Saturday, August 29, 2015

29 August 2015

Nicole Gale Anderson b. 1990 (Beauty and the Beast)
Laura Ashley Samuels b. 1990 (April Apocalypse, In Time, Monster Heroes, Wizards of Waverly Place)
Jay Ryan b. 1981 (Beauty and the Beast, Terra Nova, Legend of the Seeker, Xena, Young Hercules)
Emily Hampshire b. 1981 (12 Monkeys [TV], The Returned, Earthsea, Mutant X, MythQuest, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Earth: Final Conflict)
Jovanna Huguet b. 1980 (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Alice, Fringe, Smallville, Blade: The Series, Supernatural)
Dan Harris b. 1979 (writer, Superman Returns, X-Men 2)
John Hensley b. 1977 (Teeth, Witchblade)
Dante Basco b. 1975 (The Chronicle, Sinbad: The Battle of the Dark Knights, Alien Nation: Body and Soul, Hook)
Carla Gugino b. 1971 (San Andreas, Sucker Punch, Race to Witch Mountain, Watchmen, Night at the Museum, Threshold, Sin City, Spy Kids, The One, Mermaid Chronicles Part 1: She Creature, Quantum Leap, ALF)
Rebecca De Mornay b. 1959 (The Shining [1997 TV], Beauty and the Beast [1987], Testament)
Michael Jackson b. 1958 died 25 June 2009 (Men in Black II, The Wiz)
Lenny Henry b. 1958 (MirrorMask, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Bernard and the Genie)
Deborah Van Valkenburgh b. 1952 (The Messengers, Touch, The Event, Firestarter 2: Rekindled, Sorcerers, Deep Space Nine, Quantum Leap)
Gottfried John b. 1942 died 1 September 2014 (Millennium, Space Rangers)
Ellen Geer b. 1941 (Supernatural, Charmed, Carnivale, Practical Magic, Phenomenon, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Beauty and the Beast, Creator, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Bionic Woman)
Joel Schumacher b. 1939 (director, Batman & Robin, Batman Forever, Flatliners, The Lost Boys, The Incredible Shrinking Woman)
Elliot Gould b. 1938 (Contagion, The Shining [1997 TV], Lois & Clark, Frogs!, Frog, The Twilight Zone [1986], Faerie Tale Theatre, The Devil and Max Devlin)
William Friedkin b. 1935 (director, Bug, Twilight Zone [1985], The Exorcist)
Susan Shaw b. 1929 died 27 November 1978 (Fire Maidens from Outer Space)
Charles Gray b. 1928 died 7 March 2000 (Firestar: First Contact, Tall Tales & Legends, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Beast Must Die, H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man)
Dick O’Neill b. 1928 died 17 November 1998 (Timecop, The Incredible Hulk, Wolfen, Wonder Woman, The UFO Incident, Gammera the Invincible)
Richard Attenborough b. 1923 died 24 August 2014 (Jack and the Beanstalk: The Real Story, Jurassic Park, Doctor Doolittle)
Lane Bradford b. 1922 died 7 June 1973 (Land of the Giants, Batman, Lost in Space, My Favorite Martian, The Adventures of Superman, Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe, Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, Zombies of the Stratosphere)
Isobel Sanford b. 1917 died 9 July 2004 (Lois & Clark, Love at First Bite, Bewitched)
Ingrid Bergman b. 1915 died 29 August 1982 (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde)
Barry Sullivan b. 1912 died 6 June 1994 (The Bionic Woman, The Invisible Man [1975], The Sixth Sense, The Immortal, Planet of the Vampires, Pyro… The Thing Without a Face)Lurene Tuttle b. 1907 died 28 May 1986 (Amazing Stories, Testament, The Clonus Horror, I Dream of Jeannie, My Favorite Martian, My Living Doll, The Munsters, Twilight Zone)
George Macready b. 1899 died 2 July 1973 (The Return of Count Yorga, The Outer Limits, Twilight Zone, The Alligator People, The Monster and the Ape)

Notes from the birthday list.
1. The Picture Slot. The previous Picture Slot actors were Carla Gugino from Watchmen and Charles Gray from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. This year it's Richard Attenborough from Jurassic Park. On a personal note, when Attenborough was this age and wore the beard, he looked incredibly like both my father and my father's brother.

2. Spot the Canadians. Only two today, Emily Hampshire and Jovanna Huguet.

3. Nepotism, not so much. Rebecca De Mornay is the biological daughter of talk radio host Wally George, but her parents divorced and she took the name of her step-father. I doubt the relationship opened any doors for her when she was young.

4. Stuff I didn't know. When I go on, I'll sometimes click on the page of a very familiar name without knowing if they had any credits I would count. That's how I found that both Isobel Sanford and Ingrid Bergman had genre credits.

5. MST3K. There are a lot today. The ones I know for sure are The Clonus Horror, Rocky Jones, Gammera the Invincible and Fire Maidens from Outer Space.

Many happy returns to all the living on the list and to the dead, thanks for all the memories.

The Weekly Soapbox: Brave New World vs Nineteen Eighty-Four

Over the past few years, I've been reading fiction for pleasure more than I had through most of my adult life. Occasionally, I will pick up a book that is recognized as a classic that I haven't read. Some have been very pleasant discoveries - The Man in the High Castle is probably the best in a while - but more than a few have been bitter disappointments. I can't say I liked either A Wrinkle in Time or Frankenstein, and the most recent classic that does not live up to its reputation for me is Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. I bought a trade paperback that had extra features at the end, including the reviews at the time - most of them pretty bad - and a letter from Huxley to Orwell congratulating the latter on publishing Nineteen Eighty-Four in a somewhat condescending way, finishing the letter with Huxley's opinion that his book's future was much more likely than Orwell's.

Here's a little spoiler for the rest of this essay: Aldous Huxley was not fit to change George Orwell's typewriter ribbon.

Contest #1: Which book is the better prediction? This is not a fair battle, because Orwell set his future in the 20th Century, while Huxley's is hundreds of years away. More than that, sci-fi sometimes predicts some particular invention or trend, but more often should be viewed as from a more general level, ignoring exact specifics.

Huxley's future: Sex is for recreation and not procreation, all civilized people are grown in jars, given nutrients that either help them grow or stunt their growth and development, producing different classes of workers. There is one part of this future that has come to pass a little bit and that is in vitro fertilization. After the egg is fertilized, it is implanted in a woman's uterus. There is no one grown from fertilized egg to newborn in a bottle and no one is working on the technology. If anything, motherhood is every bit as revered in today's culture as it has ever been and there is no movement to replace it with some other method.

Huxley seems to hate children, which is not uncommon among British writers. Children in Orwell's world are nasty snitches and John Wyndam's The Midwich Cuckoos also present children as a horrifying threat. Outside of genre, there is P.G. Wodehouse, from whom children only exist to be the bane of his protagonists' existence, most especially Bertie Wooster's.

There are sub-themes where Huxley did better: drugs to tranquilize, the glorification of youth culture, the complete triumph of consumerism, but the major underlying theme will only come true in a future I cannot foresee in any way.

Orwell's future: The government is spying on its own citizens incessantly, using technology that everyone is forced to use. Huxley got one tiny part of his prediction right, where Orwell got one detail wrong. We aren't forced to have computers and cell phones, we use them voluntarily.

Let's say that the contest is over here and Orwell has won in a rout. That said, we don't really have Newspeak, though it is a powerful metaphor, and Newspeak is as central to Orwell's story as the method of producing children is to Brave New World. Our governmental agencies aren't as horribly named as the Ministry of Love or the Ministry of Truth, though there are examples that make the Department of Justice, the Department of Education and the National Security Agency look sinister indeed.

Contest #2: Which book is better written? Of course, this is subjective, but I can't be swayed from my opinion that Huxley is a clumsy writer, both terrible as a story teller and pedantic as a user of the language. Brave New World is a slim volume and it should be much slimmer. The first fifth of the book is all exposition about the process from fertilization to "decanting", better known as birth. It's another fifth of the way through before we meet the actual protagonist, known as John or The Savage. There is a character who is supposed to be a talented writer, but when we see his work, it is presented as tired and completely inferior to Shakespeare. Huxley is one of those people that thinks using obscure words will make him look clever. For me, it was just another way I found him annoying.

Yet again, Orwell runs circles around Huxley as a writer. Nineteen Eighty-Four from the beginning is about Winston Smith and his struggle against his society, finding a little corner of his apartment where he can hide from the telescreen. Smith is said to be competent as a writer, and we see the fictional story of a war hero he concocts that is presented in the newspaper as fact.

Without question Nineteen Eighty-Four is grim, but I still found some humor in it. The idea that pop songs and pornography are produced entirely by machines is a clever little turn. As for exposition, Orwell does have his Newspeak expert Syme go on for pages and pages about the structure and future of Newspeak, but even here the long explanation becomes a plot point, as Winston sees Syme's name erased from the Chess Club list after he disappears, becoming an unperson, not for being unorthodox, but for being too intelligent and seeing through the methods used.

Contest #3: Which writer is given more honor in current culture? Is there another 20th Century writer whose name has become an adjective? It is possible I have just forgotten it, but Orwellian is as much a part of the language as Dickensian or Shakespearean. (EDIT: I did forget it. Kafkaesque.) In most ways, Huxley has faded from view, and I think he's earned the obscurity. Brave New World is still a phrase people use, but Huxley lifted that from Shakespeare. I would say the pop culture reference that is still Huxley's claim is that the rock group The Doors took the name from Huxley's drug book The Door of Perception.

In conclusion, if you find yourself hankering to read Brave New World, you are a free agent and have every right to do so. Bit don't say I didn't warn you.

Looking one day ahead... INTO THE FUTURE!

In previous years, the Picture Slot went to Mary Shelley and Frank Conniff. Who will be iconic enough to join them tomorrow?
Join us then... IN THE FUTURE!


  1. Having nothing to do with SF, but something I remember from long ago... I saw Richard Attenborough in a remarkably strange movie called "The Bliss of Mrs. Blossom" with Shirley Maclaine. He played Mr. Blossom, of course, who owned a brassiere factory. I'm pretty sure it was an English production. Just wanted to share.

    1. Thanks for stopping by. I often discuss favorite roles of actors on the list that have nothing to do with genre.

    2. reminds me of "Kinky Boots" somehow...

  2. Happy "Judgment Day" - 18 years ago today according to "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" - one prediction I'm glad was a dud.

  3. MST 3K also did a bunch of Commando Cody episodes, as well as Fire Maidens From Outer Space.

    Sometimes, I wonder how much more efficient my thinker would be if it wasn't cluttered up by all of that kinds of crap....


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