A Star Wars Christmas

Check out this Star Wars-themed Christmas light display in Newark, CA, rocking the neighborhood with nine tunes from the movies.

I built all the props using wood, metal, acrylic and corrugated plastic. I am a music/teacher director for a living (COVA Conservatory in Oakland and Centerville Presbyterian Church in Fremont), hence the massive instruments! If you look closely (especially during the Cantina song) the instruments are playing the real notes! …The guitar is 17′, the piano is 19′ and the drums are standard. About 12,500 channels running around 100,000 lights.

There once was a manager in my office whose radical frontyard Christmas light display repeatedly won the city of Burbank’s top award. He was a piker next to this Star Wars fan! Could his lights be seen for miles? No. Did he need to make sure his lights didn’t shine into airline flight paths? No. Did he raise thousands for charity? No – the donations he sought were to pay his own power bill. The owner of the Newark display says due to LED technology the power bill is only $100 a month. He uses his light show to attract donations to a church food program.

Billie Whitelaw Has Passed

Actress Billie Whitelaw, CBE, died December 21 at the age of 82. Famous as Samuel Beckett’s “muse” – he wrote many of his more experimental plays specifically for her – she also appeared in such genre productions as The Omen, where she played  Mrs. Baylock, the guardian of the demon child Damien.

Whitelaw started as a child actress in radio, then moved into television in 1952, playing the maid, Martha Sowerby, the BBC’s adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale, The Secret Garden. (She also appeared a 1987 TV movie adaptation of the novel, in a different role.)

Her genre work included Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a 1968 TV movie with Jack Palance and Torin Thatcher, single episodes of The Adventures of Robin Hood and Space:1999, roles in Supernatural, Merlin, The Cloning of Joanna May (a TV movie), and a voice-only role in The Dark Crystal.

 [Thanks to James H. Burns for the story.]

This Day In History 12/21

December 21, 1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Hollywood, California. It was the first animated feature-length film with sound and color.

The Carthay Circle Theater hosted the premieres of many major films, including Gone with the Wind (1939) and Disney’s Fantasia (1940).

Walt Disney introduces each of the Seven Dwarfs in a scene from the original 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theatrical trailer.

Walt Disney introduces each of the Seven Dwarfs in a scene from the original 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs theatrical trailer.

Craig Ferguson’s Relative Dimensions in Time and Space

By James H. Burns: There’s even more genre musical fun in this opening from Friday’s last broadcast of Craig Ferguson’s late night CBS talk show. (Throughout the evening, Ferguson had a Tardis on his desk, and the night before, mentioned he would love to be on Doctor Who, but was afraid he’d ruin it…) Perhaps oddly, I also found this musical montage, and ensemble, moving: Ultimately, what choice do we all have, but to keep “banging on?”

(We’d mention the multiplicity of star-turns, but then that might t ruin half the fun!)

Jerry Pournelle Progress Report

Jerry Pournelle is gaining ground four days after being hospitalized with a stroke.

His son Alex told Facebook readers “He’s already doing much better in a day. Mom is doing better, too.”

An official update on Chaos Manor said:

 Jerry continues to make much progress. Even in the last day the differences are marked. He has moved yet again to a long-term acute rehab assignment for speech/throat and physical therapy, where he will stay at least through the holidays.

Harlan Ellison, recovering from his own stroke in October, called Jerry to wish him well. The conversation revealed that Jerry had been put in exactly the same room at St. Joseph’s Harlan had occupied.

Sounds like they do good work at St. Joseph’s, and that room might deserve a commemorative plaque – but what should it say?

Roy Scarfo (1926-2014)

Roy Scarfo's "Spaceport," from the 1965 book "Beyond Tomorrow."

Roy Scarfo’s “Spaceport,” from the 1965 book “Beyond Tomorrow.”

Roy Scarfo, a pioneer in space art, died December 8 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 88. Many people who knew his art didn’t necessarily know his name because his work was used in commcerce and mass media.

Roy Scarfo

Roy Scarfo

Scarfo went to work for General Electric in 1957. He served as creative art director for GE’s Space Technology Center for 16 years.  His very first assignment was to illustrate every missile in the US Arsenal, of which there were about 30 or 40. The finished black-and-white artwork was 4 feet long and 2.5 feet high and was used throughout the missile and space industry. During his career he received General Electric’s Space Award, usually reserved for engineers and scientists.

While at GE he also was a science and space art consultant for The New York Times, Sun Company, NASA, DOD, Voice of America and the U.S. Senate. He collaborated with notable scientists and authors such as Wernher von Braun, Isaac Asimov, and Willy Ley.

Roy Scarfo with Wernher Von Braun.

Roy Scarfo with Wernher Von Braun.

His work appeared in over 40 books including, including the collection of his art titled Beyond Tomorrow. Scarfo’s TV credits included NBC’s The Sky Beyond with Frank McGee; CBS’ 20th Century and 21st Century with Walter Cronkite, and a special based on Alvin Toffler’s best seller Future Shock narrated by Orson Welles.

Examples of the whole spectrum of his work are posted to his blog The Future In Space.

[Via Andrew Porter and J.B. Post.]

Colbert Farewell Number Doesn’t Bomb

George Lucas, Sir Patrick Stewart, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Elijah Wood, J.J. Abrams and Smaug represented sf and fantasy in the musical finale of The Colbert Report , coming to an end so its host can replace Letterman on CBS.

An army of celebrities emerged from the wings to join Colbert in singing “We’ll Meet Again,” beginning with his Comedy Central colleague Jon Stewart, then Willie Nelson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Henry Kissinger and dozens of others — the full array of cameo appearances is listed here.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

James Franco, Andy Cohen, Sir Patrick Stewart, Elijah Wood, Henry Kissinger, Mike Huckabee, Bob Costas, Tim Meadows.

Others of genre interest for one reason or another, scientist Francis Collins, economist Paul Krugman, an astronaut on the International Space Station and Marvel Comics’ Joe Quesada.

Even “We’ll Meet Again” is an sf reference — it’s the song played at the end of Dr. Strangelove while the nukes are going off.

Today In History 12/19

Apollo 17 splashdown COMPDecember 19, 1972: The splashdown of Apollo 17 marks the end of the United States’ manned moon exploration program.

The Apollo 17 spacecraft landed in the Pacific Ocean at 2:25 p.m. and soon after Commander Eugene Cernan, Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans, and Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt were picked up and flown by helicopter to the recovery ship U.S.S. Ticonderoga.

Although that closed the first chapter in the history of manned space exploration, it is not the most famous fact about the mission.

As Apollo 17 was en route to the Moon, the crew took a photo of the Earth from space that became known as  “The Blue Marble” photo.  NASA archivist Mike Gentry has speculated that may be the most widely distributed image in human history.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17 COMP

Ironically, the photo is such an icon that it was even used in the 1995 Tom Hanks film Apollo 13 — every time the crew looked out the window that was the view, a photograph taken by Apollo 17. (This, despite there being photos of Earth actually taken by Apollo 13.)

Scott_1371,_Apollo_8The “Big Blue Marble” should not be confused with the famous “Earthrise” image taken by Apollo 8, and used in a 1969 stamp commemorating the mission.

Apollo 17 is also notable for furnishing pop culture with a couple of fictional characters. One-time astronaut Steve Austin of The Six Million Dollar Man (based on the 1972 novel Cyborg) is described in the book as watching the Earth “fall away during Apollo XVII” – indicating he was aboard the spacecraft. Likewise, in Deep Impact (1998), the President calls Spurgeon “Fish” Tanner, portrayed by Robert Duvall, the “last man to walk on the moon,” implying he was a crew member.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]

2015 World Fantasy Judges Selected

The World Fantasy Awards Association has announced that the judges for the 2015 awards are:

  • Gemma Files (Canada)
  • Nina K. Hoffman (US)
  • Bénédicte Lombardo (France)
  • Bruce McAllister (US)
  • Robert Shearman (UK)

World Fantasy Con 2015 will be held November 5-8 at the Saratoga City Center and Saratoga Hilton, Saratoga Springs, NY. The Guests of Honor will be Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Steven Erikson, David Drake (Special Guest), and Glen Cook (Special Guest).

An attending membership costs $175, which does not include the Awards Banquet.  Banquet tickets will be available in July.  Information and forms can be found on the convention website.