard about the CIA having a killer dolphin program…yes, real dolphins that could be used to kill enemy combatants (apparently, the dolphins didn’t know they were killing somebody, just that they were touching strangers with an apparatus).

Now, there is a new story that the US military is going to replace their current marine mammal mine sweeping program with robots:

Yahoo News article

BBC article

This article has a picture of the robot, the Knifefish:

Free Republic article

Although this probably wouldn’t replace the use of marine mammals in all military circumstances, it certainly seems like a good thing.

Human Rights Watch: “Ban ‘Killer Robots’ Before It’s Too Late”

While the Knifefish presumably wouldn’t be armed, if it was, and if it were able to autonomously (without human direction) decide to kill somebody, it would fall under a proposed ban on “killer robots”. In this

HRM aricle

they link to a document where they make the case against robots who are built with the ability to “decide” to kill somebody.

It’s an interesting document…and certainly sounds like something out of science fiction.

Of course, a booby trap with a tripwire kills someone without human direction…but it doesn’t decide who to kill and who not to kill. That makes me think more about this: is the issue that the robot decides or that somebody dies? It seems to be the former…which seems harder to support morally to me. Is it okay that devices (land mines, for example) kill people, as long as they do it indiscriminately? For example, would a land mine that detected that a person who stepped on it was an unarmed child and didn’t detonate be worse than one that detonated regardless of who stepped on it?

It’s clearly a complex issue…

Foxconn to address human working condition concerns by using robots

According to this

Reuters article

Foxconn, a company in China that is part of the supply for popular electronics goods, like iPads, is planning to increase the number of robots it is using in its factories from about 10,000 to about one million in three years.

The robots wouldn’t complain about working conditions or require the installation of suicide prevention nets (which supposedly happened at Foxconn).

The article also suggests this is partially to address rising labor costs. Comparing labor costs in China to those in the USA, and you might not think that’s a concern…but rising costs of anything can be a concern.

I presume that something like the

Baxter robot

would be in the running for this.

Again, this seems like a step forward…although you do wonder how the displaced workers would replace the income.

I think we really are at a place where the use of robots is diversifying rapidly. It’s a field where we are seeing a rapid evolution…and that sci-fi version of robots may be finally on its way to reality.

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

My take on…Skyfall

November 11, 2012

My take on…Skyfall

The new James Bond movie is shaping up to be one of the top ten dogroed (US domestic gross) movies of 2012 (see 2012 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3).

I’d heard good things about it, and it’s possible I went into it with my expectations too high.

Oh, it’s certainly a good enough movie: nothing I would advise people not to see. It had some great visuals, and, more importantly, it was fun.

That’s been my real problem with the last two Daniel Craig Bond movies. Although Bond had superior abilities in those, he was such a sad sack, I felt sorry for him. I certainly didn’t want to be Bond…and I didn’t think Bond wanted to be Bond, either.

Skyfall restores the Bond who likes what he does, not ignoring that it’s often difficult emotionally (to put it mildly). He sincerely defends his profession, and his country.

Even though you might not use his skills the same way, you do wish you had them.

There were also some fun callbacks to the 1960s early glory days of James Bond in the movies.

That, actually, was one weird thing to me. The audience all seemed to accept that Daniel Craig was the James Bond who had been active in the Cold War…and was still active today. It’s not just that Craig doesn’t seem like an old guy to me (even though that was how he was treated by some people). It’s that he just literally isn’t old enough for that. The Berlin Wall came down when Daniel Craig was college age…and I doubt Bond would have been an agent at the same time he was playing Nintendo. 😉

It just doesn’t make mathematical sense that Daniel Craig would be the icon of Cold War espionage.

However, no one seemed to question that…and that was a good thing. Everybody was along for the ride in the crowded theatre in which we saw the movie.

There were some flaws for me. There was a sequence which, while conceptually appropriate as a tribute to early Bond movies, had some really unconvincing CGI work. I expected more from Javier Bardem as a Bond villain…people really saw it as a comedy part, the way it was played. There seems like an obvious hole in the plot very early on (although possibly excusable), and the narrative wasn’t always clear. I say that because there was a point that my Significant Other and I discussed afterwards, and we are usually really good at following the narrative.

I’m carefully avoiding spoilers here, because that is part of the thrill of a movie like this. Maybe I’ll discuss some of the plot points more thoroughly later. 🙂

My bottom line: it was a fun movie, and looked great. Bond’s Tom Ford suits were spectacular, and Daniel Craig was always a properly imposing figure. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it nominated for cinematography. I didn’t find myself very involved with the characters, though, and that meant that it was less emotionally impactful. That can certainly be okay, but it seemed like they were trying to get us to care about them.

One last note: I heard someone saying that you couldn’t bring kids to it, but I think the PG-13 rating is appropriate. It’s not any more explicit (either in terms of nudity or violence) than, say, Goldfinger, in my opinion.

I would probably put it in the lower end of the top third of Bond movies. Worth seeing, but not entirely there yet.

I’d also say I suspect it may grow on me over time. 🙂

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

You may also find my review of the original James Bond novel, Casino Royale,  interesting.

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

Is 2012 the best movie year since 1939?

November 10, 2012

Is 2012 the best movie year since 1939?

Many movie buffs consider 1939 the best movie year ever, and there are a lot of good arguments for that. We still quote The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, and that barely scratches the surface.

There are so many memorable and distinctive movies from that year that I even once threw a 1939 films party…and the guests all had no trouble coming dressed as a character from that year (I gave them a list, but they were still able to find something that suited them).

I’ve written before about 1984 as a contender, but I honestly think that you could do a 2012 films party thirty years from now, and really make it work.

The year is far from over, but just think about the costume possibilities with these:

  • The Three Stooges gives you a group costume, and an easy one…it would also appeal to people who like several other eras
  • Resident Evil: Retribution gives you zombies
  • Savages is that obscurity, but one that had distinctive looks…the fact that it is directed by Oliver Stone makes it easy to explain to people
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance could make for a really cool costume, especially with effects that might be available then…and the comic might mean that people knew the character, even if they didn’t know that movie
  • Wreck-It Ralph is rife with possibilities!
  • Madea’s Witness Protection: I think people will know the Madea character for some time
  • Looper might be obscure by then, but it could be that Rian Johnson has a significant career
  • Dark Shadows lets the Johnny Depp fans have a go (and yes, I think Johnny Depp will be a well-know star for decades)
  • Magic Mike: paaaaarty!
  • Prometheus (although I’m not sure people would know what it was, there are those sexy spacesuits to attract folks)
  • Snow White and the Huntsmen was distinctively visual
  • Men in Black III makes for simple costumes…glasses, anyone?
  • Dr. Suess’ the Lorax
  • Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (rainbow wigs, natch)
  • Ted (for the wild partygoer)
  • Hotel Transylvania (another one that lets you re-use costumes)
  • Brave (it will have been re-released several times by then…if people are still going to movie theatres on the theatre’s schedule)
  • The Hunger Games: the starter for a series, and a huge hit
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild (perfect if you bring a kid…)
  • The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises

Starting today and through the rest of the year, we’ll have several more good costume ideas, including: Skyfall; The Hobbit; The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2; Life of Pi; Rise of the Guardians (re-purpose that Santa suit); Hyde Park on the Hudson; Les Miserables; The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey; and Django Unchained.

There are also plenty of catchphrases…here are a few:

  • “May the odds be ever in your favor.”
  • “Avengers assemble!” (even if it wasn’t said in the movie, it will still count)
  • “You have my permission to die.”

The box office total for the top ten movies of 2012 has already smashed that of 2011, and it’s going to grow.

What do you think? Is this one of the best movie years ever? Feel free to let me know by commenting on this post.

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

My take on…Looper

November 8, 2012

My take on…Looper

I love a good time travel story, and even some not so good ones. 🙂

While there can be fun in the simple anachronisms of it (say, The Final Countdown or A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court), I especially like it when someone thinks through the twists and turns (Back to the Future is a great example).

Looper, directed and written by Rian Johnson, brings you both an adventure movie, and a thoughtful one.

I think you could largely kick back and just enjoy it, but if you are like me and find your mind trying to work through the possibilities of a movie as they unfold, this movie will also satisfy you.

I often say my favorite thing in entertainment is to be surprised, and Looper accomplishes that.

Johnson also gives me a case study to use in explaining how you can tell what good directing is.

One of the things is consistency in the performances. Is everybody on the same level, going for the same feel? That’s directing. We’ve all seen movies where somebody’s performance is out of place, and that’s not happening here.

There are several strong performances (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, and especially five-year old Pierce Gagnon), but no scene stealing star turns. Everybody’s performance is geared towards supporting the story…and again, the director gets credit for that. The individual actors can’t always have the big picture, and may not know what the real tone is: the director does.

That unity does not just happen with the actors, but with the staging…even though things take place in several times, nothing jars.

Another sign of good directing? Pacing. In many movies, you find yourself in slow patches, and that didn’t happen for me or for my Significant Other here.

In terms of a movie being good, one thing for me is if I find myself spontaneously thinking about it afterwards. That’s certainly happened here. I’m very careful about spoilers, so I’ll just say that there is one particular scene which is both unpleasant and intellectually cool that may haunt you. You’ll know which one afterwards. 🙂

Is it a perfect movie? No, but it’s a good movie, and really original. I’ll be looking for other things from Rian Johnson in the future (and, um, in the past? My timeline may still be confused). 😉

I also want to mention that this is a success for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not only does this (along with The Dark Knight Rises) put JGL on our 2012 Most Valuable Players list, but the actor was also an Executive Producer on it. Even though it’s not a blockbuster, with a reported budget of $30 million, and dogro (domestic gross) of $63 million (and more than $130 million worldwide), it’s a solid moneymaker.

You may have to seek it out a bit, but I recommend it. Don’t expect it to be your favorite movie ever, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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


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