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.]