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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 10/11/96 -- Vol. 15, No. 15
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://the-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/works.html. A really good Shakespeare homepage.
Well, it is nice to see that Mattel has seen the error of their ways and are trying to make amends. You may remember there was a big brouhaha when Barbie dolls started talking. That is a scary concept in itself. Why have a Barbie doll talk? Now if someone made a little Bertrand Russell doll, that I would be interested to have as a talking doll. You would want a Luciano Pavarotti doll that sings, not a Don Knotts singing doll. It is hard to believe that the real-life equivalent of a Barbie Doll would have anything to say worth repeating. Just so I am not accused of being sexist the same goes for a Ken doll.
Anyway the big brouhaha came when the talking Barbie Doll said just about what you would expect a talking Barbie would say. It said "Math class is hard." (I wonder if the G. I. Joe doll says things like "Nuke 'em till they glow!") My response to Barbie's lament was, "Go for the burn, Barbie. Go for the burn." But the public was up in arms that little girls would hear Barbie's complaint and would take it to heart. Here their idol was saying that she had trouble with math class. It sort of gave them license to hate math class also. The initial talking Barbies were withdrawn and the offending pronouncement was removed from Barbie's repertoire. But everybody remembered that Barbie, the first doll to have mammaries, the doll that has her own beauty parlor, also has problems doing math. So the Mattel Toy Company has seen the error of their ways. The new Barbie dolls not only got through math class, they are teacher Barbies. And what do they teach the most? Arithmetic. Barbie is now actually trying to advance the cause of mathematics education. There is a blackboard that has buttons on it and they can either say sadly that her little plastic students have incorrectly added 1+2, or praise them for getting the answer right. This is a Barbie doll that does two things. It says you got the answer right, or it says you got the answer wrong. Off-hand I cannot see the appeal. Unless little girls really get excited about the possibility of passing judgment on the work of other people. I suppose that when you are a kid, that may have some appeal. You really want to tell a piece of plastic, "No, you are an idiot. Try it again and this time don't be such a moron."
I suppose Mattel thinks that this fixes the problem. Well, not for me it doesn't. This makes me madder than before. It is sending the message that our nation's schools don't need and probably do not have very good teachers. It takes only a matter of three or four years from hating math class yourself to passing your vast math knowledge and probably your attitudes on to the young who look up to you. I say this sends the wrong message. I want to see Barbie say the right kind of things. How about a Barbie that says "Loud music hurts my ears." Or how about "'Hootie and the Blowfish' is a stupid name." If Mattel wants to make it up for past wrongs how about a Barbie that says "Topology is so cool!" Or how about "Gee, I really want to learn more about the Etruscans." If the doll's pronouncements are not that, how about a simple "Oh, who cares what a plastic doll says about Math class?" [-mrl]
BLAMELESS IN ABADDON
by James Morrow (Harcourt Brace & Company, ISBN 0-15-188656-3, 1996, 404pp, US$24 ) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper ):
BLAMELESS IN ABADDON is the sequel to TOWING JEHOVAH. In that book, the corpse of God has been found, and a disgraced tanker captain is hired to haul it to the Arctic.
In BLAMELESS IN ABADDON, the corpse has somehow ended up as the main attraction in a religious theme park cum miraculous shrine. Justice of the Peace Martin Candle hears there is neural activity in God's brain and decides to bring this most infamous criminal to justice. This is part of the age-old attempt to find an answer to mystery of suffering, and in the book, it is clear that Morrow has done his homework in researching the theologians who have attempted to answer this question. (At least from a Jewish or Christian perspective--one might argue that finding "Jehovah" means one needn't look at Buddhist or Hindu explanations, but a few Islamic sources might have been nice. On the other hand, it's unlikely the characters involved would have access to or inclination to look for these.) The person defending Jehovah is based on C. S. Lewis, and the story also involves scrabble-playing dinosaurs. (As Morrow quotes from Dostoyevsky, "If everything on Earth were rational, nothing would happen.") We also find out that God is a Platonist.
Morrow has said that he enjoys writing this sort of work in the genre, because "science fiction makes very literal what in other fiction is metaphorical." He also said that it might be nice if people took these things more seriously here (not "it's just a novel"), but on the other hand, he appreciated being able to write a novel such as this without having to go into hiding as Salman Rushdie did.
I would certainly recommend that you read TOWING JEHOVAH before reading this, but then I would recommend that you read TOWING JEHOVAH in any case. After all, it was nominated for a Hugo, which is a pretty amazing achievement for a story more cerebral than action-packed. Morrow writes books that are thought-provoking and entertaining, and this is certainly both of those.
(Morrow is now working on a third book, titled THE ETERNAL FOOTMAN. However, this book does not end on a cliff-hanger.) [-ecl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
Self-respect: the secure feeling that no one, as yet, is suspicious. -- H. L. Mencken