Pixel Scroll 12/3/18 If You Can’t Handle Me At My Pixel, You Don’t Deserve Me At My Scroll

(1) GIFT WARPING. James Covenant posted a pair of seasonal musical mashups:

  • Captain Picard sings “Let it Snow!”

  • Not quite up to the same standard — The Avengers Sing Christmas Carols

(2) EREWHON LIT SALON. Liz Gorinsky’s Erewhon Books has announced a new series of author readings. See more info on Facebook. The inaugural event, “Erewhon Lit Salon featuring Katharine Duckett and Sam J. Miller”, takes place December 12. RSVP needed.

Welcome to the first official salon in the glorious offices of independent speculative fiction publisher Erewhon Books. Our salons will feature author readings, but they are also a space for our community to gather, a chance to talk and relax and play with speculative fiction fans and beyond.

Here is some information about Lit Salons at Erewhon:

* Timeline: We will open the space at 7. Readings will start at 7:30. After that, we’ll stick around until at least 11 for hangouts, games, &c.

* The office is in the Flatiron district in Manhattan. The space is big and we should be able to host a whole lot of people, but we reserve the right to cap the event if there is concern about crowding….

(3) ON REBOOTS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Never mind the headline — “TV Reboots Are Having a Great Awokening. It Sucks” — as the reductive clickbait serves only to obscure the argument that the author is making. Wired contributor Emma Grey Ellis (@EmmaGreyEllis) offers an interesting meditation on the difference between retroactively refitting an existing franchise to be more progressive, and offering stories in which the diversity and variety of human experience is integral because it was there at the inception.

If you want to make a progressive reboot really work and not feel like a half-hearted attempt to appease, you have to make room for wholly new characters with fully realized identities that reach beyond skin color or gender or sexuality. To do otherwise is tokenizing, and simply not good television. People know when they’re being asked to accept less than they’re due, and trying to make a character conceived in the past work in the present is doomed to spawn confused characterization and constant comparison, which serves no one.

(4) ATTRACTION. Here’s the trailer for Attraction, mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll.

(5) LIVE FROM SMOFCON. Kevin Standlee, on his Dreamwidth blog, made available links to the SMOFCon 36 (Santa Rosa) inquisition videos for future SMOFCons, seated Worldcons/NASFiC, and Worldcon/NASFiC bids.

(6) S.P. SOMTOW’S MEMOIRS. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda included two memoirs by Somtow Sucharitukul in his annual roundup “Forget trendy bestsellers: This best books list takes you off the beaten track”. The books are Nirvana Express and Sounding Brass, coming out from Diplodocus Press, and the publisher says —

S.P. Somtow is publishing twin memoirs this month, almost mirror images of each other. One, Nirvana Express, is a journal of his life as a Buddhist monk in 2001; the other, Sounding Brass, is an extraordinary memoir from the 1970s, the true story of how he ghost-wrote the entire musical oeuvre of American diplomat, politician and banker J. William Middendorf, II. Read together, they paint an amazing picture of the man called by the International Herald Tribune “the most well-known expatriate Thai in the world.”

Novelist, composer and conductor Somtow Sucharitkul (who writes books under the name S.P. Somtow) had an extraordinary epiphany while driving down the California coast. At almost 50 years of age, having spent very little time in his native Thailand, he was seized by an overwhelming desire to enter a Buddhist monastery.

Nirvana Express is the story of that journey, full of surprises, culture shock, discoveries, humor and spirituality. Visions, dreams, comedy, philosophy, wisdom and superstition mingle in an unforgettable fusion.

Irony and insight also characterize Sounding Brass, an extraordinary tale of a collaboration between a composing prodigy and a Washington politician, the story of how a Thai schoolboy came to create the entire oeuvre of an American composer is fabulous in the true sense of the world … a modern mythic journey.

A true story … yet one that beggars belief … with cameo appearances by all sorts of members of the Washington “swamp” … and the odd science fiction writer dropping in for a chat: it’s a real-live Forrest Gump story, with a brief appearances from the Grateful Dead to Isaac Asimov to Oliver North to the governor of Bangkok, the Queen of Holland, and William Casey’s Chinese chef…..

(7) RUNNING THE REVERSE. Syfy Wire says in the latest episode “Doctor
Who just ‘reversed the polarity’ of the show’s most famous catchphrase”

If you started watching Doctor Who in the 21st century (which is most of us!) you probably think the most famous catchphrases of the show are “Geronimo!,” “Allons-y!,” or, the biggest meme-maker of them all: “Wibbly Wobbly, Timey-Wimey.” But, before the long-running sci-fi show enjoyed a rebirth starting in 2005, the silly sentence most associated with the Doctor was: “Reverse the polarity!”

This line recently resurfaced in Episode 9 of Season 11, “It Takes You Away,” and the history of this catchphrase is decidedly wibbly and very wobbly…

We’ll stop there in case spoilers are lurking….

(8) A SUPER QUESTION. Kevin Smith directed last night’s episode of Supergirl.  The two things that made the episode seem like one of his were that Supergirl had an unusual interest in old sci-fi action movies and at one point someone got whacked with a hook from a crane, which led to someone shouting “Hook!” and someone else replying, “Spielberg, 1991!”

The show begins with a voiceover from Supergirl saying, “My name is Kara Jor-El.” Martin Morse Wooster wants to know, “If Superman is Kal-El, why isn’t Supergirl Kara-El?”


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 – Polly Freas, Fan and wife of SFF artist Fank Kelly Freas with whom she had 3 children, she was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 – Donald H. Tuck, Engineer, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Tasmania, Australia who discovered SF very young; by the time he was 18, he had co-edited three issues of the fanzine Profan, which included author bios and bibliographies. Considering the logistical difficulties of the time in terms of communication by snail mail – especially given the added difficulty due to WWII and the distance of Australia from the U.S. – his feat in amassing a huge collection of index cards with the details of hundreds of SFF works was impressive. In 1954, he collected those index cards into A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy, a 151-page bibliography of the field; in 1959 he released a greatly-expanded and updated version, at 396 pages. He was given a Worldcon Special Award for this work. He continued to refine this over the years, and in 1974 produced the first volume of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968: Who’s Who, for surnames starting A to L, followed four years later by Volume 2, for M to Z, and was recognized for this work with a World Fantasy Special Award. The third volume, a bibliography to accompany the two-volume encyclopedia of authors, editors, and artists, won a Hugo Award. He was to be Guest of Honor at the first Australian Worldcon; when he couldn’t attend, a group of fans went to visit him at his home. In 1985, he was given Fandom’s Big Heart Award. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 – Morgan Llywelyn, 81, Writer and Equestrian born in the U.S. who, after missing out on the Olympic dressage team by a minuscule fraction of a percentage point, turned to researching her Irish roots, and began to write historical fantasy, fiction, and nonfiction based on Celtic history and traditions. After her husband’s untimely early death, she moved to Ireland and is now a citizen residing near Dublin. Her first genre novel, Lion of Ireland, was nominated for a Mythopoeic Award. Her short genre fiction has been published in the collection The Earth Is Made of Stardust.
  • Born December 3, 1949 – Malcolm Edwards, 69, Writer, Editor, and Critic from England who is considered one of the field’s great editors. Early in his career, he joined the British Science Fiction Association, and served as editor of its journal Vector. He was extremely active in British fandom in the 60s and 70s, producing several fanzines, and was one of the co-founders of the semiprozine Interzone. In the 80s, he co-wrote several SFF nonfiction reference works. His work has influenced many fans’ reading: as SF editor for Gollancz, he launched the SF Masterworks series, and he is currently Deputy CEO of the Orion Publishing Group. Although he is best known as an editor, his short story “After-Images” won a British Science Fiction Award, and has been included in five different anthologies. He was Guest of Honor at Worldcon in London in 2014.
  • Born December 3, 1958 – Terri Windling, Writer, Artist, and Editor responsible for dozens of anthologies, most with editing partner Ellen Datlow (including sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror and the superb Snow White, Blood Red series), which have racked up six World Fantasy Awards and a Stoker Award; her solo anthology The Armless Maiden was shortlisted for the Tiptree Award. She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early 1980s, through her work as an editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines. In 1987 she founded the Endicott Studio for Mythic Arts, which is dedicated to the furtherance of literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, fairy tales, and the oral storytelling tradition. I’m very fond of her work with illustrator Wendy Froud, (mother of Labyrinth baby Toby Froud), on the series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood. She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man. Although best known as an editor, her only novel, The Wood Wife, won a Mythopoeic Award. She has been honored with two World Fantasy Special Professional Awards, has been Guest of Honor at several conventions including a World Fantasy Convention, and in 2010 was recognized by SFWA with the Kate Wilhelm Solstice Award for significant impact on speculative fiction.
  • Born December 3, 1960 – Julianne Moore, 58, Oscar-winning Actor and Producer whose film debut was in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Later genre credentials include The Forgotten, Hannibal, and Blindness (all of which netted her Saturn nominations), the Hugo-nominated and Saturn-winning Children of Men, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Cast a Deadly Spell, the Carrie remake, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Seventh Son, and Next.
  • Born December 3, 1960 – Daryl Hannah, 58, Actor and Producer whom older genre fans know for the role which kick-started her career, as the replicant Pris Stratton in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Her next big genre role was in Splash as the mermaid Madison, which garnered her a Saturn Award and sparked two generations of female babies being anointed with that name. This was followed by a startlingly-different role as Ayla in The Clan of the Cave Bear. Her role in the fantasy comedy High Spirits got her nominated for Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress; anyone seen that film? A decade later, she played Morticia Addams in Addams Family Reunion, which I liked, but which was universally panned. Her role as a vicious assassin in the two-part cult martial arts-western-anime bloodfest Kill Bill won her a Saturn Award. Younger genre fans may recognize her for her lead role in the series Sense8. She has had a multitude of other genre roles including The Fury, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Final Days of Planet Earth, Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, 2047: Sights of Death, Awaken (aka A Perfect Vacation), Sicilian Vampire, and Zombie Night.
  • Born December 3, 1968 – Brendan Fraser, 50, Actor and Producer whose first genre role was in the regrettable Encino Man, but who is likely best known for his Saturn-nominated role-playing Rick O’Connell in The Mummy trilogy of films, though I’ll be damned if anyone I know has actually seen the third film, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (JJ waves arm madly and says “Michelle Yeoh is spectacular in it.”). He also appeared in the live action version of George of the Jungle, Dudley Do-Right – where he indeed played the title character to perfection, the Bedazzled remake, Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Looney Tunes: Back in Action which stinked, stank, and stunk.
  • Born December 3, 1980 – Jenna Dewan, 38, Actor, Dancer, and Producer who had a main role as Freya Beauchamp on the series Witches of East End, and recurring roles on American Horror Story: Asylum and Supergirl (as Lois Lane’s sister Lucy). She also appeared in The Grudge 2, a horror film you’ve likely never heard of. And did you know there was an unsold pilot for yet another reboot of Dark Shadows? Well there was; in 2004, she played Sophia Loomis on it.
  • Born December 3, 1985 – Amanda Seyfried, 33, Actor, Singer, and Producer whose first genre role was in Red Riding Hood – which, as near I can tell, is very loosely based on that folk tale, given that the wolf is now a werewolf. Other roles include In Time, a riff off of Logan’s Run; a horror ghost story called Solstice; Jennifer’s Body, which is described – I kid you not – as a “supernaturnal dark horror comic film”, and Pan, which is an alternative origin story for Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

(10) SPRINT TO THE FINISH LINE. Two of the nine upcoming Oscar-contender films profiled by film critic Alissa Wilkinson are genre (Vox: “Oscars preview: 9 contenders coming out in December”). Wilkinson singles out Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse as “a strong contender in the Oscars’ animation categories” and Mary Poppins Returns for it’s original music plus ‘some easy nods at the Golden Globes (which, unlike the Oscars, split their categories between comedy/musical and drama) for both [Emily] Blunt and the film as a whole.” The full slate of films covered is:

Mary Queen of Scots (December 7)
Ben Is Back (December 7)
If Beale Street Could Talk (December 14)
Roma (December 14 on Netflix)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (December 14)
Mary Poppins Returns (December 19)
Cold War (December 21)
Vice (December 25)
On the Basis of Sex (December 25)

(11) A LITTLE LIST. Sales of space-flown artifacts are fairly rare but a big one just happened according to online sources. (RemoNews.com: “To the Moon and back: Apollo 11 Lunar Checklist sold at auction”)

A checklist that traveled on the surface of the Moon with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin was sold at the New York auction for $62,500.

The incredible Lunar Surface Control Sheet accompanied the Apollo 11 astronauts in the Lunar Module Eagle. “Record the steps that were to follow before they came out on the lunar surface,” said Cassandra Hatton, vice president and senior vice president for books and manuscripts at the Sotheby’s auction house, in an interview with Fox News.

The checklist was sold to a private American collector without a name The document, signed by Buzz Aldrin, has a pre-sale estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.

(12) GET OFF MY LAWN. BCC details how “Pokemon Go ‘trespass’ legal action settled in US”.

Home owners who sued when virtual Pokemon were put on their property without permission have reached a settlement with game company Niantic.

The legal action started after Pokemon Go players sought permission to catch digital creatures placed in private gardens.

Aggrieved home owners sought compensation, saying the game constituted a “continuing invasion”.

Details of the settlement agreement have not been released.

(13) UNCLE MARTIN’S RIDE HAS NEW OWNER. It went for six figures: “David Copperfield gives famous ‘Martian’ ship a place to crash” — the Las Vegas Review-Journal has the story.

The spaceship from “My Favorite Martian” has finally landed safely.

The aircraft prop from the campy 1960s sci-fi series now belongs to legendary illusionist and pop-culture sentimentalist David Copperfield, who claimed the object at auction with a offer of $100,000. Copperfield’s winning outlay was registered during the auction outlet Prop Store’s first TV Treasures sale on Friday.

Television archivist James Comisar curated the auction, with more than 400 items offered for sale. Forbes once described Comisar as holding the world’s greatest collection of TV memorabilia. Copperfield himself is a passionate collector of items of nostalgia; in August he snapped up the original “D” from the Disneyland Hotel for about $86,250.

(14) IT GOES TO ELEVEN. They did the monster mash: “Gravitational waves: Monster black hole merger detected”.

Gravitational waves have been picked up from the biggest black hole merger yet detected.

Scientists say their laser labs sensed the ripples in space-time emanating from this gargantuan collision on 29 July 2017.

The event saw two holes, weighing more than 50 and 34 times the mass of our Sun, uniting to produce a single object over 80 times the mass of our star.

…The re-analysis brings the total number of gravitational waves events now in the catalogue to 11. Ten are black hole mergers; one occurrence was the result of a collision between dense star remnants, so-called neutron stars.

(15) ROCKY ROAD. “Osiris-Rex: Nasa probe arrives at Asteroid Bennu”.

The American space agency’s Osiris-Rex probe has drawn up alongside Asteroid Bennu after a two-year, two-billion-km journey from Earth.

The mission will spend 2.5 years at the 500m-wide rock, mapping its surface and studying its composition.

In mid-2020, scientists will direct Osiris-Rex to drop down to the object and grab at least 60g of regolith, or “top soil”.

This will be packed away in a sterile capsule to be returned home in 2023.

(16) THIS TIME IT WORKED. From BBC — “Soyuz rocket: First crewed launch since failure docks at ISS”.

Three astronauts have docked at the International Space Station, on the first crewed Soyuz rocket launch since a dramatic failure in October.

Astronauts from Russia, the US and Canada left from Kazakhstan on their mission at 17:30 (11:30 GMT).

Russian space agency Roscomos then confirmed their successful docking at the station on Twitter.

(17) USING UP MY QUOTA OF ZEROS. From Smithsonian.com, we find out that, “This Is How Much Starlight The Universe Has Produced” — 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 photons over 13.7 billion years.

Since the first stars first started flickering about 100 million years after the Big Bang our universe has produced roughly one trillion trillion stars, each pumping starlight out into the cosmos. That’s a mind-boggling amount of energy, but for scientists at the Fermi Large Area Telescope Collaboration it presented a challenge. Hannah Devlin at The Guardian reports that the astronomers and astrophysicists took on the monumental task of calculating how much starlight has been emitted since the universe began 13.7 billion years ago.

So, how much starlight is there? According to the paper in the journal Science, 4×10^84 photons worth of starlight have been produced in our universe, or 4,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 photons.

To get to that stupendously ginormous number, the team analyzed a decades worth of data from the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a NASA project that collects data on star formation. The team looked specifically at data from the extragalactic background light (EBL) a cosmic fog permeating the universe where 90 percent of the ultraviolet, infrared and visible radiation emitted from stars ends up. The team examined 739 blazars, a type of galaxy with a supermassive black hole in its center that shoots out streams of gamma-ray photos directly toward Earth at nearly the speed of light. The objects are so bright, even extremely distant blazars can be seen from Earth. These photons from the shiny galaxies collide with the EBL, which absorbs some of the photons, leaving an imprint the researchers can study.

(18) NO POISONING THE PIGEONS IN THIS PARK. The city wants no Tom Lehrer references — “Spanish pigeon relocation: Cádiz to relocate 5,000 birds”.

Authorities in the Spanish city of Cádiz have come up with a plan for their booming pigeon population – relocating some 5,000 birds.

The city is plagued by thousands of the birds and their associated waste – but officials did not want to poison them.

Instead, the plan is to capture thousands of pigeons and relocate them hundreds of miles away in a different region – and hope they do not return.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “TED A.I. Therapy” on Vimeo explains what happens when our robot overlords have become so sophisticated they need therapists!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Rick Moen, John King Tarpinian, JJ, ULTRAGOTHA, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Bill, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Somtow Sucharitkul, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

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39 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/3/18 If You Can’t Handle Me At My Pixel, You Don’t Deserve Me At My Scroll

  1. (1) Well, there’s one of my standards shot to hell: “Make it So” ttto “Let it Snow”

    (18) This should go well. I mean, what kind of pigeon could find its way home from a journey of several miles?

  2. Martin Morse Wooster wants to know, “If Superman is Kal-El, why isn’t Supergirl Kara-El?”

    It’s a cultural thing. On Krypton, men take the “house” name as a surname/suffix, and women take their father’s name as a surname.

    Jor-El, Zor-El, Kal-El are all of the House of El.
    Dru-Zod is of the House of Zod.
    Ak-Var is of the House of Var.

    Kara Zor-El is the daughter of Zor-El
    Faora Hu-Ul is the daughter of Hu-Ul of the House of Ul.
    Alura In-Zee (Supergirl’s mother) is the daughter of In-Zee of the House of Zee.
    Lara Lor-Van (Superman’s mother) is the daughter of Lor-Van of the House of Van.

    And so on.

    This all got established in the late 50s and early 60s, so it’s sexist, but at least it’s a piece of Kryptonian culture that isn’t just a copy of American culture of the time.

  3. (18) Pretty sure they’re feral, rather than wild. Also used to getting food off the dumb hairless apes lumbering around the artificial cliffs. There’s a pretty decent chance that at least some of them will make their way back.

  4. 17) I feel entropy creeping up on me.
    18) just think of it as a job creation program. I when they come back, they get rounded up again, providing jobs for years

  5. Born December 3, 1960 – Julianne Moore, 58, Oscar-winning Actor and Producer whose film debut was in Tales from the Darkside

    I had had no idea she was in the TFTD movie. Hunh. I thought her first genre work was Cast a Deadly Spell

  6. Agree that Michelle Yeoh was great in Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. It’s a shame that pretty much every single other thing about that movie was not up to snuff.

  7. Paul Weimer says of Julianne Moore that I had had no idea she was in the TFTD movie. Hunh. I thought her first genre work was Cast a Deadly Spell

    She was Susan in “Lot 249” according to IMDb and that movie came out out a year before Cast a Deadly Spell did.

  8. @6: the composing memoir sounds fascinating.

    @9: Tuck’s work was a standard reference for older SF in the days before everything wound up on the net.

    @9 ctd: I’d have said that Windling was not just “one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early 1980s” — to me at the time, it seemed as if “The Fairy Tale Series / Produced by Terri Windling” was the inspiration that everyone else was following — but fantastika even then was big enough that I wasn’t following all of it. Who else would people say was as significant then? ISTM that her Borderlands series is also noteworthy as YA that doesn’t fall into either of common YA traps (utter distopia or impossible accomplishment).

    @17: I think that takes the record for big numbers connected to the real world; IIRC the total number of particles is more like 10^67.

    @18: I don’t know what methods were used, but AFAICT Venice two years ago had no noticeable pigeons, eight years after banning feeding (not to mention the selling of feed to tourists looking for iconic photos — this was decades after a reported plan to put sterilant in the feed was reportedly deplored by the Vatican). Now they have a seagull problem.
    @Kip Williams et al: the story argues that homing pigeons require training (and/or breeding); unless they’re dumped in a particularly hostile area, they’ll probably stay.

  9. I didn’t really think I was on firm scientific ground with the quip, since homing pigeons have a different name and all, but I like the image of all the pigeons immediately heading back.

    The Harvard Law of Animal Behavior: “In carefully controlled laboratory conditions, animals do what they damn well please.” Seems to apply outside the lab as well. H. Allen Smith detailed the steps a Hawaiian resort (Ala Moana? Whatevs.) took to try and reduce the population of noisy black birds around the grounds, and everything they did seemed to bring more birds.

  10. @7: I never knew that phrase had such a history. I have a vague recollection of it being a line (and a sign) in Return to the Forbidden Planet (~1989); if the recollection is correct I expect the use was deliberate, as the script used every cheesy SF cliché that wasn’t nailed down. (Remember — if it comes up with a crowbar, it wasn’t really nailed down.)

  11. Chip says ISTM that her Borderlands series is also noteworthy as YA that doesn’t fall into either of common YA traps (utter distopia or impossible accomplishment).

    Yeah I’ve got a complete set of those books here. There was a plan some years back to collect the original three paperbacks into a hardcover edition but the usual snafu over rights made that impossible. Same goes for ebook release from what I’ve been told.

  12. @Kip Williams

    . . . but I like the image of all the pigeons immediately heading back.
    The Harvard Law of Animal Behavior: “In carefully controlled laboratory conditions, animals do what they damn well please.” Seems to apply outside the lab as well.

    The recent death of Ricky Jay caused me to reread his wonderful book, “Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women,” from which I quote a relevant passage:

    Pigs, in fact, are intelligent and easily trainable. The biggest problem, however, is their size. At six months of age, many pigs weigh three hundred pounds. Methods to retard their growth have been jealously coveted by trainers, but often the animals just get too big to perform their acts. Such was the case with Fred Leslie, whose “Porcine Circus” worked the Lemen Brothers Show around the turn of the century. When his star pigs grew too large to perform their acrobatics gracefully, he purchased a new group of shoats to take their place. The newcomers watched the old troupers and were trained to do the act. When the youngsters were ready to perform, Leslie sold the fattened veterans to a farmer whose land bordered the circus lot. That evening, as the music for the show began, the old-timers recognized their cue and, using their ladder-scaling prowess, climbed over the farmer’s fence and made their way into the circus tent in time for their act to begin. The image of them nudging the rookie pigs out of carts, away from seesaws, and off ladders in an attempt to do their old routine is a testament to the finest traditions of show business.

  13. Brendan Fraser probably deserves at least an associational mention and credit for Gods and Monsters, the 1998 film about Frankenstein director Frank Whale’s last days. As I recall, Fraser got very good reviews for his performance in that film.

  14. Bruce Arthur says Brendan Fraser probably deserves at least an associational mention and credit for Gods and Monsters, the 1998 film about Frankenstein director Frank Whale’s last days. As I recall, Fraser got very good reviews for his performance in that film.

    No doubt he does. The Birthdays always are a matter of deciding what stays in and what gets left out. I did see Gods and Monsters and considered including it but lt’d have made his Birthday just that much longer. Besides I enjoy seeing what y’all add in here.

  15. @Bruce —

    As I recall, Fraser got very good reviews for his performance in that film.

    It was an excellent film all around.

  16. I did see, once, iat my apt building, on one of the stairs, a pigeon wearing a leg band. It was around for at least an hour. I assume it left for home (or someplace it thought might be home).

  17. @PJ —

    I did see, once, iat my apt building, on one of the stairs, a pigeon wearing a leg band. It was around for at least an hour. I assume it left for home (or someplace it thought might be home).

    If you or anyone else sees a banded pigeon in the future, try to catch it. It was likely lost, and you can trace the owner through the band.



  18. @Chip: I’m mostly curious as to if there’s been a proper ban there on feeding the pigeons. “Training” them can be as simple as them knowing there’s a place where they get fed by the two-legs and deciding to go back to their pleasant, easy, feral lives picking up our crumbs in the city instead of roughing it wherever they get put.

    On a sidenote: there’s anecdotes about pigeons feigning limps or other injuries to get sympathy and hopefully extra food from gullible humans and once they get the food trotting off with no sign of their limp afterwards.

  19. In the category of cartoons I’ve scribbled in sketchbooks, one of my favorites is a pigeon complaining to another pigeon, “Man, I’ve been walking around here for hours, and my neck is killing me!”

  20. Kip Williams – Wild rock doves, homing and other domestic pigeons, and feral city pigeons are all Columbia livia. The wild birds have a natural homing ability which was intensified in some domestic breeds. Feral pigeons would have at least the baseline homing ability, maybe more depending on how much homing pigeon is in their ancestry.

  21. I saw High Spirits. Darryl Hannah didn’t get much to do but I think she came off better than Beverly D’Angelo in a truly thankless role. My principal memory of the film is that Liam Neeson was really hot.

    I also saw Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. That was a major disappointment…

  22. I have personally witnessed several pigeons doing the fake limp thing and I was pleased to feed them extra because a, that’s hilarious, and b, that is a smart pigeon and I want to support smart pigeons. They curl their foot up like it’s injured (and I have seen pigeons with similar injuries who — probably — weren’t faking it) and hobble on it while walking up to you, then uncurl it when they’re done begging. I love pigeons, they’re great, and it isn’t really fair to treat them as vermin when half the reason they spend time around us is that they’re feral/descended from domesticated birds. And the waste is pretty good fertiliser, iirc, so even their poop used to have value to us. Not their fault we abandoned them.

    (I’ve also seen them use those anti-pigeon spikes as convenient scaffolding for nests. Pigeons: I love them.)

    At least in London, the only places that tend to be entirely free and clear are the ones that use birds of prey — playing the hunting cries over the sound system and occasionally having one on-site for verisimilitude (which is very cool, by the way, depending on the station you can get pretty close).

  23. Another thing to admire about pigeons is what amazing flying machines they are. Incredibly powerful bursts at take-off, and for all practical purposes the ability to hover and fly backwards, at least briefly. (No doubt evolved in their original context of nesting on rock ledges.) I had a pet pigeon for a number of years that had been imprinted on human beings due to having been had-fed as a hatchling. (This is fairly difficult as pigeons are normally fed with crop milk — a secretion from the parents’ crop — that is difficult to imitate.) So I got to see a lot of close-up evidence for their flying abilities. I also learned how easy it is to fake having a “trained pigeon” by learning reliable prompts for their normal behavior and then pretending you were instructing them to perform them.

  24. We were at the somewhat ruinous Middleham Castle on an occasion where there was a TV reporter (not sure if he was BBC or what) doing a story on a new sculpture unveiled for some Richard III anniversary. This was before they found the body. The pigeonholes were being used by pigeons, unsurprisingly.

    After they’d filmed a brief bit, the cameraman aimed at the pigeonholes, and the reporter clapped his hands sharply, causing the pigeons to take off in a group, which the cameraman caught neatly. It was a cute trick to get an eye-catching bit of video for the editor to use. That’s a couple of pros at work.

  25. @Contrarius
    It wasn’t that tame – I couldn’t get closer to it than three or four feet.

  26. @PJ —

    It wasn’t that tame – I couldn’t get closer to it than three or four feet.

    Yeah, some animals want to be saved more than others. Just a note for future possibilities!

  27. @HRJ: “Darn. All the great homing pigeon jokes are already taken.”

    Just wait a couple of days, and you’ll get ’em back. 😉

    (9) I was seriously dubious about the casting of Hannah as Morticia, but damn if it didn’t work perfectly. Addams Family Reunion is one of those cases where I love the casting but hate the cartoonish overacting and idiotic script. (Seriously, feeding the dog human hair to make it attack people?) I really wish the cast had been given a decent script and not made it as a pilot for a kids’ movie.

    I also remember seeing High Spirits, but that is literally all I recall of the experience. It was that forgettable.

    (18) Aw, c’mon. It just takes a smidgen!

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