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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 05/07/99 -- Vol. 17, No. 45
Table of Contents
Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-817-5619, email@example.com Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-332-6218, firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell, email@example.com HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt, firstname.lastname@example.org HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer, email@example.com Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/evelynleeper. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
Hugo Award Nominations with Links
The Hugo nominations list at http:/www.geocities.com/Athens/4824/hugo99.htm now has links to as many of the nominated works or people's pages as I can find. (Currently, there are links for six of the eighteen short fiction pieces.) [-ecl]
I have been giving some thought to why we are bombing Kosovo. The question I am asking myself is why are Americans getting involved so much more than, say, the French or the Japanese. My conclusion is well, yes, it would be a strong moral wrong not to get involved but also I think that in part we are paying for sins that are some sixty years old. And the reason we are paying for them is all tied up with the state of technology and in particular the invention in this century of the motion picture camera. That sounds like a lot of peculiar things to put into the one bag, but they all connect up.
There have been lots of ethnic-related atrocities through history. Ethnic cleansings have been attempted many times in history. There have been pogroms and massacres and ethnic cleansings. (As an aside I heard recently that only one relatively modern ethnic cleansing has ever been totally successful and it is not one of the once that comes first to mind. There are no living descendents of the native New Zealanders.) But by and large these atrocities have always been a good distance away in what was at the time a very large world. People generally did nothing to stop ethnic cleansing. It had always been possible to look the other way and to be isolationist. It was difficult to get information, even if one wanted it. Really it was the movie camera that changed that.
But prior to the movie camera, look what Americans did to other Americans in places like Andersonville, Georgia, during the Civil War. That was a case of Americans systematically starving other Americans--Northern prisoners of war. If you dig into the details, it was pretty gruesome, but overall it is considered a minor incident because of what was basically low bandwidth bringing the news. There might have been a few photographs, but mostly the news was carried by the written word. And the written word is limited in its impact. So Andersonville became a sad incident in a regrettable war. If it could have been covered by newsreels or video-reporters it would instead have been a major atrocity.
People in the 1930s and 1940s had grown up in a world where low bandwidth reporting had made it fairly easy to be isolationist about atrocities. And people found it profitable to be isolationist. The Holocaust freed up a lot of money and goods into the economy. It was not just Germans confiscating property or Jewish gold in Swiss banks. It was money and property and art and jewelry and who knows what else all over the world. All kinds of people were profiting from having Jews lose claim to their property. Meanwhile the military were running bombing raids often within miles of known concentration camps, but for only the best of reasons they never made an effort to interrupt the grisly business that was going on in the camps. In most countries the acceptance of refugees was kept to a feeble trickle. People died to get out news of what was going on in the camps only to have American newspapers bury the stories. There were lots of different people who for selfish reasons did nothing. It was like HIGH NOON on a worldwide scale.
There were also some people who did a good deal more than nothing, but few official institutions--governments, churches, etc.--ever got around to condemning officially the mass murder of that was going on in Europe.
That was pretty much the way America had treated atrocities in the past. But this Holocaust was different from most previous ethnic cleansings in two important ways. It was really a lot more than an ethnic cleansing. It was a venting of a national fury. And what made it worse and even more sadistic was that it was done by a technologically advanced and systematic people. Most ethnic cleansings are primarily the removal of inconvenient people. Even the term "cleansing" implies that. When we do cleansing, we bear little animosity to the dirt of which we are ridding ourselves. We give little thought to what is removed; we are just trying to improve the state of the thing being clensed. That was not true of the Nazi Holocaust. The focus was not in cleaning the population but specifically in attacking particular people: Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, etc., but primarily Jews. What was important to the Nazis was not so much that the Jews died, but that the Jews died screaming. If a Jew somehow managed to die a peaceful death it was something of a failure. That policy has little to do with a cleansing action. And it is one thing that made this holocaust unique.
Then came the end of the war. And governments wanted to once again justify to the people that the war they had fought was just. So they made and showed films of the barbarity of the camps, not realizing that this also would make the German Holocaust unique. For the first time they could show the results of atrocity. But at the same time what people--American people among others--had wanted to ignore they had their nose rubbed in. They were filmed because they were victims of the Nazis, but to some extent they also were victims of allied apathy. Here were pictures of what actually happened to the people who for various important bureaucratic reasons could not be allowed to emigrate out of the hell of Europe except in the barest numbers. The people who had been ignored no longer could be thought of as just statistics--elements of a refugee problem; they were the human matchsticks, the things that now really did not look human, who were showing up in newsreels. Photography and film brought the pictures to movie theaters and eventually to television and living rooms. Photography was a major difference between this holocaust and all previous holocausts. The Nazi war on the innocent was the last holocaust that the American people could claim not to have known about and the first that that public could really see and understand the results. And incidents where refugees were turned away looked worse and worse.
The United States government had intentionally obstructed the escape from Europe of refugees and then had to live with the public seeing the results of that policy. It was not long after and perhaps not entirely coincidental that the government started routing out foreign influences in the country, many of which were associated with Jews. It was as if the government was reacting to unspoken accusations by saying, "See, these people really were dangerous." But the stigma of having done so little and of the public seeing the result has not gone away. We did little to stop the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda. But sadly the American people seem to have more empathy for Europeans. And with it being Europeans with their head on the block in Kosovo the world seems, rightly or wrongly, to assume that it is the Americans' responsibility to lead any counter- measures that are taken. Whether that is a reasonable expectation is a moot point. But with the world looking at us, the nothing we did to stop the Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s is coming back to memory and it is a nothing that would be shameful to do again. [-mrl]
THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):
Capsule: Erick Zonca's film tells the bittersweet and moderately predictable story of two young women living a picaresque life together in a borrowed apartment. Somewhat in the style of Truffaut's THE 400 BLOWS they live amorally, stealing where they can. Their life is a hand to mouth existence with occasional relationships with men. The portraits are well-etched, but the story is very low-key and overly long. Rating: 5 (0 to 10), low +1 (-4 to +4)
New York Critics: 13 positive, 1 negative, 2 mixed
THE DREAMLIFE OF ANGELS is basically a simple slice-of-life story told at a leisurely pace. Twenty-one year old Isa (Elodie Bouchez) comes to the town of Lille in the north part of France to be near her boyfriend only to find out he is out of the country working on a construction job. With no money and no place to live she barely makes enough to feed herself by cutting pictures from magazines and turning them into greeting cards and religious decorations which she sells on the street claiming the proceeds are for charity. She spends her time freeloading and getting into trouble. For a few weeks she lives without a home begging from strangers. During a stint in an abortive attempt at a job in a sewing factory she befriends Marie (Natacha Regnier) and moves into an apartment that Marie is looking after for Sandine, a comatose woman that neither Iso nor Marie has actually met. Marie feels little gratitude to Sandine, but Isa feels some responsibility to their unwitting benefactor and spends hours in the hospital reading to the unconscious Sandine. Isa and Marie meet and make friends with two working class men, Fredo and Charly, (Jo Prestia and Patrick Mercado) who do security at concerts and work as club bouncers. The two remain only occasionally romantic friends. But then Marie meets and gets involved with Chris (Gregoire Colin), the attractive young owner of two up-scale bars. Isa does not think much of Chris and believes that Marie is reaching beyond her station. She is certain that Marie will only be hurt in the end.
Though not nearly as disturbed as the woman returned from the dead she plays in J'AIMERAIS PAS CREVER UN DIMANCHE, Bouchez plays Isa as punk and sassy, yet with a sincere and caring core. Isa lavishes hours of care and attention on Sandine, but shies away from receiving any gratitude for the effort. Regnier plays Marie as a romantic in spite of herself, lacking either in free will or sense.
Erick Zonca, who co-wrote the screenplay as well as directed, has given us a detailed and three-dimensional picture of two very marginalized women. His Isa and Marie just get by, frequently by stealing, with very little thought for the future. They are not the most likable characters, but they are probably much like women that can be found in any city. Zonca does not romanticize and makes little attempt to excuse, but they are very believable and very real people. One is reminded both of THE 400 BLOWS in the earlier parts of the film and of "La Boheme" later. His deliberate pacing may well end up being more frustrating in the US than in his native France. And it would be one thing if the pacing were used to add depth to the characters. Frequently they are involved in some activity that tells us little about their character beyond that Isa is not particularly fastidious with her nail polish.
Overall there is really about a half-hour or perhaps an hour's worth of story here spread thinly over 113 minutes. While the title is not quite as sarcastic and bitter as ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE, this is not a world to which the viewer may want to contribute so much time. I give the film 5 on the 0 to 10 scale and a low +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]
Mark Leeper HO 1J-621 732-817-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org
Quote of the Week:Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo. -- H. G. Wells