Pixel Scroll 5/21/20 Six Out Of 14 Duchies Vote OK To Release The Dragons In Two Weeks

(1) CALIFORNIA GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS – CASE BY (BOOK) CASE. “For booksellers in L.A., a partial reopening brings hope and anxiety” – the LA Times has the story.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Hillary McMahon pulled up into a parking spot in Pasadena, where a sign attached to a traffic cone read: “Reserved for Vroman’s Curbside Pickup. Space 1.” She dialed the number listed below the sign and let the store know she was ready for her book.

McMahon, 72, of La Cañada Flintridge, got out of her car, opened the trunk, hopped back inside and put on her blue mask. Minutes later, an employee wearing sunglasses, blue gloves and a mask walked out of the empty bookstore on an eerily quiet Colorado Boulevard, brown paper bag in hand, and dropped into the trunk a copy of Claudio Saunt ’s “Unworthy Republic.”

Vroman’s , with locations in Hastings Ranch and Pasadena, is among L.A.’s many independent bookstores — including Stories, Pages and Chevalier’s — that have started offering contactless, curbside service since Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed some retailers to reopen May 8 within strict guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus….

…On May 14, the California Independent Booksellers Alliance held a virtual town hall for booksellers featuring a special guest — a nurse.

In advance of the meeting, nurse Jean Taylor-Woodbury distributed information on the state’s guidelines: site-specific protection plans; disinfecting protocols; training and screenings of employees and a detailed risk assessment.

Over the course of the call, which went over an hour, 72 booksellers from across the state asked Taylor-Woodbury a variety of questions: How long does the virus stay on paper and cardboard? How do you disinfect money? Do we have to disinfect books after browsers touch them? (The answer was “yes”.) How do you disinfect books? What do we do if customers won’t wear masks? Is there a better way to access testing? How long will someone test positive? …

(2) NO ALBACON THIS YEAR. Add Albacon 2020 to the roster of cancelled conventions. The event, which was to have been held in Albany, NY in September, has been postponed to 2021.

Due to the ongoing issues with Covid-19 health and safety, the Albacon Committee has decided to postpone the convention until Fall of 2021. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have agreed to attend as Guests of Honor. Memberships will roll over, but, given the situation, we will make an exception to our usual policy and give refunds on request.

(3) I SOLEMNLY SWEAR. This is wild. “This ‘Harry Potter’ Mask Reveals the Marauder’s Map as You Breathe”.

…Hook told Insider that she created these masks to “bring some magic” into the real world. While the masks were created using simple tools— an inexpensive sewing machine, standard sewing supplies, licensed cotton fabric, elastic, and of course the special color-changing pigment — the design process was lengthy. Each mask took her about 17 hours to create start to finish. “The majority of the time is waiting for the treatment to set into the fabric,” she told Insider.

(4) STAR PERFORMER. “NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman”. The New York Times tells what the late astronomer did to earn the honor.

NASA announced Wednesday that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, as it is now named, is being designed to investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe and to scan space for exoplanets belonging to distant stars. The project to build the telescope has survived several attempts by the Trump administration to kill it, and is now slated to be launched later this decade.

Until now it has been known by the decidedly uncatchy name of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst. The acronym had a double meaning: “W” is the name for a crucial parameter that measures the virulence of dark energy, thus giving a clue to the fate of the universe.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

(5) TOWEL DAY. It will be time to celebrate again on May 25, and BookRiot’s contribution to the festivities is —“Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy?” I scored 13/15, and talked myself out of yet another right answer, so you may suspect it’s not that hard.

Traditional Towel Day celebrations primarily involve carrying a towel everywhere you go. (A towel, after all, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”) Last year, I celebrated with a Which Hitchhikers Guide Character Are You? quiz. For Towel Day 2020, I decided to put together a different sort of quiz, this time to test your knowledge on this zaniest of franchises. In this quiz, I’ll lob you 15 questions about all five Adams-penned Hitchhiker’s Guide books (no disrespect, Mr. Colfer, but today is literally not your day), plus one or two about the numerous adaptations.

(6) TRIFFIDS REDUX. The New York Times reviews Kenneth Oppel’s Bloom: “A Few Brave Kids Battle a Toxic World”. (May be paywalled.)

If flu-pandemic books make cold sufferers anxious and zombie books make agoraphobics jittery, here’s something to rattle the Zyrtec set.

You name an allergy, and adolescent Anaya in Kenneth Oppel’s BLOOM (Knopf, 320 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up) has it. Gluten, eggs, milk, smoke, dust — all of these things aggravate her acne. Anaya’s gorgeous ex-BFF Petra doesn’t have zit issues, but her allergy is a rare and lethal one: water. New kid Seth is allergic to life in general: Being shuttled between foster families who don’t want you sucks.

Then rain falls upon their Canadian home of Salt Spring Island. A peculiar rain. It clears Anaya’s skin and Petra isn’t allergic to it. In the hours that follow, the farm Seth tends with his current fosters, Mr. and Mrs. Antos, sprouts an invasive species of tall, black, spiky grass.

Soon it’s popping up all over the world, outgrowing even kudzu. Picture the xenomorph from “Alien,” only leafier. It destroys lawn mower blades. Cutting it releases acid. Burning it generates toxic fumes. And everyone seems to be allergic to it — except Anaya, Petra and Seth, who haven’t felt this lively in ages.

…There is nothing especially deep to this story. But these are deep times, and readers will have no choice but to overlay their current Covid-19 experiences on Oppel’s chillingly prescient details: the initial blaming of China, a shrinking work force gutted by sickness, closed schools, stay-at-home orders, overloaded hospitals and the omnipresence of medical masks.

It is a helpless situation with which readers will powerfully identify. How cathartic to imagine a few brave kids might turn it all around. This makes “Bloom” the perfect book right now for young readers searching for hope, strength, inspiration — and just a little horticultural havoc.

(7) TRAILER PARK. IGN reports “Tenet: New Trailer Premieres Tonight on Fortnite” – so it will already be available by the time you see today’s Scroll.

For anyone excited for Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated new movie, Tenet, you will be able to watch the brand new trailer on Fortnite starting tonight.

In the latest collaboration with Epic Games’ popular battle royale shooter, Warner Bros. is premiering the brand new Tenet trailer on Fortnite’s virtual big screens. The new Tenet trailer will premiere at the top of every hour starting at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET tonight, May 21.

What did I say?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 21, 1980 — Yoda made his debut appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in the United States on May 21, 1980. He has since appeared in over 50 films and TV shows.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior premiered. Directed by  George Miller and produced by  Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music.  It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. It was extremely well received by critics, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 87% rating currently. 
  • May 21, 1985 Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO.  It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer.  Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist.  The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devilor Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist.  (Died 1528) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope.  Second most quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”.  Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs.  Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry he could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey, each being superb fantasy.  (Died 1744) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Genre adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1903 – Manly Wade Wellman.  Wrote for AmazingAstoundingPlanetStartlingStrangeUnknownWeird Tales.  Best-known characters, John the Balladeer (“Silver John”; I’ve always been fond – if that word may be used – of the story “Vandy, Vandy”) and the two occult-phenomena investigators Judge Keith Pursuivant and John Thurstone.  Comics: wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel, contributed to The Spirit and Blackhawk.  Sixteen novels, two hundred shorter stories, in our field, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; detective fiction, a Western, histories of the Old South.  World Fantasy Award for life achievement.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland.  Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature.  Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years.  Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for France, England, Russia, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Denmark, Japan, Greece, Italy, Norway.  Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Library of Congress.  Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury.  Regina Medal.  Grolier Award.  Simmons University gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason. It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and  Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately, he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1918 Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre role was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, a unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1935 Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best-known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, 69.  Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for AnalogAsimov’s (see here), Realms of FantasySF Age; books, see herehere; postage stamps, see herehere; murals, see herehere.   Keeps bees.  Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week.  Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate.  [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1953 Trevor Cooper, 67. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”.  He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that. (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield.  Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count).  Recruited Kevin Standlee.  One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil.  See here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, 36.  As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four fairy-tale-retelling books based on Little Red Riding HoodHansel & GretelThe Little MermaidThe Snow Queen.  With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more.  Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy.  YouTube channel with 200 videos, 13,000 subscribers.  Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BOOKING THE DATE. “Iam pervenimus usque ad umbilicos”. I don’t know what the title means even after running it through Google Translate, however, the results forced me to discard my bellybutton theory. Whatever it means, Steve J. Wright was in the room where it happened:

Well, I did it.  What did I do?  I uploaded two of my novels to Amazon’s Kindle publishing system, and within the past couple of minutes, I hit the button marked “Publish”.  There’s a review process, which is currently very slow because of the ongoing plague, so the books won’t actually be available for at least two weeks… but, at the end of that time, I presume a jet of light will shoot out of my head, as I level up from “deservedly obscure blogger” to “deservedly obscure indie author”.  (Yes, I’ve been spending too much time in MMORPGs.)

So, anyone who has said to themselves, “Bah and tcha!  This Steve person is full of criticism for other writers, going on about how to present sympathetic characters and how to construct your plot structure, but how well could he do it himself, eh?”… well, any such person will shortly be getting the chance to find out.  I’m not really in a position to be objective, myself – I mean, obviously I think I’m wonderful, but I’m aware that this opinion may not be universally shared.

Hey – forget about waiting, they’re already available. Take Martial’s word for it: “Ohe! iam satis est, ohe! Libelle”.

(12) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. “She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird” reports NPR.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

“I asked my mom, ‘Hey, I keep getting these text messages’ — and I was also now starting to get phone calls — ‘for this guy Elon Musk. I don’t know who this is,’ ” Tucker said. “And my mom’s jaw just dropped.”

Turns out, Tucker’s cellphone number used to be registered to Musk. On any given day, she receives at least three calls or texts intended for Musk, whom she has never met.

If the maverick billionaire stirs controversy, as he is wont to do, her phone blows up with a torrent of messages. (Full disclosure: I reached out to Musk during one of those controversies, when he threatened to sue the California county that is home to Tesla’s headquarters over its coronavirus-related restrictions. Instead, I got Tucker.)

She has accidentally intercepted far more interesting calls than mine, however. One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. “Which is, No. 1, really cool,” Tucker said. “But I have no idea how it’s built.”

(14) WHY. Today, Yahoo! Entertainment thinks they know the answer to “Why ‘Batwoman’ Star Ruby Rose Left the CW Series”.

…According to multiple sources, Rose was unhappy with the long hours required of her as the series lead, which led to friction on the set. It was thus decided by her and the network and studio, Warner Bros. Television, that they would part ways.

(15) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. And Ars Technica thinks they might be able to fill in a blank about another previously unexplained departure:“Here’s why NASA’s chief of human spaceflight resigned—and why it matters”.

Why did Doug Loverro resign?

He made an error during the procurement process of the Human Landing System, during which NASA selected bids from Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to build lunar landers as part of the Artemis Program. In his resignation letter to employees on Tuesday, Loverro admitted he made a “mistake” earlier this year. Multiple sources have suggested that he violated the Procurement Integrity Act.

It’s worth noting that on March 25, 2020, NASA’s inspector general announced an audit of “NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis missions to include landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.” It seems plausible that this audit may have involved some action taken by Loverro.

The article tells what he may have done, and assesses the implications of his departure on NASA’s hopes to meet the 2024 target.

(16) ARTIFACT. “Expedition To Salvage Titanic’s Wireless Telegraph Gets The Go-Ahead”.

In the final hours it took the R.M.S. Titanic to sink, wireless telegraph operators issued a series of increasingly frantic messages calling for rescue.

They went from detailed to desperate.

The last transmission — issued just a few minutes before the “unsinkable” ship disappeared below the surface of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg — was just five words: “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.”

The messages offer a poignant record of the final moments of chaos and tragedy aboard the Titanic in April 1912.

And this week a federal judge ruled that the wireless telegraph set may be recovered from the wreckage.

U.S. Judge Rebecca Smith said retrieval of the Edwardian technology — the most advanced of its time — “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” the Associated Press reported.

The decision is a victory for RMS Titanic Inc., a private company with exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the ship. It has been waging a decades-long legal battle to gain the right to extract the equipment and other artifacts from the ship.

In 2000, an earlier judge denied the company permission to cut into the shipwreck or detach any part of it. But Smith appeared swayed by RMST’s argument that remnants of the luxurious vessel are rapidly deteriorating.

“While many items that remain in and around the Titanic wreckage have the ability to enlighten generations on the lives of its passengers, only one item holds the story of all of the survivors,” Bretton Hunchak, president of the company said in a statement on Facebook.

(17) HOW ABOUT A NICE GAME OF CHESS? “Years Before The Pandemic, War Games Predicted A ‘Global Tempest'” says NPR.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

“That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game,” McCown said.

Starting in 2006, when she was a war gamer at the National Defense University, McCown spent two years running pandemic simulations for senior policymakers. The scenario: A novel flu strain is racing across the planet. The virus is deadly and highly contagious; U.S. officials are trying to contain the outbreak before it hits the United States. (Spoiler: They don’t succeed.)

McCown called the first exercise “Global Tempest.” In the office that day in March, she dug out an article she’d written about it for a defense journal. The title was “Wargaming the Flu.”

“As I looked through it, I was realizing the extent to which it had really identified some of the things that we were living and some of the debates I was seeing on TV,” she said.

In McCown’s simulations, as in several others in the early 2000s, participants foresaw an overwhelmed health care industry struggling to respond to unprecedented demand. McCown’s teams worried about the number of ventilators and hospital beds.

What’s more interesting to McCown is that the gamers also identified the many ways a pandemic could disrupt ordinary life.

(18) NO FIGHTING IN THE WARP ROOM. Everybody loves this house — the link is circulating widely: “480 Rainier Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15239 – 3 Bed, 1 Bath Single-Family Home – MLS# 1445093 – 24 Photos” at Trulia. The goodies are in the middle of the photo deck, so keep flipping.

Do you like Fun & Adventure? See this One of a Kind Brick Ranch, Converted into a 2 Story. Enter the Door to a 13th Century Castle Décor Sunken Living Rm, w/ Dramatic, High, Oak Beamed Ceiling, Hardwood Floor, Brick Fireplace, a Ladder to an Elevated Library. Time Travel at Warp Speed to the 25th Century Starship. A Talking Space Alien greets you as you walk toward the Floor to Ceiling, Outer Space Wall Mural. The Dining Rm Command Center Rear Wall opens up to the Spaceship Main Bridge-Working Computer & Controls from an Apache Helicopter, Speakers & a 55 Inch Screen (TV works)…. 

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, N., Michael J. Walsh, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]