(1) SITH PACK. Michael J. Martinez continues his Star Wars rewatch reviews in “Star Wars wayback machine: Revenge of the Sith”
It’s the final piece of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and — perhaps unsurprisingly — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels and, if I may be a touch heretical, on a par with Return of the Jedi. It very much echoes what made the original trilogy special, despite having many of the problems that plagued the other prequels.
(2) DIY STORMTROOPER. At io9 Andrew Liptak reports progress on making his own Stormtrooper armor in “So You Want To Join The Empire: Finishing Touches”. Some of the lingo is a bit specialized…
I ended up trimming down the greeble on the abs plate – I didn’t trim it down enough the first time. The paint was also slightly off color after it dried, so I ended up picking up the correct shades,
(3) BARRIS FUNERAL. “I was wondering why there were so many cool cars in Glendale yesterday,” remarked John King Tarpinian. The answer: Batmobile designer George Barris was being laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Barris passed away November 5 at the age of 89 — click on the link to see Comic Book Resources photo of Barris’ casket, which features an airbrushed ’66 Batmobile on its side and specially-made fins on top, in honor of the creator’s work.
(4) DOCTOR STRANGE. Did they really want to work together? “Clea-ing The Air: Neil Gaiman And Guillermo del Toro Have Differing Memories Of Their Nixed ‘Doctor Strange’ Movie” at ScienceFiction.com.
What if… Neil Gaiman wrote a ‘Doctor Strange’ movie and Guillermo del Toro directed it? Sadly, that’s one tale that will never be told, but could it have been? Well, at least according to one of the creators involved, Gaiman, who tweeted a lament, expressing:
“I still wish Marvel had been interested in a [Guillermo del Toro] & me Dr Strange movie, because I wanted to write Clea so badly after 1602.”
(5) SEED BOMBAST. RedWombat cut loose with a mighty rant about the seed bombs entry in yesterday’s Scroll that is too good to be missed, so I am repeating it in today’s Scroll….
Part I: Okay. Seed Bombs. *clears throat*
Seed bombing is super-duper popular with “guerrilla gardeners,” with Girl Scout troops, civic-minded crafters, basically with all sorts of well-meaning folks who think that you can turn a vacant urban lot into Eden by throwing a ball of clay full of seeds over the fence and walking off with the warm glow that you have given nature a helping hand.
Except they don’t work.
There’s a couple factors at work here. #1, very rarely do people research the plants–like those wildflower meadow mixes in a can, they’re often dumping invasive weeds or short-lived annuals…because those are the only things that might survive under those conditions.
Which leads us to #2 — even assuming the seeds germinate (a big if, as we’ll see below) they will be packed in incredibly tight in the seed bomb, compete with each other for root space, the ones that die will rot intertwined with the others, etc. There’s a reason we thin seedlings. Your only survivors are going to be the hardy souls who can stand intense root competition, and frankly, those plants don’t need your help moving around…
…because #4, there is a massive seedbank in the soil already. Billions and billions! Japanese stilt grass seeds can survive up to seven years in dirt, waiting for the moment to strike. Wind, water, animals…there are seeds there already. If humanity vanished tomorrow, half our cities would be forests before the decade was out. So if nothing is growing in that vacant lot, the reason is probably…
#5 – Compacted soil is shit soil. I have been fighting for years with a hillside where the builders ran earthmoving equipment over it, and Nothing Grows. Not even weeds. Not even kudzu or stiltgrass or Japanese honeysuckle. It is hardpan. It is dead clay. Nature could fix it, but in a century or two. There are no worms, no microbes, no LIFE.
I’ve made great inroads, but not with plants. I had to fix SOIL. I tried seeds first, and what self-respecting seed would grow there? I dug in plants by hand, grimly. Most died. A few lived, but the toughest clay-busters nature can provide could not do more than occupy one small, hard-won clump.
I brought in dirt, compost, raked in leaves–not much, just an inch or two over the clay and that was enough. There are worms and microbes and the layer keeps the dead stuff moist and slowly it gets dug through and aerated by roots. It felt more like terraforming than gardening. A seed bomb on compacted soil is useless, unless you can find the very toughest pioneer species, the sort that are first to grow in abandoned quarries, and those don’t need help from guerrilla gardeners.
And even if you DID get the right seeds, it won’t matter because #6–seed bomb construction is desperately flawed. (Can’t speak to the one above, this is just the standard method.) The standard method is to pack seeds in damp clay, let them dry, and then throw them. Congratulations, you have killed a bunch of seeds!
The vast majority of seeds germinate when moist. A dry seed is a live seed, unless it gets wet, then it is a growing seed. If you dry it out immediately, you have killed that seed. You get one shot at germination if you’re a seed. No do-overs. Seeds can live in the pyramids and be viable, seeds can live in the fridge and be fine, seeds that get wet are done unless planted pronto. (Exceptions: those that require other, more specific triggers–fire, animal digestion, cold stratification, etc, and some few plant species adapted specifically to floodplains.)
Those paper cards with seeds in the paper, plant them, yay earth? Dead. Seeds are mixed with slurry pulp, get damp, dried out. Unless they pick the seeds very carefully, it’s just feel-good crap.
And now I have to go to breakfast, so part two: Why It Looks Like A Seed Bomb Worked will have to wait for a bit.
Part II: Ok, so Round Two!
“But RedWombat!” you say. “I made a seed bomb and stuff grew! Also there is no #3 in your rant!”
To which I say “shut up and let us troubleshoot your miracle.”
If you made a bomb and ran out the same day and flung it, the seeds didn’t dry out. If you threw it on soil that didn’t completely suck, that was not already overgrown with weeds, that was then gently watered by either moist ground or rainfall, if your seed bomb was not too densely packed or was a variety that tolerates close competition, then you may indeed have successfully grown a plant. If you picked your seeds carefully, there is even a chance that it’s not a corn poppy or some other short lived annual. This is basically why stuff sprouts under the birdfeeder.
Alternately, if you don’t specifically recognize the seeds you planted, then it was quite possibly stuff already in the soil bank and you’re taking credit for its hard work.
Now, nature is a mutha, and some seeds will survive terrible treatment through dumb luck or a tiny pocket of dryness or are a floodplain species or whatever. Or they land in the one tiny pocket of hard pan along the fence that’s loose because of the post-hole digger, and it rains at the right moment or whatever. But a seed would have ended up there ANYWAY. You could get the same effect dumping safflower over the fence, as above, except that the safflower has a far better chance of sprouting.
So, in conclusion, this is feel-good crap that lets nice but wrong people and smug Eco-bros feel like They’re Helping, when they aren’t, and there’s a dozen things you could do that DO help, but most of those are work and also don’t pay extra for the cards with seeds in them. If you’re going to green the world, there are very few quick fixes.
And there’s extra credit reading about working with hardpan soil in RedWombat’s third installment!
(6) RING MUSIC. Deborah J. Ross confesses “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings”.
When at long last it was my time to embark upon piano lessons, as a first-time older adult student, I grabbed a copy of the easy piano versions of The Lord of the Rings music. My goal was to play “Into the West.” I was one of those folks in the theater with tears down my cheeks as the song ended. But I was just starting out, I had zero self-confidence, and I wanted to make sure I had the skill to play it well. My teacher and I selected “In Dreams” (which is also the leitmotif for the hobbits) as one of my early pieces. Even in the easy version, it was a challenge. And it had words, words in a key within my limited vocal range.
Like others of my generation, I got caught in the folk scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even taught myself a few chords on the guitar. Although I enjoyed singing in a group, I had become convinced I had a terrible voice. I remember being told as a child that I couldn’t sing. So of course, my voice was strained, thin, unreliable in pitch. With the piano to support my voice, however, along with lots of practice when no one else was in the house, not to mention having an encouraging teacher, I learned how to breathe more deeply and relax my throat. The higher notes became easier and more clear. I added other songs and vocal exercises, which helped my confidence. “Wow,” my teacher said after one class, “who knew you had such a voice?”
(7) Today In History
- November 29, 1972 — Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.
(8) Today’s Birthday Boy
- Born November 29, 1898 — C. S. Lewis. Leah Schnelbach’s Tor.com post “C.S. Lewis: Moral Fantasist” concludes —
We’re still not sold on Turkish Delight, but thank you for Puddleglum and Mr. Tumnus, Mr. Lewis!
(9) Today’s Birthday Girl
- Born November 29, 1918 — Madeleine L’Engle. Ryan Britt also has a feature at Tor.com.
Today marks the birthday of an author who forever changed the way we feel about time travel, alternate dimensions, and dark and stormy nights. Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29th in New York City and started writing almost right away. Her first story was composed at age 8, and she went on to pen a universe of novels, poems, and non-fiction throughout her amazing and inspirational career.
(10) STAMOS OR SCALZI. John Scalzi’s poll “Does Teenage John Scalzi Look Like Teenage John Stamos?” crowdsources the answer to a question that has plagued John since he was a high schooler with a rock idol haircut.
In comments, David P. provides disturbing evidence that young Scalzi looked more like Snot from American Dad.
I can only hope David P. isn’t out there researching my look-alike….
(11) STARFLEET. At Future War Stories, a blog devoted to explaining the world of military science fiction — “Future Military Profiles: STARFLEET”.
Considering its size and complexity, Starfleet has a relatively straightforward ranking system for non-commissioned and commissioned personnel. For commissioned officers at attend the academy, they achieve the rank of Jr. Ensign, then Ensign, and by the time they graduate, they are Jr. Lieutenants.For the bulk of their early years in service, a majority of officers will remain within the Lieutenants grades. Once achieving the rank of Commander, it is a short trip to the big chair (well…not if you are Riker).
(12) JESSICA JONES SPOILER WARNING. “The 13 Most Epic Marvel Easter Eggs in Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’” at Yahoo! TV. The first Easter egg should be okay to quote, it’s not very spoiler-y.
- “And Then There’s the Matter of Your Bill”: Right off the bat, you know showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the Jessica Jones team are going to provide plenty for comic fans to geek out over. One of the first scenes of the series is a shot-for-shot recreation of Jessica’s introduction in Alias #1, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos.
(13) X-MEN SPOILER WARNING. From ScienceFiction.com, “James McAvoy Hints At How Professor X Loses His Hair In ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’”. If you don’t want to know, don’t read! If you do want to know, well, I’m not sure this is really going to help…
But in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, McAvoy’s appearance will bring him more in line with Stewart’s. Back in May, the actor tweeted a picture of himself having his head shaved for the film, indicating that even though he is a younger Xavier, he will actually go bald to more closely resemble his comic book counterpart.
How does this come about? Well, as is the norm, details about this super hero flick are being kept tightly under wraps. But while promoting his new movie ‘Victor Frankenstein’, McAvoy appeared on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ and did spill a tease about his character’s follicle metamorphosis:
“He ends up going through something so horrible and physically painful that he literally half pulls his hair out/half it falls out. Maybe, or maybe not…I just shit myself because I know Fox Studios who own me might be angry with me for sharing that.”
(14) CHARLIE BROWN. Since it’s a big favorite of mine, I hesitate to think about the Bizarro Charlie Brown special contemplated by the original producers. From “It’s your 50th television anniversary (and your 50th TV Christmas), Charlie Brown”.
Imagine “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with a laugh track and with adult actors providing the children’s voices. Now imagine it without Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy music and without Linus quoting the Bible, telling Charlie Brown what “Christmas is all about.”
Hard to imagine, isn’t it? There goes the charm. There goes the magic. And, perhaps, there go all of the animated Peanuts specials that followed this first one, including “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”
But if even some of the producers’ early suggestions and the network’s preferences had been followed, the version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that first aired on Dec. 9, 1965, wouldn’t have become a cherished classic. And, good grief, it would have been an hour special, rather than a half-hour
[Thanks to Michael J. Martinez, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome .]