Pirates Ahoy Again! This time you all get pirated!

I saw this Tweet and was tut-tutting about how the web was full of terrible people creating scam websites:

The site in question has nothing to do with the Australian online book company also called Booktopia (https://www.booktopia.com.au/ <- genuine non-scam site) but that’s just part of how appalling the place is — even the website name is a scam!

Then I followed the link…

Then, because I’m vain, I typed in my name to the search field…

How bad must internet book piracy be that not only I but ALSO MY CAT has been pirated TWICE! What the flippin’ flip? “Free For Member”? Free for anybody, if you want the genuine article! Just go to https://www.smashwords.com/ and download to your hearts content for the low, low price of nothing at all dollars.

Outraged yet? Oh, be prepared to be outraged a bit more! The scam goes beyond stealing books. There are fake reviews as well.

Ha, ha…no

Not angry yet? Ok, the fake reviewers have been harvested from Twitter followers…

For example”

I don’t even know what to call whatever this is that they are doing:

It’s like invasion of the body snatchers!

The particular link is just one of many domains that link to identical scams offering free pdfs, ebooks, games or video download if you sign-up. The sign-up is a phishing scam and possibly a source of malware as well.

Photo from the apocalypse

Sydney is still surrounded by fires but the haze in the city wasn’t as bad yesterday. The picture above was from Thursday, taken in the Blue Mountains. That smoke looks ominous but it is from a fire further south and Sydney’s main water catchment lake is between that fire and the main towns on the highway over the Blue Mountains*.

https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/fire-information/fires-near-me

As you can imagine, both fire services are now not just stretched to the maximum fighting multiple fires but also exhausted. Currently, significant rainfall isn’t expected until later January, so there are still weeks ahead of this.

https://www.rfs.nsw.gov.au/news-and-media/general-news/how-you-can-help

*[Not blue and not mountains but ‘green heavily eroded plateau’ doesn’t sound as good]

A Christmas Song to Bring in The Season

It’s December and that means it is the season in which we must appease the spider gods with song so that they do not consume our souls.

Santa The Christmas Spider
Santa the Christmas Spider,
Had far too many legs,
And if you ever saw it,
It would use your soul to hatch it's eggs.
-
All of the Christmas reindeers,
Hid from its hypnotic gaze,
It could trap a reindeer,
In a psychic trance for days.
-
Then one sunny Christmas day,
The spider came to say,
Reindeers with your blood so bright,
I'll trap you in cocoons tonight.
-
Then all the reindeers bolted,
Ran away as fast as light,
But they couldn't escape the spider,
Whose psychic web had caught them tight

My favourite SF&F signature tunes

This started because I couldn’t remember what the theme music of Babylon 5 sounded like. I could remember (not word for word) the opening narration but I couldn’t recall the tune. I didn’t watch a lot of Babylon 5 (TV schedules, life etc) but I watched enough that I was surprised I couldn’t recall it. Skipping forward in time, I realise that the Marvel films really haven’t managed to stick a iconic tune into pop-culture. There is the Avenger’s theme but I had to hunt it down on YouTube to remind myself how to hum it.

So which tunes really stick? I don’t mean which shows or films had the best incidental music or scores, just the signature tune that identifies the film/show immediately. These are my top ten.

10. Battlestar Galactica (1978)

The show itself was a weird mix of Mormon mythology and proto-Reagan perspectives on politics. Yet it has its charms and one of those was the opening theme music. Composed by Stu Phillips it layers two different tunes, one more like a military anthem and the other more wistful.

9. The X-Files

It isn’t a tune you are going to hum as you walk down the street but Mark Snow’s theme was utterly distinctive. The tune is unsettling and odd in a way that is hard to describe – not unlike the show. According to Wikipedia:

The theme, “The X-Files“, used more instrumental sections than most dramas.[84] The theme song’s famous whistle effect was inspired by the track “How Soon Is Now?” from the US edition of The Smiths‘ 1985 album Meat Is Murder.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_X-Files#Music

8. Indiana Jones Theme

Inevitably, John Williams will make more than one appearance in this list. The “Raiders March” is the definitive tune used (and co-opted by the rest of the series of films) to symbolise the titular character.

7. The Twilight Zone

There are lost of alternative histories in which the famous music of a film or show could have ended up being quite different than the tune we associate with it. Fittingly, The Twilight Zone lived through these alternate realities. The famously unnerving notes didn’t appear until season 2 after the original theme by Bernard Hermann was replaced using music sourced from a European composer Marius Constant in an attempt to avoid union rates.

“On one of those trips, Gluskin hired the Romanian-born composer Marius Constant, who was struggling to get by in Paris at the time. “I received a phone call from a producer, and he said, ‘We’re doing this TV show and I’ll give you $200 to write a theme by tomorrow. If your work is accepted, you’ll make another $500, ’ ” Constant recalled in a 1997 interview. Feeling like the offer made him “as good as Stravinsky,” Constant wrote a collection of cues, waited three months before getting paid, and promptly forgot about the whole thing. Sometime during the summer of 1960, faced with a pile of unusable music, Gluskin had the idea of Frankensteining together a theme from the stock music cues. He took two discordant pieces Constant had written, originally entitled “Milieu No. 2” and “Étrange No. 3,” spliced them together, and made television history on the cheap.”

https://slate.com/culture/2019/04/twilight-zone-theme-jordan-peele-grateful-dead-korn-marius-constant-bernard-herrmann-manhattan-transfer.html

6. Wallace and Gromit

In May 2010 the space shuttle Atlantis was on a routine mission to the International Space Station and so what better tune could NASA send as a wake up call than the Wallace & Gromit theme: https://spaceflight.nasa.gov/gallery/audio/shuttle/sts-132/html/ndxpage1.html

First used in the A Grand Day Out the tune is a jaunty march intended to evoke the tradition of brass bands in the North of England. Composed by Julian Nott who met Wallace & Gromit’s creator Nick Park at the National Film and Television School.

I once managed to complete a very difficult hike (difficult for me – not for everybody else) by humming the tune to myself.

5. Adventure Time

I decided to ration the number of kid’s shows in this list but that just made picking a smaller number much harder. Even picking on Adventure Time as a show creates a dilemma because I love both the opening credit’s theme and the more closing theme. However, of the two I’ll pick the opening theme which itself comes in two parts: an intro that is mainly stranger noises and then the short song which explains as briefly as possible the premise of a show with a vast, vast backstory (mainly hinted at in visuals).

4. Spider-Man (1960’s cartoon)

Plenty of superheroes have signature tunes from older TV shows. Notably Batman’s theme from the 1960s live action show is a tune that has had a longevity far beyond that of the show and which is still associated with the character even in his more grim versions. However, of them all I’ll pick on the Spider-Man theme song https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spider-Man_(theme_song)

The song is forever connected to Spider-Man even though the cartoon itself was pretty weak with a heavy reliance on re-used footage (including from other cartoons). The song itself, composed by Bob Harris and with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, has not been used directly as the Spider-Man theme since but has been re-worked into new themes and played as a kind of musical cameo during more recent Spider-Man movies. The song has a life of its own.

3. Star Trek (original series)

Alexander Courage composed this wonderful and unearthly theme music that mixes organs and a human voice to create an effect reminiscent of the kind of 1950s spooky theremin style sound but also more upbeat and orchestral. I don’t think any Star Trek series or movie since has had a theme tune this good. It is instantly recognisable, unusual and distinctive and sets the tone of the show as being futuristic, unusual and exciting.

Apparently Gene Roddenberry wrote lyrics to the music without Courage’s knowledge and thus enabled Roddenberry to be co-credited for the music.

2. Star Wars

You could fill this list with John Williams and if this was a list for most iconic score then Star Wars would win hands down. The fame of the opening theme is rivalled by the rest of the music from the films including the Imperial March. The leitmotif approach to the music of the films has generated a whole host of memorable and distinctive melodies but for my purposes I’m singling out the opening fanfare-like signature (aka Luke’s Theme). It is a big bold promise at the start of the film that you are going to get something extraordinarily exciting.

1. Doctor Who Theme

Delia Derbyshire’s work at the BBC’s experimental Radiophonic Workshop took an initial composition by Ron Grainer and turned it into something utterly different. The theme is both a pioneering example of electronic music and cleverly timeless.

Derbyshire’s theme has been re-recorded and updated on multiple occasions but the fundamental aspects of it remain the same. It announces that something very weird is on it’s way with a rhythm of a train playing along side a kind of ghostly cry.

Until the 50th anniversary episode, Derbyshire was not directly credited as the BBC preferred to credit the Radiophonic Workshop as whole.

Honourable Mentions

  • Harry Potter’s theme tune (aka Hedwig’s Theme) is another John Williams classic but I decided to ration the amount of John Williams.
  • Also Spach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss is forever associated with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and rocket flight in general. I’m not sure it counts as a theme tune though.
  • The music to Lord of the Rings is wonderful but I don’t think it quite has that signature quality to it to make my list.
  • I strongly considered the spooky sequence of notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Is it a theme tune or an actual plot point or can it be both?
  • So many kid’s cartoons could have got on the list that I don’t know where to start. Feel free to swap out Adventure Time as you see fit. Is Spongebob genre or just really weird and is that even a distinction?
  • Suggestions please!
  • ETA: On Twitter the team at Hugo Book Club suggested Red Dwarf, Hitchhiker’s Guide and Star Trek the Motion Picture. All good suggestions but on reflection I think I should have put Hitchhiker’s in a top spot aka “Journey of the Sorcerer” by Bernie Leadon of the Eagles. It is another one of those pieces that just sound like themselves rather than anything else. Best use of a banjo in science fiction ever.

Tim Has Some Ideas for a Calmer Internet

An Interview not published by Wired Magazine.

After expressing support for Donald Trump in 2016, Chiselled McEdifice creator Timothy the Talking Cat estimates that he lost about “1 zillion percent” of his income and 50 percent of his friends (mainly their upper halves). He says that that level of political polarization has created a climate of genuine fear as well as fear of a genuine climate.

“People will come up, and they’ll usually whisper and they’ll say, ‘I really like your fur and your cute little whiskers’” Timothy says in Episode 1,009 of his as yet unbroadcastable podcast. “They’re actually afraid to say it out loud. They literally whisper it to me in public places. Mainly because they think I will scratch them and they are right. If you want to pet some brainless mammal, pet a dog. I’m not sitting here to service your need for casual affection.”

Timothy blames the current state of politics on social media, a clickbait business model that rewards sensationalism over fact-based reporting and squirrels. Mainly squirrels. Since the squirrels are here to stay (unless the Liberals win the coming general election), he says we’re going to need new societal norms to help foster a calmer, more constructive, more psychopathic cat-friendly political discourse.

“When society changes, every now and then you need a new rule of manners,” he says. “So for example, when I discovered that Trump was secretly under the sway of a giant satsuma shaped spider demon I realised that the only way to prevent a spider demon apocalypse was to placate the monster with my unwavering support. Rule by spider demon (or arachnocracy as it is called) is the new social norm. So far none of us have been eaten by satanically possessed mutant spiders and so I think I made an excellent, if controversial, call. Selling out not just civilisation and species but essentially every creature with an endoskeleton isn’t easy for me either. People need to understand that making the tough decisions takes its toll.”

He lays out two such rules in his new book, “Think You Losers”. His first proposal, which he calls the “48-hour rule,” states that everyone (but mainly cats called Timothy) should be given a grace period of a couple of days to retract any controversial statement they’ve made, no questions asked. “We live in a better world if we accept that any clarifications I make are what I said all along as if the past never happened. You should accept all my apologies, no matter how grudgingly they are given.” he says.

His other idea is the “20-year rule,” which states that everyone should be automatically forget any mistakes Tim made more than two decades ago or earlier—with the exception of certain serious crimes which should be forgotten immediately. It used to be the case that Tim’s thoughtless remarks and embarrassing gaffes would naturally fade into obscurity, but recently a chalkboard in the kitchen has created a situation where it’s easy to endlessly dredge up a person’s worst toileting “accidents” not to mention who hasn’t done their chores in a week.

“We’re not the same people that we were 20 years ago,” Tim says. “We’ve learned a lot and moved on. Being credited for something you did 20 years ago is effectively being credited for something a stranger did. For example that cartoonist Scott Adams wrote a funny cartoon 20 years ago about a hapless guy who had a psychopathic talking cat. We should definitely forget that now because 1. he isn’t funny and 2. that means I definitely did not ‘steal’ his idea.”

Not stolen from this article that was inexplicably published in Wired: https://www.wired.com/2019/11/geeks-guide-scott-adams/

Timothy and Thanksgiving

[Scene: Felapton Towers, Saturday]

[Timothy the Talking Cat – jumping on a bed] Wake up! Wake up!
[Camestros] I’m already awake. I’m sitting over here.
[Tim] So who am I jumping on?
[Camestros] Nobody. That’s just a pile of my dirty clothes I’m sorting out.
[Tim] (sniff) It’s hard to tell the difference. Really though, in what sense are you different from a pile of dirty clothes that need sorting out?
[Camestros] As much as I might love to just sit here and listen to your verbal abuse, I have things to do.
[Tim] No, no! It is time for Thanksgiving Dinner!
[Camestros] You have the wrong date, the wrong country and the wrong time of day.
[Tim] I corrected for time zones!
[Camestros] It’s not Thanksgiving in ANY time zone Tim. Also, there is no way I’m cooking you a turkey before Christmas.
[Tim] No, no! You are leaping to collisions!
[Camestros] ‘conclusions’
[Tim] And proclusions. You are leaping to all the clusions!
[Camestros] Oh look at the time! That washing machine isn’t going to come up here all by itself and wash these clothes for me!
[Washing machine] I might.
[Camestros] EEEKKK!
[Tim] I bought a fully robotic walking washing machine in the Black Friday sales. Surprise! Happy Thanksgiving! Now you don’t have to stink!
[Camestros] Really? I mean…that is actually really thoughtful of you. I love robots and talking appliances. Also not stinking is something I had planned on looking into in the near future.
[Tim] Oh and that’s not the ONLY surprise.
[Camestros] Really?
[Tim] I made Thanksgiving dinner!
[Camestros] Really? You cooked a Thanksgiving dinner?
[Tim] I said I MADE a Thanksgiving dinner.
[Camestros] With Turkey?
[Tim] Sure.
[Camestros] And pumpkin pie?
[Tim] Do you know what pumpkin pie looks like?
[Camestros] No.
[Tim] Or tastes like?
[Camestros] No.
[Tim] Then sure. I made a pumpkin pie as well.
[Camestros] And the other things Americans eat for Thanksgiving?
[Tim] Absolutely!! Corn head dressing. Apple Macaroni Peas. Something disgusting with marshmallows. Unexpressed anxiety about America’s place in world affairs. Butter and milk and biscuits. Canadians with yams. Peanut butter and jelly. Concealed fire arms. Green beams cassowary. Pastrami sandwiches. Coca-cola. Hamburglars. Unpaid medical bills. Something Elvis ate with bananas. Police officers eating donuts. Sarsaparilla. And a protracted argument about which fast food establishment produces the best chicken sandwiches.
[Camestros] I’m not sure all of those are correct…
[Tim] That’s what the policeman said.
[Camestros] This must have taken you ages!
[Tim] No kidding! I had to spend at least thirty minutes on all this! Plus another hour to steal the cassowary from the zoo.
[Camestros] You shouldn’t have.
[Tim] That’s what the policeman said.
[Camestros] Well, it is a bit early in the day but I guess we should go and eat.
[Tim] Absolutely! Before it all melts.
[Camestros] What?
[Tim] It is mainly an ice sculpture.
[Camestros] You carved out a whole Thanksgiving dinner out of ice?
[Tim] Don’t be silly! Not the whole dinner!
[Camestros] Oh good.
[Tim] The policeman is real.
[Sounds of screams from the kitchen]
[Tim] And the sedative will be wearing off the cassowary right about now…
[Sounds of panicked radio call for back-up and a tranquilliser gun and hysterical talk about mutant dinosaurs]
[Tim] You have NO idea how hard it is to remove all the feathers from a sleeping cassowary.
[Camestros – sounding dejected] Well at least I have a new washing machine…
[Washing machine] Nope. I quit. Antipodean murder birds void my warranty.

[Timothy turns to face the audience and recites]
And now our revels are all but done,
I say to all our friends both glad and glum,
A happy Thanksgiving to everyone,
[Camestros] And don’t forget to vote against Boris Johns-y-on