Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Geeky reference books on a great sale!

June 5, 2016

Geeky reference books on a great sale!

In my I Love My Kindle blog, I recently wrote about getting an alert from eReaderIQ that

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

was on sale for $3.99 (the digital list price is $29.99).

I’d had that one on my Amazon Wish List for some time, and snapped it up at that price.

What I didn’t realize was that this is a sale on many titles from the publisher McFarland!

I know McFarland best for producing high-quality reference works on topics that generally get short shrift. You aren’t going to find a heavily researched book on “monster movies” (as is Universal Horrors) from most university presses.

Typically, the books are not inexpensive. $29.99 is a lot for a Kindle edition, usually, but this falls into that category for me where it’s a legitimate price. It’s not like a novel.

These books will make excellent gifts! You can delay delivery of a Kindle store book for the appropriate gift-giving occasion. Even though I don’t often buy books for myself any more, since we have

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

but some of these are too good not to have in our library.

Here’s a search for 885 (!) McFarland books for $3.99 each (those seem to be the ones on sale…not all McFarland books are) in the USA Kindle store right now. Some of these may be false positives…Amazon’s search sometimes seems…imprecise, and an author of “McFarland” may be returned when I searched for the publisher McFarland (using Amazon’s own advanced search):

McFarland books for $3.99 (at AmazonSmile*)

I have no idea how long this sale will last, so check the price before you click or tap that sale button. I might be getting some gifts for other people, too. 🙂

Oh, one other note: these are often “coffee table” type books…they will be large files to have on an EBR (E-Book Reader, and may have color pictures which render best on a tablet)

Here are some that caught my eye:

  • The Literary Monster on Film: Five Nineteenth Century British Novels and Their Cinematic Adaptations by Abigail Burnham Bloom
  • Keep Watching the Skies!: American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties, The 21st Century Edition by Bill Warren and Bill Thomas (I bought this one)
  • Illuminating Torchwood: Essays on Narrative, Character and Sexuality in the BBC Series (Critical Explorations in Science…by Andrew Ireland and Donald E. Palumbo (put it on my wish list…love the show, but this interest seems too narrow for me to buy right now)
  • Italian Horror Film Directors by Louis Paul
  • Visions of Mars: Essays on the Red Planet in Fiction and Science by Howard V. Hendrix and George Edgar Slusser (bought as a gift)
  • Sounds of the Future: Essays on Music in Science Fiction Film by Mathew J. Bartkowiak (wish list)
  • Mass Hysteria in Schools: A Worldwide History Since 1566 by Robert E. Bartholomew and Bob Rickard (Bob Rickard is a driving force at Fortean Times) (bought as a gift and wish list)
  • Hammer Films: An Exhaustive Filmography by Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio (wish list)
  • In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Essays on Film, Fandom, Technology and the Culture of…by Robert G. Weiner and Robert G. Weiner
  • Super-history: Comic Book Superheroes and American Society, 1938 to the Present by Jeffrey K. Johnson (wish list)
  • Inside Gilligan’s Island by Sherwood Schwartz (wish list)
  • A History of the Doc Savage Adventures in Pulps, Paperbacks, Comics, Fanzines, Radio and Film by Robert Michael “Bobb” Cotter (bought this one! I just wrote a piece on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson being cast as Doc Savage…Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Doc Savage: a fan’s view)
  • Creating Characters: A Writer’s Reference to the Personality Traits That Bring Fictional People to Life by Howard Lauther)
  • Encyclopedia of Television Pilots, 1937-2012 by Vincent Terrace (digital list price $99.99)
  • Fright Night on Channel 9: Saturday Night Horror Films on New York’s WOR-TV, 1973-1987 by James Arena
  • Teaching with Harry Potter: Essays on Classroom Wizardry from Elementary School to College by Valerie Estelle Frankel
  • Of Bread, Blood and the Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy (Critical Explorations in…by Mary F. Pharr
  • The Body in Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on Middle-earth Corporeality by Christopher Vaccaro
  • Encyclopedia of Imaginary and Mythical Places by Theresa Bane
  • Respecting The Stand: A Critical Analysis of Stephen King’s Apocalpytic Novel by Jenifer Paquette
  • The Wizard of Oz as American Myth: A Critical Study of Six Versions of the Story, 1900-2007 by Alissa Burger
  • A History and Critical Analysis of Blake’s 7, the 1978-1981 British Television Space Adventure by John Kenneth Muir (this show came up in a comment recently on this blog)
  • Fan CULTure: Essays on Participatory Fandom in the 21st Century by Kristin M. Barton and Jonathan Malcolm Lampley
  • Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson’s Muppets by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham
  • The Heritage of Heinlein: A Critical Reading of the Fiction: 42 (Critical Explorations in Science Fiction and…by Thomas D. Clareson and Joe Sanders
  • America Toons In: A History of Television Animation by David Perlmutter
  • The Video Games Guide: 1,000+ Arcade, Console and Computer Games, 1962-2012, 2d ed. by Matt Fox
  • The American Popular Novel After World War II: A Study of 25 Best Sellers, 1947-2000 by David Willbern
  • Marketing Your Library: Tips and Tools That Work by Carol Smallwood and Vera Gubnitskaia

I could keep going and going, but I’m worried about the sale ending while I’m writing this. 🙂

I’ll get this out, and I might add to it later. If you are thrilled (or puzzled) by any when you go to check it out (which I recommend) feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post. Update: I did add…I couldn’t leave off the Vincent Terrace book(s)…I have some in hardback, and they are terrific!

Enjoy!

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK 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! :) 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 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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The Geeky Seventies

June 9, 2015

The Geeky Seventies

CNN is following up their successful series on the 1960s with one on the 1970s:

http://www.cnn.com/shows/the-seventies

Tom Hanks is an Executive Producer.

The existence of this series is kind of funny to me. I did a comedy bit years ago on our community access TV show (Freedom from Fear) called “In Search of the Seventies”. I treated it as a mystery as to whether or not the Seventies even (culturally) existed. I asked if they were really just “…the end of the Sixties and the start of the Eighties”.

I think that’s because I was too close to it. I was really engaging in pop culture in the Seventies…well, often culture that wasn’t so popular, but you know what I mean. 😉 I didn’t have the distance from it and maturity to recognize what was special about it.

Certainly, I thought the 1960s had a unique culture…with the Beatles in part driving the bus.

As to the 1980s, well, New Wave music seemed to stand out to me.

The 1970s? At that time, I wasn’t seeing what made it special.

Now I do. 🙂

This post is going to give you an overview of geek-friendly culture in the 1970s.

It was definitely a transformative decade…even if the Transformers didn’t arrive until the 1980s. 😉

Geek culture moved mainstream in very big ways. Predominantly, there was Star Wars, which made space opera a blockbuster, but we could also look at The Exorcist for horror, and Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice) for vampires.

We saw the arrival of Stephen King as a novelist, and the publication of Dungeons and Dragons.

Home video technology meant that people could easily watch movies after they were out of theatres…decades after, in some cases. Prior to that, some of us had three-minute long Super 8 movies, and the real hobbyists might have 16mm reels, but the Betamax and others meant our cinematic history (including the geeky part) was much more accessible.

Star Trek: the Original Series was canceled in 1969…but the fandom continued. That led to the first Star Trek convention in the 1970s. Science fiction conventions went back to 1939, but this was different.

Batman in the 1960s might have made superheroes a hit on TV, but Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were part of the 1970s scene.

The Weird World interested a lot more people…the In Search Of TV series was only one part of that, but was many viewers’ first exposure to some of these topics.

Let’s look at some of the highlights in different areas:

Movies

How times have changed!

When you look at the top ten US grossing movies released in the 1960s, arguably only two are geek-friendly (GF) and not specifically intended for the family/children’s market:

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. 101 Dalmations
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Doctor Zhivago
  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  6. Mary Poppins
  7. My Fair Lady
  8. Thunderball (GF)
  9. Cleopatra
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (GF)

By the end of the 1970s, that picture had entirely changed, and would look more like our box office today:

  1. Star Wars (GF)
  2. Jaws (GF)
  3. The Sting
  4. Animal House
  5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (eventually) GF
  6. The Godfather
  7. Superman (GF)
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (GF)
  9. Smokey and the Bandit
  10. Blazing Saddles

The Exorcist (1973) brought straight up horror to blockbuster status and mainstream acceptance (along with a lot of protests).

In 1975, Steven Spielberg changed the summer. Up to that point, it had largely been a season of cheapo exploitation movies. People actually went outside (including drive-ins), not to the movies. Jaws reshaped all that, giving us the summer blockbuster season. There have been heated debates about whether or not Jaws is a fantasy (are we supposed to believe the shark is just a shark, or something more?), but it was clearly a monster movie.

Then in 1977, Star Wars changed it all.

While those movies were all big hits, there were a lot of other significant geek movies. Undeniably, we have to count the Rocky Horror Picture Show as establishing midnight movies and a special kind of cult film. It flopped when it came out, but then got a new life in a new way. He’s the hero…that’s right, the hero. 😉

Here are some other stand-outs:

  • Alien (1979)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Logan’s Run (1979)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Live and Let Die (1973) (the first Roger Moore James Bond)
  • Soylent Green (1973)
  • Enter the Dragon (193)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Zardoz (1974)
  • The Wiz (1978)
  • Westworld (1973)
  • Four of the original Planet of the Apes movies
  • A Boy and His Dog (1975)
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  • Tommy (1975)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978) (Ralph Bakshi)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Phantasm (1979)
  • The Sentinel (1977)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • Death Race 2000 (1975)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • The Omega Man (1971)
  • Tales from the Crypt (1972)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Freaky Friday (1976)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • The Car (1977)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The  Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Dark Star (1974)
  • Eraserhead (1977)

TV

Sure, the 1960s had been huge for high concept TV (with 1964 particularly important), but the 1970s built on that with many geek-friendly hits. Batman on TV had burned out by 1970, but opened the field for other superheroes (DC, Marvel, and bionic). Star Wars and James Bond were both big in movie theatres, and we saw their effect on the small screen as well. Home video arrived, which began to give us more options (although cable wouldn’t be a factor until the 1980s). Saturday morning got trippy with the Kroffts (although H.R. Pufnstuf debuted in 1969), and saw the return of Star Trek with the original cast…in animated form.

Some geek-friendly series:

  • Wonder Woman
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Saturday Night Live (Coneheads! Land Shark!)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Fantasy Island
  • Mork & Mindy
  • Land of the Lost
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • Kung Fu
  • Space: 1999
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • The Bionic Woman
  • The Muppet Show
  • The Tomorrow People
  • Isis
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Blakes 7
  • The Amazing Spier-Man
  • Nanny and the Professor
  • Shazam!
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • SCTV
  • Paddington Bear
  • The New Avengers
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
  • Super Friends
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • Man from Atlantis
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Sapphire & Steel
  • Star Blazers
  • The Prisoner
  • Quark
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Invisible Man (David McCallum)
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
  • Doctor Who in the United States
  • Monty Python in the United States

Books/literature

I’ve gone into depth on the general topic of literature of the 1970s in another blog of mine:

I Love My Kindle: Books in the 1970s

In terms of geek-friendly, it was a huge decade! Just as movies saw the mainstreaming of geek-friendly genres, bookstores saw bestsellers from a new author named Stephen King, and a vampire hit (Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice).

While geek-specific bookstores (and comic book stores) were crucial, you could walk into a the newly national Barnes & Noble chain and get a variety of science fiction/fantasy/supernatural horror. You wanted military SF? You had Joe Haldeman. Light fantasy? Enter Xanth by Piers Anthony. Social science fiction? The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. Ringworld…Riverworld…we weren’t only reaching out to new planets, we were visiting new worlds and universes.

Here are some of the stand-out titles and authors:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
  • Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
  • The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
  • Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky
  • Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover
  • The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure) by Edward Packard

Gaming

1974 saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons…and we had Advanced D&D by the end of the decade. This was really the decade that saw the RPG (Role-Playing Game) world established, and would include Runequest and Traveller.

Fandom

Star Trek:  The Original Series ended in 1969, but the people who had come together to fight for a third season kept at it. That included the first Star Trek convention (well, the first widely available to the public one in 1972), the return of the original cast for the animated series, and eventually, 1979, to the big screen.

Comics

Again, there was a transition happening, with some significant experimentation.

  • Jack Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC, and introduced Darkseid
  • The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide first appeared
  • Green Lantern and Green Arrow take a philosophical walk-about across America
  • Mister Miracle debuts
  • An arc in Spider-Man features drug use, and defies the Comics Code Authority
  • Ra’s Al Ghul first appears
  • The Kree-Skrull War storyline
  • The Sandman
  • War Machine makes his first appearance
  • Wonder Woman gives up her powers

The Weird World

  • The TV series In Search of… (hosted by Leonard Nimoy) was instrumental in reinteresting people in the Roswell Incident
  • 1973 was dubbed “The Year of the Humanoids” by UFO researcher David Webb…one of the most famous was the Pascagoula incident
  • Uri Geller was famous, even appearing on the Tonight Show in 1973 to “bend spoons”
  • Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain by Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander was published in 1970
  • The Mysterious Monsters was a Sunn Classics documentary, featuring Peter Graves
  • The Legend of Boggy Creek was released in 1972
  • The Unidentified, published in 1975, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark, is Coleman’s first “name on the cover” book
  • John A. Keel’s inimitable The Mothman Prophecies was published in 1975
  • Momo, the Missouri Monster, was just one of many hairy bipeds
  • Newsstands had magazines galore, including Ancient Astronauts
  • The “flipper photo” of the Loch Ness Monster was taken in 1972 by Dr. Robert Rines’ team
  • In 1975, Travis Walton is missing for several days, and a report emerges of an abduction by aliens

Records

Listening to LPs was definitely a 1970s thing, and there were some definitely geeky concept albums.

  • 1972: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • 1973: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
  • 1978: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
  • 1978: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Science/Tech

  • Home computers became a thing in 1977, with the Apple II, the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor), and the TRS-80 (Tandy Radio Shack)
  • Skylab launched in 1973…and docked with the Russian Soyuz in 1975
  • The Atari 2600 was released in 1977
  • The first Pong arcade game was put to use in 1972. Arcade games would really take off with Space Invaders in 1978

There’s a bit of the geeky 1970s for you! We certainly didn’t cover everything, but you can see the big shift from geek culture being kids and niche to becoming the mainstream pop culture force that it is today. Want to add something? Feel free to comment on this post.

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

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.

James, Danny, Ben, and Waldo: the many lives of Walter Mitty

December 12, 2013

James, Danny, Ben, and Waldo: the many lives of Walter Mitty

SPOILER ALERT: I’m going to discuss a bit about different incarnations of Walter Mitty in this post. If you have not read or seen the works and want to have the joy of pure discovery, I would do that before reading this. I won’t get into a lot of detail

Geeks understand imagination.

We get the joy of picturing ourselves in different circumstances. Some of us go to considerable lengths to recreate the fantasy, notably with cosplay (“costume play”), and LARPing (“Live Action Role Playing”).

However, what we do is quite different from how Walter Mitty was portrayed in the original short story by James Thurber in a 1939 issue of The New Yorker.

One of the key things is that it was “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (emphasis added). Walter Mitty doesn’t share his imagination with others…they don’t know  what he is thinking.

In today’s society, it might be quite different. Walter Mitty might be part of one (or several) online communities (even anonymously), playing out those situations with others.

Is Walter Mitty a geek?

Certainly, he is intelligent, well-informed, socially inept, and with a vision beyond those of the “mundane” folks in his life…I think that would fit a lot of people’s definition. 😉

He has a geek’s knowledge of detail…and he has fun in his mind, even if his real life is…less than thrilling.

The 1947 movie with Danny Kaye considerably changed the message of the character. Now, Mitty becomes involved in a real-life adventure. What he imagined in the past is valuable to him, but it is clearly suggested that being in the real world is a better idea…coming out of your shell.

That’s a very different feel. Walter Mitty in the short story might like to come out of his shell (maybe), but there is no suggestion that will happen, or even endorsement of the idea. In the short story, these ideas are a defense to a humdrum existence…not something that will give him real world power.

To be clear, I’m a big Danny Kaye fan, and like the 1947 movie very much…but it isn’t the same as the story at its heart.

There were radio adaptations (including one with Danny Kaye), and stage productions (it was part of A Thurber Carnival), but geeks may fondly (?) remember the 1975 live action/cartoon combo, The Secret Lives of Waldo Kitty.

I enjoyed this odd 1975 Filmation production. There were live action pet cats and dogs, and one of them, Waldo Kitty, would have pop culture parody daydreams, which were done in animation. Waldo might become “Catzan” (Tarzan), or Captain Herc of the starship Second-Prize (a Star Trek parody), or several others. Like the 1947 movie, these fantasies actually helped Waldo deal with real world challenges.

Reportedly, it was challenged by the Thurber estate, and became a one-season wonder.

Now (releasing on December 25 2013 in the USA), Ben Stiller is doing a new version (starring and directing). While I haven’t seen it yet, it appears to be taking more of the approach of the 1947 movie than the story.

Certainly, it’s reasonable that you would have more character development in a movie than in a short story. I’ll be interested to see how this is…I’ve been hearing some good things about it.

One other thing: there was a TV series called My World and Welcome to It, based on Thurber’s writings, and starring geek-friendly William Windom. It wasn’t specifically Walter Mitty, though, although a fantasy life was certainly a part of this show (which many remember fondly).

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.

* 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! :)  You can also support a non-profit you or another geek (if you are gifting something) would appreciate…one of the ones listed here, perhaps: Weird & geeky groups you can support by shopping at AmazonSmile.

A short history of the Lone Ranger

July 2, 2013

A short history of the Lone Ranger

The Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp version of The Lone Ranger opens in the USA on July 3rd.

The character has been around for eighty years, and is a solid part of pop culture.

Before I give you a chronology, let me talk a bit about the Lone Ranger. If you know nothing about the character, it’s possible that you might consider some of this as spoilers, but I think that’s unlikely for most people. I have not seen the movie, so this won’t reveal anything specific to that production (which looks like it is going to take a different approach).

The future Lone Ranger was one of the Texas Rangers, along with his brother. The group rode into an ambush set by the Cavendish gang. All of the rangers except for the one who would become The Lone Ranger (in the original series, his first name was not given, but he is generally now thought of as John Reid) were killed.

The future Lone Ranger was rescued by Tonto. Tonto buried the other rangers (including the future Lone Ranger’s brother), and made an extra grave for the future Lone Ranger, in order to fool the Cavendish gang and give the future Lone Ranger a chance to recover.

After being helped back to health by Tonto, he becomes the Lone (the last left alive) Ranger. He dons a mask, made from the bullet-ridden vest of his brother.

There is a wild stallion that he later names Silver. It may not be appropriate to say that he tames Silver, but they do become a team.

Traditionally, the Lone Ranger doesn’t shoot to kill his opponents. In fact, he avoids gunplay. That’s why he uses silver bullets…it’s because they are rare, expensive, and difficult to get. That means he will always think twice about using one. Obviously, there is also symbolism here, as seen in naming his horse Silver as well.

The Lone Ranger travels around, helping build the West. Tonto travels with him. It’s important to note that the Lone Ranger generally treats him as an equal, and the audience is expected to do the same. While Tonto does encounter a great deal of prejudice, it’s from other characters (townsfolk, bad guys), and the audience believes the prejudice is wrong.

There are other things associated with the Lone Ranger. “Hi-yo, Silver, away!” starts a ride. When the Lone Ranger leaves an area, after having saved someone, they might say, “Who was that masked man? I wanted to thank him.”  The William Tell Overture, used in the radio show and the TV show, is also closely linked to him.

The Lone Ranger is someone who has sublimated his own identity for the greater good. He believes in the individual and helps others. He tends to side with the less powerful against those who abuse power and who might dictate the way the West develops.

To quote the show, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

Timeline (click links for information and content, including the original radio shows)

January 31st, 1933: the first Lone Ranger radio show is broadcast (there is some suggestion that it might have played on January 30th as a test, but the 31st was the official debut). It would run for close to 3,000 episodes, and become a national show and sensation

1936: the first Lone Ranger novel is published. Seventeen more in the series will follow through 1956. The Lone Ranger Rides

Late 1930s: a serious silent cartoon version is produced

1938: Parker Brothers released The Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

February 12, 1938: Republic releases the first chapter of a 15 chapter serial, just called The Lone Ranger Watch at YouTube

September, 1938: A Lone Ranger comic strip starts, and will run through 1971. Lone Ranger comic strip

January 7, 1939: The Lone Stranger and Porky, a parody with Porky Pig (and directed by Bob Clampett) is released Watch at YouTube

February 25, 1939: A Republic sequel (again, fifteen chapters) is released: The Lone Ranger Rides Again Watch a restored version at YouTube

1947: As a premium for Kix cereal, kids can get a Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb ring…which reportedly actually contains a radioactive isotope Tracy’s Toys

1948: Dell Comics begins a Lone Ranger comic book, originally reprinting strips, but later including original material. It will run for 145 issues

1948: Cheerios prints special editions of the boxes with 9 different paper card model sets, in honor of the 15th anniversary of the show Board Game Geek listing

September 15, 1949: The Lone Ranger becomes an early hit for TV with Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. New episodes run through June 6, 1957 The Renegades episode of The Lone Ranger

1951: Dell publishes a Tonto comic book series…it runs 31 issues

1951: Dell adds a Silver comic book series…it runs 34 issues Silver comic book

January-February, 1953: Mad Magazine does a parody: Lone Stranger!

December 1953 – January 1954: Mad Magazine does a parody…sequel: Lone Stranger Rides Again

1956: Parker Brothers releases The New Lone Ranger boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1956: A theatrical release is done with Moore and Silverheels

1956: Lisbeth Wirthing releases The Lone Ranger and the Silver Bullets boardgame. It is reportedly later pulled due to licensing issues Board Game Geek article

1958: Another theatrical release with Moore and Silverheels, The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold

September 1964: Gold Key begins a Lone Ranger comic book series

1965: Bill Cosby’s album I Started Out As a Child features a Lone Ranger routine audio clip on YouTube

1966: A Lone Ranger animated series runs, with Michael Rye as the Ranger. It is reportedly a darker tone than might be expected at the time

1966: Milton Bradley releases The Lone Ranger boardgame, apparently based on the cartoon series Board Game Geek listing

1973: Gabriel Toys released a line based on the Lone Ranger Skooldays article

1978: Warren Company releases The Lone Ranger& Tonto boardgame Board Game Geek listing

1980: The Tarzan/Lone Ranger (later Zorro was added) animated series. William Conrad (Cannon) voiced the Ranger. Ran through 1982

1980: Milton Bradley releases a Lone Ranger board game, The Legend of the Lone Ranger Board Game Geek listing

1981: A big budget version is made…with Christopher Lloyd as Butch Cavendish. A controversy at the time is Clayton Moore, TV’s Lone Ranger, being prohibited from wearing the mask in public appearances (so as not to conflict), and switching to sunglasses

1994: Topps comics does a four-part Joe R. Lansdale miniseries

July, 1991: Konami released a Lone Ranger videogame for the NES

February 26, 2003: A TV movie with Chad Michael Murray as the Lone Ranger IMDb listing

September 6, 2006: Dynamite Entertainment begins another comic book series

2013?: Lego releases a series of figures and sets connected to the new movie Lego

June 6, 2013: Disney releases Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer inspired characters for Disney Infinity L.A. Times article

July 3, 2013:  The Johnny Depp version opens

Lone Ranger collectibles

===
The Lone Ranger search at Amazon
===

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

Richard Matheson reported dead

June 25, 2013

Richard Matheson reported dead

Richard Matheson’s work was never simple…but it was always accessible. The author could take the uncomplicated (but stunning) premise of a man slowly, inexorably shrinking, and use it to take us to a deeply philosophical exploration.

That’s part of what made Matheson’s work so adaptable to the screen (even when the screenwriting was done by someone else). The complex intellection was never there to keep readers out. It was, indeed, how many of us would react in those situations. We’re not all driven by blind athleticism, as is too often the case in “what if” stories…like Richard Matheson’s characters, we think about what is happening and what it means. The events, the plot, may have been visual and easily understood, which made them great for TV and movies…and they could stand without those self-conversations that were part of the novel or short story.

They worked both as literature and in the visual media…as did Richard Matheson.

This is a case where there are simply too many works to list them all. You can see Matheson’s contributions to geeky literature (starting with the science fiction magazines in 1950, and continuing through 2013)  here:

http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?531

and movie and TV credits (including both works Matheson wrote and adaptations, from 1955 to 2011) here:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0558577/

Many of Matheson’s literary works are still available here:

Amazon’s Richard Matheson page

Let me instead just mention some of the highlights in this remarkable career:

  • I Am Legend (novel, 1954): this first novel would be enough to leave a legacy. It has been directly adapted into three feature movies (The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price ((my favorite of the three)), The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend with Will Smith). However, it has inspired many more. It gave a fantasy situation a scientific explanation, making it contemporary. Would we have had World War Z or Night of the Living Dead without I Am Legend?
  • The Shrinking Man (novel, 1956): this became The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957…with a screenplay by Matheson
  • House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven (screenplays, 1960 -1963): Matheson adapted Edgar Allan Poe (and I haven’t listed all of the titles) for Roger Corman
  • Twilight Zone (screenplays and adaptations, 1959-1964): some of the most memorable (and oddest) Twilight Zone episodes came from the mind of Richard Matheson, and that’s saying a lot, given the great writers who worked on that show. The Invaders (with Agnes Moorehead) is a story with almost no words, and a twist ending. Little Girl Lost is truly odd and creepy.  Nightmare at 20,000 Feet starred William Shatner, and was remade with John Lithgow for Twilight Zone:  The Movie
  • Star Trek (screenplay, 1966): While The Enemy Within may not be the best that the series had to offer, its splitting of Captain Kirk into two different personalities is memorable
  • H*ll House (novel, 1971): Matheson adapted this horror novel into The Legend of H*ll House with Roddy McDowall in 1973
  • The Night Stalker/The Night Strangler (screenplays, 1972 & 1973): these would become the Kolchak series
  • The Martian Chronicles (screenplays, 1980): Matheson wrote three episodes of the Ray Bradbury adaptation starring Rock Hudson)
  • Steel (short story, 1956): this robot boxing story (which was really more about humans were affected by the technology) became both an episode of Twilight Zone and the feature starring Hugh Jackman

Even with that listing, I may have omitted some people’s favorites and left off some other notables: What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Somewhere in Time, Trilogy of Terror, Dreamer of Oz (John Ritter as L. Frank Baum), Jaws 3-D, Amazing Stories, Night Gallery…

Richard Matheson told us that there is no escape: that the ancient horrors can still find us in our neat and orderly modern world. However, when that world becomes too safe  and predictable, we need imaginations like Richard Matheson’s to show us that mundanity itself can be escaped, if we only use our minds.

Good-bye, Richard Matheson…the world is less clever without you.

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

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

March 3, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

How bad?

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

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

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

He gave her to Mombi, a truly evil character.

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

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

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

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

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

There are fascinating politics at work here.

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

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

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

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

END SPOILER

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

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

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

My take on…Monsters in the Movies by John Landis

July 22, 2012

My take on…Monsters in the Movies by John Landis

Monsters in the Movies
100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares
by John Landis
published by DK

“My criteria for inclusion of a particular monster is simple: the illustrations in this volume are there because I think they are cool.”
–John Landis
writing in Monsters in the Movies

John Landis has the geek cred to be asked to write this coffee table book. No question, An American Werewolf in London is an important movie. Landis’ Michael Jackson video, Thriller, has been hugely influential.

I remember seeing John Landis and Rick Baker at a convention somewhere, showing Schlock, which I did enjoy (and have watched more than once). As I recall, Baker’s business card read, “Rick Baker, Monster Maker”.

Geek cred, though, doesn’t automatically make you a great writer of non-fiction. This is definitely the work of a fan, not a film historian.

Movies are described as “boring” (Surrogates), “uninteresting” (Silence of the Lamb sequels), and we are told that Mal Arnold “redefines ‘bad acting'” (Blood Feast).

What gets included seems to follow fuzzy rules. The book appears to be intended to be about the movies (it’s in the title), but a few pictures from TV shows sneak in (a zombie from The Walking Dead, for example).  However, where one might expect to see a picture from TV, it may not be there. There is a photo essay on the Cyclops, for one…but if pictures from TV are allowed, why no Lost in Space Cyclops?

Landis also gets to interview some geek greats, including John Carpenter and Ray Harryhausen. However, as an interviewer, Landis seems to have a rigid agenda for what should be answered, and doesn’t seem to follow the interviewee into the unexpected when the opportunity presents itself. It’s as if John Landis wants to enter the answers into a database, rather than have a more general discussion.

The pictures do include nudity and gore that would not be safe for work, and the interviews include obscenities (including the “F word”).

Spoilers happen some times, and at other times, seem to be withheld.

All of that said, the pictures are magnificent. It’s fun to read a fan sharing enthusiasm, and a broad awareness of the subject.

The book is somewhat loosely organized into sections:

  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Mad Scientists
  • Zombies
  • Ghosts
  • Mummies
  • Myths, Legends, & Fairy Tales
  • Dragons & Dinosaurs
  • Monstrous Apes
  • Nature’s Revenge
  • Atomic Mutations
  • The Devil’s Work
  • Space Monsters
  • Monstrous Machines
  • Human Monsters
  • Monster Makers (real people, like Willis O’Brien and Dick Smith)

Each section has an introductory essay, and then those wonderful photographs with captions by the author.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I think most fans will. I do recommend it…just sit back and enjoy it and don’t expect it to bring you an in-depth analysis of the topic.

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

Review: Roswell USA: Towns That Celebrate UFOs, Lake Monsters, Bigfoot, and Other Weirdness

May 15, 2012

Review: Roswell USA: Towns That Celebrate UFOs, Lake Monsters, Bigfoot, and Other Weirdness

Roswell USA: Towns That Celebrate UFOs, Lake Monsters, Bigfoot, and Other Weirdness
by John LeMay (author), Noe Torres (editor), Neil Riebe (illustrator)
published by RoswellBooks.com
original publication: 2011
size: 2427KB (256 pages)
categories: nonfiction; UFOs; Regions
lending: enabled
simultaneous device licenses: 6
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: yes
text-to-speech: yes

“I still had no idea that Spring Healed Jack, a mysterious figure that I had read about as a kid who terrorized London in the 1800s had also supposedly been seen Silver City, New Mexico.”
–Roswell USA

Years ago, I had a service called TAP (The Address Project). People would give me an area where they lived, and I’d give them a list of weird things that happened near there.

It was never a big success, but I had fun with it. 🙂

There was a point to it for me, too. I wanted to show that these sorts of things are reported everywhere.

Roswell USA focuses on places that have taken advantage of famous reports of weirdness to attract tourists.

The book is well-written and researched. It reminded me a bit of early Brad Steiger. There are great pictures, and the authors actually contact people involved.

The first part of the book focuses on the Roswell Incident, and I have to say, it may be the best weaving together of the various storylines (and they do contradict each other) that I’ve read.

They aren’t making fun of the events, but they aren’t endorsing them either. They do get a little humor in there:

“EBE 3 left earth for political reasons. She and the other aliens apparently didn’t care for Presidents Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush. (Author’s Note: Seriously, this is the story, totally unenhanced by me. Google it, I dare you.)”

The second part of the book was really interesting to me. While people outside of Roswell associate it with UFOs…but like any town, it has other strange happenings…ghosts, mini-dinosaurs, and more. That’s what a local writer can do for you.

The third part goes region by region through the country, telling you about weird festivals and museums. There are properly linked footnotes, which I always appreciate.

As sharp-eyed readers may have noticed from the quotation at the top of this post, there are a few minor errors. The one in the quotation is that the figure is “Spring Heeled”, not “Spring Healed”. Well, I suppose the latter might be true if Jack had visited Lourdes…or those magic fingers in a bed have therapeutic value. 😉  No, Jack was thought to perhaps have had springs in its shoes, creating prodigious leaps.

I didn’t find the few errors distracting, though.

Overall, I thought this was a fun read, and a wealth of information.

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

The Spoiler Zone: analysis of The Hunger Games

March 26, 2012

The Spoiler Zone: analysis of The Hunger Games

I’ve already given you my overall take on The Hunger Games movie, but I wanted to comment a bit more on some of the significant changes from the book to the movie. To do that, I’ll have to “spoil” parts of the movie…if you haven’t seen it yet and haven’t read the book, you may want to wait to read this post until you do.

These are just going to be some random thoughts, and I may add to them. I just want to get them down while it is still fresh.

SPOILER ALERT

Haymitch is made more charming, more sympathetic. The line “Congratulations, you just killed a placemat” is not in the original book, and it makes us smile. We see Haymitch actually working the Capital for sponsors. We know that’s happening in the book (well, we find out it must have), but it’s different to see it. Haymitch talking to the Gamemaker to propose the “young love” storyline? Definitely makes the “mentor” more likeable. We also see Haymitch refusing or not taking a drink…that seems sooner than in the books. However, it makes sense to me: Haymitch’s advice to win is to “make friends”…the Haymitch in the book doesn’t seem to know how do to that. It’s not unusual for people to give advice they don’t follow, but I understand them doing this in a movie…and casting Woody Harrelson to bring a mischievous grin to the part.

Katniss is significantly weakened by taking away drugging Peeta to enable Katniss to go to the feast against Peeta’s wishes. It’s very different for Katniss to have simply snuck away than to have actively knocked Peeta out with sleep syrup. It also, again, makes Haymitch more sympathetic, because the mentor doesn’t give Katniss the necessary drugs to ensure that the choice isn’t Peeta’s to make.

The exchange between President Snow and Seneca Crane (the Gamemaker) about “containing” the spark that is Katniss? Not in the book, although we know those considerations probably happened. This moves Snow more forward…and gives us more of a motivation for Crane’s fate later on.

There were things in the movie that could have been much flashier, and it was interesting that they didn’t do that. In the book, I conceived as the outfits in the tribute parade as engulfing Katniss and Peeta in flames, and in the movie, it was much more subtle than that. The same thing was true with the mutts (mutants) at the end of the movie…honestly, they were quite plain looking. I think that was wise on the part of the moviemakers.

The tracker jacker sequence was also moderated, with the hallucinations not being as pronounced. Again, I think that focuses the movie more on the characters…that works.

We didn’t see much of the prep team, but that was okay with me…we will later, I presume. I was okay with the switch on how the mockingjay pin gets to Katniss.  While the character who originally gives it in the novel becomes more important later, I can see how we can work without it.

Oh, and I was particularly impressed that when we see Rue’s father, he is short. That was a good sign of attention to detail. Rue isn’t just young: she probably looks younger than she is, and having her father be short makes sense.

So, what did you notice? Feel free to let me know.

UPDATE: Thanks to my reader agrazalvaro for pointing out that I had confused mockingjays and jabberjays. In the movie, I expected the birds within the game to mock human words, but that was just my mistake. The book says:

“One they didn’t die off. Instead the jabberjays mated with female mockingbirds, creating a whole new species that could replicate both bird whistles and human melodies. They had lost the ability to enunciate words but could still mimic a child’s high-pitched warble to a man’s deep tones.”

Thanks, agrazalvaro!

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

“…we do not go to faery, we…”

March 17, 2012

“…we do not go to Faery, we become Faery.”
–James Stephens
writing in The Carl of  the Drab Coat
Irish Fairy Tales

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

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


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