Pixel Scroll 8/18/20 It’s A World Of Cats On To Be Read Piles, It’s A Scroll, Scroll World!

(1) STATE GUIDANCE ISSUED FOR SF IN CHINA. Variety reports“China Issues Guidelines on Developing a Sci-Fi Film Sector”.

Chinese film authorities issued a new document outlining policy measures to boost the country’s production of science fiction movies.

Entitled “Several Opinions on Promoting the Development of Science Fiction Films,” the document highlights how the sci-fi genre fits into the ruling Communist Party’s broader ideological and technological goals. It was released earlier this month by China’s National Film Administration and the China Association for Science and Technology, a professional organization.

The document focuses on domestically developing pro-China science fiction film content and high-tech production capability. It comes in the wake of the country’s first VFX-heavy sci-fi blockbuster hit, “The Wandering Earth,” which remains the third highest grossing film of all time in the territory with a local box office of $691 million.

…To make strong movies, the document claims, the number one priority is to “thoroughly study and implement Xi Jinping Thought.” Based on the Chinese president’s past pronouncements on film work, filmmakers should follow the “correct direction” for the development of sci-fi movies. This includes creating films that “highlight Chinese values, inherit Chinese culture and aesthetics, cultivate contemporary Chinese innovation” as well as “disseminate scientific thought” and “raise the spirit of scientists.” Chinese sci-fi films should thus portray China in a positive light as a technologically advanced nation.

…Nevertheless, China’s lack of strong sci-fi is primarily due to a lack of innovative ideas and scripts, the document said. The country should focus on generating strong sci-fi scripts through talent incubators and prizes, and by urging film festivals to set up specific sci-fi film departments. The adaptation of sci-fi literature, animation and games should be encouraged to stimulate the production of new original content.

Elementary and middle school students should be made to watch “excellent sci-fi movies,” while universities should be urged to “strengthen the training of sci-fi related talent.”

(2) CANCELLATION CULTURE. David Brin writes much more about what he suspects in “The Postman speaks: Save the Post Office!”

Amid outcry over Republican efforts to wreck the U.S. Postal System, scientist/science-fiction author David Brin — author of the popular novel “The Postman” — offers a few tools and perspectives…. 

What Will They Do to Destroy the Mail?

Oh, these proto-Holnist traitors can be feral and clever. Here are some ways they have already — or plan to — sabotage our nation’s oldest institution.

  • Don’t allow overtime (done)
  • Remove extra mailboxes (started; incomplete)
  • Remove critical equipment (done)
  • Remove ballot bulk mail postage discount (done)
  • Reduce funding
  • Refuse to deliver if no/insufficient postage
  • Change filters on automated sorting to reject more mail
  • Demand postal workers take unused leave at critical times
  • Misprint ballots so auto-processing fails
  • Shut down critical sorting warehouses in key areas
  • Companies currying GOP favor will send a lot of mail during the 2 weeks that mail-in ballots are flooding the system, causing jams
  • Use mercenaries and ‘holnist’ barbarians to terrorize voters, sabotage mailboxes and vehicles and workers, sow chaos and provide excuses for ‘martial law.’
  • Don’t put anything past them.

(3) JOB DESCRIPTION. David Gerrold shared a free post on his Patreon: “I Am Not A Writer. I Am A Storyteller.”

…I have been accused of being a writer. I’m not. My 1962 writing instructor was right when he told me, “You can’t write. You’re wasting your time. You’ll never be a writer.”

He was right. I’m not a writer. 

I’m a storyteller. 

A story is — pay attention now, this is the good stuff —  a story is about a person with a problem. 

Let me repeat that. A STORY IS ABOUT A PERSON WITH A PROBLEM. 

This is why stories are the essential part of human intelligence. Because all human beings have problems. We either defeat them or they defeat us. 

But either way, we end up with a story about the problem. 

The essential definition of a story is this: “Here’s a problem. Here’s what didn’t work. Here’s what did work. And here’s what I learned.” It’s that last phrase that’s important. The problem is an access to the lesson. Even if the problem didn’t get solved, the lesson is still critical. And if there is no lesson to be learned, then it wasn’t a real problem, just some stuff to be handled. (“I have to do the dishes,” isn’t a problem. Just do the damn dishes.)…

(4) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND UPDATE. Graeme McMillan, in The Hollywood Reporter story “Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Attempts to Rebuild After Chief’s Exit” discusses how the fund is rebuilding after the departure of Charles Brownstein on sexual harassment charges. 

On June 22, Charles Brownstein resigned from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund after serving as executive director for 18 years. The exit came following pressure from comic industry professionals as details of his alleged assault of creator Taki Soma 15 years earlier re-emerged online. More than a month after his departure, the CBLDF is attempting to rebuild both itself and trust from the comic book community.

In 2005, Soma reported to police that Brownstein assaulted her during the Mid-Ohio Con convention, with details becoming public the following year. In 2006, Brownstein admitted to the assault, calling it “a stupid, drunken prank, of which I’m ashamed” in a public statement, although he kept his position inside the CBLDF following an independent third party investigation.

… “Honestly, I don’t think I’ve seen a response from the fund that would make me feel comfortable supporting them after Brownstein’s departure,” Batman writer James Tynion IV told The Hollywood Reporter. “I want to see who they put forward as the voice of the fund, and see what kind of work they’re open to doing to make a better community. Until they do that, I’ll be a skeptical observer, and my money will keep going to the [another comic book non-profit] Hero Initiative, where I can see measurably good work being done.”

Harrow County artist Tyler Crook is also skeptical about the continued viability of the organization.

“I’m very glad to see Brownstein gone, but I won’t be supporting them until after we see what changes they make to reform the organization,” said Crook, adding that Brownstein remaining with the organization for so many years despite his alleged behavior identified structural problems that need to be addressed. “Right now, I’m feeling pretty pessimistic about the CBLDF’s ability to change. I think our industry might be better served with a new, organization built on stronger foundations and with a stronger moral compass.”

Calvin Reid, in “Trexler Named Interim CBLDF Executive Director” in Publishers Weekly, says that Jeff Trexler has been named interim director.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has appointed Jeff Trexler its interim director, effective immediately. He succeeds Charles Brownstein, who resigned from the position in June after allegations of assault leveled against him resurfaced.

Trexler will oversee and update the CBLDF’s operations and its mission. He will also be charged with restoring the organization’s credibility and stature in the comics community after the departure of Brownstein, who held the executive director position at CBLDF for 18 years.

“The original mission of CBLDF is one I passionately support as a longtime member of the comics community,” Trexler said in a statement. “This is a time of evolution for the organization, and I am honored to be a part of it.”

Before joining the CBLDF, Trexler was associate director of the Fashion Law Institute. He is a member of the ethics committee at Kering Americas, and has served on the board of the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art. Trexler is also a lifelong comics fan as well as a lawyer, and has provided legal analysis on a variety of issues surrounding the comics industry….

(5) FULL COURT PRESS. “CBS Beats Copyright Claims Over ‘Star Trek: Discovery’”Bloomberg Law has the story.

A story arc about a giant tardigrade in “Star Trek: Discovery” didn’t infringe a copyright in an unreleased video game that also featured a giant tardigrade, the Second Circuit affirmed Monday.

Many elements of the work that CBS Broadcasting Corp. and Netflix Corp. allegedly infringed covered uncopyrightable scientific facts and ideas about tardigrades, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit said.

Anas Osama Ibrahim Abdin owns a copyright in the “distillation” of the concept for his video game “Tardigrades,” a compilation of images, descriptions, and illustrations detailing the game’s characters and backstory. It features a space-station botanist who travels through space after being absorbed into a giant tardigrade, based on the real-life microscopic creature that can endure extreme heat, cold, pressure, and radiation.

Three episodes in the first season of CBS’ “Star Trek: Discovery” also involve a space encounter with a massive tardigrade-like creature, and Abdin sued CBS for copyright infringement in Manhattan federal court. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed Abdin’s claims in September.

The Second Circuit affirmed that CBS and Netflix—which is licensed to air “Discovery” outside of the U.S.—didn’t infringe because the works aren’t substantially similar. Abdin’s use of tardigrades largely wasn’t copyrightable, the court said.

“Abdin’s space-traveling tardigrade is an unprotectable idea because it is a generalized expression of a scientific fact—namely, the known ability of a tardigrade to survive in space,” the court said. “By permitting Abdin to exclusively own the idea of a space-traveling tardigrade, this Court would improperly withdraw that idea from the public domain and stifle creativity naturally flowing from the scientific fact that tardigrades can survive the vacuum of space.”…

(6) WELL WORTH YOUR TIME. [Based on notes from John Hertz.] Roberta Pournelle left our stage on August 3, 2020.

There was no public church service and no public interment.  Her remains were laid to rest at Forest Lawn on August 14th, as it happens not far from OGH’s father’s.

“Roberta Jane Isdell Pournelle, 16 June 1936–3 August 2020” is Jennifer Pournelle’s eulogy.

 … I was hardly an “only child,” and I’m not merely referring to my wonderful brothers. Roberta taught in schools where most would not. She taught kids who were guilty of being poor, or black, or Latinx, or homeless. or abused, or dyslexic, or otherwise illiterate and/or desperate. Kids with “form,” kids with little future; kids who were pregnant or fathers or incarcerated for crimes real or imagined and precious little hope of anger management. The kids nobody wanted. The kids dismissed as “juvvies.” The kids about whom precious few truly, actually, cared.

Advised to leave, advised to cease, advised that her talents lay elsewhere, she taught on. She was there….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 18, 1950 Destination Moon, produced by Geotge Pal, premiered in the United Kingdom. It would be voted a Retro Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon. It was directed by Irving Pichel from the screenplay by Alford Van Ronkel and Robert A. Heinlein and James O’Hanlon. It’s based off Robert A. Heinlein‘s Rocketship Galileo novel. It starred John Archer, Warner Anderson,  Erin O’Brien-Moore, Tom Powers and Dick Wesson. Mainstream critics usually didn’t like but Asimov said In Memory Yet Green that it was “the first intelligent science-fiction movie made.”  Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre 48% rating. It is not in the public domain but the trailers are and here is one for you.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 18, 1929 Joan Taylor. Her first genre role was Earth vs. the Flying Saucers as Carol Marvin, and she followed that with 20 Million Miles to Earth as Marisa Leonardo. Her last genre role was as Carol Gordon in Men into Space, a late Fifties series about a USAF attempt to explore and develop outer space. She retired from acting in the early Sixties. (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1931 Grant Williams. He is best remembered for his portrayal of Scott Carey in The Incredible Shrinking Man though he did have the role of the psychopathic killer in Robert Bloch’s The Couch. Of course, he shows up in Outer Limits where he plays Major Douglas McKinnon in “The Brain of Colonel Barham”.  And he’s Major Kurt Mason in The Doomsday Machine. (Died 1985.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1931 – Seymour Chwast, 89.  French ed’n of Doctor DolittleOdysseyCanterbury TalesDivine Comedy; three dozen more.  Here is We.  Here is Analog 6 (anthology).  Here is Lord Tyger.  Much outside our field too; see hereherehere, and this archive.   Saint Gaudin Award, Art Directors Hall of Fame, American Inst. Graphic Arts Medal, honorary doctorate from Parsons.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1934 Michael de Larrabeiti. He is best known for writing The Borrible Trilogy which is noted by several sources online as being an influence by writers in the New Weird movement. Ok folks, I’ve not read so please explain how The Borrible Trilogy influences that literary movement as it doesn’t seem like there’s any connection. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1935 — Brian Aldiss. He’s well known as an anthologist and SF writer with Space, Time and Nathaniel, a collection of short stories being his first genre publication. I’ll single out Space Opera and other such anthologies as my favourite works by him. His “Super-Toys Last All Summer Long” is the basis for A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Much honoured, he’s was named a Grand Master by SFWA and inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He also has received two Hugo Awards, one Nebula Award, and one John W. Campbell Memorial Award. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1943 –Richard Bober, 77.  Three dozen covers.  Here is Lake of the Long Sun (in Polish).  Here is Shards of Empire.  Here is the 2003 Chesley Awards Retrospective (at left, top to bottom, images by Bober, Ledet, Eggleton, Bonestell).  Gallery, Feb 98 Realms of Fantasy.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1947 – Paul Skelton, 73.  Long-active fanziner, in his own zines (sometimes with wife Cas Skelton) and letters of comment to others’.  Five FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards, four for Best Correspondent and one for life achievement thereat.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1949 –Takeshi Shudô.  Known for Magical Princess Minky Momo (television animé), Pokémon (pocket monsters; TV, film, novels), and Eternal Filena (serialized light novel, then OVA – original video animation, made for home release without prior theater or television showing – then role-playing video game).  For Pokémon, coined Team Rocket’s motto.  Won Best Screenplay at first Japan Animé Awards.  Memorial exhibit at Suginami Animation Museum, Tokyo, 2011.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1950 Mary Doria Russell, 70. The Sparrow series, The Sparrow and its sequel Children of God, are awesome. The Sparrow won the Arthur C. Clarke, BSFA, and Tiptree Awards, and it was the reason she won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Though not genre, Doc and its  sequel Epitaph are mysteries using the historic character of  Doc Holliday.  (CE)
  • Born August 18, 1966 – Alison Goodman, 54.  Seven novels, five shorter stories.  Translated into ten languages.  Part of “Time Travel, Time Scapes, and Timescape” in NY Rev. of SF with Benford, Blackford, Broderick, McMullen, Townsend.  Two Aurealis Awards.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 18, 1981 – Bridget (“B.R.”) Collins, 39.  Seven novels.  Bradford Boase Award.  Blog is called jugjugjug “because ‘jug jug jug’ is supposed to be the noise a nightingale makes (the way ‘tu-whit tu-whoo’ is supposed to be an owl).”  Website shows bookshelves with The Complete Sherlock Holmes and The Sot-Weed Factor.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FACE THE MUSIC. Stephen Colbert repurposed the last Avengers movie trailer:

(11) CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE. David Langford’s contribution didn’t make it into the CoNZealand edition of Worldcon Order Of Fan-Editors (W.O.O.F.) for whatever reason, so he posted it on his own site: Cloud Chamber #164.

(12) FIRST CABIN. George R.R. Martin told Not A Blog readers he’s “Back in Westeros”.

…But some decades ago, wanting more solitude, I bought the house across the street and made THAT my writer’s retreat.   No longer would I write all day in my red flannel bathrobe; now I would have to dress and put on shoes and walk all the way across the street to write.  But that worked for a while.

Things started getting busier, though.   So busy that I needed a full-time assistant.   Then the office house had someone else in it, not just me and my characters.   And then I hired a second assistant, and a third, and… there was more mail, more email, more phone calls (we put in a new phone system), more people coming by.   By now I am up to five assistants… and somewhere in there I also acquired a movie theatre, a bookstore, a charitable foundation, investments, a business manager… and…

Despite all the help, I was drowning till I found the mountain cabin.

My life up here is very boring, it must be said.  Truth be told, I hardly can be said to have a life.   I have one assistant with me at all times (minions, I call them).  The assistants do two-week shifts, and have to stay in quarantine at home before starting a shift.   Everyone morning I wake up and go straight to the computer, where my minion brings me coffee (I am utterly useless and incoherent without my morning coffee) and juice, and sometimes a light breakfast.  Then I start to write.   Sometimes I stay at it until dark.   Other days I break off in late afternoon to answer emails or return urgent phone calls….   

(13) SFWA. “SFWA Announces New Communications Manager”, Rebecca Gomez Farrell.

… The Communications Manager will lead SFWA’s communications initiatives to produce high-quality content to engage both SFWA members and potential members within the SF/F community, as well as expand the organization’s brand recognition.

… SFWA Executive Director Kate Baker said, “Because of the nebulous nature of the organization, and because our members are located around the world, having a steady and engaging presence via social media is more important than ever. I am thrilled that Rebecca has joined the organization to help shape our messaging, to build upon the excellent work done by past volunteers, and to promote not only the organization and its members, but communicate what is important to all SF/F writers, wherever they may be. Please join us in welcoming Rebecca to the team!”

“Since joining in 2012,” said Gomez Farrell, “my fiction career has benefited greatly from the events and services SFWA offers its members, but most importantly, from the community we share. I’m thrilled to lend my skills in new media communication to fostering more of that community for my fellow members.” 

(14) SPECTRUM. The new Spectrum Advisory board was announced on Muddy Colors. Arnie Fenner listed the names with short bios at the link.

….it’s Cathy’s and my pleasure today to present in alphabetical order our new Spectrum Advisory board!

… Talk about a Dream Team!

And what exactly does the Spectrum Advisory Board do? Well, they have two primary jobs: the first is to nominate, debate, and ultimately select each year’s Grand Master honoree. (I wrote about the criteria for the Grand Master Award in a previous Muddy Colors post for anyone that’s curious.) It’s a big responsibility, for sure, but the Board’s second job is even more difficult and crucial:

Job #2 is to help us not be stupid.

Cathy and I started Spectrum because of a sincere love for fantastic art in whatever guise it takes and a desire to help creators receive the recognition and respect we felt they deserved. Spectrum quickly became a welcoming home, a community, and a family, for all artists regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality, politics, or ethnicity, a celebration of diversity and imagination. Though we’re moving a little slower and our energy isn’t what it once was, that love and that purpose are as strong in us today as they were when we first began 27 years ago. But time and technology march on and nothing survives in a vacuum: with so many changes and challenges, with so many societal minefields to traverse, we count on our Advisory Board to help us avoid the avoidable mistakes (as best anyone can) and better serve the community as a whole….

(15) STAND UP, EMPTY POCKETS. The “Stand Still. Stay Silent. – Book 3” Kickstarter appeal invites donors to “Help us print the third book of Minna Sundberg’s award-winning Nordic fantasy and adventure webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent.” There being a lot of people wanting to lock down a copy of the book, they have raised $198,054 of their $35,000 goal with 26 days to go.

An underfunded, questionably selected, rag-tag team of explorers are assembled and launched into the unknown in a search for information and relics of the Old World – hopefully valuable relics. Stand Still. Stay Silent. follows six people (and a cat) on a journey filled with adventure, camaraderie and Nordic mythology. Who knows what they might find on their journey… and what they might lose.

(16) CATCHING UP. Nnedi Okorafor’s new book was released today – just in time for one feline’s appreciation.

(17) ALWAYS NEWS TO SOMEONE, Let File 770 be the last to tell you what Yahoo! Life was the next to last to tell you: “Somehow We All Just Figured Out Where Gandalf Keeps His Pipe”.

Nearly two decades years after the release of The Fellowship of the Ring, fans are still discovering new things in Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. There’s a lot of material to cover, with the three lengthy theatrical releases further extended in their home video editions. Which is why it’s so surprising that, all these years later, people keep spotting one particular detail for the first time.

We’re talking about Gandalf’s pipe, specifically where he keeps it…

(18) REAR VIEW. “Why did scientists paint eyes on hundreds of cattle butts? To save lives, study says”.

For four years, researchers painted fake eyes on hundreds of cattle butts for the sake of science. What seems like a silly prank, the “eye-cow technique” proved lifesaving for the animals as it made predators rethink their attack, choosing another meal instead.

The scientists say their method is a more humane and “ecologically sound” alternative to lethal control and fencing used to separate cattle from carnivores. The team even theorizes the technique could be used to prevent human-wildlife conflicts and reduce criminal activity, according to a news release. A study was published Aug. 7 in the journal Communications Biology.

“The eye-cow technique is one of a number of tools that can prevent carnivore-livestock conflict—no single tool is likely to be a silver bullet. Indeed we need to do much better than a silver bullet if we are to ensure the successful coexistence of livestock and large carnivores,” study co-author Dr. Neil Jordan, a researcher with the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia and the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, said in the news release.

“But we’re hoping this simple, low-cost, non-lethal approach could reduce the costs of coexistence for those farmers bearing the brunt,” he added.

Eye patterns can be found — naturally — on butterflies, fish, molluscs, amphibians and birds to scare predators away. Images of eyes have even been shown to reduce bike theft in people, a 2012 study showed. But no mammals are known to possess eye-shaped patterns on their coats.

So, in the Okavango Delta of Botswana in Southern Africa, where livestock and lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and wild dogs coexist, such a deceptive tactic could save animals from their death sentence, the researchers thought.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  The Old Guard” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the latest film from Netflix designed to “make you look up from your phone for two minutes so it counts as a view.”  The film featured Charlize Theron leading a group of “illumi-hotties” who, although they’re thousands of years old, haven’t come up with a cool catchphrase.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Bill Higgins, Hampus Eckerman, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W. (I had to come back and use the other half of Kip’s 2018 verse.)]

43 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 8/18/20 It’s A World Of Cats On To Be Read Piles, It’s A Scroll, Scroll World!

  1. (7) As I recall, Asimov was annoyed by the bad New York accent of D:M’s comic relief character.

  2. (2) USPS doesn’t print ballots. And ballots for general elections are nowhere close to the load they normally have in December – they handle a billion pieces the week before Christmas! (For comparison, there might be 200 million ballots sent through the mail ins September and October.)

  3. (7) The set of Destination Moon was also used for a moon ballet. I don’t know the story behind it, but the Life magazine photo archives has a set of photographs from both the movie and the ballet.

    Movie sample

    Ballet Sample

    (8) It’s Andy Samberg’s birthday. His current Hulu film, Palm Springs, has a Groundhog Day time loop at its core, but Samberg may be best remembered for his work on seven Laser Cats! digital shorts on Saturday Night Live. (And don’t forget the second digital short, Lazy Sunday, which was about a trip to see Chronicles of Narnia.)

  4. P J Evans says USPS doesn’t print ballots. And ballots for general elections are nowhere close to the load they normally have in December – they handle a billion pieces the week before Christmas! (For comparison, there might be 200 million ballots sent through the mail ins September and October.)

    USPS hires a lot of extra full-time staff for Winter Holiday mail handling. The Postmaster had, just before he changed his mind today moments ahead of a metaphorical hanging, eliminated all overtime, dismantled letter sorting machines and ordered them to leave mail until the next day if it hadn’t yet been sorted. So your comparison is not valid.

  5. ACat
    This year is so effed up – but they had no problems before this year. The loss of those machines is hurting everyone. (I think DeJoy may resign after he’s been run through the two hearings he has scheduled. Also he’s only postponing his next moves until after the election.)

  6. P J Evans says This year is so effed up – but they had no problems before this year. The loss of those machines is hurting everyone. (I think DeJoy may resign after he’s been run through the two hearings he has scheduled. Also he’s only postponing his next moves until after the election.)

    Oh that’s not true as they’ve been building towards a crisis for some years now. And they’ve been closing, or reducing hours, on almost all post offices. DeJoy is a corrupt ass but the USPS needs a new model soon as the old model isn’r viable any longer.

  7. @Cat
    It was quite viable until the conservatives decided they had to privatize it.
    Remember, it serves nearly every place in the country, and does “last mile” for UPS and FedEx, and ships for a lot less than they do (and they don’t do ballots or normal letters).

  8. P J Evans states It was quite viable until the conservatives decided they had to privatize it.
    Remember, it serves nearly every place in the country, and does “last mile” for UPS and FedEx, and ships for a lot less than they do (and they don’t do ballots or normal letters).

    I’m liberal but the problem of the USPS is hardly their fault entirely. It was largely financed by all of us sending lots of first class mail from letters to paying bills, something that has almost completely vanished. That last mile you refer is expensive — you deliver a single package twenty miles beyond the other delivery you did that day and it doesn’t make money fir USPS. Packages also largely sorted by hand — also labor costly.

    The Pandemic has seen the USPS losing billions because it’s not delivering business class mail which was profitable. Those larger businesses have hastened the almost complete transition to digital post to their WFH staff and no doubt won’t go back.

    Odd cultural note: hospitals and the like are the last widespread users of fax machines. I had to sign some legal paperwork during my last lengthy in-hospital stay and it was faxed to me instead of posted care of the hospital. Every Unit at Maine Med has one.

  9. 1) …excellence in science fiction is generally achieved by breaking established thought and forcing a rethink, so they’re going to run into the same problems Christian fiction does in trying to force all of it to adhere to a didactic moral code while still trying to be good.

    12) I will believe it when I see it?

    18) That’s really quite clever!

    @Cat Eldridge: It shouldn’t matter that it’s not making money. It’s a government service, not a profit-making organism. The military also doesn’t make money but no one complains about how much we spend on that.

  10. (1) I sent this link to a Chinese scholar friend of mine. He commented “Nothing like Xi Jinping thought for generating wonderful scripts. Hmmm. I think something like this was tried, a while back. Hmmm. Let me think. Yeah, something like Mao Zedong thought…in art. I have to check to see how that turned out.”

  11. Kit Harding says t shouldn’t matter that it’s not making money. It’s a government service, not a profit-making organism. The military also doesn’t make money but no one complains about how much we spend on that.

    It gets a budget and has consistently for some years costing far more than Congress and revenues brought in. Yes pre-funding certain long-term expenses is a problem but Americans just don’t use it as much as they use to. UPS, FedEx and so forth have all sliced a substantial share of the profits off USPS as well.

  12. (1) The recentish SFy Cdramas that crossed my screen didn’t look sufficiently relevant to my interests. But then the same can be said for series from other regions. I’m not sure whether all the good stuff has been gobbled up by Netflix (it won’t show me it’s catalogue after all), but the same thing can be said of the recent fantasy Cdramas, it all sounds very samey and often dreary.

  13. 3) I’d like it if he were a storyfinisher.

    18) “Cattle mutilations are up.”

  14. @Cat Eldridge–In 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law requiring USPS to prefund retiree health benefits for fifty years 100%. No business does that, and no other federal agency is required to do that. Yes, changes in mail usage, and other changes in the larger economy have had their effect. So has the pandemic. Amazing that they weren’t ready for the pandemic! Shocking! Inconceivable! Why, every other business was…not ready either.

    The USPS would be in much better shape without the 2006 law. And the way the USPS is different from any other government agency is that it is literally, explicitly mandated in the Constitution.

    There’s nothing in that requirement that requires it to be self-funding. That was a nice benefit for a long time, but it’s not a defensible claim that, if it isn’t, we should sell it off to private industry which only wants to perform the profitable parts of the operation.

    Yes, that “last mile” is expensive. It’s also a big part of why the post office is a necessary public service. Not to mention something those “more efficient” private businesses, including UPS and FedEx, rely on heavily. Part of that whole “more efficient” thing, hmm? Offload the tricky, inconvenient part!

    Sorry, but the USPS is one of those basic public services that make civilized life possible. Even their competition relies on them. We need to fund the USPS–and let them do some of the modernization that Congress often doesn’t like, because the GOP doesn’t like the USPS being competitive with the private companies that want to cherry pick the profitable bits and let the rest of it go hang.

  15. PJ Evans@2) I take it you’re responding to “Misprint ballots so auto-processing fails” when you say “USPS doesn’t print ballots”. True. But that doesn’t mean a malicious actor outside the USPS couldn’t do it. Messing with the ballots is a time-honored way of rigging an election.

  16. Liz says Sorry, but the USPS is one of those basic public services that make civilized life possible. Even their competition relies on them. We need to fund the USPS–and let them do some of the modernization that Congress often doesn’t like, because the GOP doesn’t like the USPS being competitive with the private companies that want to cherry pick the profitable bits and let the rest of it go hang.

    Not disagreeing with anything you said but neither Party has covered themselves with glory when it comes to treating the USPS right. Repealing that unneeded mandate could’ve been done when Democrats controlled Congress but it hasn’t been done and it’s fifteen years on. And the funding of it has been neglected by both Parties fir decades except when it come to building expensive, unnneeded buildings and such at the expense of infrastructure such as modern vehicles.

  17. (7) Canon Fodder: I forgot to mention that Destination Moon was part of the Scalzi canon. In his The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, Scalzi has a section called The Canon: 50 Sci-Fi Classics. Since we’ve been discussing canon recently, I thought it would be interesting to see what he considered canon and Destination Moon makes the list. Looking back on recent media birthdays, Buckaroo Banzai and War of the Worlds both make the list, but The Time Machine does not.

    Re: Fax machines. Apparently fax machines still live in Japan. Or they did a few years ago. Official documents often have to be faxed and so many households still have fax machines as part of the home’s telephones connected to land lines.

  18. (4) I’ve taken a dim view of the CBLDF ever since they refused to help the defendants in Cody Pickrodt’s SLAPP suit a few years back, and have wondered if that was at least partially motivated by Brownstein being a sex pest himself.

  19. Jack Lint says Re: Fax machines. Apparently fax machines still live in Japan. Or they did a few years ago. Official documents often have to be faxed and so many households still have fax machines as part of the home’s telephones connected to land lines.

    Interesting. The explanation I got fir the ubiquitous presence of fax in medical settings came from Jenner, my PCP, who said they’re perfect for handling legal paperwork that must get quickly from point to point.

    Northern Lights, my in-home medical care team, use the camera function on their phones to do the same thing so when I filled any paperwork with them, it gets sent to their office that way. My advance medical directive was to be copied that way but I’m hand delivering it to Jenner instead along with the usual dark chocolate she gets.

  20. @Kit Harding re @1: I don’t think the PRC really cares about excellence, only about the appearance of it for internal consumption; if they reduce imports, they win.
    also

    @Cat Eldridge: It shouldn’t matter that it’s not making money. It’s a government service, not a profit-making organism.

    That was the USPO; the USPS was established 50 years ago (removing it from the Cabinet), and has been pushed to be profitable ever since. This is a matter of particular bitterness in Boston, where the USPS is sitting on land the transit system desperately needs — but the land is one of the USPS’s biggest assets, so they’re asking market rates instead of considering govt.-to-govt. courtesy. (The USPS doesn’t need to be right next to a passenger railroad station; it hasn’t been closely linked to passenger trains for a long time, and could swap for cheaper land further out, just as the freight railroads did a few years ago, with little or no loss to operations.) Meanwhile, rural citizens who reflexively complain about Big Gummint are finding out the hard way what small government means.

    @Cat Eldridge: Repealing that unneeded mandate could’ve been done when Democrats controlled Congress but it hasn’t been done and it’s fifteen years on. The Democrats had real control of Congress (e.g., a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate) for just two years before the teabagger backlash; they used it to move the US a little closer to the civilized world wrt healthcare. Now, rural/elder anger at losing a service may move some fence-straddlers to react to the attempt to pave paradise.

  21. @Chip & Cat Eldridge: regardless of how long the democrats held a supermajority, Obama at least didn’t want to help the USPS as you could tell by the people he nominated for their board of governors.

  22. Jake says regardless of how long the democrats held a supermajority, Obama at least didn’t want to help the USPS as you could tell by the people he nominated for their board of governors.

    And Bernie Sanders blocked at least one Obama from getting a vote so Trump has a nearly total slate of empty seats to fill. As I said, Democrats get as much blame here as Republicans.

  23. @Chip Hitchcock

    the USPS . . . has been pushed to be profitable ever since.

    I think “pushed to cover its own costs” is more accurate.

    And why shouldn’t it? I don’t think the comparison to DoD is too valid — DoD is a service to the nation as a whole; it doesn’t defend individuals, it defends a country. The only way to fund it is by appropriation.

    OTOH, when I mail a letter, I benefit. And if I mail 10 letters, I benefit 10x as much as someone who mails 1 letter. Since the benefits can be apportioned, the costs should be too. So the prices of mailing letters (the postage we pay) should reflect the costs of mailing them. If income from postage doesn’t cover the costs, then this is an argument for raising postage and not for appropriations to subsidize the USPS.

  24. @bill–In fact you do benefit, from the easy and reliable flow of mail and packages throughout the country, whether or not you happen to be mailing any letters at the moment. And it’s worth noting that the Founders didn’t agree with you; the Post Office is the only service agency mandated in the Constitution.

    But then, you probably think that if you don’t currently have kids in the public schools, you don’t benefit from them and it’s unfair you have to pay taxes to help support them. Government is not a fee-for-service arrangement, and mail delivery is a government operation in every functional country.

    Also: No, not pushed “to cover its costs.” The 2006 law requires it to fully fund the health benefits of retirees 50 years in advance–something no business does and no other federal agency is required to do.

    That’s not requiring it to cover its costs. That’s placing an enormous financial
    burden on it that no other organization bears, and pushing it towards bankruptcy.

    The Amazon deal that Trump hates is quite profitable for the USPS; that’s one of the reasons Trump and his cronies hate it.

  25. @Lis Carey — Of course I benefit from the existence of the Postal Service. If it didn’t exist, I couldn’t use it. But there is a fundamental difference in the way I take advantage of it, compared to the way I take advantage of the DoD or the EPA or any of a number of other organizations, and there is no reason that the way it is funded shouldn’t account for that. Put it another way — I benefit (in the same nebulous way) from living in a city with an art museum. That doesn’t mean that the museum shouldn’t charge for tickets.

    the Post Office is the only service agency mandated in the Constitution.

    Which is irrelevant. We aren’t talking about whether it should exist, we are talking about how it should be paid for.

    Re: 2006 law: — In what way are employee benefits not a legitimate cost that should be covered as they accrue? Before the 2006 law, the USPS had unfunded retiree health benefit liabilities of $75 B. This has to be paid, one way or another. The lump sum payments were to go from 2007-2017 — but the USPS defaulted on the payments from 2012-2017 (they didn’t make the payments) so it is disingenuous at best to say that these payments were bankrupting the USPS.

    mail delivery is a government operation in every functional country.

    Yes, but other countries charge more for mail delivery:
    1st class stamp cost
    US — 0.55
    UK — 1.00
    France — 1.37
    Australia — 0.72
    Germany — 0.95
    (as best as I can figure from current exchange rates and web searches — if you have better numbers, I’d be glad to see them, but I read consistently that the US charges less (far less?) to mail a 1st class letter than just about everyone else).

    The problem is not that the post office has to pay its expenses as it accrues them. The problem is that they don’t charge enough for the job they do, not even enough to pay the bills without pre-funding employee health benefits.

    you probably think that if you don’t currently have kids in the public schools, you don’t benefit from them and it’s unfair you have to pay taxes to help support them

    Project much? I have a son in private school, and I gladly pay real estate taxes to fund (very good) local schools.

  26. @bill
    Government isn’t intended to be profitable.
    If you want to look at profitable delivery services, look at UPS and FedEx, AND what they charge, and note that they don’t handle anything like the variety of materials USPS does, or serve as many locations.

  27. @P J Evans

    Government isn’t intended to be profitable.

    No, but it does have to be paid for, one way or another.

  28. Meredith Moment: “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is 1.99 at The Usual Suspects.

  29. (2) I disagree with Mr. Brin’s assessment of the recent events pertaining to the United States Postal Service. It seems to me that his stance is based or rooted a little too firmly in the realm of conspiracy theory to merit serious consideration.

  30. I read a story earlier today about a farmer in Maine whose order of 500 chicks had just arrived dead. For those of you who don’t know, there’s a couple-of-day window in which a newly hatched chick doesn’t need to eat or drink. You’ve been able to mail new-hatched chicks (and a wide variety of other small animals and insects, including goldfish and scorpions) since 1918. The Post Office has special processing for live animals. The hatchery throws in a few extra chicks because some will die in transit. A few. Not all.

    Maine doesn’t have any hatcheries. If you farm chickens in Maine, you get your chicks by the mail. And now, with the mail deliberately fucked up, they’re dying. And hatcheries all over the country, some of whom are keeping rare breeds alive, can’t do their business.

  31. P J Evans notes Meredith Moment: “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is 1.99 at The Usual Suspects.

    Now there’s a book that I gave up on a hundred pages on as the footnotes just drove me nuts. I always wandered how they were handled as an audio narrative.

  32. @bill: actually, every business in the country is permitted to handle down-the-line benefits less stringently than the USPS is required to; you can use whatever labels you like, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re being screwed by people who don’t understand that common benefit is not allocatable. I also find it amusing after your claims about original intent that you dismiss the importance of the USPO being in the Constitution.

  33. Pingback: And the Chinese Propaganda Begins.... - Amazing Stories

  34. @Chip Hitchcock

    every business in the country

    As has been pointed out several times, the PO is not a business.

    they’re being screwed by people . . .

    The basic framework of the changes made in the 2006 (the establishment of a fund to pre-pay health benefits) was proposed by the USPS itself in 2003 (see p 7, “this proposal implements a solution for fully funding postretirement health benefits.”) So who’s screwing who here?

    you dismiss the importance of the USPO being in the Constitution.

    If you actually read my comment (on occasion, it strikes me that you skip this step), you’ll see that I dismiss its importance only with respect to how it is paid for. The Constitution is silent on that point, so to suggest that this means that it should be paid for by appropriation, rather than by the fees paid to it by users, comes out of left field.

    @Lis Carey

    USPS is different from any other government agency is that it is literally, explicitly mandated in the Constitution.

    The Post Office is not mandated, either literally or explicitly. Congress is given the power to establish one, not required to do so. The agencies that are explicitly mandated are a Navy and Army, a Supreme Court, a Department including Ambassadors (State Department). A process of “enumeration” is mandated, so someone is required to do that (i.e., a Census Bureau).

    Congress is also empowered to establish, as it establishes the Post Office, a Mint (“To coin Money”); the National Institute of Standards and Technology (“fix the Standard of Weights and Measures”); Patent and Copyright Offices (“promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts”); a Customs agency (“collect . . . duties”); etc., etc.

    So the Post Office isn’t as unique as is implied here.

  35. In addition to multiple instances of chicks arriving dead due to mail delays, there’s also an increase reported by lots of folks getting necessary medicine late if at all. The USPS is incredibly important for the lives, livelihood, and quality of life of so many people even before you factor in “voting safely during the pandemic” or even “voting at all, because polling places are closing left and right and their schedules favor those who can comfortably take a day off from work without getting fired”, and it has been the subject of deliberate Republican sabotage for decades. See also.

    As for voting by mail, us here in Colorado (and I’m sure those in Oregon as well) are just baffled by all the “common sense” that tells so many people that voting by mail is such an easier target for fraud or corruption. The everyone-vote-by-mail model has been tested for almost a decade here, and incidences of fraud are vanishingly few. (@John A Arkansawyer, Myth #2 in that article explicitly addresses your concern about bad actors printing counterfeit ballots.)

    No, I’m much more concerned about, again, the safety of voting in person during a pandemic, the reduction in early voting and the closing of polls in predominately neighborhoods of color, and the way the Republican In Chief and his Stand-Athwart-the-Senate-Crying-“Stop!” lackey have said outright, in no uncertain terms, that more people being able to exercise their vote means Democrats will win (not a given, but it’s absolutely what they say) and that’s why they oppose measures that would end or at least mitigate existing means of voter suppression.

  36. (5) I’d been following this series of suits and appeals for some time before finally concluding that Abdin just doesn’t have a case. Unfortunately for CBS, he does tell a great sympathy-inducing story, and his GoFundMe campaign raised enough to let him continue to appeal. There’s a nice writeup on the legal issues at Plagiarism Today.

  37. Steve Simmons says I’d been following this series of suits and appeals for some time before finally concluding that Abdin just doesn’t have a case. Unfortunately for CBS, he does tell a great sympathy-inducing story, and his GoFundMe campaign raised enough to let him continue to appeal. There’s a nice writeup on the legal issues at Plagiarism Today.

    It’s a badly article as it suggests the other aspects of Discovery he raised as being the same as in his work, i .e. a gay couple, were part of the lawsuit. No, they weren’t. The Judge was ruling explicitly on the matter of tardigrades as a story device which he claiming he had a copyright on because of the novel. No other elements of his story were a matter of the judgement. An appeal is going to be next to impossible given the narrow ruling and CBS will likely get it thrown out.

  38. @Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    As for voting by mail, us here in Colorado (and I’m sure those in Oregon as well) are just baffled by all the “common sense” that tells so many people that voting by mail is such an easier target for fraud or corruption.

    Suppose you lived in a precinct that typically voted strong majority Democrat. Would you be okay with allowing a Republican party worker taking all of the ballots from the precinct to a central office to be counted? Would you be confident that all of the ballots would arrive there safely?

    The Postal Worker’s Union just endorsed Joe Biden. I live in a Zip Code that typically votes Republican. Why should I be confident that my ballot will get to where it needs to be on time? After all, it’s not like they have an unsullied reputation with respect to this issue. Link. Link Link Link (I could do plenty more . . . )

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