Pixel Scroll 10/21 One Ink Cartel

(1) The Onion reports a major addition to the movie ratings scheme.

WASHINGTON—In an effort to provide moviegoers with the information they need to determine which films are appropriate for them to see, the Motion Picture Association of America announced Tuesday the addition of a new rating to alert audiences of movies that are not based on existing works.

According to MPAA officials, the new “O,” or “Original,” designation will inform viewers that a particular film contains characters with whom they are unfamiliar, previously unseen settings, and novel plots. The rating will also reportedly serve as a warning of the potentially disorienting effects associated with having to remember characters’ names for as many as two hours and the discomfort that can occur when one is forced to keep track of narrative arcs for an entire film.

The MPAA’s new O rating will appear on all movies containing explicitly original, unadapted, and unfamiliar material.

(2) In a day devoted to Back To The Future nostalgia, Bill Higgins would like to remind everyone that Ronald Reagan “smuggled a quote from the film into an important speech to Congress.” C-SPAN has the clip, from Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address.

Reagan also liked the movie’s joke about him being president – according to the Wikipedia he ordered the projectionist of the theater to stop the reel, roll it back, and run it again.

(3) Here’s a link to BBC video of the Back To The Future day unveiling for a Belfast university’s electric-powered DeLorean project.

(4) And in (wind) breaking news — “Michael J. Fox arrested for insider sports betting”

Fox aroused suspicion after achieving a statistically-impossible, perfect record on the site under the username NoChicken.

Authorities found an unusually worn copy of a sports almanac which was just recently printed and which has markings cataloging winning bets Fox has placed since the late 80’s.

(5) Today’s Birthday Girls:

  • Born October 21, 1929 — Ursula K. Le Guin celebrates her 86th birthday today.
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher, famous for portraying Princess Leia onscreen, and author of the bestselling novel Postcards from the Edge.

(6) New York Mets fan James H. Burns is flying high. He has some tales you’ve never heard before in “The Curious Case of Daniel Murphy” on the local CBS/New York website.

(7) Steven H Silver, on the other hand, is suffering and reminds people about his 2008 article for Challenger, ”I Call It Loyalty, Others Call It Futility”.

Several years ago, I spent two summers working at Wrigley Field. When most people say something like this, it means that they sold beer or peanuts during the games (which is what my brother-in-law did). I did something different.

On Sundays during the season, when the Cubs are playing on the road, Wrigley Field is open for tours for a minimal charitable donation (at the time $10, which goes to Cubs Care Charities). I spent two summers giving tours of the ballpark. The tours included the standard places open to the public, like the concourse under the stands, the stands, and the bleachers, but also non-public areas like the press box, the visitor and home team locker rooms, and the security office. Two of my more interesting memories were getting to watch a Cubs game on television from within the confines of the visitor’s locker room and escorting a woman out to the warning track in center field so she could scatter her husband’s ashes.

The tours, of course, included information and trivia about the Cubs’ history and the stadium’s history. The tour guides were pretty good on the whole and worked to debunk legends and stories about the field while presenting information in an interesting and memorable manner.

(8) Ken Marable says the 2016 Hugo recommendation seasons begins November 2 – at least on his blog, which is coincidentally named 2016 Hugo Recommendation Season: The Non-Slate: Just Fans Talking About What They Love. For the first week he’ll focus on the Best Semiprozine category.

(9) The Wall Street Journal’s “Dan Rather, Still Wrong After All These Years” opines —

The movie ‘Truth’ is as bogus as the original attempt to smear George W. Bush’s wartime service.

Seeing that brought to mind my article about Gary Farber in File 770 #144 [PDF file] where I mentioned Farber’s then-recent participation in outing that fraud:

Within hours of “60 Minutes” purported exposé of memos by George W. Bush’s old Air National Guard commander, people were blogging away with accusations that the documents were forged because the text could not have been produced on typewriter likely to have been in use at a Texas military office in 1971, if indeed it could have been produced by anything besides Microsoft Word. Gary’s analysis showed no one knows better than a fanzine fan about the capabilities of 1970s-era business typewriters.

Another paragraph in my article praised Gary for a quality still missing from most political discourse today:

Amygdala shows how disagreement can be handled without loathing, and that evidence is more important than orthodoxy, two notions practically extinguished from the rest of the Internet in 2004. I’ve always been more conservative than a lot of fannish friends and favorite sf writers, finding the contrast informative and fascinating. Yet in 2004, I had to drop off two fannish e-mail lists to escape the constant spew of venomous political nonsense, and tell two individuals to quit sending me their mass-copied clippings. So not sharing too many of Gary’s political views, one of the pleasures I find in reading Amygdala is how his provocative viewpoints are expressed in a way that values the reader’s humanity regardless of agreement.

(10) Bob Milne reviews Larry Correias’s new Son of the Black Sword at Speculative Herald.

Larry Correia is an author best known for his guns-and-monsters, no-holds barred, testosterone-soaked urban fantasy sagas, Monster Hunter International and the Grimnoir Chronicles. For those who were curious as to how he’d make the transition from guns to swords, Son of the Black Sword is pretty much everything you’d expect, with his macho sense of almost superhuman bravado slipping well into a pulpy heroic fantasy world.

(11) What a wonderful alternate universe it could be…

(12) Mayim Biyalik on “My Sort-Of Acting Method”.

I’m not a real actor. Well, actually, I guess that’s not fair – what I mean is I’m not a trained actor. Many actors you love and see on TV and in movies studied acting for real. Like, some of them even have degrees in acting and stuff. I call those people “real actors.”

I have never studied acting in a class or in school or in college. I don’t know Stanislavsky from Uta Hagen or method acting from acting that isn’t method. It’s all Greek to me. But I do have a method of my own, from my almost 30 years being employed as an actor, and trained actors I know tell me my ‘method’ actually is a sort of method. So there you have it.

The scene I had with Jim Parsons in this past week’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory” (Season 9, Episode 5, “The Perspiration Implementation”) was a very emotional one. I cried the first time we rehearsed it and each time we showed it to our writers and producers. (Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen it.)

(13) “You too can learn to farm on Mars” promises the article.

“Congratulations! You are leaving Earth forever,” the case study begins. “You are selected to be part of a mining colony of 100 people located on the planet Mars. Before you head to Mars, however, you need to figure out how to feed yourself and your colleagues once you are there.”

The task is similar to that of Watney, who has to grow food in an artificial habitat after he is separated from his mission crew in a Martian windstorm. “Mars will come to fear my botany powers,” he boasts.

“Farming In Space? Developing a Sustainable Food Supply on Mars” can be found here. Teaching notes and the answer key are password protected and require a paid subscription to access.

(14) NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars photographed Earth on January 31 using the left-eye camera on its science mast. See a video of Curiosity’s Earth-from-Mars images here.

(15) Makes yourself clean and shiny before lining up to see the new Star Wars movie with the help of these Darth Vader and R2-D2 showerheads.

star-wars-showerhead-darth-vader-r2-d2-gif-1 COMP

What are the major differences between the Vader and R2 model? Aside from the price, the lowest setting on the Darth Vader showerhead makes water run from the mask’s eye sockets, allowing you to bathe in Sith Lord remorse. This model also provides a handle, leaving less of your bathing up to the Force.

Darth Vader has a handle, but I don’t know that I would want to aim Darth’s tears at any vulnerable body parts….

(16) Last night Camestros Felapton staked out his spot in comments with this video is about fours waking.

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, Bill Higgins, Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

212 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 10/21 One Ink Cartel

  1. @bookworm1398: “My personal definition of the difference between science and magic is that science is universal – anyone can learn to do it and operate the artifact. Magic requires some special innate ability and has chosen ones.”

    But then you get something like Rick Cook’s “Wiz” series, where magic is assumed to be the domain of the special practicioners until a hacker comes along and figures out the rules. The famous example is when he accidentally casts a fireball spell by saying “bippity boppety boo” and gesturing with a stick… in an effort to show how nuts the idea of magic is. So the magic is and always was universal, but nobody knew it.

    Then there’s clerical magic, where the only innate ability required is belief in the right god(s). Pray for a miracle, make a convincing case, and get one. It helps if the god you choose was once mighty enough to build up a power reserve, but has mysteriously become obscure or unfashionable and is grateful to have followers again.

  2. “Magic is a term for any process not understood”.

    That applies to pretty much all science for pretty much anybody. Science is a big place, and no one’s up on all of it.

    So in terms of science fiction, I’d say the issue is principally one of narrative style; are we presuming the correctness of methodological naturalism (even if we’re using some other entirely different universe’s natural laws, eg., Lensmen) or are we presuming some other organizing principle?

  3. Susana: Aside from the fact that I think this definition excludes Tolkien, I don’t think most high fantasy plots are fairytale-style.

    Well. So that is a definition of “high fantasy” that I do not accept. I think she might have been trying to define “fairy tale” and failing–it really isn’t the sort of thing to try to do in what is essentially an aside–but still. Fairy tales are a kind of fiction with different conventions; approaching fantasy of any sort of transformed, “fictionalized” fairy tale just doesn’t work for me. Mind you, I can see the distinction being partly a matter of world-building and character development–but even so, only partly.

    McJulie and Susana, on world-building vs. the scope and the requirements of story, ending with: In fact, when a book gets shaped by its worldbuilding/backstory requirements, it’s usually to the detriment of story.

    I don’t see world-building as backstory. Context, maybe, but in the same sense that any writer has to create context for his plot and characters. They have to have a place to stand, after all. Think of the old fantasy cliche about the setting being almost another character–the setting inevitably changes the plot, as well as the characters, in any form of fiction; I would argue (maybe) that it does so more in spec fic than in others (notice I’m not confining this to fantasy–still thinking about that). How the world came to be is useful for the writer, maybe, but what matters to me as the reader is a sense of what the world is. (This may help explain why I’ve always done my own world-building sort of off the cuff, in the course of writing the story.) Does fantasy need more length to give me that sense? Pulley seems to say “yes, it does–or it can.” I don’t know that it’s a requirement, but it is an option, and possibly a temptation: if you have a huge, complex world to explore, why not explore it?

    Partly in the course of thinking about fairy tale vs. fantasy, I’ve come up with another writer who writers fairly short fantasies, with brilliant realized worlds: Robin McKinley. So the Mega-Novel is inevitable. But–as a temptation, maybe, or an option? I think fantasy does offer it to the reader more than many other categories of fiction.

    Gigantic, multi-volume mainstream novels notwithstanding. In fact . . . I suspect we might turn it the other way: are there categories of fiction where the conventions work against the Mega-Novel? I nominate detective stories, and possibly horror. But now I’m going to have to consider why I instantly thought of those two . . .

  4. As for the ‘extrapolation of current science’ idea, since that excludes FTL, it would mean that the Ancillary series isn’t SF, which I find very implausible.

    I don’t think “extrapolation of current science” is meant to disqualify anything that includes a concept not currently considered reasonable science. I mean, if that’s the criterion, the Ancillary series is disqualified based on the ancillaries, surely.

  5. I don’t think “extrapolation of current science” is meant to disqualify anything that includes a concept not currently considered reasonable science.

    Well, I don’t know what Clarke meant, but rrede, who introduced the quote into this discussion, did read it as meaning that Star Wars is not SF because it contains FTL. And some people certainly do follow this principle. One often sees people claiming works with psionics are not SF, because psionic powers are not scientifically possible; when it is pointed out that this would also exclude time travel and FTL, some are disconcerted, but others bite the bullet and say they are not SF either.

    If you understand ‘extrapolation’ in terms of scientific method – things we can imagine discovering through a scientific process, even if we are confident we won’t – then I’d agree this does reasonably pick out the core of what’s generally seen as science fiction.

  6. I just wanted to say that this whole discussion about science fiction and fantasy and the definitions of such has been very interesting reading. 🙂

  7. Ravi on October 22, 2015 at 9:29 pm said:


    Thanks for the reminder that Master of the Five Magics and its clever, wonderful sequel Secret of the Sixth Magic still aren’t available as ebooks. Off to Amazon to fruitlessly push those buttons…

    You may or may not be aware (can’t tell from your comment) that those two books are the first of a trilogy, whose third member is Riddle of the Seven Realms.

  8. Cubist,

    I have all three books sitting on my bookshelves. For me Master of the Five Magics is the best one but they all have a special something that makes each very worth while.

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