Pixel Scroll 11/12/18 Could He Show Up In A Noodle-Poodle, Bottle-Beetle, Paddle-Battle, Pixle-Scroodle?

(1) FIRE MISSES DEL TORO’S “BLEAK HOUSE”. Unlike houses belonging to some other celebrities in the area, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House has survived the Woolsey fire Remezcla reports:

Bleak House is not actually where del Toro lives (he lives nearby), but it is home to his collection of more than 700 pieces of art, props, and memorabilia. He has everything from concept sketches from Disney’s Fantasia to figures from his Blade 2 to a life-sized statue of Edgar Allan Poe. These serve as his inspiration from both his own films and the movies he hopes to make in the future. In 2016, del Toro let fans inside his Bleak House with a curated exhibit that traveled to museums around North America showing off some of his items. Looking at pictures from the collection you can almost imagine the inside of the fantastical and dark director’s mind.

Luckily, del Toro’s collection has been spared by the Woosley fire. He tweeted about returning to his home to find it still standing with only some minor smoke damage.

(2) FUTURE HISTORY. Professor James Davis Nicoll today lectures the class on “World States and Mega Empires in SF” at Tor.com.

How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.

The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside…

(3) BARBIE WHO? The Guardian disapproves: “Doctor Who Barbie: time-travelling back to the sexist 1970s”.

Name: Doctor Who Barbie.

Age: About a week old.

Appearance: Like Barbie, if she went to a Halloween party as the Doctor.

This is a doll we’re talking about, is it? Yes. The “Doctor Who Barbie doll is sculpted to the likeness of the 13th Doctor and comes dressed in her iconic look.”

What do you mean, iconic? These are not my words, but the words of the US manufacturer, Mattel. “Additional true-to-character details include Doctor Who Barbie doll’s signature suspenders and lace-up boots.”

I don’t remember any suspenders. Are they from a later, more risque episode? They mean braces – Americans!

(4) UNLEASH IMAGINATION AWARDS. The Arthur C. Clarke “Unleash Imagination” Awards were  presented November 8 in Washington, D.C. [Via Locus Online.]

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of the Salk Institute, co-founder and former Chairman of Qualcomm, co-developer of CDMA, Philanthropist
  • Innovator Award – Jill Tarter, astronomer, Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and seeker of the answer to “Are we alone?”
  • Imagination in Service to Society – Liu Cixin acclaimed author of The Three Body Problem and other science fiction works, winner of the Hugo and five Chinese Galaxy Awards

(5) ASTOUNDING AUTHOR IN PERSON. Alec Nevala-Lee will be appearing at two library events this week to discuss his new book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction:

  • Chicago

The Golden Age of Science Fiction with Alec Nevala-Lee and Gary K. Wolfe

Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago)

Thursday, November 15


Join Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, and Gary K. Wolfe, critic and co-host of the science fiction podcast Coode Street, for an engaging discussion on the history and evolution of science fiction. (Note: The event is sponsored by One Book, One Chicago, which has chosen the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick as this year’s selection.)

  • Oak Park

Astounding: Oak Park Author Alec Nevala-Lee

Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St., Oak Park)

Sunday, November 18


Meet Oak Park author Alec Nevala-Lee and hear about his newly released book, Astounding. The Book Table will have books for sale and signing.

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. Disney has put up the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4, where we learn about Forky the Spork! The movie comes to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.


(7) IT’S BEASTLY. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an “ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.” The BBC critic gives it 2/5 stars:

Considering that JK Rowling’s books have made several zillion pounds and her films have made several zillion more, it would take a lot of gall to read one of her screenplays and say, actually, could you cut 50 pages? But her latest ‘Wizarding World’ instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, would have been improved if someone had said just that.

(8) WHEN BEZOS MET STEPHENSON. The cover story of the November WIRED is about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to fund private space exploration through his company Blue Origin: “Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good”. Writer Steven Levy says that Neal Stephenson was recruited for Bezos’s space exploration efforts very early —

Bezos went to Princeton, where he attended seminars led by O’Neill and became president of the campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. At one meeting, Bezos was regaling attendees with visions of hollowing out asteroids and transforming them into space arks when a woman leapt to her feet. “How dare you rape the universe!” she said, and stormed out. “There was a pause, and Jeff didn’t make a public comment,” says Kevin Polk, another member of the club. “But after things broke up, Jeff said, ‘Did she really defend the inalienable rights of barren rocks?’?”

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. “Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

(9) LEE OBIT. Legendary comics creator Stan Lee died November 12 at the age of 95.

Great photo of Stan Lee writing in
his backyard in Hewlett Harbor, on the jury-rigged arrangement he worked out,
tables placed on top of one another. This is precisely how Lee wrote some of the most widely read words of fantasy in
the 1960s.

When Stan Lee was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2017 the citation read:

Stan Lee

One of the most influential comic book writers of all time, Stan Lee is responsible for the creation of numerous Marvel Comics characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began working as an assistant at Timely Comics when he was just seventeen and became the editor soon after, writing every style of comic from romance and westerns to horror. In 1961, while considering switching careers, Lee decided to take his wife’s advice and write a comics story to please himself. The story, about four people given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays, was called The Fantastic Four, and it began an era of unparalleled success for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Lee’s creations captured fans’ imaginations through a combination of relatable characters and the idea of a shared universe inhabited by all of Marvel’s characters.

Lee’s characters and storylines have appeared across all types of media including animated series, video games, television shows, and the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe. A self-proclaimed frustrated actor, Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel film to date.

Hollywood celebrities including the leadership at Marvel and Disney paid tribute to his accomplishments in the Los Angeles Times obituary.

Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company honored Lee in a statement posted online Monday.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” tweeted Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.”

File 770 readers saw Lee’s name in the news all the time for anything from his signature cologne to sharing the 2013 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Awards with Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Harryhausen (Lee’s acceptance was on video).

And everyone knows how he followed Alfred Hitchcock’s example by making a cameo appearance in every Marvel film. I have it on the authority of Christian B. McGuire that “For those of you who imagine there will be no more cameos for Stan, listen up! In Stan Lee’s contract it specifies that he will appear in ALL Marvel films in perpetuity. And that this contract MUST be accepted by anyone buying the Marvel universe. There’s enough video; image and sound, for the purveyors of Marvel Magic to synthesize him and put him in everything they make.” If someone feels like fact-checking that claim, help yourself.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 12, 1917  Dahlov Ipcar, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator. Though primarily an artist — and you really should go visit her website — she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978, which are The Warlock of Night, The Que’en of Spells, and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! A gallery of her fantastical works can be seen here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende, Writer from Germany who is best known for the novel The Neverending Story; it was turned into three adaptations, of which The Neverending Story was the first film — and certainly the best known version. The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter was the next version, and it is a sort of sequel to the first; I never saw the third, The NeverEnding Story III, but it apparently only uses the characters and has nothing to do with the tale itself. Momo, or The Strange Story of the Time-Thieves and the Child Who Brought the Stolen Time Back to the People as it translates in English, is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from  German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years, but unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943Wallace Shawn. First genre appearance was in All That Jazz. Best known genre role is Vizzini in The Princess Bride but what would you put in second place? No doubt Grand Nagus Zek in Deep Space Nine but he has other performances to note including as Warren Hughes in Eureka, Van Helsing in Vamps and the voice of Gilbert Hugh in The Incredibles.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 73, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Critic whose Urban Nucleus series and Georgia Stories are especially popular. He has won two Nebulas along with Mythopoeic, Shirley Jackson, and Rhysling Awards, and his works have garnered a multitude of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Science Fiction Award nominations. He was honored with Southern Fandom’s Phoenix Award, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born November 12, 1950 Michael Capobianco, 68, Writer and Linguist, author of several SFF novels and some shorter works who has made major contributions for the benefit of genre writers as a Past President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of SFWA. Currently, he is a member of several SFWA writers’ advocacy committees, and writes informational pieces for Writer Beware, a writing scam investigation and warning site created by his wife A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. He and Crispin were joint recipients of the Service to SFWA Award in 2003.
  • Born November 12, 1973 Radha Mitchell, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer, who broke into genre film with a role as a kickass spaceship pilot in Pitch Black, then played the obsessed J.M. Barrie’s long-suffering wife in Finding Neverland. Other genre appearances include Silent Hill, Rogue, Surrogates, The Crazies, and The Darkness.
  • Born November 12, 1980 Ryan Gosling, 38, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer who debuted at the age of 15 in Frankenstein and Me; other genre appearances include Stay, the Hugo-nominated and Oscar- and Saturn-winning Blade Runner 2049 (for which he also received a Saturn nomination), and his role as Neil Armstrong in First Man (we’ll ignore the ill-conceived Lost River, which he wrote, produced, and directed). He has also had guest roles on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Goosebumps, Flash Forward, Young Hercules, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For more on Baby Gooseman, see here.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 36, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who received Saturn nominations for her roles in The Dark Knight Rises and the Hugo finalist Interstellar, and appeared in Ella Enchanted, Get Smart, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Passengers, Colossal, and the Ruritanian film series The Princess Diaries. Voice roles include parts in Hoodwinked!, The Cat Returns, the Rio films, and three episodes of The Simpsons.

(11) SPIDER-GWEN. The Comics Beat’s Joe Grunenwald asks the questions in this — “INTERVIEW: Seanan McGuire on writing SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST-SPIDER under the watchful eye of Marvel’s ‘snipers’”.

Grunenwald: Gwen is sort of having a Moment right now, too, between, obviously, the new series and then in other media there’s Marvel Rising and she’s going to be in the Into the Spider-Verse movie, so she’s got a higher profile now arguably that she’s ever had before. Has there been any pressure as a result of that, coming onto the character and having to keep that momentum going?

McGuire: My editors are amazing. I love them. And they hired me because they were reasonably sure I could keep that momentum going. Most of the pressure is internal. When you’re a novelist and represented by a literary agent, one of the first things they’ll do is sit you down and say, ‘Where do you see your career going?’ And this is because if you say ‘I want to be the next J.K. Rowling,’ they want to be ready to kind of talk you down. That’s the ‘No, no, honey, let’s be reasonable’ conversation.

When my agent sat me down for that conversation ten years ago, I said, “I want to write the X-Men.” And she went, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, “I need you to make me famous enough that they will let me write the X-Men.’ So writing for Marvel is my life’s dream. This is what I’ve been working toward all this time, so there’s a huge amount of pressure but it’s all internal. I’m very aware that I’m making canon.

(12) TRANSFORMERS FANDOM. BBC covers “Transformers: Misfit robots and the women who love them”.

Over three decades Transformers has grown from a line of children’s toys to a media franchise encompassing film, TV and gaming. Perhaps its most radical spin-off though is a comic that has used wit and humanity to reach a new, diverse fan base.

Transformers started out as a boy’s toy. The robot characters, which could be quickly reconfigured into guns and cars – tapped into the young male zeitgeist of 1984.

Those children have grown into today’s adult collectors. But thanks to a cult comic, the franchise’s male-dominated audience has crossed the gender divide.

At Europe’s largest Transformers convention this year, TFNation, women accounted for almost half of attendees aged 21 to 31. It caps a three-year trend in which female attendance grew by a third. Taking the credit is the comic Lost Light.

(13) CENTENNIAL. This was one of the many commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I tweeted yesterday –

(14) BREATHING LIFE INTO OLD FOOTAGE. New technology enables full color restoration. This week the Smithsonian Channel will broadcast a new season of America in Color with even better images than ever before:

Witness defining moments of early 20th century America like never before: in dramatic color. Roam the untamed Wild West, visit burgeoning cities, and enter the dream factory of Hollywood. Follow larger-than-life figures who drove America’s industrial transformation, turned crime into an organized business, and built political dynasties. Using cutting-edge digital technology, we bring our young country’s most seminal landmarks, people, and moments to vibrant life.

Mark Kermode also discusses Peter Jackson and team’s painstaking restoration and colorization of First World War footage: “They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” in The Guardian.

The challenges involved in achieving this miracle are manifold. Most obviously, the digital restoration and colourisation of the original films has been painstakingly carried out with meticulous attention to detail, rendering everything from skin tones to scenery in impressively natural hues. (For theatrical presentation, a moderate 3D enhancement has also been applied.)

More complex is the correction of the film’s pace. The century-old footage with which Jackson was working was shot at anything from 10 to 18 frames per second, with the rate often changing within a single reel. We’ve all seen old movies projected at the modern speed of 24fps, creating that skittering, agitated effect that fixes such footage in the dim and distant past. Here, Jackson and his team have used computers to build interstitial frames that recapture the rhythms of real life, tuning into the music of the soldiers’ movements, breathing intimate life into their smallest gestures. The process may sound nerdily technical but the effect is powerfully emotional. It’s as if the technology had somehow pierced the surface of the film, causing (virtual?) memories to come pouring out.


(15) REVERE THE SJWC. “Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb” — The real surprise: mummified scarabs. No reports whether the scarabs were for the cats to play with…

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

(16) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KILOGRAM. Twitter thread discusses why the kilogram is the one measure that still relies on a material instance rather than a definition-by-physics, and how this is being fixed.

(17) HARRYHAUSEN THE ARTIST. David Rosler praises the animator to the skies in “RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Twentieth Century Leonardo da Vinci” at Films in Review.

Da Vinci’s time of Renaissance humanism recognized virtually no mutually exclusive differences between sciences and the arts, and artists often thought in terms of science and scientists delved into the arts, heedless of any abstract concept now assumed to separate them. Both Ray and da Vinci were Renaissance men of the highest caliber of their respective times, both became positively revered by their contemporaries and, most importantly, both changed much of how the world saw their forms of art by leading the way with uniquely original creations, significantly changing the larger world around them.

Ray Harryhausen self-portrait

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

72 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/12/18 Could He Show Up In A Noodle-Poodle, Bottle-Beetle, Paddle-Battle, Pixle-Scroodle?

  1. “Professor”, funny. Something that happened to me several times this fall was being taken for a prof at UW because if I am on campus, I wear dress pants and a dress shirt. It seems rude to insist I am but a casual and it’s been pointed out to me as long as I don’t charge for courses or claim that students will get credit, there’s nothing to stop me from booking a class room and discoursing.

  2. James Nicoll courses:

    Fantastic cats and where to find them
    Quotes that belong to me, not Booker T
    Quantum immortality, or why that meteorite just missed me, just like last week.

  3. 1
    It’s the Woolsey fire, Mike. (From starting in Woolsey Canyon.) I had a wonderful time looking at the smoke pillars Friday, when the wind was blowing it away from my area.

  4. 3) Wow, what a load of stupid, sexist, anti-Barbie prejudice. Over the decades, plenty of film and TV characters and real world celebrities have come in Barbie form. And yes, Barbie’s body shape is not realistic (though a lot of newer Barbies actually use the less busty Francie body mould), but then neither is He-Man’s. As for the price tag, it’s a collector’s item. Would they complain about a limited edition action figure or statue as well?

    Anyway, I don’t get why Barbie is so disliked, often by people who’ve never owned one. Barbie isn’t anti-feminist and has had many careers over the years. She was an astronaut as early as the 1960s. And the kids who play with Barbies usually turn her into whatever they want her to be anyway. Barbie is a role-playing toy, only that she is aimed at girls rather than boys. I designed and created clothes for my Barbies and later on restored vintage Barbies from fleamarkets with period appropriate clothing.

    10) I reviewed Michael Ende’s first fantasy novels, the Jim Knopf duology, for Galactic Journey two weeks ago. Momo is wonderful, as is The Neverending Story (and the 1983 movie covers only half the book). I’ve also read his adult work Mirror in the Mirror, which is weird and illustrated by artwork by his father, surrealist painter Edgar Ende. At rate, Michael Ende was one of Germany’s great fantasty writers. Sadly, we lost him much too early.

  5. 10) Momo is a fantastic book, I remember reading it four times when I was younger (I think they did a reading of it on swedish television too). I was always surprised that they made a movie out of Neverending Story when Momo would have been so much better. Still want one.

    I did read Mirror in the mirror and remember being equal amounts of fascinated and confused by it. It sort-of reminds me of that Crash Test Dummies song with glimples of words turned into small stories, almost like pictures.

  6. @Cora It’s a standard belief in the US that Barbie is slender in order to program young girls into being eating-disordered clothes horses. I’ve never agreed with it and I’m glad it’s not a universal belief.

    The story I heard was that Barbie is extra lanky because fabric doesn’t scale. When Barbie was invented it was expected that little girls would want to sew their own doll clothes, especially for a fashion model doll. Four layers of girl-scale fabric would look bulky and disproportionate on a doll with more human-scale proportions. And Mattel had no way of knowing that within a generation, little girls would (mostly) stop making doll clothes and instead buy pre-made outfits in flimsy, doll-scale fabrics. I have no cite other than a vaguely remembered interview with some authoritative type person who did designy-type stuff at Mattel, but it makes sense to me. I grew up in a world where Sears Roebuck sold doll clothes making kits in many sizes (including Barbie), and Simplicity published doll clothes patterns that were sold alongside patterns for female humans. And ladies wore skirt and jacket suits, which is four layers of fabric right there, instead of t-shirts with nerdy jokes on them.

    (And no science fiction writers even predicted we’d end up in t-shirts with nerdy jokes on them as opposed to spandex bodysuits in loud colors, or togas, or shiny plastic body armor.)

    RIP Stan Lee. A guy who specialized in making large numbers of people happy is sorely missed in these interesting times.

  7. @Cora Buhlert Anyway, I don’t get why Barbie is so disliked, often by people who’ve never owned one. Barbie isn’t anti-feminist and has had many careers over the years.

    I think Barbie became the icon of a particular set of feminist arguments about girls’ toys and the expectations patriarchy puts on girls and women. The difficulty is that unless you’re explicit that Barbie is just a convenient illustration of a set of systematic problems it ends up sounding like all the blame is on Barbie itself.

    The other difficulty is that Mattel is aware of this and produce these collectors editions a PR move, at least in part. So instead of looking at the wider context of what kids are actually playing with and how they’re playing we have conversations about whether it’s OK to make an Emma Goldman Barbie.

  8. (14) I find myself seriously doubting the accuracy of Jackson’s reconstruction given that he can’t even get the quotation he uses as the title right.

  9. Even my mother commented on Stan Lee’s passing.

    I replied (on Facebook) with a photo of one of my DragonCon artifacts, from 2012. Anchor Bay had released two of the Bixby/Ferrigno The Incredible Hulk TV movies as a DVD two-pack, with the booklet’s cover – remember DVD booklets? – done up in the Marvel Comics trade dress.

    Lou Ferrigno’s signature is at the bottom. Stan Lee’s is at the top, across the title.

    My encounter with Stan was brief, but he was obviously either genuinely enjoying himself or “in character” – and given other stories I have read today, I am inclined to believe the former. I got the impression that for Stan, the world was primarily composed of two classes of people: friends he knew, and friends he had not yet met.

    I may have to watch a less-known Stan Lee property later this week. I’m thinking maybe a couple of episodes of Stripperella; I think he’d appreciate that.

  10. Lee Whiteside requested books from my rapidly-dispersing library a few threads ago; alas, the “K” section (and a fair amount of “L”) was destroyed in the crawlspace flood so I don’t have any Kerr books available. And I never had anything by Hoover.

  11. @Cora: the variant costumes don’t change the fact that Barbie hasn’t changed with the times — as characterized particularly by Teen Talk Barbie (1992), whose most talked-about line was “Math is hard. Let’s go shopping!” (continuing the exceedingly … possession-oriented … slant of the early versions).

    @Charon D: that’s an interesting version, but ISTR my sister having more realistically-proportioned dolls in the early 1960’s. I’m also unconvinced that home-made clothing was ever expected; Wikipedia’s article matches my recollection that buyable add-ons were part of the marketing from the beginning.

  12. 3) I am a Barbie collector and a Doctor Who fan, so this Barbie doll is basically my dream come true (and I got a secret tip off about the release at the national Barbie convention in July).

    I am also a feminist and have never had a problem with Barbie. As Cora said above, Barbie has always been a career woman. Creator Ruth Handler saw that the market was dominated by baby dolls, which only allowed girls to model being mothers. Her own daughter played with paper dolls, which could be “dressed up” and used to model other roles. She envisioned Barbie as a 3D version of this, an aspirational doll for girls to act out their dreams for the future.

  13. @Chip: But Barbie has changed with the times. It’s telling that you have to reach back to an incident from 1992, which was acknowledged as a mistake and quickly corrected.

    There’s a general misunderstanding about Barbie dolls marketed to kids vs. those designed for adult collectors. “Playline” Barbie dolls for kids have very much embraced diversity in body type as well as ethnicity. Witness the current Fashionista dolls: https://barbie.mattel.com/en-us/about/fashionistas.html

    Collectible Barbie dolls mostly stick with the skinny bodies, and this is indeed so clothes, often inspired by major designers, can be scaled down without looking bulky. But there are “curvy” collectible Barbie dolls as well, such as the souvenir doll for this year’s national convention.

  14. Meredith Moment: Iain Banks’ first Culture novel Consider Phlebas is available at Amazon for $2.99.

  15. (3) “Math is hard. Time travel is fun!”

    One memorable Christmas, all three of my sisters got Barbie dolls, for which Dad had made wooden boxes with a compartment for the doll and a larger one for clothes. Mom had made some sets of clothes for each of them.

    I don’t know if they still have the dolls, but I’ll bet a quatloo they have those boxes and fond memories.

  16. Did Barbie hang out the Bob doll, the one who came out his own closet?

    I still have that Barbie World song in my head.

  17. Apropos of nothing —

    I just got a notice that a new audio version of Ancillary Justice has been released, with Adjoa Andoh as the narrator. Originally, Celeste Ciulla did Justice, while Andoh did Sword and Mercy.

    For you nitpickers out there, Leckie has stated in the past that she provided pronunciation guides for Ciulla but not for Andoh, so Ciulla pronounced the words as Leckie wanted them and Andoh didn’t. But she has also said that she loved Andoh’s voice for the role. So there’s a bit of a trade-off between them.

  18. Kaboobie on November 13, 2018 at 7:09 am said:

    @Chip: But Barbie has changed with the times. It’s telling that you have to reach back to an incident from 1992, which was acknowledged as a mistake and quickly corrected.

    Definitely don’t have to go back that far:

    Computer Engineer Barbie: “…introduced in 2010. In 2014 Mattel apologized for the accompanying book, I Can Be a Computer Engineer, after internet complaints that it represented Barbie as incompetent in the field, needing the help of men. ”

    Complaints about Barbie may be overdone, but they’re hardly without any merit whatsoever.

    And as for the body-shaming thing, well, there may be some valid historical reasons for Barbie’s shape, but that doesn’t mean people’s experiences are invalid. As a white male, I would just like to point out that dismissing other people’s experiences because you haven’t shared them is not a good look.

  19. …All of which is not to say you shouldn’t defend Barbie. I’m actually kinda tickled to see someone standing up for Barbie. But I suspect a more nuanced, less dismissive-of-all-criticism approach to that defense might work better.

  20. So, I did something unusual the other day: I opened a book. Not an ebook, but one of the dusty dead-tree volumes that have been languishing unread for literally years. (For the curious, it’s Star Wars: Crosscurrent, from the Legends timeline, but that’s largely beside the point here.)

    I’ve been having a bit of fun with my Goodreads updates on this one, discussing the book not for its content, but as a physical artifact in light of having done so much of my reading over the past few years on an ereader. So, for example, my latest update praises the instantaneous boot time but laments the abysmal support for annotations (you have to buy the stylus separately, and there’s not even an undo function!).

    The story itself is solidly meh so far – two shipfuls of Sith from 5000 years ago get catapulted to the Legends timeframe shortly after the Darth Caedus debacle. Should be entertaining enough, once the time jump actually happens.

  21. @Contrarius the Adjoa Andoh version of Ancillary Justice has actually been around for a while (before she recorded Sword and Mercy), but it was commissioned by Orbit UK and only available here. I’ve got it and she’s great (though I’m a tiny bit disappointed that the pronunciations aren’t canon!)

    In related Andoh news, you’ve reminded me that I still need to get tickets for her performance as Richard II in an all-women-of-colour casting of the Shakespeare play. It’s on from February – April 2019, if any fellow London-adjacent filers are interested in a historical classic starring the voice of Breq…

  22. Charon D sed: And no science fiction writers even predicted we’d end up in t-shirts with nerdy jokes

    John Varley’s PRESS ENTER?
    Larry Niven’s Belter spacesuit paint jobs?

  23. Xtfir: It was certainly not my intention to invalidate all criticism, just to provide an answer (not THE answer) to some commonly-raised issues. I don’t think I presented my experience as universal; I just said as a feminist I do not have a problem with Barbie. I accept that the doll has traditionally presented an unrealistic woman’s body, and that’s part of a larger problem. I do think Mattel has made great improvements, as evidenced by the dolls I linked to. The people I know who work on the Barbie line care very much about making sure all girls (and boys!) can find a doll that looks like them.

    I didn’t know about the Computer Engineer Barbie, but that’s certainly a disappointment and I hope Mattel continues to learn from their mistakes!

  24. Robert: I believe Bob was Barbie’s male counterpart in Brazil; it’s Ken in the US. And yes, I’ve heard a similar punchline in response to, “Why is Barbie going out with G.I. Joe?”

  25. @Daniel P. Dern: “Larry Niven’s Belter spacesuit paint jobs?”

    If I recall correctly, paint jobs for the Mars suits in Red Planet were a minor plot point. (Sorry for the spoiler, folks!)

    And I like how the spacesuits in Orbital Resonance have mostly corporate logos, but the union workers have their own patches. Barnes makes that a small part of the main plot as well.

  26. @Daniel P. Dern: By the time “_Press Enter_” came out, having a computer whiz wearing a shirt with a nerdy slogan was more descriptive than predictive, I think.

  27. @Chip Hitchcock @Robert @Xtfir @Kaboobie
    I don’t mean to blanket dismiss anybody’s legitimate issues with Barbie, but a lot of complaints about Barbie are born out of half-knowledge and downright ignorance. Plus, the fact that Barbies are mainly aimed at girls raises concerns about “What messages are these toys sending?” that toys aimed at boys with equally potentially problematic messages (GI Joe glorifying war and the military, He-Man and unrealistic bodytypes) rarely raise. Because for some reason, girls are assumed to be more vulnerable to all sorts of negative messages than boys.

    Our society is full of problematic messages with regards to body image (and has been since long before Barbie burst on the scene in 1959) that you hardly need Barbie. Also, very few dolls – whether it’s traditional baby/little kid dolls or fashion dolls like Barbie – have realistic bodies. Doll bodies are always slightly off, which apparently unnerves a lot of people.

    Plus, as Kaboobie has pointed out, Mattel is trying to do better and has been offering different bodytypes and skintones in recent years. Coincidentally, the overwhelming pinkness and blondeness of Barbie only came in in the 1970s. Prior to the 1970s, Barbie had many different hair colours and a wardrobe of many colours. She also had many careers, going all the way back to the 1960s. And except for a brief period where they broke up, Barbie’s boyfriend has always been called Ken in the US and Europe.

    And yes, selling clothes and accessories has been part of Mattel’s business model from the beginning. You could always get fairly cheap basic Barbies in swimwear and then Mattel would make money on the clothes and accessories. Coincidentally, the quality and workmanship of the early clothes was amazing. I have a so-called “Twist-and-Turn Barbie” from the late 1960s with an original outfit, which even has lining and tiny pockets. But because the outfits, particularly the nicer ones, weren’t cheap, many kids would make their own or have clothes made by parents and grandparents. As a kid, I had three store-bought outfits from the basic line for my Malibu Barbie and my parents weren’t exactly poor. I later bought some of the nicer Eightiestastic premium outfits for myself.

    As for the various Talking Barbies, talking toys have been a thing for a long time now and none of them have anything intelligent to say. I had a talking Big Bird as a kid who said exactly four lines: “Hi, my name is Big Bird.”, “I live on Sesame Street.” “Would you like some bird seed?” and “I love you very much.” However, no one except my long suffering parents ever had any problems with that. Luckily, talking toy mechanisms tend to break easily.

    The first talking Barbie appeared in 1968. This is what she said, in English and Spanish, by the way:
    Would you like to go shopping?
    I love being a fashion model.
    I have a date tonight.
    What should I wear to the prom?
    Let’s have a costume party!
    Stacey and I are having a tea.

    Yes, it’s not very intelligent, but then Mattel’s business model involved selling clothes and accessories. Also the idea behind talking toys is that the lines should be basic enough that a kid can incorporate them into any imaginary conversation. As for the “Math is hard” line, would anybody have complained if Barbie had said “French is hard” or “Spanish is hard” instead?

    Regarding the Computer Engineer Barbie, which I vaguely remember seeing in the store, this is another example of Mattel actually trying to do a good thing and get girls interested in computer science. They even asked women working in Silicon Valley for advice regarding accessories, clothes, etc…. The accompanying book was unfortunate, but how many people actually read those?

    The fabric scale problem is definitely a thing with making doll clothing. I had/have a special stash of Barbie suitable fabrics, including some very finely woven denim fabric, which made a lot of Barbie jeans. When I was a kid in the 1970s and early 1980s, there still were sewing/crafting mags with patterns for doll clothes. My Mom bought those, but the only craft she was really good at was embroidery. I eventually taught myself how to sew, crochet, quilt, etc… because I kept badgering my Mom and also my aunt and Grandma to make me some of those wonderful doll clothes and other craft projects, but they couldn’t figure out how. Coincidentally, sewing, crocheting, knitting, reading patterns, etc… are useful life skills to know that schools have abandoned in recent years.

    As for paper dolls, I also made my own paper dolls, including pop culture characters, historical fashion dolls and the like. A lot of children, mostly but not exclusively girls (a lot of male fashion designers report that they started designing clothes for Barbie dolls), will go through a phase where they design clothing. Paper dolls are a time-honoured way of doing this and fashion dolls are a 3D version. Barbie wasn’t the first fashion doll – they go back a very long time. But many of them like Madame Alexander’s Cissy dolls which predate Barbie by several years were expensive and essentially luxury items. Barbie was cheap enough to play with.

    In general, it annoys me that toys that teach and promote activities and skills traditionally coded as masculine (e.g. Legos and particularly Lego Technik, the various electrical and chemical engineering kits, model kits, toy tool kits and workbenches, etc…) are valued much higher than toys that teach and promote activities and skills traditionally coded as feminine (any kind of dolls, including Barbie, sewing kits and jewellery making sets, ovens and baking sets, etc…). I’m not a fan of the aggressive gendering of toys (which has gotten even worse in recent years) at all, but that’s pushed by the parents and grandparents buying the toys rather than the kids who’ll happily play with anything across gender lines when left to their own devices. And yes, it’s frustrating that you can find twenty Playmobil princesses (though still an improvement to my childhood, when there were no princess toys at all beyond dolls dressed up as princesses in handmade gowns), but not a single prince or cowgirl or lady pirate. Also, as someone born in the 1970s, I remember very well that unisex toys mostly meant “boy toys for every kid”, while the traditionally female toys were either dismissed as harmful or still reserved only for girls. At any rate, my (male) cousin got a lot more crap for playing with a baby doll as a boy than I got for playing with Hot Wheels cars as a girl.

  28. I just Googled “vintage Barbie clothes sewing patterns” and was treated to quite an array. It was expected back then that all girls would make doll outfits from time to time. Barbie was unique in that she also had loads of “store bought” outfits (and shoes and gloves and sports cars and horses and etc.).

    I had a few official Barbie outfits and a few home-made ones. I grew up in the ’60s, so I had bright colored mod Carnaby Street fashions, plus I had some off-brand hippie dolls that were approximately Barbie sized, who came with an array of tie dyes and bell bottoms and groovy sunglasses and guitars. My Barbies dressed from a communal toybox and basically lived like the Grateful Dead, or maybe more like the Manson Family given the gender ratio. There were a few Barbies with jobs at that time but career-oriented Barbies really took off in the yuppified ’80s, when people were upset about Barbie having a suspicious amount of both consumer goods and leisure time. Poor Barbie gets blamed for all kinds of social ills but she always comes out smiling.

    Agree with Cora about the boys’ toys being regarded with sentimental fondness (“Rosebud …”) and the girls’ toys being dismissed. There are even a lot of girls who brag about how they preferred dirt bikes to dolls, and only played with Barbies in a mean, Wednesday Adams kind of way. Sigh.

  29. Today I saw something that made me smile.

    A photo of Stan Lee posing with Grumpy Cat, and Stan had put the same expression on his face.

    I have a Twist and Turn Barbie (and a Ken) with the late 60’s-early 70’s Mod clothes and accessories for both all in very good condition and some original packaging. Even shoes! If anyone’s interested in purchasing, drop me a line at (my name) (at) (yahoo). Serious offers only to overcome the sentimental value. And you can’t have the outfits my grandma made for her, I’m keeping those.

  30. Teen Talk Barbie (1992), whose most talked-about line was “Math is hard. Let’s go shopping!”

    That was not a Teen Talk Barbie line.

    “Math class is tough” was one of the Teen Talk Barbie lines, but that was the complete line — she didn’t pair it with a suggestion to blow off class or studying, she just acknowledged that it was tough. Which, for some people, it is.

    Other lines that model of Teen Talk Barbie had included “We girls can do anything,” “I’m studying to be a doctor” and “Wouldn’t you love to be a lifeguard?”

    And, yes, “Want to go shopping?”

    But they were separate lines, not part of the same cord pull.

    The objection was simply to the line “Math class is tough,” which some thought discouraged girls’ interest in what we now call STEM subjects.

    I figured that acknowledging that some things are difficult, but that girls “can do anything” was a positive thing — but I can understand why they ditched the line, too.

  31. The careers Barbie had in the 1960s were more traditionally feminine such as flight attendant, fashion model, nurse (she didn’t become a doctor until the 1970s), teacher, actress or singer, though she and Ken also were astronauts in the 1960s (and Barbie again in the 1980s). Meanwhile, Ken was a pilot, soda shop clerk, soldier (until the Vietnam War came and Mattel took him off sale for a year or two) and doctor.

    In the early 1960s, Barbie also had this outfit called Career Girl, which makes her look as if she could walk straight onto the set of Mad Men (actually, a lot of Mad Men‘s female characters look a bit like vintage Barbies). And in the late 1960s, she was a spy with a gorgeous Emma Peel and James Bond movie inspired outfit.

  32. @Cora: Because for some reason, girls are assumed to be more vulnerable to all sorts of negative messages than boys. I can’t speak to how girls are taught now — but my looking-back impression of the 1960’s (and on-and-off since then) is that girls were taught to blend in, typically by imitation.
    talking toys have been a thing for a long time now and none of them have anything intelligent to say. There’s a lot of difference between being trivial (especially when aimed at smaller children) and modeling faux stupidity to older children. And complaining about other subjects would have been less offensive; sticking at math is fitting right into a stereotype. (I remember someone my age telling me that the rest of her high-school classmates thought being good at math was unfeminine; that’s a single sample, but telling.)
    but not a single prince or cowgirl or lady pirate. Maybe that’s a local limitation? I know there was an Elizabeth (as in Pirates of the Caribbean) “action figure”, because I read a Knightley interview in which she fumed about the US ~manufacturer upping the figure’s cup size. OTOH, it wouldn’t surprise me to see statistics still showing a massive imbalance.

  33. Kaboobie: The Gay Bob Doll was a 1977 product. I did have a gay friend who wishes he’d bought one when they came “out”.

  34. Didn’t Barbie have a younger doll friend named Skipper, and one version had breasts that grew out if you twisted her arm behind her back? That seemed a bit…disquieting.

  35. There’s a Playmobil Elizabeth pirate figure? Colour me skeptical. Playmobil doesn’t do a lot of direct branding like Lego does.

  36. @Jayn:

    “On her back you can turn a key / and she goes through puberty.”

    (“The Pretty Little Dolly,” performed by Mona Abboud. There’s more to the song, but I refuse to voluntarily listen to any Christmas music until the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.)

  37. @Lenora Rose: I don’t know the name “Playmobil”; what do they have to do with whether there was an Elizabeth Swan figure? PotC is a Disney property, and they’ve never been shy about merchandising.
    NB: parade.com doesn’t show me the interview I was quoting, but the talk may predate their online archives (or my search-fu is weak); it was some years before her Pride and Prejudice, because I remember quoting it in response to someone being … uncomplimentary … about Knightley’s figure.

  38. Chip Hitchcock. Because, if you reread the post by Cora it says:

    And yes, it’s frustrating that you can find twenty Playmobil princesses (though still an improvement to my childhood, when there were no princess toys at all beyond dolls dressed up as princesses in handmade gowns), but not a single prince or cowgirl or lady pirate.

    IOW she was talking about a specific example. Playmobil. The existence of Elizabeth Swann figures outside that does not actually disprove anything stated.

  39. @Charon: Poor Barbie gets blamed for all kinds of social ills but she always comes out smiling

    I think that’s my favorite line in the whole discussion.
    You’ve managed to condense the Barbie conundrum.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.