An Honest Liar

Today a documentary about the life of Randall James Hamilton Zwinge released into theaters. You may know Zwinge better as James Randi or The Amazing Randi. Upon reflection, a documentary about Randi is long overdue. However, after watching the film “An Honest Liar” any documentary released prior to this one would have been woefully lacking. Filmmakers Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom managed through goodwill and happenstance to be on hand to capture real truth from a master magician, thus a master of diversion and manipulation. Or as Randi says, “in other words, bullshit.”

“An Honest Liar” could easily have been twice as long. We’re talking about a subject who at the age of 17 years-old ran off to join a carnival, and who now at over 80 years-old has never sat still. The film briefly touches on Randi’s childhood, then dives into his successful career as escape artist/magician The Amazing Randi, and we see how that segues into his career as professional skeptic. If you find that Randi’s arc follows in broad strokes the life of Harry Houdini, you’re not the only one who finds that parallel. The coincidence is brought up by magician and skeptic alike throughout the film.

It’s odd that I never knew Randi as The Amazing Randi. I always knew it was part of his background, but until “An Honest Liar” I never saw him escape a straightjacket, a pair of handcuffs, or even a length of rope. To see him so young and roguish, for me, it was like being introduced to a stranger. Then thanks to some excellent archival footage and interview legwork I got to bear witness to stuff that to me was almost legend: Randi vs Uri Gellar, Randi vs Peter Popoff, and Project Alpha, as well as other investigations from that era. Finally the film gets to the only James Randi I’ve really ever known. Long white hair, long white beard. The consummate skeptic, proud atheist, and founder of James Randi Educational Foundation (amongst many other things). He has a keen intellect and a razor sharp wit.

Then, due to a strange twist of fate, a deception that had been lying dormant in Randi’s life being revealed, I come face to face with a James Randi I’m not entirely comfortable with. Gone is the man who is certain of how the world works and who brushes things that disagree with him off with aplomb. In those few moments I am face to face with the fully realized human being that is James Randi.

Weinstein and Meason captured a master escape artist from every angle with “An Honest Liar”. If you get a chance to see it, do so.

To learn more and/or help get the film in more theaters visit: http://anhonestliar.com/wp/

The Geek Month in Review: December 2014

By JB Sanders

Happy Yule!

Alien Fonts
Great article on the fonts and symbols used in the movie Alien, and how they influenced other scifi movies. Bonus points for a tie-in with The Secret Doctrine by Helena Blavatsky.

Touchable Holograms
Yeah, you read that right. Projected images that have haptic feedback — meaning you can feel them. Go ahead and let your brain explode on that one.

Hand-Illuminated, Hand-Bound Copy of the Simallarion
You remember that Tolkien book, the one that is basically lifted from his hand-written notes about the world of the Lord of the Rings, but it is basically unreadable except as a reference work? Yeah, this German art student decides to just go ahead and create a copy of the book by hand. It’s awesome.

Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer, Project Apollo
Yeah, that headline pretty much tells the whole story, but for the details, read the article.

Interactive 3D Display
Nope, not the same as the link above. This is more like a telepresence version of that toy with all the pins in it that everyone always presses their hand into. Only with color.

Lord of the Rings Partially Explained
Ever wonder how Gandalf got to be so badass that he could go toe-to-toe with a Balrog? Check out the video!

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

24 Hour Joe Show

I suspect it comes as no surprise that my political inclinations are progressive, and thusly I found myself curious when given the opportunity to watch an advance screener of “The Joe Show”, a documentary about Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Would it celebrate him? With publicized appearances from known Arpaio supporters Ted Nugent and Steven Seagal it would seem like it. Yet even if it celebrated someone whose politics I felt certain no documentary could give me a warm fuzzy about, I couldn’t resist. I watched the Sarah Palin documentary “Undefeated”. I could handle whatever “The Joe Show” had in store.

Joe Arpaio is the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. You may know him as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”. Sheriff Arpaio is nationally known, and in many cases internationally known, for having prisoners wear pink underwear, erecting Tent City (an outdoor tent prison), feeding prisoners food salvage, being overly enthusiastic about cracking down on illegal immigration, investigating the origins of President Obama’s birth, and more. Fortunately for the press, he loves media attention.

However “The Joe Show” was eight years in the making, and that means eight years of access to the Sheriff and Lisa Allen (the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Media Person), as well assorted constituents, activists, and supporters. It’s not surprising to think Arpaio would allow a documentary film to be made about him, and as the film starts it’s a very neutral experience. Basic background, friends and supporters.

Then things begin to turn. As I said, I already know my politics don’t mesh with Arpaio’s. I’m not down with Tent City, meals of food salvage, or the birthers. Yet with not living in Maricopa County I never went out of my way to follow what had been going on over there. I don’t want to do a big info dump on you here, because you should really just watch the documentary, but we’re talking about abuse of power, devastating failures to investigate sex crimes, and racial profiling. While it’s going on he just keeps getting re-elected. Apparently “The Joe Show” is just too entertaining for the voters of Maricopa County to let go.

Love him or hate him you’re not going to want to pass up on watching “The Joe Show”. It is a well-paced, entertaining, and eye-opening documentary.

The Joe Show – Official Trailer from FilmBuff on Vimeo.

“The Joe Show” will be released December 16 on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, GooglePlay, Xbox, Playstation, and Vudu.

Remote Area Medical

Like many Americans, I hope most Americans, I follow the national debate about the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). Readers with a longish memory may recall I took the time to read the original, infamous 1,018 page health care bill when it seemed like no one was going to bother. This is why when I got word of a new documentary being released I wanted to make sure to share it with you.

During the U.S. debate about healthcare reform, the media—reporters and news crews and filmmakers— failed to put a human face on what it means to not have access to healthcare. “Remote Area Medical” fills that gap—it is a film about people, not policy. Focusing on a single three-day clinic held in the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, “Remote Area Medical” affords us an insider’s perspective on the ebb and flow of the event—from the tense 3:30 a.m. ticket distribution that determines who gets seen to the routine check-ups that take dramatic turns for the worse, to the risky means to which some patients resort for pain relief. We meet a doctor who also drives an 18-wheeler, a denture maker who moonlights as a jeweler, and the organization’s founder, Stan Brock, who first imagined Remote Area Medical while living as a cowboy in the Amazon rainforest, hundreds of miles from the nearest doctor. But it is the extraordinary stories of the patients, desperate for medical attention, that create a lasting impression about the state of modern health care in America.

Born in Lancashire, England, Stan Brock is perhaps best known for his years as the co-host of NBC’s “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” from 1963-1971.

In 1985 Stan Brock founded Remote Area Medical (RAM). Since then RAM has mobilized over 80,000 volunteers and healthcare professionals to deliver over $75,000,000 worth of free quality medical procedures and services. He has addressed The United States Congress on the needs of providing free quality healthcare to those who cannot afford it nor have direct access to it. Stan has received numerous accolades for his work with Remote Area Medical, including the prestigious Inamori Ethics Prize for humanitarian leaders in 2010 and CNN’s Hero Award in 2012.

I can tell just from the trailer I’m going to need a tissue or two to get through this one, but I’m so totally going to watch it.

“Remote Area Medical” opens in New York on November 28, 2014 and nationwide on December 5, 2014.

UPDATE: A bit of news broke shortly after I wrote this up. It looks like NYC was going to have a visit from Remote Area Medical on November 28, 2014 to provide free health care to those who were willing to make the trip and lucky enough to get picked in the lottery. However New York Governor Andrew Cuomo decided to cancel the event. You can read the details here. (It’s written by the directors/producers of the documentary.)

Creature Double Feature

Now that October, and Halloween, are behind us we can dig in and talk horror movies. Sure, you thought that because Hollywood’s traditional month of terror has passed that with it they took all the scary movies. Well I’m here to tell you that I’m not a fan of horror movies but two have been brought to my attention that look really cool and both of them are releasing in November. So take THAT October!


First up is “Late Phases”, written by Eric Stolze and directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano.

Crescent Bay is not the ideal place to spend one’s golden years, especially since the once-idyllic retirement community has been beset by a series of deadly animal attacks from the ominous forest surrounding it. When grizzled war veteran Ambrose McKinley (Nick Damici) is forced into moving there by his yuppie son Will (Ethan Embry), the residents immediately take offense to Ambrose’s abrasive personality. But that take-no-prisoners attitude may be just what Ambrose needs to survive as it becomes clear that the attacks are being caused by creatures that are neither animal nor man, and that the tight-knit community of Crescent Bay is hiding something truly sinister in its midst…

“Late Phases” opens in New York on November 21, 2014 with national expansion to follow.

The other is “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour.

Strange things are afoot in Bad City. The Iranian ghost town, home to prostitutes, junkies, pimps and other sordid souls, is a bastion of depravity and hopelessness where a lonely vampire stalks its most unsavory inhabitants.

Cinema’s first Iranian vampire western, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature basks in the sheer pleasure of pulp. A joyful mash-up of genre, archetype, and iconography, its prolific influences span spaghetti westerns, graphic novels, horror films, and the Iranian New Wave. Amped by a mix of Iranian rock, techno, and Morricone-inspired riffs, its airy, anamorphic, black-and-white aesthetic and artfully drawn-out scenes combine the simmering tension of Sergio Leone with the weird surrealism of David Lynch.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” opens in New York and Los Angeles on November 21, 2014 with national expansion to follow.

The Geek Month in Review: August 2014

By JB Sanders

Is it still summer?

Live Inside a Volcano
This sounds like an ideal villain lair, and the pictures in the article support that claim.

Ape Selfies!
This is how the end begins: ape selfies. Read how a photojournalist, whose camera was pinched by a black macaca nigra monkey who then took thousands of photos (including a selfie), is now claiming that Wikipedia has no right to use the picture. Wikipedia is claiming that the copyright “belongs” to the monkey, and therefore is in the public domain.

The monkey’s lawyers were unavailable for comment.

Babylon5 on the Big Screen?
It could happen! Seriously, JMS is working on a script and seeking funding right now.

Self-Assembling Origami Robots
Sure, they start out flat and uninteresting, but they don’t stay that way. Watch as a robot assembles itself out of flat metal and walks away.

Glow-accented Shelving
Got a crack in that nice piece of lumber you bought for shelves? No worries! Fill it in with glowing resin. Not sure how that would look? Check out this album.

Neuronic Processors
IBM has released a chip that includes synapse-like elements on the chip. The coming future of AI? Probably. But it’s no photonics.

The Perhapsatron
So in the 50’s, this guy (scientist Jim Tuck) built what he hoped was going to be a fusion reactor, and it looks a lot like the arc reactor from Tony Stark’s lab. That’s Iron Man, folks. What a great kick-off to a scifi story, though. And he really did call it the Perhapsatron.

Best Birthday Present Ever? Secret Treasure Room
So these parents discover a storage space next to their kid’s bedroom, but instead of telling him about it, they hide the entrance behind a heavy dresser, wait until his 4th birthday, have it secretly renovated, and make it into his own Secret Treasure Room. Personally, I would have gone for more of a pirate motif in my Secret Treasure Room, but it’s not bad.

Dr Who Themed Restaurant
Who’d have thunk it? Tucked away in a sleepy upstate NY town, this eatery features “fish fingers” (french toast sticks) and pudding, plus a smashing decor.

Pyramids and Beehives of Mars
MakerBot (3D printer makers) and JPL (without rockets, it’s just science) solicited entries in a contest for a Mars habitat design that could be constructed using — you guessed it — 3D printers. Check out the three entries that one, including one pyramid design and one based on beehives.

How to Build a 1KB Hard Drive — In Minecraft
That’s right, build a virtual digital storage device inside the game (“game”) Minecraft. Essentially, this person builds a giant assembly of blocks and moving bits to create the drive. It gives me ideas for a way to “store” some kind of special encryption key — just encode it onto a virtual storage device you built inside a game, and let’s see someone figure that out.

Robot-driven 3D-Printed Hoverbike
I think we may have reached a nirvana of geek topics: 3D printed, robots, and hover bikes. Woo!

The Space Economy
What benefits there will be to mining the asteroid belt, in a handy bunch of info graphics.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog:http://www.glenandtyler.com/

73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe

Vogue magazine has a web series called “73 Questions”. As you might suspect involves asking someone 73 questions. In the past they’ve featured Sarah Jessica Parker and Olivia Munn, which I didn’t bother mentioning to you guys. However when I received notice of the episode “73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe” I thought that some of you might want to know about it. Particularly since at the very end he reveals a dirty little secret about Harry Potter.

So for those of you who want to see Daniel Radcliffe play some ping pong, talk movies, and give facial hair advice, this video is for you.

Television and Film

A cool sounding PBS show was brought to my attention recently, it’s called “On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival”. It is currently in its fourth season and we all should be watching and here are 5 reasons why:

1. Support the Public Broadcasting System. They’re there for more than Sesame Street people!

2. The Austin Film Festival is bad ass. If they’re involved you know it’s a good time.

3. The third episode of the season features veteran screenwriters John August (X-Men First Class, Thor) and Ashley Miller (Big Fish, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory) deconstructing the 1979 film Alien’s pacing, tension, and craftsmanship.

4. In case that wasn’t enough, the fourth episode features House of Cards creator, Beau Willimon, who discusses writing for Netflix, working with David Fincher and delving into the psychology of narrative power struggles.

5. Do my endorsements mean anything to you?

Check with your local PBS stations to see if they carry “On Story”. However, if they don’t, there is no need to despair! You can watch episodes and clips at http://www.onstory.tv/.

Illy Presents a Liberatum Film

Those seeking creative inspiration should look no further, illy, the Trieste based Italian coffee company, is presenting Inspiring Creativity, a compilation of interviews captured on film by global multidisciplinary cultural organization Liberatum, which explores what creativity means and the catalysts that inspire it.

Featuring 21 artists and cultural figures from art, fashion, film, design, technology and music — Inspiring Creativity is an insider’s perspective on inspiration from the minds of well-known creative personalities including: Hans Zimmer, Inez and Vinoodh, James Franco, Joan Smalls, Johan Lindeberg, Jonas Mekas, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Karen Elson, Klaus Biesenbach, Lee Daniels, Lola Montes Schnabel, Marilyn Minter, Nico Muly, Mark Romanek, Tracey Emin, Moby, Paul Schrader, and Richard Saul Wurman.

Through the authentic interpretation and responses from these individuals, the overall project communicates what inspires creative thinking and behaviors for nurturing inspiration, while provoking thoughts on how culture, society, and technology continue to affect creativity.

You can view the 12 minute film right here:

Vanity Fair’s Hollywood Issue

Guess who is feeling fancy this February? This gal! And why? Because just like my heroes over at Go Fug Yourself, Vanity Fair sent me an advance image of the cover of Vanity Fair’s 20th anniversary Hollywood issue. Little did the classy folks at Vanity Fair realize how I was going to give my readers the short geek interpretation of their cover.

Let’s go to the cover, shall we?

Here it is!

We’ve got Chiwetel Ejiofor all the way to the left. Surely he’s there for his performance in “12 Years a Slave”, but I don’t care even the slightest about that. For us Browncoats he’s The Operative in the film “Serenity”. The next handsome gent with Julia Roberts in his lap is Idris Elba. I’ve got to assume he’s on the cover for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”. However all of us geeks are excited to see him because he starred in, say it together now, “Luther”! Also, hubba hubba! Thanks to “Dallas Buyer Club’s” 6 Oscar nominations Jared Leto is front and center on the cover, and women of a center age know Jared Leto better as Jordan Catalano from “My So-Called Life”. Your band 30 Seconds to Mars can release as many albums as you want, and you can star in as many movies that you can get cast in, but you will always be freakin’ Jordan Catalano to us.

Lastly, standing in the middle like the glorious beacon of awesome that she is, Lupita Nyong’o. I know this actress entirely from her dazzling beauty and amazing fashion sense. In terms of Hollywood, kudos may be in order to her stylist. This is seriously sad, but it wasn’t until I looked her up on IMDB.com that I learned she was in “12 Years a Slave”. Until about 5 minutes ago I only knew Lupita Nyong’o for being a woman who can do no wrong when it comes to dressing for the red carpet. I had no idea why she was walking those carpets. This isn’t traditional geek, but it touches on my fashion geekness. (Did I mention my love for Go Fug Yourself?)

But wait! I’ve got a little something more. Not only was Vanity Fair kind enough to share their cover image but they also sent along a video of some behind the scene footage of the photo shoot! Getting to watch world famous photographer Annie Leibovitz work is a special treat. I’ve been a fan of hers since high school!

Consider this an early Valentine’s gift from Vanity Fair to Magical Buffet readers!

Lights, Camera, Booze!

I’ve always had a soft spot for the movie “The Princess Bride”. Then when my husband and I got married we made reference to the book at our ceremony so we never officially declared it, but the movie sort of became “our” film. So obviously we did what any reasonable married couple would do with such a special film, we invited our friends over for “The Princess Bride”: The Drinking Game.

Yes my friends, you read that correctly. I received a review copy of “Lights, Camera, Booze: Drinking Games for Your Favorite Movies” by Kourtney Jason and Lauren Metz and illustrated by Amanda Lanzone, and you can’t get a book like that and not take it for a test drive. There were tons of tempting options: “The Goonies”, “Back to the Future”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Clerks”, “Fight Club”, “Monty Python & the Holy Grail”, and so many more! Yet when everything was said and done my husband and I picked “our” movie, “The Princess Bride”.

With the difficult decision of film picked out, we all gathered and prepared for the fun. “Lights, Camera, Booze” tells you when to drink. In this case, drink when….
1. “Farmboy”
2. As you wish
3. Mawwiage
4. Anyone mentions Andre the Giant’s size
5. Inconceivable
6. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
7. True love
8. The grandson interrupts
9. Sword fight
10. The Machine
11. Horse Rides
12. Dread Pirate Roberts
13. Rodents of Unusual Size
14. Man in Black
15. Westley defeats a foe.
16. 6-fingered man.
17. Prince Humperdinck
18. Buttercup is referred to as Highness or Princess

Each movie, along with the “drink when”, has a cocktail paired up with it. For “The Princess Bride” the drink is the True Love Cocktail. A mix of coconut rum (RUM!), peach schnapps, and cranberry juice. The first few to try it proclaimed that it “tasted like college” and others agreed. It was pretty sweet and needless to say, tasted better the more you had.

Being the super hostess, I had provided potato chips. I refer to them as fried sliced potato tapas. Fortunately a few of our friends had other things in mind. One friend brought roasted in the shell peanuts (“Anybody want a peanut?”), and snack size Snickers (to emulate the oversized chocolate Miracle Max pill). A different pair brought beer bread (Yum!) and M.L.T.s, yep, mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches (Miracle Max’s favorite!). They were DELICIOUS!

The book stresses that when you “drink”, it’s a sip, not a pounding back the whole glass. Although even with that rule in place most of us thought we were in trouble with just the plot background at the start of the film. We were like, Buttercup, quit saying Farmboy and for the love of God Westley, shut up on the “As you wish”! Depending on the size of the glass, some folks were refilling by the time Buttercup was vowing she would never love again. It was ugly and it was HILARIOUS!

We all had a great time and when it was over I shared the trivia that “Lights, Camera, Booze” provides. They also have a game, which for The Princess Bride was a toy sword fight. Being adults, full of True Love Cocktails, in our crowded apartment; we opted to pass on the game. There’s also a Hot Topics section with some conversational questions which I totally forgot about and by this point my friends wanted to go through and look at other movies.

By the end of the evening people were talking about what the next movie/drinking game night should be and what other movies should have been in the book. With that in mind, I would give Jason & Metz’s “Lights, Camera, Booze” two thumbs up, way up.