Pixel Scroll 3/13/16 We’re Off To See The Pixel, The Wonderful Pixel Of Scroll

(1) DAYLIGHT STEALING TIME. Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass trailer investigates a time crime.

(2) TAKING INVENTORY. Bill Roper had some insights about being a convention dealer while doing “That Taxes Thing”.

One of the distressing things about doing the taxes for Dodeka is seeing:

– How many different titles we carry.

– And how many of them appear to have sold one or fewer copies in 2015.

Some of these are the result of having bought out Juanita’s inventory when she retired and having acquired various CDs that had been sitting in her inventory for too long. A few of them are the result of my own ordering errors.

The problem is that the boxes are large and heavy and the table is very full. But if you don’t take the CDs out to the cons with you, you can’t sell them…

Filk is an extremely regional business. And given that we’re in the eighth-or-so year of a sucky economy, I certainly understand people’s reluctance to take a flyer on something that they aren’t familiar with.

(3) BATMOBILE REPLICA MAKER LOSES. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a Ninth Circuit decision in favor of DC Comics, which had sued Mark Towle over his unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobiles, sold for about $90,000 each. So DC wins.

According to Robot 6:

Towle argued that the U.S. Copyright Act doesn’t protect “useful articles,” defined as objects that have “an intrinsic utilitarian function” (for example, clothing, household appliances or, in this case, automobile functions); in short, that the Batmobile’s design is merely functional.

However, a federal judge didn’t buy that argument… Towle appealed that decision, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals wasn’t any more sympathetic, finding in September that, “the Batmobile is almost always bat-like in appearance, with a bat-themed front end, bat wings extending from the top or back of the car, exaggerated fenders, a curved windshield, and bat emblems on the vehicle. This bat-like appearance has been a consistent theme throughout the comic books, television series, and motion picture, even though the precise nature of the bat-like characteristics have changed from time to time.”

In his petition to the high court, Towle insisted that the U.S. Copyright Office states outright that automobiles aren’t copyrightable, and that the Ninth Circuit simply created an arbitrary exception. He also argued that there have been “dozens” of Batmobiles in DC comic books over the decades that “vary dramatically in appearance and style” — so much so that the vehicle doesn’t have the “consistent, widely-identifiable, physical attributes” required to be considered a “character.”

(4) SFL SURVIVOR. Andrew Liptak retells “The Adventures of the LA Science Fantasy Society” at Kirkus Reviews.

When he [Forry Ackerman] set off on his own, he founded the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society. While every other Science Fiction League chapter closed—as well as many of the other fan groups—the LASFS survives to the present day, the longest running science fiction club in the world.

In the coming decades, the club became an important focal point for the growing science-fiction community. It counted some of the genre’s biggest writers as its members: when Ray Bradbury’s family moved from Arizona to Los Angles, the young storyteller quickly found the group. “A turning point in his life came in early September 1937,” Sam Moskowitz recounted in his early history Seekers of Tomorrow: Masters of Modern Science Fiction, “when poring through the books and magazines in Shep’s Shop, a Los Angeles book store that catered to science-fiction readers, he received an invitation from a member to visit the Los Angeles Chapter of the Science Fiction League.” Through the league, Bradbury quickly got his start as a writer, publishing “Hollerbochen’s Dilemma” in the club’s fanzine, Imagination!

LASFS is not quite the lone survivor of the Science Fiction League – there is also the Philadelphia Science Fiction SocietyFancyclopedia 3 has more SFL history.

(5) ON WINGS OF STONE. You must keep an eye on these winged predators. BBC tells “How to survive a Weeping Angels attack!”

The Weeping Angels are scary. Really scary. They possess a natural and unique defence mechanism: they’re quantum locked. This means that they can only move when no other living creature is looking at them. These lonely assassins also have the ability to send other beings into the past, feeding on the potential time energy of what would have been the rest of their victims’ lives.

But how do you survive a Weeping Angel attack? Well, here’s our guaranteed, foolproof 4-step guide…

(6) TOP DRAWER. Peter Capaldi proves to have a flair for sketching his predecessors as Doctor Who.

(7) COINAGE. A horrible, fannish pun in March 12’s Brevity cartoon.

(8) MARIE WILLIAMS OBIT. New Zealand fan Marie Williams died of cancer February 27. She was a member of the board of Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ), and their announcement said, “She was a valued member and we will miss her thoughtful insights and interesting comments.”

(9) TOMLINSON OBIT. E-mail pioneer Ray Tomlinson died March 5 at the age of 74. The New York Times report gave a brief history of his development.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Mr. Tomlinson was working at the research and development company Bolt, Beranek & Newman on projects for ARPANET, a forerunner of the Internet created for the Defense Department. At the time, the company had developed a messaging program, called SNDMSG, that allowed multiple users of a time-share computer to send messages to one another.

But it was a closed messaging system, limited to users of a single computer.

Mr. Tomlinson, filching codes from a file-transfer program he had created called CYPNET, modified SNDMSG so that messages could be sent from one host computer to another throughout the ARPANET system.

To do this, he needed a symbol to separate a user name from a destination address. And so the plump little @ sign came into use, chosen because it did not appear in user names and did not have any meaning in the TENEX paging program used on time-sharing computers.

The BBC’s Dave Lee wrote “Ray Tomlinson’s e-mail is flawed, but never bettered”.

He is widely regarded as the inventor of email, and is credited with putting the now iconic “@” sign in the addresses of the revolutionary system.

He could never have imagined the multitude of ways email would come to be used, abused and confused.

Just think – right now, someone, somewhere is writing an email she should probably reconsider. Count to 10, my friend. Sleep on it.

Another is sending an email containing brutal, heartbreaking words that, really, should be said in person… if only he had the nerve.

And of course, a Nigerian prince is considering how best to ask for my help in spending his fortune.

Chip Hitchcock says, “AFAICT, nobody saw person-to-person email coming; computers were for talking to central data, as in ‘A Logic Named Joe’ or even The Shockwave Rider. The closest I can think of to discussing the effects of mass cheap point-to-point communication is the side comment on cell-phone etiquette in the opening scene of Tunnel in the Sky. Can anyone provide another example?”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 13, 1981 – Joe Dante’s The Howling premieres in North America.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born March 13, 1911 – L. Ron Hubbard

(12) HUGO NOMINATORS: NEVER GIVE UP, NEVER SURRENDER. Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens reappears after a five-month hiatus, because it’s “Hugo Season!”

The annual SFF self-loathing theme weeks are here again — I feel (as I feel every year) like a total loser for not having read enough new science fiction and fantasy to make informed nominations for the Hugo award. I haven’t read Seveneves, haven’t seen Ant-Man, haven’t had the time for Jessica Jones, haven’t waded through a lot of short fiction.

Damn damn damn.

Then again, you’re always going to feel that way, no matter what. And it’s not football (which means “soccer”, in case you’re American), so whining doesn’t help.

(13) BINARY BEAUTY. “Google’s AI Is Now Reigning Go Champion of the World”. Motherboard has the story.

On Saturday afternoon in Seoul, AlphaGo, the Go-playing artificial intelligence created by Google’s DeepMind, beat 18-time Go world champion Lee Sedol for its third straight win in a five game series.

The win was a historic one for artificial intelligence research, a field where AI’s mastery of this 2,500 year old game was long considered a holy grail of sorts for AI researchers. This win was particularly notable because the match included situations called ko fights which hadn’t arisen in the previous two games. Prior to AlphaGo’s win, other Go experts had speculated that ko situations could prove to be stumbling blocks for the DeepMind program as they had been in the past for other Go computer programs.

“When you watch really great Go players play, it is like a thing of beauty,” said Google co-founder Sergey Brin, himself a self-proclaimed adamant Go player in grad school, after the match. “So I’m very excited that we’ve been able to instill that level of beauty inside a computer. I’m really honored to be here in the company of Lee Sedol, such an incredible player, as well as the DeepMind team who’ve been working so hard on the beauty of a computer.”

(14) PC OR BS? Ethan Mills of Examined Worlds asks “Has Political Correctness Run Amok? Does It Even Exist?”

… I’m tempted to call this “A Prolegomena to Any Future Discourse about Political Correctness.”….

  1. Is political correctness a cut-and-dried free speech issue?  Why is it that many examples of the “political correctness has run amok” narrative involve cases where one group exercises its freedom to speak against ideas or to decide what speech they want to support in their space?  Is this really a threat to free speech in general if it’s limited to a particular space?  Is there a right to tell people what speech to support in their space? Does political correctness threaten free speech in a more fundamental way by making people feel uncomfortable to say certain things at all?  How do we decide what counts as a threat to free speech in general?  Are there some things that just shouldn’t be said in certain contexts?  Should all speech be allowed in all contexts?  If not, how do we decide when it’s permissible to limit speech?  Is there a difference between limiting speech and simply asking people not to say certain things?
  2. What is the difference between political correctness and politeness or basic respect?  Is there a difference?  What happens if what one person calls political correctness another person calls being polite, civil, or respecting the humanity of others?  How do we settle these disputes?  Is it possible that this whole issue is really just based on the feeling that people don’t like being told what to say?  Is it possible or desirable to change that feeling and thus shift the whole narrative on this issue?

(15) PI TIME. Are you getting into MIT? Then expect notification from BB-8. “MIT parodies ‘Star Wars’ for ‘decision day’ announcement”.

The video ultimately reveals that “decision day” for the class of 2020 will take place on March 14, which is also known as “Pi Day”, as 3.14 represents the first 3 digits of pi.

Hopeful applicants will be able to learn whether or not they’ve been accepted to MIT by logging onto the admissions website starting at 6:28 p.m. on Pi Day. This time represents another reference to pi as 6.28 is known as “Tau” or two times pi.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]