(1) VOICE OF HOGWARTS. LitHub has the transcription: “In Conversation with Legendary Harry Potter Audiobook Narrator Jim Dale” from Behind the Mic with AudioFile Magazine.
Jo Reed: …How then did you get into the audiobook biz, where you are one of the shining lights there as well?
Jim Dale: That was an accident, a sheer accident. They were looking for someone with an English accent to be the narrator, and someone said to whoever it was at the publishing company, they said, “Well, there’s a guy called Jim Dale. He’s playing Off-Broadway at the moment with three other men in a play called Travels with my Aunt. One of the men doesn’t speak at all, so three of them are now doing 33 characters between them,” and of course, the publisher said, “Wow, that sounds fantastic. That’s the sort of guy we need.” So they approached me, asked me if I’d read the book, which I did. I loved it. They said, “Would you like to record it?” I said, “Yes,” and it was only after I had signed the contract that one of them said to me, “Well, how many characters did you play in the play?” and I remember saying, “Just the aunt and the nephew. The other two guys played 31 characters between them.” So there’s a shocked silence on the end of the phone, ‘cause they realized they’d signed someone who may unable to do any more than a couple of voices.
Jo Reed: And the book we’re talking about is Harry Potter.
Jim Dale: That’s correct. There were seven of them, as you know, and so I didn’t realize that the first book had, I think it was, 34 different speaking characters, but that was nothing compared to the final book, which had 147 different characters that needed a voice, so that was quite a challenge, quite a challenge.
(2) LOOK OUT BELOW. “Two old satellites could collide over US, space debris tracker warns” – CNET has the story.
Two satellites could potentially collide just above Pittsburgh on Wednesday, according to space debris tracker LeoLabs. IRAS (13777), a decommissioned space telescope launched in 1983, and GGSE-4 (2828), an experimental US payload launched in 1967, will pass incredibly close to each other at a relative velocity of 14.7 km/s, LeoLabs said in a tweet Monday.
The company said it’s monitoring the approach, and that its latest metrics “show a predicted miss distance of between 15-30 meters.” That distance is concerning given the size of IRAS, which is 3.6 meters by 3.24 meters x 2.05 meters, LeoLabs said. The combined size of IRAS and GGSE-4 increases the chances of a collision, which stands at around 1 in 100.
(3) BROADWAYCONREPORT. The New York Times tells about a convention with a different theme — “Where Broadway Fans Wear the Crowns and the Tentacles”.
The fifth edition of BroadwayCon had enthusiasts dressing for the underworld, swapping stories and merch, and singing along to “Six,” a show that hasn’t even opened yet.
Nyssa Sara Lee came to the 2020 edition of BroadwayCon as Ursula from “The Little Mermaid.”
On any other weekend, a gaggle of teenagers belting songs from “Hadestown” in the hallway of the New York Hilton Midtown would raise some eyebrows.
But for three days that ended Sunday, they were in the right place. More than 5,000 others — including several Beetlejuices, a handful of Heathers and the rare Dolly — made the pilgrimage to New York for the fifth annual BroadwayCon, a haven for the most passionate musical theater fans.
Some arrived in full character for the event, where attendees can meet and take photos with the stars of their favorite shows. Passes range from $80 for one day to $1,000 for a full weekend platinum pass with extra perks.
When fans weren’t doing their own dramatic hallway renditions of musical numbers, here’s what they were up to.
Kris Williams and Matt Whitaker as the title character from “Beetlejuice,” a show that drew many fan tributes.Dalton Glenn, Meaghan Cassidy and Grace Nobles as the trio from “Heathers.”…
(4) AI OH! In “Artificial Morality” at the LA Review of Books blog, Bruce Sterling offers his latest thoughts on artificial intelligence. Sterling is going to be the keynote speaker on a conference on AI which will be held at the University of California (Irvine) in February which will include Cory Doctorow and sf podcaster Rose Eveleth which you can find out more about at a link at the Sterling piece.
This is an essay about lists of moral principles for the creators of Artificial Intelligence. I collect these lists, and I have to confess that I find them funny.
Nobody but AI mavens would ever tiptoe up to the notion of creating godlike cyber-entities that are much smarter than people. I hasten to assure you — I take that weird threat seriously. If we could wipe out the planet with nuclear physics back in the late 1940s, there must be plenty of other, novel ways to get that done….
(5) CRAZY RICH ASTRONAUT. SYFY Wire has a teaser trailer for a “new-old” short—Nine Minutes—which will premiere on DUST on January 30. It features an actor who has become rather well known since she shot this previously-unreleased short quite some while back. “Nine Minutes: Constance Wu is a marooned astronaut in first look at DUST short film”
You may know Constance Wu from her roles in Fresh Off the Boat and Crazy Rich Asians, but you may not know that she also played an astronaut in Nine Minutes, a science fiction short film that arrives on DUST later this week.
Directed and written by Ernie Gilbert (Atlanta, Barry), the story follows Lilian (Wu), a scientist for the United Earth Space Administration who finds herself stuck on an alien planet light-years from home. With some help from her A.I. companion named M.A.R.C. (voiced by comedian Reggie Watts), Lilian attempts to stay alive for as long as she can.
[…] The film was shot several years ago, but never premiered to the public — not even at festivals. […]
(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
- In the opening sequence of The Matrix, the iconic streams of green Japanese code are actually recipes for sushi. Production designer Simon Whitely, now with the animation and visual effects studio Animal Logic in Australia, said he got the idea from one of his wife’s cookbooks. Source: CNET
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- January 28, 1986 — The space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off.
- January 28, 1994 — Body Snatchers premiered. It was directed by Abel Ferrar, and it starred Gabrielle Anwar, Billy Wirth, Terry Kinney, Meg Tilly and Forest Whitaker. It’s somewhat based on Finnney’s The Body Snatchers with the screenplay by Stuart Gordon, Nicholas St. Johnnand Dennis Paoli. Reception was mixed with Ebert and some horror critics thinking it far better than previous takes; one critic thought it was “a soulless replica of Don Siegel’s 1956 model”. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes don’t think much of it giving it just a 38% rating. You can see for yourself what’s like here.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born January 28, 1910 — Arnold Moss. Anton Karidian a.k.a. Kodos the Executioner in the most excellent “The Conscience of the King“ episode of Trek. It wasn’t only SFF role as he’d show up in Tales of Tomorrow, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Time Tunnel and Fantasy Island. (Died 1989.)
Born January 28, 1920 — Lewis Wilson. Genre wise, he’s remembered for being the first actor to play Batman on screen in the 1943 Batman, a 15-chapter theatrical serial from Columbia Pictures. (Died 2000.)
Born January 28, 1935 — John Chandler. His very last role was as Filth in the “Honor Among Thieves” episode of Deep Space Nine. Genre-wise, he also showed up in Moon of the Wolf, The Incredible Hulk, Fantasy Island, The Sword and The Sorcerer, AirWolf, Trancers and Carnosaur 2. (Died 2010.)
Born January 28, 1944 — Susan Howard, 76. Mara, the Klingon woman, on “The Day of The Dove” episode for Star Trek. She also showed up on Tarzan, The Flying Nun, I Dream of Jeanie, Land of Giants, The Immortal, The Fantastic Journey and Mission: Impossible.
Born January 28, 1959 — Frank Darabont, 61. Early on, he was mostly a screenwriter for horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Blob and The Fly II, allminor horror films. As a director, he’s much better known as he’s done The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist. He also developed and executive-produced the first season of The Walking Dead. He also wrote Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein that I like a lot.
Born January 28, 1965 — Lynda Boyd, 55. Let’s start off with she’s a singer who starred in productions The Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Film-wise, she had roles in Final Destination 2, The Invader, Mission to Mars and Hot Tub Time Machine. She’s had one-offs in X-Files, Highlander, Strange Luck, Millennium, The Sentential, The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (where she had a recurring role as Darla Mohr), Outer Limits, Twilight Zone and Smallville.
Born January 28, 1981 — Elijah Wood, 39. His first genre role is as Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb’s superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
Born January 28, 1985 — Tom Hopper, 35. His principal genre role was on the BBC Meriln series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s also Luther Hargreeves in The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá.
Born January 28, 1986 — Shruti Haasan, 34. Indian film actress known for the Telugu fantasy film Anaganaga O Dheerudu, and the Tamil science fiction thriller 7aum Arivu. She voiced Queen Elsa in the Tamil-dubbed version of Frozen II.
Born January 28, 1998 — Ariel Winter, 22. Voice actress whose shown up in such productions as Mr. Peabody & Sherman as Penny Peterson, Horton Hears a Who!, DC Showcase: Green Arrow as Princess Perdita and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as Carrie Kelly (Robin). She’s got several one-off live performances on genre series, The Haunting Hour: The Series and Ghost Whisperer.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
- Pearls Before Swine show what happens when a writer thinks about life too deeply.
(10) FIRST FLOWERS. While many people have seen 1968’s Charly, the film version of Flowers for Algernon, few living fans remember or have seen the 1961 TV adaptation “The Two Worlds of Charlie Gordon.”
In this teleplay adaptation of Daniel Keyes’ noted short story “Flowers for Algernon,” Cliff Robertson portrays a gentle, disabled young man who undergoes a highly experimental treatment to increase his mental capacity. Robertson received an Emmy nomination for his sensitive work and would go on to win an Oscar for his reprisal of the eponymous role in the feature film Charly (1968).
(11) ZAP! ZAP! BBC reports “How microwaves and electricity are killing weeds”.
…Meanwhile, a new device created by the University of Melbourne and spun off into a company called Growave is undergoing trials in Victoria.
Just as a domestic microwave warms food, so the microwaves emitted by the Growave system heat up the water molecules within weeds and cause them to vibrate. This ruptures the cell walls, killing the plant.
Meanwhile, microwaves can also heat the soil, killing weed seeds as they lie.
“Early data is demonstrating that using the Growave technology will be as cost-effective and potentially less expensive than current approaches to weed management,” says Paul Barrett, head of physical sciences of investment firm IP Group.
“The Growave approach also has the benefit that it is not influenced by the elements and can be used when it rains, when it’s windy or even at night – conditions which are not possible with traditional herbicide-spraying approaches.”
(12) CHOOSE YOUR MYTH. “Visit Nepal’s yeti: How mythical creature divided Himalayan nation” – BBC overviews the feud.
A row over the yeti has pitted experts against officials – and, for once, it is not about whether or not the mythical creature actually exists.
Instead, it is how the creature looks.
“This is not right. The government can’t just do as it wants,” passer-by Reshma Shrestha says, shaking her head in front of the 7ft (2.1m) tall statue at the centre of a row.
“If you did not tell me, I would not have known that it was a yeti.”
‘It’s a sumo wrestler’
The arrival of the first of more than 100 statues emblazoned with the words “Visit Nepal” was supposed to be the start of a year-long celebration of what the small Himalayan nation had to offer to the outside world.
They will soon be popping up across the country – at popular tourist attractions, trade centres, airports and some of the base camps in the Himalayas – as well as travelling further afield to act as mascots in cities around the world.
But the launch of the tourism drive, which aims to bring two million tourists to the region, has been somewhat overshadowed by the row over the statues’ appearance.
(13) HOPEFUL SIGN. “Rare Bolivian glass frogs seen for first time in 18 years”.
A rare species of frog with translucent skin has been seen in Bolivia for the first time in 18 years.
Three Bolivian Cochran frogs, a species of so-called “glass frogs”, were spotted by conservationists earlier this month in a national park.
The tiny amphibians weigh just 70-80g and measure 19-24mm.
Glass frogs are found in Central and South America and have skin so translucent that their internal organs can be seen through their bellies.
Investigators found the frogs in Carrasco National Park, east of the city of Cochabamba, as part of a mission to rescue reptiles and amphibians whose habitat is threatened by a hydroelectric project.
“The rediscovery of this species fills us with a ray of hope for the future of the glass frogs – one of the most charismatic amphibians in the world – but also for other species,” members of the team told AFP news agency.
(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Box Preview” on YouTube, Jason Shiga describes his forthcoming graphic novel The Box, which he says can also be about 20 other things, including a computer!
[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Leo Doroschenko, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]