Pixel Scroll 11/6/16 The Sound Of One Pixel Scrolling

(1) UNREALITY CHECK. Damien G. Walter loves the Doctor Strange movie but he believes it’s time to explain again that Buddhism wont give you magic powers.

But can we please clear something up here? BUDDHISM IS NOT THE GATEWAY TO SECRET MAGICAL POWERS. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of hours you spend in meditation, you’ll never be able to summon power from other dimensions, conjure cool looking glowing sigils with wavy hand movements, or indulge in the joys of astral projection. Got it?

“Oh Damo!” I hear one of you sigh, “You’re just taking this all too seriously! Nobody believes Buddhism can REALLY give them magical powers. Any more than they believe they can really upload their mind into a computer to achieve immortality! Oh, wait, loads of people do actually believe that…” As, in fact, do many people really genuinely believe Buddhism will give them magic powers. And much as I would like to blame this on Hollywood, it’s a much, much older problem.

While I’m lucky not to have had my hands crushed in an automobile accident, my own life took me into the Himalayan mountains, to study at the Buddhist temples in Dharamsala. I’ve been a student of Buddhism for eight years now. I stepped out of a successful, creative career that was killing me incrementally and Buddhism was part of what helped me transition to a different kind of life. Now I live in Thailand, a Buddhist nation, to study Theravada Buddhism. In 2015 I travelled across India, to the capital of the Tibetan government in exile, and home of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, to study Mahayana Buddhism.

(2) STRANGE THOUGHTS. Paul Weimer shares some thoughts about the Doctor Strange movie.

Tell me if you recognize this story from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

A brilliant, snarky, assholish rich person with amazingly skills strides through life blandly, confident that he knows everything, and often can back up his reputation with cold hard skills and knowledge. He is an endless deadpan snarker, always with a cutting jape or a quip for friend and rival alike. He has a long-suffering quasi love interest who clearly deserves better. We get to see him in his glory before an accident brings him low and nearly kills it. Worse, it doesn’t kill him, but gives him a permanent debility, changing his future plans forever. Said asshole learns to be better slowly and painfully in a period of retrenchment and regrowth, becoming a superhero in the process, and defrosting the heart of his love interest a bit whilst in the middle of battling the big baddie.

I could be describing Iron Man, but I am also describing Doctor Strange, and that is the core of one of the problems I found with the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe story.

(3) QUIZZING BUJOLD. Lois McMaster Bujold, who published a new novella this week, Penric’s Mission, is interviewed about her writing process (just in time for the National Novel Writing Month) — “Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three (Okay, Four) Questions about the Writing Process”.

MD: So, National Novel Writing Month is basically about creating a first draft of at least 50,000 words. What’s your favorite thing about writing the first draft?

LMB: Finishing it. (-:

Starting it runs a close second, true. Then, probably, those moments when a sticky knot gets suddenly undone by some neat idea or inspiration that I didn’t have — often couldn’t have had — earlier.

I do rolling revisions — correcting, rewriting, re-outlining, and dinking as I go — because if I don’t get my edits in pretty early, my prose sets up like concrete, and it takes a jackhammer to pry it open. Also, by the end I will be tired and frantic and in no state of mind for careful polishing, still less major surgery. Since I’m usually doing novels or novellas, there’s too much to face, not to mention wrangle and just find, if I save all that till the finish.

This is a shift from earlier decades, when my method was to complete each chapter, print it out, run it past my test readers, and then do little more than make notes on the pages till I circled around for the final run/s. (There’s never only one.) In the past few years I’ve finally gone paperless, so I do a lot more micro-editing along the way now.

(4) WORLDCON 75 NEWS. The Worldcon 75 International Film Festival is accepting entries.  

Worldcon 75 international film festival is now open for submissions! Please read the official rules and send in your entry form and film by email or snail mail by June 1st, 2017: WORLDCON 75 INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL PDF (633 kB).

(5) OPERATION GONDOR. The Angry Staff Officer says Tolkien exemplifies sound Army doctrine, in “Warfighter: Middle-Earth”.

When I think of the six warfighting functions I always think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

What, you don’t?

Let’s be honest, one does not immediately think of fantasy or science fiction when conversations turn to Army doctrine. Most vignettes that are used to make the subject understandable to the lowly minds of company grade officers are either historical or situational. And while there is nothing wrong with this technique, are we perhaps overlooking a missed opportunity for providing a broader understanding of our doctrine? …

Summary

Through utilizing the six warfighting functions, the Captains of the West were able to preserve their combat power, protect critical information nodes, deceive and confuse the enemy as to their true intentions, and finally mass key maneuver assets at critical points in the enemy lines. This led to an eventual tactical victory that reversed the course of ground operations in the War of the Ring.

Tolkien is assuredly cursing me profoundly in the afterlife.

(6) ON THE OTHER PAW. Rachel Neumeier decided that the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog’s recent list of 25 cats in sf/f needed answering, so she listed the “Top ten dogs in SFF”.

  1. Barbara Hambly’s wonderful THE BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD actually made me fall a little bit in love with Pekingese, not ordinarily my favorite breed (sorry, Pekingese lovers; just a personal preference). Do NOT be misled by the title, which is deliberately B-movie campy. The story is delightful and the three Pekingese are real characters, real dogs, and also btw capable of hunting demons if any should turn up.

(7) SIGHTS SEEN AND UNSEEN. After being feted at Utopiales, Ann Leckie’s travels took her to Paris, as she tells in her latest post, “Utopiales”.

I did some very touristy things–the day I had to myself in Paris, the weather was clear and just chilly enough for a good walk, and the map told me the Louvre was only a few kilometers from my hotel, so I figured I’d go on foot. It was a nice walk! And the Louvre is just as full of looted antiquities as ever. Every now and then I’d see a familiar object–oh, hello Etruscan couple I’ve seen photos of you all over the place! Oh, that round hat looks familiar, could it be Gudea, King of Lagash? Why, yes, it is! The Dendera Zodiac I didn’t stumble across, though, I was actually looking for it. (And found it.)

I didn’t bother with the Mona Lisa. No doubt she was surrounded the way the Venus de Milo was. I found that kind of fascinating–there were dozens of other wonderful statues in the room, but everyone was just looking at her, taking pictures, and selfies.

A remark that brings to mind Art Buchwald’s famous column, “The Six-Minute Louvre” which begins:

Any sportsman will tell you that the only three things to see in the Louvre are the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” the “Venus de Milo” and the “Mona Lisa.” The rest of the sculpture and paintings are just so much window dressing for the Big Three, and one hates to waste time in the Louvre when there is so much else to see in Paris….

(8) ANTIHARASSMENT ALLY PROJECT. Steven Saus has created #IWillBelieveYou, “An Ally Project To Support Those Affected by Sexual Harassment and Assault In Fandom and Elsewhere.”

As he explains in a post on his blog Ideatrash:

After the revelations last month (reference one, two), those of us with enough energy, privilege, and resources have to do something. Something that shows both that we will support those who have been harassed and that we do not accept harassment in the places we gather. So, building on the example of Take Back The Night, as well as #IllRideWithYou and #IllGoWithYou, I created #IWillBelieveYou.

(9) ROALD DAHL’S TV SHOW. Atlas Obscura remembers that “In 1961, Roald Dahl Hosted His Own Version of ‘The Twilight Zone’” called Way Out.

Under the gun, some enterprising producers at the network began dreaming up a creepy drama show to fill the time slot, and they went right to Dahl. While he is best remembered today for his timeless works of children’s literature like Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, for a good portion of his writing career, he was better known as an author of twisted, devilish fiction. As explained in an article originally published in Filmfax Magazine, Dahl jumped at the chance to develop the series, spurred on by the fact that the show’s time slot (9:30 p.m. on Fridays) fell right before another thematically similar little CBS show, The Twilight Zone.

The black-and-white show would begin with what became its signature image, a slow pan over a series of mist-shrouded, disembodied hands, before resting on one which would burst into flames at the title came onscreen. Then, flexing his dry British charm like a more cosmopolitan Vincent Price, Dahl would give a short intro to each episode. The bulk of the program consisted of the main tale, usually a short morality play with an ironic or surprising ending or element, which often dipped into the supernatural. Then Dahl would close out the show with another direct epilogue, much like the Cryptkeeper of the later Tales From the Crypt.

(10) HELLO, I LOVE YOU. A Vintage News story tells how “Abandoned in space in 1967, a US satellite has started transmitting again”.

In 2013 in North Cornwall, UK, an Amateur Radio Astronomer picked up a signal which he determined to be the LES1 that was built by MIT in 1965. The satellite never made it to its intended orbit and had been spinning out of control ever since.

Phil Williams, the amateur radio astronomer from near Bude, picked out the odd signal which was transmitting due to it tumbling end over end every four seconds as the solar panels became shadowed by the engine. “This gives the signal a particularly ghostly sound as the voltage from the solar panels fluctuates,” Williams said.

It’s more than likely the onboard batteries have disintegrated, and something else caused its 237Mhz transmission to resume when it was in sunlight.

The LES1 is about the size of a small automobile and should not cause any issues more than any other piece of space junk in orbit.

This proves electronics built around 50 years ago, 12 years before Voyager 1, and far before microprocessors and integrated circuits are still capable of working in the hostile environs of space. Phil refers to his hobby as “Radio-Archaeology”.

(11) TREACHEROUS HOME APPLIANCES. It’s great that Sixties electronics are still working in space, but look out for latest tech in your own home: the internet of things is a fertile environment for hackers, who can turn even the most innocuous thing to their purposes: “Why Light Bulbs May Be The Next Hacker Target” in the New York Times.

Now here’s the bad news: Putting a bunch of wirelessly connected devices in one area could prove irresistible to hackers. Researchers report in a paper made public on Thursday that they have uncovered a flaw in a wireless technology that is often included in smart home devices like lights, switches, locks, thermostats and many of the components of the much-ballyhooed “smart home” of the future.

The researchers focused on the Philips Hue smart light bulb and found that the wireless flaw could allow hackers to take control of the light bulbs, according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. That may not sound like a big deal. But imagine thousands or even hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices in close proximity.

Malware created by hackers could be spread like a pathogen among the devices by compromising just one of them.

And they wouldn’t have to have direct access to the devices to infect them: The researchers were able to spread infection in a network inside a building by driving a car 229 feet away.

The new risk comes from a little-known radio protocol called ZigBee. Created in the 1990s, ZigBee is a wireless standard widely used in home consumer devices. While it is supposed to be secure, it hasn’t been held up to the scrutiny of other security methods used around the internet. The researchers found that the ZigBee standard can be used to create a so-called computer worm to spread malicious software among internet-connected devices.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michaeline Duskova, Camestros Felapton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]

77 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/6/16 The Sound Of One Pixel Scrolling

  1. ” Buddhism wont give you magic powers.”

    Of course not! Everyone knows that’s Taoism. Sheesh.

  2. Yay, I made the Scroll today!

    (And I only wrote the DS piece reluctantly, thinking that no one was going to be interested in my thoughts. I am happy to apparently be wrong).

  3. 6) I’ve wondered why cat people seem to outnumber dog people in sci-fi.

    Also, Simak”s City needs to be on that list.

  4. (1-2) Enjoyed the movie, though the ending seemed….abrupt. Visually probably the best Marvel movie to date. I am kinda side-eyeing all the “Oh it’s just Iron Man with magic” coz…. I mean, the whole hubris -> humbling/realization -> hero thing is a really regular superhero/ storytelling trope

    The other thing that gets me is the whole complaints about Tibet. I’m hoping that this is not just me savvy-ing, but given China’s views and influence, there is absolutely no way Tibet will get a look in in any major movie release for now. *Hopefully*, in a few years there is a possibility of including it again. Preferably with less clumsily shoehorned Chinese characters (Independence Day 2 and Iron Man 3).

    Ancient One whitewashing – 1. Not great, but see above. 2. The character was an *incredibly* racist trope in the comics, and I think this was the best of bad situation (Confession: The Mandarin reveal in Iron Man 3 was one of my favourite things about the entire MCU) 3. OMG Tilda Swinton is great in the role. Which they had dropped some of the more Asian iconography (ie fans etc) though.

    Josh Jasper: Everyone knows that’s Taoism.

    Dadaism or GTFO.

    6) – As it lacks Snuff from A Night in the Lonesome October, this is objectively a terrible list :p

  5. Oh hey! “Penric’s Mission” is available to buy! Why did nobody tell me this before?

  6. Today’s Meredith Moment:

    Shirley Jackson Award and Lambda Award Finalist The Glittering World by Robert Levy is on sale for $2.99 for Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, and Apple.

  7. ULTRAGOTHA told us four days ago.

    I missed it too, so thanks for the double notice.

    I am due for a new book (or novella) soon. I’ve been reading Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London books. I liked the first well enough to buy the second, mostly because I wanted to know what happened next. I wasn’t particularly enchanted with the series though, so I didn’t get around to reading it, but the other day I remembered someone here mentioned racing through them and now I’m almost caught up. So, thank you for the encouragement, whoever you are.

  8. @JJ: ULTRAGOTHA gave us a cover reveal and an “on sale Real Soon Now”, but not an actual “you can go to your online book pusher of choice and spend money”.

  9. I saw Doctor Strange yesterday, coincidentally. Plenty of flaws but plenty of fun. I took a sample of the teenage demographic with me as well, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. She’s also very enthused by the Rogue One trailer she saw.

    @Cheryl

    I’m not the only person who’s enthused about Rivers of London on here, but I have definitely mentioned it once or twice. The very latest is up to scratch as well.

    I have the latest Penrics racked up for after the new Lychford, which is v good so far. I also read A Taste of Honey just before that, so there’s definitely a “novella sequels” theme going on right now!

  10. Im reading Interior Life by Dorothy Heydt, recommended here and freely available there

    It’s a nice book, but it used different fonts depending on the current universe. It works perfectly on my PC / Calibre, but as soon as I moved the book to my Kindle Paperwhite 2 (using Calibre and the AZW file from the official website), only one font is used, everywhere.

    Is there is a way to get the fonts on my kindle ? (without using PDF, which should – not sure- work)

  11. @Guillaume

    I think you have to use “Publisher font” in the fonts setting when you are reading the book. I have a Paperwhite 1, I did the conversion to AZW myself though, and it worked OK.

  12. And the breakdown for most Marvel characters should be the warning: radiation will not give you superpowers.

    Studying buddhist material would give you the clarity of mind to recognize how much bullshit goes on in the real world. And maybe some movie plots.

  13. @Guillaume

    I suspect andyl has the answer, but if not then you could try to reconvert in calibre using some of the advanced settings. There’s probably an option for embedding all fonts hiding in there somewhere. (Sorry if that’s vague but I’m not at my desktop atm).

  14. @Mark :
    Thanks !
    I had never seen the settings “publisher fonts” before. I wonder if it’s possible to set it by default – I usually never go to font settings.

    (and BTW, now that I can the three fonts, I’m not sure it’s better for readability :))

  15. @Guillaume

    I can’t find a permanent option on mine, but I’ve never been particularly impressed by the publisher font options when I’ve checked for them – the default Bookerly is very good for readability imo.

    In other news, having just finished The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell, it’s definitely landing very near the top of my novellas shortlist – I think it may be better than the first one.

  16. (5) OPERATION GONDOR.
    Probably the best military analysis I’ve read this year. Although I think the author underestimates the luck element in the arrival of both the Rohirrim and Aragorn with the troops from southern Gondor – he sort of makes it sound as if the Captains of the West planned them to arrive when they did.

  17. Reading: I finished Alastair Reynolds’ Revenger, which successfully pushed just about all of my buttons (far future reconstructed solar system alien gubbin-hunting space pirates) and started Man in the High Castle, which I’ve never read before, but I enjoyed the Amazon series. (Which I expect to have minimal resemblance to the book, I hasten to add.)

  18. “Studying buddhist material would give you the clarity of mind to recognize how much bullshit goes on in the real world.”

    Yes, this stuff really gives clarity.

    I see that this ancient Angelfire page is still up. Check out the 3rd scroll from the top.

    (Ignore the crap at the bottom–I don’t know what it is, but from googling a portion of it, it seems to have been inserted in many Angelfire/Tripod pages. And going by Google Translate, it seems to be gibberish.)

  19. My wife and I enjoyed the Dr. Strange movie. The personality of Steven Strange was captured and mirrors that of the 1960s Dikto/Lee character. The villain was totally blah – to the point that I don’t remember his name. How Strange bought off Dormammu was totally different from the comic, but OK.

    I read Dr. Strange from the 1960s-1990s and even have some of the original art and the color masters. The movie was quite different, but captured Steven Strange’s personality and motivations quite well.

    The Ancient One was a cardboard character in the comics. Mordo was just evil in the comic with no real reason. How the movie set up Mordo for the future was very interesting.

  20. I liked Penric’s Mission. But unlike the other two novellas, this one ends in a place that cries for another story *right now*. Bujold is writing these novellas fairly quickly (at lightning speed, for her) so I’m hopeful maybe next year?

    ETA: If you want to keep up with Bujold News, the mailing list archives are here:
    http://lists.herald.co.uk/pipermail/lois-bujold/

    She interacts with fans a lot there and also at her Goodreads blog and, I presume, at Baen’s Bar (the Miles to Go forum).

  21. @Joe H

    Revenger has been on my maybe list for a while. I’ve seen some reviews which seem to have taken against it for being “too YA”, which made me wonder if these were fans of his harder sf who just didn’t get what they were expecting?

  22. @Mark — I should preface this by saying that I haven’t read a lot of Reynolds yet — just House of Suns, which I loved, and a few novellas.

    If I squint I can kind of see the “too YA” thing; at least, the main character is a 17 year old (or something like that) girl who’s persuaded by her older sister to run away in search of adventure. There aren’t any … intimate situations; in fact, there’s not the slightest hint of any kind of romantic entanglement. But having said that, the book is surprisingly dark — terrible things happen to people, albeit mostly off-screen, or not explicitly described, and the narrator’s actions have some truly unpleasant consequences.

    For me, I loved it both as an adventure tale, and, as I said, because the setting pushed pretty much all of my buttons.

  23. (11) TREACHEROUS HOME APPLIANCES.

    Anyone else reminded of the “Mother’s Day” episode of Futurama where Mom takes control of all the robots? Just me then?

    Reading: plugging away at The Lie Tree and wow this one’s a gradual build. Looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

    I’m having concentration problems. Tried watching Slither last night and had to take a break at 40 minutes. The tone shifts in that movie are dizzying. Ended up putting on a Mythbusters which was more my speed. Will go back to the movie because a) Michael Rooker has a helluva screen presence and b) Nathan Fillion.

  24. As I was writing up my Dr. Strange review yesterday (will appear on my blog Friday, my regular reviews day), I found that the act of summing up the characters and plot made me dislike it more and more as I went on. I am so over whiny, self-centered, assholish “golden boy” protagonists. I am so over Supportive Girlfriend characters who struggle to win free of the WSCAGBP only to come running back to save his ass when he snaps his fingers. I am so over movies that think massive amounts of over-the-top violence is a substitute for story. I am so over movies that have only two (2) speaking parts for women, and both of those are cartoon stereotypes. (Who never talk to each other at all, much less come within spitting distance of passing the Bechdel-Wallace Test.)

    I had given up on Marvel movies a few films ago, and decided to check this one out because my childhood memories were that Dr. Strange actually solved problems using intellectual skills. Either my memories were wrong, or Marvel is simply convinced no one will watch without their Daily Minimum Requirement of punching people in the face.

  25. Steve Wright: 11) “Light Bubs May Be The Next Hacker Target”?

    Yeah, that’s what history will remember about me — I invented the spellchucking function.

  26. Yeah, that’s what history will remember about me — I invented the spellchucking function.

    A spell-chucker would be a very useful app for Doctor Strange, to tie two threads together.

  27. @Joe H

    Thanks. The sample certainly made me think Adventure! and that rather confirms it. I think I’ll be picking it up sooner rather than later then.

  28. Yeah, that’s what history will remember about me — I invented the spellchucking function.

    At least Paul Weimer is using it too! (As I noted earlier, he asserts that Doctor Strange is a person with “amazingly skills.”)

  29. “Spellchucker” sounds like a wizard from a fantasy book trying too hard to be different from other fantasy books.

    (But how many spells could a spellchecker check, if a spellchecker could check spells?)

  30. “Spellchucker” sounds like a wizard from a fantasy book trying too hard to be different from other fantasy books.

    Spellchucker was the token black character in the first Harry Potter movie, but was later dropped because researchers said that historically there were no black professors at Hogwarts.

    (Okay, some people will get the reference.)

  31. I’ve seen a few episodes of the Dahl series WAY OUT, and what remains of the series is not good. About half of the shows are missing. And of those that survive, the audio hisses a touch. The photography is not superb.

    Of course, the “white out” episode is a gem. Photographer has a bottle of white out. Whatever he touches up in a picture becomes real.

  32. Heather Rose Jones on November 7, 2016 at 8:47 am said:

    As I was writing up my Dr. Strange review yesterday (will appear on my blog Friday, my regular reviews day), I found that the act of summing up the characters and plot made me dislike it more and more as I went on. I am so over whiny, self-centered, assholish “golden boy” protagonists. I am so over Supportive Girlfriend characters who struggle to win free of the WSCAGBP only to come running back to save his ass when he snaps his fingers. I am so over movies that think massive amounts of over-the-top violence is a substitute for story. I am so over movies that have only two (2) speaking parts for women, and both of those are cartoon stereotypes. (Who never talk to each other at all, much less come within spitting distance of passing the Bechdel-Wallace Test.)

    I had given up on Marvel movies a few films ago, and decided to check this one out because my childhood memories were that Dr. Strange actually solved problems using intellectual skills. Either my memories were wrong, or Marvel is simply convinced no one will watch without their Daily Minimum Requirement of punching people in the face.

    The closer that movie is examined, the worse it gets.

    On that last point, at least by the final big-bad confrontation Dr Strange does adopt a more Doctor Who-ish solution rather than the epic battle solution.

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