Pixel Scroll 12/21/22 Roll Your Own

(0) File 770 has been offline due to a DDoS attack for the past couple of hours. I will see if I can comprehend the instructions for implementing the recommended solution. I have my doubts.

(1) KEEP BANGING ON. At Medievalists.net, Ken Mondschein reports that SCA leadership rejected a member Kingdom’s proposal to pick its leader by some other means than “armored combat”: “Society for Creative Anachronism Rules Australia/New Zealand Branch Must Continue to Choose Leadership by Combat”.

One frequently-heard critique of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) is its manner of choosing the “kings” and “queens” of its imaginary kingdoms—through armored stick-fighting tournaments in which the victor crowns their “consort” queen (or king) for a “reign,” which is usually six months. This system is established by the SCA’s governing documents and has remained unchanged in the SCA’s almost 60 years of history.

…Furthermore, this selection process does not indicate either leadership ability or moral character. In the recent past, kings have committed offenses as wide-ranging as wearing swastikas on their raiment during official events and murdering their intimate partners. Because of the prominence of the SCA royalty, these have become high-profile cases (at least in medievalist circles) and detrimental to the SCA’s reputation as a whole.

In light of this, the Kingdom of Lochac, an independently-incorporated SCA affiliate that encompasses Australia and New Zealand, recently petitioned the California-based organization’s corporate Board of Directors for permission to change the affiliation agreements so that the Australian and New Zealand affiliates could allow royalty to be chosen by another, as yet unspecified, means. (According to Section IV A of the SCA’s governing documents, “Crowns or Coronets who wish to conduct a royal list in a manner other than individual combat must obtain the prior approval of the Board of Directors.”) The American Board of Directors denied the request.

Controversy over the idea of changing the organization’s procedures immediately erupted on social media. “The SCA culture was created and founded on idealized Victorian/Arthurian chivalry,” Mark Hollingshead, an SCA member who had himself formerly served as King of the West Kingdom, wrote on Facebook. “Knights in shining armor fighting to display prowess and courage to crown their consort the Queen of Love and Beauty. Armored combat is… literally what the Society and its culture is based on. There comes a certain point that if you change a thing too much, it is no longer that thing. Armored combat to choose our Queen… [is] all fundamental to what the SCA is and how it functions.”

Other voices presented an opposing perspective….

For example, Mondschein points to a post where SCA member Angela Costello really lets it rip: “About that whole Crown Variance Request by Lochac”.

…“The SCA is really a Victorian King Game and we should continue that tradition!”

Sure, let me, with my 2.5 history degrees, unpack this nonsense.

The Victorians -ruined- the Middle Ages and subsequent modern perception thus. The Victorians gave us the myths of damsels in distress, knights in shining armor, Pre-Raphaelite over romanticism and faux history designed for the purpose of the subjection of women, children, LGBTQ+, and POC. There. There it fucking is, isn’t it? The Anglo-American Victorian Period was rooted in white supremacy, and these “king games” were part of them. We modern classical and medieval historians are still working to unravel myths of medieval individuals not bathing thanks to the absolute abhorrent mess the Victorian “historians” created.

“Tradition” is a nice word that means you’re letting dead people tell you what to do. In this case, the “dead people” in question were using colonialism, white supremacy based on horrifically bad early anthropology theory, and sweeping dead children riddled with tuberculosis out of the gutter after they worked 18 hour shifts for quarter wage to justify the Smithian and Malthusian virtues of classical liberalism’s “invisible hand of the free market.” So maybe, just fucking maybe, we shouldn’t be putting this asinine period, during which the United States still permitted slavery for most of, on its own pedestal. The Middle Ages had their own issues, but we cannot recreate “the Middle Ages as they should have been” while touting that our organization is literally an echo of one of the most oppressive centuries in world history. If any of you supporting this theory have spent more than breathing on a Wikipedia page’s worth of reading on the Victorian period and its treatment of medievalism, you wouldn’t want to be waving this flag. Period. For a group of people who purport themselves to be belonging to an educational group, you’re really bad at educating yourselves…

(2) A BRADBURY CHRISTMAS. Phil Nicols’ new Bradbury 100 podcast unwraps the history of “Ray Bradbury and Christmas!”

Time for a new Bradbury 100 podcast episode – and because it’s (nearly) Christmas, I thought I’d talk about Ray’s use of Christmas in his stories and scripts.

The two stories that specifically reference Christmas are “The Gift” and “The Wish” – and there are two pieces of film/TV work which also mention Christmas: the Steve Canyon episode based on “The Gift”; and Ray’s unlikely sequel to The Day The Earth Stood Still.

It’s become a tradition that, every Christmas, I post the delightful Ren Wickes illustration for “The Gift” which appeared alongside the story when it was first published in Esquire magazine in 1952. So, here it is! (It should be up above – and if you click on it, it should embiggen.)

I hope you enjoy this Christmas episode – it’s below, or you can find it using your podcast app. Join me in 2023 for more Bradbury 100 episodes!

(3) STORY BY KIJ JOHNSON. Sunday Morning Transport is sharing some of the readers’ picks among their earliest stories as free reads: “Reader Favorite Wednesday: Ratotaskr” by Kij Johnson.

When Lila is ten, she wakes up one night. Her bed is next to the window facing the alley that runs behind her dad’s church; at night in the summertime, it is a shadowy tunnel overhung with elms. This is back when elms dominate every small American town, before disease destroys the great Gothic arches that make cathedrals of the streets. This is also before air-conditioning is common in Iowa houses: let’s say, the 1960s. She’s the daughter of a Lutheran pastor and a librarian. She is bookish and observant. This is Ray Bradbury country….


1974 [By Cat Eldridge.] The Catford Cat

Tonight we are talking about The Catford Cat. “What is that” you say, “I’ve never heard of any folklore creature called that.”  Well The Catford Cat is not out of folklore, nor is it particularly old, being a fibreglass artefact constructed just about fifty years ago as part of a British shopping mall.

(Yes I love shopping mall figures. I could go on length about them and probably will do so at some point. You’ve been forewarned!) 

Oh, but I find the creature and the story of the efforts to keep it from being, well, sent to equivalent of a kill shelter quite charming. 

The Catford Shopping Centre was designed by Owen Luder who designed a number of shopping malls in Britain, many poorly designed and now demolished, a fact that will play into our story here.  

The cat was erected at Winslade Way, Lewisham in 1974 as part of the Catford Centre development, its existence owed to design decisions made by architects. Owen Luder and Rodney Gordon wanted something to reflect the local name, so the fibreglass creature itself was produced and installed by a now insolvent company known as Embassy Signs. 

This Cat has itself has been under the threat of being sent to, errr, the feline shelter when there were discussions when fourteen years ago to demolish the cat and that area of the Mall as part of a development scheme, but the outcry amongst residents including a petition that attracted over two thousand signatures prevented the plans coming to anything more than just talk. Instead, three years later it was repainted and given a general restoration job followed by being officially listed as a piece of Catford Public Art which means it cannot be demolished.

You will note that like Frankenstein’s monster last Scroll, I cannot tell you who the designer was. This is increasingly true of a lot of these pieces of commercial art of which Frankenstein’s monster definitely is, at least in my opinion, one. And this is a damn sight cuter than Frankenstein’s monster! 


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1898 Hubert Rogers. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines. His first freelance work was for Ace-High, Adventure, Romance, and West. In ‘42, he started doing covers for Astounding Science Fiction which he would do until ‘53. He also did the ‘50 edition of The Man Who Sold The Moon and the ‘53 edition of Revolt in 2100. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 21, 1918 Frank Hampson. A British illustrator that is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare, Pilot of The Future and other characters in the boys’ comic, The Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961. There is some dispute over how much his original scripts were altered by his assistants before being printed. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3New Worlds SFScience Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1940 Frank Zappa. Controversial musician and satirist who wrote a number of genre-related works, starting with the Orwellian “Who Are the Brain Police” from his debut album, and including two full-length SF rock operas: Joe’s Garage, set in a future where music is illegal, and Thingfish, which was about a genetically engineered plague. (Died 1993.) (Xtifr.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 78. He’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings, more short fiction than I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Well worthy I’d say of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 74. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron ManIron Man 2ThorCaptain America: The First AvengerThe AvengersCaptain America: The Winter SoldierAvengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1955 Karen Haber, 67. Wife of Robert Silverberg. Author of the Fire In Winter series (first co-written with Robert) and the War Minstrels series as well. With Robert, she edited three of the exemplary Universe anthologies that Terry Carr had created. Her Meditations on Middle Earth, her essay collection on J.R.R. Tolkien is quite superb. And of course her prequel Thieves’ Carnival to Leigh Brackett’s The Jewel of Bas is stunning.

(6) AID TO UKRAINE LITERARY COMMUNITY. Publishers Weekly explains how “Booksellers, Friends Raise Money for Ukraine”.

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books bookstore chain in Miami, has launched HUBB — Helping Ukrainian Books and Booksellers — to support the literary community in the war torn nation. Kaplan has also recruited several literary friends to assist in the effort, including translator and novelist Askold Melnyczuk from the University of Massachusetts, Boston; novelist Jane Unrue of Harvard’s Scholars and Artists at Risk Program; poet and memoirist Christopher Merrill, director of the University of Iowa International Writing Program; and poet and memoirist Carolyn Forche. The fundraiser aims to assist some of the 3,000 industry professionals—publishers, booksellers, authors, printers, distributors—who saw sales plummet, their business disrupted and employees forced to flee after the Russian invasion.

… HUBB is working with the Coral Gables Foundation in Florida to transfer the first grant of $10,000 to the Ukrainian Publishers and Booksellers Association. “Our priorities are first to offer aid to individuals in the book industry who find themselves in financial need—because all available funds are being diverted to support the war effort, the state is able to provide only nominal unemployment subsidies, sometimes as low as $65/month—targeted support to bookstores and publishing enterprises damaged during the war; and to help restock the shelves of libraries damaged of destroyed during the war,” Melnyczuk said.

(7) THE REVENGE OF COLONEL SANDERS. If you give a raptor a cookie, it will ask for a….“Scientists Find a Mammal’s Foot Inside a Dinosaur, a Fossil First” reports Gizmodo.

Paleontologists taking a second look at a species of small, four-winged dinosaur have found a fossilized mammalian foot in the predator’s stomach.

It’s the first concrete evidence of dinosaurs eating mammals, the researchers say. Specimens of the dinosaur, Microraptor zhaoinus, have been discovered containing ancient birds, fish, and lizards, so the mammalian find is just the latest known source of protein for this spunky hunter. The team who re-scrutinized the Microraptor fossil published their findings today in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology….

(8) VIDEO OF THE DAY. SYFY Wire made sure we didn’t miss the Strange World voice cast gag reel.

… Of course, in reality, recording voices for an animated film requires many hours of actors saying the same words over and over into a microphone with various inflections and tweaks. Sometimes they have to say the words so much that their brains lose track of what the words mean, and sometimes the simplest line imaginable sends even the most experienced actor into peals of unexpected laughter because the whole process just feels absurd.

…The same was true of the recording of Strange World, as evidenced by the film’s official gag reel, loaded with footage of stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union and Lucy Liu breaking as they try to deliver everything from simple lines to complex speeches. Check out our exclusive peek at the gag reel below, and watch how long it takes Lucy Liu to stop laughing in the midst of a simple, two-word phrase.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

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31 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/21/22 Roll Your Own

  1. Wait a minute, I object to Ms. Costello’s attack on the pre-Raphaelites! What do they have to do with actual history?

  2. 1) Obviously, to me anyway, the only way to settle a dispute over the Constitution of the SCA would be through

    mass armoured combat .

  3. Finally an SCA group with the gumption to speak up. I first joined the SCA in 1978, and was very active for quite a few years, holding local officer positions, autocrating events, and marshalling a Queen’s Champion. I long ago saw the problems with picking the crown by heavy weapons tourney. Just because you’re a rhino hide doesn’t mean you’re fit to be king. It also bans the sizable majority of the membership of any chance of rising to the top ranks of the organization. I’m not surprised the BoD ruled to keep the present system. The BoD itself is a self-perpetuating body. I stopped paying to be a national member until the BoD became a democratically elected group by the membership at large. The SCA provides a very good lesson in why absolute monarchies went away to be replaced by some form of democratic government. If it wants to make things more fair, there’s an historical example that can be followed. A parliament with members voted on by the membership at large, that curtail royal authority. Yes, leave it to the SCA to turn a Royalist Cavalier (we went to 1650 in my day, in Ansteorra) into a fervent Parliamentarian LOL (at least in SCA politics).

  4. (5) When I first read Brin’s Uplift War, I was delighted to see that it quoted (between chapters) the lyrics of Zappa’s “Evelyn, a Modified Dog”

    File770 seems to be working on this computer – I’ll see if I can persuade my phone that it should talk to File770 also

  5. Did anyone with a huge number of followers on Mastodon link to File 770? That can look like a DDOS when the Mastodon post first goes up. Every Mastodon instance with that user’s followers on it will ask for the File 770 link to get the Twitter card.

    This can be detected in your access logs by a lot of requests that include “Mastodon/4.0.2” (or a more recent version) in the user agent string.

  6. 1) Can’t think of any kings who were chosen by one-on-one personal combat anyway. Tournament winners, yes, kings, no.

    I mean, if you’re going to go the romantic-Arthurian route, you need to get the Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite, to hold aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence whoever is meant to be King.

    But I suppose strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government.

  7. The Kingdom of Lochac will henceforth be an anarcho-syndicalist commune, with executive power taken in turn (but all the decisions of that officer have to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simple majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of purely external affairs)

  8. 1) My opinion of the SCA has been negative and monotonically decreasing since ~1997; it is now somewhere in the vicinity of the Challenger Deep.

    @rcade: Seen elseweb:

    Update: Blocking the Mastodon user agent is a workaround for the DDoS. “(Mastodon|http\.rb)/”. The side effect is that people on Mastodon who see links to my posts no longer get link previews, just the URL.

    I do not know how to implement that and am unavailable for questions.

  9. A note on James Sallis: He was in the same Clarion Writers Workshop class as Vonda McIntyre and Octavia Butler (1970, if memory serves).

  10. Much relieved to see File 770 back.

    (4) I think it would have been lovely for the Catford Cat to go to an actual cat shelter to make that shelter especially easy to find, but as per usual, nobody asked me. I assume you’re familiar with the Citgo sign in Kendall Square, much beloved by generations of college students in the area? I love the sign, and also love the utter perversity of it being preserved by popular demand, against the best efforts of Citgo to discontinue that particular form of advertising.

  11. I fell away from the SCA when Life got in the way. What deeply disturbed me was an event I went to, a 12th Night, when I lived in Austin. In the middle, some knights and others come in loudly, announcing that another kingdom had invaded (their annual war), and this went on for a bit… and I left.

    It reminded me far, far to much of the public response during ‘Nam.

  12. Does anyone have experience running a site using CloudFlare or a similar service as a CDN? That could presumably harden File 770 to future DDOS attacks, but I don’t know the cost.

  13. @Andrew (not Werdna): When I sent Cat the Zappa entry, I thought about mentioning the (one-sided) Brin/Zappa connection, but wanted to keep the entry relatively short. But yes, I was also quite pleased when I noticed that! 🙂

  14. I wonder what other references to particular songs there are in written SF? The Ballad of Rodger Young, of course, and Harry Turtledove works the lyrics to “Love Potion Number Nine” into “The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump.” Less obviously, I think there’s a Tom Lehrer reference in Anderson’s “Operation Chaos” (and there’s a definite appearance by an alternate-Lehrer in “Operation Luna”).

  15. rcade: This morning I was getting the 403 Forbidden error on my phone, so I paused Cloudflare, which is the reason the site resumed working (to the extent it did).

    When I came back from a medical appointment early this afternoon I turned Cloudflare back on, resumed getting the 403 error, and contacted my ISP customer support. They pointed out a missing step in my setup of Cloudflare (I left something at what I thought was a default option; it needed to be set at a different option).

    At the moment File 770 has resumed loading on my phone. (I had been able to access it on my PC already). So maybe things are copacetic again? We’ll find out.

  16. When I get done with looking at these sculptures, I’m going to start essaying classic cartoon series. If you have one that you think I should essay, send your suggestions here.

    Don’t post them here as I need to put them into a file and taking them from emails is far, far easier.

  17. @Andrew (not Werdna): Stephen King incorporates song lyrics a lot; the indicia of his books usually have several acknowledgments of permissions for same.

    Song lyrics as chapter epigraphs are probably quite common.

    Lots of Kipling poems have been set to music, so there’s a bunch more.

  18. Emma Bull’s Finder has as it epigraph these words from Richard Thompson’s “Genesis Hall”: “My father he rides with your sheriffs / And I know he would never mean harm…”

  19. Would somebody please explain this comment in the link that Camestros Felapton provided:

    One twitter user said: “Anyone who lives or has lived in South London understands the meaning of this elephant to Latinos.”

    Elephants and Latinos? Eh? In there something culturally important about that elephant to the Latino community?

  20. Carrie Vaughn includes a playlist of songs to go along with each of her Kitty Norville novels

  21. @Cat Eldridge : That neighborhood is apparently home to many people of Latin American descent, so naturally landmarks of that neighborhood, like the elephant are important to them as well.

  22. Andrew (not Werdna) tell me That neighborhood is apparently home to many people of Latin American descent, so naturally landmarks of that neighborhood, like the elephant are important to them as well.

    Thanks because I’ll was damned if I could figure what the link was. Usually I can see a cultural link but there wasn’t one here at all.

  23. Jared Lobdell’s “The Last Holosong of Christopher Lightning” (one of the worst stories in the “Free Space” libertarian sf anthology) makes heavy use of Rush’s “Freewill” and includes enough of the lyrics to make it clear the author didn’t pay attention to them.

  24. Lis Carey on December 22, 2022 at 10:18 am said:

    Much relieved to see File 770 back.
    Me too. I had assumed some sort of the usual Internet/Webhosting buggery, waited a day, and now we’re back to our regularly scheduled Files.

    (4) I think it would have been lovely for the Catford Cat to go to an actual cat shelter to make that shelter especially easy to find, but as per usual, nobody asked me.
    That is the exact position one of my cats takes when caught in the act of unrolling the toilet paper.

    I assume you’re familiar with the Citgo sign in Kendall Square, much beloved by generations of college students in the area? I love the sign, and also love the utter perversity of it being preserved by popular demand, against the best efforts of Citgo to discontinue that particular form of advertising.
    Little Fenway is a 1/4 scale WiffleBall park in Vermont that features a scaled down version of the Green Monster, and the builders went to the trouble of finding and setting up a smaller version of the Citgo sign just behind it.
    (you’ll also note a ‘Pesky’s Pole’ on the right side foul line)

    Sero Sed Serio

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