MT VOID 12/04/98 (Vol. 17, Number 23)

MT VOID 12/04/98 (Vol. 17, Number 23)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 12/04/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 23

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 201-447-3652 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 2E-537  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URLs of the Week: and Both are databases of groups of used book dealers: the former has 3500 dealers and 8 million books; the latter doesn't cite numbers but is probably comparable and searches Amazon and Powells for new books as well. (They're also handy for figuring out if that old book you found in the attic is worth anything.) [-ecl]

Mayonnaise: We were at the Boston Fine Arts museum and we took a break and visited the cafeteria. I asked the cashier, "Do you have any mayonnaise?" She told me, "He's up with the Impressionists." [- mrl]

Holidays: (Being somewhat serious for once, I have been looking at why when I was growing up, the younger generation of Jews tended to take up more esoteric religions.)

Some of the reasons we lost people are forces that all ethnic groups face. Some of the reasons are more unique to Judaism. Now I am talking here about not just the reasons people leave one religion but leave it AND JOIN ANOTHER. I am not talking here about assimilation. Chinese immigrants express frustration that their children are not interested enough in Chinese culture. But the children do not come down to breakfast one day and say, "Mom, Dad, I have decided to become Latino." The children who assimilate just do not stress their own culture so much. But I am talking about the actual changing of religion.

You would think that the choice of a religion is a metaphysical decision. You would think someone changes religion because they really do think that wine turns into blood and their own religion claimed it was only symbolic. For the vast majority that is not it at all. There are a bunch of reasons why people change religion and metaphysical differences of opinion, the belief that one religion really is right and another is wrong, has got to be very low on the list. Some people change religion for the sake of convenience. If you marry a Methodist often you take up the practice, for example. Or if you deal with Catholics a lot you might think of yourself as part of the Catholic community. I don't know if there is a Catholic community in the United States, but there certainly is in countries like Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Poland. There becoming Catholic would almost be assimilation.

But part of the reason that a religion attracts people is that it seems like fun. You might not think that this is a really big factor, but then you have to explain why the Japanese have picked up so many Christian customs while it is still relatively low numbers them who actually consider themselves Christian. Christmas is a big holiday in a country where the overwhelming majority of people are Buddhist and Shintoist. Why? It is because the trappings of the religion are inviting. Christmas is a lot of fun for some people. And it is not that the metaphysics of believing in Christ imply people should put lights on trees. It is that these customs attract people to the religion.

For what is now many centuries Judaism has been one of the few religions that does not encourage conversion from other religions. There are darn few Jewish missionaries. And most of the rest of the religion thinks that the few Jewish missionaries are nuts. But after centuries of religious intolerance toward Jews, they have not wanted to look like competition to other religions. This has only brought about the accusation that Jews are cliquish, but Jews have had to walk the narrow path that would bring them the least amount of hatred. It is better to be accused of being cliquish than to be accused of trying to win converts from the dominant religions.

But being a religion that was not trying to win converts, Judaism never developed customs that people from other religions would consider particularly attractive. The brightly colored Christmas decorations we are starting to see this time of year bear much the same function as bright colors in flowers or bright plumage on birds. It is to attract attention. If you do not need to attract attention, you don't make yourself so visible. The Jews that had great or colorful celebrations of their holidays attracted the attention of intolerant non-Jews and were essentially weeded from the gene pool. Jews were left with a lackluster and somber set of holidays. Celebrations of holidays, those few that were pleasant, involved quietly lighting candles or eating special pastries. The candles were generally little tiny ones at that. But in making the religion unattractive to members of other religions, or at least never developing customs to make it attractive, we have succeeded in making it less attractive to our own younger generation. [-mrl]

Holiday Response: The following is a comment from a reader (not me) about my editorial started last issue. Name withheld at the request of the of the reader.

In your recent MTVOID, you wrote:

I guess that Christians really enjoy Christmas. Boy, do Christians enjoy Christmas.

I couldn't resist giving you an alternative perspective. As you know, I was not born Jewish. (Truthfully, I was born "nothing" - my family didn't bother with organized religion.) But, we celebrated xmas. Boy, did we celebrate xmas. So can you guess which holiday I despise more than any other? You got it....

It takes WORK to do xmas. Hours of dust-ridden, schlock-soaked, carol-howling, mind-numbing WORK to put the goddamned holiday together. Hauling out dusty old decorations that were tacky when they were bought, and are now positively hideous after several years of use. (Remember Portnoy's line: "For tastes that would shame a gorilla....") Cooking mountains of disgusting gelatinous xmas food (drop by my mom's house, and she'll treat you to some of her famous lime-jello-with- carrots-and-marshmallow-topping). Buying truckloads of inappropriate gifts for relatives you rarely see and can barely stand when you do see them ("all the stores are closed, except for the Pleasure Chest! I hope dear old Aunt Gertie is into bondage gear...."). Staying up night after night wrapping this junk, your eyes and fingers gummy. And then the holiday itself, which is by turns boring (watching dear old Aunt Gertie pretend to like her new manacles) and stressful (trying to discourage dear old Aunt Gertie from trying her new manacles out on you after she's had a few). And after it is all over there is the massive cleanup, the broken toys, and worst of all, the WAITING IN LINE AT VARIOUS STORES TO RETURN ALL THIS GARBAGE THE NEXT DAY.

As you've probably noticed, there is little mention of alcohol in all of this. That's because the whole alcohol thing is a topic onto itself. If xmas is such a joyous holiday, why do so many xians have to anesthetize themselves to enjoy it? "Jesus is born: let's celebrate by throwing up on our shoes." There was an ironclad rule in my family: no drinking at all during xmas. Period, end of subject. Without this rule, my family would have celebrated the birth of the "prince of peace" by beating each other half to death.

Shudder. The horror, the horror. By comparison, kashering for Pesach is a breeze. [-anonymous]

1998 Toronto International Film Festival: (film reviews and commentary by Mark R. Leeper) (part 9 of 10)


Breakfast was at McDonalds and was fully up to their standard of mediocrity. But we had to get to the movie. This is our last day. Much more so than a World Science fiction convention or even a foreign trip, this I am sorry to see come to an end.

TRANCE (United States)

CAPSULE: This is the kind of film you used to see in the 60s from small studios like Tigon. An American couple finds themselves in a huge old Irish house with a mad woman stalking the hallways, and, oh yes, a 2000-year-old Druid witch is also running around and shape-changing. Once it gets going it is entertaining but it would be hard to claim it is actually a good film. Rating: 5 (0 to 10), low +1 (-4 to +4)

23 (German)

CAPSULE: Two computer hackers from Hanover, Germany, members of the Computer Chaos Club get involved breaking into the computers of major companies and of governments. What starts as a game turns into an international espionage incident. The (basically) true story is told here. This is the story of the computer criminals that Clifford Stoll caught as detailed in THE CUCKOO'S EGG. Rating: 8 (0 to 10), high +2 (-4 to +4)