Pixel Scroll 9/26 10 Things I Slate About You

(1) Pablo Vazquez has identified himself as another San Juan in 2017 NASFiC bid committee member — he is one of the bid chairs — so you can add his name to the list.

The formal launch is at ContraFlow/DSC in New Orleans next weekend. There is a Facebook page – San Juan in 2017.

(2) A great read about trying to make a game based on Lovecraft that wasn’t so dismal as to be unplayable – “Lovecraft on the Tabletop”.

The story of the development of this tabletop RPG of Lovecraftian horror, soon to be renamed Call of Cthulhu, is one of the more fascinating and inspiring case studies in the annals of gaming history. The end result reverberates to this day not only through the world of tabletop gaming but also through its digital parallel.

(3) An archaeological find has added 20 lines to the Epic of Gilgamesh:

The new T.1447 tablet, according to the article Back to the Cedar Forest: The beginning and end of Tablet V of the Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgameš published in June, 2014 is:

  • The revised reconstruction of Tablet V yields text that is nearly twenty lines longer than previously known.
  • The obverse (columns i-ii) duplicates the Neo-Assyrian fragments which means the Epic tablet can be placed in order and used to fill in the gaps between them. It also shows the recension on Tablet V was in Babylonia, as well as Assyria and that “izziz?ma inappat? qišta” is the same phrase that other tablets being with.
  • The reverse (columns v-vi) duplicates parts of the reverse (columns iv-vi) of the late Babylonian tablet excavated at Uruk that begins with the inscription “Humb?ba pâšu ?pušma iqabbi izakkara ana Gilg?meš”.
  • The most interesting piece of information provided by this new source is the continuation of the description of the Cedar Forest:
  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu saw ‘monkeys’ as part of the exotic and noisy fauna of the Cedar Forest; this was not mentioned in other versions of the Epic.
  • Humbaba emerges, not as a barbarian ogre, and but as a foreign ruler entertained with exotic music at court in the manner of Babylonian kings. The chatter of monkeys, chorus of cicada, and squawking of many kinds of birds formed a symphony (or cacophony) that daily entertained the forest’s guardian, Humbaba.
  • The aftermath of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s slaying of Humbaba is now better preserved.
  • The passages are consistent with other versions and confirm what was already known. For example, Enkidu had spent some time with Humbaba in his youth.

(4) Sigourney Weaver is in the Ghostbusters reboot – a cameo, presumably, but nobody has revealed whether she’s reprising her original character.

(5) “Bing Watney Home!” is not a File 770 typo, though you could be pardoned for thinking so.

Bing Maps is doing “real time” tracking of Astronaut Mark Watney’s journey across Mars to the Schiaparelli Basin, a stage in the effort to rescue and bring him back to Earth.

And Microsoft is promoting itself and The Martian movie with a contest called “Hacking Mars”.

It’s the year 2035. Astronaut Mark Watney is stranded on Mars. The best minds on Earth are joining together to help him survive. What would you do? One small, unmanned spacecraft will carry the winning solution to Mars.

Check out how to #HackMars and bring Watney home. Submit your design for a chance to win $25,000 and a trip to Microsoft to experience HoloLens. Deadline for submissions is October 13, 2015, 11:59PM EST.

There are three challenge categories. The first is —

Stay alive

A primal human motivation is survival. We all have physiological needs like air, water, and food.

Mark Watney finds himself stranded on Mars. He has no way to contact Earth or his crew. It’ll be four years before a manned mission can reach him. Watney doesn’t have nearly enough food to last that long. He has to make a decision, survive on Mars or perish.

Mars is incredibly cold, unpredictable, and has many ways that it threatens human life. If an emergency comes up Watney must either solve it or die.

For this challenge, design a solution that helps Watney sustain the basic things that every human being needs to survive. This could include ways to grow food, filter air, and produce water.

(6) Back in the dismal real world, claims are being made that the bones of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa have been discovered.

Historical records suggest that Gherardini, who spent her last years in the Sant’Orsola convent in Florence, was laid to rest at the site. On Thursday, researchers announced that carbon-14 dating showed the bones they found in the convent date from around the time that Gherardini died, in 1542, when she was 63.

“I’m convinced it is her,” Silvano Vinceti, an art historian who led the research team, told The Telegraph.

The next stages of the investigation will prove highly challenging. Some scholars say that as dozens of bodies were buried beneath the convent over several decades, the remains could belong to someone else. So, DNA samples will need to be taken from the bone fragments and compared with DNA extracted from the remains of two of Gherardini’s children. Those remains have been badly damaged by flooding in the tomb in the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.

And even if the bones are proved to belong to Gherardini, scholars are divided over whether she really was the model for the “Mona Lisa.” The absence of a skull has also thwarted efforts to reconstruct the face of the noblewoman, making it nearly impossible to compare it to the painting.

Your mileage may vary, but I find this to be nothing more than a grotesque job of grave robbing. The notion of finding a skull to reconstruct in order to compare it with the face in the painting seems a pretty dim piece of scientific wishfulness – as if the reconstruction could surpass the work of a painter who had the living subject available.

(7) Amanda S. Green devotes a whole post on Mad Genius Club disputing John Scalzi’s analysis of the Author Earnings Report but refuses to link to his post, drawing all her Scalzi quotes from Chris Meadows’ TeleRead article instead. Is this some kind of pretentious purity ritual? Like people who will only quote Vox Day based on what’s transcribed here? I’m not a big fan of laundered quotes. If you want to reference the person, link the primary source. You’ve quoted the guy – his words are in your head. You get no credit for cooties avoidance.

(8) The National Endowment for the Arts blog has listed “Our Top Ten Ray Bradbury Quotes”.

  • “‘Stuff your eyes with wonder,’ he said, ‘live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.’”
  • “We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.”
  • “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”
  • “We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.”
  • “I spent three days a week for ten years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college. People should educate themselves – you can get a complete education for no money. At the end of ten years, I had read every book in the library and I’d written a thousand stories.”
  • “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
  • “I’m never going to go to Mars, but I’ve helped inspire, thank goodness, the people who built the rockets and sent our photographic equipment off to Mars.”
  • “Don’t worry about things. Don’t push. Just do your work and you’ll survive. The important thing is to have a ball, to be joyful, to be loving and to be explosive. Out of that comes everything and you grow.”
  • “I don’t believe in being serious about anything. I think life is too serious to be taken seriously.”
  • “You’ve been put on the world to love the act of being alive.”

[Thanks to Will R., and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]

125 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 9/26 10 Things I Slate About You

  1. That Mona Lisa story is revolting. I’m sure if I thought about it more I could articulate why, but right now I can only say I find it viscerally disgusting.

    IMO, the only possible historical investigation rationale for the whole Mona Lisa thing was to compare the skull to the portrait to verify whether the portrait was indeed of Mona Lisa Gherardini (one of the theories was that Leonardo had painted his own face). It’s iffy and offputting, but at least understandable. But after they opened the tomb and found the skulls had crumbled, picking at the bone scraps to analyze if this was indeed the lady Gherardini (and if so, so what?) smacked to me of messing about with someone’s remains for the ignoble purpose of using up grant money instead of admitting you’ve been on a fool’s errand and let the dead rest in peace.

  2. In case you are interested, Wright posted a LONG chapter he cut from one of the “Count to a Trillion” books. If you want a taste of what is good and bad about this series, have a look. Wright did right in cutting this, and he should have cut a lot more, maybe half of the whole thing, and found a way to wind it up before the plot got lost.
    On the other hand, its got flashes of the usual Wright powers of invention, description, and humor.

  3. Did anyone figure out what Barbara Barrett did before the Cimmerian blogger flipped out and declared her an “SJW” who required unpersoning? I tried to find out yesterday but all I saw was unhinged ranting from Beale fanboys that spun further away from reality with each comment. The closest I could determine is that it might involve an APA spat which isn’t even publicly available to read.

  4. Are there other examples of subjects that fascinate so much that people come up with a new theory every couple of years?

    There’s always the true identity of King Arthur, or, failing that, claims to have proved exactly which part of Britain he came from (which invariably seems to be the same area that the author comes from).

  5. @James Davis Nicoll

    I’m pretty sure you’re right. Where else was the American Victory Commission going to get their air force?

  6. I always figured that the hard-on Green and that ilk had for Scalzi and others like him was because he’s managed to have successful trad publishing and e-book/Amazon publishing. When their shtick is that the valiant freedom-loving e-books have overcome the mean gate-keeping traditional publishers bent on keeping them from their rightful place in the world, it’s hard to see someone doing both.
    The missteps over how to admit e-book authors to the SFWA didn’t help. Both sides got a little high-horsey.

  7. Of all things… fresh information on the character of Humbaba? The Epic of Gilgamesh (the Penguin edition, I think) was the first book covered in a marvelous college class I took 40 years ago called The Representation of Experience. The professor – Allen Grossman – obviously took great pleasure in the name itself: “HUMbaba!”

  8. Thanks for that great Call of Cthulhu article. It’s still the only RPG game — actually, the only game of any kind — that I ever really loved. I love the way it uses the Lovecraft mythos, the emphasis on investigation rather than combat, the 1920s setting, the simple play style that doesn’t get in the way of the narrative, and most of all, I love the sanity check system.

    With the right bunch of people, you actually WANT people to start losing sanity, because it’s so much fun when they play the effects. It’s structured so that you can’t really play to “win” — so you play to have fun. You play weirdos and losers, people with strange obsessions and baffling quirks, and if you have the right quirk, sometimes, that’s how you survive. (My favorite CoC character I ever played was a hotheaded anarchist whose solution to every problem was dynamite. Which works surprisingly well in CoC.)

    For me, even the fact that it encourages short-term campaigns rather than years-long engagements (as D&D seemed to do) made it superior to other RPGs.

    Are there other examples of subjects that fascinate so much that people come up with a new theory every couple of years?

    I read the Fortean Times. I’m hard-pressed to come up with any mysterious subject that DOESN’T prompt people to come up with a new theory every couple of years.

    (Here in the northwest, you can still get a laugh, sometimes, by refering to D.B. Cooper)

  9. Hypnosotov beats me to it, but I’m pretty sure poor Amelia gets relocated about once a decade. DB Cooper too.

    I suspect If they don’t find more of that Malaysian flight it’ll enter the same cycle.

    Hmm, finding old Nazi gold/art treasures/war criminals was a cottage industry for awhile. Maybe that’ll eventually fade.

  10. Stephenson did a great exploit of another cottage industry in “Necronomicon” – Yamashita’s treasure.
    In my neck of the woods this has been a constant for 70 years, and its still coming up in the papers and there are still obsessives after it.

  11. There’s a quote in the Call of Cthulhu article about players having their character avert their eyes to keep their sanity… we did this in our games as well. And the most-often-heard phrase was, “Run Away!” What a great game.

  12. As someone who actually worked at Chaosium for a little while, I’m pleased to see all the love for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. I’m not actually much of an RPGer myself, but I had a lot of fun browsing the various scenarios and such, and I can definitely see the appeal of this one.

    Side note: Today (9/27) marks the beginning of Banned Books Week. So don’t forget to ban all those books you don’t like! Er, I mean, read a banned book this week! 🙂

  13. I looked at the episode list of Leonard Nimoy’s In Search Of… from the late 1970s and most of the topics still seem popular today. (The Bermuda Triangle and Chariots of the Gods topics might have lost some luster.) Amelia Earhart was the 15th episode of the first season. (Even though she was featured in the opening titles.) Nazi Plunder was 14th. You had to wait until the third season for Jack the Ripper.

    To answer the question on everyone’s mind, Bigfoot was fifth.

  14. @ Darren Garrison:

    How to Ditch Your Fairy, by Justine Larbalestier—in setting where everyone seems to have some special form of luck that most people believe is provided by personal, intangible fairies (though some believe that this is superstition), Charlie will try any “folk remedies” for getting rid of her boring “always finding a good parking space” fairy in the hopes of getting a better piece of luck.

    As a New Yorker, I find it inconceivable that anyone would want to ditch that fairy.

  15. Re Parking faeries: Bay Area friends have taught me of the three urban gods: Squat, Swift, and Score. Squat is the goddess of parking spaces, Swift is the god of getting from A to B as quickly as possible, and Score is the goddess of yard sales, things you find in the street, and thrift stores.

  16. In lieu of the fairy, one can always employ the invocation to the Parking Goddess:

    Hail Asphalta, full of grace!
    Help us find a parking place!

    (With slight modification it also works for ferries.)

  17. I liked CoC, when I could get a group to run it. Not as much fun as Paranoia, but if you took the opportunity to set the atmosphere, you could evoke a real shiver of dread.

    I recall being in a convention with someone running an EPOCH(*) game heavily influenced by the CoC mythos where the characters ran into something… eldritch… in their apartment building (**). My character, a insufferable know-it-all rationalist, suffered a “major mental trauma”, so I took the opportunity to do something I could never do in CoC – he ran like a little coward and refused to even think about what had happened. He got the other characters to get the important stuff out of his apartment while he refused to reenter the building, and he fully intended moving to the other Coast – while REFUSING TO DISCUSS what they saw in the basement. Didn’t happen. Couldn’t happen.

    Didn’t quite work out like he planned (like, you were expecting it would?), but everyone agreed it made perfect sense for the arrogant SOB…

    (*) http://epochrpg.blogspot.com/p/what-is-epoch.html – a far more theatrical system designed for one shot adventures, no campaigns, adaptable to a range of horror scenarios, and emphasizing role-playing over mechanics.

    (**) Think “House of Leaves” or “14” by Peter Clines.

  18. First fifth or second fifth?

    Bigfoot was First Fifth. Killer Bees were Second Fifth.

    Whatever happened to Killer Bees? Still coming north or did colony collapse disorder affect them, too? There was mention that they’re moving into Florida making it an even more interesting state. I’m sure climate change might help them along.

  19. Darren –

    Very nice descriptions on those YA books. They got me to put DUST OF 100 DOGS and HOW TO DITCH YOUR FAIRY on my wishlist, and to buy MAD SKILLS for my eldest. But I’ll read it when Danny’s done.

  20. Jonathan:

    Haven’t you noticed how many New Yorkers deal with the problem by not having cars? The parking fairy would have done me very little good in the quarter century when I lived in Manhattan (though it might make me a more popular passenger, if it worked when I was in someone else’s car). A fairy that would guarantee a subway train within ten minutes, on the other hand….

  21. I don’t have a car either, but if I were under the tutelage of the Parking Fairy, it might have been a different story.

  22. The definitive account of Amelia Earhart’s fate may be found in a book by noted documentarian Chris Moore: Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings.

    It is only sold as fiction because of a spirited lobbying campaign believed to have been orchestrated by TIGHAR.

  23. @Soon Lee

    The project is supposed to be a movie script, tentatively titled “The Man with the Duranium Fists”

    – This joke brought to you by a recent remake of the nineties

  24. How to Ditch Your Fairy, by Justine Larbalestier

    My husband enjoyed the book. I thought it was ok.

    My mom’s got “Bob” who helps us find parking spots. I personally go right to the top guy “g-d”.

    Totally freaked out an Orthodox Jew who came for the fun of seeing what a conversion beit din (Jewish court) was like when I “prayed… Explained to g-d why he was going to get me an easy parking spot without a parking meter at the end of a 4 hour drive to what was going to be one of the most stressful days of my life”. Poor “kid” explained to me “we don’t pray for little things” & I very testily suggested he take it up with my rabbi who’d told me “prayer is always appropriate” as I pulled into an almost unheard of parking spot between two driveways, no meter, in front of a house tackily decorated for Xmas in Flatbush. His eyes bugged out. A few hours later I was officially Jewish. Oh they confirmed it is appropriate to ask g-d for help with parking spots. LOL

  25. @Hampus

    Earhart was picked up to become the new Santa.

    I’d read that!


    Did anyone figure out what Barbara Barrett did before the Cimmerian blogger flipped out and declared her an “SJW” who required unpersoning?

    Nope. Everyone seems to be in the dark on that one.


    Drat, I already bought it.

  26. I see now that Puppies are incapable of using Do Not Link, so as not to give any traffic to the Dread Scalzi, they hates it forever, preciousssss. Or, because linking to an inaccurate summary makes it easier for them to lie.

    Scalzi certainly has no beef with Amazon, since all his audiobooks are through them and those are beginning to be an even bigger revenue source.

    P’raps there should be a game for Puppies, Call of Scalzi. He does seem to drive them beyond the borders of sanity merely by existing.

    Re: Lady Gherardini, this is about the 5th (heh) time this guy has purported to find her bones. All in different locations. This time for sure! There’s an article at Forbes by the most excellent anthropologist Dr. Kristina Killgrove about how this is basically grave robbing to no point. Her weekly column is always kewl.

    I live in the land of abundant parking lots, yet I’d never give up a parking fairy. Several of the places I need to be often have insufficient parking, and the lot cruising gets old. Occasionally I essay a trip to a city and would really like one.

    Everyone knows Earhart ended up on t’other side of the galaxy. I seen it on th’ teevee. (And I’m posting from 9104, so you can believe that.)

    More Gilgamesh! That’s exciting news. And proof that monkeys have always improved the story for 4,000 years. Ook.

  27. There were also Jumpin’ Jim Brunzel and B. Brian Blair (occasionally Koko B. Ware) who formed the tag team The Killer Bees in the WWF. They wore yellow and black striped trunks and often would wear luchador masks so you couldn’t tell them apart.

    This flashback brought to you by the 80s where the SNL Killer Bees are still remembered fondly.

  28. rcade: Did anyone figure out what Barbara Barrett did before the Cimmerian blogger flipped out and declared her an “SJW” who required unpersoning?

    David Shallcross on September 26, 2015 at 9:29 am said:

    The claim, as relayed in Vox Day’s blog, is that Barrett was attacking Holmes in REHupa (The Robert E. Howard United Press Association) and PEAPS (The Pulp Era Amateur Press Society). I don’t suppose there are any members of these apas reading File770.

  29. Rick K — shout-out to another Chris Moore fan!

    It’s weird how fandoms work. I went to his reading at the UW Bookstore, and it is the first reading I’ve EVER been to there where I didn’t see anybody I recognized in the audience.

  30. Whatever happened to Killer Bees?

    They are apparently a serious problem in some places, having moved up north into the southern US and south into South America. But they still aren’t all that common, and if you leave them alone they tend to leave you alone. I recall seeing a piece on them recently in which they colonized a house in a remote area in Arizona or New Mexico, and there was some difficulty getting them out. I gather the main difference from “regular” bees is a higher level of aggression against potential threats, meaning they swarm in greater numbers and chase for further distances.

    Enough to keep me away from them.

  31. Meredith:

    Does anyone know which year this is likely to be eligible in? http://io9.com/you-have-to-see-this-french-animated-steampunk-movie-1733192528?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow It looks quite interesting, but it seems to have general release in 2016 and a film festival release in 2015, and I’m not sure how film festivals change eligibility.

    I am not an expert, but at least according to the 2015 nomination info, film festivals count for eligibility. Although I think I have seen in business meetings, films that had limited release in one year and wide release in another quite often getting approved for consideration in the second year. Released only at a single film festival but wider release later would seem to be a good case for being eligible either year (and likely far better odds in the wider release year).

    Either way, thanks for bringing it to our attention. Looks great!

  32. @Ken Marable

    Gotcha, so if I believe in it I should either pimp the hell out of it during the nomination period or submit something to the business meeting about eligibiliy extension. Good to know!

  33. Re: Amelia Earhart:

    Flying Blind by Max Allan Collins attempts to “solve” the mystery, as his other novels in his Nathan Heller novels explore other famous historical cases like the Lindbergh kidnapping. It’s an interesting book, as all of them are, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

    Collins wrote the Dick Tracy comic strip for a while, has done dozens of crime novels., and a bunch of novelizations. I met him once, and he seemed a pretty nice guy.

  34. Meredith:
    Does anyone know which year this is likely to be eligible in? http://io9.com/you-have-to-see-this-french-animated-steampunk-movie-1733192528?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow It looks quite interesting, but it seems to have general release in 2016 and a film festival release in 2015, and I’m not sure how film festivals change eligibility.

    That looks yummy.
    I can’t see festival release as providing enough opportunity for people to see and nominate this year, so I hope the 2016 general release is the magical effective date.
    Here’s hoping the local Mad Developers spare me a theater to see it in.

  35. Firstly, in Call of Cthulhu, dynamite is always the right choice.

    Secondly, it is good when the dynamite is not in the hands of the investigator who constantly fails his SAN rolls. When he first failed it, early into the climactic encounter at the end of the module, he began running, screaming, uncontrollably, in whatever direction most looked like “away.” Every turn thereafter, the Keeper turned to him, had him reroll, watched him fail the roll again, and said, “Nope, you’re still running.”

    Since he wasn’t the one with the dynamite, it got successfully chucked at the Big Bad. The Big Bad blew up. The surviving characters stood triumphant in the wreckage (one of them having turned to another of them with a glad cry of “MARRY ME!”).

    And our friend was still running, screaming, into the setting sun. He got one more attempt at that roll, just to find out whether he was still running. He was.

    I imagine that if our tabletop session were a movie, there would be an easter egg after the credits had mostly rolled, showing about five to ten more seconds of him still running and screaming, possibly past a sign that said WELCOME TO INDIANA or whatever the next state over might have been.

  36. Your mileage may vary, but I find this to be nothing more than a grotesque job of grave robbing. The notion of finding a skull to reconstruct in order to compare it with the face in the painting seems a pretty dim piece of scientific wishfulness

    I agree. For all that I am not against unearthing the dead for scholarship, it’s hard to see a scholarly justification for this one, and it does sound rather gruesome.

  37. Re: Africanized ‘killer’ bees

    Funny, I just finished reading a book on CCD entitled, “Fruitless Fall.” The problem with the Africanized bees is that they just won’t quit. If you manage to tick off a hive of them, they pursue. You jump into a pool of water? They will wait however long it takes for you to come out, same thing with hiding in a building.

    And they will not stop stinging the object of their wrath until it is dead.

  38. Is this some kind of pretentious purity ritual? Like people who will only quote Vox Day based on what’s transcribed here?

    There’s a whole “do not link” custom built on the rationale that one does not want to increase blog traffic to a website they find repellant.

    Frankly, I don’t get it. What do I care if someone else is so pathetic that he builds his ego on the number of hits his website gets? So what?

    The site is not getting PAID for those hits (until/unless the blog owner sells ad space, I suppose). And VD’s experience (someone whose site people are often unwilling to link to), plainly demonstrates that high traffic (which he regularly claims to have) on a blog doesn’t translate into selling books, getting publishing and subrights deals, getting elected to the SFWA BoD, not getting kicked out of SFWA, getting a Hugo Award, making a success of any of your ventures, or earning income.

    So I’ve never understood the whole “I won’t increase his blog traffic by providing a link” thing. I don’t see the point in worrying about what gives pointless satisfaction to someone else.

  39. Re: Africanized ‘killer’ bees

    Non-Africanized bees usually take a lot of ticking off to get to the level that Africanized bees seem to live at normally. You can walk around normal bees and their hive, even sit next to it, and they’ll usually ignore you. Sometimes one will take exception to your presence and chase you indoors. They also have peeves like wool and leather, and floral perfumes are never a good idea. Some varieties – there are at least half a dozen regional variations in Europe – are less aggressive than others.
    (My father had bees as a hobby, adopted when a hive took up residence in some pallets where he worked. One hive in the back yard, four or five up on a ridge overlooking the city, in California before he retired. I still have a couple of quarts of honey from his bees in Texas.)

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