Phantom Faceoff Challenge

By Daniel Dern: Having periodically done a web search for a comparison (usually for two competing products I’m considering buying), ITEM (5) in Pixel Scroll 5/18/24, “BWAH! Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook contends there are ‘25 Great Things About The Phantom Menace’” started me thinking about, of course, The Phantom Tollbooth. So here, off the top of my happily-haired-with-a-bald-spot head, and, having seen The Phantom Menace at least 1x but probably not more than 2.5x, and having reread The Phantom Tollbooth dozens of times (and a quick one-item lookup just now), we go (with, in some cases, allowing stuff in other Star Wars films to count):

Weapons/toolsLight-saber(Mathemagian’s) Pencil
Untall characters   YodaOfficer Short Shrift
Princess(es)Amidala, LeiaSweet Rhyme, Pure Reason
PunishmentCarbonite“I am” (shortest sentence from the judge)
Odd Food(s)Blue milkSubtraction Stew
Challenging RoutesKessel RunThe Doldrums
Talking charactersC3PO, R2D2Tick (watchdog); Spelling Bee
Powers of mindForce stuffCar that goes without saying

On the Avenue I’m Taking Who To, Forty-Second Street

Moshe Feder knew it was “pics or it never happened” when he encountered these Doctor Who-wrapped subway cars on the 42nd St. Shuttle between Grand Central and Times Square.

He says, “I saw them last Saturday night after returning from Naugatuck to Grand Central and then heading across town for an uptown train to Carnegie Hall.”

Thank you, Moshe, for letting me repost your photos!

Trigger Snowflake and the Quicksilver Fallout

By Ingvar.

Trigger stretched his legs out, under the table.

“Ms. Dimatis, thank you for the cuppa. It smells absolutely delicious.”

“Thank you, Trigger. It is the new house blend and roast.” “Thankfully, all things Mercury should now be well behind us.” “Yes, it is such a relief that SysLiCon is back on track.”

With a wide and determined stride, Coraline entered the Coffee Emporium.

“Trigger! Barbara! You will ṉot believe what I just got my hands on!”

“Darling Coraline,” Trigger said, “what could you possibly mean?” “This! This here document. I have had it fast-translated from Mercurian, so it is not fully accurate.” “Could you summarize it for us?” asked Barbara.

“Well. Let me sit down and have a few sips of that delicious-smelling coffee first.”

Barbara waved her hand in a complicated gesture and Svein, the new server, quickly brought a fresh cup over and placed it in front of Coraline, who took a cautious sip of the hot liquid, then let a quiet sigh of pleasure escape over her lips.

“Summarize? Yes. You know how SysLiCon was held on Mercury last year? To the great consternation of many. But, this here document is possibly even worse than that whole debacle. The document I showed you? Well, it is from the Quicksilver City Business Committee, detailing a plan for how Mercury in general and Quicksilver City specifically will become system leaders in poetry, using the intellectual property of SysLiCon, the SysLiCon Awards and the new Poetry Centre that was built for last year’s SysLiCon.”

“But,” said Barbara, “Can they do that?”

“Well,” answered Trigger, “It’s not entirely clear, one way or the other. Mercury have always had a loose observation of the trademark, copyright, and patent laws of other countries. So from that perspective, it’s understandable that they would try something like this.”

“But,” said Coraline, “What can we do?”

“I don’t know,” Barabara said. “There may be something in the SysLiCon statutes to block them? And they did mention that they’ll try to get SysLiCon back to Mercury in five years. This means they’ll need to put a bid in for the planet selection, in three years. So, if we can fast-track some language around eligibility for planet to host SysLiCon, before that, we may at least stop that.”

The three of them slowly sipped their coffee, eyes downcast.

“Aha!” exclaimed Trigger. “If we require planets to have elections that feature more than a single party for at least five out of the last six, national elections? That should in the general case make sure SysLiCon only takes place on democratic planets. Let me draft a motion for the Annual Meeting at the next SysLiCon!”

Trigger Snowflake and the Dequalifications

By Ingvar.

Trigger Snowflake and his wife Coraline were taking brunch at the Coffee Emporium when Barbara Dimatis, the proprietor, came over.

“I am so sad!” Barbara said. “Why is that, dear?” Coraline replied. “The finalists for the SysLiCon Award for Best Poetry Salon have been announced. And I had really hoped that the Emporium would have made it on this year.” “What? But? I know at least two dozen people who said they nominated the Emporium for the Salon category!” “I know. Well, we may see it in the data, once the Mercury SysLiCon is done.”

Nine months later, again during brunch, Barbara Dimatis approached the Snowflake table.

“You remember, a last year, when I was surprised that the Emporium was not a finalist for Best Salon?” “Yes, you were quite upset. Wasn’t she, Trigger?” “Well, the nomination statistics were just published.” “What? SysLiCon was over months ago! Aren’t the statistics usually available right at the end?” “Normally, yes. But, this time it took months. And looking through them, I noticed that The Coffee Emporium was explicitly disqualified from the Best Salon category!” “Oh, no! That must feel horrible for you!”

A few months before SysLiCon, on Mars.

Olaus Frond started to open the package he had just received. It should be the nominations for some of the SysLiCon award categories. As he flipped the first tab, with a hand trembling from anticipation and eagerness, he had a sinking feeling in the stomach. As the package opened, a small cloud of very small paper confetti puffed out of the box. He quickly peered inside, hoping this was only the normal detritus that paper collects.

His stomach now having the same feeling as unexpected free-fall, he saw that there was no such luck. A small portion, maybe a tenth, maybe a sixteenth, of the ballots has simply fallen apart during interplanetary transport.

Not knowing what to do about this novel situation, Olaus simply sighed and started normalizing and tabulating the nominations within the categories he were responsible for.

Around the same time, Luna Javier Finch was having an early dinner, when there was a knock on his door. He sighed, stood up and walked to the door.

“Who is it?” “Mr Finch? There is a hypercom for you.” “Hypercom? Who?” “They did not say. Please open.”

Incredibly perplexed, he opened the door. A courier extended a pad.

“Please sign here, Mr Finch”

Once he’d signed, he was handed a box, with an attached handset. He closed the door, brought the box to his kitchen table, then spoke into the handset.

“Javier Finch, to whom am I speaking?” “Ah, Mr Finch. A delight. I am Felix, the mayor of Sunspinner City, the host city for QuicksilverCon. I understand you are the function head for awards?” “Ah… Felix… Yes, that is correct.” “Good, good. Well, it so happens that, as you know, we have promised to provide interplanetary transport for every finalist, for every award.” “Yes, I am aware.” “Good, good. Now, there are some issues here. You see, some of the people we suspect may end up as finalists are on the No Land list here on Mercury. And you can see that this puts us in a bit of a pickle?” “It sounds problematic, yes.” “So, it would be good if none of them end up as finalists. It’d be SUCH a shame if they fly all the way to Mercury, just to have continue inwards, wouldn’t you say?” “Er, well, the integrity of the voting process…” “We here on Mercury are well aware of voting processes. How do you think I have won the mayoral election the last six times?” “But…” “Good, we understand each other. The hypercom will print the No Land list when we hang up. Bye!”

As Javier slowly placed the handset back in its cradle, the box buzzed, and several sheets of paper came out of a slot.

“Hmm”, Javier thought, “let me have a quick look… Barbara Dimatis?”

Barbara Dimatis sat down after a long week of working and answering the question ‘but why were you disqualified’ with ‘I have no idea’. She opened her copy of “The Solar System Times”, one of the system’s premier news sources.

System Literature Convention Awards Cloaked in Scandal!

The annual System Literature Convention, an event belowed by poetry afficionados throughout the system, has been rocked by a substantial scandal. This was revealed due to a careful study of the statistics required to be published for the awards process.

Among those wronged were Barbara Dimatis, of Fort Corallium, in Jupiter orbit. Ms Dimatis is the proprietor of the Coffee Emporium, a venue that has been holding celebrated poetry salons for the last few years.

Ms Dimatis has been somewhat controversial, in that she has a strict ban on Sulphur artists attending her salon. We have not been able to reach Ms Dimatis for a comment. Other artists who have spoken out include Gail Newman, who was nominated both in both Best Poem and Best Epic Cycle.

Mx Newman says that their poem “Dark and Stormy” was nominated for Best Poem, but is also part of their poetry collection “Nights”, was excluded from the Best Poem category and then the collection failed to get to finalist status in Best Epic Cycle. “It is a shame”, they said, “that they didn’t ask me, I would have preferred Dark and Stormy stand on its own, leaving Best Epic Cycle to other worthy contenders”.

When asked about what happened, the person if charge of the awards process, Javier Finch, only said “We have only applied the rules and laws under which we had to operate.”

Future developments will be reported by “The Times”, as they unfold and are verified.

Trigger picked up the latest dispatches from the Snowflake mailbox, before setting off to the Coffee Emporium, where his beloved Coraline would be engaged in conversation with Ms Dimatis.

He walked through the swinging doors, saw his wife and Barbara at a table, walked over and sat down.

“I brought the latest Comments. Let me hand them round, so we can read and react.”

Not three minutes later, Trigger was distracted from his reading by Ms Dimatis loudly inhaling. He looked up at her.

“Hmm?” “Oh, Trigger, this is astounding!” “What? What?” inquired Coraline. “Here! See! It is a Letter of Comment from the SysLiCon Brand Office. It seems that they have admonished and dismissed both Olaus Frond and Javier Finch, for their involvement with the Awards debacle at QuicksilverCon.” “Hm, well, that is well-deserved”, said Trigger, before taking a sip of quite excellent coffee.

Dern Grim Bedtime Tales

By Daniel P. Dern: As you may or may not (more likely, may not) know, I have, over the past decade or so, written, aside from File770 scrolls and items, and other stuff, a bunch (a few dozen) stories for kids (and their adults), under the umbrella name of Dern Grim Bedtime Tales, Few Of Which End Well. They are intended to be Morally Instructive To The Listener, and Therapeutically Cathartic For the Reader (and The Writer).

For example:

  • “The Girl Who Never Cut Her Hair”
  • “The Boy Who Would Not Brush His Teeth”
  • “The Girl Whose Friends Did Not Want To Play With Her”
  • “The Boy Who Stuck His Elbow In His Ear”
  • “The Boy Who Didn’t Want His Food Touching Each Other”
  • “The Children Who Did Not Like Gilbert And Sullivan”
  • “The Girl Who Loved Animals, Especially Dragons”

Some include SFnal memes and themes, e.g. robots, dragons, aliens. Also, unsurprisingly (to those who know me), the occasional pun.

Most are short enough (flash length) to be read aloud (and heard) in a few minutes – some in under a minute! So I can do a reading of half a dozen pieces in ten to fifteen minutes (depending on whether I’m also doing magic tricks in the same session) — which makes them ideal for short/shared/group program items.

I’ve done readings at dozens of cons (Arisia, Boskone, WorldCons mostly) in DragonsLair (kids  programming) and in main program readings, and also in some mundane places (libraries and schools). (They aren’t, mea culpa, yet available via any of the usual outlets. To say I’m interested and/but embarrassingly behind in that goes, like Milo’s car in The Phantom Tollbooth, without saying.)

Mike Glyer has graciously agreed to run my Halloween one, “The Children Who Ate All Their Halloween Candy Too Soon”, as a scroll. (I’ve done a quick update on some of the Internet/technology bits.)



(A Dern Grim Bedtime Tale)

by Daniel P. Dern

©2023 Daniel P. Dern

There once was a boy and a girl who ate all their Halloween candy too soon.

And they had a lot.

They had carefully compared notes with their friends of all the best places to go Trick-or-Treating, and checked the lists they had kept from last year.

They used their phones to update their maps, and tag each house with what they knew, with special Halloween emojis including some they’d created. They made spreadsheets, and charts, and more maps, and then planned their routes based on what they wanted most, and which houses started being available first, and which ones went latest, and which houses tended to run out first. They added in weather and road condition feeds, and alerts from all their social media accounts.

They organized with some of their friends, and set up groups, with several kids having extra bags “for my little sister who’s sick.”

They set up lists and chats and a Discord server real-time “who’s where” maps so they could communicate as the night went on. Of course, including pictures of new or interesting houses, costumes and candy.

They made sure they had flashlights that worked, and extra batteries, plus ‘flashlight’ apps on their phones.  They convinced some of their parents to give them rides, either to other areas of town, or so they could start at the right places.  It was like planning for a day at Disney World, except with even more to do, and much less time – although fewer and much shorter lines.

They carefully selected costumes that they could walk quickly in, and that were easy to tell what they were, so they didn’t have to waste time explaining.  They practiced walking around and up and down stairs with their costumes on, and made sure they had bags that opened easily and let stuff be dropped in.  They practiced walking in groups that could go quickly along the sidewalk, and forming lines at the door that could be ‘treated’ quickly.  They got one of their older siblings to pretend being an adult at a door, and practiced saying “Trick or treat!” and “Boo” and even “Thank you very much!” — because they had learned that sometimes saying “Thank you” got them extra candy from a house.

They had chosen and designed their costumes so they could wear their old backpacks, to periodically unload what they had already gotten from the bags they were holding out, so that those bags would look emptier.  They got extra bags, with their names on them, to leave in the car or have one of the adults carry.  And they got pouches they could carry, to quickly put in the things they didn’t want their parents to see, either because it was something they weren’t allowed to have, or because it was something they didn’t want to have to “share” with their parents. Or just because they could.

One or two kids even got extra masks and capes, so they could go back to a house that gave good stuff and pretend they were somebody else.

And so, of course, they ended up with a lot of candy.

A lot. 

Their parents, of course, didn’t let them keep it all.  “Junk.”  “Sugar.”  “Junk.” “You don’t need five of these.” “Junk.” “Yuck.” “Sorry, your allergies. ” And there was a lot that they didn’t want, and even after they traded among themselves, there was still a bunch that nobody wanted.

But even after all that, they still had a lot.

But a week later — a week! — it was all gone!  All the candy, that is.  They still had lots of little boxes of raisins and tiny bags of pretzels and some mini-fruit roll-ups, but the candy was all gone — eaten, that is.

Somehow, the boy and the girl who had eaten all their Halloween candy had not gotten sick — or caught.

One afternoon, the day after the boy and the girl had eaten the last of their Halloween candy, the doorbell rang, and when the boy and the girl went to the door — which they were not supposed to do without an adult in the room, but their big brother was in the bathroom — they saw a small green creature.

It had scaly, slimy skin and cool waving purple tentacles all over its head, and had three eyes as big as fried eggs, and was wearing what looked like a shirt made of old DVDs and soup-can lids.

The creature held up four arms — or armlike tentacles, it was hard to tell — and said “Wuggereet!”

“What?” said the boy politely.

“Wuggereet!” repeated the creature.

“Trick-or-Treat?” said the girl.

The creature nodded, making all its tentacles wobble and the shiny disks on its clothes clatter.

The boy and the girl looked at each other.  “Halloween was last week,” said the boy.

“Wuggereet!” repeated the creature.

“Wait here,” said the girl.  She ran back to her room, and came back with a handful of boxes of raisins and two fruit roll-ups.  “This is all we have left.”

Zhacklaw,” said the creature.  “Endee.”

“I’m sorry,” said the boy.  “We don’t have any left.”

The creature shook again, set down its bags, and reached its four arm-tentacles through the shiny disks at its sides, and pulled out what looked like a ray gun, a blaster, a disintegrator, and a space disrupter, and pointed them at the boy and the girl.

Zhacklaw,” said the creature.  “Endee.”

“We don’t have any,” said the girl, who was still holding the raisins and fruit roll-ups.  “This is all we’ve got.”

Dreet!” said the creature, and pointed its weapons at the boy and the girl. “Zhacklaw!”

“I’m sorry,” the boy said. “We ate all the good stuff already.”


– END –

Cider Carey Review: Greenies Dental Treats

Greenies Dental Treats

Hi! Cider Carey back, with another treat review.

This time it’s what Lis says is a seasonal treat, that won’t be available after Halloween supplies run out. I’m not sure what Halloween is, except that some humans dress up funny for it.

As always, I tested whether I could get the package open myself, and as always, I couldn’t. I had to ask Lis. She got it open quick, and says it was easy to reseal.

You maybe saw on the package that these are the “petite” size. What that means is, really for dogs bigger than me, as much as 13 pounds bigger! Like, bigger than me by as much as I actually weigh! Normally, I get the “teenie” size, which is for my proper weight class. 

The size really confused me at first. I sniffed and examined it with great suspicion. Why is it so big? Does it smell a little different than the regular, nonseasonal Blueberry Flavor Greenies?

After a couple minutes, though, I decided it only smelled a little different, and the difference was nice. Also, it would be pretty silly to complain about getting a bigger treat than usual! So I settled down and went to work on the important part — chewing it. It chews every bit as nicely as the regular Greenies.

Lis says I should be embarrassed at finishing it off even faster than my regular “teenie” size Greenies, but I don’t see why. It was tasty, a good chew, and a Seasonal Treat I won’t get again after Halloween is over!

Reduced Budgets Impacting Upcoming TV/Video Seasons and Projects

By Daniel Dern: According to an article I read in today’s paper, some series and movies and books will do their best to cope with reduced budgets. Here’s an advance — and still tentative — partial list:

  • Law and Side-Order
  • Guardian of The Galaxy
  • Star Trek: Mildly Different Worlds
  • Superm and Loi
  • Have Space Suit, Going Across Town
  • Ancillary Shuttle
  • Stranger in a Strange County
  • RingMoon
  • The Wonder Months
  • The Righteous Cubic Zirconiums
  • Lord of the Ringlets (The Fellowship Of The Six)
  • Some Creatures Small
  • Buffy The Vampire Injurer
  • Cheer
  • Five Is All We’ve Got, Hope That’s Enough
  • The Sub-Network Effect
  • Sandmound
  • The Year’s Pretty Good Science Fiction
  • The Left Thumb of Darkness
  • Indiana Jones and the Magic Eight-Ball Of Destiny
  • Micrometeor Township
  • The Lincoln Paralegal
  • NCIS: Hoboken
  • File 335

Vital Essentials Freeze Dried Rabbit Bites for Dogs, reviewed by Cider Carey

Cider’s friend in the Netherlands, another Chinese Crested dog named Menina, recommended rabbit treats, and Cider asked to try them—strictly for review purposes, of course!

I got more mail today, a new package of treats. They’re called Vital Essentials Rabbit Bites. I don’t know what that “bites” is about; they didn’t try to bite me or anything. Very nicely behave treats; I did all the biting.

The packaging, as you can see, is pretty dark. Lis says they want to look Very Serious, because they are pitching themselves as “healthy treats.” She says that’s a bit much, but as one-ingredient rabbit treats, they’re better than some treats, and dogs who are allergic to other things (like chicken! imagine being allergic to something as wonderful as chicken!) can usually eat rabbit.

So, this is where I inspect the package. You can almost see the package:

As usual, I could not find my way into it by myself and had to let Lis do it.

She got into it pretty easily this time, and the place they said to cut actually did leave enough space that it was easy to both open and close. That’s a win over the Max and Neo packaging, but let’s check out the treats.

Lis offered me one and managed to get a picture (barely!) before I had it in my mouth.

Tasty! Couldn’t wait to eat it.

And, turns out, these are training treats. Small ones, which means you can keep getting more, as long as you keep turning out Behaviors Lis likes. Or, sometimes, just get several because she wants to treat you! (Can you tell I love training treats, even when they aren’t rabbit?)

Here, I got three just for sitting still so Lis could get a picture of me sitting next to them.

Okay, a picture of my feet near them, but it’s really hard to sit near treats like that. Lis had to move fast and didn’t quite get the shot she wanted.

Here’s a picture of me with a little pile of them, after I didn’t dive on the ones Lis put near my feet till she told me I could.

These are really good, tasty treats. The package is easy for Lis to manage, so that’s something you credentials of any meat-eating species can tell your humans. Yes, they do make rabbit treats for cats, too!

I hope you enjoy this review, and the treats.

“Barbenheimer” Poster Art

By Daniel Dern: With both movies opening July 21, Barbie-Oppenheimer mashups are a thing…

…First up is a stellar mashup poster created by artist Sean Longmore. 24 x 40 prints are available to purchase for $40. The poster has a retro look that has Cillian Murphy from Oppenheimer in the left corner of the poster as Margot Robbie’s Barbie poses next to him. The left further contrasts the right as an explosion can be seen around Murphy’s head as the bright and vibrant Barbie Land can be seen bleeding through in the background of the right side. Various side characters from both films fill out the bottom with Ryan Gosling’s Ken placed smack in the middle.

Including even a video, from the above post:

…The mock movie poster contains a nod to an explosion of pink behind Robbie, a central theme in the promotion of Barbie, which meshes with the nuclear theme in OppenheimerMission Impossible 7‘s Tom Cruise may have also aided in creating the Barbenheimer phenomenon, as some fans noted that reports of Cruise being ‘Pissed off’ that Oppenheimer will replace MI7 on IMAX screens after a week were followed up by promoting Barbie and Oppenheimer as a double-feature

…Created and shared by Bosslogic on Instagram, the crossover poster imagines Margot Robbie’s Barbie spectating an appropriately pink atomic blast on the far horizon of Barbie Land. In the bottom right corner, a mashed-up title reads “Barbie: The Destroyer of Worlds” in reference to Oppenheimer’s infamous quotation of the Bhagavad Gita as he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon – “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”…

…”I think it’s a great opportunity to put some positivity out into the world and a chance to be aspirational for younger kids,” Robbie said of the film in a 2019 interview.

New fan art imagines Barbie and Oppenheimer as one mythic movie in the style of a classic Hollywood poster. Both movies, which release in theaters on July 21, hail from acclaimed directors in Christopher Nolan and Greta Gerwig and feature starry ensemble casts led by Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy as their titular characters. However, the two movies themselves are actually quite different, as one is a comedy set in the glitz and glam of Barbie Land, while Oppenheimer is a bleak, partially black-and-white biopic chronicling the creation of the first nuclear weapons….

…Doing God’s work, Twitter user Shadow Knight has curated a Twitter thread (above) of the best examples – and some of them are truly, er, something. From a La la Land inspired dance-off to a Drew Struzan-style painted character collage, a few of these fictional posters would definitely be enough to coax us into the cinema – if only out of sheer curiosity….

Related Twitter thread starts here.