Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

(1) THESE AREN’T THE PRACTITIONERS WE’RE LOOKING FOR. A Jedi group was unable to convince the UK’s Charity Commission that they are a religion reports The Guardian — “Jedi order fails in attempt to register as religious group”.

A Star Wars-inspired organisation has failed to use the force of its arguments to convince the charity watchdog that it should be considered a religious organisation.

The Temple of the Jedi Order, members of which follow the tenets of the faith central to the Star Wars films, sought charitable status this year, but the Charity Commission has ruled that it does not meet the criteria for a religion under UK charity law.

The commission wrote that Jediism “lacks the necessary spiritual or non-secular element” it was looking for in a religion.

The Temple of the Jedi Order was an “entirely web-based organisation and the Jedi are predominantly, if not exclusively, an online community,” the commission noted. There was “insufficient evidence that moral improvement is central to the beliefs and practices of [the group].”

(2) A SWING STATE’S VIEW OF ROGUE ONE. John Scalzi shares his reactions to the new movie and its marketing strategy in “Rogue One, or, the Disneyfication of Star Wars is Complete (and This is a Good Thing)”. There are no spoilers in the review, however beware the comments where spoilers are allowed.

And this random dude in Piqua, Ohio was absolutely correct: Disney yet again did not fuck up Star Wars. In fact, for two films running the folks at Disney have produced two really top-notch Star Wars films, a feat that has not been managed in thirty-five years — or possibly ever, depending on whether you believe the original Star Wars, as epochal as it undeniably was, is actually good, which given its pastiche-heavy, merely-serviceable plot and script, and leaden acting and direction, is debatable. The Disneyfication of the Star Wars universe is now complete, and this is a good thing. As I’ve noted before, Disney, for all its sins, consistently drives to entertain, and drives to entertain intelligently, meaning that it doesn’t see its audience as a mark but as a partner. Disney gives us thrills and fun, and we give them money, and wait for the cycle to repeat, as it does, consistently.

Yes, fine, Scalzi, but how is the film itself? Well, Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars films, consistently darker and more adult than any since Empire and really the first where I, at least, didn’t feel like the potential additions to the merchandising lines were a key driver of story (hello, BB-8, adorable as you are).

(3) HE’S NOT ACTUALLY FEELING BETTER. Washington Post writer Michael Cavna, in “One of the best performances in ‘Rogue One’ is by an actor who died in 1994”, looks at how Peter Cushing is “acting” in Rogue One despite being dead for decades and how this could lead the way for other dead actors to make posthumous comebacks.

This all feels like an organic continuation of what some of the sharpest minds at Lucasfilm/ILM/Disney-Pixar et al. (including effects veteran/ILM executive John Knoll) have been pushing toward since at least the dawn of the ’80s, as the digital milestones began to come fast and furious. The power to manipulate the pixel forever beckons the imagination now, and 2016 has put the state of that long, Jedi-like journey on distinct display.

After all, Disney even gave us a scene this year in which Robert Downey Jr., looking like his ’80s-era self, registers as mostly real in “Captain America: Civil War,” even if the CGI tweaks of a motion-capture performance can still be distracting when involving a too-human countenance.

(4) COMPARATIVE IMPORTANCE. Some people review the story, some the marketing, some the effects, some the film’s rank in the hierarchy of quality. Here’s what John C. Wright reviews, in “Rogue One (Spoiler Free Review)”.

I freely confess I had precisely zero interest in seeing this film, but a friend who was visiting for the evening came by, and we talked each other into going to see it.

I was very pleasantly surprised. This was a good film.

As with many a film of late, my main reluctance was fear of some Leftwing sucker punch. Far too many shows I used to watch had the habit of pausing the action for a Two Minute Hate against all I hold dear, like a satanic version of a Public Service Announcement.

I had heard from several sources that the cast starred no white males except as villains, and I had even heard that the writer did this deliberate as a message to express hatred for America in general and for all Conservatives in particular. His vision was to portray the Empire as Trump-supporting, Make the Galaxy Great Again, White Supremacist Patriarchs, and the rebellion as the multi-culti proletarians rising up against their oppressors. Therefore this film had all the earmarks of being just one more  bit of Lefteroo Hate-Whitey bigot-prop, like Disney’s POCAHONTAS.

My misgivings turned out to be entirely unfounded.

I was a little surprised that the main male protagonist was Caucasian, and for a while I wondered what the writer’s comment that there were no Caucasians among the protagonists. The actor is named Deigo Luna.  I had not remembered (because I am not a psychiatrist) that in the delusional world-system of the Left, Spaniards are not considered to be from Europe hence are not considered Caucasians. Spaniards are considered by the Left to be oppressed by Whites, and are not considered, for some reason, to be responsible for the introduction of black slaves to the New World. Go figure.

So, there is no pro-Left nor anti-White nor Anti-West message in this film. If the film makers meant there to be one, they failed miserably.

(5) MEASURING AUTHOR POPULARITY. Today, John Ringo posted a “Redshirt call” on Facebook.

To explain for people who haven’t seen this before, I just need a name. Just post “Me” in the comments. If you’ve been named before please don’t post. One of the first comments wins. I may go back to it for subsequent names. No guarantees of how much ‘screen’ time you get. May or may not die. (Right now, probably falls into ‘won’t’.) I’m the final judge and there is no appeal.


One hour later 496 volunteers had left comments.

(6) PUT ANOTHER CANDLE ON THE INTERNET. Congratulations to Ethan Mills whose Examined Worlds is celebrating its second blog-iversary.  

I started this blog primarily as a place to post philosophically-enriched reviews of all the science fiction books I was reading.  I figured I spent so much time reviewing books on Goodreads (check out my Goodreads profile!) that I might as well make a blog out of them.  While I primarily blog on science fiction and philosophy, I have strayed into other territories, especially politics both within and without science fiction fandom and academia.  See My Favorite Posts for some of the posts I’ve found particularly enjoying or fulfilling to write.

(7) THEN IT’S NOT MY PROBLEM. Annalee Newitz deconstructs the Blade Runner 2049 teaser trailer for Ars Technica.

Then the scene shifts to a glowing red landscape, perhaps in a heavily polluted desert outside LA. We get to see Ryan Gosling’s Officer K, looking tough and cool in his knee-length leather jacket, because global warming shouldn’t stop the fashion train. There’s a haunting image of a giant (replicant?) head on the ground, which seems like it might be a reference to some of the images from the famously trippy 1973 sci-fi movie Fantastic Planet.

Officer K is trying to solve a mystery that takes him right to the mysterious lair of Deckard, who has apparently been missing for decades. It almost looks like Deckard is living in a spiffed-up version of Sebastian’s home for broken replicants in the first film.

Mark-kitteh says of the trailer, “I think there needs to be a mashup where Harrison Ford says ‘Chewie, we’re home.’”

(8) PARAGRAVITY COMICS. Stephen Haffner of the Haffner Press is now shipping the comic strip collection Beyond Mars, written by Jack Williamson, artwork by Lee Elias, edited and designed by Dean Mullaney, with an introduction by Bruce Canwell. The 160-page full-color hardcover is $55

Drawn from the same setting of Jack Williamson’s novels SEETEE SHIP and SEETEE SHOCK, BEYOND MARS takes place 200 years in the future, when a new force—paragravity—has enabled men to live and breathe on the asteroids. The strip stars Mike Flint, a spatial engineer who lives on Brooklyn Rock, an asteroid “beyond Mars.” With Sam, his green-skinned metallic partner from Venus, Flint gets involved in a series of lighthearted adventures, battling space pirates, teaming up with beautiful and strong-minded women, and dealing with addicts of the mysterious drug called “star dust.” The restored color is outstanding and the artwork is creative and imaginative. Bruce Canwell contributes a wonderful introduction, putting this in the context of early 1950s science fiction. The book also includes original art by Lee Elias on other features like Black Cat, Terry & the Pirates and Tommy Tomorrow.

(9) DARMOK AND JELAD AT THE MANGA. Brigid Alverson of B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog calls out “The Best New Manga Series of 2016”.

Whatever you say about the balance of 2016, it was a good year for manga. Publishers expanded their lines in all different directions, bringing us new titles from popular creators as well as interesting debuts from newcomers. The category has grown richer than ever before, with more manga for more tastes. Here’s a look at 15 of the best series that launched in the past year.

Princess Jellyfish, by Akiko Higashimura The women who live in the Amamizu-kan boardinghouse are fans (otaku) of very specific things: Trains, jellyfish, kimonos, The Records of the Three Kingdoms. They’re happily nerdy together, but they freeze whenever they run up against someone stylish, and members of the opposite sex are out of the question—in fact, they call themselves the “amars” (nuns). So it’s a huge shock to Tsukimi, the jellyfish fanatic, when a stylish girl helps her rescue a jellyfish—and an even bigger shock when the girl turns out to be a boy. Not just any boy, though: Kuranosuke is the younger son of a wealthy, politically connected family, and although he dresses as a woman to dodge any notion that he would go into politics himself, he understands how things work. When a developer announces plans to buy and raze Amamizu-kan, Kuranosuke helps the amars glam up to do battle. Meanwhile, Tsukimi has caught the eye of Kuranosuke’s nerdy older brother, and the attraction is mutual—but he doesn’t realize the beautiful girl he encountered at the jellyfish tank in the aquarium and the dowdy amar in sweats are the same person. Princess Jellyfish puts a uniquely manga spin on some classic rom-com tropes, and the result is a refreshingly funny story about fashion, politics, and extreme nerdiness….

(10) DARNED NEAR THE BEST. Pornokitsch’s array of contributors have assembled an eclectic and far-reaching list of things they liked or nearly liked — “Pornokitsch’s Absolute and Definitive Guide To The Best of Everything in 2016”. Here’s one example —


The Dead Rabbit Drinks Manual. From the founders of one of New York’s most celebrated cocktail meccas, this book is part mixologist’s handbook, part all-American tale of two Irish boys making it in the Big Apple (complete with Gangs of New York reference). Be warned: the list of ingredients sometimes read more like a scavenger’s hunt than a recipe, but if you’re prepared to put in the work, you’ll be rewarded.

Hibernacula. My favourite thing about NYCC this year was visiting this jewelry shop on a tip from Seanan McGuire. I was lucky to come away only a few hundred dollars lighter in the wallet, not because the fantasy-inspired designs are so expensive, but because there are just so damn many of them I want to buy. I settled for a silver ring inspired by Castiel of Supernatural, plus this Cthulhu-friendly pendant. I’m still dreaming about commissioning a piece based on the Bloodbound novels, because garnet studded jewelry would be the best.

Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails. If you’re a fan of Ticket to Ride – and really, who isn’t – you should definitely check out the latest release in the franchise. Not only is it two games in one, with a world side of the board and a Great Lakes side, it’s got enough twists and extra layers of strategy to keep even the most hardened T2R veterans on their toes.

Read what villains Erin liked (and didn’t) in 2016. Or, better yet, read The Bloodsworn, the awesome conclusion to her epic fantasy trilogy

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

128 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 12/19/16 Rock-Paper-Pixel!

  1. @ Kurt: JCW also seems to be misinformed as to which side of the aisle those claims are coming from.

    @ Soon Lee: I once had someone ask if I was willing to be Tuckerized. Unfortunately, the character he was thinking of using my name for tied into some bad memories, so I declined. Still flattered to have been asked, though!

    @ Hampus: What you’re missing here is that in right-wing America there is no such thing as a “Spaniard”. They’re all “Meskins” and most of them are “illegals”. And no, they’re not considered white by RWAs. Where the “Spaniards are not from Europe” thing comes from I have no idea.

  2. (4) Curiously, this was the most useful JCW post that I have read to date. His take on cinematography, set design, fit within the SW universe, etc. has me looking forward to seeing the movie (even more). The observation that the movie apparently doesn’t make the sadly routine Hollywood mistake of shoe-horning* in some typically leftish message is a bonus!

    I do find it amusing that JCW would complain about politics in SW in the first place given that Mr. Lucas envisioned the Empire to be the United States and the rebel alliance to represent communist Vietnam in the first place.

    The rest of the identity politics tango inspires a rant that runs far a field from the parochial interests of SFF.

    You are welcome.


    *Yes, political commentary belongs in SFF. Just not at the expense of making an entertaining movie/book/etc.

  3. Since we’re mentioning Tuckerization, I’ll brag that I’ve been Tuckerized three times. Twice by Jo Walton in her Small Change trilogy: the second and third volumes each include a butler named Goldfarb. (One of them was spontaneous, the other was a result of a charity auction.) The third was in the comic “Legion of Super-Heroes”, where I lent my name to a prison asteroid.

    There’s also a major character in Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series named “David Goldfarb”; however that one was not Tuckerization but coincidence. I did have a lot of fun showing people the inside front cover blurb of the first volume’s paperback, which happened to be one of his scenes.

  4. @Peer and Hampus
    I was also mightily confused the first time I came across the term “Caucasian” in the US, on a form where they expected me to check my race.

    “Ahem, sorry, but none of these choice fit.”
    “Check Caucasian.”
    “But I’m not from the Caucasus. And why do you need to know this anyway?”

  5. ‘Twas the night before Pixel, and all through the Scroll, not a creature was Filing, not even a troll….

  6. @ Dann: given that Mr. Lucas envisioned the Empire to be the United States and the rebel alliance to represent communist Vietnam in the first place

    Wow. No comment to make; I just wanted to admire the sheer baseless out-there-ness of that statement. “Nothing to see here, moving right along…”

  7. I just wanted to admire the sheer baseless out-there-ness of that statement. “Nothing to see here, moving right along…”

    It’s in there, but without the thuddingly-literal connections Dann reduces it to.

    More like the Emperor was inspired by Nixon, and the Rebellion’s tactics and approach were playing off the Viet Cong (was were the Ewoks). But that doesn’t imply that these characters “represent” those bits of history straight up, more that they’re pieces of historical inspiration used out of their original context, and mixed in with other bits of other history. It’s not like Lucas was trying to say that the Knights Templar were allied with the Viet Cong…


  8. Kurt Busiek: That “real history that inspired Star Wars” should also have mentioned the Japanese history behind Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film Hidden Fortress, one of Lucas’ acknowledged sources.

  9. Mike: Possibly, but that’s kind of a two-step remove. Kurosawa was referencing the history, Lucas was referencing Kurosawa.

    But it’s certainly part of the mix, you bet.

  10. I would not, could not, in a cup!
    I would not, could not, with a pup!
    I would not scroll it with a dial!
    I would not scroll it in a file!

  11. @ Kurt: Fascinating — thanks for that link! So, in effect, claiming that the Empire is supposed to represent America and the Rebel Alliance the Viet Cong is akin to claiming that Sauron represents Hitler and Gondor represents the Allies; it’s a great over-simplification of a much more complex mix of influences. (Not to mention that the American Colonial forces in the Revolutionary War also made use of guerilla tactics against the British, and for the same reason — they were badly overmatched in a straight-up battle.)

  12. Weird dreams last night, rooted in anxiety. Not, fortunately, a repeat of the one where I’m drowning.

    Got moving in time to get to my therapy appointment, and then came home, sat on the couch, and at some point fell asleep. Dogs,woke me up when they decided it was time for me to initiate suppertime activities.

    And lo, there is a Scroll I missed last night!

    Had fun with the Open Road free sf, even though I haven’t managed to mention it till now.

    JCW is so confused…

    Most non-Americans, most of the time, are best off not trying to suss out the construction of ethnic identity in the US. Just don’t call people from the former Confederate states Yankees, and that “Oriental” refers to things but not people, and ignore the rest. Most forms that do ask for ethnic identity include a “decline to say option.”

    And…dang. Sounds like I should avoid Rogue One for now. 🙁

    Will be selling off a good bit of my print sf collection in January. Getting money for the books will be far more useful than paying to store them, and the truth is my hands don’t like handling the weight and size of print books anymore.

    I’ll stop rambling now.

  13. @David Langford: I really did LOL at the Newsthump piece, thanks, especially when I hit the last line. The whole bit is highly amusing. 😀 Also, I learned something new: My computer knows “Jedi” is a proper noun, so if I don’t cap the “j,” autocorrect (when active) does it for me.

    @David Goldfarb: Nice! My other half won a Tuckerization auction at a small con to be in a late Myth Adventures book by/co-by Jody Lynn Nye, but he and the author lost touch; his name was used, no personal details matched. (grin&shrug – no one’s fault)

    @Cassy B.: “‘Twas the night before Pixel, and all through the Scroll, not a creature was Filing, not even a troll….” – 😀

  14. Who do you have to scroll around here to get a pixel?

    (Inspired by the regular drink appertaining hereabouts.)

  15. My house was tuckerized in more than one of Charlie Stross’ Laundry Files. We now have a tentacle coming out the wall at the top of the stairs…

  16. I’ve been Tuckerized by David Gerrald. In Leaping to the Stars I was a schoolkid answering a question (correctly!) in class.

    He asked my permission to write me in as a geographical feature in some future work… as in, “We went walking along Cassy Beach and watched the tide come in….” but I don’t know whether he ever got around to that.

  17. 3) Lawrence Olivier in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow comes to mind also. @steve d. That software project would be a cool post on Amazing.

  18. 3) Not entirely the same thing, but Terence Stamp was in a British crime movie in 1999 called The Limey playing a retired criminal. They wanted to have a flashback to his younger days, so they took footage from film Terence Stamp starred in back in 1967 and just kind of inserted it into The Limey.

  19. I’ve been tuckerized by Jon C Grinwood in one of his alternate history Venice novels, by John C Lambshead in a space opera, and by Teresa Frohock in a horror/fantasy short story.

  20. @Joe H (and steve d): replacing actors with their recordings was at most peripheral to The Starcrossed; IIRC, at the end somebody says it might be possible and somebody else says they’ll be lynched if that is said publicly. The tech gimmick is improved 3D TV — which gets used on a horrendously awful show (borrowing from Bova’s experiences with The Starlost).

  21. I nearly got Tuckerized by Randall Garrett once, but he decided I wasn’t a believable enough character. 🙂

    @Soon Lee: I was going to mention Connie Willis’ Remake as well, Exactly what I thought of when I first heard about the ghost actor in R1. The questions raised in that book are going to become increasingly important, even if (from what I hear–haven’t seen R1 yet) the technology is still a bit lacking at present, compared to what Willis envisioned. Still, dead actors actually competing with live ones for roles can’t be far off.

  22. And I forgot to tick the box.

    I Think We’re All Pixels on This Bus.

    Don’t Crush That Pixel, Hand Me the Scrolls.

  23. Boston Legal did a clever cut to a William Shatner TV movie with Ralph Bellamy to show a pivotal moment in the young Denny Crane’s life. Rather cleverly done.

  24. “Just don’t call people from the former Confederate states Yankees…”

    In Sweden, Yankee used to be shorthand for american. 🙂 Also the shorthand for an old american car. We’ve still got a large subculture around those cars.


    I think we’ve got the largest gathering of old american cars every year. Around 10 000 cars and 20 times that people visiting.

  25. @Hampus: “In Sweden, Yankee used to be shorthand for american.”

    An identity which, you’ll recall, the Confederate states rather pointedly rejected.

    I inhabit the state that joined the CSA last and left it first, unless you count West Virginia’s double-secession trick. Down here, “Yankee” means “Northerner,” as in “someone from a non-CSA state, especially the New England region.” Calling someone a Yankee isn’t quite the insult it once was, but it’s still up there.

    As a “blue dot” in this bloody red state, I find it both amusing and frightening that these people, out of everyone, have the “America, love it or leave it” and “Trump won, get over it” attitudes. There’s just something blackly funny about the ability to hate Obama for eight solid years, slap a bumper sticker on your truck proclaiming that the South will rise again, and then claim that the people who lost an election less than two months ago are immature for not being deliriously happy with the result. It’s as if introspection is an utterly alien concept to them.

  26. In Sweden, Yankee used to be shorthand for american. ? Also the shorthand for an old american car. We’ve still got a large subculture around those cars.

    Sure, Hampus.

    But being “right” in your own mind won’t change the reaction you get when you call someone from the former CSA a Yankee. It’s one of those Don’t Do It things, almost the only bit of American ethnic identity that you actually need to know, rather than just be aware that terms may not mean here what they mean in British English.

    And Europeans, especially British but Europeans generally, are the least likely to be granted a pass based on assumed ignorance.

    I have a nephew who’s a Texan, who if called a Yankee, being the intelligent and calm guy he is, will smile indulgently and say “No, but I have two aunts who are.” 😉

  27. To be honest, we don’t say yankee. We say “jänkare”. And I guess you won’t notice when we use the word, because we will be speaking in Swedish. 😛

    I guess you will have more problem with Japan where Yankee is slang for youth criminal.

  28. @Kurt

    Thanks for doing the digging for the link. You are quite correct to suggest that there is quite a bit more nuance involved when discussing that particular aspect of Mr. Lucas’ inspiration.

    My only point was that politics were a factor in his creation and therefore it shouldn’t be surprising to find it cropping up from time to time.

    Mr. Lucas’ craft at broader storytelling is so superb that any specific political commentary was easily overlooked in favor of the more entertaining aspects of the movie. That is a trick that Hollywood productions frequently attempt and fail.

    Which is the basis for JCW’s comment.


  29. To be honest, we don’t say yankee. We say “jänkare”. And I guess you won’t notice when we use the word, because we will be speaking in Swedish. ?

    Heh. Yes, it’s only a problem if you’re talking to an American southerner. 😉

    I guess you will have more problem with Japan where Yankee is slang for youth criminal.

    I think our CSA diehards would consider that just about right. 😀

  30. 9: New manga: Some good stuff on there, but some of it stretches the meaning of “new” (making is specifically “new in an official English translation.) Goodnight Punpun, for example (which I highly recommend) had it’s first volume published in 2007 and has finished it’s 13 volume run. Nichijou (also highly recommended, but highly weird) is on volume 10 (and still going, as far as I know.)

    A manga that I read yesterday (that isn’t on the list) is one of the best that I’ve read in a long time. Terrarium in Drawer, it is a collection of short stories. The title story is only 3 pages long, and a worth one to look at for a sample of the stories (but this one features a SJW credential, and RedWombat should appreciate this one, and this one features a cute bit of over-zealous world building….)

  31. Someone (Elizabeth bear?) has a whole sequence describing the meaning of Yankee: if you’re from outside the US, it means people in America, if you’re inside the US it means people from the Northeastern quarter or so, if you’re from the Northeast, it means people from these specific states, if you’re from those states, it means…

    And this is not wrong, even if people from the former Confederate states would consider it fighting words. “Yankee go home” graffiti in Britain wasn’t meant to imply any visiting ex-Confederate-States visitors were ok…

  32. @Lenora Rose–

    Yes indeed. It’s not wrong in context; it’s just useful for non-Americans to know, if they’re visiting the US, that here it’s not a term that can be safely applied to Americans generically–and the phrase “you Yankees” or “you Yanks” should probably never pass their lips outside the New England states.

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