Pixel Scroll 11/29 Scroll to my pixel, click inside and read by the light of the moon

(1) SITH PACK. Michael J. Martinez continues his Star Wars rewatch reviews in “Star Wars wayback machine: Revenge of the Sith”

It’s the final piece of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and — perhaps unsurprisingly — Episode III: Revenge of the Sith is the best of the prequels and, if I may be a touch heretical, on a par with Return of the Jedi. It very much echoes what made the original trilogy special, despite having many of the problems that plagued the other prequels.

(2) DIY STORMTROOPER. At io9 Andrew Liptak reports progress on making his own Stormtrooper armor in “So You Want To Join The Empire: Finishing Touches”. Some of the lingo is a bit specialized…


I ended up trimming down the greeble on the abs plate – I didn’t trim it down enough the first time. The paint was also slightly off color after it dried, so I ended up picking up the correct shades,

(3) BARRIS FUNERAL. “I was wondering why there were so many cool cars in Glendale yesterday,” remarked John King Tarpinian. The answer: Batmobile designer George Barris was being laid to rest at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. Barris passed away November 5 at the age of 89 — click on the link to see Comic Book Resources photo of Barris’ casket, which features an airbrushed ’66 Batmobile on its side and specially-made fins on top, in honor of the creator’s work.

(4) DOCTOR STRANGE. Did they really want to work together? “Clea-ing The Air: Neil Gaiman And Guillermo del Toro Have Differing Memories Of Their Nixed ‘Doctor Strange’ Movie” at ScienceFiction.com.

What if… Neil Gaiman wrote a ‘Doctor Strange’ movie and Guillermo del Toro directed it?  Sadly, that’s one tale that will never be told, but could it have been?  Well, at least according to one of the creators involved, Gaiman, who tweeted a lament, expressing:

“I still wish Marvel had been interested in a [Guillermo del Toro] & me Dr Strange movie, because I wanted to write Clea so badly after 1602.”

(5) SEED BOMBAST. RedWombat cut loose with a mighty rant about the seed bombs entry in yesterday’s Scroll that is too good to be missed, so I am repeating it in today’s Scroll….

Part I: Okay. Seed Bombs. *clears throat*

Seed bombing is super-duper popular with “guerrilla gardeners,” with Girl Scout troops, civic-minded crafters, basically with all sorts of well-meaning folks who think that you can turn a vacant urban lot into Eden by throwing a ball of clay full of seeds over the fence and walking off with the warm glow that you have given nature a helping hand.

Except they don’t work.

There’s a couple factors at work here. #1, very rarely do people research the plants–like those wildflower meadow mixes in a can, they’re often dumping invasive weeds or short-lived annuals…because those are the only things that might survive under those conditions.

Which leads us to #2 — even assuming the seeds germinate (a big if, as we’ll see below) they will be packed in incredibly tight in the seed bomb, compete with each other for root space, the ones that die will rot intertwined with the others, etc. There’s a reason we thin seedlings. Your only survivors are going to be the hardy souls who can stand intense root competition, and frankly, those plants don’t need your help moving around…

…because #4, there is a massive seedbank in the soil already. Billions and billions! Japanese stilt grass seeds can survive up to seven years in dirt, waiting for the moment to strike. Wind, water, animals…there are seeds there already. If humanity vanished tomorrow, half our cities would be forests before the decade was out. So if nothing is growing in that vacant lot, the reason is probably…

#5 – Compacted soil is shit soil. I have been fighting for years with a hillside where the builders ran earthmoving equipment over it, and Nothing Grows. Not even weeds. Not even kudzu or stiltgrass or Japanese honeysuckle. It is hardpan. It is dead clay. Nature could fix it, but in a century or two. There are no worms, no microbes, no LIFE.

I’ve made great inroads, but not with plants. I had to fix SOIL. I tried seeds first, and what self-respecting seed would grow there? I dug in plants by hand, grimly. Most died. A few lived, but the toughest clay-busters nature can provide could not do more than occupy one small, hard-won clump.

I brought in dirt, compost, raked in leaves–not much, just an inch or two over the clay and that was enough. There are worms and microbes and the layer keeps the dead stuff moist and slowly it gets dug through and aerated by roots. It felt more like terraforming than gardening. A seed bomb on compacted soil is useless, unless you can find the very toughest pioneer species, the sort that are first to grow in abandoned quarries, and those don’t need help from guerrilla gardeners.

And even if you DID get the right seeds, it won’t matter because #6–seed bomb construction is desperately flawed. (Can’t speak to the one above, this is just the standard method.) The standard method is to pack seeds in damp clay, let them dry, and then throw them. Congratulations, you have killed a bunch of seeds!

The vast majority of seeds germinate when moist. A dry seed is a live seed, unless it gets wet, then it is a growing seed. If you dry it out immediately, you have killed that seed. You get one shot at germination if you’re a seed. No do-overs. Seeds can live in the pyramids and be viable, seeds can live in the fridge and be fine, seeds that get wet are done unless planted pronto. (Exceptions: those that require other, more specific triggers–fire, animal digestion, cold stratification, etc, and some few plant species adapted specifically to floodplains.)

Those paper cards with seeds in the paper, plant them, yay earth? Dead. Seeds are mixed with slurry pulp, get damp, dried out. Unless they pick the seeds very carefully, it’s just feel-good crap.

And now I have to go to breakfast, so part two: Why It Looks Like A Seed Bomb Worked will have to wait for a bit.

Part II: Ok, so Round Two!

“But RedWombat!” you say. “I made a seed bomb and stuff grew! Also there is no #3 in your rant!”

To which I say “shut up and let us troubleshoot your miracle.”

If you made a bomb and ran out the same day and flung it, the seeds didn’t dry out. If you threw it on soil that didn’t completely suck, that was not already overgrown with weeds, that was then gently watered by either moist ground or rainfall, if your seed bomb was not too densely packed or was a variety that tolerates close competition, then you may indeed have successfully grown a plant. If you picked your seeds carefully, there is even a chance that it’s not a corn poppy or some other short lived annual. This is basically why stuff sprouts under the birdfeeder.

Alternately, if you don’t specifically recognize the seeds you planted, then it was quite possibly stuff already in the soil bank and you’re taking credit for its hard work.

Now, nature is a mutha, and some seeds will survive terrible treatment through dumb luck or a tiny pocket of dryness or are a floodplain species or whatever. Or they land in the one tiny pocket of hard pan along the fence that’s loose because of the post-hole digger, and it rains at the right moment or whatever. But a seed would have ended up there ANYWAY. You could get the same effect dumping safflower over the fence, as above, except that the safflower has a far better chance of sprouting.

So, in conclusion, this is feel-good crap that lets nice but wrong people and smug Eco-bros feel like They’re Helping, when they aren’t, and there’s a dozen things you could do that DO help, but most of those are work and also don’t pay extra for the cards with seeds in them. If you’re going to green the world, there are very few quick fixes.

The end.

And there’s extra credit reading about working with hardpan soil in RedWombat’s third installment!

(6) RING MUSIC. Deborah J. Ross confesses “My Love Affair with the Music of The Lord of the Rings”.

When at long last it was my time to embark upon piano lessons, as a first-time older adult student, I grabbed a copy of the easy piano versions of The Lord of the Rings music. My goal was to play “Into the West.” I was one of those folks in the theater with tears down my cheeks as the song ended. But I was just starting out, I had zero self-confidence, and I wanted to make sure I had the skill to play it well. My teacher and I selected “In Dreams” (which is also the leitmotif for the hobbits) as one of my early pieces. Even in the easy version, it was a challenge. And it had words, words in a key within my limited vocal range.

Like others of my generation, I got caught in the folk scene of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even taught myself a few chords on the guitar. Although I enjoyed singing in a group, I had become convinced I had a terrible voice. I remember being told as a child that I couldn’t sing. So of course, my voice was strained, thin, unreliable in pitch. With the piano to support my voice, however, along with lots of practice when no one else was in the house, not to mention having an encouraging teacher, I learned how to breathe more deeply and relax my throat. The higher notes became easier and more clear. I added other songs and vocal exercises, which helped my confidence. “Wow,” my teacher said after one class, “who knew you had such a voice?”

(7) Today In History

  • November 29, 1972Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.

(8) Today’s Birthday Boy

We’re still not sold on Turkish Delight, but thank you for Puddleglum and Mr. Tumnus, Mr. Lewis!

(9) Today’s Birthday Girl

Today marks the birthday of an author who forever changed the way we feel about time travel, alternate dimensions, and dark and stormy nights. Madeleine L’Engle was born on November 29th in New York City and started writing almost right away. Her first story was composed at age 8, and she went on to pen a universe of novels, poems, and non-fiction throughout her amazing and inspirational career.

(10) STAMOS OR SCALZI. John Scalzi’s poll “Does Teenage John Scalzi Look Like Teenage John Stamos?” crowdsources the answer to a question that has plagued John since he was a high schooler with a rock idol haircut.

In comments, David P. provides disturbing evidence that young Scalzi looked more like Snot from American Dad.

I can only hope David P. isn’t out there researching my look-alike….

(11) STARFLEET. At Future War Stories, a blog devoted to explaining the world of military science fiction — “Future Military Profiles: STARFLEET”.

Considering its size and complexity, Starfleet has a relatively straightforward ranking system for non-commissioned and commissioned personnel. For commissioned officers at attend the academy, they achieve the rank of Jr. Ensign, then Ensign, and by the time they graduate, they are Jr. Lieutenants.For the bulk of their early years in service, a majority of officers will remain within the Lieutenants grades. Once achieving the rank of Commander, it is a short trip to the big chair (well…not if you are Riker).

(12) JESSICA JONES SPOILER WARNING. “The 13 Most Epic Marvel Easter Eggs in Netflix’s ‘Jessica Jones’” at Yahoo! TV. The first Easter egg should be okay to quote, it’s not very spoiler-y.

  1. “And Then There’s the Matter of Your Bill”: Right off the bat, you know showrunner Melissa Rosenberg and the Jessica Jones team are going to provide plenty for comic fans to geek out over. One of the first scenes of the series is a shot-for-shot recreation of Jessica’s introduction in Alias #1, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos.

(13) X-MEN SPOILER WARNING. From ScienceFiction.com, “James McAvoy Hints At How Professor X Loses His Hair In ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’”. If you don’t want to know, don’t read! If you do want to know, well, I’m not sure this is really going to help…

But in ‘X-Men: Apocalypse’, McAvoy’s appearance will bring him more in line with Stewart’s.  Back in May, the actor tweeted a picture of himself having his head shaved for the film, indicating that even though he is a younger Xavier, he will actually go bald to more closely resemble his comic book counterpart.

How does this come about?  Well, as is the norm, details about this super hero flick are being kept tightly under wraps.  But while promoting his new movie ‘Victor Frankenstein’, McAvoy appeared on ‘The Graham Norton Show’ and did spill a tease about his character’s follicle metamorphosis:

“He ends up going through something so horrible and physically painful that he literally half pulls his hair out/half it falls out. Maybe, or maybe not…I just shit myself because I know Fox Studios who own me might be angry with me for sharing that.”

(14) CHARLIE BROWN. Since it’s a big favorite of mine, I hesitate to think about the Bizarro Charlie Brown special contemplated by the original producers. From “It’s your 50th television anniversary (and your 50th TV Christmas), Charlie Brown”.

Imagine “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with a laugh track and with adult actors providing the children’s voices. Now imagine it without Vince Guaraldi’s jazzy music and without Linus quoting the Bible, telling Charlie Brown what “Christmas is all about.”

Hard to imagine, isn’t it? There goes the charm. There goes the magic. And, perhaps, there go all of the animated Peanuts specials that followed this first one, including “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

But if even some of the producers’ early suggestions and the network’s preferences had been followed, the version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” that first aired on Dec. 9, 1965, wouldn’t have become a cherished classic. And, good grief, it would have been an hour special, rather than a half-hour

[Thanks to Michael J. Martinez, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Iphinome .]

177 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 11/29 Scroll to my pixel, click inside and read by the light of the moon

  1. Cally: JJ asked me to repost this when it was Tuesday December 1 in the right timezone, and that happened just over half an hour ago

    Yay, thanks for the reminder. 🙂

  2. Linda Nagata’s first 2 books in The Red series are $1.99 each on Amazon US and Nook. From what I can tell, only the first is on sale at Amazon UK. And it does not look as though Kobo has price-matched, at least not yet.

    I’ve just finished the third book, and I would call this series highly-intelligent Military SF. Definitely recommended, if that description appeals to you.

  3. If it’s make-your-own-news day, then the Goodreads award results are up:

    Science Fiction
    1st: Golden Son by Pierce Brown (Winner by a country mile, as well)
    2nd: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
    3rd: The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

    Then Welcome to Nightvale, followed by The Water Knife, Armada, Star Wars: Aftermath, and Ancillary Mercy. It was a successful category for write-ins, with the Atwood, Welcome to Nightvale, and SW:Aftermath all coming through.


    1st: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
    2nd: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (The vote totals show 1st/2nd was a close one, with a big drop-off to 3rd)
    3rd: Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

    I also notice Butcher in 5th and Jemisin in 10th. No notable write-in successes.

    In Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas gets a convincing victory, and while Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard comes in 4th, it takes 1st place in Best Debut.

    Horror had some SF interest with Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant in the final, but the winner is Saint Odd by Dean Koontz. (I read Rolling in the Deep yesterday, and it’s perfectly fine without being exciting; the structure she chose doesn’t seem to suit her style at all)

    In Graphic Novels Saga vol 4 pips the mighty Nimona into 2nd place (and Lumberjanes makes a creditable 6th)
    I don’t think much store can be set by Goodreads for how results might play out for genre-specific awards next year, but it was a bit interesting to watch how things played out, particularly with the success of write-ins in SF suggesting that the process to select the initial round was missing quite a few popular choices.

  4. @JJ

    Excellent, The Red was on my “to pick up” list.

    Apart from several recs, one reason Nagata was on my radar was an interesting 2015 story in Operation:Arcana which was then reprinted in Lightspeed. The Way Home kicks off with a US army unit trapped in a mysterious desert environment being attacked by demons. When they kill one a portal opens that appears to let a single person escape. Obviously the more soldiers that escape, the less chance the remainder have of winning….

    It’s not making my years shortlist, but it was an enjoyable read. I think it needed a bit more buildup of the various squad members to really ratchet up the tension about who was going to make it, but she was obviously constrained by word count.

  5. JJ: Not just a Hogu nominee, but a winner! {attempts to look all offended and huffy} {fails}
    I’ll try to remember to ask her tomorrow about The Arbitrary Placement of Walls as an e-book. Did you mean the story, or the collection of the same name?

  6. Cally: Not just a Hogu nominee, but a winner! {attempts to look all offended and huffy} {fails}


    I still have yet to see that Hogu-winning font. Got a link? 😉

    Cally: I’ll try to remember to ask her tomorrow about The Arbitrary Placement of Walls as an e-book. Did you mean the story, or the collection of the same name?

    I meant the whole book, of course, because I’m greedy, and I think the book has all her nominated stuff in it — but I would even settle for an e-story.

    Also, an offer to OCR scan and proof such an e-book would be a possibility… it would just be a question of logistics (as Cassy can attest) for me getting hold of the physical book.

    ETA: … because I hate that so much wonderful pre-2000 SFF fiction is just not available to the masses…

  7. For bargain book followers, and people who like milSF, it looks as if a couple of Tanya Huff’s Confederation series are 99p on amazon.co.uk – unfortunately they are mid series books.

    A week or so ago her An Ancient Peace (which does kinda start a new series, or rather a new chapter in the life of Torin Kerr) was on sale for 99p. I bought and read that and it was pretty good for milSF, which isn’t my favourite sub-genre.

  8. Kyra:

    Wait, that WASN’T PART OF WHAT THEY ADDED? (I have not seen any of The Hobbit movies.)

    I envy your unsullied experience. (Also your SW prequel headcanon.)

    I can’t tell you what the point was, there seemed to be several contradictory ones going on: pre-adolescent gags, unchecked love of all and any detail (which might have been endearing, but actually, when mixed with all the rest, was just annoying), misunderstanding of tone and import, commercial pressures, a pressing need to back-fill and explain and go on and on.

    Or, as Graydon said, Jackson doesn’t get elves (or Tolkien) at all, and we lucked out with LOTR because there was so much story there he didn’t have room to show us just how much he didn’t get it.

    Things that were added that might be good for headcanon: giant bunny sleds; Thranduil’s eyebrows, … that’s all I can think of.

    Other things that were added and you may not want to know about: n ebznagvp gevnatyr, pbzcyrgr jvgu “ohg qnnnq!”; Yrtbynf (be, engure, “Yrtbynf” haqre fvk srrg bs PTV naq znxr-hc); qjneirf gung ner zrnag gb or unaqfbzr be frkl va gur zbfg haqjneivfu jnl; oebbqvat, oebbqvat, naq zrnavatshy ybbxf; pnyyonpxf gb gur gevybtl juvpu whfg raq hc qvyhgvat gur jubyr; rivy pebffqerffvat; fabg wbxrf; ivqrbtnzr ebpxtvnagf, fgenvtug bhg bs Genafsbezref; rirelobql orvat nyy eryngnoyr naq pbagrzcbenel va gurve zbgvingvbaf, gur “tenirf” bs gur Anmthy, jub V pbhyq unir fjbea arire qvrq….

    @Graydon: I like your plan, but I suspect Finrod would be a footnote, and me, I want the all-Finrod special. Or, speaking of unfilmable, maybe I don’t.

    I think as long as Christopher Tolkien is alive, the Silmarillion is safely out of Jackson’s hands (except for that gaping “but the appendices” loophole he found).

    @JJ: I thought the singing and throwing pottery was the best bit of the movies (kind of how the party at the beginning of Fellowship is the best bit). Then Thorin got all wistful and important, and the camera went all candlelight for him, and I…. But yes, twelve year old boys (of the poorly socialized sort) is a thing here: there was a bit during the troll scene where I was having flashbacks to Meet the Feebles. And the accumulation of things, categories and explanations was very much like conversing with a smart six-year old about Star Wars, and having him know all the names and classes and specs and details, but not actually get it. Endearing in a six-year old, not so much in that many hours of film.

  9. @JJ: “The Red” doesn’t really interest me, but FYI for anyone who is interested, (a) Kobo & iTunes prices are discounted now for Nagata’s books (at least in the U.S.) and (b) the publisher (Saga Press) doesn’t use DRM. 🙂

  10. JJ: Hah. There is no font! Take that! (The award for “Best Typeface” went to “The type [of] face behind Cally’s glasses. The newsletter shortened it a bit.)

    If you email me at first name last name (with no spaces) at the company of Yahoo, I may be able to help you, if not immediately, perhaps in a few days when I’m home and recovered from traveling. I’ve not talked to Martha yet this morning (she’s a night owl and won’t be up for a bit longer).

  11. @Susana —

    I like your plan, but I suspect Finrod would be a footnote, and me, I want the all-Finrod special. Or, speaking of unfilmable, maybe I don’t.

    Finrod Friend-of-men is an important bridge character to several of the stories, so I’d expect the way to do that would be to do the mainline and then pull out all the Finrod bits as its own DVD feature. It would be a cohesive enough as a story, I think.

    I can’t think of anything about Finrod that isn’t filmable; you don’t have to show the actual werewolf fight. And you can certainly show “and Finrod walks with Finarfin his father in the streets of Tirion”. (If you have any sense, you show as little of well-lit and happy Tirion as you possibly can, so the oooh… doesn’t wear off. But that bit needs to be in there.)

  12. I can’t think of anything about Finrod that isn’t filmable

    I was thinking of him and Sauron, fighting with song. Not unfilmable, so much as unwise to wish to see outside one’s head. But my favorite bit.

    Other than that, you’re hired;)

  13. JJ:

    If you email me at first name last name (with no spaces) at the company of Yahoo,

    To clarify, by “first name” I mean “cally” not “firstname”, and so on. It occurred to me that I was being a bit ambiguous here.

  14. @Susana —

    That section is where you get a serious artist otherwise unconnected with the project and tell them to hew to Tolkien’s images in the poetry version, but yes, perhaps unwise.

    On the other hand, totally filmable.

  15. Ultragotha: the fact that I’m the Martha in question’s sister, and neither of us changed our names upon marriage may be a small clue…

  16. Ultragotha, I know Cally’s surname. But then, she’s my clone, so that’s not surprising. (And it’s not the same as my surname, thanks to 20th-century US marital naming customs.)

  17. (5) SEED BOMBAST.
    A mild horror story for RedWombat.
    A friend was at some superposh Big Sur retreat, possibly Esalen, an expensive and austere zen meditation space perched on a California hillside sliding into the sea.
    She was so grateful for the quiet space and time that, on leaving, she secretly “gifted” them a thank you by tossing dozens of Lycoris squamigera bulbs out onto the grassy hillside.
    Because you really want these:
    popping up unexpectedly in middle of your expensive and sere landscape.

  18. Lauowolf, she tossed bulbs? Not buried them? In that case, I expect the local squirrel population enjoyed a nice snack.

  19. Cally: If you email me

    E-mail sent. Thanks for that, I didn’t know if you were still at the same POBox. If I don’t hear back in a day or so, I’ll figure that I got the address wrong.

    Ultragotha, sorry to spoil your detective fun, but Cally is easily found on her own because she’s an awesome Hogu Winner! She don’t need no stinkin’ Hugo and Nebula nominated sister to be famous! 😉

  20. A simple Google of “cally hogu” reveals all. Well, some. Well, this thread is listed first, but partway down the page you find out Cally and Martha’s last name. Apparently Martha has NEVER won a Hogu, so there. Nor does she have a monopoly on forehead cloths.

  21. I want to see a ballet based on part of the Silmarillion (in the broad sense). I’m not sure what part, maybe the tale of Beren and Luthien.

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