(1) IN POOH’S OWN PAW. Pooh may have been a bear of very little brain, but he knew etiquette.
A 1935 letter signed by “Winnie the Pooh” — actually written by illustrator Ernest Howard Shepard — fetched triple its expected amount when it sold for more than $15,000.
The note, which included a drawing of the titular bear from A.A. Milne‘s book series as well as best friend Piglet, apologizes to a young fan named “Buffkins” for missing his birthday party.
(2) COLD DECK. Vox’s Aja Romano asks: “Did Cards Against Humanity’s ironic humor mask a toxic culture all along?” Tagline: “The popular brand built its progressive ethos through a game that encouraged ironic bigotry. Now, it faces a reckoning.”
The company’s own statement begins:
Starting on June 6, several of our former employees posted reports on social media about a toxic work environment in our Chicago office. Many of them centered on one of our eight co-founders, Max Temkin, who led that office. We immediately began an internal investigation, and on June 9, we made the following commitments to our staff:
- Max Temkin stepped down and no longer has any active role at Cards Against Humanity, effective that day.
- We’re hiring a specialist firm to review and improve all HR, hiring, and management practices at the company. Our goal is to make these practices more inclusive, transparent, and equitable.
- An outside organization will lead workplace training for all partners and employees of Cards Against Humanity, focusing on communication and unconscious bias at work.
Romano’s Vox article continues with an explanation of the problematic aspects of the game, and why they were not called out earlier –
…CAH’s namesake card game, a self-proclaimed “party game for terrible people,” is an off-color derivative of the family-friendly Apples to Apples, the Mad Libs-style party game. Players use a small handful of words to fill in blanks within loaded phrases for maximum comedic effect, and the appeal lies in the goal of creating a more shocking, provocative one-liner from your hand of cards than your fellow players in order to be dubbed the funniest player in the group. It’s the kind of wordplay silliness that goes over well among a lot of drunk party-goers.
But detractors have argued for years that CAH’s real appeal is, in a word, racism. A 2016 study published in the academic journal Humanity & Society found that a quarter of the cards in the original deck dealt with race, and nearly all of those cards involving minorities seemed to invite the worst readings possible. Consider, for example, the card about indigenous Rwandans, “Stifling a giggle at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis,” later reportedly changed to “Helplessly giggling at the mention …” The phrase implies that something about the names of indigenous tribes is inherently funny, and that even though we all know it’s wrong, we just can’t help but indulge in our racism just a little bit, for a laugh. (CAH removed this card from circulation in 2015.)…
(3) ANOTHER CUCKOO IN THE SLUSHPILE. [Item by Andrew Porter.] Okay, which word in the title would you have changed?
(4) PRACTICE YOUR WORLDCON SKILLS. In the CoNZealand 2020 Worldcon Community Group on Facebook, Laurie Mann announced there will be training and practice sessions for the apps they will use to run the virtual Worldcon.
To help people learn about Grenadine, Zoom & Discord & to get practice using these apps leading up to, we will have training sessions & practice sessions over the next few weeks. The schedule, using New Zealand Time, is here: https://conzealand.grenadine.co/en/cnzpreconz/ If you plan to attend any items, don’t forget to log into Grenadine – there’s information about that on the first page of the schedule.
(5) SUMMER SCHOOL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon has started. The schedule and other nformation is at the links:
The Write-a-thon is on! Five hundred and eight participants have begun guided writing sessions, and on Tuesday, we hosted a livestream video of Andy Duncan’s reading. In the coming weeks, the world can tune in to see and hear Eileen Gunn, Nalo Hopkinson, Tina Connolly, Caroline M. Yoachim, and an editors’ roundtable featuring Scott H. Andrews, Chinelo Onwualu, Julia Rios, and Wendy Wagner. These live events include ASL interpreters to help ensure that they are accessible to as many as possible. If you prefer closed captioning, please contact the Seattle Public Library. Please subscribe to our newly revamped YouTube channel for reminders about these events and more!
(6) DYSON SPHERE OF INFLUENCE. From the March 2018 New York Review of Books: “The Big Bang”. Tagline: The following letters to relatives and the accompanying headnotes are adapted from Freeman Dyson’s Maker of Patterns: An Autobiography Through Letters, published by Liveright. This would be of interest in any case, all the more so to readers of Robert J. Sawyer’s new The Oppenheimer Alternative.
… Yesterday I had a talk with [Hans] Bethe about my future. Bethe told me that unless I raise objections, he will press for me to be given a second year; he said this was “in the interests of science as well as in your own interests.” He said I should spend the second year at Princeton with [J. Robert] Oppenheimer, and that Oppenheimer would be glad to look after me…
(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.
- June 1982 — Ursula K, Le Guin’s The Compass Rose was published by Pendragon Press, the Welsh publisher. This edition was of only 550 copies, and featured cover art by Tom Canty with interior illustrations by Anne Yvonne Gilbert. It would garner a Best Single Author Collection From the annual Locus Readers Poll. And a Ditmar was also awarded. It’s been in print even since, and has quite a few translations. Most of the stories here are reprinted from elsewhere but some such as the horrific “The Wife’s Story” which is highly reminiscent of work done by Angela Carter is written for here. (CE)
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
- Born June 28, 1948 — Kathy Bates, 72. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King derived film. Another genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name. (CE)
- Born June 28, 1954 — Deborah Grabien, 66. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. (CE)
- Born June 28, 1954 — Alice Krige, 66. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World. (CE)
- Born June 28, 1979 — Felicia Day, 41. She was Vi in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000. (CE)
- Born June 28, 1957 — Mark Helprin, 73. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s Tale, A City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it. (CE)
- Born June 27, 1926 — Mel Brooks, 94. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. And Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights, though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? (CE)
- Born June 27, 1951 — Lalla Ward, 69. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production. And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus. (CE)
- Born June 27, 1954 — Raffaella De Laurentiis, 66. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series. She was the Executive Producer of the Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. (CE)
- Born June 28, 1918 – Martin Greenberg. Co-founded Gnome Press with Dave Kyle (Dave’s logograph is here), publishing ninety books in hard covers including Anderson, Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Moore, Norton, Simak. Edited eight anthologies. Lost his shirt to Bob Bloch at poker. First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 2013) [JH]
- Born June 28, 1930 – Joe Schaumburger. Active in our two longest-running apas, the Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA) and Spectator Amateur Press Society (SAPS). President of the New Jersey SF Society and the Dickens Fellowship of New York. Founded Wossname (Pratchett fans). (Died 2011) [JH]
- Born June 28, 1944 – Peggy Rae Sapienza. Daughter of Jack McKnight who made the first Hugo Award trophies. Active in FAPA. With husband Bob Pavlat was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Chaired Smofcon 9. Vice-chair of ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon. After BP’s death, married John Sapienza. Chaired BucConeer the 56th Worldcon, Nebula Awards Weekend 2012 and 2014, World Fantasy Convention 2014. Fan Guest of Honor at Chicon 7 the 70th Worldcon. When Japanese fans bid for and won the right, privilege, or typhoon of holding the 65th Worldcon, she was the North America agent, as probably no one else on the continent could have been. Our Gracious Host’s appreciation is here. (Died 2015) [JH]
- Born June 28, 1945 – Jon Gustafson. Co-founded Moscon (Moscow, Idaho) and the Ass’n of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA); ASFA Western Region Director until his death. Wrote “The Gimlet Eye” for Science Fiction Review and Pulphouse. Edited the Program Books for Westercon 46 and MagiCon the 50th Worldcon; the 1995 SFWA Handbook (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America); Chroma, the Art of Alex Schomburg. Founded JMG Appraisals, first professional SF art and book appraisal service in North America. Wouldn’t lead Art Show tours but walked around with me so I could lead them better. (Died 2002) [JH]
- Born June 28, 1954 – Darcy Pattison, 66. Author and quilter; “Houses and Stars” on the cover of Quilting Today (September 1991); Great Arkansas Quilt Show 2002, 2007-2008. The Wayfinder among a dozen novels for us, a few shorter stories; thirty more books for children and adults. Leads the Novel-Revision Retreat. Five Nat’l Science Teaching Ass’n (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Books. Arkansas Governor’s Art Award. Translated into Arabic, Chinese, Danish, German, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish. [JH]
- Born June 28, 1983 – Gina Damico, 37. Croak, Wax, and four more novels for us. Grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York; California now. Hardcore crocheter and knitter. Likes Utz cheese balls. Even she has seized the Iron Throne. Her Website is here. [JH]
(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.
On Mel Brooks’ birthday, let John King Tarpinian tell you about attending the premiere of Blazing Saddles. Not the one in the movie, but the real one at the Pickwick Drive-in in Burbank.
“Attending on horseback was encouraged,” says John. “It was a block from what was then called the Pickwick Stables, now the Burbank Equestrian Center. What is now the entrance back then was a grass lawn, which is where George Burns, as God, made his final phone booth call to John Denver.”
(10) A ROSE OF TEXAS BY ANY OTHER NAME. There’s not much to it besides a map of the district and a news clipping: “Lou Antonelli for Congress – Texas 4th District”.
(11) HOW’S FOR DINNER? “Dolphins Learn Foraging Tricks From Each Other, Not Just From Mom”.
Dolphins learn special foraging techniques from their mothers—and it’s now clear that they can learn from their buddies as well. Take the clever trick that some dolphins use to catch fish by trapping them in seashells. It turns out that they learn this skill by watching their pals do the job.
The discovery, reported in the journal Current Biology, helps reveal how groups of wild animals can transmit learned behaviors and develop their own distinct cultures.
“Dolphins are indeed very clever animals. So it makes sense that they are able to learn from others,” says Sonja Wild, a researcher at the University of Konstanz in Germany. She says young dolphins spend years in close association with their mothers and naturally tend to adopt their mothers’ ways, but this study shows that “dolphins are not only capable, but also motivated to learn from their peers.”
The bottlenose dolphins that live in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have been studied for decades, and scientists have identified over a thousand individuals by looking at the unique shape and markings of their dorsal fins. Researchers know what families the dolphins belong to, and keep track of their close associates. These dolphins use a variety ways of finding food—and not every dolphin uses every method.
Some dolphins, for examples, use sponges as tools. The dolphins break a conical sponge off the seafloor, and then wear it almost like a protective cap on their long snout, or beak. This apparently helps them probe into the rough sand of the rocky seafloor and search for buried prey.
(12) WE HAVE ALWAYS PUNKED IN THE CASTLE. “Shirley Jackson Meets Johnny Rotten In ‘Dark Blood Comes From The Feet'” – NPR will tell you about it.
Horror isn’t many readers’ first choice during times like these. And while the prospect of wallowing in the murkier end of the emotional spectrum isn’t exactly high on the list of anyone’s self-care regimen right now, there’s a lot to be said for confronting our demons on the printed page as well as in real life. Emma J. Gibbon gets it. The Maine-by-way-of-England author’s debut collection of short stories, Dark Blood Comes from the Feet, is an assortment of seventeen scalding, acidic tales that eat away at society’s thin veneer of normalcy, convention, and even reality. At the same time, these horrific confections leave a sweet aftertaste of humanity.
As with all great horror, Dark Blood puts its characters first. In “Janine,” a reporter interviews a broken, middle-aged woman whose experience during her prom night in the ’80s shattered lives as well as reality. It’s the doom-laden, small-town fable of rich boy romancing a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, as if Stephen King had written Pretty in Pink instead of John Hughes.
“The Tale of Bobby Red Eyes” is more mysterious but no less sympathetic to its titular character. In it, a group of children set out to investigate a local urban legend. The ending isn’t exactly happy. “If you say ‘Bobby Red Eyes’ three times in the mirror on Halloween, he’ll be your reflection,” whispers the story’s narrator, and Gibbon builds that incantatory force until it’s incandescently frightening. And in “The Last Witch in Florida,” Gibbon etches an endearingly weird portrait of an elderly witch who’s retired to the Sunshine State, stirring up magical mischief using pink plastic flamingoes and whatever she can scare up at the corner CVS.
(13) UNRELEASED. An NPR review: “A Painful Past And Ghostly Present Converge In ‘Tokyo Ueno Station'”.
Kazu, the narrator of Tokyo Ueno Station, had hoped that his death would bring him some rest, some sense of closure. The man led a life marked with hard work and intense pain; he spent his final years homeless, living in a makeshift shelter in a Tokyo park. But when he dies, he finds the afterlife — such as it is — is nothing like he expected.
“I thought that once I was dead, I would be reunited with the dead,” he reflects. “I thought something would be resolved by death … But then I realized that I was back in the park. I was not going anywhere, I had not understood anything, I was still stunned by the same numberless doubts, only I was now outside life looking in, as someone who has lost the capacity to exist, now ceaselessly thinking, ceaselessly feeling –“
Kazu’s painful past and ghostly present are the subject of Tokyo Ueno Station, the latest book by Korean-Japanese author Yu Miri to be published in English. It’s a relatively slim novel that packs an enormous emotional punch, thanks to Yu’s gorgeous, haunting writing and Morgan Giles’ wonderful translation.
(14) NOT UNCUT AFTER ALL. Bruce Haring, in the Deadline story, “‘South Park’ Missing Five Episodes From HBO Max Offerings Because Of Prophet Muhammad Depictions”, says that HBO Max is offering 23 seasons of South Park except for five episodes that have the Prophet Muhammad as a character. Two of the five episodes are on the South Park website.
…The controversial episodes violate a widespread Islamic belief that depictions of Muhammad or any of the other prophets of Islam are forbidden, as they encourage the worship of idols. The prohibitions cover images, drawings, statues and cartoons.
…The episodes not available on HBO Max include season five’s Super Best Friends and season 14’s 200 and 201. Those shows had previously been removed from a streaming deal with Hulu and also were axed on the official South Park website. Also not made available to HBO Max were season 10’s Cartoon Wars Part I and Cartoon Wars Part 2, although those episodes can still be streamed on the South Park website.
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker were threatened in 2010 for the prior depictions of Muhammad. That prompted Comedy Central to remove voice and visual references in the episodes, and eventually to pull the entire episodes from streaming.
(15) A SPOONFUL OF NOT-SUGAR. BBC explains “How one teaspoon of Amazon soil teems with fungal life”.
A teaspoon of soil from the Amazon contains as many as 1,800 microscopic life forms, of which 400 are fungi.
Largely invisible and hidden underground, the “dark matter” of life on Earth has “amazing properties”, which we’re just starting to explore, say scientists.
The vast majority of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world have yet to be formally classified.
Yet, fungi are surprisingly abundant in soil from Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.
To help protect the Amazon rainforest, which is being lost at an ever-faster rate, it is essential to understand the role of fungi, said a team of researchers led by Prof Alexandre Antonelli, director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
…Fungi in soil from tropical countries are particularly poorly understood. To find out about soil from the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, researchers collected samples of soil and leaf litter from four regions.
Genetic analysis revealed hundreds of different fungi, including lichen, fungi living on the roots of plants, and fungal pathogens, most of which are unknown or extremely rare. Most species have yet to be named and investigated.
Areas of naturally open grasslands, known as campinas, were found to be the richest habitat for fungi overall, where they may help the poorer soil take up nutrients.
Understanding soil diversity is critical in conservation actions to preserve the world’s most diverse forest in a changing world, said Dr Camila Ritter of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.
(16) VIDEO OF YESTERDAY. The Locus Awards virtual ceremony video is now available at YouTube.
[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John Hertz, and Carl Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nina.]