(1) UNREALITY CHECK. Damien G. Walter loves the Doctor Strange movie but he believes it’s time to explain again that Buddhism wont give you magic powers.
But can we please clear something up here? BUDDHISM IS NOT THE GATEWAY TO SECRET MAGICAL POWERS. It doesn’t matter how many thousands of hours you spend in meditation, you’ll never be able to summon power from other dimensions, conjure cool looking glowing sigils with wavy hand movements, or indulge in the joys of astral projection. Got it?
“Oh Damo!” I hear one of you sigh, “You’re just taking this all too seriously! Nobody believes Buddhism can REALLY give them magical powers. Any more than they believe they can really upload their mind into a computer to achieve immortality! Oh, wait, loads of people do actually believe that…” As, in fact, do many people really genuinely believe Buddhism will give them magic powers. And much as I would like to blame this on Hollywood, it’s a much, much older problem.
While I’m lucky not to have had my hands crushed in an automobile accident, my own life took me into the Himalayan mountains, to study at the Buddhist temples in Dharamsala. I’ve been a student of Buddhism for eight years now. I stepped out of a successful, creative career that was killing me incrementally and Buddhism was part of what helped me transition to a different kind of life. Now I live in Thailand, a Buddhist nation, to study Theravada Buddhism. In 2015 I travelled across India, to the capital of the Tibetan government in exile, and home of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, to study Mahayana Buddhism.
(2) STRANGE THOUGHTS. Paul Weimer shares some thoughts about the Doctor Strange movie.
Tell me if you recognize this story from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A brilliant, snarky, assholish rich person with amazingly skills strides through life blandly, confident that he knows everything, and often can back up his reputation with cold hard skills and knowledge. He is an endless deadpan snarker, always with a cutting jape or a quip for friend and rival alike. He has a long-suffering quasi love interest who clearly deserves better. We get to see him in his glory before an accident brings him low and nearly kills it. Worse, it doesn’t kill him, but gives him a permanent debility, changing his future plans forever. Said asshole learns to be better slowly and painfully in a period of retrenchment and regrowth, becoming a superhero in the process, and defrosting the heart of his love interest a bit whilst in the middle of battling the big baddie.
I could be describing Iron Man, but I am also describing Doctor Strange, and that is the core of one of the problems I found with the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe story.
(3) QUIZZING BUJOLD. Lois McMaster Bujold, who published a new novella this week, Penric’s Mission, is interviewed about her writing process (just in time for the National Novel Writing Month) — “Lois McMaster Bujold Answers Three (Okay, Four) Questions about the Writing Process”.
MD: So, National Novel Writing Month is basically about creating a first draft of at least 50,000 words. What’s your favorite thing about writing the first draft?
LMB: Finishing it. (-:
Starting it runs a close second, true. Then, probably, those moments when a sticky knot gets suddenly undone by some neat idea or inspiration that I didn’t have — often couldn’t have had — earlier.
I do rolling revisions — correcting, rewriting, re-outlining, and dinking as I go — because if I don’t get my edits in pretty early, my prose sets up like concrete, and it takes a jackhammer to pry it open. Also, by the end I will be tired and frantic and in no state of mind for careful polishing, still less major surgery. Since I’m usually doing novels or novellas, there’s too much to face, not to mention wrangle and just find, if I save all that till the finish.
This is a shift from earlier decades, when my method was to complete each chapter, print it out, run it past my test readers, and then do little more than make notes on the pages till I circled around for the final run/s. (There’s never only one.) In the past few years I’ve finally gone paperless, so I do a lot more micro-editing along the way now.
(4) WORLDCON 75 NEWS. The Worldcon 75 International Film Festival is accepting entries.
Worldcon 75 international film festival is now open for submissions! Please read the official rules and send in your entry form and film by email or snail mail by June 1st, 2017: WORLDCON 75 INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL PDF (633 kB).
(5) OPERATION GONDOR. The Angry Staff Officer says Tolkien exemplifies sound Army doctrine, in “Warfighter: Middle-Earth”.
When I think of the six warfighting functions I always think of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.
What, you don’t?
Let’s be honest, one does not immediately think of fantasy or science fiction when conversations turn to Army doctrine. Most vignettes that are used to make the subject understandable to the lowly minds of company grade officers are either historical or situational. And while there is nothing wrong with this technique, are we perhaps overlooking a missed opportunity for providing a broader understanding of our doctrine? …
Through utilizing the six warfighting functions, the Captains of the West were able to preserve their combat power, protect critical information nodes, deceive and confuse the enemy as to their true intentions, and finally mass key maneuver assets at critical points in the enemy lines. This led to an eventual tactical victory that reversed the course of ground operations in the War of the Ring.
Tolkien is assuredly cursing me profoundly in the afterlife.
(6) ON THE OTHER PAW. Rachel Neumeier decided that the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog’s recent list of 25 cats in sf/f needed answering, so she listed the “Top ten dogs in SFF”.
- Barbara Hambly’s wonderful THE BRIDE OF THE RAT GOD actually made me fall a little bit in love with Pekingese, not ordinarily my favorite breed (sorry, Pekingese lovers; just a personal preference). Do NOT be misled by the title, which is deliberately B-movie campy. The story is delightful and the three Pekingese are real characters, real dogs, and also btw capable of hunting demons if any should turn up.
(7) SIGHTS SEEN AND UNSEEN. After being feted at Utopiales, Ann Leckie’s travels took her to Paris, as she tells in her latest post, “Utopiales”.
I did some very touristy things–the day I had to myself in Paris, the weather was clear and just chilly enough for a good walk, and the map told me the Louvre was only a few kilometers from my hotel, so I figured I’d go on foot. It was a nice walk! And the Louvre is just as full of looted antiquities as ever. Every now and then I’d see a familiar object–oh, hello Etruscan couple I’ve seen photos of you all over the place! Oh, that round hat looks familiar, could it be Gudea, King of Lagash? Why, yes, it is! The Dendera Zodiac I didn’t stumble across, though, I was actually looking for it. (And found it.)
I didn’t bother with the Mona Lisa. No doubt she was surrounded the way the Venus de Milo was. I found that kind of fascinating–there were dozens of other wonderful statues in the room, but everyone was just looking at her, taking pictures, and selfies.
A remark that brings to mind Art Buchwald’s famous column, “The Six-Minute Louvre” which begins:
Any sportsman will tell you that the only three things to see in the Louvre are the “Winged Victory of Samothrace,” the “Venus de Milo” and the “Mona Lisa.” The rest of the sculpture and paintings are just so much window dressing for the Big Three, and one hates to waste time in the Louvre when there is so much else to see in Paris….
(8) ANTIHARASSMENT ALLY PROJECT. Steven Saus has created #IWillBelieveYou, “An Ally Project To Support Those Affected by Sexual Harassment and Assault In Fandom and Elsewhere.”
As he explains in a post on his blog Ideatrash:
After the revelations last month (reference one, two), those of us with enough energy, privilege, and resources have to do something. Something that shows both that we will support those who have been harassed and that we do not accept harassment in the places we gather. So, building on the example of Take Back The Night, as well as #IllRideWithYou and #IllGoWithYou, I created #IWillBelieveYou.
(9) ROALD DAHL’S TV SHOW. Atlas Obscura remembers that “In 1961, Roald Dahl Hosted His Own Version of ‘The Twilight Zone’” called Way Out.
Under the gun, some enterprising producers at the network began dreaming up a creepy drama show to fill the time slot, and they went right to Dahl. While he is best remembered today for his timeless works of children’s literature like Matilda and Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, for a good portion of his writing career, he was better known as an author of twisted, devilish fiction. As explained in an article originally published in Filmfax Magazine, Dahl jumped at the chance to develop the series, spurred on by the fact that the show’s time slot (9:30 p.m. on Fridays) fell right before another thematically similar little CBS show, The Twilight Zone.
The black-and-white show would begin with what became its signature image, a slow pan over a series of mist-shrouded, disembodied hands, before resting on one which would burst into flames at the title came onscreen. Then, flexing his dry British charm like a more cosmopolitan Vincent Price, Dahl would give a short intro to each episode. The bulk of the program consisted of the main tale, usually a short morality play with an ironic or surprising ending or element, which often dipped into the supernatural. Then Dahl would close out the show with another direct epilogue, much like the Cryptkeeper of the later Tales From the Crypt.
(10) HELLO, I LOVE YOU. A Vintage News story tells how “Abandoned in space in 1967, a US satellite has started transmitting again”.
In 2013 in North Cornwall, UK, an Amateur Radio Astronomer picked up a signal which he determined to be the LES1 that was built by MIT in 1965. The satellite never made it to its intended orbit and had been spinning out of control ever since.
Phil Williams, the amateur radio astronomer from near Bude, picked out the odd signal which was transmitting due to it tumbling end over end every four seconds as the solar panels became shadowed by the engine. “This gives the signal a particularly ghostly sound as the voltage from the solar panels fluctuates,” Williams said.
It’s more than likely the onboard batteries have disintegrated, and something else caused its 237Mhz transmission to resume when it was in sunlight.
The LES1 is about the size of a small automobile and should not cause any issues more than any other piece of space junk in orbit.
This proves electronics built around 50 years ago, 12 years before Voyager 1, and far before microprocessors and integrated circuits are still capable of working in the hostile environs of space. Phil refers to his hobby as “Radio-Archaeology”.
(11) TREACHEROUS HOME APPLIANCES. It’s great that Sixties electronics are still working in space, but look out for latest tech in your own home: the internet of things is a fertile environment for hackers, who can turn even the most innocuous thing to their purposes: “Why Light Bulbs May Be The Next Hacker Target” in the New York Times.
Now here’s the bad news: Putting a bunch of wirelessly connected devices in one area could prove irresistible to hackers. Researchers report in a paper made public on Thursday that they have uncovered a flaw in a wireless technology that is often included in smart home devices like lights, switches, locks, thermostats and many of the components of the much-ballyhooed “smart home” of the future.
The researchers focused on the Philips Hue smart light bulb and found that the wireless flaw could allow hackers to take control of the light bulbs, according to researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada. That may not sound like a big deal. But imagine thousands or even hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices in close proximity.
Malware created by hackers could be spread like a pathogen among the devices by compromising just one of them.
And they wouldn’t have to have direct access to the devices to infect them: The researchers were able to spread infection in a network inside a building by driving a car 229 feet away.
The new risk comes from a little-known radio protocol called ZigBee. Created in the 1990s, ZigBee is a wireless standard widely used in home consumer devices. While it is supposed to be secure, it hasn’t been held up to the scrutiny of other security methods used around the internet. The researchers found that the ZigBee standard can be used to create a so-called computer worm to spread malicious software among internet-connected devices.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michaeline Duskova, Camestros Felapton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nigel.]
I was reluctant to spoil that in my review, but yes, it was different, clever and not “Face punching to win”.
Interesting article on the early days of Doctor Strange (“How Doctor Strange went from being a racist Asian caricature to a magical white savior”) that features tweet-quotes from Filer Kurt Busiek:
6: – I see the Disreputable Dog (Old Kingdom series) remains too disreputable to get a look in. Shame, she’s wonderful.
(6) also leaves out Gaspode the Wonder Dog.
To me, “treacherous home appliances” always brings to mind the Twilight Zone tale, “A Thing About Machines,” in which a man is persecuted by devices, with no explanation given. I read it before I saw it, in a coverless TZ paperback I picked up at a thrift shop. They were really more effective that way, at least for me.
Also, “treacherous home appliances” brings to mind all my home appliances, which are treacherous. I often suspect them of being in league with my old nemeses, the goddamn fucking laws of physics.
Is his birth-name Oliver Harmon Jones?
7. A lot of people skip seeing the Mona Lisa because it’s been endlessly reproduced and always has a crowd. But it is worth seeing. The size, the contrast of the colours and light on the brushwork do make it a unique experience. When we did the Louvre, we went there first thing in the morning, when it wasn’t so crowded so I actually got a chance to look at it. It is amazing how controlled a work it is and you understand how something that should seem bland next to giant works like ‘The Raft of the Medusa’ or any of David’s resonates so strongly.
However, in a crowd of about twenty people up at the rope in front of the painting, I was the only one not trying to take a selfie with an iPhone or iPad.
Treacherous machines reminds me of a 80’s TZ episode where an incessantly ringing phone in the apartment next door eventually proves to be the death of the hapless protagonist.
Also a Mork and Mindy episode where a supercomputer was wired to every gadget in the house.
“Any one want a poptart?”
Admittedly, my thought on ‘treacherous home appliances’ was to the original 1968 Herbie movie ‘The Love Bug’, where Buddy Hackett’s character, after first talking about how inanimate objects had spirits of their own, commented that there was one traffic light that hated him and he’d actually timed it to show that it was always red a few seconds longer when he was waiting there than for anybody else.
More annoying than treacherous: the Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf.
Paul (@princejvstin) said:
When my favorite tech news site talks about the potential pitfalls of the smart home, it likes to bring up Talkie Toaster from Red Dwarf.
The new Lychford novella is MUCH better than the first. I found the first one to be slow and twee; this one moves right along and is plenty scary.
The start of Maximum Overdrive had treacherous home appliances along with the deadly trucks. There was also a deadly pop machine. I don’t remember appliances being a part of the short story, but since King directed it, I may be wrong.
Light Bubs could have been Lil Bub, the best of the interweb cats.
Comic Legends Revealed had a different take on that one.
Off-topic to this scroll but of possible general scrollable interest:
Beach City Con: Oct 13-15, 2017.
From the comments of MarkWatches.net. I only just discovered today that Mark Oshiro is including Steven Universe in his growing portfolio of Stuff Mark Does. Reviewed ep1 on Oct 16; is up to Ep22 now I think. Must be time for another marathon rewatch.
@ Hampus –
Interesting! Thanks for the divergent POV.
“Scroll on, scroll off. Scroll on, scroll off.”
“Who Pixel Scroll with chopstick accomplish anything.”
Nick Cole is yelling about evil leftist censorship again.
@Cora – thanks. Needed a good laugh today (and, I suspect, for the next 24 hours).
I’m not sure which was funnier – the whinging about people showing him the door when he does something they don’t like (How dare they! Don’t they know care about (his, and only his) freedom?) or the whole “Hey-I-won-a-major-Science-Fiction-Award” cheerleading
Cora: Nick Cole is yelling about evil leftist censorship again.
Cole: Won a major Science Fiction Award
Gosh, it’s so cute that he’s considering the Dragon Awards a “major Science Fiction Award”, given the way the results were clearly manipulated by a small number of people and awards given to some really low-selling, barely-known books.
Ah, well, let him have his delusion.
And wow, is the rest of that post some looney-tune whackjob conspiracy stuff.
You can find high-resolution scans of many paintings on-line. Not as good as seeing the real thing, I’m sure, but you can see an amazing amount of detail. Such as holy crap is the Mona Lisa in bad shape!
For another example, Starry Night. Or for The Ambassadors, you can see an ultra-high resolution scan on Google Arts and Culture, which you can see while virtually walking around the National Gallery of London.
The Mona Lisa’s been in bad shape for a while. Leonardo liked to experiment with his pigments, so much of his stuff hasn’t aged well. Someone cut the picture down, centuries ago, to fit a frame. The guy who stole it around 1917 didn’t help it much, either. I color-corrected a scan of it once. Looks better without the decided green cast to the skin.
I wish the National Gallery of London would put out a new version of their CD-based catalog. One reason I still have my old Vaio laptop is that it’s the last machine I owned that could play it, since it’s married to an antique version of Acrobat. Everything in the museum (at the time) is on that disk, and you can zoom in and, in some cases, see the back of the piece. I guess they don’t care because now they have some online version of it. Phooey.
There’s no reason that you can’t have more than one version of Acrobat on your computer at once. I have Acrobat Reader 10 (I think 10) and the full pro version of Acrobat 5 (from 15 years ago) for creating and editing PDFs and for the print driver. (I wouldn’t even bother with the newer version of Reader at all if there weren’t PDFs that aren’t supported by 5.) Googling for Acrobat and abandonware pulls up this. Find the old version you need. (I haven’t verified if they are legit, virus-free ancient versions.)
Whoops, I made a slight typo—hit “Acro” instead of Quick, and “bat” instead of Time. Is there still good news? (IHopeIHopeIHope)?
There may be good news, but if there is, someone else will have to tell you. I use Apple stuff when it is pried into my cold, dead hand.
But this (lousy interface on CD-based software) brings to mind an anecdote. There is a local Goodwill store I shop at occasionally. Once, I found a copy of the 30+ CD every issue of National Geographic box set (which has a lousy interface) for 7 bucks, back when if I could have bought it new, it would have cost a couple of hundred but I couldn’t buy it new because it was withdrawn from the market because of a copyright fight over some of the photos. (It has sense returned to market, on a few DVDs or a thumbdrive.) That was the best deal I ever found at that Goodwill store. My pride was a bit deflated, though, when in an Antiques Roadshow-worthy twist, a guy buys a painting from that very store for 3 bucks and sells it for $190,000….
@ Darren Garrison
I think that’s the National Geographic CD set that I got as a reward for a Public Radio membership. I think the box is still shrink-wrapped. In theory, I got it as a convenient reference for all the lovely archaeological articles. (To replace the folder of saved articles from paper copies.) But likely by the time I want to use it, I’ll no longer have a working interface.
Maybe. You can legit get older versions of Quicktime from Apple https://support.apple.com/downloads/quicktime
and probably get older versions still elsewhere.
Running it might be tricky if you have a Mac but you could probably partition your drive and run an older MacOS. I think installing the Windows version would probably work regardless.
I keep an entire separate Macbook to run an older Mac OS so that I can still use some utilities (like Adobe CS3 and Photoshop) that I don’t use often enough to be worth upgrading.