One the most emotional world premieres at the upcoming 2020 Berlin International Film Festival is bound to be “Last and First Men,” the directorial feature debut of the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. The musician died in February 2018 at the age of 48 amid an acclaimed career that saw him score back-to-back Oscar nominations for Best Original Score in 2015 and 2016 thanks to his work on “The Theory of Everything” and “Sicario.” The latter was one of several collaborations between Jóhannsson and Denis Villeneuve. Jóhannsson’s other score credits include Villeneuve’s “Prisoners” and “Arrival,” plus “Mandy” and “The Mercy.” Jóhannsson served as a mentor to Hildur Guðnádottir, who recently won the Oscar for her “Joker” original score.
Jóhannsson’s only directorial feature, “Last and First Men” is an adaptation of his touring multimedia project of the same name. The movie — shot on 16mm black-and-white film with “Victoria” and “Rams” cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen — played in concert halls, accompanied by Jóhannsson’s score with a live orchestra. The feature film playing at Berlin includes the composer’s original score and narration from Tilda Swinton….
The Hollywood Reporter’s review of the film has this to say —
Long considered one of the most unfilmable classics of science fiction, Last And First Men has been adapted to the screen by Oscar-nominated Icelandic composer Johann Johannsson. The results are being lauded as “dazzling” and “visionary. This might be one of the films I’m most anticipating this year.
“Halfway between fiction and documentary, Last and First Men is a visionary work about the final days of humankind that stretches the audience’s ability to imagine not only an immense time frame reaching over billions of years, but huge steps in human evolution.”
(2) SOCIAL MEDIA NEVER FAILS TO GET WORSE. A Twitter thread contends Bronys (My Little Pony fandom) has been co-opted by white nationalists. Wootmaster’s thread starts here. Warning about the images, which is why the tweets are not fully reproduced here.
For many years the pony fandom has been a decidedly neutral, “apolitical” one. Even with its origins on 4chan, there was a sort of innocence and naivete that pervaded the fandom, and even the internet as a whole. Hell, even the 4chan of 2010 hardly resembled the 4chan of today….
Then in 2016 something happened that would transform both 4chan and the fandom forever, even if most bronies wouldn’t realize it for years. The polarization of politics reached its peak with the election of Donald Trump. Right-wing populism entered its heyday, with 4chan in tow….
Only a year later another event happened, almost in tandem with the first. For April Fool’s 2017 4chan’s then admin moot thought it’d be hilarious to combine several boards together. As a cheap joke, he combined My Little Pony and the political board into one entity. /mlpol/…
It was supposed to be a joke. The two communities should have hated each other. A fandom of full of guys who idolized a girl’s cartoon show, and community of far-right fascists LARPers who idolized hitler and wanted to massacre jews. But a strange thing happened. They got along.
(3) BRADBURY POSTERS. Three poster sets are being published by the Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) through an Illinois Humanities grant. The poster sets are free for schools, libraries, and other public display.
Poster Set 1 currently available now: “How did I get from Waukegan to Red Planet Mars?” highlights places named for Ray Bradbury in Waukegan, Hollywood, on the Moon and, yes, even on Mars. Click here for full information. Sets 2 and 3 will be available this spring.
(4) MOOSE & SQUIRREL BACK IN TOWN. The City of West Hollywood will celebrate the permanent installation of the “Rocky & Bullwinkle” statue on the Sunset Strip at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Holloway Drive on March 28 at 10:00 a.m. “Rocky & Bullwinkle” Statue Unveiling. Los Angeles Magazine traced the history of the icon last August: “WeHo Has Strong Feelings About a Rotating Moose Returning to the Sunset Strip”
He’s 14 feet tall, 700 pounds and, some would say, a bit of an icon.
A beloved spinning statue of Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky was first installed outside Jay Ward Productions’ animations studios on the Sunset Strip in 1961, across the street from the Chateau Marmont. Meant to parody a twirling showgirl advertising the Sahara Hotel, Bullwinkle’s outfit would change colors whenever hers did, injecting a dose of silliness and whimsy into the Strip’s capitalist jousting.
The statue was hoisted away in 2013 to the lament of neighbors and fans, many of whom made their voices heard at a recent, bizarre West Hollywood city council meeting. The night’s agenda? Re-anointing the moose on a traffic island where Holloway and Sunset meet….
(5) CUSSLER OBIT. Dirk Pitt’s creator author Clive Cussler, who also funded searches for historic wrecks, died February 24. The New York Times traces his career: “Clive Cussler, Best-Selling Author and Adventurer, Is Dead at 88”. (The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has an entry about his work here.)
… Despite an improbable plot and negative reviews, “Raise the Titanic!” sold 150,000 copies, was a Times best seller for six months and became a 1980 film starring Richard Jordan and Jason Robards Jr.
While Dirk Pitt books appeared throughout his career, Mr. Cussler also wrote other series: “The NUMA Files,” featuring the hero Kurt Austin and written with Graham Brown or Paul Kemprecos; “The Fargo Adventures,” about husband-and-wife treasure hunters, written with Grant Blackwood or Thomas Perry; “The Oregon Files,” set on a high-tech spy ship disguised as a freighter, written with Jack DuBrul or Mr. Dirgo; and “The Isaac Bell Adventures,” about an early-20th-century detective, written with Justin Scott.
…With Mr. Cussler leading expeditions and joining dives, the organization eventually located some 60 wrecks. Among them were the Cunard steamship Carpathia, first to reach survivors of the lost Titanic on April 15, 1912, then itself sunk by German torpedoes off Ireland in 1918; Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt’s coastal steamer Lexington, which caught fire and went down in Long Island Sound in 1840; and Manassas, the Confederacy’s first Civil War ironclad, sunk in battle in the Lower Mississippi in 1862.
(6) TODAY’S DAY.
- February 26 – National Tell A Fairy Tale Day.
What were once oral histories, myths, and legends retold around the fire or by traveling storytellers, have been written down and become known the world over as fairy tales.
The origins of most fairy tales were unseemly and would not be approved or rated as appropriate for children by the Association of Fairy Tales by today’s standards. Most were told as a way to make children behave, teach a lesson or pass the time much like ghost stories around a campfire today.
Many of the stories have some basis in truth. For example, some believe the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is inspired by the real-life of Margarete von Waldeck, the daughter of the 16th century Count of Waldeck. The area of Germany where the family lived was known for mining. Some of the tunnels were so tight they had to use children – or small people such as dwarfs – to work the mines.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
- February 26, 1988 — The Alien From L.A. premiered. directed by Albert Pyun. It was produced by Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus from a story written by Regina Davis, Albert Pyun and Debra Ricci. It starred Kathy Ireland in what was supposed to be a break-out role for her. William Mose and Richard Haines also had lead roles with the latter playing Arnold Saknussemm, a reference to Arne Saknussemm in Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. How it was received is best judged by it being featured in an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Band the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is 4%. You can see it here.
- February 26, 1977 — Doctor Who’s “The Talons Of Weng-Chiang, Part 1” first aired. It featured Tom Baker, one of the most liked of all the actors who’ve played The Doctor, and Leela, the archetypal savage that British Empire both adored and despised, played by Louise Jameson. The villain was most likely a not accidental take-off of Fu Manchu. You can see the first part here with links to the rest of the story there as well.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born February 26, 1921 — Bill Evans. First Fandom member who wrote a number of important works, With Bob Pavlat, Evans edited/published the Evans-Pavlat Fanzine Index during the Fifties which he followed up with Index of Science Fiction Magazines 1926 – 1948 that Bob Petersen co-wrote. With Francis T. Laney, Evans published Howard Philips Lovecraft (1890-1937): A Tentative Bibliography. His final work was with Ron Ellik, The Universes of E. E. Smith. (Died 1985.)
- Born February 26, 1918 — Theodore Sturgeon. Damn, I hadn’t realized that he’d only written six novels! More Than Human is brilliant and I assumed that he’d written a lot more long form fiction but it was short form where he excelled with more than two hundred such stories. I did read over the years a number of his reviews — he was quite good at it. (Died 1985.)
- Born February 26, 1945 — Marta Kristen, 75. Kristen is best known for her role as Judy Robinson, one of Professor John and Maureen Robinson’s daughters, in Lost in Space. And yes, I watched the entire series. Good stuff it was. She has a cameo in the Lost in Space film as Reporter Number One. None of her other genre credits are really that interesting, just the standard stuff you’d expect such as an appearance on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
- Born February 26, 1948 — Sharyn McCrumb, 72. ISFDB lists all of her Ballad novels as genre but that’s a wee bit deceptive as how genre strong they are depends upon the novel. Oh, Nora Bonesteel, she who sees Death, is in every novel but only some novels such as the Ghost Riders explicitly contain fantasy elements. If you like mysteries, all of them are highly recommended. Now the Jay Omega novels, Bimbos of the Death Sun and Zombies of the Gene Pool are genre, are great fun and well worth reading. They are in print which is interesting as I know she took out of print for awhile.
- Born February 26, 1957 — John Jude Palencar, 63. Illustrator whose artwork graces over a hundred genre covers. In my collection, he’s on the covers of de Lint’s The Onion Girl and Forests of the Heart (one of my top ten novels of SFF), Priest’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds and Le Guin’s Tehanu: The Last Book of Earthsea. Origins: The Art of John Jude Palencar is a perfect look at his work and marvelous eye candy as well.
- Born February 26, 1963 — Chase Masterson, 57. Fans are fond of saying that she spent five years portraying the Bajoran Dabo entertainer Leeta on Deep Space Nine which means she was in the background of Quark’s bar a lot though she hardly had lines. Her post-DS9 genre career is pretty much non-existent save one-off appearances on Sliders, the current incarnation of The Flash and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, a very unofficial Tim Russ project. She has done some voice work for Big Finish Productions as of late. The series features as Vienna Salvatori, an “impossibly glamorous bounty hunter” as the publicity material puts it.
- Born February 26, 1965 — Liz Williams, 55. For my money, her best writing by far is her Detective Inspector Chen series about the futuristic Chinese city Singapore Three, its favourite paranormal police officer Chen and his squabbles with Heaven and Hell. I’ve read most of them and recommend them highly. I’m curious to see what else y’all have read of her and suggest that I read.
- Born February 26, 1977 — Ingrid Oliver, 43. She’s played the rare secondary character in the Who verse who had a recurring presence as she was around for quite awhile and I’m going to let Doctor Who Online tell her tale: “She appeared in the 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who, ‘The Day of The Doctor’, as Osgood. She was seen wearing the Fourth Doctor’s iconic scarf. In November 2014 she appeared again as Osgood in the series finale of Peter Capaldi’s first series, dressed as The Doctor, this time mimicking Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor (shirt and red bow tie) as well as David Tennant’s 10th Doctor (blue trousers and red Converse shoes) as they faced the Cybermen, where she is vaporized by Missy.”
(9) SCALING UP. George R.R. Martin is delighted by this news about “Real Life Prehistoric Dragons”.
This is really too cool.
A new genus of pteradon has been discovered, and named after the dragons of House Targaryen.
I am delighted, needless to say. Especially by the kind words of the discoverer, paleontologist Rodrigo Pegas, who is solidly on my side about dragons having two legs, not four, and pfui on those medieval heralds with their wyvern talk.
(10) ACQUISITION NEWS. Riverdale Avenue Books has acquired the assets of sff publisher Circlet Press, which specializes in science fiction erotica. They will continue to publish Circlet’s over 170-title catalog under a new Circlet imprint. Founder Cecilia Tan will remain on staff to edit upcoming titles.
(11) NOT-SO-HIDDEN FIGURE. “This NASA Engineer Is Bringing Math And Science To Hip Hop” — transcript of NPR’s interview.
… DAJAE WILLIAMS: Mmm hmm. So I get to get in the cleanroom every day and do a lot of inspections on how tight a screw is being tight or how – are we keeping this hardware clean so that we don’t get our germs into space? We make sure this thing actually works once it is launched.
NADIA SOFIA, HOST: She loves her job, but it didn’t start that way. When Dajae got to NASA in 2018, just out of college…
WILLIAMS: It was very exciting, a little bit overwhelming. I suffered from a little bit of imposter syndrome, for sure – and a bit confusing, I will be honest.
SOFIA: What do you mean by a bit confusing?
WILLIAMS: There’s no women in my group. There are only a few African Americans in my group or people of color, for that matter. So nobody looks like me. No one acted like me. So it was definitely different, and I did not fit in.
SOFIA: That feeling of not fitting in at a place like NASA is something that Dajae is working to change. And she’s doing it in kind of an awesome way, a way that helped her fall in love with math and science when she was a teenager.
WILLIAMS: (Singing) Energy of force, mathematics, studying the Big Bang. I’m observing something, and it may be nothing. A hypothesis could change the game, OK.
(12) SURGIN’ VIRGIN. We’re not quite at the stage of “Requiem”, the Heinlein story in which people can take short rocket rides at county fairs, but “Virgin Galactic sees demand for space travel surge”.
Virgin Galactic has said it will release more tickets for flights into space amid surging demand.
Sir Richard Branson’s firm, which completed its first sub-orbital test flight in 2018, said it had received almost 8,000 registrations of interest for future commercial flights.
That is more than double the amount it recorded at the end of September 2019.
The firm has so far sold 600 tickets for its inaugural flights, scheduled for later this year.
(13) NOSTALGIA. They’re obsolete but coming back — “Solari boards: The disappearing sound of airports”?
As day turns to night in Singapore’s Changi Airport, a queue of people wait patiently for a picture with an old star.
They leave their bags by a bench, turn their cameras on themselves, and pose for a photo.
Some smile; some jump like starfish; one even dances. As they upload to Instagram, the old star watches on, unmoved.
And then – a noise. The moment they’ve been waiting for. The travellers turn their cameras round, and the star begins one last turn.
In a blur of rotation, Kuala Lumpur becomes Colombo; Brunei turns into Tokyo; and a dozen other cities whirr into somewhere else.
Two people taking photos, Eileen Lim and Nicole Lee, aren’t even flying. They have come especially to see the departures board.
“It’s therapeutic to see the names turn round,” says Eileen, a teacher in Singapore. “And that sound – I love it.”
Every time she comes to Terminal 2, Eileen takes a photo with the board. But now, she is saying goodbye.
In less than three hours, the hoardings will come up, and the sign will come down. Changi Airport, like hundreds of others already, will whirr, spin, and flap for the final time.
…Solari di Udine, as it is now known, was founded in 1725 – more than 250 years before Changi Airport opened – in a small town in northern Italy. It specialised in clocks for towers.
After World War Two, the company began working with designer Gino Valle. He and Remigio Solari developed a sign with four flaps, each containing ten digits – perfect for telling the time.
The now-familiar design, with white numbers on black flaps, won the prestigious Compasso D’Oro award in 1956. In the same year, Solari sold its first moving sign to Liege railway station in Belgium.
…In 2013, six engineers who worked together at Drexel University, Philadelphia, formed Oat Foundry – a company that built “cool mechanical things for brands and companies”.
Three years later, they were approached by a “fast-casual” restaurant who wanted to display orders in a “non-digital way…without guests bathing in that blue light glow”.
The client suggested “an old-school train departure board”, and, after four months of research, they had a prototype.
The product was a mixture of old – they tested a number of materials “to get that iconic sound of 1960s airports and stations” – and new: it was integrated with an iPad point of sales system.
[Thanks to Rob Thornton, Olav Rokne, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xtifr.]