Pixel Scroll 9/29/20 The Three-Tribble Problem

(1) TREK THE VOTE. Trek fans are called on to volunteer their time to help protect election integrity in this YouTube clip featuring many stars from all of the shows, including Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, and Armin Shimmerman.

(2) R.U.R. EXHIBIT. Radio Prague International posted on its English language page “Karel Capek’s ‘robots’ at 100 – new exhibition highlights foreign productions of R.U.R.” (although, of course, they used the proper character to begin the author’s last name, for which we have substituted “C” because WordPress turns the other into a question mark.)

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of R.U.R., the dystopian theatre play by Karel Capek that introduced the word ‘robot’ into English – and to science fiction as a whole. A new exhibition called A Journey into the Depths of the Robot’s Soul focuses on how Capek’s ground-breaking play was received and staged abroad.

R.U.R. (or ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’) was Karel ?apek’s most popular work during his lifetime, both in Czechoslovakia and abroad. By 1923, a couple of years after its premiere in Prague, the dystopian play had been translated into 30 languages and been staged in major theatres in Europe and across the Atlantic.

Exhibition curator Zdenek Vacek is director of the Karel Capek Memorial, a museum housed in the writer’s summer residence in Stará Hu?, south of Prague. For the centennial anniversary, he says, they decided to focus on the history of R.U.R.’s early foreign performances and influence on writers around the world.

(3) BOLDLY GOING? A comic con in LA in December? Don’t count on it: “L.A. Comic Con announces in-person event, but conventions are still banned in the state” – the LA Times has the story.

L.A. Comic Con says it is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center, but large gatherings — such as conventions and conferences — are currently not permitted anywhere in California amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.

But Doane Liu, the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development, told The Times on Monday that this announcement came as a surprise and is premature.

“Under current state health guidelines, conventions are not allowed,” Liu said. “It’s not known when they will be allowed.”

…In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the chief executive of L.A. Comic Con parent company Comikaze Entertainment, Chris DeMoulin, clarified that L.A. Comic Con is currently “a potential show.”

(4) DISNEY RETRENCHING. In fact, here’s more of the news we’re really expecting to see: “Disney to lay off 28,000 workers at domestic theme parks” reports the LA Times.

The Burbank-based company said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 employees at its domestic parks division, which includes Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The company’s once-mighty parks division has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus health crisis. In March, Disney announced it was furloughing more than 100,000 workers after the pandemic forced the company to shut down its lucrative theme parks.

Walt Disney World has been operating with strict capacity limits and social distancing requirements. California has not yet allowed theme parks including Disneyland to resume business.

(5) TRAILER PARK. SciFiNow alerted viewers to “Cognition: Trailer Revealed For Sci-Fi Short”.

COGNITION is a short dystopian sci-fi drama / thriller about a son confronting his past trauma. Journeying through the symbolic landscape of the subconscious mind, the story follows an unbreakable bond between father and son…. A bond that transcends SPACE AND TIME…..

(6) ASHKIN DIES. Nobel laureate Arthur Ashkin, who the New York Times styles as having invented a ‘Tractor Beam’, died September 21 at the age of 98.

Arthur Ashkin, a physicist who was awarded a 2018 Nobel Prize for figuring out how to harness the power of light to trap microscopic objects for closer study, calling his invention optical tweezers, died on Sept. 21 at his home in Rumson, N.J. He was 98.

Optical tweezers — or optical traps, as they are more properly known — use the pressure from a highly focused laser beam to manipulate microscopic objects, from atoms to living organisms, like viruses and bacteria.

As the Nobel committee wrote, Dr. Ashkin had “invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, molecules, and living cells with their laser beam fingers.”

Trapping biological material proved to have groundbreaking practical applications in research and in understanding the behavior of the basic building blocks of life, like DNA, and other biological systems. Today, optical tweezers are widely manufactured and sold to researchers.

Dr. Ashkin’s “tweezer” is created by shining a laser — a beam of coherent monochromatic light — through a tiny magnifying lens. The lens creates a focal point for the laser, and, by a strange twist of nature, particles are drawn near that focal point and trapped there, unable to move up or down or backward or forward.

Steven M. Block, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, compared optical tweezers to the kind of immobilizing technology postulated in “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” calling them “the closest thing to a tractor beam that humans have ever produced.”…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • Fifty years ago, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at Heicon ’70. (It would win the Nebula Award as well.) (The  runner-ups for the Hugo were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.‘s  Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron.)  It was published first by Ace Books in their paperback Ace SF Special, Series 1 in 1969, and has had at least thirty editions in eleven languages though not Finnish. The first edition of The Left Hand of Darkness did not contain an introduction though later editions do. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 78. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 76. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. Finally, she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1949 – Joêlle Wintrebert, 71.  Nine novels, three dozen shorter stories; three years editing Univers; essays, reviews in Alerte!FictionFuturs; edited Petite anthologie de la science-fiction (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1952 – Lou Stathis.  Fan and pro.  Part of the SF Forum that gave birth to ICON.  Wrote for FantasticMississippi ReviewSF EyeThrustVertigo (i.e. DC Comics’). One novel.  Here is a Jeff Schalles photo from the mid-1980s.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 61. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen, VoyagerDeep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold.. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 59. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off, he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Dale Dickey, 59. She was Martha Bozeman in a recurring role on True Blood. She’s also been on Them: CovenantThe X-Files and Bones, and in two genre films, Changeling and Iron Man 3. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 – John O’Halloran, 59.  Long active at SF cons.  Webmaster for the Int’l Costumers Guild, 1989.  “Gerard” in the Best of Show “Trumps of Amber”, Torcon 3 (61st Worldcon) Masquerade, see here (at right) and here; judge, LoneStarCon 3 Masquerade (71st).  Official Photographer of Events, Loncon 3 (72nd); Official Photographer for Candid Shots, Sasquan (73rd) – see his Sasquan album here.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Chris), Baycon 2013.  Taiko drummer (as Chris is too).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1978 – Aislinn Batstone, 42.  (Forename is Irish, pronounced like “Aish-lin”.)  “What the Witch Wants” in Stupefying, “Instructions in My Absence” in Timeless Tales, a dozen more.  Master’s degree in Philosophy, taught philosophy, married a philosopher.  So there.  [JH, B.A. in Philosophy]
  • Born September 29, 1983 – Elisa McCausland, 37.  Half a dozen books (some collaborative).  Ignotus award for Wonder Woman about feminism as a superpower; later, with Diego Salgado, Supernovas, a feminist history of audiovisual SF; McC also does “Postheroic Transmutations”, about the subversive power of superheroines, on the Rock & Comics podcast (all in Spanish, i.e. her section of R&C is «Transmutaciones Postheroicas»).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STOCKING UP. Virgin Galactic SPCE stock recorded big gains after more financial firms recommended it to investors: “Virgin Galactic jumps 25% in its second best day ever after getting Wall Street’s full endorsement”.

Shares of Virgin Galactic surged nearly 25% in trading Monday after Wall Street firms continued to set higher expectations for the space tourism stock.

The stock jump came after Bank of America and Susquehanna began coverage of Virgin Galactic. Notably, the two firms join six others in recommending Virgin Galactic’s stock to investors, giving the company the eight Wall Street buy ratings – and zero to hold or sell.

“No company in our coverage universe has anywhere near comparable growth potential,” Bank of America analyst Ron Epstein said.

Virgin Galactic’s 24.8% jump, with shares closing at $20.51, was its second-biggest in a trading day since its public debut last year. Including Monday’s climb, the stock is up about 78% this year.

(11) ALWAYS THOSE DARNED MUGGLES. “Scots Harry Potter fans slammed for cramming station to see Hogwarts Express” reports the UK’s Daly Record.

Scots Harry Potter fans have been slammed as ‘idiotic’ after scores of people crammed onto a railway platform to watch a train from the iconic film franchise pass by.

The steam train, made famous by the blockbuster movie series, travelled from its winter base in Carnforth in Lancashire on Monday.

The ‘Hogwarts Express’ route had several stops at a number of Scots stations, including Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire.

The locomotive chuntered past the gathered Potter fanatics at around 5.45pm.

But photos that emerged of the fleeting moment sparked fury on social media.

Locals slammed Dalmuir residents for ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Some claimed that many among the large crowd on the platform were not wearing face masks or coverings and were also not staying two metres away from each other.

Many took to Facebook to vent their anger after the image was shared online.

One wrote: “Yes, it’s a train from Harry Potter, but I think there are much more important things going on.

“Covid-19 is so strong right now, Christmas is under threat.

“We are meant to be social distancing and none of this is happening whatsoever for a train.

“This is shameful, disgusting and very disappointing.”

Another added: “Where is the social distance there?”

A third commented: “I cannot believe the stupidity of these people all for the sake of a Harry Potter train….

(12) ABOUT YOUR STAR WARS KNOWLEDGE. Ranker contends there are “25 Things You Didn’t Know About The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy”. (If I didn’t know that many answers on my driver’s exam, I’d be walking!) Here’s Number One —

1. James Earl Jones Wasn’t Credited By Request

James Earl Jones’ long career is filled with exceptional roles, but he’s probably best known for providing the voice of Darth Vader. David Prowse spoke all the dialogue as the movie was filmed, but his British West Country accent wasn’t working for George Lucas.

It’s unclear whether Lucas always planned to dub over Prowse’s dialogue, but in the end, that’s what he did, using Jones’ dialogue instead. Jones, however, asked that he not be given credit for his work in the film’s credit reel, and in the original, he wasn’t. 

Jones felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and he didn’t deserve credit. Over time, he realized the significance his voice gave to the character and reprised the role in subsequent movies, television series, and video games.

(13) BUSINESS OUTREACH. “How do you know you’ve arrived at the Uncommon Open Air weekend? You see the bookshop with a sea monster coming out of the windows,” the owners said on Facebook.  This landmark is the River Bookstore in Amherstburg, Ontario.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Screen Junkies, in “Firefly Honest Trailer” on YouTube, invite viewers to “suit up in their dustiest browns and beiges” to watch Firefly, the show with so much “quippy dialogue” that “if the ship goes under 50 quips an hour, it’s primed to explode!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cyril Simsa, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Michael J. Walsh, Rob Thornton, John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “One-Body” Dern.]

39 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/29/20 The Three-Tribble Problem

  1. 8) Ian McShane guest-starred as Technician Anton Zoref in “Force of Life”, an episode of the first season of Space: 1999 – he’s had a very long acting career. (He was possessed by an alien space entity and went around freezing people to death with his touch. It didn’t end well.)

  2. (13) Isn’t that a scene from the end of “Watchmen” (the original graphic novel)?

  3. HowardB says Miserable muggles as well, from the sound of those quotes.

    I don’t think they overreacted given Scotland is amidst extremely high levels of Covid-19 infections right now.

    I’ve no pity for such fools. I had an Uber driver who refused to wear a mask on the ride coming back from my bone density test — I reported him and I was told that he no longer drives for them as such a report is warrants an automatic termination.

  4. Lis Carey notes Yeah, not a fan of superspreader crowds with mask wearing apparently considered an unpopular optional extra.

    One of the few advantages of being confined to my apartment is that I’ve avoided situations almost all of the time where idiots might be maskless. I was surprised yesterday on my first day out since May at The Mall to see quite a number of those idiots. I walked well clear of them.

    And I’ll still be having my fifth Covid-19 test on the tenth before having my third knee surgery. I hear it’s the newer gentler kind. Yea!

  5. The Hogwarts Express makes so many appearances, I’ve seen it at least twice myself, without even trying – I just ran into it, in the course of, well, going somewhere on the train. Risking infection to see it seems more than a little silly, to me.

  6. Steve Wright says The Hogwarts Express makes so many appearances, I’ve seen it at least twice myself, without even trying – I just ran into it, in the course of, well, going somewhere on the train. Risking infection to see it seems more than a little silly, to me.

    We has a wedding a month back in rural Maine that ended up infecting at least two hundred people with Covid-19 and killing eight people do far. Of course the anti-maskers point out that the dead were elderly, so why be concerned that they’re dead? Such contemptible idiots.

  7. @Cat
    And most of them weren’t even at the wedding, from what I’ve read – they were second- or third-hand cases.

  8. P J Evans says to me And most of them weren’t even at the wedding, from what I’ve read – they were second- or third-hand cases.

    Correct. Look it’s worse that the flu, much more deadly and spreads really fast. Every encounter I have with medical staffer (and that’s lot) is prefaced by the questions that determine if it’s safe for them to be in contact with me. My running sort of joke is I barely see anyone but them, so I ask if they are safe for me to be in contact with.

  9. 8) I haven’t seen it, but scrolling through McShane’s IMDB listing, he was in a film called Tam Lin (based on the ballad) playing a character called Tom Lane.

  10. @CatEldrige: “I had an Uber driver who refused to wear a mask on the ride coming back from my bone density test — I reported him and I was told that he no longer drives for them as such a report is warrants an automatic termination.“

    Dis you bother to ask if he had a medical exemption? You may have just cost the guy his job. Good for you.

  11. HowardB asks me Dis you bother to ask if he had a medical exemption? You may have just cost the guy his job. Good for you.

    Uber has no medical exemption, period. A driver must send the central office a digital photo showing that they are masked before they start every fare. He took his off after doing so.

    Here’s the deal. I get infections. Indeed I spent fifty days in-hospital for treatment of a severe staphylococcus infection that I got home from just over a month ago. I’m on two antibiotics for at least the next year. If I’m lucky, I’ll get off one of them before it damages my kidneys.

    I can’t afford to have an idiot like him decide to disobey a rule that his company says he must observe. It was only a five minute drive so I had him roll down all the windows.

    It was the first of the two such encounters this week. I use Instacard for grocery shopping as I don’t obviously cannot go out right now. The delivery staffer for them showed up here unmasked. Yes I reported her too. And yes she likely lost her job too.

    If you work for a company that says you will wear a mask, I expect you to do so. And yes I masked up before she got here. I’m required to wear a mask when a medical staffer is here which I do willingly as it protects both of us. That’s the reality for me.

  12. I’m with you Cat! There’s no telling how many people they are putting at risk for their convenience. I have a friend who’s an antimasker. It makes me sad that my friend thinks its better if my dad dies than she be inconvenienced.

  13. With respect to Čapek, I avoided The War with the Newts for years, assuming from the title that it must be awful, only to be pleasantly surprised when I finally read it.

    And at least in the comment section, it’s ampersand #x10c semicolon to get the accented Č.

  14. 8) McShane had a one episode gig on Game of Thrones in a part that was so inconsequential it can only be called stunt casting. In interviews at the time, he dismissed the show as “tits and dragons”.

    Which is essentially correct.

  15. HowardB: Dis you bother to ask if he had a medical exemption? You may have just cost the guy his job. Good for you.

    Don’t be ridiculous. Anyone with a medical condition serious enough to warrant a mask exemption wouldn’t dare be driving for Uber.

  16. Point of Clarification: The Science Fiction Forum is an undergraduate club/library at Stony Brook University (formerly SUNY Stony Brook) founded in 1968. Lou Stathis was an early Forum-ite, “One of Us…” who made it big (along with Norm Hollyn), but was not involved in I-Con.
    I was.

  17. 8) I also liked McShane in the Pillars of the Earth miniseries, which in my mind is at least mildly associational.

  18. @JJ

    Not necessarily true – there are mental health conditions which qualify, specifically people who have panic attacks if something is over their mouth (often but not exclusively due to past trauma) but probably others. Neurodiversity can be a factor as well – I think I heard that some autistic folks really can’t cope with the sensation, especially children and young people. It isn’t always linked to an increased vulnerability. That being said, if you can’t wear a mask you can’t drive for Uber right now, and that’s that.

    It’s one of the things that makes me so damn angry with people who refuse to wear masks just because they don’t want to. There’s a significant minority of people who can’t wear a mask, frequently not for reasons that are obvious at a glance, and they’re the ones getting unfairly harassed and abused in the streets without a cloak of self-righteousness to protect them, and they suffer the indignity of being used as human shields by the very people endangering them. It’s infuriating.

    Cat should absolutely be keeping himself safe, and has the right to ensure that the people he sees are contributing to that. No-one has the right to demand he sacrifices his own health.

  19. Lovejoy!

    @7
    I am a contrarian and iconoclast, i. e., jerk, but even I revere Left Hand of Darkness. A true breakthrough in literature, and a book which ought to have been more celebrated outside sci-fi–at the time, even. (One can make objections about some of the story choices, so I’d say it isn’t an impeccable novel.)

    @13
    That’s cute. I’d shop there, despite the risks of megafaunal alimentation.

    Speaking of covid, we’re in rock and hard place territory, especially in the US, since our country has neither a social safety net nor universal health care. Whether you shut everything for safety, or you refuse basic precautions, you are placing an onus on others. We seem incapable of finding the groove between the extremes. USers finally see the truth about their cherished myth of rugged individualism, and it ain’t pretty.

  20. (2) I once unintentionally gave a lot of extra work to an assistant editor at Asimov’s by pointing out that the C in Capek was missing the diacritical mark in the galleys of a story of mine. Apparently at the time it wasn’t possible to add it by normal means with the layout software they were using and some kind of labour-intensive workaround had to be found.

  21. @Howard B: The driver didn’t ask Cat if he was in a particularly high-risk group before exposing him, either. Yes, there are medical exemptions–but there are also too many people who think “I don’t believe in Covid” or “but the president doesn’t wear one” are good reasons not to wear a mask.

    Those medical exemptions for masks are to enable people to access necessary services, and so they can leave their homes, with care for physical distancing. Not to act as though there is no pandemic. Businesses can balance “this person needs to fill a prescription” with the safety of staff by providing curbside or delivery service. I know someone who had trouble finding a mask that didn’t trigger her asthma–so for months she got fresh air by going out on her balcony, or by taking walks at 4 or 5 a.m., when she could count on not encountering anyone.

  22. Vicki Rosenzweig says Those medical exemptions for masks are to enable people to access necessary services, and so they can leave their homes, with care for physical distancing. Not to act as though there is no pandemic. Businesses can balance “this person needs to fill a prescription” with the safety of staff by providing curbside or delivery service. I know someone who had trouble finding a mask that didn’t trigger her asthma–so for months she got fresh air by going out on her balcony, or by taking walks at 4 or 5 a.m., when she could count on not encountering anyone.

    Complicating this of course is that the knee injury kes me confined to the apartment so being out at all is a rare thing. And such things as meds get picked up by friends; I simply cannot easily get up yo the Hospitol pharmacy where the script for my narcotic pain killer is.

    I’ve absolutely no pity for anyone who job says you’ll wear a mask who doesn’t. They’re potentially endangering others whether or not they know it. And I’ve no desire to spend several more months in the hospital because they don’t like wearing a mask. I don’t like wearing eight pounds of mostly steel immobilizer.

  23. I’ve never actually used Uber. Aside from being put off by the dreadful name, which sounds like a Nazi death cult, I support local taxicab firms rather than multinational corporations.

  24. Di[d] you bother to ask if he had a medical exemption? You may have just cost the guy his job. Good for you.

    If an employer requires a mask and an employee breaks that policy, it isn’t the customer who cost them the job.

  25. HowardB says I’ve never actually used Uber. Aside from being put off by the dreadful name, which sounds like a Nazi death cult, I support local taxicab firms rather than multinational corporations.

    Good for you but I can’t use a local taxi service as they don’t have any way of allowing me to schedule and confirm rides in advance. I can’t afford to miss an appointment because I couldn’t get one or the other of the only two surviving cab companies to provide a ride,

    Uber has an iOS app that allows me well in advance to schedule and confirm a ride. It holds all my locations, my credit info, knows where I am by using the built-in software on the iPhone and assumes that if I’m away from the apartment that I’m going back there. I’ll be using it at five am on the twelfth to get to my surgery — there not even cab service here at that time.

    We live in a world of transnational corporations. Just because they’re big doesn’t make them not the best choice sometimes.

    Now playing: Fairport Convention’s “Tam Lin” off Liege and Lief as playing on Apple Music.

  26. Meredith: Not necessarily true – there are mental health conditions which qualify, specifically people who have panic attacks if something is over their mouth (often but not exclusively due to past trauma) but probably others. Neurodiversity can be a factor as well – I think I heard that some autistic folks really can’t cope with the sensation, especially children and young people.

    Being employed in a job driving members of the public around is contraindicated for people with those sorts of anxiety conditions.

  27. @JJ

    There’s a pretty big difference between “can’t have something over mouth” and “can’t drive strangers” in terms of triggers. Not being able to cope with one doesn’t say anything about your ability to cope with the other.

    None of this changes that Cat did the right thing.

  28. Meredith says None of this changes that Cat did the right thing.

    And get to keep doing it for, well, pretty much here out, as my infectious disease doctor, and no that’s that something you want to have ever, informed me at out last Zoom meeting that I’ll never be off one of the antibiotics she’s got me on though she’s hoping a month or so after the next surgery to stop the other antibiotic as it long-term causes severe kidney damage.

    She won’t know for sure until they look at the bones during surgery as staphylococcus can hide its presence in tests but is visible when looked at on the surface of infected bones. So hoping it’s not there as being there means another fifty days in-hospital.

    So I’ve zero sympathy or tolerance for the idiots refusing to wear a mask. If you can’t wear one for valid psychological or medical reasons, you’ve my sympathy and understanding.

  29. Maybe they can combine the Hogwarts Express gathering with a gender reveal party? Might as well get as many disastrous idiocies as possible out of the way at once.

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