(1) A NEW QUIZ. “The Sky National General Knowledge Test”. Only 80 out of 100 for me. How come I still can’t tell the difference between a watt and an amp? At least I got both genre literature questions right.
Sky have worked with leading academics and celebrity experts to bring together the 100 questions that everyone should know, in celebration of the launch of three TV channels: Sky Nature, Sky Documentaries and Sky HISTORY.
(2) NO COVER CHARGE. Camestros Felapton, where do you get these ideas? “My alternate Hugo novel cover art”. Can you match his six images with the Best Novel Hugo finalists?
As a thing to do, I’ve tried to make alternate cover art for each of the six novel finalists. As a quiz you can guess which picture was meant to be which.
(2b) GET OFF YOUR PHONE! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On the other side of the paywall, in the May 20 Financial Times, Leo Lewis discusses what happened when Ichiro Ogawa, former chairman of the assembly of Kagawa prefecture, decided that his daughter was spending too much time playing games on her smartphone.
In January Mr Ogawa proposed a rule–the first of its kind in Japan–that would ban anyone under 18, from playing (games) for more than an hour a day (90 minutes on weekends) on mobiles, PCs, and consoles. The rule, which adds a smartphone curfew of 9 PM for those up to 15, would not be directly enforced by the state; that burden would fall on ‘responsible parents, mass-deputised as screen sentinels. Two months later the assembly–98 percent male and mostly aged around 70, voted it through, casting cantankerous old Kagawa as the clear-eyed pioneer in a world groping for the answers to screen addiction.
Not so fast, says a 17-year-old from the prefecture who loves his games and views the lumberings of Kagawa’s assembly-osaurs as unconscionable over-reach. The high-schooler, who uses only the name Wataru, has begin crowdfunding a campaign to repeal the ordinance, arguing it was arrived at unscientifically, wedges the state uncomfortably far into a matter that should be for each household to decide upon, and is in glaring breach of Japanese citizens’ fundamental right to self-determination.”
Tomoshi Sakka, a “fabulously tenacious lawyer” and a champion of free speech in Japan, has joined with Wataru to overturn the law.
(3) THE ACTOR WITH NO FACE. SYFY Wire covers a Golden Globes kerfuffle: “About Face! The Mandalorian’s Masked Hero Prompts Golden Globes To Revise Awards Rules”.
Bad news for The Mandalorian, The Masked Singer, and most of the cast of Doom Patrol: The Golden Globes are changing their rules around to better delineate their stance on masked performances — and Pedro Pascal’s helmeted Din Djarin may have been the impetus behind it.
According to Variety, the change in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s awards — which reportedly states that “voice-only performances are not eligible in any acting category” — was prompted by Pascal being hidden for all but a bit of the Disney+ Star Wars show’s eight-episode first season. When the helmet finally came off in the finale, the HFPA must’ve breathed a sigh of relief, knowing that Pascal was really under there … because it seems like they were so caught up about the masked secrecy that they decided to disallow such performances in their future considerations.
(4) LIBRARY WILL SEMI-REOPEN SOON. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I won’t say “they read my mind” but I did not just think about this but also suggested it to a friend or two, along with “Why aren’t the food trucks out driving around the way ice cream trucks use to be…”
Here’s the news, from our mayor’s latest email update:
[Our city’s library] “is preparing to launch “Library To-Go,” their new contactless hold and pickup service, next week. Please note that this will be by appointment only initially.”
I’ve already been making a fair number of reserve/purchase-requests (using the online system), including new books by Robert Sawyer (Oppenheimer Alternative), Marko Kloos’ Ballistic, Baen’s Give Me LibertyCon, Strathan’s Made To Order robot antho, Gene Wolfe’s (presumedly) last, Nearly Nero (pastiche/parody antho)… so, again, woo-hoo!
(5) UNFORCED ERROR. Carolyn Framke renders a verdict at Yahoo! Entertainment: “‘Space Force’ with Steve Carell and John Malkovich: TV Review”.
There was, clearly, no expense spared in the making of “Space Force.” Imagining what a Space Force branch of the military might actually look like outside the bounds of President Trump’s imagination (though the show never mentions him by name), the new comedy is a splashy flex of Netflix’s powers. It boasts the co-creator team of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell, whose smash hit “The Office” gained an almost more successful second life when it hit Netflix and won over a whole new generation of TV fans. With Carell at the center of its orbit, “Space Force” features an all-star cast including Lisa Kudrow (of Netflix’s other onetime rerun hit, “Friends”), John Malkovich, and even the late Fred Willard in the bittersweet role of Carell’s ailing father. Its sets are expansive and slick, gleaming and pristine. Every episode brings new familiar faces, stellar production design, and the kind of confidence that only the total support of a network can bestow. For all the heft behind it, “Space Force” should be an easy win. Ten episodes later, however, it’s safer to say that “Space Force” is really just okay.
(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- May 27, 1996 — Doctor Who premiered on BBC. The film involving the Eighth Doctor played by Paul McGann that is. Short of The War Doctor as portrayed by John Hurt, he would have the briefest tenure of any Doctor from a video representation viewpoint having just the film and a short video later on. (He has done some seventy Big Finish audio stories to date.) The film was directed by Geoffrey Sax off the screenplay by Matthew Jacobs. The remaining cast of importance was Daphne Ashbrook as the Companion to the Doctor, Dr. Grace Holloway, and Eric Roberts as The Master. Critics, American and British alike, were decidedly mixed on their reactions, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are equally divided and give it exactly a fifty percent rating.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]
- Born May 27, 1894 — Dashiell Hammett. He’s widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time, but ISFDB says that he was also the editor of three genre anthologies, Creeps by Night: Chills and Thrills, The Red Brain and Other Creepy Thrillers and Breakdown and Other Thrillers with writers such as Frank Bellnap Long and H.P. Lovecraft, it certainly looks that way. ISFDB also says one Continental Op story, “The Farewell Murder,” is at genre adj. (Died 1962.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1900 – Rudolph Belarski. Virtuoso at air-combat magazine covers; five dozen covers for us, Argosy, Future, SF Stories, Startling, Thrilling; interiors too. Here is one from 1955. Here is a 2018 reprint. (Died 1983) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1911 — Vincent Price. Ok, what’s popping into my head is him on The Muppets in “The House of Horrors“ sketch they did in which he and Kermit sport impressive fangs which you can see here. If I had to single out his best work, it’d be in such films as House on Haunted Hill, House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum. Yes, I know the latter two are Roger Corman productions. He also did a lot of series work including being Egghead on Batman, appearing in the Fifties Science Fiction Theater, having a recurring role as Jason Winters on the Time Express and so forth. (Died 1993.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1915 – Herman Wouk. Name pronounced “woke”. Began as a gag man for Fred Allen; Pulitzer Prize, four honorary doctorates. Regardless of The “Caine” Mutiny”, of his masterpiece Marjorie Morningstar, of The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, he’s here for A Hole in Texas, a fine SF novel he hardly needed to write but did because he felt like it. (Died 2019) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1918 — Robert C. Stanley. He was one of the two most prolific paperback cover artists used by the Dell Publishing Company, for whom he worked from 1950 to 1959. Among the covers he did was Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and the Lost Empire (here), Anthony Boucher’s Rocket to the Morgue (here), and Olaf Stapledon’s Odd Jon (here). (Died 1996) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1922 — Christopher Lee. He first became famous for his role as Count Dracula in a series of Hammer Horror films. His other film roles include The Creature in The Curse of Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace, Kharis the Mummy in The Mummy, Francisco Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun, Lord Summerisle In The Wicker Man, Saruman in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit film trilogy, and Count Dooku in the second and third films of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Now interestingly enough, ISFDB lists him as being the co-editor in the Seventies with Michael Parry with a number of horror anthologies such as Christopher Lee’s ‘X’ Certificate No. 1, From the Archives of Evil and The Great Villains. (Died 2015.) (CE)
- Born May 27, 1929 — Burnett Toskey, 91. He was a Seattle fan who was a member of the Nameless Ones who served in various offices for them from the early Fifties to the mid Sixties. He was also the editor of Spectator Amateur Press Society. His work on Cry of the Nameless won the Best Fanzine Hugo at Pittcon, a honor he shared with F. M. Busby, Elinor Busby and Wally Weber. (CE)
- Born May 27, 1930 – John Barth. Fellow of Am. Acad. Arts & Sciences. Lannan Award for lifetime achievement. National Book Award. The Floating Opera is only strange (it won the Roozi Rozegari at Teheran for best translated novel, also strange). The Sot-Weed Factor could perhaps be called historical fiction. By Giles Goat-Boy he was doing SF. Heinlein compared Stranger in a Strange Land to it. In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor a man jumps overboard from a reconstructed Arab ship and finds himself in the world of Sindbad. Nor was that all. [JH]
- Born May 27, 1934 – Harlan Ellison. Bob Bloch, who also was both a fan and a pro, said HE was “the only living organism I know whose natural habitat is hot water”. I mustn’t spoil the metaphor by calling HE a firebrand – or, wait, we can say hot water could never extinguish him. SFWA Grand Master, SF Hall of Fame, Eaton award for lifetime achievement; 8 Hugos, 4 Nebulas; 3 Worldcon special committee awards. Guest of Honor at Westercon XIX and XXXVII, Lunacon XVI, the first NASFiC (N. Am. SF Con, since 1975 held when Worldcon is overseas), Iguanacon II (36th Worldcon), many more. At workshops, with students, he gave everything. (Died 2018) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1940 – Jackie Causgrove. Prominent fan in the U.S. Midwest, then Southern California. For Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck she did the Knight of Cups. The Deck is a thing of wonder; each card by a leading fan or pro (or both) artist of the day, some extra cards; read BP’s description here (you can still get a deck from Elayne Pelz; if you don’t know how to do that, write to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles 90057). With Bruce Gillespie she administered the Tucker Fund that got Bob Tucker to Aussiecon I (33rd Worldcon); see one of its fliers here. One of her fanzines was Dilemma, illustrated by her. (Died 1998) [JH]
- Born May 27, 1954 – Mark Wheatley. Writer, penciller, inker, letterer, editor, cover artist, publisher; developed color-production technology for comics; founded Insight Studios. Re-interpreted the Flash, Baron Munchhausen, the Three Stooges, Dick Tracy, Doctor Who; invented Frankenstein Mobster and (it had to happen) Doctor Cthulittle. Eisner, Inkpot awards. [JH]
- Born May 27, 1971 – Vilma Kadleckova. We’ve learned the software here won’t recognize the character after the “e”; it should have a little “v” over it for the sound of “ch” in English “church”. She’s Czech; a dozen SF novels and shorter stories, half a dozen local prizes. Four novels so far (2013-2016) in her Mycelium series, Amber Eyes, Ice Under the Skin, Vision, Voices and Stars; the first two won Book of the Year and Original Czech/Slovak Book from the SFFH Acad. in Prague. In Vector 166, contributed “The View from Olympus” with Carola Biedermann and Eva Hauser. [JH]
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Bliss shows a measurable effect of the stay-at-home rules.
(9) ALL IN A ROW. Here’s a concept.
(10) GONE CUCKOO. “Epic 7,500-mile cuckoo migration wows scientists”.
One of the longest migrations recorded by any land bird is about to be completed.
Using a satellite tag, scientists have monitored a cuckoo that has just flown more than 7,500 miles (12,000km) from southern Africa to its breeding ground in Mongolia.
The bird has survived ocean crossings and high winds after traversing 16 countries.
It has been, say scientists, “a mammoth journey”. The satellite-tagged common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus), named Onon after a Mongolian river, set off from its winter home in Zambia on 20 March.
(11) THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. CinemaBlend makes sure you’re able to “Watch Cats Star Jason Derulo Turn Into Spider-Man”. UPDATE — so many people had a problem with the embedded video I’m just going to link to it here.
Since a lot of people are staying in their homes right now to help flatten the curve of the current health crisis, that naturally means that it’s important to find ways to keep one’s mind occupied in order to maintain sanity. For well-endowed Cats star Jason Derulo, he recently decided to spend some time putting together a mini-Spider-Man origin story within his home’s walls.
Check out the man who played Rum Tum Tigger on the big screen last year suddenly obtaining the ability to do whatever a spider can…
(12) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. On the latest Two Chairs Talking podcast, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss the upcoming Hugo Awards, and David discusses with Rob Gerrand their mutual love of the work of Jack Vance. Episode 28: “Mastering the Dragons”
(13) SPACEWEAR. “Nasa SpaceX launch: Evolution of the spacesuit”.
The spacesuits that will be worn by astronauts on Wednesday’s Crew Dragon launch have been getting a lot of attention. How do they differ from other attire worn by astronauts down the years?
The futuristic flight suits that will be worn by Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on Wednesday look like they’re a world away from the bulky orange shuttle flight suits worn when astronauts last launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.
The helmets are 3D-printed and the gloves are touchscreen-sensitive.
But their primary purpose remains the same – to protect crew members from depressurisation, where air is lost from the capsule. They also provide ensure that astronauts have sufficient oxygen and regulate temperature. A communications link and breathable air are provided via a single “umbilical” cable in the seat that “plugs in” to the suit.
The Starman suits, as they’ve been called, are all in one piece and customised for the astronaut. Their look was conceived by Hollywood costume designer Jose Fernandez, who has worked on Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
(14) GOING DARK? “Facebook shareholders try to block encryption plan”
Investors at Facebook’s annual stockholder meeting will vote on a proposal to postpone the firm’s plans for end-to-end encryption.
The firm says it wants to make the measure the default option across its messaging platforms to protect privacy.
But activist shareholders say this would make it nearly impossible to detect child exploitation on Facebook.
The group wants the company to delay the move until after its board of directors studies the risk further.
“As shareholders, we know that privacy is important to a social media company, but it should not come at the expense of unleashing a whole new torrent of virtually undetectable child sexual abuse on Facebook,” said Michael Passoff, founder of Proxy Impact, a shareholder advocacy service supporting the measure.
(15) A RINSE AND A SCRUB. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] (Borrowing from John M. Ford’s “Waiting for the Morning Bird”): “Nasa SpaceX launch: Big day called off because of weather”
Poor weather has forced SpaceX to call off the launch of Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station (ISS).
The two men were due to go up from the Kennedy Space Center in what would have been the first orbital mission from the US in nine years.
But unfavourable atmospheric conditions prompted controllers to call a stop just 16 minutes before lift-off.
The next opportunity for SpaceX and Nasa will come on Saturday.
If that’s no good, there would be a third opportunity on Sunday.
The frustration was that conditions just 10 minutes after the designated launch time of 16:33 EDT were acceptable.
But this was an instantaneous launch window where the SpaceX Falcon rocket and Dragon crew capsule had to leave on time or they wouldn’t be able to catch the space station.
(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Star Wars Jedi Temple Challenge” on YouTube is a new interactive game hosted by Ahmed Best, who voiced Jar Jar Binks.
[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, David Grigg, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who explains it in our first-ever Pixel Scroll Post-Script.]
P.S.P.S. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Item-suitable Backstory & Lagniappe to this title suggestion:
Yesterday’s scroll included an item on Johnny Mnemonic (story and movie). This morning, my Spotify playlist played Charles T. Berry’s song, “Johnny B Goode.”
This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.) Go figure. I bet I’ve got it on one of my cassette recordings (still in need of digitizing, sigh).
SF-semi-adjacentwise, he did (at least in one concert at Passim’s in Cambridge, not sure if it made it to any recordings), riff a few verses starting with Kliban’s Mousies cartoon (“Love them little mousies/mousies is what I eat/bite their little heads/nibble on their tiny feet”).
Smither is a country blues guy, doing a mix of classic blues along with songs by Randy Newman, Dylan and others.
That said, here’s some Smither song links. Two of his own songs: “Origin of Species” (Arguably sf/f in spirit), “Love Me Like a Man” (First recorded/popularized by Bonnie Raitt). And other songs: “Maybelline” (done in a minor key); “Statesboro Blues”; “Friend of the Devil”.