Pixel Scroll 3/26/17 May You Dream Of Large Pixels

(1) WUT. WIRED has a bad feeling about this: “Only You Can Stop The Expanse From Becoming the Next Canceled Sci-Fi Classic”

Syfy’s epic space show The Expanse is a smash hit among science fiction fans, drawing praise from websites like io9 and Ars Technica and from celebrities like Adam Savage. Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley also loves the show.

“This is my favorite show on TV,” Kirtley says in Episode 248 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “This is the most serious science fiction TV show—in terms of what hardcore science fiction fans would want in a TV show—that I’ve seen in a long time, possibly ever.”

But while the show is widely praised in many corners, it has yet to attract a wider audience. John J. Joex, who tracks the ratings of various shows over at Cancelled Sci Fi, says that The Expanse looks like a show headed for cancellation.

“The ratings started out decent and then really dropped off,” he says. “And I know this is an expensive series to produce, so I was really getting kind of nervous about it.”

(2) TECH PREDICTIONS. There’s a touch of Ray Bradbury in “Interactive! The Exhibition” at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum through April 16:

Interactive! is a large-scale, hands-on examination of how popular culture in movies, books, TV, and the arts has influenced modern technology and changed the ways we live, work, move, connect and play. In addition to a wide variety of “hands-on” experiences, including Oculus Rift virtual reality, interactive robots, the driverless car, multiple gaming stations, remote control drones, 3D printing stations and more, Reagan Library visitors will also get up close to some of science fiction’s most iconic characters, including a roving, interactive R2D2 from Star Wars, a T-800 endoskeleton from The Terminator, and a full-size Alien from the Alien films. The exhibit also showcases the creative inspiration behind legendary innovators such a Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Walt Disney.

  • Over a dozen immersive games await, including Virtual Reality Gaming by Oculus Rift, robotic arm interactives, 80’s gaming stations and more.
  • Create and compose your own musical masterpiece.
  • Seek out resources on Mars with a remote-control version of the rover from the hit film The Martian.
  • Get up close with the first ever 3D printed car, by Local Motors.
  • Examine communications from the landline rotary telephone and VCR to smartphones.
  • Check out jetpacks, Marty McFly’s hoverboard and even meet Baxter the robot!
  • And much more!

This exhibit is great for museum guests of all ages – from the young, to the young at heart!

(3) VISIONS OF BEAUTY. Jane Frank has remodeled her WOW-art (Worlds of Wonder) website.

She’s also offering Un-Hinged! A Fantastic Psychedelic Coloring Book with All Original Designs by Mike Hinge through Amazon.

(4) ONE THUMB UP. David Sims of The Atlantic finds “’Life’ Is a Fun, Joltingly Scary Creature Feature in Space”.

Daniel Espinosa’s new horror film stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds as astronauts fighting a hostile alien…

Any reasonable creature feature worth its bones should have, on balance, about half a dozen scenes where a character makes a patently illogical decision. Just discovered a new form of ancient alien life? Give it some zaps with a cattle prod, just to see what happens. Now you’re fighting an alien enemy in an enclosed space station? Break out the flamethrower! Running low on fuel? Definitely vent everything you have left in an effort to startle the creature, even when it doesn’t work the first three times. If the film is scary and chaotic enough, every bad choice will act as a link in a chain, building to a satisfying crescendo of mayhem that the audience has secretly been rooting for all along. Life isn’t perfect—you probably won’t remember it after three months—but it does exactly that.

Daniel Espinosa’s horror film is set in space and has some ostensible sci-fi trappings, as it’s centered around humans’ first encounter with prehistoric Martian life. But the movie might as well take place in an underground cavern or a fantasy dungeon, since its two-fold premise is fairly universal: The heroes are trapped in a gilded tomb from which they may not escape, and the monster they’ve awakened is stuck in there with them.

(5) WE HATES IT. At Locus Online, Gary Westfahl makes clear that Life does nothing to alter his dislike of horror movies generally – “Mutiny of the Unknown Alien Slime: A Review of Life”.

Further, one might argue that when it comes to alien life forms, anything is possible, but the plausibility of this particular alien life form can be seriously questioned. Without going into detail about all of its antics, I find it extremely difficult to imagine, given what we know about the history of Mars, any series of events that would cause such a creature to emerge and thrive for hundreds of millions of years (which is what we are told happened). And Derry specifies that the alien is a carbon-based life form that in most ways closely resembles terrestrial life forms; and since all such organisms would die within a minute if exposed to the vacuum of space, the Martian would never be able to cavort about in a vacuum with undiminished energy and flexibility for an indefinite period of time. But this nonsense does provide the film with an exciting scene, and for the filmmakers, that was all that mattered. In sum, precautions will always be necessary in dealing with potential alien life, but no one should have any nightmares about slimy, lightning-fast starfish embarking upon campaigns to slaughter all humans in sight.

(6) BEAT THE CLOCK. James Van Pelt, in “Marketing Short Stories”, reviews lots of sales and rejection statistics derived from taking the Bradbury challenge.

First, the background. Two years ago I decided to try Ray Bradbury’s challenge to write a story a week for a year….

CONCLUSIONS: – I was able to find places to submit all the stories pretty much all the time. If there are that many markets, then the short story marketplace is robust. The Submission Grinder lists 25 markets in science fiction that will pay six cents or more per word. There are many more, beautifully done, semi-pro magazines that I’m proud to submit to who pay less. – This is an old lesson, but if you are going to write short stories and submit them on spec, you have to be thick-skinned. I have been submitting stories seriously since the 80s. I’ve sold 145 stories, been a finalist for the Nebula, and the Theodore Sturgeon Award. I’ve appeared in several Year’s Best collections. I think I’m doing okay, but I’m still rejected at an 8 to 1 ratio. Mike Resnick doesn’t suffer from this ratio, I’ll bet, but there’s only one Mike….

(7) SHARING THE FUN. The Los Angeles Times profiles “Frank Oz and the gang of ‘Muppet Guys Talking’ still pulling on their silly strings”.

The movie is the first documentary directed by Oz, who also made such comedies as “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” and “Bowfinger.” And of course he was the voice of Yoda in the “Star Wars” films.

It is just a few hours after their premiere and four of the Muppet originators — Oz, Brill, Barretta and Goelz — are sitting around a hotel conference table in Austin. (Nelson died in 2012, the same year the movie’s conversation was filmed.) The four of them have a rapport one might associate with a sketch comedy group, responding quickly to one another with a near-telepathic sense of connection.

With impish delight, Goelz noisily unwraps a candy over the microphone of an interviewer’s recording device a few beats longer than is necessary. Brill playfully spurts a sweet from between her fingers, sending it gracefully arcing through the air to the other side of the room.

It was that largely unseen affinity among them that was the initial impetus for the film. While they have all spoken separately about their characters and time working with Muppets creator Jim Henson, who died in 1990, it was not until filming “Muppet Guys Talking” that they had ever done an interview together.

(8) FRANKLY SPEAKING. ScreenRant, on the other hand, says there are “15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets”.

How quickly people forget that the very first pilot episode of The Muppet Show was entitled, “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence”. In fact, The Muppets and associated Henson characters were never completely immune to controversy, tragedy, or touchy topics, despite their family-friendly exterior. After all, muppets are essentially just a bunch of guys with their hands up the butts of various animal and human-like creations. What kind of dark secrets could we possibly uncover about them? Read on, all you puppet-loving weirdos and take a gander at 15 Dark Secrets About The Muppets

  1. Frank Oz never wanted to be a puppeteer

Amazing as it may seem, one of the most famous muppet voices, aside from Jim Henson himself, never wanted a career in puppetry. Frank Oz was the son of Belgian immigrants who were both puppeteers themselves. While his siblings never took much of an interest in it, Oz performed puppet shows to make extra money as a teenager, saving up for a trip to Europe. As he explained in an interview with IGN, “it was something that I latched on to because it was a way to please them (his parents) and it was a means of expression for a shy, self-effacing boy.”

Oz had actually planned to study journalism in college, but dropped out after a year when Jim Henson offered him a job….


Spinach Day

It’s not just Popeye who will be strong to the finish on Spinach Day, but everyone who chooses to celebrate the day by consuming some of this leafy green plant will get to join in the health benefits as well!


  • March 26, 1937 — Popeye statue unveiled during spinach festival, Crystal City, Texas. (Are you sensing a theme here?)


(12) INSIDE THE SHELL. The Guardian calls her “Scarlett Johansson, charismatic queen of science fiction”.

Hollywood quickly made room on its red carpets for the young Scarlett Johansson in 2003, when she first created a stir in Sofia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation. It seemed clear that this blonde bombshell from New York, who was so ably sharing the screen with a dyspeptic Bill Murray, would go on to deliver popcorn buckets-full of mainstream audience appeal. Beautiful, mysterious and charismatic: she was already an aspirational trophy for any traditional leading man.

Yet, 14 years on, Johansson is established instead as a rather different sort of screen idol. Following a succession of high-octane blockbusters and off-beat critical hits, the actress is now enshrined as perhaps the leading sci-fi action star of her generation. Where once her sardonic smirks and sultry looks spoke of old-school movie glamour, she is now more likely to grab the limelight by kickboxing than by smouldering.

(13) IMAGINE SUPERMAN WITHOUT ONE OF THESE. “Last call for the phone booth?” was featured on CBS Sunday Morning.

Yes, there’s nothing like reaching out and touching someone from a phone booth. They used to be everywhere, but they are now rare coin-operated curiosities. Mo Rocca looks into the history of the once-ubiquitous phone booth, and of the wi-fi kiosks that are now replacing them in New York City.

(14) WWWWD? Another video on CBS Sunday Morning, “The immortal Wonder Woman”.

The real superpower of the comic book heroine, who just turned 75, is the power to inspire. Faith Salie explores the history of Wonder Woman, and talks with Lynda Carter, made immortal by playing the Amazonian on TV in the 1970s, and with Jill Lepore, author of “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.”

(15) A TALE AS OLD AS TIME. In NPR’s analysis of many versions of the basic story includes a discussion ofan upcoming Tanith Lee collection: “Tale As Old As Time: The Dark Appeal of ‘Beauty And The Beast’”.

The tales in [Maria] Tatar’s compilation swing from vicious to romantic, from comedy to horror. There are stories of a steadfast prince being loyal to his frog-wife, or a princess searching for her bear-husband “east of the sun and west of the moon” — here, love is proven in action and rewarded with happiness. But Beauty and the Beast stories are about power as much as about love. So sometimes the prince steals a maiden’s animal skin to force her to stay with him, or he puts his tortoise-wife on display against her wishes, or he ignores his devoted wife’s warnings and discovers she’s actually a crane. And these stories, where power is abused, differ sharply from the stories of proof and trust: Almost all of them end with her escape.

(16) A TALE AS OLD AS ME. And for us oldpharts: BBC provides video coverage of an opera based on Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

The Opera de Montreal is taking the rock out of “rock opera” with its ambitious interpretation of Pink Floyd’s classic double album, The Wall.

Another Brick in the Wall: L’Opera tells the story of Pink, a rock star who retreats into his mind to cope with the alienation of fame.

Roger Waters’ lyrics provide the narrative backbone of the two-hour production but composer Julien Bilodeau has removed the album’s familiar rhythms and melodies in favour of timpani and a 50-person chorus.

(17) TUNES OF THRONES. An LA audience was treated to a more up-to-date musical experience this past week — “’Game of Thrones’ live experience transforms Forum into Westeros for the night”.

One of the many powers held by a historic music venue like the Forum in Inglewood — which has seen celebrated concerts by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and Prince — is that of a time machine.

Capable of transporting an audience back to a summer when it first heard a favorite song or an aging band to its initial heyday, the Forum’s ability to slip the bounds of time was again in full view Thursday night with the Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience, a celebration of the blockbuster HBO series and its music, led by the show’s composer, Ramin Djawadi.

This time-skipping quality could be felt on two fronts. With a mix of orchestral sweep, multiple screens and the occasional blast of fire and smoke, the show’s expected aim was to transport fans to the Middle Ages-adjacent universe of the tangled and very bloody machinations of George R.R. Martin’s Westeros. However, the performance also offered a fleeting glimpse of the not too distant future when “Game of Thrones” is no longer something analyzed and anticipated — July 16 and the new season is coming, everyone! — and exists only as a memory. Indeed, having left such an imprint on pop culture, it wasn’t difficult to imagine this concert being toured and staged well after “Game of Thrones” is over and our watch is ended.

This sort of living tribute to a series nearing its finish gave the night a communal, Comic-Con-esque quality.

(18) WILSON. In “How sketching a dying father led Daniel Clowes to his quirky new film ‘Wilson’” the Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Daniel Clowes, whose new film Wilson is based on his graphic novel.  Clowes makes comparisons between producing graphic novels and directing and discusses what happened when he took Charles Schulz’s challenge to come up with a gag for a comic strip every day.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Darrah Chavey.]

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82 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 3/26/17 May You Dream Of Large Pixels

  1. @Anthony: I thought Fozzie was a two-man Muppet, with the primary Muppeteer taking mouth and main arm, and the secondary taking the other arm and supporting the body etc. I used to have a documentary kicking around; I’ll have to double-check. (Like I need excuses to watch Muppet-related stuff 😉 )

  2. (Lol found something on YouTube and watched right up to the moment Jerry Nelson was described as performing Floyd, a guitarist. I may have shouted at my phone, “Floyd’s not a guitarist, Floyd plays bass!” Janice is the guitarist of the Electric Mayhem. Geez, get it right, 60 Minutes from 40 years ago!)

  3. For those interested in translated SF: issue 1 of Samovar has new stories by Suvi Kauppila (Finland) and Abdul wakil Sulamal (Afghanistan), and a reprint by Lavie Tidhar, plus a poem by Ko Hua Chen (Taiwan) – all available in the original language as well as English.

  4. And I forgot to mention: podcasts for all three stories (in both languages for the two originals).

  5. It does seem to be a bit premature to worry about cancelling The Expanse at this point. I’m enjoying it hugely; it’s #2 on my weekly watch list after Legion.

    But it’s not without its flaws. Season one had a severe problem with the two major plot lines not converging until the last episodes. That works in a novel, when you’re effectively bouncing back and forth once or twice per hour and can complete the whole story in a day or two. The details stay in your head better, and there’s enough additional depth that it’s easier to see the eventual convergence. When you’re forced to spread that over 10 weeks with one hour of viewing followed by a week of waiting, it’s a lot easier to get lost or simply stop caring. Season two has fewer of those specific faults, but it’s still got pacing problems and dead spots.

    On the other hand, Avasarala is a fascinating character and really got to cut loose this week – and boy, was that fun. She’s one of my favorite characters, and they’ve fortunately decided to back off from what an asshole she was in the pilot.

    On the gripping hand, I didn’t believe for one second that Avasarala could have gotten away with that ‘who the f*ck are you’ speech in the real world. And Bobby Draper, who was larger than life in the book, is smaller than life in the show. Still, it’s early in her arc and we’ll see where she goes in the longer term. And these are minor complaints, really. I’ll keep watching.

  6. A Corroding Empire review states, “You need to keep track of the timeline and watch the dates given in the chapter headings. At the end of the book you will need to transfer the message from ASCII code to English (copy and paste in any of several online translators which will do that for free) …”

    Any guesses about what the secret phrase is? I’m going with “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.”

    Beale’s Corroding Empire: #5,590 Paid in Kindle

    Scalzi’s Collapsing Empire: #326 Paid in Kindle Store

  7. rcade on March 27, 2017 at 4:05 pm said:
    A Corroding Empire review states, “You need to keep track of the timeline and watch the dates given in the chapter headings. At the end of the book you will need to transfer the message from ASCII code to English (copy and paste in any of several online translators which will do that for free) …”

    There is more than one. One is the intro at the start of the epilogue (in my review) & then another more fragmented in the chapter. Nothing interesting sadly.

  8. A Meredith Moment!

    Walter Jon Williams’ novel ‘Implied Spaces’ is now on sale for 99 cents “wherever fine ebooks are sold! (Which in this case would be Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, and Google.)”

  9. There are old pixels, and there are scrolled pixels, but there are no old, scrolled pixels.

  10. @microtherion: that could be very ugly. I wonder whether anyone not already involved will be able to look through the postings that set the boss off and see whether the expellee actually proposed (as Norman has) that Gor represents the natural order rather than simply a consensual game.

  11. “Drupal Developers of Gor: Came across a news story today about a Drupal contributor being expelled over his Gorean lifestyle: http://www.inc.com/sonya-mann/drupal-larry-garfield-gor.html

    Gorean play has never been a big thing in the BDSM-community of Sweden. It is too tied to thoughts about biology and the natural order of things whereas the community in Sweden is more tied to queer ideology and sex as a social construct.

    Nevertheless, I know a few people that have been into Gorean play – and they all did it on chat servera with americans. For them all, it was a consensual roleplay, not something they believed in their everyday life. But they were all women. 😛

    It is sometimes hard as an outsider to differentiate on what a person believes in and what he pretends to believe in during a play. Context is everything, and a quote pulled from a discussion about a session or even from the session itself can look horrible unless you know where it is coming from.

    There is actually a bit of discussion about that in Sweden, if we have too low tolerance for people that enjoy that kind of roleplay which makes them go quiet about it, even among their fellow kinksters.

    I will not try to judge this case as there both exists people that are misunderstood and people that are real bigots. His community will know more.

    One thing though? Fuck the person who created a folder with information from private kinkster websites. Fuck him for eternity, an asshole who choose to out a kinkster. There is a special place in hell for people like him.

  12. There are old pixels, and there are scrolled pixels, but there are no old, scrolled pixels.

    Did you really just quote V.I.N.CENT.?

  13. Re: Meredith Moment Walter Jon Williams’ novel ‘Implied Spaces’ is now on sale for 99 cents

    Implied Spaces is buckets of fun, even by WJW standards.

    His novel The Rift is also (still) on sale for 99c.

  14. Did you really just quote V.I.N.CENT.?

    Not unless he’s managed to predate Harry Copland (1896-1976).

  15. @Paul Weimer: Thanks! And it turns out Company Town is also on sale for the same $2.99 elsewhere. 🙂 Which is good, ‘cuz I’ve been tempted by it.

    Speaking of ebook sales, Rick Wilber’s Alien Morning (SF alien first contact) is $2.99 – maybe have been for a while now, I’m not sure.

  16. There’s no Pixel like Scroll Pixel like no Pixel I know
    Everything about ticky’s appealing, everything that Glyer will allow
    Nowhere could you get that happy feeling when you are fifthing that extra scroll…

  17. It’s interesting BTW that there apparently is no word for mouse and elephant in that language, since they used the German words.

    Adopting a native word for an animal you don’t have at home isn’t uncommon. (It’s that or compare it to local wildlife, and dub our ones with names along the lines of ‘the fangless mouse’ or ‘the non-venomous elephant’)

  18. @James Moar: Most English names for non-European animals just reflect Europeans’* utter lack of imagination anyway.

    “What should we call that animal with a horn on its nose?”
    “How about that big animal that kind of looks like a buffalo, if you squint?”
    “Go with buffalo.”
    “What about that thing in the river that looks very very very vaguely like a horse, or would if you were drunk out of your mind, maybe?”

    (By which I mean “people of European descent,” not “people currently residing in Europe.”)

  19. Mark on March 27, 2017 at 1:10 am said:
    (1) WUT

    Welp, a good start on that might be to actually show season 2. Netflix have it in the UK but have yet to show any of it. I don’t know if that decision is down to Netflix or just the conditions of their deal, but I’m getting slowly spoilered despite my best efforts and that tends to dampen my enthusiasm.

    As i understand it, The Expanse series 2 is hitting UKI Netflix ‘in April’, so presumably the whole series will be uploaded a day or two after the last episode airs in the US

  20. Matthew Johnson: “What about that thing in the river that looks very very very vaguely like a horse, or would if you were drunk out of your mind, maybe?”

    As you know, the “river horse” refers to its Latin name, and the limits on Roman creativity from having a vocabulary much smaller than modern English need to be taken into account.

    However, much as I like my argument there, when I look over the map of America at the English-language place names in the eastern part of the country, I can’t claim that post-Elizabethan British and Scottish settlers showed much imaginative flair either.

  21. As you know, the “river horse” refers to its Latin name

    *Greek, though your overall point stands.

  22. Mike: However, much as I like my argument there, when I look over the map of America at the English-language place names in the eastern part of the country, I can’t claim that post-Elizabethan British and Scottish settlers showed much imaginative flair either.

    Don’t forget about street names. And New Zealand isn’t much better.

    After King(s) and Queen(s), the third most popular street name in New Zealand is Park, numbering 106 and obviously reflecting the desire for a green and pleasant colony. Only slightly less common is the recognition of our extensive coastline by 103 Beach Streets and Roads. When inspiration was flag¬ging, prominent community and geographical features conven¬iently supplied such names as Church (98), Station (84), River (83), Railway (76), Mill (75), School (71), Bridge (70), Hall (68), Hill (64), Domain (60), Boundary (55) and Valley (51). And when all else failed, the authorities could resort to simply Main and High Streets, of which we now possess 98 and 80 respectively. Alternatively, they could always take di-rection from the compass, resulting in North (65), West (56), East (54) and—least popular—South (43).

  23. microtherion: As you know, the “river horse” refers to its Latin name

    *Greek, though your overall point stands.

    Whew, the appertainment begins early today!

  24. @Kurt Busiek

    Did you really just quote V.I.N.CENT.?

    Not unless he’s managed to predate Harry Copland (1896-1976).


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