Pixel Scroll 11/17/19 Maybe Quality Time With the Cats Would Be Better

(1) XKCD ANSWERS. A New York Times interviewer learned that “Randall Munroe Loves Outdated Views of the Future”.

Your web comic XKCD counts a lot of science fiction fans among its audience. Are you a science fiction fan yourself?

I grew up reading Asimov short stories, and I’ve read some miscellaneous stuff over the years, but I never feel like I’ve read more than a tiny fraction of what’s out there. I honestly don’t read all that many books, at least not compared to a lot of writers I know, and that extends to sci-fi too. But I do occasionally read high-concept/hard sci-fi — the kind of book where something big and physics-y is threatening to destroy the planet and/or universe. I’m also a total sucker for time travel stories.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

Whatever was lying around my house or our town library. I read lots of newspaper comic collections, like “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side,” and an awful lot of “Star Wars” novels…

(2) TAKEI Q&A. Rosanna Greenstreet, in “George Takei: ‘My dream dinner party? My colleagues from Star Trek, with one exception’”, in the Guardian, doesn’t have George Takei name the exception, but you learn his favorite show tunes.

What would your superpower be?
Gene Roddenberry, who created Star Trek, said that the strength of the Starship Enterprise was its diverse team working in concert. I would like to have the superpower to bring that kind of society to ours today.

(3) NAMES TO CONJURE WITH. “13 ‘Avengers: Endgame’ actors submitted for Oscars contention” — Disney submitted 13 actors/actresses from Endgame to the Oscars… All in the supporting categories.

Even Martin Scorsese would have to admit that Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest cinematic achievements of 2019. 

…It looks as though Disney are going to give Avengers: Endgame  a big Oscar push, too, as it has just been revealed that the studio aren’t only aiming for a Best Picture nomination but they’ve also submitted 13 actors in the the Best Supporting categories, too.

That means that Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Josh Brolin, Paul Rudd, and Don Cheadle will be hoping for a Best Supporting Actor nomination, while Scarlett Johansson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, and Brie Larson will be aiming for the Best Supporting Actress category.

(4) HEAR IT FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS. After working on it for six years, Gene Weingarten has a book coming out, and has been sharing all kinds of advice with readers of the Washington Post Magazine.

2. As you are bringing the book in for a landing, resist the urge to assemble your 23 chapters into one long document, because that will make it possible to idly search for words and phrases that you think you might overuse. And that is when you will discover just what a shocking, tedious hack you are. For instance, the number of times I had written “slap-to-the-forehead revelation” (five) was a slap-to-the-forehead revelation to me. Not in a good way.

… So things were going swell, right up until something happened. I think you might suspect what it is.

Man on phone, from TV company: Hi, I’m a lawyer, and …

Me: GO AWAY. (Hangs up.)

Okay, I didn’t really hang up. We kept talking but my nerve endings were atingle. It turned out that the company required me to sign a contract, which they assured me would be routine, simple and no problem whatsoever. It turned out to be seven single-spaced pages. It required me to agree to surrender my work to the company “in perpetuity,” which, from context, as near as I could tell, includes all future time up to and including the eventual Heat Death of the Universe. 

(5) MOUSE AUCTION. “Disneyland ‘Tiki’ birds among vast theme park auction” – Reuters has the story.

The History of Disneyland and Walt Disney World auction will be held in Los Angeles over two days starting on Dec. 7.

There will also be familiar characters up for sale, including animatronic birds from the Enchanted Tiki Room, a bronze statue of Mickey Mouse, and an “It’s a Small World” animatronic doll.

The animatronic birds are estimated to sell between $80,000 and $100,000, while the doll is estimated to sell for between $15,000 and $20,000.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 17, 1978 — The Star Wars Holiday Special premiered on CBS. Directed by Steve Binder, it was the first Star Wars spin-off film, set between the events of the original film and The Empire Strikes Back. On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently has a rating of nineteen percent. 
  • November 17, 2001 Justice League began on the Cartoon Network. It would under this name and and Justice League Unlimited last five seasons. Ninety one episodes would be produced a cross the two series. Among the voice actors would Kevin Conroy, George Newbern and Susan Eisenberg. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 17, 1925 Rock Hudson. Best known genre role was as Col. John Wilder in The Martian Chronicles series. He also played President Thomas McKenna in the World War III miniseries which you may or may may not consider SF. That’s it.   (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 17, 1956 Rebecca Moesta Anderson, 63. Wife of Kevin James Anderson with whom she collaborates more often than not. They’ve done dozens of Star Wars novels including the Young Jedi Knights series, and even one in the Buffyverse. 
  • Born November 17, 1965 Sophie Marceau, 53. Elektra King In The World Is Not Enough, the 19th Bond Film. Also Eloïse d’Artagnan in Revenge of the Musketeers, Hippolyta in that version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamandLisa / Belphegor in Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre. She’s also one of the voice actors in Nature is Speaking, a Gaian series. 
  • Born November 17, 1958 Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, 61. She had a recurring role on Grimm, playing Kelly Burkhardt, mother of Nick Burkhardt. And she had a leading role in Limitless as FBI Special Agent in Charge Nasreen ”Naz” Pouran. In the Marvel Universe, she played Marion James, CIA Deputy Director on Marvel’s The Punisher
  • Born November 17, 1966 Ed Brubaker, 53. Comic book writer and artist. Sandman Presents: Dead Boy Detectives I’d consider his first genre work. Later work for DC and Marvel included The Authority, Batman, Captain America, Daredevil, Catwoman and the Uncanny X-Men. If I may single out but one series, it’d be the one he did with writer Greg Rucka which was the Gotham Central series. It’s Gotham largely without Batman but with the villains so GPD has to deal with them by themselves. Grim and well done. In 2016, he joined the writing staff for the Westworld series where he co-wrote the episode “Dissonance Theory” with Jonathan Nolan.
  • Born November 17, 1978 Tom Ellis, 41. Currently playing Lucifer Morningstar in the rather excellent Lucifer series  created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg from The Sandman series. It’s quite good. Also had roles in Doctor Who, Once Upon a Time, Messiah, The Strain and Merlin
  • Born November 17, 1983 Christopher Paolini, 36. He is the author of the Inheritance Cycle, which consists of the books Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr, and Inheritance. In December of last year, The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm, the first book in a series called Tales of Alagaësia, was published. A film version of the first novel came out in 2006.

(8) NO SMOKING PLEASE. Speaking of the burning issues of the day — “John Lewis and Waitrose unite for 2019 Christmas ad – the fiery fairytale of Excitable Edgar”.

In a first for the two ‘& Partners’ brands, John Lewis and Waitrose have combined their festive creative efforts and released a joint Christmas ad, opting for a fairytale spot that – true to form – features a loveable mascot in Edgar the excitable dragon.

The heartwarming story of a little girl, Ava, and her friendship with an excitable young dragon opens ‘far, far, away’ in a quaint, snow-engulfed town as it prepares for Christmas.

Edgar – a toddler-sized, winged and unequally horned dragon – struggles to control his flame breathing. And while he loves Christmas, unfortunately for the town, his over-eagerness often gets the better of him.

(9) AUTHOR READINGS IN ORANGE. The Speculative Collective reading series will convene in Orange, CA on January 23, 2020.

The SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Winter Salon will celebrate steampunk, weird westerns, and mad science fiction with readings and conversation with local authors Eddie Louise, Michelle E. Lowe, and Jonathan Fesmire. The authors will have books to sign and sell, and time will be set aside to chat and network with like-minded fans of science fiction, fantasy, and all otherworldly genres. Costumes and cosplay welcome. Also, we’ll be discussing the new critique group and writing contest.

SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE is an author reading series devoted to science fiction, fantasy, and all otherworldly genres.

(10) WHO NEEDS IT? The LA Review of Books presents Isaac Bashevis Singer’s 1963 essay “Who Needs Literature?” translated from Yiddish for the first time by David Stromberg.

…As for literary prose, we often feel like it’s doing well. Books of prose are still bought in hundreds of thousands of copies. But when we look a little deeper into the matter, we see that what we nowadays call “literary fiction” is often far from literary fiction. Works are often sold under the label “novel” that are in fact three-fourths or a 100 percent journalism.

At no other time has the boundary between journalism and literature been so thin and so blurred as in ours. It often seems to me that modern critics suffer from amnesia. They’ve forgotten the elementary rules of the game called literature. It’s no feat to score grand victories in a chess game if, right from the start, one player gets more pieces than another, or if the rules of the game change with each round.

(11) AMAZING. Slashfilm says fans will have one more shot at seeing this actor: “Robert Forster’s Final Performance Will Be in ‘Amazing Stories’ for AppleTV+; Here’s What the Episode is About”

Oscar-nominated actor Robert Forster (Jackie Brown) passed away two weeks ago, but it turns out he completed one final performance before his death that will make it to the screen. Forster will appear in an episode of Amazing Stories, the resurrected anthology series that will debut on AppleTV+. 

When Forster died on October 11, myself and many of his fans thought the last time we’d see him on screen would be in El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie, the Netflix film which debuted the same day as his death. But according to Deadline, he had also completed work on an episode of Amazing Stories, and the episode will be dedicated to the late actor.

“Dynoman and The Volt,” the relevant episode, is “about an awkward tween boy and his grandpa (Forster) who wrestle with feeling powerless. When a superhero ring Grandpa ordered out of the back of a comic book arrives 50 years late, they discover it has the power to turn them into actual superheroes.” That’s a really fun premise for an episode of television, and in his older age, Forster was so great at playing characters who felt like they were sturdy enough to take what the world threw at them, but also had a tinge of sadness behind the eyes. I eagerly await the opportunity to experience one final performance from him, even if I am exhausted of the conversation around superhero-related media that still seems to be dominating every waking moment in our culture right now.

(12) BANGERS AND MASHUPS. The Wrap looks back: “‘The Big Bang Theory’: 23 Most Memorable Guest Stars, From Stephen Hawking to Carrie Fisher”, a 2018 post.

Carrie Fisher and James Earl Jones: James Earl Jones told IGN that amazingly, before this Season 7 “Big Bang” cameo, he and Carrie Fisher had never met, with Jones always doing his scenes as Darth Vader inside a sound booth. The segment features Jones and Sheldon pranking Fisher, but even funnier is their story that when they finally met, Fisher greeted Jones as “Dad!” 

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

50 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/17/19 Maybe Quality Time With the Cats Would Be Better

  1. (1)

     I’m also a total sucker for time travel stories

    Me, too, Randall. Me, too.

    (6) I saw the Holiday Special was it was first broadcast – before I actually saw SW (though I had read the novelization).

  2. (7) Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was a star of James Cameron’s The Abyss, which I’ve only ever seen in its shorter cut (and on broadcast TV at that). Maybe my public library has the longer version, which I’ve heard makes more sense – or does it?

  3. 7) Regarding Rock Hudson, in 1966 he starred in Seconds, a movie in which he is a disaffected middle class man who is given a new life (and body, namely that of Rock Hudson) by a mysteriosu organisation. I’d definitely consider Seconds science fiction.

    In 1976, Rock Hudson also starred in a movie called Embryo, which I haven’t seen, but which clearly sounds like science fiction. Hudson plays a doctor who has invented an uterine replicator wherein he grows Barbara Carrera to adulthood.

  4. “Born November 17, 1965 — Sophie Marceau, 53.”

    Google says 1966, which makes the 53 correct.

  5. I recently read a story in the New York Times about Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in a recent movie. This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad
    It mentions that Hanks has read New York 2140. I knew that he had tweeted in the past about reading John Scalzi novels, but I didn’t know he was deep enough into the genre to read KSR. (Googling for this, I also note a tweet from him praising Aurora.)

  6. @gottacook
    The directors cut of Abyss spells things out a little more explicitly at the end, but the pacing drags a little.

    Really, it’s a surprisingly talky movie for something that more-or-less fits the modern blockbuster format. Lots of dialogue that assumes you don’t miss anything. Definitely intended for the theater (or at least home-theatre) experience without distractions. TV with commercials would be a hard way to watch it the first time.

    It’s worth giving another shot. Like much of sci-fi cinema, the ideas were a good 10-20 years behind the literary fiction of the time. And that was decades ago now. But it’s well presented and some of the performances are quite good.

    Also includes some of the last truly cutting edge traditional model work effects.

  7. @Ryan “Also includes some of the last truly cutting edge traditional model work effects.”

    And some of the earliest truly cutting edge CGI, with the alien water pseudopod thing.

  8. @Ryan H: I’ve seen The Abyss as the most technically complex movie shoot that there will ever be, because a) fx keeps improving and b) nobody but James Cameron was driven enough to make a movie where all of the actors had to become dive certified, much less one where they flooded the cooling tower of an abandoned-before-commissioning nuclear power plant and turned it into a film stage.

  9. So the Sophie Marceau Bond film features a submarine, I’ve already mentioned Ice Station Zebra for Rock Hudson, as others have pointed out The Abyss for Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio – is the secret birthday theme submarines? If so, how the others fit in?

  10. Right now, the most challenging thing about The Abyss is finding a way to actually watch it. The last DVD release was the special edition back in 2000, I believe, and it’s not currently available on any streaming platforms.

    My understanding is that a remastered 4K edition does exist, but it’s still waiting for James Cameron to give it his final seal of approval in between all of his other projects. (Ditto True Lies, for that matter.)

  11. I saw both “Embryo” and the Star Wars Christmas Special when they first aired on TV. I also remembered kids at school talking about how bad the Christmas Special was the next day.

    Embryo somehow ended up in the public domain and can be viewed at various streaming sites. The viewer reviews aren’t bad for a dated SF thriller.

  12. 11) we uncovered the plot to another episode, as well as the titles and cast (and speculation) about a couple of others in this post on Amazing Stories below.

    earlier this month.

    Some have suggested that because cast & crew information was released to IMDB just a few short weeks ago, that we’re likely to actually see some episodes sometime in early 2020.

    (Personally, I find it “interesting” that the first (80s) version opened with a show featuring a grandpa and his grandson sharing a magical adventure and it looks like the Dynoman and the Volt episode is largely the same thing, this time with superheros instead of trains.)

    https://amazingstories.com/2019/11/apple-tv-debuts-what-are-the-critics-saying/

  13. (7) semi-random question: does “with whom she collaborates more often than not” mean that most of her works are collaborations with him? or that most of his are collaborations with her? Or both?

    semi-random meaning don’t waste a lot of time or brain cells sorting this out for me.

  14. Joe H. says Right now, the most challenging thing about The Abyss is finding a way to actually watch it. The last DVD release was the special edition back in 2000, I believe, and it’s not currently available on any streaming platforms.

    I’m showing it as being available on Prime Video right now. It’s apparently airing on Cinemax which you can access via Prime Video for free.

  15. I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a pixel scroll today.

    SECONDS is genre.

    ICE STATION ZEBRA was Howard Hughes favorite film, watching it in his final days about 50 times.

  16. The cinematic release of True Lies does something quite astounding. It has a reel change in the middle of dialogue. And that’s one of those “never, ever, do htis” (it’s quite possible to lose up to ~1 second during a reel change with a typical two-projector set-up, so films adapt to having ~1s of “not actually important” scheduled every 6-12 minutes).

    But, True Lies does one reel-change mid-dialogue. Watch out for the conversation where there’s a sweep across the horizon between two lines. That’s the one.

    I may have been a bit surprised by that, when I was the projectionist for it, not (I think) having seen it before, seeing as how I still remember it, well over 20 years later.

  17. My “notify me of follow up comments” function doesn’t work, even if I select the checkbox. Anyone else have this problem?

  18. Gah, The Abyss. It could have been so good, but the ending totally ruined it for me. I just couldn’t handle what was basically a horror/suspension movie suddenly turning into cutsie E.T. It went from 8/10 to 4/10 in a few minutes.The longer version has an ending— that sounds more my thing (even if it too sounds a bit too cute).

  19. @6: ISTR that even Jefferson Starship were embarassed to have participated in the SW Xmas Special.

    @7: Mastrantonio also was Marian in the Costner Robin Hood — not starring, but ISTM not a small part.

    @gottacook, re @7: I thought The Abyss was reasonably coherent; I \think/ I saw it on a TV, but it was probably on tape as I dislike commercial interruptions. Your TV experience may also have been affected by cutting to fit a time block.

    @Cliff: I remember that water being — at the time it was very impressive.

  20. (7) I seem to remember that the rat-drowning scene in The Abyss was cut after the theatrical release, although track “Let Me Drown Your Rat” is still listed in the soundtrack.

  21. @ Niall McAuley
    The rat drowning scene is certainly present on my DVD. Both the regular and extended cuts. Perhaps it got cut from some of the TV edits? although it’s fairly plot-critical so that would be rough on the audience.

    Neat fact: the rat “drowning” was not a special effect or faked. They really submerged the rat in oxygenated fluid for it to breath.

  22. @ Paul Weimer: I find that having been a projectionist influenced how I react to films. Less so now, that there’s quite a while between actively doing it. I no longer think the “burning film” bit in, uh, Gremlins is funny, but I suspect it would no longer give me anywhere close to the same adrenaline rush as it used to.

    I have, mostly, stopped noticing the cue marks (the white blobs that appear in the top right corner). This might be because they’re no longer as prevalent. And it might be that there’s been enough time since it was useful fallback for when the automation wasn’t working that I’ve just stopped looking.

  23. The scene where they put the rat into the “oxygenated fluid”? At least on my vintage-2000 DVD, the scene is still included.

  24. The novelization of The Abyss helps a lot. It was written from the screenplay during shooting, and Card reportedly had an influence on several characters, as well as on the ending. Unfortunately, it’s not a great book, but the book makes the movie better, and vice versa.

    The Lucifer series is pretty good, but I think I’d say it was “based on characters by” Neil and friends, rather than “created by”. Tom Ellis is outstanding in the role, though. I don’t know how much range he has, but he nails this one.

    One odd thing puzzles me. Lesley-Ann Brandt, the actor who plays Lucifer’s main companion demon, Mazikeen, uses an American accent on the show, while Ellis uses a rather posh British one. But Brandt is a South African who spent a lot of time in New Zealand, and her normal accent, as heard in interviews, reflects this. So, if she was going to change accents, why American instead of British? She and Lucifer come from the same place, after all. Contrariwise, if people from Hell speak in a variety of accents, why change her natural one?

  25. I’m trying to have quality time with the cats. Molly has settled in to look out a window (half an hour so far) and is ignoring me, and Kaja wouldn’t even come over for a treat at lunchtime.

    Help?

  26. @Xtifr

    IIRC originally Tom Ellis was also asked to speak with an American accent, but the general consensus was the character came across as too much of an ass, so they had him switch back to his own. Presumably Lucifer and Mazikeen were originally intended to match.

  27. Meredith notes IIRC originally Tom Ellis was also asked to speak with an American accent, but the general consensus was the character came across as too much of an ass, so they had him switch back to his own. Presumably Lucifer and Mazikeen were originally intended to match.

    It’s not as he’s Cardiff born and raised with University in Glasgow. The online discussions on this accent generally think it’s what’s called Received Pronunciation whatever that is.

  28. Received Pronunciation (RP) is the posh-ish accent that the BBC used to make all its newsreaders use. I would guess it’s probably the most common second accent in the UK, for those who use more than one, like many actors and tv presenters. So its not at all surprising that Ellis is comfortable with it.

    RP is sometimes called the “Standard British Accent”, but that’s rather misleading, and, some would say, even insulting.

  29. The Abyss always seemed to me like two decent SF films that were unsuccessfully joined together. The action/suspense thriller would have worked fine without the alien element and I think the alien film would have worked better without having to fight the tone of the action/suspense thriller.

  30. @Lorien — That’s pretty much my feeling, too. I thought the ending was interesting, but it didn’t belong with the first part of the film, which I liked a lot.

  31. @Ingvar: I was never a projectionist per se, although I talked to them occasionally at the two boarding schools I went to; both had Saturday-night movies in an attempt to keep the students from devising their own … amusements, and the projection space was tangled with the theater tech space (which I was heavily involved in). Once I was clued in about the donuts, I saw them most of the time — until they became obsolete, new movies in the US being available only in electronic form (i.e., no reel changes) for some time now. Do you still see movies on film stock? There’s one movie house locally that teams up with a music trade school, providing projection for a silent that students in a course compose and perform music for; I don’t remember seeing donuts on those movies but I may have been watching the musicians too much. (Or the movie may have been digitized, although the house advertises some films as being in 35mm.)

  32. Finished Magic for Liars. Loved it. I seem to remember that some here didn’t care for it. On the other hand, I have no brain left after yesterday, with two Lots Of People events, followed by my car breaking down. So my memory of other people’s responses to it may be unrelated to reality.

  33. I started listening to the audiobook of Magic For Liars, but the narrator grated on my sensibilities, so dropped it partway thru. I have the actual book as well, so I’ll finish MFL that way.

    (I’ve heard great narrations of a lot of audiobooks, but occasionally some hit the other end of the scale. I gave up on the audiobook for Laurie King’s first Mary Russell novel because the narrator made Sherlock Holmes sound twee. SHERLOCK HOLMES IS NOT TWEE, DAMMIT!)

  34. @Chip Hitchcock:

    I suspect that most of what I’ve seen in recent years have been “cinema from bits and bytes” rather than “cinema from emulsion on substrate”, but my understanding of teh industry as it stands at this point in time is that for single showings, or smaller picture houses, film is still the way to go (and most cinema will probably continue to existin in the “emulsion on film” format for distributing that way, for at least a while longer).

  35. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmahus.

    Is there a typo in Anna’s name? I had the impression it was Nimmhaus, but I am not sure.

    Also, the time machine still seems to be stuck in the elevator.

  36. Lenore Jones: I had the impression it was Nimmhaus, but I am not sure.

    Good lord, yes. Appertain yourself your favorite morning libation.

  37. @Ingvar: you are fortunate; in the US, small movie-houses are either begging successfully for help (to pay for digital equipment) or going under, because so little is available non-electronically. It’s possible that there are old movies that haven’t been converted, but old movies (which were my sanityline 45 years ago when I was first living on my ~own) haven’t been able to support a movie house for some decades.

  38. @David —

    I recently read a story in the New York Times about Tom Hanks playing Fred Rogers in a recent movie. This Tom Hanks Story Will Help You Feel Less Bad

    I read this the other day and thought it was a very sweet article. And I chuckled at the 2140 reference.

    @Lis —

    +2 or +3 on Magic for Liars. There is not all that much to the plot, but I enjoyed the book — the journey of the main character — very much. And despite what Bruce said, I loved the narrator (Xe Sands). In fact, I recommend listening to this one rather than reading on the page.

  39. A friend of mine used to attend the Sheridan College Animation program here in Toronto, and one of their professors had apparently been working at Nelvana when the Star Wars Christmas Special was done. The students managed to get a recorded tape of the Special, and were just starting the animated sequence when their professor walked in.

    Cue thousand yard stare from the professor: “I recognize those asteroids…”

  40. @Contrarius–It’s a book that is definitely not about its plot. The plot is only there to give some structure. It’s really about Ivy coming to terms with her issues, which I liked, and not everyone will.

    I do like the narrator, also, but that, too, is a matter of individual taste.

  41. @Bruce —

    I have been contradicted by Contrarius. Can’t argue with the irony of that.

    Heh.

    I should have added — to each their own, and all that. There are some incredibly popular narrators that I can’t stand. Everyone has different tastes!

    my review here

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