Archive for the ‘Star Wars’ Category

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.

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! :) 

The Geeky Nineties

July 10, 2017

The Geeky Nineties

Sunday (July 9th) at 9:00, CNN will debut

The Nineties

the latest in the Tom Hanks/Gary Goetzman/Mark Herzog pop culture decade documentaries.

I’ve been writing about the decades from the geek perspective…and the 1990s had its share of iconic entries.

Overall, the decade felt like the mainstreaming of geek culture had become mature. The transformation had really begun in the 1970s with The Exorcist, Jaws, and Star Wars. It was still a surprise to see them do so well in the 1980s, but by the 1990s, not having geek-friendly movies dominating the box office would have been a surprise. The respect they had garnered became apparent, with the talents and tools of geek-friendly works moving into mainstream works (James Cameron directed the special-effects laden Titanic, and Robert Zemeckis also using the new technology in Forrest Gump).

However, the momentum was moving out of the movie theatres and on to the videogame systems…

Movies

  • Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (that’s not a moon…it’s the box office! There was a lot of controversy with this movie, even with the concept of a prequel ((not to mention the execution and characters)), but it changed the game)
  • The Disney Renaissance began in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, but really dominated in the 1990s: Beauty and the Beast (nominated for Best Picture), Aladdin, The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Mulan, and Tarzan all happened during the 1990s. Disney partnered with Pixar (which they would later purchase) in issuing the ground-breaking computer animated movie Toy Story (and the sequel, Toy Story 2, was in the top ten grossing movies for the decade). Also, 101 Dalmatians with Glenn Close presaged the life action remakes we are seeing now
  • So much Star Trek!  The Star Trek Next Gen crew had First Contact; Star Trek: Generations (Kirk and Picard); Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; Star Trek: Insurrection
  • Steven Spielberg directed the adaptation of Michael Crichton’s The Lost World, and for many people, brought dinosaurs back from the cinematic dead (echoing the plot)…and Jeff Goldblum ruled the geek screen scene!
  • Speaking of Jeff Goldblum, Independence Day came out in 1996…with another geek star, Will Smith, showing that Goldblum didn’t rule alone! Roland Emmerich directed  blew up  a lot of landmarks. Emmerich also directed Moon 44, Universal Soldier, Stargate, and Godzilla in the 1990s)
  • M. Night Shyamalan burst on to the scene directing and writing The Sixth Sense, which got six Oscar nominations and everyone talking
  • Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith were the Men in Black, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, and based on Lowell Cunningham’s comic (which radically departed from the concept of Men-in-Black in ufology…you can read my coverage of that here)
  • Yes, that was Jack Nicholson in Wolf
  • For some people, Ghost is still the most romantic movie, but it is also solidly geek-friendly. It also won two Oscars, including one for Whoopi Goldberg
  • Oh, behave! We met Austin Powers…and befitting a time traveler, had a second date with The Spy Who Shagged Me
  • Seven years after the original, the Terminator was back in Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • Michael Bay directed Meat Loaf music videos before directing Armageddon (which had competition from Deep Impact)
  • This seems familiar…Groundhog Day
  • Drew Barrymore starred, and Rocky Horror’s Richard O’Brien had a small part in Ever After
  • Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney all starred in Batman movies (following Keaton’s first turn in 1989)
  • “Never give up, never surrender!” Galaxy Quest
  • Tom Cruise did decide to accept the Mission:Impossible give to him by Brian De Palma
  • Geek-friendly can be funny, as was the case with Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar and The Mask (and the latter introduced us to Cameron Diaz)
  • We took the red pill in 1999 and entered The Matrix
  • John Travolta and Nicolas Cage were the stars, but a lot of interest was in the director of Face/Off, John Woo
  • Houston, we have a problem…but not with Ron Howard’s Apollo 13
  • Alrighty, then! Jim Carrey was Ace Ventura, Pet Detective in two movies (but not in the animated series)
  • Bond, James Bond was Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough,
  • The Blair Witch Project created the “found footage” genre, and was incredibly profitable
  • Babe, a pig raised by sheepdogs, was
  • Michael Jordan was in the animation/live action hybrid, Space Jam
  • Anaconda tried to put the squeeze on J-Lo
  • Luc Besson brought us his vision of The Fifth Element
  • There were three Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies (following the animated TV series), and two TV series
  • Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia were Mortician and Gomez in The Addams Family
  • Some other movies: A Bug’s Life; The Mummy; The Santa Claus; Dr. Dolittle; The Green Mile; The Flintstones; The Nutty Professor; The Truman Show; Hook (“Bangarang!”); Total Recall; Wild Wild West (the song was popular, but the movie was a misfire with many fans); Interview with the Vampire (Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, based on Anne Rice); George of the Jungle (Brendan Fraser…and John Cleese as the voice of Ape); Phenomenon (John Travolta); Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty and Madonna); Scream (Wes Craven); The Prince of Egypt; Tim Burton, who was a major factor in 1990s, directed Johnny Depp and Christina Ricci in Sleepy Holllow; Carl Sagan’s book Contact was given the big screen treatment (and treated as “serious” science fiction movie); The Rugrats Movie; Casper; Jumanji; Matthew Broderick starred in another cartoon to live action adaptation; Michael (John Travolta as a down to Earth angel); Flubber; The Haunting; Antz; Waterworld; Back to the World Part III (1990); Pokemon: The First Movie; The X Files; Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Gary Oldman); The Nightmare Before Christmas; Deep Blue Sea; Mortal Kombat (Christopher Lambert); Blade (Wesley Snipes); Lost in Space (Jonathan Harris didn’t cameo…he said they offered him a bit part, and he had never done a bit part in his life and wasn’t about to start); Beavis & Butt-Head Do America; Flatliners; Misery; The Devil’s Advocate; Fantasia 2000 (which came out in 1999); Natasha Henstridge starred in Species; name ten Meryl Streep movies: was Death Becomes Her one of them?; Bicentennial Man; Demolition Man; Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys; Edward Scissorhands; Forever Young; Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection; What Dreams May Come; Halloween H20: 20 Years Later; Spawn; Starship Troopers; Small Soldiers; Arachnophobia; Dragonheart; The Crow; Mighty Joe Young; Angels in the Outfield (Christopher Lloyd); Stigmata; The Rocketeer; Practical Magic; RoboCop 2; Meet Joe Black; Timecop; The Jungle Book (Jason Scott Lee); Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990); House on Haunted Hill; Encino Man; Pleasantville; The Faculty; Hocus Pocus; Urban Legend; Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey; Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: The Movie; Mars Attacks!; Sphere; My Favorite Martian; Junior; A Goofy Movie; Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare

TV

TV saw a few important geeky high points. We made our first trip into the Whedonverse…yes, the Buffy movie was in the 1990s, and there was Toy Story, but it was really with the Buffy TV series that we were there. While it wasn’t the first time that we’d had female led geeky TV series, Buffy and Xena brought straight up fighters (although there was much more to them than that). Xena was part of Sam Raimi’s shows, having spun off from Hercules. The X-Files was groundbreaking, but it’s really worth noting how animated series got quirkier and in some ways, more grown up. That was in part due to the fracturing delivery landscape, with Nickelodeon rising. Batman: The Animated Series was a milestone, and we would particularly cite Space Ghost Coast to Coast and The Tick animated series.

  • Family Guy
  • South Park
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager
  • Stargate SG-1
  • The X-Files
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
  • Charmed
  • Futurama
  • SpongeBob SquarePants
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
  • Babylon 5
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess
  • The Flash
  • Pokemon
  • Spaced
  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
  • Lexx
  • Dragon Ball Z
  • Roswell
  • Cowboy Bebop
  • Spider-Man (1994 animated series)
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun
  • Farscape
  • Goosebumps
  • Dinosaurs
  • Rugrats
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?
  • Sliders
  • X-Men (1992 animated series)
  • Highlander
  • Passions
  • The Outer Limits (1995 series)
  • Batman Beyond, The New Batman Adventures
  • Hey Arnold!
  • Touched by an Angel
  • Barney & Friends
  • The Pretender
  • Sailor Moon
  • Animaniacs
  • The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles
  • The Lost World
  • Arthur
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • Relic Hunter
  • Blue’s Clues
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion
  • Millenium
  • Gargoyles
  • Dexter’s Library
  • Early Edition
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog
  • The Magic School Bus
  • Superman
  • Rocko’s Modern Life
  • The Odyssey
  • Teletubbies
  • The Wild Thornberrys
  • The Ren  & Stimpy Show
  • Digimon
  • The Worst Witch
  • Young Hercules
  • The Wiggles
  • SeaQuest 2032
  • Weird Science
  • Spawn
  • Beast Wars: Transformers
  • The Tribe
  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.
  • Swamp Thing
  • The Tick (the animated series)
  • Bob the Builder
  • ReBoot
  • Trigun
  • Earth: Final Conflict
  • BeastMaster (1999 series)
  • Pinky and the Brain
  • CatDog
  • Kung Fu: The Legend Continues
  • So Weird
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
  • Gullah, Gullah Island
  • Detective Conan
  • Jumanji (animated series)
  • Space: Above and Beyond
  • Bear in the Big Blue House
  • Darkwing Duck (“Let’s get dangerous!”)
  • The Sentinel
  • Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles
  • Aladdin (animated series)
  • Forever Knight
  • Get Smart (1995 series)
  • Seven Days
  • Ocean Girl
  • Talespin
  • The Tommyknockers
  • V.R. Troopers
  • Space Ghost Coast to Coast
  • Duckman
  • Beakman’s World
  • Harry and the Hendersons
  • Bill Nye, the Science Guy
  • Caillou
  • Eerie, Indiana
  • VeggieTales
  • The New Addams Family (1998 series)
  • Wishbone
  • Timon & Pumbaa (series)
  • Big Wolf on Campus
  • Big Bad Beetleborgs
  • Celebrity Deathmatch
  • Bobby’s World
  • Dark Shadows (1991 Ben Cross series)
  • Happy Tree Friends
  • The Hunger
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
  • Crusade
  • NightMan
  • First Wave
  • Men in Black: The Series
  • The Adventures of Sinbad
  • Poltergeist: The Legacy
  • The Angry Beavers
  • Spider-Man Unlimited
  • The Little Mermaid (series)
  • Get a Life
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing
  • Animorphs
  • Earth 2
  • Back to the Future (animated series)
  • The Mask (animated series)
  • Cow and Chicken
  • Freakazoid!
  • The Crow: Stairway to Heaven
  • Svengoolie
  • The Land of the Lost
  • Robocop (TV series)
  • Team Knight Rider
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (TV series)
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (TV series)
  • Kindred: The Embraced
  • Archie’s Weird Mysteries
  • Goof Troop
  • Now and Again
  • Space Precinct
  • Highlander: The Raven
  • Zooboomafoo
  • The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest
  • The Incredible Hulk (animated series)
  • Tarzan (Wolf Larson)
  • Legends of the Hidden Temple

Books

Harry Potter: drop the mic! Just kidding, there were a lot of geeky books of note. I listed

90 books of the 1990s

in my I Love My Kindle blog, but those include non-geeky titles, too. I’d particularly note:

  • Jurassic Park and the sequel by Michael Crichton
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
  • Man After Man by Dougal Dixon
  • I Am Spock by Leonard Nimoy
  • The Golden Compass (AKA Northern Lights) by Philip Pullman (first of His Dark Materials)
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (kicked off a successful book series, which was later adapted for TV)
  • Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (the first of the Pendergast series)
  • The Children of Men by P.D. James
  • Blindness by Josè Saramago
  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
  • The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey (first in the series)
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Star Wars books by Kevin J. Anderson (Champions of the Force, Dark Apprentice, Jedi Search, Darksaber); many other people were writing Star Wars novels, too
  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
  • Dinosaur Summer by Greg Bear
  • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket (1st of the A Series of Unfortunate Events books)
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time #1)
  • Wizard’s First Rule (Sword of Truth #1) by Terry Goodkind
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
  • Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson (start of the Mars trilogy)
  • The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter

Of course, the Animorphs series (starting in 1996) had a big impact on younger readers.

Videogames

There was significant innovation in home videogames in the 1990s; arguably the biggest innovations since then (Virtual and Augmented Reality) are just really happening now. That’s not to say that there wasn’t innovation in the intervening period (there was), but the groundwork was laid for most of what followed.

The videogame consoles debuting included the Nintendo 64, the Game Boy, the Playstation, the Sega Saturn, and the Dreamcast. CDs began to replace cartridges, haptic feedback became a thing, and of course, online gaming took off (the term MMORPG ((Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game)) was coined).

Some notable games:

  • Street Fighter II
  • Virtua Fighter (arcade)
  • Tekken
  • Dead or Alive
  • Doom
  • Wolfenstein 3D
  • Goldeneye
  • Quake
  • Half-Life
  • Wing Commander
  • Super Mario World
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Gran Turismo
  • Ultima Online
  • EverQuest
  • Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid
  • Alone in the Dark
  • Resident Evil
  • Silent Hill
  • Baldur’s Gate
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Oddworld
  • Battletoads
  • Pokemon
  • Diablo
  • Duke Nukem
  • Earthworm Jim
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • Fallout
  • Grand Theft Auto
  • Monkey Island
  • Rayman
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon
  • Spyro
  • Super Smash Brothers
  • Tomb Raider
  • Warcraft

Toys (edited to add)

Tech toys were big, but so were simpler, low-tech items. Collectibles were big, perhaps spurred in part by the rise of eBay in 1995 and other innovative ways to convert pop culture to cash.

  • Beanie Babies (geeky? Yes, there was a unicorn, for one thing)
  • Furby
  • Sky Dancers
  • Tamagotchi
  • Tickle Me Elmo
  • Magic: The Gathering

I’m going to stop there for now (after all, this is over 2,000 words) because I want to get it out before the first episode is broadcast. I haven’t covered comics (and that’s not because the 1990s have…a reputation for not being the best comics decade), Bufo’s Weird World, science…but what I’ve done so far should show you that the 1990s were geeky!

Feel free to suggest some of your own geek-friendly items for the 1990s 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! :) 

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

September 22, 2016

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

My Favorite Martian was a popular “mermaid out of water”* sitcom which aired from 1963 to 1966. I’ve recently been re-watching it on Hulu, and it got me thinking.

“Uncle Martin”, the Martian (whose real name is Exigius) has a number of “unearthly abilities”. They are fairly well established in the first season (although they arguably expand in the third season).

Some of them seemed a bit familiar to me, and then it struck me: they reminded me of the Jedi abilities in Star Wars.

Now, let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that George Lucas copied My Favorite Martian! Certainly, it seems likely that he saw the series (he was 19 when it debuted), but was undoubtedly familiar with the themes through other science fiction. Nothing here originated with the John L. Greene/Jack Chertok’s sitcom.

It’s more the idea for me that “Uncle Martin” may be a Jedi…even though Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago (perhaps the Martian Jedi philosophy was a survivor from an ancient time).

Let’s take a look at what Uncle Martin can do, and compare it to Jedi.

Telekinesis

This is one of the most obvious parallels. Uncle Martin uses his “levitation finger” to move things with his mind. It may look sillier (this is a comedy, after all) when he wiggles his finger, but it’s actually less effort than when a Jedi makes full arm swings. Darth Vader comes close when he chokes someone. There are certainly limitations…Uncle Martin can’t influence things which are very far away, and neither can Jedi. If they could, they’d be able to take fighter spacecraft out of the sky with a gesture. Martin, who is quite a techie, did create a levitation machine with an extended range…something we don’t see in Star Wars.

Acrobatics

One of the things that defines Jedi for me is the acrobatics. The Martian does do very Jedi moves in one episode, The Disastro-Nauts. He is applying to be an astronaut on an Earth rocket to Mars, and despite appearing to be a meek, older human, shows up all of the young military types. That includes demonstrating extraordinary strength. We don’t usually see this, but he is a quiet type most of the time (not unlike the Jedi).

Telempathy/reading minds

Martin can sense emotions from somewhat far away…a “disturbance in the Force”, so to speak. However, again, Martin would win in a contest…he can read actual thoughts. If Lord Vader could do that, they would have a much simpler time fighting the rebellion. It’s not easy: he needs to be close, and generally, the other person has to concentrate (as does Martin). Martin sometimes tricks people into thinking about a topic (by asking questions) so he can get the details of it as he reads their minds.

Talking to animals

Interestingly, the Martian can speak with non-human animals…perhaps not surprising, since his telepathy already crosses species with humans. The animals appear to be cognitively much more advanced than would generally be accepted, but their motivations and perspectives are generally reasonably appropriate. A cat may be motivated by food, but hides an object to affect future events and understands what that object is and its importance. Can Jedi speak with animals? There are a lot of species involved in Star Wars, in addition to artificially intelligent droids. I can’t say that I’ve seen Jedi have the kind of communication Martin has with dogs and cats…they don’t appear to ask Tauntauns for specific information, for instance.

Jedi mind tricks

As is the case with Jedi, Uncle Martin can’t possess someone and control their actions. He can push them physically around with telekinesis, of course. However, he is also able to confuse them…we see a scene quite a bit like the “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene. Martin is speeding (to help Tim), and two police officers chase him. He slows them down, and after they catch up, they can’t figure out why they were after him.

Invisibility

Uncle Martin can actually become invisible at will (unless something like a lightning storm messes it up). That’s an ability that Jedi don’t have (they do a lot of sneaking around in the movies which they wouldn’t have to do if they could just go transparent). That appears to be an inherent Martian ability, though…Martin needs his (metallic appearing, but apparently biological) retractable antennae to work for that. They may be implants of some kind, and the invisibility might be technological, but it’s clear that Martians generally have them. Martin is clearly not a Homo sapiens (for one thing, he is about 450 years old…and those are Martian years, not Earth years), but neither is Yoda.

Those are really Uncle Martin’s signature abilities. Now, Martin doesn’t have a light saber and isn’t a warrior (he’s a professor of anthropology), but do you have to have that to be a Jedi? If a Jedi loses their light saber, does that make them not a Jedi any more? It might make it hard for them to be a Jedi knight, but isn’t it possible there are Jedi who aren’t knights? If not, why add the term “knight” at all?

There are other parallels with Uncle Martin and Yoda: they are both relatively long-lived; they both dispense advise (Uncle Martin advised many famous humans over the centuries, on return trips to Earth…as far as we know, he just hasn’t been stranded on Earth before)…although Uncle Martin probably physically resembles Ben Kenobi more.

Could the Jedi philosophy have survived on Mars a long time later? By the way, Martin makes so many references to the actual planet Mars (trying to hideaway on an Earth probe there, for one thing) that it is hard to argue that he really isn’t from Mars…unless he has some form of transportation there that gets him to the actually more life-friendly location he describes.

What do you think? Is Uncle Martin a Jedi? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

 * “Mermaid out of water” is a term I use for a situation that is like the classic “fish out of water”, but the outsider is magical, from another time, from another planet, or something otherwise outside of the human norm

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’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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

Geek out in July at Barnes & Noble

June 26, 2015

Geek out in July at Barnes & Noble

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and am probably best known currently for the I Love My Kindle blog, which covers Kindles, Amazon, and publishing.

It might, therefore, surprise some readers that I would promote an event (actually, a whole month of events) at Barnes & Noble.

Well, maybe not my readers. 🙂 They know I don’t build something up by knocking something down…when people do a good thing, I like to recognize that.

As a proud geek, I wanted to make sure you knew about B&N’s

Get Pop-Cultured month

Now, for those of us who were geeks before Star Wars, it may be somewhat amusing that pop(ular) culture in this celebration is so geek-dominated. I used to jokingly refer to what we enjoyed as unpopular culture. 😉

We geeks still embrace that, of course. If you are one of the very few who are passionate fans of a canceled TV series (for myself, I’d include Miracles and Uncle Croc’s Block in my micro-fandoms), or are surprised when people don’t get it when you make a Talbot Mundy reference, and are still wondering when there will be a Herbie Popnecker movie, you are welcome at a con(vention).

Well, I’m not going to pretend that the Barnes & Nobles stores are going to have an Azalea Pictures film festival, but much of what they will have is solidly geek-friendly (even if they reflect the mainstreaming which has been growing since Star Wars in 1977).

Here are some of the highlights (and yes, cosplay will be expected as part of it):

  • July 3-5: Time Travel Weekend July 3 at 7:00 PM is Doctor Who (Space)-Time. July 4th at 10:00 AM is Magic Tree House’s Dinosaurs Before Dark. July 5th at 2:0 PM is a celebration of Outlander
  • July 8-12: DC Comics Days (including a free Young Gotham poster, while supplies last)
  • July 9-12: Comic Convention Collectibles
  • July 17: 7:00 PM is Minions Fun
  • July 18: Star Wars Saturday (with a chance to win a Star Wars standee)
  • July 19: Manga Mania
  • July 24: 7:00 PM, Fangirl Friday
  • July 28: 7:00 PM, and July 31, 7:00 PM: Dr. Seuss Spectacular

Those are the national ones, and it’s certainly possible that your local store will have local events. If you could make a good presentation that ties into one of these things, it’s worth contacting your store to see if they are interested in having you.

Oh, and not specifically geek-focused, but likely to have a lot of related topics will be Throwback Thursdays:

  • July 2: 1950s
  • July 9: 1960s
  • July 16: 1970s (see my post on The Geeky Seventies)
  • July 23: 1980s
  • July 30: 1990s

Enjoy!

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.

Happy Star Wars Day: the original trilogy is less than 10% of Star Wars

May 4, 2014

Happy Star Wars Day: the original trilogy is less than 10% of Star Wars

Today is May 4th, which is known to geeks (and to the studio) as Star Wars Day. It comes from a pun (and oh, we geeks love puns): “May the Fourth be with you.”

Before I get to the sales on products (and there are a lot), I was curious about something.

As somebody who saw the first movie when it was first released, that’s what Star Wars is to me.

However, for many people, Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series was not only their first exposure, but probably what they think is the “real Star Wars”.

I decided to do a rough analysis of how much of Star Wars commercially released movies and TV shows were actually represented by the original movie.

While it is a bit subjective to calculate (you have to decide what to include, and you have to decide how long to credit for a TV series episode), it clearly comes out to less than 10%…for the entire original trilogy.

That number is going to contribute to drop over time…in addition to the new movies in the works, there are new TV series (Star Wars: Rebels soon) and even unreleased material (Star Wars Detours would really change the statistics.

I also chose not to include videogames…not to mention novels and comic books. I also didn’t do parodies (although Troops is still one of the best Star Wars entertainments, in my opinion).

These are my stats (I generally used IMDb’s running times):

Title Year Minutes %
Star Wars 1977 121 2.39%
The Star Wars Holiday Special 1978 97 1.91%
The Empire Strikes back 1980 124 2.45%
Return of the Jedi 1983 134 2.64%
The Ewok Adventure 1984 96 1.89%
Droids TV series 1985-1986 286 5.64%
Ewoks TV series 1985-1986 770 15.19%
Ewoks: The Battle for Endor 1985 94 1.85%
The Great Heep 1986 48 0.95%
The Phantom Menace 1999 136 2.68%
Attack of the Clones 2002 142 2.80%
Clone Wars TV series 2003-2005 120 2.37%
Revenge of the Sith 2005 140 2.76%
Star Wars: The Clone Wars 2008 98 1.93%
Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series 2008-2014 2662 52.53%
Total: 5068

One interesting thing to me was how the movies generally got longer over time (until Revenge of the Sith shaved two minutes off Attack of the Clones’ running time).

Now, on to celebrations (and deals) of the day:

First, here’s the official site’s listings:

http://starwars.com/star-wars-day-2014.html

You’ll find everything there from M&Ms to yo-yos (some are in store only items).

If you visit

Amazon Star Wars store (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

you’ll find lots of deals (including freebies)…some of them are time-based, so you may have already missed something.

You name the product category, it’s probably there…including some sold at other sites.

Between the official listing and Amazon, you are going to have a lot of options. Hurry, though…some deals will sell out!

New! Try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

* 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.

 

The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars

May 16, 2013

The fundamental difference between Star Trek and Star Wars

Star Trek Into Darkness is opening tomorrow in the USA, which will mean midnight shows tonight.

There has been quite a bit of talk about Star Trek versus Star Wars recently, especially now that J.J. Abrams is guiding both franchises.

Certainly, there are some similarities; however, there is one key difference that we hope the director keeps in mind.

The world is good (Star Trek).

The world is bad (Star Wars).

That’s what sets them apart philosophically. A fan can certainly like both…we might feel like we are struggling against evil on one day (or imagining it could happen) and fighting for good on another. The original series of Star Trek and the original trilogy of Star Wars make this a stark difference.

Who are the good guys in Star Trek?

The Federation. They are the establishment, the superpower…they have the dominant technology and the lion’s share of the resources.

Who are the bad guys in Star Wars?

The Empire. They are the establishment, the superpower…they have the dominant technology and the lion’s share of the resources.

Certainly, Star Trek’s Captain Kirk doesn’t always agree with the methodology of the Federation. Kirk doesn’t like the  bureaucracy which can slow things down. However, Captain Kirk does agree with the goals of the Federation…just not always on how to best achieve them.

On the other hand, Star Wars’ Luke Skywalker absolutely disagrees with the Empire, and wants to see them defeated and out of power.

As a fan, when you empathize with the two, that’s the dichotomy. In Star Trek, society is good and has lofty goals. The Enterprise crew fights for good. In Star Wars, society at the top is evil and has reprehensible schemes…the rebels fight against evil.

For good.

Against evil.

It’s pretty simple.

We can see this in a lot of ways. One of the obvious ones is the iconic weaponry. Star Trek has a phaser which can (and often is, especially in unknown situations) set on stun. It is designed to be used for non-lethal tactics.

The closest you can get to being non-lethal with a light saber from Star Wars is to just dismember someone.

If you think humans (and other intelligent beings) are likely to be good, you want your default setting to be stun. If you think they are likely to be bad, a light saber is more geared towards removing the threat.

What does Star Wars’ Empire do it when it discovers people who think differently and might oppose it? Build a Death Star and blow up the planet.

What does Star Trek’s Federation do when it discovers people who think differently and might oppose it? They leave them alone. The Prime Directive requires that societies be able to develop on their own (if they don’t know about a certain technology, Federation personnel can’t give it to them or tell them about it, even if it makes their lives better…that would change them and eliminate what might have happened). By definition, the Federation does not say that it is better than every other society…and it sees that more good is likely to happen than evil if people are able to choose their own paths.

There is the guiding principle, Mr. Abrams: fight against versus fight for.

Keep that in mind and we can love both of your visions for the two beloved universes.

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

Stuart Freeborn reported dead

February 7, 2013

Stuart Freeborn reported dead

When we had to re-do a bathroom due to damage years ago, we went into a store with many possible tiles for the floor. We ended up with a coloring and patterning (which we still very much like) that we both agreed “looked like Yoda”.

That shows you (even if we aren’t typical) how much the look of something can have an impact.

In the case of Yoda, the designer of the appearance was Stuart Freeborn.

When I hear that name, my first thought is of the “apemen” in the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There was an amazing naturalness to the special effects in that movie (still missing in many of today’s extravaganzas), and this key scene was no exception. If we’d spent the scene thinking how fake it looked, it would have compromised the rest of the movie…Freeborn made sure that didn’t happen.

No question, though, most people will associate Stuart Freeborn with the Star Wars series. While Rick Baker rightfully gets a lot of credit for the mix of aliens in the Cantina, Freeborn designed Yoda and Chewbacca (the latter of whom, it is worth noting, looks different from the Space Odyssey designs).

Freeborn also had a long association with Peter Sellers. Sellers often appeared in multiple roles, which of course, required different looks…which is where Freeborn would come into it.

Never nominated for an Oscar, Freeborn shared two Saturn Awards (one with Phil Tippett and one with Rick Baker), and was nominated for a BAFTA.

Geek friendly credits include:

  • The 1940 version of The Thief of Bagdad with Sabu
  • The Mouse that Roared (working with Peter Sellers)
  • The Christopher Lee version of The Hands of Orlac
  • Tarzan Goes to India (with Jock Mahoney)
  • Dr. Strangelove (Sellers again)
  • Seance on a Quiet Afternoon (which got star Kim Stanley an Oscar nom)
  • After the Fox (which I consider an  under appreciated  Peter Sellers movie)
  • Toomorrow (Val Guest (!) directs Olivia Newton-John in a rock movie…with aliens)
  • See No Evil (Mia Farrow)
  • Beware My Brethren
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1972) with Fiona Fullerton and Michael Crawford (the eventual Phantom of the Opera) as the White Rabbit
  • Murder on the Orient Express (with Albert Finney)
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (with Gene Wilder)
  • The Omen
  • Spectre (Gene Roddenberry writes for Robert Culp)
  • The first three Star Wars movies
  • The Christopher Reeve Superman movies
  • The Great Muppet Caper (working with Frank Oz again)
  • Top Secret! (Val Kilmer)
  • Santa Claus (Dudley Moore)
  • Haunted Honeymoon (Gene Wilder again)

Good-bye, Stuart Freeborn…our reality has fewer alternatives without you in it.

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

George Lucas sells Star Wars to Disney for over $4B…that’s a lot of t-shirts

October 31, 2012

George Lucas sells Star Wars to Disney for over $4B…that’s a lot of t-shirts

Following the success of American Graffiti, George Lucas was negotiating the deal on Star Wars. It wasn’t at all clear the movie would be a success. The studio, 20th Century Fox, was legendarily fine with Lucas getting the merchandising rights and other creative control of future related works. As I recall it, Lucas figured that might mean selling silk-screened t-shirts at a convention in a few years.

Needless to say, Star Wars became a huge hit, and the merchandising rights were even more impressive.

In this

YouTube video

George Lucas and Robert Iger (CEO of Disney) explain the deal that Lucas literally signs in the video, selling LucasFilm, ILM, and more to Disney.

Honestly, this makes sense. Lucas gets $4 billion, and the ability to go off and do much less commercial things, like philanthropy and more artsy projects. He’s also been working with Disney for a long time, and honestly, who protects their characters more than Disney?

Disney gets Star Wars, and that’s just the beginning.

They also explain that we’ll get Star Episode VII in 2015 in the theatres. The first movie was episode four, which means this next movie will chronologically come after Return of the Jedi.

There are already tons of Star Wars novels, including many deal with the offspring of characters in the original trilogy. They may or may not go for continuity with these.

Is this a good thing for fans?

My guess is that it will be. Disney’s done okay by Marvel and Pixar (they also own those). ..some might argue that they’ve done at least as well as George Lucas has with his own Star Wars prequel trilogy. Kathleen Kennedy steering Star Wars (she has worked with George Lucas for decades) was part of the deal.

And hey, here’s a chance for a reboot of Howard the Duck 😉

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

Ralph McQuarrie reported dead

March 4, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie reported dead

“That’s no moon.”
–Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Alec Guinness)
Star Wars
screenplay by George Lucas

Star Wars affected us both intellectually and emotionally. No small part of that was the look of it. When you think about the Death Star, you picture it…not just the idea of a giant killer space station, but the way it appeared on screen.

Ralph McQuarrie was the “planet and satellite artist” who was responsible for that look.

Of course, it was George Lucas who conceived of the Death Star, and likely envisioned it in his imagination.

It was up to McQuarrie, though, to make George Lucas’ vision visible to the rest of us. What a conceptual artist does is, in a way, parallel to what an interpreter for the United Nations does: a conceptual artist is a translator for the eyes, not the ears.

Ralph McQuarrie would go on to feed our eyes in Close Encounters, Raiders, and Cocoon (for which he shared a Visual Effects Oscar).

Legend has it that it was his concept drawings for Star Wars, though, that helped sell the movie to 20th Century Fox. Without him, it’s possible the movie would not have gotten the funding it needed to become a reality.

Good-bye, Ralph…the Force would not have been as strong without you.

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

Flash! Geek movies added to National Film Registry

December 28, 2010

Flash! Geek movies added to National Film Registry

The Library of Congress announced this morning the 25 movies added to the National Film Registry.

I’m happy to report that a number of geek-friendly movies made the list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant works this year.

Of course, it’s a bit funny that it’s called a “film” registry.  I’ve had this discussion with other people before.  Some movies are not made on film at all anybody…they are digital.  That’s going to be increasingly true.  Calling them “films” is like saying you ” dial the phone“.  😉  We’re probably going to use that term for a while, though.

It’s also important to note that the LoC (Library of Congress) isn’t saying these are the best movies…just that they are significant.  The public nominates the movies…you can nominate the 2011 batch right now.  They actually prefer an e-mail to dross@loc.gov, although the link immediately above gives you an address to use as well.

What does it mean for the movies that were picked?  It means that the LoC will put an emphasis on preserving them. 

One last thing before I talk about nominees: some of the news stories I’m seeing contain (in the first sentence or two) one of the biggest spoilers of all time.  For me, there is no statute of limitations on spoilers a ten-year old seeing a classic movie for the first time deserves the same unspoiled experience people had when it was first released.  I know many people don’t agree with me on that, though.  🙂 

Here are some nominees, in no particular order:

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Many geeks consider this movie (the second released and officially #5 in the story sequence) to be the best of the Star Wars movies.  Undeniably, it gets parody shout-outs more than the first movie (which is already in the registry).   I think that’s an important measure (although not the only one) of cultural significance.

 The Exorcist (1973)

Undeniably, this movie influenced the industry and was hugely popular.  It was shocking and scary.  It brought horror to the masses, and in a sense, genre movies as well.  One of its stars, Max von Sydow, was also on our 2010 Box Office MVPs.

Electronic Labyrinth: THX 113B 4EB (1967)

Does this one belong here?  The short by George Lucas did win awards, but was it really culturally influential?  This is not the full-length movie, by the way.  It’s interesting, certainly, but seems like a bit of an odd choice to me.  How many people have seen it, or seen a movie and said, “That reminds me of the short George Lucas made eight years before Star Wars”? 

The Pink Panther (1964)

We’ve just recently lost Blake Edwards, who directed and co-wrote this goofy comedy classic starring Peter Sellers. 

Our Lady of the Sphere (1969)

Larry Jordan’s surrealistic animation will remind some of Terry Gilliam’s work on Monty Python (which followed it).  You can watch a less than pristine copy on YouTube here.

Airplane!

Ostensibly a satire of the Airport series of disaster movies, the movie brought a new level of silliness to popular movies.  One of the main things: taking actors formerly best-known for serious performances (Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, and the late Leslie Nielsen) and letting them be absurd.

Other inducted titles for 2010 include: All the President’s Men; Saturday Night Fever; McCabe and Mrs. Miller; Malcolm X; and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

There are twenty-five titles, and include some that are pretty obscure.  You can see the complete list in this

L. A. Times article

At the time of writing, they had not yet been posted to the

Official Site

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


%d bloggers like this: