Pixel Scroll 9/22/17 How Can You Tell If An Elephant Has Been On Your Scroll? By The Footprints On The Pixels

(1) EBOOKS FOR HURRICANE RELIEF. Fireside Fiction has teamed up with other small presses, authors, and editors to offer e-books to raise money for hurricane relief through the Hurricane Relief Bookstore.

Fireside Fiction Company has put together the Hurricane Relief Bookstore to raise funds for disaster relief and rebuilding for Houston, the Caribbean, and Florida.

100% of profits from sales on this store will go toward the following three relief organizations:

• For Houston: Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund

• For the Caribbean: Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Fund

• For Florida: ShelterBox

The ebooks on this store are intentionally priced high—the more money we raise, the better. If you want to increase your donations, simply increase the quantities in your shopping cart before checking out.

Each ebook consists of a Zip file that includes a Mobi file for your Kindle and an Epub file for iBooks, Nook, Kobo, or any other reader (some publishers also include a PDF file). All files are DRM-free (because come on, it’s 2017).

(2) THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS SATURN. E.R. Ellsworth presents the bittersweet “Lost Letters From Cassini” on Medium.

January 1st, 2001

My Dearest Geneviève:

I hope this missive finds you well. As far as my travels have taken me, you remain ever in my thoughts.

Huygens and I celebrated the new year with the majestic visage of Jupiter full in our sights. I’m enclosing several photographs of that celestial marvel for you and the kids to enjoy. I am no Ansel Adams, however, and I fear my skills with the lens cannot capture the true beauty of this place.

Yours always,

Cassini

(3) ABOVE AND BEYOND. It is the nature of we humans to be more interested in someone’s opinion of Amazon Author Rankings if he or she happens to be speaking from the top of the pile. Take John Scalzi, for example.

Yesterday nine of my novels were on sale for $2.99 in ebook format, across a bunch of different retailers, but most prominently on Amazon, because, well, Amazon. Amazon has a number of different ways to make authors feel competitive and neurotic, one of which is its “Amazon Author Rank,” which tells you where you fit in the grand hierarchy of authors on Amazon, based (to some extent) on sales and/or downloads via Amazon’s subscription reading service. And yesterday, I got to the top of it — #1 in the category of science fiction and fantasy, and was #4 overall, behind JK Rowling and two dudes who co-write business books. Yes, I was (and am still! At this writing!) among the elite of the elite in the Amazon Author Ranks, surveying my realm as unto a god.

And now, thoughts! …

  1. This opacity works for Amazon because it keeps authors engaged, watching their Amazon Author Rankings go up and down, and getting little spikes or little stabs as their rankings bounce around. I mean, hell, I think it’s neat to have a high ranking, and I know it’s basically nonsense! But I do think it’s important for authors to remember not to get too invested in the rankings because a) if you don’t know how it works, you don’t know why you rank as you do, at any particular time, b) it’s foolish to be invested in a ranking whose mechanism is unknown to you, c) outside of Amazon, the ranking has no relevance.

(4) NEEDS MEANER VILLAIN. Zhaoyun presents “Microreview [book]: Babylon’s Ashes (book six of The Expanse), by James S.A. Corey” at Nerds of a Feather.

…And this is where, in my opinion, Babylon’s Ashes missteps.

It turns out Inaros just isn’t that compelling a villain, and perhaps as a consequence of this, the good guys’ inevitable victory over him isn’t particularly cathartic. In one sense that shouldn’t matter, since of course it’s entirely up to Daniel Abraham and Ty Francks what sort of villain to create, and nothing mandates a “tougher than you can believe” archetype. The problem, as I see it, is that they fell into this narrative trope without having the right sort of villain for it. Inaros is simply a megalomaniac with a flair (sort of) for PR, but his ridiculous behavior and blunders end up alienating many of his erstwhile supporters. This leeches the catharsis right out of the mano y mano confrontation at the end, since in a manner of speaking Inaros has already been beaten, in small ways, numerous times before this….

(5) HOBBIT FORMING. The 80th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit prompted Vann R. Newkirk II to recall when right made might, in “There and Back Again” for The Atlantic.

Modern fantasy and its subgenres, as represented in [George R.R.] Martin’s work, might be positioned as anti-art in relation to Tolkien. In that way, Tolkien still dominates. While the watchword of the day is subversion—twisting tropes, destroying moral absolutes with relativism, and making mockeries of gallantry and heroism—subversion still requires a substrate. So although fantasy creators in all media have devoted most of their energies in the past eight decades to digesting Tolkien, so in turn Tolkien has become part of the fabric of their works. There’s a little Bilbo in Tyrion, a bit of Smaug in Eragon’s dragons, a dash of Aragorn in Shannara’s Shea Ohmsford, and a touch of Gandalf in the wizards of Discworld.

That’s why, on this week’s anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit and of the entrance of Tolkien into the fantasy genre, it’s important to reread and reconsider his works, and his first especially. Although the short and whimsical book is considered lightweight compared to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s still in many ways the best that literature has to offer. Tolkien is first a linguist, and it’s not only his creation of elvish, dwarvish, and orcish languages out of whole cloth that impresses, but also the way he toys with English and illustrates the power of language itself to create. Ever a good author surrogate, Bilbo’s true arms and armor aren’t his trusty half-sword Sting or his mithril shirt, but—as Gollum would find out—his words and riddles.

(6) NOT THE DIRECTOR’S CUT. Matthew Vaughn, director of Kingsman 2, wouldn’t have put the film’s biggest surprise in the damn trailers, he told IGN:

Trailers revealed that Colin Firth’s Harry Hart – who seemed to have died in the course of the first film – would return in the sequel.

Speaking to IGN, Vaughn was forthright about his feelings on that particular promotional choice: “Well, I’m not in charge of marketing. The thinking about that was stupidity, to be blunt.

“I begged the studio not to reveal it. Because it’s the whole driving force of the first act and if you didn’t know that scene it would’ve made the whole audience gasp. So you have to ask the lovely marketing guys because I think their job is to open the movie and don’t really care about the experience of the movie.”

(7) TODAY’S DAY

Hobbit Day

The birthday of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.

 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1968 — Irwin Allen’s Land of the Giants aired “The Crash,” its first episode.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY GIRL

  • September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Was Mark-kitteh surprised to find an sf reference in xkcd? No more than you will be.
  • Nor should anyone be surprised by the sports reference Mike Kennedy found in a comic called In the Bleachers. But its Star Wars component, maybe?

(11) END VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. Surely something called “Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition)” needs a mention here?

Read For Pixels 2017 (Fall Edition) raises funds to help end violence against women in collaboration with award-winning bestselling authors.

The Pixel Project‘s “Read For Pixels” 2017 (Fall Edition) campaign features live readings+Q&A Google Hangout sessions with 12 award-winning bestselling authors in support of the cause to end violence against women. Participating authors include Adrian Tchaikovsky, Alafair Burke, Genevieve Valentine, Ilona Andrews, Isaac Marion, Kass Morgan, Ken Liu, Kristen Britain, Paul Tremblay, Sara Raasch, Soman Chainani, and Vicki Pettersson.

These awesome authors have donated exclusive goodies to this special “Read For Pixels” Fall 2017 fundraiser to encourage fans and book lovers to give generously to help tackle VAW. Additional goodies come courtesy of Penguin Random House’s Berkley and Ace/Roc/DAW imprints, acclaimed Fantasy authors Aliette de Bodard, Charles de Lint, Christopher Golden, Dan Wells, Jacqueline Carey, Kendare Blake, Steven Erikson, bestselling mystery/thriller author Karen Rose, and more.

(12) AN ANIMATED GROUP. Crave would like to tell you their picks for “The Top 15 Best Chuck Jones Cartoons Ever” and you may want to know – but I warn you in advance it’s one of those click-through-the-list posts. If you’re not that patient I’ll tell you this much – ranked number one is “Duck Amuck” (1953).

Few filmmakers could ever claim to have brought as much joy into our lives as Charles M. Jones, better known to many as Chuck Jones, who worked for Warner Bros. on their classic Looney Tunes shorts for 30 years. Afterwards, he directed shorts for MGM, co-directed the family classic The Phantom Tollbooth, and also directed one of the best Christmas specials ever produced, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

His career was varied – he won four Oscars, including a lifetime achievement award in 1966 – but Chuck Jones was and still is best known as one of the comic and cinematic geniuses who made Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner the pop culture staples they are today. Along with his team of skilled animators, writers and fellow directors, Chuck Jones brought biting wit and visual wonders to the cartoon medium, and most – if not all – of the cartoons we love today owe him a direct debt of gratitude, in one form or another.

(13) AN APPEAL. A GoFundMe to “Save Rosy’s Inheritance” has been started for his wife by Guy H. Lillian III to fund these legal expenses –

Nita Green, Rose-Marie Lillian’s mother, passed away in April. 2015. Her intent, as stated in her will, was to have her only daughter inherit a logical percentage of her worldly goods. In person she was promised Nita’s collection of original paintings by Frank Kelly Freas, a renowned artist and long-time personal friend of them both. Rose-Marie lived with and cared for her mother and her stepfather for the last two years of her mother’s life. Since Nita’s death, however, she has been denied her inheritance, despite the stated wishes of her mother and an agreement arrived at a legal deposition taken in December, 2016. She has no recourse but to sue.  Though her husband is an attorney, he is licensed only in another state and Rosy’s cause of action is in Florida. All attorneys rightly require retainers before beginning representation and have every right to be paid. Rose-Marie turns to you for help. The retainer required will fall between $5000 and $7500…. Can you help?

(14) ENDOWED CHAIR. PZ Myers contends, “Only a conservative twit would believe he’s entitled to a speaker’s slot at a con”.

By the way, I have a similar example: I was a speaker at Skepticon multiple times. One year they decided they needed new blood, so they invited some other people, instead of me. If I were like Jon Del Arroz, I would have made a big stink over the violation of tradition — they invited me once (actually, a couple of times), so now they must invite me every time. Every year. Over and over. Until attendees are sick of me, and even then they aren’t allowed to stop.

That isn’t the way this works. I approve of diversity in the line-up. I think it’s great that they have enough people with interesting things to say that they can have a different roster of speakers every year. I’m perfectly willing to step aside, especially since it means I can just attend and enjoy the event without having to give a talk.

(15) DOTARD Alan Baumler sees a link between today’s headlines and The Lord of the Rings which he elaborates in “North Korea in the News-Trump is a dotard”.

So what does this tell us? Is the North Korean propaganda apparatus filled with Tolkien fans? Or is their understanding of modern idioms based on an idiosyncratic selection of foreign texts? I would guess that it is the latter, but the former would be cooler and more optimistic.

(16) ANOTHER SERVING OF SERIAL. Our favorite breakthrough author, Camestros Felapton, proves once again why books need maps – to keep the author from losing his place: “McEdifice Returns: I can’t remember which Chapter Number this is”.

…The hyper-specialism of the galactic civilisation has inexorably led to planets that were just-one-thing: the desert planet of Sandy, the lumpy planet of Lumpus, the planet that just looks like Amsterdam all over of Damsterham, and the Sydney Opera House planet of Utzon-Jørn to name but a few. To resist the planetary monoculture creating a fundamental fragility to galactic civilisation, the ruling Galactical Confederation of Galactic Imperial Republics had instigated a controversial “Come on, Every Planet Has to Have at Least Two Things Guys” law, that mandated that every planet had to have at least a pair of signature things….

(17) WATCHMEN. HBO has given a formal pilot green light to and ordered backup scripts for Watchmen, based on the iconic limited comic series by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that had previously been adapted as the 2009 film, Deadline reported. The new project will be Damon Lindelof’s followup to his HBO series The Leftovers. Warner Horizon TV, which also was behind The Leftovers, is the studio as part of Linderlof’s overall deal at Warner Bros. TV.

(18) ALAN MOORE TAKES QUESTIONS. At ComicsBeat, Pádraig Ó Méalóid has posted two sessions of Alan Moore Q&As from 2015 and 2016.

In what may or may not become a long-standing tradition, Alan Moore has answered questions at Christmas set by the members of a Facebook group called The Really Very Serious Alan Moore Scholars’ Group, who are, as the name might suggest, a bunch of people who are interested in his work. At least, Moore answered 25 questions for the group in December 2015, which were later published here on The Beat over four posts towards the end of 2016. Those four posts can be found here:

And I can only apologise for the faux-clickbait titles. At the time I thought they were hilarious. What a difference a year makes…

Anyway, Moore once again answered a number of questions for the group at the end of 2016 and, having allowed the group to savour these on their own, the time has once again come to share them with the wider public. They cover subjects from Food to Fiction, but we’re starting with various aspects of Magic and Art.

Mark Needham: Do you like Tim-Tams, Hob-Nobs, Chocolate Digestives or any other kind of biscuit with your tea?

Alan Moore: These days, I find that my love of biscuits is increasingly abstract and theoretical, like my love for the comic medium, and that much of the actual product I find deeply disappointing on an aesthetic level. While the chocolate malted milk biscuit with the cow on the back is of course a timeless classic and a continuing source of consolation, why oh why has no one yet devised the glaringly obvious dark chocolate malted milk? We have a spacecraft taking close up pictures of Pluto, for God’s sake, and yet a different sort of chocolate on our cow-adorned teatime favourites is apparently too much to ask.

(19) LEGO MOVIE REVIEW. Glen Weldon of NPR sees Lego Ninjago as running in third place in its own genre: “Plastic Less-Than-Fantastic: ‘The LEGO Ninjago Movie'”.

  1. Constantly undercutting the film’s deliberately overblown genre trappings with surprisingly naturalistic dialogue that explicitly questions those trappings? Check.

The film’s stellar supporting cast gets not nearly enough to do — so little that viewers are left to impute the nature of many of the relationships among them. (Nanjiani’s Jay is meant to have a crush on Jacobsen’s Nya, I think? Based on one line?) That’s the bad news, and given the talent on hand, that news … is pretty bad.

But what’s shunting all those very funny actors into the background is the relationship between Franco’s aching-for-connection Lloyd and Theroux’s blithely evil Garmadon. And Theroux — deliberately channeling, he has stated in interviews, Will Arnett — is so fantastic here you almost forgive Garmadon’s hogging of the spotlight. Almost.

Watching him — or, more accurately, listening to him — is when you truly begin to appreciate how much of the load these vocal performances are carrying, how totally the success of a given Lord/Miller LEGO movie lives or dies in the specific execution of that breezy, naturalistic humor.

Because here, just three movies in, the Lord/Miller LEGO genre is showing signs of exhaustion.

(20) NEANDERTHALS GET ANOTHER BOOST. “Did Robert J. Sawyer have a point?” Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link to the BBC’s article “Neanderthal brains ‘grew more slowly'”. The gist of the article is that slow-growing brains were associated with the ‘most advanced species’ (i.e., homo sapiens sapiens); discovery further knocks the idea that Neanderthals were brutes.

A new study shows that Neanderthal brains developed more slowly than ours.

An analysis of a Neanderthal child’s skeleton suggests that its brain was still developing at a time when the brains of modern human children are fully formed.

This is further evidence that this now extinct human was not more brutish and primitive than our species.

The research has been published in the journal Science.

Until now it had been thought that we were the only species whose brains developed relatively slowly. Unlike other apes and more primitive humans, Homo sapiens has an extended period of childhood lasting several years.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Love, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/17 The Late-Night, Double-Feature, Motion Pixel Scroll

(1) CALL THE MOUNTIES. Imagine that — when you walk around town costumed as an armed survivalist, some people just can’t help believing their lying eyes: “Cosplay goes bad for gamer in Grande Prairie”.

Grande Prairie RCMP draw firearms in response to man dressed as video game character

It was almost game over in Grande Prairie this week for a cosplay enthusiast.

Dressed as a character from Fallout, a popular post-apocalyptic video game series, the man walked down a street wearing a gas mask, helmet, armour and bullet belt.

He carried a flag that said “New California Republic” — one of the factions from the games.

A man dressed as a character from the Fallout video-game series walks down a street in Grande Prairie. (Kyle Martel/Facebook)

RCMP Cpl. Shawn Graham told CBC News that police received calls just before 5 p.m. Tuesday from citizens concerned the man was wearing what looked like a bomb on his back.

At least eight officers responded with their long guns drawn. Photos show them crouched behind vehicles and bushes

(2) HPL. Thanks to rcade, we know what a World Fantasy Award nominee pin looks like:

(3) NEW DIGS. LASFS sold its clubhouse and is vacating the premises. They haven’t bought a replacement property yet, so the club will be meeting temporarily at the Art Directors Guild in Studio City beginning May 4. More details at Meetup.

(4) A HAMMER FILM. We’ve seen ice cream made with liquid nitrogen; Nottingham University professor Martyn Poliakoff shows that same liquid gas can be used to make the new “indestructable” 5-pound note destructible.

In a clip uploaded to his Periodic Videos series on YouTube, the professor said:

“The Bank of England is issuing new bank notes starting with the five pound note, and they made them plastic and there have been all sorts of advertisements that you cannot break them.

“I felt immediately challenged, and I had the idea that if we froze it with liquid nitrogen, the strands of the polymer would be frozen rigid and you may be able to break it, hitting it with a hammer.”

 

(5) WHO BLABBED? CBR.com reports animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen is on the way.

An animated adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ celebrated “Watchmen” is on the way, and it may arrive sooner than you’d think.

A recent survey by Warner Bros. “A-List Community” program, which regularly asks subscribers for their opinions on upcoming or recent film and television projects, has revealed the studio is bringing the graphic novel to animated form.

Reading the survey’s description of the project as “an upcoming made-for-video movie,” it’s apparent the film is already either in development, or in the final stages of production.

The survey further describes the film as “A faithful adaptation of the Watchmen graphic novel executed in an animation style that mirrors the source material.” Going by that description, it’s safe to assume Warner Bros. Animation has opted to take a similar approach to the comic as it did when bringing Frank Miller’s “Dark Knight Returns” and Moore and Brian Bolland’s “The Killing Joke” to life; both of those films homaged the respective artist’s style, making changes as needed to properly animate the story.

It’s interesting to note, though perhaps not surprising, that at no point in the survey are Moore or Gibbons mentioned. While Gibbons participated in the production and promotion of director Zack Snyder’s 2009 live-action “Watchmen” adaptation, Moore has made his disapproval of any “Watchmen” follow-up extremely clear. He was once quoted as saying he’d be “spitting venom all over” the Snyder-directed film, and has expressed on numerous occasions his preference that the original story be left to stand on its own.

ComicsBeat  sounded cranky when they relayed the story – “Someone broke NDA and revealed that an R-rated watchmen animated movie is coming”.

It’s a little surprising that news of this new adaptation of Watchmen has leaked to the general public so quickly as membership to Warner Bros. A-List Community program requires the signing of an non-disclosure agreement….

Then they proceeded to quote the NDA language at length, presumably to shame the rival news site. Bad, naughty news site!

(6) I LIKE CAKE. Lynn Hirschberg, in W magazine article “Gal Gadot Listened to Beyonce in Preparation for her Wonder Woman Debut”, profiles Gadot, who discusses how Beyonce provided inspiration, how she auditioned blindly for the part, and how despite being in a superhero movie she still likes to decorate cakes.

On the day we met, she was channeling her powers into decorating a cake. (Who would’ve guessed that the actress had such a way with fondant?) “I want to start with a blue cake,” Gadot said definitively, as we entered Duff’s CakeMix, in Los Angeles. She was wearing simple black pants, a navy sweater, and classic black Gucci loafers.

Although she was six-months pregnant with her second child, the baby bump was nearly undetectable. Gadot, who has a doelike quality, wasn’t wearing makeup and her dark hair was pulled back in a ponytail. “You couldn’t have invented a more perfect ­Wonder Woman than Gal,” Patty Jenkins, the film’s director, told me later.

(7) YOUR MOROSE ROBOT PAL. I think this is cool, although the name “Orpheus – The Saddest Music Machine” is a bit of anthropomorphizing I could do without. Having survived the effects of puppy sadness, do I really need robotic sadness?

We need companions in our lives. And it’s always helpful to have one who needs you in return. Orpheus, a robot-shaped DIY music box that plays music and lights up, is a bit sad and melancholic. But he looks cheerful, and he has a big heart. Orpheus will be a steadfast companion to any older child or adult. Though he needs some help being his best self, right out of the box.   Assemble Orpheus yourself or with your kids from the laser-cut wood pieces, and soon you will have your own hand-cranked music box with moving gears and lights, as well as arms and legs. His melody is called “Cycle of Happiness,” which you can play any time you need some inspiration, or when you feel Orpheus needs some attention. Orpheus is available in the U.S. through ThinkGeek before anyone else.

 

(8) THE WRITE CHOICE. Although it won’t be a pal, you could spend more than a hundred times more money on this geeky Chushev pen.

The “Complication” fountain pen pays homage to the Swiss watchmaking trade for all the innovations in precision mechanics it has achieved. Inspired by the craftsmanship of the Swiss masters, Chavdar Chushev, saw the miniature details in the watches as ideal specimens for abstract art compositions. From that moment, he spent the next three decades refining his technique and evolving his creative vision. The sophisticated design of the “Complication” is the result of countless artistic iterations and technological evolutions.

(9) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian knows you’ll appreciate the sf reference in Frank and Ernest.

He also recommends the cinematic humor in Brevity.

On the other hand, Martin Morse Wooster is certain Tolkien fans will want to throw things at Stephen Pastis after reading today’s Pearls Before Swine.

(10) HANSEN OBIT. Actor Peter Hansen died April 9 at the age of 95. He was one of the stars of the 1951 science-fiction film When Worlds Collide, which won an Academy Award for special effects. He also appeared in an episode of TV’s Science Fiction Theatre.

However, his real claim to fame was years spent playing a character on the soap opera General Hospital, earning an Emmy in 1979 as Best Supporting Actor.

More details here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY WIZARD

  • Born April 15, 1990 – Emma Watson

(12) DOOMED AGAIN. LegalVision analyzes why an Australian court ordered the destruction of The One Ring – “This Apparently Precious Ring: Tolkien Estate Limited v Saltamacchia”.

The Infringement Issues

The Respondent hosts a website called “Australian Jewellery Sales”. Over the course of eight years, the Respondent sold approximately 1300 rings with the One Ring Inscription between $5 and $30 AUD each. He advertised the rings by referencing phrases such as: “The Lord of the Rings”; “The Hobbit”; and “Bilbo Baggins”.

The Respondent has about 50 remaining rings with the One Ring Inscription left. Right up until the date of the proceedings he continued to offer them for sale. The Respondent argued his rings did not accurately replicate the One Ring Inscription. It is important to note, here, that reproduction of copyright work does not need to be exact. The infringement must be a “substantial part”.

(13) WHAT’S COOKIN’? Enceladus also shows signs of life, although there’s still more hope for Europa:

Could there be life under the icy surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus?

Scientists have found a promising sign.

NASA announced on Thursday that its Cassini spacecraft mission to Saturn has gathered new evidence that there’s a chemical reaction taking place under the moon’s icy surface that could provide conditions for life. They described their findings in the journal Science.

“This is the closest we’ve come, so far, to identifying a place with some of the ingredients needed for a habitable environment,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement.

However, the scientists think that because the moon is young, there may not have been time for life to emerge.

In 2015, researchers said that there was evidence of a warm ocean under the moon’s surface, as NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel reported.

This posed an exciting prospect — researchers wondered whether that warm ocean might be interacting with rock to create a form of chemical energy that could be used by some forms of life.

If true, it would be analogous to ancient organisms on Earth fueled by the energy in deep-sea ocean vents.

(14) IMPROVING RECOGNITION. AIs are biased, probably due to inadequate samples: “Artificial intelligence: How to avoid racist algorithms”.

The Algorithmic Justice League (AJL) was launched by Joy Buolamwini, a postgraduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in November 2016.

She was trying to use facial recognition software for a project but it could not process her face – Ms Buolamwini has dark skin.

“I found that wearing a white mask, because I have very dark skin, made it easier for the system to work,” she says.

“It was the reduction of a face to a model that a computer could more easily read.”

It was not the first time she had encountered the problem.

Five years earlier, she had had to ask a lighter-skinned room-mate to help her.

“I had mixed feelings. I was frustrated because this was a problem I’d seen five years earlier was still persisting,” she said.

“And I was amused that the white mask worked so well.”

(15) IT’S CALLED ACTING. Variety’s Lawrence Yee, in “Meet Rose, The Biggest Little Part’ in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, discusses how Grace Marie Tran, who plays Rose, appeared on a panel at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando and while she couldn’t say anything about the film, she did say she told her parents she was shooting “an indie movie in Canada” and bought some maple syrup to prove to her parents she was in another country.

(16) THAT THING THEY DO. George Saunders probes “What writers really do when they write”.

…An artist works outside the realm of strict logic. Simply knowing one’s intention and then executing it does not make good art. Artists know this. According to Donald Barthelme: “The writer is that person who, embarking upon her task, does not know what to do.” Gerald Stern put it this way: “If you start out to write a poem about two dogs fucking, and you write a poem about two dogs fucking – then you wrote a poem about two dogs fucking.” Einstein, always the smarty-pants, outdid them both: “No worthy problem is ever solved in the plane of its original conception.”

…I had written short stories by this method for the last 20 years, always assuming that an entirely new method (more planning, more overt intention, big messy charts, elaborate systems of numerology underlying the letters in the characters’ names, say) would be required for a novel. But, no. My novel proceeded by essentially the same principles as my stories always have: somehow get to the writing desk, read what you’ve got so far, watch that forehead needle, adjust accordingly. The whole thing was being done on a slightly larger frame, admittedly, but there was a moment when I finally realised that, if one is going to do something artistically intense at 55 years old, he is probably going to use the same skills he’s been obsessively honing all of those years; the trick might be to destabilise oneself enough that the skills come to the table fresh-eyed and a little confused. A bandleader used to working with three accordionists is granted a symphony orchestra; what he’s been developing all of those years, he may find, runs deeper than mere instrumentation – his take on melody and harmony should be transferable to this new group, and he might even find himself looking anew at himself, so to speak: reinvigorated by his own sudden strangeness in that new domain.

It was as if, over the years, I’d become adept at setting up tents and then a very large tent showed up: bigger frame, more fabric, same procedure….

(17) VISITING SPACE SOON. A European Shuttle?

While Tumino and his team have worked on IXV and then Space Rider, there have been other European concepts in the background. UK company Reaction Engines has a design for an unmanned spaceplane, Skylon, that will launch satellites and the German Aerospace Agency has a concept called SpaceLiner that carries people. But, neither will be in orbit before Space Rider or anytime soon.

Space Rider could be in orbit in 2020 or 2021, as design funding was approved by Esa’s 27 member states in December last year. The money will enable Esa to work with the Italian Aerospace Agency, Cira, which is managing the project, and Thales Alenia Space and Lockheed Martin to complete the spaceplane’s design in 2019.

Its first flights will not, however, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. A full-scale model will be dropped in 2019 – both by atmospheric balloon and helicopter to test how it lands.

(18) ANOTHER APRIL FOOLS CLASSIC. Mount Vernon’s newest website translation for visitors is in Klingonese. And it’s dialed-in to Klingon sensibilities, as this video tour of George Washington’s home shows.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]

Before Watchmen Panel at C2E2

James Bacon said in an e-mail, “I got the opportunity to see a Before Watchmen presentation, so I told the Vice President I was pissed off.”

“Biden?” I wondered. But no, James’ report for Comic Buzz shows he meant someone with real power — in the comics industry:

I waited a little, then approached the stage…trying to catch Dan Didio [Co-Publishers of DC Comics]…. He leaned over, and I said; ‘I’m one of those angry guys, you’ve pissed me off with this, and I didn’t want you thinking people like me are not here’.

The panel also featured several of the talents who are working on Before Watchmen. One of them addressed the controversy in fandom about enlarging on Alan Moore’s creation:

JMS [J. Michael Straczynski] fields the question about how he is dealing with criticism. He explains that on an ‘Emotional level’ he ‘gets it’, but goes on to state that DC ‘Legally and contractually have the right.’ to do this. As an analogy for the use of Watchmen characters, he makes mention of Hyde from League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and wondered Robert Louis Stevens approve of Mr Hyde raping a character to death. He of course makes light of this analogy, saying it will be reported out of context, but I don’t think the specific is the issue, rather that this is a weak argument, Stevenson is dead, and the copyright for his character is available, Hyde is used cleverly in another work, not rewritten as a whole novel. Its a poor comparison, and one that sits badly with me, but the crowd lap it up.

Check the report for more information and reaction about DC’s new project.

Before Watchmen – A Dissenting Voice

In the graphic novel, society wonders who watches the Watchmen.

We know who won’t be watching their adventures in Before Watchmen — Pádraig Ó Méalóid, eminent scholar of the works of Alan Moore.

James Bacon captured Ó Méalóid’s heated opinions in an interview posted at Comic Buzz:

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: I think all the writers and artists on these new stories – and particularly the writers, for some reason – should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. Alan Moore is regularly cited as the best comics writer of our time, and possibly ever, and certainly those writers and artists – in this instance I find it hard to refer to them as ‘creators’ – all get a much better deal because of how hard he fought for creator’s rights, and probably all call him an inspiration, but they know he’s against this, and they still go ahead anyway. In other words, they’re quite happy to piss all over him and his principles for money. Will I mention again how this is an excellent analogy for what’s wrong with the world?

Actually, it’s entirely possible I’m more angry about this than Alan himself is.

And when slagged in a comment about the interview, Ó Méalóid jumped in to deliver this roundhouse punch:

I’m still standing by my assertion that Watchmen is the most important work to come out of the comics field. I mean, you can disagree with me, but it’s just *rude* to suggest that I’m delusional, and certainly does *you* no honour.

Keeping the Sue in Superhero

Litigation may delay the release of the Watchmen movie:

The theory at the time was that Fox originally owned the rights, some stuff got muddled, and Fox, instead of mentioning the situation to Warner Bros. when the studio started casting, decided to bide their time in the hopes that the production would just pay them a lot of money to go away once they had an actual movie shot and ready to go.