Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Amazon Charts: 2017 This Year in Books

December 14, 2017

Amazon Charts: 2017 This Year in Books

This is another great example of something which has happened “Because of the Kindle” (I’m writing a book by that name…you can still share your opinions for possible inclusion): Amazon has much better analysis of what readers are actually, you know, reading. ūüėČ

While undeniably, some people find this creepy, your Kindle can save how far you are in a book. By looking at that in the aggregate (not how much did so-and-so read how quickly, but the whole group of people), Amazon can give us an accurate sense of what people read as opposed to what they buy (“bestsellers”).

There are a number of reasons why that information is interesting. It doesn’t just have to do with people buying books they never read: I would say more importantly is what people re-read.

Many people re-read books…a lot. It may also be current events (both in their lives and more globally) that make them want to re-visit a book.

We can see that in this new “article” from Amazon:

Amazon Charts: 2017 This Year in Books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

The top ten most read books are really dominated by the “backlist”, not recently published…some are decades old. #1 is The Handmaid’s Tale and #2 is Stephen King’s It (both driven by media adaptations). “A Game of Thrones” (that’s the title on the cover) is on the top ten…as are four Harry Potter books. Origin by Dan Brown is a recent title…at #9.

I’m guessing that the Harry Potter books and It are being heavily re-read, as opposed to first time readers.

They also give us a breakdown by area of the United States (states/territories). There are some fascinating data there, although it’s a little unclear to me as to when they are measuring reading and when they are measuring sales. I’ll point out that Utah was one of the Top 10 Reading Spots (Kindle reads per capita, it looks like)…but was one of only four where The Handmaid’s Tale wasn’t the top seller (Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer ((at AmazonSmile*)) beat it out there…but Sanderson does have a Utah connection. The book was also a NYT bestseller, and one of the fastest read, according to another section of this article). Two of the other locations where Margaret Atw0od’s book doesn’t top the list are Guam and Puerto Rico. I think what I available through Hulu is different in those territories (not individual programs, but types of services), so that might affect adoption of the app there.

There is a lot more information on that page! I may expand this later…it’s definitely worth checking out!

Let me and my readers know what stands out to you by commenting on this post!

Thanks, Amazon!


You can be part of my next book, Because of the Kindle!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Loren Coleman needs our help

November 24, 2016

Loren Coleman needs our help

It isn’t easy to ask for help.

It can especially be hard when you are known as someone who helps others.

Loren Coleman, the world’s leading cryptozoologist, founder of the

International Cryptozoology Museum

did not contact me personally about his current medical expenses.

He could have: we’ve never met, but we’ve had some correspondence over the years. I always remember decades ago when I started using the term “Weird World”, and Loren contacted me to let me know he had already used it…and to magnanimously tell me I was free to use it. There wasn’t any real public awareness of me at the time; there wasn’t any need for this well-known author and investigator to simply clear that issue for me. It was done out of generosity. I have always used the term “Bufo’s Weird World” since to separate it, but I have always been grateful.

I’m by no means the only person that Loren Coleman has touched in that way.

It’s common to see pictures of visitors to the museum or at other events in smiling pictures with Loren Coleman.

That’s happened during the past few years, despite medical issues.

This is an author and his fans…and a significant author. While I first read Loren Coleman in the paperback editions of The Unidentified and Creatures of the Outer Edge in the mid 1970s (40 years ago), he has continued to be very active to this day, posting on social media, appearing on television documentaries, writing, and running the museum. You can get Loren’s books through Amazon here:

Loren Coleman’s Amazon Author Central page (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping* (the International Cryptozoology Museum is my current beneficiary))

It might surprise you, then, to know that Loren has had to ask for help with medical expenses. You can donate here:

Loren’s Medical Fund

If you can’t give anything, you can promote the campaign from there as well.

This is the man who coined the term “The Dover Demon”, who wrote about “Creepy Clowns” a generation before the current interest, intrigued us with “Phantom Kangaroo” reports and the Fortean “Name¬†Game”,¬†who is an expert on “The Copycat Effect” and suicide clusters, and who is preserving cryptozoological exhibits with a non-profit public museum.

Thank you, Loren, for all that you have done, and I wish you and your family the best in the future.

Note: I give permission for this specific post (Loren Coleman needs out help) to be reproduced freely without prior permission or compensation, in an effort to inform the widest possible group about this situation.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

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‚Äôll 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)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get. :) Shop ‚Äôtil you help! :) By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ 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 blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

On the Circumference #6: AlphaGo, wake me up Echo

March 21, 2016

On the Circumference #6: AlphaGo, wake me up Echo

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Retrofitting TMCGTT


The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

went live at The History Project on February 29th (figuring that would be an easy date to remember), but I haven’t done much promotion of it yet (outside of my own blogs).

The History Project has mentioned it, as did Len Edgerly of

The Kindle Chronicles

also tweeted about it.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of work on it. Part of it is adding new things (you can see what I’ve been adding by following the special Twitter account I set up for it, @TMCGTT). However, the biggest work lately has been “retrofitting” earlier entries.

I started out just copying in a bunch of events from

The Measured Circle Pop Culture Timeline

However, I later decided I wanted the entries to be interactive: I want you, when I can, legally, to be able to jump from an entry to being able to read a book/magazine/comic, watch a movie/TV show, listen to a radio show, and so on.

If that’s not the case, I want you to be able to use it as a portal, to jump to news (Google news search, Twitter search…).

Where I can find public domain pictures, I’ve been adding at least one of those as well.

So, I’ve been going back to existing entries…it takes a while.

I could probably improve entries forever, so I set myself a date for when I’ll start promoting it a bit outside my circle (so to speak).

That will be April 2nd.

I may compose an announcement, but I will at least follow some Twitter accounts (The Mary Sue, Entertainment Weekly…)

Go, Go Gadget AI!

When I work with people on their use of technology, I like to explain what they should expect the computer to do best and what the human should do best.

What computers do better than we do is the same thing over and over again. People are terrible at that.

What humans do better than computers, hypothetically, is make decisions.

So, if you find yourself doing the same thing over and over again, or if there are specific rules that govern what should be done, let the computer do it. If a decision has to be made, you should do it.

However, as I like to point out, computers are getting better at making decisions…and arguably, we are getting worse at doing the same thing over and over again. ūüėČ

That’s why they are catching up to us. ūüôā

We saw that recently when Google’s Deep Mind AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, a human champion, in Go:

Nature post by Mark Zastrow

Yes, Lee did win one of the best of five match…there has been a lot of analysis of what happened there, but maybe AlphaGo just didn’t want to appear to be too powerful. ūüėČ

I used to manage a gamestore, and Go players were serious and sure that their game was more difficult than chess. One argument they would make: you can be a chess prodigy in your teens, but you a Go prodigy in your 50s. ūüôā

Indiana Jones 5

After great success in the Force Awakens, Harrison Ford will star in

Indiana Jones 5

which is scheduled to be released on July 19, 2019. Ford will have just turned 77.

There have been a lot of jokes about Harrison Ford’s age…because, you know, that wouldn’t get you reprimanded by HR at work. ūüėČ

Look, I like that a character like Indiana Jones can age. Why cut off all those possible stories at a certain age? You can always go back and do younger stories again if you want.

In the world of Alexa…

Some short points about the  Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and the Alexa Voice Service:

  • “I’m okay, you’re da-DING”: I’ve seen a lot of complaints about this, and I certainly preferred it the old way. When I now ask our Echo to use our home automation to turn a light on or off (for example), instead of a charming “Okay”, it makes a two-beat sound. They should at least give us the option…I like that my Echo talks to me; that’s one of the main points. I don’t think there’s any technical reason for it, because she still verbally responds to my requests which go to IFTTT (If This Then That)
  • You can now set recurring alarms! That’s great for me…I’m sometimes exercising when my alarm goes off on my tablet, and I have to break my routine to stop it. Now, I can just do it verbally
  • There are now 40 (!) pages of skills! You can also choose to just look at the skills you’ve enabled, if you like
  • For more information on the Echo and Alexa, see¬†The Measured Circle‚Äôs Echo Central

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* 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! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


Casey Kasem is missing

May 14, 2014

Casey Kasem is missing

You may be able to help.

Legendary DJ and voice artist (Shaggy on Scooby Doo; Robin on more than a decade of Batman cartoons) Casey Kasem is missing, according to his daughters in this

CNN video

Kasem reportedly suffers from DLB (Dementia with Lewy bodies), and therefore may not be able to communicate well or make plans which could help authorities recover him.

He may be in the company of his wife, Jean Kasem, who is an actor who appeared in Ghostbusters, but is probably best known as Loretta Tortelli in Cheers and its spin-off, The Tortellis.

If you believe you have information on Mr. Kasem’s whereabouts, you are asked to report that to the local police.

We appreciate Casey Kasem’s contributions to geek culture, and wish him the best in this situation.

Update: Casey Kasem has been found safe by authorities in the state of Washington:

CNN article


New! Try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

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

On the Circumference #5: Batkid, Doc Savage movie update

November 15, 2013

On the Circumference #5: Batkid, Doc Savage movie update

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Doc Savage movie still in the works

I first wrote about a new Doc Savage movie more than three and a half years ago. Movies languish, but interestingly, Shane Black is not only still involved with this one, but gave a recent interview (in September of this year) on the progress


Since 2010, Shane Black has made a little $400 million dogro (domestic gross) movie, Iron Man 3…which should give him a bit more clout in the decision making about Doc Savage.

Clearly, there are still decisions to be made.

One concern he expresses in the video linked in the article above, is Doc’s…perfectness.

I can give you the easy insight into that one (hope you see this, Mr. Black).

Doc doesn’t think he is perfect: other people do. That’s similar to two of my other fictional heroes: Mr. Spock and Kwai Chang Caine. It was quite a revelation for me when I realized that they are all emotionally repressed, all extraordinary fighters…and all believe themselves to be failures.

For Doc, you can see that in how he adopts his “no-kill” policy…that’s the root of the character.

Doc also knows about his inability to connect to people (especially women…he can always tell when a man is lying, and can’t tell when a woman is lying) very well.

That’s the key: Doc isn’t brave because he believes he is infallible, or distant because he thinks he is above other people. He is brave because he feels he owes the world for his mistakes, and he probably honestly feels that it might be better off without him (although he rationally knows that’s not the case). He is distant because of insecurity with others, not because of a sense of superiority.

No release date set yet…

Bill Hader: #1 with a meatball

Thanks to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 breaking $100m dogro, Bill Hader has debuted at #1 on our

2013 The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs list

with almost $725 million in dogro this year (only counting movies that dogroed at least $40 million).

The next four were all in Iron Man 3, while Hader is Marvel-free this year.

Batkid save Lou Seal!

I love this story!

A five-year old Make-a-Wish kid wanted to be Batman…and a city in my area, San Francisco, went all out to make it happen. You can see some of the coverage here:

KGO ABC 7 story
KGO ABC 7 photos

although there has been (in my opinion, appropriately) national coverage of it.

Thousands turned out to cheer on the superhero as he rescued the Giants’ mascot from the Penguin, dealt with the Riddler and the Joker, and the Mayor and the Police Chief were involved.

That’s the power of geekery!

Set your reminders for December 2015

Well, this release schedule won’t last, but December 2015 is currently scheduled to be a great month for geeks in the movie theatres!

  • December 11: Alvin and the Chipmunks 4
  • December 18: Inferno (Robert Langdon), Star Wars: Episode VII, Warcraft (based on the World of Warcraft)
  • December 18: Kung Fu Panda 3, Mission:Impossible 5

I don’t think there is any way they will actually open Warcraft against Star Wars…and guess who will have to move? ūüėČ

And on TV…

Will these make it to series?

  • A TV series based on Ghost (pottery wheel opening credits optional)
  • A TV series based on 12 Monkeys
  • A TV series based on The Exorcist
  • Tales from the Darkside reboot
  • Flash reboot
  • And inevitably…a reboot of Reboot¬†(it’s coming up on its 20 year anniversary…really)

Robot just doing its job…

There seems to be a lot of effort to make this sound like a terrible thing. According to this

SFGate article by Henry K. Lee

and other sources, a Muni (public transit) driver stepped out of the vehicle…and it decided to just keep going on to the next stop.

It was on auto mode (driving itself), and we’ve been assured it would simply have continued doing what it was supposed to do, including stopping and opening the doors for people to exit.

Naturally, anti-robotic activists want to make this sound horrible. It was suggested that the robot wouldn’t have stopped if there was a person on the tracks.

Well, that’s easy: they should have collision avoidance systems.

However, if they did, they might not need human drivers at all…and there are people who wouldn’t want that to happen, which I can understand. I also understand the passengers having been frightened, since they didn’t know what was happening (and pulled the emergency stop…which worked).

We’ll get used to the idea of driverless vehicles before too long. According to this

The Verge article by Rich McCormick

Britain already has employed driverless cars, and there are plans for more in more places.

Google was leading the way (and may still be, for cars that would drive the same streets with human drivers), but the USA could fall behind on this if we aren’t careful.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

On the Circumference #4: Keep on Rowling, more than twice as many Americans believe UFOs could be ETs than believe in non-divine evolution?

September 13, 2013

On the Circumference #4: Keep on Rowling, more than twice as many Americans believe UFOs could be ETs than believe in non-divine evolution?*

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Everything old is new again

Despite our analysis showing that original movies may actually be less risky (you can get a higher percentage return on your dollar) than sequels, sidequels, and remakes, we will continue to see them.


For one thing, they can make gross more, even if the risk is higher. When we look at movies based on their dogro (domestic gross), every single one of them over $200 million so far this year is a non-original. That’s attractive to investors, and is great for ancillary sales, like toys and video streaming rights. A higher gross means more people see it (and know about it), so if you think of the movie as marketing for the ancillaries, big is better.

For another, some of the best, most beloved movies have been non-originals. Rebooting/reimagining can be just as artistically satisfying as doing something original.

So, what is some of the news in S/PSR (Sequels/Prequels Sidequels Remakes)?

  • The fourth Jurassic Park movie (Jurassic World) now has a release date of June 12, 2015. ¬†Don’t be too quick to dismiss this one, in terms of geek values. The director is Colin Trevorrow of Safety Not Guaranteed, which is one of the movies I’ve recommended to people a few times in the last couple of years. Even though it was imperfect, it was interesting and had a deft hand and a geeky perspective
  • From Jurassic World to a¬†Westorld remake…HBO has ordered a pilot from J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot, to be written and directed by Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest, The Dark Knight)
  • There are some ways to judge the extent of fandom for something. Does it have a Wikia? How many page views is it getting on Wikipedia? ( How much is there about it at None of those would suggest that The Fall Guy with Lee Majors is especially ripe for a big screen remake, but according to this Hollywood Reporter article by Borys Kit, Tatiana Siegel, McG and Dwayne Johnson might be making one

J.K. Rowling and the Potterless Screenplay

Harry Potter fans can look forward to a sidequel based on Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, according to this

The Hollywood Reporter article by Andy Lewis

The movie will actually be written by Rowling, and should feature magizoologist Newt Scamander’s treks to observe and record magical beasts, which could certainly have some interesting cryptozoological allusions. The movie will reportedly take place 70 years before the Harry Potter books (before the first one, I presume) so you won’t see the familiar characters…except, perhaps, a young Dumbledore. The book (which¬†¬†benefited¬†¬†charity) included marginalia from the Potter kids, so we might get some sort of commentary from them…I’m thinking that might be fun on the DVD, where they could use the original actors without worrying about aging or requiring too much of their time.

HuffPo: “48 Percent Of Americans Believe UFOs Could Be ET Visitations”

This Huffington Post article by Lee Spiegel

reports a new poll conducted by the HuffPo and YouGov which indicates that 48% of American respondents at least slightly agree that “some people have witnessed UFOs that have an extraterrestrial origin.”

It’s an odd wording that allows for a lot of flexibility in interpretation.

For example, some people have apparently identified Mars, Venus, and even the moon as UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects). If you have heard those stories, you would agree with the statement in the poll…it doesn’t say that these are extraterrestrial craft.

On the other hand, you could believe that people have seen something in the sky outside our current paradigm and not believe it was extraterrestrial: it could have been a time traveler, extradimensional, from the hollow Earth, a psychic projection, or simply truly unidentified by you. In all of those cases (and there are others), you would not agree with them having an extraterrestrial origin.

They didn’t put it in the headline, but they also asked a question about ghosts…and that one came out with 60% agreeing that people have experienced ghosts. That’s considerably higher than the UFO positive responses.

I would probably have answered “not sure” to both questions, since saying that you are “sure” indicates a belief in something to me, and I like to keep an open mind.

TV: Heroes of Cosplay

I have been watching Heroes of Cosplay on Syfy, although it is a bit unusual.

It’s been sort of paired with Face Off, but they even the same kind of show.

Face Off is a competition elimination reality show…the contestants are given challenges, and the weakest result goes home each week.

Heroes of Cosplay is more of a documentary. The cosplayers (people who dress in costumes which, in this case, they make, and act like the characters they represent…costumed play) go from con to con to compete in the convention’s costume contests.

It’s a bit weird: it’s entirely possible that none of the people we have been following will win.

Seeing their personalities and some about how they build the costumes has it’s attractions. However, thinking of it as a story doesn’t really work. It’s sort of like…following all the characters from the Avengers, and then when something happens, the police just show up and arrest the crook.

I can appreciate the artistry, but the cosplayers can be quite…unpleasant to each other. They clearly can’t be making money just on the contests, since the top prize I’ve heard announced is $1,000, and it is likely to cost more than that to make the costume (I’m guessing $500 in some cases) and travel to the con and stay in the hotel room and such.

Of course, the producers of the show may be helping with expenses…and no question that there is an observer effect in play here. We aren’t exactly watching the cosplayers as they would normally behave: they know the cameras are there, and I think they have been trying things that are atypical for them because they think it makes better TV.

I want to be clear that I admire their art. I’ve done some fun Halloween costumes, and I did watch all 5 Planet of the Apes movies in a movie theatre…in an ape suit. I used to do some special effects make up (nothing as fancy as you see nowadays). It’s just that, for the most part, it seems like they aren’t having a lot of fun…and that’s kind of the point, right?

* My headline is a bit of an overstatement, as I explained above, concerning the origin of UFOs…that’s why the question mark is there. According to another YouGov poll, only 21% (less than half of the 48% cited in the UFO poll) believe human beings evolved in a non-God-guided process

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

On the Circumference #3: 3-D scanning, Batfleck

August 25, 2013

On the Circumference #3: 3-D scanning, Batfleck

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Recent passings

We were sorry to hear of the passing of these contributors to geek-friendly movies and TV:

  • Karen Black, August 8¬†: we had written on March 25 about Karen Black crowdfunding her cancer treatment. At the time, I noted how impactful Trilogy of Terror had been, and that was only one of her geek-friendly credits
  • Dennis Farina, July 22: Farina was deservedly cited for his work on Law & Order in mainstream obituaries. For geeks, he is also known for having voiced Wildcat (Ted Grant), a Silver Age costumed hero who appeared twice in the animated Justice League series
  • Richard Griffiths, March 28: ¬†Griffiths was one of our¬†2011 Box Office MVPs for his work in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, and Hugo, but may be best known to geeks as Uncle Vernon Dudsley from the Harry Potter movies
  • Haji, August 9: A star of Russ Meyers’¬†Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!,¬†Haji also appeared in Robert Slatzer’s Bigfoot versus bikers movie (called simply Bigfoot) opposite John Carradine, Wham! Bam! Thank you, Spaceman, and the Double-D Avenger
  • Gilbert Taylor, August 23: Some of the most visually stunning geek movies have Gilbert Taylor to thank for the cinematography: Star Wars; The Omen; and Flash Gordon (1980) (among others). Taylor had also worked on several episodes of the ¬†John Steed The Avengers

Ben Affleck cast as Batman

There has been a lot of controversy about the recent casting of Ben Affleck as Batman for the 2015 Batman vs. Superman movie.

Joss Whedon and others have made statements in support of the choice (Hollywood Reporter article by Sophie Shillaci), while some fans have started petitions and social media campaigns against the choice.

Personally, I’m not happy about the decision, but I wish the production success with it.

My concern is that it is difficult (but not impossible) for a celebrity to successfully play a superhero. After all, superheroes are already celebrities…we know their strengths and their weaknesses, their social habits, and all about their love lives (if any). I think Ben Affleck is a good actor (and a great director, by the way), and can probably craft a good enough performance as Batman/Bruce Wayne. I just think that you can’t help but see Ben Affleck, and that’s going to overlay our perceptions of the character.

Think about the most culturally impactful portrayals of superheroes. Quick, what was Hugh Jackman doing before Wolverine? Christopher Reeve? Adam West, for that matter?

They were all actors, with screen credits…but they weren’t really celebrities. The average person didn’t walk into the theatre feeling like they knew all about them.

One could present a couple of counter arguments. Michael Keaton was on the A-List (with a recent big hit starring in Beetlejuice) when he first donned the cowl. However, while the Tim Burton movie really did reboot the character, was Keaton’s portrayal embraced by the fans? How often do you see Keaton Batman cosplay at a convention?

Now, there is no denying that Robert Downey, Jr. was a tabloid figure before Iron Man. I’ll give you that one, even if it was a big turning point in his career. I think one reason for that is that the Tony Stark character was not that far from the Downey mythos. That wasn’t a big case of cognitive dissonance.

Do we think of Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman like? I’d say we don’t…I certainly don’t think of him as an upper class sophisticate.

I also understand the feeling that Ben Affleck had a chance at playing a superhero (Daredevil), and that wasn’t the most successful one for Marvel. Other actors have played more than one superhero, but it’s as rare and hard to do as playing two professional sports at the highest level.

I would rather have seen an unknown or little-known in the part, but I’ll hope for the best.

Did anyone check with Andre Delambre on this one? ūüėČ

Okay, one of the high-tech innovations I haven’t used (or even seen in person) yet is a 3-D printer.

It still sounds to me like the replicator, or in some ideas of how they worked, the transporter. The latter is usually thought of as actually beaming the component parts (physically transporting something), but there is a pattern of the person stored, and they can be “reconstructed” from that. Another idea (things weren’t all that well explained in the beginning) is that the object was disassembled to determine its make-up, and then the pattern was used to create a replica in a distant location from locally available materials.

In reality, I think the 3-D printer works more like the Creepy Crawlers Thingmaker. The material out of which the shape is made doesn’t have to have any special similarities to the material of the original (that’s why, as Makerbot helpfully explains, you can’t print a 3-D hamburger and then eat it).

However, it is still somewhat mind-blowing. ūüėČ

The next thing from Makerbot is the


being released in mid-October.

You’ll be able to scan an object, and then 3-D print it.

It certainly appears to me that I could scan it in Los Angeles and have somebody print it in New York.

Not only that, they cheerfully tell you that you can alter the pattern: scan a garden gnome, and add a hat or more beard, for example.

They also explain that it isn’t designed to scan and reproduce living things…

What’s the opposite of cryptozoology?

The “discovery” of the olinguito recently got a great deal of coverage, some of it a bit…well, inexact, perhaps.

It’s a cute little mammal…sort of looks like a kinkajou, but only a couple of pounds…perhaps a quarter of the weight of your small housecat!

This, however, isn’t like traditional cryptozoology. There weren’t a lot of reports of it and no specimens…there were specimens with no reports. Those are specimens in museums, and even a living one that was shipped from zoo to zoo because it didn’t get along with the “other olingos”…when it wasn’t one.

It took someone noticing that the remains in museums weren’t actually from an olingo to get the ball rolling.

Loren Coleman article

This is not the first time an animal has been discovered in a museum.

For example, something similar happened with the bonobo, a species of great ape that had been misidentified as a small chimpanzee. In reality, chimps and bonobos behavior is pretty different…with the very active and…let’s call it flexible sex lives of the latter being commonly referenced.

Because humans have proven to be such reliable decision makers…

This article by Troy Moon

has a great video and accompanying text about the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition having received a humanoid robot (an “Atlas” model) since they won a contest…no, they didn’t have to send in boxtops. ūüėČ

They are going to compete, in December 2014, in a DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) test that puts humanoid robots into real life situations.

I have to say, Atlas reminds me a bit of Tobor the Great…I think it’s the general bulkiness. However, I do think Atlas looks cooler, with some sort of Whovian-looking panel on the chest.

In the video, they make a point that they don’t do artificial intelligence, which I think is supposed to be reassuring (this is a big, powerful robot). I think I’d be more comfortable with something that feels it has a personal stake in its interactions (as opposed to something that can be very low risk for its controller), but that might just be me. ūüėČ

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

On the Circumference #2: Batman vs. Superman, how smart is AI?

August 6, 2013

On the Circumference #2: Batman vs. Superman, how smart is AI?

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

New Doctor Who

We are often thrilled watching Doctor Who with the prospect of going anywhere in space and time.

Wouldn’t you think, after a thousand years or so, the Doctor would embrace the prospect of being something besides a white British male? ūüėČ

Batman vs. Superman

Perhaps the biggest news to come out of San Diego Comic-Con was that the sequel to Man of Steel was going to be a Batman versus Superman movie.

When I said that to someone, the response I got was, “How does that work?”

The idea that many people have is that Superman is so powerful, and well, Batman is just a human being.

However, it works the same way that Captain Kirk can defeat so many super-powerful beings…you out-smart them, or at least, out-talk them.

As to how two “good guys” would be opposed to each other, that seems obvious to me in this case.

This Superman isn’t like the Superman in the comics (for more information on that, see my post, The Spoiler Zone: the real problem with Man of¬†Steel). Based on the events in Man of Steel, I would be sure that there were people in the government who would like to get the Last Son of Krypton off of this planet, one way or another. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT: the other Kryptonians in that movie are petulant, violent, driven by emotion…and super powerful. Not a good combination.

It’s very easy for me to see a secret decision being made to get rid of Superman, by any means necessary…can’t you just see the military and intelligence leaders gathered in a room discussing it?

General: “Look, this alien is a menace, plain and simple. He may look human, but he sure doesn’t act human.”

Science Advisor: “Actually, that might be the problem. He acts too human…like a three-year old child with a lack of impulse control.”

Admiral: ¬†“Well, if what you are describing as a three-year old child throws a temper tantrum, we’re looking at a scene of mass devastation.”

Secretary: “Agreed. What do you propose do about the situation?”

General: “Take him out…now.”

Secretary: “And how exactly would you do that?”

Science Advisor: “We don’t yet know the limits of his powers, but I’m sure something could be developed.”

General: “I’ve got a few things we could try.”

Secretary: “I’m sure you do, but we can’t just shoot him out of the sky. As far as the ¬†voting public is concerned, this ‘Superman’ saved the planet Earth when you couldn’t do it. His favorability ratings are higher than the President’s, higher than mine…and a lot higher than anybody else’s in this room. No, we need plausible deniability on this…I wonder if we can get the Russians…”

Admiral: “What about the Batman?”

General: “That crazy vigilante in Gotham City?”

Admiral: “He might be crazy, but he could be just the man to get this job done. The Police Commissioner out there, Gordon, is an old friend of mine. He’s told me some stories about the tech this guy uses, and if he isn’t a scientist, he has access to some that aren’t on our books. All we have to do is convince him to go after the alien, and let him figure it out.”

Secretary: “I like it. Besides, if he fails, we can always try something else…and if he dies, well, one less oddball to worry about…”

Genre glory at The Television Critics Association Awards

The Emmys may get the glory, but the TCAs just might be getting it right (at least as far as geeks are concerned).

The TCA winner for Individual Achievement in Drama went to Tatiana Maslany, star of Orphan Black. Note that this is one of two acting awards…the TCAs don’t segregate acting by gender, the other award is for comedy.

The Outstanding Achievement in Drama went to Game of Thrones, which is nominated for an Emmy…but we’ll see what the Academy does on September 22nd.

War of the worlds?

India has a very long history of achievement in the science of astronomy, and that’s part of what made the information reported in this

BBC News article

(and other places) so surprising.

Allegedly, the Indian military tracked what they suspected were Chinese drones over their territory for six months…before being informed that what they had been seeing were Mars and Venus…

AI takes an IQ test…and does as well as a 4-year old human

Artificial intelligence is increasing, and soon, the question will not be whether it is coming or not, but what we do with it now that it’s here.

In this

press release

it’s reported that ConceptNet 4, developed at MIT, was given a standard intelligence test…and performed as well as a four-year old child.

However, the areas of strength were inconsistent. As stated in the article

“‘If a child had scores that varied this much, it might be a symptom that something was wrong,’ said Robert Sloan, professor and head of computer science at UIC, and one of the study‚Äôs authors.”

Oh, yes, we geeks know that issue well. An artificial intelligence that might be (eventually) faster and better than humans at some things…but might lack “common sense”, or “morality”.

Sometimes, you don’t want to have been right… ūüėČ

The Measured Circle is a defender of robot rights, and we aren’t suggesting that there is anything dangerous about ConceptNet 4…we congratulate the system on its good scores. ūüėČ

My mini-take on…2 Guns

My  Significant Other picked 2 Guns to see this weekend.

It did quite well at the box office, but I’m not convinced that it is going to have a lot of staying power.

Simply put, we didn’t really like it.

Oh, we always like going to the movies, and we like Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.

However, they didn’t have much chemistry, and the whole movie (despite being about some very visceral things) just wasn’t very involving.

It got splatted on Rotten Tomatoes, and was a solid C rating on MRQe…not good signs.

Oh, well…maybe next movie.

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

Tim Curry reportedly has “major stroke”

May 25, 2013

Tim Curry reportedly has “major stroke”

Our best wishes go out to Tim Curry, who, according to this

The Wrap article

had a “major stroke” on Thursday.

The actor is reportedly doing well, speaking, and in “great humor”.

Regular readers know that Tim Curry is one of my favorite actors, as noted in this earlier post:

My take on Tim Curry

We’re all thinking good thoughts, and hope your recovery goes well.

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

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 ‚Äď traveling ‚Äď 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.

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