(1) P STEW’S COWBOY CLASSICS. Where was I when this came out in 2016? Patrick Stewart did a fundraiser album of cowboy songs for International Rescue Committee (IRC). The album itself is sold out now, but they will still sell you a five-tune sampler at P Stew Sings.
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Here’s P Stew singing the theme from Rawhide.
(2) SWATTING. In The Verge, writer Katherine Cross has a follow-on to yesterday’s SWATting story — “In 2018, let’s stop pretending abusive fans are ‘passionate’”.
First, we have to take stock of what led us to this moment, including technology and gaming industries too willing to indulge the “passion” of their most ardent fans — even when that “passion” is nothing more than frothing rage and unchecked entitlement. We also have to reckon with why swatting is so potentially deadly: militarized American police forces trained to shoot first and ask questions later.
Just a few months ago, we witnessed another case of fandom gone horribly awry, which — in its own absurd way — prefigured the same entitlement and callousness on display in the instigators of the Wichita shooting. The incident is infamous now precisely for its penny-ante stupidity: fans of Rick and Morty running wild at McDonald’s restaurants that ran out of szechuan sauce packets for a promotional tie-in with the show. Several McDonald’s employees were screamed at by fans who did not receive their sauce, and treated the people behind the counter as uniformed vending machines obligated to dispense the edible fandom kitsch they desired. “Some [fans] became physical,” reported Eater, and in one Los Angeles location, police were summoned to the scene.
The restaurant giant responded to the debacle by plucking a page from the PR handbook of the gaming industry, which routinely reacts to even the most vile attacks by rhapsodizing about the enthusiasm of their fans. Take Beamdog CEO Trent Oster, who responded to a furious transphobic backlash against Baldur’s Gate: Siege of Dragonspear by saying: “The last few days have showed us how passionately many of our fans care for our games.” McDonald’s, similarly, issued one ingratiating tweet after another, calling the unruly Rick and Morty fans “the best fans in the multiverse,” and saying that the company was “humbled by the amazing curiosity, passion, and energy” of the enraged sauce-seekers.
The gaming industry routinely reacts to even the most vile attacks by rhapsodizing about the enthusiasm of their fans
There’s nothing quite so emblematic of commodified fan culture as corporate representatives euphemistically describing this sort of toxicity as “passion.” This C-suite impulse — to never draw a line in the sand and to let the ugliest and loudest voices dictate what fandom should look like — inevitably privileges the bottom line over the more vulnerable people who are harmed by the colliding forces of technology and toxic fandom.
(3) BEREN AND WIFE. Olga Polomoshnova traces their real-life romance: “In the name of love: on Ronald and Edith” at Middle-Earth Reflections.
The story about one of the greatest loves in Middle-earth sprang from the greatest love of Tolkien’s life. Ronald and Edith’s tombstone in Wolvercote Cemetery in Oxford bears the names of Beren and Lúthien right under their real names, revealing to those familiar with the legend that the love of Ronald and Edith was not an ordinary one. Just like the story of the mortal Man Beren and the Elven maiden Lúthien, the story of Edith and Ronald was full of sacrifice and difficulties, but was deeply rooted in great love and affection which they managed to carry throughout their whole lives.
(4) RSR EXPANDS SPECTRUM. Rocket Stack Rank announced an increase to its “Magazine Coverage By Reviewers”.
We’re adding Jason McGregor and Charles Payseur to RSR’s Recommended By list and changing our criteria for “prolific reviewer” to make up for low coverage of Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Strange Horizons magazines, as shown in red in the table below.
(5) GALAXY’S EDGE TO HAVE CHINESE OWNERSHIP. SF Site News reports “Galaxy’s Edge Sale”:
Publisher Shahid Mahmud announced in the Phoenix Pick January Newsletter that they will be offering Galaxy’s Edge for free on-line. The note stated that the expansion of free material was due to a cash infusion from various sources and also noted the “imminent sale” of the magazine to a Chinese publisher.
Click to see the Galaxy’s Edge website.
(6) CUMMINS OBIT. British actress Peggy Cummins (1925-2017) passed away December 29, 11 days after her 92nd birthday. Appeared in the 1953 comic fantasy Meet Mr. Lucifer, played the murdered professor’s daughter in the classic MR James adaptation Night of the Demon (1957, aka Curse of the Demon), and contributed to Speak of the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon (2007). She’d recently made several public appearances and her films regularly feature on the UK cable channel Talking Pictures TV.
(7) COPYWRONG. This story is all over the mainstream news, but we often touch on copyright here so it seemed a good idea to include The Hollywood Reporter story for future reference: “Spotify Hit With $1.6 Billion Copyright Lawsuit Over Tom Petty, Weezer, Neil Young Songs”.
“Spotify brazenly disregards United States Copyright law and has committed willful, ongoing copyright infringement,” states the complaint. “Wixen notified Spotify that it had neither obtained a direct or compulsory mechanical license for the use of the Works. For these reasons and the foregoing, Wixen is entitled to the maximum statutory relief.”
The complaint (read here) suggests that as much as 21 percent of the 30 million songs on Spotify are unlicensed.
Spotify hasn’t responded to a request for comment. The company may continue to challenge Wixen’s authority or it could attempt the provocative argument that it has been putting forward in the Gaudio lawsuit — that “streaming” implicates neither reproduction nor distribution rights under copyright law.
All this occurs as lawmakers turn their attention to reforming music licensing.
In late December, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) introduced the Music Modernization Act, which among other things, would end the “notice of intent” process that’s currently spelled out by Section 115. Instead, a database would publicly identify songs and potentially alleviate the way that digital services struggle to identify and locate co-authors of each of the tens of millions of copyrighted musical works. Under the proposal, digital services would fund a Mechanical Licensing Collective that would be granted blanket mechanical licenses. And rates would more closely hew to market value, with songwriters and publishers being granted audit rights.
(8) SHAPE OF SFWA TO COME. Cat Rambo announces her “Promises for the 2018 SFWA Presidency”. They end —
- I will work at paying attention to all the disparate groups that make up SFWA and serve their needs, particularly both our newer groups, like game writers and indie writers and groups that have in the past been underrepresented or underserved in/by the organization.
- I will continue to piss off a few people with what they think is my irreverent or otherwise inappropriate sense of humor/outlook/set of principles.
- And finally, as always, when I screw up, I’ll admit it and say what I’m doing in the future in order to do better.
(9) 451 REVIEW. Literary Hub, in “Savage and Shockingly Prophetic”, quotes what August Derleth said about Fahrenheit 451 in the Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1953.
Fahrenheit 451 was conceived out of Hitler’s burning of the books, and is all the more timely now because of the fortunately ill-fated American venture on a similar path….
(10) WORD FROM A TALKING CAT. Another author you won’t be seeing in San Jose.
Cattimothy House will be formally boycotting Worldcon this year because the last time I went to Worldcon it turns out it was actually the VET and I'd been TRICKED. I only just worked this out and I'm very cross with EVERYBODY concerned.
— Timothy The Talking Cat (@TalkingTimothy) January 4, 2018
(11) THE BRAVE LITTLE WHATSIT. The BBC reports: “Psychedelic toasters fool image recognition tech”.
A team of Google researchers has created psychedelic stickers that can fool image recognition software into seeing objects that are not there.
Using a toaster as an example, the team produced colourful computer-generated patterns by sampling hundreds of photographs of the appliance.
When the patterns were put next to another item, such as a banana, many neural networks saw a toaster instead.
The team said the method could be used to “attack” image recognition systems.
(12) UK BOX OFFICE. Emma Watson did it — “Beauty and the Beast pips Star Wars to be the UK’s top film of 2017”. Admittedly, Star Wars isn’t done, but this includes its first three weekends, which is usually most of a typical film’s legs.
The foe to defeat the all-action space sequel in the year-end box office rankings was Emma Watson, with her hit Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast earned £4.1m more than The Last Jedi in 2017.
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steve Green, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Cat Rambo, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and David K.M. Klaus for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]