MT VOID 04/10/98 (Vol. 16, Number 41)

MT VOID 04/10/98 (Vol. 16, Number 41)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 04/10/98 -- Vol. 16, No. 41

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: The true story behind that infamous Petronius Arbiter quote ("We trained hard....). [-ecl]

Conversion: 2. 4.8 inches = one milligodzilla

Refrigerator: I have a new way to make money. I rent out my refrigerator to a local business. I can get a few dollars a week at just the cost of half of my refrigerator. The problem is that I would like to use that half, but a buck is a buck. If all this sounds a little nuts to you, let me explain the company who rents the space is called Costco/Price Club and they don't actually rent the space, they just sell things in industrial sizes at a savings. So I fill up the old fridge with their huge economy sizes--actually intended for the US Army or some such--and I am money ahead. But I am also refrigerator space behind.

What do you do with an industrial size bag of walnuts after you have opened it and used the walnuts in a recipe? Well, if you follow the instructions you refrigerate them. You don't want those precious walnut oils to go rancid and the walnuts to go all soft and mushy, do you? No, of course not. So the bottom shelf of the refrigerator has walnuts going rancid and stale a lot slower. But luckily it will be there only for whatever short length of time it takes two adults to eat a three-pound bag of shelled walnuts. This works out to an average of 4.6 years according to the United States Bureau of Statistics on Trivial Matters. In the meantime we have jars of walnuts sitting in the bottom of the old fridge and while they had a crispy crunch when new, they lose just a bit of it each passing day. We no longer keep the tall containers of spices there, but I am not sure why. Those are now stored un- refrigerated. To make way for the jars of nuts. I know it is not that we finished them. I mean how quickly could we have finished a half pound of oregano? Or parsley leaves? Or basil? After a couple of years they were moved elsewhere and only an expert could have told that the difference in levels from when the containers were new was not simply due to settling. "Yes, Mr. Leeper, for shopping at Price Club you now have the Grand Prize, a lifetime supply of oregano." When I die the unused part goes into my estate. (I hope my relatives are not reading this.)

Ours is a refrigerator intended for families of up to five or so. There are only two of us. That means it should be about 40% full, right? So how come nothing else will fit in and when I open the door things fall out. (Now I realize that there are lots of people in the world who would love to suffer from this plight. But look at it this way, they have a lot of things they can complain about. For complaint material I have only a few things like Jean-Claude Van Damme films and my refrigerator. Other people get a lot more sympathy.)

Why do two people fill the freezer up to the point that when someone asks us to bring some ice cream to a party and we have to store it for an hour we have to start planning how to fit it into the freezer. (Truth!) Well, part of the problem is the four cartons of different attempts to make something that tastes nearly as good as ice cream but is actually a lot healthier. Feugh! But the real reason is that we have shelves in the already too small freezer taken up with cans of orange juice concentrate so big we cannot make the orange juice in the blender without diluting it when we are done. We put in a full can and fill the blender with water and what we get is a sort of fresh orange juice syrup. You add water and stir to get fresh orange juice. Then the top shelf of the freezer is filled with batteries. You can't even eat them. At least I would not recommend it. Somewhere we heard that batteries keep better in the freezer. The problem is when I pop them into my Walkman it makes the Walkman cold.

I think the next time around I am going to get only a half-sized refrigerator, buy in the local grocery, and apply the savings to my grocery bill. I suspect I will end up money ahead. [-mrl]

LOST IN SPACE (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: A dysfunctional family learns to get along with each other when they are marooned in space in another part of the galaxy. The 1960s TV series comes to the screen with a spectacular visual style but also with a family if anything more obnoxious than they were on TV--not an easy task. Just when the science fiction ideas get somewhat sophisticated, the telling lapses into incoherence. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4)

Back in the 1965 Irwin Allen created a TV series, LOST IN SPACE, based on the comic book SPACE FAMILY ROBINSON, itself a science fiction adaptation of Johann David Wyss's SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. The series lasted until 1968. In the series seven people are present on an experimental ship on a space mission when something went terribly wrong and the whole group became, well ... lost in space. The characters were the five-person Robinson Family, the pilot, and a stowaway enemy agent, one Dr. Smith, whose initial goal was to destroy the mission. The family was unrealistic, even for the 1960s in that everybody seemed to get along with everybody. But Dr. Smith was adept at playing everybody off against everybody else. Smith was the embodiment of every negative and dangerous human impulse but subtlety, yet the Robinson family never seemed to catch on. The special effects were bargain basement quality for the most part. When the LOST IN SPACE premiered, no less an expert than Isaac Asimov wrote a letter reprinted in "TV Guide" about how absurd the concept was. It was a physical impossibility to travel so fast and far in a few seconds that you could not even find familiar stars in the sky. I believe he claimed it was comparable to saying a child on a tricycle took a wrong turn and found himself in another country.

There are at least two advantages to making a film of the story in the late 1990s. The story can be presented with superb special effects. I would rank the visual effects of this film just a few microns below the quality one would expect from a STAR WARS film. The other advantage is that in these days of all kinds of theoretical holes in physics--black, white, and worm--you would never get a reputable scientist willing to commit to the impossibility of finding a few-second shortcut to some other arm of the galaxy.

In the new film version the Earth has finally conquered war and is ready to move on to conquering the universe. People live together in peace--all but some nasty holdouts called the Sedition. John Robinson (played by William Hurt) has devoted his life to science at the cost of neglecting his loved ones. As a result he has one deuce of a dysfunctional family. Wife Maureen and children Judy, Penny, and Will--nobody gets along. The world is just not as peaceful as it initially would seem. The Robinsons might almost be better called the Bickersons. But John has a plan for bringing his family together and at the same time further his work. The whole family is going to take a little trip together to the Alpha star system to set up a jump gate for instantaneous travel to that system. After ten years of being cooped up together in space, of course the Robinsons will get along. Everyone in the family recognizes this as one of Dad's less stellar ideas, but he thinks it will bring the family. Little does John know that the forces of the Sedition have an agent, Dr. Smith (Gary Oldman) who is trying to stop their little mission and kill the family. Except for the maladjusted family this is really the plot of the TV series, but remarkably when watching the film, one does not think of it as being a retread. It feels freshly re-imagined as if we are seeing it for the first time.

I cannot say I am very fond of William Hurt's acting in general. Like Harrison Ford he usually has this distant quality, as if he is just a little bit high all the time. Mimi Rogers plays a slightly authoritarian Maureen Robinson. As Will Robinson Jack Johnson is considerably more natural than was TV's Billy Mumy. Heather Graham makes an okay Judy Robinson, but Lacey Chabert's Penny is annoying and just about the last person I would want to be cooped up with for ten years. Matt LeBlanc as the pilot on the make with Judy is nearly as bad. Gary Oldman, however, is a big improvement over the TV series. His TV equivalent Jonathan Harris was a comedy actor who was miscast and never convincing as the sinister agent. Oldman adopts many of the same gestures, but makes them sinister and mysterious. And he does get some good lines like a playful allusion to the original STAR TREK as he complains "I'm a doctor, not a space explorer."

It has been a while since the look of a science fiction film has done much to excite me, but if this film has a hero, it is production designer Norman Garwood. Visually, LOST IN SPACE is very evocative of 1960s science fiction, but not of TV science fiction of the time. What I saw on the screen was what was on the covers of magazines and books at the time of the TV series. It was like the film was the result of someone watching the TV series in 1965 and then visualizing it the way cutting edge artists of the time would have. I kept finding myself enjoying just looking at the screen and thinking what a good cover for ANALOG science fiction magazine this or that scene would make. Under Garwood's design, space is a sinister place, much more so than it was in the TV series. The one false move is a cartoon-like monkey that seems like a fugitive from some other film. Garwood does a little playing around with the design of the robot, which changes over the course of the film, finally getting the crystal crown that was its most memorable feature of the design from the series. The credits list cameos from the original TV series. I must not have noticed Angela Cartwright, but it is much harder to miss June Lockhart and, of course, the voice of the robot is the same. The language is a little salacious for what is predominantly a children's film, but perhaps that is a sign of changing times.

With the exception of Oldman's performance, this is a film I would rather look at than listen to. But it does manage to take old material and breathe new life into it. I rate it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

THE NEWTOWN BOYS (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

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

Quote of the Week:

     Clergyman, n. A man who undertakes the management
     of our spiritual affairs as a method of bettering
     his temporal ones.
                                   -- Ambrose Bierce