(1) STICK A FORK IN IT. The second official trailer for Toy Story 4 dropped today. Features Keanu Reeves, who adds Canadian content to the movie as stuntman Duke Caboom. The film comes to U.S. theaters on June 21.
Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.
(2) ARF SAYS SANDY. The Dick Tracy strip seems to be starting an arc involving Annie and Daddy Warbucks. Daniel Dern says, “I’ve been following sundry daily strips via GoComics but it appears to have started a week ago here.”
(3) SFWA’S AGENT. Michael Capobianco penned “An Appreciation of Eleanor Wood” for the SFWA Blog.
SFWA thanks Eleanor Wood and Spectrum Literary Agency for more than twenty years of service to the organization….
I still vividly remember how much Eleanor helped when SFWA’s auditor found a serious discrepancy in how Pocket Books was paying royalties for Star Trek books exported to the UK and Australia – they weren’t paying anything, contrary to the language in their boilerplate contract. SFWA complained to Pocket but was met with repeated demurrals; it was only when Eleanor took over that they capitulated, not only paying a fair compensation to all the authors affected, but getting the contract changed to more fairly pay authors in the future….
(4) THE SPIDER SYNDROME. Maurice Broaddus delivers today’s “The Big Idea” at Whatever.
The Usual Suspects is a bit of a departure for me. It’s a middle school detective novel (think “Elmore Leonard for kids” or, as it was pitched, “Encyclopedia Brown meets The Wire”), because I work a lot with children who want to read what I write and, frankly, most of my stuff isn’t “age inappropriate.” In fact, I originally wrote the book to both entertain my oldest son and chronicle some of my children’s antics (it’s the only thing of mine he’s read and he still refers to himself as my original editor). The premise of the story is The Big Idea: when something goes wrong in the school, they round up The Usual Suspects….
(5) AI AT BARBICAN. This is from a review by Simon Ings behind the Financial Times paywall of the “AI: More Than Human” exhibit now showing at London’s Barbican Centre through August 26.
AI is part of the Barbican’s ‘Life Rewired’ season of films, workshops, concerts, and talks. What is emerging from the project is less that we must learn how machines think and create, and more that we must stop carelessly running down our own abilities. Human values and practices persist well beyond the moment we learn to automate them. Music has been produced algorithmically since Bach’s, and Mozart wrote generative algorithms to power street organs. Chess computers do nothing but encourage the playing of chess.
The first tented spaces in the Barbican’s gallery do a good job of exploring and to some degree disarming our anxieties about being taken over by thinking machines. We are shown how the west, under the shadow of Rabbi Loew’s 16th century Golem, adopted a strictly instrumentalist view of human intelligence. The US science fiction writer Isaac Asimov can be heard channeling the Abrahamic tradition when he insists that ‘A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.’
(6) INSIDE THE SUIT. Patch O’Furr continues a deep dive into furry fandom with “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 2)”.
Furry fandom often has DIY ethics (intentional or not). That can mean nonprofit volunteer-led events, and directly supporting each other’s art instead of just consuming corporate products. A Daily Beast reporter asked about it and I shared lots of info that didn’t all make the news — so here’s a followup in 3 parts.
Fandom is big business in the mainstream – but furries have their own place apart. Why does this fandom grow independently? Let’s look at unique expression at the heart of it. Of course furries do a lot more things than this story can look at, but one aspect brings insight about decentralized structure.
Some subcultures rise and fall with media they consume. But the influences seen in Part 1 didn’t make one property in common for every furry. They didn’t rise with a movie like Zootopia. Instead, this fandom is fans of each other….
(7) GHOST OF COLAS PAST. This is hilarious. Food & Wine reports “‘New Coke’ Is Coming Back This Summer, Thanks to ‘Stranger Things'” – a product I definitely feel no nostalgia for, at all.
Season three of the spooky Netflix series takes place in 1985, the year of the soft drink brand’s most infamous product launch.
What Crystal Pepsi was to the 1990s, New Coke was to the ’80s. With the cola wars in full swing, the competition to out-do one another meant multi-million dollar, celebrity-filled ad campaigns and some less-than-successful product innovations. In 1985, the Coca-Cola Company made an ill-fated attempt to improve its core product by changing the formula up….
Starting at 5 p.m ET on Thursday, May 23, 12-ounce cans of New Coke will be available as a gift with purchase at CokeStore.com/1985, which will also feature limited-edition, numbered Stranger Things-themed glass bottles of Coca-Cola and Coke Zero Sugar.
(8) CELEBRITY CREDENTIALS. Ten cats from SFF movies made Business Insider’s list — “RANKED: 15 of the best movie cats of all time”.
15. Jonesy in “Alien” (1979) and “Aliens” (1986) is a survivor.
In the space thriller “Alien,” Jonesy the orange tabby cat is a source of comfort for protagonist Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as her spaceship and crewmates are viciously attacked by an elusive alien creature called a Xenomorph.
Toward the end of the film, Jonesy and Ripley remain as the lone survivors on the spaceship, which means Jonesy is one tough cat.
Jonesy also made a reappearance in the sequel “Aliens” after he and Ripley traveled in hypersleep for 57 years, officially making him the oldest fictional cat on this list.
(9) ALIEN SPOTTED. A UFO will beam up this rare creature any moment now.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
Another big day in genre movie history.
- May 21, 1971 — Escape from the Planet of the Apes premiered in theaters
- May 21, 1980 —Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back hit theaters.
- May 21, 1981 – Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior debuted in theaters.
- May 21, 2009 — Terminator Salvation opened theatrically.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- 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. (Died 1964.)
- Born May 21, 1903 — Manly Wade Wellman. I remember reading the John the Balladeer collectionKarl E. Wagner did and then seeking out the rest of those stories. Amazing stuff! Read the Complete John Thunstone a few years back — strongly recommended. What else by him should I read? (Died 1986.)
- 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.)
- 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 tie-in novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.)
- Born May 21, 1974 — Fairuza Balk, 43. She made her film debut as Dorothy Gale in Return to Oz. She later Aissa in The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch.
(12) KNITTING UP THE STEEL WOOL. Cora Buhlert does an exhaustive review of GoT’s conclusion: “And the Iron Throne Goes to…”. The executive summary is —
…So in short, Game of Thrones got a better ending than at least I expected. It’s maybe not the ending most fans wanted or expected, but it is an ending and a surprisingly satisfying one.
(13) GAME OF GROANS. Daniel Dern asks, “Given GoT’s dragon-strafing episode, combined with family tree revelations, is/was Jon Snow referring to Daenerys as ‘Aunt Misbehaving’?”
(14) CONFESSIONS OF A DRAGON RIDER. Sarah Larson, in “Daenerys Tells All!” in The New Yorker, has an extensive interview with Emilia Clarke, including how whoever had the Starbucks cup on the set wasn’t a member of the cast (they don’t drink Starbucks) and telling children named Daenarys, “Work it, girls!”
“I see this vision, this angel, this incredible woman float towards me,” Clarke recalled the other day. “I can’t quite control myself. And Beyoncé says to me, ‘Oh, my goodness, it’s so wonderful to meet you. I think you’re brilliant.’ I just couldn’t handle it! I was on the verge of tears. I could see myself reflected in her eyes. I could see her go, ‘Oh, no. I misjudged this. This girl is crazy and I’m not going to have a real conversation with another celebrity. I’m having a conversation with a crazed fan who’s looking at me like a rabbit in the headlights.’ Which is exactly what I was. I said, ‘I’ve seen you live in concert and I think you’re amazing and wonderful! Wonderful!’ And all I wanted to scream was ‘Please, please still like me even though my character turns into a mass-killing dictator! Please still think that I’m representing women in a really fabulous way.’ ”
(15) FROM GRRM HIMSELF. George R.R. Martin shared a few of his feelings about “An Ending” at Not A Blog. Here are a couple of the less spoilery lines —
..Book or show, which will be the “real” ending? It’s a silly question. How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have?
How about this? I’ll write it. You read it. Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.
(16) GOOD TO THE LAST BOOK. Bustle knows the way to work this dilemma for some clicks: “The New ‘Game Of Thrones’ Book May Not Be Finished, But These 15 Fantasy Series Definitely Are”.
If you’re a fan frustrated by the incompletion of one of the fantasy series listed above, or you’re waiting on the return of a different series entirely, this list will help you choose your next reading project. All of the fantasy series on the list below have been completed, which means you won’t have to wait to read the next book — unless you want to.
(17) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. You would be hard pressed to find a household that doesn’t have a microwave. But do you know how the beloved appliance came to be? In 1945, a Raytheon engineer was walking around a radar test room with a chocolate bar in his pocket. The bar began to melt when he got too close to a magnetron tube. His curiosity was peaked and he began experimenting with other things like kernels of corn and eggs. Soon after, Raytheon employees began sampling “microwaved” food and thus began the evolution of what we now know as the microwave. (Source: Business Insider)
Jon King Tarpinian includes a postscript: “A family friend worked at Raytheon, in Chatsworth/Canoga Park. Her family had one before they were offered commercially. Everybody raved about a grey steak.”
(18) BEYOND BAKING SODA. More than a science-fair project: “To Safely Study Volcanoes, Scientists Bring The Blast To Them” (includes video.)
Volcanoes have been crucial to life on earth. Oozing lava helped form the earth’s land masses. Gasses from volcanoes helped create our atmosphere. But despite the growing field of volcanology, there’s still a lot we don’t understand about volcanic eruptions.
That’s partly because volcanoes aren’t easy to study. Getting the right equipment into remote locations under unpredictable circumstances can be difficult. More importantly, studying active volcanos can be dangerous.
Which is why a group of 40 scientists and engineers from all over the world came together to simulate volcanic eruptions. We tagged along with them as they conducted their experiments at the University at Buffalo’s Geohazards Field Station, a former ballistics test site for military weapons in upstate New York.
The scientists simulated volcanic eruptions by detonating underground explosives. They wanted to study what happened during rapid fire eruptions in a safe and controlled environment. Although big eruptions are often what make the news, small rapid-fire volcanic eruptions are far more common.
(19) SPAM FROM THE CAN. BBC introduces us to “The pun-loving computer programs that write adverts”.
Machines are now writing advertising copy as well as basic news reports, but are their efforts any good and can they be taught to be more inventive?
“Have a suite stay” read an ad for a hotel offering all-suite rooms. A neat – if obvious – pun you might think.
But what made this ad noteworthy was that it was created by an automated copywriting programme developed by Dentsu Aegis Network, the marketing giant.
The firm launched its natural language generation algorithm last year to increase output after changes were made to Google’s advertising system, explains Audrey Kuah, the firm’s managing director.
The programme creates 20 to 25 full ads a second in English and is “trained” by feeding it thousands of the kind of ads it is meant to produce, she says.
(20) ARCHIE MCPHEE. What does this have to do with sff? If you know, leave your answer in comments.
(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Perspective on Vimeo, Fernando Livschitz dreams of really odd forms of transportation.
[Thanks to Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]