(1) A STRANGER FOURTH. A creepy New Year’s countdown heralds the third season of Stranger Things.
1985 will never be the same. Stranger Things returns for a third season July 4, 2019 on Netflix.
(2) WHO SPECIAL CHALKS UP FEWER UK VIEWERS. “Ratings Low for Time-Shifted ‘Doctor Who’ Festive Special” says The Hollywood Reporter.
But its overnight viewings in the U.K. were anything but stellar, with 5.15 million tuning in on the BBC, a 22.4 percent share, according to reports, half a million less than Idris Elba’s return as Luther the same evening. The figure — which is before consolidated views have been included — marks the lowest for any Doctor Who festive special since the series returned in its modern form in 2005, and also Whittaker’s second-worst episode this season. By contrast, David Tennant’s first special landed 9.4 million overnight views, Matt Smith’s 10.3 million and Peter Capaldi’s 6.3 million. However, these were all broadcast Christmas Day.
(3) AQUAMAN. He’s doing the backstroke to the bank: “Aquaman swims past Wonder Woman at global box office, could pass Batman v Superman next “.
This figure placed the feature above Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, which lassoed a little over $821 million during its theatrical run in 2017. Domestically, Aquaman also broke the $200 million mark in North America, but it still needs $197 or so million to beat Wonder Woman‘s total American gross of $412 million.
(4) WU AND ARISIA. During Brianna Wu’s 2018 congressional race she focused on issues with wide appeal, and on attracting attention from major media. But the other day on Facebook she returned a fannish subject, the forthcoming Arisia convention:
If you attend Arisia, Inc. this year, I’m not going to say anything to you – but I will absolutely think less of you.
A convention that had multiple sexual predators at senior leadership levels and ignored the rape of a teenager is not a convention you should support. You cannot attend Arisia and also also support women.
I will not be buying your books. I will not support your art. I will never do you a favor.
You are the choices the [sic] make.
(5) BLACK MIRROR IN FINANCIAL TIMES. Martin Morse Wooster peeked behind the Financial Times paywall to report on their coverage of Black Mirror’s “Bandersnatch” episode.
In the December 29 Financial TImes, Shannon Bond interviews “Black Mirror” showrunners Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the forthcoming episode of Black Mirror called “Bandersnatch” which will be interactive. It’s about a choose your own adventure writer who gets trapped in “a branching set of storylines that descend down rabbit holes exploring free will and mind control.”
“‘We didn’t know what the story would be and we were like, ‘Wouldn’t that just be a gimmick?’ said Mr Brooker.
But once the pair hit upon a plot with the right themes, they were quick to embrace the opportunity, said Ms Jones,
‘It’s absolutely baked into the story this idea of freedom of choice and control and the illusion of control and the illusion of choice. Once you’ve got that as the basic conceit and you have the protagonist and you can give them multiple endings but these endings only build to reinforce the whole, then that’s delicious,’ she said.”
They could call it “Choose Your Own Adventure–To Despair!” says Wooster. “Good times!”
(6) BEWARE THE BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. Ethan Alter, in “Netflix to Fans: Don’t Be Like Bullock And Avoid BIRD BOX Challenge,” says that Netflix is telling fans to avoid a viral challene to do things while blindfolded just like Sandra Bullock does in BIRD BOX, saying they could hurt themselves and Bullock announced she bumped into the Steadicam several times while doing her blindfolded scenes.
(7) ROBERTS OBIT. BBC reports “Net’s founding father Dr Larry Roberts dies aged 81”
American scientist Larry Roberts who helped design and build the forerunner of the internet has died aged 81.
In the late 1960s, he ran the part of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) given the job of creating a computer network called Arpanet.
He also recruited engineers to build and test the hardware and software required to get the system running.
Arpanet pioneered technologies underpinning the internet that are still used today.
Dr Roberts is recognised as one of the four founding fathers of the internet along with Bob Kahn, Vint Cerf and Len Kleinrock.
The son of two chemists, Dr Roberts reportedly chose electronics as a field of study because it was more forward-looking.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born January 2, 1920 – Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarise him here so I won’t. My favourite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I also still like the Robot series a lot and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction. (Died 1992.)
- Born January 2, 1929 – Charles Beaumont. He is best remembered as a writer of such Twilight Zone episodes such as “The Howling Man”, “Printer’s Devil”, and the “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You”, but he also penned the exemplary 7 Faces of Dr. Lao screenplay, and The Masque of the Red Death, a horror film with Vincent Price which is rather good. (Died 1967.)
- Born January 2, 1978 — Renée Elise Goldsberry, 41. Currently Quellcrist Falconer in the Altered Carbon series with her first SF role having been Crewman Kelly on the “Vox Sola” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. I think her only other genre appearance is as Denise Watkins in the long titled “Things to Do in New York When You Think You’re Dead” episode of Life on Mars series. I’ve read the entire Altered Carbon series but not seen the series, so how is it?
- Born January 2, 1979 – Tobias Buckell, 40. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which was both both original and managed to wrap nicely. Do note that “The Alchemist and The Executioness “ novella he wrote with the latter and is which is part of the latter’s Tangled Lands Universe is definitely worth chasing down out for reading
- Born January 2, 1983 — Kate Bosworth, 36. Not a long resume in the genre I grant you but her Lois Lane in Superman Returns certainly was impressive and she’s was recently in a series that I’m looking forward to seeing no matter how depressing it probably is, an adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, and she’s got The I-Land, a web series which sounds more horror than SF forthcoming.
(9) FINALLY THEY TRIED SCIENCE. The popular theory about learning-by-guess was always wrong: “Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read, And What Better Teaching Can Do About It”.
Harper attended a professional-development day at one of the district’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The teachers were talking about how students should attack words in a story. When a child came to a word she didn’t know, the teacher would tell her to look at the picture and guess.
The most important thing was for the child to understand the meaning of the story, not the exact words on the page. So, if a kid came to the word “horse” and said “house,” the teacher would say, that’s wrong. But, Harper recalls, “if the kid said ‘pony,’ it’d be right because pony and horse mean the same thing.”
Harper was shocked. First of all, pony and horse don’t mean the same thing. And what does a kid do when there aren’t any pictures?
This advice to a beginning reader is based on an influential theory about reading that basically says people use things like context and visual clues to read words. The theory assumes learning to read is a natural process and that with enough exposure to text, kids will figure out how words work.
(10) OLD TECH MADE NEW. NPR “Climate Change Is Bad For Peru’s Pastures … But There’s A 1,200-Year-Old Fix”
Climate change, vanishing ice and erratic rain patterns are causing the wetlands in two Andean communities to shrink — and that’s a big problem for the communities of Miraflores and Canchayllo. The villagers depend on the puna, a set of alpine ecosystems above 13,000 feet that include grasslands and wetlands to graze sheep, cows, alpacas, llamas and vicunas — animals that provide them with their livelihoods.
Instead of looking for modern solutions to improve access to water, the villagers turned to an old one: centuries-old hydraulic systems that dot the Nor Yauyos Cocha Landscape Reserve, a state-protected natural area seven hours east of Lima. These ancient systems have been used to help irrigate the reserve’s pastures and provide nutrient-rich soil for hundreds of years.
So in 2013, the communities teamed up with scientists from U.S. nonprofit The Mountain Institute (TMI) and reserve authorities to devise plans to revive their historic waterways, including canals, lakes and reservoirs. In addition to providing water, the project would also help mitigate the effects of climate change on the landscape, which has been degraded by grazing, melting glaciers and erratic rainfall.
(11) THE SPEED OF DARK. The real world moves past Moon’s novel: “The firm whose staff are all autistic”.
Peter, Evan and Brian work at a small technology firm based by the beach in Santa Monica, testing software and fixing bugs.
On first inspection it seems like any other Los Angeles-based company, with tasteful art on the white walls and calm-inducing diffusers dotted about.
Peter describes the working atmosphere as “quiet, but fun”, and especially likes the fact that there is no pressure to socialise, while Evan says of his employers that they are “very accommodating and understanding”. Brian describes his office as “unique”.
Auticon is one of only a handful of companies that cater exclusively for employees who are on the autistic spectrum.
Formerly known as MindSpark before being acquired by German-based Auticon, the firm was founded by Gray Benoist who, as the father of two autistic sons, saw few options in the workplace that could cater for their needs.
(12) BETTER FUZZY PIXELS. “New Horizons: Nasa probe survives flyby of Ultima Thule” – BBC has the story.
The US space agency’s New Horizons probe has made contact with Earth to confirm its successful flyby of the icy world known as Ultima Thule.
The encounter occurred some 6.5bn km (4bn miles) away, making it the most distant ever exploration of an object in our Solar System.
New Horizons acquired gigabytes of photos and other observations during the pass.
It will now send these home over the coming months.
The radio message from the robotic craft was picked up by one of Nasa’s big antennas, in Madrid, Spain.
(13) THE FAR SIDE. Follow-up to a previous Scroll item: “China mission primed for landing on Moon’s far side”
China is preparing to make the first attempt at landing robotic spacecraft on the Moon’s far side.
A static lander and rover are expected to be deployed to the surface in the next day, state media reports.
The vehicles are carrying a suite of instruments designed to characterise the region’s geology, as well as a biological experiment.
In recent days, the Chang’e-4 spacecraft had lowered its orbit in preparation for landing.
At the weekend, Chinese state media said the probe had entered an elliptical path around the Moon, bringing the vehicles to within 15km (9 miles) of the lunar surface at its closest point.
Authorities have not specified the exact time of the attempt to touch down in the Von Kármán crater. But a report in the state-run China Daily newspaper suggests Chang’e-4 could begin descending on its thrusters sometime from 2-3 January.
(14) ORBITAL OBSTETRICS. The Atlantic reports a proposed experiment: “Imagine Giving Birth in Space”.
“SpaceLife Origin, based in the Netherlands, wants to send a pregnant woman, accompanied by a “trained, world-class medical team,” in a capsule to the space above Earth. The mission would last 24 to 36 hours. Once the woman delivered the child, the capsule would return to the ground. “A carefully prepared and monitored process will reduce all possible risks, similar to Western standards as they exist on Earth for both mother and child,” SpaceLife Origin’s website states. The company has set the year 2024 as the target date for the trip.
“The concept raises a host of questions—we’ll get to those later—but perhaps the most immediate may be this: Why?“
(15) JEOPARDY! Direct from Andrew Porter’s living room, tonight’s sff reference on Jeopardy!
In Final Jeopardy, in “British Memoirs,” the answer was, “Before his death in 1996, this famous son wrote the memoirs “The Enchanted Places” & “The Hollow on the Hill”.
Wrong questions: “Who is Churchill?”, “Who is Christopher Tolkien?”
Correct question: “Who is Milne?” — Christopher Robin Milne
(16) HERTZ PENS COOLEST VERSE. John Hertz cheered me up after reading my complaint about a cold house —
We all of us knew you were cool,
But now it seems too you are cold.
We’ll hope that you had a good Yule
And were safe while Old/New Year change rolled.
But we still don’t see a new header,
And your scrolling voice has been scant.
Are you merely under the weather?
Or does some worse thing mean you can’t?
I join my small voice to the others
Who wish you both good and the best.
You know that if we had our druthers
You’d not go through any such test.
(17) THE VOLCANIC KIMCHI CURE. But if I need it, LAist touts “Kimchi Jjigae, The Volcanic Korean Stew That Can Kill Colds”.
When the winter sun sets before 5 p.m. and you’re nursing a nasty case of the sniffles, there’s a piping-hot Korean stew that provides the perfect antidote to illness and hunger. Huge, hearty and volcanic red, kimchi jjigae can blaze the mucus out of your body better than a Neti pot.
The Korean dish is believed by some to have originated in the mid-Joseon era, during or shortly after the Imjin Wars of 1592 to 1598, when Japan invaded Korea and brought Portuguese traders’ chili peppers with them. Others argue that the chili has been farmed in Korea for 1,500 years, after it was brought to the region millions of years ago by birds. Still others believe the chili came from China, thanks to Indian and Arab traders peddling the seeds along the Silk Road.
Whatever kimchi jjigae’s origins, it lets thrifty Korean cooks use super-ripe kimchi that’s not ideal to eat on its own. With the kimchi’s intensity mellowed by pork, tofu, gochugaru (chile pepper flakes), garlic, ginger, scallions and broth, the spicy stew has become a year-round favorite. During long, harsh winters, like the kind we have here in Los Angeles, jjigae with pork has a reputation as an almost magical antidote to winter colds….
[Thanks to John Hertz, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]