Pixel Scroll 11/1/17 Surely This Has Been Done Already?

(1) TALESPINNER. Ken Liu’s Star Wars book is out today.

Star Wars: Legends of Luke Skywalker [is] a set of tall tales about the Jedi Knight that have been passing from cantina to freighter and from mouth to audio receptor ever since a certain farm boy left Tatooine for the wider galaxy far, far away…

Devan Coggan interviews me for Entertainment Weekly: “Ken Liu Tells Star Wars Tall Tales in The Legends of Luke Skywalker:

Legends follows a number of young deckhands working aboard a ship bound for Canto Bight (a casino world featured in the upcoming The Last Jedi). Together, they swap six different stories about Luke, each passed down from a different storyteller. One comes from a droid who claims to have witnessed Luke singlehandedly lead a droid rebellion, while another comes from a tiny, flea-like creature who claims to have had a pivotal role in Luke’s escape from Jabba’s palace. One of the particular highlights is the tale told by a former Imperial engineer, who says that Luke Skywalker was nothing but a piece of propaganda made up by the Rebellion. The real Luke is a con artist named Luke Clodplodder, who orchestrated a massive scam with his friends aboard a ship called the Century Turkey.

(2) BORDERLANDS GETS ITS PERMANENT HOME. Via Shelf Awareness, the good news: “Success: Borderlands will buy Haight St. building thanks to its fans”.

Unable to secure a large loan from a bank, Beatts put the question to Borderlands’ clientele – would they be interested in funding the purchase for 1373 Haight St?

They were. In 18 days, lenders put up $1.9 million.

Recycled Records currently occupies the building, but the record store owner was planning to retire after the sale of the building, Beatts said.

Were any lessons learned?

“I learned that I’m the kind of person who can raise close to two million dollars in two and a half weeks, that was a surprise. I also learned that, if you really want to achieve your goal, you have to pursue every single solution,” Beatts wrote in an email to Mission Local.

He’d made offers on two other buildings before Haight Street panned out, and had toyed with other funding models before settling on the patron loan approach.

(3) IN THE SLAM. SPECPO visits Minneapolis: “Outreach report: The Not-So-Silent Planet [MN]”.

This month I had the chance to see the work of the folks at Word Sprout who organize The Not-So-Silent Planet.

As a regular event, The Not-So-Silent Planet currently holds the distinction of being the longest-running speculative literature slam in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the famed Kieran’s Pub. We’ll have to do some research to verify, but so far it seems like it may also well be the longest-running speculative literature slam in the country or even the cosmos. But then again, space is a very big place.

Typically held in the Poet’s Room at Kieran’s, it’s an evocative space with great energy and a supportive and enthusiastic audience. For an October reading they had almost a dozen readers and audience members including their special guest Kyle Dekker, organizer Phillip Andrew Bennett Low, and Riawa Thomas-Smith. There was a good mix of poetry, short stories, flash fiction, and experimental works.

(4) GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN. Io9’s Charles Pulliam-Moore tells how “The Gotham City Sirens Are Taking Over Riverdale in Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica”‘.

The premise to DC and Archie Comics’ crossover special Harley and Ivy Meet Betty and Veronica reads like a piece of fan fiction, something television or film studio executives dream about but would never dare actually writing. Obviously, this is why the comic’s first two issues, written by Marc Andreyko and Paul Dini with illustrations from Amanda Conner and Laura Braga, so damned good. They’re so ridiculously absurd, it’s almost impossible not to enjoy the hell out of them. [SPOILERS FOLLOW]

Daniel Dern sent the link with a comment: “Looked fun when I skimmed the new issue (#2) at the comic store, I’ll wait until the six issues are available as borrowable book (or issues show up via one of the legitimate free/low-cost digital comic services I’m using).”

(5) ANOTHER CASUALTY. Book World customers are going into mourning – the chain is shuttering its 45 stores: “Closing the books: Book World to close all its stores and liquidate inventory”.

Book lovers in the Brainerd area are likely to shed a tear at Tuesday’s announcement by Book World Inc.—it is closing all its stores because of poor sales and online competition.

The Appleton, Wis.-based company will liquidate all its inventory starting Thursday in an “everything-must-go” sale at all of its 45 locations across seven states, including the one in Baxter.

“We anticipate that running at least through the end of the year … into January, but that’s really contingent on inventory—and certainly staffing plays a part in that, too—but primarily inventory,” said Book World Senior Vice President Mark Dupont.

The family-owned independent chain of bookstores located throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and Missouri offers a huge selection of books for all ages.

(6) IN THE REARVIEW MIRROR. TIME Magazine anointed this pair the winners of the internet’s Halloween costume contest:  “This Couple Won Halloween By Pranking People With Their ‘Levitating’ Star Wars Bike”.

YouTube vloggers Jesse Wellens and Carmella Rose dressed up as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but not in their classic Star Wars garb. Instead, they dressed as Luke and Leia as rebels zipping through the forest world of Endor from The Return of the Jedi and the only thing missing was an Ewok or two.

While that retro costume would certainly rate well with Star Wars fans, Wellens and Rose had a plan to put their costume over the top. With a little help from some friends at Lithium Cycles, they built a replica of a Speeder Bike that looked like it was actually floating and rode it through the streets of Manhattan. The sight was exhilarating enough that even wizened, seen-it-all New Yorkers couldn’t help but gawk.


(7) ON THE BLOCK. Robby the Robot is one of the star attractions in Bonham’s Out of This World auction on November 21.

There’s also a good article about Robby at New Atlas: “The original Robby the Robot goes up for auction”

Forbidden Planet was MGM’s first major science fiction film. Robby cost US$120,000 to build (US$1.2 million in today’s money) and was constructed out of vacuum-form Royalite plastic, acetate, and aluminum with rubber hands, a Perspex transparent “head” and a pair of men’s size 10.5B black leather loafers inside the feet for the actor wearing the 100 to 120 lb (45 to 54 kg)) prop/costume, which was articulated like a suit of armor.

But Robby was more than a suit. He included seven war-surplus electric motors to power his mechanical “scanners” and “brain,” plus a “mouth” made of blue neon tubes run by a 40,000 Volt power source run via a cable out of the robot’s heel or onboard batteries.


  • Born November 1, 1917 — Zenna Henderson
  • Born November 1, 1923 — Gordon R. Dickson


  • John King Tarpinian finds a bittersweet farewell to Halloween in Lio.
  • Mike Kennedy was convinced that it sucks to be chosen after reading today’s Basic Instructions.

(10) DUBIOUS HOLIDAYS FOR CHILDREN. Camestros Felapton is back in full stride, in another argument with Timothy the Talking Cat: “McEdifice Returns: Chapter We’ll Be Back After This Short Break”.

“Well I for one endorse the concept,” replied replied replied Camestros, “After all you made up International Tim Day, Catmas and The Feast of Saint Felix the Squirrel Killer.”

“It is a DISTRACTION you fool! A distraction from our important work!” replied replied replied replied Timothy, slamming his tiny fist-like paw on the desk in front of him. “I need some help from you with this project and you are off doing who knows what for that mechanical fusspot!”

“I was burning what Americans call ‘candy’ in a pre-emptive bonfire night.”

“Bonfire night?”

“Ah, yes – you miss out every year because pets must be hidden on bonfire night. It is an annual British festival of fireworks and municipal arson based on 17th-century anti-Catholicism and remembrance of a time some time tried to blow up parliament but with syncretic elements of pagan pre-winter festivals. Also traditionally children beg for money by demonstrating to adults that they have made an effigy of a man who was tortured to death which they will burn later. It is very traditional.”

“Now who is making stuff up?” said the cat skeptically.

“On reflection Catmas sounds more plausible.” agreed Camestros. “So what help do you need?”

(11) HALLOWEEN FOR THOSE NOT IN THE WORLD SERIES. MLB.com has pictures: “The baseball world pulled off some epic Halloween costumes this year”. Here’s one of them:

(12) THE GREAT UNREAD. Mental Floss revisits “15 Children’s Books No One Reads Now”. The list includes a story that stresses how important it is to stay between the lines.


Ask anyone about anthropomorphic trains and their first response is likely to be “Thomas the Tank Engine.” Or, if you’re a purist, “The Little Engine That Could.” “Tootle,” first published in 1945, is likely way down the list, if he even comes up at all. But for many years, the industrious engine was on track to become one of the best-selling books of all time.

Andrew Porter says, “Gosh, I have the Little Golden Book of this, which includes numerous wonderful illustrations, including –”

(13) ON OLD OLYMPUS’ TOWERING TOPS. Chip Hitchcock suggests, “Since we’re discussing variations in religion, a note on a fannish religion,” “The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too”

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshipped, worked and created art but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther’s native Germany: beer.

The change in beer production was wrought by the pale green conical flower of a wildly prolific plant — hops.

Every hip craft brewery today peddling expensive hoppy beers owes a debt of gratitude to Luther and his followers for promoting the use of hops as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church. But why did Protestants decide to embrace this pretty flower, and what did it have to do with religious rebellion?

Therein foams a bitter pint of history.

In the 16th century, the Catholic Church had a stranglehold on beer production, since it held the monopoly on gruit — the mixture of herbs and botanicals (sweet gale, mug wort, yarrow, ground ivy, heather, rosemary, juniper berries, ginger, cinnamon) used to flavor and preserve beer. Hops, however, were not taxed. Considered undesirable weeds, they grew plentifully and vigorously — their invasive nature captured by their melodic Latin name, Humulus lupulus (which the music-loving Luther would have loved), which means “climbing wolf.”

(14) TIME TO CONFESS. Keeping up the seasonal theme: “After 20 Years, Can Cornell Finally Bust Open Its Great Pumpkin Mystery?”

In 1997, someone speared a massive pumpkin on the spire atop of Cornell’s McGraw Tower … 173 feet in the air.

No one knew who. No one knew why. And no one knew how.

In fact, for a while, no one even knew — for sure — if it was a pumpkin. Suspicions grew as the gourd lingered on, month after month. But some students figured that one out with the help of a drill attached to a remote-controlled weather balloon, which captured a sample. (Seriously.)

It was definitely a pumpkin.

But the other mysteries remain today. And Farhad Manjoo — Cornell alum, former editor-in-chief of the school paper and now a tech reporter at the New York Times — wants answers.

He calls the pumpkin-ing of the tower “the greatest prank in Cornell history.” And he’s asking the pranksters — or those who love them — to step forward and claim their glory.

(15) SPLASH. More data on Chicxulub: “Asteroid impact plunged dinosaurs into catastrophic ‘winter'”.

An independent group earlier this year used a global climate model to simulate what would happen if 100Gt of sulphur and 1,400Gt of carbon dioxide were ejected as a result of the impact.

This research, led by Julia Brugger from the University of Potsdam, Germany, found global annual mean surface air temperatures would decrease by at least 26C, with three to 16?years spent at subzero conditions.

“Julia’s inputs in the earlier study were conservative on the sulphur. But we now have improved numbers,” explained Prof Morgan.

“We now know, for example, the direction and angle of impact, so we know which rocks were hit. And that allows us to calibrate the generation of gases much better. If Julia got that level of cooling on 100Gt of sulphur, it must have been much more severe given what we understand now.”

(16) STILL GOING AROUND. Play it again: “The firm saving vinyl”.

Whether gathering dust in your loft or currently spinning on your turntable, it’s a fair bet that at least some of your vinyl records came from a small factory in the Czech Republic.

The facility in question is the headquarters of GZ Media, based in the small town of Lodenice, 25km (16 miles) west of the Czech capital, Prague.

GZ is today the world’s largest producer of vinyl records, of which it expects to press 30 million this year, for everyone from the Rolling Stones and U2, to Lady Gaga and Madonna.

The success of the company is a far cry from the early 1990s, when vinyl records appeared to be on the way out, with music fans having switched en masse to compact discs.

(According to an NPR interview a few years ago, Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady is a fan of vinyl.)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, JJ, Dave Doering, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the diurnal period Acoustic Rob.]

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68 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/1/17 Surely This Has Been Done Already?

  1. @John A. Arkansawyer
    I like both “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “Bobby Brown”, but then I encountered them both before I fully understood what the lyrics meant. That is, for Bobby Brown I got from the start that it was a song about a jerky guy who had a run-in with a girl called Betty, but I didn’t get just what Betty did to him (which I hope is metaphorical) and I didn’t get what happened to Bobby afterwards. It was a real eye opener by the time I did get it.

    Regarding “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, there is a German language version of the song. It was quite common well into the 1980s and probably beyond for German singers to record German versions of international hit songs. The German lyrics often had nothing whatsoever to do with the original song. This is the case with the German version of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, probably because the original lyrics wouldn’t have made much sense translated into German. And so the song was turned into a very earnest song about the dangers of drugs called “The day that Conny Kramer died” (non-spoiler: He overdosed). You can watch it on YouTube, sung by the equally earnest Juliane Werding, then sixteen years old.

    I’ll take the original over that travesty any day.

  2. @ John A Arkansawyer

    While Zappa had mighty guitar chops and formidable compositional skills, he just wasn’t my style and his lyrics almost always shut me down. Zappa’s cutesy humor and pottymouth were always just too much for me.

    In SF/F-related news, I finished reading Vallista and Brust provided the goods as expected. Not amazing but not mediocre either. I will explain (but not spoil) the book here to Vlad fans: vg’f n Qriren obbx.

  3. @Martin Wooster: on the taxing of gruit, , this cite from Wikipedia (see p38). I find the idea of Church monopoly/licensing unsurprising in that period, although I don’t know anything about the authors of the paper and so can’t swear they are correct.

  4. I’m about as Yankee as it’s possible to be, and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” has never bothered me–I can understand its point of view (in the literary and historical senses) without much sympathizing with it. I also can hear “Banks of the Ohio” and its murder-ballad cousins without buying into the speakers’ viewpoints. Though if I were to use “Night” in a set, I’d be strongly tempted to set it next to, say, “The Battle Cry of Freedom.” (There’s a wonderful Ry Cooder arrangement of it in The Long Riders .) And maybe Matthew Fox’s “Another Murder Song” next to “Banks of the Ohio.”

  5. Can I admit that “Sweet Home Alabama” is one of my favorite songs without being tarred and feathered? =:-0

    Here, I’ll salvage a shred of cred: I was at the white-supremacist counterprotests in both Shelbyville and Murfreesboro (TN) last weekend. Carried a sign and everything. So can I get away with having a huge soft spot for a racist song?

  6. Contrarius: Can I admit that “Sweet Home Alabama” is one of my favorite songs without being tarred and feathered?

    “Sweet Home Alabama’s” slap at “Southern Man” — Neil Young’s explicitly anti-racist song — has an intended meaning, and the kind words about the governor, too, but if somebody didn’t know the times in which this hit song came out, do you see something in it that would make them think it’s racist? Can a song “age out” of that? At least there’s nothing in it like the last lines of ‘La Marseillaise’ about “impure blood” (presumably the English and other Europeans, in that case).

  7. @Andrew: “In a Susan Cooper mood tonight “Pixels on the mountain, shall find the harp of Scroll”” – Lovely! 🙂 I’m a big fan of that series.

    @Charon D.: “Don’t pixel, don’t scroll, what do ya do?” – Another good one!

  8. Andrew what was the name of the cat? I remember Dick and Jane had a cat, but that’s all. I didn’t find them boring. It was just so exciting to read!

  9. @Rob Thornton

    Yes, that explains Valista very well, and I also enjoyed it. With the meta plot elements that came out in it you can now feel the series starting to build towards a climax.

  10. @Mike Glyer: There’s a specificity to the lyrics of “Sweet Home Alabama” that you’re missing: It’s about the band going from Florida (their home) to Muscle Shoals to record.

    So when you hear “In Birmingham they love the governor/Now we all did what we could do” in that context, it’s pretty clear the backing vocals really are “Boo boo boo”. Birmingham and Muscle Shoals are two very different places. Patterson does some counter-mythologizing in this song, but he gets close to the truth.

  11. @Kendall

    @Andrew: “In a Susan Cooper mood tonight “Pixels on the mountain, shall find the harp of Scroll”” – Lovely! ? I’m a big fan of that series.

    Glad you liked it. I read them when they were fairly new – as I realized when I finished “The Grey King” and discovered that “Silver on the Tree” hadn’t been published yet (in fact, I happen to remember that I finally got to read “Silver” on a rainy, rainy day in early November 1977, almost exactly 40 years ago).

    @World Weary

    Andrew what was the name of the cat? I remember Dick and Jane had a cat, but that’s all. I didn’t find them boring. It was just so exciting to read!

    According to wikipedia, the cat was named “Puff.” I agree – the excitement of being able to read was terrific.

  12. @Mike —

    if somebody didn’t know the times in which this hit song came out, do you see something in it that would make them think it’s racist? Can a song “age out” of that?

    I have always found the support for Wallace quite offensive — but I love the song anyway. Sigh. (And no, I don’t really buy the bit about “boo, boo, boo” either, since they also later sing “where the governor’s true”.)

    And no, I don’t think ignorance of history can be an excuse for a racist song.

    I think I’m partially conflicted about the song because I’ve lived almost all of my life (about 90%) south of the Mason-Dixon line, so I feel complicit in its racism at the same time I’m enjoying the music.

  13. @Andrew: I was in the same boat, having to wait for Silver on the Tree to be published. Aside from expanding the mythological background of a young Canadian more familiar with Greek mythology, that series also really introduced me to that particularly British form of world-weariness and the intense weight of history.

    (One English friend and my old landlord once complained that Canadians had no concept of age: we think a hundred years old is really old. I responded that the English have no concept of distance: they think a hundred kilometers away is really far. His response was to think for a moment, say ‘that’s fair’, and drop the argument.)

  14. Count me in on the “had to wait for the final Dark is Rising books” crowd. I read the first three in high school when I was working my way through the entire SFF section in the public library that was on my bike route home from school. And then I graduated in ’75 — I think before The Grey King was available yet — and my reading habits got scrambled a bit by college (and the year abroad in 75/76). I think I didn’t even know there were two more books until many years later. (Enough later that I’d learned enough Welsh to spot a minor grammatical error in one of the prophetic verses.)

  15. I can still remember finding The Dark is Rising in my town library and checking it out based on the title and cover. I was young enough not to really know about horror (and there was very little of it in the children’s area of the library, where I was allowed). I’d read and re-read all the Hammer horror books at the library (anyone remember those? They covered the classic Hammer films, telling the stories for children? I think they were picture books?). Anyway, loved the book, and was extremely excited to find out it was part of a series. This was probably some time between 1981 and 1983. I was allowed upstairs (to the adult section) shortly after that, by my mom’s explicit request, and found stuff like Tolstoy’s vampire stories (I think this one – the cover looks very familiar – https://www.amazon.com/Vampires-supernatural-Aleksey-Konstantinovich-Tolstoy/dp/B0006BYSQA ). Sorta digressy and nostalgic, but that’s how Cooper’s series makes me feel, especially around this time of year.

  16. @Jenora Feuer

    I was in the same boat, having to wait for Silver on the Tree to be published. Aside from expanding the mythological background of a young Canadian more familiar with Greek mythology, that series also really introduced me to that particularly British form of world-weariness and the intense weight of history.

    While I was waiting for Silver on the Tree, I read the Prydain Chronicles, so I was well up on the Welsh mythos after a while.

    @Heather Rose Jones

    I think I didn’t even know there were two more books until many years later. (Enough later that I’d learned enough Welsh to spot a minor grammatical error in one of the prophetic verses.)

    The one that translates as “The mountains are singing, and the Lady comes”? (I memorized all the poems, even the one in Welsh, and might still remember them).

  17. When I stumbled on THE DARK IS RISING, there were only two books (and I started with OVER SEA, UNDER STONE).

    Most of the family was hooked on the books, so whenever a new one came out, it was an event. I was the fastest reader, so I got to read it first, which didn’t stop my sisters from trying to steal it while I was sleeping…

  18. When I was in fifth grade, we had in-class story reading, and The Dark is Rising was one of the books we read. It’s a good book to encounter the year you turn 11! I got my parents to buy me the whole series, and I was too young to know why the last one was only available in a different format than the others. I didn’t have to wait for it, but I did have to buy it in hardback.

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