Pixel Scroll 12/5/18 Dear Pixel Of Mine, You Are My First And Fifth Love

(1) F&SF COVER. Gordon Van Gelder revealed The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb. 2019 cover by artist Jill Bauman.

(2) ROLL ‘EM. Deadline blabbed that the Amazing Stories TV show has gone into production: “‘Amazing Stories’: Edward Burns To Star, Executive Produce Episode Of Steven Spielberg’s Apple Series”

Edward Burns (Public Morals) is set to star in and executive produce an episode of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories Apple anthology series, which has begun production in Atlanta.

Burns will play Bill Kaminski, a government agent. Mark Mylod (Game of Thrones) will direct the episode. Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies) and Kerry Bishé (Halt and Catch Fire) will also star.

So at the Amazing Stories blog Steve Davidson felt free to do a roundup of other news leakage about the series: Amazing Stories TV Show Is in Production”.

Several days ago, various local and web-based news sources that cover castting calls and filiming announcements in Georgia announced that a project called “Puget Sound” had issued casting calls.

It was subsuquenttly revealed that Puget Sound is the code name for the Amazing Stories television show.

(3) IF IT’S GOOD, IT’S A MIRACLE. Daniel Radcliffe is an angel and Steve Buscemi is God in the new series Miracle Workers premiering February 12 on TBS.

(4) KESH. United Kingdom music magazine The Wire, whose motto is “Adventures in Underground Music,” has named Ursula Le Guin & Todd Barton’s Music And Poetry Of The Kesh their best reissue of 2018:

A utopian ethnographical forgery of the music of a post-tech tribe based on a far future US coast, merging LeGuin’s poetry with Barton’s Buchla compositions, drones, chants and field recordings. [Reviewer] Ken Hollings said: ‘The living communicate not just with the discreet ghosts of the recently departed, who require nothing now from us but a change in manners, but the feral ghosts who have not yet existed.’

This is not available on the web unless you have a subscription to The Wire, so there is no link included.

(5) SOMTOW: A FREE READ TOMORROW. S.P. Somtow’s memoir “Sounding Brass: A Curious Musical Partnership” will be available free for 24 hours on December 6 (PST)

(5) HOW TO TREAT A GOH.  David Gerrold told Facebook readers:

At SMOFcon, I was on a panel about how to treat a Worldcon Guest of Honor. This evolved into a 40 page document of advice and recommendations for convention committees. The first draft is finished and a copy has been sent to Vince Docherty with permission to distribute.

But anyone who wants to read it now can download a pdf copy from this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kdu2zbzuk6g3l2d/Care_and_Feeding_of_Guests.pdf

The 42-page document includes many “sidebars” about Gerrold’s experiences as a guest that explain the importance of the related entries.

(6) I, CYBORG. Jillian Weise’s “Common Cyborg” on Granta is an essay about disability and on being a cyborg.

I’m nervous at night when I take off my leg. I wait until the last moment before sleep to un-tech because I am a woman who lives alone and has been stalked, so I don’t feel safe in my home on crutches. How would I run? How would I fight back? Instead of taking Klonopin, I read the Economist. The tone is detached. There is war, but always elsewhere.

When I tell people I am a cyborg, they often ask if I have read Donna Haraway’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’. Of course I have read it. And I disagree with it. The manifesto, published in 1985, promised a cyberfeminist resistance. The resistance would be networked and coded by women and for women to change the course of history and derange sexism beyond recognition. Technology would un-gender us. Instead, it has been so effective at erasing disabled women1 that even now, in conversation with many feminists, I am no longer surprised that disability does not figure into their notions of bodies and embodiment. Haraway’s manifesto lays claim to cyborgs (‘we are all cyborgs’) and defines the cyborg unilaterally through metaphor. To Haraway, the cyborg is a matter of fiction, a struggle over life and death, a modern war orgy, a map, a condensed image, a creature without gender. The manifesto coopts cyborg identity while eliminating reference to disabled people on which the notion of the cyborg is premised. Disabled people who use tech to live are cyborgs. Our lives are not metaphors.

(7) BETTER WORLDS. Laura Hudson says The Verge has launched a major fiction project: “Better Worlds”. The forthcoming titles and authors are listed at the link.

Contemporary science fiction often feels fixated on a sort of pessimism that peers into the world of tomorrow and sees the apocalypse looming more often than not. At a time when simply reading the news is an exercise in exhaustion, anxiety, and fear, it’s no surprise that so many of our tales about the future are dark amplifications of the greatest terrors of the present. But now more than ever, we also need the reverse: stories that inspire hope.

…Starting January 14th, The Verge will bring together some of the most exciting names in science fiction writing to imagine Better Worlds. The project will showcase 10 original fiction stories, five animated adaptations, and five audio adaptations by a diverse roster of authors who take a more optimistic view of what lies ahead in ways both large and small, fantastical and everyday. These stories disrupt the common narratives of an inevitable apocalypse and explore spaces our fears have overlooked. The future is coming — and we believe it’s worth fighting for.


(8) SO FRIENDS WILL KNOW. Michelle Rogers has requested this coming out note be distributed to the fannish community.

I need to share some information with all of you. I never dreamed this would happen and I hope you will understand why this became necessary.

I am now living as female. I call myself Michelle Leigh Rogers.

Unlike many transgender persons, I did not realize this early in life. I thought I was male, if not the rugged he-man type. But about a year ago, I started to wonder if something was not quite right about my life situation. No single incident prompted these feelings — just a nagging sense that something did not add up.

I contacted a psychologist in Atlanta and began to explore my gender identity issues. Somewhere in my reading, I came across a passage that had a profound impact.

The author was talking about what a woman looks for in a man. The author said that a woman wants a man who looks and acts and presents as a real man.

I took a new look at myself. I had always been aware that I had a high voice and very little facial hair. But at that point I suddenly realized the horrible truth that explained so many issues. I may have had the standard male body parts, but I did not come across as truly male.

Later, at a support group meeting, someone asked me the classic question. If I could flip a switch and instantly become a physical woman with all the expected body parts, would I do it? With no hesitation, I said yes. It shocked me how quickly I responded. From that time, I knew I was a woman in a man’s body. I had made my choice.

I spent the next few months preparing to live as female. I finally came out a few weeks ago. It has not solved all my problems. But it does feel more natural. I will never be a true anatomical female, but I do not intend to go back. This is my path into the future.

Some will not accept this decision. If we must part, I wish you all the best and Godspeed. If you will hang with me, I greatly appreciate it.

Michelle will live her remaining life with as much class and dignity as she can manage. Let the journey begin.

(9) ANDERSON OBIT. Longtime NESFA member and former clerk Claire Anderson died December 4 shortly after her Chronic Myelomonocytic Leukemia went over to acute leukemia. Her husband, Dave Anderson, was with her in the hospital when she passed away.

(10) BLACK OBIT. John D.F. Black (1932-2018), an associate producer for ten episodes of classic Star Trek made during the program’s first season, died November 29.  Under a pseudonym (Ralph Willis) he wrote the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Justice.” And he wrote for many non-genre TV shows and movies.


  • December 5, 1980Flash Gordon made its cult premiere.
  • December 5, 1956 Man Beast  showed up at your local drive-in.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 – Fritz Lang, Writer, Director, and Producer who is famous in genre for his dystopian film Metropolis, which features a distinctive robot whose image has influenced countless other creators; critics found the film visually-beautiful, but the plot trite and simplistic. Other works included the two-film series based on the Norse sagas Die Nibelungen, a series of films featuring Norbert Jacques’ master of disguise and telepathic hypnosis Doctor Mabuse, and the 1929 Woman in the Moon (aka Rocket to the Moon), which is considered to be one of the first “serious” science fiction films. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1954 – Betsy Wollheim, 64, Publisher and Editor. As the president and co-publisher of DAW Books, she has more than four decades of book publishing experience, and not only edits but also art directs all the books she acquires. She has edited numerous award-winning and bestselling authors, including the Hugo, Nebula, BFA, and Gemmell Award-nominated Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, the Philip K. Dick Award-nominated Voyager in Night by C.J. Cherryh (as well as the rest of the wildly-popular Alliance-Union novels), Nnedi Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award-winning Who Fears Death, and Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, including The Name of the Wind, which was a finalist for the Compton Crook, Prix Imaginaire, and Premio Ignotus Awards. She has received a Hugo Award for Best Editor, and shares two Chesley Awards for Best Art Director with co-publisher Sheila Gilbert. In 2018 she was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • Born December 5, 1961 – Nicholas Jainschigg, 57, Teacher, Artist and Illustrator. He began his career by doing covers and interior art for Asimov’s and Analog magazines, then progressed to covers for books and other magazines, eventually providing art for Wizards of the Coast gaming materials and for Marvel and DC Comics. As an Associate Professor for the Rhode Island School of Design, his private work these days is mainly in animations, interactive illustration, painting in oils, and paleontological reconstructions in murals and dioramas.
  • Born December 5, 1961 – Morgan Brittany, 57, Actor whose first genre appearance was on Thriller, a series narrated by Boris Karloff and written by authors such as Robert Bloch. It’s hardly her only genre work, as she would be in The Birds, multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Initiation of Sarah, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Fantasy Island, Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
  • Born December 5, 1968 – Lisa Marie, 50, Actor who, for eight years, was a favorite casting choice of Tim Burton, with whom she had a relationship. Genre fans will recognize her as the Martian girl in the absolutely brilliant Hugo- and Saturn-nominated SF satire Mars Attacks, and as Vampira in the Saturn finalist Ed Wood. She also played Ichabod Crane’s mother in Sleepy Hollow, and Nova in the Planet of the Apes reboot. Other films include The Lords of Salem, We Are Still Here, and Dominion.
  • Born December 5, 1975 – Paula Patton, 43, Actor and Producer whose genre debut was an impressive performance in a lead role in the time-travel movie Déjà Vu, which likely led to her being cast in a main role in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, for which she received a Saturn nomination. Other film appearances include Warcraft, Mirrors, and The Do-Over, and a main role on the short-lived series Somewhere Between.
  • Born December 5, 1979 – Nick Stahl, 39, Actor who is most recognizable as the young John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Other genre roles include the films Sin City, Tall Tale, Disturbing Behavior, and Mirrors 2, and a main role in two seasons of Carnivàle, which garnered him a Saturn nomination.
  • Born December 5, 1981 – Adan Canto, 37, Actor who played Sunspot in X-Men: Days of Future Past. He also played Connor Graff in Second Chance, a Fox series supposedly inspired by Frankenstein. It lasted eleven episodes.


  • If Santa’s elves’ hearing was as bad as my copyediting, this is what would happen: The Bent Pinky.

(14) THE ANSWER IS NOT 42. Amazing Stories blog also kicked off its trivia contest feature: “Win a FREE Subscription to Amazing Stories SF Trivia Contest: SF Trivia Contest #1”.

(15) LEND AN EAR. Rosarium Publishing’s Bill Campbell invites all to check out Ink author, Sabrina Vourvoulias, on The Skiffy and Fanty Show, “talking about her amazing immigration dystopia, the telltale signs of the rise of authoritarianism, and courage in publishing.” — “Signal Boost #48 — Sabrina Vourvoulias (Ink) and Stephanie Gunn (Icefall)”.

(16) REVIVING THE REVIVAL. Food has disappeared only temporarily from the Clifton’s Cafeteria bill of fare. LAist says this is what’s happening: “Clifton’s Is Going To Stop Being A Cafeteria And Become A Food Hall”.

Meiran says workers are busy right now, turning the cafeteria at Clifton’s into the Exposition Marketplace, which will have seven different stations that offer salads, sandwiches, hot items and desserts. Each station in the marketplace will function like a mini-market or a deli with pre-packaged items and/or foods that you can buy for takeaway or eat on the premises.

Why another revamp only a few years after completing a splashy, nearly half-decade renovation?

“We ran up against a perception issue,” Meiran says. He thinks part of the problem is the word “cafeteria.”

“When people think of a cafeteria, they think institution. It’s food in the pans and plopped on the plate. That isn’t the way people contemporary like to eat. It created a weird dilemma for us from day one. We were too expensive and potentially going off the mark for some people. Then we weren’t enough in terms of raising the bar for a whole group of other people. And that’s kind of a no-win situation,” he says.

He compares the upcoming iteration of Clifton’s to luxe food halls like Eataly or Harrod’s in London, although he emphasizes that the cost will not be like Harrod’s.

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. It’s (too) smooooooooth! “Tom Cruise gives lesson in TV settings and ‘motion smoothing'” – BBC has the story.

Something is keeping movie star Tom Cruise up at night: motion smoothing.

In an impassioned video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, the Mission Impossible star warned that a default setting on many high-end televisions “makes most movies look like they were shot on high-speed video instead of film”.

Taking a break from filming the new Top Gun film, he appeared alongside director Christopher McQuarrie, who pleads with viewers to do a quick internet search and find out how to change the correct settings.

“If you own a modern high-definition television,” he said, “there’s a good chance you’re not watching movies the way the filmmakers intended, and the ability for you to do so is not simple to access.”

Motion smoothing, or interpolation, is a technique that artificially adds additional frames to the moving image in order to prevent blurring – most effective when watching sport.

But many in the film industry hate it, however, as it can degrade the image quality of the original film, and alter colouring.

(18) SUITING UP. Yahoo! Entertainment interviews the actress: “Brie Larson on ‘Captain Marvel’ and Starring in Marvel’s ‘Big Feminist Action Movie’ (Set Visit)”.

“I was wearing the other suit — the green suit — and in here, it’s like being in a casino,” she says of the cavernous soundstage housing today’s out-of-this-world set. “It’s just dark and you lose track of time, and I was like, Oh my God, I’ve got to get out of here… Is it still light out? And I opened that big door and I stumbled out and I was, like, blinking, trying to adjust to the light. And Jim Carrey drove by on a golf cart and looked at me and I looked at him and we just stared at each other as he drove by and I was like, “Huh?

Such is Larson’s new normal while filming the ’90s-set origin story, which sees Carol Danvers pitted between warring alien races — the Kree “noble warrior heroes” and the shape-shifting Skrulls — as she searches for answers about her past with the help of Samuel L. Jackson’s eye patch-less Nick Fury.

(19) THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK. Graeme McMillan makes an amusingly fannish suggestion in “What ‘Avengers 4’ Trailer Fever Should Teach Marvel” at The Hollywood Reporter.

…I would like to submit a proposal to Marvel Studios: Don’t release a trailer for the next Avengers movie.

There’s literally no need to spend the time or money doing so, given the advanced level of enthusiasm that’s already out there for the movie, and is only likely to build as it gets closer to the May release date…

For that matter, any attempt to take Avengers 4’s trailer from the Schrodinger’s cat-esque position that it currently enjoys is almost guaranteed to disappoint fans, who have by this point built up their own personal trailers filled with whatever moments are essential to their enjoyment of a good teaser for such an anticipated cinematic event….

This isn’t to say that Marvel should announce that there’ll be no trailer. That would be counterproductive, because the expectation of one is what’s driving the fever pitch of buzz currently surrounding the fourth movie — the chance that, at any moment, it could arrive and something new and exciting could be revealed.

Instead, Marvel needs to simply say nothing, and just let fandom continue to drive itself to distraction, while promoting its other movies, instead. After all, the Captain Marvel trailer is pretty exciting in its own right, but it also works to tease the arrival Avengers 4: Infinity War 2 at the same time. “It’s all connected,” as the Marvel motto used to remind us.

(20) MORE LIKE ASH THAN BISHOP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Quartz wants you to know that “There’s an AI robot sulking in the international space station”—but that fortunately its name is CIMON (apparently pronounced “Simon”) and not HAL.

CIMON was supposed to be more than a colleague for the small team of astronauts aboard the International Space Station. CIMON was supposed to be a friend. But in his first recorded interaction in space, the floating robot-headed, voice-user-interface assistant got a little testy.

CIMON’s engineers did everything they could to smooth over their robot’s future interactions with astronaut Alexander Gerst. They trained CIMON’s AI on photos of Gerst and samples of his voice. They let Gerst help design CIMON’s face. They even taught CIMON Gerst’s favorite song.

That’s where the trouble started. Midway through their first interaction in space, CIMON tried to endear himself to the astronaut by playing “The Man-Machine” by Kraftwerk. Gerst listened politely to the first 46 seconds of the song —even bopped along with his fist for a few bars—but then he reached out, shook CIMON’s head, and said, “please stop playing music.”

But CIMON didn’t understand (or pretended not to?) and kept right on playing music even after Gerst tried several commands to get CIMON to stop. Things went downhill from there in a sort of passive-aggressive way.

As Gerst relays CIMON’s technical difficulties to support staff, the robot sheepishly reminds his new friend to “be nice please.”

Taken aback, Gerst strikes a slightly menacing tone: “I am nice! He’s accusing me of not being nice! He just doesn’t know me when I’m not nice.”

“Cool,” CIMON sulks. Then, ruefully: “Don’t you like it here with me?”

(21) A REINDEER GAME YOU CAN JOIN IN. Just how did they get their names?

(22) ‘TI$ THE $EASON. I’m told Saturday Night Live had this off-line for a while. Were they were coaxed into putting it back up to help sell Shatner’s Christmas record? From the same 1986 episode famed for his “Get a life” quote, here is William Shatner introducing “It’s a Wonderful Life: The Lost Ending.”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy Martin Morse Wooster, Camestros Felapton (via Janice Eisen), JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Julia Morgan Scott, Lenore Jean Jones, John A Arkansawyer, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Liptak, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

48 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/5/18 Dear Pixel Of Mine, You Are My First And Fifth Love

  1. (8) Wishing Michelle all the best.

    (10) “The Naked Time” was the first Trek I ever saw. Thank you, Mr Black.

  2. 8) Best Wishes for Michelle

    11) Flash. Ah aaaah! He’ll save every one of us!

    12) Steve Buscemi as an addled God? I’m stealing the idea of him as an addled god (lower G) for one of my roleplaying games. The series might be crap, but that’d an idea I can use

  3. @9: I don’t know how well-known Claire was outside of NESFA — she wasn’t very public even in the two Boskones she co-chaired with Dave — but she was a voice of wit, snark, and sanity who will be sorely missed in the club.

    edit: fifth.

  4. (8) Best wishes to Michelle.

    (17) On the one hand, not sure I really need to worry about this. On the other hand, as described, it doesn’t sound like the best idea, something you’d want if you’re spending extra for the latest in hi-tech TVs. But, hey, what do I know?

    (20) So, CIMON is one of that kind.

    And I don’t mean AIs.

  5. With Clifton’s Cafeteria: Geez, what’s wrong with cafeterias? Why do LA eaters have their noses in the air? It makes me very glad I saw Clifton’s before it closed. Cafeterias are the best!

    With SNL: Phil Hartman was great. I miss him.

  6. Conflicted feelings: I know a really good cafeteria. But you have to go to the hospital to eat there. Fortunately, not as an inpatient. I’ve eaten good food at the cafeteria in Mayo Hospital in Phoenix many times when Hilde or I have doctor appointments or tests/procedures there. (Drawback: Funky hours, closing down at intervals for cleanup and setup for the next dining period.) Hilde gets the onion rings from their grill station almost every time we’re there.

  7. 17) He’s not wrong. It looks terrible. I remember a Peter Jackson short doing the rounds, trying to persuade people of the benefit of high-frame movies. That looked bad (subjectively), but at least it had all the frames. This would have been around the time of The Hobbit. I remember the combination of that and the 3D really took me out of the movie for the first 15 minutes or so. I guess it never took off.

    Looks like it’s also free in the UK. I suspect for the day in local time.

  9. It was the Night Before Hogswatch.

    Someone in the Watch had been arrested and was in jail, awaiting a hearing.

    Outside of the police station, a small group gathered. Almost friends of the arrested, and members of his police crew.

    It began to snow. And they began to chant:

    “Release Nobby Knobs. Release Nobby Knobs.”

  10. Speaking of Flash, does anyone remember the Flash pinball machine? Living up to its name, there was a flash built into the backboard. You had to be careful when you looked up to check your score because there was a chance you might be dazed by the flash going off.

    If December 5 is Krampusnacht, does that make today Krampustag?

    Just a fifth
    With a fifth’s courage
    You know she’s
    Nothing but a fifth
    And she will never lol
    No one but the pure at heart
    May find the Pixel Scroll

  11. (17) Tom Cruise is wrong about almost everything. But he’s right about motion-smoothing. It is a blight on viewing, and makes everything look cheap.

    It took me almost an hour of futzing about with my television setup to disable it on my machine, but was totally worth it.

  12. Olav Rokne: I looked it up for my set and was taken to a forum where I had to log in. Insignia refused the username (my email) that I’ve used in the past, and has never responded with a new login request. There’s nothing apparent in the settings menus I’ve crept minutely through, either.

  13. @OGH: I guess we’re all a little punchy; this has been out ~14 hours and nobody noticed there were two #5’s (Somtow and Gerrold), with all the following numbers used in order. I’ll bank any appertainment, as I’m way short of sleep.

    @5 (the first): I’d love to do this, but it requires downloading Kindle-reading software. Are there no downsides to this? Any thoughts on how big the software is? (My tablet came free with a promotion; from the way it choked on a Lonely Planet guide I figure it doesn’t have a lot of memory, although I have had 3-4 non-illustrated books loaded at once.)

    @SF2 Concatenation (re @5 the second): I’m a little appalled at what Brunner thought was necessary to tell would-be con-runners; all of his items seemed part of what I learned by osmosis in the previous decade. Were mainland-European fans so disconnected as not to know such basics, or was he just piling up all his grouches in one place? (Brunner could be savage — although when I mentioned this in the course of timorously offering some suggestions on a project, he said he grouched only at people who changed things without telling him. He did get hit by some spectacular fails in this line, such as the merger of 2 characters (separated by half a continent) into 1 in the hardcover of The Shockwave Rider.) The Gerrold is less surprising considering what he felt necessary to put in the first pages — although I’ll bet some of the people at SMOFCon vigorously contest several of those items.

  14. Chip Hitchcock: I’ll bank any appertainment, as I’m way short of sleep.

    You deserve it for noticing.

    The last time two number fives happened it was accidental….

  15. Re: Marvel trailer: Seeing people got upset that an interet-rumor turned out to be false, was quite… interesting.

  16. Oh, and here Is another list to be upset about (HT John Scalzi). Of these movies I like maybe 5? Some are terrible. And „We are no angels“ is missing (not genre though, unlike some of those movies)

  17. @Peer — My own personal Christmas movie list would definitely include L.A. Confidential and Jackie Chan’s Police Story 2.

  18. Joe H. on December 6, 2018 at 10:56 am said:
    @Peer — My own personal Christmas movie list would definitely include L.A. Confidential and Jackie Chan’s Police Story 2.

    Mine would include “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang,” “Rent,” and “Event Horizon.”

  19. Why does It’s a Wonderful Life get all the love when Capra’s Meet John Doe also ends on Christmas Eve? And where’s Brazil?

  20. Re smoothing: There were noticeable artefacts from inserting frames in Jackson’s They Shall Not Grow Old, they were quite distracting at times. I’d be interested in seeing what the segments concerned look like cleaned up but at the original frame rate.

  21. @Mark

    I believe you mean “ducts*”

    (*The Brazil soundtrack has tracks entitled “Ducts” and “Ducting Dreams.” Plus the Central Services jingle.)

  22. Why does It’s a Wonderful Life get all the love when Capra’s Meet John Doe also ends on Christmas Eve?

    Because It’s a Wonderful Life fell into the public domain in 1974. That put it in constant holiday rotation for two decades until a Supreme Court decision about an unrelated movie helped Republic Pictures lock up the copyright again.

  23. @OGH: I was wondering whether this was a Kringelstag(?) joke I wasn’t getting — but being unable to sleep until an hour spent quietly with Jorma Kaukonen’s autobiography left my brains hashed.

  24. Amazingly, I’ve only seen five or maybe six of those “best of” Christmas movies (the ones from Peer’s list). But my personal favorite Christmas production wasn’t eligible for the list, since it was strictly TV — the original The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, of course. Pale, pasty, newfangled imitations need not apply.

    I can virtually quote that whole show (hey, it’s only 30 minutes). I’ll watch that one just as many times as I get a chance to. Oddly enough, my mom can’t stand it. Guess she’s not perfect after all. 😉

  25. @Contrarius — Yes, Grinch is probably the highlight of the seasonal lot.

    Although I’d also suggest everybody check out the Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (based on the L. Frank Baum book) because it’s just so darned weird.

  26. And after bragging about how much I loved the Grinch, I got the title wrong!

    It’s actually How the Grinch Stole Christmas, of course. Gah!

  27. In light of all of the Grinch talk, I thought I should share that I (and a bunch of Bay Area SF fans) are looking forward to seeing Who’s Holiday later this month at the 3Below Theatre in downtown San José. (3Below was the host of Worldcon 76’s film festival; the folks there are sort of fandom-adjacent.) It’s a (sort of) sequel to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, with Cindy Lou Who now in her 40s and living in a trailer behind Mt. Crumpit. And not for kids at all. Given the track record of every live show and movie I’ve ever seen at 3Below and their former venue, the RetroDome, I expect this to be delightful. (Delightful enough that I’m taking a day off from work and making a special trip down from Fernley — a 600-mile round trip — to see it.)

    A group of Bay Area SF fans are going to the December 14 show, in case you happen to be in the Bay Area that evening and would like to join us.

  28. I’ve given up on Seuss adaptations. None of them have lived up to the standard of the first Grinch special, and that one felt padded and patchy from the day I first saw it, after loving the book.

    The Warner Brothers short “Horton Hatches The Egg” has its irrelevant gagging (“Now I’ve seen everything!”), but manages to hit the Seuss spot pretty much dead-on. It’s short enough, though, not to overstay its welcome, the animation is full and squarely on model, and the voices fit. About a year later, the Warner animators would be working with Geisel himself on the Private SNAFU cartoons.


  29. One of the best Christmas films is Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. It has the advantage of being very short so the general naffness of Christmas filmishness doesn’t get in the way too much. Also, you know, Raymond Briggs. Hard to top.

  30. @Jack Lint

    If December 5 is Krampusnacht, does that make today Krampustag?

    Nope, December 6 is St. Nicholas Day. Krampus is just his pal whom he keeps around to scare/scar the bad kids, at least in Bavaria and Austria. Further north, we get the less interesting Knecht Ruprecht, while our Dutch neighbours get the controversial Zwarte Piet.

    In my part of Germany, St. Nicholas Day is also the traditional trick or treating night, i.e. kids go from house to house, sing a song or recite a poem and get treats. I had 25 kids at my door and actually ran out of chocolate.

    Regarding Christmas movies, I don’t dislike the list Peer posted as much as some others here and it has some good ones like A Muppets Christmas Carol, Christmas in Connecticut, Scrooged, Gremlins and Die Hard. I still like Love, Actually, too, though it seems to have fallen from grace in recent years.

    That said, Peer is right and We’re No Angels is sorely missing, as are the 1980 version of Little Lord Fauntleroy, starring Alec Guinness and Ricky Schroeder, and of course the Czech/German Christmas classic Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella.

    I’ve never gotten the intense love for It’s a Wonderful Life either. I’m not a huge Capra fan anyway and It’s a Wonderful Life is a basically a hymn to mediocrity, plus the alternate reality without James Stewart is actually a lot more interesting than the regular world. But I guess frequent exposure will gain a movie more love than it would otherwise have.

  31. @Cora Buhlert–

    I’ve never gotten the intense love for It’s a Wonderful Life either. I’m not a huge Capra fan anyway and It’s a Wonderful Life is a basically a hymn to mediocrity, plus the alternate reality without James Stewart is actually a lot more interesting than the regular world. But I guess frequent exposure will gain a movie more love than it would otherwise have.

    Not a hymn to mediocrity. A hymn to everyday decency. Stewart’s character doesn’t break heads or repel bullets, but his choice of doing the right thing whenever he has the choice, even when it’s hard, as when, as a kid, he has to tell the druggist he’s made a dangerous mistake, produces enormous good, and binds the community together. You may think there’s nothing heroic about stopping the run on the bank, but it keeps the community a lot better off than it would have been–and keeps people in their houses, who would have lost them.

    The alternate world without him may be more “interesting,” but it’s a hellhole to live in. When the movie was made, and still when it fell out of copyright for years, there were still a lot of people alive who remembered what it was like during the Great Depression, when pretty much everything failed, and people who’d worked all their lives, lost everything. The rich mostly had more cushion; it was working people who suffered.

    And it was people like Potter who tormented them, squeezing out their last pennies.

    That might be a better world to read about or watch a movie about, but you got to watch the movie about that world. It’s right there in the movie we got. And George Bailey is the genuine hero who triumphs over the genuine villain.

    Mediocre he’s not. Humble, yes. He doesn’t think he’s a hero, or anything special.

    But nobody else does what he does, and defeats the bloodsucker. A mediocre person couldn’t have done what George Bailey did.

    And I don’t want to live in a dystopia. Honestly, they’re not my favorite reading or viewing fare either.

    Give me a real hero like George Bailey, not some fool whose only tactic is beating people up. And tech is exciting and great–but only if you use it well.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I’m not glad we no longer have it on 24/7 from Thanksgiving to Christmas. 🙂

    But yeah, I love that movie. Sappy as it is.

  32. Lis, I love that movie too.

    I also love A CHRISTMAS STORY because it’s the opposite of nostalgia. Sure, we see the past through the eyes of a child, and guess what? It’s kind of stifling. Perhaps the devices of moviemaking give it an appealing gloss, but the car’s a disaster, the radiator’s a health hazard, their electricity is iffy, the kid is bullied, the dad doesn’t want to be bothered, and the important secret message from the Orphan Annie show turns out to be an ad. (This last is one of Jean Shepherd’s improvements on reality—in the real shows, the messages were usually related to plot points. MEET AT OLD MINE, which must have been a great way to get rid of excess children.)

    Shep didn’t tell stories of real life, though he probably touched on it. He made up tales to amuse, taking off from things he remembered, and they were amusing in a MAD Magazine way—as a litany of well-phrased gripes and complaints. In his nightly radio monologues, he would spin an hour or two of seemingly rambling tangents, until almost the moment “Bahn Frei” signaled the end of the show, when they would all miraculously converge in a way that boosted his curmudgeonly viewpoint.

    Speaking of nostalgic gloss, when I get to the end of this movie and see everybody relatively happy, warm, and safe in bed while the folks cuddle in the living room, I can’t help but recall one of the things I learned from Excelsior, You Fathead!, by Eugene B. Bergmann, an appreciation of Shepherd’s life and work:

    Just a year after the incidents of the movie THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN HEARTH, “the old man comes home, announces he’s leaving the family, and takes off for Palm Beach with a twenty-year-old stenographer with long blond hair and a Ford convertible. They never hear from him again.” [p 51] It was a lifelong trauma for Shepherd, and a strong enough one that it doesn’t show up in any of his fiction or ‘memoirs’ that I know of.

  33. @Lis – Only thing I didn’t like about It’s a Wonderful Life is the idea that George’s wife becomes a spinster librarian if he had never lived. She had other men interested in her, and I even think the fantasy story it was based on had her married unhappily to one of her other beaus. The movie version didn’t make sense.

  34. @Jayn
    I don’t like the spinster librarian bit either, if only because it implies that being an unmarried working woman is a horrible fate. An unhappy marriage to someone else would have worked much better.

    And while George is certainly well-meaning and a good person, while Sidney Greenstreet’s character is a horrible person, George granting loans to people who seem honest and hardworking, but have zero collaterals is not good financial practice at all. Of course, in the movie it all works out, but in the real world that sort of thing tends to cause foreclosures, bankruptcies and – if happening on a sufficiently large scale – financial crises just as often. Which doesn’t mean that every banker should be a “squeeze ’em till they bleed” type like Sidney Greensteet either, just that some financial prudence is a good thing. Not to mention the relative who loses the money.

    In general, Capra’s movies are very American, which is probably why they are so highly regarded in the US, but don’t work as well elsewhere. Interestingly, the one that’s best known outside the US – and also my favourite by him – is Arsenic and Old Lace, which doesn’t seem to be all that popular in the US.

  35. George Bailey makes loans not on “no collateteral,” or being a dewy-eyed idealist with no idea about financial prudence, but based on actually knowing his community and his customers, including who was in fact responsible and reliable. This was a big factor in how local banks operated in America well into my lifetime.

    And then the community banks started getting bought up, and decision-making moved further and further from the communities supposedly being “served.” Knowing the community and the customers was no longer a possible basis for anything the banks did.

    And Potter’s kind of decision-making, with the focus solely financial assets, with individual responsibility and reliability not possible to evaluate anymore, now excluded.

    And regulations got loosened, not tightened.


    Well, I’ll stop. No one cares how communities were damaged by “responsible” focus purely on measurable financial assets, right? Because that’s the right way to do it, when the only value is shareholder value.

    And yes, I do remember that, as our banks got swallowed up into ever-larger and more monstrous, being scolded that this was the way it had “always” been in Europe, and we should be happy we were finally starting to do it right. So maybe local community banks are completely outside your experience.

    But this consolidation hasn’t resulted in stronger banks. It has created too big to (be allowed) to fail banks.

    Bring back the George Baileys. Yeah, I know, can’t happen. And wouldn’t be allowed to if it could.

  36. Christmas movies 6, 7, and 8 on that list get shown every year around Christmas in the Bueller Burrow, along with Blackadder’s Christmas Carol. We also watch the traditional New Year’s films. (The second of those isn’t really a New Year’s movie, I think, but it’s always played on TV around then.) When we were in the States we’d catch George C. Scott as Scrooge, which at least for me is the version that holds up the best.

    As for It’s a Wonderful Life, due to family watching I was overdosed on it in my childhood and teen years and have no interest in seeing it again. It’s not a movie I hate or anything, but it’s very old hat. In general I’m not a great fan of Capra, whose movies generally rub me ever so slightly the wrong way–there’s a sappiness and tweeness to them that I don’t cotton to.

  37. @Lis – very well said. Also, It’s A Wonderful Life works just fine here in the cynical old UK. I get something caught in my eye every time I watch it.

  38. (7) BETTER WORLDS looks pretty neat! I look forward to it; that’s a pretty awesome list of authors, and I always look for optimistic stories.

    …now, how do I sign up for updates…?

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