(1) LISTEN UP, BUCKAROOS. Dan Berger has served for the last nineteen years as the editor-in-chief of World Watch One, the Buckaroo Banzai fan newsletter/zine. Dan sent the link to their latest issue with a note, “I’m not sure you absolutely need to be a Buckaroo fan to find something fun in this issue, but it doesn’t hurt either.” The theme of World Watch One August 2023 is “Afrocentric”.
Their group’s base on the internet is here: World Watch OnLine: The Buckaroo Banzai Mailing List
(2) UKRAINE BENEFIT ANTHOLOGY. [Item by Marc Criley.] Over 30 writers contributed stories to To Ukraine, With Love, a “benefit anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Myths, Legends, Fairy Tales, and Eldritch Stories, Poems, and Art.” Just released and available via all the usual bookseller outlets.
100% of profits from all forms — print, epub, and audiobook — will be donated to charities for Ukraine.
The anthology was spearheaded and edited by Fran Eisemann, the editor of Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores magazine.
Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores presents To Ukraine, With Love benefit anthology, with 100% of the profits to be donated to causes for Ukraine, including World Central Kitchen and similar charities which will earmark 100% of a contribution to a specified cause.
All the science fiction, fantasy, myths, legends, fairy tales, and eldritch stories and poems, and the artwork, have been donated. Contributors include Geoffrey Landis, David Brin, Terri Windling, Andrew Burt, George Guthridge, and Oghenechovwe Donald Ekpeki. Artists include Scott Gustafson, Stephanie Law, and Howard David Johnson.
(3) TOLKIEN SCHOLARSHIP. Robin Reid gives more “Recommended Readings on Tolkien” to readers of Writing From Ithilien.
Not only is there more and more work being done on what I call the “Tolkien phenomenon” (meaning, not only his legendarium, including the posthumous publications Christopher Tolkien gave us, but also the multiple adaptations and the fandoms all around the world), but more and more the people doing the scholarship are making their work more freely available online. And while I will always cheerlead for open-access scholarly journals like Mythlore and The Journal of Tolkien Research, I also want to recommend scholars who make work available on their blogs/newsletters/etc.!
The three recommendations below also show the wide range of topics in Tolkien studies!…
Get those recommendations at the link.
(4) THIS IS NUTS. Andrew Porter forwarded this comment left by MJM on the New York Times piece: “We Used A.I. to Write Essays for Harvard, Yale and Princeton. Here’s How It Went”.
I asked ChatGPT to write a college admission essay in the voice of a squirrel. The total result is a bit too long to post, here are some excerpts: —
“As a squirrel, I have learned to adapt to different environments and challenges. I have lived in various habitats, from urban parks to rural forests, and have encountered many predators, such as hawks, cats, and humans. I have developed a keen sense of awareness, agility, and resilience that help me survive and thrive in any situation.”
“In addition, I have shown a remarkable leadership and community involvement. I have led many groups of squirrels in various activities, such as organizing food storage, defending our territory, and planning migrations. I have also collaborated with other animals, such as birds, rabbits, and dogs, to promote peace and harmony in our ecosystem. I have volunteered to help humans in need, such as feeding the homeless, cleaning the parks, and planting trees.
“I am confident that I can bring a unique and valuable perspective to your campus. I am eager to learn from your distinguished faculty and diverse student body. I am also excited to contribute to your academic excellence and social impact. I hope you will give me the opportunity to fulfill my dream of becoming a college-educated squirrel. Thank you for your consideration.
(5) EVEN IF IT’S YOUR JAM. Catherynne M. Valente learned something.
(6) FRANNE LEE (1941-2023). Costume and set designer Franne Lee, who created iconic outfits for several Saturday Night Live sketches, died August 27. The New York Times obituary recalled:
Franne Lee, a costume and set designer who while doing Tony Award-winning work on Broadway in the 1970s also made killer-bee suits and cone-shaped headwear for early “Saturday Night Live” sketches, helping to create some of that era’s most memorable comic moments, died on Sunday in Atlantis, Fla. She was 81.
The original “S.N.L.” cast quickly made its mark with outlandish sketches, and Ms. Lee was integral to the look of those now famous bits — dressing John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd in black when they became the Blues Brothers, turning cut-up long johns into the yellow-striped Killer Bee costumes, and more.
It was costume designing on the cheap. Ms. Lee’s father, a tool-and-die maker, came up with the bouncy springs that were the Killer Bees’ antennae, which she finished off by sticking Ping-Pong balls on the ends. John Storyk, who first met Ms. Lee in 1968 when both worked at the short-lived Manhattan club Cerebrum, recalled in a phone interview dropping by the Lees’ apartment and seeing on her work table the beginnings of the cones that became the defining feature of the Coneheads, the extraterrestrials who were a recurring presence on the show in the late 1970s and later got their own feature film….
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born September 2, 1899 — Martin Miller. One of his mod remembered roles was as Kublai Khan in Doctor Who‘s first season. Later genre performances the first Pink Panther film, a bevy of ITC Entertainment such as Danger Man, The Avengers, Department S and The Prisoner. He was in Children of the Damned and The Gamma People to name but two of his genre films. (Died 1978.)
- Born September 2, 1925 — Meinhardt Raabe. The actor best known as the Munchkin coroner in The Wizard of Oz. He certified the death of the Wicked Witch of the East. (Died 2000.)
As coroner, I must aver
I thoroughly examined her
And she’s not only merely dead
She’s really, most sincerely dead!
- Born September 2, 1944 — Roland Green. His most prominent works are his military SF series —Starcruiser Shenandoah, the Peace Company, and Voyage to Eneh, but he also did a lot of Conan novels, and co-authored two Janissaries novels with Pournelle. (Died 2021.)
- Born September 2, 1946 — Walter Simonson, 77. Comic artist and writer who’s best known I think for his run on Thor during the Eighties in which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. An odd character that one is if ever there was one. He’s worked for DC and Marvel, and a number of independent companies as well. He did this cover for Michael Moorcock’s Count Brass. And he did the interior artwork as well.
- Born September 2, 1950 — Mel Odom, 73. Not that Mel Odom. This is another Mel Odom. His illustrations have graced many a cover of the works of Guy Gavriel Kay including A Song for Arbonne, the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, The Lions of Al-Rassan and Tigana. I’ll single out the cover of the Penguin Books edition of Tigana as as Ireally l ike his work here.
- Born September 2, 1951 — Mark Harmon, 72. Much better known for his work on NCIS and yes, I’m a fan, though not of the last five years of the series. He’s done some genre work down the decades. An early role was as Gacel Sayah in Tuareg: Il guerriero del deserto, a Spanish-Italian pulp film. He was Jack Black in Magic in the Water, and voiced Clark Kent/Superman on Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. He was in the Wally Schirra in the genre adjacent From the Earth to the Moon miniseries, and shows as Bob Markham in the “Tarzan and The Outbreak” episode of The Legend of Tarzan.
- Born September 2, 1964 — Keanu Reeves, 59. Obviously in The Matrix films which so far I’ve avoided watching. So should I go forth now and watch them? Now I have seen the first two Bill & Ted’s films and like then quite a bit, but not the third. Should I? Finally I’ll confess that I have seen Johnny Mnemonic. So i must ask what were they thinking? Really?
(8) COMICS SECTION.
- Satuday Morning Breakfast Cereal reminds me of stuff people try to pull at Worldcon Business Meetings.
(9) THOUGHT-TO-VOICE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Who needs Alfred (working class) Bester? In Nature: “Brain-reading devices allow paralysed people to talk using their thoughts”. “Two studies report considerable improvements in technologies designed to help people with facial paralysis to communicate.”
Brain-reading implants enhanced using artificial intelligence (AI) have enabled two people with paralysis to communicate with unprecedented accuracy and speed.
In separate studies, both published on 23 August in Nature1,2, two teams of researchers describe brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) that translate neural signals into text or words spoken by a synthetic voice. The BCIs can decode speech at 62 words per minute and 78 words per minute, respectively. Natural conversation happens at around 160 words per minute, but the new technologies are both faster than any previous attempts.
“It is now possible to imagine a future where we can restore fluid conversation to someone with paralysis, enabling them to freely say whatever they want to say with an accuracy high enough to be understood reliably,” said Francis Willett, a neuroscientist at Stanford University in California who co-authored one of the papers1, in a press conference on 22 August.
These devices “could be products in the very near future”, says Christian Herff, a computational neuroscientist at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.
(10) A COMET YOU CAN SEE. Gizmodo says “Newly Spotted Comet May Soon Be Visible Without Telescopes”.
A comet recently discovered by Japanese amateur astronomer Hideo Nishimura is garnering attention from NASA and skywatchers alike.
Using a standard digital camera, Nishimura detected the celestial body on August 11 during a series of 30-second exposures, according to NASA. Though currently not visible to the naked eye, this status may soon change. NASA has noted the comet’s steady increase in brightness since its discovery. Furthermore, astronomers have now charted the comet’s future trajectory through the inner solar system.
“As the comet dives toward the Sun, it will surely continue to intensify and possibly become a naked-eye object in early September,” stated NASA. However, there’s a caveat for potential observers: the comet’s proximity to the Sun will mean it is best visible during the times of sunset or sunrise when the Sun’s glare is least obtrusive….
(11) GUARDING AGAINST ANOTHER PANDEMIC. I can’t help hearing the voice of Bill Murray when I read this headline. “Cats With Bird Flu? The Threat Grows.” The New York Times’ Zeynep Tufekci has the story.
The global H5N1 avian flu outbreak, already devastating wild birds and poultry, keeps spreading to mammals, bringing it one step closer to a potential human outbreak.
Of course, since the coronavirus pandemic taught us the importance of responding early and aggressively to outbreaks …
Sorry, I’m joking. We don’t seem to have learned much from the Covid outbreak, and it’s not funny.
Not enough has been done about an out-of-control H5N1 outbreak at fur farms in Finland or a mystery outbreak among domestic cats in Poland.
Finland, one of Europe’s biggest fur producers, is battling outbreaks among its captive minks, foxes and raccoon dogs — species that scientists warn have been identified as more likely to evolve a variant that can infect people, leading to a human outbreak.
Even the Finnish Food Authority, in its announcement of animals being culled, noted that minks are susceptible to both human and avian influenza. If one animal is infected by both, the viruses can mix genes and give rise to an avian flu that can infect humans. Fur farms in Finland, however, aren’t being closed. Instead the Finnish Wildlife Agency allowed fur breeders to kill wild birds near their farms in large numbers. The Agency told me the killings were authorized “to prevent contacts between infected birds and animals at fur farms,” but scientists point out this is the wrong approach and likely futile — and more fur farms in Finland have since announced further outbreaks.
Meanwhile, officials said a sizable outbreak of H5N1 among pet cats in Poland this summer killed at least 29 animals, though cat owners have compiled lists with as many as 89 sick animals. The outbreak has many unusual features that make it especially concerning, and yet there still hasn’t been an explanation of how exactly it happened or a vigorous investigation….
(12) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Time to revisit this “Constellation WorldCon Baltimore” video first posted to YouTube 13 years ago. It’s amazing that I recognize most of these people.
[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Michael J. Walsh, Marc Criley, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]