(1) AGENT OF TERRA? Brad Templeton confesses, “I was investigated by the feds for taking a picture of the sun”.
A week ago, a rather strange event took place. No, I’m not talking about just the Transit of Mercury in front of the sun on May 9, but an odd result of it.
That morning I was staying at the Westin Waterfront in Boston. I like astrophotography, and have shot several transits…
I did not have my top lenses with me but I decided to photograph it anyway with my small size Sony 210mm zoom and a welding glass I brought along. I shot the transit, holding the welding glass over the lens, with all mounted on my super-light “3 legged thing” portable tripod….
At 10am I got a frantic call from the organizer of the Exponential Manufacturing conference I would be speaking at the next day. “You need to talk to the FBI!” he declared. Did they want my advice on privacy and security? “No,” he said, “They saw you taking photos of the federal building with a tripod from your hotel window and want to talk to you.”
(2) SHINING EXAMPLE. Ann Leckie discovered someone’s named a nail polish after her.
— Ann Leckie ? (@ann_leckie) May 16, 2016
(3) #STARWARSFORJJ. Not our JJ. An Irish kid — “Star Wars hero Mark Hamill stuns brave Northern Ireland cancer teen Jamie Harkin”
Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker was reduced to tears when he felt the remarkable force of a brave Northern Irish teen who has fought off cancer twice.
Actor Mark Hamill, who plays the famous Jedi Knight , met up with super fan Jamie Harkin.
The brave 17-year-old has raised more than £15,000 for other children battling the disease….
And on Monday the Derry lad joined his idol for breakfast during a break in filming for the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga in Donegal.
“People say that you should never meet your idols, because you build them up in your head so much that when you do meet them, they are a let down, and to that, I say, ‘you’re wrong’,” he said.
(4) SLACKEROO BANZAI. Birth. Movies. Death. is not enamored of reports that Kevin Smith might get to make a Buckaroo Banzai TV series.
Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,
We regret to inform you that, on a recent episode of his podcast, Tusk director Kevin Smith revealed that he has been approached by MGM about possibly adapting The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai for television.
In situations like these, it is natural to look for someone to blame for your grief. In this case, it appears that you have The CW’s The Flash to thank (or, rather, Smith’s recent episode of The Flash).
According to i09, the studio was impressed with Smith’s work on that single episode (the studio is apparently unaware of Tusk, Red State, the porch sequence from Tusk, the trailer for Yoga Hosers, Mallrats, Smith’s intention to make a movie called Moose Jaws, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, most of Dogma, Clerks 2, and Cop Out), so much so that they invited him over to pitch ideas….
Janiece Murphy says, “Dr. Phil was a kind and generous man, and we’d like to memorialize him in a way that reflects these qualities.”
Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.
Folks can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/drphilclarion , or they can donate directly to Clarion in Dr. Phil’s name at http://imagination.ucsd.edu/support.html . If they choose the latter, I would ask that they ensure the gift is designated for the Dr. Phil Clarion Scholarship, otherwise it will go to the general fund.
The GoFundMe appeal has raised $1,045 of its $5,000 goal as of this writing.
(6) WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Joe Sherry makes a great point in “My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story” at Nerds of a Feather.
First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker’s “Our Lady of the Open Road“. Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction…
This leads into my second thing I’d like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you’d like to mention, is about the winner. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the “best” novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.
That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says “yes, this story was excellent and we value it”….
(7) KAGAN BOOKS AVAILABLE. To capture a news item seen the other day in comments: Baen has republished several long-out-of-print Janet Kagan works as ebooks – Mirabile, Hellspark, and The Collected Kagan.
(8) SFWA ELECTIONS. SF Site News covered this weekend’s SFWA officer elections.
Last year saw some officers elected for two year terms and others elected for one year terms. This year, elections were only held for positions which were elected for one year terms last year. Erin M. Hartshorn, Justina Ireland, and Lawrence M. Schoen ran for two open Director-at-Large positions.
- Vice President: M.C.A. Hogarth, re-elected, unopposed
- CFO: Bud Sparhawk, re-elected, unopposed
- Director at Large: Justina Ireland
- Director at Large: Lawrence M. Schoen
(9) NEBULA DIVERSITY. K. Tempest Bradford reported on the Nebula Awards for NPR.
…This weekend’s winners reflect many different types of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of color, half are self-identified queer women – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award were written by women from multiple racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the 10 works by men, five of them were written by people of color and queer authors.
“The Nebula ballot is everything a ballot should be in this community,” said Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It’s diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it includes amazing stories by amazing authors.”
That’s an important point, given the ongoing conversation about diversity happening now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other major awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Last year and again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.
But “people want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the first Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award last year and is now the first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.
Readers “want to read stories from the points of view of people who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of women who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that people are reading more widely now. It means more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”
(10) SITE PICKED FOR 2019 COSTUME-CON. Over Mother’s Day weekend at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI, the site for Costume-Con 37 in 2019 was chosen. It will be run under the auspices of MCFI with Aurora Celeste and Sharon Sbarsky as co-chairs. Social media still to come.
March 22-25, 2019
DoubleTree Boston North Shore
(actually Danvers, MA)
$129 Hotel Rate including Free WiFi, Free Parking, and Free Cookies!
$60 ($45 for those that voted) through at least December 31, 2016
(11) HUGO FIX. Damien Walter takes a math-lite approach to fighting slates, where Yobs = Ø
Sigh. Please Hugo / Worldcon people, stand up for yourselves. Ban the yobs, reinstate the real writers. https://t.co/xjbJzqmEEP
— Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) May 16, 2016
Born in Los Angeles, he served as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, then studied radio production and writing at USC. First working at San Diego’s KFMB, he later joined L.A.’s KECA where in 1950 he became director on the channel’s new series Space Patrol.
Set in the 30th century, the series followed the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry of the United Planets Space Patrol, who along with his sidekick Cadet Happy faced off against a rogues gallery of villains inspired by then-current Cold War. For its first 10 months, the show aired as 15 minute episodes Monday through Friday. In December, 1950, ABC commissioned a half hour version that ran on Saturdays, concurrently with the 15-minute version. Aimed at children, the show picked up a following of adult viewers and would go on to make history when it became the first regular live West Coast morning show to be beamed to the East Coast.
(13) A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. Norman Spinrad has some strong opinions about Facebook.
Well my attempt to split my so-called Facebook “Timeline” into several different forums has been a dismal failure. Didn’t work, and more recent news (and I mean real news, not Facebook’s so-called “News Feed”) about Facebook begins not only to explain why, but begins to illuminate far larger issues about what Facebook is doing and trying to do.
Facebook has been accused of using both secret algorithms and human “editors” to control and even censor its so-called News Feed and “Trending topics” feed to suit the political agenda of Mark Zuckerberg &Co. But not to worry, Zuckerberg himself has appointed a committee to investigate.
Facebook had generously offered to finance free Internet service to third world countries, notably India. Well not exactly. The Facebook “free Internet service” would only connect to web sites approved and chosen by Facebook. India at least being a sophisticated democracy said no thanks. And other so-called “developing countries” have likewise gotten the point.
The point being that Facebook is becoming a threat to democracy itself, nowhere more so than in the United States, where a majority of people are getting their “news” from Facebook already and Facebook is expanding the process exponentially, as witness how it has weaseled itself into most of the televised presidential primary debates and now is funneling selected news stories from legitimate journalistic news channels through “News Feed” and “Trending” to far larger demographics than they can possibly reach by themselves.
And now it has been revealed that Facebook is in effect filtering and editing these feeds according Mark Zuckerberg’s political agenda. But not to worry, Zuckerberg has appointed a committee of his own minions to investigate himself.
Why is this a threat to democracy? Because it is already a huge threat to professional and politically neutral journalism itself, the commons cornerstone of any democracy….
(14) PROTECTION OR THEATRE? Recently the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation, which runs Anime Expo in Los Angeles, announced a new Youth Protection program that requires all employees, volunteers, vendors and panelists to submit to a criminal background check and take online courses. Christopher Macdonald argues in an Anime News Network editorial that “The SPJA Needs to Change Its Youth Protection Policy”.
On the surface the new policy seems like a great idea. Who isn’t in favor of protecting children from predators? This policy isn’t unwarranted either, as with every similarly large event, bad things happen… and have happened. Unfortunately the SPJA’s new policy has many unintended consequences. Here are but a few:
- Cost: It isn’t entirely clear who has to pay for the background checks, but these checks could be very expensive for people who have to pay for them. While a typical background checks costs as little as $50, the actual price can be prohibitively expensive for some vendors. For example, some background checks cost an extra $50 for every country a subject has visited in the past 5 years, and an extra $200 if they have lived outside the USA. With those prices, my background check would cost over $1,000 (note: AX has stated on Twitter “No artist, volunteer, guest, staff is being asked to pay for own bg check,“ however it seems that vendors and exhibitors do have to pay for the background checks).
- Privacy & Security: The new SPJA policy requires that all vendors register with their real names & info. Many people in our industry, particularly professional and semi-professional cosplayers, have problems with stalkers. They do not want to be forced to wear badges with their real names, and they do not want their home address in the SPJA’s database. It may even be illegal to force employees of California based vendors to undergo background checks. There is a very limited number of cases in which an employer can mandate a background check, and this is not one of those cases. Therefore, it may be illegal for companies like Aniplex of America, Bandai, Crunchyroll, NIS America and Viz Media to ask their employees to undergo the background check.
- Good People will fail the background check: I won’t go into too much detail about this here, there is plenty of information online about it, but many people often have significant trouble with background checks. Here are but a few of the reasons you can fail a background check: a name change, a minor violent arrest (got into a fight in a bar back in your college days), visiting an “undesirable” country (have you been to Iran or Cuba? I have), sharing your name with an actual criminal, etc…
- It’s Insulting: Picture this, “Hi, you’re one of the top manga artists in Japan, and we’d really like to have you as a guest of honor at our show, but first we need to make sure you aren’t a child molester.” This is straight up offensive; you should expect that people will be insulted by this. And they are; I can say with absolute certainty that some of AX’s potential guests have pulled out because of this, and in at least one case an artist is disturbed enough that it is having an effect on their work. Have you noticed that we’re less than 2 months out, and almost no guests of honor have been announced? Guest contracts are in limbo while they wait for this issue to be resolved. For some guests it is already too late for them to commit to the event, their schedules are made more than 2 months in advance.
(15) TESTING FOR HUMANITY. The Futility Closet blog describes a proposed replacement for the Turing Test.
The original test, in which a computer program tries to fool a human judge into thinking it’s human during a five-minute text-only conversation, has been criticized because the central task of devising a false identity is not part of intelligence, and because some conversations may require relatively little intelligent reasoning.
The new test would be based on so-called Winograd schemas, devised by Stanford computer scientist Terry Winograd in 1972. Here’s the classic example:
The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.
If the word feared is used, to whom does they refer, the councilmen or the demonstrators? What if we change feared to advocated? You know the answers to these questions because you have a practical understanding of anxious councilmen. Computers find the task more difficult because it requires not only natural language processing and commonsense reasoning but a working knowledge of the real world….
In July 2014 Nuance Communications announced that it will sponsor an annual Winograd Schema Challenge, with a prize of $25,000 for the computer that best matches human performance. The first competition will be held at the 2016 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, July 9-15 in New York City.
(16) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. George R.R. Martin weighs in on the EPH discussion with “All the King’s Horses…” at Not A Blog.
I can hear the proponents of EPH and 4/6 saying their reforms were never meant to be a cure all. Yes, I know that, I never believed otherwise, and I applaud your efforts to help. I just wish these reforms helped more. Neither EPH nor 4/6 is going to prevent us from having VD on the Best Editor shortlist from now until the heat death of the universe.
And I also know that there are now other proposals out there, proposals that call for three-stage voting, for negative votes and blackballing, for juries. Some of these cures, I fear, might be even worse than the disease. We have plenty of juried awards; we don’t need another. Three-stage voting, with fifteen semi-finalists that get boiled down to five finalists and one winner? Maybe, but that considerably increases the workload of the Hugo administrators, whose job is hard enough already… and I fear it would actually ratchet up campaigning, as friends and fans of those on the List of Fifteen rallied around their favorites to get them on the List of Five. And a blackball round, voting things off the ballot? Is that really a can of worms we want to open, in this present climate? That would dial the ugliness up to eleven, I fear… or higher.
Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer here. No magic bullet is going to fix this. And I fear that the people saying, “pretty soon the assholes will get bored and go away,” are being hopelessly naive. The assholes are having far too much fun.
(17) BABELFISH NOW REALITY? Here’s the pitch.
1. How much will it cost? Retail is expected to be $249-$299
2. How much is the early bird? Early bird will be first come first serve. A limited quantity will go for $129, then another round for $149, and then a few more Late Early Bird options for $179+. Signup here: www.waverlylabs.com/launch
3. When can I preorder the Pilot? The preorder campaign is scheduled to launch on May 25th. We will keep everyone updated via email. As long as you have signed up for the launch then you will be alerted.
4. When will they be delivered? We are releasing a translation app this summer for basic translation. This is included in your purchase. However, the earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be in late fall/early winter, although fulfilling all orders could take until next spring. Again, it is first come first serve.
5. What’s included? The full package includes the Pilot and secondary earpiece (2 earpieces total), 1 portable charger, and an accompanying app. The app is where the languages are downloaded for the earpiece.
The rest of the FAQ is here.
[Thanks to Rick Kovalcik, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Lola McCrary, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]