Snapshots 108 Dragons

Here are 11 developments of interest to fans:

(1) “Career Arc: Harrison Ford” by Alex Pappademas (at Grantland) is a fun read —

Should we start with carpentry? The fact that Harrison Ford spent some years working as a carpenter is one of the cornerstones — one of the load-bearing struts, you might say — of his mythos. He may still be the most famous ex-carpenter since Jesus.


“There’s nothing good about being famous,” Ford told an interviewer a few years ago. “It was unanticipated and I’ve never enjoyed it. You can get the table you want in a restaurant. It gets you doctor’s appointments. But what’s that worth? Nothing.”

Question: Can you imagine a less-appealing description of the upside of being a public figure than “It gets you doctor’s appointments”? No wonder Ford looks so glum all the time; he’s been in the game for 50 years and all it represents to him is the express lane to a colonoscopy.

(2) Another unhappy Star Wars vet is the maestro himself. Do you think the residents of Marin County are sorry they made George Lucas mad?

After George Lucas abandoned plans to build a movie studio along a woodsy road in Marin County, he complained about the permitting process in a place so environmentally friendly that hybrid-car ownership is four times the state average.

His next move, some here say, was payback for what Lucas described in a written statement as the “bitterness and anger” expressed by his neighbors.

The creator of “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” is working with a local foundation that hopes to build hundreds of units of affordable housing on a former dairy farm called Grady Ranch, where his studio would have risen.

Now MarinCounty is squirming at that prospect — and it is not a pretty sight.

(3) For 75 years, writers have injected Superman into American politics, from World War II to Vietnam, from race relations to the war on terrorism.

Remember Superman #168 in 1963 where President Kennedy agreed to put on a Clark Kent mask to protect Superman’s identity? A 1970 story called “I Am Curious (Black),” where “Lois steps into a handy Kryptonian Plastimold outfitted with Transformaflux technology that transforms her into a righteous African American woman who goes undercover to expose racial prejudice”? All this and more in the Washington Post op-ed by Glen Weldon, author of Superman: The Unauthorized Biography

(4) James Bacon applauds the slate of nominees in the Best Graphic Story Hugo category in a post at Forbidden Planet.

(5) Nolan Bushnell is not a very self-effacing guy, but the creator of Pong and co-founder of Atari is willing to pretend to be one if it will sell copies of his book Finding the Next Steve Jobs: How to Find, Hire, Keep and Nurture Creative Talent.

Pong offered a new kind of entertainment with with its black and white graphics and dials to control the on-screen action.

But Bushnell admits they did not even intend to make it.

“It was meant as a training project for one of my engineers,” he remembered.

“And we kept fiddling with it and doing slight improvements.

“One of the improvements all of a sudden made the game completely fun.”

At the time, Atari had been contracted by Bally Technologies – a company now based in Las Vegas and specialising in casino gaming – to create a driving game.

Excited by his new game, Bushnell offered Pong instead.

“We thought [Pong] is so fun, maybe they’ll take this and it will fulfill our contract.

“They said ‘no, we want the driving game’.”

(6) Did it take this long for somebody to finally read the entire 500-page transcript of conversations among the Apollo 10 astronauts? Because it was just last week a New York paper reported about the poop problem in the space capsule. The dialog between Stafford, Young and Cernan makes it sound like one of those Turkish galleys in a Patrick O’Brien novel (“turds everywhere”).

(7) Scott Turow’s New York Times op-ed “The Slow Death of the American Author” complains that emerging digital book technology is being treated as another excuse for publishers to scalp writers —

Take e-books. They are much less expensive for publishers to produce: there are no printing, warehousing or transportation costs, and unlike physical books, there is no risk that the retailer will return the book for full credit.

But instead of using the savings to be more generous to authors, the six major publishing houses — five of which were sued last year by the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division for fixing e-book prices — all rigidly insist on clauses limiting e-book royalties to 25 percent of net receipts. That is roughly half of a traditional hardcover royalty.

(8) Writers have been scuffling since, oh, forever, as Gardner Dozois told the Philadelphia Weekly.

You collaborate with George R.R. Martin in editing themed short-story anthologies. What’s it been like watching Martin’s already-strong genre popularity explode through the American mass culture since Game of Thrones hit HBO?
It’s been amazing watching George’s success. We started out as broke young writers together. I remember, back in the mid-’70s, going to a Nebula Award banquet in New York City with George and trying to find an editor who was willing to buy us dinner, because neither of us had any money; the best we could do was an editor who took us out in front of the hotel and bought us each a hot dog from a hot dog cart. Now he’s perhaps the best-known and most successful writer in the genre, even personally satirized in cartoons and on Saturday Night Live. It’s astounding—but he’s worked very, very hard for his success, and deserves every bit of it.

(9) Vanity Fair contributor Mark Seal’s follow-up comment about the Christian Gerhartsreiter guilty verdict includes the length of the potential jail sentence:

One juror told the media that he would suggest a lighter sentence if the defendant would lead authorities to Linda Sohus, which seems unlikely; among other things, it would mean that the imposter would have to break his silence and come clean. In the meantime, Gerhartsreiter will serve 27 years to life in federal prison, after his sentencing is handed down on June 26. And until then, he’ll receive what he always loved most: attention — though not, to his chagrin, as a Rockefeller.

(10) Guy Gavriel Kay is inspired by history:

Tell us about River of Stars for the reader who’s not familiar with your work.

River of Stars is inspired by history: the remarkable Northern Song dynasty of China (around 1100 A.D.). It moves from the tensions of a dangerous court to scenes involving the most ordinary people in villages so small they aren’t even on the map. One mother does the bravest thing in the book, perhaps, to try to save her beloved, very sick daughter… and all she does is walk, alone, to the neighbouring market town. These small moments in people’s lives are central to how I write.

The two main characters are a man and a woman who are each, in their own way, fighting what their time and world “allow” people to be. The role of women in this very “formal” society is a major theme. The book is pitched on a very large scale–war, peace, politics, intrigue–but I am always as interested in the inner lives and relationships of my characters. That means romantic love, parent-child dynamics, and even two brothers who are among my favorite figures in the novel. I want readers to care about these people and what happens to them.

(11) If you’re having a good day, listening to John Astin read “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe will take care of that…

 [Thanks for these links goes out to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter  and John King Tarpinian. (Hey, dude deserves double mention!)]

14 thoughts on “Snapshots 108 Dragons

  1. John Astin looks about as old as he is, so this rendering (and I mean rendering as in “meat scraps”) of “The Raven” must have been fairly recent. I’m certain the young John Astin could have given a much livlier performance than this.

  2. Living in an environmentally sound style is bloody expensive. I don’t know if Dr. David Suzuki is as well known in the US as in Canada — he’s our “Environmental” version of Michael Moore, sort of … except that he’s serious and doesn’t clown around as much. Most of his ideas are good and his science is impeccable. But, in one CBC documentary — in which he defends controversial wind turbines in his neighborhood — I notice that the Doctor lives in an exclusive valley in the Rocky Mountains of central BC. His house, like those around him, was worth something like $4 million! It had all the Green technology you could want — solar panels for sure, proper insulation, minimal glass, recycled waste heat, etc. But how many of us have $4 million? Even if we were willing to settle for somewhat less natural grandeur — a row house in the Bronx, say — even a $2 million home is likely out of reach. I remember that, later in the same documentary, the viewer was shown an environmentally friendly home for us regular people. It was about the size of a trailer home, with fold down tables and beds, and so small you could touch each wall with your outstretched arms. If that’s what the future is going to be like, either we might as well just burn out the planet by living well as long as we can … or we need to get rid of 5 billion people.

  3. Rarely quoted are remarks made by Neil Armstrong to Buzz Aldrin, shortly after setting Eagle down on the surface of the Moon. “Oh, oh… ” said Armstrong. “I’ve got the farts again.” “It’s that Tang orange drink,” said Buzz. “Hell, I think we’re still on the open circuit — Houston? … don’t copy that.”

  4. I don’t know anything about the details of royalties, but ignorance has never stopped fans from speculating:
    I wonder whether the 25% royalty for e-books is about twice the percentage, while being about half of the dollar amount, of royalties on a hardcover.
    If I were an author, I’d care more about the net amount in my bank account than about the percentages.

  5. Mike: There’s a piece about John Astin in the current BALTIMORE MAGAZINE. He’s been teaching at Johns Hopkins for at least ten years. Martin

  6. Martin: I enjoyed reading the article — “Drama King”. What an impact he’s having at the age of 83. And I hadn’t realized he was the other actor (with Marty Ingels) on “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster,” a favorite of mine at the ripe old age of 9.

  7. I recently borrowed a box set of “I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster.” LIke a lot of early ’60s sitcoms, it helps a lot if you are 9. Much as I like sitcoms, I couldn’t finish the box set. I’m tough — I finished the entire first season of the Patty Duke Show (another borrowed box set) … but not Dickens & Fenster.

  8. I forgot to mention yesterday that, yes, the ISS does have a problem with mold. Also stench. Everything, every drop of sweat, every crumb of bread or atom of meat spread, every mote of liquid cleaner, drop of soup and smidgeon of toe jam ends up drifting behind an instrument cluster or personal locker, where it clings for life and stinks up the joint.

  9. The problem of odor in space is not new. Given that the fuel cells produced water for drinking as a by-product of using hydrogen and oxygen to generate electricity for the Gemini spacecraft, sometimes the water had an excess of hydrogen in the mix. Combine that with a low-pressure atmosphere in the spacecraft, and normal pressure in the digestive tract, the natural result was, Surprise, surprise!, an overage of gas-passing. Combine that with the fact that in Gemini the solution to fecal waste on the longer missions was an extra-large, extra-absorbent diaper in the flight suits, the astronauts just got used to the smell — they had no choice.

    I’ve read that on opening the hatch of Gemini 7 (a two-week mission), the Navy diver from the recovery helicopter was hit with the smell so hard that he suddenly vomited into the lap of one of the astronauts.

    The larger Apollo command module had enough room that bowel movements could be made into a containment bag sealed to the buttocks with a sticky ointment which prevented leakage, which then had to be scrubbed off afterward. There are other details about what was required, but I’ll spare you the rest. Pete Conrad said the process took a full hour.

    Not everything about being an astronaut is glamorous. Being a pioneer, no matter what the frontier, has its unfortunate aspects, and spaceflight is no exception.

  10. P. S.: As Trip Tucker said in an early episode of Star Trek: Enterprise in response to questions submitted by schoolchildren back on Earth, “Aw, Captain, not another poop question!”

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