In Case You Missed It, July 18th 2017: Kermit The Frog Is Not Happy, And The Banned Girls From Afghanistan Banned Together And Won In Robotics 

I know, I know, I know! Puppets and the world are from two completely different news spectrums. One story is about the beloved Muppet and Sesame Street character that is Kermit The Frog. And the second item is about a group of girl scientists originally from Afghanistan coming to the U.S. but were refused entry.

But the connection between the two is about how the story started out as something simple, and then it got bizarre as it unfolded. 

“It’s not easy being green,” is Kermit’s favorite catch phrase. It also became the puppeteer of Kermit as well, as he was fired and replaced because of “unacceptable business conduct” in the workplace. The puppeteer of Kermit, Steve Whitmire was the voice and the man behind the ever loving green frog. Whitmire took over after Jim Henson’s passing in 1990, so Whitmire has been the big green frog for 27 years. But as of October 2016 Whitmire was fired by Disney. Disney owns the rights and copyright of Kermit, The Muppets, and its characters. 

They are however two differing points of view on the firing of Whitmire. For Whitmire, he stated that he was fired for being outspoken on changes in regards to the Kermit character. He attributes this to two main reasons for his firing: firstly, Whitmire received “unwanted notes” on the “Muppets” TV show that aired on ABC, which was quickly canceled. Secondly, Whitmire further says there was a “union disagreement.” 

The other point of view about the change of Whitmire comes from Henson’s family and Disney. Brian Henson, the son of the late Jim Henson creator and chairman of the Jim Henson Company, tells a different tale about Whitmire and his overall behavior. Brian, and his mother Jane, picked Whitmire to take over as Kermit.

“Nobody worked harder than me making sure Kermit survived my father’s death and retained his cathartic personality and presence,” Henson said. But Henson also adds that Whitmire and his overall behavior with the cast of actors, performers, and fellow puppeteers worsened. Henson calls him unprofessional, and that it had reached the point that Whitmire behaved “appallingly” with his colleagues. Henson says it started since the mid 1990s. 

But Henson is quick to point out that Whitmire is a “fantastic technical puppeteer.” Disney and The Muppets Studio agree with Henson about Whitmire but only in the pejorative. They say that Whitmire was overly hostile, unproductive, that his negotiating style delayed production…etc. It sounds like a laundry list of complaints over the years. 

I guess your wondering who will take over for Kermit now? Disney and The Muppets Studio announced that Matt Vogel, a fellow Muppet performer, will be Kermit. Incidentally, Vogel voiced the evil criminal mastermind Constantine, a Kermit doppelganger in the Muppet movie “Muppets Most Wanted” back in 2014. Vogel has also voiced characters on “Sesame Street.”

From fun and games that soon worsened, to girl scientists – originally from Afghanistan – that were denied entry into the U.S., under President Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban against Muslim based countries. Team Afghanistan, a group of six girls, seemed to be indiscriminately targeted and prevented from entering via Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not on the list of countries that fell within the framework of the travel ban; these countries are: Iran, Lybia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 

The girl scientists were at first very disappointed about not coming to the U.S. to show their talents. But in a twist of fate President Trump reportedly intervened and allowed Team Afghanistan into the U.S. to show their robot and its talents. 

“We are so happy from the support of the Americans and Mr. Trump, and we thank them for providing us visas to allow us travel and attend the competitions,” 14-year-old Fatemah Qaderyan said, one of the teammates from Team Afghanistan.

There was no clear reasoning as to why these girls were specifically denied entry, but U.S. Embassy officials have trepidation in allowing Afghans into the U.S. because they usually do not like to return back to their country. 

The girls came to play with their robot. The team of six, in the U.S. capital, competed among more than 150 people in the “First Global Challenge”: A robotics competition designed to encourage youths to pursue careers in Mathematics and Science. Perhaps the steps to exposing young minds to STEM: Science, Technology, Maths, and Engineering. Team Afghanistan’s robot could pick up and distinguish between blue and orange balls. 

Sources: TimeReutersThe Hollywood ReporterCNN


In Case You Missed It, July 17, 2017: US Health Care Bill, Venezuela Constitution, And The Cheetah’s Robot Counterpart 

How was your weekend? Did you spend it anticipating what would be the results of the GOP’s second attempt at overhauling the Affordable Care act, aka “Obamacare”? Were you worried about another political explosion in Venezuela, in the form of a Constitutional crisis. What about Cheetahs and robots? Or just Cheetah robots? 

This is about all of the above. While all of them are not directly linked to one another that is the state of the U.S. health care system, what is happening overseas, and the rise of machines, these events and items are all about protests, what affects us all, and the future forward. 

It took seven years, and nearly seven months for the ruling Republican party – who controls both the U.S. Senate and House – to repeal and replace “Obamacare.” But the bill failed to pass…again. Why did this happen? Leading the charge since 2010, the year former President Barack Obama’s health care law was enacted, is Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. But McConnell and the rest of Republican party have not been able to agree on any alternatives to the complete overhaul – behind closed doors with no input from Democrats, which would have arguably contributed to this failed attempt. 

But some GOP Senators were very vocal in not throwing their support behind the Republican backed bill: Senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Susan Collins of Maine, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, along with Senators Mike Lee of Utah, and Jerry Moran of Kansas. These strong opinions by these staunch conservative politicians sort of blindsided the Whitehouse and its administration, and further led to the bill not being passed. Perhaps it was a little premature to celebrate on the Whitehouse lawn several weeks ago.

What happens now? President Donald Trump is hoping that “Obamacare fails and then the Democrats will come to us [GOP].” McConnell wanted a straight repeal of Obamacare effective within two years, but conservative politicians like Lee and Moran put an end to that idea. It looks like it’s back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, Democrats saw the failure as a win, “the second failure of Trumpcare is proof positive that the core of this bill is unworkable,” Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated.

Over 20 million Americans have gained health insurance coverage under Obamacare. 

From one big country’s dilema to another, Venezuela and its constitution is in trouble. President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela wants change once again in his country’s constitution. It, their constitution, has been changed 26 times within 206 years of its history. 

A referendum for the country was carried out in the form of protests by Venezuelans. Under this new referendum Maduro wants an opportunity for his people to live in peace, and in putting an end to violence. Maduro argues that this will be for the small neighborhoods that were created by former Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. They also want to expand the justice system to fight corruption, etc.

The opposition is not buying what Maduro is selling. They call the referendum “fraudulent.” They have sent messages to Maduro to end this proposal, as well as have a plan for a 24 hour strike on July 20 that would be in the streets. Venezuelans however support the current constitution which was changed since 1999. 

It sometimes takes laws and swift action to influence the minds and actions of people in these situations. Speed is needed, so how about a Cheetah. MIT’s newest Cheetah robot is one of the most exciting ventures in robotics to date. This four-legged robot can jump, and run up to nearly 30 miles per hour. This kind of metallic cheetah runs on a complicated algorithm, and responds to voice commands via Alexa, Amazon’s digital voice recognition software. 

The Cheetah robot debuted at the TC Sessions: Robotics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The creators of this super fast robot is hoping to have it do more than be the fastest robot on the planet. Sang-bae Kim and his team at MIT’s Biomimetrics Lab want a more practical and life giving approach. Kim says that their vision became transformed when they wanted to use it in a real situation such as, the clean up at Fukushima. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant disaster was an accident that took place in Fukushima, Japan on March 11, 2011. 

Kim adds that he has been “fascinated by developing legged machines, which can go where real machines cannot go.” Humanity has “conquered air, water,” earth, or the ground in this case. But the ground needs to be challenged in a different way that is by modifying it for “our four wheels.”

Sources: PoliticoReutersBloombergTechCrunchCBS This Morning  


The Magic And Spectacle Of Marvel’s ‘Doctor Strange’ And J.K. Rowling’s ‘Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them’ 

How do movie studios evolve from one successful project to another? You cast a new spell. This is the case in both Marvel and Disney’s superhero property “Doctor Strange,” as well as J.K. Rowling’s next “Harry Potter” installment entitled “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.” 

The Doctor is in, and the magical zoologist – Newt Scamander – score big with their adaptations, and neither of these heroes rely on prestidigitation. Both of these extraordinary heroes use magic to thwart their enemies, but it is great storytelling and superb character development that give these films excellent entertainment value, and a Grade A-. 

“Dr. Strange” Has A Really Good Prognosis, While “Fantastic Beasts” Delivers Sentimentality And Friendship

With the established “Avenger” film series and multiple movies completed and in the works, “Doctor Strange” is able to deliver a unique story from its high flying cohorts. Benedict Cumberbatch portrays Dr. Stephen Strange with complexity and arrogance that makes the story rooted in reality. 

Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange is a successful surgeon who is always proving himself to be good at everything and never failing at anything. But a near fatal car accident causes Dr. Strange to loose the ability of his money makers, his hands. Strange quickly descends into depression over losing the ability to use his hands; he is transformed from a rich successful surgeon, into a desperate man selling his valuables and bending his morality in order to regain the use of his hands. This is the beginning of a strange journey for the doctor: from Western medicine to that of metaphysical and magical realism healings.

While Strange eventually defends the Earth from cosmic and magical threats, Scamander of “Fantastic Beasts” tries to protect magical creatures from its biggest threat, humans. Scamander played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne brings to life the character in 1920s New York, along with his new friends Queenie, Kowalski, and Agent Porpentina. 

Scamander’s arrival could not come at a worst time; he wants to rescue and study the magical creatures so that the magical community can learn more about them. Meanwhile, in New York City, there is an impending war between witches and wizards against the humans. To complicate matters more, Gellert Grindelwald is a renegade wizard who is refusing to hide from humans. Grindelwald is tired of hiding in the shadows, but President Seraphina Picquery does not want magical exposure of any kind. 

Scamander along with his new friends are pulled into the war that they do not wish to be a part of. Kowalski, the “no mag”/ non-wizard, and the rest of the gang, like Scamander, take on this charge with responsibility. 

Magic Is Part Of Both “Dr. Strange” And “Fantastic Beasts,” But It Is More About The Age Old Question: What Is My Purpose In Life? 

Dr. Strange’s overachieving attitude makes him become a powerful “sorcerer,” but there is not much else. The Ancient One, played excellently by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton, enlightens him by suggesting that all of what he is there to learn – and regain the use of his hands, is not all about him. The Ancient One and others are there to give themselves, so that they can protect the magical sanctums of Earth from cosmic threats. Strange’s morality of refusing to do whatever it takes to protect the Earth makes him question everything. This leaves the Ancient One and others frustrated and impatient. 

Strange does eventually give up himself to the greater good. This makes him the “Sorcerer Supreme”; Scamander on the other hand relies on his new friends to fight evil, a living “obsurial” and wizards like Grindelwald, rather than always turning to his magical animals for support. Scamander believes his purpose is to protect the animals that he travels across the world to find, but soon he discovers that he can also help people too even though they might know that they want it or need it. 

A strange and difficult journey for the doctor, that is from surgeon to that of a magical protector. In this “Harry Potter” prologue story that is “Fantastic Beasts” is similar to the “Boy who lived,” in that people like Scamander will always need help from good friends who are not afraid to make difficult decisions. 

DC Comics ‘Watchmen’ & Marvel’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’, Almost the Same Comic Book Films With Similar Superhero Problems 

“Watchmen” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” are both Grade B- or 🌟🌟 movies

“Watchmen,” 2009: Rorschach “Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon. That’s always been the difference between us…” 

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” 2014: Rocket the Racoon “That is the most real, authentic, hysterical laugh of my entire life because THAT IS NOT A PLAN.” 

These are the key similarities, as well as major differences, that lie in both of these comic book-to-film adaptations. While the “Watchmen” (Wm) goes for dark and adult storytelling, the “Guardians of the Galaxy” (GOTG) strives for an upbeat, endearing, and universal story. But both films have similar problems, the inability to deliver fully fleshed out characters and almost devoid of a story. So both are the same movies in that respect. 

No Capes For The “Watchmen” (Wm) But Keep The Stars

Wm is loaded with A list talented Actors and Actresses such as, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Jackie Earl Haley, Patrick Wilson, and Billy Cudrup. But it hardly helps to elevate a script strictly focused on spectacle rather than deeper story telling. This 2009 movie meanders from present, flashback, to present, then past, and then back to the present. Indeed confusing a lot of the time.

The premise of it taking place in an alternative universe however, where Richard Nixon is POTUS for a third term, and the different generations of Watchmen heroes saving the world from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s is excellent. Think of it as the Justice League (JL) with alternative super hero versions of the JL team. It could have been so much better. More on that later. Wm’s Marvel counterpart suffers the same fate. 

Chris Pratt’s Star Lord Is NOT The Michael Jordan Of Superheroes in “Guardians of the Galaxy” (GOTG)

Star Lord is the human character that links our Blue planet to these band of super humanoid misfits. Pratt’s Lord is in almost every scene propelling the other characters to make a difference with their lives, and that is saving their world. But Star Lord does not have to be, the rest of the cast is perfectly capable and just as talented to take the weight off of Pratt. 

For instance, there is Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, Bradley Cooper voices Rocket the Racoon, Dave Bautista plays Drax the Destroyer, along with Vin Diesel who voices Groot, a literal tree creature; and Karen Gillan – of “Doctor Who” fame – playing a type of cyborg, half humanoid half robot, named Nebula. It should not be all about Star Lord, but this is GOTG’S origin story. 

Winning Standout Characters in Wm and GOTG 

Wm clearly have most of their characters fleshed out. Not much is the same for GOTG’s cast of characters. Morgan’s The Comedian is no Batman’s Joker, but he is just as sadistic, and plain scary at times. The Comedian’s sometime lover Silk Specter played by Gugino is exceptional with her frailty and strength; as well as Haley’s Rorschach and Cudrup’s Dr. Manhattan are cold, and calculating. Matthew Goode is well good as Ozymandias. Lacking are Malin Ackerman’s Silk Specter II, and Wilson’s Owl Man, which is a disappointment because they both have great chemistry. 

Versus GOTG characters, as stated before, Pratt’s Star Lord is more well rounded than the rest of his team. There is only a hint of who they are, like Rockett, Groot, and Drax. There is however a great conflicted dynamic between Saldana’s Gamora and Gillan’s Nebula, which could have been explored more. While the characters and their development is clearly flawed, the overall story is not any better.

Great Visual Spectacle Versus A Weak Storyline, The Two Should Never Meet

You can tell that Wm and GOTG spent a long time perfecting the visual effects. How green should Gamora be? How much of Rocket a racoon and Groot the tree should really look? How collectable should Star Lord’s mask/space helmet really be? Perfect on all fronts. Wm wins in capturing the hope and despair of the times; the coldness of Antarctica; and the exquisite costuming and scenery of their entire universe.

But the plot in both movies is contrived and predictable, which is a pity. Without giving away too much, depending on which side you choose the Wm prevailed. As for GOTG this was how they became the Guardians. 

The End For The “Watchmen” But the “Guardians of the Galaxy” Will Get Two More Sequels

The saving grace in these comic book-to-film adaptations is that you do not have to be an avid fan, or even have read about these comic book superheroes. This is what makes them both compelling and outstanding on their own.

While we may never ever get to see the sequel to DC’S “Watchmen”, hopefully Marvel’s upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” would have fixed the character development flaws, as well as given us a stronger story. 

 “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2” will be landing in US cinemas on May 5. 

Rock The Vote For The Next POTUS 

#RockTheVote on your choice for the next #POTUS. 
I wish I could say that this election was NOT at all exciting. I also wish I could say that the choices are NOT as hopeful as #PresidentBarackObama. 😉 But what I can say is that with the outgoing president’s gravitas has arguably unleashed a diverse group of presidential candidates. As well as shown a different side of the general public’s feelings towards each other, albeit that it may have already existed, but it is pervasive.  
#HillaryClinton and #JillStein are THE first female potential POTUSs. #DonaldTrump is arguably the first businessman running for president. #GaryJohnson might not know much on foreign policy and countries, he is refreshing. 
Most of us might vote based on feelings or gut instincts; the candidates experience, knowledge and stamina; vote based on gender, or vote with their conscience; or are willing to overlook everything he or she has said and done – their past and present actions-  during this election cycle. 
No matter who you vote for, once you are an adult – 18 and above – in this election campaign, once again your vote is very important. 
#RockTheVote 

Part 2: Spotlight On More Oscar Nominations For The 88th Annual Academy Awards

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“Mad Max Fury Road” gets some love in the Editing category, and so does “The Hateful Eight.”

The Oscar nominated categories are the following: Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Production Design, and Best Supporting Actress.

Best Sound Editing: “Mad Max Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” “Sicario,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Best Sound Mixing: “Bridge of Spies,” “Mad Max Fury Road,” “The Martian,” “The Revenant,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Best Production Design: “Bridge of Spies,” “The Danish Girl,” “Mad Max Fury Road,” “The Martian,” and “The Revenant.”

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh for “The Hateful Eight”; Rooney Mara for “Carol”; Rachel McAdams for “Spotlight”; Alicia Vikander for “The Danish Girl,” and Kate Winslet for “Steve Jobs.”
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ICYMI: These Are The Oscar Nominees Released This Week, Part 1

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A dystopian thriller, “comedies,” and the Golden Boy might finally get his Oscar.

The Academy – the 88th annual Oscars – released the nominees this week, and Leonardo DiCaprio is back once more. This is Part 1 of some of the nominees. The categories include Best Short Film: Live Action, Best Film Editing, Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Best Short Film: Live Action: “Ave Maria,” “Day One,” “Everything Will Be Okay,” “Shok,” and “Stutterer.”

Best Foreign Language Film: “Embrace from The Serpent,” Colombia; “Mustang” France; “Son of Saul,” Hungary; “Theeb,” Jordan; and “A War,” Denmark.

Best Film Editing: “The Big Short,” “Mad Max Fury Road”, “The Revenant,” “Spotlight,” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Best Actor in a Leading Role: DiCaprio for “The Revenant”; Matt Damon for “The Martian”; Michael Fassbender for ” Steve Jobs “; and Eddie Redmayne for “The Danish Girl.”

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