Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

(1) THESE AREN’T THE PRACTITIONERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR. A Jedi group was unable to convince the UK’s Charity Commission that they are a religion reports The Guardian — “Jedi order fails in attempt to register as religious group”.

A Star Wars-inspired organisation has failed to use the force of its arguments to convince the charity watchdog that it should be considered a religious organisation.

The Temple of the Jedi Order, members of which follow the tenets of the faith central to the Star Wars films, sought charitable status this year, but the Charity Commission has ruled that it does not meet the criteria for a religion under UK charity law.

The commission wrote that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion.

The Temple of the Jedi Order was an “entirely web-based organisation and the Jedi are predominantly, if not exclusively, an online community,” the commission noted. There was “insufficient evidence that moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices of [the group].”

(2) A SWING STATE’S VIEW OF ROGUE ONE. John Scalzi shares his reactions to the new movie and its marketing strategy in “Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)”. There are no spoilers in the review, however beware the comments where spoilers are allowed.

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are).

(3) HE’S NOT ACTUALLY FEELING BETTER. Washington Post writer Michael Cavna, in “One of the best performances in ‘Rogue One’ is by an actor who died in 1994”, looks at how Peter Cushing is “acting” in Rogue One despite being dead for decades and how this could lead the way for other dead actors to make posthumous comebacks.

This all feels like an organic continuation of what some of the sharpest minds at Lucasfilm/ILM/Disney-Pixar et al. (including effects veteran/ILM executive John Knoll) have been pushing toward since at least the dawn of the ’80s, as the digital milestones began to come fast and furious. The power to manipulate the pixel forever beckons the imagination now, and 2016 has put the state of that long, Jedi-like journey on distinct display.

After all, Disney even gave us a scene this year in which Robert Downey Jr., looking like his ’80s-era self, registers as mostly real in “Captain America: Civil War,” even if the CGI tweaks of a motion-capture performance can still be distracting when involving a too-human countenance.

(4) COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE. Some people review the story, some the marketing, some the effects, some the film’s rank in the hierarchy of quality. Here’s what John C. Wright reviews, in “Rogue One (Spoiler Free Review)”.

I freely confess I had precisely zero interest in seeing this film, but a friend who was visiting for the evening came by, and we talked each other into going to see it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a good film.

As with many a film of late, my main reluctance was fear of some Leftwing sucker punch. Far too many shows I used to watch had the habit of pausing the action for a Two Minute Hate against all I hold dear, like a satanic version of a Public Service Announcement.

I had heard from several sources that the cast starred no white males except as villains, and I had even heard that the writer did this deliberate as a message to express hatred for America in general and for all Conservatives in particular. His vision was to portray the Empire as Trump-supporting, Make the Galaxy Great Again, White Supremacist Patriarchs, and the rebellion as the multi-culti proletarians rising up against their oppressors. Therefore this film had all the earmarks of being just one more  bit of Lefteroo Hate-Whitey bigot-prop, like Disney’s POCAHONTAS.

My misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded.

I was a little surprised that the main male protagonist was Caucasian, and for a while I wondered what the writer’s comment that there were no Caucasians among the protagonists. The actor is named Deigo Luna.  I had not remembered (because I am not a psychiatrist) that in the delusional world-system of the Left, Spaniards are not considered to be from Europe hence are not considered Caucasians. Spaniards are considered by the Left to be oppressed by Whites, and are not considered, for some reason, to be responsible for the introduction of black slaves to the New World. Go figure.

So, there is no pro-Left nor anti-White nor Anti-West message in this film. If the film makers meant there to be one, they failed miserably.

(5) MEASURING AUTHOR POPULARITY. Today, John Ringo posted a “Redshirt call” on Facebook.

To explain for people who haven’t seen this before, I just need a name. Just post “Me” in the comments. If you’ve been named before please don’t post. One of the first comments wins. I may go back to it for subsequent names. No guarantees of how much ‘screen’ time you get. May or may not die. (Right now, probably falls into ‘won’t’.) I’m the final judge and there is no appeal.

Go.

One hour later 496 volunteers had left comments.

(6) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON THE INTERNET. Congratulations to Ethan Mills whose Examined Worlds is celebrating its second blog-iversary.  

I started this blog primarily as a place to post philosophically-enriched reviews of all the science fiction books I was reading.  I figured I spent so much time reviewing books on Goodreads (check out my Goodreads profile!) that I might as well make a blog out of them.  While I primarily blog on science fiction and philosophy, I have strayed into other territories, especially politics both within and without science fiction fandom and academia.  See My Favorite Posts for some of the posts I’ve found particularly enjoying or fulfilling to write.

(7) THEN IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. Annalee Newitz deconstructs the Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer for Ars Technica.

Then the scene shifts to a glowing red landscape, perhaps in a heavily polluted desert outside LA. We get to see Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, looking tough and cool in his knee-length leather jacket, because global warming shouldn’t stop the fashion train. There’s a haunting image of a giant (replicant?) head on the ground, which seems like it might be a reference to some of the images from the famously trippy 1973 sci-fi movie Fantastic Planet.

Officer K is trying to solve a mystery that takes him right to the mysterious lair of Deckard, who has apparently been missing for decades. It almost looks like Deckard is living in a spiffed-up version of Sebastian’s home for broken replicants in the first film.

Mark-kitteh says of the trailer, “I think there needs to be a mashup where Harrison Ford says ‘Chewie, we’re home.’”

(8) PARAGRAVITY COMICS. Stephen Haffner of the Haffner Press is now shipping the comic strip collection Beyond Mars, written by Jack Williamson, artwork by Lee Elias, edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. The 160-page full-color hardcover is $55

Drawn from the same setting of Jack Williamson’s novels SEETEE SHIP and SEETEE SHOCK, BEYOND MARS takes place 200 years in the future, when a new force—paragravity—has enabled men to live and breathe on the asteroids. The strip stars Mike Flint, a spatial engineer who lives on Brooklyn Rock, an asteroid “beyond Mars.” With Sam, his green-skinned metallic partner from Venus, Flint gets involved in a series of lighthearted adventures, battling space pirates, teaming up with beautiful and strong-minded women, and dealing with addicts of the mysterious drug called “star dust.” The restored color is outstanding and the artwork is creative and imaginative. Bruce Canwell contributes a wonderful introduction, putting this in the context of early 1950s science fiction. The book also includes original art by Lee Elias on other features like Black Cat, Terry & the Pirates and Tommy Tomorrow.

(9) DARMOK AND JELAD AT THE MANGA. Brigid Alverson of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls out “The Best New Manga Series of 2016”.

Whatever you say about the balance of 2016, it was a good year for manga. Publishers expanded their lines in all different directions, bringing us new titles from popular creators as well as interesting debuts from newcomers. The category has grown richer than ever before, with more manga for more tastes. Here’s a look at 15 of the best series that launched in the past year.

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura The women who live in the Amamizu-kan boardinghouse are fans (otaku) of very specific things: Trains, jellyfish, kimonos, The Records of the Three Kingdoms. They’re happily nerdy together, but they freeze whenever they run up against someone stylish, and members of the opposite sex are out of the question—in fact, they call themselves the “amars” (nuns). So it’s a huge shock to Tsukimi, the jellyfish fanatic, when a stylish girl helps her rescue a jellyfish—and an even bigger shock when the girl turns out to be a boy. Not just any boy, though: Kuranosuke is the younger son of a wealthy, politically connected family, and although he dresses as a woman to dodge any notion that he would go into politics himself, he understands how things work. When a developer announces plans to buy and raze Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke helps the amars glam up to do battle. Meanwhile, Tsukimi has caught the eye of Kuranosuke’s nerdy older brother, and the attraction is mutual—but he doesn’t realize the beautiful girl he encountered at the jellyfish tank in the aquarium and the dowdy amar in sweats are the same person. Princess Jellyfish puts a uniquely manga spin on some classic rom-com tropes, and the result is a refreshingly funny story about fashion, politics, and extreme nerdiness….

(10) DARNED NEAR THE BEST. Pornokitsch’s array of contributors have assembled an eclectic and far-reaching list of things they liked or nearly liked — “Pornokitsch’s Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016”. Here’s one example —

Erin

The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. From the founders of one of New York’s most celebrated cocktail meccas, this book is part mixologist’s handbook, part all-American tale of two Irish boys making it in the Big Apple (complete with Gangs of New York reference). Be warned: the list of ingredients sometimes read more like a scavenger’s hunt than a recipe, but if you’re prepared to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

Hibernacula. My favourite thing about NYCC this year was visiting this jewelry shop on a tip from Seanan McGuire. I was lucky to come away only a few hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, not because the fantasy-inspired designs are so expensive, but because there are just so damn many of them I want to buy. I settled for a silver ring inspired by Castiel of Supernatural, plus this Cthulhu-friendly pendant. I’m still dreaming about commissioning a piece based on the Bloodbound novels, because garnet studded jewelry would be the best.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. If you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride – and really, who isn’t – you should definitely check out the latest release in the franchise. Not only is it two games in one, with a world side of the board and a Great Lakes side, it’s got enough twists and extra layers of strategy to keep even the most hardened T2R veterans on their toes.

Read what villains Erin liked (and didn’t) in 2016. Or, better yet, read The Bloodsworn, the awesome conclusion to her epic fantasy trilogy

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

128 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

  1. @Cora The only time I came across a “race”-box was on a work contract in Thailand. I wrote “human” and nobody complained.

  2. @ Lis Carey

    Weird dreams last night, rooted in anxiety. Not, fortunately, a repeat of the one where I’m drowning.

    Ignore this if irrelevant or “hlepy” (as they say over at Making Light), but I eventually discovered that my rather frightening dreams about drowning just may have been connected to mild sleep apnea.

  3. @ Lenora Rose

    Someone (Elizabeth bear?) has a whole sequence describing the meaning of Yankee: if you’re from outside the US, it means people in America, if you’re inside the US it means people from the Northeastern quarter or so, if you’re from the Northeast, it means people from these specific states, if you’re from those states, it means…

    Reminds me a bit of the complexity I have in responding to the question “where do you live?” Or rather, the complexity I had back when I lived in my last house (since the current one has slightly different issues). At that time, I lived in a bit of a “finger” of land belonging to the city of Oakland but sandwiched between Berkeley and Emeryville. (No one who is not local to the SF bay area will have heard of Emeryville, which plays into some of the following.)

    If I were outside the US and was asked “where do you live?” I’d generally stick to “California” but might sometimes narrow it down to “San Francisco”.

    If I were in the US, but outside California when asked, I might say San Francisco, but I’d be more likely to say Berkeley, especially if in an academic environment or if I wanted to indicate political alignment.

    If I were in California but outside the Bay Area, I’d generally say Berkeley.

    If I were in the Bay Area, I’d say Emeryville–because it would indicate the geographic location much more precisely. The farthest part of Emeryville was still about 4 times closer to me than the center of Oakland. The thing was, it was almost never a useful answer to tell people I lived in Oakland. (Even my zip code thought I was in Emeryville.)

    And let’s not get into my usual response to “where are you from?” (Short version: “That’s a very complicated question.”)

  4. Taking that further, if I were in Emeryville, I’d say I was at 65th and Hollis.

    If I were at 65th and Hollis, I’d say I was at Los Moles.

    If I were at Los Moles, I’d say I was at the bar.

    If I were at the bar at Los Moles, I’d be drinking margaritas and eating delicious snacks.

    Sorry, I have Los Moles on my mind.

  5. Ignore this if irrelevant or “hlepy” (as they say over at Making Light), but I eventually discovered that my rather frightening dreams about drowning just may have been connected to mild sleep apnea.

    How interesting! Sleep apnea is definitely an issue in my case.

  6. There’s a very serious hierarchy to it, supplied by E.B. White:

    “To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
    To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
    To northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
    To easterners, a Yankee is an New Englander.
    To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
    And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.”

    But even American Southerners can translate “Yankee Go Home” and understand it not to refer only to New Englanders.

    [To be fair, I’m from Massachusetts, and to be a Yankee is a member of the evil New York baseball team.]

  7. @Lis,

    I highly recommend getting the appropriate testing done and getting (and using) the appropriate equipment. I had a seriously “night and day” sort of experience the first night I wore my mask to bed. I had forgotten what real sleep felt like.

    As odd as it might seem to have to wear something on your face while sleeping, it is easy to get used to it when you finally start getting a good night’s sleep.

    The downside to avoiding treatment can be pretty awful; increased risks of stroke, heart attack, & dementia.

    Regards,
    Dann

  8. @Dann–

    You know what’s the worst thing? I have been tested, I do have a cpap machine, I just somehow in the past year or so stopped getting the regular replacement parts. You are giving me good advice that I know I ought to be following.

    Maybe this will be the impetus I need.

    So, thank you, to you and to Heather.

  9. Hi Lis,

    Please do get back on the cpap wagon. I wouldn’t wish that sleep deprived life on anyone.

    Glad to help.

    VBR,
    Dann

  10. ” “Yankee go home” graffiti in Britain wasn’t meant to imply any visiting ex-Confederate-States visitors were ok…”

    A couple of years ago, I was visiting a Heavy Metal festival in Sweden. We were walking along, slightly drunk, when we saw Ted Nugent playing. As Ted Nugent is an asshole, we felt it would be polite to inform him. So we started to yell “YANKEE GO HOME!”.

    Having done our good deed for the day, we strolled away to enjoy the rest of the festival. A few hundred meters and some stages away we stumbled upon…

    …Ted Nugent! Turned out we had yelled “YANKEE GO HOME!” to some most likely confused Norwegians. Sorry to say, at that moment we were to full of beer and laughter to repeat our thoughts to Ted. The real Ted that is.

  11. YANKEE, n. In Europe, an American. In the Northern States of our Union, a New Englander. In the Southern States the word is unknown. (See DAMNYANK.)

    (Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary.)

  12. @ kathodus

    Sorry, I have Los Moles on my mind.

    *laugh* That has been a series of fairly nice restaurants! Back when it was the Italian place (this would be maybe 20 years ago?) it was one of my favorite walk-to places when I was taking visitors out to dinner. Small world. My favorite restaurant in that area is Roadhouse, and I always regretted not discovering it until after I’d been living there for more than a decade. (It was successfully imitating a dive bar.)

  13. @ Lis

    In that case, I strongly second Dann’s suggestion (which I see you are already welcoming) to get back on the CPAP wagon. Especially if you’re having drowning dreams. I know that for me the difference wasn’t an immediate night-and-day thing, but looking back over a year-plus of use now, it definitely makes a difference.

  14. @Heather Rose Jones – I think I vaguely remember that Italian restaurant. I moved out here a little over 20 years ago, but didn’t make it that way much at all for years, other than to go to the movies. My first memory of eating at the restaurant on that corner was when it was called Poblano. I don’t recall any place called Roadhouse – I wonder if it’s either gone out of business or changed names.

  15. Yeah, I’ve been using a CPAP for a while. It took a couple of nights to get used to it, and I’m glad I can’t see myself when I’m wearing it, but Cathy says I haven’t snored since I put it on, which indicates an absence of the sudden SNORK! wake-up cycles. I still have discontinuous sleep, but no snorks to speak of.

    I have to get a new mask. It tells me so on the device’s screen. Sort of like the “coins detected in pockets” bit on the old arcade game, or the slot machines on the Jetsons: “Hit me! Hit me!” “I’m due! I’m due!”

    Sort of.

  16. @Lee & @Johan P

    It’s very Forbidden Planet isn’t it?

    I love the photography of abandoned buildings, they can be so haunting.

  17. In New Zealand, “Yankee” is almost never used (unless talking about a particular movie, or maybe the US Civil War). Rather we use “Yank”, including in the term “yank tank” for a large US-designed car.

  18. I always enjoyed the expression on most Americans when they needed explanations as to why people were calling them seppos.

    Even better was their expression when we tried to explain that no, it’s not derogatory.

    Don’t think they bought it. Ah well.

  19. @ kathodus

    My memory slipped sideways, not Roadhouse, but Townhouse. Stilll there, though it looks like they no longer have a live music night. One of the reasons it gives off a dive-bar vibe is that it actually started out as a speakeasy during Prohibition.

    Among my co-workers, it’s known as “the place you ask to go when it’s on someone else’s expense account.”

  20. @Kurt Busiek: I’ve heard that hierarchy extended to “eats pie for breakfast with a knife and a piece of cheddar cheese.” No idea who did the adds.

  21. @DannI had a seriously “night and day” sort of experience the first night I wore my mask to bed. I had forgotten what real sleep felt like.
    Exactly. And the sense of relief I felt, when I realized I could now drive on the highway without nodding off at 70 mph, was immense.

    @Kip W
    I still have discontinuous sleep, but no snorks to speak of.
    If you are still under the care of a sleep doctor, you should mention this. It may mean you need to get the pressure of the CPAP adjusted.

    To folks who aren’t CPAP users: If you are overweight and you snore; if you are still tired after a night’s sleep (i.e., if you get drowsy when you should be able to easily stay awake, like while driving); if a partner tells you that when you sleep your breathing cycle is intermittent, and has “hitches” in it; tell your doctor and ask about sleep apnea. Untreated, it shortens your life.

    My sleep doctor’s regular practice was to do a sleep study on a patient (sleep overnight in a lab with EKG/EEG electrodes), have a consult where the doctor and patient discussed the results, and then do another study with the patient wearing a CPAP.

    When I did the 1st sleep study, they woke me up an hour into it and wanted me to wear the CPAP right away. It turns out, I was having 60 apnea events an hour (my throat tissue was closing off my airway, and I would stop breathing). My pulse ox was dipping into the 60s (should be 100, and when my son was in the ICU, his docs would freak the shit out when his dipped below 90). The techs running the study noticed this, and felt it was unsafe for me to continue that way, and called the doc to ask to put me in a mask RIGHT NOW.

    When you have an apnea event, your body releases adrenaline. Which stimulates your kidneys. So my kidneys were being stimulated all night long. So one pleasant side effect of getting a CPAP was that I didn’t have to get up 2-3 times a night to urinate.

  22. Personal experience with being called a Yankee (by one of the administrative assistants in my department way back in the 1990s): since I come from Idaho which was just a territory during the “War of Northern Agression” (as some people here still call it in all seriousness, here being rural NE Texas), I didn’t think I exactly had a dog in this fight. But this one ad. assistant would routinely call me a Yankee–and called the other (younger) administrative assistant a Yankee as well. (The younger a.a. and I were thrilled to learn that we came from the same area–she was born in Lewiston, Idaho, not all that far from Moscow!). I once asked her to explain how somebody born in an area that was a territory during the Civil War could be a Yankee, and she said anybody from north of the Red River (which runs between Oklahoma and Texas) was a Yankee. (The word “damn” was not enunciated but the subtext was pretty clear.) I didn’t mind so much for myself (even as a tenure track faculty member, I didn’t have to deal with her all that much), but I thought she bullied her co-worker, and I thought it was unprofessional.

    The situation was fairly soon resolved when she started telling everybody who came into the office about her dreams every night in which Jesus was her boyfriend.

  23. @IanP – yup. It’s a slang of a rhyming slang – from Yankee to Yank, which rhymes with Septic Tank, which gets shortened to Seppo.

    But it’s all in good fun.

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