Pixel Scroll 3/27/19 One Singularity Sensation

Tardy Scroll today because I logged a lot of time on the road attending my sister-in-law’s sumptuous birthday dinner.

(1) THE NOSTROMO LANDS IN NEW JERSEY. New York Times theater reporter Dave Itzkoff tells why “High School ‘Alien’ Production Wins Internet Raves”.

There are those perennial stage works that are perfectly suited to be performed in high schools across the country every year: say, “Our Town,” “The Crucible,” “Annie” or “The Wizard of Oz.”

And now, to this canon, you might add “Alien.”

A New Jersey high school has found itself the unexpected recipient of online acclaim and viral attention for its recent stage production of “Alien,” the 1979 science-fiction thriller.

“Alien: The Play,” presented last weekend by the drama club of North Bergen High School, starred a cast of eight students in the film roles originally played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm.

(2) SWING AND MISS. BBC samples critical reaction: “Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake fails to fly with many film critics”.

Tim Burton’s reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo has failed to dazzle many film critics ahead of its release on Friday.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave the film one star, calling it “pointlessly complicated and drawn out”.

In his two-star review, The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin said it “has to be counted as a failure”.

…The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney declared his new version of Dumbo a “frustratingly uneven picture” that “holds the attention but too seldom tugs at the heartstrings”.

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said it “transforms a miraculous tale into a routine story by weighing it down with a lot of nuts and bolts it didn’t need”.

Other critics found it more endearing. Empire’s Ben Travis awarded it four stars, calling it “an enchanting blend of Disney twinkle and Tim Burton’s dark whimsy”.

(3) VINTAGE PAPERBACK SHOW. Gregory Benford added this photo of Alice and Marty Massoglia to our coverage of Sunday’s LA Vintage Paperback Show.

(4) THE HOLE TRUTH. Remember when the space shuttle Endeavour cruised past this place on its way to the California Science Center? LAist says its now part of a growing chain: “Randy’s Donuts Is About To Get A Hole Lot Bigger”

In October 2014, Mark Kelegian got lucky. Really lucky.

He was browsing BizBuySell.com, a public business sales website, when he stumbled across a listing for an unnamed restaurant. There were no details except that it was well-known and originally built in the 1960s.

Kelegian, a retired lawyer, assumed it was one of L.A.’s old school Jewish deli’s, maybe Canter’s or Langer’s. He dialed the number on the listing and a young broker picked up. She said the mystery restaurant was Randy’s, the 24-hour drive-through donut shop that also happens to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in Los Angeles.

He bought it on the spot. At $2 million, it was a steal.

For the next three months, Kelegian says his office received over 100 phone calls from angry investors.

“Everyone in L.A. wanted to buy Randy’s first,” he says. “Most of the calls went something like, ‘Son of a bitch!'”

(5) MORE ON HOLLYN. The LA Times obituary “Norman Hollyn, USC professor, film editor who worked on ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ dies at 66”, published March 21, includes a statement from his wife, Janet Conn, and more details about his recent speaking trip.


[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1914 Richard Denning, He made appearances in such Fifties genre films as Creature From The Black Lagoon, Creature With The Atom BrainThe Black Scorpion and The Day the World Ended. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 77. I remember him in the Babylon 5 episode “A Late Delivery from Avalon” as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what in his genre list really impresses you?
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 50. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series so I’ve no I idea what it was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 48. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He portrayed Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: Doom, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 66. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including  Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones  in what are  listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’. 
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he went back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see Iimdb link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)

(7) ATTENTION CAT-OWNING WRITERS. Lifehacker advises: “Get a Decoy Keyboard for Your Cat to Enjoy”.

This maneuver—which I saw on my mom’s clinic’s Facebook page (she’s a veterinarian)—is quite clever. Old keyboards are super cheap—find them at Goodwill or any thrift store with an electronic section—and having one on hand lets your cat do what it enjoys (be super in the way) without actually being in the way. Heck, I might buy a couple to place in various locations around my apartment, just to see what sticks.

Of course, this presumes you writers aren’t secretly hoping for feline work interruptions.

(8) SPACE RACE REDUX. Veep associates himself with manned Moon mission idea: “US aims for humans on Moon in five years”.

US Vice-President Mike Pence has said he wants Nasa to return astronauts to the Moon within five years.

Referencing China’s recent successful robotic mission to the far side, he said: “We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s.”

Nasa had already been planning to return to the Moon, but Mr Pence’s announcement accelerates the timeline.

He was speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

“It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years,” Mr Pence told the audience.

“Just as the United States was the first nation to reach the Moon in the 20th Century, so too, we will be the first nation to return astronauts to the Moon in the 21st Century.”

(9) CLUES.  “Three-unique-words ‘map’ used to rescue mother and child” – discover how. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a note, “Good tech details further down. Not covered: whether there are non-English wordmaps for non-English speakers — who are a major part of the intended beneficiaries.”

Three seemingly unconnected words have helped rescue a mother and daughter after a car crash in remote rural Somerset.

The “coordinates” – “weekend”, “foggy” and “earphones” – allowed police to exactly pinpoint their location.

An algorithm developed by start-up what3words divides the world into 57 trillion nine-sq-m (97-sq-ft) areas and gives each a unique three-word address.

The technology has been adopted by a number of emergency services in the UK.

It was originally devised to help the millions of people in remote and impoverished areas who do not have a postcode gain an address for the first time. In turn that would allow them to apply for services and goods.

But the location system has also gained the attention of emergency services and has recently been adopted by Avon and Somerset, Humberside and West Yorkshire police services, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire fire and rescue services and the British Transport Police.

(10) DON’T BE EVIL REDUX. “Google announces AI ethics panel” – BBC has the story.

Google has launched a global advisory council to offer guidance on ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence, automation and related technologies.

The panel consists of eight people and includes former US deputy secretary of state, and a University of Bath associate professor.

The group will “consider some of Google’s most complex challenges”, the firm said.

The panel was announced at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital, a conference organised the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Google has come under intense criticism – internally and externally – over how it plans to use emerging technologies.

In June 2018 the company said it would not renew a contract it had with the Pentagon to develop AI technology to control drones. Project Maven, as it was known, was unpopular among Google’s staff, and prompted some resignations.

In response, Google published a set of AI “principles” it said it would abide by. They included pledges to be “socially beneficial’ and “accountable to people”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Gregory Benford, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

37 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/27/19 One Singularity Sensation

  1. I was at milk.such.opera

    In the doge version of what3words, this is of course “such.opera.very.milk”

  2. James Moar on March 28, 2019 at 2:19 am said:

    I was at milk.such.opera

    In the doge version of what3words, this is of course “such.opera.very.milk”

    Interestingly opera.such.milk is on the other side of the world (near Chelmsford in England). Such.opera.milk is in Memphis. Getting the words in the right order is important if you otherwise don’t know what part of the world you are in (presumably done this way as you would usually know where you are in terms of hemisphere).

  3. I remember him in the Babylon 5 episode “A Late Delivery from Avalon” as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling

    In our Skiffy and Fanty Babylon 5 rewatch (we recorded the episode last night), we’re up to Sic Transit Vir…which is the episode before this one.

    :Re: One Singularity Sensation

    Fun fact. Years and years and years after I attended PS 22, they became moderately famous for their5th grade chorus.


    But when I was in 5th grade, we serenaded our School Principal with a rendition of “One”.

  4. It’s not genre, but Michael York is fantastic as Tybalt in the Zefferelli Romeo and Juliet. And my wife thought he looked great in boating trousers (?) in The Riddle of the Sands (which is arguably right on the edge of genre, as a story of an averted German invasion).

  5. ///file.seven.seventy isn’t a valid address in the system but it’s evil twin “///bile.seven.seven” is somewhere in Germany https://map.what3words.com/bile.seven.seven?utm_source=w3w&utm_medium=owned&utm_campaign=B2C_4561_W3_Pt_Map-Site_Org_WO_en_Main-Site-Explore-Map

    But people might want to look and see where ///science.fiction.books is.

    bile.seven.seven isn’t even all that far away from me, only about a hundred kilometres. If I ever come that way, I might visit it and snap a photo.

  6. @6: York’s vaguely appropriate performance as a not-very-intelligent semi-jerk may be one of the least objectionable things about Logan’s Run. I don’t count his Musketeers movies as genre (these are the traditional ones, not the *punk 1993 version with Kiefer Sutherland), and certainly not Cabaret (which may have been his best leading performance); possibly his best performance in genre (looking through the IMDB credits) is the uncredited Ape #1 in Spaceballs — that oh-no-not-again sneer hits the spot — but I won’t argue with @Paul Weimer’s choice as I’ve only seen one episode of B5

  7. (10) The BBC story doesn’t mention it, but the makeup of the ethics panel is getting criticism. I’ve seen some on History of Science & Tech Twitter, and MIT Technology Review hits some of the highlights. The tl;dr is “srsly, drones and the Heritage Foundation?”

  8. Michael York was wonderful as the wonderfully named Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers movies.

  9. @soon lee I am put in mind of the infocom game INFIDEL…where if you didn’t have the physical map (i.e if you pirated the game) , good luck distinguishing which of the numerous desert squares is the one where the pyramid is…

  10. 9) Having read the article, I’m not sure how the three word system is better than the existing lattitude/longitude coordinates system. Is it just that its easier for people to read and say without errors?

  11. @bookworm
    that, and it’s an easy system to use/remember where you are – good for non-technical types. Lat/long is a lot of numbers to read and say, especially in an emergency where you don’t know how long you have to communicate.

  12. (9) The driveway to my home has the address:

    Given my interest in fan history, this seems appropriate.

  13. (1) Ridley Scott wrote a nice letter to the theater department that put on Alien.

    (6) Michael York was Vertigo in a pretty trippy episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

    No one ever wants to scroll a pixel, though a pixel does her best
    Some Folks’ Lives Scroll Easy
    Pixels on the Scrolls of Her Shoes
    Scrollin’ Up to the Pixel in the Sky

  14. Thanks for the link, P.J.

    Part of my reaction to this (along with “that’s a cool photo”) was that solar sails are not efficient, because the story says the asteroid may have been spinning up for as much as 100 million years before those bits reached escape velocity.

  15. @Vicki: I think it’s another example of an inefficient natural phenomenon that can be made quite efficient when artificially designed to be so.

  16. Soon Lee on March 28, 2019 at 1:26 pm said:
    ///pixel.scroll.comment is in the middle of nowhere in Australia.


    Or Dave Freer. Oh god I hope we’re not all Dave Freer.

  17. @Vicki Rosenzweig: depends on what you mean by “efficient”. Low-energy, yes; from Clarke onward, solar sails have been depicted as incredibly thin and requiring a huge area to move a modest mass. But since the energy is all free for effectively unlimited time, ISTM that the efficiency might be considered to be infinitely beyond any of our current systems.

  18. (9) Some day when I’m feeling bored, I may map out the couple dozen word-sets that fall on my property and decide which one(s) I like best. And my place isn’t actually that big.

    I can definitely see how it could be useful for micro-locating people — at least with whatever precision one’s mobile device allows. And as P.J. Evans noted above, it’s easier to communicate three words clearly in a stressful emergency situation than to manage strings of longitude/latitude digits.

  19. Chip Hitchcock on March 28, 2019 at 8:13 pm said:

    from Clarke onward, solar sails have been depicted as incredibly thin and requiring a huge area to move a modest mass

    Well, except in an especially idiotic episode of DS9.

  20. My apartment building contains activism.drums.sushi, magic.harp.went, robot.song.rescue, and wrong.books.tapes. (That last one feels a little judgy.)

  21. Lat/long is a lot of numbers to read and say

    It’s also a system that gives a plausible-but-wrong result easily if there’s a slip in communication, while a wrong what3words value will give a clearly invalid or implausible result in those circumstances.

  22. @Darren Garrison: possibly I should have been clearer that the depiction is not universal; I’m pretty sure Reynolds’s Shadow Captain also underestimates the amount of sail needed to move a heavily-armed ship. But I think there have been enough reasonably accurate depictions to give most people the understanding that sunlight on a bit of solid rock — even a small bit — isn’t going to move it very far.

  23. Yes, “solar sails are slow” would be a better way of putting that. Also, geology has a lot of time to work with.

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