Pixel Scroll 6/18/18 Nancy Pixel And The Scroll Of The Trademarked Cocky

(1) JEMISIN ON CNN. N.K. Jemisin is on episode 6 of W. Kamau Bell’s CNN program United Shades of America. In this episode he goes back to Mobile, Alabama, and brings her along for one of the segments.

(2) WRONG TURN. The bear and the maiden fair.

(3) DINO CHOW. Adweek supplies a new reason to burn a hole in your credit card: “These $25 Collector’s Edition Cereal Boxes Include Digital Screens Showing Jurassic World Video”.

Dinosaur-loving fans eagerly anticipate the arrival of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom this Friday, but now they can get in on the action a bit closer to home. Like … right at the breakfast table.

Kellogg’s has partnered with Universal Studios to develop limited-edition boxes of Keebler Fudge Stripes and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes that come with a digital screen embedded into the box. Each screen airs an exclusive five-minute video of behind-the-scenes footage from the flick, showing fans how the dinosaurs are brought to life as well as additional special effects from the movie.

(4) THUNDER LIZARDS. The movie is already killing overseas: “China Box Office: ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ Rampages to $112M Debut”.

Universal and Amblin have claimed Hollywood’s fourth-biggest opening ever in China.

Universal and Amblin’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom opened with a roar at the Chinese box office over the weekend, earning $111.9 million.

It was Universal’s second-biggest debut ever in the market, behind only The Fate Of The Furious. The opening was also considerably better than the $99.2 million that the first Jurassic World film earned in its first full week in Chinese cinemas in 2015 (openings were tallied by the week rather than weekend back then).

The dino tentpole also pulled in $10 million from 520 Imax screens. Altogether it claimed over 75 percent of the weekend’s total ticket revenue in China.

(5) NEW CATEGORY PROPOSED. Nope, not the Hugos: “Some Survivors Of Category 5 Hurricane Irma Want A Category 6”.

Tom Krall lives on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands on the west end of the island, high on a ridge. That’s where he was in September when Hurricane Irma roared through.

“We had the full blast,” Krall says. “Twenty of the 30 houses in my neighborhood lost their roofs or worse.”

The National Hurricane Center says Irma had sustained winds of 185 mph when it hit the Virgin Islands with gusts of 200 mph or higher. They were the most powerful winds ever recorded in that part of the Caribbean.

In his more than 30 years on St. John, Krall has hunkered down for many hurricanes, including other Category 5 storms. He says Irma’s winds were dramatically worse than other hurricanes. He knows what winds are like at 150 mph.

(6) NEED MORE PITCHFORKS. NPR concludes “It’ll Take More Than A Few Angry Villagers To Kill Off ‘Frankenstein'”. And also discusses changes between original (1818) and the version most of us know (1831).

Frankenstein has been popular for two centuries because every era since has felt like the end times to those in it, so every era needs a story unafraid to discuss annihilation.

(7) DO YOU WANT TO BE CURED? WHO classification: “Gaming becomes the latest addiction”.

The World Health Organisation’s classification of gaming disorder as a condition which is capable of debilitating addiction is an important moment in the shifting relationship between technology and society.

Concern among parents about the impact of smartphones in particular, and the response of technology firms to those concerns, has become a staple of the news agenda.

Apple’s much covered Digital Health initiative was derided in some quarters, with analysts and punters alike sceptical about the desire of that company to in any way reduce smartphone usage, given its still heavy reliance on smartphones for revenue.

(8) CAT OBITS. Condolences to three Filers who recently suffered the loss of a beloved cat. Two of these venerable SJW credentials featured in Cats Sleep on SFF.

  • Doctor Science

I had to say good-bye to Sneakers, my SJW credential, on Friday. You may recall him sleeping on Lady Trent.

  • nickpheas

Sadly I also have a loss to report.

Steerpike, by then having celebrated his 18th birthday, developed lymphoma and was wasting away before being put to sleep. He had a good innings and is missed.

  • Anne Sheller

Pepper, my oldest, died about 2 hours ago. I found her unconscious and unresponsive earlier in the evening. I opted not to make an emergency visit to the vet since she didn’t seem to be suffering but seemed too far gone to revive. It took her a few hours to stop breathing.

She was a tiny dark tabby, 15 years and about 7 1/2 months old. She’d been diagnosed with diabetes just over a year ago, and been to the vet for a checkup just this past week. I wasn’t expecting her to live a whole lot longer, but her death tonight was unexpected. I’ve had her since she was about 5 months old, and loved her very much.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 18, 1983 — Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born June 18 – Carol Kane, 66. Valerie in The Princess Bride, Myth in The Muppet Movie which looks to be her first genre role, Ghost of Christmas Present in Scrooged, and more recently as Gertrude Kapelput in Gotham. 
  • Born June 18 – Isabella Rossellini, 66. Thar in the ‘05 Earthsea series, Nimue in the ‘98 Merlin series, Athena in the ‘98 The Odyssey series and a number of other genre roles.
  • Born June 18 – Paul McCartney. Writer: “Come Together” episode of the Justice League animated series, actor in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. 
  • Born June 18 – Barbara Broccoli, 58. Producer or Director credit in at least fourteen Bond films which or may not be genre depending on how you view them. Her only acting role is as an uncredited Opera patron in The Living Daylights. 
  • Born June 18 – Kim Dickens, 53. Currently Madison Clark in Fear the Walking Dead, Jake’s Mom in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and roles in Flashforward and Lost.
  • Born June 18 — Richard Madden, 32. Rob Stark in Game Of Thrones and Agent Ross in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

This is a true story, based on an actual sign in my local public library and the chaos my children wreak when we visit.

(11) LONELY PLANET. In “There’s at Least a 39 Percent Chance We’re Alone in the Observable Universe”, Motherboard has taken a look at a new paper (now in preprint or arXiv.org) by the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford that itself takes a look at the Fermi Paradox. By taking a probabilistic approach to the Drake Equation, that paper concludes:

…[W]e find a substantial probability that we are alone in our galaxy, and perhaps even in our observable universe (53%–99.6% and 39%–85% respectively). ’Where are they?’ — probably extremely far away, and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.

Note that since this is a preprint article it has not been peer-reviewed yet. Motherboard summarized their own take on the paper as:

These are sobering results, but the researchers caution against any kneejerk cosmic pessimism. “This conclusion does not mean that we are alone, just that this is very scientifically plausible and should not surprise us,” the researchers wrote. “It is a statement about our state of knowledge, rather than a new measurement.”

In other words, there’s no reason to despair—yet. The more we learn about the universe and our own planet, the more we will decrease the uncertainty latent in the Drake equation. For example, our inability to detect extraterrestrial civilizations over the decade can increase our certainty that we’re alone, but then again, the universe may be awash in extraterrestrial signals and we simply haven’t learned how to recognize them yet. For now, however, the researchers suggest that if there are aliens, they are “probably extremely far away and quite possibly beyond the cosmological horizon and forever unreachable.”

(12) WITHDRAWAL PAINS. JDA advertised on Twitter he was “Off Social Media Til 6/21” but he must have noticed we were enjoying it more than he was. Today he broke his fast early by posting “The White Male Initiative For Worldcon 76” [Internet Archive link] on his blog.

I, Jon Del Arroz, the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction, will review submissions and select recipients.  Please keep your statements under 500 words. I may ask follow-up questions, however.  If you’re a professional, links to examples of your work would be helpful.

We realize that marginalized majority groups have felt reticent about joining us, and understandably so. But we need more representation from the white male community in science fiction fandom! Bring it!

(13) WHO BROKE THE BANK? That wasn’t the only post JDA published today. Another tells how his plan to abandon Patreon has come a cropper – “The Biggest News Story You’ll Never Hear: Big Tech Strikes At Finances Of Political Opponents” [Internet Archive link].

As you know, I urged my fans and friends who are supporting this blog and my fiction work on a subscription basis to switch their pledges from Patreon to Freestartr because Patreon was removing right wing political commentators over their content.

This weekend, Freestartr was shut down by Stripe, the collections company used to process credit card transactions– a company set up as a paypal alternative because the latter was already known for trying to deplatform right wing personalities through demonetizing. From their website:

FreeStartr currently has lost the ability to collect funds for our creators. CEO Charles C. Johnson’s comments can be found here.

(14) REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY. Wouldn’t The Verge have done more to discourage people from buying this by ignoring it altogether, instead of cleverly badmouthing it? Survey says – Yes! “This unlicensed Harry Potter battery pack makes a bad pun out of an even worse product”. (Wait, was this frame actually written by the same guy who introduced the last two Scroll items?)

If you’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — which I generally assume is most of the global population — you’re probably familiar with the Elder Wand, a powerful wand wielded by both Dumbledore and the dark wizard Voldemort over the course of the series.

The CELLder Wand is not the Elder Wand. Where one is a fictional, legendary magical artifact of ultimate power, the CELLder wand is a Kickstarter campaign for a possibly fictional hunk of plastic that surrounds a fairly ordinary 3,200 mAh USB battery pack.

(15) ABOVE AND BEYOND. Gizmodo enthuses: “This Video Made From Real Mars Data Will Make You Feel Like You’re Flying Over the Red Planet”.

There are lots of incredible things you can do with data. Like make this incredible animation of the Martian surface, for example.

This animation is the latest from visual artist Seán Doran, using real data taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. (MRO) Of course, it’s not actual video footage, and required a lot of processing to achieve the realistic effect. But it does give the exciting impression that one is flying just above the Martian surface.

 

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “DIY–Behind the Scenes” on Vimeo explains how an animated film is made.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Doug Bissell, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Iphinome, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Jon Del Arroz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/18/18 The Turn Of A Friendly Pixel

By JJ:

(1) THE DOCTOR IS | IN | . Gallifrey One, the Doctor Who convention, is taking place in Los Angeles this weekend, and fans are posting some great photos:

(2) THE LEFT MENU OF DARKNESS. The Paris Review, which has previously interviewed Ursula K. Le Guin, has recently published an article by Valerie Stivers in which the author created a series of recipes based on food from Le Guin’s The Left Hand Of Darkness. Dishes include Hot Beer For Two, Batter-Fried “Sube-Egg” Porridge with Winter Vegetables, and others:

Overall, I found Winter’s low-food-chain ingredients easy to work with; they fit in well with our modern sustainability-oriented cooking, an approach Le Guin, a passionate environmentalist, would have welcomed. The sticking point was the drinks. The characters in The Left Hand of Darkness consume hot beer, which, Ai explains, may sound gross but “on a world where a common table implement is a little device with which you crack the ice that has formed on your drink between drafts, hot beer is a thing you come to appreciate.” Some research revealed that even on Earth, hot beer was common prior to refrigeration and often contained nutritious items like eggs or half-curdled cream. I tried several recipes that were uniformly undrinkable until coming up with an adaptation of something I read about in a Wall Street Journal story calling hot beer a trend. As improbable as it sounds, the results were wonderful, and I can only urge you all to try it. Remember, sometimes it’s nice to be speculative – in beers as well as in love and in fiction.

(3) IN MEMORIAM. In “Two Seattle Memorials to Ursula K. Le Guin”, Cat Rambo provides specifics for those who wish to attend:

Folio Forum: A Tribute to Ursula Le Guin
Tuesday, February 20, 2018, 7:00 PM
The Seattle Athenaeum, 314 Marion Street, Downtown Seattle
$10 at the door; $8 for Folio Members, SFWA Members, and Town Hall Members
Complimentary wine reception to follow
Noted local authors and fans honor the great writer, plus a recording of Le Guin, reading her famous story

 

Celebration of the Life and Work of Ursula K. Le Guin
Sunday, February 25, 7:00 PM
Blue Moon Tavern, 712 NE 45th St, Seattle, Washington 98105
$free (please support our venue by buying food and drink!)
Please join us for a reading to commemorate the words and worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018).

(4) ABUSER MANUAL. Lurkertype points to a graphic sequence where “Someone kinda like The Little Mermaid ‘splains how to fight sealioning”.

(5) ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS TO THE ELDER GODS. In “Octlantis is a Just-Discovered Underwater City Engineered by Octopuses”, Ephrat Livni describes a revelation in octopod behavior:

Gloomy octopuses – also known as common Sydney octopuses, or octopus tetricus – have long had a reputation for being loners. Marine biologists once thought they inhabited the subtropical waters off eastern Australia and northern New Zealand in solitude, meeting only to mate, once a year. But now there’s proof these cephalopods sometimes hang out in small cities.

In Jervis Bay, off Eastern Australia, researchers recently spotted 15 gloomy octopuses congregating, communicating, dwelling together, and even evicting each other from dens at a site the scientists named “Octlantis.”

The discovery was a surprise, Scheel told Quartz. “These behaviors are the product of natural selection, and may be remarkably similar to vertebrate complex social behavior. This suggests that when the right conditions occur, evolution may produce very similar outcomes in diverse groups of organisms.”

(6) CAN’T LET IT GO. In “Why (some of the) Right Hates Elsa”, Camestros Felapton unpacks some of the criticisms of the Disney animated movie Frozen from conservative blogs, and tries to determine why, more than 4 years after its release, the film still seems to generate so much antipathy in some quarters:

The issue is not hard to diagnose. Frozen is mainly conventional Disney – in some ways even less than that. The plot is slight compared to other classic Disney films (e.g. the Lion King) and the songs (bar one) are unmemorable. Yet it does a few things and those things are interesting…

The story rejects romantic love as its central message and instead centres on the familial love of two sisters.

This being Disney, there really is zero implications about Elsa’s sexuality EXCEPT that at no point does she act out of desire for a romantic relationship with anybody of any gender. And with that we get to part of the multiple issues the right continue to have with the film.

(7) IF I COULD TURN BACK TIME. A new Kickstarter promotes the 6th Extinction Card Deck, a playable poker deck showcasing 54 extinct animals and birds from the ice age to the 1980’s, as illustrated by 34 different artists. One of the artworks featured is by Oor Wombat; her designated lifeform has not yet been revealed, but perhaps we can pry it out of her with a suitable bribe.

The Kickstarter has thus far achieved $843 in pledges toward a goal of $3,600, with 25 days left to go.

(8) GO MAKE ME A SAMMICH. Forget digging to China, here’s the new global craze: Earth Sandwich. (click on the photo on the left, then click on the right arrows to scroll through the gallery)

(9) CHALLENGE ACCEPTED, REDUX. The January 22 Pixel Scroll (Item #13) reported the viral campaign of New York native Frederick Joseph to set up screenings of Black Panther for children across the U.S. through the #BlackPantherChallenge. The website for the challenge is now live; donors can click on any of the icons on the map to see existing GoFundMe challenges and choose one to which to contribute. (unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a “list” view, so in areas with numerous challenges, zooming in on the map is required to differentiate between them)

(10) HOT COUTURE. On the Daily Dot, Gavia Baker-Whitelaw interviews Gersha Phillips, who designed the costumes for Star Trek: Discovery:

In the end, Discovery wound up with a more sleek and high-tech look. The new uniforms follow the classic idea of color-coded Starfleet departments (gold, silver and bronze accents for Command, Science, and Operations), but also take inspiration from contemporary athleisure brands.

Speaking to Gersha Phillips, we delved into Discovery’s fashion influences from Alien to Balenciaga. She’s a fount of knowledge about the canon background for costuming details like Klingon armor (Klingons have different internal organs!), and cosplayers have her to thank for the Mirror Universe’s beautiful gold capes.

(11) #BOWIEURCAT. Somehow, I don’t think that this is quite what the Thin White Duke had in mind.

(12) BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born February 18, 1919Jack Palance, Actor (Batman, Solar Crisis)
  • Born February 18, 1948Sinéad Cusack, Actor (The Ballad of Tam Lin, V for Vendetta)
  • Born February 18, 1984Genelle Williams, Actor (Warehouse 13, Bitten)

(13) MORE GALLIFREY ONE PHOTOS.

(14) FIRE THE CANON. Grant Snider, at Incidental Comics, asks “Who Controls the Cannon of Literature?”

(15) MAPPING THE WORLDS. Sarah Gailey contributes to what has now become a series of posts on cartography in SFFnal worlds with “Hippos, Worldbuilding, and Amateur Map-Making”:

About a year ago, I attended a panel on worldbuilding in young adult literature. All of the authors on the panel were young, brilliant, dynamic women. They wore flower crowns and they talked about mapmaking and spreadsheets. They were impressive as all get-out. I have never felt more intensely envious in my life.

I was jealous of their flower crowns, of course. I was also jealous of the easy way they talked about going in-depth on planning color schemes for each chapter they wrote, and the Pinterest boards they referenced for their character aesthetics. I was jealous of the way their worldbuilding all seemed to start from the ground up, because that seemed to me to be a whole other level of professional-writer-ness. My worldbuilding has always leached out from my character development – I write how a character moves, and their movement defines the world they live in. The women on this panel were talking about writing thousands of words about the world their characters inhabited, all before they put a single line of dialogue on a page. They were clearly worldbuilding masters. I was in awe.

It only took seven words for my awe to become fear.

(16) THE TOR BOYCOTT IS STILL TOTALLY WORKING. The Tucson Festival of Books will take place from March 10-11, and you can do your part for the Tor Boycott by checking out their author sessions. Tor/Forge and Tor.com Publishing authors Candice Fox, Nancy Kress, K Arsenault Rivera, Myke Cole, Annalee Newitz, Kristen Simmons, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Patty Garcia will be participating. A schedule can be found at the link.

(17) DEMAND EXCEEDS SUPPLY.

(18) BIRTHING PAINS. Jill Lepore, in a very long and very interesting essay at The New Yorker about childbirth, grief, and the de-feminization of Shelley’s best-known work, says in “The Strange and Twisted Life of “Frankenstein”: (content warning for miscarriage and infant death)

Because Shelley was readily taken as a vessel for other people’s ideas, her novel has accreted wildly irreconcilable readings…

“This nameless mode of naming the unnameable is rather good,” Shelley remarked about the creature’s theatrical billing. She herself had no name of her own. Like the creature pieced together from cadavers collected by Victor Frankenstein, her name was an assemblage of parts: the name of her mother, the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, stitched to that of her father, the philosopher William Godwin, grafted onto that of her husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, as if Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley were the sum of her relations, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, if not the milk of her mother’s milk, since her mother had died eleven days after giving birth to her, mainly too sick to give suck – Awoke and found no mother.

(19) RULE 34 MEETS THE SHAPE OF WATER. (warning: this item is utterly Not Safe For Work) Doug Jones, who plays the fishman in Guillermo del Toro’s fantastical movie, admits of the glow-in-the-dark erotic accessory currently being marketed:

With a light chuckle, I can tell you it’s not exactly what I’d hoped for. After pouring my heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into this romantic, beautiful, magical role, the last thing I want to be remembered for is a silicone appendage that comes in two sizes.

(20) NOT EXACTLY WHAT I MEANT BY “SPIDEY-SENSE”.

 (21) UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE. The exhibit “A Conversation Larger Than the Universe: Science Fiction and the Literature of the Fantastic from the Collection of Henry Wessells” will run from January 25 to March 10, 2018 at The Grolier Club. Publishers Weekly describes the exhibition:

This erudite and altogether fascinating collection of essays from Wessells (Another Green World) explores the development of science fiction from its roots, focusing on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which the author considers “the point at which science fiction emerges from the gothic.” He then takes the reader on a personal journey through his favorite books, pointing out historic firsts such as Sara Coleridge’s Phantasmion (1837), the first fantasy novel published in English. He surveys the publishing history of some of the pillars of the genre, including Philip K. Dick, James Blish, Thomas M. Disch, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Robert Sheckley, as well as highlighting the work of authors whose names are less well known by the general public, such as Avram Davidson and R.A. Lafferty.

(22) MAKE THE ROBOT HAPPY. An SF & Fantasy Humble Bundle from Angry Robot is currently available, including books from Anna Kashina, Carrie Patel, Christopher Hinz, Dan Abnett, Danielle L. Jensen, Foz Meadows, Ishbelle Bee, Jay Posey, Justin Gustainis, Kaaron Warren, Keith Yatsuhashi, Megan O’Keefe, Peter Mclean, Peter Tieryas, Rod Duncan, and Wesley Chu. 10 days are left to grab the bundle, which benefits humanitarian charity Worldbuilders (be sure to click on “Choose where your money goes” before going through the checkout process).

(23) GIVE MY REGARDS TO KING TUT. Io9 says, “You Can Now Watch the Original Stargate Movie for Free”:

Back in 1994, few could have predicted what Stargate would become. The original film was a hit, but what happened after is damn near unprecedented. Not a theatrical sequel, no, but several popular television series and a rabid fandom that far overshadowed the people who saw the original movie in theatres.

But it did start with that original movie, directed by Roland Emmerich, starring Kurt Russell and James Spader. And though it’s been available in multiple formats since its initial release, this week MGM put the full film on YouTube for free.

 

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, Cora Buhlert, Greg Machlin, Hampus Eckerman, James Davis Nicoll, jayn, Juliette Wade, lauowolf, lurkertype, Mark-kitteh, Paul Weimer, Rob Thornton, and Robin A. Reid for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 Contributing Editor of the Day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 1/1/18 Scrolled Lang Syne

By JJ:

(1) MORE DESTRUCTION AHEAD.  Uncanny Magazine has announced that the special Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction issue will be open for submissions soon:

Reading period: January 15th, 2018 to February 15th, 2018. Please do not submit anything until January 15th. Emails containing submissions will be deleted. (Uncanny Magazine uses the Moksha submission system.)

Who can submit:

We welcome submission from writers who identify themselves as disabled. Identity is what matters for this issue. What kinds of disabilities? All of them. Invisible and visible. Physical disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, mental health disabilities, and neurodiversity.

Yes, even if your disability is a recently acquired one.

Yes, even if your disability is static, or if it isn’t.

Yes, even if you’ve had your disability since birth.

Yes, even if you use adaptive devices only SOME of the time.

Yes, you.

Reading Elsa’s essay “Disabled Enough” from our Kickstarter may help if you have any doubts.

So, if you identify as disabled across any of these definitions or others, we want to hear from you!

More submission details are located at the linked page; be sure to read them thoroughly and adhere to them when submitting.

(2) SUPERMOON TONIGHT.  January 1 is the second of a trio of supermoons within a 2-month period. EarthSky reports:

The first of two January 2018 full moons falls on the evening of January 1, 2018, for most of the Western Hemisphere (January 2 for the Eastern Hemisphere). This full moon comes only 4.5 hours after the moon reaches lunar perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit. Thus this full moon presents the closest – and thereby the largest and brightest – supermoon of 2018.

Join the Virtual Telescope Project in Rome for an online viewing of the January 1, 2018 supermoon.

Additional details for optimal viewing are available at the link.

(3) ONE PARTY IS NOT ENOUGH.  The six astronauts aboard the ISS (International Space Station), who orbit Earth every 90 minutes, got to ring in the new year 16 times and see 16 sunrises and sunsets from 250 miles above Earth. ISS crewmembers Joe Acaba, Scott Tingle, Norishige Kanai, and Mark Vande Hei shared some of their favorite memories of ringing in a new year in a video:

NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Terry Virts also wished the people of Earth a Happy New Year in a video recorded from their post on the ISS. Watch it here on Space.com.

(4) WITH A HEART REINDEER.  Research scientist Janelle Shane created a neural network and fed it a database of ancient and modern Christmas Carols created by the Times of London with reader/neural net hobbyist Erik Svensson. Dr. Shane explains how the neural network teaches itself based on the examples it’s been given, and shares some of the results:

With a heart reindeer
But no more a stranger.
Santa baby, and Dancer, and Curry down

Happy Holiday
When the snowflakes will call the world wakes to bring
Glory bears and asses the air the angels sang
And Christmas tree

For some reason, the Sandman figures very prominently in the neural net’s Christmas mythology, despite having been mentioned in the dataset only once. Sometimes the neural net latches on to particular words for no reason I can see. Maybe it’s a Neil Gaiman fan.

The sandman bright before Him.
The holly bears a berry bears
And star in the snow is born today!

More examples appear at the link, and Shane invites readers who wish to see the, er… more risqué results to sign up to receive them.

(5) BOB YOU GET A SINGLE BLESSING ONLY.  And Botnik Studios revealed the results of their holiday newsletter predictive algorithm:

(a higher-res version can be read here)

(6) PARTLY CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF CATNIP.  Here’s what happens when you work for a TV station and you wear your ugly holiday sweater to work – your SJW Credentials take up meteorology reporting:

(7) LONG CAR TRIPS MUST BE FUN.  Professional photographer Josh Rossi shared his family holiday card:

(8) SJW CREDENTIALS HAVE STAFF.  We know who’s in charge here, and it’s not Mr. and Mrs. Scalzi.

Scalzi provides a different shot and the background for the installation in a blog post.

(9) PASSING THE TORCH SONIC SCREWDRIVER.  Past Worldcon chair Dave McCarty talks about the fannish Christmas gift he received in a Facebook post:

I sat my daughter down on my lap and explained to her about a TV show that I have loved since I wasn’t much older than she is right now.

I told her about Time Lords and Gallifrey and regeneration and time travel and companions and Cybermen and Daleks and the T.A.R.D.I.S.

I explained who The Doctor is and who he has been and how he always tries to help the people he finds.

I asked her if she’d like to watch the show with me tonight…

You’ll want to read the entire post.

(10) FORMULA FOR HAPPY HOLIDAYS.  Muslim author and educator Qasim Rashid shares his holiday greetings:

(11) SWATTING RESULTS IN TRAGIC DEATH.  On December 28, 28-year-old Andrew “Andy” Finch was killed when police officers in Wichita, Kansas responded to a 911 call about a hostage/murder situation, the Wichita Eagle reported.

On Twitter, more than a dozen people who identified themselves as being in the gaming community told The Eagle that a feud between two Call of Duty players sparked one to initiate a “swatting” call.

After news began to spread about what happened Thursday night, the people in the gaming community, through Twitter posts, pointed at two gamers.

“I DIDNT GET ANYONE KILLED BECAUSE I DIDNT DISCHARGE A WEAPON AND BEING A SWAT MEMBER ISNT MY PROFESSION,” said one gamer, who others said made the swatting call. His account was suspended overnight.

According to posts on Twitter, two gamers were arguing when one threatened to target the other with a swatting call. The person who was the target of the swatting gave the other gamer a false address, which sent police to a nearby home instead of his own, according to Twitter posts.

The FBI has confirmed to Wichita station KWCH’s Eyewitness News that they are assisting Wichita Police and Los Angeles Police in the investigation.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirms it’s arrested 25-year-old Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, in connection with Thursday night’s deadly “swatting” call in Wichita.

The LAPD says Barriss was arrested Friday afternoon.

Information from the City of Glendale, Calif. shows that in October 2015, Barriss was arrested in connection with making a bomb threat to ABC Studios in Glendale…

Attorney Charley O’Hara says there will probably be federal charges for the man accused of “swatting,” as well as state charges, because the FBI helped with the arrest.

O’Hara says smilar charges would include terrorist threat or threats to places or events like schools or concerts.

He says there are a lot of aspects to the case, both with the man who made the prank call and with the officer who fired the fatal shot.

“The person that made that call and made that report was obviously wrong, but also, we need to question if good judgement was used when they responded to that call,” O’Hara says. “Was that the correct way that we want our police officers or our law enforcement or the protectors of all of our safety to respond to situations like this?”

(12) STILL NOT FUNNY.   Business Insider, investigating the results of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, reveals that no charges were filed in the Gamergate investigation, despite FBI agents obtaining numerous confessions of death threats. Their exposé includes background on Gamergate, as well as redacted versions of investigation summaries.

The day before Halloween, FBI agents showed up at the home of a Massachusetts man linked to dozens of rape, bomb, and death threats targeting women involved in the video game scene. They believed he was a supporter of Gamergate, the militant online movement that wants to end feminist criticism of video games.

The man, whose name was kept confidential by the FBI, confessed: He told the agents that he was a “tech guy,” a qualified A++ coder, who played video games a lot and lived with his parents, according to a set of documents the FBI released on its investigation into Gamergate.

He told the agents that he hung out on 4chan, the notorious online image-posting board that – according to the FBI documents – has a history of hosting child pornography. He admitted that he had mocked the women who were targets of Gamergate threats on 4chan, calling one of them “a professional victim who exaggerated the threats.”

Then the agents showed him one of those threatening emails. The man said he had created a new email account specifically for the purpose of sending threats to Gamergate targets. He “admitted to sending the threatening email,” the FBI wrote in its report, and he “understood the email ‘looked really bad.'” Crucially, he also confessed that he knew it was a crime: The man “understood that it was a federal crime to send a threatening communication to anyone and will never do it again,” the FBI wrote.

Yet despite all that – an email trail, a confession, and an admission from the suspect that he knew he was breaking the law – the FBI let him go after the suspect said it was a “joke”.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

  • Born January 1, 1922 – Jerry Robinson, Comics Illustrator (creator of Batman’s Robin)
  • Born January 1, 1938 – Frank Langella, Actor (star of 1979’s Dracula)
  • Born January 1, 1957 – Madolyn Smith Osborne, Actor (Caroline Floyd in 2010: The Year We Make Contact)
  • Born January 1, 1968 – Mark Lawrence, Author (The Broken Empire and The Red Queen’s War trilogies)
  • Born January 1, 1970 – Gabriel Jarret, Actor (Mitch Taylor in Real Genius)
  • Born January 1, 1972 – Catherine McCormack, Actor (Dr. Sonia Rand in A Sound of Thunder)

(14) GLORIOUS REFRACTION.  Brent Mckean, a photographer specializing in astrophotography, captured an amazing photo in Eastern Manitoba, Canada:

On Facebook he explains:

Several people with meteorological knowledge have advised that the atmospheric phenomena captured here are: a circumzenithal arc, a supralateral arc, an upper tangent arc (relatively rare), a 46 degree halo (pretty rare), a Parry arc, Parry supralateral arcs, a 22 degree halo, twin sun dogs (parhelia), partial parhelic circle, and an upper sun pillar. I also understand it is rare to see all of these during a single event.

(15) NOCON.  Newcon PDX, a fan convention for science fiction, video games, anime, comics, and cosplay, which was scheduled to take place from January 5-7, 2018 in Portland, Oregon, has been cancelled, says Director Michael Anderson:

I have to announce that Newcon 6 is cancelled.

Since 2011, Newcon has tried to give the area an inclusive convention that dips into subcultures beyond just anime and pop culture. Our amazing staff and attendees have made every year of Newcon an exceptionally fun experience, and I am heartbroken that we won’t be able to continue the tradition.

Due to a number of issues (some in our management’s control, and some out), our original venue stopped being an option for the event. For my part, I’m sorry. As anyone keeping up with the announcements on Facebook has seen, we were hoping to move the event to a new venue, but the offer was officially rescinded this afternoon. Without a venue, we have no pathway forward for the event to happen.

There has been a whirlwind of gossip thrown around about myself, my partner, our staff, and the convention. Early this year, our original venue choice was contacted and “warned” about Newcon and my management. I have no doubt that the individuals with a vendetta against Newcon did the same with our new venue choice. Now we see the fruits of their spite.

As the Northwest’s convention record shows, keeping conventions going is hard. It’s expensive, difficult to plan, and relies on incredible people working together. I want to thank every member of Newcon 6’s staff for all the incredible work they put in. Thousands of hours are going down the drain, and for that I am livid. I am aware of the calls for new ownership/directorship of Newcon PDX, and if the brand has any future I will make sure it is passed to someone divorced from any of the community hostility, who will carry on the spirit of what made the event special. I will not be involved in its future.

To our attendees, vendors, and artists, I’m sorry. I’m new to cancelling events, and doubly new to cancelling events this late in the game. All tickets will be refunded, and we’ll be working with guests, vendors, and artists to refund their investments in the convention. Please contact info@newconpdx.com with any concerns.

The northwest deserves a convention like Newcon. I am sorry that Newcon can’t be that convention.

(16) DOC BROWN HAS BEEN AT IT AGAIN.  After Stephen Callaghan’s 12-year-old daughter, Ruby, came home with the news that she’d been assigned to a girls-only group at school for a makeover in the library, while all the boys were going to be taken on a field trip to a local hardware store, he penned a letter to the principal at her Australian school:

I must draw your attention to a serious incident which occurred yesterday at your school where my daughter Ruby is a Year 6 student.

When Ruby left for school yesterday it was 2017 but when she returned home in the afternoon she was from 1968.

I know this to be the case as Ruby informed me that the “girls” in Year 6 would be attending the school library to get their hair and make-up done on Monday afternoon while the “boys” are going to Bunnings.

Are you able to search the school buildings for a rip in the space-time continuum? Perhaps there is a faulty Flux Capacitor hidden away in the girls toilet block?

I look forward to this being rectified and my daughter and other girls at the school being returned to this millennium where school activities are not divided sharply along gender lines.

(17) RESOLVED.  Grant Snider, who creates Incidental Comics, posted his suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions, some of which will certainly resonate with Filers.

(18) BIG BLUE MARBLE.  The Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit at NASA’s Johnson Space Center counts down the top photos taken by NASA Astronauts aboard the International Space Station in 2017.

[Thanks to Jessica Jones, John Jacob Astor, J. Jonah Jameson, Janis Joplin, J.J. Abrams, Joan Jett, Jay Jay The Jet Plane, Jean-Jacques Leroy, John Joseph Adams, Jesse James, and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt for these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day bloodstone75 and RedWombat.]