Snapshots 126 Ventura Highway

Here are 11 developments of interest to fans.

(1) You’d think somebody who’s made a career as a comics artist could, you know, draw.  “The 40 Worst Rob Liefield Drawings” shows in excruciating detail why that’s a bad assumption. (Rated R for spicy language – like, don’t read the article aloud at work.)

You know how people draw comics? Rob doesn’t do that. He had his own Levi’s commercial directed by Spike Lee in the 90s. He had best-selling comic books. He was a revolutionary and helped co-found Image Comics when all the hot artists ditched their classic gigs (like Spider-Man, the X-Men, and, uh, Guardians of the Galaxy) for creator-owned projects. But he doesn’t “draw” comics. Oh God, no.

…Okay. The #40 spot is a catch-all for “any time Rob Liefeld has ever drawn a woman.” We get more specific from here, but if we didn’t lump these together the entire list would be broken spines and colossal hooters.

(2) If you can’t live without knowing the release date for the first film in the next Star Wars trilogy rest easy, your life is no longer in jeopardy.

Lucasfilm has announced the new date for the debut of the next Star Wars trilogy, and despite some script rewriting that is currently underway, the movie will not be pushed to later in 2016.

Fans can expect to revisit the galaxy far, far away on Dec. 18, 2015.

Since I have been tracking Tomorrowland I was interested in a second item that was packaged with the same announcement.

In announcing the shift, Disney also changed the dates for another major film on its slate, the Brad Bird-directed George Clooney sci-fi saga Tomorrowland (being co-written and co-produced by EW’s own Jeff Jensen.) Tomorrowland was originally set for Dec. 12, 2014, but now moves to May 22, 2015 — the previous berth of the new Star Wars film.

(3) Mining Cold War security dossiers for celebrity names is one of the hobbies of the age of the internet. And now we discover the FBI kept a file on Isaac Asimov. Should fans be surprised? (Think of the patriotic company he kept! He worked on secret war research with Robert Heinlein! He sold stories to John W. Campbell!) Or take the cynical approach? (What Boston academic wasn’t investigated by the FBI in the Sixties?) Your choice.

A 1965 memo notes that Asimov’s name appeared on a list maintained by the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) of individuals either contacted for recruitment or “considered amenable” to the party’s goals. An informant, who is noted as the chairman of the CPUSA, New England district, provided the list to the FBI’s Boston office. The list included an entry for “ISAAC ASIMOV, Boston University Biochemist,” but did not note whether the party had actually established contact…

“Boston is not suggesting that Asimov is ROBROF,” the memo concludes, but “he should be considered as a possibility in light of his background, which contains information inimical to the best interests of the United States.”

…The FBI’s file on Isaac Asimov ends at 1967, so it seems that their ROBPROF investigation steered toward other suspects.

(4) Become a citizen scientist by installing a data-collecting app on your smartphone suggests Scientific American.

Mobile applications for smartphones, tablets and other gadgets can turn just about anyone into a citizen scientist. App-equipped wireless devices give users worldwide the ability to act as remote sensors for all sorts of data as they go through their daily routines—whether it’s invasive garlic mustard weed in Washington State or red-bordered stinkbugs in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Smartphones can automate data collection and incorporate many important data-gathering functions—such as capturing images, audio and text—into a single tool that can “stamp” the date, time and geographic coordinates associated with an observation, says Alex Mayer, a civil and environmental engineering professor at Michigan Technological University. Mayer is leading a project with Michigan Tech colleague Robert Pastel, an associate professor of computer science, and a group of students to develop new citizen science mobile apps.

(5) Stop asking “Where’s my flying car?” It’s here. David Klaus reacts, “I thought his concept was going to be a pipe dream, but apparently it’s about to happen.”

(6) The Hubble telescope photographed a strange asteroid with multiple rotating tails between Mars and Jupiter.

Instead of appearing as a small point of light, like most asteroids, this one has half a dozen comet-like dust tails radiating out like spokes on a wheel, said the report in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Let James H. Burns be the first on record to nominate this as an alien spacecraft.

(7) Speaking of aliens… Our Founding Fathers didn’t allow aliens to hold office. But these are more enlightened times. John Hertzler has been elected to the town board of Ithaca, NY, an actor who played eight different characters on Star Trek, including a Klingon and a Vulcan.

Hertzler said he has no ambitions to emulate Martok, who rose to be chancellor in the Klingon empire.

“I have no designs on the presidency,” Hertzler said. “But I do want to do my best in terms of serving the folks here.”

Nearby Ithaca College in Binghamton is where Rod Serling was once a faculty member. The locals seem to be more open-minded about these things than your average Founding Father.

(8) C. S. Lewis with a beard?

(9) In his interview by the New York Times J.J. Abrams is called the creator of the novel “S” (though Abrams points out is was written by Doug Dorst). One thing we learn about Abrams is how eccentric his personal library is.

What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

My friend Sarah Vowell once looked at my bookshelves and asked, in that voice of hers, “Do you have any chapter books?” My shelves are filled mostly with ridiculous volumes that I love: magic books; film critique and movie “making of” books; design and font technique and collections; how-to, craft and construction books; and psychology texts. One of my favorites is “Sleights of Mind,” which talks about the neuroscience of our perception of magic. A very cool read.

(10) Honorable Whoredom at a Penny a Word collects 14 Harlan Ellison tales from the beginning of his career that have never appeared in any previous Ellison collection.

Several stories feature Jerry Killian – “that’s ‘kill-ee-uun,’ not ‘kill-yuun’” — Ellison’s hard-boiled insurance investigator. Another introduces Big John Novak, Ellison’s under-four-foot-tall private detective —

…Immortalized in a 1993 installment of Harlan Ellison’s Watching where the commentator referenced a story with a midget protagonist before exclaiming “I’m five-foot-five; I’m a little person! You’re a midget!” at the politically correct viewer.

(11) Dr. Timothy Leary was working on several software projects before he became too ill to continue. They have been rediscovered in the New York Public Library

The New York Public Library recently discovered a treasure trove of video games in its archives created by psychedelic evangelist Timothy Leary. Over 375 floppies (talk about flashbacks) containing a “dozen or so” games developed by the LSD-advocate in the ’80s — some are playable via emulation — are now on display in the library’s rare books and manuscripts division, according to The New York Times. The good doctor’s digital works had a self-help bend to them, advocating self-improvement by interactive means as opposed to pharmaceuticals, and apparently recreational drugs as well. If you fancy yourself a cyberpunk, Leary also had an in-progress project based on William Gibson’s Neuromancer, replete with writing by William S. Burroughs and a soundtrack by Devo.

These are being archived and made available to researchers and perhaps even to programmers who want to finish the projects.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, David Klaus, Andrew Porter and James H. Burns for these links.]

5 thoughts on “Snapshots 126 Ventura Highway

  1. The “40 Worst Rob Liefeld Drawings” site essentially boils down to “I don’t like Rob Liefeld’s style.” It’s funny, but it’s pure sour grapes. I could give the same treatment to Jack Kirby, for example. They complain about Liefeld’s feet?
    Here’s a Kirby:. Note that if “Crystal the Elemental Girl” was real, she’d topple over on those little pin-sized feet of hers.

  2. Flying cars have been about to completely replace ground cars since some time early in the 20th Century.

    They’ve been built and put on the market. But sales have never really taken off.

    See also: Simplified Federal tax code.

  3. We’ll know for sure if you name your novel based on this item “Rendezvous With Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong.”

  4. Drat.

    I was thiking of a far future novel about a group of friends who all adore the ancient musical. WICKED, and arrange to meet on a long abandoned space station, near Io….

    I WAS going to call it:



    (Oh Io, I-OH-oh….)

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