MT VOID 04/09/99 (Vol. 17, Number 41)

MT VOID 04/09/99 (Vol. 17, Number 41)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 04/09/99 -- Vol. 17, 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 201-447-3652 for details.

Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-957-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-957-2070,
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell,
HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt,
HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer,
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.


More changes:

The Factotum is moving to Holmdel April 12. The Editor/Chair is moving to Holmdel April 28. There will probably be a name change of the club. For now, note that the *internal* archive of old MT VOIDs is now at

The MT VOID will be renamed. The Chair/Editor and the Factotum are arguing about the new name. [-ecl]

More on Changes:

Ironically, in any such argument with the Chairman, Editor, and Grand Exalted Poobah on one side and the simple little Factotum on the other side, the Factotum always wins. This will show you how much faith to put in titles. [-mrl]

Business and Physics:

When I was in school we studied physics, and I have to say that it did not always make a lot of sense to me. In specific we studied nuclear reactions. We studied fission reactions and fusion reactions. In some senses they were the opposite of each other. One is the breaking up of the nuclei of atoms; one is the gluing of them back together. They seem like they are the same thing happening, just in one you are running the clock forward and in the other you are running the clock backward. But that is not what really happens. Each of them releases a very great deal of energy. Of course, usually when you think of fission, you think of the atoms with big clumsy nuclei. Uranium has a really big atomic number and a big clumsy nucleus. There are lots of particles in a uranium nucleus. If you hold a uranium nucleus in your hand and are even the slightest bit careless, pieces of the nucleus will fall off on their own. It is like halvah. But when the uranium nucleus breaks apart you get a lot of loose energy leaking out. On the other hand, when you think of fusion you think of smaller nuclei and they are not all crumbly. They love to stick to each other. They are like wads of gum. You can stick them together and they stay where they are stuck so you end up with a bigger nucleus. And again you end up with a lot of loose energy leaking off.

Now intuition tells us that one should have absorbed a great deal of energy, but that is not how it happens. And this was always a puzzlement to me. That is it was until I came to work for AT&T and telecommunications industry in general. I have to say that while this has not helped me to understand the physics any better, I have seen the same principle apply to major corporations that apply to nuclei of atoms. Employees really are where the corporation gets its energy; they are the energy of the company. Now when I worked for AT&T it was big and crumbly. Twice it broke into pieces. And energy was emitted in the form of laid-off employees. I guess the model was that there were employees acting as glue to keep the big corporation together. When the company fissioned, former employees were emitted in all directions. Now you would assume mergers and acquisitions are just the reversal of this operation, but--aha!-- that is not what happens. Instead what you have is just like what happens in the nucleus of an atom. When two companies merge you have lay-offs and again you have one-time happy and loyal employees emitted from the system.

Now what happens when these employees are emitted? They start desperately looking for jobs. The lucky ones go to other corporations. And they may even look good to other corporations since they have experience. The other corporation hires them, but then has to face the question of how to pay them. Now put yourself in the place of a corporation where one of these people is applying. This is someone experienced and may even have knowledge of a competitor's processes. They cannot afford to let him go. But they have to find the money to pay him. They could let one employee go, but the salary from one less-experienced employee will not cover the salary of the newly hired-more experienced employee. Plus money has to come from somewhere to pay for the Human Resources people who run the hiring process. They really have to lay off two of their employees to cover their expenses. So one lucky employee is absorbed and two unlucky employees are emitted into the job market. They will probably go to two different companies, each of which will lay off two employees, making four unemployed people. What you get then is a classic chain reaction. Companies all over the industry are laying off employees faster than they can get absorbed and you have massive unemployment and terrible destruction like one gets from a nuclear fission chain reaction.

So American corporations and nuclear particle reactions each shed light on the behavior of the other. Each acts in much the same way. Presumably the answer to why is it that both fusion and fission reactions give off energy is simple. Somewhere in the nucleus there has to be a particle that enhances itself by making "the hard decision" to let the energy packet go, supposedly for the good of the atom. One the energy packet is emitted the this new particle is raised to a higher energy state though overall the atom has less energy. Of course, the atom will be totally destroyed somewhere down the line of the reaction as the result of this reaction and others like it, but for the time being the atom will feel better about itself. I would like to name this new particle a "moron."

(This article is dedicated to Gary Zukov.) [-mrl]

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

Capsule: What a mixed bag! This is a film with great ideas, beautiful visuals, terrific martial arts, and concepts that tie reality in knots. It also has incredibly thin characters and long sections where the plot does not advance beyond who is kicking, shooting, or blowing up whom. The storytelling is totally muddled. But for the characters and the plot this would be a great film. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), high +1 (-4 to +4). Note: Every effort was made to keep this review spoiler-free.

THE MATRIX is a tough film to review for many different reasons. In the first place, what can one say about the basic concept without revealing too much? The entire premise of the film is something of a surprise. I will say that it is fair to say that things are not as they seem at the beginning of the film, but saying anything more than that about the premise could conceivably damage the viewer's enjoyment of the film. In this story the actuality is really very different from being what it seems to be. more elusive and mysterious, the nearly omniscient super-hacker Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne). The government is trying to track down the hackers Trinity and Morpheus, and sends to recruit Neo some agents who look a lot like the title characters in MEN IN BLACK. Neo is given the choice of helping to capture Morpheus or of being enslaved by strange forces. Soon it is not clear to Neo what is real and what is in his dreams. But when he throws in his lot with Morpheus and Trinity, things become even stranger. And then they become a lot stranger still.

THE MATRIX is written and directed by brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski who previously demonstrated that they could write and direct a nice compact and tightly plotted thriller with BOUND. There is, sadly, little that is compact or tightly plotted about THE MATRIX. This is a film just chock full of martial arts fights, shootouts, and bomb explosions. But the Wachowskis spend very little screen time fleshing out their main characters or getting us to care too much what happens to them. We know they stand between the world and some really nasty fate. Presumably if they lose, the people in the audience lose also. But that is not the same thing as making us really care if these people live or die. Keanu Reeves sees to be is a sort of stupor through much of the film. That is not unrealistic considering the circumstances but it certainly kills his empathy value. The characters get themselves in and out of danger without ever creating dramatic tension.

Somehow in BOUND the Wachowski Brothers did a much better job of getting the audience to identify with their primary characters. Unfortunately, the two brothers were far more concerned about the look of the film than about making the audience empathize with Trinity or Neo or even Morpheus. This film shows the main characters getting lots of action, having lots of fights, but never giving us any reason to care who wins and who loses those fights.

The exquisite look of the film, frequently variations in visual themes of blacks and reds, is created by cinematographer Bill Pope, who previously filmed DARKMAN, ARMY OF DARKNESS, CLUELESS, and BOUND. Perhaps part of Pope's inspiration was the noir-ish world of DARK CITY. His photography nicely shows off the stunts and martial arts work of Hong Kong director Wu-ping Yuen, here just a stunt coordinator and a martial arts instructor. But all too often Yuen seems to be soaking up screen time. It seems a pity that this film has such an audacious concept and ends up with so many fights that could have been taken from any simple police procedural plot. It is a little insulting to the audience to present some of the more interesting ideas and then to treat them on such a superficial level, almost as if the script did not realize how good its own ideas were. THE MATRIX could have done so much more to engage the intellect and not simply a gut reaction.

When there was so much potential for an intelligent story here the Wachowski Brothers have opted to spend most of their screen time on mindless action. This is a good martial arts film and action film in a world already overflowing with martial arts and action films. It should please the vast bulk of the audience who want to see it Friday night, have a good time, and have forgotten about it by Saturday morning. Those who would want an intelligent and thoughtful piece of science fiction will be more tantalized and frustrated than gratified. I rate THE MATRIX a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

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

Quote of the Week:

            Heaven goes by favor.  If it went by merit, you would
            stay out and your dog would go in.
                                          -- Mark Twain