Pixel Scroll 12/22/18 In Her Own Special Way To The Pixels She Calls, Come Buy My Scrolls Full Of Crumbs

(1) CRUMB NUMBER ONE. Four people sent me this link, so even though I don’t like the article, this unscientific survey says you probably will: “The True Story of the Lost Sci-Fi Movie ‘Brainstorm,’ Natalie Wood’s Last Film” at Popular Mechanics.

…We’re guessing you’ve never heard of it, anyway. In writing this article, we asked several dozen people if they had. One guy said he might have maybe seen it, a long time ago.

It was called Brainstorm.

Anyone? No?

Brainstorm was supposed to be huge. The director—himself a three-time Oscar nominee—was Douglas Trumbull, a visual-effects genius who had already worked on some of the most monumental films of all time: as Stanley Kubrick’s special photographic effects supervisor on 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and as visual effects supervisor on Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982).

Brainstorm starred Christopher Walken, who two years earlier had won the best supporting actor Oscar for The Deer Hunter; Louise Fletcher, an Oscar winner for her unforgettable role as Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest; and Cliff Robertson, who had won a best-actor Oscar for Charly in 1968.

The fourth leading actor was Natalie Wood.

(2) UTAH’S CON CALENDAR JAMMED IN 2019. The five-year-old Salt Lake Gaming Con is moving to the Salt Palace in SLC and expects a 60% increase in attendance over their 25,000 last year. Their dates are just the week before the Westercon/NASFiC in Layton, UT on July 4th So, in one month within 20 miles of each other there will be:

  • June 7-9: Ogden UnCon–pop culture
  • June 21-23: FyreCon–general SF/F con
  • June  27-29: Salt Lake Gaming Con
  • July 4-7: Westercon/NASFiC

(3) 2017 COMPILATION. Eric Wong alerts readers to Rocket Stack Rank’s annual short story selection of “Outstanding SF/F by People of Color” from 2017. (Thanks to the recently-installed WordPress 5.0 I can no longer take layout blocks already formatted with numbered lists and also display them as quotes, so I am going to stick lines before and after the excerpt….)


There are 59 outstanding stories by people of color from 2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction (see Q&A).

Observations

  1. 40 are free online, and 21 have podcasts (click links to highlight them).
  2. The default Length/Rating view shows RSR reviewed 45 of the 59 stories (76%), recommended 18 of the 45 (40% 5-star or 4-star), and only recommended against 6 of the 45 (13% 5-star or 4-star).
    1. Compared to other prolific reviewers, RSR’s 18 recs is more than STomaino’s 8 and JMcGregor’s 6.
    2. Among Year’s Best anthologies, JStrahan and PGuran tied with 10, followed by GDozois, NClarke and RHorton with 8, then BASFF with 7.
    3. Among awards, Locus had the most with 13, followed by Hugo (8), Nebula (5), Sturgeon and World Fantasy (4), Shirley Jackson (3), Eugie (2), and British Fantasy and British Science Fiction Association with 1 each.
  3. The Length/Score view shows the top scoring novella is “The Black Tides of Heaven” by JY Yang, novelette is “A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, and short story is “Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance” by Tobias S. Buckell. (The top score for novellas is typically less than the other two lengths because there’s room for few of them in year’s best anthologies and they’re usually not covered by prolific short fiction reviewers.)
  4. The Publication/Length view shows the top three magazines with the most stories here are Lightspeed (6), Clarkesworld (5), and Tor Novellas (5), out of 29 magazines, anthologies, collections, and singles.
  5. The New Writer/Score view shows 9 stories by Campbell Award-eligible writers (15%).
  6. The Author view shows Aliette de Bodard and JY Yang with the most stories here (3 each) out of 47 authors.

(4) 200K TO ADD TO YOUR TBR. Vajra Chandrasekera has compiled a list of links to all Strange Horizons’ “Original Fiction in 2018”.

2018 was an excellent year for original fiction at Strange Horizons! We published over two hundred thousand words in five novelettes and 42 short stories, including three themed special issues featuring original fiction, focusing on work by trans and nonbinary writers in January; by writers from India in April; and an extra-large issue with work by writers who are black, indigenous, and/or people of color from the Southeastern USA in July, the fiction selections for which were curated and edited by guest editors Sheree Renée Thomas, Rasha Abdulhadi, and Erin Roberts.

(5) YEAR OF NO JACKPOT. Norman Spinrad looks back on “2018 Year of Dread”:

…No regrets, no surrender, I would gladly do it again until I died with my boots on. But my voice, at least in English, has been silenced, though not in translations, particularly in French. My last novel to be published in English, THE PEOPLE’S POLICE, was shamefully shit-canned by internal politics in the publisher, rendering the next one, WELCOME TO YOUR DREAMTIME, a commercial dead duck, and the one after that, NOWHERELAND sitting in first draft until I find the courage to finish it and spec it. That I am far from the only novelist frantically swimming on the event horizon of this terminal black hole does not exactly prop up my spirits with schadenfreud.

(6) CLARKE AT 101. Mark Yon reviews “The Fountains of Paradise by Arthur C Clarke” at SFFWorld.

For a man known for writing about science, the first surprise is that the book begins in faux-ancient History and spends much of its time telling us a two-thousand-year-old story of the kingdom of Taprobane (clearly a fictional version of Clarke’s new home, Sri Lanka.) Although much of the book is set in the 21st century, the first few chapters are about how a mountain on the island of Sri Kanda became the Buddhist temple of Yakkagala and has frescoes around its perimeter. This is also based on a real place known to Clarke, actually Sigiriya, which Clarke in his Afterword states is a place “so astonishing that I have had no need to change it in any way.” The reason for this is soon revealed – that the mountain site is the best location for the creation of a space elevator that, once built, will allow cheap travel into space. This first part of the book reflects Clarke’s own interest in the real Sigiriya and his curiosity into religion, in this case Buddhism. Whilst not religious himself, Arthur was interested in the importance of such things to the wider world and the influence they have upon human cultures and society.  This part allows him to respectfully examine such matters.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 22, 1951Charles de Lint, 67. I’ve personally known him for twenty-five years now and have quite a few of his signed Solstice chapbooks in my possession. Listing his fiction would take a full page or two as he’s been a very prolific fantasy writer, so let me offer you instead our Charles de Lint special edition that we just updated this past Sunday: http://thegreenmanreview.com/2017/01/03/charles-de-lint-edition/. My favorite novels by him? That would be Forests of The Heart, Someplace To Be Flying, Seven Wild Sisters and The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. You’ll find my favorite chapter from Forests of The Heart in our Words menu. 
  • Born December 22, 1951 Tony Isabella, 67. Creator of DC’s Black Lightning, who is their first major African-American superhero. That alone is enough reason to him in Birthdays. He also created Mercedes “Misty” Knight, an African-American superhero at Marvel Comics whose played by Simone Missick in the various Netflix MCU series. 
  • Born December 22, 1954 Hugh Quarshie, 64. First genre role was as Sunda Kastagirin in Highlander followed by being Detective Joyce in Clive Barker’s Nightbreed and Lieutenant Obutu In Wing Commander. He’s Captain Quarsh Panaka In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. He’s got a log tv history starting with playing Philostrate in A Midsummer Night’s Dream along with being Professor John Galt in the pilot for The Tomorrow People and Solomon in the Doctor Who episodes of “Daleks in Manhattan” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. 
  • Born December 22, 1961 Ralph Fiennes, 57. Perhaps best known genre-wise as Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, he’s been M in the Bond films starting with Skyfall. His first genre role was as Lenny Nero in Strange Days, one of my favorite SF films. He went on to play John Steed in that Avengers films which is quite frankly shit. He shows up in Red Dragon, prequel to The Silence of the Lambs. If you haven’t seen it, he voices Lord Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Run now and see it! I’ve prolly overlooked something but I’m sure one of you will add it in. 
  • Born December 22, 1965David S. Goyer, 53. His screenwriting credits include the Blade trilogy which I like despite their unevenness in storytelling, the Dark Knight trilogy, Dark City, Man of Steel, and its sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which is horrid). Let’s see what else is there? Well there’s there’s Nick Fury film and two Ghost film which are all best forgotten… Oh, he did The Crow: City of Angels. Ouch. Series wise, he’s been involved in FlashForward, ConstantineDa Vinci’s Demons which is a damn strange show, Krypton, Blade: The SeriesThresholdFreakyLinks and a series I’ve never heard of, Sleepwalkers
  • Born December 22, 1978George Mann, 40. Author of the Newbury & Hobbes Investigations, a steampunk series set in a alternative Victorian England that I’ve read and enthusiastically recommend. He’s also got two Holmesian novels on Titan Books that I need to request for reviewing, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box. And yes I see that  he’s written a lot more  fiction than I’ve read by him so do tell me what else is worth reading  by him. 

(8) IN COMICS TO COME. A recommendation:

(9) AFROSTEAMPUNK. Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay reviews “The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark” at Strange Horizons.

P. Djèlí Clark’s debut fantasy-alternate history Afrosteampunk novella features a young teen lead, which, together with the general pitch of the whole narrative, puts The Black God’s Drums firmly in the teen/YA category. In the brief space of a hundred pages, Clark successfully combines Haitian mythology, magic, and a rich real and fictional history of New Orleans, while keeping the reader entertained with a lively cast of characters even in an otherwise typical plot.

(10) ANAKIN, I AM YOUR FATHER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] DorkSideOfTheForce says that “Star Wars comic finally reveals Anakin’s father.” You may recall that Anakin Skywalker’s mother, Shmi, basically said she just woke up pregnant one day. Well, kinda… The DorkSide post opens with a well-deserved Spoiler Alert, then continues:

The topic of who Anakin’s father has been a subject of discussion for some time. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace touched on this by explaining that there was no father. His mother Shmi told Qui-Gon this by simply explaining that she carried him, gave birth, and raised him. She can’t explain how it happened but there was definitely no father.

This then led Qui-Gon to believe that Anakin was born from the force itself and that Anakin was a creation of Midi-chlorians […]

Fast forward 19 years, seven movies, and a bucket load of comics and other Star Wars-related releases later, and Darth Vader No. 25 has provided us with the answer.

If you want to know badly enough, you’ll click.

(11) THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD. Leap before you look: “Researchers Show Parachutes Don’t Work, But There’s A Catch”.

Research published in a major medical journal concludes that a parachute is no more effective than an empty backpack at protecting you from harm if you have to jump from an aircraft.

But before you leap to any rash conclusions, you had better hear the whole story.

The gold standard for medical research is a study that randomly assigns volunteers to try an intervention or to go without one and be part of a control group.

For some reason, nobody has ever done a randomized controlled trial of parachutes. In fact, medical researchers often use the parachute example when they argue they don’t need to do a study because they’re so sure they already know something works.

(12) WOLVES DISCOVER FISH. NPR reveals “The Secret Fishing Habits Of Northwoods’ Wolves”. Well, once you’ve eaten the fishermen, what else is left?

Wolves, as it turns out, might not be the bloodthirsty, moose-slaughtering, northwoods-roaming carnivores you always thought they were.

New research on wolf packs at Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota is challenging the conventional wisdom on wolves: Their diets are a lot more varied than scientists previously thought.

Researchers with the Voyageurs Wolf Project, a collaboration between the park and the University of Minnesota, have for the first time documented wolves hunting freshwater fish as a seasonal food source — and they have video to prove it.

(13) PROGRESS REPORT. “‘We Are Here’: Questions For Comics Creator Taneka Stotts” on NPR.

When comics creator Taneka Stotts accepted an Eisner Award — the comics industry’s highest honor — this year for her anthology Elements: Fire — A Comic Anthology by Creators of Color, she was fired up.

“I hold this award,” she said, “and I declare war on the antiquated mentality that tells us our voices and stories aren’t ‘profitable’ enough … we’re not waiting for you to catch up anymore. We are here, we have always been here, and we will do as you’ve always told us. We will make it ourselves.”

And she’s doing just that. Not only is Stotts a creator and a writer, she’s a self-publisher and an editor, organizing anthologies like Elements: Fire, which features 23 stories from creators of color based in the United States and around the world. She’s already working on a follow-up anthology Elements: Earth. I sat down with Stotts the afternoon before the Eisner awards ceremony, and we talked about why she calls Elements “the little book that could,” and about whether it gets tiring, being a voice for change in the comics community.

(14) ROCKY ROAD. WIRED tells about “The Mad Scramble to Claim the World’s Most Coveted Meteorite”.

On the popular meteorite-list listserv, scientists and amateur enthusiasts alike debated the nature of the Carancas event. People were skeptical about both the illness and the crater itself. The only way to make a proper determination was to see it in person, collect samples, or retrieve the impact mass. The rock itself would be enormously valuable, both for scientific inquiry and also to collectors in the brisk, high-end market for meteorites, in which a rare, crater-­producing landfall could command especially steep prices. But this crater was in a remote area, difficult and expensive to reach. And there were only so many people in the world willing to head to the highlands of Peru at a moment’s notice to look for things that fell out of the sky….

(15) FULLY LOADED. In the December 15 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Sam Leith, literary editor of the Spectator, discusses a paper in the Medical Journal of Australia by a research team led by Nick Wilson of New Zealand’s Otago University about James Bond’s drinking habits.

As well as the inevitable martinis, and his own invention, the ‘Vesper Martini’ (three measures gin, one measure vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lillet shaken and garnished with a large sliver of lemon peel), Bond will chug-a-lug anything that comes to hand:  neat vodka, Champagne and once, in an instance of utter depravity to which he was driven by product placement, Heineken.

In one on-screen binge he knocks back six Vesper Martinis–more than a week’s worth of units in a session–and in one of the books, apparently, he manages 50 units (of alcohol) in a day, which would kill most of us stone dead.

(16) OUT OF HIS DEPP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] While talking about many other projects, Disney’s Sean Bailey (“chief architect of Disney’s live-action film studio”) dropped the news that Johny Depp will not appear in the rebooted Pirates of the Caribbean films (The Hollywood Reporter: “Disney’s Film Production Chief Talks Mary Poppins and His Big Bet on The Lion King: ‘It’s a New Form of Filmmaking’”):

The Hollywood Reporter: You’ve hired Deadpool scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to work on a possible Pirates of the Caribbean reboot. Can Pirates survive without Johnny Depp?

Bailey: We want to bring in a new energy and vitality. I love the [Pirates] movies, but part of the reason Paul and Rhett are so interesting is that we want to give it a kick in the pants. And that’s what I’ve tasked them with.

SYFY Wire took that short quote and ran with it, disregarding the metaphorical scissors they were figuratively carrying (“Johnny Depp officially out as Jack Sparrow in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise”):

Pirates of the Carribean movie without Jack Sparrow is hard to imagine, especially after he became the most famous and popular character of the five films. It’s ironic when you consider that the top Disney brass initially hated his performance in Curse of the Black Pearl, which Depp based on Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. The actor’s reasoning was that pirates were the rock star renegades of the Seven Seas, and sure enough, his gamble paid off. Richards even appeared as Sparrow’s father in At World’s End.

[…] That said, the quality of the movies began to decline once [director Gore] Verbinski left and Sparrow was placed at the forefront of the subsequent sequels. Pirates really is in need of a good reboot, but we wouldn’t say no to a nice little cameo from Depp.

(17) SILLY COMMERCIAL. Macaulay Culkin finds himself “Home Alone Again with the Google Assistant.”

Even Kevin McCallister needs a little help. Add aftershave to your shopping list, set reminders, and fend off bandits, hands-free:

[Thanks to David Doering, Mike Kennedy, Jennifer Hawthorne, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.] )

37 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/22/18 In Her Own Special Way To The Pixels She Calls, Come Buy My Scrolls Full Of Crumbs

  1. @7: I’m fond of Jack the Giant-Killer, but there are many commendable de Lint novels.

  2. Did the people at Popular Mechanics only ask 25 year olds about “Brainstorm”? The article was way too long and boring for me to finish but I certainly remember “Brainstorm”. It isn’t revered because it wasn’t all that good. It takes more than the intentions of the filmmakers for a film to be well thought of and remembered decades later.

  3. (1) I found the theatrical version of Brainstorm to be memorable even though the story turned out to be a bit wayward. Not long after seeing it, I picked up the Dec 1983/Jan 1984 issue of Cinefantastique, which has quite a good article about how its effects were created (and also a cover story about another Walken movie, Cronenberg’s adaptation of The Dead Zone).

    When the local Hollywood Video closed about 6-7 years ago, I picked up a DVD of Brainstorm for $2 but was disappointed by how the change in aspect ratio (for the title sequence and playback scenes) was dealt with.

  4. 7) Strange Days is one of those movies that’s a) really quite good and b) inexplicably not available in the US, at least not in a decent edition. (I’d be happy, of course, to be proven wrong about that second point.)

  5. Joe H. says Strange Days is one of those movies that’s a) really quite good and b) inexplicably not available in the US, at least not in a decent edition. (I’d be happy, of course, to be proven wrong about that second point.)

    Not sure what you mean. It’s on Amazon Prime to stream, and can be readily purchased on DVD which is how I got it. What do you mean by a decent edition?

  6. Chip Hitchcock notes that I’m fond of Jack the Giant-Killer, but there are many commendable de Lint novels.

    Also one of my favorite novels by him. That’s one of his Ottaw novels, done before he created Newford, his fictional setting for most of his later writings. It and Drink Down the Moon which are linked are wonderful short novels perfect for reading in an evening.

  7. I’ve seen Brainstorm. I thought it was a reasonably good film – certainly caused me no particular pain – but I don’t see it as any sort of landmark, and I don’t think it would have been, even if Natalie Wood’s death hadn’t scuppered the production. The central idea just isn’t that original, I fear. Might have seemed novel to some Hollywood producers, but it was old hat (even then) to people who, y’know, read SF

  8. Camestros, thank you; that’s a lovely card. A very happy holiday season to you as well, and to all the Filers here.

  9. there’s clips from Brainstorm on Youtube for Walken’s sake!

    No, it wasn’t great, nor was it terrible, but it does have that concept of an orgasm on a loop tape (played back directly into one’s brain), kinda a poor man’s wire heading (Niven).

    I think the folks at Popular Mechanics need to figure out how to use a can opener before they write about stuff like this.

  10. @Cat — [runs off to Amazon to check] Ah! It looks like they just added it to HBO Go recently. The only US release of Strange Days that I’m aware of was a non-anamorphic DVD from about 20 years ago (meaning that when you watch it on a widescreen TV these days, you get black bars on all four sides of the image) and just about all of the current listings on Amazon are for non-US DVDs or Blu-rays.

  11. Meredith Moment: The ebook version of “Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” by Alec Nevala-Lee is available from Amazon for $2.99.

  12. @steve davidson: I expect that most people connected with Popular Mechanics know how to operate a can opener, even if some of them are of the allegedly post-opener generation. However, I wonder whether they’ll ever be well-qualified to talk about either how good a movie is or the politics (studio and otherwise) about getting it made and released.

    @Andrew: I had forgotten that story; my first thought was “Baby, You Were Great!“, but that’s about the fully-commercial product (and the vile behavior attached) rather than the first steps. I don’t know whether Wilhelm was even aware of the Clarke; she wrote that she was responding to Knight’s “Semper Fi”, in which people can construct their own virtual worlds.

  13. (12) “[Wolves’] diets are a lot more varied than scientists previously thought”

    I know it makes good clickbait, but I can recall reading studies of wolves 40 years ago that came to similar conclusions. Or do we have to disprove the myths about wolves afresh in every generation?

  14. 11) I have an idea on how to do a randomized clinical trial for this in an ethical manner – Basically, you have a bunch of crash test dummies rigged up with accelerometers and various other sensors, to determine the physical effects of their impacts.

    Then, a third party (presumably a trained jumpmaster), will prepare a number of parachutes. There will also be an equal number of placebo ‘chutes which will basically be dummy backpacks, with enough of these for all of the crash test dummies. These will be unlabeled. After the packs have been prepared, the jumpmaster will leave and call a coordinator to say that he is finished. The coordinator will then inform a group of interns that they can go in and assign numbers to each of the packs. Both of these phone calls and the video recording processes will be recorded for auditing purposes.

    After they are done a group of researchers will come in and, through random draw, select a pack to go with each dummy. The dummies will then be loaded on a plane, and attached to a static line as part of a mechanism that will boot the dummies out the door at a regular rate. Finally, to control for quantity and terrain – the dummies will be dropped twice on four different kinds of terrain (grasslands, hard desert, sandy desert, and forest).

    The sensors on the dummies would gather data on the effects of the landing and what damage it could cause to the human body.

  15. I only vaguely remember Brainstorm–but I definitely remember thinking it was a mixed bag, but far from terrible.

    I thought the prevailing opinion for the last several decades was that wolves mostly subsisted on small rodents–hardly the ravening beasts of legend. Learning that they catch a lot of fish might be new info, but it certainly doesn’t seem particularly surprising.

    I find De Lint a bit of a mixed bag, but his best is pretty darn good. His version of Jack the Giant Killer is light and frothy, and definitely on my frequently-reread list.

    As for the Blade movies, I have a bizarre connection with those. A friend who works as a graphic designer, and who is a fairly big comic fan, did some work for the first movie. When it came out, he was so disgusted with the result that he donated all the money he’d made from it to the local public television station, which frequently showed Red Dwarf. As a result, he got an invitation for four to a dinner hosted by the station with several of the stars of the show. When we got there, we were the only folks who weren’t old and white-haired, and certainly the only hippy-looking folks present. Which is how I ended up smoking a joint on a street-facing alcove in San Jose with Lister and Cat. So, thanks, Blade! 🙂

    p.s. Craig Charles really is that funny in person. It’s not just the script-writers. He’s also a hell of a nice guy, as far as I could tell.

  16. @Chip: I’ve heard of the Wilhelm story (JDN featured it recently for Young Folks read Old SF) but I’ve never read it. I should get a copy of Orbit 2 (I read a bunch of Orbits when I was in college, but apparently not that one).

  17. @Xtifr
    “I thought the prevailing opinion for the last several decades was that wolves mostly subsisted on small rodents”
    Which is a major plot point of the most excellent film Never Cry Wolf

  18. (1) The article is interesting enough when it’s talking about the film’s production and Trumbull’s technological ideas, but the way it’s framed is pretty annoying—first, because they don’t seem to know what VR is, and second, because there’s nothing at all surprising about the fact that a non-Star-Wars and non-Spielberg SF film in the early 80s was not a big success. Most were not.

    As for the part that recaps all the known facts about Natalie Wood’s death, I’m pretty sure the writer’s research consisted of following links from Wikipedia. I don’t see the point unless they had to hit a certain word count. If they’re trying to say that people should be more interested in this movie because of a tragedy… that’s tasteless.

    The best part of the movie (other than visual effects) is Louise Fletcher, who’s really excellent. The worst part is the interminable “hacking a computer remotely causes all of the machines on an assembly line to go berserk in funny ways” sequence which is very much of its time.

  19. @Heather Rose Jones: I don’t think the link provided qualifies as clickbait. However, the answer to Or do we have to disprove the myths about wolves afresh in every generation? is “Every year, in this administration.” — the attitude is that ranchers get what they want (unless it interferes with drilling) and to hell with the ecosystem.

    @Andrew: Googling the title gives me several download links; OTOH, I recall that number of Orbit having some other good stories in it.

  20. I recently watched Brainstorm. It is a poorly written film that’s an interesting glimpse into early 1980s technology. It also is a nice example of how pervasive workplace sexual harassment could be completely ignored, both by the characters and the filmmakers.

    In a large technology company that works on government contracts, males sexually proposition female workers multiple times on the job, Christopher Walken’s character repeatedly touches and massages his coworker Louise Fletcher and a computer room staffed by technicians has nude centerfolds on the wall. There’s also a video that gets passed around at work showing the re-enactable memory of a male coworker having sex with a female — which occurred at the workplace!

    The fact all this occurred without being addressed in the plot reminded me of how much egregious behavior towards women we regarded as normal back then.

    The thing that I found most fascinating in a positive way about the movie was the use of Burroughs Welcome Pharmaceutical Center as the workplace. It’s a building in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, that is a perfect example of what the future was supposed to look like in 1982 — as long as that future was menacing and dystopian.

  21. Despite being putt off by the article’s presumption that I’d not heard of Brainstorm, I read it through and really enjoyed it.

    The research Trumbull conducted to find the most engrossing frame rate for audiences is fascinating. He described the 60Hz of TV as ‘narcotic’. And yet much later, when Jackson released a high-def high frame rate version of The Hobbit, the majority disliked the format.

  22. In re 11, I would say that there’s a world of difference between “science proves no efficacy of X” and “science fails to demonstrate efficacy of X”.

    There’s a whole slew of interestingly weird ethical (and practical) edge cases in doing controlled medical studies. Like, “how do you perform double-blind surgery” (many, many pigs have been sacrificed to better human chances of gunshot survival).

    It’s a lot easier with parachutes, because we can build a good model for “human in an impact scenario”, as Alexander Case aptly demonstrates. That’s still not quite the full way to late-stage medical trial, though.

  23. @Bill et al —

    “I thought the prevailing opinion for the last several decades was that wolves mostly subsisted on small rodents”
    Which is a major plot point of the most excellent film Never Cry Wolf

    I remember reading an article somewhere around a year ago, describing a study that found wolves in Europe may have things like grapes and other veggies as more than half of their diet depending on their region and the season of the year.

    And yes, pop-nature-media types love to try to sound sensational, no matter how many times myths get debunked. 😉

  24. Ingvar on December 24, 2018 at 1:43 am said:

    In re 11, I would say that there’s a world of difference between “science proves no efficacy of X” and “science fails to demonstrate efficacy of X”.

    Yes, and ordinarily I’d suspect that the mainstream news reporting of the science had confused the two (which happens all too often), but in this case, they actually did prove no efficacy–for very short falls.

    There are, of course, better ways to test the efficacy of parachutes. Using dummies with accelerometers (suggested above) is one. But for a lot of things (e.g. drug trials), there is no effective shortcut to testing with actual humans. Which is where things start to get messy. (Or, more precisely, is one of the places where things start to get messy.)

  25. @Cliff: I’ve seen that statement from Trumbull about TV before and I’ve always been confused by it. NTSC TV has (if I can still use the present tense) a refresh rate of 60 Hz in the sense that that’s how often the beam goes back to the top… but it only refreshes half of the frame in each pass. So you’re always basically watching two very low-resolution 30 FPS movies that are offset from each other and blurred together. There’d be no reason to think that the experience of watching an actual 60 FPS film would be at all similar, and I can’t imagine that Trumbull wouldn’t know that.

    (Of course, he was hardly the only one who felt that the popularity of TV must be due to some unique and insidious perceptual quality— surely it couldn’t just be that people liked being able to see moving pictures at home. Ironically, the exact same argument is made in reverse about film in the novel Flicker, where the idea is that 24 FPS happens to be the right rate for subliminal influence.)

  26. @Eli – yep, Interlace. And agreed, it seems unlikely Trumbull would be unaware of it. Maybe he was just misquoted or simplifying the explanation for a non-technical interviewer? At any rate (ho ho), they apparently did conduct experiments demonstrating the immersivity of higher frame rates. (I once knew a UK video expert who joked that NTSC stood for ‘never the same color twice’.)

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