Here are 13 developments of interest to fans.
(1) Those who still associate James Bond with Aston Martin automobiles will be surprised to learn that 007 was a bad year for the manufacturer:
Aston Martin expanded a recall…to cover most of its sports cars built since late 2007 after discovering a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit plastic material in a part supplied to the British luxury sports carmaker.
Owned by Kuwaiti and private equity investors, Aston Martin said it would now recall 17,590 cars, including all of its left-hand drive models built since November 2007 and all right-hand drive models built since May 2012….
Aston Martin found that Shenzhen Kexiang Mould Tool Co Limited, a Chinese subcontractor that moulds the affected accelerator pedal arms, was using counterfeit DuPont plastic material, according to documents filed with the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Apparently there was a tendency for drivers to be shaken, not stirred by the driving experience.
(2) The Michigan Protectors, a group of wannabe crime fighters dressed as superheroes, is wracked by a leadership struggle between Petoskey Batman and Bee Sting.
Batman, aka Mark Williams, and Bee Sting, or Adam Besso, were once close friends, the Detroit News reported. Now, they are bitter enemies, and the Protectors, who operate in and around Petoskey, a coastal resort at the upper end of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, have lined up with one or the other.
The duo are birds of a feather. “Batman” Williams was charged with disturbing the peace in 2011 when police found him in full costume on the roof of a Petoskey building, where he’d been chased by a group of drunks.
“Bee Sting” Besso served over three months in jail after his shotgun discharged as he was wrestling with a man he’d told to stop revving his noisy motorcycle in a trailer park in the middle of the night.
Neither thinks the other is too super anymore.
“He is an abusive, neglectful, thieving, boastful, cowardly crook,” Williams said of Besso. “He belongs in jail and I will see him there.”
The News said Besso responded in kind: “He has to tear others down to feel better about himself. He’s like ‘Lord of the Flies’ with a slightly better version of dirt bags.”
(3) NASA and Roskosmos are negotiating to send an Israeli cosmonaut to the International Space Station later in the decade. Voice of Russia tells the story with more than a dollop of snark —
Since other countries have no manned spacecraft, the only option is Russia’s ‘Soyuz’ carrier rocket…. The source also pointed out that ‘Soyuz’ is the most reliable carrier rocket in the world. It is of no small importance to Israel, given that the first Israeli cosmonaut, Ilan Ramon, died during the fatal mission of the space shuttle Columbia in 2003. Israel will now hardly agree to send its citizen aboard US commercial spacecraft that will begin to be flight-tested in 2017 at the earliest. Israel will hardly run the risk, the news agency interlocutor said.
(5) While panning Chang-Rae Lee’s dystopian novel On Such a Full Sea, Ursula K. Le Guin implicitly complimented him by holding the author to a higher standard —
A good many things in the novel were inexplicable to me, such as how and when North America came to be like this, what happened to nation and religion, how raw materials are produced and how, without trains or good highways, they manage to have coffee, petrol, electronic devices, food in plastic pouches, neoprene suits, plastic throwaway dishes and implements – unsustainably hi-tech luxuries that we in 2014 enjoy thanks to our immense global network of industrial production. In a broken, sporadic civilisation, where does all this stuff come from? Neglect of such literal, rational questions in imaginative fiction is often excused, even legitimised, as literary licence. Because the author is known as a literary writer, he will probably be granted the licence he takes. But social science fiction is granted no such irresponsibility, and a novel about a future society under intense political control is social science fiction….
Lee’s prose is suave and canny; his story flows; events are vividly described, particularly as they verge into grotesque folktale violence and exaggeration; there are pleasant contemplative moments. Readers who find anachronism and implausibility easy to swallow will enjoy the story and perhaps find in it the fresh vision, the new take on dreary old Dystopia, That I could not.
(6) In the 2013 letter to corporate shareholders, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a Star Wars Rebels movie will be out this summer.
It’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since we acquired the extraordinary Star Wars franchise, but we’re well on our way to expanding that epic saga to thrill fans and introduce its iconic characters to a new generation with fantastic new storylines. After months of public speculation and anticipation, we announced the official release date for the next feature film, Star Wars: Episode VII, will be December 18, 2015. So far we’ve kept the details to ourselves, but we’re thrilled with the story and committed to making an incredible movie, and we should be releasing more information as production moves forward in the coming year.
As with Marvel, the rich universe of Star Wars has tremendous creative potential for the entire company. While the world eagerly awaits Episode VII to open in theaters, we’re introducing Star Wars Rebels to television audiences this summer with a movie and a series of shorts on Disney Channel, followed by a continuing series on Disney XD. Our success in building a robust pipeline of original Star Wars content for various platforms will be an integral part of our long-term strategy to leverage the franchise across a variety of our businesses, from theme parks to consumer products.
(7) J. K. Rowling originally planned to match Harry and Hermione. As well she should have! Rowling made the admission in an interview conducted by – who else? — actress Emma Watson.
The shocking revelation came in the new issue of Wonderland, of which Watson is a guest editor this month. The comments were obtained by The Sunday Times.
Rowling says that she should have put Hermione and Harry together in the Harry Potter series instead of Hermione and Ron, according to the publication’s headline, which reads, “JK admits Hermione should have wed Harry.”
“I wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as a form of wish fulfillment,” she says. “That’s how it was conceived, really. For reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it, Hermione ended up with Ron.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” she continued, “I can hear the rage and fury it might cause some fans, but if I’m absolutely honest, distance has given me perspective on that. It was a choice I made for very personal reasons, not for reasons of credibility. Am I breaking people’s hearts by saying this? I hope not.”
Watson didn’t seem shocked by these comments and agreed with her. “I think there are fans out there who know that too and who wonder whether Ron would have really been able to make her happy.”
(8) Steampunk authors looking for historical background information turn up the darnedest stuff. Like this woman who was a professional self-defense instructor —
Although the woman known as “Miss Sanderson” was a prominent fencer and self defence instructor in Edwardian London, regrettably little is known of her life – including her first name…. By 1908 she was teaching her own unique system of women’s self defence, based on Pierre Vigny’s method but concentrating on the use of the umbrella and parasol.
Here is an excerpt from a newspaper report about one of her demonstrations:
Then Miss Sanderson came to the attack, and the demonstration showed her to be as capable with the stick as the sword. She passed it from hand to hand so quickly that the eye could scarcely follow the movements, and all the while her blows fell thick and fast. Down slashes, upper cuts, side swings, jabs and thrusts followed in quick succession, and the thought arose, how would a ruffian come off if he attacked this accomplished lady, supposing she had either walking-stick, umbrella, or parasol at the time? In tests, she has faced more than one Hooligan, who was paid to attack her, and each time he has earned his money well.
(9) And now for something completely different – “zombie bees”.
Mutant “zombie bees” that act like the ghoulish creatures of horror films have surfaced in the Northeast after first appearing on the West Coast, a bee expert told ABC News on Wednesday.
An amateur beekeeper in Burlington, Vt., last summer found honeybees infested with parasites that cause the insects to act erratically and eventually kill them. It was the first spotting of zombie bees east of South Dakota, according to John Hafernik, a professor of biology at San Francisco State University whose team in October verified the infestation.
“They fly around in a disoriented way, get attracted to light, and then fall down and wander around in a way that’s sort of reminiscent of zombies in the movies,” Hafernik said. “Sometimes we’ve taken to calling [it], when they leave their hives, ‘the flight of the living dead.'”
(10) If only Isaac Asimov was still available to explain such complexities to us… Anyway, did you know The Good Doctor once was interviewed in Muppet Magazine?
Asimov was interviewed by Dr. Julius Strangepork aboard the Swinetrek in the Summer 1983 issue of Muppet Magazine. Asimov expressed, “I don’t think we can really advance into space until we learn how to cooperate as a planet.” He and Strangepork also discussed such issues as childhood, science fiction movies, his favorite star (Antares), the ugliness of E.T., and hair grooming. Strangepork particularly admires Asimov’s sideburns, which he grew himself (“I just applied fertilizer and waited.”)
(11) The Metapicture reports a little-known feature of some expensive old books.
It’s very possible that one of your battered old books contains an amazing secret called a “fore-edge painting,” which is an illustration that is hidden on the edge of the pages of the book. The technique allegedly dates back to the 1650s.
You can see the painting by bending together the pages of the book, just so you can see a small piece of each page.
But don’t count on your local antiquarian letting you grab his costly tomes so you can torque the pages looking for this kind of art.
(12) If you left your car out in the driveway for 10 years it wouldn’t look any better: see comparative photos showing how the Opportunity rover has aged since arriving on Mars a decade ago.
The Opportunity rover recently celebrated 10 years on Mars, even though the mission was only planned for three months. Engineers thought the rover would conk out much sooner, in part because they believed its solar panels would quickly become caked with dust and cut off the robot’s power supply. Instead, they found that wind storms actually help to clean the panels.
Over the years, Opportunity has taken several self-portraits — an overhead view of the rover made by combining several images — that give us a good idea of how much dust has accumulated on the solar panels. Compared to its first year on Mars, the rover is looking really dirty today.
(13) Taken out of context (for an article about holodeck technology) this scene from ST:TNG reminds me of many bad convention panels I’ve attended:
Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are playing poker together.
No, this isn’t a bad physics joke. It’s a scene from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It takes place in a holodeck, a simulated-reality room in the fictional Star Trek universe. The three scientists — or at least computer-generated versions of them — have been transported to the 2300s to play cards with Lt. Cmdr. Data.
“I don’t even know why I’m here in the first place,” Newton says.
Yes, even the awesome holodeck cannot keep program participants from uttering the comment that is the bane of conrunners everywhere.
[Thanks for these links goes out to James H. Burns, Joy V. Smith, Steven H Silver, John King Tarpinian and Andrew Porter.]