Archive for February, 2014

Harold Ramis reported dead

February 24, 2014

Harold Ramis reported dead

Harold Ramis will be fondly remembered by us as the geekiest of the Ghostbusters, Dr. Egon Spengler. While Venkman may have been the “front man”, it was Spengler who warned about crossing the streams, and who used the Twinkie analogy.

Harold Ramis also co-wrote Ghostbusters…and Groundhog Day, another geek crossover hit, which Ramis also directed. Ramis directed Caddyshack, Multiplicity, and the Brendan Fraser version of Bedazzled.

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


2014 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

February 21, 2014

2014 BOPMadness (Bufo’s Oscar Prediction Madness)

For more than twenty years, I’ve been doing an Oscar prediction contest.

Important note: there is no fee to play the  game, and we only play for that most valuable of human possessions…bragging rights. 

We do ours a bit differently than most. You rank every nominee, and then you get the number of points you assigned to the winner.

For example, there are five nominees for Actor in a Leading Role. You would assign the one you thought the Academy was most likely to pick (not necessarily the one you thought most deserved it) with a 5. Your second most likely would be a 4, and so on.

For the first time this year, we are using SurveyMonkey, rather than Excel.

That means you can play anonymously, if you prefer…we also think many people may find it easier.

There are three surveys (we are currently limited to no more than ten questions per survey):

Big Six and Screenwriting:

Design and Appearance:

Whole Movies and Music

If you would like to be recognized as a winner of the Big Six (the acting awards, Best Picture, and Best Director), the Incredibly Difficult Maven Section (everything else), and/or Overall, you’ll have the opportunity at the site to enter your name (that will not be public). If you’d like to receive future communications about BOPMadness, you can also enter your e-mail address there (again, that will not be public).

If you have any questions, you can comment this post. If you’d like your comment to remain private, please let me know in the comment.

We will post the group predictions here before the Oscar ceremony on Sunday, March 2nd.

The more people who play, the more accurate we tend to be…feel free to share this with anyone you think would like to participate.

See you in the movies!

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

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

Drone, Speed Racer, drone!

February 16, 2014

Drone, Speed Racer, drone!

A small UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) is launched into the air to do photographic  reconnaissance  of the other side. It’s capable of carrying a light payload, and through a homing signal, can return to a pre-programmed location on its own.

Who built it?

The CIA? Boston Dynamics? The NSA?

“Pops” Racer.

That’s right…”Speed” Racer’s father built a drone into the Mach 5 race car.

There have been other cases where a geeky show appears to have inspired a real-world technology (cellphones and the communicators on Star Trek, for example), but this is one where, seen in retrospect, it’s an amazing prediction of the technology and the use of it.

Speed’s car has a number of special gadgets…or perhaps, an “alphabet” of them would be a better description. Speed pushes a letter on the steering wheel to invoke these special capabilities, as detailed in this

YouTube video

Letter G, the largest and central button, launches the “homing robot”, a bird-shaped drone.

Outside of its biomorhphization, it is functionally very similar to drones we have today, nearly fifty years after the cartoon first aired in the USA.

Once launched, it is remote-controlled by a joystick…and just like today, it takes a skilled pilot/operator. A crook tries operating it, and first crashes it (although it survives the impact, which might not be true of many of today’s drones).

A separate button, labeled “H” and not on the steering wheel, gives it a “return home” command, which it presumably does with limited artificial intelligence.

While I was certainly familiar with both Speed Racer and real-world drones, what suddenly gave me the epiphany connecting the two was news reports about Renault’s concept car…which comes with a drone! That’s when it hit me…a car-launched drone is, for all intents and purposes, Speed Racer’s homing robot.

Time article by Doug Aamoth

Well, maybe not all purposes…Speed’s drone wasn’t weaponized, although it was sometimes used that way (mostly by just flying it into something or someone).

We have the drone: are the tree cutting buzzsaws coming out on next year’s model? 😉

Speed Racer: original first episodes on DVD at Amazon (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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

Sid Caesar reported dead

February 13, 2014

Sid Caesar reported dead

Sid Caesar was one of those unique comic talents who could do a thousand things well…but didn’t have to do anything to be funny.

He could just give you a look, and that was it.

That ability made him a great partner on screen. He didn’t need the funny lines to make it work, and he knew it.

That doesn’t mean he didn’t do elaborate characters. One notably geek-friendly part was that of “The Professor” (who had a variety of different names), an expert on, well, everything (and on obvious inspiration for Ludwig Von Drake).

He smashed into our living rooms doing live (!) comedy as the star of Your Show of Shows…that’s still my first thought when I hear his name. It was a brilliant show of wild inventiveness.

Geek-friendly roles include:

  • Nick Lucifer (the devil himself) in General Electric Theater
  • A TV movie version of The Mouse That Roared
  • William Castle’s The Busy Body
  • William Castle’s The Spirit Is Willing
  • Good Heavens (a TV series with Carl Reiner as an angel)
  • Curse of the Black Widow (with Patty Duke and June Lockhart)
  • Neil Simon’s The Cheap Detective (a noir parody)
  • America 2100 (a science fiction comedy)
  • Please Don’t Eat the Planet (AKA Intergalactic Thanksgiving)
  • The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu
  • Thanksgiving in Oz (as the Wizard)
  • The Munsters’ Revenge
  • Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part 1 (Brooks had been a writer on Your Show of Shows)
  • Amazing Stories
  • Alice in Wonderland (as the Gryphon…1985 TV movie with Red Buttons, Sammy Davis, Jr…and Scott Baio)
  • Stoogemania
  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • Comic Book: The Movie

Good-bye, Sid Caesar…the world has one less genius without you.

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

Shirley Temple reported dead

February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple reported dead

Shirley Temple defined the term “child star”.

She did it not by separating the two concepts, but by integrating them.

There is no question that the singing/dancing/acting Shirley Temple was a star. At the height of her popularity, there was Shirley Temple merchandise galore. In the 1930s, she headlined popular movies, including Curly Top, The Little Colonel, and Heidi.

In all of these, her appeal included how much the quintessential child she was. She smiled, she cried, she questioned…movie audiences didn’t love her because she was a kid who could do things beyond her years, as we often see now. She was acting her age, albeit in a remarkably talented way.

Although she already had twenty movie credits by that time, I associate her earliest work with Stand Up and Cheer. It’s arguably speculative fiction, with the President creating a “Secretary of Amusement” position to get the country back into a good mood after the depression (for economic reasons, in part). Shirley is one of the successes of the fictional program: adorable entertainment as economic engine.

As an adult, she would again be involved with politics. She ran for Congress against Pete McCloskey, one of my sibling’s godparents. She did  ambassadorial  work, including as the ambassador to Ghana.

Shirley Temple had a few geek-friendly roles, but missed out on one of the biggest: studio politics kept her out of starring in the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie.

Geek-friendly credits include:

  • The Blue Bird, which was a big-budget fantasy the year after The Wizard of Oz
  • Shirley Temple’s Storybook, a TV series which she hosted and in several episodes, appeared…including playing Ozma in a Land of Oz adaptation, and the Little Mermaid

Good-bye, Shirley Temple…the world is less lovably child-like without you.

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

Philip Seymour Hoffman reported dead

February 2, 2014

Philip Seymour Hoffman reported dead

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s characters often defined “world-weary”.

It often seemed that what others considered to be the normal way that life worked was a burden, and it was an effort even to discuss it.

Hoffman’s performance as Truman Capote was one of the most lauded ever, winning the actor an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA award, and a SAG award, along with many others.

As Plutarch Heavensbee, Hoffman was a featured player in the highest domestic-grossing movie of 2013, and was scheduled to play the role in the remaining two movies in the series.

Other geek friendly work includes:

  • Leap of Faith (starring Steve Martin as an alleged faith healer)
  • My Boyfriend’s Back (zomcom)
  • Magnolia
  • Red Dragon
  • Mission:Impossible III (for which Hoffman was nominated for a Saturn Award)
  • Charlie Kaufman’s Synedoche, New York
  • The Invention of Lying (Ricky Gervais)
  • The Master (one of four Oscar nominations: Capote (winner); Charlie Wilson’s War; Doubt; and The Master)

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

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