MT VOID 12/26/97 (Vol. 16, Number 26)

MT VOID 12/26/97 (Vol. 16, Number 26)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/26/97 -- Vol. 16, No. 26

Table of Contents

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  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
       Rob Mitchell  MT 2D-536  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: Kobenhavns Astronomiske Forening home page with information about the major Greenland meteor strike. [-ecl]

BABYLON 5 Schedule:

From Usenet, courtesy of (Dirk A. Loedding):

Here's the schedule for B5 stuff on TNT for the rest of this month and part of January:

All times are Eastern. Also, the original pilot movie for the show will be re-edited and re-scored, courtesy of TNT. The new version will be shown on TNT on 1/4/98.

TNT original movies, reruns and promos:
12/26/97  11:00 PM   The Guide to Babylon 5
                     (might be delayed by basketball)
12/28/97  11:00 PM   The Guide to Babylon 5
           2:00 AM   The Guide to Babylon 5
01/03/98  11:00 AM   The Guide to Babylon 5
           5:30 PM   The Guide to Babylon 5
01/04/98   8:00 PM   In the Beginning     (TNT Original Movie)
          10:00 PM   The Gathering        (Re-edited Pilot)
          12:00 AM   The Guide To Babylon 5
          12:30 AM   In the Beginning
           2:30 AM   What is Babylon 5?
           5:30 AM   What is Babylon 5?
01/10/98   8:00 PM   In the Beginning
01/14/98  10:00 PM   In the Beginning

Reruns of the first 4 seasons:

01/05/98   7:00 PM  103  Midnight on the Firing Line
01/06/98   7:00 PM  102  Soul Hunter
01/07/98   7:00 PM  104  Born to the Purple
   .                         .
   .                         .
   .                         .
05/04/98   7:00 PM  420  Endgame
05/05/98   7:00 PM  421  Rising Star
05/06/98   7:00 PM  422  The Deconstruction of Falling Stars

(The rerun showings will be aired in  the  exactly  correct  order,
from an order list JMS will be providing.)

5th season on TNT:

Air Date:     3    Title
---------    ---   ------------------------------------
01/21/98     501   No Compromises
01/28/98     502   The Very Long Night of Londo Mollari
02/04/98     503   The Paragon of Animals
02/11/98     504   A View from the Gallery
02/18/98     505   Learning Curve
02/25/98     506   Strange Relations
03/04/98     507   Secrets of the Soul
03/11/98     508   In the Kingdom of the Blind
03/18/98     509   Cat and Mouse
03/25/98     511   Phoenix Rising
04/01/98     510   Day of the Dead
04/08/98     512   The Ragged Edge
04/15/98     513   The Corps is Mother, The Corps is Father
04/22/98     514   Meditations on the Abyss

06/17/98     522   Sleeping in Light

Other stuff:
??/??/98           Thirdspace - Spring of 1998.  No exact date is
                                      currently available.
??/??/??           A third movie - no details available yet.
??/??/99           Crusade (Spin-off series) - Maybe.

Note: Each episode will air at 10:00 PM, with a repeat at 7:00 PM on the Saturday following the air date listed above.

Theory of Everything: It is astounding that scientists think they soon may have a Comprehensive Theory of Everything. I am still working of getting a Workable Theory of Something. [-mrl]

Religion: I am watching THE WIND AND THE LION. The story has a Western woman kidnapped by an Moroccan sheik. It was a true story--well, sort of--and it became an international incident when Teddy Roosevelt was President. Except it was a man who was kidnapped. Still, it makes for better cinema to have the kidnappee played by Candice Bergen playing against that oh-so-Moroccan Scotsman Sean Connery. These days it is hard to look at Ms. Bergen and not think of the highly successful ad campaign in which she stars. AT&T people who feel less than sanguine toward Candice Bergen, if such there be, can be reminded that since she was a little girl she has a history of letting other people put words in her mouth. In THE WIND AND THE LION the woman tries to be friendly with her captor and wants a less formal name to call him. She asks him what is his Christian name. It is a ridiculous question to ask someone who is very, very obviously a Moslem what is that person's Christian name and it puts the person in a bad position. Does giving one's first name at that point become a sort of tacit false statement that the person is Christian?

Almost the identical thing actually happened to me on our trip to Eastern Europe. Well, no, I wasn't kidnapped by a Moroccan Sheik. Not that time. There was a woman in our group who had been brought up very much "old school" Christian. She was from South America from some place I take it was not very cosmopolitan, though she thought of herself as very worldly. The first thing she asked us when she met us was what was our religion. We told her we were Jewish. She found that fascinating, probably bred of not having met many Jews. So she was well aware of our religion and the next morning she asked to be reminded of my "Christian name." I sort of felt like being rude and telling her that I did not have one or asking her for her Jewish name but thought better of it. After all I had to travel with her. And she was probably well-intentioned. But she told me how wonderful she thought it was that all the religions were coming together and becoming one religion. "They are?" I ask warily. Oh, yes. She had just heard about something called Jews for Jesus. And she assumed that this was some major movement in Judaism to believe in Christ.

I think Christians don't know very much about Jews for Jesus and don't know why Jews object to this particular strategy. And that is what they are, not a sect but a planned element of a strategy for Jewish conversion. I wonder if the roles were reversed if our traveling companion would have been so excited about an organization of de facto Jews calling themselves Christians Rejecting Christ. That is the symmetric opposite, but I don't think our companion would even want to consider such and organization to be real Christians.

I think the Christian community have little appreciation for how the Jewish community feels that they have been rubbed raw by (not all but some) Christians ceaseless attempts to convert them. This goes back to the very first Christians, to the Middle Ages when Jews were hauled into cathedrals on Easter and lectured how they should be Christians, to the announcement by the Southern Baptists in June of 1996. The Southern Baptist Convention announced its "Resolution on Jewish Evangelism". The Baptists voted to dedicate a portion of their budget to conduct a mission to the Jews, including hiring missionaries in predominantly Jewish areas, and buying time on television and on the radio. Have they ever attempted to target Buddhists? Moslems? Hindus? Not that I have ever heard. With very, very few exceptions, Jews do not try to convince people from other religions to convert to Judaism. That is a sort of de facto policy of the religion. If anything, then, Jews should be the one religion exempt from proselytizers from other religions. But that is certainly not the way it works out.

This constant targeting of Jews by some Christians has led to a constant feeling of minor discomfort on the part of some Jews. I think that is why some Jews have that moment of this discomfort when even a well-intentioned Christian wishes them a Merry Christmas or when the company they work for decorates their building for Christmas and has no decorations for Chanukah. [-mrl]


(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: "Titanic" is indeed the word for the huge film TITANIC. While it has been filmed several times, this will be the version people will remember first for years to come. Still, a melodramatic love triangle with a villainous jilted fiance firing off guns on the sinking ship is just not what the story of the ill- fated ship needed. The film could have had more historic detail, less fiction, and could have been even more enjoyable. But Titanic's warning that no technology is totally safe from failure is more timely today than it was in 1912 at the time of the sinking. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

There are really two approaches to making a film about the sinking of the Titanic, and both were tried in the 1950s. The 1953 film TITANIC had passenger Clifton Webb reacting to discovering that his son was illegitimate. Impending death as the ship sinks changes his attitude for the better. On the other hand, the 1958 film A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is a dramatization of passengers' accounts of the sinking of the great ship. They had some false ideas about the sinking, but for the most part they were trying to accurately portray events that happened that night. The 1953 TITANIC is a pleasant old film and fun to watch; A NIGHT TO REMEMBER is a cinema classic. As one might imagine, there were a large number of very dramatic stories going on at the same time when the Titanic sank. It just is not necessary to invent a fictional story to take place at the same time, and it is an irritating distraction from what most of the audience considers the real story they paid to see. The 1997 TITANIC, written and directed by James Cameron, is about a very one-sided love triangle set on the Titanic. At 194 minutes, the film also has time for some detail about the sinking including some that has never been filmed before. But overall it has less historic detail than the much shorter and lower-budgeted A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. That is in part because James Cameron takes almost two hours of screen time to get the Titanic to the iceberg and even after it does hit, he still cannot bring himself to believe that the audience is more interested in the sinking ship than in his banal love story.

Visually, the 1997 TITANIC is by far the best version, but for historical detail, I think the real enthusiasts about the sinking will probably prefer the 1958 telling. Cameron seems to accept this by borrowing many scenes almost intact. Some of these may be from historic accounts, but the similarities go beyond the content of the borrowed scenes. The incidents are simply re-filmed using the same style.

The film begins with some intrepid young explorers, led by Brock Lovett (played by Bill Paxton dragging along memories of his too similar role in TWISTER), exploring the recently found sunken hull of the RMS Titanic and in particular looking for a (fictional) diamond that supposedly went down with the great ship. They do not find the diamond itself, but they do find a drawing of a nude woman wearing the diamond. When the drawing is shown on television, a woman calls the team to say that not only can she identify the picture, she is the woman. (Hey, would you believe the elderly woman is Gloria Stuart, who played opposite Melvyn Douglas and Boris Karloff in OLD DARK HOUSE and opposite Claude Rains in THE INVISIBLE MAN?)

As the old woman tells the explorers her story, we drift back to the sailing of the Titanic. Rose DeWitt Buketer (Kate Winslet) is from a family of old money and new debt. Her mother has arranged a marriage between her and Cal Hockley (Billy Zane, played as quite possibly the most obnoxious American man then alive). This part is extremely over-written, with Hockley making judgments that Pablo Picasso will never amount to anything in the art world and that lifeboats are a waste of space on the unsinkable Titanic. Having to watch him on the screen for a few hours is painful; a lifetime with him would have to be worse than death. At least that is what Rose decides and is ready to cast herself into the cold ocean when Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), a young artist from the lower classes and the lower decks, steps forward and convinces her to live. Of course he is everything that Cal is not, including poor, unfortunately. But of course the two fall madly in love. And of course the angry and spoiled Cal plots revenge. Even after the Titanic strikes an iceberg--sorry, was that supposed to have a spoiler warning?--the film still concerns itself too much with this love triangle and not enough with the sinking ship. Earlier we have seen parts of the ship behaving perfectly. We should revisit the engine room and its machinery with grasshopper-like legs kicking fly-wheels and see what flooding is doing to it. One wants to return to the radio room and see what is happening there as the operator desperately tries to find help. Instead we follow a fictional Cal hatching nefarious plots at Jack's expense. It is class warfare at its most obvious. This is one time when truth would be a lot more interesting than fiction.

Frightfully underutilized is Kathy Bates as the unsinkable and likably straightforward Molly Brown. Also misused is David Warner as Cal's one-dimensional thug and bodyguard. And why bother casting Eric Braeden/Hans Gudegast as John Jacob Astor if you do not intend to use him?

What we do see of the ship's problems, and in so long a film that is still quite a bit, is enough to make this the most visually impressive rendition of the sinking, at least in other ways. We might expect that from a film produced by both Paramount and Fox, costing $200,000,000--making it the most expensive American film ever, perhaps beaten only by the Russian version of WAR AND PEACE. (The original ship itself cost about $7,500,000, incidentally.) Camera shots flying us the length of the ship are jaw-droppers even if they do have the feel of digital images. Seeing dramatized the contortions of the ship as it breaks up is new to cinema and pretty scary.

TITANIC does make the mistake that every version of the sinking makes, something that could be called "angular continuity." Until it breaks up at the very end, the Titanic was a rigid ship. This means that if one stateroom is tipped at a 27-degree angle, at the same instant of time every room, every deck, every walkway is also tipped at a 27-degree angle. During the sinking every scene should show a room tipped at just a bit more of an angle than the previous scene. No film version has ever paid close enough attention to angular continuity. It means, for one thing, that before shooting one has to know exactly the order of the shots and that order cannot be rearranged in the editing (well, perhaps only minimally). The angle of tipping varies wildly from scene to scene. A room will be shown tipped at a high angle, but in the next scene dishes will fall off shelves that should have fallen considerably earlier.

TITANIC is a lot of movie for the same priced ticket as anything else at the multiplex. This is a big film with a lot to like as well as a lot to not. For this budget and with digital technology the story could have been told with supreme accuracy and been a much more compelling film at the same time. Overall I give it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]


(a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: Media mega-tycoon and megalomaniac Jonathan Pryce matches wits with the Pierce Brosnan's James Bond. The film is long on action sequences and short on plot. Brosnan's interpretation of Bond gets more and more like Roger Moore's. There is less and less effective under all the polish and instead we have plot contrivances to make sure things work out for the best. TOMORROW NEVER DIES ranks about 12th of the 18 James Bond films from United Artists and (now) MGM. Rating: 5 (0 to 10), high 0 (-4 to +4)

If one looks at FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, there is a lot that happening in the film. The plot involves British intelligence, Russian intelligence, Turkish intelligence, and SPECTRE. Within SPECTRE there are competing agents chess champion Kronstein vs. Rosa Klebb. There is a false seduction and other double crosses. There are also fights and chases, but they are each relatively short in duration. When Bond fights Grant it is a believable fight and Grant is dispatched in three or four minutes. Then the plot starts moving forward again. The result was that FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE was a James Bond thriller. If you have James Bond captured by the nasties and twenty minutes later he is still escaping and the plot is still at a standstill, it does not matter how many cars have been blown up, how many people have been shot, or how many helicopters have crashed. What you have may be a James Bond action film, but it is not a thriller. If Bond has to do some clever deductive work to realize what the villain is up to, you may have a thriller. If Bond's success just happens because by coincidence he is in the right place at the right time, you might have an action film, but you do not have a thriller. TOMORROW NEVER DIES has an unfortunate shortage of plot complexity. It is an action film with James Bond, but it is not a James Bond thriller.

After a shaky start in his first film, Pierce Brosnan is every bit the James Bond that Roger Moore was, for whatever that is worth. TOMORROW NEVER DIES reminds on of a Roger Moore Bond film. After a mostly irrelevant opening sequence we have a British battleship first buzzed by Chinese MiGs, then chewed up by some sort of mechanical device that combines aspects of a torpedo, a tunnel borer, and a lamprey. It goes to the bottom much like the Titanic, the film about which was released in the same weekend. (I wonder if the allusion could have been intentional.) The British and Chinese governments are on the point of war and James Bond is sent off to figure out another puzzle. It seems that while sea-water was still leaking into the battleship, news of the attack had already leaked out. It was on the news channel before anyone could have possibly known unless they knew in advance the attack was to happen. The news channel is ruled over by magnate Elliot Carver (played by Jonathan Pryce). Pryce seems to comprise the worst aspects of Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates, and a lamprey. Can it be that Carver is actually creating the news--WAG THE DOG style--for his own ends? Wait till you hear the reasons why! But Bond has to get his information pumping Paris Carver (Teri Hatcher), former Bond lover and now Mrs. Elliot Carver. The plot works like a too-well-oiled machine taking us from one fifteen- minute action sequence to one that is possibly twenty minutes without ever slowing down for the audience to ask if it all makes sense, which it does not.

Along for the ride this time are Judi Dench as M, trying to look as much as possible like Bernard Lee with two X-chromosomes and frighteningly succeeding. Desmond Llewelyn is trying to give the impression that a job in the Secret Service is for life. He is probably there mostly for continuity as is Joe Don Baker's superfluous Jack Wade, formerly of GOLDENEYE. Jonathan Pryce is a great actor who makes a nearly colorless Bond villain. Two characters are not colorless and should have been used to considerably advantage. One was a Chinese agent played by Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, a sort of female Jackie Chan who could well have out-performed Brosnan in the action scenes. The other was a terrific small role for Vincent Schiavelli as Dr. Kaufman, expert in torture and other infamous arts. Schiavelli has one short delectable scene in a role that cried out to be expanded. Also there is a totally lackluster and boring acting job by Bond's car. The scenes in which the car appears look like second rate automobile ads, which by an odd coincidence is exactly what they are. (I would not mention that here, but since the filmmakers accepted all that nice money from the manufacturer to pose the car so much more carefully than they pose any of the human characters, I feel obliged to review the car's performance.)

As a director Roger Spottiswoode is, well, spotty. His UNDER FIRE was a very solid political film. His made for cable adaptation of AND THE BAND PLAYED ON was a high-point of its year. Let us not, however, dwell on his STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT. As a director of a Bond film he was only middling successful. He should have exerted more control on the script, making it more intelligent and refusing the product placements. David Arnold has written an acceptably John Barry-sounding score built around Barry's James Bond theme (credited falsely to Monty Norman).

TOMORROW NEVER DIES is below average for the Bond films to date. They never even bother to tell the viewer what the title means. I rate the new Bond film a 5 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high 0 on the -4 to +4 scale.

Just so the reader can know what my values are in Bond films I would rate the Bond film best to worse as:

  4.  DR. NO

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     Life is a constant oscillation between the sharp horns
     of a dilemma.
                                   -- H. L. Mencken