Pixel Scroll 5/22/21 In Odin Days, A Glimpse Of Stalking

(1) THE MARS MY DESTINATION. “China’s Zhurong Mars rover kicks off roving mission after driving off landing platform”Global Times has the story.

Named after an ancient fire god of Chinese mythology, the 1.85-meter-tall and some 240-kilogram Zhurong Mars rover safely drove off the landing platform and reached the surface of Mars at 10: 40 am on Saturday, kicking off its roving mission, the Global Times learned from the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

China has become the second country in the world to successfully deploy a robotic rover onto the surface of Mars, breaking up US’ monopoly in the field, Chinese space analysts hailed.

The rover will carry out environmental perception and scientific detection in the patrol area as planned. At the same time, the orbiter will operate in the relay orbit to provide stable relay communication for the rover’s patrol and exploration. The orbiter is serving as a data relay station for communications between Zhurong and mission controllers on Earth.

(2) HERE WOLF, THERE HASSLE. The question of what an author would want done with a work like this by his estate is always interesting: “John Steinbeck’s estate urged to let the world read his shunned werewolf novel” in The Guardian.

Years before becoming one of America’s most celebrated authors, John Steinbeck wrote at least three novels which were never published. Two of them were destroyed by the young writer as he struggled to make his name, but a third – a full-length mystery werewolf story entitled Murder at Full Moon – has survived unseen in an archive ever since being rejected for publication in 1930.

Now a British academic is calling for the Steinbeck estate to finally allow the publication of the work, written almost a decade before masterpieces such as The Grapes of Wrath, his epic about the Great Depression and the struggles of migrant farm workers.

“There would be a huge public interest in a totally unknown werewolf novel by one of the best-known, most read American writers of the 20th century,” said Professor Gavin Jones, a specialist in American literature at Stanford University…

… But Steinbeck’s literary agents, McIntosh & Otis, told the Observer they would not be publishing the novel. “As Steinbeck wrote Murder at Full Moon under a pseudonym and did not choose to publish the work during his lifetime, we uphold what Steinbeck had wanted,” they said. “As the estate’s agents, we do not further exploit the works beyond what had been the author and estate’s wishes.”

(3) TAKE THE CASH AND LET THE REDDIT GO. “Wanda Sells AMC Theatres Stake For $426 Million”The Hollywood Reporter sums up the transaction.

Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group has sold off essentially its entire stake in AMC Theatres, officially exiting the U.S. theatrical exhibition business.

Wanda has had a controlling stake in the exhibition giant since 2012, but January’s Reddit-fueled rally saw the company trade in its super-voting Class B stock for Class A common stock, giving up control but giving it the option to cash out.

And cash out it did. On Friday, AMC disclosed that Wanda sold all but 10,000 shares in the past week, netting $426.7 million. It previously sold three tranches last month for $220 million.

(4) SELF-PUBLISHED FANTASY BLOG-OFF 7. Mark Lawrence starts SPFBO 7 – the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2021 – PHASE 1 with a full board, titles listed at the link. He shared some statistics about the 300 entrants.

A list of most of the entries is on Goodreads thanks to Hiu Gregg.

From the list I discovered that:

40 entries ~13% have 100+ ratings on Goodreads.

 97 of the entries have 25+ ratings.

 0 of the books were published 10 or more years ago – the oldest is 9 years old.

 0 of the books have more than 1,000 pages. The longest is 986 pages.

 5 of the books have over a 1,000 ratings, the most ratings is 3,769.

(5) SOUVENIR BOOK. If you happened to take in the World’s Fair while you were in New York for the first Worldcon, here is a nifty souvenir book you could have bought, reproduced in full by Past Print: ”New York World’s Fair / Souvenir Book / 1939”.

Donald Deskey’s superb design of this World Fair book must have made it one of the more worthwhile souvenirs amongst the of hundreds cheaply made commercial items. Perhaps the best souvenir of all was the plate (right) designed by Charles Murphy for the Homer Laughlin company, unfortunately I don’t have one.

    Deskey is probably better known as a furniture designer of the streamline era but his graphic work appeared in every household across the land because he designed the Tide soap box with the red, orange and yellow bulls eye and boxes for Oxydol and Cheer. The design for Crest toothpaste was also his.

    The design of this book with 144 (unnumbered) pages still looks fresh today, seventy plus years after they were printed. Large photos and graphics, angled text and the clever use of ten short pages to introduce the various sections work really well and provide enough visual interest to keep turning the pages. I particularly liked these short intro pages that used spot color and cleverly designed to blend into the page underneath. Turning over the cover to reveal a bird’s eye view of the complete Fair with color on the left and mono on the right seems rather unusual design choice though.

(6) FREITAG OBIT. The New York Times commemorates Ruth Freitag (1924-2021), a librarian renowned for her knowledge of science, technology, and astronomy: “Ruth Freitag, Librarian to the Stars, Dies at 96”.

Isaac Asimov was enthralled with her and wrote her a limerick. Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan wrote in their introduction to “Comet” (1985) that “one of the most pleasant experiences in writing this book” was meeting her. Numerous other science writers acknowledged their debts to her in forewords to their books.

Ruth Freitag, a reference librarian at the Library of Congress for nearly a half-century, was unknown to the general public. But she was, in more ways than one, a librarian to the stars.

Known for her encyclopedic knowledge of resources in science and technology, Ms. Freitag (pronounced FRY-tog) was sought out by the leading interpreters of the galaxy. She developed a particular expertise in astronomy early in her career.

Her learnedness became so comprehensive that she opened up new worlds to Mr. Asimov, the pre-eminent popular science writer of his day, and Mr. Sagan, the astronomer who introduced millions of television viewers to the wonders of the universe.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • May 22, 2012 — On this day in 2012, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise to date, it was directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it though admittedly the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a mediocre fifty three percent rating. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 — Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve read all the Holmes stories a long time ago. My favorite is The Hound of the Baskervilles as it allows him to develop a story at length. Favorite video Holmes? Jeremy Brett.  Looking at ISFDB, I’m see there were more Professor Challenger novels than I realized. And the Brigadier Gerard stories sound suspiciously comical… (Died 1930.) (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1938 — Richard Benjamin, 83. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, one added in collection Feensters in the Lake.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine”, a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1939 — Paul Winfield. He’s best remembered as Capt. Terrell in The Wrath of Khan, but he was also in the Next Gen episode “Darmok” as the signature character.  He showed up in Damnation Alley as a character named Keegan and in The Terminator as Lt. Ed Traxler. Oh, and let’s not forget that he was Lucien Celine In The Serpent and the Rainbow which surely is genre. (Died 2004.) (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips, age 78.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1964 — Kat Richardson, 57. Her Greywalker series is one of those affairs that I’m pleased to say that I’ve read every novel that was been published. I’ve not read Blood Orbit, the first in her new series, yet. Has anyone here done so? (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1968 — Karen Lord, 53. A  Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. Lord was Toastmistress of Worldcon 75 in 2017. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1979 — Maggie Q, 42. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series. (CE) 
  • Born May 22, 1979 – Kagami Takaya, age 42.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Nine light novels available in English.  Here is the most recent I know of; see here.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1985 – Arwen Mannens, age 36.  Three novels; so far I find them only in Dutch.  Samples of her 2006 and 2021 drawing here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal – the word Carbonite should be enough….

(10) DISNEY PLUS WITCHES. “Bette Midler announces that ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ is happening: ‘We’re back!’” says Yahoo! Entertainment.

Here’s yet another reason why you should always bet on Bette (Midler). Last year, the acting and singing icon confirmed to Yahoo Entertainment that she would “absolutely” be back for Hocus Pocus 2 — the long-rumored sequel to Disney’s 1993 Halloween favorite — alongside her witchy onscreen sisters Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker. “As soon as we sign on the dotted line,” Midler promised at the time. 

Flash-forward a few months, and it looks like that dotted line isn’t blank anymore. Hocus Pocus 2 will start production later this year for a 2022 premiere on the Disney+ streaming service. And all three Sanderson sisters promptly confirmed the news on social media. “It’s been 300 years… but we’re BACK!” Midler teased on Instagram. 

(11) GET THE LEAD OUT. Past Print takes you on a visual tour of its collection of “Type tools before the pc”. I remember using a hand-held composing stick in Print Shop back in nineteen-ought-sixty-eight.

(12) NOT LOST, JUST THROWN AWAY. CrimeReads’ Keith Roysdon decided to rewatch the bad final season of LOST. He explains why he thinks it was bad and notes the many mysteries of the show that were never answered: “Coming To Terms With ‘Lost,’ All These Years Later”.

…Like millions of other viewers, I found the series riveting television. I loved the characters and situations and twists. The polar bear. The hatch. The slowly-unfolding story of the Dharma Initiative. And I was never more horrified at a TV plot point than when “the Others” kidnapped young Walt.

The intense reaction the series inspired in me and others backfired, though, when “Lost” ended with a disappointing final season and a two-part finale that didn’t just disappoint but outraged some.

I was so disappointed that, in the 11 years since the finale aired on May 23, 2010, I’ve never revisited it, never rewatched the DVD set that collects dust on a shelf. I’ve never gone back to revisit the cult ABC series on streaming….

It’s not just the failure of the show to answer many of its mysteries that is so off-putting. Remember that scene in the cult movie “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension” when Jeff Goldblum’s character asks about a watermelon in a complicated piece of machinery and Clancy Brown’s character says, “I’ll tell you later” but then never does? That did not ruin “Buckaroo Banzai” for me.

But “Lost’s” mysteries were so many and some were so largely unanswered….

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Out of the Inkwell: The Fleischer Story is a documentary, narrated by Carl Reiner, about the Fleischer studios which explains why Max and Dave Fleischer were great cartoonists. It first appeared around 1990. Leonard Maltin and Mark Evanier are two of the talking heads.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Will R., Andrew Porter, Brian Z., Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel “Anything Geas” Dern.]

My Father, And The Brontosaurus

1190429869_1By James H. Burns:  “I couldn’t believe I found myself talking to a dinosaur, Jim,” my father told me, some years ago. “I should have felt silly, but there I was, with this happy Tyrannosaur, saying, ‘Good afternoon, my friend.’ ”

Some people, of course, would have seen the T-Rex as glowering, rather than  with a smile.

My parents had gone to what must have been one of the very first editions of “Dinosaurs Alive,” in 1989, a neat attraction featuring “life-sized” primevals in a natural setting,” moving and roaring in animatronic splendor.

One could actually walk around the dinosaurs.

(My folks saw this “prehistoric park,” at Sand Points, along the  Long Island Sound, in New York — also the site of the magnificent 1923 medieval-styled castle, Falaise.)

My Dad, Hugh — known to almost all by the nickname “Hy” (derived from his original birth-name,  Hyman Birnbaum) — was a retired mechanical engineering professor (at NYU, Polytechnic, and the City College of New York), and a decorated World War II veteran. In other words, he wasn’t necessarily one to be overwhelmed by whimsy, although he certainly embraced that part of his personality.  (If you were there, with the dinosaurs by the woods, you might have seen a rather dignified looking gentleman, about six feet tall — imagine, if you will, Telly Savalas with a grey crewcut, and beard; or, from certain angles, Dean Martin, under similar accoutrements…)

113bHe was also a science fiction guy going back to the golden age of Flash Gordon in the newspapers, and Stanley G. Weinbaum and Jack Williamson (and Astounding and Planet Stories magazines) on the newsstands,  in the 1930s.

He first must have seen dinosaurs come to life in the halcyon era of 1933’s King Kong, probably later in its run, when a movie really could only cost a nickel…

(One of the few easily accessible miracles of the Depression (still the greatest economic calamity to ever face our nation), was that ANY American for the equivalent today of about a buck, could see a cinematic miracle; or for a bit more purchase over one hundred pages of pulp parables; and, for absolutely free, tune into wonder on the radio, with a myriad of adventure serials, comedies, and other entertainment.)

As others have pointed out, has there been a child of the century who wasn’t fascinated by dinosaurs?

dinoland-1964-5-world-s-fair_imagelargeThe first dinosaurs we would have shared must have been at the New York World’s Fair in 1965, in Flushing Meadows, Queens (where the baseball Mets still play).  In the second, and final year of that unparalleled spectacular’s existence, we saw Dinoland,  Sinclair Oil’s famous “dinosaur garden.” (A small plastic stegosaurus soon became one of my prized possessions).

But the most stunning experience at the Fair — and a highlight not only of childhood, but of many attendees’ lifetimes — was “The Magic Skyway.”  The Ford Motor Company in collaboration with Walt Disney and associates, fashioned a “ride” where you actually sat in a real car.  The brand new automobile first took you through the distant past — dinosaurs and early man — and then as you went through what felt like a tunnel in time, you were suddenly surrounded by dioramas of the worlds of tomorrow, including a happy future in space.

(For decades before the internet’s inception — and the ability to prove  a veracity of memory — people would doubt my toddler’s reminiscence  that the Ford vehicles first went through a window, and journeyed on a track outside the building, several stories high, in what resembled a glass corridor, before reentering, and commencing this voyage through the eons!

tumblr_n4gn3hwA9X1s6mfc6o1_500(Memory, of course, can be tricky. My father, beginning in the 1980s, swore that as a three-year old, I insisted that the family wait for a Ford convertible.  But when fact-checking this small memoir, I discovered that every one of the cars used for the exhibition was a convertible.  Perhaps, in 1965, I urged that we should wait for a Mustang, which was debuted at the Fair, a year earlier!)

(The other featured automobiles included Galaxie 500s,  Lincoln Continentals, Mercury Montereys, Ford Falcons, Thunderbirds, and Mercury Comets.)

Sadly, Disney felt that “The Magic Skyway” was too expensive to remount at Disneyland, but some of the dinosaurs were transferred to the park, as well as a reconfigured cave man.  (Certainly, much of the spirit of the Flushing Meadows EXPOSITION  lives on in certain venues at Disney’s EPCOT, in Orlando, Florida.)

Pasta-Brontosaurus COMPThere was also, of course, the Hall of Dinosaurs at New York’s Museum of Natural History, a chamber of awe that my Dad first saw in his own youth.  (There are few places I have been in my life, that seem permeated with such reverence.) And in 1968, on one of my first trips to a movie theatre to see an adult motion picture (as opposed to a “kiddie matinee”), we saw a Saturday afternoon double-bill of One Million Years B.C. featuring the incredible stop-motion animation dinosaurs of Ray Harryhausen (Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Jason And The Argonauts), and the particularly resplendent Raquel Welch, paired, remarkably, with Planet of the Apes!

how_and_why_dinosaursVirtually forgotten today, though, is what must have been one of the most widely viewed of “filmed” dinosaur depictions, or at least the one in the most American homes…

In 1956, Irwin Allen (Lost In Space, The Poseidon Adventure) put together a theatrical documentary, The Animal World, which included a lengthy sequence on dinosaurs, created by stop-motion animation filmmakers Willis O’Brien (King Kong, Mighty Joe Young) and the aforementioned Harryhausen.

Viewmaster — the amazing company that innovated three-dimensional images released on circular reels that could be seen through a special hand-held, dual lens device — licensed the movie, using its Mesozoic sequences for a packet entitled, Battle of the Monsters.

Unexpectedly (and rather incredibly), the reels make a cameo in Jurassic World.

Before home video, Viewmasters offered the most readily affordable chance to “own” a TV show or movie that one liked, or at least a reproduction of such.  It can still be a thrill to see 3-D shots from other genre fare as Zorro, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, The Addams Family, Batman, Star Trek, The Green Hornet…. There were also excellent sets devoted to NASA and our early manned space missions.

The most fantastic Viewmaster reels may have been their fairytale and mythology editions, for which they devised their own models and dioramas.  The inherent enchantment of these hand-crafted vistas seemed to touch a special place in the imagination, and have remained timeless.

(These miniatures, and their photography, were largely the work of Florence Thomas, and later, her assistant, Joe Liptak, in Portland, Oregon..  Thanks to their artistry, and ingenuity, it was also marvelous to see many of the most famous cartoon characters (including Bugs Bunny and Woody Woodpecker) be brought to “realistic” stereoscopic life. I can still remember my shock, as a boy, in seeing The Animal World’s ceratosaurus, through the viewer, drawing bloood from its prey.  (Although I can guarantee you that, at the time, I had no idea of the first dinosaur’s name!)

Battle of the Monsters was released under different titles, over the decades:  its model work easily holding its own against more contemporary effects outings. (And coincidental to this article, it’s intriguing to note that Viewmaster was introduced at the very first World’s Fair, in 1939!)

LR-22422_TP_00042RI felt bad, when my father lay dying in the summer of 1993, that he may have missed Jurassic Park, a movie that could have fulfilled what might have been some of his early dreams.

(It was, of course, the least of my family’s sorrows.)

But my mother told me that he had gone out one July afternoon, to catch it locally.

I knew that he had already been impressed by a sequence he saw on TV, which he recounted as the heroes being afraid that they’re about to be trampled by a herd of dinosaurs, only to be ultimately IGNORED by the charging horde–action which reminded him of a jungle stampede he thought he once saw in King Solomon’s Mines, or one of the other “Africa” movies of the past.

Somehow, my Dad wound up conveying to me that he did indeed love the movie. I wasn’t as crazy about Jurassic Park, apparently, but especially enjoyed, and admired — and was struck by, really — its last moments, when the paleontologist gazes through the window of a soaring helicopter, watching a flock of pelicans flying over the sea: The film’s subtle reflection on the long held theory that birds may be the modern descendants of dinosaurs.

I’m not sure when I first encountered that premise, but it has resonated with me as a lovely possibility, for what now seems ages.

My parents always had a deep affinity for all creatures. I grew up watching my mom — with my dad’s encouragement! — put food out daily for the birds and squirrels—

A habit I continue to this day.

Often now, for years, as I watch the sparrows and mourning doves and starlings a dancing, I think how lucky I’ve been, to know all these primordial, and blissful kingdoms.

Pteranodonte_di_Charles_Knight

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