Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

The Geeky Golden Globes 2018: the results

January 8, 2018

The Geeky Golden Globes 2018: the results

While most of the media focus was on other topics, it’s worth noting how the geek-friendly nominees did at the Golden Globes last night.

There has been a sense that GF movies (and TV, but especially movies) have been gaining more respect in recent years. Certainly, box office and ratings haven’t been a question, but what about awards?

In the movies, the big news there was Guillermo del Toro’s win for Best Director. Unlike Best Picture, that one is not divided: The Shape of Water was competing on an even playing field. This does suggest that del Toro may be nominated for the same award at the Oscars. While GF works have been nominated for Best Director before (Stanley Kubrick was nominated for both 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, for example), and Peter Jackson won for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (and there were a couple of others), it is a rarity indeed.

For TV, The Handmaid’s Tale (based on Margaret Atwood’s novel) won the prestigious Best Drama award.

Now, let’s back up a bit…

  • Get Out had two nominations, including Best Actor and Best Picture (in the Musical or Comedy category), it didn’t win either. Still, it is really true that it is an honor just to be nominated. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Get Out nominated for a Best Picture Oscar (where there are more possibilities), and I could see it getting Best Director, Best Screenplay, and Best Actor nods (possibly other categories as well). I’m not suggesting that it would win those categories, but nominations? My guess is that the Academy voters will recognize it
  • The Shape of Water was also won for Best Original Score for Alexandre Desplat, and was nominated for Best Picture (Drama), as were Sally Hawkins (Best Actress), Richard Jenkins (Best Supporting Actor), Octavia Spencer (Best Supporting Actress). Some of these could repeat in nominations at the Oscars
  • Coco won for Best Animated Feature: that’s a likely repeat nomination, and could win. It also had a nomination for Best Original Song for “Remember Me”: that’s likely to be a tough category, but is possible
  • Ferdinand was also nominated for Best Original Song for “Home”
  • Stranger Things and Game of Thrones were also nominated for TV
  • Caitrona Balfe was nominated for Best Actress, Drama for Outlander…the winner was Elisabeth Moss for Handmaid’s Tale
  • Kyle MacLachlan was nominated for Best Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie for Twin Peaks; Ewan McGregor won for Fargo
  • David Harbour was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie for Stranger Things (Golden Globe categories are weird); the winner was Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies
  • Ann Dowd was nominated for Supporting Actress for The Handmaid’s Tale with the winner being Laura Dern for Big Little Lies (A billion dollar movie with The Last Jedi and a Golden Globe? Good couple of months for Dern…)

It’s possible I’ll update this when I’ve had more time, but it may be that this will be the geekiest Oscars ever. There have been geeky Oscar nominations and wins before, as I noted, but there may be a higher percentage of nominees in the “Big Six” categories than we’ve seen (acting, picture, and directing…as well as screenplays).


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* 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.

 

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Facebook may not be doing “heardu” ads…but it sure seems like something is!

November 4, 2017

Facebook may not be doing “heardu” ads…but it sure seems like something is!

While Facebook has repeatedly denied using your phone’s microphone to “eavesdrop” on your casual conversations and target ads to you based on that, I’ve had a couple of experiences recently where something on my phone doing that seems the most likely explanation.

It certainly doesn’t have to be Facebook, and I would think in my case, that would be unlikely. I don’t use Facebook much at all, and I didn’t see the ads on Facebook. In one case, it was an ad at the top of my e-mail feed.

Now, let me be clear: I’m not saying that my experiences prove that my phone is listening to me to target ads…it’s just that it seems like the most likely explanation.

What are the other explanations?

One would be that the ad is just random, and it just happened to come right after I talked about a relevant subject. Part of it would be that I noticed the ad because I had been talking about it. Let’s say the ad was for…pineapples. Let’s also say I get an ad for pineapples once a week. I might not ever notice that I get those pineapple ads (that happens with a lot of ads…it’s part of why they show the same ones to you over and over) until it was relevant, because I had been talking and thinking about it.

Another possibility would be that the ad was targeted to me…but not based on the conversation. We’ll go back to the pineapple example.  While I may have been talking about pineapples, I might also have searched for information about them in a search engine, or belonged to a group of pineapple lovers…or that I had other interests which statistically made it seem likely that I was interested in pineapples. That’s one of the things that can make it seem mysterious…it could be that the majority of people who watch, say, My Favorite Martian reruns also like pineapples.

Both of those things are probably mistaken for heardu ads (I just made up that term, by the way) from time to time.

I’ll give you my two recent scenarios, and you can decide if it seems likely or not. If you have another idea which you think is more likely, I’d be happy to hear it. 🙂

In the first case, my Significant Other and I were staying in a hotel to attend my sibling’s wedding. There were a couple of other attendees joining us in our suite a couple of days later.

I realized that, because of the clothing we’d all need to have for various events, that we’d need more hangers than we had. I suggested we stop by the Front Desk on the way out to ask for some more.

After that conversation (and note that we had not searched for hangers on our devices, or asked our devices about hangers), an ad showed up on my SO’s device…for wooden hangers.

That seems like a really odd thing to be randomly advertised. Yes, we probably had done things on our phones which had to do with formal wear…and I suppose it could have read our itineraries and known we were going to a wedding, and even that we were staying in a hotel. However, guessing that we needed hangers at that exact time seems less believable to me than something we know is technologically possible. I know my phone listens to me…I can say, “OK, Google” and it will interact with me. If it wasn’t listening to me, it wouldn’t know when I said, “OK, Google”.

The other one was that I was recently teaching a class to surgeons. One example we were using was a surgery where the referring condition was a hernia.

I did not need to research anything online about hernias.

After I’d been teaching the class for a couple of hours, we took a break…and I had a banner ad at the top of my e-mail feed related to hernia mesh!

That one seems especially unlikely to me to have happened in another way. I’m not particularly in a risk group for hernias. I don’t belong to any hernia special interest groups. I suppose it could be based on my profession…if it was reading PDFs on my device, then perhaps.

At this point, it simply seems most likely to me that it heard my conversation and targeted the ad.

Quite a few apps have microphone access on my phone…I know I could turn it off, but I do use it often…and I really don’t mind getting targeted ads. If I’m going to get ads anyway, they might as well be more relevant.

That’s what I think: feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.


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* 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.

Spend Halloween with The Dick Van Dyke Show

October 31, 2017

Spend Halloween with The Dick Van Dyke Show

There are soooooo many choices for things to watch on Halloween! Whether you want something really scary (like The Exorcist) or family fun (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown), it’s all available to stream. However, some of it may also be a bit…familiar.

Now, as a proud geek, familiar is fine. We can watch the same TV episode twenty times, and enjoy it every time. I always say that’s one of the hallmarks of a geek: low threshold of entertainment. 😉

I thought I’d go a bit farther afield, though, and suggest a few episodes of a real TV classic, but one that isn’t usually considered geek-friendly: The Dick Van Dyke Show.

That is one of my favorite shows, and does have my favorite TV moment (although it’s somewhat subtle).

It’s a show that was an interesting mix of workplace sitcom, song and dance, mime, and social commentary (with a great episode taking on racial perceptions, and a rare for the time openly Jewish role).

There are three episodes I’d recommend for Halloween viewing, including a really stand-out episode for any television show. These are both kid and adult friendly: a bit creepy but not really scary (more Scooby Doo level than Twilight Zone), and jokes that work for adults.

All are available on both Netflix and Hulu at the time of writing.

Uhny Uftz (Season 5, episode 3)

This is a flying saucer episode (many shows had them in the 1950s and 1960s), but it is also a spooky one. Rob is working late and hears an odd noise, and he and Buddy eventually investigate.

The Ghost of A. Chantz (Season 4, episode 2)

Rob, Laura, Buddy, Sally , and even Mel and Alan go to a cabin for a working weekend…and it appears that the cabin is haunted!

It May Look Like a Walnut (Season 2, episode 20)
Event listing at The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

Laura and Rob watch a scary science fiction movie on TV, and it has an Invasion of the Body Snatchers element. The next morning, Rob begins to encounter those events in real life…with a script by series creator Carl Reiner, and directed by Jerry Paris. If you only watch one of these (but I do think the three, which all together would be under an hour and a half, would be good for Halloween), this is the one…even after Halloween.

Enjoy, and happy Halloween!


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


Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle 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.

We didn’t listen: two 70’s Social Sci-Fi films which are more relevant today

October 17, 2017

We didn’t listen: two 70’s Social Sci-Fi films which are more relevant today

There is a particular sub-genre of movie I refer to as 70’s Social Sci-Fi. They were cynical commentaries on society…often with some nudity or suggestions of sex.

1968 really set the stage, with two movies and an industry change.

The Planet of the Apes, released in 1968, was very much of this style, and was really the trendsetter. Rod Serling’s script considerably changed the original French novel.

2001: A Space Odyssey was an amazing breakthrough in special effects…and mind-blowing concepts.

The new movie ratings system was instituted, replacing earlier codes…and resulting in more explicit content getting more distribution.

So, a couple of years later (it takes a while to make a movie), we start getting movies like The Omega Man, Soylent Green, Westworld, Rollerball, The Stepford Wives…

Some of these movies did quite well…and some might do better now, because the futures they explored fit right into today’s concerns.

Colossus: The Forbin Project ties into our concerns about autonomous warfare…”killer robots”. I’m not going to go into any depth on the plots of these movies, but

[SPOILER WARNING]

The USA puts its faith in a computer system to handle warfare and keep humanity safe…its able to react more quickly than a human would. However, there’s a twist, and it leads Colossus to…make an unexpected decision about just how to protect us. It’s quite intellectual, but they still manage to make nudity a strategic requirement. 😉

Demon Seed is…a step further, and is largely a forgotten movie now (despite being based on a Dean R. Koontz novel, and starring Julie Christie and Fritz Weaver). People today worry about how involved we are getting with artificial intelligences in our homes, and how we trust them. An inventor creates a creepy AI (with the voice of Robert Vaughn). The inventor also makes a SmartHome…and the AI takes it over. Where it goes from there is…certainly pushing the envelope, in today.

[END SPOILER]

Demon Seed is available to watch through iTunes at time of writing according to JustWatch:

Demon Seed at JustWatch

but The Forbin Project doesn’t show up at JustWatch.

Killer robots and SmartHomes…four decades ago.

Science fiction doesn’t actually usually try to predict, but it may try to warn…and in these two cases, we didn’t listen…


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Beyond Curie: Four women in physics and their remarkable discoveries 1903 to 1963 (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Giveaway:

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/b139e577ee333624

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Start:Sep 25, 2017 5:46 AM PDT

End:Oct 25, 2017 11:59 PM PDT


Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle 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.

The Spoiler Zone: about that AGT winner

September 23, 2017

The Spoiler Zone: about that AGT winner

I want to talk about the winning act on

America’s Got Talent

this year so just in case you haven’t seen it yet, have been able to avoid finding out, and want the joy of discovery while you watch, this is a

SPOILER ALERT

My Significant Other and I like to watch reality shows together, and to try to predict who wins or goes home at each opportunity. I’m pretty good at it: one year, for American Idol, I predicted nine of the last ten eliminations…in order…before any of them happened.

When we watched the AGT finale together, I couldn’t do that…because a major entertainment news show had spoiled the winner, right in a headline (leading with the name of the act: “X wins AGT”, or something like that), so that I couldn’t avoid seeing it when reading the news in the morning.

Other outlets were more considerate…I saw things like, “The winner of AGT is…” and then explaining it in the article, meaning I could avoid knowing if I chose (which I had been doing).

I get why media outlets spoil things: you have superior power (knowledge is power), and you can use it to take something away from weaker people, which demonstrates to you how powerful you are.

That’s not why individuals do it; they often do it without thinking about it, with no malintent. Media outlets have thought about whether they want to spoil it or not…they’ve had discussions and made a corporate policy.

It doesn’t give them the scoop any faster, so it doesn’t have to do with that.

There, that should be enough words so you won’t accidentally see the winner. 😉


I’ve been interested in ventriloquists for a very long time.

I had Jimmy Nelson’s “Jokes and Riddles” album (Danny O’Day and Farfel the Dog…and “N-E-S-T-L-E-S…Nestle’s makes the very best…chocolate”).

My favorite moment of all time in television came in an episode (Talk to the Snail) of the Dick Van Dyke Show where Paul Winchell (Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff…and the voice of Tigger) appeared…as a ventriloquist.

Shari Lewis, Senor Wences, Willie Tyler…I knew all of their acts. I even tried to learn ventriloquism myself. While I could (and can) do voices and characters, I never really got good at the physical ventriloquism part.

Darci Lynne Farmer is the best ventriloquist I have ever seen.

While her characters are interesting, and her singing amazing (I would argue that she was the best singer in the competition), it’s the way she bring the characters to life that really astounds me.

I pointed out to my Significant Other how her character could maintain eye contact with Tyra Banks while Darci Lynne was looking somewhere else.

When she won, and was clearly crying out of control, I could swear that her bunny Petunia tried to comfort her.

That is on top of her sense of humor (she walked a great line between being the kid she is and being edgy), her technical proficiency (while Paul Winchell was hilarious, you could always see the work he was doing), and again, that singing!

Yes, she appeared to mess up the lyrics on the final results show, but I get that. First, it was a song she probably didn’t know. Second, this self-professed shy child was being asked to work with an unfamiliar adult in a high stress situation. A ventriloquist normally has an extraordinary amount of control over what is happening on stage, literally controlling every side of the conversation, every nuance and gesture. It wasn’t like that with another ventriloquist and another character sharing the spotlight…it had to be scary.

Had I picked her to win?

She had been my favorite for weeks, and one of my top three to win. The other two were: Light Balance, dancers in the dark who listed high tech neon-style lighting to tell stories and create illusions; and Diavolo, a very different dance act that used amazing giant props and death-defying dives.

One of the ways I judge acts on AGT is to ask myself if the act would make a good poster in the lobby of a casino. Diavolo could have an incredible poster, with a dancer flying towards the viewer and a giant prop in the back with other dancers swarming all over it. Light Balance would have a good poster, but it might not be as clear what was happening. You could tell what Darci Lynne’s act was, but not how good it was.

I should have reminded myself more that the audience picks the winner, not the casinos. Still, I picked finalists pretty well. 🙂 I also believe that Diavolo and Light Balance will both get work from having been on the show…maybe both in Vegas.

Congratulations to Darci (and Petunia, Oscar, and Edna)!

Ventriloquist Central

Darci Lynne at AGT Wikia fansite

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

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

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

The Emmys are really geeky this year…but is that new?

September 17, 2017

The Emmys are really geeky this year…but is that new?

We are a few hours away from the 2017

The Emmys

broadcast, and I was struck by how geeky it was. I @bufocalvin tweeted

Confusing people from the 1950s: “The show with the robots might win Best Drama @TheEmmys because the dragon show isn’t eligible*.”

😉

That fits my personal narrative that geek-friendly content is becoming more mainstream and more respected. Oscar winning actors have no compunction about appearing in geek-friendly franchises, the box office is dominated (even in awards-friendly December) by geek-friendly works, and streaming companies are investing millions in shows based on comic books and science fiction/fantasy books.

However, I always like to question my own beliefs, so I decided to go back and look. Was it really true that Best Drama Series (that title has changed repeatedly, but I’ll use that for simplicity’s sake) tended to be mainstream, mundane series? I was guessing it might be anthology shows that seemed to almost reproduce Broadway plays, but I wasn’t sure.

Let’s set the comparison: this year, there are seven nominees, and three of them are undeniably geek-friendly: The Handmaid’s Tale, Stranger Things, and Westworld (43% geek-friendly…GF).

We’ll jump back ten years at a time:

2006-2007 (20% GF)

  • Boston Legal
  • Grey’s Anatomy
  • Heroes (GF)
  • House
  • The Sopranos

1996-1997 (20% GF)

  • Chicago Hope
  • ER
  • Law & Order
  • NYPD Blue
  • The X-Files (GF)

1986-1987 (0% GF)

  • Cagney & Lacey
  • L.A. Law
  • Moonlighting
  • Murder She Wrote
  • St. Elsewhere

1976-1977  (0% GF)

  • Baretta
  • Columbo
  • Family
  • Police Story
  • Upstairs, Downstairs

1966-1967 (60% GF)

  • The Avengers (GF)
  • I Spy (? I can’t remember for sure if they encountered science fiction inventions, so I won’t count it)
  • Mission: Impossible (GF)
  • Run for Your Life
  • Star Trek (GF)

1956 (there aren’t 1957 nominees…the system was considerably revamped for 1958 to separate shows with continuing characters and anthology shows, since the latter kept getting all the nominations. By the 1960s, they were combined again, and by the mid-1960s, shows with continuing characters were solidly in the nomination process)

  • Alcoa-Goodyear Theatre
  • Climax!
  • Producers’ Showcase
  • Studio One
  • The United States Steel Hour

So, it looks like my feeling was right, at least based on this methodology. In the beginning (with the exception of the super-geeky 1960s), there were no GF nominees for Best Drama. From the 1970s-through the twenty-oughts, there there were 20%. This year, there are more than twice that…

* I don’t want to suggest here that, if Game of Thrones was in the running, it would automatically win. I have made a couple of attempts to get into GoT, and it just hasn’t grabbed me. I am slowly making my way through it (I feel it is my geek cultural responsibility). 😉 On the other hand, I’m really enjoying Westworld (which I’ve just started watching…we only recently got access to current HBO shows). I liked the original movie, but so far, the plotting on this is solid, the direction is good, and I’m enjoying the acting. This isn’t the actual comparison, but if it was first episode of GoT versus first episode of Westworld, I know what I’d pick…

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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! :) 

The short, somewhat sad history of live action TV sci-fi space spoofs

September 13, 2017

The short, somewhat sad history of live action TV sci-fi space spoofs

Seth McFarlane’s

The Orville

debuted on Fox on Sunday, September 10th.

I’ve watched it. While I would like every show to be both successful (long-running) and good, that simply doesn’t happen. TV networks are closer to the mouse reproductive strategy (have lots of babies quickly, and hope some make it) than to the elephant strategy (have few babies and raise them slowly, letting them mature and gain the necessary social skills).

The show is a space sitcom, and that got me thinking about the history of that genre.

A few shows came to mind right away…and none of the American series that I recalled lasted more than a season.

Let’s set some parameters for inclusion:

  • The space sitcom has to be the whole series, not a sketch on a show. That lets out Muppets in Space and Waldo Kitty (although I think the latter’s Star Trek parodies are amongst the ones I’ve enjoyed the most)
  • It has to be live action…not pure cartoons
  • The show has to be a comedy (although there may be some more serious elements). The original Star Trek has some great comedy episodes (The Trouble with Tribbles; A Piece of the Action; I, Mudd…) but doesn’t count for this
  • It has to be TV, not a movie. Galaxy Quest and Spaceballs were successful space spoofs in theatres, but that’s different
  • The show has to largely take place in space, not just have an alien in it. I’m not counting what I call “mermaid out of water” shows (like “fish out of water”, but including a geeky element)…letting out ALF, Mork & Mindy, and My Favorite Martian, for example). I debated including Salvage 1, an Andy Griffith series that included a rocket for salvage in space, but it doesn’t take place primarily in space

Okay, let’s take a look at some shows:

Far Out Space Nuts
YouTube search

  • 15 total episodes
  • 1975-1976
  • CBS

One of the shortest-lived of the Sid & Marty Krofft series, it’s worth noting that this series was on before Star Wars was released. Chuck McCann, who starred along with Bob Denver, was one of the creators. Two NASA employees are actually launched into space, and we see their adventures on different planets. It lasted one season.

Quark
YouTube search

  • 8 total episodes
  • 1978
  • NBC
  • IMDb popularity 4,112 at time of writing
  • One Emmy nomination

“On paper”, this should have been a good series. Buck Henry created it, who was an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and had won an Emmy for co-writing an episode of another spoof, Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, who was successful in comic parts and had geek credit, having been one of the leads of the original Westworld. However, this series about a space garbage truck only lasted eight episodes (including the pilot).

Homeboys in Outer Space
YouTube search

21 total episodes
1996-1997
UPN
No IMDb popularity rating
No award nominations

Series Executive Producer Ehrich Van Lowe had been a producer and screenwriter on The Cosby Show. There were some great guest stars, including Burt Ward, Natasha Henstridge, and James Doohan. It lasted one season and was on TV Guide’s list of the 50 Worst TV Shows of All Time.

I think that’s about it. An argument could be made for Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which case that would certainly be the most successful of the American series.

If we turn to the UK, there are more entries (including Come Back Mrs. Noah ((6 episodes…starring Mollie Sugden)), Astronauts ((13 episodes…created by two of The Goodies)), and Hyperdrive ((12 episodes…starring Nick Frost))).

The UK produced

Red Dwarf

which has a strong fandom and which I’ve enjoyed, has had 67 episodes. In particular, series (season) 1, episode 4 is both funny and has social commentary.

So, based on this, The Orville does have an uphill climb in front if it…but Red Dwarf proves it isn’t impossible.

What do you think? Did I leave anything out? Why aren’t space spoofs more successful on TV? Is it just the odds generally against TV series? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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

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

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 blog is named after a quotation of Charles Fort’s. One key element of Forteanism (Fort would not have approved of that term of the concept) is that things having finite existences, being separate from each other, is inaccurate…”One measures a circle beginning anywhere”. True Forteans know that everything blends into everything else…but of course, that include “true” and “false” and Forteans and non-Forteans. 😉

A different kind of year for Jennifer Lawrence

August 14, 2017

A different kind of year for Jennifer Lawrence

Has any actor ever done the movies better than Jennifer Lawrence?

Notice that I didn’t ask if anyone had “done better movies”…that’s entirely a different question.

No, I mean someone who is more successful at the “game of the movies”…or the movie business, if you prefer the more prosaic.

That sort of success is typically measured in one of two ways: box office, and “respect”…for the latter, we can go with award recognition, especially the Oscars.

Jennifer Lawrence has the respect part down, having been nominated for four Oscars since 2011, and winning the Best Actress award.

Now, other people have been nominated (eventually) for more Oscars (although I think four nominations in your first nine years of movie credits is exceptional), but this many this fast and this consistently? That’s at the least rare.

For box office, we’ve been naming our Most Valuable Players since 2011. Basically, they need to be first-billed in a movie which makes at least $100 million dogro (domestic gross) and another movie which dogroes at least $40 million (but they don’t need to be first-billed).

It’s difficult to make it two years in a row. Most movies which make $100 million generally take a lot of time and effort: somebody who is first-billed in a tentpole movie doesn’t have a lot of time to make another movie that year.

Starting in 2015 (but looking backwards from there), we added the “On a roll” designation. For 2016, for example, only four actors made it:

  • Bill Hader
  • Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
  • Jennifer Lawrence
  • Simon Pegg

Of those four, only one of them was on more than their second in a row: Jennifer Lawrence, who was on her fifth.

In 2015, the situation was similar: four people who were “On a roll”, and with Jennifer Lawrence the only one who was on more than the second in a row (the others were Samuel L. Jackson, Elizabeth Banks, and Jai Courtney).

Unless something changes, though, this year will be different.

Jennifer Lawrence only has one movie scheduled for release, Mother!

With only one movie, it isn’t possible to make it to our

2017 The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

list. It has nineteen people on it so far, with Hannibal Buress and Jenny Slate being the only two on a roll.

We don’t see this as any sign of a lasting downturn: we expect Jennifer Lawrence will be back at the top of the box office and wouldn’t be surprised to see additional Oscar nominations in her future.

This is just a different sort of year…

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Disney’s next “E ticket”? Star Wars Merged Reality

August 5, 2017

Disney’s next “E ticket”? Star Wars Merged Reality

Up until the early 1980s (and starting in 1959), the “E” ticket (or coupon) was the latest and greatest ride: the Submarine Voyage, the Matterhorn…the top of the line.

Even though Disney officially did away with the letter tickets thirty-five years ago, people still use the term. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, Indiana Jones…those would all be considered E tickets.

These are the buzzy rides…the ones people would talk about when they got home, brag about, and say, “You gotta ride…”

While Disney works on its Star Wars lands for 2019, this holiday season will bring a different kind of attraction…merged reality.

While that’s not the term that the company making it uses for it, it’s one of my four “flavors” as I defined in my first VAMM (Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality…which I’m tending to simplify to VAM) post:

Welcome, vammers! Our Virtual/Augmented/Mixed/Merged Reality coverage starts here

This is what I said:

“Merged Reality: this is new, and is a term used by Intel for its Alloy headset (YouTube videos). This is essentially the opposite of Mixed Reality. The headset maps the actual location (say, the furniture in a room), and then masks it with a story-appropriate appearance: a table might “change into” a control panel on a spaceship, or into a rock in a haunted forest”

What The VOID calls it is “Hyper-Reality”. They’ve been doing some really interesting things. You do wear a VR headset, and you don’t see the actual environment…but you are in a dedicated space for this particular experience.

If you pick up a light saber, the hilt can actually be a physical object…and then you would see and hear the “blade”, which would react appropriately as it fought another player. The hilt could even be made to vibrate with a hit. I don’t know that these are part of this actual experience…just giving you the idea.

It’s also social…you play with your family or your friends. As they move, you see their avatars move in VR. When I’ve been socially with people in VR, seeing their avatars’ heads move when they look at something makes it feel very real.

You could be interacting with actors or CGI…or a mix. You won’t really have a way to tell…until an actor does something physical.

In this

The VOID post

they point out that it could even involve smells!

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire will open in Downtown Disney at Disneyland (in California) and Disney Springs at Disneyworld (in Florida).

This will be judged on a number of things:

  • How does it feel?
  • How immersive is it?
  • How Disney is it?
  • How Star Wars is it?

On the last one, ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) is involved, so that’s a good sign.

We also don’t know enough about the logistics yet…is it a separate charge? It certainly could be…you pay for things in Downtown Disney. How long will the wait be (only so many people can be in there at a time)? How long will you get in the experience (again, it can’t be that long, since people are waiting)?

My guess? People will talk about it…it will be an E ticket. 🙂

Oh, one other thing: this is not going to be dependent on the Disney infrastructure, meaning that they could hypothetically open it in other places across the country…and around the globe.

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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! :) 

Microsoft’s new free app, Seeing AI, is a life-changing accessibility tool…and a lot of fun!

July 14, 2017

Microsoft’s new free app, Seeing AI, is a life-changing accessibility tool…and a lot of fun!

It’s been a while since I’ve had this much fun with an app!

That may seem odd, since this is ostensibly designed to help those with visual challenges.

It will do that. I know a couple of people it will help.

Let me link to it first (it’s only currently available for iOS…iPhones, iPads, iPod touch):

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/seeing-ai-talking-camera-for-the-blind/id999062298?mt=8

What it does is recognize things: people, text, dogs, a kitchen, a computer…it’s gotten all of those right for me.

It doesn’t just tell you that it’s a person…it guesses at age and gender, and will tell you hair color, if the person has glasses or a beard, and so on.

It also, and this will be very useful for people with autism, will attempt to interpret the person’s expression (happy, neutral, angry…).

Now, it’s important for me to say that it didn’t ever get the age exactly right, although it was often close. A person I know well wasn’t pleased when it interpreted them as significantly older than was true. 😉

I tried it both with photos on a computer screen, and with real life objects, and it was generally pretty good. We had fun when it interpreted a knit blanket as a close-up of a sandwich, but that was not typical.

It can also read text out loud, and that worked for me, too! There was a computer program which wasn’t accessible to the screen reader on the computer…but Seeing AI could read it. It will take some practice for how I hold it, but even initially, it did read what I needed.

I think you’ll have fun playing around with it!

A few tips:

  • The “scene” interpreter, which it says is in beta, is how it interprets objects (like dogs, toys, computers…)
  • Go to the Settings menu (three lines) to use face recognition…you can teach it to recognize specific people. That will be useful for someone I know who has “face blindness”: they can’t recognize celebrities or even family members in pictures by their faces
  • When I was trying to work with it reading off the computer, it worked much better when I went into settings and had it turn off “Manage lighting”…that meant the flash didn’t come on. When the flash was on, there was too much glare for it to recognize things

Okay,

Echo Show (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Gauntlet thrown! 😉

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

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

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! :) 

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