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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 03/21/97 -- Vol. 15, No. 38
Table of Contents
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:
Bob Pinkus points out that you can now find all of Edwin A. Abbott's novel FLATLAND on line. It is a charming amalgam of mathematics and science fiction that has become a classic. I have known for a while that it was on-line, but I hadn't realized that it had the all-important illustrations. The one problem is that it is many hyperlinked pages so you cannot get it all in one piece. The URL is http://www.tiac.net/users/eldred/eaa/FL.HTM. [-mrl]
A few weeks ago I wrote about hunting. Let me continue the thought with a discussion of another institution, zoos. When I was a kid, I seem to remember loving zoos. It is a terrific experience for a child to be able to see at relatively close quarters all these exotic animals. These days I have gone the other way and dislike zoos. And you cannot find a better example of the reason than what happened in a Louisiana zoo the day after Christmas last year. Perhaps it did not get a lot of play because it was, after all, the day after Christmas and people had good will toward their fellow humans in their hearts, at least that is the theory. It seems there was a three and a half ton white rhino, thought to be pregnant, incarcerated-that's really what it is--in a zoo in Acadiana. And they had her in a pen with a male rhino and apparently they had a disagreement. Well, that is not really surprising. I don't know a lot about rhinoceros psychology but in Africa we watched some elephants watering and they behaved in some ways that we like to think of as "human." This was a bunch of females at a watering hole when one committed some elephant faux pas. Literally she was forced to stand off away from the other elephants like a child in a corner. She tried to cheat a little and come back into the circle and was told off and returned to her corner. Eventually her punishment time was over and she returned to the circle. This convinced me that there has to be a lot we share with the psychology of an elephant. So it is not a far stretch to say we probably share a fair amount of psychology with other pachyderms. Two rhinos in close quarters are as likely not to get along as two humans.
Anyway, this female rhino, who had been with this zoo only two weeks, was not really happy with the arrangements and the male she was in with, so she pushed through a welded pipe fence--not all that difficult for a rhino to do--and looked for a better place to be. Suddenly the world was much wider. She found herself in a rather bewildering world as she crossed a highway and just stood around trying to decide what to do next. There is not a lot for a rhino to do in a city so she just stood quietly and waited. This was at 4 AM. After a few hours she noticed some people trying to surround her, probably not understanding the meaning of the guns they held, but they certainly were circling with intent. She didn't want trouble and crossed the highway again back toward the zoo and walked to a parking lot where there were only three people. Two of the people ran off as she approached but one raised a gun and after an instant of crushing headache it was all over for the bewildered lady. She had paid the ultimate price for not having gotten along with her pen-mate and for having walked out.
Zoos are designed with consideration first for the visitors, second for the staff, third for the animals. That is just precisely the reverse order of what it should be. I had heard that the San Diego zoo was a particularly good one, but I still saw some rather depressing sights there on my visit. Basically you see a bunch of animals trying to make the best of the situation of being put in surroundings they do not like where there is never enough space to move. Even the best zoos are considered "best" because they give a few acres to an animal whose instincts tell it to roam miles every day. More often the animals are in small cages not more than two or three times their length. The boredom must be excruciating.
I just heard recently that Disney is opening a huge new theme park near Disneyworld that will be a sort of animal park. I hate to see that happen. Until now people who visited Disney parks were for the most part coming to see machines and buildings. Now they will be coming to see animals with their own minds and lives. And if Disney's plans run true to form they will be processing millions of people past these animals. Some may have some space to roam, probably most will not or will have the problem that if they do roam they will run into some animals they never would have encountered in the wild. A friend was telling me that at one Disney park the duck population was kept small simply be being next to a lion compound. That may be convenient for the humans, but it probably is not so nice for the ducks. Of course predators get them in the wild also, but not such big ones.
Yes, we love our little children and we want them to see real animals, but isn't the price for that a little expensive. I really would like to see a moratorium on American zoos buying animals whose adult weight is more than 50 pounds. I know I am going to hear the argument that zoos are the only places left where these animals are safe, but I am not sure I consider even zoos to be safe places for animals. Maybe what we should do is start with the moratorium and then to consider exceptions on a case-by-case basis. [-mrl]
(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: WNBC's all-the-stops-out shock jock tells us the story of his life and stars in the film adaptation of his own autobiography. Mostly it is his side of the battles he fought to get and keep his brand of crude humor on the radio in spite of his management and at times the FCC. Stern's antics are often funny, but the basic situation of the irreverent rebel against the dictatorial authority is well- trodden territory. Rating: +1 (- 4 to +4) New York Critics: 13 positive, 2 negative, 4 mixed
Howard Stern will do just about anything to be funny on the radio from having guests strip naked (could anything be more pointless in this medium!), having another stick a thirteen inch kielbasa down her throat, inducing a listener to have an orgasm from the vibration of her woofer, and making dead fetus jokes the day after his wife's miscarriage. His humor is not so much off-color as two counties away from being even near- color. PRIVATE PARTS is his autobiography in book form and the film based on the book. Except for his personal style of gags the plot is of how his straight- laced management at his various jobs tried to tone him down and how he always reacted by becoming even more of the Bad Boy of Radio. This basic conflict is the same sort of thing we saw in NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE, MEATBALLS, STRIPES, and GHOSTBUSTERS. Since each of those films was either produced or directed by Ivan Reitman, it should come as no surprise that he produced PRIVATE PARTS also.
As the film Howard Stern (played by Howard Stern) opens is performing a stage act as Fartman in a pair of pants tailored to leave his butt cheeks exposed. As Stern walks back stage he worries that his humor is not appreciated by others as he gets disapproving stares from other performers. To a woman sitting next to him on a plane, he begins to recount his life, told in a flashback. We start with Stern as a cute child with a father who seems constantly angry. Starting as a geeky teenager and then as a geeky adult (who looks a lot like Weird Al Yankovic), he goes from one radio job to the next fighting unsympathetic management and territorial fellow disk jockeys. At first he is usually the victim of these conflicts, and he drifts through jobs in one city after another. Stern finds himself in larger and larger conflicts culminating in his being hired at New York City's WNBC whom we are told hired him only on the basis of his high ratings at his previous job at a Washington DC radio station. When they found out the nature of his radio program they decide it is necessary to tame him. But in a series of battles Stern always wins eventually because he is so popular with the listeners.
Howard Stern could conceivably be a good actor with the right sort of material, but here he is cast hopelessly against type. He never seems get much of a handle on his character and without an understanding of what makes someone like Howard Stern tick, he seems to be just going through the motions. Along the way Stern picks up the rest of his comedy team including his female straight man, Robin Quivers playing herself. Quivers is charming as is Mary McCormack as Stern's long suffering and ever-perfect wife Alison. Holding his own for the comic drive of the film is Paul Giamatti as the NBC executive who has vowed to tame Stern and who, at least to hear Stern tell it, is hopelessly outclassed by the classless Stern.
Ironically with all the sexist and sexual humor, the film was directed by a woman, Betty Thomas (who some will remember played Lucy Bates in "Hill Street Blues"). This is a cotton candy film, light, pleasant, but without much substance and what little there is made to go a long way. If there is not a whole lot to think about here, at least the film moves well and is entertaining. Probably people not offended by the style of humor will enjoy the show. This is the kind of film that generates from critics a lot of positive votes but not a lot of enthusiasm. I rate is a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 908-957-5619 email@example.com