Check Out The Phoenix Exoskeleton!

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Colleague WG passed along this link about how the SuitX company in Berkeley came up with the Phoenix, a 27-pound, $40,000 robot frame that can allow paraplegic people to walk.  Wearers do still need to use crutches or a walker to balance, however. Still,  "it's amongst the lightest exoskeletons in the world". And  "it feels like you're actually walking," according to one of its users. 

Here's a video demo:


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For more info, click here


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"The Haunt of Fear Volume One"

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Greenwich Library has made yet another collection of classic EC comics from the 1950s available to fans.  The Haunt of Fear Volume One collects the first six HoF issues from 1950-1951, complete with the original covers and house ads in full color!  (Click here to reserve our copy.)

These are EC Comics at their most embryonic, with the artists & writers (the latter included editor Al Feldstein, Gardner Fox, and even publisher William M. "Bill" Gaines)   feeling their way through.  There's an okay Poe take-off ("The Wall") with art by Johnny Craig.  Future Mad magazine creator/artist  Harvey Kurtzman (who hated the horror genre) contributes the okay "House of Horror" ( a college fraternity initiation in a haunted house goes very wrong) and "Television Terror!" (another haunted house tale, this one focusing on a live newscast and with a more shocking climax). Craig returns for the moody, atmospheric "Vampire!" (why does the tux-wearing Mr.Winslow keep a coffin in his basement?) and the black comedy "Seeds of Death" (a woman searches for her missing husband, unaware that he's been killed & the murderer is after her; great ironic climax). 

Plus there's great stuff by artist like Jack Davis ("Cheese, That's Horrible!" & the goofy "The Living Mummy"), "Ghastly" Graham Ingels ("the Frankenstein-like "Monster Maker!" & the ghoulish "The Hunchback!"), and Jack Kamen ("The Tunnel of Terror", with a "huh?" ending & the better plotted and twisted "A Grave Gag!!"). You also get to see artist Wally Wood beginning to develop his own unique storytelling style from the early crudeness of "The Mad Magician!" (with future science fiction author/artist Harry Harrison) to the horrific (and sexy) vampire tale "So They Finally Pinned You Down!".

It's not perfect, but The Haunt of Fear Volume One is a LOT of fun!

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The Department of Labor has put out these guidelines to assist young persons with mental health needs who are entering the workforce for the first time.  Besides defining exactly what a mental health disability is, the document also outlines various concerns these workers may have, such as reasonable accommodations on the job (such as having flexible leave to attend counseling) and whether you need to disclose your disability or not to your employer.

For more information, click here

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Last March I did this post on the EC Comics line which linked to this article listing the recently published hardback black and white reprints of those comics by Fantagraphics.  Now there's another new collection spotlighting the work of artist Joe Orlando (1928-1998). (Click here to reserve our copy.)

Judgment Day and Other Stories collects 23 stories illustrated by Orlando (scripts by Al Feldstein and Jack Oleck) culled from EC's Weird Science, Shock SuspenStoriesWeird Science Fantasy, and Incredible Science Fiction magazines from 1953 to 1956.  Included are such frightening entries as "My Home" ( a disembodied alien being falls in love with a female  astronaut from Earth, with horrifying consequences), "The Automaton" (a man's efforts to escape a totalitarian government in the future leads to the ultimate loss of his humanity), "Home Run" ( why does a top scientist insist that the Army's first manned moon mission be rerouted to Mars, with him on board?), and "The Reformers" ( a group of aliens intent on "improving" the moral and social climate of other planets, whether they want it or not, get a BIG surprise on their new assignment!). 

Not all the stories are downbeat. Adaptations of Otto Binder's "Adam Link" stories, about an intelligent robot's efforts to fit in with humans are also included here, as is an adaptation of Ray Bradbury's  poignant "The Long Years!".  And the titular tale, "Judgment Day!" a then controversial and powerful narrative about an astronaut from Earth, whose face we never see until the last page (for a good reason), discovering racial segregation being practiced on a world populated only by robots, still resonates even more strongly today. 

Included in this collection are pieces on the stories themselves, a short biography of Orlando, who went on to work as an editor at DC Comics for 30 years, and a brief history of EC Comics.  If you're looking for solid storytelling delivered by one of the best artists in comics, Judgment Day is for you!

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"Bone Tomahawk" (2015)

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The other western starring Kurt Russell that came out this year in theatres, writer/director S. Craig Zahler's Bone Tomahawk, is a solid, suspenseful horror thriller that grabs the viewer from the get go.  (Click here to reserve our copy.)



 

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Author Kliph Nesteroff has come up with a terrific new book that chronicles the rise of stand up  comedians from the turn of the the last century to the present day.  The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy is an overview of American comedy  covering comic actors, comedians, theatre and film from the late 19th century to the present.(Click here to reserve a copy from us.)

Nesteroff combined interviews he did with various comedians from the past six decades along with various articles and archival interviews by others to present an accurate and historical portrait of this country's brand of comedy.  Starting from the vaudeville circuit and moving up to the Mob-controlled night club circuit, to television's early days and ending in the effect comedy clubs and cable TV have had on modern day audiences, Nesteroff covers a lot of informative ground. 

There's the horror story of how comedian Joe E. Lewis had his throat cut for playing the wrong night club date.  Milton Berle's stealing jokes.  The bumpy genesis of the Tonight Show.  Counterculture comics like Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and Richard Pyror  coming out of the sixties.  And how expanding comedy clubs in the 80s and 90s eventually led to HBO and Comedy Central showcasing comedians  on cable.

TV fans will want to read about the contributions (good and bad) such comics as Jack Carter, Phil Silvers, Steve Allen, Danny Thomas, Joan Rivers, The Smothers Brothers, Don Rickles, Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, David Letterman, Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, Stephen Colbert, and Louis C. K. made to the medium as well.  The Comedians is a great (if too short) read from start to finish. 

(Follow me on Twitter.  And read Kliph Nesteroff's interviews over on his blog here.)


 
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Director Guy Ritchie's big screen version of the 1964-68 TV series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., opened in theatres to less than enthusiastic response last August.  That's too bad.  Despite some creative missteps, U.N.C.L.E. (hereafter referred to as UNCLE) is actually a terrific spy flick.


 
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Real life keeps getting in the way of my updating this blog. But while I get organized, here are some of the titles on my figurative nightstand I'm currently reading (and also available from the library) that you might find interesting:

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr:  A really compelling story of a young blind French girl and a tech-obsessed German boy whose paths cross during World War II.

The Man With The Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming's James Bond Letters, edited by Fergus Fleming: Fun look at what went on in Ian Fleming's life while crafting the original 007 novels & short stories.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins:  The basic plot is derivative -I'm thinking Agatha Christie's 4:50 From Paddington- , but first time author Hawkins keeps you riveted throughout.

The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin (translated by Kin Liu):  The 2015 Hugo Award winner for best novel, this first installment of a Chinese science fiction trilogy is an offbeat take on the usual alien invasion plot, complete with really bizarre virtual reality sequences. 

More in-depth reviews to follow.

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Not bad.  Aside from a weak theme song, the by-now-overused plot of Bond going rogue, and a dragged out ending (that otherwise sets up a sequel), the latest James Bond 007 film Spectre, currently out in theatres, is an exciting, well shot and directed film.  Daniel Craig's fourth outing as 007 features his most relaxed and confident performance to date. He's even cracking jokes! 

I'll have more to say about it when the library gets the DVD, but in the meantime, if you're a 007 fan like me, you'll enjoy watching this film!

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The new James Bond 007 thriller SPECTRE hit theatres in the US today after having been released a week earlier in Europe and looks to be another big international hit.  But where did S.P.E.C.T.R.E. (yes, it's actually an acronym, at least in Ian Fleming's Bond novels) first appear?


 

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