(1) VISUAL SCIENCE. Nature brings us “2017 in pictures: The best science images of the year”.
The spectacular total solar eclipse that swept the United States dominated headlines as it delighted scientists and the public alike in August 2017 (the composite image above shows the event’s progression as seen from Perryville, Missouri). The year also brought innovations in spaceflight and surprising insights into species past. Here are the striking shots from science and the natural world that caught the eyes of Nature’s editors.
Here’s one —
BACK-SEAT OCTOPUS: This interspecies piggyback ride was caught by photographer Michael Hardie in the waters off Hawaii. The image was a finalist in the annual Smithsonian.com photo contest.
(2) SCIENCE HEADINLINES. Nature also posted this roundup — “2017 in news: The science events that shaped the year”.
From political chaos to cases of sexual harassment, scientists have had a tough year. But there were also bright spots, including approval of a new type of cancer treatment and the detection of gravitational waves from a neutron-star collision….
On 12 July, an iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg broke free from the Antarctic Peninsula. It carried away roughly 12% of the surface area of Larsen C — Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf. The shelf’s fate remains unclear but, if it collapsed, Larsen C could unleash glaciers containing enough water to boost global sea levels by a centimetre.
(3) VISIT FROM THE GRINCH. Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link’s Small Beer Press, which has published work by such authors as Ursula K. Le Guin and Sofia Samatar, and Sarah Rees Brennan, received its “Worst Business Holiday Present Ever”.
Our distributor Consortium/Ingram just finished negotiations with Am*zon for the next year and forwarded the results. Ouch. After the distro’s fee, we will now receive less than 1/3 of the retail price on each book sold on Am*zon. (The details are confidential and not be shared — which is fine, it’s all fine.)
It is hard to pay printing, royalties, artists, advertising and marketing, rent, etc. with less than 1/3 of retail.
I know not everyone has a good local bookstore, a local branch of a chain, or a decent library, but if you have, *please* consider buying/borrowing books there. Am*zon still want to crush all competition (Bezos’s first name for the business was Relentless dot com) in all markets that they enter. They are fantastic at customer service, especially compared to some local businesses, but they are terrible for everyone else, suppliers, intermediaries, etc.
The discount creeps up a little more every year — something has to give. I suppose it won’t be Am*zon. Guess it will be us Small Gazelle Presses who want to publish interesting books, work with a wide range of people and artists, and see if we can send these weird things out into the world and find readers.
(4) EAVESDROPPING. Luckily they loved her part — “Kelly Marie Tran surprises fans discussing ‘Star Wars’ at the next table”.
At long last, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has hit theaters, and those of us who were hyped for our girl Kelly Marie Tran as Rose finally got to see her get her Resistance on and join the fight in a galaxy far, far away.
So what’s the verdict on The Last Jedi? What are people saying? Sure, you can go read some critics’ reviews, log on to some message boards or jump in on a discussion thread on your Facebook wall. Or you can listen in on people talking about it at the next table. That’s what Kelly Marie Tran did.
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So. We're sitting in the pub post Star Wars, discussing the film in minute detail as we are wont to do … AND THE WOMAN FROM THE NEXT TABLE TURNS TO US AND SAYS "OH HI, I'M ROSE FROM THE FILM AND I'VE LOVED LISTENING TO YOUR CONVERSATION FOR THE LAST HOUR." THIS LITERALLY JUST HAPPENED. @kellymarietran you are the loveliest and the coolest. #starwars #starstruck #leicestersquare #thelastjedi #asifthisjusthappened
(5) PRESCRPTION. Jason Sanford considers “Why the red pill doesn’t wake people to our world’s true reality”.
“If you are not one of us, you are one of them.” That’s a hell of a political statement. That’s the type of statement embraced by history’s worst political movements, movements which have killed millions in pursuits of their goals.
The Matrix is a great SF film, one of the best of the last few decades. But as political theory the film is extremely simplistic. After all, there’s a word for people who go through life with such an extreme “us or them” attitude: psychopaths.
While simplistic “us or them” arguments resonate with many people, our greatest achievements come when we put this attitude aside. When we stand with those we have disagreements with but with whom we can still find common ground.
And it’s this human determination to reach for common ground which makes me stay optimistic about the future. Because I believe in people. I believe most people try to do good and try build a better world….
(6) THE AXE. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’ Canceled at BBC America”.
Never a ratings breakout, viewership was down year-over-year compared with season one. Season two averaged slightly less than 250,000 total viewers. The decision to cancel Dirk comes after BBC America bid farewell to critical darling Orphan Black in August.
(7) TV HOPES. Guy Gavriel Kay reports his The Fionavar Tapestry will get a shot at television:
Short version: I’ve entered a development agreement with the really impressive production company that did “Orphan Black” – to produce The Fionavar Tapestry as a television series.
There are many stages to any project as big as this one will be, but I’m genuinely happy – these are really good people, several of them with a personal passion for the trilogy (including Kris Holden-Ried, who was all-in some time ago, as it worked its way through the ‘process’).
He posted a full press release which includes this description of the work:
The Tapestry tells the tale of five young men and women who are brought to Fionavar – the first of all worlds. Told they are simply to be guests for the 50th anniversary celebration of a king’s ascension to the throne, each of the five discovers they have a greater, dangerous role to play as they’re thrust into a war between the forces of good and evil, whose outcome will affect all worlds, including our own.
Kay draws upon a variety of creatures and mythologies, predominantly Celtic and Norse, to create the world of Fionavar, and the saga also features the legendary story of King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere, heroes of medieval literature.
(8) CEBULSKI STORY GOES MAINSTREAM. Marvel Comics editor C. B. Cebulski’s previous life as a Japanese comics writer, mentioned in recent Scrolls is a story that now has been picked up by the Washington Post: “The curious tale of the Marvel comics editor who pretended to be a Japanese writer”.
Although it was long-rumored in the comic book world that Yoshida was, indeed, Cebulski, no one investigated deeply. Since he retired the pseudonym fairly quickly, the rumors might have died.
But in November, Cebulski was named the editor in chief of Marvel Comics, arguably the most prominent job in his industry, and the rumors resurfaced. Since the comic book industry is often criticized for its lack of creators of color, the fact that its new figurehead was a white man who had pretended to be an Asian writer drew outcry.
(9) TODAY IN HISTORY
- December 19, 1871 — Mark Twain received a patent for suspenders. (We’ll file this under “Things writers do when they should be writing.”)
- December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.
- December 19, 1972 — Apollo lunar-landing program ends when the last three astronauts to travel to the moon splash down.
- December 19, 1986 – Little Shop of Horrors, the movie, was seen for the first time.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
- John King Tarpinian learned that Yoda has day job – from today’s Brevity.
(11) GOLDEN AGE COMIC STRIPS. Garry Trudeau reviews Cullen Murphy’s My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe in the New York Times Book Review:
With harlots in fish-net stockings hanging on each arm, a self-satisfied grandee, shades and ascot in place, struts down a city sidewalk. A policeman clears the way, and as he kicks a blind beggar into traffic, he bellows, “Out of the way, you swine! A cartoonist is coming!”
To the few hundred American oddballs who draw funny pictures for a living, there’s never been a more hilariously inapt portrait of a cartoon professional than the one described above, inked by the great B. Kliban late in his career. Many of us have a copy pinned to our walls, not to keep us humble (we have no choice), but to celebrate our forced distance from the more conventional metrics of success. As Cullen Murphy admits in his warm and graceful memoir, “Cartoon County,” comics creators have long been among the most dimly perceived of celebrities, and when they venture out into society, they are usually sized up as dentists or insurance adjusters long before the awful truth comes tumbling out.
(12) TOP MOVIES. Three critics caucus to produce “NPR’s Favorite Movies Of 2017”. Genre callouts: Blade Runner 2049, Coco, Get Out, The LEGO Batman Movie, Logan, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Thor: Ragnarok, Wonder Woman, Your Name. Also of interest: Ex Libris (Wiseman documentary about the NYC public library).
(13) STRAIGHT TO FANS. Blockchaining as a way to connect artists directly to fans: “How did music producer Gramatik raise $2m in 24 hours?”
Gramatik – real name Denis Jasarevic – is a Slovenian electronic music producer and DJ with a worldwide fan base.
He’s become the first music artist to “tokenise” himself using the Ethereum application, Tokit. It allows users to embed their intellectual property rights, revenue and royalties into a programmable digital token.
Fans and investors who “buy” the token using the Ether cryptocurrency can then – potentially – share in the revenue from an artist’s work.
… When his GRMTK token was launched in November it raised $2.25m (£1.65m) in Ether digital currency in just 24 hours.
“I’m cool with being the guinea pig,” Gramatik explains. “This tech has the potential to change the industry.”
(14) HIDDEN TREASURE. Not just a cigar: “Interstellar object may hold ‘alien’ water”
The body showed no signs of “outgassing” as it approached the Sun, strengthening the idea that it held little if any water-ice.
But the latest findings suggest water might be trapped under a thick, carbon-rich coating on its surface.
(15) MAKING BOOK. Congratulations to John Scalzi for winning DecNoWriMo –
Hey, guess what I just turned in.
AT LITERALLY THE LAST POSSIBLE MOMENT TO HIT MY PUB DATE
2017, man. pic.twitter.com/eTQ5HwFHEw
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) December 19, 2017
(16) HAVE YOU NO DECENCY? Andrew Husband, in “Porg Recipes For The ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Fans In Your Life” on Uproxx, says that porgs are not only cuddly, they’re also tasty as he shares recipes for Porg in Green Milk Sauce and Fire-Roasted Porg.
Yes, you read that right. Despite being protected by several national and international conservation organizations, puffins are considered a rare delicacy in Nordic countries. And seeing as how The Last Jedi‘s porgs are based on the puffins writer/director Rian Johnson saw while filming at Skellig, it makes sense their preparation would be similar. Like “Porg in Green Milk Sauce” (as opposed to blue milk), a slight variation on an Icelandic dish in which the arctic birds are cooked with a buttery sauce rich in creamy dairy and some sweet additions.
(17) OMG! The horror! Atlas Obscura investigates “Why Chuck E. Cheese’s Has a Corporate Policy About Destroying Its Mascot’s Head”.
Several weeks ago, a local Patch report in Illinois revealed a seemingly disturbing underpinning of the Chuck E. Cheese universe: A former employee told the paper that a company policy required them to demolish branded items, among them the cartoon character’s head, which is part of the costume. A Patch video captured two former employees of the recently-shuttered Oak Lawn location bashing Chuck’s brains in with a sledgehammer.
Why did executives at CEC Entertainment, Inc. establish a policy mandating the destruction of their business’s beloved namesake?
(18) JEDI. Love the title: “Rian Johnson Murders the Prequels – A Spoiler Soaked Review of the Last Jedi” by Camestros Felapton. It’s a spoiler post, but here’s a non-spoilery excerpt:
Luke does not bring balance to the force (yet). By implication Anakin did not bring balance to the force. Kylo Ren can barely bring balance to his emotional state for hour-long stretches. Maybe Rey will but who knows? Putting the prequels and the original trilogy together, it was always unclear how Anakin, even by killing the Emperor, brings balance to the force. If he did somehow do it, it clearly wasn’t worth the price of firstly a galactic war and then a galactic Empire
(19) LE GUIN. NPR’s Jason Heller reviews Ursula K. Le Guin’s No Time To Spare — “Ursula K. Le Guin’s Voice Rings Out In New Nonfiction Collection”.
Le Guin’s clinical, theoretical way of framing complicated social and literary ideas makes sense. Her parents were the noted anthropologists Alfred Louis Kroeber and Theodora Kracaw — a fact that doesn’t usually come up in her nonfiction. She makes an except in “Indian Uncles,” one of The Wave in the Mind‘s most heartfelt essays. She originally delivered it as a lecture in 1991 at the University of California at Berkeley, where her father taught and her mother studied. Le Guin recounts, from her point of a view, part of the events surrounding the famous case of Ishi, a member of the Native American Yahi people who became the subject of Kracaw’s 1961 book Ishi in Two Worlds.
Ishi died in 1916, thirteen years before Le Guin was born, but in “Indian Uncles” she writes eloquently and intimately about the how Ishi’s time with her parents inspired and haunted them throughout their lives, and how her own life was shaped by this invisible “uncle.”
(20) EVERYBODY INTO THE POOL. The Shape of Water “Making of” featurette.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Man” is a cartoon by Steve Cutts on YouTube giving a very nasty history of the last 500,000 years.
[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Bill, David K.M. Klaus, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]