Archive for March, 2013

“Which hero were you calling, sir?”

March 31, 2013

“Which hero were you calling, sir?”

Let’s face it…we all have times when it might be nice to call a hero to rescue us.

However, they aren’t all equally appropriate in all circumstances. If an asteroid is about to crash into the Earth, the Lone Ranger isn’t going to do you much good. 😉

Here are some pop culture lines about when (or how) you call a particular hero…how many do you know? I’ll post the answers in the next few days. Feel free to guess by commenting on this post, but please, do not look them up first. That’s not trivia: that’s just research. 🙂

Who do you call…

  1. …when criminals in this world appear and break the laws that they should fear?
  2. …when the FBI is helpless?
  3. …when it looks like you will take a lickin’?
  4. …when there’s something strange in your neighborhood?
  5. …any time there’s a rumble out West?
  6. …when things get rough?
  7. …when the going gets tough?
  8. …when there’s a hold-up in the Bronx?
  9. …when all my dreams have fallen down?
  10. …when we’ve got some work to do now?
  11. …when your back is to the wall and there’s no one else to call?
  12. …when some crimes go slippin’ through the cracks?
  13. …when there’s trouble, you call…?
  14. …when you need some teenagers with attitude?
  15. …when you need a knight without armor in a savage land?
  16. …wherever there is danger?
  17. …when your signal watch goes zee-zee-zee?
  18. …when there are people crying for help?
  19. …when you need someone to to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless?
  20. …to stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness?

I think some of these are fairly easy, but some may be quite difficult.

Have fun!

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

Trilogy of Terror’s Karen Black crowdfunding her cancer treatment

March 25, 2013

Trilogy of Terror’s Karen Black crowdfunding her cancer treatment

My Significant Other and I were just talking this weekend about Trilogy of Terror this weekend.

That was a TV movie that first ran in 1975, and many of us still remember it…and are still creeped out by the little Zuni doll with the weird teeth and the big knife that hunted a woman in her apartment.

That woman was played by Karen Black, who also played two very different women in the same production.

Here it is, close to four decades later, and we are still remembering it.

I actually went back and re-watched it within the last couple of years, and unlike some things I’d seen decades earlier, it was still effective.

Karen Black has cancer.

She is trying to raise $17,000 for a particular treatment through a campaign

Her husband explains the situation on the website, but I think this is a key paragraph:

“Yes, she was an actress in movies, but most of the high-paying work dwindled out many years ago.  She has a modest pension and medical insurance (thank goodness), but as anyone knows who has fought cancer, that is not enough.  In the last two years we have used up all of our savings keeping Karen alive – traveling – treatments, getting people to help her.  We have nothing left.  And the European treatment is not covered by insurance.”

We see this all too often: someone who had a big impact on our lives, who brought us great entertainment, needing help in later years.

It’s up to you, of course, but I thought you might want to know about it.

Karen Black’s other geek-friendly credits include:

  • The Invaders (a guest spot in 1967)
  • Circle of Fear
  • The Pyx
  • Burnt Offerings
  • The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver
  • Capricorn One
  • Killer Fish (piranhas, and Lee Majors)
  • The Last Horror Film
  • The Hitchhiker
  • The Blue Man
  • Invaders from Mars (the Tobe Hooper remake)
  • Worlds Beyond
  • Faerie Tale Theatre
  • It’s Alive III: Island of the Alive (the killer baby series)
  • The Invisible Kid
  • Out of the Dark
  • Evil Spirits
  • Zapped Again!
  • Night Angel
  • Haunting Fear
  • Mirror Mirror (1990, with Yvonne De Carlo)
  • The Roller Blade Seven (and two sequels)
  • Ralph S. Mouse (a “Mouse and the Motorcycle” TV movie)
  • Children of the Night (vampires)
  • The Double O Kid
  • Dead Girls Don’t Tango
  • Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies
  • Plan 10 from Outer Space
  • The Wacky Adventures of Dr. Boris and Nurse Shirley
  • Dinosaur Valley Girls
  • Children of the Corn: The Gathering
  • The Hunger (TV series…this episode costarred Daniel Craig, Terence Stamp, and Lena Headey
  • Lightspeed (with David Carradine…not the Stan Lee movie)
  • Invisible Dad
  • Soulkeeper
  • Teknolust (Tilda Swinton, Jeremy Davies)
  • Curse of the Forty-Niner
  • House of 1000 Corpses (Rob Zombie writes and directs)
  • Dr. Rage
  • Repo Chick
  • Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
  • Dark Blood
  • Ooga Booga (a comedy horror movie with a clear debt to Trilogy of Terror, released in 2013)

Although she has obviously had a geek-friendly career, she has also had mainstream success. She was nominated for a Supporting Actress Oscar for Five Easy Pieces, and won a Golden Globe for that role and one for The Great Gatsby (and was nominated for The Day of the Locust).

Our guess is that her campaign will succeed, if enough of her fans hear about it. Regardless, we wish Karen Black and her family and friends the best.

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

My take on…Oz the Great and Powerful

March 17, 2013

My take on…Oz the Great and Powerful

Sam Raimi’s new movie does not disrespect Oz, and looks pretty…but the same thing can be said of Anne Hathaway. 😉

I was not disappointed in the movie, but I think that’s because I had my expectations in the right place.

SPOILER ALERT: I’m careful about not spoiling the events in a movie without warning you of the possibility first. In this case, I don’t think I’m writing anything that much affect the enjoyment of someone seeing this movie, especially if that person was familiar with the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie and/or the books.

The movie has great effects (the little china girl and Finley the monkey are quite expressive and interact well with the non-CGI characters). There are some very imaginative things that Oscar Diggs (later to be known as Oz the Great and Powerful) drifts past in something that could clearly eventually be a ride at Disneyland. In fact, there was one object that seemed right out of the old Alice in Wonderland ride, and it seemed as though the music might even be an allusion to that.

Just as his character drifts uncontrollably after taking a big drop on the roller coaster–er, river, the movie as a whole seems to float through the story. Generally, the characters don’t surprise us…they make the decisions we would expect, for the most part.

There is one clear possible exception, although it’s actually spoiled for the sharp-eyed during the title sequence.

The actors don’t seem to be looking for any real depth (which might be ironic in a 3D movie…it’s worthing noting that I saw it in 2D), but that may be appropriate, given the overall tone.

As a big fan of the Oz books, I can tell you that this isn’t particularly closer to those than the 1939 movie (which did not do well at the time…for one thing, people thought that having a well-known comedian like Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, playing it in a very contemporary way for the time, didn’t fit). It was nice to hear the Wizard’s full name mentioned, and there is a village of people made of china in the originals, but these elements seemed more like something that could have been Googled than a fan’s understanding of the Land of Oz. Certainly, the politics are very different.

If you are a fan of the Judy Garland version, you may actually feel more of a connection. Much has been made of Disney trying not to infringe on the copyright of that version (the original fourteen Oz books are in the public domain, but the 1939 movie is not), but there are several clear parallels (including starting without color before reaching Oz, the Wicked Witch being green, the reference to the Yellow Brick Road ((Baum only says, “…the road of yellow bricks”)), and so on.

I should point out that while I said the movie doesn’t direspect Oz, and I sincerely believe it doesn’t, it does spoil the first movie for you. That’s one of the hardest pure discoveries to give anybody…to have them watch the Judy Garland version for the first time without knowing what happens at the end, but it’s a magical one if you can.


I’ll point out both Jamie King and Mila Kunis for good performances: they’ve found more than what was on the page.

In terms of Oscars, I do think it could be nominated for costumes, hair and makeup, music perhaps (a fine job as usual by Danny Elfman), visual effects…and there were some impressive things done with sound (at one point, I actually thought someone in the nearly empty theatre was making a sound, which turned out to be a character on the screen).

Overall, I thought Sam Raimi’s heart was in the right place. If this was someone’s first exposure to Oz, I do think it would exert some of its magical pull. For me, though, I don’t see it sticking with me much. I can’t imagine people casually quoting it decades from now. I just think the next great Oz movie is still yet to be made.

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

Malachi Throne reported dead

March 16, 2013

Malachi Throne reported dead

The characters played by Malachi Throne sometimes seemed world-weary…as if they wished you would just knock off all that nonsense and get back to work (but knew there was no way you were going to do that).

Fortunately for geeks, Throne appeared in many works which some might consider to be just that kind of nonsense.

Most people probably got to know the character actor as Noah Bain on the Robert Wagner series, It Takes a Thief, but Throne had an incredibly geek-friendly résumé:

  • The Outer Limits (Cold Hands, Warm Heart)
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
  • Batman (the Adam West series) as False Face
  • I Spy
  • Lost in Space
  • The Wild Wild West
  • The Time Tunnel
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
  • Mission Impossible
  • Land of the Giants
  • Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp
  • Superman (the TV version of the musical)
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • The Krofft Supershow
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
  • Ark II
  • Project U.F.O.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series (Commodore Mendez in The Menagerie, and the voice of The Keeper in The Cage)
  • Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light (narrator)
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation (Senator Pardek)
  • Raven (the ninja series with Jeffrey Meek)
  • Animaniacs (God)
  • M.A.N.T.I.S.
  • Babylon  5 (Centauri Prime Minister)
  • The New Batman Adventures
  • Batman Beyond
  • Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II (Korogh)
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • Gothic 3 (videogame)
  • Green Lantern: First Flight (Ranakar)

Goodbye, Malachi Throne…the world is a little less dignified without you.

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

On the Robot Beat #5

March 15, 2013

On the Robot Beat #5

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.

What could be scary about a robot throwing 35 pound blocks?

I’m a big fan of robots, and especially the Big Dog, but what was Boston Dynamics thinking releasing this video?

Dynamic Robot Manipulation

For those of you who don’t know, Big Dog is a military robot that can carry things…kind of a robotic pack mule.

I showed a video of it to one of my classes, and one of my adult students had a great line: “It looks like two guys carrying a mattress.”

That was based on this video

BigDog Overview

which really showed off its capabilities.

In that one, somebody kicks the robot, and with its self-balancing, it sort of shrugs it off and keeps going. At that point, my students certainly seemed to be sympathetic to the robot.

Later, I was showing this video

LS3 Follow Tight

which shows the Big Dog, well, dogging someone’s footsteps in response to voice commands. It also appears to choose its own path in following.

The reaction to that one? It seems even more alive, even with the somewhat creepy Westworld-esque display of what it sees.

I’m not planning on showing the latest video to classes…it’s too scary. 🙂

The Big Dog picks up a 35 pound (about 16 kilo) block, dances around a bit to get its body into it (like a three-year old trying to throw a ball), and tosses it about 17 feet (about five meters).

It’s just very hard to see that and not think of it as destructive or dangerous…”BigDog smash!”

Why would a human pick up a heavy object and throw it? Certainly, as a weapon is a possibility. It’s also possible you are trying to make the object break when it falls. You could be trying to uncover something quickly, and you can sort of see this in a search and rescue operation…except that it takes so long to get ready to throw it, it would be faster if it just set it aside.

No, I think that one is off the playlist. 😉 This one, which is a music video montage, is better:

BigDog Evolution

Hm…the lyrics do suggest it is going to “blow you to Kingdom come” in the Middle East, though…maybe not.

My take on…Robot Combat League

Giant robot combat is here…for real.

Robot Combat League

It runs Tuesdays at 9:00 PM on Syfy (10:00 PM Central).

Is it good?

Well, I am watching it with interest, but it’s complicated.

This is a reality competition series…each robot is operated by two people. One is the robojockey, and operates the arms. The other is the tech, and operates the legs (and in the case of at least the robot A.X.E., another weapon).

To care about this show, you have to both care about the human teams, and find the robot combat interesting.

The teams have some interesting mixes, and we do get to know their personalities somewhat. They didn’t know each other before the show, generally (there is a father/daughter team…the daughter is the robojockey).

That part is done okay, although I feel like we could get to know the humans better. You can get more information on the website.

As to the fights themselves…I’m hoping they improve as the teams get better at operating them.

At this point, it’s largely a matter of just two big humanoids getting straight up next to each other, and flailing away.

We are seeing some strategy, but not much skill. It’s like two kids in their first karate class fight, just wildly throwing punches and hoping something happens.

Things do happen, and that can give you a bit of a thrill. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve seen a robot decapitated (although that didn’t stop it), and one broken into two pieces. Armor comes off, arms fail, and hydraulic fluid is everywhere.

It still looks largely like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em ROBOTS.

An obvious question for geeks: how does it compare to BattleBots?

It’s missing a couple of key ingredients. These robots aren’t built by the teams running them, so you don’t have that sort of garage engineer vibe. Also, on BattleBots, they zipped around the “ring” a lot, and had a variety of techniques. Would a scoop beat a flipper? It was flashy, it was fun. You might compare it to…one long rugby scrum versus a soccer game.

However, the RCL robots are cool! They are designed by Mark Setrakian, and clearly are actually working fighting robots…they aren’t faking that part of it. They are designed around themes, and it’s intriguing to see Setrakian and the team’s tech (and the pit crew, I think) trying to repair a robot between rounds.

The host is wrestler Chris Jericho, and while he seems enthusiastic, there isn’t much variety yet in his hosting…that may improve over time as well.

One other thing (SPOILER ALERT FOR EARLY EPISODES). They did a sort of quick lightning round in the first episode to set up rankings, and the top ranked fight the bottom ranked (#1 against #12, #2 against #11, that sort of thing). The rankings have been inverse predictors: people who did well without knowing the robots aren’t doing as well as people who didn’t. I suspect those are two very different skill sets. I also think some teams are overthinking it, and overestimating the capabilities of their bots. It’s easy to anthropomorphize them, and treat them like they have human abilities, because they look human. I think if they just looked like garbage cans with a couple of arms and no heads, people wouldn’t have that problem. They’d know it just makes sense to flail, and they wouldn’t be trying to protect “body parts” unnecessarily.

Still, I plan to keep watching.

What do you think of RCL and/or BigDog? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

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

The Spoiler Zone: the real character of the Wizard of Oz

March 3, 2013

The Spoiler Zone: the real character of the Wizard of Oz

Note: this post is going to reveal things about the character of The Wizard of Oz from the L. Frank Baum books, and that will include plot details. If you have not yet read those books and prefer to have that pure feeling of discovery that comes from approaching a work of entertainment with no foreknowledge (which I understand), I’d skip this one until you have read them.

Sam Raimi’s Oz the Great and Powerful opens in the USA on March 8th. As has been the fashion with some movies, it suggests that it sticks closer to the original material than the more famous versions we know already.

As a big fan of Oz, I can tell you that there is an interesting arc for the Wizard that was not at all evident in the wonderful 1939 Judy Garland version, but I’ll actually be surprised if we see much of it here (based partially on the trailers).

Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (he dropped everything except the Oz, because the rest of it spells out “PINHEAD”) was not only pretending to be a powerful wizard, he started out as a bad person.

How bad?

After taking over the throne from the rightful ruler (King Pastoria), Oz hid the king’s daughter away, so she could not threaten his power.

“Her name is Ozma,” answered Glinda. “But where she is I have tried in vain to discover. For the Wizard of Oz, when he stole the throne from Ozma’s father, hid the girl in some secret place; and by means of a magical trick with which I am not familiar he also managed to prevent her being discovered—even by so experienced a Sorceress as myself.”

Simply hiding her away would be one thing, but what he did is beyond what you would expect from a kind, lovable con man.

He gave her to Mombi, a truly evil character.

Glinda eventually forces Mombi to reveal the truth…by threatening to kill her.

“The Wizard brought to me the girl Ozma, who was then no more than a baby, and begged me to conceal the child.”

The Wizard and Mombi met three times: this was a conspiracy, not a spur of the moment action.

The Wizard had stolen a throne, kidnapped an infant, and essentially guaranteed that child a life of servitude with a dreadful master…so he could retain his ill-gotten rule.

Eventually, the character does reform (and L. Frank Baum sort of retcons away the kidnapping…we don’t hear much about it after it is revealed). This is certainly due in part to the benevolent leadership of Ozma, who makes the Wizard part of her inner circle…and even allows him to learn real magic.

There are fascinating politics at work here.

It goes beyond simple forgiveness, because the Wizard (along with Glinda) under Ozma is one of the most well-known and powerful people in the complicated land of Oz.

Part of it may be that the people of the Emerald City respected their Wizard, in addition to fearing him. Making him part of the “cabinet” may have made the transition easier.

That would be a really interesting story to see on screen. How this employee of “Bailum & Barney’s Great Consolidated Shows” (as is stated in the books) ended up in a land and took power, faced the wicked witches, behaved wickedly himself, and eventually became a power figure again under the person he had betrayed and robbed of her destiny…and more importantly, found a way to behave (and believe?) in a positive way.

I suspect, though, there may be more special effects than politics in this version…but I’m willing to wait and see.


You can get the books for free online, but you typically have to download each of the “famous fourteen” individually to do that. If you are willing to spend ninety-five cents (at the time of writing), this one collects all fourteen in one download:

The Complete Wizard of Oz Collection (With Active Table of Contents)

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

Bonnie Franklin reported dead

March 2, 2013

Bonnie Franklin reported dead

In One Day at a Time, Bonnie Franklin was a different kind of TV mom. She was fiercely independent, loving, and like her daughters, undeniably imperfect.

Over the years, she did have some geek-friendly credits.

It’s not just that she appeared in 1954 as Susan Cratchit in a TV version of A Christmas Carol, was on Touched by an Angel, or had a guest spot on The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

She was in an episode of the original series of The Munsters, Herman’s Sorority Caper. Clearly, that experience stuck with her, because more than thirty years later, she directed twelve episodes of The Munsters Today, the John Schuck/Lee Meriwether revival.

Good-bye, Bonnie Franklin…the world is a little less strong without you.

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

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