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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 08/16/96 -- Vol. 15, No. 7
Table of Contents
Unless otherwise stated, all meetings are in the Middletown cafeteria Wednesdays at noon.
DATE TOPIC (no meetings scheduled) Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-933-2724 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 908-957-5087 email@example.com HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 908-949-7076 firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2D-536 908-957-6330 email@example.com Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-2070 firstname.lastname@example.org Backissues available at http://www.mt.lucent.com/~ecl/MTVOID/backissues.html or http://sf.www.lysator.liu.se/sf_archive/sf-texts/MT_Void/. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the week:
URL of the week: http://maps.tempo.bell-labs.com. Gives you routing and maps between two US destinations. Not all areas are in the database yet, but it looks promising. It is currently also at lucent.com and lucent.com, but the URL given is it's ultimate name. [-ecl]
Please note that we use "email@example.com" (a.k.a. "firstname.lastname@example.org") in the MT VOID mailing list. (For AT&T members, we use "email@example.com", of course.) If you change your handle/id, please let me know. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, this won't affect you.) [-ecl]
The following comment on last week's editorial came in from someone whose name will be familiar to some readers of the VOID.
On Aug 9, David G. Leeper wrote:
As usual, a fine editorial, but IMHO:
(1) It is only the collective "individual success and greed" of many people that will one day "get [us] up to where those lights are".
(2) Who's to say that getting there is an inherently worthy goal anyway? You? Me?
(3) It's the individual success drive you apparently decry that makes life possible in the first place.
Sure, excessive success drive and greed is bad, but without at least some of it, what would be here?
As for greed, I would say that I do not think that it is working as the only goal or so nearly the only goal. I have said in the past that if greed and paranoia are the spurs that get us into space, it is the best use for greed and paranoia I can think of. But it would be better if idealism was in there some place also. In any case I am not decrying greed, or self-interest anyway. I am saying that it need not be the only goal. What is the quote from Hillel? "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" In A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS Sir Thomas More asks "Have you no sinew that serves no appetite of you, but you yourself? Give that some exercise."
Actually, I want to answer the second question. Who is to say that getting into space is an inherently worthy goal? Definitely me, but I say it very strongly. Let me give you my point of view on that. I believe that the human species should do all it can to survive. That may be pure chauvinism, but I believe that survival of the human species is a worthy goal, and I think most humans would agree with me. Now here is where my views start to diverge from most of the human species. I think that we have two or three centuries to become a species that can survive independently of the planet Earth. I think that we must do everything that we can consistent with the belief that in two or three centuries the planet will no longer be in existence. The two or three century figure is pure guesswork. But I think that if at the end of that time we can survive without Earth, the human species will continue. If we are not at the state of development at the end of that time that the species can continue without the planet, then we are probably toward the end of human history.
On the face of it that sounds like an absurd claim. Do I think that the planet will wink out of existence? No. What I do think is that the threat of nuclear weapons is near its end. We have come through that threat. But it could have been a bad one. Nuclear weapons could have ended civilization. There may have been about a 2% chance of civilization dying off from nuclear weapons-- another one of those wild guesses. The threat is by no means over even now, but it has been lessened. And we probably had a 98% chance of surviving. Now there is the question of pollution of the oceans. We may have killed the food chain. Say that is a 1% probability event. That means we have a 99% chance of surviving. Compound the two of them and we have roughly a 97% chance of surviving both. I really don't think the human race is getting a lot smarter. It is getting more proficient, but not smarter. And it certainly is not doing a lot to temper its greed with intelligence. At one point I was optimistic enough to believe that we might get our act together. About 15 years ago I heard a news story that said that the Cosa Nostra was moving into the industry of toxic waste dumping and that one news story changed my whole philosophy. The greed that is moving us into space may be good greed, but the greed that is mortgaging pieces of the food chain for money is going to be hard to stop. Human selfishness and stupidity will be a continuing threat to the planet.
So my guess, and it is a wild one, is that we are compounding in threats to the planet at a rate that we have to figure the planet has a life expectancy of 200 to 300 years. Now maybe that is enough time left for the species. But I would like to think our species is just getting started. My guess is that by the end of the 23rd century, the only thing that will really matter a lot about the 20th century is that we took our first halting steps into space. More than strides against disease, more than the computer even, the legacy we leave our descendents is the lifeboat we leave them. And that lifeboat is the space program.
If it should turn out that there is a good reason to go to Mars now to look for life that would be great. And if people's imaginations are sparked enough that they want to get out there to see who else is there, that is terrific also. But my main reason to want us to go to Mars is because it is near the asteroid belt. And getting people out to where they can mine the asteroid belt is the way to turn space into a paying proposition. Hopefully it will be a propostion that pays very well. And this is a case where letting people's greed kick in is doing it where their personal greed is also good for the species. [-mrl]
On July 26, Jerry Ryan wrote (regarding sports and beauty pageants):
Well, I'm not going to go into the Beauty Pageant/Olympics briar patch, BUT I will take this opportunity to twist the discussion a bit and try to convince you that the World of Sports should be partitioned.
I think Sports should be split into two classifications. First is what I somewhat prejudicially call Real Sports, and second is what you might call the Beauty Show.
Competitive distance swimming is to me a perfect example of a Real Sport. It is clear who the winner is (the person with the fastest time). There are no funky subjective judgements about what the rules are (for all the thickness of the swimming rulebooks, there are only a few rules that actually apply in the water: you must do the stroke in such and such a way or you are disqualified); in fact, you never see a bunch of judges standing about arguing about what a call on the rules are. The rules apply in a binary fashion: something is or isn't allowed, something is or isn't a penalty, etc. etc.
I classify things like baseball and football in the same way. You're out or you're safe. You were offside or you weren't. (Sometimes they miss calls but not often ... and the thing they are called to do is make an objective judgement). At the end of the game, the team with the most points wins.
This also applies to running events & track-and-field events (it's clear that the guy who jumps the highest in the pole vault is the winner).
Things that are not Real Sports, and are more like Beauty Shows, are things where you need judges to make subjective evaluations of performance against an abstract standard of "difficulty". In my view, gymnastics is a perfect example of this. While some might like watching it, you can't tell by watching how good someone is. You have to wait for the judges to apply their subjective evaluations of a performance. Figure skating is the same way. Synchronized Swimming is the most nauseating example of this, closely followed by Rhythm Gymnastics.
Neither of these categories says anything about the value of either of the classifications as ENTERTAINMENT. Both of these categories require a level of physical ability and training that I certainly can't match up to. But the Real Sports seem to me to be more satisfying or "pure" when viewed in terms of the competition. It means more, in some sense, to "win" a real sport than it does to "win" a beauty show.
Of course, your mileage may vary... [-Jerry Ryan]
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
CAPSULE: HEAVY is both a story and a film about how film works. It is at once an intense emotional experience and a study of how dialogue affects the tone and strength of a film. The story is of the people who can nightly be found at small-town tavern, people whose lives are basically the same from one day to the next. The film especially concentrates on the overweight cook, Victor, a child-man almost too shy to talk and having a mid-life crisis. HEAVY packs more of an emotional wallop than any film so far this year. Rating: high +2 (-4 to +4)
It is a familiar viewpoint that color in a film actually distracts the viewer and mutes the emotional impact of the film's camerawork. What is less commonly observed is that dialogue may actually do much the same thing. We have seen the overly florid gesturing of silent film acting, much of which looks silly today. But some silent films were extremely intense emotional pieces in their day. Perhaps as much of the emotional potential of film was lost with sound film as was lost with color. HEAVY is a color film, and a sound film, but it functions very much as a silent film would. Almost all of the story is conveyed either in visual images or in single lines of dialogue, perhaps appropriate to title cards in silent films. Of course the film is not lacking in dialogue, but the dialogue is almost never used to move the plot along. It adds a little color and background interest to the film, but it is rarely used to advance the plot. This is a film that owes much more to the traditions of silent film than to those of the sound era. By forcing the viewer to carefully watch the characters, very different information can be imparted to the viewer and the technique focuses attention on the emotions of the characters.
Most of the action takes place in and around Pete and Dolly's Restaurant, a bar and restaurant in a small New England town. Pete has been dead for years and his widow Dolly (Shelley Winters) still blames waitress Delores (Deborah Harry in a surprisingly textured role) for a liaison with Pete. When Dolly hires an attractive teenager Callie (Liv Tyler) to help out there is immediate resentment from Delores. Caught between the two is Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince), Dolly's son somewhere in his 30s. Victor is so stigmatized by his own obesity and so dominated by his mother that it is all he can do to occasionally speak. He is very much attracted to Callie but cannot bring himself to have a conversation with her. Instead he decides to try to reinvent himself, taking up dieting and investigating a local cooking school. But he must fight the forces of his own inertia and that of his mother who wants to keep him in his present job. He fantasizes about being a hero and saving Callie. Soon Victor's life, which has been static for so many years, starts to change violently. His reaction and his behavior when those changes come is totally unexpected. Little of this are we told about, it is almost all shown to us and Victor's quiet nature is perfect for the visual style of storytelling. The same story could have been lightened by comedy but writer and director James Mangold takes a very realistic approach and rarely strays from it.
This is a very precisely directed film and it has many very nice subtle touches. As an example of the directing technique, to underscore Victor's image of himself, there is a scene in which he looks at a stack of photographs. Gingerly he places each on a table after looking at it. When he gets to a picture of himself he puts it down with a small slam. Small and subtle touches do what another story would simply tell with dialogue.
In general the production values speak of a film made well on a low budget. The colors were not particularly rich, indicating a less- expensive print. But the performances are all very powerful. Pruitt Taylor Vince's acting gets more and more intense as the film goes on. Mangold moves his story with a slow and deliberate speed, but completely pulls the viewer into the lives of his characters and particularly Victor's life.
The usual way of saying it is that one "sees" a film, but for most films much more of the story is conveyed in the dialogue than the visuals. HEAVY is truly a film one sees rather than hears. Mangold's experiment in visual storytelling may not have a lot of application to other films, but it works extremely well in this film. I would rate HEAVY a high +2 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote of the Week:
Obscenity is what happens to shock some elderly and ignorant magistrate. --Bertrand Russell