AutoMatters & More: Hot Wheels & Microsoft, ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ & ‘The Muppets Take the Bowl’

STEM Saturday September workshops: “Hot Wheels Speedometry” at The Microsoft Store

STEM Saturdays at the Microsoft Store (this one at Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego) provide hands-on learning experiences designed for kids ages 10-14, to build confidence with computer science and technology. This particular STEM activity uses Mattel Hot Wheels.

To begin, each child selects a Hot Wheels car. A spoiler “switch” (made from a bent paper clip) is attached, using a glue gun, to the upper rear surface of the car. That “switch,” in turn, makes contact with sensors above the familiar orange Hot Wheels track as the cars race along it.

Getting ready to race down the track
Getting ready to race down the track (Jan Wagner / )

The sensors feed signals to a computer, which uses software to calculate and display a variety of relevant information that teaches the students about the relationship between an object’s mass and its potential (PE) and kinetic (KE) energy. Then the students may choose to have a weight added to the car to see what difference that makes. Afterwards the children get to keep their car.

Learn more at

"Kingsman: The Golden Circle"
"Kingsman: The Golden Circle" (Courtesy)

“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”

“Kingsman: The Secret Service” was a suspenseful, entertaining and clever secret agent thriller. Expectations were high for its sequel.

Unfortunately "Kingsman: The Golden Circle" is a huge disappointment. To put it bluntly, it is a jarring, inconsistent, uncomfortable, special effects-filled mess. It seems as if the filmmakers could not decide if they wanted it to be super silly or taken seriously, so they opted for both – which does not work.

SPOILER ALERT: Early on there is a car chase scene that is so speeded up that it looks like a comical play on a hodgepodge of James Bond-like car chase scenes – complete with high tech spy and bad guy gadgets. This might as well have been done with animation, cartoon style. That’s how ridiculous and utterly unbelievable it is.

Throughout the film, characters are disposed of too easily, too casually and illogically – especially some of those who we are supposed to care about. SPOILER ALERT: In one such instance, a certain key character sacrifices his life in exchange for something of very little relative benefit to his associates. Whatever motivated him to do that defies belief.

Most, if not all of the antagonists lack sufficient depth of character to be taken seriously.

The Muppets Take the
The Muppets Take the (Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging / Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging)

SPOILER ALERT: The many fights (in which villains mostly outnumbered the protagonists by a huge margin) and an out-of-control mountain gondola were so speeded up that they too come across as being absurd and absolutely unbelievable. Perhaps in an attempt to counterbalance all of that silliness, there is an excess of gory, gratuitous violence throughout.

Do yourself and favor and skip this film.

Paul Williams & The Muppets
Paul Williams & The Muppets (Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging / Craig T. Mathew/Mathew Imaging)

“The Muppets Take the Bowl”

Longtime fans of Jim Henson’s beloved Muppets long for a return of “The Muppet Show” – a family-friendly, slapstick comedy, TV variety series which first aired in the mid-1970s. Since then the Muppets have returned in several feature films and a short-lived 2015 TV series.

Our prayers were answered, if only for one long weekend in Southern California. “The Muppets Take the Bowl” was an exceptional, true-to-the-original recreation of that TV series, performed live at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. In addition to the Muppets, it featured the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Thomas Wilkins, host Bobby Moynihan (former cast member of “Saturday Night Live”) and guest stars that included Jimmy Kimmel and Paul Williams. The finale was a spectacular fireworks extravaganza the emerged from behind the convex arc of the roof of the Hollywood Bowl.

Being in the audience was like watching an extended episode of the original TV show, full of many memorable, recurring scenarios from that series: the original opening theme with Muppets under a multitude of arches like on the TV show, the Swedish chef, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, Pigs in Space, Kermit sitting on a log amongst lily pads – banjo in hand – singing “Rainbow Connection,” Fozzie Bear cracking joke after joke, Statler and Waldorf making their usual irreverent comments, a big production number starring Miss Piggy (who was too busy to rehearse and paid the price), pompous Sam the Eagle pontificating and much, much more.

Hopefully this was recorded for later broadcast as a TV special, or perhaps as a standalone theatrical movie or home video. Fans of the Muppets would surely want to add that to their collection.

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Copyright © 2017 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #507r1